Blair sat there, listening to the shower. He felt better than he'd
expected, and as long as he sat still, or moved slowly, he seemed to be okay.
Of course, the pain medication was helping some, but as long as it didn't put
him to sleep anymore, he didn't mind taking it. What he didn't like, was the look
he'd just seen in Jim's eyes. There was something there, something he hadn't seen
in some time, but to define it was impossible. It was just the case, he was sure.
Being blindsided like that, and taken captive, wasn't something Jim Ellison took
lightly. He'd probably been involved in the case all the while Blair was in the
hospital. Agent Mills didn't seem to be the type to block Jim out completely.
And then there was that man. The one Jim had been beating. Killing. God,
the thought sent a strange feeling through his gut. Blair was so confused by his
own reactions to the memory, he didn't hear the shower turn off, or Jim getting
dressed. By the time Jim passed him on his way upstairs, Blair was totally absorbed
in the memory. When he came back downstairs and began to make breakfast, Blair's
mind was as confused as ever.
"Where have you been?"
up, startled to realize Jim was halfway through making breakfast. "Um, just
thinking." He hardly knew where to start. Or even if he should.
know what you mean." Jim flipped on the coffee pot. "There's something
we need to discuss, Chief."
You were going to kill that guy.
Come on, say it! "What's that, Jim?"
"I think it's time we put
an end to this observer work. It's gotten way out of control."
staring at Jim, who continued to crack eggs into the pan. The fear and uncertainty
he'd been feeling about Jim's beating that man suddenly intensified into something
that scared him even more. "What are you talking about, Jim?"
were never supposed to get hurt doing this. It's research, remember?" Jim
finished with the eggs and brought the pan and two plates out to the table, then
went back for the coffee.
Blair reached out for a plate and realized his hands
were shaking. He managed to clutch the plate before Jim returned. "Listen,
"No, you listen." Jim set two cups of coffee down and
sat, looking Blair in the eyes. "You were suppose to help me with these Sentinel
senses, not get yourself shot at, beaten, and everything else that's happened
since you started working with me. That's it. It's over."
in Jim's voice was like a knife through Blair's stomach. "No, no way, Jim.
You're not dumping me this easily." The shaking in his voice was audible
even to Blair.
"Sandburg, I'm not dumping you," Jim replied, holding
his gaze. "You'll stay here, and work with me on these senses. But no more
cop work. It's too dangerous, and not what you signed up for."
Jim." God, it was his nightmare come to life! All this time, Jim convincing
him this would never happen, and here it was, happening. "I have to be with
you, I can't just phone it in or something."
"Well, it's just too
dangerous, Chief. End of discussion." Jim proceeded to eat his breakfast.
"No, it's not the end, Jim. Come on, man, you need me!" His desperate
plea was hampered by his inability to take deep breaths, and he realized his sudden
wincing from the stabbing pain in his side wasn't helping his case much.
right, Chief. I need you. But I need you alive." Jim sighed, then set his
fork down. "This isn't about you, Blair. You're not a cop, and being put
in these situations constantly, well, it's bound to catch up. And if and when
that happens..." Jim faltered for a moment. "Well, I can't let that
Oh God...Okay, just take it slow. "Jim, things
happen. You were there, and it all worked out, just like it always does. It's
no more dangerous for you than me."
"Seeing you in that hospital,
being hurt like that...it really sucked." Jim clenched his jaw, then continued.
"Besides, it's my job, Sandburg, not yours."
"No, Jim, it IS
my job. I'm your Guide." Blair could feel the desperation welling up, but
he had to maintain control, or Jim would never be persuaded.
Guide isn't a job, Chief, it's..." Jim faltered again and seemed to be looking
at something behind Blair.
"It's not a job in the conventional sense,
no." Blair ignored the far-off look that flashed across Jim's eyes and took
the opening. "But there's nothing conventional about being a Sentinel either."
"Listen, I'm too tired to have this discussion. Sleeping on the couch
wasn't my plan." Jim picked up his empty plate and returned it to the kitchen.
Blair sighed, somewhat relieved to hear him call it a discussion. So, maybe
it wasn't a new commandment, and there was still time? Maybe if he just let Jim
calm down, get past this case, they'd all just go back to life as usual, no hard
feelings. After all, when Simon and Daryl were missing in Peru, Jim and he had
gone through something similar. That had worked itself out. Maybe so would this.
But then, why was his heart skipping so badly?
"You should get some
rest, Chief." Jim returned from the kitchen and placed a hand on Blair's
"Yeah." Blair nodded. He didn't want to say anything that
might bring Jim to a final conclusion, not until he was more in shape for a fight.
