Home > Graywulf > And The Cat Came Back Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4
"That seemed to go well with Blair. Just how much are you going to tell him about what happened last night?"
"I'm still not sure yet. You've offered to help us learn those exercises, and with that, Blair should be all right. The rest - I think I'll keep that little bit of information under my hat for a long while," stated Jim with a grin.
"Just playing devil's advocate, what happens if you end up in a zone and someone makes a suggestion, and you follow it afterwards? What do you say to Blair then...? What happens if he figures it out and doesn't tell you?" she asked with a wicked grin.
Jim took Cat's hand as they walked toward the hotel entrance. He held the door open, thinking of an appropriate response. Jim grinned back at her, ruefully. "You've got a point, Cat. We'll cross that bridge when the time is right. Maybe when the three of us get together again for a work session, okay?"
They walked to the elevator through the back hallways So much easier to avoid attention this way she thought.
"Sounds good. When did you want to start? Sometime this week, or next week while I'm on vacation?" Cat asked.
"You're choice.... Let me see how the week shapes up on Monday, then I'll see how we can fit everything in," he offered.
'Our timing must be getting better,' Jim thought as they reached the bank of elevators, since the area was deserted.,' Jim thought as they reached the bank of elevators, since the area was deserted.
"Okay. I'll try to talk Joyce into running interference for me this week - she already knows that there's someone I've been, uh, seeing this weekend..."
Jim grinned mischievously, "We're seeing each other? As in dating?"
"I'm pretty sure Joyce has already jumped to that conclusion. And your associates in Major Crime did as well, or are you forgetting the ribbing you took for "bringing a date" this morning?
Jim rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You have a point there."
Cat slid the key through the lock, and opened the door. "Did you want to come in for a bit?"
"Do you mind the company?"
"Well, I haven't told you to go away..." she joked.
He followed Cat into the suite, closing the door behind him. She indicated that he should take off his coat and make himself comfortable as she slipped off her shoes.
"So, what are your plans for the rest of the evening, now that Blair's back?"
"I'm not sure. We'll just have to see how the evening progresses. I'm open to suggestions," he said as he sat down on the couch, motioning her to join him.
She crossed the room to join him on the couch.
"What kind of suggestions should I make?" purred Cat as she curled up on the couch next to Jim.
Jim leaned over and whispered in her hear. She started to laugh.
"Oh, you're bad. Very bad. But I like it."
She leaned over to the coffee table, picked up the remote and then handed it to him "Early Edition, Pretender, then Profiler, right?"
"The only thing missing is popcorn."
"Shall I make some?" offered Cat "I noticed you slipped some into the basket last night after the cookies went in."
"I noticed you had some in your suite last time," he admitted.
"Bear with me - I'm not used to this microwave, hopefully, we won't end up with burnt popcorn or a bag of half popped kernels."
Cat got up and pulled out the box of microwave popcorn, while Jim turned on the set and started surfing through channels. She turned to observe Jim and shook her head. Typical male behavior with a television remote.
Several minutes later, she returned with the bag, hot and full of popped popcorn. Cat settled back down on the couch, beside Jim, opening the bag and offering him the first handful.
Jim dug in and popped the savory snack in his mouth. "Done to perfection."
She noticed he'd turned on Early Edition. "It was either The Pretender or Early Edition, since both are on at the same time here. I figured it might be more appropriate with what's happened so far this weekend," he kidded.
"You know, I think that's the one thing I miss about home - we get both shows at different times, I never need to miss them. Ah, the joys of living close to the border, getting both Canadian and US programming." remarked Cat.
"You'd prefer The Pretender? I can change it...."
"No, no - Early Edition is fine. Besides, I'm going to be in Chicago in a couple of weeks, it might be nice to see something of that city before hand."
Jim raised his eyebrows at that. "How often do you travel, Cat? Cascade, Chicago, where else have you been?" he asked, trying to make conversation as she got up to get them something to drink.
"New York as well. I may be heading to California in the future. Sometimes it feels like I live on planes and in hotels."
"Do you enjoy the travel?"
"I love to travel, though some of the fun has gone out of it. When you find yourself working through the whole flight, you never have enough time to enjoy the traveling part of it. And normally on the way home, I'm too tired to enjoy it. Then on trips back like the one from Cascade to Toronto - the time difference is murder."
"Well," commiserated Jim, "at least you can work on the plane and pass the time. I hate the hours I spend cooped up inside the planes."
"Do you travel much?"
"Only when I have to," replied Jim with a grimace.
"Is that often?"
"No, as little as possible. I did enough traveling in the army to last me a lifetime. Now I only want to do it for leisure."
Cat snuggled in closer to Jim. Taking the hint, he put his arm around her and pulled her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder.
They sat in companionable silence, watching the television, until he realized she was half-asleep.
"Hey, sleepy head," he said quietly. "Maybe you should go to bed."
"Hmmm?" she asked sleepily, trying to lift her head off his shoulder without much success.
"C'mon," he said as he helped her up. He walked her into the bedroom, and slid the door partly shut and leaned on the door jam, his back to her to give her privacy.
"Do you need a hand getting undressed, or should I just come back in and tuck you in before I head out?"
"A hand, please," she said sleepily.
He smiled slightly. "I did ask," he thought.
Jim sat her down on the bed. She'd already taken her shoes off earlier when she curled up on the couch with him. Crouching beside the bed, he slipped her socks off. He'd seen her in a T-shirt the previous night, so he figured all that need to come off was her jeans.
As he started to work on the belt, her hands reached out and started undoing his belt.
He looked at her, eyes half-closed, wondering if she was cognizant of what she was doing.
"Uh, Cat? What are you doing?"
"Why are you helping me? I thought you're the one who's supposed to be getting undressed, not me," replied Jim, wondering where this was going.
She leaned over and gently kissed him. "You can stay the night again. You get your choice of the bed or the couch. But you have to share."
"Are you sure you want me to stay the night?" he asked softly as he kissed her cheek.
She gave him a slow smile, kissing him again, this time leaving no doubt in his mind as to what she wanted.
"Mmmm, I guess that's my answer, huh?" as he reluctantly broke off the kiss.
"Well? Bed or the couch?"
"I think the bed... it's bigger and more comfortable," he said with a chuckle.
He rose, extending his hand to her. Cat took his hand and rose as well. Like a pair of dancers in slow motion, they helped each other remove their clothing. Drawing out the moment. Exploring and teasing each other.
"Cat..." Jim began, the playfulness gone, concern evident in his eyes.
Cat raised her hand to his lips, and smiled. Reaching down to the night stand, she opened the drawer and pulled out a small packet. "Is this what you were going to ask about?" she said as she handed him the packet with a sly smile, "We have to make sure youre properly... attired."
Cat ran her hand under the faucet, the water was just warm enough. She pulled out the stopper so that the shower came on, and stepped in. Stepping under the stream of water, she closed her eyes, and sighed. Reaching for the shampoo, she was oblivious to the movement behind her in the bathroom.
Jim watched as she worked the shampoo through her hair, into a thick lather. A light scent of vanilla filling the small steamy room.
As she started to rinse the shampoo from her hair, Jim asked "Need someone to wash your back?"
"Confirmation, Cat?" She didnt need to see the grin, she could hear it in his voice.
"You saw this too, didnt you? When?" she turned, eyeing him suspiciously.
"The water will get cold if you keep asking questions," he told her as joined her in the shower. The laughter in his eyes betrayed the words. He had to admit, it felt good to have the shoe on the other foot with her. He could tell this was something she hadnt encountered before.
Cat handed him a regular bar of soap, not the little bars the hotel gave out, and a washcloth. Jim chuckled when he realized it was Ivory...
"Turn around." he instructed.
Cat hesitated, but followed his instructions. She heard him return the bar of soap to the side of the tub, and was a little startled when his hands finally came to rest on her shoulders. He slowly lathered her shoulders, working his way down her back.
"Mmmmm. That feels so good."
"I can think of a few other things that might feel better..." Jim whispered as he leaned forward to kiss the nape of her neck. His hands came to rest on her hips, his thumbs brushing a sensitive area around her waist. She wriggled out of his grasp with a gasp of dismay. "You *are* ticklish, arent you?" Jim chuckled as he reached for her again.
"I thought we went over this last night." she said as she turned to face him, trying to block him with her hands. "Yes. I am ticklish! Dont you dare come any closer."
"Funny. I dont remember you saying that last night."
"Only because you werent trying to tickle me."
"Okay. Ill stop." He promised. "My turn?"
"Your turn for what? Me, trying to tickle you?"
"No, my turn to get my back washed."
"Well, then, pass the soap and the washcloth."
Jim retrieved the soap and washcloth, and gave them to Cat. He turned around and waited patiently. Cat let him wait just a little bit longer, and then ran her finger quickly down the middle of his back. Jim moved quickly from her hand at the sudden sensation.
"If you want your back washed, now Ill do it." she offered innocently.
Eyeing her warily, he moved back to where he had been standing before. Cat started to wash his back with slow deliberate movements. By the time she had reached the small of his back hed had enough.
"Did you want to....?"
"What took you so long?" she said as she reached back to shut off the water.
Later that morning, Jim and Cat lay snuggled under the covers, enjoying the closeness. Jim felt a peace with Cat he hadnt experienced even when he had been married to Carolyn. He wasn't sure if it was the fact that they had found Blair safe and sound, or that she had some other influence over him he couldnt define.
