Diandra had been following Blair out of Hargrove Hall, half listening to him, half wondering what she would have for lunch. So she was caught completely unaware by the Immortal buzz that hit her halfway down the steps. She paused, searching the commons for the source of the sensation. No one in sight seemed to be reacting to her presence. Beginning to compare the buzz to ones she had felt previously, she realized too late that the pain and nausea it caused were escalating far out of normal range. A thousand voices suddenly echoed inside her head, and the world became a blinding, whirling kaleidoscope of light and color. Clapping her hands over her ears, and squeezing her eyes shut, she slid to the ground, not even sure which way was up any longer.
She didn't know how long she lay there, but finally the voices began to fade, a steady, rhythmic thumping taking their place. The sound calmed her, giving her a focus, a reality to cling to. Light, soothing touches on her back further grounded her, and she could now hear a quiet, familiar voice calling her name, giving her instructions, something about dials, turning down the dials. She struggled to follow the voice's advice, and slowly the world righted itself. She could feel the cool cement under her legs, and her upper body rested against something solid and warm. Fingers trailed slowly across her scalp, and the mingling smells of shampoo, sweat and the essence that was uniquely Blair filled her nostrils. Slowly she opened her eyes, and found herself gazing into Blair's worried blue eyes.
"You okay, Dee?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper.
Nodding, she sat up, gingerly testing her voice. "Yeah, I think so. What happened?"
Blair rubbed her cheek gently, wiping away a smudge of dirt. "Total sensory overload. I've never seen that happen before, not even with Jim. You scared the shit out of me."
"Sorry," she said, then winced in pain, covering her ears once more.
A few seconds later, Blair heard the ambulance's siren also. Leaning closer to her, he whispered, "Turn the hearing dial down a couple more notches, until the sound doesn't hurt anymore."
Dee did as she was told, then sat quietly on the steps, content to let Blair deal with the EMTs. Resting her aching head in her hands, she pondered this strange turn of events. It hadn't been entirely unexpected. The black mare had been a signpost; she'd just chosen to conveniently ignore it. Now she would have to deal with this change, and the possibility that Blair would feel she'd lied to him. Lifting her head to gaze at him, she watched as he sent the ambulance crew on their way, then turned toward her, his face reflecting not anger, but confusion. Dee flipped her braid back over her shoulder. Now was the time for the truth.
Grabbing her hand as she held it out to him, Blair helped her up. "So where do we go from here, Dee?" he said quietly, the slightest tone of hurt coloring his words.
His pain cut her deeply, and she pulled him into a hug, trying to say with actions what she couldn't quite manage with words at the moment. She backed up a step, but didn't completely let him go. "I'm sorry, Lobo. I can't really explain what happened here, though I'm beginning to form a theory. But it's time for you to know the truth about me. What you do with that information will then be up to you." Releasing him, she headed down the steps and across the commons to the bench they usually sat on to eat lunch. Picking up his backpack, Blair followed her, beginning to wonder if he knew her at all.
After stopping at the student union for sandwiches and bottles of iced tea, Dee settled herself on "their" bench, removing her trenchcoat and tossing it on the back of the seat beside her. Drawing her feet up, she sat cross-legged, popping the top on her tea and taking a long swig before she turned to meet Blair's steady gaze.
He sat next to her on the bench, his backpack between his feet, his sandwich and tea untouched. "Why Dee?" he asked her. "Why didn't you tell me you were a sentinel?"
She closed her eyes, letting memories of her years as a champion flow to the surface. Opening her eyes, she said, "I haven't been a champion for a very long time, not since my companion died." She paused for a beat, while Blair digested that information, then said, "That was 2,680 years ago."
Blair's eyes widened, and he flinched away from her involuntarily. That small motion hurt her more than any of his words ever could. She gazed up at the sky for a long time, willing the tears back. Finally she looked at him. "I am Immortal, Blair. I was born on summer solstice 2,800 years ago, in Delphi, Greece. I was raised in the temple of Apollo, trained from birth to take my place as Apollo's highest priestess, the Oracle. At the age of 25 I died my first death, at the hands of another Immortal. When I awoke, my God gave me over to his sisters, to learn the skills I would need to survive in the Game." She could see the question forming on Blair's lips, and she pressed her fingertips to them. "Patience, Lobo. I will answer all your questions, but let me finish."
Nodding, Blair settled back in his seat, and unwrapped his sandwich, taking a bite as she continued. "I lived among the Amazons for nearly a hundred years, learning from Artemis and Athena the art of war, of weapons and combat. When she deemed I was ready, Artemis sent me to fetch the new queen of the Amazons, a girl she had handpicked to lead them. Little did I know she was a head-strong, 17 year-old princess in a far off land, betrothed to a neighboring prince and having no desire to leave her comfortable life." Dee smiled at the memory. "She was a tiny, red-headed spitfire, and objected quite strenuously to being thrown over my saddle and spirited off into the night. But over the long trip back to Amazon territory, we came to depend on each other, especially after Artemis 'gifted' me with the heightened senses of a champion. Lydia became my companion, my best friend, my Queen, and my lover. We were together for 20 years, until she was killed in battle." Dee paused, sipping at her tea, trying to get past the memory of her soulmate dying in her arms.
