The sound of the phone ringing cut through the stillness of the basement office. Dana Scully jumped in her chair, her concentration on the autopsy report broken. "Mulder, can you get that?" she asked, then realized she was talking to an empty room. Remembering he had gone to a meeting with Skinner thirty minutes ago, she reached across his desk and picked up the phone. "Scully."
There was a slight hesitation on the other end of the line, then a male voice said, "My name is Jim Ellison. I'm a detective with the Cascade, WA police department. I was trying to reach Agent Mulder."
Scully opened her desk drawer and grabbed a pencil. "Agent Mulder is out of the office right now. I'm his partner, Agent Scully. Is there something I can help you with?"
Sitting at his desk in Major Crimes, Ellison pondered his options. He decided to find out what Mulder's partner thought of Diandra Pallas. After all, who better to observe whether or not his relationship with Dr. Pallas had impeded the investigation into the two murders? He started with a simple request for data.
"I'm trying to get some information about a woman named Diandra Pallas, Agent Scully."
Scully felt her heart stop. What could have possibly happened to Dee? She wasn't dead, she wasn't dead; she couldn't be dead. Dana let the breath she had been holding out slowly. Dee was a skilled fighter; her teacher was fine, she told herself. This Detective Ellison is just digging. "Why do you need to know about Dr. Pallas?" she shot back, pleased that her voice did not betray the small knot of fear still clutching her chest.
Jim had clearly heard the woman's heart begin to race at the moment he mentioned Pallas' name. That was curious; Diandra's friend had told him she had been involved with Mulder, not Scully. Perhaps Agent Scully had a reason to be afraid of Diandra. Or afraid for her, his brain tossed out, just as he resumed the conversation. "Dr. Pallas was witness to a crime here in Cascade, and I was just doing a background check to rule out any possible involvement on her part. I was told she was questioned in regard to two murders in the Washington DC area, and that Agent Mulder was the agent in charge of the investigation."
"Jesus, Dee," Scully thought, "can't you stay out of trouble for five minutes?" To Ellison, she said, "Are you saying there is some similarity between the crime Dr. Pallas was a witness to, and those murders?"
Jim sighed. It was like pulling teeth to get anything out of Agent Scully. "No, I'm not saying that. I'm just asking for a little background on those cases. How was Dr. Pallas involved? Was she ever considered a suspect?"
Scully's suspicions were confirmed. Ellison was just fishing for something he could use against Dee. Well, she wasn't about to give him that satisfaction. "I'm sorry, I can't comment on cases that are currently open. Now if there is nothing further you'd like to ask me, I have work I need to get back to."
There were a hell of a lot of things Jim wanted to ask her, but he knew she wasn't going give him the answers he wanted. "No, I have nothing else. Thank you for your time and cooperation," he said, his sarcasm barely veiled.
"I always believe in helping out the local law enforcement whenever I can, Detective Ellison." Satisfied with the way the conversation had ended, Scully hung up the phone. "Just wait 'til Mulder finds out you've been sniffing around about Dee, Detective," she thought. "You'll be sorry you ever heard her name."
Leaning back in his desk chair, Jim rubbed his temples. He was getting one hell of a headache. Who could have known that a simple background check could turn into such a hassle? Now he had an FBI agent giving him the runaround. He glanced through the info he had already gathered on Diandra. He would try a different tact. The DMV info had given her last address before Cascade as Seacouver. He would see what he could find out from her neighbors there. He looked up the phone numbers for the building she had lived in there, and called the first one on the list.
A man answered the phone. "DeSalvo's Dojo, MacLeod speaking."
Once again, Jim introduced himself, then said, "I'm trying to find out some information on a former tenant in your building, Diandra Pallas."
Immediately, Jim could feel the other man's tension through the wire. His heart rate picked up slightly, but nowhere near what Agent Scully's had. "Is Diandra in some kind of trouble, Detective?" the man asked, his voice even.
"No, she was a witness to a crime. I'm just trying to get some background on her."
"I suggest you speak to Diandra about that. Anything she wants you to know, she'll tell you. She's pretty reasonable that way," MacLeod replied, his sarcasm not lost on Jim. There was a click as he hung up the phone.
Ellison slammed the receiver down, muttering curses under his breath. Simon, who happened to be passing by, stopped to find out what had his best detective so upset. "What's wrong, Jim?" he asked.
"Just this check I've been running on Diandra Pallas, Simon. I'm being stonewalled."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Banks leaned against the corner of Jim's desk. "I warned you that might happen when dealing with the military."
Jim shook his head. "That isn't the problem. As far as I can tell, she's never been in any country's armed forces. But she seems to have a readily available cash flow, never stays in one place for very long, and was somehow involved, at least peripherally, with two murders in DC. Of course I can't prove any of this leads to anything criminal, but I can't dismiss what my gut is telling me, Simon. She's bad news."
"Jim, you don't have to convince me. After your behavior on the Barnes case, I'm not going to question your instincts. If you say she's trouble, she's trouble. But until you have something solid to pin on her, I suggest you keep your gut reaction to yourself. All the department needs is another civilian accusing us of harassment."
"Don't worry, Simon, I'm being as discreet as possible. And the way things are going, I'll have it all wrapped up today. What I'll have to show for my efforts will probably be a whole lot of nothing, but at least my conscience will be clear when something does happen." Shaking his head, Simon rose and headed toward his office.
Jim got up from his desk, and went to the break room for a cup of coffee. When he returned to his desk, he had decided on a course of action. First, he would call the FBI again, and see if he could talk to Agent Mulder, then he would take a run up to Seacouver, and speak with Diandra's old neighbors in person.
"See you later," Blair said to Dee, as they parted company in the hallway. "Thanks for lunch."
"Thanks for the help," she replied. "Think about my offer to train you. The sooner you make a decision, the sooner we can get started." She gave him a reassuring smile. "And I'll try and find my old dissertation and research materials for you." Unlocking the door to 308, she let herself in.
Blair entered the loft and tossed his keys in the basket next to the door, then headed into his room to drop off his backpack. Entering the kitchen, he grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge, and pressed play on the answering machine. There was one message, from Jim, telling Blair he had to run to Seacouver to follow up a lead. He expected to be back that night, but Blair shouldn't count on him for dinner.
Okay, Blair thought, he could use this time alone to his advantage. It had been a long time since he had last meditated, and right now he felt he could use the calm it always brought to his spirit. He got out his aromatherapy candles, and his meditation tape. He turned the ringer off on the phone, and settled himself in the middle of the living room carpet, after lighting the candles, and turning on the tape. Crossing his legs, and resting his hands on his knees, palms up, he closed his eyes, and let his mind and spirit find their center.
Tall green foliage surrounded him, and in the distance he could hear the sound of running water. He turned around in a circle; the trees surrounded him on all sides. But there was something unusual about the trees…it took him a moment, then he realized they were a mixture of tropical plants and trees found north of the equator. The heat certainly felt like the rain forest, though. Beads of sweat were beginning to form on Blair's bare skin. Bare skin? Glancing down at himself, he found he was clothed in the garb of a shaman, a cloth sarong wrapped around his waist, and leather sandals on his feet. A medicine pouch hanging from a thong around his neck completed the outfit.
