Yes, I've been working on this off and on and hope to have the whole thing finished some time this spring. I will warn that this part does make reference to another story not yet finished, called Hawaiian Blues, which details what happened on the trip to Hawaii at the end of Immortal End Game. Hopefully that one will be up this spring as well, and that it's absence isn't too confusing for you. But I've gotten a number of Locs lately wanting another part to this, so I'm posting what I have.
A few nights later, Dee was propped up in bed reading a book. Blair was asleep beside her, one arm thrown over her hips, his cheek pressed against her side. The case the FBI had wanted Dee's help on was stalled, and they had spent the five days since Blair's arrival basically goofing off, and sleeping late. When they did venture out, they kept it simple, a visit to the Smithsonian one day, the Cherry Blossom Festival the next, followed by dinner at some place relaxed and casual, like the Cactus Cantina. They'd ended up one night at the Uptown Scoop, an ice cream place run by a former flower child who, as it turned out, knew Naomi. They'd ended up sampling about every flavor and listening to stories about their protest days. Blair at first had been a little uncomfortable with the subject of Naomi cropping up, but she had reassured him with a smile and a squeeze of his hand, and he had relaxed and enjoyed the tales.
Gazing down at him, Dee ran a hand lightly through his hair. Things were finally returning to a semblance of normal. Blair was sleeping soundly through the night, and the dark circles of worry were gone from under his eyes. It hadn't hurt a bit that here in the District no one gave a damn about what had happened 3,000 miles away, and he had been able to roam freely without a pack of media hounds on his tail. They'd even visited a couple antique shops and art galleries, gathering ideas to toss around for the business she was still interested in starting with him.
She was just getting ready to turn out the light and join Blair in sleep when the phone rang. She snatched it up on the first ring, not wanting to wake him. "Hello."
"Dee, it's Dana. We just got a tip that Bowman is holed up in a warehouse in Falls Church, VA."
"Are you sure it's legitimate?"
"No, but it's one she's used before. Mulder wants to go check it out before we call for reinforcements. You and I both know it's better if we do it this way."
Sighing, Dee replied, "You're probably right." She reached for a notepad and a pen. "What's the address?" Jotting it down, she said, "Okay, give me about ninety minutes and I'll meet you there." Hanging up the phone, she crawled out of bed and began getting dressed.
Blair stirred, rolling over on his back and blinking sleepy eyes at her. "Dee? What's going on?"
Pulling a t-shirt over her head, she tucked it into her jeans. "Dana called. They have a lead on their fugitive." He got out of bed and grabbed what he'd been wearing earlier off a chair. She stared at him. "Where do you think you're going?"
Blair glanced up from tugging his jeans over his hips. "With you." He cut her off before she could protest. "Don't argue with me, angel. You're not going to win this one. You need me there to help you with your senses."
Crossing the small space between them, Dee cupped his cheek with her hand, then bent down to brush her lips against his. She quirked a smile at him when they parted. "Okay. But if after I check it out I want you to stay outside, you'll do it. If she can do one tenth of the stuff Mulder claims I don't want you anywhere near her."
Blair nodded. "You got it. I don't want anyone poking around in my head."
Five minutes later, they headed out the door.
Dee pulled her rented SUV to a stop behind Mulder's FBI issue sedan. Both vehicles were in the parking lot of what appeared to be an empty warehouse. Dee got out of her car, followed by Blair, and they met up with the two agents at a fence surrounding the building. "Got anything?" she asked.
Dana Scully shook her head. "We just arrived ourselves."
"And even if we had seen any activity, we're dealing with someone who can manipulate peoples' minds. We can't trust that anything we experience is real," Mulder said seriously.
A tight smile crossed Dee's face. "That's where we come in. Lobo?" Nodding, Blair rested his hand on Dee's shoulder, grounding her as she stretched out her senses. A single heartbeat leapt at her from echoing silence of the large building. "Someone's there, that's for certain. Whether or not it's Linda Bowman, I can't tell."
Mulder raised an appraising eyebrow at her. "Some day you're going to have to tell me how you do that."
"What? My being immortal isn't enough for you?"
He shrugged. "I figure you're an x-file about 12 times over, Dee."
Scully looked up from checking her weapon. "Do we want to call for back up?"
