Home > Graywulf > Spiritwalk (RLT) Part 1, Part 2

Spiritwalk (RLT)

by


Disclaimers: "The Sentinel" and all its characters belong to Pet Fly and Paramount. "Quantum Leap" and all itís characters belong to Bellasarius Productions and Universal. Any other characters belong to my warped imagination and Iíll gladly take the blame/credit for them.
Warnings: OFC alert. This story does contain a recurring OFC from the Road Less Traveled series.
Acknowledgments: Many thanks to my online friends for the support and generally putting up with me as I worked through this story. Thanks to Marianne, Otter and Catbat for the sanity checks. Thanks also to TAE for telling me to get back to work. And last but not least, many thanks to Kathleen & Shallan & Toni Rae for agreeing to beta this story!
Authorís Notes: Major references to the episodes Switchman and Warriors. Minor references to the episodes Seige, Night Train, Remembrance, Flight. This story is set in Fall 2000. 
// Ö// denotes thoughts.


The rain beat a steady tattoo on the windshield as Jim slowed for the amber traffic light as it turned to red. It had been another gray rainy day in Cascade, which mirrored his mood. He would be glad to get home. Time to relax and try to put this whole mess behind him, unless Cat had other plans. Heíd told her he was going to be out for the afternoon. At least that had been his intention until the rain had started to fall.

He had just spent the last two hours in Bayside Park, going over the scene of a now closed investigation. Unfortunately, it had not closed to his satisfaction. It had started out with a missing persons report, the nephew of a local political candidate, Russell Bradford. As it was an election year, they had respected Bradfordís desire to keep it out of the mediaís eye. The case was handed to Captain Simon Banks, who in turn handed it over to his best team, Ellison and Sandburg; developments escalated and it turned into a murder before they had ever been able to bring the Feds into the case.

The light changed and a car impatiently honked behind him, alerting him to the fact. Jim continued his journey home, driving more on instinct than conscious thought.

//Weíd collared the suspect. The evidence gave the DA an almost airtight case. The kidnapping victim had died before we... *I* could find him. He had only been sixteen years old and should be out playing football with friends instead of being buried by his family. Minutes had made the difference, not hours or days. I *should* have been able to find him, but *I* failed. And now a family grieves. More people Iíve failed. Sometimes, I wonder why Iím even a cop. Maybe I should have considered doing something else with my life, where being a few minutes late doesnít cost someone his life.//

Jim was lost in thought as he turned to enter the parking garage of their building. He remembered as he pulled into his parking space, that Cat was expecting Blair to come over this afternoon. //So much for resting and relaxing.//

* * * * *

After getting off on the 21st floor, Jim slowed as he approached their apartment, listening for his partnerís voice. Instead, all he heard was the tapping of the keyboard in Catís office.

"Sandburgís running late is he?" Jim asked, shrugging off his damp coat.

"Yeah, I just heard from him about five minutes ago. He said heíd be about 20 minutes late, the line was long at the store and he couldnít get out of there any sooner." Cat called out from the office. "Coffeeís fresh if youíre interested, but if you want cream for it instead of milk, youíll have to wait until Blair arrives. He offered to pick it up when I told him we were out," she added.

"Did you want your tea in there?"

"No, Iíll join you in the living room. Iíll be out in a sec to make it."

On his way to the kitchen, he noticed a stack of books on the end table in the living room. "The lending library is still open?" he joked.

"Yes," she replied with a grin. "Blair said heíd finished the others."

"Whatís the topic this time? Spirit guides and how to contact them? Aboriginal dreamtime? Energy healing? Crystals?"

"NoÖ not this timeÖ" she answered with a chuckle. "Iíve got a couple of books about spiritwalks for Blair." Cat paused for a moment. "And heís got a couple of books I wanted to borrow." Cat noticed that something was wrong. There was something in his voice, almost as if he was distracted. But by what?

"UmÖ Jim? Is everything okay?" Cat asked cautiously as she entered the kitchen.

