Immortal Champion

Part 3

Wind rushed past her face gloriously, and she snapped her wings once, then spread them wide, feeling the updraft catch under her feathers, lifting her higher. The sun was hot on her back, and with a scream of joy, she tucked her outstretched limbs in, diving toward the white capped waves below. Just before she plunged into the water, she fanned her wings out, stopping her downward motion, skimming inches above the surface, her strong talons stretching for the flash of silver scales just out of reach. Disappointment filled her briefly, as the meal slipped away, but it really didn't matter, on such a gorgeous day as this. Powerful wing strokes lifted her into the sky again, and she soared toward the coastline, content with her lot in life.

A keening cry split the air, and a falcon came into view below her, red wings shining golden in the sun. Curious, she followed the other raptor in a slow spiral toward the cliffs, wondering what fascinated the bird so. As she drew closer to the lush green plateau, she spotted what had interested the falcon. A black mare galloped exuberantly through the meadow, bucking, jumping and rearing, obviously having a wonderful time.

The red falcon buzzed the horse once, then alighted atop a giant pile of stones that some god had carelessly dropped in the middle of the broad, flat plain. She followed, her black and white wings flapping powerfully as her claws grasped the edge of a rock. Settling herself, she cocked her head to the side, admiring the sleek lines of the smaller bird, noticing with interest the sharp blue eyes that peered at her intently.

The falcon's image blurred, then solidified, and in its place perched a small woman, dressed in a green tunic, over which she wore some kind of leather armor. A bow and a quiver of arrows hung across her shoulders, and a sword was belted at her waist. Her long red hair was bound in a braid that reached the middle of her back, and a gold band encircled her head. She held out her gloved hand to her, her voice coaxing. "Come on, young one. You saw what I did, concentrate, and you can do it as well."

She blinked her dark eyes once, twice, then shook herself. When she stopped, she was no longer a beautiful black and white osprey, but a slim, russet haired woman wearing the red and green tartan of her clan. She looked down at herself in surprise, taking in the short, black wool jacket over a brilliant white, ruffled blouse and the traditional great kilt, the excess length thrown over her shoulder and pinned in place with a large brooch. An elaborately decorated sporran hung around her waist, and she felt the weight of something pulling at the leather strap that ran diagonally across her chest. Turning her head to the side, she could just make out the hilt of a claymore protruding above her left shoulder.

Turning frightened eyes toward the other woman, she said, "Where am I? Better yet, who am I? And who are you?"

The smaller woman smiled at her reassuringly. "You are dreaming, young one. You have taken your first step toward becoming who you are destined to be, by crossing over to the spirit world. I am the Companion, and I will be your guide in this place. I will teach you some of what you need to know to take your place beside the Champion. The rest you must learn in the outside world." She gestured with her hand, and a great silver wolf leapt out of nowhere to sit upon the rock next to the frightened Aussie. He leaned against her, a friendly whine emitting from his throat, and then his wolfish tongue was bathing her face affectionately. "He is the Guide. Listen to what he says, watch what he does, for this is the way to learn from him."

The Companion turned her gaze back to the black mare, who was now rolling luxuriously in a patch of dirt. Climbing to her feet, she shook herself violently, raising a cloud of dust. With a kick of her heels, and a leap to the side, she was off again, racing through the tall grass. The wolf jumped from the rock and chased after her, growling and whining as they played together. Their dance grew more and more aggressive, until the mare swung her lowered head to the side, bowling the wolf over. The Aussie was alarmed for the wolf, and started to climb down from her perch when...

Megan woke to the sound of raised voices. It took her a moment to remember she was in Dee's loft instead of her own apartment. Rolling over in the empty bed, she propped herself up on her elbow, trying to see over the railing into the studio below and failing. Crawling to the end of the bed, she sat up, and was just able to make out Dee and Sandy standing on a practice mat, both dressed in workout clothes. Dee had hold of Sandy's left hand, and was examining some kind of blue mark on his wrist, and while she wasn't exactly yelling, Megan could tell from her expression that she wasn't happy with him.

Getting out of bed, she grabbed her robe, noticing that it was only 6 am, for god's sake, and they were starting the morning out with an argument. Megan headed toward the stairs, determined to put a stop to it.

Dee opened the door before Blair had a chance to knock, having heard him leave 307 and head across the hall. "Good morning," she said, giving him a smile. Despite the stress she knew he had been under, he did look well rested, and his blue eyes were clear and alert.

"Are you sure it's morning?" he joked, "It's still dark out."

She wrinkled her nose at him. "Smart ass. Are you ready for a workout?"

Nodding enthusiastically, he followed her into the studio. "Yeah, I really haven't sparred with anyone since you... moved. But I have been doing the katas you taught me, and working out with the bags and my staff. I shouldn't be too rusty."

Dee moved to the center of the floor, stretching. "I thought you were going to get Jim to work with you."

He copied her movements, stretching first his calves, then his hamstrings. "I was... but both of us kind of felt uncomfortable about it, and I didn't want to push. I don't think he really has the temperament for it. Patience is not his strong suit."

"No!" Dee said sarcastically, then sobered. "You really should try again, Lobo. It would be good for the two of you, help you work through some of the doubts Jim has."

Blair paused, bent over one leg, and looked at her. "What doubts?" he asked, his tone a little frightened.