He drew lazy circles on her back as she did the same on his chest. She liked listening to his heart beat strong and sure within his breast. Its rhythm almost lulled her back to sleep. She was brought out of her reverie by Jim's chest expanding as he drew in a large breath, sighing, then shifted Cat off his chest so he could change to his elbow to look down at her.
"Shall we call room service for breakfast, or did you want to brave the restaurant?" Jim asked.
"Why dont we just stay here for a bit longer?" Cat suggested.
"Why do I get the feeling that if you had your way, wed never get out of bed?" he asked.
"Because youre probably right," she answered with a coy smile.
"I know I thanked you before for not asking, but, why didnt you ask about me being a sentinel? A straight answer this time."
Propping her head up with her hand to meet his gaze. Cat regarded him for a minute and then answered, "Trust."
"Trust?" he responded in surprise.
"I cant even begin to guess at the what it took for you to take the step of calling me on Friday. You trusted me enough to ask for my help. I couldnt betray that trust. I only hoped that Id earned enough of it, so you would tell me on your own. If you didnt there were avenues I could have explored to find out what you didnt want to tell me. It wouldnt have been that difficult. But I wouldnt take those steps, even though I knew they were available."
"What do you mean, it wouldnt have been difficult?" he asked.
"You *are* going to make me get out of bed, arent you? Cmon." With a sigh she got out of bed, and pulled on the T-shirt she had discarded last night and tossed him his boxers.
She went over to the laptop on the desk and turned it on. Logging in, she chose her browser and then one of the many search engines online, she turned to Jim and asked for the name of a local paper. She did a search on the papers name, to locate their website.
When Jim came over, she showed him where she was. She slipped out of the chair and suggested he take her place. Guiding him through a couple more steps, he found himself staring in disbelief at the articles listed in the archive of the paper connected to his name. It wouldnt have been difficult.
"Ill tell you what - how be we go to this site?" Cat said as she reached over his shoulder, and quickly tapped in an address, up came another newspaper. This time, it was a Toronto newspaper. Lets go to the sensational version of the story... A few minutes later, he found himself looking at several archived articles about the burglaries Cat had told him about earlier.
"Been there, done that - didnt want the T-shirt... ended up with it anyway," she said. "Why dont I leave you to read that if you want. Ill get dressed so we can decide what to do about breakfast."
"I think Ill pass on the reading material, but breakfast sounds good. I think *this* time, we should get ready separately, or well never get dressed."
"And this is a bad thing?" she kidded.
He gave her a dirty look. "You get dressed first. Ill get dressed and run down to the truck to get my sports bag. Ive got a change of clothes and my shaving kit in it."
Jim and Cat were just finishing breakfast. They had finally agreed upon room service because there was less a chance of being recognized in the dining room or going out for breakfast.
"When your friend calls, why dont you invite her to join the three of us for dinner tonight?" suggested Jim.
"Joyce? Shell be waiting for my call - I know better than to call her at the crack of dawn..."
When the phone started ringing, Cat started at him. "Will you just stop it?" Cat admonished.
Jim gave her a knowing smile and shook his head. "What's the matter, can't take a dose of your medicine?"
"Hello?" she said, trying to ignore his last comment.
"Cat, you sound like you just got up. What are you doing sleeping in? Its 11 a.m." chided Joyce.
"Ah, Joyce, thats Eastern Time. Were currently on Pacific Time, which means its only 8 a.m. What are you doing up before noon?"
"I figured we could go to brunch, hit a mall and maybe even do a movie. What do you think?"
"Lunch would be better, a little light shopping sounds okay, but weve been invited to join some friends of mine for dinner tonight."
"Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome...?" asked Joyce, trolling for information, hoping she was correct.
"And his roommate."
Joyce pumped her fist in victory and mouthed a silent "yes!" She responded with an unspoken message, meaning she wanted all the information about this tall stranger and his roommate. "Well talk over lunch, kiddo."
"Is that a yes or no, Joyce?"
"Well talk. Ill pick you up at 11 a.m. - Pacific Time." With that, Joyce hung up.
Cat turned back to Jim, who looked a little too pleased with himself. "You know, youre enough to make me look up all my old boyfriends and apologize to them. I never realized just how unnerving that was...."
Cat and Joyce were chatting as they walked through the mall. Cat looked up and saw the computer store sign. She stopped abruptly which Joyce didn't notice at first. When Cat didn't answer her question, Joyce stopped to look for Cat. "Cat? Cat! Yo! Cat!"
Cat was mesmerized by a game called "The Sentry". Something drew her to the game, but what, she wasnt sure. She had to at least check out the game, and the storyline. Something was up....
Joyce came back to where Cat was standing and called her name. Cat was mumbling something like "I haven't seen this game before. I *have* to check it out...." Totally oblivious to everyone else, Cat walked into the store and started to look for the game she had seen in the window. Joyce shrugged her shoulders and tried to figure out which game Cat had been so interested in.
Joyce trailed after Cat who was looking for the gaming section.
Cat scanned the aisle markers, and headed off in the direction of the games. Cat fairly pounced on the game when she found it. The image on the CD jacket stared back at her. "Hmmm. Created by Deryl Banks. Published by D.L. Witherspoon. Interesting."
Joyce walked past the magazine rack, intending to catch up to Cat, but a flashy cover of a new magazine caught her eye. She stopped abruptly and leant down to snag one for herself, when she felt her head get banged as another person was reaching down for the same magazine. "Ouch," she gasped, standing up to rub her head.
She heard a mumbled, "Sorry" as she turned to look at her accoster and was startled by the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen. She was struck speechless, which was far from the norm for Joyce. She continued to rub her head, absently, as she just stared at the man in front of her. The man looked back, equally surprised at Joyce.
"I'm really sorry," he stammered, as he, too, rubbed his head. "I guess I wasn't watching. Please forgive me?"
She gave him a dazzling smile, and said "Sure..."
She was rewarded with a heart-stopping smile returning hers.
Joyce felt a tug on her hand, looked down, and realized that she and the man were holding the same magazine. She let go of it at the same time the man did, and it dropped to the floor. They both started to bend down to pick it up, but stopped, and laughed.
They simultaneously said, "I'll get it."
Both bobbed again and stopped. Joyce smiled to herself, 'What a sight we must be.' She giggled at that thought as she straightened up. The man gave her a puzzled expression, which she thought was cute.
"Um, what's so funny?"
"Us," replied Joyce as she pointed to herself and the man, as he again started to bend down to pick up the magazine.
This time the young man was successful in retrieving the magazine.
Joyce watched the man bend down, noticing his physique and caught her breath again, as he stood up and met her eyes. She blushed as he grinned at her.
"Here, you can have this one. I'll take another one."
"Um, thanks. Sorry," she stammered, feeling the blush creep higher on her face.
"Don't be," he grinned back. "I love it when a woman blushes..."
"I'm sure you do, Blair!" said Cat grinning from ear to ear as she walked up beside the two.
"Hey! Cat!" exclaimed Blair as he reached out to give Cat a hug, which the new arrival returned enthusiastically.
Joyce looked from her friend to the man. "You two know each other?"
"Yeah, Joyce we know one another. Blair, this is my friend, Joyce Whelan. Joyce, this is Blair Sandburg."
He bounced on his toes once, and asked, "So, Cat, where do you know Joyce from? It is Joyce isnt it?"
"Joyce works in the Cascade office of the company I work for. We normally get together either here or in Toronto and cut loose a bit," Cat explained to Blair. Turning to Joyce, she further explained, "Blair has been a civilian observer for the last couple of years with the Cascade Police Department, hes partnered with a Detective in the Major Crimes Unit. Hes also..."
She first wondered if this was Cats tall, dark and handsome man from the previous night, but then discarded that theory, realizing that Blair wasnt much taller than her or Cat. A light suddenly went off in Joyce's head as the names connected. She brought her hand up to point at Blair. "Are you *that* Blair Sandburg who was on television a few weeks back? Something about your dissertation, right?"
Blair groaned softly, "Guilty."
"Huh? Care to fill me in?" queried Cat. She knew Jims side of the story, but from the sounds of it, there was more to be told.
Blair wanted to crawl into a deep dark hole as another store patron started looking at him and whispered to his friend. "Um, can we get out of here?" he asked quietly, with a little desperation in his voice.
Cat, recognizing the symptoms, took a quick look around, noticed the attention they were beginning to draw and suggested, "Why don't you two go out in the mall, grab a bench, and I'll be right with you. I want to pay for this game. I'll pay for the magazines too, if you want. Then we can go somewhere so we can talk."
"Thanks," mumbled Blair, shrinking in on himself, as he gently took Joyce's arm to escort her out of the store. They walked down a couple of stores and sat down. Blair quickly grabbed a discarded newspaper, opened it up, whispering to Joyce, "Sorry if I'm acting strange. It's just, you know, I'm not very comfortable with this kind of recognition...."
Joyce whispered back, "No problem. I apologize for my gaff. Maybe you should wear a disguise when you're out in public?" she offered, trying to be helpful. Blair rattled the papers as Cat sauntered up to them.
"Suggestions on where we could go to talk?" asked Cat.
"How about at the "Thumbs Up Cafe?" suggested Blair. "It has great coffee and stuff."
"Is it private enough? I mean, well, after seeing what just happened, and what happened earlier with Jim...?" asked Cat, trying to consider Blair and the unwanted attention he was garnering.
"Yeah, it has secluded booths, kind of dark in there...." replied Blair, peaking over his paper to look at Cat.