Feeling Blair's hand on her arm, she turned toward him, reading the compassion plainly visible in his eyes. Sliding his hand down to hers, he squeezed it gently, unable to begin to comprehend the agony that loss must have put her through. "How did you stay sane?" he asked quietly.
Dee shuddered at his words. "I didn't," she replied. "I threw myself on her funeral pyre, even though I knew it wouldn't kill me. But the pain did overload my senses, shut them down completely, until now, that is. It also drove me insane. I spent nearly two centuries wandering around Europe, barely surviving, an outcast even among the Amazons. Finally, I was confronted by another of my kind, and had to choose whether I wanted to live or die. I chose to live." She paused then, seeing Blair had something he wanted to say.
"So that's what you meant when you told Jim you were 'Diandra of Delphi'. I looked that name up, you know. I found it in an obscure Greek poem by Sappho, an ode to the death of the Amazon Queen. 'Lydia, the light is fading, Persephone your name is calling, but enter not the Elysian Fields 'til your Champion walks at your side. Diandra of
Delphi, warrior of Thymescria, grieve for your Queen& ," he quoted.
Dee felt her chest tighten unbearably at his words, and she clutched at his hand. "Oh, god, Dee, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he said, sliding his arm around her shoulders, feeling her hot tears on his skin as she buried her face in his neck. He felt her body shaking with sobs, and he realized that no matter how interesting this was from a historical point of view, it was real to her. She had lived through the grief and the pain, and was putting herself through it again for him, so he would understand who and what she was.
Finally, she pulled away, sitting up and wiping her eyes with the heel of her hand. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get so worked up over something that happened over 2000 years ago."
"It's okay," Blair told her. "I don't think anyone could forget that kind of pain."
Dee laughed weakly. "Immortals can't forget anything. I remember what I had for breakfast on this date 300 years ago. It's one of our blessings, and our curses." She blew her nose on a napkin, and unwrapped her sandwich, unsure of where she should go from here.
Blair solved her dilemma for her. "What is the game you mentioned?"
"Ah, the Game. There are few rules to the Game, the foremost being 'There can be only one'. Only one Immortal left at the end of the Game, possessing all the power and knowledge of all Immortals, or so the legend goes. No one really knows the reason for the Game, but it consists of one on one armed combat between two Immortals, winner taking the loser's head, and thus his Quickening, or his life force."
She heard Blair breathe, "The swords& "
"Yes, the swords. All Immortals have to learn to fight, or spend the rest of their lives on Holy Ground, where no Immortal dare kill another. Once the fight is engaged, no one can interfere." Dee could see the horror and confusion on Blair's face.
"Immortals are just like you, Lobo. We're good, we're bad, we're somewhere in between. Most of us just want to be left alone and live our lives in peace. But those who desire power will always challenge those they think they can beat. And sometimes Immortals have to dispense justice on their own. Most of us frown upon harming mortals, but some of us think nothing of using or killing mortals in their own quest for power. No mortal jail or method of execution will ever stop them, and it is up to the rest of us to punish them."
"By killing them!?" Blair squeaked.
"Yes," Diandra replied quietly. She could see the whole idea was appalling to him. "I know how you feel, Blair, but it's a part of my life. I had to learn to accept it in order to survive. I only fight when challenged, or to stop the killing of others. If there is any way to best an opponent and give them the opportunity to walk away, I will take it." She looked down at the ground sadly. "Though some of them are so blinded by the bloodlust that they refuse the opportunity to live to fight another day."
Blair leaned forward, burying both hands in his hair. Jim had been right about her; she was a killer. "Those deaths in DC," he gasped, unable to call them murders, "you were responsible."
"Yes," she said sadly. "Neither of them had to happen, but they just couldn't walk away when beaten. The Crane woman was barely trained, I don't know what she was thinking. The fight lasted all of five minutes, and I told her to walk away; I offered to recommend someone to train her. She refused, picked up her sword and came at me again. I gave her more than one opportunity to give it up. I had no other choice." She sighed, thinking of the desperate battle in the parking garage of the Hoover Building. "Phoebe Green came after my unarmed, untrained student. She nearly killed her before I arrived. I disarmed her, told her to leave, that she would have another chance once my student had time to learn the Game. She threatened to kill Fox. I knew she was telling the truth, that if Dana and I left, she would think nothing of murdering him. I just& .I lost it. I haven't felt that kind of rage in centuries& " She clenched her tea bottle so hard her knuckles turned white.