Dee shook her head. "I think the less people involved in this, the less chance of someone getting hurt. And the two of us have an advantage. Mulder's the only one in any real danger, since Blair is staying here." She gave him a warning glance.
He raised his hands in surrender. "You hear me arguing with that?"
"Just wanted to make sure we're clear on that, Lobo. What's the best way to approach this? Split up and try and surprise her?"
Mulder nodded. "Makes sense to me. You're the wild card. Hopefully her psychic abilities won't work on you. Scully and I will try to distract her, and you take her out from behind. If we come at her from three different directions at once, she won't be able to deal with us all. I hope."
"Right," Dee agreed. "Okay, let's do it." Reaching under her trenchcoat, she released the strap on her Desert Eagle automatic.
Blair caught her arm before she headed toward the warehouse. "Use your senses, Dee, just in case you're affected by her illusions. They won't lie to you."
After pressing a kiss to his cheek, she followed Mulder and Scully into the darkness.
Climbing back into Dee's rented Cherokee, Blair closed the door quietly, not wanting to give the team away. He hated this part, always had. It damn near killed him most of the time to watch Jim rushing into danger while he stayed behind, but he understood the reasons. He wasn't a cop; he wasn't trained for this kind of situation, and he had no desire ever to learn. This kind of thing was better left to people who could make the split second decisions the situation required. Oh Blair had no doubt he wouldn't hesitate to protect Jim, or Dee for that matter, his battle with Lee Eolia had taught him that. But it was a situation he never wanted to be in again, having to decide whether someone lived or died by his hand.
He rolled the window open a crack, listening to the stillness. The warehouse was in a mostly rural area, and no familiar traffic noise reached his ears. Instead, he heard the sharp bark of an automatic weapon, then silence. Shit!
Slipping out of the car, Blair walked a few paces toward the darkened building, then stopped, straining to hear anything that would let him know things were all right. Nothing. Damn it. He was going to have to go inside.
Keeping to the shadows, he trotted across the broken asphalt toward the door Mulder had entered. Turning the knob slowly, Blair felt the door open inward, and he edged into the blackness. A light was burning deeper inside the building, and he headed toward it, careful not to make any noise. Despite his best efforts, his foot snagged on something soft, and he tumbled to his hands and knees with a muffled grunt. He glanced back at the object he'd tripped over and found himself staring into the cold, dead eyes of Agent Scully, a bullet hole neatly placed in the middle of her forehead. He nearly bit through his tongue in his effort to control his urge to cry out.
Now what was he supposed to do? He knew she would come back, but head wounds always took longer, and due to her youth in immortal terms, she wouldn't revive nearly as quickly as Dee would. If Linda Bowman thought she had taken out Scully, then she would go after Mulder next. Hell, from what Mulder had told him of their last encounter, she had set Mulder up to shoot his partner by making Scully appear to be Linda. I really should get out of here. But something was telling him he needed to stay. Spying Scully's Sig Sauer lying next to her, Blair picked it up, then continued on toward the light, figuring Bowman was egotistical enough to want a showdown between herself and Mulder.
When he reached the light, Blair saw Mulder standing in the middle of the pool of illumination, his gun drawn. "Linda Bowman! I know you're here! This is between you and me now. Show yourself!"
Blair decided staying hidden was a good idea. But his body thought otherwise. He stepped into the light, pointing Scully's gun at Mulder. Oh, god! What in the hell was happening to him? With that thought, he became aware of another presence in his mind, controlling his actions while he was shoved aside, helpless. In horror he realized Bowman was using him, was making him her weapon against Mulder.
He fought to open his fingers, to drop the gun, but Blair was caught fast in her mental grip. If only he could warn the FBI agent...he tried to speak. "Mulder, run!"
The other man spun toward the sound of Blair's voice. "Blair? What in the hell are you doing here?"
"I don't want to shoot you, man. She's gonna make me shoot you!" He was trembling under the strain now, every muscle, every cell trying to make some kind of movement on his own. Anything but pulling the trigger, anything but that!
Mulder's eyes blazed in anger as he yelled to the vast warehouse, "Linda! He's an innocent! He has nothing to do with this! Let him go!"
Blair's arm came up further, so the automatic was pointing squarely at Mulder's chest. "Damn it, Mulder, get out of here! Or shoot me! She can't use me if you shoot me!"