"Okay. Lead the way. I'm the tourist, remember?" Cat said with a grin.
Joyce led the way. When they reached the restaurant, Joyce led them to a booth in the rear. Blair remained silent until they had seated themselves. Joyce slid in beside Blair while Cat sat across from them.
"Okay - I have to ask - just how long have you two, or is it three, known each other?" asked Joyce. "This is only your second time to Cascade, unless youve been slipping into town without telling me." She sent Cat a mock glare at her friend.
"No, I havent been slipping into Cascade without telling you. We met the last time I was in town." replied Cat, trying to figure out just how much she could safely tell her friend about her last visit.
"I don't remember you saying anything about either of them when you were here last, or in any of the times we've spoken since." They looked at the menus as they talked. Cat closed her menu decisively as the waitress came over. They placed their orders and turned back to their conversation as if it hadnt stopped for the waitress.
"Do you remember the night everyone went out for Japanese food after the walkthrough session?"
"Sure, I remember because Ron kept filching the shrimp from your plate when you werent looking." Blair watched the women fire questions and answers at each other, amazed that they could talk so fast and still keep things straight. And Jim thought he talked a lot!
"Remember the phone call I got while we were there?" she said while making a mental note to find some way to get back at Ron without him realizing Joyce had given him away .
"The hot date?" Joyce grinned.
Cat rolled her eyes. "Not exactly." Then looked at Blair, "That was when Jim called to set up the meeting the three of us had, the night before we went up to the university."
"You went up to the university? Rainier? When? Why?" quizzed Joyce.
"Cat was a witness to a case we were working on," answered Blair quickly as he saw Cat was ready to jump in. She stopped what she was going to say, then continued with her story.
"It was a real nasty piece of work, Joyce," said Cat. "The only good things that came out of the whole mess was meeting Jim and Blair, and then more recently, the DAs office calling to advise me I wasnt needed to testify.
"Hold it. Thats who you stood me up for on Friday night, isnt it? Jim?" Joyce guessed.
"He had called to talk to me, thinking I was back home. When he found out I was here, we got together for dinner," she admitted.
"Omigod. That little piece in this mornings gossip column makes soooo much sense now," chuckled Joyce. "Youre the mystery woman."
"Gossip column? Mystery woman?" said Cat and Blair in unison.
"Just a sec," said Joyce as she slid out of the booth and went over to where she had spied a discarded newspaper. She quickly checked the sections, choosing one and returned to the table. She opened the section to the third page, and folded the paper to expose the gossip column.
The waitress brought their food and Blair dug in with gusto. Cat wasnt far behind as Joyce started to read the article out loud. "A certain Detective with the Cascade PD, the subject of much speculation in recent weeks, was spotted deep in conversation with a mystery woman at a secluded table in the restaurant of a local hotel. Even more speculation followed them as they left the restaurant and went upstairs."
Cat groaned and shook her head thinking back to the comment she made to Jim in the elevator on Friday night. "I take it Jim hasnt seen this part of todays paper yet?" she asked Blair.
"Doubtful," he replied. "After the trouble of the last few weeks, I think he steers clear of the gossip column."
"Ive something else that hes going to want to see, too," Cat said as she reached for the bag beside her. She handed each of them their magazine, and handed the game to Blair in addition to his copy of the magazine. "Id planned on showing it to him later. I take it, this is more fallout from the little problem a few weeks ago?" Cat stated.
"Oh man. Jim is not going to like this," Blair said under his breath. Looking up at Cat, "Yeah, it looks like it. How did you find it? Its not in any real glitzy packaging. I didnt notice any big display."
Cat grimaced. "Do you really need to ask?" she answered cryptically.
"Oh," replied Blair.
"Am I missing something here?" asked Joyce. "You were totally oblivious to everyone and everything when you walked into that store looking for that game."
"Joyce, well talk later, okay?" Cat said as she tried to put her friend off. "By the way, Blair, is Jims roommate."
Joyces eyes went wide, as she turned a quizzical look to Blair. "You mean...?"
"Yes," said Cat with a nod and a smile at Blairs confusion. "Though, I dont think Blair knew about the invitation, yet. Jim has extended an invitation for Joyce to join the three of us for dinner tonight."
"Dinner?" asked Blair, surprised. "What's with dinner? Where?"
"I guess Jim hasn't had the chance to mention to you we were going have dinner together tonight." reminded Cat
"Sorry, Cat," responded Blair, "I haven't spoken to him today yet, so he didn't have the chance to mention anything."
'Whoops.' Thought Cat, she feigned interest in her lunch and finished the club sandwich she had ordered. Thought Cat, she feigned interest in her lunch and finished the club sandwich she had ordered.
"So Joyce, what else have you got planned for me this week? I hope you will take it easy on me...." Cat asked trying to change the subject.
"Ha! Work, work, and more work.... Does that answer your question?" laughed Joyce with a twinkle in her eyes. She glanced at Blair to see his reaction to their bantering.
"I think I'm really going to be earning that vacation next week...." Cat groaned.
Joyce just grinned back and winked at Blair who smiled back at her. He thought he was *really* going to like this woman!
Cat groaned, at what she sensed might become a conspiracy if she let it....
"That's it Joyce, I'm giving your Mariners versus the Jays ticket to someone else," Cat threatened.
"Oh, threats from Cat!" Joyce again winked at Blair. "Like, I'm *so* scared, lady! I've already paid you, so you can't give it away!"
"We'll see what I can come up with.... You may find yourself working instead.... I'll have to have a talk with Steve."
"No! Don't you *dare* talk to Steve! You know he always tries to make me take on extra projects, just to give me grief! I'm warning you Cat, if you even think about it one more time.....I'll, I'll...." pleaded Joyce, knowing her friend was as good as her word.
Cat chuckled at her friends distress, knowing that she wouldn't talk to Steve, even though she threatened it. "So, be nice to me this time - don't expect me to stay after 6 p.m. And definitely no midnight meetings!"
Blair watched the interchange between the two friends, again feeling like he was at a tennis match. They volleyed back and forth, counter volleyed, match point. He was wondering who was going to win this round, ...although had a feeling who the winner would be this time around.
"Okay, Cat. You win. I'll try, really try to get the meetings closed by 6 p.m., but I can't make promises. You know the guys. Once they get going on something, they just never want to stop...in case the creative juices dry up... Besides, you always inspire these guys to be even more creative!" laughed Joyce.
"Moi? No way, I have a feeling it's the two of us that cause that problem."
"Well, I can never get the guys to work so hard or so long... it's definitely got to be you!" countered Joyce with a self-deprecating smile.
"It's a good thing most of them are married, or I'd have a few problems then."
Blair laughed. He could agree with that, wholeheartedly.
"Its bad enough that when we go out for dinner, we normally end up closing the restaurant." Joyce laughed. Cat groaned, remembering the last time she had been in Cascade and the late night meetings.
Cat looked at Blair, "When we go out for team dinners, not only do we end up staying past closing time, we're normally getting looks from the other patrons as they leave."
"With the way you two bicker, I can see why!" piped in Blair, ducking as both women glared at him. He chuckled evilly back at them.
Cat cleared her throat and looked back at Joyce.
"Something wrong, Cat?" asked her friend, trying to look innocent.
Cat considered giving her friend a kick in the shins, but figured it wouldn't make a good impression. "No, not at all, why would you ask?
"Oh, nothing. You cleared your throat like something was wrong...." countered her friend.
"Just considering payback options," Cat replied, looking at both Blair and Joyce.
Blair looked at Joyce with a question. "Am I supposed to be scared here?"
Joyce finished her sandwich, what was left of it, before she took a deep breath. "Blair, I've been thinking..."
"Blair, a word of warning, always look out when she says she's been thinking!" warned Cat.
"Cat!" exclaimed Joyce, mock threatening her friend with a fist. "Behave yourself, or I will talk to Steve..." Joyce turned her attention back to Blair and tried to finish her statement.
Cat smirked in retaliation.
"As I was saying... I was thinking. When I saw you on television a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a woman behind you. She sure reminded me of a friend of mine. You're not related to a Naomi Sandburg, are you? Because that woman sure looked like her..."
He looked at Cat, then back to Joyce. "She's my mom. How do you know her?"
Cat started humming "Its A Small World After All" much to Blair's surprise and Joyce's consternation.
Blair squirmed in his seat, wondering if Joyce had been involved in any of his mom's unsavory activities that Jim definitely didn't like. All he needed was Jim checking into the background of Joyce and finding something that wasn't kosher. Jim had threatened to do that to all of Blair's potential interests since he had such bad luck with women being of the criminal element.
Joyce wasn't sure if she had hit a sore spot with Blair or not, with his squirming, and wasn't sure if he didn't want to answer because there were strained relations with his mother, or what the problem was.
Cat saw his discomfiture and asked, "So, how do you know Blair's mom?"
"We met in Sedona. A wonderful place to relax, meditate, and enjoy healthy food. There was a seminar about healing energies that I was interested in."
"Oh, wow!" replied Blair excitedly. "My mom told me about that retreat. She said the energy vibes from that place are tremendous! And the anthropological aspects alone are worth going to...."
"I've heard about Sedona before myself. There's a spa I've been meaning to check out," interjected Cat. "I hear that Sedona is the spiritual center of the universe. The Indians used it for communicating with their spirit worlds... I wonder how they did that?" she mused out loud.