Closing his eyes, Blair listened to his heart pounding. He didn't know what to do. She had just confessed to killing two people, god knew how many more she had killed in nearly three millennia. He should call Jim, he should call Simon, he should get up and start running and never stop. And yet& he remembered her kneeling over his dying body, pouring her own life force into him. She had been his friend, his teacher, the first person he could talk to about his sentinel and know she really understood. She had never hurt him, never lied to him, even now, when lying would have been the easy road to take. She didn't have to tell him these things; she could have left out her immortality, just told him she had been a sentinel once. But that wouldn't be her.
He sneaked a glance at her through the fringe of his hair. She was leaning against the back of the bench, her eyes closed, her face a silent mask of pain, tears glistening on her cheeks. He felt them burning against his own eyelids, and he swallowed past the hard lump in his throat. Had it been like this when she had told Fox Mulder what she was? He knew instinctively she had, and knew Mulder couldn't accept it, had turned away from her pain, pretended it didn't exist, pretended she hadn't killed to save him, to save his partner. Blair felt an unreasonable rage boiling inside of him, at Mulder, at himself, at anyone who couldn't see what her life had cost her.
"Dee," he said softly, turning toward her, pulling her into his arms. "Oh, Dee, I'm so sorry, so sorry." He held her tightly, feeling her once again sobbing against him, and he loosed the reins on his own tears, crying for her, for her companion, for himself for ever doubting her and adding to her pain.
When she finally pulled away, she laughed uneasily. "Well, that was certainly cathartic," she said.
He managed a weak smile as he wiped the remaining wetness from his face. "You gonna eat that sandwich?" he asked, bringing a sense of normalcy to what had been a bizarre conversation.
Diandra handed him half her lunch and stole half of his in return. "Lobo," she said, "you are amazing. I am so lucky to have you in my life." Leaning over, she pressed her lips to his cheek, unable to find any more words to express the joy she was feeling.
Blair felt a small shudder of pleasure dance from his head to his toes at her touch. Did she know what she did to him? The look of smug satisfaction on her face told him she did. He made himself more comfortable on the bench, and spent a couple minutes devouring his lunch. When he felt enough time had passed for them to distance themselves from their raw emotions, he started asking questions, and she answered them.
She told him what had happened on the steps of the anthropology building, that she had felt another Immortal's buzz, and that had somehow triggered her senses going haywire. "So you Immortals can sense one another coming," Blair mused.
"Yes, kind of an early warning system. Most of us can't differentiate one Immortal's buzz from another's, but I can to a degree. I know people I've met before, and I can pretty much tell whether a strange Immortal is friend or foe. I think it has something to do with my truth divination."
"So what was this Immortal you felt today?"
"No one I knew, but definitely bad. Very bad." She rubbed her arms, as if she was suddenly cold. "But he wasn't interested in me, that's what's strange. I know he felt me& it just seemed his attention was on something else."
Blair dug in his backpack and taking out a hair tie, he proceeded to pull his hair back off his face. "Let me ask you another question," he said. "Do you think it was him that caused your senses to come back online?"
"I don't know. I knew this was coming, though. I saw the mare the night I beat up on your partner."
"Mare? What mare?"
"My spirit guide. Yours is a wolf, Ellison's is a black jaguar," she told him.
He stared at her, then grabbed a notebook from his pack and started scribbling. "You can see our guides?"
"Yeah, I saw yours the day I met you. Look, I know this is probably hard for you to believe," she said, "but I've lived long enough to discover that nothing ever happens to me without a reason. My senses have come back because I'm going to need them."
Blair considered that for a moment. He agreed with the idea of kismet. What else would have brought two such direct opposites as himself and Jim together? For that matter, what else could have brought Diandra to Cascade? But still, he was a scientist; he had to consider all the possibilities. "Are you sure it's that? Or could they be back because you've been in close contact with a guide?"
Smiling, Dee nodded, her braid bobbing. "It's all connected, Lobo. You, me, sentinels, companions, mortals, Immortals& "
Blair was getting a headache trying to follow the twists and turns of her logic. "Okay, I'll take your word on that. But what do you think this other Immortal in Cascade means?"
"Trouble, that I'm sure of. For whom I don't know, but it's my responsibility to stop it." Getting to her feet, she slid her coat on. Blair stared at her in awe. With that small move, she had transformed from vulnerable woman to Immortal Champion. Cascade was not going to know what hit it, with two Sentinels on the job. Reaching her hand out
to him, she pulled him up. "You have any pressing plans this afternoon?" At his head shake, she said, "Because I have a friend in Seacouver who will know what's up with this guy if anyone does. It's Friday night, think Ellison would mind if I whisked you away on an over night trip to Seacouver?"
"Don't know," he said, "but it doesn't matter. Jim's on a prisoner transfer assignment. He left for San Francisco this morning, and won't be back 'til Sunday at the earliest."
Dee cocked an eyebrow at him. "While the cat's away, the wolf will play, eh?"
Blair linked his arm through hers with a grin, "Lead on, Champion."
After a quick stop at the loft to grab a change of clothes for each of them, Blair and Diandra piled into her Cherokee and took off for Seacouver. The hour-long drive was filled with chatter, as Blair asked every question under the sun about her life, Immortals, Champions, Gods and Amazons. Dee answered them all gladly, just happy to have Blair by her side, still her friend, instead of her enemy.