She chewed her lip. Uh oh, me and my big mouth, she thought. "Um, well, Jim and I had a little talk last night, while you were asleep. You know he has some serious problems with trust, don't you?"

Straightening, he folded his arms over his chest. "Yeah, I know about them. What does that have to do with me?" Dee didn't say anything, letting him work it out on his own. His eyes widened, and he gave a startled gasp. "You mean he has problems trusting me? Come on, Dee, you're kidding, right? I mean, after all we've been through, of course he trusts me... doesn't he?" The pain in his eyes cut right through her.

"I'm sorry, Lobo," she said. "I think deep down inside, he does, he just has to second guess every move you make, analyze everything you do. He has a hard time just going with his gut when it comes to personal relationships. My guess is he's been burned plenty of times before."

Blair nodded. "He didn't have the most supportive family growing up, and he doesn't make friends very easily, not to mention his failed marriage. "

Dee went back to stretching. "That's why working out together would be good for you. It's something that you both like, and you're both good at, so neither one of you feels you're making a concession for the other. It teaches teamwork and trust, and if you can rely on each other in the gym, then you feel that much more confident outside it." She began to move through a slow kata, Blair mirroring her actions.

"I can see where you're coming from, but convincing Jim of that is going to take some doing."

Dee gave him a grin. "I have an idea that might work. We're in the midst of a situation where we all need to be at the top of our game. I'll invite him to work out with us, and he won't ever know I'm doing it for you."

They spent about twenty minutes limbering up, and while Dee pulled the workout mat into the center of the floor, Blair discarded his sweatshirt, warm enough now that anything more than his T-shirt and track pants was too much. Stepping onto opposite corners of the mat, they bowed to each other, then faced off. Blair threw the first punch, a left she at first blocked, then she grabbed a hold of his arm, turning his wrist up.

"Lobo, you want to explain this to me?" Her sensitive fingers traced the outline of the Watcher tattoo. "This is not recent," she said, one eyebrow lifted questioningly. "Joe is dead; he never said one word to me, and I've been at the bar at least once a week since I moved back to Seacouver."

For one brief, fleeting moment, Blair felt panic, then he told himself that this was Dee and she was a hell of a lot more understanding about these little miscommunication things than Jim was. "I, uh, I asked him not to tell you." Dee's other eyebrow raised. "It just didn't seem like there was any point to it. I mean, I... I made the decision to join the Watchers the day you told me you were leaving." He paused, looking at her hand still holding his wrist, and tried to breathe. "I'd been thinking about it for awhile, since that night Mulder and Scully were here. Joe talked to Mulder and me about it, and he made me an offer to join as a researcher. They really needed someone with my skills, my background and language capability, and in return I get a salary based on the amount of work I do, and unrestricted access to all the Watcher Chronicles and databases. It's worked out really well so far... except for the fact that I kind of did it to be closer to you, and then you left... " He looked back up at her, his eyes wet with unshed tears. "When you told me you were leaving, it was like everything stopped, and I couldn't think, I couldn't focus, and I just forgot about it. Kind of hard to forget a brand new tattoo, but I did. I didn't remember until later that night, and then there was no point in telling you. So I'm sorry I didn't tell you, but I'm telling you now, so please don't be mad at me," he finished, the last few sentences coming out in a jumbled rush.

"Oh, Lobo, I'm not mad at you, really I'm not. I just want to make sure you know what you're getting into. Being a Watcher is not all fun and games as I'm sure Joe told you." And if he didn't, I'm gonna wring his neck, she thought.

Blair nodded, "He did, but he did say things were a lot better internally than they have been for a long time. And I'm really not dealing directly with anyone but him. He gives me what he needs worked on, and when I'm done, I turn it back in. Like I said, it's worked out pretty well, and... when we talk on the phone, he... he tells me what you've been up to." The tears spilled over then, and he couldn't stop them.

Dee pulled him into her arms, hugging him tightly. "I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'm sorry. I never dreamed I was hurting you so badly. I thought if I just went away, it would make everything all right, and instead I hurt you." She took his face in her hands, wiping away his tears. "You know I would never, ever do that on purpose."

He nodded, and said "I know you wouldn't. God, I love you so much."

Leaning her forehead against his, she replied, "I love you too, Lobo." Pulling him to her, she kissed him fiercely, breaking it off only when she felt like she was going to pass out from lack of oxygen. "Oh, Lobo, we have got to get a handle on this... goddess knows this is not the time or the place for this kind of insanity."

"I know, Dee, I know." He stepped back a little, looking into her eyes. "All we need is for Jim to go all territorial on me again. It would break whatever this fragile truce is between the two of you, and probably end up getting all of us killed."

Letting go of him, she wrapped her arms around herself, as if that could keep her away from him. "You're right, Blair," she said, then her voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, "but I want you so badly. I want to throw you down on this mat and fuck you 'til you scream."

Blair's eyes widened at her coarse language, but the picture she'd planted in his mind was doing interesting things to his body. He started to close the space between them, when a pleasantly accented voice behind him said, "I'd pay money to see that."

Megan's presence on the stairs was better than a cold shower. Both Blair and Dee flushed crimson, and he stammered something about making breakfast for Jim. Snatching up his sweatshirt, he beat a hasty retreat.

Dee stood her ground, embarrassed, but still dignified. Megan was impressed. Not too many people could carry off that combination of emotions. Finally, she said, "What would you like for breakfast, Megan?"