He had only a moment to take all of this in before the whistling shriek of a bird of prey cut through the air. His eyes searched the jungle for source of the sound, finding a red falcon perched on a tree limb twenty feet above his head, its brilliant blue eyes studying him. Blue eyes?
A flash of silver fur streaking through the undergrowth tore his attention from the bird for a split second. When he looked back, a red haired woman stood on the branch, one hand shading her eyes as she gazed down at him. Without warning, she stepped off the branch, tucking her body in a mid-air somersault before landing gracefully in front of him.
Tongue-tied for one of the few times in his life, Blair could only stare at the woman, his eyes taking in her short stature (she was at least five inches shorter than he was), her red hair hanging in a long braid down her back, and the simple gold circlet adorning her brow. She was dressed in a green tunic, over which she wore leather and brass armor. Over her shoulder was slung a long bow, a strap holding a quiver of arrows on her back. Gloves encased her hands, leather bracers covered her arms and wrists, and high padded boots protected her from calf to mid thigh.
Finally finding his voice, Blair asked, "Who are you?"
"I am the Companion," she replied, her softly accented voice reassuring him. "I am here to show you the path you must take. Whether or not you choose to follow it is up to you." So saying, she moved off through the brush, following a trail only she could see.
Blair hesitated for a moment, then ran after her. After what seemed like miles of walking, the Companion led him into a clearing, in the center of which stood the ruins of a stone temple. "I recognize this," Blair said, "this is the Sentinel temple in Mexico."
The Companion nodded. "It is here that you must make your choice," she said.
The black jaguar appeared then, at the top of the stairs to the temple. He threw back his head and screamed. Blair had never heard a sound so full of rage. The shadows began to move, growing and changing into sinister shapes, encircling the great cat. As Blair watched, one of the wraiths reached out for the feline, its touch leaving long red claw marks on the midnight flank. The cat whirled to face its attacker, but was struck again from behind, and Blair realized there was no way the jaguar could hope to win this fight, at least not alone.
As quickly as the thought had formed in his mind, a large silver streak leapt up the crumbling steps of the temple. As it took its place alongside the jungle cat, Blair saw it was the blue-eyed wolf he knew as his spirit guide. The shadows seemed to shrink back from the two creatures, then they attacked again. This time, the attacks on the jaguar were turned by the wolf's formidable bulk. The cat was then able to counter-attack, using fangs and claws to rip the paper-thin wraiths to shreds.
Still, the tide of the battle did not seem to be turning in the animals' favor. They were both covered with injuries, and the shadows' strength seemed to be increasing. With a start, he realized the wolf had not been joining in the attack, it had only been using its body as a shield for the black cat. In fact, the wolf could not attack at all, as its jaws were held shut by a heavy muzzle.
Desperately, Blair turned to the Companion. "You have to help them!" he cried.
The Companion shook her head. "It is not my place to help the jaguar and the wolf now."
A tortured scream from the jaguar cut through any doubts Blair had. "Then give me your bow!" he pleaded with the red haired woman. To his surprise, she complied, pressing the long bow into his hands, and holding the quiver of arrows within his easy reach.
Taking an arrow from her, Blair notched it to the bowstring, took aim, and let fly. The arrow sailed straight and true, piercing one of the nightmare creations, shattering it into a million fragments. As the arrow hit home, Blair heard the snarl of the wolf. The muzzle had disappeared, and it was slashing at the nearest shadow with sharp canine teeth. Within a few minutes, under combined attack from the cat, the wolf, and Blair's arrows, all the wraiths were destroyed.
As the battle ended, the wolf loped down the steps, and over to Blair, coming to sit on its haunches at his feet, its mouth parted in a lupine grin. The jaguar crawled up onto a stone ledge, its rough tongue going to work on its injuries, which were already fading.
Blair returned the bow to the Companion, thanking her for its use. Smiling, she gazed up at him. "You have made your decision here in the spirit world, Shaman. Now you must make it in the world of the living."
As Blair puzzled over her cryptic comment, the wolf nudged against his knee, and he looked down at it. When he turned back to the place where the small woman had been, she was no longer there. A falcon's scream turned Blair's eyes skyward, and he saw a flash of red winging toward the sun.
A sharp click brought Blair back to the loft. With a start, he realized the noise had been his meditation tape shutting off. Physically drained, he leaned his head forward into his hands. What in the hell had just happened? He must have fallen asleep and dreamed the whole thing with the wolf, the jaguar, and the Companion. She had seemed so real, though. He shook his head. There was no way he had gone for a walk in the spirit world. Communing with the animals was Jim's scene, not his.
Rising to his feet, he gathered up his meditation materials, and set about cleaning the apartment to get his mind off the strange experience.
Picking up the phone again, Jim dialed the number he had been given for Agent Mulder's office, hoping that Mulder, and not his stubborn partner would answer the phone. Luck was with him, because the phone was answered on the fifth ring by a male voice snapping, "Mulder."
"Agent Mulder," Jim began, "I'm glad I caught you in. My name is Jim Ellison, and I work for the Cascade, WA PD."
"Ah, Detective Ellison," Mulder replied. "My partner told me you called. So you're interested in Diandra? Let me warn you, Detective, you are opening Pandora's box. Are you sure you want to go there?"
Jim wrote "nut" down next to Mulder's name in his notes. "Look, all I want is some information on her."
Mulder grinned at Scully across his desk. "Okay, Ellison, I'll play along with you. What do you want to know?"
Finally, he was getting somewhere. "You questioned Dr. Pallas regarding two beheadings in the DC area…"
"No," Mulder said, "I didn't."
"No, I only questioned her about one beheading, that of Violette Crane."
"And did you consider her a suspect?"
Mulder laughed, a short, sarcastic bark. "If I'd considered her a suspect based on the evidence we had, I'd have to consider myself a suspect, too. I was with her when she spoke to the woman on the night she was killed."
Jim frowned. This interview was not going well. "So you're saying there was no evidence to connect her to the murder."
"That is correct, Detective."
"And the other murder, that of the Scotland Yard Inspector? There was no evidence to connect her to that?" As he mentioned the inspector, he could hear Mulder's heart rate quicken for the first time in their conversation.
"No, there was no evidence to connect her to that. Dee had never met the woman. In fact, she was with my partner at the time."
Jim sighed. This was turning out to be another dead end. He had one more card to play. "I understand you were involved with Dr. Pallas. What can you tell me about her as a person?"
"What can I tell you about Dee as a person? She is her own woman, Detective Ellison. She lives by her own code of conduct. She defines the word integrity. If you are her friend, you will be under her protection for life; if you are her enemy…" Mulder left Jim to draw his own conclusions. "She saved my partner's life, Detective, and for that, I will be forever indebted to her. And I have to warn you, if you persist in digging into her background, you will find she has some formidable friends to protect her," he said. "Not that she needs protection from the likes of you," Mulder thought to himself.