"Yes. Why do you ask?" replied Jim warily. //Damn! The Bradford case is still on my mind. Sheís starting to pick it up. I wish it would just go away like it had never happened. All of it!//

"Just a funny feeling I had. But if you say everything is okayÖ" she trailed off, turning her gaze away from Jim to the rain dripping down the overhang above the balcony doors. The feeling persisted. //Okay, so he doesnít want to talk about it with me. Iíll make sure Blair knows, but it will definitely be out of Jimís earshot.//

"It is," he assured as he busied himself in the kitchen getting three mugs for their coffee and tea. Cat put the kettle on to boil. With one last glance at Jim, she headed into the living room to wait for it to boil.

"I picked up some of those cookiesÖ." she started only to stop when she heard the thud of something falling in the kitchen. As she got up and went to the kitchen to offer her help, to her horror she realized it wasnít something, but someone who had fallen. Jim was no longer standing in the kitchen, but now lay in the middle of the floor.

"Jim!" she cried out as she knelt beside him. He was unconscious. She quickly checked him for injuries remembering the four "Bís" Ė breathing, bleeding, broken bones and burns. He was breathing easily. He had a steady pulse. There was no sign of any physical injury, though she was sure heíd have one heck of a bump and a bruise or two from the fall. There was no sign of feverÖ yet there was something very wrong. There was an almost hollow feeling when she touched him. Almost like he was there, but wasnít.

Cat hurried to the phone and with shaking fingers dialed the number of Blairís cell phone.

"Blair Sandburg," came the answer after two short rings.

"Blair, itís Cat. How long are you going to be?" she asked with a note of panic in her voice.

"Iím just going through checkout now, why, is something wrong?" he countered, hearing the panic.

"Big time. Jim arrived home a few minutes ago. He suddenly collapsed midway through a conversation."

"Can you see anything wrong with him? Injuries? Anything?" Blair quizzed her as the cashier rang the last of his purchases through.

"Heís breathing. Heís got a steady pulse. I canít see anything physically wrong with him, but heís unconscious. Did you want me to call 911 or wait for you to get here?"

"Hang onÖ Iíll be there in a few minutes." Blair handed the cashier the money for his purchases and without waiting for his change, grabbed the bags and ran for his car.

* * * * *

The trip from the store had been a blur. The groceries sat forgotten in the car. He thanked lady luck for having an elevator waiting for him as he hurried in and went straight up to their floor without making any stops in between. Opening the door to the condo with his own set of keys, Blair saw Cat kneeling beside Jim in the kitchen, draping an afghan over his still form to keep him warm.

Joining her on the floor, Blair started his own examination. "Has there been any change?" he demanded. If he hadnít known how this had happened, he would have sworn Jim was sleeping.

"No. Has he done this before? Is this a sentinel thing?" Cat asked shakily.

"Not as long as Iíve known him," he replied, checking Jimís pulse.

"BlairÖ do you get a funny feelingÖ when youíre touching Jim? Like nowÖ taking his pulse?" she asked hesitantly.

"No. What do you mean?"

"I get this feeling of a hollowness. I donít know how else to describe it," she offered apologetically. "Itís almost like his essence is gone. The part of him that makes him who he is apart from his physical self. His soul, I guess some might call it."

Blair furrowed his brow at this comment, not knowing what to make of it. "Help me get him into the living room. Thereís more room there. We can make him more comfortable." Cat nodded in silent agreement and helped Blair move Jim into the living room.

* * * * * *

They had just gotten Jim settled when he heard Cat gasp. He watched as she fell backwards with a look of shock on her face. She stared at a point above them, nodded wordlessly and then looked at him.

"Are you okay? What happened?" he asked with concern.

"Uh, yeah. Iím okay. I thinkÖ I just saw Incacha," she responded slowly trying to take in what she had seen.

"What? How did you know it was Incacha? Did he say anything?" Blair questioned.

"HeÖ He had long dark hair. He wasnít wearing much and his face was painted red. He said the Shaman of the Great City is the only one who can help Enqueri. Do you know who this shaman is?"

"Yeah, I do," Blair responded absently. //How am I supposed to help Jim if I donít know whatís wrong?//

"SoÖ how do we find him? Look him up in the yellow pages under "S" for Shaman or "G" for Great City?" she asked in bewilderment.