Dee headed for the kitchen, the Aussie trailing behind her. "Hmm, one of those muffins we bought yesterday sounds good. And coffee. I'm not used to getting up this early."

"Get used to it," Dee told her, "because I really need to work with Lobo, and you're gonna be our chaperone."

Megan could only stare at the other woman's back, wondering what in the world she'd gotten herself into by agreeing to Sandy's crazy plan. Right now, a nice, quiet safe house was looking better and better.

Dee entered the loft, dropping her briefcase by the door and kicking off her shoes. She slid out of her trenchcoat, and tossed it toward a chair, missing by a mile. She didn't care. The only thing she was interested in was making the pounding in her head go away. Sinking down on the sofa, she lay back gingerly, throwing her arm over her eyes. The headaches were getting worse, there was no doubt about it.

Goddess, they'd only been at it a week and already the strain was getting to her. It was like being on campaign in enemy territory. Her senses were constantly on the alert, processing more information in a few minutes than most people did in a day, and it was wearing on her. Normally, her companion would be there to help her, a natural release valve, but she had no such help, and even deep meditation techniques weren't working now, let alone she really didn't feel comfortable putting herself that far under in light of the circumstances.

Blair knew exactly what she was going through, but she had refused his offers of assistance. In fact, right now he was across the hall, incredibly pissed at her for turning down his latest attempt to aid her. Another wave of pain rolled through her head, and she blinked back tears. Much as she wanted his help, his soothing, healing touch, she knew it would only deepen the ties between them, and she couldn't split his concentration that way. Jim needed him just as much as she did, and he came first.

Concentrating on her breathing, Dee found her center, and began to turn the pain dial slowly down, feeling the constriction in her head and neck begin to ease. A small voice inside her mind said, "This would be so much easier if you let Blair help... " No, no, she wasn't going to go there. Maybe Megan could help, the little voice persisted. She knew Blair had been talking with her, teaching her how to work with a sentinel, and she'd overhead a couple of conversations in which Megan spoke of aiding Ellison, but she had resisted Blair's attempts to get her to work with the Aussie.

It wasn't that she didn't like her, she did. She'd found the inspector to be a lot like herself, a strong, caring woman, and a fighter. She'd even gotten her to join herself and Blair in their morning workouts, which had gone a long way towards opening Megan up. They'd had Australia in common, and fencing, and had even gone a few rounds with foils. Megan was a pretty good swordswoman, and Dee was looking forward to sparring with her again. But as far as Megan as a companion went, Dee wasn't sure.

Most of her doubts had nothing to do with Megan, and everything to do with her own fear of losing another companion. To bind herself that closely to another person again, and to watch them die... she couldn't do it, it was too painful. What was it Blair had told her about Ellison, that his life was built on fear based responses? That statement pretty much described her reactions to the idea of a new companion... she was afraid of being hurt again, and with good reason. Insanity was not something she wanted to try a second time.

The sound of the door to the loft opening broke her concentration, and someone swung a sledgehammer inside her head. She couldn't stop the moan from escaping.

Footsteps crossed the room, but she didn't have enough strength to lift her arm from over her eyes to see who it was. "Pallas?" Well, that was the last person she'd expected. "Diandra?" All she could manage was a strangled whimper. "Damn it! Sandburg! Get in here!"

Two more sets of footsteps entered the room. "Dee?" That was Lobo, his heartbeat racing. She felt him move to her side. "Dee, damn it! Why didn't you tell me it was this bad?"

"This bad? You mean she's had this kind of headache before?" There was no reply from Blair, but Dee guessed he must have nodded. "Sandburg! You're the guide! You're not supposed to let this happen!"

"I'm sorry, Jim. She told me she was fine... " Dee wanted to smack Ellison, all he was doing was making it worse, but even the smallest movement on her part threatened to split her head in two.

"Can you two quit arguing and help her?" Megan's voice was anxious. She felt the woman's hand close around her own, and she tried not to break her fingers as another wave of pain washed over her. "Oh, ow, bloody hell!" Megan cursed, snatching her hand back.

"Sorry," Dee whispered. She felt Blair's hands under her shoulders, lifting her into a sitting position on the couch. She started to slide forward, and was stopped by Ellison, her forehead leaning against his shoulder. The movement had set off an orchestra of jackhammers, and she could hold the tears back no longer. Everything was a big, throbbing red haze, and she couldn't hear, couldn't see, couldn't speak. She could feel though, and warm hands were rubbing her shoulders with the lightest of touches, strong fingers leeching away the tension, easing the pain.

Time passed. Hearing was the next sense to return, and she could make out Blair's low, calm voice steadying her, guiding her easily through turning down the dials. There had been some reason she'd been resisting his help, but she couldn't remember what it was now. Gradually she became aware of Ellison's solid warmth beneath her cheek, and Megan's hovering presence. "Dee?"


"How are you doing, angel? That any better?" Blair was asking her a question.

"Tired... " she mumbled, and leaned a little closer to Jim. He made a pretty good pillow, she thought, yawning.

"Okay, we're going to try and get you upstairs." Dee yawned again. She'd have to stay awake for that; watching the three of them maneuver her nearly 6', 150 pound frame up a spiral staircase was going to be interesting.

Despite her desire, her eyes slid closed as Ellison managed to get her across his shoulder in a fireman's carry. At Blair's sideways look, he said, "You have any better ideas?" Taking his silence as a no, Jim carried her across the studio and up the stairs, Megan and Blair following behind with all sorts of helpful advice, which he blithely ignored. Unloading his ungainly package on the bed, he stepped back, letting the other two take over.

