Please have patience with me. This story has been in my mind for almost a year now, but for some reason it seems like it is taking forever to get it finished. I know where the end is, I have a list of scenes needed to get there, but my muse has been very fickle where this story is concerned. In an attempt to get her ass in gear, I'm posting what I have here, and hope to finish the rest soon.
Rating: R for violence, language and sexual situations
Crossover: Highlander:The Series and The X-Files
Somewhere in Mexico
Hot. And growing hotter. Pain, so much agony, turning her inside out, destroying that which was flawed, burning away the cobwebs in her mind, making everything sharper, clearer... a cleansing fire... ashes to ashes, dust to dust... .with her last breath she knew, she could once again see beyond the confines of her psyche, from her ashes she would be reborn... crying joyously, she gave herself up to her destroyer, her creator...
The great cat raced through the tangled underbrush, its lungs straining in the hot, heavy air. With a frustrated growl, it slid to a stop at the edge of a cliff, glancing back over its shoulder at the encroaching red, orange and gold wall of snapping, crackling flame. It paced the perimeter of the gap, keen eyes seeking a way across, a narrowing of the chasm that it could perhaps leap. Nothing. The jaguar was trapped. Its flanks heaved as it coughed, smoke burning its throat. With a scream of challenge, the cat faced the fire, then sprang to meet it, its golden, black-spotted coat merging with the flames.
The conflagration moved on, until the ridge was a solid sheet of burning jungle. But within the inferno, something moved. A large, blazing cat of fire launched itself over the ravine, the roar of the powerful feline sliding up the scale until it became an almost human shriek. The fire twisted its shape until the jaguar form was no longer visible. Wings of flame opened wide, and the ball of fire grew a fan shaped tail and a raptor's head, complete with sharp, intelligent eyes and an even sharper beak. The hot air from the burning forest provided lift for blazing feathers, and the firebird soared high into the brilliant blue expanse of sky, its haunting cry echoing through the dying jungle. . .
Jim Ellison sat up in bed with a gasp, his eyes snapping open, his heart racing. It took him a long moment to realize he was at home, in the loft, in bed, instead of the midst of a jungle inferno. He ran his hands slowly through his sweat-soaked hair, and concentrated on slowing his breathing.
"Jim?" His guide appeared at the top of the stairs. "You okay, man? I heard this really weird screaming... "
The sentinel nodded. "I'm fine, Chief, just a bad dream."
Blair sat down on the top of the stairs and leaned his back against the railing. "You wanna talk about it?"
Jim started to shake his head, then caught himself. Trust, he reminded himself, trust your guide. This could have been a spirit vision, and if so, Blair needed to know, to help him interpret it. They had both learned the hard way that visions should not be ignored. He took a deep breath, then described the dream to his partner. "What do you think it means?" he asked when he finished his explanation.
The anthropologist chewed his lip for a moment. "I think it's about Alex," he said finally, seeing his conclusion reflected in Jim's eyes. "What it means, I'm not sure. But you connected with her in the temple and maybe part of that is still there. Maybe you were seeing what she saw, experiencing her dream."
"That's not what I wanted to hear, Chief. I don't want anything to do with her, or her dreams. Anything connected to her can only be bad news."
"I don't want anything to do with her either, Jim, but it's not about what we want. This Sentinel thing has a nasty habit of taking on a life of its own, talking to us in its own cryptic language. We just get the privilege of trying to decipher it. For some reason, maybe the connection between you has been activated again. It could be that Alex has finally come back from la-la land, that she's regained control of her senses. Or it could just be your body's way of telling you that three helpings of chili was over your limit."
Blair's teasing grin was clearly visible to the sentinel, and Jim chucked a pillow half-heartedly at him. "Hey! Is this the thanks I get? Some people pay a lot of money to have their dreams analyzed, you got yours done for free!" He lobbed the pillow back toward his partner. "But seriously, Jim, I'll look into this tomorrow, give the hospital in Mexico where she was sent a call to see if there have been any changes in Alex's condition. Just to be on the safe side."
Jim nodded. "Sounds like a plan... "
His guide rose to his feet. "You okay to go back to sleep now? Because I've got to get up in... like four hours, man."
"I'll be fine, Sandburg. Go back to bed." Jim punched the pillow into a more comfortable shape, listening to the sound of his friend descending the stairs and crawling back into bed. A quick check of the apartment with his senses confirmed that everything was fine. Closing his eyes, Jim went back to sleep, his rest undisturbed for the remainder of the night.
"Are you sure? I mean, there couldn't be a mistake, right? It's definitely her? Okay, okay, I believe you, thanks for returning my call. Goodbye." Blair hung up the phone slowly, letting out the breath he'd been holding. She was gone, really gone. Part of him felt relieved, and yet another part of him felt more than a twinge of grief, of regret. He hadn't done all he could to help her, and now she was gone, one less throw-back to ancient man, one less Sentinel... one less person trying to kill him...
He sat down on the sofa, burying his hands in his hair, resting his elbows on his knees. He should be glad, really he should. She was in a better place he told himself, her spirit free to roam the stars instead of trapped in the confines of her own mind. If only he had... if only Jim had... if only they had reached out to her... .
Lost in might have beens, Blair didn't hear the door open, was unaware of the trio's entry until he felt the cushion shift next to him. "Lobo? You okay?" A hand settled gently on his arm.
He looked up to find three worried gazes fixed on him. Dee was seated next to him, Megan was across from him on the coffee table, and Jim leaned anxiously over the back of the couch. "What's the matter, Chief?"
Straightening up, he said, "You remember that dream you had the other night, Jim?" At his nod, Blair continued. "I called the sanitarium in Mexico today, to see if there'd been any change in Alex's condition." He heard Megan's sharp gasp at the mention of her name, and felt Dee's fingers close over his own. "There was a fire there two nights ago; many of the patients were injured... or killed. Alex was so badly burned they had to identify her from her dental records as one of the dead... " He squeezed his eyes shut. Damn it, he wasn't going to cry! She'd killed him! She'd come between Jim and he... she was a cold-blooded murderess... and... and... now there were only two Sentinels left.
Jim reached over and grasped his guide's shoulder, unable to find any words to comfort him. Megan leaned forward, resting her hand on Blair's knee, as Dee laced her fingers with his. They sat there silently for a long time, finding a measure of solace in their connection.
Somewhere in South America, February 1999
The olive skinned man looked up from his desk at the sound of a sharp knock on his study door. His majordomo stuck his head inside. "Que pasa, Rico?"
"La Asesina... "
Juan Bautista Cristo rose to his feet, rubbing his hands together. "Si, si, send her in."
A few moments later the door opened again to admit a tall, slender woman dressed in a stylish suit of black suede. She looked like any other businesswoman in her late twenties, except for the white blond hair cropped close to her head in a severe military style cut.
Juan stepped around the desk, giving her a hug and a kiss on both cheeks. "Alejandra! It is so good to see you again! So much has happened since I last had need of your services, and you have been a difficult woman to find."
The woman returned the hug and the kiss, then said, "I'm sorry I've been so hard to get a hold of. I was... " A smile tweaked her lips. "Going through a spiritual rebirth. So tell me, Juan, what kind of job has you desperately seeking me?"
Taking her arm, he guided her to a seat on the couch. "A terrible tragedy has happened to my family. You remember my brother, Jesus?"
"Oh, yes, yes. Last time I finished a job for you, he took me out on his boat to celebrate. I was hoping to see him again... " She glanced around the room, then back at Juan's sad, dark eyes. "Something's happened to him, hasn't it?"
"Si, Alejandra. Jesus is dead, murdered last November."
"Oh, no, no. I'm so sorry, Juan."
He patted her hand. "That's why I sent for you, to avenge his death. I've finally found out the names of the people responsible for his murder." Getting up, he got a file folder from his desk and handed it to her. "These are the people who betrayed Jesus. He went after them on his own, but you know Jesus. He had grand ideas, but not the ability to carry them to completion. He failed, and they killed him."
She opened the folder and glanced at the dossiers. "Ellison." She flipped to the next page. "Sandburg." Another page turned over. "Connor." She uncovered the final page in the file, and suppressed a gasp. The last face in the world she expected to see stared back at her. "Pallas... " she breathed. She took a moment to calm her wildly beating heart, her racing thoughts, then looked back up at Juan. "I will do this for you, Juan, free of charge, but I will do it my way." Her lips pulled back in an almost snarl. "A way I think you will approve of very much. I trust you want them to suffer?"
The Hispanic man nodded. "I want their deaths to be long and excruciating."
Her voice was almost gleeful when she answered him. "They will be, oh, they will be."
Early March, 1999
"Dee?" The voice on the other end of the phone line was tired and full of pain.
"Lobo? What's wrong? What's the matter?" Diandra said, feeling her chest constrict as if he was in the same room, and she was picking up his anguish over their spiritual connection.
Blair paused, struggling to find a way to put the past few days into words. "I. . .I need to see you," he finally managed. "I've made such a mess of everything."
"Oh, Lobo. . .tell me where you are, and I'll be right there," she said.