Blair nodded excitedly, his whole demeanor changing as he thought of the area Joyce and Cat were talking about.
"That's a very important region, anthropologically speaking, too!"
Joyce was amazed at Blair's transition to "lecture mode" as he expounded on the Sedona area.
"The Verde Valley, just west of Sedona is where the Sinagua Indians, a western band of the Anasazi Indians of Colorado region, lived. They built their homes like the Anasazi did. They were cliff dwellers and lived in that region from 500 to 1300 AD, then just disappeared, like the rest of the Anasazi nations. They even built Montezuma's Castle, which the Conquistadores thought was a part of the Mayan tribes."
Blair took a deep breath, and Joyce deftly interjected. "Yes, I took a side trip to Montezuma's Castle. It was really great. I also went up to Walnut Canyon where they also lived. Fascinating stuff to think that they lived there so many years ago!"
Cat grinned, watching Blair as he spoke and Joyce as she listened.
"Have you been to Mesa Verde, Blair? I just love that area.... although I didn't enjoy crawling through that narrow space to go out to Balcony House tour. I especially didn't care for the climb down the 100 foot staircase just to go through a long tunnel and then climb *up* a 32 foot ladder to get to the dwelling.... But the exertion was worth it!"
Blair shuddered at the mention of all the heights Joyce had scaled. She noticed the shudder and asked him about it.
"Um, I'm not particularly thrilled with heights."
"Im not either, Blair," commiserated Joyce. "A friend that was with me had to coax me all the way during all the ladders and closed-in quarters. I dont like small spaces either, so it was a real challenge to do that tour! Believe me, I had a few hairy moments on those ladders and had to use my mantra to get through it!" Joyce shivered at the remembered fright, then looked up at Blair and smiled at him. "But, Im glad that I did make the effort, because it was incredible!"
They finished their lunch, Blair got directions from Joyce to her apartment, they went their separate ways. The girls continued their shopping and Blair returned to the loft.
Jim came down the stairs from his bedroom, buttoning his favorite black shirt. He called out to Sandburg, "Shake a leg, there Junior! We can't make a good impression by being late picking up the ladies, now can we?"
Jim heard the mumbling coming from Blair's room and he walked to the French Doors to peer in at his partner. He was greeted with several different shirts thrown around the room as Sandburg was trying to put on a different shirt.
Jim winced as he saw the large dark purple bruises on Blair's ribs and sides of his stomach. Blair stifled a groan of pain as he tried to get the shirt on.
"Oh, man...Oh, hi Jim," replied Blair, not realizing that Jim had been observing him from the door.
"Sandburg, what's with all this?" asked the older man as he gestured to the clothes strewn all over.
"Huh?" asked the younger man as he was gingerly trying to shrug into the shirt. "Just trying to find something that doesn't clash with the bruising...." muttered Blair
Jim gently turned Blair around and finished helping him get the shirt settled on his shoulders. "Thanks, man. That helps alot!" sighed Blair.
"Its pretty bad when I have to dress you too, Junior, in order to get you ready in time to leave!" teased Jim.
Blair gave Jim a quick look, realized his friend was teasing him, and smiled back at the other man.
"Come on, Junior, you have exactly three minutes and I'm leaving without you."
"Yeah, yeah. I hear ya, I hear ya, Jim," commented Blair to the retreating back. "I'll try to speed it up."
Blair headed out of his room for the bathroom and stopped short when he heard the door click shut. "Hey!" he called out. "How am I supposed to finish up when you're in the bathroom?"
A mumbled reply came through the door, "You have two minutes, Chief!"
"It takes you longer than two minutes, Ellison!"
A knock on the door surprised Blair as he paced outside the washroom in the hallway.
He heard what he thought was giggling and someone saying "shh" as he walked to the front door.
He opened it to find Cat and Joyce loaded with grocery bags. Both had Cheshire Cat grins on their faces.
"You gonna stand in the doorway all night, Blair? Or do we get invited in?" challenged Cat with a grin.
"Um, hi Cat! Hi, Joyce!" greeted Blair as a slight blush started up his face since his shirt was still open.
"What are you doing here? We're supposed to be picking you two up!"
"I thought they said women were bad about getting dressed," remarked Joyce.
"Cat talked me into surprising you and Jim with dinner," replied Joyce.
"Uh, Blair joining you two for dinner and having dinner together is all that was mentioned," replied Cat. "Jim didnt indicate he had anything special in mind." advised Cat.
"Oh.... I guess I'd better go tell Jim you're here then."
Blair walked over to the bathroom door. He was about to knock when it opened. He stopped his hand from hitting Jim in the chest.
Joyce giggled softly, then gasped as she saw the large bruises on Blair's torso as his shirt swung open as he turned. Blair quickly closed his shirt as he grabbed Ellison by the arm and swung the taller man into his bedroom and slammed the door shut.
Cat just rolled her eyes and smiled at Joyce.
"Sandburg! What the hell's going on?" hissed Jim as he tried to reach for the door handle.
Hearing this, Cat started to laugh.
"Company. Cat. Joyce. Dinner...." explained Blair quickly as he was trying to button his shirt and tuck it in.
"What are they doing here? We're supposed to be picking them up!" whispered Jim back at his roommate.
"Uh, I hate to tell this to you buddy, but Cat said you asked Joyce to join us, and nothing was said about going out for dinner."
Jim stopped in the middle of turning the door handle, looked at Blair as the younger man was struggling to button the buttons. "Oh. I assumed...."
"Yeah, that's the problem, you assumed, Big Guy! I think it's safe to say don't assume anything with Cat!"
"You should know that by now," called Cat from the kitchen.
Jim's jaw clenched as he tried not to be embarrassed. He moved Blair aside and opened the door. "Come out when you're decent, Junior. I'll go handle Cat!" He gave a wink at Blair as he said this, stepped out the door and closed it behind himself.
"Cat, are you sure you know what you're doing?" asked Joyce in a hushed whisper.
"Trust me," her friend whispered back with a wink.
Cat busied herself unpacking the food she and Joyce had brought. Joyce turned to help Cat, trying to take her cue from her friend.
Jim came sauntering out of the bedroom and looked sternly at Cat. He made it to the island as Cat started to open her mouth to speak. Joyce just stared up at the intimidating man, never having met him before and feeling uncomfortable at having invaded his home.
Cat picked up a couple of bottles of wine and handed one to Jim. "Care to open it?" she dared with a grin.
He set the bottle down on the counter with a slight bang to show his annoyance. "What are you doing here?" he asked gruffly. He saw Joyce flinch and sidle away from Cat.
Cat started to laugh at his stern look. "Sorry, I thought you had suggested dinner. No mention was made about going out, so I recruited Joyce to help me pick up a few things."
Joyce quickly made her way around the island and made a beeline for the bathroom. As she stepped in front of Blair's door, it swung open and Blair bounced out, colliding with Joyce. He grimaced. He steadied her and himself by grabbing onto her forearm.
"Oh, gosh, Blair, I'm so, so sorry, Blair...?"
The observer attempted a smile to show he wasn't hurt and she smiled tentatively. She pointed to the bathroom and Blair shrugged his shoulders. "Ladies first." He muttered under his breath so she couldn't hear, "Damn!"
He turned to observe Jim and Cat bickering.
"Oh, hey! Barbecued chicken? Wine? Wow!" Blair bounced over to the island and inspected what was sitting there. Cat and Jim ignored him.
"If you don't want to have dinner here - I guess I can take the barbecued chicken and ribs back to the hotel for a midnight snack or three." Cat looked to Jim for a response, her eyes laughing.
"Ms. Alexander, I guess you and I need to have a serious talk!" he growled.
"How about after dinner? Otherwise everything that is supposed to be warm will be cold, and what's supposed to be cold will be warm," she suggested, not quite sure why he was being this difficult.
"Come on, Man! Lighten up! So a few wires got crossed in the communication. At least we were still here when they arrived! Jim? Jim! Let's eat, man! I'm starved!" suggested Blair trying to diffuse his friend. He couldnt understand how Jims attitude had changed from conspiratorial to simmering anger in just a few minutes.
Cat turned her attention back to the bags of groceries and continued to unpack. Jim's jaw clenched. He definitely didn't like being ignored by this woman.
Joyce came out of the bathroom and Blair turned at the sound of the door opening. He passed her and she asked in a whisper, "Is the coast clear yet?"
"Icebergs ahead..." whispered back Blair.
He shook his head and shrugged. He put his hand on her arm, "It'll be all right. Jim's a marshmallow inside, really he is..." He said the last line louder so Jim and Cat would be sure to hear it.
"A marshmallow, huh?" mumbled Cat, not looking up from her task.
"You could have fooled me!" whispered Joyce to herself.
"Jim, could you either get enough plates down for us or point me in the direction?" Cat asked.
"Shall I look?" asked Joyce, trying to be helpful. She started to open a cabinet next to her, and Jim reached over her and opened the correct cupboard.
"Thanks!" she said as she reached into the cupboard and removed enough plates. She took them to the table and began setting it, trying to stay out of Jim and Cat's way.
"Cutlery?" Cat inquired.
Jim opened the correct drawer without saying a word. He continued to stare at Cat.
Cat took enough cutlery for the four of them, plus serving utensils.
Blair came out of the bathroom and stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the ice still dripping from Jim.
She walked around the other side of the island, away from Jim and to help Joyce finish setting the table. Joyce gave her friend a questioning look and whispered, "Should we leave?"