Jim had to see reason, but he was too tired to go up against the mountain that
he'd have to face in order to convince his partner that he needed to re-think
his logic. One thing Blair had learned, finally, was that you had to have proof
and a good argument when you came to Jim Ellison about anything. And right now,
he was too tired and too scared to come up with anything Jim might be apt to listen
to. He stood slowly, grateful for Jim's supporting hand, then made his way back
to the bedroom.
Jim kept a hand on his arm the entire way, and Blair let him
help ease his sore body back down to the bed. If it was true, if by some freak
of terror Jim was going to keep him from working with him again, he'd have to
find a way to cling to whatever part of Ellison the man was left for him. He couldn't
lose his Sentinel, not after going through all of this to get him, but he couldn't
live without his friend, either.
"You gonna be okay for a while? I'd like
to take a nap."
"Yeah, I'm fine, Jim." Blair eased his legs
onto the bed. He was feeling tired all over, and thought maybe some sleep would
clear his head of all these emotions hammering down on him.
"Did you take
all your pills?"
Blair laughed slightly. "Yes, Jim."
I'm gonna get some sleep upstairs this time. That couch wasn't terribly restful."
Jim turned and walked out of the room, stopping just outside the door. "Listen,
if you need anything, don't raise your voice. I can hear you fine."
nodded, settling in against the pillows. "Thanks, Jim." He watched as
Jim left, then listened to him walk up the stairs to the room right above his
own. God, this wasn't going well. He just had to cling to Jim's last
statement. It was still a discussion. It wasn't over, and there was still time
to come up with something to convince Jim he was over-reacting. And that's all
it was. Blair was sure of that. He had to be. Just overly upset at what had happened.
That's all. He'd been so enraged at the time, he was killing that guy! That's
all it was. He'd calm down in a few days or so, and it would all be okay.
then, why wasn't he calming down? Blair's heart was still racing a little,
and he didn't think it was due entirely to the drugs. The fluttering feeling in
his stomach was still there, and kept wanting to climb up his throat. He reached
a hand up and ran it through his hair, stopping himself short of exclaiming his
frustration out loud. Jim would just hear him, and that might start the argument
all over again. No, he needed time. Maybe if he just ignored this morning, let
it all fade away with the bruises. Yes, that was probably it. Jim seeing Blair
still bruised and sore was just reminding him of that entire episode. Of course!
He was killing that guy. That was it. Jim had lost control, and was killing that
guy, and that's what has him so upset. Blair sighed, gently so as not to elicit
another stab of pain, and settled his head more deeply into the pillows. That
was the problem right there. Jim was upset with himself for losing control. He'd
calm down in time.
Blair's conviction, coupled with the drugs, finally led
By the time Blair finished in the bathroom, he was exhausted all
over again. He had insisted on taking a shower, alone. Four days without
a shower and pulling his hair back had been more than he could stand. Moving slowly,
and taking the pills Jim kept insisting he take, had made it possible to basically
stand in one position while the water ran over him. It took him ten minutes and
several times telling Jim he was fine to get himself toweled off. By the time
he pulled on his sweat pants, and the zip-front sweatshirt jacket Jim had given
him, he was nearly sweating again. Surprisingly, the pain wasn't all that bad,
as long as he remembered to move slowly and not make any wide gestures or movements
with his arms. He walked out to the living room and eased himself onto one of
the couches, with Jim's help. His partner was on the phone, but he came over the
instant Blair approached the couch, cradled the phone between his chin and shoulder,
and didn't even skip a beat in his conversation while he helped Blair sit down.
It was early evening, and Blair hoped all these naps and drugs wouldn't screw
up his normal sleeping pattern. Jim had slept most of the afternoon as well, but
then he never seemed to have a problem adjusting. Blair had seen Jim stay awake
for three days, only napping on occasion, and then return to a normal pattern
after just one good sleep. Must be an army thing. He didn't see how it would be
a Sentinel thing. Or maybe it was. He was too tired himself to consider it much.
He got comfortable against some cushions and listened to Jim's conversation.
It was with Simon, about the two men they had arrested.
The feeling Blair had tried to overcome crept back into his gut as he listened.
He wanted to talk to Jim about the case, but that might bring back the issue he
had mentioned this morning, and he was not ready for that yet. If he
ever would be.
"Okay. I'll expect him then."