"Actually, um, I'm sitting in my car outside the dojo. I was hoping you were home."
"Come on up, love."
When the freight elevator groaned to a stop on her floor and the gate lifted, she nearly didn't recognize him. He looked like he hadn't slept in a week and pain radiated off him in waves. He took a step off the elevator, almost falling into her arms. She wrapped him in her strong embrace and led him over to the sofa, relieving him of his coat and sitting down with him as he poured out the tangled tale in a rush of words.
The gist of it was something about his mother turning his thesis over to a publisher, Jim's sentinel abilities being exposed to the world, and Jim hating him. "I'm sure he doesn't hate you, Lobo," Dee said, sliding her fingers through his. "You are too important to him."
Blair shook his head sadly. "He feels like I betrayed him, Dee, like I planned from the start to do this to him. I have to decide what to do. . .and you're the only person I knew who would really understand"
She brushed a stray curl out of his face. "Yeah, I do understand. You've just been offered everything you thought you wanted in the world, everything you've worked so hard for, only it comes with a bigger price than you ever thought you would have to pay."
He nodded. "Exactly. I know what I have to do; it's just that a part of me wishes I could have it both ways. Finally my work is getting noticed; I'm not that little anthro geek who can't finish a paper anymore. I would finally be someone. . .respected."
Blair inched closer to her. She obligingly put her arm around his shoulders, and he leaned his head on her chest. "You remember when we first met?" she asked. "And I told you those three letters after your name were way over rated?" He nodded. "They are. They don't mean anything to anyone but a bunch of wrinkled up academics who couldn't exist outside their stuffy college walls. Those letters are not you, Blair; they will never be you. There aren't enough letters in the universe to express every wonderful thing that you are. You are friend, lover, guide, companion, shaman, warrior, Watcher, son, teacher, student. . .the list goes on and on and still wouldn't be long enough. Whatever decision you make will be the right one, Lobo. I have the utmost faith in that."
He looked up into her sincere blue eyes, marveling at how lucky he was to have a friend like her. "Thanks, Dee, that means a lot to me. You have always believed in me, believed I was good enough, and strong enough and smart enough to do anything I put my mind to."
"Well, you are," she replied, pressing a kiss against his forehead.
He laughed softly. "Maybe I am," he told her, "but it feels so good to hear 'yes, you can' from someone else instead of a list of reasons why I can't." His voice took on a somber note. "Sometimes I wish I had found you first, instead of Jim. I can't imagine my life without him, but just once, just once, I would like to hear him say, 'Let me help you fix it, Sandburg,' instead of 'It's all your fault'."
"Oh, Lobo," she whispered, pulling him closer, holding him tightly. "I wish I could make it all go away."
"So do I," he murmured against her sweater, "so do I."
They stayed curled together on the sofa for a long time, until Dee ran a hand through his hair, and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Hey, Lobo, when's the last time you had anything to eat?"
Sitting up slowly, he replied, "Can't remember."
"Well, it's almost dinnertime, and I'm getting hungry. What do you say I heat up some soup and make some sandwiches?"
Raising his arms over his head, Blair stretched. "Sounds okay to me."
Giving his shoulder a squeeze, Dee rose and headed for the kitchen. Blair could hear her rummaging in the refrigerator, then the sound of pots being set on the stove. Getting to his feet, he joined her, the thought of being more than an arm's length away from her at the moment was distressing for some reason. Coming up behind her, he slipped his arms around her waist and leaned his chin on her shoulder. Turning her head, she gave his nose a kiss, then went back to buttering some bread. When he finally released her, she handed him a spoon, and he gave the minestrone soup a stir, content to concentrate on that simple task, putting his problems aside for the moment.
Dee picked up the plates and bowls they'd dirtied, and set them in the sink. Blair brought the glasses over, and rinsed them out before putting them with the other dishes. He rested his back against the counter, his eyes on the floor. "Thanks for dinner, and for... everything. I guess I should get going back to Cascade."
The Immortal moved to stand in front of him, so close her hips brushed against Blair's. Cupping his face in her hands, lifting his chin so his eyes met hers, she said, "No. It's late, the weather's crappy, and you're exhausted. I know you can't possibly have been sleeping since this started. You're staying here." Her fingertips traced lightly over his cheek, and she pressed a kiss against the corner of his mouth.
Blair squeezed his eyes shut against the tears that threatened to spill over. His arms went around her in a fierce hug, unable to force any words past the huge lump in his throat. His world was coming apart at the seams, and she still loved him. Maybe there was some hope for him after all.
"Lobo, it's going to be okay. Just trust me on this one, all right?" He nodded against her shoulder, and after a few moments, she stepped back, reaching for the phone.
"Who are you calling?" he asked.
"Jim." She put the receiver to her ear and pushed the speed dial. "Hello, Jim, this is Dee. Just thought I would let you know Blair is here in Seacouver with me and I'm making him stay the night. He's too tired to drive back this evening. I'll call you tomorrow." She hung up the phone. "I got the machine."
Blair sighed. "He's screening calls."
"Just as long as he gets the message." Taking his hand, she led him into the bedroom. She let him have the bathroom first, and when she had finished her turn, she entered the other room to find him already under the covers, curled up in a ball. Crawling in behind him, she slid an arm around his waist, nestling up against his back, feeling him slowly relax under her touch. Half an hour later, Blair was softly snoring, and she was staring at the ceiling, trying to come up with a plan to fix things. She knew he probably wouldn't appreciate it, and she didn't hold out much hope of getting through to Jim when he was in this kind of mood. But still she had to try. Maybe if she went to talk to him tomorrow...
Just then her hearing picked up the sound of her companion returning to the loft. Sliding out from under Blair's arm, she tucked the covers around him, and walked into the other room, closing the bedroom door behind her.
Megan stood in front of the open refrigerator door, a puzzled expression on her face. Leaning over the door, Dee said, "If you're looking for the rest of the minestrone, Blair and I ate it. Sorry."
The Aussie glanced up at her partner, then reached for the tupperware holding the last of the pasta from two nights ago. "It's okay. I saw his car downstairs, and figured he was here. How's Sandy holding up?"
"Not good. He's scared, afraid he's ruined everything between himself and Jim." She shook her head. "I don't understand Ellison at all. How can he blame him? How can he hurt Blair this way?"
Megan stuck the pasta in the microwave and punched in three minutes. "I don't know, Dee. I can't see where Jim's coming from either. One look at Sandy's face ought to tell him he isn't capable of this." She pulled a plate out of the cupboard.
"Want some salad?" Dee asked. Seeing the other woman nod, she got out some lettuce and tomatoes and began to chop vegetables.
The younger woman watched her slice tomatoes for a moment, then said, "Dee, promise me if I ever screw up, you won't do that to me." The Immortal was so startled she nicked her finger. "Oh, damn it, I'm sorry!" Megan reached for a dishtowel and moved to her partner's side.
"It's okay, Pajara. See?" She held up the injured digit, wiping it on the cloth her companion held. "Already healed."
Megan shook her head. "That still freaks me out. And the whole immortality thing... "
"Hey, hey, it's okay." Dee pulled her soulmate into a hug. "Nothing's going to happen to us, I promise. I've already made Ellison's mistakes a couple lifetimes ago. Nothing's going to come between us. Got that?" The faint sound of a choked half sob from behind her made her let go.
Nodding, Megan stepped back as the microwave dinged. "Thanks, Dee." Spying Blair over her friend's shoulder, she jerked her head in his direction.
Dee turned to face the anthropologist, a tender smile on her lips. "Hey, sweetheart, you're supposed to be sleeping."
Blair entered the kitchen slowly, rubbing a hand over his face, trying to hide his reaction to the intimate moment he'd interrupted. "I woke up. The bed was too empty."
"I can fix that." She turned her attention back to Megan for a moment. "Anything else you need, Pajara?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm fine. You two go to bed. See you in the morning."
Laying a hand on her lover's shoulder, Dee steered him back to the bedroom, making sure the door was closed behind them. She turned around to find Blair's gaze running slowly down her body. She knew that look. Raising a finger to chastise him, to tell him sleep was what he needed, she was stopped by the light pressure of his fingertips against her lips. "I want you," he whispered hoarsely, his blue eyes dark with passion.
His voice sent a tendril of desire spiraling through her, and she moaned against his hand. His fingers trailed across her cheek and behind her head, pulling her down for a kiss, his tongue tangling with hers as his left hand slid underneath her T-shirt, caressing her stomach. Her fingers went to the bottom of his shirt, tugging it up. Immediately Blair broke the kiss, stepping back, capturing her hands in his. She gave him a quizzical look, smelling, feeling, tasting his arousal, knowing he wanted her, but confused by his actions.
"Dee, let me do this for you. Let me... " He hesitated, not sure how to phrase it.
"Let you be in control," she finished for him, feeling a sliver of fear run down her spine. He knew giving up control was difficult for her; she was the Alpha in the relationship; he was the Beta. As such she normally initiated sex between them, or at least dictated the direction it went. To let him have the advantage... it went against everything she was, and yet, she knew how desperately he needed to be in control of something, anything, while his life raged untamed around him. Shivering, she swallowed her fear. "Okay," she finally whispered.