The other man shook his head vehemently. "No, that's what she wants. She made me shoot Scully, now she wants me to kill you. I won't do it. You hear me, Linda! I won't do it!"
Blair felt his index finger tightening on the trigger. The Sig Sauer barked once and the recoil knocked him back a few steps. "NO!" he screamed as Mulder staggered, then dropped to the ground. He heard another shot behind him, then Blair collapsed like a broken marionette, the foreign presence gone from his mind.
Dropping the gun, he crawled to Mulder, oblivious to the blood soaking into his jeans, his fingers searching for a pulse at the agent's throat. He couldn't find one. No. No. "NO!"
Then strong arms were encircling him from behind, pulling him away from the fallen man. He started to struggle, then recognized Dee's calm voice in his ear. "It's okay, Lobo, it's okay."
Blair twisted in her arms, trying to break free, to help the man he knew was already dead. "No, Dee, you have to help him. Oh, god, oh, god, I shot him! I didn't want to! I told him to run...why wouldn't he run?"
Diandra's grip tightened on him. "Shh, shh, it's okay, Blair, really it's okay."
No, it wasn't okay; it would never be okay. He'd killed someone. He'd killed a friend. That thought knocked all the fight out of him, and Blair went limp against her, his chest heaving from his previous exertions.
Scully chose that moment to wander into the light, one hand held to her head. Her eyes took in Mulder's still body, Blair's distraught appearance, and Dee's calm demeanor. "Fuck." She knelt beside her partner, checking his pulse. Just as she pulled her hand away, Mulder's eyes snapped open, and he inhaled.
Blair was so stunned he jerked in Dee's embrace, smacking his head into her face.
"Ow!" She let go of him, one hand cupping her nose.
"He's Immortal!" Blair was stunned.
"I'm Immortal?" Mulder sat up with Scully's help. "Cool." He frowned. "But does coming back always hurt this much?"
"Sorry, but yeah," his partner told him.
He shook his head, rubbing his hand over his chest. "God, I feel awful. Bowman! What happened to Linda?"
"She's dead," Dee spoke up. "Sorry I didn't get to the party earlier. The door I tried to enter was blocked and I was delayed." Blair felt her hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry I couldn't prevent you having to go through that."
Blair just shuddered, still unable to wrap his mind around what had happened to him. Another shiver ran through him, and he wondered if he was going into shock. Dee must have sensed his discomfort with the whole thing, because she pulled him to his feet, wrapping an arm around his waist. "I'm taking Blair home. You need any T's crossed, or I's dotted, you know where to find us."
He walked toward the entrance with her, passing the body of a thin, blond woman lying on the cement floor, blood pooling underneath her head. Blair barely made it outside before losing the contents of his stomach. He felt Dee's hands on him, holding him up as he retched pitifully into the sparse grass next to the building.
When he was finished, Dee helped him to the car, opening the passenger door for him. Climbing into the driver's seat, she started the engine and pulled out onto the road. Her hand found his, and she held it tenderly the whole way back, but it didn't help. Blair doubted anything could erase the memory of what he'd done. Leaning his head against the window, he closed his eyes, wishing he were anywhere but here.
Dee stared at the ceiling above her bed. Blair lay beside her, his back to her, curled into a tight ball, sleeping fitfully. This was wrong. It was all wrong.
Once they'd reached the townhouse, she'd tried to talk to him, tried to comfort him, tried to reassure him that what happened was not his fault, that he had been under Linda's control. He'd stalked into the bathroom and shut the door in her face. She'd tried once again to be there for him after he'd come out, but he said he wasn't ready to talk about it, that all he wanted to do was go to bed. She didn't blame him. If she were Blair, she'd be pissed at her, too. She'd gotten him into this, and then hadn't been able to protect him. That seemed to be the story of their lives, lately. No matter how much she wanted things just to be normal, for them to live an uneventful, boring life, disaster continued to strike. How much more could he take? How long until he said enough, that their love wasn't worth the pain that seemed to come along with it?
Never mind the fact that she'd not told him about her vision, about Artemis' warning. Something was coming for her, and Diandra wasn't sure she'd be ready for it. And what if Blair's caught in the crossfire again, champion? What will you do then?