She looked up from the table and met Jim's gaze. Cat put the cutlery down on the table as quietly as possible, turned on heel, picking up another smaller bag she'd brought in.
"Jim, if you want that talk, then I'll meet you on the balcony," she tossed back over her shoulder as she walked to the balcony.
Jim stood rooted to the spot staring after her. Blair gave the taller man a shove in the small of his back. "Go! Go! You two need to sort this out, or we'll be in the middle of the next ice age!" Ellison resisted until Blair hissed. "Jim, you're ruining any chance of a nice evening! Get out there, now!"
Cat stepped out on the balcony and turned, looking at Jim, daring him to come out too. He hesitated a minute then joined her. He heard Joyce heave a sigh of relief.
"Is he always like this?" whispered Joyce.
Blair smiled, "No, not always. Just sometimes...."
"Is she?" asked Blair.
"Never seen her like this before."
"Oh," breathed Blair, expecting fireworks from the two on the balcony.
"Though she has warned me she's got a temper, but I've never seen any signs of it, until now." confided Joyce.
Joyce asked Blair for napkins and he got them out. They continued getting everything out of the grocery bags and setting the food out.
"You wanted to talk?" he growled as he closed the door behind him.
"No, but you did," she snapped.
"Excuse me?" Jim said incredulously.
"You're the one that said we needed a serious talk, and then decided to turn to granite," she pointed out. Jim glared at Cat. Cat returned the glare, and then offered the small bag she had brought out with her. "I think before we go any further, you might want to have a look at this."
He slowly withdrew a jewel case and looked at it. His jaw clenched even further and he looked like he was about to explode. He looked at the CD, then looked at Cat.
"Would you have preferred me to spring that on you in a restaurant?" she asked coolly.
"Where did you get this?" he asked tightly.
"In a computer store this afternoon." She replied quietly, and continued "It didn't take them long to get it on the market, did it?"
"No.... Shit!" he replied, angry at the game, but glad that Cat had brought it to his attention. He turned to look out at the city, his city that he had sworn to protect and now he was being reminded again of the fiasco of Blair's dissertation being released to the general public. "Is this ever going to die down?" He hadn't realize he had asked this question out loud until Cat moved beside him and put a hand to his shoulder, "Jim. It will eventually go away. But it will take time."
"Yeah, I know. I don't need anymore adverse publicity to remind people of this...."
"I'm sorry I couldn't call earlier to warn you what I was up to, but Joyce has been with me since we met this morning. I really didn't want to go into a long explanation with her about this. But I have to admit, I wasn't exactly expecting the attitude you met us with."
He softened at her thoughtfulness and actually managed to smile at her. "I'm sorry, Cat. You just caught me off guard. I never heard you two coming."
He put his hand on her arm and rubbed it up and down, trying to convey his apology. "I just had a really nice restaurant picked out for us on the bay. I know Blair was looking forward to impressing Joyce, too."
"So we can do it another time. I *am* here for two more weeks, remember."
He nodded at her suggestion and continued, "I guess it was my way of saying thank you for helping to find Blair ...in one piece."
"I figured lunch and dinner yesterday was that, since you refused to take any money for it. Besides, you did all the hard work."
He stiffened his male pride rearing up again, then relaxed at her knowing smile. "No, that was because I didnt expect you to pay for them." He drew her in for a hug and whispered, "There's a lot of nice places I'd like to show you in Cascade, Cat."
She leaned into the hug and returned it. "I look forward to seeing them. Maybe I can return the favour if you ever get to Toronto."
Blair cleared his throat at Joyce and motioned with his head to the balcony. "I think there's a thaw in the air. It should be safe now, I hope!"
Joyce looked toward the doorway and giggled. "Oh, yeah...."
Blair walked over to the doorway, threw the door open and announced dinner. "Hey, you two, now that you've um, sorta kissed and made up, do you feel like joining us for dinner?"
"Uh, Blair? Have you told him about the paper?" as Cat reluctantly pulled away from Jim.
"No," he replied hesitantly.
"Maybe we should get it over with, before he chokes on something over dinner," Cat cautiously suggested.
"Paper? Why do I get the feeling Im not going to like this?" Jim asked as he followed Cat back inside.
"Remember Friday night? When I told you I didnt know whether our being seen together at the hotel was going to help or hurt your reputation? Well ." Cat started cautiously. "I guess its a case of forewarned is forearmed." Cat went to her purse and pulled out the newspaper clipping. She silently handed it Jim while the other two people in the room watched Jim's face as he quickly scanned it.
Emotions flitted over his face as he read it. Incredulity and anger being the most recognizable ones. Joyce looked at Blair and touched his elbow giving him a questioning look. He motioned back that it was okay and not to worry. Jim fought the urge to crumple up the clipping and throw it as hard as he could in the trash container. He looked at Cat and apologized. "I'm sorry about this Cat...."
"Jim, I'm not the one people are watching and making uncomfortable, so theres no need to apologize. So far, only the four of us, the hotel staff and the rest of Major Crimes would be able to figure out who the mystery lady is...."
Jim heard Joyce's sigh of relief, as well as Blair's. He hadn't realized they had expected him to blow up over this piece of gossip. He looked up at Blair then at Joyce... He could hear her heart beating fast and noticed the tense muscles in her face and body. He smiled at her to try to ease her nervousness. "I don't bite, just growl, Joyce. You don't have to bolt because of me."
Cat and Blair started to laugh, then Joyce and Jim joined in.
Blair spoke up and motioned towards the table. "Cmon you two, the food is getting cold!"
"Jim, are you ever going to open that bottle of wine?" asked Cat.
"Oh, yeah! You open the wine and I'll get the wineglasses," stated Blair as he went around to the island and grabbed out four wineglasses.
Jim brought the wine and filled each goblet with Joyce only requesting a very small amount to begin with. Blair gave her a questioning look and she explained, "I'm not much of a wine drinker..." Joyce grinned, "but knowing Cat, I'm sure she'll have my share. Especially since she's not driving.
Blair laughed at that and Jim even smiled. Cat gave her friend a mock glare, then smiled.
Dinner was amiable with the foursome. Joyce began to feel more comfortable around Jim, realizing that he was right. His bark was worse than his bite. She just hoped that she would never be on the receiving end of his anger and felt sorry for Cat. She figured Cat knew what she was getting into with Jim and his temperament. She made a mental note to ask Cat more about Jim's personality. She found herself liking Blair more and more as they continued to banter over dinner. Blair was teasing her about her not liking wine. She finally asked for either seltzer or white soda to mix with the wine, much to the chagrin of Cat who had commented that she was ruining a good wine. Joyce crinkled her nose at Cat in reply.
Joyce tried to tell a joke and kept forgetting the punchline. She tried again, "How many computer geeks does it take to change a light bulb?"
Blair humored her and played the straight man. "I don't know, Joyce, how many?"
"Too many," replied Cat with a giggle.
"Aw...come on, Cat. It only takes one thousand four hundred and seventeen, but I can't remember how many of each kind of tech to do what parts...." she giggled as she took another sip of her wine spritzer.
"It's those opportunity assessments and feasibility phases that do it, inflates the whole number," suggested Cat.
"Why don't I make some coffee?" suggested Jim after they had finished dinner.
"Thanks Jim. I'll clear the table and bring over the dessert," replied Blair as he carried the plates in. Blair quickly read the ingredients of the pie to make sure there wasn't anything in it that Jim was allergic, too. He'd have to warn Cat about Jim's allergies for future reference. Blair looked at the dessert box and read the label. "Wow! I haven't had Pecan Pie in ages... cool! Thanks ladies."
"The only thing better in my opinion than pecan pie, is homemade lemon meringue pie," Cat reminisced.
Blair cut and served the pie while Jim brought out coffee mugs.
Joyce nodded enthusiastically. "Oh, man, I have a recipe from my grandmother that is to die for! It uses 12 lemons!"
"Twleve?" asked an incredulous Blair. "Wow! Is it really tart?"
Joyce shook her head. "Nope. It's a cooked custard that is just great.... If you ask nicely maybe I'll make it for you while Cat's still in town!"
"Hell, I'll ask nicely - even talk to Steve on your behalf... Wanted off early on Friday didn't you - so we could head out to Seattle for the Mariner's game...." kidded Cat.
Blair turned her puppy dog eyes on her and pleaded, "Oh, Joyce, thanks! Pretty pretty please make it?" He looked at Jim to add his request for the pie. Jim rolled his eyes at Blair's expression.
"That would be nice Joyce, but you don't have to," said Jim.
Joyce quickly shot a glance at her friend. "Now I'm going to have to make a whole pie for Steve as a bribe, Cat!" Joyce groaned, then asked slyly, "What are *you* going to bribe him with? And just what reason are we going to give him for getting off early?"
Cat looked at Jim and shook her head. "No Joyce, I'll take the pie as a bribe to talk to Steve so you can get off early...."
"Oh... thanks. So, I have to make the pie and you get the credit?" she asked with a giggle.
"No - you make the pie, I get to enjoy it, and you get to leave early on Friday...."
"Hmmpg!" snorted Joyce. "I still have to squeeze all the lemons by hand.... Hey, I know, why don't you all come over and help squeeze lemons? We'll have a pie baking party! And Cat, you can make your pie and we'll see whose is better!"
Blair, Jim, and Cat laughed with Joyce. "I can see Jim trying to squeeze all those lemons," teased Blair.