"No. We donít have to go looking for him," Blair began hesitantly. Seeing Catís confusion, he continued. "Incacha called me the Shaman of the Great City just before he died. But I have no clue what to do. I donít even know whatís wrong with him!"

"Youíre theÖ?" her voice trailed off.

Blair nodded. "You said it appeared that Jimís Ďessenceí or Ďspirití had left his body. How could you tell?"

"When I tried to connect with him to do a healing, all I could feel was the emptiness within him. Jim isnít here," she said quietly, laying her hand on Jimís chest. "The only thing I can think to do is a soul retrieval, a spiritwalk, to bring him back, but Iíve never tried it before under circumstances like this."

"Okay," Blair said, trying to take this information in. "How do we get started?"

"I wish weíd had our meeting before now. Those are the books I had ready for you to read," Cat answered wistfully, nodding in the direction of the books laying on the coffee table.

"Iíve always had an interest in this type of thing," Blair admitted. "But I have to admit; Iíve never taken Incachaís calling me a shaman as anything more serious than someone whoís helped Jim with his senses. Iíve come up with some medicines that have helped him when regular medications threw his senses off the chart."

Cat reached for a tape that lay beside the books. "I picked this up for you, to go along with the books. Itís a drumming tape Iíve used for journeying that I thought might be useful to use in conjunction with the books on spiritwalks." She handed it to Blair, "Why donít you set that on continuous play while I get a candle set up? The lit candle represents the spirit and invites spirit guardians and spirit helpers to help us find Jim," Cat prattled on nervously.

Blair set up the tape and the sounds of the drums filled the room. He adjusted the sound to a comfortable level. "Next?"

"Next, we to do the same type of breathing exercise as for mediation," she explained as she lit the candle, placing it on the floor above Jimís head. "Then you state your intention to retrieve Jimís soul. We will then, hopefully, enter a meditative state which will allow us to go to the same place Jim has gone."

Blair settled into place opposite Cat, with Jim on the floor between them. They each closed their eyes and took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. Repeating this pattern four more times, they let the sounds of the drumming fill them, their hearts and minds in rhythm with its beat. As they began their journey, a boom of thunder reverberated through the still room as lightening lit up the sky. They did not notice the thunderís uncanny resemblance to laughter.

* * * * *

It was dark. There was little light, and what light there was only showed various shades of gray in the darkness. He could sense movement around him, but wasnít sure if it was in the condo or elsewhere?

He suddenly felt a pull as if someone had him by the scruff of the neck and was yanking him upward. He became aware of his body below and raised his gaze to see where he was being drawn.

He could see nothing. He could sense his movement had slowed and finally came to a stop, but the landscape, if you could call it that, told him nothing. It was the same gray nothingness heíd found himself in before. There was no sense of up, down or sideways here, though he *knew* he was standing on something; but what, he couldnít tell. He could actually see it shift and move, but it still defied any semblance of normal.

A vague shape pulled and twisted and finally, pulled away, separating from the gloom. This new shape started moving toward him, taking shape, until he finally recognized Cat.

"Where are we?" Blair asked, bewildered by what he saw and felt.

"Weíre in a sort of way station," she stated, slowing her approach. "An *in-between* place. Close your eyes. Concentrate on Jim and state your intention."

Blair closed his eyes and started to state his intention when he heard Cat gasp. He stopped and turned toward her. She appeared to be talking to someone, though he couldnít see anyone there. She hung her head and slowly joined him where he stood. She was definitely more subdued than when he first saw her.

"Who were you talking to Cat? What happened?" he asked, in concern.

"Incacha appeared again," she spoke quietly. "I had been warned before not to interfere. It is not my place to help Jim."

"AndÖ?" he prodded.

"I told him I was here to help you, not Jim. Iíve been allowed to stay, to help you, but I have to pay a price." Cat went quiet and stared at her feet.

"What price?" Blair asked, alarmed, not realizing there could be strings attached to this kind of thing.

