He hadn't been to Cascade in years and the cool air took him by surprise the moment he stepped out of the airport. It was spring, warm for the locals, but he was used to the shimmering heat of a jungle or the waving, watery-air of the dessert. For years, he'd kept to the southern part of the world, only recently returning up through Mexico into the United States. The last year was spent moving slowly through the lower 48, moving east through California, Nevada, Arizona. All still familiar with the stifling heat, though yes, like the cliche, it was a dry heat.
He did good that year. He was able to reclaim his identity without too much of a problem. James Joseph Ellison. It had been years since he'd been lost in the jungle. Years since his covert bosses had bothered looking for him. Not that he hadn't seen them try, back when he was still with the Chopec, because they had. But it hadn't been what he'd wanted. He hadn't wanted the instant fame and insanity that would've come with being "rescued". One thing he'd discovered in his time among the Chopec was to listen to himself, trust his instincts. Well hell, he'd learned that long before then but Incacha had definitely reinforced the lesson.
A wry smile twisted his lips as he contemplated the ordinary scene in front of him. People were greeting their loved ones after long separations. People were saying tearful farewells to loved ones in anticipation of a long separation. Traffic was louder than he remembered and his nose wrinkled in distaste. Didn't they have emissions standards around here?
Shaking himself out of the mood, Jim lifted his bag over his shoulder and headed towards the curb. He'd get a hotel room and clean up, tomorrow he'd start scoping out potential living quarters. Right now all he wanted was a shower, a bed and to sleep for a week. He stepped onto the street, fully intending to flag down a cab when something blinded him. The next thing he knew, Jim was flat on his back and someone solid was lying on top. Blinking in surprise at the mass of long, dark curls that had found their way into his mouth, Jim spat them out in irritation. The head turned and he found himself staring into the bluest eyes he'd ever seen; concerned blue eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses.
"You all right man? Anything broken?" the stranger asked, shifting off him.
It took a second to find his voice but when he did, Jim asked, "Who're you?"
A grin surfaced on the mobile, handsome face and the man held out a hand and replied, "Blair Sandburg at your service. Pedestrian rescuer extraordinaire."
Jim took the hand, and the hand up, and found Sandburg only came up to his chin. "Jim. Jim Ellison."
"Good to meet you Jim. Are you sure you're okay?" Blair asked.
Suddenly a woman came up to them and exclaimed, "Blair! Honey! I thought you were going to get yourself killed! What were you thinking?"
Jim took in the tall, willowy woman's appearance and frowned. Not that she wasn't pretty or anything, but she was old enough to be Sandburg's...
"Mom! Relax! I'm fine," Blair exclaimed, waving aside her concern. "Stupid taxi drivers get more homicidal every year, I swear."
Flushing at where his thoughts had automatically gone, Jim broke in, "Thanks for your help. I really appreciate it."
"Hey, no problem, man. You just getting into town?" Blair asked curiously.
Jim nodded. "I haven't been back to Cascade in a long time."
"Yeah? You from here originally?" Blair asked, just as curious.
"Blair, honey, I'm sure he doesn't need the third degree," the woman said with a smile.
Jim caught a whiff of her perfume and sneezed violently, a few times. He backed away, holding up a hand. Blair followed him in concern. Finally getting his nose under control, by the simple method of sealing it shut with his fingers, Jim explained, "Her perfume, I must be allergic."
"Hey mom, stay there!" Blair ordered.
"We're going to be late," she said, impatience creeping into her voice.
But Blair had turned back to Jim, who found himself once more under a solicitous gaze. Awkwardly, and nasally, Jim said, "You can take off, I'm fine."
Blair chuckled. "You sound it, too. Here, look, you got a place to stay?"
Eyebrow arching in surprise, Jim answered, "I'm at a hotel."
Blair fished around in his pocket and pulled out an ATM receipt, writing something on it. Holding it out, he explained, "I'm heading out of town on a conference but I'll be back day after tomorrow. Give me a call. We'll get together."
"I'm coming!" Blair exclaimed, exasperated.
Jim took the paper in confusion. "You want me to call you?"
With a wink, Blair answered, "Yeah. Don't you know that I'm responsible for you now?"
"I saved your life, man. Cosmic duty," Blair replied. He glanced at his watch with a grimace. "I really do have to take off. But call me in two days, okay?"
Jim nodded automatically, tucking the paper into his jean pocket. "Sure."
A dazzling smile broke over Blair's face and he jogged away. Jim watched him put an arm around his mother's waist and walk inside the airport. What the hell had just happened? Shaking his head as though coming out of a trance, Jim turned in the opposite direction and headed towards the curb again, more carefully this time.
* * * *
"And I'm telling you, Jesse, that if you only put a little more effort into this, you'd be at the top of the class man. C'mon, you know you can do better than this," Blair said persuasively. The young man sitting on the other side of his desk shrugged uncomfortably and hunched in on himself. "All right maybe you don't know so, but I do. And you trust me, right?"
Jesse nodded and Blair grinned. "Great! So listen, I'm going to forget I ever saw this paper. I want you to pick a topic that really interests you, doesn't matter what, and give me an outline by Wednesday, all right?"
The student nodded again, a hesitant smile lighting his face as he stood and said, "Thanks a lot Professor Sandburg. I really appreciate it."
"No problem, Jesse. See you on Wednesday," Blair confirmed.
Shaking his head once the door closed behind the student, Blair sagged back in his chair. He loved his job, he really did, especially when it was helping someone who didn't have confidence in themselves. Sometimes his missed the being out in the field, though. He missed actually watching and being a part of living history. Cascade was getting entirely too big for his tastes. He longed for...
Well all right, he didn't know what he longed for but he sure as hell wasn't finding it in Cascade. Maybe he should call Lambert and take him up on the offer to live in the small village in South America. There was supposed to be legends of Sentinels keeping them safe. Snorting, not having thought about Sentinels in a long time, Blair's thoughts turned towards Jim Ellison. As they had many times since the strange meeting at the airport days ago. He had really hoped that the other man would call but shrugged philosophically. Win some, lose some.
The phone rang and he picked it up answering, "Blair Sandburg."
"Mr. Sandburg? This is Cascade General calling," a woman's voice said hesitantly.
"Oh my god. Is it my mother?" he exclaimed.
"No! No sir. There was a gentleman brought in this morning and we found your name and number on a piece of paper in his pocket," the woman explained.
Confused, Blair asked, "A man? Who?"
"We don't know. There wasn't any identification on him. We were hoping you could come down and id him for us."
"Id him? Is he dead?" Blair asked hesitantly.
"No but he's in some kind of catatonic state," she explained.
Catatonic? Shaking his head clear, Blair said, "Yes, of course. I can't think of anyone I know who might be in that kind of trouble but I'll be there in half an hour."
With the heavy thought that perhaps one of his students had overdosed on drugs, Blair grabbed his coat and headed for the hospital.
* * * *
Blair peered cautiously into the room and was shocked to find Jim Ellison on the bed. He was easily recognized, even from the profile that stared sightlessly up at the ceiling. "Oh God."
"You know him?" the doctor asked sympathetically.
But Blair was already in the room and heading towards the bed. He took Jim's hand without thinking and started rubbing it. "Hey, Jim, remember me man? I was wondering why you didn't call but I guess this is a pretty good excuse."
"What's his name?"
Blair looked at the doctor and answered, "Jim Ellison. He just got into town a few days ago. We met up at the airport, he was coming in and I was heading out to a conference."
Shaking his head, Blair answered, "I don't know. I mean we really just met at the airport. I'd given him my phone number ah, hoping that he'd call."
The doctor smiled in understanding. "Well, now that we know who he is, we can do a proper search."
"Can I stay here for a bit?" Blair asked.
"Sure. Don't know that it'll do any good, but it can't hurt."
"Thanks," Blair said, already turning his attention towards the man in the bed.
Jim Ellison was an incredible figure of a man, no doubt about that. Tall, broad shouldered, in great physical shape and he had a kind face. Not to mention a killer smile, even if it was a little shy, Blair remembered with a grin. The larger man had seemed honestly confused by Blair's attempt at friendship with someone unknown. He'd smiled just a little, and Blair had instantly wanted to know him better.
This totally didn't track. Thinking that maybe a friendly voice would help, Blair said, "I wasn't kidding when I told you that I was responsible for you now, cosmically speaking. It's well documented in many traditions that if you save someone's life, you're supposed to watch out for them from then on. As a matter of fact, in my not so humble opinion, I think that it's such a widespread tenet because it's an afterlife fact that our subconscious mind remembers from past lives."
"What the hell...are...you talking about?"
Startled by the rusty voice, Blair yelped in surprise and released Jim's hand. Puzzled blue eyes looked at him as Jim tried to make sense of his surroundings. "Jim! Hey, you're awake!"
"Sandburg? Why am I in the hospital? Did the cabbie come back to finish the job?" Jim asked, attempting a joke.
Blair grinned and shrugged, "You've got me, man. I just got the call about an hour ago. They brought you in here completely catatonic."
Shock rippled through the other man's face. "Catatonic?"
"Yeah. Do you remember what happened?" Blair asked curiously.
Jim frowned and thought about it. "I was looking out the window, at the hotel. I caught sight of something on the sidewalk, something bright. It was copper colored and engraved but I couldn't see the shape of the carving. I was trying to make out what it was. Then...nothing until I heard you babbling about afterlife traditions or whatever."
Laughing nervously, Blair said, "Jim, you're checked into the tenth floor. There's no way you could see something on the sidewalk from that distance without binoculars."
Shaking his head firmly, Jim said, "I did. I've been, I have really good eyesight."
Really good eyesight. Yeah, sure, all right.
"Mr. Ellison!" the doctor exclaimed in surprise.
"That's me," Jim answered with a faint smile. "Can I get out of here?"
"Absolutely not!" the doctor said firmly. "We need to run tests to see what happened and make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Well, while you're doing that, can you turn down that tv volume please? It's bugging the hell out of me," Jim complained.