He pulled her into a hug, nuzzling her neck. "It'll be okay, Dee. I'll make it so good for you, I promise."
"I know you will," she replied softly, giving herself over to his capable hands. Blair undressed her slowly, pulling her T-shirt over her head, sliding her boxers down her legs. Pushing the covers down to the foot of the bed, he motioned for her to lie down on her stomach. Dee complied, pillowing her head on her folded hands. Closing her eyes, she tuned into Blair with her other senses, hearing his clothes drop to the floor, smelling the sharp tang of sulfur as he lit the candles on the bedside table, feeling the heat of his body as he leaned over her, kneeling on the mattress, straddling her thighs.
"Just relax, angel, and let me pleasure you." His voice dropped into the Guide register. "Lower your sense of touch to normal." He gave her a few moments to comply, and to anticipate his first move. When it came, it was not what she expected. His fingers combed through her heavy chocolate hair, stroking her scalp, increasing the pressure until it was almost a massage. His hands moved down to her neck, stroking and circling, changing the intensity from feather soft to light kneading, and back again. Working his way down her back, he left no inch of skin untouched, feeling the small tremors rocking her as he came closer to one of her hot spots, the small of her back. He gave it the same treatment as the rest of her back, alternating the intensity of his touches, never staying too long in one place. His large hands stroked over her hips and buttocks, down her thighs, moving them gently apart, shifting his position from straddling her to kneeling in between her legs. On down her calves he went, stroking the soles of her feet with enough pressure not to tickle.
His hands lifted from her body then, and for the longest of moments there was no contact between them. She could hear his heart pounding, along with his slightly elevated breathing, and smell the arousal that matched her own. His husky voice caressed her ears again. "Turn up the touch dial about three clicks."
She struggled with her control for a moment, then said, "Okay." His body weight shifted on the bed, and Dee felt his breath on her cheek a split second before his lips captured her ear lobe. The intense sensation wrenched a loud moan from her, and a long ripple of pleasure rolled from her head to her toes. His tongue traced the outer edge of her ear, then trailed along the curve of her jaw, and she lifted her head slightly, feeling him outline her lips before his mouth met hers in a deep kiss.
Once again, Blair didn't linger too long. His lips moved down her neck, kissing, licking, and nibbling. His loose, silky curls brushed across her shoulders and she cried out, digging her fingers into the mattress. "Hmm, you like that, huh?" He deliberately dragged his hair down her back, watching goose bumps appear in its wake.
"Oh, goddess, Lobo... " A whimper escaped her lips. Blair grinned, then moved up to her shoulders, sinking his teeth lightly into the back of her neck, careful to keep the sensation pleasurable, rather than painful. His tongue left a wet track along the curve of her shoulder blade. A second later he blew across the damp area and was rewarded with a sharp cry. "Blair, please... don't tease... " she hissed, but he knew she didn't mean it. He proceeded down her back the same way he had before, using his mouth in place of his hands. By the time he finished at her feet, she was shaking uncontrollably and making a soft keening noise in her throat. But true to her promise, she let him remain in control, though every nerve ending in her body was screaming at her to throw him down on the bed and take him.
His hands ran lightly back up her legs, stopping at her waist. Dee felt his hand slide underneath her, raising her hips slightly as he moved forward, leaning over her, entering her slowly, filling her, making them one. A loud sob sprang from somewhere deep inside of her. His other arm went around her torso, just under her breasts, lifting her up as he sat back on his calves, pulling her against his chest, driving himself deeper into her honeyed warmth.
His nickname was a prayer falling from her lips as she leaned back against him, her heightened sense of touch feeling each hair on his chest as it brushed against her back, the hard ridges of his nipples burning against her shoulder blades.
His lips pressed against her cheek, her neck, and the hollow of her shoulder as he whispered how much he loved her. Wrapping his arms tighter around her, he began to move, slow, shallow thrusts that stroked across her G-spot. He could feel her labored breathing, her heart pounding under his hand. Her head twisted against his shoulder, tremors shaking her. "I've got you, angel. You're safe... it's okay to let go, it's okay to scream... "
His tender words cut through the red haze surrounding her, and she gave herself over to the passion, crying his name as fire raced outward from her center, down her thighs, into her belly. She felt him shudder behind her, his own cry of pleasure mingling with hers.
When the world came back into focus, Blair still held her close, but now they were curled together on the mattress. She mumbled something unintelligible, and he brushed her hair out of her face, kissing her cheek, breathing a soft thank you in her ear before they both succumbed to sleep.
A wide, feral smile spread across the face of the black-clad figure braving the cold and drizzle on the roof of the building across the alley from DeSalvo's Dojo. The sudden media spotlight on Ellison had been unexpected, but, the Phoenix was beginning to realize, it generated interesting side effects. When the going got tough, Ellison reacted true to form, turning once again on his hapless guide. Only this time, the guide didn't retreat to a dingy little office at the university. This time, he crawled in bed with one of the most powerful Immortals on the continent.
Gloved fingers tapped against the brick ledge. So predictable. Diandra hadn't changed much in the sixty years since their last meeting. Still taking in lost, abused pups. Trash she would defend to the death. Honor was a bitch. It made you so vulnerable...
The deadly grin played over the Phoenix's lips once again.
Dee gradually turned up her senses as she awoke, registering her companion's heartbeat in the next room, and that of the guide next to her, quickly followed by the interesting scent combination of sandalwood candles and sex. Touch was the last sense brought on line, and she groaned at the feel of Blair's warm lips against her skin. She opened her eyes to find him smiling down at her.
"Took you long enough. I've been working on you for about ten minutes." Dipping his head down, he nibbled on her collarbone.
She wrapped her arms around him, one hand burying itself in his hair. Goddess, what she wouldn't give to wake up to this every morning. Lifting his head, she pulled him up for a soul-searing kiss, and today, he let her lead.
The idea struck her as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror, running a brush through her wet hair. It was so good she had to share it right away. Grabbing the handle of the shower door, Dee yanked it open.
"Yeow! Jesus, Dee! Freeze me to death!" Blair yelped.
Realizing she could always dry off a second time, she dropped her towel and joined him, making sure to pull the glass door completely closed. "I have the solution to your problem, Lobo!"
He stepped back to give her a little room in the cramped quarters. "Uh, which problem?"
"The Sentinel one. Chancellor Edwards wants you to cough one up. You give her me. I can jump through hoops with the best of them." She gave her lover a satisfied smile, which quickly faded at the stricken look on his face. "What did I say? What's wrong with that idea?"
Blair shook his head. "I can't do that to you, Dee. All that attention focused on you could uncover your immortality. I won't allow that, I can't allow that. I took an oath to protect you, and the rest of the Immortals." He turned his hand over so his Watcher's tattoo was visible.
"No, no, this could work," she protested. "I put on a dog and pony show, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sentinels are real, and then I have a 'fatal accident' in front of plenty of witnesses. The press goes away, and you and Jim have your lives back." The agony in his eyes cut deep into her heart. "What? Tell me, what's wrong with that idea?"
"What's wrong with it? You'll be dead, Dee. Famous dead. You'll have to spend the next twenty years hiding out."
She shrugged. "So?" She watched him swallow spasmodically, tears filling his eyes.
His answer was an agonized whisper she had to strain to hear over the running water. "I can't. I can't go through that again, Dee. I can't lose you again. I know that sounds selfish, and I know you're only trying to help me, to help Jim, but you sacrificing yourself won't fix the underlying problems, and will only make them worse, because I'll blame Jim for losing you."
Oh, damn, that put things in a different light. Dee wrapped her arms around him, holding him close. "I'm sorry, Lobo. I guess I just didn't think this through all the way." Kissing his temple, she released him. "I promise I won't leave you."
Blair gave her a shaky smile. "And I won't leave you, not until--"
"Don't say it, don't even think it. Just feel." She silenced him with a long, tender kiss, her hands roaming across his chest. They had just come up for air when there was a knock on the bathroom door.
"Dee!" Megan called out. "You have a phone call. It's Dana."
Reluctantly, Dee got out of the shower and slipped into her robe. Exiting the bathroom, she took the cordless phone from her companion.
When Blair entered the bedroom a few minutes later, he found her throwing clothes into a small suitcase. "What's going on?" he asked, irrational fear knotting his stomach.
Looking up from her task, she saw the panic on his face. "Oh, no, no, Lobo. I'm not leaving you, not the way you're thinking. I just have to go to DC for a couple of days. Dana and Mulder need my help on a case. I'll be back before you know it. Unless... " She took another look at his pale features. "Unless you need me to stay here, to help you straighten things out with Jim."
Shaking his head, Blair resumed toweling his hair. "No, no, I'll be fine. Last night, and this morning, they, well, you, helped a lot. I think I have a handle on this. Go."
"Okay, but you call me if you need me for anything. You come first, always."