Finding no answers in the ceiling plaster, Dee crawled quietly out of bed and headed upstairs to the third floor, which she had long ago turned into a workout studio. Turning on the stereo, Dee picked out a CD, selected a track, and set it on repeat. She adjusted the volume so that it wouldn't wake Blair, then she chose a sword from the wall, a curved Arabian shamshir. As the beat of drums and bells began, she started to move her shoulders, then her hips, slowly at first, then with more confidence as her body remembered the ancient dance.
As the song started over for the third time, Diandra achieved her goal, tonight's tragedy forgotten for the moment. She became one with the music, lost in the rhythm of the dance.
Rolling over, Blair stretched his arm across the bed. When he encountered nothing but empty mattress, he opened his eyes. Dee was gone.
A long sigh escaped his lips. Why did they keep doing this to each other? Why had he turned his back on her, shut her out, the way she had him a few days before? Why had he refused the comfort she offered? Did he really think that by pushing her away, by keeping his pain inside, he was sparing her anything? He was only making it worse for both of them. Really, how stupid was that?
Turning onto his back, Blair scrubbed at his face with his hands, then ran his fingers through his hair. As he stared at the ceiling, he heard the faintest of thumping noises, like bare feet on a hardwood floor. It was coming from above him. He knew it was probably Dee, working through her frustration with him physically, taking her irritation out on some defenseless punching bag, but he pushed the covers to the end of the bed and got up anyway.
Ascending the stairs slowly, he began to hear the soft strains of music as he reached the top. Crossing the landing, Blair stopped just outside the doorway to the studio, his eyes widening at the sight of his lover.
Diandra's eyes were closed as she moved to the middle-eastern music, her cropped tank top wet with sweat, her loose pants flowing as her feet twirled her across the floor, her hips undulating in time with the beat. It wasn't a big stretch for Blair to imagine her dressed in precious jewels and veils, performing for some sultan in a decadent palace. The sword seemed out of place, but as he watched she incorporated it into the dance, the deadly swathes she cut through the air a counterpoint to the seductive movement of her hips.
She turned toward him, her eyes opening. Surprise flickered across her face as she caught sight of him, then she smiled, the hand not gripping the sword beckoning him into the room. Blair entered slowly, a bit uncertain. Dee laid the sword behind her head, across her shoulders, and shimmied toward him, her fingers trailing along his cheek and over his shoulder as she danced around him. He felt his heart skip a beat as she freed the curved blade again, twirling it around them both in an intricate pattern.
He didn't dare move for fear of accidentally injuring himself, but his gaze followed her as she danced, watching in the mirrors when she moved behind him. There was a slight break in the music as the song ended and then began again, and she sent the sword sliding across the floor away from them during it.
Wordlessly, she invited him to dance and, self-consciously at first, he began to follow her lead, stamping his feet on the floor, then shaking his shoulders. He had a bit of a problem with the hip thing, then realized he was trying too hard. Once he relaxed, he got the hang of it and was rewarded with a teasing grin from Dee.
The music paused, then repeated, and Diandra danced closer, her body brushing against Blair's as she moved. She pressed her back against his chest, one arm curled over her head and behind his neck. She slid down him to sit on the floor then, as his hand grasped her still upraised one, she spun to face him, rising gracefully to her feet. Planting the hand she held against the small of her back, she began the steps again, this time face to face, all of her touching all of him.
A low moan escaped him. Everything else faded away; nothing mattered but this moment in time, nothing but their erotic ballet. They danced across the room, ending up on the large window seat, half on and half off the plush cushions as urgent hands discarded annoying clothing. Then they were skin on skin, touching, tasting, no words necessary to express the primal need to reaffirm their bond, to be one in heart, mind and body.
Megan walked out of Jim's bathroom carrying a small bowl filled with first aid supplies, sterile gauze pads, tape and alcohol. Crossing to the couch, she took a seat next to Jim, who had his injured leg up on the coffee table, house rules be damned. Plopping the bowl in his lap, she let the bathrobe she was wearing slide off her shoulder.
Jim reached over and began to peel the tape away from the bandage covering her gunshot wound. "Ow, bloody hell, Ellison!" she cursed as he ripped the tape off.
"Well, you told me you preferred quick to slow."
She gritted her teeth, knowing the sentinel was grinning even though her back was to him. Still, she guessed she couldn't really complain. Overall, they'd managed pretty well the past five days. She was Jim's legs, and he was her hands. She knew bets had been made about how long they could go without killing each other, but so far they hadn't argued over anything other than the TV remote, though they'd almost come to blows over that.