"Yeah, you two would probably start a baseball game with them in my living room and I'd have lemon juice all over my furniture!"
Blair grabbed his heart. "Us? Us? Would we do that Jim? The lady wounds my pride!"
"She must be mistaking you for me. I think she's referring to the time someone asked me to toss them a roll and I told them to go long...." admitted Cat with a guilty grin.
Joyce groaned remembering. "Oh, yeah. Right! You told that to Steve at dinner the second night we ate out when you were in town last! He actually ran deep for it and caught it, much to the chagrin of the waiters."
"Ah, but, we were the only ones left in the restaurant. It wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't knocked the tray out of the waiter's hands," said Cat with a mischievous grin.
"Oh, ouch!" laughed Blair. "I hope nothing got broken!"
"A little pride, but no dishes or bones," Cat replied.
"Steve made sure he gave an extra generous tip on the bill. I wonder how he explained it on his expense report?"
"Entertaining an out of town colleague?" offered Cat.
Joyce giggled in reply but didn't say anything.
Jim brought the coffee over and served. Joyce declined and asked for ice water instead which Blair got for her. They ate their pecan pie and Blair, Joyce and Cat shared stories of favourite family get togethers while Cat noted that Jim remained quiet on the subject.
As he cleaned the dishes off the table, Jim waved aside their offer to wash the dishes. He told them he and Blair could do them later.
The older man sat with Cat on the larger of the two couches while Blair sat with Joyce.
"You said something at lunch today, Joyce, about knowing my mom. How did you two meet and get interested in....."
Joyce glanced at Jim to see his reaction to her knowing Naomi. He raised an eyebrow at this news. Blair smiled at her to continue.
"Um, Naomi and I met a few years ago at a yoga retreat, then started talking about auras and being able to feel energy patterns in people. Since then, we've met up a few different seminars/retreats. We've ended up rooming together at a couple of them. She's a great person and has really peaceful energy signatures."
"Wow! That's cool. Have you read James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy?" he asked, fairly bouncing in his seat.
Cat smiled and listened. 'I think I'm going to have a talk with Joyce. She maybe just the resource Blair needs in Cascade.'
Joyce practically vibrated in her excitement to find someone else that had read the book and nodded enthusiastically. "Yes I have! It's one of my favorite books.... It explains so much of what I feel.
"Cool!" enthused Blair. "Do you see aura's around people?"
"Sometimes I can. They have to be really strong auras for me to see them. Actually, I can feel energy around people if I hold my hands over them. I can feel "hot" spots where there might be a blockage, in otherwords, where a person may be fighting an infection...." She glanced nervously at Jim and Cat, not sure if they thought she was some crazy kook talking about auras and feeling energy.
Jim wasn't betraying much. Cat smiled, enjoying the chance to learn something new about her friend.
"Um, maybe this isn't a good subject to talk about. Not a lot of people are comfortable with new age stuff..." stated Joyce softly, looking down at her hands, suddenly very nervous.
Blair touched her hands in reassurance. "No, it's okay, right guys?"
"I don't have any problems with it. Do you Jim?" asked Cat wondering what his reaction was going to be, especially after this past couple of days.
Jim rolled his eyes at Blair and gave Blair a warning glance. It wasnt the topic of conversation he objected to, just the possibility of where it could lead. Blair nodded his understanding of Jim's unspoken warning.
"Come on, Joyce, you're among friends. I'd love to learn more about this. I have quite a bit of experience with my research into ancient cultures that used alternative methods of healing, that is, compared to Western medicine. I'd love to learn more about what you know, how you learned about it, that kind of thing."
Joyce looked up and gave him a shy smile, then looked at Jim as the other man spoke. "Watch out Joyce, Blair is notorious about asking lots of questions and doing tests on people.... Do you really want to go into the Sandburg Zone?"
Cat smothered a giggle with her hand. Remembering only too well the time Blair offered to work on some tests with her. Now she was actually considering going along with the tests to help the two of them. Blair looked askance at Jim since Jim had alluded to his "tests" of the other man's Sentinel abilities. "Can I help it if I'm a scientist first, man?"
"What's so funny?" asked Joyce looking from Cat to Blair and back again. "Did I say something funny?"
"I'll tell you about it sometime Joyce," promised Cat.
"I'm going to hold you to that, Cat, and I won't forget it either!" replied the other young woman as she pointed to Cat.
"So who's philosophy of alternative medicine do you hold to?" asked Jim, surprising Blair and Cat with his knowledge. "Ayurvedic, Pranic, Japanese, Chinese?"
Cat looked back and forth between Blair and Jim. Trying to figure out what to make of this turn in the conversation.
"Actually, I tend to be eclectic in my philosophies. I think all the different cultures offer something of value. I have friends that practice Feng Shui, use flower essences for healing, do holistic medicine, practice Ayurvedic healing, and even energy healing. A few friends of mine are nurses that do touch healing on their patients..."
"Cool...." enthused Blair. "Just what do they do?"
"Um, in Touch Healing..."
"As in Therapeutic Touch?" asked Cat.
"Yes, but there are different philosophies and teachings. I tend to lump it all together and consider it touch healing....it's easier for people to understand it, since nurses are the ones who have brought it to the public's general knowledge," explained Joyce.
"Oh," commented Blair.
"I, um, I was trained in Reiki, a Japanese form of touch healing and practice it on people, if they need it," stated Joyce softly.
She wasn't sure how these virtual strangers would receive her healing abilities. She stole a glance at Blair, but he was just smiling, trying to encourage her to talk more. Jim was attentive while Cat was just watching her friend with a slight amused expression on her face. Joyce was puzzled. She didn't think these three diverse people would be so accepting of her abilities. Especially cops, or rather one cop, an ex-anthropology grad student, and a computer expert.
"I'll have to remember that after we've had a 3 a.m. meeting," kidded Cat.
Joyce's face brightened at Cat's comment. "Sure...any time...."
"I'll be nice though, and wait until later in the day..." added Cat with a smile.
"Wow! This is like *so* cool!" declared Blair. "Can you give a demonstration?"
Jim had been monitoring Joyce's reactions and could tell that she was still nervous about talking about herself, although she had begun to open up a little. He had realized that he had intimidated her earlier and was doing his best to dispel that image, especially for Blair's sake, since the younger man seemed to like Cat's friend.
"Chief, I don't think the lady is really comfortable doing demonstrations just so you can do one of your tests on her!" He softened his admonishment with a smile at Joyce.
"That's okay, Jim. I don't mind. In fact, I was wondering how I was going to offer to do some healing on Blair's bruises on his torso..." She looked at Blair for permission.
"Cool. If it helps take the pain away, I'm all for it!" enthused Blair.
"Do I need to take my shirt off?"
"No, I can do it without you removing your shirt. I just need to be comfortable while I give you healing energy."
"Okay, how do you want to do this?" asked the excited police observer.
Joyce scooted herself back into the corner of the couch. "Do you mind if I put my foot on the couch?" she asked Jim. He motioned that she could do it. She slipped her shoe off, motioned for Blair to scoot over so she could get her leg up on the couch, then told Blair to scoot toward her so his back was to her. She then put her hands on one side of Blair's ribs, closed her eyes, and breathed deeply, like she was getting ready to meditate. Blair looked at Cat and raised his eyebrows at her. Cat returned the raised eyebrow with a smile.
Joyce spoke softly. "Don't be alarmed if you feel heat coming from my hands. That's normal."
Jim stood up and walked around the couch, observing what was going on. He brought his hand down and hovered just over Joyce's hand, and looked at Cat and Blair, surprised. He quietly went back to sit down next to Cat.
Cat looked up at Jim with unspoken questions.
"Wow! That's amazing," said Blair. "I can feel the heat going into my skin and muscles...." He silently questioned Jim to see if the other man had dialed up his senses to monitor what Joyce was doing.
Jim nodded slowly in answer to the unspoken questions from Blair and Cat. He mouthed, "Later."
Cat nodded in return.
Joyce took one more deep breath and slowly opened her eyes. "Wow! You were pulling a lot of energy from me.....You must be in a lot of pain for that to happen!"
Blair gingerly turned himself around to face the young woman. "You could say that..."
"You don't channel the energy? You give your own? Isn't that tiring?" asked Cat.
"Um, no, I don't actually give my own energy to someone. I guess you could call it channeling. It comes in through my head and goes out my hands...I'm just gathering it from all around me and focusing it on Blair's injuries."
"Glad to hear that. The other way can be dangerous," cautioned Cat.
Blair had gently touched his side where Joyce had been doing the energy healing. He looked at her with awe and respect. "Hey! That worked. It doesn't hurt as much. Thanks."
"You're welcome, Blair. Do you want me to do the other side as well?" she offered.
"If you don't mind..." he responded hesitantly, not wanting to overtax her, especially with Cat's comment.
"Sure. Turn back around." She proceeded to do the other side.
"Maybe we should keep her around and be your personal healer, Chief, considering all the trouble that finds you!" chuckled Jim.
Joyce giggled and her eyes went wide at Jim's comment. "Is this something I need to know about?"
"From the rumours I've heard, this is sorta common place...." Cat confided to her friend.
Joyce lowered her hands, took a deep breath and groaned. "What have I gotten myself into?"
All three laughed and said simultaneously, "The Sandburg Zone!"
"Do we need Robby the Robot giving off his verbal warnings like in Lost in Space? Warning! Warning! Blair Sandburg! Danger ahead!" commented Joyce with a chuckle as she flailed her arms in imitation of the robot.