Her words surprised him so much that for a moment he couldn't breath. He finally managed to say, "God, Dee every time I think I get it, every time I'm sure I know how much you love me, you do or say something like that, and I'm lost, I'm just lost."
She slid her arms around him in a quick hug. "And that's good thing, right?"
He squeezed her back. "Oh, yeah, that's a very good thing."
"Good, because I need a ride to the airport. Think you can get dressed in the next five minutes?" Giving her a grin, he reached for his clothes.
Making her way through O'Hare airport at a jog, dodging fellow travelers and electric carts, Dee heard the faint trilling of her cell phone from somewhere at the bottom of her carryon. Moving out of the heavy traffic flow, she dug through the small bag until her fingers closed around the smooth plastic. Pulling it out, she hit the answer button. "Hello."
"Oh, thank god, Dee, you're there." Blair's voice was husky and strained, and she could hear talking in the background, people crying out in pain. Immediately a knot formed in the pit of her stomach.
"Lobo, what's happened? What's wrong?"
"There's been a shooting here at the station... Megan. . .Megan and Simon were shot."
Dee's world turned upside down. "No... No... "
"Dee, you have to come back. They're taking them to the hospital now. I don't know how bad they're hurt. I have to go. I'll stay with Megan, keep you updated."
Taking a deep breath, she pulled herself back together. "Go with her. I'll be on the next flight back, even if I have to charter one." Punching her cell phone off, she hit the speed dial for Dana's phone, and quickly relayed the trouble to her. She was reassured that the two FBI agents would be fine if she couldn't make it; her Companion came first. Disconnecting the call, she went in search of the charter airlines, trying to keep her panic under control.
She came barreling around the corner, black trench coat flying behind her, boots skidding on the slick tile. She tried to pull up in time, but lost her balance, smacking into Blair.
"Whoa, whoa, Dee, hold on," he said, his grip on her jacket the only thing keeping her upright.
The Immortal's frightened blue eyes met his. "Lobo, how is she? Is she okay? You've got to let me help her!" She struggled in his grasp, trying to get past him to reach the unconscious woman in the ICU.
"Dee, Dee, calm down. You're not going to be any good to her this way," he said, trying to sooth the hysterical woman.
"No," she sobbed, "no! It's happening all over again! Lobo, you have to let me help her!"
One of the ICU nurses gave them a dirty look and started in their direction. "Dee, you have to listen to me," he hissed. "You have to calm down before they throw us out of here. Can you do that?"
Clamping her hand over her mouth, she nodded. "It's okay," he told the nurse. "We'll be very quiet." Taking her by the hand, he led her to the ICU waiting room. Seating them on a couch away from the other visitors, he slid his arm around her shoulders, feeling her press her face into his neck. "Megan's going to be okay, Dee. They're going to take her to surgery once she's stabilized. You're not going to lose her."
"I should have been there, I should have been there, I should have been there," she moaned. "The Champion isn't supposed to let this happen. I should have been there to help her, to help Captain Banks. . ."
"Dee," he breathed against her hair, "Dee, angel, she's going to be fine. Right now you have to pull yourself together for her. What's she going to think when she sees you going to pieces, huh?"
Taking a couple deep breaths, Dee forced her racing heart to slow, centering herself enough that she could monitor the Aussie's vital signs from where she sat. Once she was satisfied that Megan was doing fine, she relaxed and disentangled herself from Blair. "Sorry about that," she apologized. "I just kept seeing the whole thing with Lydia all over again. I can't, I can't go through that again."
"I know," he said, reaching out a hand to smooth her tousled hair. "But she's going to be just fine."
Taking a quick check around, she was surprised not to find Ellison's presence. "Where's Jim?" she asked.
Blair's expression darkened, and his voice was strained when he spoke. "He's in a bad place right now. He feels like this is his fault, because he didn't see this coming, wasn't able to stop Megan and Simon from being hurt. He was there in Simon's office when it happened; he was the one Zeller was shooting at."
"Zeller's a fucking lousy shot," she muttered under her breath. "Why didn't Jim hear the shot?"
Blair shook his head. "He's so stressed by all this his senses are shorting out on him, and... ."
"And he won't let you help him," she finished.
"No, he won't," Blair admitted sadly.
"You know I'm going to have a talk with him about this. . ."
"No, Dee, please don't. Let me work it out, do what we discussed. Then if things don't get any better, you can talk to him," Blair said.
Dee was suddenly interested in the doctor walking toward them. "I'm not going to promise you that, Lobo, you know I can't." She rose to her feet. "Doctor, what can you tell me about Megan Connor?" she said, drawing on twenty years of living in Australia to match her companion's accent.
"Are you related?" the physician asked. "If you're a family member, you can go sit with her for 15 minutes every hour."
"I'm her sister," Dee replied promptly. She trailed after the doctor, turning back to give Blair a wink before she disappeared into Megan's room.
Blair watched her through the window for a few minutes, slightly envious of the way Dee touched her, stroking her face and holding her hand, part of him wishing Jim would treat him the way Dee did Megan, as an equal partner, her other half. He shook the momentary disappointment off, then headed off to check on Simon. He knew Dee would find him when she was ready to leave.
Moving the chair closer to the bed, Diandra took a seat. Laying a hand on her companion's wrist, her anxiety faded as she felt the strong beat of her heart under her fingertips. Goddess, she should have been here. As it was, she longed to rest her hand on the younger woman's shoulder, to heal the wound she'd received. But she didn't dare, not here in the hospital. If only she'd been at the station, hell, if she'd only been in Cascade. . .
"Stop it." Her partner's voice was soft and slightly hoarse. "There wasn't anything you could have done even if you had been there. You couldn't have stopped this."
"But I could have healed you, kept you from this." She waved a hand at the hospital room.
"And risk exposing what you are? What you can do? I won't let you take that risk." Megan's eyes met the Immortal's gravely.
"That's not your decision to make; it's mine, and your life is worth far more to me than keeping any secret."
Megan shook her head, grimacing slightly. "Let's hope we never have to make that choice." Her next words were so soft Dee had to strain to hear them. "I don't want to end up like Jim and Sandy."
"Not gonna happen," Dee replied, raising her soulmate's hand and holding it to her cheek. "Though we have a lot to talk about, Pajara. There are things about me you need to know." Seeing the slightly frightened look on her face, Dee added, "Not bad things," exactly. "Just things about me I've put off discussing. And we've never talked much about your past, either." She took Megan's slowly drooping eyelids and large yawn as her cue to leave. "I'm gonna go now, Pajara, and let you get your rest."
Megan gripped her hand tightly. "No, Dee, what about the case the FBI wants your help with? It sounded pretty serious when I spoke with Dana this morning. That's why I got you out of the shower."
"It's okay. I already talked to her. She and Fox are going to handle it on their own."
Megan yawned again. "If they need you, you go. I'm not going to be causing any trouble for awhile." At Diandra's skeptical look, she said, "Trust me! Promise me if they need you, you'll go."
Something knotted inside her at her companion's request. "I can't make you that promise, but I'll keep it under consideration. Now get some sleep." Getting to her feet, she leaned over the other woman, planting a soft kiss on her forehead. "I'll see you tomorrow."
After tracking down Megan's doctor and asking about her prognosis, Dee went in search of Blair. She found him outside the window to Simon's room, staring in, his hands in his jacket pockets. Coming up behind him, she slid an arm around his waist. "Hey, Lobo, you ready to go home?"
"I guess so. Can you give me a lift back to the loft? I rode over with Jim."
"Yeah, I picked up a rental car at the airport. Jim didn't come back while I was with Megan?"
He shook his head. "I called the station. He and Joel are out running down some leads on Zeller."
She heard his unspoken pain. Jim was out with Taggert because he didn't trust Blair. Encircling him with both arms, she pulled him into a hug. He squeezed back tightly in return, and she closed her eyes, letting his love warm her weary soul. She wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed with him and stay there the rest of the night. Goddess, she was tired. Letting out a yawn, she asked, "Can you drive? I'm exhausted."
"Sure, angel." Letting go of her waist, Blair took her hand and led her to the parking lot. They had just started back to the loft when her cell phone rang.
"Hello. Oh, Fox, hi. Megan's going to be okay. Just a shoulder wound. The bullet went clean through. She's going to be in the hospital a couple days though." She hesitated, listening to the agent's words. "I see. I don't know, Fox. I just have a bad feeling about this. He could come back to finish what he started." More silence on her end, then a hushed, "Oh, shit. Look, I'll call you in the morning, okay? I'll let you know then. No, I know you wouldn't be asking if it weren't absolutely necessary. Just let me find out more about what's going on here, and I'll let you know in the morning. Talk to you then." She closed her phone with a click, and leaned back in the seat, dropping the cell in her lap as she went to rub her temples.
Blair's voice broke the silence. "What's going on, Dee?"
Sighing, she said, "Dana and Fox are tracking an escaped prisoner."
"And? There has to be more to it, otherwise they'd be calling in the marshals, not you." He glanced at her briefly then turned his attention back to the road.