"Hey, Jim, you remember where that white noise generator is in the loft? Think you can get it, man? Keeping everything down as much as we can is going to be a big help," Blair said, reaching for the buttons on Dee's blouse.

"Yeah, sure, Chief," he answered, already heading back down the stairs. When he returned, he found Megan and Blair had managed to get Dee undressed and into bed. She appeared dead to the world, but looks could be deceiving. Jim knew that even asleep, a sentinel was always subliminally aware of their surroundings.

He handed Blair the white noise generator, along with an eyeshade he sometimes used when the light in the loft kept him from sleeping. "Thanks, Jim," Blair said, setting the generator on the nightstand and turning it on. He slid the shade over her eyes, and watched her for a moment, his hand over hers. "I think it's best if we let her sleep for as long as she can. She's been running on empty for a couple days now." He brushed a strand of hair out of her face.

"We need to talk, Chief," Jim said, his tone worried.

Blair nodded. "Someone needs to stay with Dee. If she wakes up and can't see or hear, she'll panic."

"I'll stay," Megan volunteered, taking a seat on the opposite side of the bed. Jim and Blair headed downstairs, while Megan tried to get comfortable without waking Dee.

She felt smothered. It wasn't as though she couldn't breathe; she could feel the air inflating her lungs each time she drew a breath. She felt a distance, a disconnection from her surroundings. Everything was foggy and hazy where it had once been crystal clear. As she struggled against the darkness, the nothingness, she felt a touch, a hand on her shoulder, stoking her, soothing her.

The person leaned in close; she could feel their breath puffing softly against her ear. "It's okay, Dee. Just relax. Let me go get Sandy." The reassuring pressure on her arm vanished, and she was lost in the mist, abandoned once again. Something within her, something deep and dark and primal, howled.

The surface she was lying on shifted, and she scrambled in the opposite direction, her arms and legs tangling in some kind of cloth. Once again, she felt a touch on her arm, this time one that was intimately familiar. "Lobo?" she whispered.

"Right here, Dee. It's okay, just relax. You had a sensory overload, and we're doing the best we can to bring everything back under control. Now that you're awake, you can help us. I need you to find the dials, and turn them all down, as far as they can go," Blair said.

After a few moments concentration, she nodded. "Okay, now very slowly turn them back up to normal, which would be about a three." When she nodded again, Blair took off the blindfold. Dee blinked a couple times, then her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom. "I'm going to turn off the white noise generator now, so be prepared to turn your hearing down if you have to."

When he flipped the switch on the small box on the nightstand, it was as though he had turned back on something inside her. The fuzziness, the disconnected feeling disappeared. Finally feeling confident enough to move, she ran a hand through her tangled hair. "Wow. That thing's scary."

Blair scooted closer to her and turned on the bedside lamp. "Yeah, it can be if you don't know what it is." He brushed his fingers across her cheek. "How are you feeling? Still have a headache?"

"It's gone," she replied. "I'm sorry about this, Lobo. I thought I could handle this without freaking." Slamming her hand down on the mattress, she swore. "Damn it, I could have gotten you killed, I could have gotten Megan killed!"

Sliding his arms around her, Blair pulled her into a hug. "It's okay. That didn't happen. You did the best you could; nobody blames you."

Resting her chin on his shoulder, she sighed. "I never thought about this happening at all. It never occurred to me that I've never really worked without a full-time companion. I mean, Lydia was always there; I guess I kind of took what she did for granted."

Pulling back so he could look her in the eye, Blair said, "Well, at least you've proven one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt: Jim's stuck with me whether he likes it or not."

Dee surprised herself by actually giggling. "I trust you pointed that out to him?"

"Oh, yeah."

Leaning back against the headboard, she said, "Sorry I ruined your plan, Blair. Guess you should talk to Captain Banks about that safehouse."

"Already did. It should be ready tomorrow night, then all four of us are going to check in."

She raised an eyebrow. "All four of us?"

"Extra protection. And we can work on your senses in a controlled environment, using Jim as a control subject." He grinned at the idea of getting his sentinel to undergo more testing.

Knowing how much Ellison hated being poked and prodded by the anthropologist, she said, "He know about this?"

"He does now!" came floating up from the living area. Blair and Dee stared at each other for a moment, then burst into helpless peals of laughter.

Dee drummed her fingertips on the steering wheel of the Cherokee. This safehouse thing was a good idea, she tried to convince herself. Yep, one big, heavily guarded, no way in or out fortress. Why then, did she feel like she was heading for prison? She glanced at her passenger.

Blair was seemingly oblivious to her worries. He was poking his finger in and out of a hole in the dashboard. She sighed. "Please don't do that."

"Hmm, oh? Yeah, sorry. I still can't believe how many bullet holes there are in this thing, and it still runs. A lot tougher than the trucks Jim's had. One or two little crashes, and they were done for." He gazed out the windshield at the long line of taillights ahead of them. "Must be an accident or something. We're gonna be late."

"Well, they're not going to go anywhere without us." She eased up on the brake a little, and with a slight hesitation, the Jeep moved forward. That was funny. It never did that before. That's what she got for letting the police garage check it out before releasing it to her. Should have taken it to a real mechanic, or better yet, had Duncan take a look at it. All they needed was for the car to stall out in this traffic.