Jim figured he'd gotten all he was going to get from him, which wasn't much more than he had started with. "Thank you for your time, Agent Mulder," he said.
"Always glad to help out," Mulder answered cheerfully, and then Jim was listening to a dead phone line.
What was it with this woman? He hadn't gotten the impression that Mulder had been lying about her possible involvement in two murders, but Jim hadn't missed the fact that Mulder had only spoke of "no evidence", not "no suspicion". And he found it entirely too coincidental that she had saved Agent Scully's life as well as Blair's. Once again he was left with twice as many questions as answers. Shutting off his computer, Jim grabbed his jacket and headed out the door. Maybe he would get some answers in Seacouver.
After Diandra parted company with Blair, she went back to organizing her new home. She hung the rest of her sword collection on the display wall, and put the carrying cases away in one of the spare rooms on the lower level under the master bedroom. She planned on turning one into an office and the other into a guest bedroom, but she hadn't purchased any furniture for them yet.
Running across her boom box in one of the cartons she was unpacking, she decided it was time for a break. Digging out one of her favorite CDs, she loaded it in the player, and the Latin rhythms of Santana filled the apartment. Walking to the center of the studio, she began moving through a martial arts kata, slowly at first, feeling her muscles stretch and warm to the task. Picking up the pace, she utilized the full length of the room, her actions timed to the beat of the music. Grabbing her katana from the wall, she added it to the drill, her body flowing through the familiar motions, while her thoughts drifted once again to Blair.
A smile flickered across her face, as she remembered his sweet, thoughtful gesture from that morning. His youth, enthusiasm for life, and caring nature reminded her very much of Lydia, and she found herself missing the way the Amazon had lit up her world. Sometimes she felt her long life was a curse, that it had jaded her by inuring her to the joys of everyday living. Then someone like Blair crashed into her life, turning it upside down and making everything new again.
After decades of being alone, of deliberately isolating herself from the world and the Game in the Outback of Australia, she had been unsure of her decision to stay in the modern world. Now she knew her choice had been the right one. For a long time, she had thought the fates had made her a great cosmic joke, gifting her first with her "other" sight, then with immortality, forcing her to flee from her sheltered life as an Oracle to the uncertainty and danger of the Amazons' world. In time she had come to realize, the fates had given her powers suited to the tasks she was faced with, pitting her against obstacles which only someone with her abilities and experience could overcome.
Now was no different. Something was coming; she could feel it in her bones. She was in Cascade for a purpose, and it had nothing to do with teaching Greek history to college students and everything to do with Blair Sandburg. Unless, of course, she was wrong, as she had been with Fox, and Blair's effect on her was blinding her to the real reason for her being there. She began her cool down, vowing silently not to hurt Blair the way she had hurt Fox.
Finishing her workout, she walked into the kitchen, and poured a glass of water from the bottle in the refrigerator. She glanced at the boxes still stacked in the corner, and absent-mindedly opened one, discovering her telephone on top of the items packed inside. Taking it out, she set it on the counter, and plugged the cord into the jack on the wall. She turned back to the box, and nearly jumped out of her skin when the phone rang. "Guess that means it's turned on," she said to herself.
Putting the receiver to her ear, she said, "Hello!"
"Dee! Thank god! I've been trying to reach you all afternoon but you haven't been answering the phone!"
"Estrellita! It's good to hear from you too!" Diandra replied, teasing her student. "I just now found the phone and plugged it in. I'm fine, Dana. Sorry if I worried you."
Dana Scully relaxed in her chair, and mouthed "She's fine," to Mulder. He nodded in acknowledgement and went back to his computer. "Dee, the reason I've been trying to get a hold of you is because Mulder and I had a phone call this afternoon from Detective Ellison of the Cascade PD. I don't know what you did to set him off, Dee, but he's been doing some serious digging. He was asking questions about the Crane woman and Phoebe."
She felt the floor drop out from under her. "What?!" she exclaimed, leaning against the counter for support. "How in the hell did he find out about that? If he wanted to know anything, all he had to do was ask! He's my next door neighbor, for god's sake!"
"Your neighbor? Dee, you just moved in; are you pissing off the locals already?"
"I guess so," she replied, feeling her shock changing slowly to anger. "I save his partner's life, and this is the thanks I get. I think Detective Ellison and I are going to have a little chat."
Dana had seen her mentor's temper in action. "Dee, don't do anything that's going to get you in more trouble," she said. "Mulder and I dealt with him. He's not going to find out anything about you from the FBI. We just wanted to warn you he was poking around."
Sighing, Diandra said, "Thanks for the warning, Dana. And tell Mulder I said 'hi'. Talk to you later."
The second she hung up the phone, it rang again. "Now what?" she wondered. Picking it up again, she said, "Hello."
"Diandra." The familiar voice was tight, as if the caller were trying to keep his irritation under control.
"Duncan! What a pleasant surprise! Tell me you're calling with good news…"
"Diandra, I have just had the most unpleasant conversation with a very annoying, pushy, Cascade Police Detective. It was not enough for him to hear my 'no comment' over the phone, he had to DRIVE to Seacouver and annoy me in person. What in the hell kind of trouble are ye in now?" he said, his Scottish brogue showing in his frustration.
"Duncan," she said, "I am really, really sorry. I had no idea Ellison would be this much trouble. Dana called right before you did; he's already talked to her and Mulder. I don't know what he's looking for; all I did was save his roommate's life last night, and now he's asking questions about DC."
"Saved his roommate's life how, Dee? By cutting off someone's head?"
She leaned her elbow on the counter, and rested her head on her hand. "I healed him," she said so softly MacLeod almost didn't hear her. "I didn't have a choice, Duncan. He would have died if I hadn't helped him. And I couldn't let that happen. He's too important."
MacLeod could never stay angry at the dark haired Immortal. "I'm sorry, Diandra. I didn't mean to imply you should have let him die. You know I trust your judgement."
"I know, Duncan. It's just been a rough two days. I'm beginning to think I should have taken you up on your offer to stay in Seacouver."
"You know that offer still stands," MacLeod said gently.
"I know. But the time isn't right. I don't know when it will be, but I just know it isn't now. Look, I'll give you a call after I get this all straightened out and maybe you can come down to Cascade for a couple days. I'm in serious need of a good workout."
"Is that all I am to you? A sparring partner?" Duncan laughed.
"Of course, Duncan. You know I only spar with people I can beat the pants off of."
"We'll see about that. Until next time, Dee." MacLeod hung up the phone.
She stood for a moment in the disaster of her kitchen, feeling like a hand was slowly tightening its fingers around her heart. She had felt so positive, so sure of the direction she was taking. Now all she wanted to do was pack everything back in boxes, and run. With a cry of rage, she flung the phone across the room, smashing it into the door.
Blair was entering the loft again, after taking the trash downstairs to the dumpster, when he heard a scream and then a loud crash come from Diandra's apartment. Stepping across the hallway, he knocked loudly on the door, calling out, "Dee, are you okay?"