Blair looked up at the hanging tv in surprise, he hadn't even noticed it was on. Wait, it wasn't on. "Ah, Jim, the tv's not on."
Jim followed his gaze and frowned. "I can hear it clear as day. Someone's tv is on and it's way too loud. Can't you hear it?"
Blair and the doctor exchanged looks then Blair said, "Jim, I don't hear anything." Jim growled in frustration, his arms folding impatiently across his chest. Frowning, Blair said, "Hang on a second, I'll be right back."
He left Jim and the doctor talking and started peeking cautiously into the rooms nearby. The first couple of rooms didn't reveal anything but the fourth was a young woman watching some old western but the volume was pretty normal. Astonished, Blair stepped inside and asked, "Excuse me but, could you maybe turn that down. My friend's having trouble with the volume."
The girl looked at him in surprise but obligingly turned it down. Smiling his thanks, Blair returned to Jim's room and saw that the tense line on the other man's forehead had eased.
"Thanks, Chief," Jim said gratefully. "I was starting to get a headache."
The doctor looked puzzled. "For what?"
"One of the other patients had their tv turned up pretty loud," Blair lied thoughtfully. The doctor shrugged and continued talking to Jim about different tests they wanted to run. Blair's thoughts were rushing over the scant facts. First, Jim had been staring at something ten floors down and gone completely into himself trying to figure out what it was. Next, he complained about the noise of a television that was at least twenty feet away. At least two hyperactive senses!
"You okay there Sandburg?" Jim asked abruptly, looking at him in concern.
Looking at the other man, wondering if Jim had heard the suddenly fast beating of his heart in excitement, Blair nodded. "Fine, thanks. Look, do you mind if I take off? I've got a class in about twenty minutes that I'm going to be late for."
Jim looked disappointed but nodded. "Yeah, sure. Thanks for coming down in the first place."
Blair grinned and said, "The pleasure was all mine. I'll stop by tomorrow to visit, okay? He's still going to be here, right?"
The doctor nodded. "Definitely."
Jim scowled but didn't try to contradict the doctor. Blair grinned again and waved goodbye as he headed out. He had to dig out his old Sentinel books and go over them again before meeting with Jim. This was just too incredible! Forcing himself to calm down, he thought, 'Two hyper senses does not a Sentinel make.'
* * * *
The phone rang insistently, dragging him out of a deep, comfortable sleep. Groaning in irritation, Blair reached out blindly a couple of times before finally landing on the receiver. "Whozzit?"
Slowly waking up, Blair rubbed his eyes and answered, "Yeah. Who's this?"
"This is Dr. Belsen. We met yesterday regarding Mr. Ellison?"
Completely awake, Blair put his glasses on and exclaimed, "Yeah, of course. What's wrong?"
"It's Mr. Ellison. I'm afraid he had a violent reaction to something one of our nurses did, though we still don't know what the trigger was. We sedated him but it seems to have sent him into that catatonic state again. I was hoping that since you seemed to bring him out of it before..."
"I'll be there as soon as I can," Blair promised, hanging up even as he rolled out of bed.
Swearing at himself, knowing that he should have made the time to visit Jim like he'd promised, Blair grabbed his jeans and pulled them on. There had just been emergency after emergency between his students and the faculty that he'd never gotten a chance. And then Naomi had shown up and his mother had occupied his attentions for the rest of the night.
Shoving his feet into his sneakers, Blair snagged his car keys and wallet on the way out and rushed to his car. The entire drive over, his thoughts raced around in circles, reviewing that material he'd reread during the brief times he'd had free. If Jim really was a Sentinel then he'd have to somehow get the sedative out of his system. What excuse could he possibly use? He remembered Jim's violent reaction to his mother's perfume and realized he could use allergies!
Finding a parking spot at almost two in the morning was no problem and he ran into the hospital, stopping at the reception desk. "Hi. Blair Sandburg to see Dr. Belsen? He's expecting me."
The woman nodded and proceeded to call the doctor down. Blair paced the reception area restlessly. Dr. Belsen arrived at last and Blair rushed over to him. "Allergies!"
Startled, the doctor answered, "Excuse me?"
"Jim has violent reactions to artificial substances. I didn't even think about it until on the ride over here but he could barely breathe when my mother stood next to him. He said it was her perfume," Blair explained.
Dr. Belsen paled. "Dear God. So we need to flush the sedative out."
Blair nodded. "Right!"
Dr. Belsen motioned for him to follow so he did. When they reached Jim's floor, he went ahead to Jim's room while the doctor made preparations. He moved immediately to Jim's side and took his hand. Oh yeah. The eyes were open but there was no one staring out of them, Blair realized with worry. By the time Dr. Belsen arrived and injected something into the IV, Blair was practically vibrating with impatience. "What did you give him?"
"It will counteract the sedative," the doctor replied.
"It's all we can do. There's no natural counteragent and to leave the sedative in Mr. Ellison's system would be too dangerous if you're right about his allergies," the man interrupted.
Blair nodded but couldn't help wishing there was another way. "How long before it takes affect?"
"Should be about a half hour."
"I'll stay here, keep an eye on him," Blair volunteered.
The doctor nodded and left.
Blair dragged a chair over then sat, still holding Jim's hand. The best way to reach a Sentinel, providing one was his Guide of course, was to make contact: physical and verbal. Holding the large, warm hand in his, Blair stoked it gently with his other and began speaking. "We really have to stop meeting like this you know. If you wanted to get a hold of me, all you had to do was call, really. You're starting to make me feel like a Meunchousen experiment or something.
"In any case, since you're bound and determined that we're going to be friends, let me tell you a little about myself. You know my name, Blair Sandburg, which is always a good place to start. I work as a professor of Anthropology at Ranier, got my doctorate a few years ago and have been teaching ever since."
Blair kept up a steady stream of words and occasionally moved his massage up Jim's arm, rubbing the muscles there firmly. The doctor checked in when a half hour had gone by and Blair shrugged to indicate no change. When it was going on forty five minutes, he was starting to get seriously worried. It hadn't taken this long for Jim to respond to his voice the last time. Granted, there hadn't been any sedatives involved that time but still. Just as he was going to give up and get the doctor, Jim groaned and his hand tightened around Blair's.
Standing, Blair leaned closer and asked, "Jim? You back with us big guy?"
Jim turned towards him and complained fuzzily, "You were going to come back."
"I know. I am so sorry man. I got completely tied up at work and then my mom showed up unexpectedly," Blair apologized, running his fingers over Jim's forehead. "Are you all right?"
Jim groaned again. "It feels like I've got a killer hangover but I know I haven't done any drinking."
"They used a sedative on you. You became violent. Do you remember what happened?" Blair asked quietly.
Frowning, Jim thought for a moment then answered, "It was the nurse. She smelled terrible and it was overpowering. I tried to tell her to leave but she kept insisting that she had to do some sort of test. I think I shoved her away a little too hard because next thing I know, these bouncer types have me locked-down and everyone's shouting and it hurt my ears. I just wanted to get away from it, I didn't, didn't mean to freak out like that. Is everyone okay? Did I hurt anyone?"
Blair smiled and squeezed his hand reassuringly. "Everyone's fine. We've been worried about you, man."
"How long was I out for?" Jim asked.
"I don't know," Blair admitted.
"It was at least two hours before we realized that you'd had an adverse reaction to the medication," Dr. Belsen said from the doorway. "You should have told us you had medical allergies."
Blair caught Jim's gaze, trying to tell him to play along. To his relief, Jim did just that.
"Yeah, sorry about that. I wasn't thinking," Jim said awkwardly.
"Well, we should go over a list of everything you're allergic to so it doesn't happen again. And I'll make sure that the nurses who treat you from now on know that they are not to be wearing any artificial scents or perfumes, you obviously have an extreme sensitivity to them."
Looking relieved, Jim nodded. "Thanks, doc."
"Thank Professor Sandburg, he's the one who seems to be able to pull you out of these episodes," the doctor said wryly before leaving.
Jim looked intently at Blair for a moment before squeezing Blair's hand deliberately. Blair flushed and pulled his hand free, stepping back. "Sorry about that. I just thought that physical contact would help."
"It did," Jim confirmed. "You're a Shaman, aren't you?"
Shocked, Blair stammered, "A - a shaman? No! I'm just a professor."
"What in?" Jim asked, amused.
"Um, anthropology," Blair answered.
"Incacha sent me away you know," Jim said conversationally. "He said that I was needed in the Great City, that the Shaman of the Great City would welcome me, would find me without me needing to do anything about it. I wasn't sure which Great City he meant at the time, there are so many. But I felt this pull to come home. I haven't been here in so long and I miss the cool rain, I miss the sky covered in a blanket of soothing clouds. The heat here is gentle, you know, when it's here at all. So different from the jungle and the dessert."
Blair knew he looked like a gaping idiot but couldn't help it. Jim Ellison was seriously starting to sound like a lunatic. Piercing blue eyes grabbed him, pinning him where he stood.
"I spent years in the Peruvian jungle, Blair. Years there fighting for a cause I didn't even know was lost. The Chopec welcomed me, made me one of them and I watched out of them. I had cause again, a purpose. I was their protector, I made sure that their lands were safe from encroachers. I was..."
"A Sentinel," Blair whispered.
Jim nodded, a faint smile touching his lips. "In the jungle things are very simple. I had no diversions, nothing separating me from the job of protecting my people. Here, things are so different. I don't have a people to protect. Well, not yet anyhow. I was going to look up an old friend at the Cascade PD. But I can't do that if my senses are going haywire. I need your help Shaman."
Blair opened his mouth to speak but Jim held up his hand to stop the words.
"Before you say anything, you should know that I'm not exactly a welcome person right now," Jim said slowly. "My desertion from covert ops makes me a liability, an embarrassment. I wanted to make myself known here so that if I disappeared, people would ask questions. You knowing me, knowing about me, that could make you a target. The last thing I want to do is place you in danger, Shaman, but I need you."