"I can stay and help, but youíre the only one who will be able to see or hear me. I wonít even have the ability to move things."

"Youíll be like the hologram Al to my Sam Beckett on this leap then? Iíll be glad for the company. I donít think I want to try something like this by myself."

"Uh, yeah, just donít expect me to start smoking a cigar and wearing tacky suitsÖ."

"Deal," Blair said with a grin, relieved she was able to stay and help him.

* * * * *

He stated his intent as she had instructed then repeated it several times. Around them, the gray nothingness started to shift and part Ė taking on vague shapes. Soon, they found themselves in an alley behind a parking garage.

"Blair, do you have any idea where we are?"

"Iím not sure. Letís walk a bit further and see if we can get a better idea."

Walking around the parking garage to a street corner, Blair confirmed his suspicions about where they were. The vehicles in the street, for the most part, had Washington state license plates. A Paoloís Cab whizzed by. Blair looked at the street signs. They were at the corner of 8th and Waterman.

"Okay, I think its safe to say weíre in Cascade. Iíll try to call Jim and see if heís at the loft. If heís not there, we can try his cell number."

Blair pulled his cell phone from his backpack and started to dial the loft.

"Iím not getting a dial tone. Either the battery is dead or I donít have a cellular phone in this Cascade."

Pulling a few coins from his pocket, Blair checked to see if he had enough change to make a couple of phone calls at a pay phone. He did. Thankfully, he remembered that he still carried the $100 bill in his wallet. Heíd have to check his finances to see how much money he had. If he didnít have enough, he started to wonder if the credit card he had would work here. Who knew how long they actually had to find Jim?

"Blair, something to remember while weíre here, while this looks like our Cascade, it isnít. Anything can happen. Anything is possible." To make her point, she changed her shape before his eyes, becoming a cougar, then returning to her human form.

"Point taken," Blair said with wide eyes. "I guess that means I can make the cell phone work if I want to?"

"Why not try it again to see?" she prompted.

Blair turned on the phone again and smiled when he got a dial tone. He dialed the number to the loft and received a message "The number you have reached is not in service..." He tried Jimís cell phone this time and received the same message.

"Neither number works," Blair announced. The disappointment was evident. "Letís check the phone booth down the street. Maybe we can find a listing for him there." The two walked to the phone booth and checked for a listing. Jim either did not exist in this Cascade or he had an unlisted number. The fact they were here meant it was more likely that he had an unlisted number.

"Next stop, Cascade P.D. Weíll see if Jim is there."

* * * * *

Cat watched people entering and leaving the Central Precinct as Blair stood talking to the desk sergeant. She was tempted to explore the upper levels of the precinct to see who else she could find, but chose to wait for Blairís return. It wasnít a long wait.

Blair left the precinct with Cat following close behind him. "He doesnít work there."

"So where does this leave us?" asked Cat.

"The only thing I can think of right now is to search for him in the newspapers," Blair answered. "The library should have those on file, some in hard copy, some on microfiche, and the rest on CD ROM."

"So off to the library?" she suggested.

"No, not yet," he countered. "Iím not sure about you, but Iím getting hungry. Iím going to grab something to eat. Are you okay?"

"One of the fun things about being non-corporeal in this place is I wonít get tired or hungry. But because you have a physical form in this reality, it seems you will," she commented with a wry grin.

"OkayÖ I guess if Iím going to get tired, then Iím going to have to find someplace to spend the night. I know of a place not far from here where I can grab something quick to eat and a place to sleep." Blair paused, looking at his watch. "Itís 4:30 p.m. now, maybe I should think about getting a rental car as well, so that we can move a little faster than walking. Who knows what weíre going to face while trying to find Jim."

Cat nodded with a grin, but silently wondered what she was going to do with herself while Blair slept. There definitely were drawbacks to this journey.

* * * * *

They entered the large library and stopped to get their bearings. "Do you want to try the reference area first or get online and see if you can find out something through newspaper searches?" Cat asked.

"Why donít I take the Reference area, while you can start searching online?" he suggested and began walking in the direction of the Reference desk. Blair stopped when he realized there had been no reply. Looking back, he saw her staring after him. "Oh, right. Sorry. Letís start at Reference, and then do an online search."