Dee's fingers went to work on the back of her neck. "She's got some kind of psychic ability that allows her to force her will on others, to make them see what she wants them to, literally."
"Is that really possible?"
"Must be. Dana told me they've faced her before, and nearly lost their lives." Leaning her head against the back of the seat, she closed her eyes. "Fox thinks her ability won't work on me, because of my own ability to see the truth. He thinks that since she's projecting a lie, I should see right through it. I think he's grasping at straws, but... " She shrugged.
"So what was his phone call for, specifically?"
"Their guess is she was stopped by a state trooper in Virginia. She forced him to turn his gun on himself."
Blair felt his chest tighten. "Oh, god... "
"They don't know for sure that's what happened. They're not even sure it was her the trooper stopped."
"Dee, if Mulder thinks you're the only person who can stop her, then you have to go." He didn't look at her as he spoke, keeping his eyes on the road.
Dee shook her head. "No. I'm not leaving until Zeller is behind bars. I'm not going to risk him coming after Megan again, or you, or Jim."
Blair's grip on the steering wheel tightened and he turned into the parking lot of the loft. "And what are you going to do? Stand guard over all of us? Jim can handle Zeller. It's just a matter of time before he makes a mistake and we catch him." He put the car in park and shut off the ignition.
She didn't reply until after she'd gotten out and retrieved her bag and sword case from the back. "How long is it going to take, Lobo? How many people are going to be hurt or killed before he's caught?"
Blair held the door to the building open for her. "How many people is this escaped criminal going to kill before you go help the FBI?" His words were a little louder than necessary.
She followed him up the stairs. "Mulder doesn't know for sure I'd be of any help there. At least here I know I can protect you."
He walked into the loft, feeling his anger growing. "What? You don't think Jim can handle Zeller?"
Setting her bags down, Dee shook her head. "That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that I'd feel better if you and Megan had a little more protection."
Blair whirled to face her. "Oh, so it doesn't matter that people are dying on the East Coast and you could do something to stop it if you wanted to. You'd rather stay here, just so you'd 'feel better' about the situation."
She stared at him. "Lobo, I don't think you understand what--"
The rage that had been building since the moment his dissertation had been made public exploded, and she happened to be in the way. "God damn it! I'm not some porcelain doll, Dee! I'm not going to break into little pieces if you're not here to hold my hand!" As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Blair regretted them. For a brief second, he could see the agony in her eyes then it was as if a mask dropped in place, wiping any trace of emotion from her face. Without a word, she shouldered her bags and left the apartment.
He stood there a moment in shock, slowly realizing they had just had their first fight. Without warning, Blair was hit with a wave of overwhelming emotion, coming, he realized through their connection. He doubled over, the rush of pain and fear almost more than he could handle. Oh, god, he'd done that to her, he'd hurt her that badly. Groping for the door handle, he managed to get it open and stumbled after her.
Jim Ellison pulled the Ford into its parking space outside the loft. Turning off the ignition, he didn't immediately get out of the truck, the events of the last few days replaying in his mind. A twinge of guilt shot through him. His treatment of Blair the past 48 hours had been abominable. He didn't blame him for not coming home last night. If he had been Blair, he wouldn't have wanted to be around him either. At least Zeller hadn't resurfaced. He sighed. Was it too much to hope that he'd disappear after they'd faked Bartley's death? Probably.
He did a quick sweep of the area with his senses. At least the reporters weren't camped out in front of the loft. Still, he crossed the parking lot swiftly and pulled open the door of 852. A sheet of paper taped to the elevator door informed him it was out again. He started up the stairs, automatically extending his hearing to the loft above, recognizing the voices of his roommate and his Immortal lover. Great, an evening with Blair's cheering section was not something he was looking forward to. Couldn't she ever see his side on anything? As he rounded the first floor landing, he listened a little more closely, the heated words he overheard coming as a shock. Blair was arguing with Diandra? Those two never fought; they were nauseating in their devotion to each other.
"God damn it! I'm not some porcelain doll, Dee! I'm not going to break into little pieces if you're not here to hold my hand!" Uh oh, that didn't sound good at all. Jim's assessment of the situation was confirmed by the slamming of the loft door. Footsteps pounded down the stairs, and even through he knew she was coming, he still couldn't get out of the way in time.
She rounded the turn in the stairwell, barreling into him. Her blue eyes flashed angrily as she recognized the sentinel. "Get the hell out of my way, Ellison!"
Raising his hands in a gesture of acquiescence, Jim moved toward the wall. Diandra traveled a few steps past him, then turned back to face him, her expression deadly. "If anything happens to Lobo or Megan while I'm in DC, you'll have to answer to me!" she snarled. With a swirl of black coattails and a clatter of boots, the Immortal disappeared down the stairs.
Jim stared after her, wondering what in the hell had gotten into her. The sound of a car peeling out of the parking lot reached his ears, and he knew she was gone.
"Dee! Dee, wait!" His guide's voice drifted down from two stories above, followed by the noise of his rapid descent. Unable to stop his forward motion upon catching sight of Jim, Blair ran into him at full speed, tumbling them both to the floor of the landing. "Sorry, Jim!" he apologized, scrambling to his feet, intent on continuing after his girlfriend.
Ellison grabbed his roommate's arm. "It's a waste of time, Sandburg. She's gone. I heard her drive away. What in the hell did you do to piss her off?" Blair glanced down at him, and Jim was unprepared for the depth of agony he saw reflected in his eyes.
Blair shook off Jim's hand. "I know I'm a fuck-up; you don't have to rub it in." Turning, he went back up the stairs, Jim following him as he entered the loft.
"Just give it a rest, Jim, okay? I don't need to hear it from you again." Entering his room, he closed the door behind him, effectively ending any conversation before it began.
Snagging a beer from the fridge, Jim headed upstairs to his room. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he took a couple swallows of the cold brew, then leaned his elbows on his knees, the bottle dangling loosely in his hands. Cautiously he opened up the empathic link that bound him to his guide. A wave of raw emotion roared over him. The beer bottle dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers, shattering on the floor as Jim fought to shut the door he'd opened. It took him more than a few seconds, but the connection was finally closed. "I'm sorry, Chief," he whispered at the floorboards between them. "I'm sorry."
Even though he felt for his partner, Jim still couldn't bring himself to knock on Blair's door when he went downstairs to get a towel to mop up the spilled beer.
Dee drove like a maniac toward the airport, taking her anger out on the road, one hand on the steering wheel, the other punching numbers into her cell phone. The other end was picked up on the third ring. "Duncan, I need a favor."
MacLeod heard the tension in his friend's voice. "Diandra, what's the matter? Is this about Ellison's being a Sentinel being on the news?"
Drawing in a deep, shuddering breath, she pulled the car to the side of the road, afraid of losing control if she talked about this as she drove. "Yes and no. Damn it, Duncan, Megan's in the hospital--"
"--Jim's being his usual asshole self and Blair's blaming himself for all of it. And there's nothing I can do to help them, to protect them. All my instincts are screaming at me to stay here, to keep them safe."
"But my presence is only hurting Blair, is only making things worse. Mulder and Dana need my help in DC, and both Megan and Lobo have made it clear to me they think I can do more good there than here. But the man who shot Megan is still out there, and they're all in danger. I just... ." She blinked back tears and pounded her fist on the steering wheel in frustration.
"Diandra," Duncan's voice was gentle and sympathetic, "don't worry. I'll drive down and play bodyguard while you're gone. I'll get Joe to look out for Megan. It's gonna be okay."
"Thank you, thank you. I owe you a big one," she breathed, relief evident in her tone. "I'm heading for the airport now; I'll call you when I get to DC. Can you come down tonight?"
"Sure, I'll call Joe and we'll head down there right now. You'll make arrangements at the hospital?"
"I'll make sure Joe's allowed in. You just stick to Blair, okay?"
"Like glue. Don't worry, Dee, I know what he means to you. I promise to keep him safe."
"Thank you, Duncan." She clicked the phone off and pulled back onto the road. At least she felt a little better about leaving now, knowing her loved ones' safety was in good hands.
Blair lay curled up in a ball on his bed, needing to cry, to scream at the gross unfairness of the world, but unable to manage anything more than a few dry sobs. There was an agonizing pain in his gut he knew from experience was strictly emotional, but it made him nauseous anyway. He was so fucked--they all were, Jim, Megan, Simon, Dee--all because he couldn't imagine someone ever really having enough interest in his dissertation to read it, let alone believe it. How in the world could he have been so stupid? Hadn't Lee Brackett, hadn't Alex Barnes taught him anything? Jim had blamed himself for Simon and Megan's injuries when he'd spoken to him at the hospital, but Blair knew the fault was all his. His friends, his soulmate, his lover, had all paid the price for his naiveté.