Blair was still having trouble grasping the fact that he was dealing with an actual Sentinel, let alone that said Sentinel believed him to be a Shaman. And believe it he did. It was obvious in the respectful tone every time that title passed Jim Ellison's lips. Clearing his throat, Blair said, "First off, please don't call me that. Shaman is starting to unnerve me a little."
Jim nodded agreement.
"Good. Okay, second off, what's this about deserting?"
"My men and I were sent to guard a pass in the Peruvian jungle against drug runners. It was a covert mission. We went down and my men all died. I was the only survivor. The Chopec found me and took me in. Incacha, our, their Shaman, recognized me for what I was and began training me. I agreed to stay with them in part to get control of my senses but also because something about the entire mission smelled bad. Someone set us up but I didn't, don't know who.
"So I played hide and seek with the US Government for a few years. I took out every drug runner who dared to cross into Chopec lands. I did the same for any government official. After a few years, people knew not to cross the borders. I only killed the ones who were bad, Chief. I didn't touch innocent soldiers just doing their job. I made life difficult for them, but I didn't hurt them," Jim said with a wink.
Made life difficult. Blair swallowed, not sure he wanted to know what that involved.
"Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that my superiors knew I was still alive but since I'd gone native, they didn't really care. Me being back here, though, that they're going to care a lot about," Jim finished with a sigh. He rubbed his eyes and leaned back against the pillow.
"Wow. Jim. I'm ah, I'm going to need to process this," Blair said at last. "But don't worry, you're going to be safe, I promise you that."
That got Jim's attention enough to open his eyes again. "You can't promise something like that Sandburg."
Staring back at Jim with a hard expression, Blair nodded. "Yes, I can. My mom's got connections, and so do I. If you disappear, the entire world will know that the US Government abandoned one of its own to the wilds of the jungles and then, when he miraculously made his way back alive, they decided to punish him for it."
"But Chief, the only way you can play that card is if you let them know about it," Jim protested.
"Don't you worry about that. You just concentrate on getting these senses under control. I'm going to help you with that. First, I'm going to talk to Dr. Belsen about your allergies. Then I'm going to go home and set up a place for you in my spare room. No, don't argue! I don't want you alone in case you have another zone out. Do you really want to wind up in the hospital again? Maybe in the psyche ward next time?"
Jim scowled but shook his head. Blair grinned and lightly punched his shoulder, "This of it as twenty-four hour access to your, ah, Shaman. Right?"
Jim snorted then said, "You prepared for living with a Sentinel, Sandburg? You can pretty much forget about privacy."
Blair winked and said, "Hey, I've lived on dig sites and communes most of my life, privacy is a relatively new concept for me. Just get some sleep and I'll see you tomorrow, all right?"
Suddenly unsure, Jim reached out and snagged his arm. "Promise?"
Nodding firmly, Blair covered the larger hand with his own. "I promise."
* * * *
Even though he hadn't really slept in thirty hours, Blair was more hyper than ever. Jim was set up in his spare room and resting. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Dr. Belson to release Jim but he'd finally given in. Only, he insisted, because Professor Sandburg had agreed to take personal responsibility. Blair had fully expected to sign the release forms in blood and grinned at the thought.
"If you were wound any tighter, you'd snap," Jim's voice rumbled from behind.
Blair turned around with a smile. "Can't help it! Do you know that this was originally going to be my dissertation? Tribal Sentinels in Modern Society. This is such an incredible opportunity for me! Learning about you and what makes you tick. It could be applied to so many aspects of law enforcement that it's staggering!"
Raising an eyebrow, Jim leaned against the wall. "Nice to be appreciated for who and not what I am for a change."
Groaning, Blair hurried over to him and gripped his shoulder. "I'm sorry man, I didn't mean to make you sound like a lab rat. You are anything but, and I mean that!"
"Relax Chief, I was teasing," Jim assured him.
Still earnest, Blair looked up into the other man's eyes and repeated, "You are what's important, Jim, protecting you."
Jim nodded slowly and looked like he was going to say something then changed his mind. "I think I'm going to turn in. You going to be able to sleep?"
Blair snorted and shook his head. "Probably not but it won't be the first or last time."
"I could, if you want, Incacha taught me some relaxation techniques," Jim offered hesitantly.
Surprised, Blair nodded. "Sure. Thanks. I am a little wired right now."
Chuckling, Jim murmured, "Really?"
Blair shoved him playfully and asked, "So what's involved?"
"Do you have any natural sounds cds? And lying down somewhere comfortable would be best," Jim said.
"Sure. In the living room, come on," Blair said, moving out of the kitchen.
Jim followed and grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch while Blair messed around with the stereo. The sounds of a steam and gentle guitar filled the air as Blair turned to face Jim. His mouth dried when he saw the other man had taken off his shirt and was sitting on the floor, one arm draped along the couch. Firmly telling the lower half of his body to behave, Blair sat on the blanket and asked, "What now?"
"Lay down, on your stomach," Jim ordered with a quiet smile.
Blair hesitated, suspicious thoughts rearing up instantly. It had been a long time since he'd let anyone get this close to him and for good reason. After staring into Jim's sky blue eyes for a long moment, Blair shoved those thoughts away and rolled onto his stomach. Tensely, he waited for whatever Jim was going to do. To his surprise, a low murmuring began, a chant, in a language he didn't recognize.
'Probably Chopec,' he realized.
Jim started at Blair's feet, massaging them with just enough pressure that his ticklish nature didn't have a chance to surface. From there the large, warm hands moved up his left calf, kneading the muscles there into submission. Jim went slow and retraced the territory of Blair's legs a few times before Blair began to relax. There was something soothing about the light, careful touch mixed with the rumbling voice.
Blair could feel it permeating the air. There was safety here, he didn't need to be on guard with this man. It had been so long since he'd felt safe and...protected...that he didn't even notice when he started crying with the relief. Not until he tasted the salt on his lips. Then he buried his face in the crook of his elbow and tried not to show the weakness.
"Someone hurt you."
At first the words didn't penetrate. When they did, Blair just nodded, unable and unwilling to say more. After a few moments, Jim started the chanting and the massage again. Feeling adrift in an unwelcome storm of emotion, Blair tried not to think as hands soothed and dug out every hurt and tense muscle in his body. Turning off his brain was difficult but finally he could only hear the soft, unknown words in his ears and feel only the strength in the hands that touched him.
He was practically unconscious when the chanting stopped. Strangely, for the first time in forever, Blair didn't stiffen when someone lay beside him. The arm that rested gently over his back, the large body that pressed against him was comforting instead of confining. Just before sleep claimed him, Blair thought he heard, "My Guide. My Shaman. My pledge. Never alone or hurt again."
But then, he was more asleep than awake and had probably dreamed the words.
* * * *
Jim stared at the still form plastered to him in sleep and a pleased, if somewhat possessive smile, crossed his face. Blair had slept the entire night only moving once. That one time had been to turn over and pull tight to him. Jim had wrapped his arms around the younger man with a deep sigh of contentment and closed his eyes to sleep.
He'd awoken a few minutes ago when sunlight had hit his closed eyes and now he had the opportunity to observe a completely still and relaxed Blair. Jim had the feeling that he should enjoy it while he had the chance. Grinning to himself, leaning on his elbow, Jim watched as the rising sun showed the dark stubble littering Blair's chin, the hollows beneath the cheekbones and faint shadows under closed eyes.
Hesitantly, Jim reached out to run a fingertip over the warm skin, tracing the troubled lines still visible, even in sleep. Someone had hurt Blair badly, bad enough that he lived alone despite his attractive and sensual nature. Some had hurt the younger man bad enough that physical touch was unwelcome. Someone had hurt him so badly that when he finally felt safe, Blair had cried from the release.
Repeating the vow silently to himself, Jim promised never to let anyone else hurt his Guide.
* * * *
Blair woke to the incredible smell of pancakes. He was warm and comfy but puzzled at not feeling the familiar bed beneath him. He tensed instantly, heart beating faster as his eyes flew open to figure out where he was. In the span of fifteen or so seconds it took to realize he was in the living room stretched out on the floor, Jim rushed into the room and asked, "You all right Chief?"
Focusing on the tall man, even as he reached for his glasses, Blair nodded. As his heart slowed, he watched with interest as Jim nodded and returned to the kitchen. Jim must have been monitoring his heartbeat. Incredible.
Stumbling to his feet, Blair moved to the coffee maker and started it then pulled down a couple of mugs. He glanced at the clock there and was shocked to find it was almost ten thirty. He never slept that late. He was lucky to get five hours a night! No wonder he felt so rested! "You want coffee?"
"Yeah, thanks," Jim answered, flipping four pancakes in succession.
"You're pretty good at that," Blair observed with a grin.
Jim looked over at him and winked. "I have been known to make a mean pancake. You only had buckwheat flour though, so I don't know how these will turn out."
"It's good for you, man," Blair informed him. Jim arched an eyebrow as though begging to differ then returned to the skillet. Chuckling, Blair continued, "You didn't have to make breakfast, you know. I don't normally eat breakfast actually."
"You should. You're too skinny," Jim said firmly.
Chuckling again, Blair commented, "You sound like my mom."
"Well, she looked like a smart lady. How is she?"
Blair poured the coffee then brought the mugs over to the table while Jim piled the pancakes on a plate. The table was already set, he noted with surprise. He glanced back at the kitchen and saw that it was immaculate. "She's doing fine."
"I can still smell her perfume here," Jim said, setting the food on the table. "I didn't find any syrup in the fridge."
In mock-horror, Blair exclaimed, "You don't put real syrup in the fridge Jim! Hang on, I'll get it."
Jim grinned and sat down, taking a sip of coffee. "Hey, this is good Sandburg."