"Looks like it's healing really well. When are you supposed to get your stitches out, tomorrow?" Jim asked as he cleaned the injury and applied a new bandage.
"Yeah. Then it's off to physical therapy." She wasn't looking forward to that.
"Okay, turn around. Back's done."
Megan fumbled with the lapel of her robe with her good hand, trying to preserve some amount of dignity and failing.
Jim let out a sigh. "We go through this every time, Connor. I've seen you naked before and the world didn't end."
She thought back to their drunken roll in the sack in Hawaii over three months ago. With a small shake of her head, Megan let go of the robe and let him remove the gauze covering on the entrance side of the wound. After a few moments, she asked, "Do you regret it?"
Jim didn't look up from swabbing her sutures with an alcohol soaked cotton ball. "Regret what?"
"What happened in Hawaii."
He paused in his washing, then met her gaze. "It was…the wrong time. But I don't regret it, no. How could I? You’re a good friend, Megan, and a beautiful woman. And as long as no one was harmed by our indiscretion, then I don't regret it. Do you?"
She stared into his clear blue eyes for a long moment, pondering her answer. Before that night, she'd never really considered a relationship with Jim, in fact, she'd denounced the idea to Blair. But she had to admit she'd enjoyed it. What she'd enjoyed even more was the way she and Jim had been so in synch, had had the same goal of getting Blair and Dee back together and had worked together to attain it. It made her wonder what else they could accomplish if they put their minds to it.
"Megs, it wasn't that tough a question," he chided, using his nickname for her.
Blinking, she smiled at him. "No, I don't regret it. In fact, that night's been on my mind a lot lately."
Jim went back to changing her bandage. "Really? How so?"
"I don't know. Just wondering, I guess."
"Wondering what, or do I really want to know?" He applied the last piece of tape and gently pulled her robe up on her shoulder, his fingers lingering a little longer than strictly necessary.
Megan breathed deeply, trying to calm the butterflies in her stomach. "I've been wondering what it would be like to maybe think about the possibilities of a relationship. Of course, if you're against the idea, forget I brought it up."
Jim grinned at her, his fingertips lightly tracing the skin at the side of her neck. He leaned in closer, gently nuzzling her. "I think I can be persuaded." Lips ghosted across her cheek, then met hers in a tender kiss.
When he pulled away a few moments later, Megan exhaled slowly, trying to calm the desire burning in her veins. Slow, take things slow, Meg. Jim leaned in a second time, his talented lips nipping at her throat before claiming her mouth again, his kiss deep and urgent. She moaned into the kiss, the fingers of her good hand riffling through his short hair. Screw slow!
He broke the kiss to look at her. "What?"
"Mmmm…" She ran her hand under the suddenly constricting collar of her robe. "I think I said 'screw slow'…."
His eyes lit up as his fingers tugged at the belt holding her robe closed. "Sounds like a wonderful idea…."
Peace. Love. Joy. Blair slowly identified the emotions filling his soul as he lay draped across his lover, his muscles suffused with a warm lassitude. He felt her fingers moving in his hair, separating curls damp and tangled with sweat.
The horror of having his mind invaded was fading, replaced by the knowledge that here in Diandra's arms he was safe. For the moment, he felt invulnerable. Nothing could hurt him, not the loss of his reputation, or the prospect of long-term unemployment, nor the lingering fear that what he'd done for Jim hadn't been enough to compensate for the damage he'd caused. For now, Blair felt only happiness.
Diandra's lips brushed against his forehead, and she tugged the soft afghan covering them a little higher.
Happiness wasn't a strong enough word, Blair decided. Bliss. This was what bliss felt like.
He wriggled on the big window seat's cushions, and slid most of his weight off his lover, leaving an arm around her waist and one leg entwined with hers. He let out a contented sigh.
"Comfy?" Dee asked.
Blair nuzzled her cheek. "Very. I want to feel this way forever."
She kissed him gently, whispering, "So do I, love, so do I. I don't want us to fight anymore."
He raised up a bit on his elbow and looked down at her, a grin parting his lips. "I don't know. If we never fought, we'd miss out on the great make-up sex."