The four friends talked about a lot of different things, with Blair regaling them with some of his funnier exploits on anthropological expeditions. Finally Joyce looked at her watch and stated, "Uh, Cat, I hate to be a party poop, but we are expected in the office for 10 a.m. Shall we get going?" prompted Joyce.
"Ill give Cat a lift back to her hotel," Jim offered.
"Okay, Ill see you in the morning, then Cat," Joyce said with a sly grin. "Jim it was nice to meet you. Blair it was nice to see you again. Thanks again for indulging us. Sorry we, uh, invaded the way we did."
"Nice to meet you too Joyce," replied Jim.
"Mind if I walk you out to your car, Joyce?" offered Blair.
"Id like that, Blair."
"Night, Joyce. Ill see you in the morning," called Cat as she watched her friends walk out the door together.
Turning to Jim she looked at him, shaking her head and asked, "What have you started?"
"Well, it looks like Blair now has a source closer to home for the information he was trying to get from you. Besides, Im sure I can always find out what youre up to through Blair and Joyce ." Jim returned with a grin.
"You have my business number, my cellular number, and my email address on my business card. If you want to know anything like that, just ask."
"Maybe theres another question I should be asking, so that I dont get in trouble for making another assumption." Cat grinned at him as he continued, "Did you want me to spend the night?"
"If you want to, Id love to have your company. Tonight, and the rest of my stay if Im not being too forward."
"Then theres a few things I need to put together before we leave, " said Jim as he turned to go upstairs.
"Jim, how be we do the dishes first? I dont want to stick Blair with them. Knowing both Blair and Joyce, we may actually be able to get them done before he gets back."
"Jim. Joyce and I did drop in and bring dinner, rather unexpectedly and at my instigation. Had we gone out as you had planned, no one would have to do dishes. So yes, I want to make sure theyre done before we leave."
"Okay, but I wash, you dry. Deal?"
"Deal," Cat agreed as she followed him into the kitchen.
Blair walked Joyce down to her car. He was surprised at the
type of car she drove. He had expected a small little convertible but found a
four-wheel drive SUV instead. She unlocked the car, then turned around to say
goodbye to Blair.
"Thanks for letting us bring the dinner, Blair, considering it was a blind date, and all," she stated shyly as she found her car keys.
Blair watched her and responded, "No, its Jim and I should be thanking you and Cat for bringing dinner. We had every intention of taking the two of you out."
"Yeah, well. Never mind. Im glad Cat talked me into agreeing to dinner. And bumping into you at the mall," she laughed.
"Me, too," agreed Blair. "Would you like to do this again? Uh, at least not the bumping of heads that is." The young man crossed his fingers behind his back, holding his breath as he waited for her answer. He wanted to get to know her better and learn more about energy healing from her.
Joyce considered her answer carefully, "I think that would be nice, but "
Blairs face fell as he heard the "but" and his knees lurched a little in disappointment. "But?" he prompted her, afraid to hear the answer.
"Could we just make it the two of us? I really like Cat, but I find Jim a little intimidating. Id really like to get to know you better, that is, if you dont mind?"
Blair let out a small whoosh of air in relief, "Ooohh sure. We can do that. No problem. Dont worry about Jim. Hes actually a pussycat. And like he said before, his bark is worse than his bite. Hes a really cool guy, once you get to know him. Would tomorrow okay?" asked Blair hopefully. He figured that if he didnt "book" Joyce now, it wouldnt come to pass.
She thought about her schedule for the next day, and for
the rest of the week, for that matter.
"Im available after 5 p.m., if thats okay? I did promise Cat, to keep the meetings short and leave her nights free." She ducked her head in embarrassment. "I didnt realize it would be to my advantage, at least for tomorrow!" She blushed and looked up at Blair through her eyelashes to see a smile playing across his features. The young woman couldn't help smile in return at Blairs enthusiasm. Maybe its not such a bad thing to be free the rest of the week, thought Joyce. It might be interesting to see where this leads.
She smiled at Blair again, then turned to open the car door. He anticipated her move and got to the door first. Her hand ended up grabbing his and she giggled.
"If you need more energy healing tomorrow, just let me know. Id
be happy to oblige!"
"I just might take you up on that, thanks for the offer, Joyce."
She turned to climb into the cab. He started
to close the door then opened it again to ask, "Would you like me to pick
you up, or meet somewhere?"
"Why dont I meet you here," she suggested. "We can take my vehicle, if you dont mind."
"Thanks. I dont really trust the old Volvo for dates It has a bad temperament and can conk out at any time. Ill gladly put gas in your car for you "
"Nope. No gas. Dont even think about it. I offered my car and if you try to pay for gas, the date is off!" She gave him a severe look. He put his hands up in defense.
"Okay, Joyce, okay!"
She started the engine and he began to close the door. "Blair, thanks for a wonderful evening. See you tomorrow."
He stood there as she drove away and remained rooted to the spot until she was out of sight. He slowly walked into the building and went upstairs. He was already planning for the next evening.
They just finished putting way the last of the dishes as Blair came back into the loft. Cat gave Jim an "I told you so" look. Jim chuckled in response.
"Hey, thanks guys, for doing the dishes. You really didnt have to, I would have done them, in the morning," Blair said as he dropped his keys in the basket beside the door and then entered the kitchen.
"Thats what I was afraid of," muttered Jim. Turning to Cat, "What do you think, are we ready to go?"
"Okay," she replied with a nod.
"Ill be right back then," he told her as he head up the stairs.
"Cat, it was really thoughtful of you about dinner tonight, but I think well need to talk about Jim, and the uh, sensitivities he has. With food, and a few other things," suggested Blair.
"Okay, but if the next words out of your mouth are 'What are your intentions, Ill take a cab back to the hotel alone!'"
Cat and Blair shared a smile as they heard laughter coming from upstairs.
"Maybe we should get together tomorrow night, the three of us and talk about some of the things we all should know. Work together on getting a better understanding of what both you and Jim need to know so I can help you set the foundation," Cat suggested.
"Um, could we do it another night? Joyce and I are getting together tomorrow night. Would Tuesday be good?"
She chuckled. "Okay, Tuesday it is, unless Jim has other plans ."
"Tuesdays fine with me," Jim chimed in as came down the stairs with his sports bag and another larger bag.
"Moving in?" Cat asked hesitantly, eyeing the other bag with curiosity.
He grinned back at her and motioned towards the door. Cat picked up her purse and joined him.
As he started to shift the bag around to open the door, Cat reached out to open the door at the same time he did.
To Blairs amusement, Cat demanded, "Either let me help carry something, or let me open the door."
Jim relented by handing her the sports bag, and again reaching out for the door knob, successfully opening the door this time.
"Ill see you at the station tomorrow afternoon after orientation at the Academy." Blair told Jim.
"See you then, Sandburg."
"Night, Blair. I'll see you Tuesday evening," Cat said as she and Jim left the loft.
* * *
Once at the truck, Jim opened the passenger door for Cat and then went around to the drivers side and got in.
"So, are you going to tell me whats in the bag or is it a deep dark secret?" asked Cat as she let curiosity get the better of her.
"Curiosity " started Jim as he turned the key in the ignition.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Killed the cat, satisfaction brought it back. So are you going to satisfy my curiosity or not?"
"Okay. There are sheets and pillowcases in the bag."
"Excuse me? Sheets and pillowcases?" she shot him a look of incredulity. "May I ask why youre bringing sheets and pillowcases with you to the hotel? Its not like they dont have them already."
"Remember what Blair said earlier about my sensitivities? I have a bit of a problem with the detergent they use to clean and starch the sheets and pillowcases."
"Like an allergic reaction? Do you do this whenever you travel?" Cat gave him a sidelong glance "What happens when you end up in the hospital for a stay? Their laundry facilities arent any kinder to the sheets and pillowcases than a hotel."
"Well, I try not to spend much time in the hospital," he responded with a grin.
"Worse than a doctor as a patient, eh? If youre that sensitive to things like laundry detergent, I cant even begin to guess what would happen with medications or things like food additives."
"Certain foods I have had trouble with, but I normally pass it off as stomach problems. Most people can understand that, and are normally sympathetic."
Cat shook her head and joked, "Is there anything else I should know, or should I just go straight to Blair? Maybe he should consider creating a manual on the care and feeding of a sentinel?"
"Dont get Sandburg started," he groaned. "If you do, you may end up finding out more than you ever wanted to about sentinels."
"And this is a bad thing, why? If I have at least some understanding, then I can have some idea what to expect later on, right?"
Jim considered her statement. It felt right. But did she even realize what she had just said, and she was possibly even considering something longer than just this next two weeks? Was he reading too much into her statement, just wishful thinking on his part?
"Oh my gawd," she said in a whisper, eyes widening in shock, her hand rising to her mouth. Turning to Jim she said in a voice just slightly above the whisper, "I am so sorry."
"Sorry for what?" he asked, concerned at the troubled look on her face.
"Im sorry about the last time I was here. Im still trying to get my mind around just what youre capable of, and I suddenly realized, I did one of the most horrible things could possibly have done to you the last time I was here. With your heightened sense of smell and taste, it must have been horrendous looking through a city garbage dump for a dead body. Oh, gawd, Im so sorry. I hope you were able to get someone else to do that job."
Jim was touched by her concern. "I lead the team that searched the dump. It wasnt pleasant, but it also wasnt your fault. Remember, it was Kalan that left the body there, not you. You helped us find it."