Clutching a pillow to his chest, he buried his face in it, momentarily tempted to see if it was possible to smother oneself. When his lungs began to burn, he tossed the pillow on the floor and rolled onto his stomach, resting his chin on his hands as he stared at the wall. The argument with Dee replayed in his mind, not because it was the greatest of his mistakes, but because it was the most recent, and the one he'd had it in his power to avoid. Her words from that morning echoed in his head. "... You come first, always." That had been all she wanted, to be there for him, to offer advice if he asked for it, to support him if he didn't. And he'd pushed her away, not because of anything she'd done, but because at the moment he hated himself so thoroughly he couldn't deal with the thought that someone loved him that much.
A lone tear slid down his cheek and he wiped it away angrily. He didn't have time for this, he had to figure something out, he had to fix what was happening to Jim, if nothing else. Grabbing a notebook and a pen, he began to write, the words coming in stops and starts, each sentence cutting a little piece out of his heart, but he knew it was what he had to do. When he finished, he closed the notebook, intending to type it up in the morning, and turned off the light. Lying down on his back, Blair stared out the window, up at the stars, feeling the tension and fear leave him now that he had actually taken action. Closing his eyes, he remembered the sensation of Dee's arms around him from the night before, and he tentatively reached out through their bond, feeling her love surround him the way it always did. With a blissful sigh, he snuggled under the covers, believing now that everything would turn out all right.
Upstairs, Jim quit tossing and turning and finally drifted off to sleep.
The Phoenix stretched and yawned, wriggling in the overstuffed armchair that had been her ringside seat for that evening's show. Though her death and rebirth had not been pleasant, they had given her back her sanity and her control. She'd easily tracked the players' movements in and out of the apartment building across the street, eavesdropping on their conversations, and pondering her next move.
Pallas was gone and Connor was in the hospital, leaving Ellison and Sandburg unprotected, blinded by the media chaos and not expecting an attack from her quarter. That had not been part of her original plan, but she was flexible, though she would have felt better if Pallas was somewhere she could keep an eye on her, if not remove her from the playing field altogether. To deal with the Sentinel, she would take out Sandburg first. He was the key to Ellison's power. Kill the Guide, cripple the warrior.
The sound of a car approaching turned the Phoenix's attention to the window again. A classic black Thunderbird convertible pulled into the last parking space in the lot. A jolt of electricity slid down her spine, and the siren song of another Immortal sang in her head. Damn! She'd known her base of operations was right on the edge of immortal warning systems, but Diandra hadn't detected her. Of course, she'd had other things on her mind.
The tall dark figure climbing out of the car glanced around, then shrugged. He crossed to number 852 and went inside. She'd gotten a good look at him, though, and recognized him as Duncan MacLeod. Odds were this was Pallas' doing. If the Highlander was going to stick around, she needed a new plan. Facing Diandra in battle didn't frighten her at all; the Phoenix knew the older Immortal could never kill her. But MacLeod was another story. She had no desire, nor the talent, to face him. Resting her chin on her hand, she decided to wait and see what happened. Well informed was well armed. After all, she was in no rush, and she'd promised Juan she would take her time with their deaths. A self-satisfied smile parted her lips.
Shivering, Diandra pulled the thin blanket over herself and tried to get comfortable on the cold leather couch in the cabin of the private jet she'd hired to fly her to Washington, DC. If Blair wanted her out of Cascade, she was going to get as far away as quickly as she could. Rolling onto her back, she cursed the too short loveseat. Memories of curling around Blair's warm body the night before flooded her mind. Pressing her hands over her eyes, she fought back tears, then figured what the hell, and let them flow silently down her cheeks.
She hadn't felt this--this helpless in centuries. Not since Lydia had died in her arms. She'd spent nearly a thousand years learning to control her Quickening, to project her life energy from herself to another, and then spent a thousand years more learning how to use it to heal, all because she'd been afraid of what happened to Lydia happening to another person she loved. And despite her best efforts, she hadn't been able to prevent Megan from being hurt, neither had she been able to help her heal. The hospital might afford her companion some measure of safety, but Blair was in danger, terrible danger. She could sense it in her gut, a gnawing ache that grew as the distance between them increased.
Wiping at her eyes, she sent a silent prayer to her goddess to keep them both safe, to give Duncan the strength and skill and luck necessary to protect them. As for Ellison, as far as she was concerned, he was on his own. Not that she wished anything to happen to him, but her anger at him had not dimmed. Her parting words to him on the stairs hadn't come close to expressing her outrage at his treatment of his guide. He had most certainly not heard the last from her. Closing her eyes, she began to plan what she would say to him when she called him after her arrival in DC. It was better than counting sheep; Diandra was asleep within moments.
The sound of someone pounding on the front door woke Ellison. Rolling out of bed, he grabbed his weapon from the nightstand, and headed down the stairs just in time to see his partner exit his room, muttering under his breath.
"Okay, okay, I'm coming. Whatever it is had better be damn important!"
Jim watched from the shadows on the stairway as Blair took a quick look through the peephole then hastily undid the locks and flung open the door. "Mac! What's the matter? What are you doing here? Oh, god, something's happened to Dee!" At Blair's frightened words, the sentinel padded the rest of the way down the stairs.
MacLeod laid a reassuring hand on Blair's shoulder. "Diandra's fine, she should be on her way to DC right now." He couldn't help but notice the look of anguish that flashed across his friend's face as he mentioned Dee's trip. "She's just fine, in fact, she's the reason I'm here. She asked me to look out for you while she's gone."
Ellison crossed the loft to stand behind his guide. "She what?"
Crossing the threshold, the Immortal set a small duffle bag on the floor and shrugged out of his trenchcoat, hanging it on one of the hooks to the right of the door. Blair closed the door, then turned back toward Mac, just as confused as Jim was. "Why would she do that?" he asked.
Glancing from one man to the other, Mac took in their expressions, Ellison's hard and angry, and Sandburg's tired and pained. "Because she's worried about you--both of you," he emphasized to forestall any protest from Ellison. "And Megan. She asked Joe and I to act as bodyguards until this guy who shot Megan is caught. Joe's at the hospital right now, looking out for her. I volunteered to stick close to you."
"What is it with you Immortals?" Blair exclaimed in frustration. "I don't need a damn bodyguard!"
Jim folded his arms over his bare chest and glared at the Scot, who stood his ground calmly. "I am perfectly capable of protecting my guide." His words were a low growl.
"From everyone but you... " Blair's voice was so soft MacLeod barely heard him, but he knew the sentinel got the message loud and clear.
Ellison closed his eyes for a moment, his expression pained, then turning, he headed upstairs, his back rigid.
Mac shook his head slightly. Dee, lass, what in the hell have you gotten me into? He raised an eyebrow at Blair.
"Don't look at me, man. I'm not giving up my bed for you. If you're determined to stay, you can sleep on the couch." He disappeared into his room for a moment, then returned, tossing a pillow and blanket at the Immortal. "Turn out the light and lock up, would you?" He re-entered the bedroom and shut the door.
Mac made up his bed on the sofa then did as Blair asked before lying down. Crossing his arms behind his head, he stared at the ceiling, thinking evil thoughts about a certain dark-haired immortal of his acquaintance.
Darkness surrounded her, the only illumination that of the stars twinkling in the black velvet sky above. Despite the lack of light, she recognized her surroundings, having been to this place many times before. She gazed up at the tall pillars flanking the entrance to the temple. Since she had been called here for a reason, she had better find out what it was. Taking a deep breath of the crisp air, she started up the steps, pausing when she reached the top. The last time she had been here had been to accept her role of Champion again. That time Lydia had been the messenger.
She shook herself, then walked into the torch-lit temple. Pausing in front of a tall mirror halfway down the long room, she gazed at herself in surprise. Instead of the familiar battle armor of an Amazon, she wore the long, flowing, white tunic of a priestess, a decorative metal breastplate covering her chest, and a short sword that was more symbolic than useful belted at her waist. Her hair was piled on top of her head in the elaborate ceremonial style she'd worn as Apollo's Oracle. Her brow creased in a frown. What was going on?
A soft rustling noise behind her made her turn around. Her Goddess stood there, dressed in the simple leathers of the Huntress. Diandra dropped to one knee, bowing her head. A hand touched her shoulder briefly, then the goddess spoke. "Rise, Chosen One."
She got slowly to her feet, keeping her eyes on the ground in deference. Artemis spoke again. "You may ask your question."
"Why am I here? Why now?" Realization struck her, and her head came up, tears stinging her eyes. "It's because I left my Companion, isn't it? I'm here because I'm not at Megan's side. Something's going to happen to her. No, please," she pleaded. "It's not her fault. Please don't hurt her!"
The Goddess chuckled softly. "Relax, Diandra, your Companion is safe for the moment, as are the Guide and his Sentinel. You are here because it is time for some things to be revealed to you. For nearly three thousand years you have been the Fates Chosen One. You have done almost everything that has been asked of you; you have been the catalyst for events in this world, and in the world of mortals. But even Immortals do not live forever. For eventually each one must fall, so that other souls can take their place."
She hesitated a moment before she spoke, trying to understand the Goddess' message. "Are you saying there is no Game?"
"I'm saying the purpose of the Game may not be what most Immortals believe. For everything in the universe, there is an opposite, a balance. The Game keeps that balance among Immortals. For each Immortal that dies in the game, another crosses over. You have seen it yourself, Diandra, you have killed, and then met a new Immortal, most of whom you chose to teach."