"Have you figured out how to start this search?" Cat asked. "Weíve already struck out at the PD, and both his cell number and the line at the loft werenít in service."

"The only thing I can think of is to try to locate him from key dates and events that I know from his life: return from Peru; cases heís worked; and anything else I can remember." Grabbing a seat, he sat down and started to rummage through the pockets of his jacket for a pen and paper.

"Why donít we make a list of dates first?" Cat suggested, perching on the edge of the table. "If more occur to us afterwards, we can add them. We may not even need all of them."

"Okay. We know he was born, because heís here; but apparently heís never become a cop, so we can backtrack to September or October 1989 for news of his return from Peru."

"Next?"

"July 9, 1991 is when Jim and Carolyn were married," Blair added.

"That should be in the papers then," she agreed.

"Veronica Serris was bombing Cascade for about a six month period in 1994, just before I met Jim in September. His senses came online while he was working on that case. She blamed Jim for the death of her father, who was one of the men who died in Peru."

"Why did she blame Jim?"

"He was the commanding officer of the mission. He survived while the others didnít. So as far as she was concerned, it was his fault."

Cat shook her head. "The next date?"

"Ahem." Blair heard from behind. Turning, he noticed a librarian glaring at him.

"Iíll keep my voice down. Sorry."

"Sorry, Ďbout that. I keep forgetting people canít see me."

"That makes two of us. But Iím sure theyíre used to people talking to themselves. Letís search between 1989 and 1994. Weíll dig deeper depending on what we find."

"That sounds like a plan. So, we start with the microfiche for 1989?"

"Right."

* * * * *

A short time later, Blair made himself comfortable in front of a viewer for the microfiche spools he had just placed on the table. Each represented the dates he had earlier identified. Shifting his chair a bit to the right, he pulled another next to him and smiled and whispered, "You may as well have a seat, this may take a while."

Cat slipped into the chair beside Blair as he loaded the first spool into the sprockets. They both watched carefully for any mention of Jimís return from Peru. There was nothing.

The next spool proved that Jim was in Cascade. He and Carolyn Plummer did marry on July 9, 1991. Blair noticed a few changes from the picture he had seen before. Both of Jimís parents were present, along with the Plummers. This was an interesting development; and a possible way to get in touch with Jim, if Carolyn was still around and had not moved to San Francisco.

Searching the records from March of 1994 to the end of the year, there were no mentions of Jim, the Switchman or even the taking of the Cascade PD by the Sunrise Patriots. None of it ever happened. Where was Jim?

"Any other ideas?" Cat inquired, sounding more than a little worried.

"Wait, September of 1997, Incacha and several other Chopec came here hunting for two Vice Presidents of Cyclops Oil," Blair started. "If they came, then there should be some mention in the papers at least of Torrensí death and possibly other details from that time."

Blair returned the spools theyíd already reviewed and requested the spools for the last six months of 1997.

As he scrolled through the spools, he noticed that, Bud Torrens had died exactly the same way he had in September of 1997 in their reality. Two days later, the disappearance of Gerald Spaulding, another Vice President of Cyclops Oil, was noted along with the death of Mitch Yeagar, Vice President in charge of Security, also from Cyclops Oil. The good news as far as Blair was concerned, was that there was no report of Janet Myersí death.

Blair slowed over the next few weeks, looking to see if any other details could be found about what happened at Cyclops. He knew if Incacha had been successful, Spaulding would have been tried and found guilty by the Chopec for killing the land, the water and several of their tribesmen. The penalty, according to Jim, was death.

Finally, they found a follow-up article to the disappearance, but not what either of them was expecting. There, in the October 6, 1997 issue of the Cascade Tribune, in the Business Section, was a picture of Jim. Above was the announcement of the promotion of James J. Ellison to the position of Vice President in charge of Products and Chemical Operations at Cyclops Oil.

//Jim? At Cyclops? Maybe if Janet is still at CyclopsÖ.//

"I think I may have a way in to see Jim," Blair said cautiously. "Letís go online first, to find out what we can about what heís doing there. I can also see if an old friend is still there."