"Thanks man. It's my major vice," Blair answered, sitting back down and plunking the tin of syrup on the table. "I can go without pretty much anything except coffee. You should see me in the field. I'm a real bastard cause I can't take it with me."
"They do make coffee in other parts of the world, Chief," Jim pointed out.
"Not where I go," Blair said, rolling his eyes. "When I said the field, that's what I meant. My last few trips have been to Borneo but I've been in pretty much every major jungle in the world for the last fifteen years."
Startled, Jim asked, "How old are you?"
Amused, Blair countered, "How old do you think I am?"
Jim started to answer then stopped and really looked at him. After a moment, he said, "Older than I thought, obviously. I'll guess thirty?"
Blair touched his nose and said, "Give the man a cigar. What about you?"
"How old do you think I am?" Jim echoed with a smirk.
"Oh come on, man, I suck at guessing age," Blair complained. When Jim didn't say anything he sighed and took a good long look at the man opposite him. There were sun and smile lines around his eyes and while you didn't need to be post thirty-five for a receding hairline, something told Blair that the widow's peak had been forming for a while. "I'll say, thirty-five, thirty-six?"
"Close. Thirty-eight," Jim corrected.
"What about family?" Blair asked casually, sipping at his coffee.
"I haven't spoken to my father or brother in almost twenty years," Jim said tightly, concentrating on his food. "My mother took off when I was a kid."
"Oh, Jim, I'm sorry," Blair said with sympathy.
Jim shrugged then looked up from his plate. "What about you?"
"Well, you met my mom," Blair reminded with a grin. "She's great but she can be a little scatter-brained. I never knew my dad. Naomi, that's my mom, she always said she didn't know who it was. Gypsy life that we lived, I completely believe her."
"Gypsy life?" Jim asked curiously.
"Yeah. Naomi was like the original flower child. We moved around all the time growing up," Blair said. "Hey, these are really good."
"Thanks. How often was 'all the time'?" Jim asked.
"All the time. I don't know. It depended on who we were living with at the time. If Naomi had a steady, we'd be there six months to a year. Longest time I ever spent in one place as a kid was three years. I thought that was going to be it, actually. I thought she'd finally found the man she wanted to live with but it didn't happen. I think she got cold feet because he was great. Totally different from the assholes we usually lived with," Blair reported with a shrug.
"That's no way to bring up a kid," Jim stated.
"It is what it is," Blair said. "Besides, I got to see a lot more of the world as a kid than most people do in their entire lives."
"Doesn't matter. Kids aren't supposed to see the world," Jim insisted. "Kids are supposed to be stuck in one place with their irritating brothers and sisters, bitch about school and get picked on for playing an instrument or not making it in sports."
Blair grinned suddenly. "The Ellison Guide to Parenting, huh?"
Jim echoed the smile. "You said it."
They were quiet for the rest of breakfast and Blair was surprised by how comfortable it felt. He was more surprised by how easy it was to accept Jim into his home. He rarely brought people here except for his mom and a few close friends. Jim was a virtual stranger but it felt like he'd known the other man for years. Maybe it was that aura of protection he gave off; something inherent to Sentinels.
"This is nice," Jim said suddenly, echoing his thoughts. "I can't tell you how long it's been since I've had a home cooked meal."
Blair grinned. "That's funny, I was thinking almost that very same thing."
"More coffee?" Jim asked, reaching for his cup.
"Oh you don't have to do that," Blair protested. "You're my guest, I'm supposed to be waiting on you."
Jim just smiled and picked up the cup, moving to the counter to fill it then returning to the table. Setting it in front of Blair, he said, "Something tells me that you don't get waited on much. Enjoy it."
Flushing a little, Blair hid his face in the coffee cup. "So I think today I'm going to figure out some tests to see just how much or how little control you have over your senses. We can go through some basic meditation and visualizations, too. How are you doing, anyhow? Any more zombie sessions?"
Jim shook his head. "But I'm not surprised."
"Because you're here," Jim answered simply.
Trying to keep himself from blushing again, Blair asked, "What's that to do with your senses?"
"Incacha told me to expect problems once I left the jungle. He said that I would be fine once I found my Guide," Jim explained. "I've done that."
"Incacha was your Shaman, right? In the Chopec," Blair said.
"He was their Shaman, yes," Jim corrected. "Everyone thought his son was going to be my Guide but he wasn't. I knew it almost before I knew what a Guide was."
Curious, Blair asked, "How?"
"Because there was no connection. He was a friend but I had no need, no drive, to keep him safe any more or less than the others," Jim answered slowly.
"Burton says that there's always another person with the Sentinel, a partner of sorts who keeps the Sentinel focused. I'm assuming this is the Guide that you're talking about," Blair said thoughtfully.
Jim nodded. "Guide, Shaman, Partner, all one and the same. And who's Burton? A Professor friend of yours?"
Smiling, Blair shook his head. "Richard Burton, an explorer. He traveled the world and found and documented cases of Sentinels. It was primarily his research that I used for my dissertation since I didn't actually have a Sentinel to document. Just as well because I can't see you needing that kind of scrutiny."
"What do you mean?" Jim asked.
"I would have had to publish my findings. Everyone would know all about your abilities and your life as a private citizen would probably be over," Blair commented wryly. "If you'd shown up when I was doing my dis, I don't know that I'd have been able to resist publishing. I was a little impulsive back then."
"You wouldn't have done anything to hurt me," Jim said confidently.
Blair was about to say that Jim couldn't possibly know that when there was a knock at the door, a pounding really. He stiffened, knowing exactly who was on the other side of the door.
"Who is it?" Jim asked quietly.
Sighing, Blair said, "Stay here. I'll take care of this."
He left the table, the previously tasty pancakes now sitting like lumps in his stomach. Taking a fortifying breath, Blair opened the door. As expected, the tall, dark haired man he'd been stupid enough to take as a lover the year before was standing on the other side. Quietly, Blair said, "Matt. I told you not to come here anymore. You're breaking the order, man."
"Yeah right. Since when did you start issuing orders in this relationship, Blair?" Matt sneered.
"There is no relationship. I told you to stay away a year ago and again, six months ago, and I meant it," Blair said firmly.
Cold blue eyes raked over him as Matt said, "You don't know what you mean. I seem to recall someone swearing they loved me and would do anything I wanted."
"That's before I found out you what a sick bastard you are," Blair snapped. "Now go away or I'll call the cops this time."
"No chance. Now let me in," Matt ordered.
"Is there a problem, Sandburg?"
Blair almost groaned at Jim's icy tone as the other man stepped up behind him and placed a hand on his shoulder. He saw Matt instantly zero in on the hand and the protective stance. "No Jim. No problem. Matt here was just leaving."
"If he'd like a little help with that, I'd be happy to..."
"Jim, hey, it's okay," Blair interrupted, turning and facing the older man. He was shocked by the dangerous expression on Jim's face. 'Well duh, Sandburg, he was Covert Ops. He's killed people before, made their lives 'difficult'. Of course he's dangerous. Just not to you.'
"I'll see you on campus, Professor," Matt said.
Blair tensed, recognizing the threat even couched in the almost neutral tone. He'd heard it too often not to know it when it was issued. Jim must have heard it too because the grip on his shoulder tightened and Jim said, "If you come anywhere near Blair, I will find you and beat you until your own mother doesn't recognize you."
Matt practically growled in anger but stalked away, slamming the screen door shut so that Blair had to jump back to avoid getting hit. He closed the door, shaking from the confrontation, then found himself pulled into a comforting embrace. Resisting only a moment, Blair relaxed into Jim's arms, pressing his face into the hollow of Jim's throat, his arms slipping around the taller man's waist. A gentle kiss to the top of his head surprised him and Blair pulled back a little.
Warm blue eyes stared down at him as Jim said, "You never have to worry about being hurt again, Blair."
Unsure what to say to that, Blair didn't say anything. If there was one thing he'd learned over the years, usually the hard way, it was that words didn't always work. Right now being held and holding seemed to be a very good idea, especially with the soothing rub of Jim's hand over his back. Finally he sighed and murmured, "We should clean up and get the day started."
Jim nodded and pressed a kiss to his temple before releasing him. "I already took my shower, didn't think you'd mind. I'll get the kitchen cleaned up while you get ready."
Blair smiled, grateful Jim wasn't going to press him to explain about Matt. He wasn't sure he could explain anything just then, not with the encounter so fresh. Even thinking about Matt made him tense. Jim instantly reached out and gripped his shoulder, squeezing gently. Blair smiled again and headed towards the bathroom.
The hot water rinsed away the remainder of the tension and in short order, he was getting dressed. He'd just pulled on his boxers when his bedroom door opened and his mother walked in.
"Blair! What do you think you're doing?" Naomi demanded.
Surprised, Blair answered, "Getting dressed?"
"Don't be smart. I meant, why is that man here? You barely know him and he's puttering around downstairs like he owns the place!" Naomi exclaimed.
Groaning, Blair said, "He's here because..."
"Because he doesn't have any place to go, right? Because he took one look at you at the airport and thought you'd make an easy target!"
He so didn't need this right now. "Mom, you don't know what's going on here so calm down."
Hands on her hips, Naomi said, "Well? I'm listening."
Putting his own hands on his hips pointedly, Blair countered, "No, Naomi, you're not."
She scowled for a moment then closed her eyes and took several deep breaths, obviously clearing away her anger. Opening her eyes, she repeated in a calmer voice, "I'm listening now."
"Good," Blair said. He pulled on his jeans and then a t-shirt before moving over and kissing her on the cheek. "Now why are you here?"
"Charlie got the sense that you were in danger," Naomi explained reluctantly.
Blair grinned. "No offense mom, but Charlie isn't the most reliable psychic in the network."
"He is when it comes to important things like you," Naomi insisted. "You don't know this man, Blair."
"Mom. Jim is not here for a free ride," Blair said firmly. "He doesn't even know who I am. He's here because he needs help from me that has absolutely nothing to do with money."