Jim hung up the phone
and Blair looked up, still afraid to bring up any subject that might set his partner
"Agent Mills is coming over in an hour. He's gonna need your statement
to wrap up this end of the case." Blair nodded, raising his eyebrows slightly
but saying nothing. "Listen, we're about out of everything, and he might
as well stay for dinner, huh?" Jim crossed the room and retrieved his coat
from the hanger. "Will you be okay if I go to the store?"
Jim. I'm fine."
"You're sure?" Jim started to put on the coat,
but was obviously waiting for an answer.
Blair nodded. "I'm fine. Just
leave the door unlocked, okay? In case he beats you here."
be that long, Chief." Jim picked up the cordless phone and handed it to Blair.
"All right, I'll leave it unlocked."
Blair had just opened his mouth
to protest when Jim agreed. "Thanks. Hey, don't forget coffee filters."
"Right." Jim picked up his keys then opened the door. "Anything
Blair thought for a moment. It had been a few days since he'd even
been in the kitchen. He shook his head and Jim left, shutting the door behind
him. Blair listened for the locks, but Jim remembered. It was always his habit
to lock everything, and since David Lash's remodeling of the livingroom, Jim had
put in stronger deadbolts.
Blair set the phone down on the cushion beside him,
fished the remote control out from under his butt, and flipped on the television.
There wasn't anything on but news, so he settled for the weather report and tried
to use that as something to focus on. Anything to keep his mind from Jim telling
him it was over. No, it couldn't be. He was just upset, and needed some time to
cool down. Blair couldn't picture his life back the way it had been. Sure, he
could go on if he had to, go back to the research, back to the University. But
he didn't want to. Hell, maybe he couldn't even if he wanted to. It just
wasn't the same. He just wasn't the same. No, Jim would change his mind,
given a little time. Blair just needed not to push it. It would be hard, but he'd
have to play along, keep quiet for the time being.
There was a knock on the
door that startled him out of his thoughts. The weather had just ended, so he
couldn't have been daydreaming all that long.
"Who is it?"
"Oh, hey, come on in." Blair flipped off the television
and turned to face the door as it opened, allowing the immense form of Agent Mills
into the loft. "Hey, Jim said you'd be coming by. He just stepped out to
the store. Come on in."
Agent Mills closed the door then turned back to
face Blair. "I'm probably early. I told Captain Banks I'd stop by, to get
your statement and talk to Ellison."
"Yeah, we were expecting you.
Have a seat."
Mills crossed the room and got comfortable in the chair
facing the couch where Blair sat. "How are you feeling?"
better, thank you. Anything new with the case?" If Jim wouldn't talk about
it, maybe Mills would.
He shrugged. "Not much more than we had the other
day. Oh, that's right, you've been out of the loop lately, haven't you?"
Blair nodded, smiling a little. "Yeah, kind of."
two Ellison brought in, Edwards and Patterson, they claim no connection with the
other three kidnappings and murders. Of course, we expect that. But that's for
the lawyers to worry about."
"What about a third man?" Blair
asked. He was still convinced Jim couldn't have been blindsided by someone already
in the bathroom.
Mills looked thoughtful for a moment. "You believe there
was a third man too?"
Blair nodded. "There had to be, for Jim to
be taken out like that."
"I agree, but unfortunately, we have no
proof, no witnesses, and those two aren't talking." Mills shook his head,
then ran a hand through his flaming red beard, stroking the hairs down. "Did
you see anything?"
"No." Blair shook his head. "I didn't
even get a look at the guy who took me out. It happened too fast."
chloroform acts quickly. You're usually out before you hit the ground."
nodded, remembering the incident as well as one other. It had worked fast. So
fast, Blair had no memory of the attack at all. Unless...
His thought was interrupted
by someone coming through the front door.
can I give you a hand with anything?" Agent Mills stood, walking towards
Jim as he stumbled into the loft, trying not to drop the four grocery bags.
thanks." Jim relinquished one of the bags. "Listen, will you stay for
Blair was relieved to hear Jim's tone as he and Mills carried
the bags to the kitchen. Maybe having this case wrap up would set him right.
if it's no trouble, I'd kill for a home cooked meal. All this travel and hotel
food, really gets to you after a while."
"I know what you mean."
Jim laughed. "Here, you're off duty, right?" Jim pulled a beer out of
"I am now." Mills smiled and accepted the beer.
"Hey, Jim...?" If they were going to be relaxed and happy, he sure
as hell wanted to join in.
"Not on those medications, Chief." Jim
checked his watch. "Have you taken them recently?"
Blair rolled his
eyes. God, Naomi hadn't even been this mothering. "Yes, Jim."