Blair finally quieted down as they entered the outskirts of Seacouver, and he looked around eagerly, wondering whom she was taking him to see. She had been very mysterious about her friend, only saying she was sure Blair would find him a kindred spirit. So, he was quite surprised when she pulled into the fairly empty parking lot of a disreputable looking bar in the warehouse district, called, if the neon sign was correct, "Joe's".
Hopping out of the truck, Diandra pulled on her trenchcoat, reaching inside to adjust the position of her katana. Blair watched her movements closely; the hair on the back of his neck raising as she closed her eyes and extended her senses. It was weird watching someone other than Jim do it, and he took mental notes on her technique, impressed that she'd automatically taken a moment to center herself, something he was forever reminding Jim to do. Opening her eyes, she shot him a grin over the hood of the truck. "All clear," she announced.
"That kind of place, huh?" he said, following her across the asphalt to the door.
"Yep," she replied, "it's kind of an Immortal hangout. But we're probably the only customers right now. I only detected four other people in the building." Pulling open the door, she entered with a confidence Blair wished he was feeling.
Dee stepped immediately over to the bar, while Blair paused in the doorway, letting his eyes adjust to the change in lighting. A long bar ran along side the right wall of the place, tables and chairs occupied the center of the wooden floor, a couple booths lined the left wall. Steps led to what Blair imagined must be more seating upstairs. A small stage took up the back left of the room, and an older man with grizzled hair and beard sat on a stool atop the stage, languid, tormented blues filling the room from the guitar held across his lap.
Taking a step further into the room, Blair watched Dee leaning against the bar, swaying to the music, her eyes never leaving the figure on the stage. Just when he thought things couldn't get any stranger, he heard singing, a deep husky alto that grabbed him by the heart and gave him goose bumps, a voice full of dark secrets. The man on the stage looked toward the bar in surprise, but kept playing, and that's when Blair realized Dee was the one singing.
Plopping himself on a stool at the end of the bar, Blair watched as Dee sashayed across the room towards the guitar player, timing her walk so she ended up at the stage just as the song finished. Dee leaned up and kissed the man on the cheek, and Blair felt an irrational surge of jealousy. Putting the guitar aside, the man climbed down from the stool and with the help of a cane, made his way to the bar, Dee following in his wake. She took a seat next to Blair, and the older man went behind the counter, immediately setting a glass in front of Dee. He gave Blair a curious look, then said, "So, Dee, what brings you back to Seacouver? I thought you were all settled in Cascade, despite that bit of trouble MacLeod said you ran into."
Dee grinned, and for the first time since Blair had met her, she fairly bounced in her chair. "I'll fill you in in a minute, Joe, but first I want you to meet my friend and student, Blair Sandburg. Lobo, this is my good friend, and favorite bartender, Joe Dawson."
Joe extended his hand over the bar, and Blair took it, finding his grip firm and confident. Even in the dim lighting, he noticed the unusual tattoo on the man's right wrist; a blue circle with what looked from Blair's angle to be a stylized bird, or maybe a "V". He was trying to remember where he'd seen the symbol before, when he realized Dee was talking about him. "Blair's an anthropology professor at Rainier," he heard her say.
"Uh, doctoral student, actually," he amended.
"That's interesting," Joe commented, pouring what looked like mineral water into the glass in front of Dee, and adding a slice of lime to it. "And what'll you be having?" he asked Blair.
Still a bit out of sorts, he gestured at Dee's drink, and said, "Whatever she's having will be fine." With a grin, Joe set up another glass.
"So," Dee asked, "have you heard from Mac lately?"
Joe shook his head. "He's in Japan on a buying trip. Should be home the middle of next week, why?"
"No reason, just was planning to stay at the loft tonight, and wondered if we would run into him."
"No such luck," Joe replied. "You still have your keys, don't you?"
Dee nodded and took a sip of her drink. Blair tried his too, and found it to be some kind of sparkling water. Joe turned his gaze back on Blair, scrutinizing him. "So this is your new student?" he finally said.
Dee laughed, and replied "Oh, Joe, not that kind of student. He's not like me; I've just been teaching him martial arts. He's an observer with the Cascade PD. His partner's the guy Mac was probably bending your ear about for a week."
Blair felt Joe reappraising him, but he made no comment. The phone rang, and as Joe went to answer it, Blair played back the past few minutes in his mind, realizing that Joe thought when Dee had said he was her student, she had meant he was Immortal. He put two and two together, realizing that Joe must be a mortal because he didn't automatically know Blair wasn't an Immortal. If they were going to keep this up all night, Blair was going to have one hell of a headache, trying to keep track of the players without a program.
Joe hung up the phone and turned back to them. "So is this a social call, Dee? Or do you have some favor you need from me?" He tried to sound stern, but he was grinning as he said it.