The door was flung open suddenly, and an obviously upset Diandra appeared in the opening. "Dee, what's the matter, what's wrong? I heard a noise and…"
"Your roommate is what's the matter," she hissed. "He's been running a background check on me!"
Blair was shocked. "I'm sorry, Dee, I didn't know anything about it. If he had told me what he was going to do, I would have talked him out of it. How did you find out?"
Stepping back, she allowed him to enter. "I have friends who care about me. As soon as Ellison spoke with them, they called me. Unfortunately, I didn't plug the phone in until a few minutes ago. I guess he's been at it all day; he's had time to call the FBI, and drive up to my old apartment in Seacouver to interrogate my friend there. Duncan was NOT amused." Realizing she had been clenching her hands into fists, she forced herself to uncurl her fingers.
The action did not go unnoticed by Blair. "I am sorry," he repeated again. "I'm sure Jim thought he was only looking out for me…"
"Jesus, Lobo, if this is his way of showing how much he appreciates me saving your life, I'd hate to see what he does to people who've hurt you. I'd have gladly told him whatever he wanted to know if he'd just bothered to ask." She whirled away from him, bending to pick up the pieces of the broken telephone from the floor.
"Look, Dee," Blair said, trying to calm her, "I'll talk to Jim about it when he gets home."
"Talk to me about what, Chief?" came the familiar voice from the open doorway.
Diandra's back was to the door, and Blair saw her stiffen at the sound of Jim's voice. She rose slowly to her feet, her body language shifting from annoyance to controlled anger. As she turned around, her blue eyes smoldering, Blair realized for the first time that she was seriously dangerous.
"Busy day, Detective?" she said in way of greeting, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Jim looked from her expressionless face to Blair's worried one. "Am I missing something here?" he asked.
"Did you find all the answers you were looking for today? Oh, don't look so surprised, Detective. I know all about your phone calls to the FBI and your little fishing trip to Seacouver. I hope Duncan threw you out on your ass." The slight flush that rose on Ellison's cheeks confirmed her words. "I see he did."
Setting the broken phone down on the kitchen counter, Dee moved through the living area into the studio, dragging a large workout mat into the middle of the floor. "Blair and I had an interesting conversation this morning, while you were busy checking me out. He told me all about you being a hotshot army ranger, surviving in the jungles of Peru. Let's just see if you live up to your reputation." Padding barefoot into the center of the mat, she pulled her T-shirt off, exposing the spandex tank top underneath, and waited.
Blair and Jim had both followed her into the studio, curious as to where she was heading. "Oh, come on, Detective, don't tell me you can't defeat a mere woman in hand to hand."
Jim moved further into the studio, his eyes quickly taking in the workout equipment and the impressive display of weapons on the wall. He took a good look at Diandra, noting her easy, confident stance, and the tight, toned muscles of her legs, arms, and stomach. He sized up his chances, knowing he had an advantage of three inches in height and fifty pounds on her. He thought he could take her. Slipping off his shoes, he stepped onto the mat.
"Jim," he heard Blair say in a voice only a Sentinel could hear, "Jim, she's an expert. This is stupid. Don't do this."
Ignoring the warning of his guide, Ellison returned her ceremonial bow, and they began to circle each other, looking for an opening. She threw the first punch, which he easily blocked with a forearm. They traded blows in quick succession, each one quickly blocked by the other. Seeing an opening in her defense, Jim took it, aiming a savage left at her head. Instead of blocking as she had done before, Diandra stepped to the side, grabbing his wrist as it went past, holding it as she planted a solid kick to his now unprotected ribs. Releasing him, she danced back out of range, waiting until he regained his balance before she struck again. Jim let her close enough to land the blow on his shoulder, hoping to grab her in the same way she had him. Instead, she used her momentum to carry her past him, whirling out of reach of his hands, while snapping a savage kick to his right knee. Knocked off stride by the kick, Jim was slow to recover, and it cost him. A two handed blow between the shoulders doubled him over her waiting knee. His breath exploded from his lungs and spots danced in front of his eyes. Struggling to his feet, he was rewarded with another kick to his already injured knee, and as he went down, he felt her arm come around his throat from behind, holding him helpless in a choke hold.
"Is this what you wanted to know, Detective Ellison? How I could take out two armed men in under thirty seconds?" she growled. Her grip on his neck tightened. "This is how. I would have been happy to tell you I've been a martial arts master for more years than I care to admit, but you would rather go poking around in my past…"
Jim struggled to get enough air into his lungs to speak. He could see Blair standing at the edge of the mat, his hands curled into fists, his eyes fearful, but he held himself in check, not wanting to give her any reason to hurt his partner any further. "Who the hell are you?" Jim wheezed.
She pressed her face close to his, whispering in a voice he couldn't have heard without his heightened senses, "I am Diandra of Delphi, Ch…" Her words cut off abruptly, as she saw the black mare out of the corner of her eye. She was rearing back on her hind legs, her sharp front hooves pawing the sky, before crashing down inches from the skull of a cowering black jaguar. The horse's screaming cry of triumph deafened Dee, and she let go of Jim, stepping back as if she had been burned, shaking her head to clear the vision. When she opened her eyes again, the mare was gone, and Blair was helping Jim to his feet, asking if he was hurt.
Jim shook his head in response to Blair's inquiry, even though his ribs ached, and he could feel his knee swelling. Turning slowly, he looked back at Diandra. She stood in the middle of the mat, her back straight, every inch the conquering warrior, and her eyes he could swear were glowing with a brilliant blue fire.
"Stay out of my way, Ellison," she warned, "and I'll stay out of yours." She didn't move until Blair and Jim had left the apartment, closing the door behind them. Then she collapsed to her knees, tears spilling down her face. She knew what the black mare meant, and she couldn't go through it again, she couldn't.
Entering the loft, Jim sat down on the couch, wrestling with his pain dials. Diandra hadn't hurt him badly, but his aching ribs and knee were only adding to his self-disgust. Blair headed to the kitchen, and Jim could hear him filling a plastic bag with ice. Crossing to where Jim sat on the sofa, Blair handed him the ice without a word, simply glaring at him, his hands on his hips.
Jim finally broke the silence. "Okay, Chief, you were right and I was wrong. That was a stupid thing to do."
"Yeah," Blair agreed, sitting down next to him, "it was. What were you thinking, running a check on our neighbor? She saved my life last night; that ought to at least give her an advantage over the rest of the people on Jim Ellison's shit list."
"I said I was sorry, Chief."
"Yeah, well, you're talking to the wrong person. Dee is who you should be apologizing to," Blair snorted and turned to stare out the French doors.
"Look, Blair, I know you really like her, but I have my doubts about her. I turned up some things today that set off all my alarms." Jim shifted the ice pack to the other side of his knee.
"Like what?" he asked.
"Like she seems to have an unlimited source of income, never stays in one place too long, and is somehow involved in two murders in DC."
Blair snapped his head around to stare at Jim. "What do you mean, 'involved in two murders'?"