You want tea, or water or something?"
"No, I'm fine. Thanks, Jim."
Great. Sitting on the couch, with Jim and Agent Mills towering over him, really
added to the effect. "So, where are you from?" Maybe a change of subject
Mills crossed the room and sat back down in the chair. "I'm
assigned to LA, but I'm from Michigan originally." He took a long pull on
the beer, then glanced out the windows. "It's really nice up here, though.
I wouldn't mind a transfer to this area."
"Yeah, well, you've caught
us in good weather," Blair replied, glancing at the evening sunlight streaming
They passed an hour talking about the benefits of Cascade versus Los Angeles,
then about Agent Mills' family back in Michigan while Jim made dinner. Blair kept
the conversation on track, seeing Jim maintaining a good mood and joining in.
As long as they avoided the case, until maybe they could sneak it back in, he
was willing to do anything it might take to promote Jim's good mood. By the time
dinner was ready, Blair had a new respect for Agent Mills. His own niece had been
the same age as the last victim killed by the kidnappers. No wonder the man looked
During dinner, Blair listened as Jim and Mills discussed the military
versus the FBI for background experience. He enjoyed watching and hearing the
two men good-naturedly defend their respective backgrounds as being the best place
to learn. Blair was fascinated, listening to the two of them, and thinking of
the men they were. He'd always been impressed with Jim, and his experience and
personality. Now he was gaining more respect for Agent Mills, a man he had barely
known when all this started. For such a large man, he was very soft and gentle,
with a depth that spoke of emotional involvement in each and every case. He was
a man who took crime as a personal attack, yet somehow maintained just enough
detachment to do his job without losing his mind. How he found that balance, the
balance Jim was always telling Blair about, he'd never understand. Jim was controlled,
and sometimes detached when he needed to be, but he was never unfeeling. Finding
that medium, that balanced point between uncaring and emotional overload, was
something Blair wondered if he'd ever manage. Studying Jim and his ability to
go through this life of his on such a controlled level was almost as intriguing
to Blair as his Sentinel studies.
By the end of dinner, Blair was feeling tired
again, and the drugs he had taken earlier were beginning to wear off. The occasional
stab of pain through his side caused him to wince, and he did his best to hide
the action from Jim. They'd nearly made it through the night without bringing
up that morning's argument again. Of course, having Agent Mills there might have
helped. Jim would never air a grievance in front of someone else. But, Mills couldn't
stay until Jim changed his mind. Blair would have to do that. Somehow.
you never saw who hit you?"
The agent's question brought Blair back into
the conversation, and he realized he was talking to Jim.
"No. It happened
too quickly, and I was focused inside the mens room. If there was a third man,
and they don't turn him in, we'll probably never know." Jim set his coffee
cup down and ran a hand over his short hair. "What about the money? You said
it wasn't marked, so none of it has been recovered?"
Agent Mills sighed,
shaking his head. "No. They knew all the ways we had of marking money, and
promised to kill the victim if they detected anything. With Keller, when the family
admitted they had no money, my superiors authorized a payoff with marked bills,
standard operating procedure. They found every mark and trace we had, got away
with the money, and killed Mr. Keller that afternoon. With Mr. Neal, we put tracers
in the briefcase, but they made a switch halfway through the delivery. By the
time Miss Mueller was abducted, we were taking no chances. The money was paid,
and every attempt at tracing the case and the delivery was made, but like I've
said, the directions given, and the many switches and changes in direction were
just too hard to follow."
"What about serial numbers?" Jim asked.
"Sure, we've got those. But that only helps us if they try and spend or
deposit the money in the US. If they take it out of the country, they'll have
it half spent before we get wind."
"So, if none of the money was
recovered, and these two you caught swear they were working alone, then there's
8 million out there waiting for someone to find it." Blair shook his head.
"But if there was a third man, he'd get the money and get away with it."
"That's right, Chief. So, if there was a third man, Edwards and Patterson
either figure they'll get off, and their partner will be waiting, or they've got
the money stashed someplace that even he doesn't know about, and they figure 8
million is worth waiting for."
"They've got a long wait, if that's
the plan. The two of them will be going up till they're both far too old to spend
any of it," Mills said. "Personally, I'm getting too old for some of
these guessing games." He stood, stretching his back until Blair heard it
pop. "As long as we've got these two, and the kidnappings have been stopped,
I think it's worth 8 million. Knowing that it isn't going to happen again."
Jim stood as well, but Blair realized if he tried to move, he'd regret it. "Thanks
for dinner, beats the hell out of hotel food."
you take it easy."