Sighing, Diandra pushed the lime to the bottom of her glass with her straw. "It's a favor, Joe, of the kind you only do for Mac."
The bearded man shook his head. "Dee& You know it's against the rules, yours and mine."
"I know it is, Joe, and I wouldn't be asking you, except all my instincts are screaming at me that this is gonna be bad. And you're the only one who can possibly help me."
Blair watched the bartender's reaction, seeing it change from skepticism to worry at the mention of Dee's instincts. "Bad like Paris was bad?" he asked.
Dee nodded slowly. "People are going to die, Joe, unless I can stop this guy. The problem is, I don't know who I'm looking for. I need to know if there are any other Immortals in Cascade."
Joe shot a quick glance from her to Blair. Dee nodded, then said, "He's a friend, Joe. I owed him that much."
The anthropologist spoke up then. "I would never betray Dee, just as she would never betray me." Her sapphire eyes captured his crystal blue ones then, and the warmth and affection he saw there made him blush. "You know I wouldn't, Dee," he said, wiggling uncomfortably under her gaze.
"I know you wouldn't, Lobo," she replied, leaning in close enough for him to feel her breath tickling his ear, brushing her shoulder against his.
Joe watched the interplay between the two with interest. This was a new side of Dee, warm, open, hell, she was flirting with the guy, and he seemed as astonished by it as Joe was. Quite a change from the last time he'd seen her. He'd teased her then about changing her name to MacLeod, because her demeanor so closely resembled the dour Scot's black moods. Must be the water in Cascade. With a sigh, he resigned himself to his fate. "Come on in the back, you two. I'll check my email, see if anyone new has entered the Pacific Northwest."
Blair followed Joe into the bar's office, Dee bringing up the rear. Seating himself at a computer, Joe turned it on, and waited for it to boot up, gesturing for them to pull up a couple chairs. Shedding her black duster, Dee took a seat beside him, Blair taking a position slightly behind her, after slipping on his glasses. Joe clicked on an icon, and the screen dissolved into a marble patterned background, the symbol tattooed on Joe's wrist visible in a stylized relief on the screen. Typing in a password, the words "Watcher Database" flashed briefly on the screen, then dissolved into what looked like a complicated search engine.
Blair's chin was practically resting on Dee's shoulder as he tried to get a better look. "What's a Watcher?" he asked Dee.
"Someone who watches Immortals, records their history. The Watchers have been around almost as long as I have. Most Immortals have no idea of their existence. They have rules and regulations just as complicated as the ones for playing the Game."
Joe shot her a glance over his shoulder. "If anyone knew I was helping you, I'd be in serious trouble. I've checked the database updates, and there's no other Immortal listed in Cascade, not even any that were passing through. What else can you tell me about this Immortal you've never seen?"
Dee sighed. "We may have seen him, Joe. We just don't know who he was out of all the people in the area when I felt the buzz."
"Exactly where were you anyway?"
Blair answered for her. "Standing outside the anthro/history building on Rainier's campus at lunchtime. Even during summer semester, there's at least a couple hundred people in the immediate vicinity."
"That's going to make it difficult, but give me what you got. You're sure he's male?"
Nodding, Dee closed her eyes, trying to bring back the exact flavor of the buzz. She felt Blair's hand begin to slowly rub her back, his voice low and hypnotic. "Try to filter out everything else, Dee, concentrate only on your Immortal warning system. We were coming out of the building, going down the steps. You stopped and& "
"I can feel him," she said. "He's fairly young, I'd say 200 to 300 years old. But powerful& he's taken a lot of heads. His Quickening feels like a snake, coiled and hissing and waiting to strike." She shifted uncomfortably in the chair, and Blair moved his hand higher, so he was now rubbing the back of her neck. The pleasant sensation kept her from falling into the memory of her sensory overload. "My buzz is distracting him; he's busy; he's looking for someone; he doesn't have time for me; he's gone."
Opening her eyes, she turned to look at Blair. "That was great, Lobo. You're really good at this," she said. "I couldn't have recalled that much without your help."
Grinning, Blair lowered his hand from her neck, resting it on the back of her chair. "It's my job," he replied casually, but inside he was glowing from her praise.
"If you two are done congratulating yourselves, I have some suspects for you to look at," Joe said, having entered the info Diandra had given into the search engine.
There were about fifty possibilities, and the two of them went through them carefully, but none of the photos seemed familiar. Still, Joe sent off a blanket email to their watchers, asking for their whereabouts that day. After sending the message on it's way, Joe turned back to Dee and Blair. "Sorry I can't be of much more help, but their watchers will know where they were today, and get back to me."
Dee smacked herself in the forehead with the palm of her hand. "Their watchers! How could I be so stupid! Joe, you have a watcher on me, right?" The grey-haired man nodded. "If they were watching me this afternoon, they had to have seen me react to the buzz. Maybe they got a look at this Immortal."