Sighing, Jim went over what he had learned from the FBI. "So you see, they didn't come right out and say she was involved, but the impression I got was that they knew more than they were telling about what happened. And I find it very interesting that she is the only person questioned in the case with any access to swords, and is an expert in their use. I can't believe Mulder didn't pursue his investigation of her further. I think she convinced him to drop it, because of her relationship with him."
Drawing his legs up so he was sitting cross-legged on the couch, Blair leaned his elbows on his knees, and propped his head on his hands. "So you're saying Dee and this Agent Mulder are lovers." His voice held a note of disappointment.
Jim shook his head. "Not anymore, according to Dr. Pallas' colleague at Georgetown, but she could be wrong. Though Mulder did give me the impression their relationship was over." He changed positions on the cushion, and winced as pain shot through his side.
The wince did not go unnoticed by Blair. "Let me take a look at your side, Jim," he said, automatically reaching for Jim's shirt and tugging it loose from the waistband of his pants. Jim obligingly turned the injured area toward Blair. He ran his fingers over it gently. "This is bruising up pretty bad, Jim. Are you sure your ribs aren't broken?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," he replied. "It's just gonna be tender for a few days."
Pulling Jim's shirt back down, Blair said, "I'd say you were pretty lucky then. It could've been much worse."
Jim shook his head. "It wasn't luck, Chief. She was pulling her punches. If she'd wanted to send me to the hospital or worse, she could have. And there was nothing I could've done about it."
Blair stared at him, not believing his ears. He had watched the fight with his heart in his throat, believing that his sentinel could at least defend himself. To now learn that the only reason Jim wasn't seriously injured was because Diandra had been in complete control of the fight from the start was unsettling to say the least. He had always trusted his Blessed Protector to come through for him in any situation. Now, he realized, there could be a time when he would fail, and it could cost him his life. A shudder ran through him, as he remembered his conversation with Dee, about what happened when a guide/sentinel pair was separated by death. He never wanted to experience that.
"Jim, if you don't mind," he said, "I'm going to bed." Jim shook his head, and rising from his seat, Blair headed for his room, knowing he wouldn't get much sleep. He had a great many things to ponder, and a decision to make.
Jim climbed the stairs shortly after Blair had entered his room and shut his door for the night. He undressed and lay down on the bed, but sleep eluded him for a long time. Today had been an eye-opener in more ways than one. He felt like he had been given some kind of test, and he had failed, badly. The fight with Diandra had not done anything to allay his doubts about her, and he was more convinced than ever she was trouble. And yet, there was something about her…what was that Mulder had said? If you're her friend, you're under her protection for life…if you're her enemy…after tonight, Jim knew what she was capable of. He hoped his revealing what he had discovered about her would discourage Blair from hanging around her. And if it had taken getting his ass kicked to keep his guide safe, well, then it was a small price to pay.
When he finally fell asleep, he dreamt of a beautiful meadow of wildflowers nestled among snow-capped mountains, the sun high in a turquoise sky. A black horse galloped through the field, bucking and playing, a silver wolf frolicking at its side. The seemingly innocuous dream disturbed Jim more than any he'd had in a long time.
Blair was up early the next morning, even before Jim was awake. He fixed himself a cup of coffee, and carried it out onto the balcony, sipping at the hot liquid, and watching the sunrise. He hadn't slept well at all, and when he had, he'd dreamed Jim was in trouble, and he was helpless to come to his aid, much like he had been in the dream he'd had the afternoon before, about the Companion, the wolf and the jaguar. The Companion's words were still fresh in his mind. "You've made your decision here in the spirit world. Now you must make it in the land of the living."
He wasn't naïve enough to believe he had really traveled to another plane of existence, but he knew his Freud. There was something bothering him in the real world that was expressing itself in his dreams. He was pretty sure he knew what it was. Ever since he'd met Jim, he'd been afraid Jim would find out he was a fraud, that he really wasn't the big expert on Sentinels that he'd made himself out to be, and that he'd just been making the Guide stuff up as he went along. One of these days, his bullshitting was going to get Jim killed. He squeezed his eyes shut and took a few deep breaths. He really didn't want to think about that ever happening, but unless he took it upon himself to get help, to take that first step towards becoming a real partner to Jim, the odds of something happening to Jim were very high.
Take last night for instance. If Dee had really wanted to hurt Jim, she could have, and there would have been nothing Blair could have done to stop it. She would have taken him apart with less effort than she had spent on Jim. Thank goodness she had only been interested in humiliating Jim. As frightening as the fight had been, Blair now knew in his heart that Dee would not have seriously injured him. She wasn't capable of that kind of maliciousness.
"But what about what Jim told you? That she was involved in those deaths?" a little voice inside his head reminded him. He couldn't see her doing that, not unless she had a good reason, and from what Jim had said, she didn't know either of the women. Random violence was not Dee's style, evidenced by the way she had methodically and precisely beat up Jim. Blair chuckled to himself. Jim would certainly not agree with that line of reasoning.
"Private joke, Chief?" Jim asked from the doorway. He walked out onto the balcony, dressed in his blue robe, a cup of coffee in his hand.
Turning around, Blair studied his partner, noting the slight limp, and the stiffness with which he carried himself. "Yeah, kind of. How's the knee and the ribs this morning?"
Jim winced at the reminder. "Sore, but I'll manage." He joined Blair in leaning on the balcony railing, and watching the city come to life. He frowned as he caught sight of their neighbor stretching in the parking lot, then jogging off down the sidewalk, her ponytail swinging behind her.
"Hey, there's Dee," Blair said.
"Yeah," Jim replied, "I noticed." Something Diandra had said last night came back to him, something he couldn't make sense of. "Hey, Einstein, where's Delphi?"
"Hmm," Blair said, still distracted by the sight of Dee in jogging shorts and a cropped tank top. "Oh, Delphi? It's in Ohio, unless of course, you are speaking of THE Delphi, which is where Apollo's temple was in Greece. Why do you ask?"
"Just a something Pallas whispered in my ear last night, when she had me in that stranglehold."
Blair turned to stare intently at Jim. "What exactly did she say? I remember seeing her lips move, but I didn't hear anything." A light went on inside his head, but he wasn't going to let Jim know Dee probably knew he was a Sentinel.
"It was kind of cryptic. I asked who she was, and she said, 'I am Diandra of Delphi.' It sounded like she was going to say something else, but then there was this screaming, and she let go of me."
"Screaming? What do you mean, screaming? I didn't hear any screaming!"
"I might have imagined it, Chief. I was suffering from lack of oxygen at the time. But it sounded like some kind of animal."
Blair flashed back to his dream of the injured jaguar. "Was it the big black cat? Your spirit guide?" he asked.
Jim thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No, it was higher pitched, and no snarl to it." He shrugged. "Like I said, I was seeing spots at the time. I could've imagined it."