"No buts," Blair interrupted. "Jim is a friend. I want you to hear me on that, all right?"
Sighing, Naomi nodded. "I hear you."
"Good. Now come and meet the man whose honor you've just besmirched," Blair ordered, teasing.
A smile finally made its way into her eyes as she linked her arm with his. "One of the things I love most about you is your kindness, Blair. I hope this Jim doesn't take advantage of that."
"He won't," Blair assured her.
They went back downstairs and joined Jim who was sitting on the couch reading the paper. He looked up at their arrival and set the paper down, standing. "Ms. Sandburg. It's good to see you again."
Blair met his eyes and saw the faint amusement there, which told him that Jim had heard the whole conversation. He nudged his mother who forced a smile and said, "And you as well, Mr. Ellison."
"Jim, please," he said, motioning for her to take his seat.
"No, that's all right. I was just dropping in to visit Blair. I'll leave you two alone," Naomi said. She hugged Blair and whispered, "Be careful!"
He hugged her back and whispered, "I will."
After the door closed behind her, Blair started laughing. "Oh, God, Jim I'm sorry. I hope she didn't hurt you while I was still in the shower!"
Jim chuckled and shook his head. "A few claw marks maybe, but I'll live."
Shaking his head, Blair went to the fridge and grabbed a bottled water. "You want one?"
"Sure, thanks Chief," Jim agreed. He caught the bottle flying through the air and asked, "What did you mean, I'm not after your money? I didn't think professors made that much."
Grinning as he leaned against the counter, Blair took a drink of the water before answering. "Professor Stoddard left me his estate about four years ago. I'm actually worth a few million."
Jaw dropping in shock, Jim said, "Excuse me?"
Amused, Blair explained, "Most of it's tied up in his actual collection but Eli had a few lucrative import endeavors that paid him rather handsomely. Eli was my mentor when I first got to Ranier. He was really good to me and we went on a number of expeditions together. He was like the father I never had and I guess, being a bachelor, I was like the son he never had. When he was killed in a car crash a few years back, I found out that he left me everything. Thank God I'd pretty much made it on my own by then or I'd never have known if the academic circles were letting me on my own worth or because I had something they wanted."
"Wow. I had no idea," Jim said at last. "No wonder your mom was so over protective."
Blair shrugged. "Naomi is over protective because I've got crappy taste in men."
A single eyebrow arched up. "Oh?"
"Always have," Blair confirmed. "Actually, I've just got bad taste in general. Do you know that one of my girlfriends, a woman that I actually proposed to, was the daughter of a drug runner? I nearly got my ass tossed in jail over that one. Thank God Eli was still alive back then because his lawyers were the one of the only things keeping me from being labeled an accessory."
"Geeze, Chief," Jim said, shaking his head.
"The good news is that out of that, I met the Captain of Major Crimes and he's really cool. You'd like him," Blair said, eyes twinkling. "He's a real hardass too."
Jim snorted. "Thanks. So this Captain didn't believe that you were an accessory?"
Blair laughed. "No way. Simon said, and I think this is a direct quote, 'That kid is as much a drug runner as I am happily married. Despite the hair.' He's divorced, by the way. Anyhow, between Simon and the lawyers, the charges were dropped."
"So where does Matt fit into all this?" Jim asked.
Blair's good mood evaporated and he answered, "He doesn't. He's an asshole who won't go away."
"Why don't you file a restraining order or something?" Jim asked gently.
"I did," Blair answered. "But you don't really think the cops care about protecting a fag, no matter how rich he is, do you?"
Anger rose but Jim shoved it down. "What about your Captain friend?"
"What's he going to do? Set his own people here twenty-four, seven?" Blair pointed out. "They have real crimes to investigate."
"This is a real crime," Jim said firmly. "The man's breaking the law by breaking the order."
Blair shrugged. "It's a minor harassment."
Jim crossed the distance and touched Blair's hand. "Not when he's threatening you."
Looking up into sky blue eyes, Blair was nearly overwhelmed by the fierce tenderness he saw there. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at him with anything of that, if ever. It seemed the most natural thing when Jim leaned down and pressed his lips to Blair's. Blair melted into the kiss, opening his mouth to the gently searching tongue. A lazy heat enveloped him as he wrapped his arms around Jim's waist.
The kiss lasted by breaking into smaller, sweeter kisses before stopping altogether. Blair sighed his disappointment but pulled back.
Jim looked uncertain as he said, "It's been a long time since I've done this, Chief, and I've never been successful at it."
A smile quirked Blair's lips as he commented, "And I have?"
"Point," Jim agreed wryly. "How about we take this slow?"
Blair nodded and happily allowed himself to be pulled back into Jim's arms.
* * * *
For the next few days, Jim went through all the tests and techniques that Blair thought up for him. It was surprisingly easy to maintain control with Blair around, far easier than his time in the jungle with Incacha. They went to the park, they went to the ocean, they went to a county fair, a florists shop testing the range of his senses. All the time that Blair was testing him, Jim was giving his own subtle tests of Blair.
There were many things that Blair talked about at length: his mother, his work at Ranier, and a host of other topics. Some things he talked about only with prompting: his failed relationships, the asshole known as Matt, and real details about his childhood. There were some things he never talked about: who had hurt Blair so badly that he had a state of the art security system and still didn't feel safe, and how. Whenever Jim tried that particular subject, the younger man clammed up; it was a disturbing transformation. One second Blair would be vibrant and practically bouncing in his enthusiasm in whatever they were doing and the next, he completely shut down.
So mostly Jim stayed away from that forbidden topic. There were so many other things about his Guide that he wanted to know about that didn't cause pain. It didn't even really matter what Blair talked about, his voice was one of the most soothing experiences in Jim's life. Incacha had never had much success at getting him to meditate but within a few days, Blair had Jim centered and visualizing.
After dinner each night, they were sit on the couch, Blair wrapped up in his arms and he would just hold the smaller man. Sometimes they made out, sometimes they didn't but it didn't matter. What mattered was the contact and Jim knew Blair felt the same way. He grew to know his Guide's heartbeat and breathing patterns, clinging to them instinctively for focus and comfort. Even after Blair went upstairs to sleep, Jim extended his sense of hearing until the calm sounds lulled him into sleeping.
It was on the following Monday, five days after setting up in Blair's home, that Blair announced they were going to Major Crimes so Jim could meet Simon.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Jim asked skeptically.
Blair nodded firmly. "Not only will you like Simon, but you need a job so my mom doesn't keep thinking that you're mooching off me."
Jim snorted. Naomi had popped in twice since her initial visit and while she hadn't really warmed to him yet, Jim was working on it. He'd even eaten tongue sandwich in the quest for peace with his future in-law. Not that Blair knew he thought that way but it was a done deal as far as Jim was concerned. Well, assuming that Blair said yes of course. That particular line of thought set his stomach fluttering nervously so he said, "Are you going to tell him about my senses?"
"I think that's for the best," Blair confirmed. "He already knows about my dis. We've discussed it a few times over dinner. How it would apply in a modern society, the benefits to law enforcement, walking crime lab, yadda, yadda, yadda."
"You don't think he'd tell anyone though?" Jim asked.
"No way. Simon's like you. He's got this code and once he gives his word, he won't break it if at all humanly possible. And you're a friend of mine so you've got the inside track," Blair assured him.
Jim grinned and commented, "Just a friend?"
Blair blew him a kiss from his spot at the desk, closing the laptop down. He walked over to Jim and put his arms around the taller man's waist, leaning on him as he allowed, "Maybe more than a friend."
Brushing his lips against Blair's, Jim murmured, "Maybe?"
Looking up at him mischievously, Blair warned, "If we tell Simon you're more than a friend, be prepared for a background check that will leave you dizzy and the third degree about your intentions. I swear that he's worse than Naomi."
Which only reassured Jim that someone in authority was actually looking out for Blair.
* * * *
"Sandburg! What the hell are you doing here? Please tell me you're not under arrest again!"
Blair grinned at Simon's bellow and tugged on Jim's sleeve to bring him forward. "Not this time, Captain. Actually, I've got someone I think you'll want to meet."
The tall, black man met them halfway in the outer office where the detectives' desks were. It was lunch so most of them were away but Blair waved to Henri who had looked up from his paperwork to grin a hello. Blair watched with interest as Simon and Jim looked each other in depth. It was almost like two alpha males circling each other around, and Blair snorted to himself at the image, around a prized bitch. Not that Simon thought of him like that, he saw Blair as a second son who needed looking after. But there was no denying that both Jim and Simon would either love or hate each other and Blair held his breath waiting to see which it would be.
Jim relaxed first and held out his hand. "Jim Ellison. It's good to meet you sir. Blair's told me that you sometimes keep him out of trouble."
Simon grinned and took the hand. "Simon Banks. And I try, but you know the kid's a trouble magnet. Thankfully, business is usually slow when he needs help."
"Ah, the 'kid' is right here thank you very much," Blair pointed out.
"What's your point, Sandburg?" Simon asked with a grin.
Shaking his head, "Can we talk in your office Simon?"
"Sure. C'mon in," Simon said, leading the way. When the door was closed and they were both comfortable, he asked, "So, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Twofold," Blair said. "First, you remember my dissertation?"
Simon frowned. "Yeah."
"Well, you remember how you agreed that a Sentinel would be an incredible asset to any line of law enforcement? We talked about how he could be a walking crime lab, about how he could use his senses to track down clues, apprehend suspects and..."
"Sandburg, breathe," Simon ordered.
Blair took a breath then released it. "Sorry. Anyhow, I want your word that what I say here won't leave this room."
Frowning, Simon answered, "You know I can't do that if it's against the law."
"It's not," Blair assured him.
"Then all right. You've got my word."
"Jim's a Sentinel. Full-fledged. Not only that, but he's worked for covert ops and had ranger training," Blair revealed in a rush.