"An old friend? At Cyclops?"

"Yes. She was murdered in our reality, but according to the papers, she wasnít here. Her name is Janet Myers. She wasÖ *is* the Vice President of Environmental Affairs. She was being used in the Hale Corporation scam which lead to the deaths Torrens, Yeagar, and Spaulding, who were also involved," he explained. "Now if we can verify sheís still there, she might be able to help us meet with Jim."

* * * * *

They sat across the street from the Cyclops Oil building in a rental car Blair had obtained earlier in the evening.

"Are you ready, Cat? You know what youíre looking for?" Blair prompted.

"Iím to look for any traces of either Janet Myers or Jim at Cyclops. If I find traces of them, then Iím to look for information that will help us locate either of them," she repeated as she stepped out of the car.

"Good. Iíll see you shortly. Good luck," wished Blair.

Cat crossed the street oblivious to the traffic, which passed through her. Blair shuddered as he watched and shook his head when she finally disappeared inside the building.

Once inside the building, Cat looked for clues as to where the executive offices would be located. Approaching the security desk, she looked at the logs of those who had come to visit over the course of the day, hoping for a little luck. There had been a number of visits from out-of-town Cyclops people to the upper levels, floors 15 to 22. Her guess was she would find the offices she sought there.

Walking to the elevator banks, she realized that they had been locked down for the night. Unless one of the security guards decided to use them, the elevators would take her nowhere. She found the nearest stairwell tucked to the left of the elevator bank. She suspected they too were locked as a precaution. "Not that it will be a problem for me," she said to herself, passed through the door and started the climb to the 22nd floor.

Working her way down through the building, she found Jimís office on the 17th floor. "Nice view," she commented as she looked out over the moonlit harbor. His office was stark but immaculate. Not a clue was to be had about his whereabouts, from what little there was on his desk. She took a piece of paper and pen from her purse, taking note of his phone number, then left for his assistantís office.

Cat had a little more success in Carla Witherís office. Sitting in front of her phone was her agenda for the day. She had been making arrangements for a breakfast early the next morning at the same hotel Blair was staying in. Apparently, Jim was holding a breakfast for several directors from out-of-town and then they would return to Cyclops for their meeting.

A second meeting later in the day with the R & D group was set for one of the conference rooms. They were going to have a catered lunch. Apparently, they had an in-house caterer for those types of functions, since the number for the caterer was an extension rather than a full number.

She hurriedly took down the information about both meetings to pass on to Blair.

Cat explored further, looking for Janetís office; finally finding it on the 15th floor. She took note of Janetís office phone number and noted that her married name was Janet Myers-Allen. At least Blair would be relieved to know she was still here, and it would be interesting to see what his reaction would be to the news she had gotten married.

Her assignment complete, Cat tucked her notes in her purse. Deciding the quickest way down the stairs would be on four legs rather than two, she changed into cougar form and hastened to give the information to Blair.

* * * * *

"Thank you," Blair said, hanging up the phone. "Well, thatís taken care of. Iíve got a wake up call scheduled for seven in the morning. Hopefully, we can connect with Jim right away and get out of here."

"Do you have any ideas on how to confront him?" asked Cat.

"I think, for the breakfast meeting, maybe just watching and waiting for an opportunity would be the best thing. We donít know what he will do when he sees me, if anything."

"Okay, but what are you going to do for the rest of the day?" she questioned. "All the other meetings are scheduled to be in boardrooms at Cyclops. Even the lunch is going to be catered by an in-house caterer."

"I think we can play the rest by ear; especially since we donít know whatís going to happen. After breakfast, Iíll call Janet to see if she can get me in to see Jim Ė even for a few minutes. If that doesnít work, then weíll come up with another plan. You knowÖ I have to admit, Iím curious about what my other self is doing here. I mean, what happened since I didnít meet Jim. Maybe I could check on that while Iím thinking of it."

"Blair," Cat said cautiously. "Please, donít get sidetracked. If you start going off on a tangent, we might lose Jim. Or worse still, I might end up losing both of you. And in my current state, there isnít much I could do if that happened."