"It's worth a shot," Joe said. "I'll contact them and see if they saw someone reacting to you. If not, I'll ask them to go over the Immortals in the database, see if they spot someone they recognize from this afternoon."
"Thanks, Joe," Dee said, taking his hand and giving it a squeeze. "How soon do you think you'll have the info?"
"Maybe tonight, but more likely tomorrow. I'll give you a call at the loft. Or," he said, suddenly having a brainstorm, "you could hang around here tonight, have dinner, listen to the band. We've got a great piano trio here tonight& and then if it gets too late, you can head over to the loft, and I'll call you tomorrow as soon as I know anything. Dinner and drinks are on me."
Dee's eyes lit up. "That would be great, Joe. Is that okay with you, Lobo?" she asked, turning to Blair. "Joe's has the best ribs west of Chicago."
"Free food? Count me in!" he replied.
Gathering up their things, they headed back out into the bar, and took their seats in one of the booths. The waitress came to take their drink order. "Joe said to order whatever you want guys, it's on the house."
"Just another sparking mineral water with lime for me," Dee said. "Mmm, and can you make me a strawberry daiquiri without alcohol."
"Sure," she replied, then turned to Blair. When he hesitated, Dee said, "Just because I'm not drinking doesn't mean you don't have to."
Blair thought for a moment, then said, "Bring me a Sharp's." Writing the order down, the waitress went back to the bar.
"You could have had a regular beer, Lobo. I don't mind."
He shook his head. "I figured you must be expecting trouble, and I'm your backup, so& "
Dee laughed lightly. "I don't ever drink alcohol. Even one drink can cause a fatal mistake, and one never knows when the challenge will come, so I just don't indulge. But you can't interfere in my fight, Blair, so if you wanted a beer, you should have ordered a beer."
Blair was beginning to argue the difference between their concepts of backup with her when his cell phone rang. Rummaging through his backpack, he pulled it out and pressed the answer button. "Hello."
"Sandburg! Where in the hell are you? I've tried the station, the university, the loft& " Jim's voice was overlaid with static.
"Uh, I'm not in Cascade, Jim. I'm in Seacouver," Blair replied.
There was another burst of static, then a curious "What are you doing there?"
Blair obfuscated. "Research& .yeah, research. I heard about this guy who's a historian up here and& "
Jim interrupted him. "Okay, I hate to cut this short, but this connection is getting worse. I just wanted to let you know I may be home by tomorrow night. Talk to you later."
"Jim, when you get home, we need to have a talk, okay?" There was an undecipherable response from Jim, then Blair found himself listening to a dead phone. He turned it off, and put it away. "Bad connection," he said to Dee.
Dee played with the cardboard coaster the waitress had brought with their drinks while he was on the phone. "Is that little talk by any chance going to be about me?"
Still digging through his stuff, Blair looked up at her. "Um, yeah. Is that a problem?"
She shook her head. "No, no, I just wanted to make sure you were going to let him know there's another sentinel around, though I think he's had a better sense of what's been going on with me than I have."
Blair pondered that for a moment. "That would explain his dislike of you, if he sensed your powers returning before you did. He has been acting kind of strange, but not nearly as bad as the last time."
"The last time? You mean there's been two sentinels in Cascade before?"
Turning to look at the bar, Blair avoided her gaze. How could he tell her he'd screwed up so badly then? That he had nearly destroyed his friendship with Jim over Alex Barnes? And what if that's what it came down to this time? What if Jim made him choose? He knew there was only one choice he could make, but that didn't mean it wouldn't hurt him, or Diandra. He turned back to find she had scooted around the curve of the booth and was now sitting right next to him, her concerned eyes peering intently into his own.
"Lobo?" she said, her voice soft, her hand covering his where it lay on the table. "I can see it hurt you very much. Tell me what happened, so we can avoid it happening again."
"I& uh& I found another sentinel, and she had no idea what was happening to her, so I was trying to help her, but I made the mistake of not telling Jim about her. Meanwhile, Jim's senses were starting to act weird on him, and he quit talking to me, eventually he packed all my stuff and just kicked me out, without telling me what was going on. Neither of us knew what was happening to him was tied to Alex's appearance. On top of that, she was a criminal& and she nearly killed me."
He felt Dee's fingers tighten around his own, and she swore softly in that language Blair didn't recognize, or at least he guessed it was swearing by the tone. "Where is this chica now?" she asked.
He told her the rest of the story, about the nerve gas and the trip to Mexico, and Jim being drawn to Alex there. "Last I heard she was still in the mental hospital, Dee, so far into a zone that no one can reach her. What I never could figure out was what was going on between the two of them. One minute they would be trying to kill each other, and the next they were a few layers of clothes away from doing the horizontal nasty. She even pointed a gun at me, and Jim made no move to stop her."
Sitting back in the booth, Dee slid her arm around Blair's shoulders, and he found himself leaning into her half embrace, needing her heat to warm the ice flowing through his veins. "What if that happens this time, Dee?" he asked finally. "I couldn't go through that again. I mean, at least Alex was a bad person, in some ways she deserved what she got, but you& .If Jim hurt you, or you hurt him, I don't know what I'd do."