Fortunately, it stayed running long enough for her to turn into the parking lot behind the loft thirty minutes later. "Jim's truck's here, so I guess they must be upstairs," Blair said, grabbing his backpack from the floor. "It safe to go up?"

She focused her hearing on the surrounding area, and found the lot deserted. "Yeah, it's okay." Something nagged at her though, and she checked once again, as Blair got out of the car. Dee was turning off the ignition, when she realized what it was. "RUN!" she screamed, reaching for the door handle as the Cherokee exploded in a ball of flame.

Jim Ellison hung the phone up. "Damn it," he cursed under his breath.

Megan looked up from her seat on the couch. "What is it?"

"Sandburg's cell phone is screwed up again. He just shoves it in his backpack, and then it gets turned on, and the battery runs down, or turned off, so he doesn't get his calls."

"I'm sure they're just hung up in traffic, Jim." She waved a hand at the TV. "They said there was a big accident out by the university."

"Knowing the two of them, they were in it." He reached for the phone again, intent on calling the station.

The sound of an explosion outside reverberated through the loft. Dropping the phone, Jim clutched at his ears, the pain of the sudden noise almost driving him to his knees. Megan reacted instinctively, moving instantly to his side, her hand on his shoulder, her low voiced instructions helping him regain control. Recovering quickly, he dashed out onto the balcony and stared down at the parking lot, the sight of the flaming remains of a Jeep Cherokee sending him into a panic. "Blair!" he screamed, then he turned to race downstairs, and knocked Megan on her back. Stepping over her, he headed for the door.

"Jim!" she yelled after him. "Ellison, damn it, it could be a trap!" She had to be the voice of reason, even though she was screaming inside at the thought of Dee perishing as she hesitated.

Flinging open the door, Ellison shot back over his shoulder, "Stay here, it's you they're after!"

Swearing, Megan picked herself up and headed for the phone to call it in.

By the time Jim reached the parking lot, a crowd was starting to gather. Pushing past the small group of curiosity seekers, he tried to approach the still burning wreckage, but the heat from the fire kept him back. In vain, he tried to peer through the smoke and the flames to see if there was anyone trapped inside the vehicle. He couldn't make anything out, and in his emotional state, he couldn't concentrate enough to bring his senses fully online. Intellectually he knew there was no way anyone could have survived. He reminded himself that Dee was immortal, and that if she was still in there, he would have to find a way to help her once her body was taken to the morgue. But Sandburg... god, Blair! He choked back a sob.

Feeling a comforting hand on his shoulder, Ellison turned to find his superior standing behind him. "We were on the way here to pick you up when we got the call," Simon Banks said. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Jim answered him. "There was an explosion. It's Dee's Jeep... " He couldn't go on.

"Sandburg was with her?" Simon asked, his heart breaking for his friend.

Jim could only close his eyes and nod. "They were late getting back from the university... "

"Where's Connor?"

"She's... she's upstairs, in the loft."

"Look, Jim, there's nothing you can do here right now, not until we get the fire department to put this thing out, and we can start an investigation. Go look after Connor. We can't take the chance Cristo won't go after her while we're preoccupied with this mess." He gave Jim's shoulder a squeeze. "I'm sorry, Jim. Even though he got on my nerves, Sandburg was a good kid."

Jim nodded, then swallowed past the lump in his throat, and headed back inside the apartment building. Megan met him at the door to the loft, her face tear streaked. "They're gone, aren't they?"

It was an effort to get the words out. "It looks that way, yes." He blinked back tears. He was not going to cry now, damn it. There was too much to be done. Unfortunately, he had no idea of where to begin. Megan's muffled sobs broke through his wall of grief. Tentatively he put his arms around her, letting her lean her head on his shoulder. This was where he would start, then, with taking care of the guide.

Blair hadn't hesitated at Dee's scream to run, but he'd only gotten three more steps away from the Cherokee when it exploded, the force of the blast hurling him another ten feet, debris raining down on him. He struck the pavement hard, instinctively curling into a ball to protect himself. When no further explosions seemed imminent, he got slowly to his feet, trying to piece together what had happened. Car bomb, his stunned brain managed to dredge up from somewhere. Oh, god, Dee! She'd still been in the truck!

Forcing his shaking legs to move, he circled the burning vehicle. The driver's side door hung open, flames engulfing the interior. If Dee was in there... .Something made him turn around, a small sound, a gasp or a cry. Dee was lying on the ground, nearly hidden under the back bumper of Jim's truck. "Oh, shit, Dee," he whispered, racing to her side. Carefully he turned her face toward him, and nearly threw up. Covered in blood, badly burned, her body pierced in several places by shrapnel from the bomb, Blair was amazed she was still alive, let alone conscious. "Dee, god, you should be dead... "

Her bloody hand grasped his wrist tightly. "Can't... not yet... need to get... somewhere safe... need time... to heal... " Her voice was agonized.

Blair glanced up at the loft. Jim would be there any second; he had to have heard the explosion. "Along with everyone else in a ten block area, Sandburg," he chastised himself. Dee needed time, so he would give her time. "Sorry, Jim," he said softly, then throwing her arm across his shoulder, he hauled her to her feet, and half carried, half dragged her down the darkened alleyway, not stopping until they were several blocks from the scene.