"Okay," he agreed, noting the concern on her face. "I do have one favor to ask thoughÖ"

"Whatís that? Donít tell meÖ you want me to hang out at Cyclops all day tomorrow and sit in on Jimís meetings? HmmmmÖ Just think what a corporate spy would give for this kind of opportunity," she continued with a grin.

"No, thatís not what I was thinking, although you may have to do a bit of that to help me keep tabs on him."

"Okay, so what did you want me to do?" asked Cat, her curiosity piqued.

"Teach me how to change like you doÖ into animal form. Whatís the trick?"

Cat fell back on the bed laughing. "Blair, you know that old joke about getting to Carnegie Hall?"

"Yeah. Practice. You mean thatís all there is to it?" he asked skeptically.

"Thatís the secret," she confirmed. "Youíve already started learning how to do it by manipulating the ability to use your credit card and cell phone here. You also seem to have an unlimited supply of cash too, Iíve noticed," she teased. "Its also the same way I was able to take notes. Neither of us brought anything with us. But, weíve both materialized other tools, like your backpack and my purse."

"You mean I can do the same thing, only on a bigger scale?" he prompted.

"Start small, like changing the color of your shirt," Cat suggested. "Just focus on the change you want to make. Just approach it like you do mediation, relax while doing it. It works better than trying to force it."

Blair closed his eyes and his face blanked; slowly, the shirt changed from a light blue to a dark green.

"Um, Blair. Why donít you take a look?" she suggested with glee.

Blair looked down to see that the shirt had indeed changed color. For the next couple of hours, he tried different articles of clothing changing both color and style. Finally, he tried changing his clothing from coat to shoes. Once he was satisfied he could do it, they settled down to a companionable silence to watch television until Blair drifted off to sleep.

"Sleep well, Blair," she said, as she vacated the chair. It was going to be a long lonely night. Feeling restless, she decided to go for a walk, promising herself to be back before Blair received his wake up call.

* * * * *

"So, what did you do all night?" Blair asked. "When I woke up in the middle of the night, you were gone."

"Well, since I didnít need to sleep I went for a walk," Cat responded, watching Blair order his breakfast. "Youíre great company when youíre awake, Sleeping Beauty, but you donít talk enough in your sleep for me to stick around all night."

"So where did you go?" he prompted.

"Heís here," she announced with a nod. "You could set a clock by him," she remarked, noting the time was exactly 8:00 a.m. according to the watch Blair was wearing.

Jim strode into the room with an air of a man used to getting exactly what he wanted and settled at a table on the opposite side of the room from them. Dressed in a conservatively tailored gray suit, adding to the imposing figure he cut. Somehow, seeing him this way, and adding the glare Jim was capable of, Blair shuddered at the picture it painted. This might be more difficult than he had expected.

"A penny for your thoughts," Cat offered.

"Iím just wondering what it will take to get him to come back with us. He looks just a little too comfortable here," he mused. "Iím beginning to wonder if he remembers any of his life before this."

"If he doesnít, Iím wondering what it will take to shake him," she murmured. "He looks positively cold, which isnít exactly surprising after seeing his office at Cyclops. Itís almost devoid of any kind of personal statement of who he is. Iím beginning to wonder if his marriage to Carolyn fared any better in this reality."

Three other men soon joined Jim. Blair watched as their host greeted them. He was smooth, but Blair could tell by the way the men sat in their chairs that they were wary of him.

Over the next half-hour, Blairís gaze rarely strayed from Jim as he absently nibbled on his bagel and drank his coffee. Jim had noticed his attentions and it was obvious he wasnít pleased, but he offered no sign of recognition.

"Cat, watch the room and let me know when no oneís watching. I want to try something," Blair whispered, his eyes locked with Jimís at that moment. From the look on Jimís face, storm clouds were gathering. This was Blairís chance to try to throw Jim off-balance.

"Allís clear. What are youÖ?" she started, but stopped as she looked back at him. Briefly, as a waitress had stepped between Jim and Blair, Cat found herself sitting with Simon.