Somehow Blair didn't think so, but he tucked the information away as one more piece of the puzzle that didn't fit with anything else. Right now he had a big collection of inside pieces, and no edges. Diandra of Delphi…that might be an edge piece. She could have been referring to her native city, except that Jim had said her passport listed her Greek residence as being in Athens. Funny how she didn't have a Greek accent…it was more Aussie than anything else, but when she called him "Lobo", it was with a perfect Spanish accent, and he still wasn't sure what language she used for swearing…
"Chief, are you still with me?" Jim asked.
"Oh, sorry, Jim. Just lost in thought."
"I said I was going to go start breakfast. You want anything?"
He shook his head. "Not right now. I'm going to stay out here for a while longer." Nodding, Jim turned and went back inside. Blair leaned his elbows on the railing and peered down at the street, his eyes following the direction Dee had taken. Diandra of Delphi…he'd read that somewhere a long time ago, some book, or poem, or play. The answer was right there, he just couldn't grab hold of the elusive little thing. He wouldn't worry about it; it would come to him eventually.
Stepping out of the shower, Dee grabbed a towel and dried off. The early morning run had done her a world of good. Slipping her robe on, she headed downstairs to the kitchen. The five-mile jog had cleared her mind, and she had come to a simple decision. She would not make another overture to Blair about anything. She would concentrate on unpacking the rest of her stuff, and then get started on her teaching curriculums for the fall semester. She had enough to do without taking on another student. After all, hadn't her last one taken up every waking moment of nearly five months? Dana had reminded her how demanding one on one teaching could be, especially when one was trying to cram centuries worth of advice into a couple months.
Thinking of Dana made her smile, as she took the leftovers from yesterday's breakfast out of the fridge. She nibbled on a strawberry as she put coffee in the coffee maker and turned it on to brew. It had been nice hearing from her student, even though she had been calling with bad news. Dee hoped Dana was keeping up with her sword work. If she knew Fox, he was probably making sure she took time to practice every day, even when they were on the road. She knew he'd been consulting with Duncan when he'd come to Seacouver at the end of Dana's training. Probably asking for tips on how to keep her in shape, she laughed to herself. Fox had been no slouch with a sword himself, and she felt sure her pupil could only benefit from her partner's willingness to help out.
With Dana off on her own again, that had left Dee alone in Seacouver with MacLeod. And while Duncan was a good friend, and she loved him dearly, she had felt the need to move on, to be on her own again. Still, in a way she envied Blair and Jim's closeness. It was nice to have someone to come home to, to talk to at the end of the day. Who was she kidding? She missed the spiritual connection a guide had with a sentinel, the feeling of completeness one could only get with their other half. "Don't go there, Dee," she said out loud. "You don't have an other half anymore."
So a soulmate was out of the question. That didn't mean she was dead. But that meant dating…ugh. They ought to have an Immortal dating service, she thought. That would get all the explanations about the Game and Quickenings and long lifelines out of the way. Having a relationship with a mortal was difficult, as she'd been painfully reminded by her few months with Fox. Hiding her true identity from him had taken its toll, especially when Immortals had been coming out of the woodwork at her. The first had been Kenny and his slaughtering of Pre-Immortal children, then Violette Crane, and finally Dana and Phoebe. The last two had driven a stake right through the heart of her relationship with Fox. Just when she had been about to confide her secrets to him, his partner turns out to be a new Immortal, with no idea of what she was. Phoebe Green had then ruined any chance of Diandra ever making things right with Fox when she'd forced Dee to kill her to save Dana's life. Nothing like killing your lover's old flame by chopping her head off in the parking garage at your beloved's workplace to ruin a relationship, not to mention running off with his partner and disappearing for five months.
Dana had tried to explain things to him, but the wound had been too deep. Mulder had trusted Dee, and she had betrayed him. He realized she'd done the best she could with an awful situation, but he couldn't forgive her. They were friends, if a man who tolerated her because she was necessary to his partner's keeping her head could be called a friend.
Dee shook her head. Learn from your mistakes, girl. Keep out of Blair's way, and he won't have a reason to be disappointed in you. She poured her coffee into a mug and added milk and honey. Taking a sip, she thought, "Still, there's a lot he could learn from you. Things that are important for him to know, necessary even, to partner a champion." Mmm, and the fringe benefits… She felt the hot flames of desire burning her cheeks. Yes, he is very attractive, and yes he is kind and sweet and adorable, but compared to you, he is a child! "Compared to me, everyone is an embryo," she sighed aloud. Oh, well, she'd made up her mind. She wasn't going to pursue any kind of relationship with Blair, be it as teacher, friend, or lover. That decision she knew would have Ellison doing cartwheels. Gazing around the apartment, she wondered what job to tackle today.
Just as she had decided to forgo any more unpacking for the moment, and take a run over to the university to check out her office and the teaching resources available to her, there was a knock at the door.
Upon opening it, she found Blair standing in the hallway, bouncing nervously. "Um, Dee, I want to apologize for Jim last night. We had a long talk, and he kind of admitted that maybe he was wrong to have run that background check without talking to you first. Anyway, I was, uh, wanting to know if we could still be friends."
Diandra began to respond, but Blair didn't give her the chance. "Because, um, I've made a decision. I want you to teach me how to protect my sentinel."
By the time Jim got off the elevator at Major Crimes, he was beginning to think coming to work had been a bad idea. Despite being wrapped in an Ace bandage, his knee was throbbing, and just the friction of his shirt against his skin was sending shooting pain through his ribs. He wrestled with the dials for a moment, and the levels dropped to merely annoying. A small sigh of relief escaped his lips, and he entered the bullpen, heading for his desk.
Just as he was about to sit down, he heard Simon bellow, "Ellison, my office!"
Entering Banks' office, he sank gratefully into a chair across from Simon's desk. Simon glanced up at his detective and did a double take. "You look like hell, Jim. Are you sure you should be here?"
"I'm fine, Simon." Jim growled, then grimaced as his sensitive ribs came in contact with the chair arm.
"Fine, my ass. What happened to you between the time you left last night and now? Did you run into trouble up in Seacouver?"
Jim flashed back on his interview with MacLeod, which had consisted of him asking about Diandra and MacLeod telling him to get out. "No, sir, not in Seacouver."
"Jim, if I didn't know better, I'd swear someone worked you over pretty good." Simon pinned him with an intimidating glare. "If you look this bad, I'd hate to see the other guy."
Ellison sighed. He might as well get this over with. "There's not a mark on her."
Intrigued, Simon leaned back in his chair, and laced his fingers together on top of his stomach. "Now this is a story I have to hear. What happen, you get kicked by a horse?"
"Just my next door neighbor." At Simon's surprised look, Jim continued. "Yes, she found out I ran a background check on her, and was not too happy about it."
"So she took her irritation out on your hide."
"That's about it, yeah."
Simon shook his head. "I should listen to my gut instincts more often. I knew when you mentioned her yesterday that you would get into trouble. Your nose for it is as sensitive as Sandburg's is. And, speaking of your neighbor, and trouble, that's why I called you in here. I received a call from the FBI this morning, complaining about your interference in an ongoing investigation regarding Dr. Pallas."