He found some shelter for them in the recessed doorway of an abandoned building. Easing her to the ground, he took a look around. The area was deserted, and he was pretty sure they hadn't been followed. Her moan of pain turned his attention back to her. "Dee?" he asked "Is there anything I can do?"

"No," she rasped, "just hurts... " She tried to get a grip on a jagged piece of metal protruding from her side, but she didn't have enough strength or leverage to remove it. Sagging back against the brick wall, she took several whistling breaths, then said, "Lobo... could you... "

Blair swallowed back the bile that rose in his throat. He had to be strong for her. Wrapping his hand around the steel shard, he pulled hard, feeling it shift slightly, then come free, a gush of warm blood coating his fingers. Dee's eyes widened, and her chest rose and fell once more, then she was still.

She wasn't really dead, he told himself, tears burning his eyes all the same. His hands roamed her body, sensitive fingers finding and removing as much debris as he could, knowing it would speed her healing. When he had done everything he could for her, he sat back on his heels, wrapping his arms around his legs, and resting his head on his knees. He watched her intently, amazed at the way her injuries were disappearing before his eyes. If he squinted, he thought he could actually see the small blue sparks of her Quickening energy at work.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there waiting, but finally he saw her body jerk, and heard the sharp intake of air. Her eyes snapped open, and she groaned. "Damn that hurts," Dee said softly.

"Take it easy," Blair told her, reaching out a hand to restrain her. "There's no danger now. Take as much time as you need." Getting to his feet, he searched the area, finding what he was looking for on the wall of the building opposite them. Darting across the narrow alley, he turned on the water spigot, washing his hands and face thoroughly before sticking his mouth under the stream and gulping down the cold liquid. When he'd drunk his fill, he cupped his hands under the spout and captured some for her, carrying it carefully back to her. Kneeling beside her, Blair watched her tilt her head, her lips brushing his fingers as she took a drink, the connection between them thrumming with powerful emotion.

He made a couple more trips, until she was no longer thirsty. Sitting down beside her in the alcove, he said, "Now what do we do?"

Dee shifted her position so that she was shoulder to shoulder with him. "How long has it been?"

"I don't know, half hour, forty-five minutes, tops. They probably know we weren't in the car by now."

"You have your phone in there?" she asked, pointing at the backpack Blair couldn't even remember bringing with him.

"Yeah... "

"Call Jim. Let's see if we can't play dead."

Jim changed his hold on Megan slightly, one hand shifting to rub her back. They'd moved from the doorway to the sofa, but Jim hadn't let go of her, and she had clung just as tightly to him, her tears wetting his shoulder. He had pushed his own grief into the background, unwilling, and a little afraid to give in to it, afraid that if he did, he would never find his way back. Dee had warned him often enough of the consequences of a guide's death, and he could now see how easy it would be to follow Blair to the spirit world.

Megan was the lucky one, he thought. She would still have Dee, if the Immortal chose to reveal her true nature to her, rather than disappearing. Funny how he had begun thinking of the two of them as partners, even though there had been no outright change in the way Dee and Megan treated each other. In fact, Megan had spent more time working with him, and Dee still showed a preference for Blair.

That was another problem. Blair's death would hit the Champion hard, perhaps hard enough to send her back to the dark depths of insanity. He made a silent vow to his guide not to let that happen. No matter what his personal feelings were toward her, they were connected now and forever through the bond they'd each had with Blair. Closing his eyes, Jim tried to find his center, that place of utter calm and complete stillness inside himself. Having reached it, he looked for their bond, using the skill he'd absorbed from Dee when she'd showed their connection to him over a week ago. The thick gold band of energy glowed brightly, still connected to him, the other end stretching out into an amorphous darkness.

He was so surprised by the sight he jumped, disturbing Megan, who started to protest at the same time the phone rang. Leaping from the couch, Ellison snatched it up. "Blair!" he almost shouted.

"We're dead, Jim," said the familiar voice on the other end of the line before breaking into hysterical giggles.

Jim could hear Dee's voice in the background. "Give me the phone, Lobo. It's okay, it's okay." Some rustling noises were followed by her confident tones. "Ellison, you there?"

"Diandra? You're supposed to be dead."

"Is that the best you can come up with?" she sighed. "I was dead. I'm adding car bombs to my list of ways I hate to die."

"Blair, is Blair all right?" Jim was having trouble putting his thoughts and words together coherently, especially now that Megan was hanging on his arm trying to listen in.

"Lobo's okay. He probably won't be able to move tomorrow, but he's fine. Just a little bit shaken up now that the adrenaline rush is wearing off."

Jim heard Blair say, "A little bit?"

"Okay, he's having a post-traumatic stress reaction right now, but he'll be fine. I think realizing you almost lost him did it. Listen, Ellison, Blair and I are going to disappear until the grand jury next week."

Jim frowned. "What do you mean, disappear?"

"This has gotten way out of hand. I'm sick of being a damn target, and I don't think Lobo's heart can stand another close call like tonight. I'm taking him somewhere I can protect him."

Anger flashed through the sentinel. "That's not your decision to make, Pallas," he growled.

"There was a goddamn bomb in my Cherokee, Ellison! My truck, which had been in police custody until I picked it up this afternoon! Where in the hell do you think that bomb came from? The car bomb fairy?" she snarled back. "That safe house is a deathtrap, Detective. We walk in the door, we're as good as dead. There's no way in hell I'm going to do that. Now either you work with me on this, or we will vanish into thin air."