Simon's jaw didn't drop in amazement and he certainly didn't take Blair's word for it. Instead, he looked sharply at Jim, suspicion practically oozing from him. "So. You find Sandburg and tell him that you've got these hyper senses and you want what to let him study you?"
Jim grinned, not in the least offended. If he was in Banks' position, he'd probably think the same thing. "Nothing sir. He's actually doing me a favor by getting them under control."
The suspicion didn't abate and Blair sighed. "Simon, he's not out to fleece me. Geeze, I've had this discussion with Naomi three times already."
"And you'll have it again with me right now," Simon said flatly. "Mr. Ellison. Would you mind giving us a few minutes?"
Jim shook his head. "Not at all. I'll be outside."
He left the office, careful to close the door firmly behind him. Jim walked towards the other end of the office and leaned against an empty desk. Banks stared at him for a moment then started talking to Blair. Opening his hearing, Jim was able to follow the conversation without any problems.
"Simon, sending him out of the room isn't going to do any good. He can hear everything we say," Blair said.
"Blair, what the hell are you thinking?" Simon asked wearily. He pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes before replacing them. "You don't know this guy from Adam. He could be another kidnapper or worse, have you thought about that?"
Jim straightened up with interest. Kidnapper?
"He isn't. Look, he's a real Sentinel, Simon, and I've got evidence to back it up," Blair said firmly. "He's also a good man and he would be an asset to Major Crimes."
"The fact that he came to you first doesn't give me much reassurance," Banks said dryly.
"He didn't come to me," Blair explained. "As a matter of fact, I saved him from getting run down by a cab the first day we met."
"Oh. Well. That changes everything," Banks commented sarcastically.
"Jim. Would you come in here so we can prove to Simon that you're really a Sentinel?" Blair asked, dropping his voice to just above a whisper.
Jim started walked to the office right away, even as Banks was protesting that the whisper couldn't possibly have been heard. He opened the door and asked, "You rang, Sandburg?"
Simon frowned. "Coincidence."
"It's not but first I'd really like to know more about that kidnapping you just mentioned," Jim said, taking the seat beside Blair. He didn't miss the rigid setting of Blair's shoulders after he spoke.
"Not one word, Simon," Blair warned, glaring at Jim.
Jim glared back.
"Just tell the man what he ate for breakfast," Blair practically snarled.
Frowning, Jim concentrated on the scent coming from Simon's breath then said, "He hasn't had breakfast. He did have some coffee, though, hazelnut I think."
Simon glanced down at his empty mug and said, "You could've smelled it."
"Can you?" Jim countered easily.
"Doesn't prove anything," Simon insisted.
"All right. What would you accept as a reasonable test?" Blair asked finally.
Pursing his lips, Simon thought for a moment then said, "What's Connor saying over there by the elevator?"
Jim looked over at the elevator, which was a good fifteen yards away beyond the closed office door. "Is that the red haired woman?"
Opening his hearing again, Jim concentrated then started chuckling.
"What? What did she say?" Simon demanded.
"She just called some guy named Rafe a walking wankfest for interfering with her investigation. And if he does it again, she's going to personally rearrange certain parts of his anatomy," Jim reported. "Who's Rafe?"
This time Simon's jaw did drop. Blair grinned and stood, opening the door. "Megan!"
The red-haired woman looked over at his voice and smiled with pleasure as she crossed the distance to give him a hug. "Sandy! It's great to see you again!"
Returning the hug, he asked, "Did you just call Rafe a walking wankfest and bitch about him interfering with your investigation?"
Startled, Megan nodded and looked at Simon. "You got some kind of surveillance going on, Captain?"
Simon shook his head. "No. Thanks Connor."
Shrugging curiously, she nodded and said, "Sure. Hey, drop by more often, okay Sandy? I get bored staring at these guys every day."
Blair smiled and closed the door behind her. Turning back to Simon, he asked, "Satisfied?"
Simon just looked stunned as he asked, "All five senses?"
* * * *
"I think he took it well," Jim said, nudging Blair towards the car.
"He offered you a job didn't he?" Blair agreed with a grin. "Getting me an observer pass is a temporary measure though. Just until we're sure you won't zone again."
"It seems like you're practically a cop on your own," Jim observed. He waited while Blair unlocked the door then slid in, leaning over to unlock the driver's side door before the other man could do it himself.
Blair got in and turned on the engine, saying, "I've worked a few cases as a consultant. The weirder, ritualistic ones."
"Must've been hard," Jim commented.
Blair's hands tightened on the steering wheel as he glanced over at Jim. "You aren't going to leave it alone, are you?"
"I can't," Jim said helplessly. "Whatever happened is still hurting you and that just, it's wrong to me, and I have this, this need to fix it."
Sighing softly, Blair reached over with to grasp Jim's hand. "There's nothing to fix."
"At least tell me that you aren't in any danger," Jim asked quietly. "That whatever happened is over."
Blair pulled his hand back and shifted uncomfortably. "Depends by what you mean by danger."
"Dammit Sandburg!" Jim exploded. Blair flinched and seemed to shrink in on himself. Cursing himself, Jim apologized, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. Look, let's table this until we get home."
Blair nodded silently, keeping his eyes on the road.
It was only about ten minutes to the house but Jim felt like it was an eternity. He didn't even see the well manicured lawns and well appointed houses of the other faculty. He barely noticed anything except the slightly fast beating of Blair's heart. When the car stopped in the driveway, he got out and followed Blair to the house, then inside to the living room. He watched as Blair puttered around the kitchen, starting the coffee maker and pulling down two mugs.
"I guess you could say there are two distinct and on-going 'Blair-problems', well, not counting Matt," Blair said at last, leaning on the counter but not looking at Jim.
Jim stayed in the living room, hearing Blair easily enough despite the lack of volume. He could tell that Blair wanted space while talking so he half-sat on the back of the couch, facing Blair. The younger man's heart beat was faster than normal but nowhere near as fast as the mini-panic attack he'd had that first morning waking up in the living room.
"The first one deals with my money and since my money isn't going away, neither will the problem," Blair explained. "I was, was kidnapped shortly after I inherited. This girl I knew from the university set me up. It was not a pleasant experience and I have no desire to repeat it. Simon found me in time but it was still a good two weeks before that happened. I was really dehydrated and had a broken ankle from when they'd pushed me down the stairs into the basement. The doctors actually had to re-break it because it had been left untreated the whole time. Very not fun."
Jim could picture it all too clearly in his mind and shook his head to clear it of the horrible images. Just talking about it had leeched all color from Blair's face and his hands were gripping the counter so tightly that his knuckles were white. He wanted to go over there and sweep Blair into his arms but restrained himself.
"Anyhow, that's the first one. The second one comes from this woman, Alex Barnes. I met her by accident when she was at the police station after wrapping her car around a telephone pole. I overheard her talking to Megan and was positive she was a sentinel. I'm sure you can guess how excited that made me," Blair said dryly, looking over at Jim for the first time.
Jim nodded but stayed silent.
"Well, she's definitely got the hyperactive senses but she's no Sentinel," Blair continued flatly. "Sentinels protect the tribe, protect the innocent and that was the last thing on her mind. I was working with her, helping her get a grip on her senses when I stumbled across the minor fact that she was a criminal. And because I helped her with her senses, she was able to steal some nerve gas and get away completely clean. She um, she tried to bring me with her and when that failed she tried to kill me. Thank God for Megan's suspicious mind because she was coming to check on me when Alex attacked me at my office. Megan shot her, wounded her, but didn't actually catch her. So it's entirely possible that Alex might come back some day and try to finish the job."
Staying where he was, Jim asked, "Anything else?"
Quirking a grin at him, Blair shook his head. "Not that I know of. That's not to say any of the psychos I've helped put away won't try for revenge or any new psychos won't cross my path in the future."
"Right." Jim agreed wryly. Now he crossed the distance and stood before Blair, grasping the smaller man's shoulder lightly before saying, "I won't let anything happen to you again."
Blair looked up at him, wanting to believe it but obviously unable to do so. "I know you'll try, Jim. It's what you do. But..."
"No buts," Jim interrupted. "And this has nothing to do with me being a Sentinel. Well, not only to do with me being a Sentinel. I'm not good with words, Blair, never have been but, I love you. I will do anything to protect you. I will keep you safe at the cost of my own life."
Stunned, Blair stared at him for a few minutes before whispering, "You barely know me. I talk all the time. I'm hyper twenty-four/seven. I eat all these weird foods. I go on expeditions for months at a time. I'm really sucky relationship material, Jim."
Smiling gently, Jim said, "I know you enough to know that I want to know every single thing there is about you. I'm a withdrawn and mean SOB who happens to love the fact that you can talk about anything and everything, and that you do. Just because you eat weird foods doesn't mean I have to. I'll go with you on the expeditions because I'm sure as hell not letting you out of the country without me. And I'm really sucky relationship material too but I'm hoping that you'll see past that and give me a chance."
"What about your new job? You can't exactly go in there as gay," Blair pointed out.
Jim shrugged. "So we keep it quiet until I find out who my friends are. I'm not going to hide who I am but it's not like we'd be making out in the breakroom anyhow. That's just unprofessional."
A grin tugged unexpectedly at Blair's lips. "We're not, huh? Damn. I was really looking forward to that."
Chuckling, Jim said, "Sorry to burst your bubble Chief. No making out on police property. Any other objections?"
And while Blair couldn't think of a single one, he hesitated. Though there was only calm and patient love in Jim's eyes, the only thing Blair could remember were all the times he'd been hurt. He knew Jim felt this way now but he also knew Jim was grateful for getting control of his senses. In a few months when things were back to normal, he'd slowly leave Blair's life and when that happened, Blair would be devastated. He couldn't let himself fall in love this time, not if he wanted to survive Jim's leaving. "I-I can't..."
Jim pressed a gentle finger to Blair's mouth, stopping the words. "It's all right. I know you're scared and I won't press you. Just...for now at least, can we be friends?"
Blair nodded. Friends he could do. "Good friends."