Cat hesitated and then tentatively asked, "How bad was it?"
"I didnt have much of an appetite for the rest of the day, and there was a nasty taste in the back of my mouth, but it went away soon enough. No harm done," he reassured her.
I can see this is going to take some getting used to," she muttered to herself.
Jim checked the address witten on the piece of paper. He looked up at the board displaying all the building occupants. He found the name he was looking for and walked over to the elevator. He rode the lift to the 5th floor and found the office he was looking for. He greeted the receptionist, told her his name, and who he was supposed to meeting with. He was immediately shown into an office. He walked in, expecting to find some hotshot young lawyer just out of law school, willing to help him out. Instead, as the secretary knocked and opened the door to the office, Jim was startled to see a very petite, young woman with a glint in her eye come forward, arm extended to shake his hand. He quickly noted her features, perfume, chestnut hair pulled back into a neat chignon, light blue business suit with matching heels, and a glint in her eye. She smiled easily, friendly, and sincerely at Jim as he gently took her hand in his for a shake. He was surprised at the strength of her grip.
The lawyer had an easy manner about her, and when she looked at Jim, it was as a person, not as a dollar sign. Her voice was melodious, sort of sexy in a way that got noticed. He wondered how she would do in a court oom. Probably mesmerized the jury and judge....
She invited him to sit down, then took a seat next to him. He was surprised with that, he had expected he to go back behind her desk, to try to impose her authority. However, she sat back, relaxed, and asked Jim how she could help him. She listened attentively to what he was saying, never once scoffing at his information, as he had expected. This was a lawyer, and if they couldn't make money off the case, then they weren't interested. He mentally added up what it was costing him per minute just to be sitting in the chair and groaned inwardly. "Well, he thought, "whatever it takes to get this game off the market, and to keep my anonymity, or what was left of it, was worth whatever it will cost me."
She asked to see the game CD, which he brought out of his pocket. She scanned the picture, looked at Jim, then back to the picture. She proceeded to open the jewel case, took out the jacket liner and read through it quickly. She asked if she could pop it into her computer to take a look at it.
Jim reluctantly agreed. She noted his reticence as she booted up the game. Jungle music came out of the speakers and her eyebrows raised slightly. Ms. Capp continued to install the game, and read the instructions for playing it. Following those instructions, she printed them off.
A voice came over the speakers describing the character of the game. Jim winced as the words were spoken. D. M. Capp peripherally watched his reaction to the music and the voice. She played a quick game to get the idea of it, then shut it down.
Excusing herself for a minute, she stepped out into the reception area to have her secretary make a copy of the jacket so she could keep a copy of the artwork on file. When the Jacket was returned she handed the CD back to Jim, who slipped it back into his pocket.
"It hits a little to close to home, eh?" she surmised.
"Excuse me?" asked Jim, trying to pretend that he didn't understand her question.
"You are Detective James Ellison, Cascade P.D., recently embroiled in a scandal with his partner, one Blair Sandburg. Mr. Sandburg's Ph.D. dissertation was published, without permission. Said dissertation was about you. Mr. Sandburg recanted. Lost his position at the University. How much more information would you like me to give you?" she queried. She had a glint in her eyes
as she watched Jim squirm mentally and physically.
"If this is how she makes me feel when shes on my side, I almost feel sorry for the other guys?" thought Jim.
"I see you've done your homework, Ms. Capp," replied Jim, desperately trying to think of a way to negate the dissertation information. She was too perceptive.
"Of course, Detective Ellison. That's why I'm a good lawyer. I can also be discreet. I won't divulge your secret, if that's what you're worried about with this lawsuit. If we're going to work together, I need your complete cooperation and honesty. In return, I'll give you my honest opinion on how to best win this case. Deal?"
"Off the record?" asked Jim.
"Strictly off the record, Detective. Unless I say otherwise. I'll give you complete final authority on how we approach this case. Good enough?" she asked with a smile that went all the way to her eyes, making them light up with a sparkle. "I can tell you what options I see - you can choose the direction."
Jim answered slowly, "Strictly off the record...I guess I can live with that. Thank you."
"This is still too many people knowing who I am and what I can do. I'm not comfortable with this!" Jim thought in frustration. "First Cat, now this lawyer!" Jim thought in frustration. "First Cat, now this lawyer!"
"Well, I definitely think you have a solid case here on the likeness issue. Now, the actual game itself could be brought under a separate lawsuit, however, in order to keep your abilities a secret, or rather, out of the public's eye, I'd say you probably don't want to proceed in that direction, right?"
"I think that would be a fair assessment of the situation," he replied with a nod. Jim didn't like what had happened. His preference would have been to just make it all disappear without a fuss. If he let this slide, the situation could be uncomfortable for a bit longer and it might die down. But what if it didn't? Did he really want to take that risk?
"Do you want me to pursue them to stop making the game altogether, issuing a cease and desist order, recall all the products out in the stores as of now, or just use a different image, with your approval first?"
"I'd rather everything stop. But, I know that unless I want to bring more attention to myself, we're going to have to play this one close to the chest. I would like to see the name of the game changed, though. Is that possible?"
Ms. Capp stood up, offered her hand to Jim, who also stood up. He took her pro-offered hand, again surprised by the strength of her grip. "Detective Ellison, I'll call you on Friday with an update of everything. With any luck, the product should be off the store shelves by Wednesday afternoon."
"Thank you. I appreciate your help and your discretion," he replied, relieved at her thoroughness and promises of quick results. "We haven't discussed your fee."
"That's all right. Just check with Maria at the front desk and sign a contract for my services. All the fees are listed there. And, no, you won't have a heart attack at my fees."
Jim went out the door, and heard a soft comment, meant for him only. "Oh, Detective Ellison, send your friend, Mr. Sandburg to see me. I may be able to help him on the attempted publishing of his dissertation."
She didn't expect him to pop his head back in, but was gratified to see that he really had heard her comment.
"I'll send Sandburg over to see you, soon," grinned Jim. He wondered if he should warn her about Sandburg and table legs.
"Ill talk to you, soon," promised Ms. Capp with a smile.
The next two weeks went by quickly. Monday evening proved to be comfortably quiet for everyone. Tuesday evening, Jim, Blair and Cat got together to get a better understanding of areas Blair should possibly consider investigating. Blair and Cat tried to coax Jim into joining them in a meditation, and failed.
True to her word, D. M. Capp called Wednesday morning to advise Jim that the game would be pulled from store shelves by that evening. Thursday night the four went out to celebrate the game being pulled from store shelves. Jim thanked Joyce for recommending D. M. Capp, and strongly suggested that Blair follow up on the lawyers offer to help him.
Friday, Jim and Blair joined Joyce and Cat at the Mariners game after miraculously coming up with two pairs of tickets. Cat offered the other tickets to Simon and Darrell with Joyces blessing. For the balance of her stay, when she wasnt answering questions for Blair or as had started to become custom joining Blair and Joyce in a meditation, Cat was kept busy sightseeing in and around Cascade with Jim.
Early Sunday morning found Jim and Cat at the airport, waiting for her flight to leave.
"Youre being awfully quiet. Whats up? Tired?" asked Jim.
"I thought I could do this." she whispered, shaking her head.
"Do what?" he asked with concern, noting the sadness in her voice.
Cat closed her eyes, and sighed unhappily. "Reality just came crashing in. It just started to sink in that in 7 hours, Im going to be 3,000 miles away, and I dont know if Ill ever see you again. What was I thinking...."
"The same thing I was. In case youve forgotten, there were two of us," Jim reminded. "Besides, its not if, its when."
Cat looked at him. He had that look he gave her when he *knew* something she didnt.
"Do me a favor -- take it easy on Blair with that...." she asked. Cat thought for a moment and continued, "You know, I think thats the one thing Im going to miss most. Ive never met anyone else who could weird me out the way you do. And you take such delight in keeping me off balance, too."
"Thats the only thing youre going to miss?" he said feigning hurt.
"Not likely," she responded with a gleam of devilment in her eyes.
"Of course, Ill miss Blair and Joyce, too. But Joyce will be coming out to Toronto in about a months time, plus were always on email and the phone to each other...." she kidded.
"I thought you might like this." Jim pulled a small bag out of his pocket that looked like it held a CD. "Something to remind you of Cascade when youre back in Toronto."
"Its not... is it?" she looked at him incredulously. "You sure you want this out there? I figured youd be using it as a coaster or something." Looking at it she realized that it wasnt even the same one shed originally bought. Hed actually gone out and bought another one, before they had been pulled from the shelves.
"You brought it to my attention, and helped me stop that little problem. I figured you would enjoy it."
"Oh, wow. I get to play Sentry all the way back to Toronto," she kidded and they both laughed. "Unfortunately, it wont even come close to the original. I cant even begin to imagine the look you got when you bought it, or did you get someone else to pick it up for you?"
Jim chuckled. "I bought it, with Sandburgs help. He knew where youd picked it up. And yes, the cashier did a double take between looking at the jacket of the CD and the customer who was purchasing it. I needed to keep the other one on hand in case Ms. Capp needed any further information."
Cat carefully tucked the game into her carry-on luggage.
"By the way Cat, do you remember the comment you made as you left the Major Crimes office after we first met? About the big black cat?"
"Your spirit animal? Yes. Why?"
"Im just wondering, what does your mountain lion use for a litterbox and a scratching post?"
Cat started to laugh. "Anything she wants too ."
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