"That's not going to happen, Blair," Diandra reassured him.
"How do you know it won't? It seems like it's something genetic, some instinct Jim can't control."
"But I can."
He turned his face toward her, his eyes asking a hundred questions, desperately wanting to believe her. He felt her fingers rubbing the back of his neck gently, as he had done earlier to her. She was trying to distract him from his worries, he realized, and damn, it was working. He couldn't focus enough to dream up a worst case scenario if he tried. Her confident words added to the mix.
"What happened between Jim and Alex, and is happening to a much lesser extent between him and me, is a classic battle for dominance. It happens all the time in the wild; the two strongest will battle for control of the herd or the pack. Only one can lead, you see. But I have an edge; I've been dealing with a very powerful genetic instinct for years. It's called the Game. The newest Immortals are the most affected by it. A buzz can send them into a bloodlust, causing them to hunt and kill with no regard for the consequences, or their own lives. Older immortals are stronger. Each Quickening we take, each year we age gives us the strength to separate ourselves further and further from pure instinctual action. I haven't fought in bloodlust in over 2000 years, Lobo. And believe me, the Game instinct is much stronger than the 'only one Sentinel in the village' one is. Besides, Cascade is Jim's territory, Jim's protectorate. I have no such ties there. The only thing I think comes closest to it for most Immortals is the student/teacher bond. They are the only things we really have a claim to. None of us can really stay in one place long enough to make it our territory."
Blair could see a few holes in that theory. "Then what was the purpose of defeating Jim in that little fight you had, if not to establish dominance?"
Dee grinned at him. "That was me blowing off steam. Yeah, I proved I was better than Jim, but I didn't take over what was his. I'm not out protecting the people of Cascade or anything."
"Are you sure of that?" Blair asked, his hand coming up to lightly grasp the fingers that were still doing interesting things to his neck.
"Uh& Lobo, that's not what it looks like. I'm not trying to steal you away from Jim. I couldn't do it if I wanted to. Champions and companions are bonded, are soulmates. An outside force can't come between them, not in the way you're thinking." But she removed her hand, much to Blair's disappointment.
The waitress chose that moment to come by again to take their dinner order, their new positions in the booth causing her to raise an eyebrow, but she made no comment. When she had left, Blair addressed his second question to Dee. "Okay, so you've explained away the rivalry thing. But what about the sex?"
"What about the sex? Well, two sentinels together is kind of kinky. I mean, think of all the arguments about whose turn it is to be on top. A guide/sentinel pair works out much better, if they're so inclined& " At Blair's uncomfortable look, she tried to make up for her faux paux. "Um, not that I'm implying you should be sleeping with Ellison, if that's not your thing& That's not your thing is it?" she asked, peering at him intently. Blair choked on the mouthful of beer he'd just taken, and she thumped him on the back. "Oh, you mean am *I* suddenly going to be lying in wait in the hallway for Ellison?" She snorted. "Highly unlikely. He's not my type. As far as I can tell, he's not interested in me either, and I hope it stays that way. Otherwise, I'm going to have to let him know the score& "
"And the score is?" Blair gasped, still half choking.
Diandra looked him right in the eye and winked at him. "Sandburg 1, Ellison 0." Scooting back around to her side of the booth, she got up. "I'm going to the little Immortals room. Be back in a minute."
As soon as she left the table, Blair buried his face in his hands. If he didn't know better, he'd swear she was coming on to him.
"You doing okay there, son?"
He looked up to see Joe standing next to him. "Uh, yeah, I'm just a little confused right now, that's all."
Pulling up a chair from a nearby table, Joe sat down. "Dee tends to have that effect on people," he said with a grin.
Blair groaned. "Is it that obvious?"
Chuckling, Joe said, "I think it was obvious when she sat down at the bar and introduced you. I don't know who you are, or how you met her, but thank god you did."
Now Blair was more confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean I haven't seen Dee this happy in ages. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen her this happy. And believe me, she needs some happiness in her life."
"How long have you known her?" Blair asked.
"Personally? A little over two years. As a Watcher? Let's just say she was one of those myths; she ranked right up there with Methos. Before she came to Seacouver two years ago, everyone thought she was dead. She hadn't been seen by a Watcher in over 800 years. And when she did come out of the Outback, it was for revenge."
"Doesn't sound like her, does it? But she'd been led to believe that one of her former students had been killed in the Game, by the same Immortal that had caused her first death. In reality, it was a ruse by an evil Immortal to draw the both of them out, hoping one would kill the other, and he would take whoever was left. That would have made him perhaps the most powerful Immortal in the world."
"Dee is one of the oldest and most powerful Immortals. The man she was looking for is even older, over 5000 years old."
Blair was beginning to get the hang of this power thing. "And if the bad guy had taken their Quickenings, he would be gaining nearly 8000 years worth of power. Wow! What happened?"