She nodded slowly, remembering Violette Crane, and then meeting Dana Scully the day after she had bested her in battle. "For each one fallen, another rises. That is our true Immortality, not our long lives."
The Goddess nodded. "Only once have you not followed the decision of the Fates. The time is coming for you to rectify that mistake."
Diandra drew in a long breath. "When have I not done the Gods bidding? Perhaps I did not understand the message. After all, the Three can be rather cryptic in their instructions."
Artemis laughed. "That has long been my complaint with the Sisters also." The smile faded from her face. "There was a moment, not so long ago as we judge time, that you did not face your responsibility, you ran from your duty. As a result, many mortals died. The time has come for you to atone for your error in judgement."
The Champion shivered. She remembered the moment all too clearly, a challenge she had refused on the eve of the Second World War. She had fled Europe to the Far East to avoid killing someone she held dear. Turning horrified eyes on her Goddess, she said, "No, I can't... "
The Huntress' voice was firm. "You have no say in the matter. You will face that challenge again, and this time running will not be an option. You must finish what was ordained long ago."
After a long moment, Diandra nodded, dread washing over her. "How much time do I have?" she asked.
"Do not despair, or the fight is already lost. Not all battles are won with a sword. Perhaps this one can be won with the heart. As for when, you will know when the time is here, not before." Nodding, Diandra genuflected before her. Artemis laid a hand on her head. "Go in strength, Chosen One." With those words, she was gone.
With a small sob, Diandra collapsed to the cold marble floor, once again letting the tears flow.
Jim Ellison snatched his phone up. "If this is another of those damned reporters..." he growled.
The voice on the line was cool, almost icy. "You'll what, Ellison? Do to me what you did to Blair?"
"Diandra, I really don't think this is any of your business..." he began, but she cut him off.
"Oh, this is definitely my business, since I didn't get the message through your thick skull the last time we had this little talk."
"I'm not in the mood for a lecture from you. I'm having enough problems as it is. I don't need you defending Sandburg to me, not after what he's done to my life."
"This is not about you, Ellison!" she barked. "It has never been about you! Don't you get it? We are nothing without the guide, without the companion. We exist only as a part of them! A true symbiosis if you will, each is nothing without the other. So get it through your neanderthal head that what you are experiencing, what you are feeling is nothing! Nothing compared to what your soulmate is going through, for he feels your pain as well as his own. Find a way to make it right, Ellison, or I will make you very, very sorry you didn't." With that final warning, the phone went dead.
The woman was nuts, Jim thought, as he stared at the phone, just plain nuts. He looked up as Rafe said something about Sandburg giving a press conference. His heart plunging to his feet, he followed the rest of the bullpen toward the TV.
Diandra flipped her cell phone shut with a snap. She hadn't meant to lose her temper, but he just pushed all her buttons, much as she did to him. She doubted her words would have any real affect on Ellison; he'd become pretty much immune to her threats. It would take a bombshell dropping on him to make him realize how much he was hurting Blair. Closing her eyes, she leaned against the corridor wall. Damn it! She shouldn't be here; she should be in Cascade, at Megan's side, at Blair's side. Despite Artemis' reassurances that they were fine, the ache in her heart wasn't going away.
The light pressure of a hand on her shoulder made her jump. She opened her eyes to find Dana's concerned gaze on her. 'You okay, Dee?"
She nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine. Listen, if I look like I'm spacing or something in there, just kick me under the table. I've got a lot on my mind right now."
Dana gave her a smile. "Sure, but I have to warn you, sitting through one of these meetings is guaranteed destroy any brain cells you have left." When Dee didn't laugh, her expression turned serious. "Dee, it's going to be okay. They're in safe hands. Nothing is going to happen."
Dee headed for the FBI conference room. "Then why do I keep feeling like I've failed them?" Dana didn't have an answer for her.
Blair stood outside the window of Megan's hospital room, MacLeod a silent figure at his shoulder. The Immortal rapped lightly on the glass and both Megan and Joe Dawson looked up. Duncan inclined his head toward the hallway. Getting stiffly to his feet, the Watcher left the room.
"Mac, Blair." Reaching out, Joe gripped his protégé's arm firmly. "When you're through visiting Megan, we need to talk."
Blair nodded uneasily, then brushed past the two men and into Connor's room. "Hey, Megan," he said softly. "How are you doing?"
Her dark blue eyes were filled with concern. "I'm fine, Sandy, but it's obvious you're not. Pull up a chair and tell me what's going on. Joe's been less than helpful."
Blair dragged the plastic chair closer to the bed and sat down. As he was trying to figure out how to begin, she said, "We saw your press conference."
Blair hung his head. "I didn't know what else to do. I fucked up so badly, Megan, with so many people--Jim, Dee, you, Simon--and Jim's was the only life I had any chance of fixing."
"But to give up everything you've worked for all your life? Your reputation, your good name?"
He shook his head, still unable to meet her eyes. "It was the only thing I could think of to make it all stop, to make it all go away right now. Jim has his life back; that's all that matters, even if he never wants anything to do with me again."
"What about Dee? I know she wanted to help you; I thought that was why you came to see her the other night. God, has it only been two days?"
Swallowing audibly, Blair ran his hands over his face. "Dee's gone," he finally managed, his voice cracking on the words. "I... I said some really ugly things to her, and pretty much pushed her to go to DC."
"Oh, Sandy, no."
His eyes glistened with unshed tears. "I'm sorry, Megan. She wanted to be here for you, and I made her leave. I'm so sorry." He had thought that after the press conference, after he'd done what he had to do, that everything would miraculously be okay. What had he been thinking? His whole life was shattered, along with everyone else's. He closed his eyes, trying to get some kind of control over his fragile emotions. "I'm sorry, I can't do this; I can't stay... " He felt her hand brush across his cheek to close gently on the back of his neck. Blair resisted for a moment, then let her pull him toward her. Her arm slid down to encircle his shoulders as he buried his face in her stomach, sobbing quietly, letting the tears finally spill down his cheeks.
MacLeod was bent over a water fountain near the elevators when he felt the tingle start. It began at the top of his head and worked its way down until every nerve ending was on fire. He straightened slowly, his dark eyes going to the elevator doors as they opened.
A tall brunette in scrubs was revealed within, her light eyes scanning the hallway quickly before landing on him. Her brow creased in a small frown, and she stepped out of the car. Moving close enough that their conversation would not be over heard, she said, "I'm not looking for a challenge."
"Neither am I," the Scot replied.
"Good." She continued on down the hallway, not giving him a second look. She smiled to herself. Good thing the Highlander wasn't a Sentinel, else he'd have heard her heart beating a mile a minute.
The Phoenix paused around the corner from the other Immortal, cocking her head slightly and concentrating. It took her a moment to filter out the ordinary sounds of the hospital but it was much easier when she was on the same floor as her prey than it was trying to track their conversation from the parking lot. She found a position from which she could view her subjects without being noticed. Hmm, looked like the Guide was a wee bit upset, which she supposed, was only natural given the circumstances.
Blair's press conference had come as quite a shock to her. She had never imagined him capable of such self-debasing loyalty, especially to someone who treated him the way Ellison did. And what was up with Diandra being so buddy-buddy with Connor? At first she'd suspected they were lovers, but Pallas' nocturnal liaisons with Sandburg had quickly disproved that theory. In fact, Dee's relationship with the Aussie reminded her of Ellison and Sandburg's. Something Blair had said the other night, when he had been making love to Dee, came rushing back to her.
"Turn up the touch dial about three clicks." She hadn't been listening all that closely at the time, but now it made sense, a hell of a lot of sense. Pallas was a Sentinel. That changed everything.
For the second time in twenty-four hours, the Phoenix's carefully laid plans went out the window.
Sitting up slowly, Blair wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Sorry, Megan, I didn't mean to lose it like that."
She gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. "It's okay, Sandy. That's what friends are for."
He cautiously met her gaze, looking for any sign of pity, but found only warmth and concern in her eyes. "Look, I've taken up enough of your time. I should let you get some rest." As she started to protest, Blair shook his head. "I'll be fine, besides, Joe said he needed to talk to me, and I wanted to check on how Simon's doing. I think he's scheduled for surgery this afternoon. I'll come back later, I promise."
"I'll hold you to that. And Sandy, call Dee, tell her you're sorry. Grovel, beg, plead, whatever it takes, okay? You're her heart, you know that, don't you?"
Biting the inside of his lip, Blair blinked, fighting back another wave of tears at her words. "Yeah, yeah, I'll call her." Getting to his feet, he bent over her, kissing her cheek gently. "Quit worrying about me and rest, okay?"
At Megan's nod, Blair gave her a small smile, and left the room. After a quick trip to the men's room to splash some water on his face, he went in search of the Watcher, finding him just down the hallway in the deserted visitor's lounge. He entered slowly, not sure he wanted to hear what Joe had to say. "Hey, Joe."