She trailed a finger down the bridge of his nose. "Maybe we can just fight about the little things, like leaving the toilet seat up." She accepted a kiss from him before she continued, "I don't want to go through the past few weeks ever again. I know most of it was my fault. I wasn't there when you needed me--"
Pulling her close, Blair made a shushing noise. "Angel, don't do this. I'm as much at fault as you are. I'm the one who screwed things up by letting my mom have access to my thesis. It just snowballed from there. And tonight, tonight was nobody's fault but Bowman's. I'll…I'll deal with it. But it's over now, done with. We get to start again, with a whole new set of wonderful possibilities. Besides, you're always talking about destiny, about fate. Maybe this was my--our--wake-up call to let us know we were on the wrong path, that we should be paying more attention to what's really important--our friends and each other."
He watched as the blue of her eyes deepened, then she pressed her cheek against his, her voice thick with tears as she spoke. "I love you so much, Lobo. I promise you, I swear, I'll always be here for you."
Blair simply hugged her in return, murmuring his love for her, pushing away the painful truth. She was Immortal. No matter how much she loved him, sooner or later, she would have to leave. But until that moment came, he vowed nothing would tear them apart.
Climbing out of her SUV, the Phoenix took a long look around. Tall pines stretched up the hillside, their branches entwining overhead, filtering the sun's rays so that the forest floor was dappled in shadow. Consulting the old Native American map, she headed up the mountainside. According to it, what she was looking for was just above her.
As she approached her goal, a slim opening in the rock hidden by vegetation, visible only to sharp sentinel eyes, she felt the electric tingle start. Yes. This was it. This was what she was looking for, land blessed by some ancient shaman. Holy ground. Reaching the mine's entrance, she tore the brush away by hand, then entered.
She spent several hours exploring the abandoned copper mine, searching for the perfect base of operations. She found it in a side shaft. It would take some work, but with a little cement, some chain-link fencing, and a generator, she would have the perfect place to stash an immortal prize.
A feral smile crossed her face, and remained there for the entire hike back to her truck.
Blair got off the elevator at the seventh floor, pausing in the hallway, taking a long look before he began his slow trek toward Major Crime. The glass had been repaired, he noted, though the new sheet rock hadn't been painted yet. Passing the men's room, he made a detour inside. No one else was there, which was good.
He washed his hands at the sink, watching the dust and dirt he'd picked up cleaning out his office at Rainier run down the drain. He hadn't imagined it would be so hard. Every book, every artifact, hell, every piece of paper was a memory of a life he no longer had. He bent over the basin, splashing water on his face. Grabbing a paper towel, he patted it dry, then peered at his image in the mirror.
The eyes that stared back at him were red and tired. He looked old; shit, he felt old. And try as he might, he couldn't forget the feel of the gun in his hand, the retort as it fired. The fact that he hadn't actually killed anyone, that he'd triggered Mulder's immortality, didn't matter. He never wanted to hold a gun again.
Mulder had been cool about it, actually. He'd showed up on the doorstep of Dee's townhouse the morning after, and had a long talk with Blair. He'd reassured Blair that he didn't blame him, that, in fact, Mulder was glad it had happened. Now he would never be separated from Scully. As far as Mulder was concerned, his misadventure had a happy ending.
"Too bad I can't say the same about mine," Blair said to his reflection. Things with Dee were…better. They'd finally sat down and talked about the events of the past few weeks, about the things that had gone wrong, about the mistakes they'd both made, about their fears. Blair knew that he could count on her, that she would always be there, that she would always love him, no matter what.
He'd clung to that the whole way back to Cascade. Even though she had stayed behind in DC to give Mulder some preliminary training while searching for a teacher for him, Blair knew he had her support and her strength to get him through the days ahead. He'd really wished for her physical presence that morning, though. Nothing quite so humiliating as cleaning out his office with security leaning over his shoulder, taking inventory, making sure he didn't walk out of there with so much as a paper clip that was university property.
But Diandra would be home soon, and they could finalize the plans they'd made late at night, curled together in her cozy bed. They would open an antique and collectibles business, using the treasure trove of artifacts she'd told him she had stashed away in a couple warehouses around the world. One could accumulate a heck of a lot in almost three thousand years. He'd expressed concern about how his newly minted reputation as a fraud would affect business. She'd kissed him and told him not to worry. The items were genuine, and after a few sales, they would create a new reputation, one of honesty, fair prices, and high quality.