"Dee and Methos joined with MacLeod to find this guy, and rescue MacLeod's kinsman, Connor. I don't know what they did, but it had enough power to blow up an entire fortress outside of Paris." Joe shook his head at the memory. "Dee was unconscious for a week after that. Whatever she did took a hell of a lot out of her."
"Joe! Are you boring Blair with old war stories?" Dee said, coming up behind him, and putting her hands on her hips in amused indignation.
"All right, all right, I'm going. I know when I'm not wanted." Joe rose to his feet, leaning on his cane. "I'll just leave you two alone," he said, giving Blair a wink as he headed back toward the bar.
Dee crawled back into the booth just as the waitress brought their rib baskets. There was silence at the table for a few minutes, as they both attacked the spicy pork. "This is incredible," Blair said, coming up for air after his third rib.
She nodded in response, her mouth full. Blair reached over and wiped a smear of sauce off her chin with his finger. He was about to wipe it on his napkin, when he had a better idea. He stuck it in his mouth and licked it off, watching Dee's eyes widen in surprise. Grinning, he attacked his meal again. This day was growing more interesting by the minute, and it was far from being over.
Leaning back in the booth, Dee laced her fingers over her stomach, and groaned. "I think that second side of ribs was a mistake. I feel like I'm gonna explode!"
Dropping a bare bone onto his already littered plate, Blair nodded. "Yes, but that was the best barbecue I've ever tasted. We've gotta bring Jim here some time," he said, wiping his fingers on a napkin, and then tossing it on top of the remains of his meal.
Dee smiled at his reference to "we", wondering if he'd noticed he'd automatically included her in his plans. Better yet, she wondered how the three of them having dinner together would go over with Jim. "Say, Jim, the ribs here are great. By the way, Dee's a sentinel, and as much as you'd love to kill her right now, it won't do you any good. She's immortal." Oh, yeah, that's going to be a fun conversation. The trio of musicians taking the stage interrupted her mildly unpleasant thoughts.
"The band's warming up, Lobo. Why don't you come sit over here so you can see them?" she said, patting the bench next to her. Blair edged around the booth until he was sitting beside her, just as the music started. The pianist, bass player and drummer were quite good, running through an eclectic selection of blues, jazz and swing tunes.
Dee finished off her daiquiri, and eyed the plump strawberry the bartender had stuck on the glass as a garnish. She really was stuffed. "Hey, Blair, want a strawberry?" she offered, holding the fruit between her thumb and forefinger.
Nodding, Blair leaned forward, neatly grabbing the berry with his teeth, his lips closing lightly over her fingertips. Glancing up at her from that position, he saw her eyes were shining with a warmth he'd thought blue eyes were incapable of. A small smile parted her lips slightly, and as he watched, the tip of her tongue flicked out to wet them. It took incredible concentration to sit back up, chew and swallow. "Was it good?" she asked, her voice husky.
"Oh, yeah," Blair replied, glad the dim lighting hid the crimson flush creeping up his face. Oh, shit, she's a sentinel! Dim lighting, hell! He suddenly felt like he was sixteen years old again, and on his first date. "I, uh, um& .I'll be right back," he finally managed, crawling out of the booth and practically running for the safety of the men's room. As he passed Joe at the bar, the older man gave him a thumb's up.
Blair entered the restroom, and closed the stall door behind him, leaning his back against it, sorely in need of the support. What in the world was going on with them? What was the matter with him? Normally if a beautiful woman had been giving him those kinds of signals, Blair would have been all over her, hell, they would have left the bar for someplace more private long ago. It wasn't that he didn't want Dee, he just didn't want her the same way he had wanted all the other women in his life. Dee was& unique. He clapped both hands over his mouth to silence what would have been hysterical giggles. Unique!? Jeez, Blair, what a talent you have for understatement.
Sobering slightly, he realized what was shaking him up so badly. Even if she hadn't been psychic, or immortal, or a sentinel, she would still be the most important woman in his life. She trusted him completely. She didn't think he was weird or hyperactive or a nerd. She treated him with the utmost respect; she ignored the million times he'd put his foot in his mouth, and his clumsy attempts at passes. She genuinely cared about him. Why was she coming on to him now, after all those weeks of disinterest? Well, not really disinterest, but the strong impression that she wanted only to be friends. What had changed?
Joe's words came back to him. " I haven't seen Dee this happy in ages. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen her this happy& " He had caused that, but how? And then it hit him, he had accepted her that afternoon, accepted everything about her, accepted her immortality, her champion senses, her past, and most important, he'd accepted her participation in the Game. Any walls, any barriers she'd kept between herself and him were gone. For the first time, he was seeing her as she truly was, beautiful, caring, playful, sensual& And Blair realized he was everything to her that she was to him; he was the most important person in her life.
Sliding down the door, he sat on the cold ceramic tile floor, not sure whether to laugh, or cry or both. He, Blair Sandburg, the man who loved women, plural, now loved only one.
Immortal Series Page