Smiling faintly, Jim echoed, "Good friends."
* * * *
Jim heard Blair's heart speed up but he waited, unsure as to the cause. There were so many different reasons for the human heart to change rhythm: lust, fear, excitement, happiness, terror. If it was a good dream, Jim didn't want to end it by waking the younger man up. Considering the emotional upheaval of the evening, Jim didn't think that was the case but he waited to make sure.
They'd stayed in after that conversation, doing some minor testing until Jim told Blair that he should just get some rest. He'd cooked supper but Blair had barely eaten any of it. When the dishes were cleared, Blair had settled in at his laptop and started writing up his findings while Jim had watched tv. He hadn't been surprised when Blair had turned in early.
The first low, gasping moan told Jim it was definitely not a pleasant dream speeding Blair's heart. Without thinking, he rolled out of bed and padded silently upstairs. He could hear an indistinct murmur coming from Blair that sounded painfully like begging. When he entered the bedroom, the words became clear and Jim had to close his eyes for a moment, steeling himself against the heartbreaking pain.
"Please no, stop, stop, I'll be good, I won't try, no escaping, no more, please, please stop."
Even without the light, Jim could see his friend curled tight into a ball on the rather large bed. He was rocking in his distress as the words continued to pour out. Unsure what the best method of waking Blair would be, Jim crossed the room and hesitantly reached out to touch a shoulder. He staggered back at the loud scream that burst from Blair's throat, his hands going to his ears in shock. He hadn't dialed down his hearing and the scream tore through him.
When Jim finally got control of himself, he said, "Blair, it's just a dream. You're safe now. Come on Chief, wake up, it's just a dream."
It seemed like forever that he repeated those words, inches from Blair's ear but not touching the other man in any way. Touch was obviously a bad idea until Blair woke up. The words stopped abruptly as Blair stilled into consciousness. Jim pulled back, his own words drying up as he sat back.
After several seconds of complete silence, Blair whispered, "Jim?"
"Right here Chief," Jim assured him.
"Could you, could you hold me for a little bit?" Blair asked.
"Yeah, no problem," Jim agreed, relieved that he could finally do something. He climbed into the bed and pulled Blair tight to him, running a soothing hand up and down the other man's back. Blair was shivering in reaction and though the scent of his terror was fading, enough remained for Jim to know more had gone on in that kidnapping than Blair had admitted to.
"I guess we should add nightmares to the list," Blair said shakily, pressing his face against Jim's chest. Remembered pain was keeping him tense but the gentle touch against his back and the warmth of Jim's body was slowly penetrating his frightened memories. No one had ever held him after a nightmare before, well, except for his mom and that was in her job description. Mom's did that, girlfriends and boyfriends didn't have to apparently. Except Jim was holding him and they weren't even lovers. "Sorry."
Jim's arms tightened briefly as he said, "So am I. Just tell me the fuckers are in prison where they belong."
"The fuckers are in prison where they belong," Blair repeated with a faint smile. "Simon got them not only on kidnapping and assault, but attempted murder, too. They're all in a maximum security."
"Attempted murder?" Jim questioned lightly.
Shivering, Blair explained, "I was nearly dead when they found me. I ah, kind of left some things out of my earlier explanation."
Snorting, Jim asked, "Really?"
Blair kissed the nearest patch of skin and said, "Really. Hard to believe, I know. They beat me to within an inch of my life. When they found out they weren't getting the money, the leader, Harmon, went after me like it was an Olympic sport. By then I was way too weak to protect myself. I wound up in the hospital with six broken ribs, a punctured lung, internal bleeding, massive concussion, broken fingers, broken ankle and too many stitches to count. I did a good imitation of Frankenstein's monster for a few months."
"God, Blair, I am so sorry," Jim whispered.
"The first beating came because I tried to escape a couple of days after they kidnapped me," Blair continued quietly. "I almost made it too but they changed their routine and Jackson came down earlier than usual with my lunch. I thought I was going to die. But then nothing happened for a few days. Or maybe it was longer, I don't know, it was dark and there were definitely no windows for me to check the days passing.
"Harmon used to be in the Marines you know, he was an officer, so he was trained, knew how to give a beating without doing serious injury. The second beating was like that, like the first one. Hurt like hell but I wasn't seriously injured. It was the third beating that almost killed me because Harmon was totally out of control. But then Simon showed up. My own personal knight in shining armor," Blair said with a yawn. "All of Major Crimes had pretty much dropped everything to find me. Nothing like a kidnapping to find out who your friends are. I mean, I knew they all liked me but I found out later that Simon barely even slept while I was missing. Connor and Rafe had to sit on him to eat, too. And Joel had to sit on Connor and Rafe to make sure they ate and slept. You'll really like Joel, he's a great man."
Jim heard the slurring of the words as Blair finally lost steam and succumbed to sleep. He already liked these people even though he'd never met them. Well, aside from Simon and a brief look at Connor. That they would go out of their way to accept Blair even though he wasn't a cop put them pretty high up on his list. He shivered, thinking about the recitation of Blair's injuries from his kidnapping. No wonder Banks and Naomi were so over protective.
The funny thing was that he probably wouldn't have accepted these people as friends on his own. Definitely wouldn't have done so before his time in Peru and the aimless wandering of the last couple of years. But he'd realized in that time that holding people at bay only hurt himself. He grinned suddenly, remembering how Incacha had knocked him on his ass the first time he'd tried to withdraw from the village.
He'd been there for a few months and they'd gotten his senses working pretty well. Then Jim had done what he'd always done: he'd pulled away to keep his place on the outskirts. Incacha had found him keeping watch one afternoon and somehow snuck up behind him. Jim had been flat on his back before he knew what hit him. With Incacha's foot on his chest, Jim had been lectured about his place in the tribe, not outside of it. That he couldn't keep his life separate from those he was supposed to protect. If he did, how would he truly know when they were in danger?
The lesson had been repeated and reinforced more than a few times over the two plus years he'd been there but now Jim at least knew what to look for in himself to keep it from happening again. Bringing his thoughts back to the present, Jim lightly ran his fingers through Blair's thick hair, relishing the soft strands curling around his fingers. Blair stirred in his sleep but didn't wake; instead he curled closer, his body moving half on top of Jim and a leg hooking over Jim's hip.
"Oh God," Jim whispered, strictly controlling himself. Blair's breath was warm and moist against his throat and his heartbeat steady and calm.
It was a long time before Jim finally relaxed enough to fall asleep.
* * * *
Jim stiffened, awakening suddenly from a deep sleep and knowing instantly that something was wrong. Blair was still sleeping, sprawled over his chest. Extending his hearing beyond the room, Jim heard multiple heartbeats and soft exchanges of conversation on the first floor.
"He's here somewhere so find him. If this Professor Sandburg gets in the way, put him down. We'll clean it up later."
Fuck! He should've known it wouldn't take long for them to find him. He'd been hoping...
Pressing a soft kiss to the top of Blair's head, Jim slid carefully out from under him. He moved silently as he slipped out of the bedroom and headed towards the upstairs bathroom. Waiting until he heard someone on the stairs, Jim closed the door softly but not silently to make it seem as though he didn't know anyone else was there. Just taking care of business. Heart thumping, he turned on the faucet and splashed some water on his face then left the faucet going just a hair.
Reaching around deliberately blindly for the towel, he froze when the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of his neck. A towel was pressed into his hands and Jim wiped his face clear, turning to look at his captor. Ski-mask and night goggles. That meant that they didn't want to be identified which, strangely enough, reassured Jim that Blair would be left alone. As long as he went quietly with them, they wouldn't have any reason to do anything to his friend.
Jim managed a twisted smile. "Morning. Looking for someone?"
"Come quietly and everyone'll be happy, Ellison."
Shrugging, Jim nodded and said, "Mind if I grab some clothes?"
"Well yeah, where did you think I was sleeping?" Jim demanded flatly.
The ski-mask revealed nothing as the man pointed towards the door. Jim tossed the towel onto the floor behind him and quietly left the bathroom. He cast his hearing towards the bedroom as he walked downstairs and was relieved to find Blair still sound asleep. If Jim got out of this, the first thing he was going to do was upgrade the security system until it met his standards.
* * * *
Blair woke up as sunlight tried its best to burn its way through his eyelids. Smiling lazily, he stretched, expecting to find Jim lying there. When his hand met only cool sheets, Blair's eyes opened in fuzzy surprise. Looking around, he found no sign of the other man. Frowning, Blair listened but didn't hear any bathroom noises either. "Jim? You downstairs man?"
Absolute silence met his call and fear shivered through him. Rolling quickly out of bed, he grabbed his glasses as he went and checked the bathroom, not really expecting to find anything. He froze at the sight of the towel tossed carelessly on the floor. Looking sharply around, he saw the tap running in a minuscule stream. Signs that Jim wanted him to know that he hadn't left willingly but had gone anyhow.
Which meant that Jim had been protecting him.
Trying to ignore the fear clawing its way up his throat, Blair rushed back to his bedroom and got dressed. Not sure if he was still being watched, Blair figured it was better to act as though this was a normal day. Maybe he should make some noises about Jim taking off? Fuck. Of course he should!
"Son of a bitch!" he shouted, venting his anger and fear. "You fucking left me!"
He punched the wall for extra measure but not enough to do serious damage. Aloud, he ranted, "Fine. You want out, Ellison, you've got it. Don't fucking expect me to chase you down. Can't handle the fucking pressure of someone with problems? Can't handle having a real fucking friendship? Fine! Asshole!"
Going downstairs, Blair saw that it was almost eight thirty, late enough for Simon to be at work. He reached for the phone and dialed the older man's office automatically.
"Blair? What's wrong?"
Grimacing at Simon's concerned tone, hating that he had to use his friend's emotions like this, Blair kept his voice despondent, "Jim's gone."
There was a brief silence then Simon asked carefully, "Gone?"