Jim wasn't willing to give in without a fight. "You sure Blair will go along with you?"

Dee glanced at the anthropologist huddled next to her in the small doorway, his legs pulled up to his chest, his head bowed. "Yes, he will," she said, the fury gone from her voice. "He saw what I looked like after being caught in the explosion. It could just have easily been you, or him, or Megan. No one but an Immortal could survive those kinds of injuries. Now are you going to help us out or not?"

The sentinel hesitated. "You have to let me know where you're going to be."

"Only if you don't tell anyone, and I mean -anyone- where we are. Not even your Captain."

"I'll only tell him if it's absolutely necessary," Jim promised. He could hear Diandra's resigned sigh.

"You know I don't have to tell you anything... but I trust you. It's the rest of the PD that's the problem. I'm going to take Lobo to a friend's cabin, just north of Seacouver. It's on an island in the middle of a lake up there. Very safe, very secluded, very defensible. Nothing will happen to him there."

"I know the lake you're talking about. Simon has a cabin on the west shore, about two miles up the mountain. How are you going to get there?" Jim asked.

"I called Joe; he's on his way here to pick us up right now. If you need to contact us, use Blair's cell phone, though I can't guarantee the reception once we get up in the mountains. And Ellison, I'm trusting you to use your head, and keep Megan safe."

Ellison glanced at the Aussie, who was staring at him with a quizzical look on her face. "Of course, Diandra," he answered her. "And I'll see what I can do about making sure you're officially dead for the time being."

"Thanks," she said, and clicked the phone off. Sitting back down in the doorway next to Blair, she tucked the phone back into his backpack. Running a hand lightly through his hair, she asked, "How are you doing?"

Turning his face toward her, he rested his cheek on his knee. If this were Jim sitting next to him, asking the same question, in the same situation, he would be tempted to suck it up, to say he was fine, so Jim wouldn't worry, wouldn't think he couldn't depend on him. But this was Dee, and he knew she would see right through his bullshit, not that Jim didn't, he just let him get away with it most of the time. "I... I'm scared, Dee," he finally managed. "I hurt all over, and I'm freezing."

Dee looked up at the darkening sky, and the fine mist that was beginning to fall. "It's supposed to snow tonight. Come on, Lobo, let's get a little further undercover." Getting to her feet once again, she took a quick look at the rusty padlock holding the warehouse door shut. Two swift kicks, and the door flew open. Dee poked her head inside, making sure it was safe. "Well, it doesn't have all the comforts of home, but at least it's dry, and out of the wind." Extending a hand, she helped Blair to his feet, and supported him as he limped inside.

"You weren't limping before, what happened?"

Sliding down the wall until he was seated on the concrete floor, Blair said, "I didn't notice it earlier, but I must have banged it when I hit the ground after the explosion." He winced in pain as she knelt beside him, her fingers gently probing his left knee.

"It's hot," she said, "and swollen, though it doesn't feel like anything is broken or torn, just a very bad sprain." She placed a hand on either side of his knee, and closed her eyes.

Blair's hands over hers stopped her. "Don't... " Opening her eyes, she raised an eyebrow at him. "I know you must have expended a lot of energy earlier, healing yourself. Don't over extend yourself for a little sprain."

Goddess, she loved him, but sometimes his concern for her was misplaced. "I'm fine, Lobo, but you aren't going to be much use to me if you can't walk. It's too dangerous for both of us. You do see that?" Her words chastised him, but her tone was gentle.

Biting his lip, Blair nodded. Once again Dee concentrated, and Blair watched in fascination as her hands began to glow with a faint blue light. It took everything he had to hold still for her though, as the energy flowing into his leg felt like red-hot needles. The sensation only lasted a few seconds, but when she moved her hands away, he had to consciously remember to breathe, and a low moan slid out with his exhale. "Sorry, baby," she said. "It's not completely healed, but the swelling should be about gone, and you can stand on it."

She moved to sit next to him, feeling him resist as she slid her arm around his shoulders. "Hey, what's this?" she asked him, her tone slightly hurt.

Blair shivered. "I don't know... " he said. "I... I'm worried about Jim, and Megan... and us... and... "

Pulling him closer, so that he was snug against her shoulder, she said, "Shhh, everything's going to be all right. Just close your eyes and rest. I'll take care of everything, okay?" Her hand started to rub his back, and Blair finally began to relax against her. His eyes closed, and soon he was lightly dozing.

While he slept, Dee kept watch, turning the past week's events over in her mind. They had approached it all wrong from the start, she realized, by deciding on a purely defensive strategy. After the attack on Megan, they should have taken the battle directly to Cristo, and ended it then. She sighed. But that was not the way things were done in this day and age. There were rules and regulations to adhere to, judicial channels that Ellison, Blair and Megan had to follow. Perhaps her mistake had been in going along with them. If she had followed her gut instinct and gone after Cristo on her own, then none of this would have happened.

She gazed down at the sleeping anthropologist, wondering what he would think of her if she had. Would he hate her for it, or would it just be easier for her if he did? "Oh, goddess, how did everything get so fucked up?" she whispered. When you left Cascade, her brain replied, when you left him. Looking back on her decision now, she could see it had been the same as all the times before. Things got tough, or awkward, or difficult, and she ran; only this time she had run from herself as well as love. What had she been hoping to accomplish by moving back to Seacouver? Had she been hoping her heightened senses would just go away? That would have solved a hell of a lot of problems, and she wouldn't have to open herself up to anyone new, to chose a companion. Would you have run from Blair, she asked herself, if he had been free to be that companion? She wanted to think she wouldn't have, but she couldn't be sure. It had been such a long time, and yet the wounds were as fresh as the moment Lydia died in her arms. It had been her fault; she was the Champion, she was supposed to protect the Companion.