If Jim could have gotten his hands on anything, he would have thrown it. "God damn it, Simon, that's bullshit. The FBI are looking the other way when it comes to her involvement in those murders; hell, they're protecting her!"
"And with good reason, Jim. It seems she's helped them out on more than one occasion, first with catching a serial killer in North Carolina, and then with stopping some violent attacks in the Seacouver area. She was also part of a group that brought down that European terrorist, Pierce Holmes."
Jim sat back in his chair, stunned. "No one knows who blew his stronghold up and took out Holmes and his followers."
Simon shrugged. "I'm just repeating what I was told. For whatever reason, the FBI wants you to lay off. So I'm making it an order, Jim. No more snooping. Until such time Dr. Pallas actively participates in a crime, you are to leave her alone."
Jim left Simon's office fuming. Didn't anybody see it besides him? She wasn't normal! "But then," he heard his guide's voice inside his head, "neither are you." Jim sat down at his desk and opened one of the files he had ignored yesterday to run the background check. At least he knew she had lost some of the fascination she held for Sandburg. He only hoped it was enough to keep his guide away from her.
Dee stood in her open doorway, her blue eyes taking in the worried look on Blair's face. Stepping back, she waved him inside and shut the door behind him.
"Please, Dee, say something. I know you're still pissed at Jim, but please don't be angry with me. I want us to still be friends…"
Reaching out, Dee laid her hand on his arm. "Of course I'm not mad at you, Lobo. I'm not really mad at your roommate either. I lost my temper yesterday and I'm sorry. It's just that if your partner decides to make trouble for me here, then I'll have to move again, and I really don't want to do that. I like Cascade, and especially the people in it." She gave Blair a smile.
"Is that why you left Washington, DC? Because you were in trouble?" he asked without thinking.
She pulled her hand back, and her smile slowly faded. "There were a lot of reasons for me leaving, but I left because I had a student that needed my help. And the best place for me to train her was in Seacouver."
"Train?" Blair asked.
"Yes, train. Much like I'm going to do to you."
"Oh, wow, you mean you'll really help me? You'll teach me how to defend myself?"
Dee felt a smile tugging at her lips again as he fairly radiated excitement. She reminded herself that not five minutes ago she had been vowing to stay away from Blair. "Yes, but I swore I wasn't going to approach him. He's come to me," she thought. "That makes all the difference. It's his decision, I had nothing to do with it."
"Of course I'll help you, Lobo. It's what I do." As she said the words, she realized once again how true they were. No matter how hard she ran, no matter how well she hid, the fates had always found her and presented her with a problem to solve. From kings and queens seeking advice from the Oracle, to Gods bent on revenge, Amazons in need of a Champion, villages overrun by Crusaders, new Immortals needing the skills she taught, kidnapped friends, troubled FBI agents, and fledgling guides, the fates had lit the path to her door for them. After more than two millennia, she had given up offering more than a token resistance to their wishes. "So be it," she thought. "I am now an instructor of Companions."
Her thoughts returning to Blair, she found him staring at her, trying to hide the grin on his face. Obviously the sight of her in nothing but a blue silk robe that fell only to mid-thigh was highly distracting for him. "There's coffee and stuff in the kitchen for breakfast. Let me go change my clothes, and I'll be right with you." Brushing past him, she headed for the stairs.
"You don't have to get dressed on my account," Blair said softly, then blushed furiously as he realized he'd spoken out loud.
With a throaty chuckle, Dee turned back to him. "There's no reason to be embarrassed. I've looked at you like that on occasion, too. I've just never let you catch me." So saying, she crossed the studio to the stairs, aware of Blair's surprised gaze on her back the whole way.
Blair watched her climb the stairs, then headed for the kitchen. Pouring himself a cup of coffee, he picked up an orange from the counter and began to peel it. For the hundredth time he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Jim, he knew, would not approve. Pushing his hair back with one hand, he rubbed his temple. Despite what Jim might think, this was important; he could feel it in his gut, much the same way he had felt when he had met Jim. He knew he had to become part of this man's life, that Jim needed him.
Popping a slice of orange in his mouth, he wondered which would bother Jim more, that he was learning to fight, or that Diandra was his teacher. Probably Dee, he thought. If Jim knew he wanted to learn self-defense, he would insist on teaching Blair himself, and somehow Blair just couldn't be that vulnerable in front of Jim. He sighed. Maybe it was a guy thing, or maybe he really didn't want to know what Jim had learned as a Ranger. He knew Dee was just as, if not more, deadly than his sentinel, but somehow that was different. He didn't sense in her the darkness he sometimes felt in Jim, had felt especially when they had been dealing with Alex Barnes. With Diandra, while he knew she was dangerous, he felt that deadly force would always be a last resort with her, not just one more option available in her arsenal.
Still, Jim's response to Alex kept coming to mind. "This is nothing like that," he told himself. "I am not going there." There was no reason for Dee to bring that side of Jim to the fore, and yet…Jim had taken an instant dislike to her, much as he had with Alex. And then the thing with Alex had turned into that weird attraction/hate thing. Blair shuddered involuntarily. It had been terrifying to see his sentinel that out of control, acting in response to what Blair had believed were ancient biological drives.
Enough of this, he told himself and went back to analyzing his own reasons for wanting Dee to teach him instead of his partner. Maybe having Dee work with him was just an excuse to spend time with an intelligent, attractive and available woman. Okay, so that was Jim talking again. He knew what his partner thought of him, that he was a skirt-chasing Romeo. Blair had to admit he hadn't done much to change Jim's opinion of him in that area. But Diandra was different. He felt a connection to her that went beyond the purely physical. He remembered holding her in his arms the night she'd saved his life, feeling her relax and finally sleep as his fingers had stroked her hair. Sitting on the sofa with her curled up next to him, he'd felt…a rightness, a calmness, a peace he'd never felt before. She had felt safe with him too, trusted him enough to allow him that close to her after knowing him for only a few short hours. Unlike Jim, who had thought he was a nutcase when he had first met him. He shook his head. Why did he keep comparing the two of them?
His jumbled thoughts were interrupted by Dee's return. Stepping over to the counter, she stuck a bagel in the toaster and turned toward him. "You're sure you want to do this, Lobo?"
Blair nodded. "Okay," she replied, "but you should know what you're getting into. The ethic I have always tried to drill into my students is 'If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.' I won't say that I'm a perfectionist, but I have high expectations. After the first few days, you will probably hate me. But once you reach the point where everything becomes automatic, where the light goes on, and it all makes sense, then you will probably quit plotting to kill me." She gave him a grin, and began to butter her now toasted bagel. "As for what I'm going to teach you, well, I customize my teaching to the student, based on their physical ability, their body type, and their speed and agility. Just from looking at you," she said, circling him slowly, her blue eyes appraising him, "I would say you would do well at kick-boxing. You have strong legs and because of your size and weight, a kick is going to do more damage than a punch."