"Yeah, gone. I guess you and Naomi were right about him after all. Look, I've got a class in an hour but I wanted to call you and let you know that he wouldn't be showing up," Blair explained.
"How are you doing? I know you two were getting to be pretty good friends," Simon said.
"I'll live. Hey, how about you meet me for an early lunch? I could stop by the office and pick you up," Blair suggested.
"Sure, Blair. Whatever you want," Simon agreed.
"Okay then. I'll be by around eleven," Blair said.
"Good. See you then."
Blair hung up and wondered how the hell he was going to manage to wait until then. He knew that the longer Jim was held by whoever the fuck it was who had him, the less likely he would be found. He hadn't just grown up on Naomi's tales of secret government conspiracies, he had friends who'd escaped from those kind of things with little more than their lives. Silently he prayed, 'Hang on Jim, just hang on. I'm going to find you I swear!'
* * * *
The bullpen was quiet as Blair made his way towards Simon's office. He was pretty sure the office would be free of bugs but not positive so he had written a brief note that he'd immediately show Simon. He knocked on the door then stepped in while Simon was still on the phone. He pulled the paper out of his pocket and set it carefully in front of the Captain and tapped it briefly.
In clear, block letters it said: 'Jim was kidnapped last night. Government. We need to talk somewhere safe.'
Simon's eyes widened and he temporarily lost track of his phone conversation before recovering and finishing up. "Right. Of course sir. I'll have my assistant finish up those reports for you by tomorrow. Thanks. Bye."
When Simon hung up the phone, Blair asked, "Did you ever get in that new software transferred up here? The one down in forensics? I've got some time if you want me to do it now."
"That would be great. See? I knew you'd come in handy some day," Simon teased in a light voice that belied the serious look in his dark eyes.
"Gee thanks Dad," Blair retorted dryly.
"Can it with that Dad stuff, Junior," Simon growled, standing up.
Blair followed him silently to the elevator and Simon hit the sub-basement level that housed the morgue and a few labs. As soon as the door closed behind them in an empty lab, Simon burst out, "Kidnapped? Blair, what the hell is going on?"
"You know how I told you that Jim was a ranger, right?" Blair asked. At Simon's nod, he said, "He was on a covert ops mission in the jungles of Peru for almost three years. Actually, the mission itself was a complete bust because their helicopter went down and Jim was positive one of his CO's had something to do with it but there was no way to prove it. He stayed there with a tribe called the Chopec and the shaman there, Incacha, taught him how to control his senses.
"While he was there, Jim did exactly what he'd been ordered to do only he wasn't doing it for the US anymore. He was protecting the Chopec from drug dealers, corrupt government and industrial officials. He kept their lands safe and kept hidden from everyone except the Chopec. Simon, think about it. What couldn't the government do with someone who has Jim's abilities? He was able to single-handedly keep the Chopec's lands free from corruption for three years!" Blair exclaimed.
One of Simon's large hands landed on Blair's shoulder, clamping tight as he ordered, "Keep it together Sandburg. This isn't a good time for you to lose it."
Taking a few deep breaths, Blair nodded at last and said, "I'm fine. But Simon, what are we going to do? I can get Naomi to put out feelers as to where they might be keeping him but I don't even know who they are! And suppose we do find him, how are we going to get him out?"
"I did not need this to happen," Simon sighed. "First things first. I have a couple of friends in the system who might be able to help out. I'll contact them on the QT and see what they have to say. You call Naomi and get her started from her end. And check your own contacts, too, I know you have them and I know I don't want to know who they are."
Blair half grinned and agreed, "Probably not. What about the publicity angle? I mean, should we contact someone in the media?"
"Can't. No proof yet. The people I'd want to cover this would need at least a little physical evidence. The rags who would run the story without it wouldn't get paid any attention," Simon pointed out. "We don't have any proof, right?"
Blair sighed. "No. Just my word."
"That's what I figured," Simon said. "Look, I'll manufacture an excuse for you to stick around. I don't want you out of my sight until this clears up."
"If they didn't grab me this morning, they aren't going to," Blair said.
Smiling thinly, Simon ordered, "Humor me."
* * * *
"Captain Ellison. How nice to see you back on native soil."
Jim didn't bother answering. Instead, he leaned back in his chair and observed the man with a sneer. He didn't know the man in front of him but he knew the type. He was high enough up on the food chain to have independent authority but not so high that he had no one to answer to in whatever branch he was in. He was very nondescript with sandy brown hair, hazel eyes and a trim but not outstanding physique. Though he wore no uniform, Jim could practically smell the black ops background.
The man sat on the other side of the table, placing a folder in front of himself and continuing, "I wanted to convey our sincerest congratulations on carrying out your mission to such an incredible degree. We found the bodies of your men about a year and a half after the chopper went down but strangely, we couldn't find you. Then we started hearing reports about a white man living with the locals who could seemingly appear and disappear at will. A man who could hear and see things far beyond normal range. A man who had no trouble keeping the locals safe from the depredations of drug dealers and marauding soldiers, but left the honest soldiers alone for the most part."
Still sneering, Jim spoke for the first time since leaving Blair's home. "Sounds like quite a guy. Maybe you should give him a medal."
"Of course I'd be delighted to do just that. But we can't seem to find him. Never could in three plus years and believe me, we looked. And then, not too long after the reports trickle off, you reappear here in your home town. Having problems in re-adapting to your surroundings, Captain? Is that how you ended up in the hospital?"
Fuck. Jim had totally forgotten about the hospital running a check on him. Keeping his irritation from showing, Jim shrugged and said, "Food allergies. Forgot I had them."
"Food allergies. Really." The man looked at him with a wry grin then flipped open the folder.
Jim didn't even have to focus his sight to see his military id picture paper clipped to the first page. It looked like the beginnings of his personnel record but could have been a cover for whatever else was under that first, innocuous page.
"Tell me. Why did you move in with Professor Sandburg?"
Forcing himself to stay sprawled carelessly in his chair despite the alarm now flooding through him, Jim shrugged. "He's a nice guy. We hit it off and when he said he had a spare room, I took him up on the offer to stick around."
"I see. And he was called to the hospital because...?"
"Because when we met he had written his phone number down and a nurse at the hospital found it," Jim answered honestly. "I didn't know the guy from Adam before a week and a half ago."
"And yet he contacted Captain Banks and set up what seems to be a successful job interview," the man pointed out.
"Yeah. So? He was being a friend. I told him I was looking for a job, he asked what kind and I told him something in security. He knows a bunch of cops, works as a consultant there on some of their weird cases," Jim explained. How much did they know and how much were they guessing? He could only pray that they wouldn't know just how important Blair was to him.
"Ah. So what you're saying is that someone you met less than two weeks ago got you a job interview because he's a nice guy?" the man clarified.
"That's exactly what I'm saying. Look. The man takes in strays from what I've seen. Maybe he was hoping to get laid when this was all over with, who knows? I don't really know him that well," Jim said, showing just a little irritation.
"There are quite a few interesting things about Dr. Sandburg," the man said, closing the file abruptly. He looked directly at Jim as he continued, "His original doctoral thesis was about an obscure phenomena known as Sentinels, though that was later changed when he was unable to actually produce one for study. As a matter of fact, he's the foremost expert in heightened senses of any kind, both in the training of the people who have them and the lore that documents them. Another interesting thing is his proven ability to intuitively solve cases that seem to have no apparent solution. Hence his position as a consultant with the Cascade PD. But I think the most interesting thing about Dr. Sandburg is that he hasn't had anyone in his home overnight, except for his mother, since his kidnapping approximately three years ago. A kidnapping that was, by all accounts, severely brutal and traumatic. Something that one would hope he never had to repeat."
It was a valid threat and they both knew it. Giving in, Jim sighed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "What do you want from me?"
* * * *
"Blair, would you please stop? You're giving me a headache," Simon asked with a sigh.
Blair stopped pacing instantly and flung himself onto the couch in Simon's office. "I'm sorry. I can't help it."
"You really like him, don't you?" Simon questioned gently.
Meeting that dark gaze, Blair said simply, "He held me after the nightmares."
Sighing again, Simon said, "Damn. Now we really do have to find him."
Blair's cell phone rang and he yanked it out of his pocket. "Hello?"
Relief spread through him so hard and fast that if he hadn't been sitting, he would have fallen down. "Jim? Jim, where are you? Are you all right? Are you hurt?"
"Look, Blair, I can't talk long. I've ah, I've accepted another commission and I ship out tomorrow," Jim said.
Stunned, Blair didn't say anything for a long moment. "You've what? Jim, what's going on?"
"I just didn't want you to worry or think that something had happened because I'm fine," Jim said slowly.
"No, Blair, please. I have to know that you're safe so just stop whatever you're doing and get on with your life," Jim interrupted.
Helpless, Blair met Simon's eyes as he asked, "Are you coming back?"
"I don't think so, Chief. Well, not for a long time anyhow."
"I refuse to accept this! I know someone's threatening you and I don't care who it is. Jim, they can't make you do this!" Blair exclaimed furiously.
"Yeah, they can," Jim sighed. "Blair, please don't take this any further. They'll hurt you if I don't do what they want and I can't let that happen."
"Who is it? Can you at least tell me that?" Blair asked.
"Sorry love, I can't," Jim answered.
"Jim please, please don't leave," Blair pleaded. "I can find somewhere safe for us. We can run, I don't care!"
"I wish we could," Jim murmured. He sighed again then said, "I have to go."
"No! Don't hang up, please!"
Jim's voice dropped even lower as he whispered, "Love you, Blair. Please take care of yourself."
Before Blair could say anything, the line was disconnected and he was listening to the dial tone. Shock numbed him and the phone slipped from limp fingers. He could hear Simon speaking to him, felt the other man shaking him gently but for several long minutes he couldn't respond. When he finally snapped back to reality, he met Simon's worried eyes and vowed, "I will not fucking accept this! There is no fucking way they can get away with this!"