Cat watched Jim, who was watching their table; his eyes narrowing when he saw the young man who had been watching him had been replaced by another vaguely familiar face.

"Okay, we have some recognition, and a little surprise, but heís not giving away much. Blair, donít sit down at the poker table with this oneÖ" Cat warned. "Welcome back," she said as a patron crossed between the two tables and Blair changed back.

A slow smile formed as she watched Jim choke on his coffee. He realized his uninvited observer was back.

"You never warned me it was that difficult to hold another form," Blair admonished.

"Why do you think I suggested you start small?" she replied. "It takes time and practice. Iím surprised you were able to take on Simonís form, let alone hold it as long as you did. It was effective though."

"At least Iíve caught his attention. Now I know I can get through to him," Blair said thoughtfully.

"Just be careful how you get his attention. Remember, I can change like you just did without attracting attention. You canít. If anyone else sees you, how are you going to explain it?" she cautioned.

"Okay, no more quick changes, at least not out in the open." Blair paused briefly. "Cat, do me a favor?" Blair asked, continuing without waiting for a reply. "Keep an eye on Jim and let me know when heís getting ready to leave. I need to get in touch with Janet at the office. I want to see if she can get me in to see Jim today between meetings."

Blair pulled out both his copy of Janetís phone number and his cell phone as he stood and ducked around the corner. Dialing, he prayed silently that Janet would answer. Catching the eye of the waitress, he had his coffee cup refilled, assuring her heíd be right back. He wanted to be as far out of Jimís earshot as possible, just in case.

* * * * *

"May I speak to Janet Myers-Allen, please?" Blair requested, stumbling over the hyphenated last name.

"Speaking," she answered hesitantly. "May I ask who is calling?" she demanded, knowing this call was being made from an unfamiliar outside line, as the call hadnít been passed through her assistant or receptionist.

"Janet, Iím sorry. This is Blair Sandburg," he started to explain.

"BlairÖ Sandburg! Oh my God! Itís been ages," she replied in disbelief.

"Yeah, you wouldnít believe whatís happened since we last saw each other," he said with relief. "Look, Iím sorry to have called you on the wrong line. A friend passed this number on to me. I was hoping to ask a favor from you."

"Sure! How about we get together this weekend for dinner to talk over old times? We can discuss this favor you want then. Besides, I want you to meet my husband. Iíve mentioned you to David a few times."

"I was kind of hoping I could beg that favor from you today. It would really mean a lot. We could still get together on the weekend for dinner if you wanted," he countered, trying not to hold his breath as he waited for her answer.

"I wish I could Blair. Iím just about to leave for the airport. Iím leaving town on business for the next couple of days," she said apologetically. "What kind of favor is it? Are you sure it canít wait until the weekend?"

"Actually, I was hoping to get a few minutes with one of the other VPs at Cyclops and hoped you could help me. His name is James Ellison. Is there any possibility you can help arrange that?" Blair crossed his fingers hoping she could help him.

"Just a second, Blair," she asked. He could hear her tapping her keyboard to check. "Blair, Iím sorry. I wonít get a chance to talk to either J. J. or Carla until I get back Thursday. Heís in meetings over the next two days. Weíre both in the middle of preparing reports for a big meeting which is coming up in a couple of weekís time. I wish I could be of more help."

"Thatís okay Janet," Blair replied. "You donít know how nice it is to hear your voice again. Iíll talk to you when you get back," he offered quietly, knowing he might never talk to her again if he was successful in his task.

* * * * *

The waitress noticed Blairís return to the table and presented him with the bill. Charging it to his room and leaving a tip, he busied himself with his coffee until the waitress left.

"No luck with Janet," Blair told Cat. "Apparently sheís on her way out of town and wonít see Jim or ĎJ.J.í as she calls him until Thursday. Jimís in meetings for the next two days."

"Options?" Cat inquired.

"Iíve got an idea, but we need to leave now. It looks like theyíre getting ready to leave and I want to see his reaction if we can beat him to Cyclops," he said with a grin.

* * * * *

 


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