Blair stirred a bit in his sleep, and Dee lowered him so that his head was resting in her lap. She stroked his hair gently, wondering if for all her bravado in front of Ellison, she would really be able to keep him safe. She hadn't been able to do that for Lydia. With that thought, the pieces of her life began to fit together, to make an odd sort of sense. Fear. Everything she'd done for the past 2680 years had been done out of fear. Fear of failing, of giving herself over completely to someone, and then getting him or her killed. The idea was staggering, and knowing now was not the time or place to deal with it, Dee stuffed it in a mental box, and slammed the lid shut. Besides, she thought she heard Joe's car outside.

"Lobo," she whispered in his ear, "someone's outside; I'm going to check on it." Fully awake at her words, Blair sat up, watching anxiously as she moved to the door, and opened it slightly, peering out into the softly falling snow. "It's okay," she said. "It's Joe." Helping Blair to his feet, she grabbed his backpack, and followed him out to Joe's van, climbing into the back seat with him.

Joe got a good look at the both of them when the interior light came on, but he held his tongue until they were both settled. "There's a blanket behind the seat," he said.

Dee grabbed it and wrapped it around Blair. "Go ahead and lie down," she told him, scooting closer to the door so he would have more room. "You need to keep your knee elevated." He did as she directed, once again resting his head in her lap, and closing his eyes.

Joe put the van into drive, and pulled away from the warehouse. "You gonna keep me in suspense much longer, Dee, or are you going to fill me in? It's not too often I get Immortals calling me to haul their ass out of the fire. You look like you've been through a war."

Dee adjusted the blanket so it fit more snugly around Blair. "Someone blew up my Cherokee, with the two of us in it."

"Someone must be pretty pissed at you," he said.

"Not at me, at Lobo. It's a long story, Joe, but there's a drug dealer out to kill him. Can you take us to the dojo so we can pick up some things, and get cleaned up, and then to Mac's island?"

"Sure, sure, anything for you, Dee, you know that." He glanced in the mirror at them. Both of them were filthy, and reeked of smoke and gasoline. Dee's clothes were torn and singed, and covered in blood. "Anything for Blair, too. I'm becoming rather fond of him."

A weary smile crossed Dee's face. "He has that affect on people." Gazing down at him, she said softly, "I swear I won't fail you, Lobo. I swear I'll keep you safe."

Joe heard her quiet promise, and wondered what was going on between the two of them. The last time he'd spoken to Diandra, she had assured him she'd made the right decision to leave Blair. But now it looked like she was having second thoughts. He decided to just ask. "What's the deal with the two of you? I thought you said it was over."

Dee's eyes met the Watcher's in the mirror. "I... I don't know anymore, Joe. It's complicated."

"Try me. I'm a bartender, otherwise known as a professional listener." He gave her a reassuring grin.

She checked to make sure Blair was asleep before she spoke. "How much have you and Blair talked? I mean, how well do you know him?"

Joe considered her question for a moment, then said, "I don't know, pretty well I think. I know the two most important people in his life are you and Detective Ellison. And I know he still loves you. I think for the past couple months when I've spoken with him, he's lived for the end of the conversation, when he could casually say 'Have you seen Dee lately?'"

Her chest suddenly felt tight, and she blinked back tears. "I'm sorry, Lobo, I'm sorry. I fucked up all around, didn't I?" she whispered. Wiping at her eyes, she got back to the subject at hand. "Did you ever talk about his studies, his thesis?"

Joe nodded. "A little bit, yes. After he joined the Watchers, I got a hold of his master's thesis and read it, just wanting to make sure he was every bit as good as I thought, and he is. His study of people with heightened senses was very thorough, and well written. He told me he's interested in reviewing a lot of the older Chronicles, hoping to find some evidence there of Sentinels. It's too bad they no longer exist in today's society. He makes them sound as interesting as Immortals."

Dee laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, they exist all right, and they are far rarer than Immortals."

Joe turned around in his seat to look at her. "You mean you know a Sentinel? Does Blair know this?"

"Oh, yeah, Blair knows all about it. He's a Guide."

Joe returned part of his attention to the road. "If he's a Guide, then... is Detective Ellison a Sentinel?"

"Yes," she answered him, "as am I. And therein lies the crux of the problem and the reason I left Cascade. Sentinels are very territorial, especially when it comes to the guide."

The Watcher was beginning to get the picture. "Ellison had a problem with the relationship between you and Blair."

Dee nodded. "Yes, I thought my removing myself from the picture would solve everything, but as you know, it just made Blair and me miserable, and nothing was resolved. So here we are again, right back at the same place we started, and I'm afraid I'm going to screw it up all over again."

Joe shook his head. "I'm sorry, Dee. My heart breaks for you. I know how much you love him; I can see it in your face right now."

"I can't think about that now, Joe. I have to concentrate on keeping the two of us alive until Cristo goes before the grand jury next week. Then I can worry about us." Or maybe just run off to the Himalayas. The rest of the drive to Seacouver was spent in silence.

Part 4