Dawson looked up at his words. "Blair, have a seat." He waited until the guide sank into one of the vinyl armchairs before continuing. "We saw your press conference this afternoon."
Cringing slightly, Blair scrunched lower in the chair, his eyes on his hands, which curled and uncurled nervously in his lap. "Yeah, well, it wasn't one of my finer moments. If I had been more careful in the first place all of this never would have happened. I've proven beyond all doubt that I can't be trusted with a secret. I won't blame you at all if you want to kick me out of the Watchers."
The older man leaned toward the younger, both hands resting on the top of his cane. "Blair, what you did today took balls, sacrificing yourself to keep Ellison's secret. You've more than proven yourself to me, and to the Watchers. I wish more of our people had your guts and your integrity. I know that right now you're still dealing with everything that's happened the past couple days, and I'll give you as much time as you need to make up your mind."
Blair frowned in puzzlement. This conversation was definitely not going the direction he had thought it would. "Make up my mind about what?"
Joe gave him a gentle smile. "Seeing as you are no longer employed by Rainier University, the Watchers would like to offer you a full time position. Research, field work, a combination of both--you can pretty much write your own ticket. With your anthropological and ancient languages background, you would be an invaluable addition to our organization, and I would be honored to have the opportunity to work more closely with you."
Blair blinked back tears for the third or fourth time that day. He couldn't believe this was happening. He had screwed up incredibly, and done the only thing he could to make Jim's world right again. How come that suddenly made him a hero in Joe and Megan's eyes? "Joe, I--"
Dawson reached over and laid a hand on Blair's arm. "Don't get the wrong idea, Blair. I'm not asking you to come aboard full time because of what you did today. I would have asked you the moment you decided to join us, but you made it clear then that part-time work was all you wanted. I've known all along that you are the kind of person the Watchers need to grow into the 21st century."
Sandburg snorted. "Yeah, a perpetual screw-up."
Joe's fingers dug into the guide's arm. "You are not a screw-up, Blair. I don't know where in the hell you ever got that idea. We're all human; we all make mistakes. What matters is that you cared enough to want to make it right. You have an incredible mind and a hell of a lot to offer. The Watchers would be lucky to have you. Give it some thought, okay? I don't need an answer anytime soon."
He still didn't understand the reason for it, but Joe's praise lifted a little of the weight from his shoulders. The Watcher rose slowly to his feet and headed for the door. "I'm going check up on Mac; he's been gone a little too long for my liking."
As Joe passed him, Blair spoke up. "Joe? Did you really mean what you said? You weren't just saying things to make me feel better, were you?"
He felt Joe's hand on his head, lightly ruffling his curls. "Yeah, I meant what I said. You've got more courage than anyone I've ever met. So don't be so hard on yourself."
"Thanks, Joe. I really needed to hear that." Joe's hand dropped to Blair's shoulder, giving it a quick squeeze, then he was gone. Blair remained seated for a couple minutes more, thinking over what he had said, then he went to check on Simon.
Jim got off the hospital elevator, his senses immediately open and alert, searching for his guide. So intent was he on locating Blair that he didn't notice the Immortal until he literally ran into him.
Duncan's eyes were unreadable black pools. "I'd like a word with you, Ellison."
"Not now, MacLeod." Jim made to go past him, but the other man deliberately blocked his way.
"Yes, now." He gestured toward an empty room.
Jim entered it, Duncan on his heels. "What is it?"
MacLeod folded his arms over his chest and leaned his back against the now closed door. "What are your intentions?"
"Why are you here?"
Shaking his head in frustration, Jim replied, "I don't have to answer to you."
"Yes, you do. Diandra sent me here to protect Blair from Zeller, but from where I'm standing, I think you're the bigger threat. One word from you could hurt him worse than all the Zellers in the world. He's been through enough today, so if your intention is to do anything other than apologize to him, you can leave now."
The sentinel opened his mouth to protest, but no words came out, and he slowly shut it. MacLeod honestly thought he was here to harm Blair. Based on his behavior of the past few days, how could he think anything else? Jim swallowed past the lump in his throat and said hoarsely, "I'm not here to hurt him. I'm here to try and find a way to make what I've done up to him."
The Immortal regarded him intently for a few seconds, then stepped away from the door. "Just remember, I won't be the only one you have to answer to if you screw up."
Jim nodded curtly as he exited, suppressing a shudder at the thought of her name. His knee still ached whenever it rained as a result of the last time she was truly pissed at him. He hadn't been so foolish as to accept a challenge of hand to hand combat from her again. Pausing in the hallway, he locked onto his partner's familiar heartbeat then headed in that direction.
Stepping out of the shower with a large yawn, Diandra wrapped herself in a towel and reached for a hairbrush. Goddess, she was tired. After a pitiful amount of restless sleep on the plane last night, she had spent most of the day at FBI headquarters in various meetings regarding the escaped fugitive, one Linda Bowman. While listening to the Fed brass drone on about profiles and search grids, she'd managed to zone, not once, but three times. She swore the last time Dana had kicked her she'd dislocated her kneecap.
Yanking a T-shirt over her head, Dee paused, inhaling deeply. It smelled like Blair. She must have grabbed his shirt when she'd hastily packed the other morning. Closing her eyes, she opened herself up to their connection, wondering if the three thousand miles between them would make a difference. She was immediately aware of the pulsing gold band of energy that tied her to her companion. She felt a smile cross her face. At least Megan was fine. She'd called the hospital during one of the breaks between meetings, and although Joe had told her she was sleeping, she was doing better.
Dee turned her attention back to what she had been doing, finding the blue-white ribbon that represented her bond with Blair. It was as strong as ever. After projecting a message of love and support toward him, she turned out the bathroom light and headed for bed, despite the fact that it was barely 5 PM, fighting back another yawn. Climbing into bed, she pulled the covers up, once again glad she hadn't sold her Georgetown townhouse when she'd moved to the West Coast.
She had just begun to drift off to sleep when the phone rang. Groping for it, she pulled it under the covers with her. "Pallas."
Her former student's voice came over the line. "Dee, turn on CNN Headline news!"
Sitting up, Dee grabbed the remote and pointed it at the TV, flicking quickly to the correct channel. Blair's face filled the screen, his eyes wet with unshed tears, his words rough with emotion. "... However, my desire to impress both my peers and the world at large drove me to an immoral and unethical act. My thesis "The Sentinel" is a fraud. While my paper does quote ancient source material, the documentation proving that James Ellison...actually possesses hyper-senses is fraudulent. Looking back, I can't say that it's a good piece of fiction. I apologize for this deception. My only hope is that I can be forgiven for the pain I've caused those that are close to me. Thank you."
The announcer's voice broke in then, but Dee didn't hear what he was saying. "Oh, god, Lobo... what have you done?"
"Dee? Are you still there?" Dana's words finally penetrated her shock.
Scrambling out of bed, the phone tucked between her chin and her shoulder, Dee began to pull on clothes. "Dana, I can't stay here. I have to go home. I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Dee, I understand. I'll come up with something to tell Mulder and Skinner. You be careful, okay? Watch your head."
"Yeah, you too, Estrellita." Clicking the phone off, she tossed it at the bed, then stepped into her shoes, grabbed her coat and headed down the stairs, the feeling of dread in the pit of her stomach growing with every moment that passed.
Jim rounded the nurses' station in ICU, pausing for a moment as he spotted Sandburg talking with a doctor.
As the surgeon walked off, he approached the other man slowly, unsure of what to say.
Blair looked up, the events of the day written plainly on his face, but he managed a slight smile. "Hey. The doc said the surgery went well and the bullet missed major organs on both of them, but, uh, he said they can leave in about a week or two."
Relief washed over Jim. "Thank God."
There was awkward silence for a moment, then Blair said, "So, I heard you guys probably got Zeller."
Jim shrugged slightly. "I don't know. Somebody probably got him. We've still got Bartley to contend with. I don't know which one's worse." He steeled himself for what he had to say next, hoping he would find the right words. "I saw your press conference."
Blair's eyes remained fixed on the floor. "Oh, yeah, you saw it?" He glanced up and to the side, anywhere but at Jim. "It's just a book."
"It was your life."
His partner shifted his weight from foot to foot but still didn't look up. "Yeah, it was." His eyes finally met Jim's. "You know, you were right. I mean, uh, I don't know what I was expecting to do with it, and, uh...I mean, where do I get off following you around for three years pretending I was a cop, right?"
"This self-deprecation doesn't suit you, you know. You might have been just an observer, but you were the best cop I've ever met and the best partner I could have ever asked for. You've been a great friend and you've pulled me through some pretty weird stuff." The words poured out of Jim easily, and part of him wondered why he had hesitated to say them before, to tell Blair how much he meant to him.
Blair stared at him a moment, surprised, then said softly, "Thanks."
The open emotion in the younger man's eyes made Ellison uneasy, and he changed the subject before things got too mushy. "Are you ready to get busy?" Blair's answer was a swift nod as he followed his friend out of ICU.
MacLeod detached himself from the shadows and trailed after them.Part 2