Blair began to feel a little nervous. "I really don't want to hurt any one…"
Dee smiled at him. "I know what you're feeling, Blair, and it's okay. It's difficult to think of using your skills on someone, but just remember, they are not going to be so sensitive to you. And I will be gearing your lessons toward disabling and subduing an attacker in the quickest way possible. That will be the biggest help you can give your sentinel."
Blair suddenly realized he had told Dee when she had opened the door to him that he wanted to "protect my sentinel." "Um, Dee, about what I said…"
"It's okay. I knew when I met you what you were. And I knew the moment I met Detective Ellison that he was your champion."
Blair stared at her in shock. "How?" he finally managed to ask.
Diandra sighed. "In new age jargon, it's called reading your aura."
"You mean you're psychic along with being able to heal people?"
"It's along story, Lobo, and I'm sure I'll be telling it to you soon, but I call my gift truth divination. I can see the inner truth about people; can't read minds, can't tell the future, but I can always tell when a salesman is trying to gyp me. Believe me, it's not as great as it sounds. Imagine you met this gorgeous girl and wanted to date her, but knew immediately she would dump you as soon as someone with more money came along."
He pondered that for a moment, then said, "I can see where that can lead to loneliness."
"Good thing I'm used to being alone," she laughed, a little bitterly
"Dee," he said seriously, "I would never do that to you."
Reaching out, she brushed the back of her fingers across his cheek. "I know you wouldn't, Lobo." Her dark blue eyes met his, and something intangible passed between them. For Blair, it felt like the soft click of a key turning in a lock, but which one of them was the key and which was the lock, he couldn't tell.
Shaking off the strange sensation, Dee took her bagel and headed for the studio. "Let's see what you already know."
Three weeks passed quickly for Blair. Late June turned into July, and he found he was spending more time at the university, preparing for the fall semester. Diandra was naturally spending more hours there too, getting her office in order, and planning her lessons. She and Blair had offices in the same building, as Hargrove Hall was home to both the anthropology and the history departments, though they were on different floors.
Blair had been spending most of his free time with her, when he wasn't working with Jim, soaking up her knowledge like a sponge. The training he was receiving had increased his self-confidence greatly, and he was no longer willing to stay in the truck when he and Jim were investigating a case. Jim had been irritated at first at Blair's refusal to obey him, but he sensed an indefinable change in him, a new strength and determination to be his partner in every sense of the word, not just when it was safe. So he hadn't protested too much when Blair became his shadow, always following a pace or two behind, watching his partner's back.
Dee had been true to her word; she was a harsh taskmistress. In addition to self-defense, she insisted Blair needed to build his stamina, forcing him to rise with the sun three times a week and run with her. That had been followed by two hours of martial arts, and, on the days they didn't run, she coached him in weight training. It hadn't taken long for Blair to see and feel the changes in his body, and his mind. He had more energy, and more belief in himself. The first time he dumped Dee on her back on the mat, he felt on top of the world. Of course that was followed by three trips to the mat himself, but it couldn't dampen his feeling of accomplishment.
Once she felt Blair was sufficiently far enough along in his training, Diandra began teaching him weapons. True to her promise, she didn't put a sword in his hand, but she started to teach him staff work, arguing that almost anything could be used as a staff. A broom or mop, a golf club, a bat, or a pool cue would serve just as well, and his ability to turn an ordinary object into a weapon would be an asset. She also worked on Blair's senses, teaching him to use them as a hunter would, to be aware of his surroundings and the potential dangers they held on a subliminal level. This way the chances of someone sneaking up on him were greatly reduced.
Blair had worried about Jim's reaction if he found out about Blair working with Dee, but so far he hadn't shown any signs he suspected what was going on. He did know that Blair was running with Dee, but Blair thought he had chalked it up to him trying to make some romantic headway with her, and he was content to let Jim keep that opinion. Part of him did feel guilty for deceiving his partner about his actions, but he knew in his heart Jim really wouldn't understand why he had to do this. Jim had never been the underdog, the class geek, the kid the bullies picked on. Now Blair had a chance to change all that, and he was determined to take it.
Working with Diandra had other benefits as well. She was a font of information about the Amazons' Champion and Companion, and he began to slowly integrate the knowledge he was picking up from her into his sentinel/guide relationship. Each night, when Jim came home from work, Blair would pick something he'd learned about the Champion and discuss it with Jim, asking for his opinion, trying to get him involved in the learning process along with him. To his surprise, some of the time Jim agreed to recreate some of the exercises Dee had told Blair about. While not all of them could be considered smashing successes, they did seem to draw the sentinel and guide closer together, slowly building a bridge across the gap Blair felt had sometimes hindered them.
As for Dee, the more she worked with Blair, the more she felt for him. He was becoming a good friend, one she knew she could trust with all the secrets of her complicated life. In fact, she thought he was beginning to suspect a great deal, especially about her knowledge of the Amazons, and the Champion. He'd asked her once about her opinion on reincarnation, and had smiled to himself when she told him she believed in it. But he never once actually pried, and for that she was grateful. The time was coming when she would have to tell him the truth, but she was glad not to have it hurried along.
More and more she found herself having to fight her attraction for him. He was as beautiful on the inside as he was on the outside, and his genuine caring and affection for her shone through in everything he did. She had her own rules for getting involved with her students, and she was determined not to let him see her feelings until he "graduated" from her tutelage. That time she knew was drawing near.
She watched him sometimes with his sentinel, opening up her "other" sight when they were together, noting with pride how the link between them grew stronger with each passing day. Her relationship with Ellison was civil, they said "hello" when they met in the hallway, but that was as far as it went. She could tell her mere presence still bothered him, and in a way he bugged her too, but it was nothing as far as she was concerned. The compulsion to beat the hell out of him was a thousand times weaker than her need to play the Game, and that need had not been strong for many centuries.
Much to her relief, it seemed as though she was the only Immortal in all of Cascade, or at least she had not run across any others of her kind yet, which was fine with her. And after that one appearance when she had been teaching Ellison a lesson, she had not seen the black mare again, either. Still, she couldn't help but feel the mare had been an omen, a portent of things to come. There was no use dwelling on it, though. When the fates were ready for her to know the next part of their plan for her, they would send a clear message. What bothered her most was the feeling that the next step involved danger, and Blair.
Blair bounded down the steps outside Hargrove Hall, his mind and mouth going a million miles a minute. Dee was following along behind, laughing at his description of the antics that morning at the police station. Reaching the bottom of the stairs first, he turned to see what was keeping her.
Diandra had stopped on the middle of the steps, her brow furrowed in concentration, or perhaps pain. Without warning, she clutched her hands to her head, doubling over and collapsing against the cement railing. When Blair reached her side, she was curled in a fetal position, her whole body telegraphing her agony. "Dee," he said in a frightened whisper, "Dee, what's wrong?" When he got no answer, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911. After asking for an ambulance, and giving his location to the operator, he turned his attention back to her, pulling her into his arms and whispering quiet words of encouragement to her, terrified by her lack of response. He had come to depend on her, to care so deeply for her. What would he do if she died?
Immortal Series Page