It sounded so simple when she explained it. Of course, she wasn't the one who had to break the news to Jim. But what else did Jim expect him to do? Blair had to earn his keep somehow, and at the moment, he couldn't think of any reason someone would hire him to wash dishes, let alone handle any kind of responsibility. A partnership in an antique store seemed--well, if not perfect, at least it would allow him to create a new name for himself.
Sighing, Blair ran a hand through his hair. He was glad Jim was at the loft. He didn't think he could bear it if his friend was there to witness Blair's second humiliation of the day, cleaning out his desk in Major Crime. One last glance in the mirror, then he headed for the hallway. Time to get this over with.
From her position in the passenger seat of the Ford, Megan glanced over at Jim. "Are you sure you should be driving?"
Ellison nodded. "Doc said it was okay as long as I don't over do it."
"I offered to drive--"
"One-handed? I don't think so." He punctuated his words with a grin in her direction.
Megan felt a pleasant warmth spread through her, then shook her head. "Don't do that."
"Look at me like that. It reminds me of what we were doing before Sandy arrived this morning." Fortunately they'd both been decent and in the kitchen when Blair walked in. Otherwise they'd probably still be trying to explain to him what they didn't understand themselves. When they had found out Sandy was returning, they'd decided to keep their interest in each other under wraps until they'd figured out if it was serious or not. Megan and Jim were both a little wary of romance, especially with each other. She didn't blame him, after Eolia. And Jim definitely wasn't her usual type. But she had to admit they'd had fun the past week, and found some rather creative ways to get around their injuries. She sighed and looked out the side window. "I can't keep my cop face on when you do that."
She felt his fingertips brush her cheek. "Sorry." He braked at a stoplight. His light touch under her chin turned her face to him, and he leaned toward her, stealing a long kiss. He didn't pull away until the car behind them honked its horn.
"All right, all right, keep your pants on," Jim muttered as he pulled through the intersection.
Megan smiled at him. "Good advice, that."
He stuck his tongue out at her.
"Ah, now you're showing your true age." But she reached over and patted his leg, letting her hand rest there as he drove. There was silence between them for a minute or so, then Megan asked, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Jim glanced at her. "Hmm, what?"
"Offering Sandy a position at Major Crime. I mean, not that it's not a good idea, but don't you think we should all sit down and discuss this in private first? I really think Dee and Sandy ought to know what you and Simon have set up before you just spring it on him in front of everyone."
Jim shrugged. "I have to do something, Connor. It's my fault he got fired from the university. If this isn't the direction he wants to go, then he doesn't have to accept it. I just want to let him know the option to be my partner on the force is open to him."
Sighing, Megan went back to staring out the window. She had a bad feeling about the whole thing. She'd tried calling Dee after Sandy had arrived at the loft that morning, but had gotten no answer at either her DC townhouse or her cell phone. She was sure the immortal was fine, but her being unavailable today was bloody inconvenient.
The Major Crime bullpen was almost deserted when Blair entered. Good, this was good. The fewer people here to witness him retreating with his tail between his legs, the better. He probably should scrounge up a box from someplace. Rhonda usually kept a few empty ones by the copier. He headed toward the Xerox machine, but found himself detouring into Simon's office.
He stood there, staring at the conference table, memories of long nights, brainstorming sessions and piles of paperwork flooding his mind. He had been a part of that, had made a difference, or so he had thought.
"Hey, Blair, what you up to, man?"
Blair shook himself out of his reverie at the sound of Joel's voice. "I'm taking a last look around."
Joel's expression seemed genuinely puzzled. "Last look? You going somewhere?"
Blair shrugged, not sure exactly how to explain his situation. He settled for the bitter truth. "Well, yeah. I cleaned out my desk over at Rainier. I thought I'd do the same thing here. I'm a fraud, man. I don't think Simon's going to want me hanging around."
"Sandburg! That is not your office," Simon's voice boomed through the bullpen.
"Hey, Simon, they let you out?" Blair exited the captain's office to find the previously empty room full of his friends--and his mom? What in the hell was going on?
Leaning on his cane, a grin on his face, Jim answered, "Nah, they threw him out."
"They didn't throw me out," Simon growled from his wheelchair. "They said I was too cantankerous."
Jim feigned surprise and pinched Simon's cheek. "You? No."
Blair turned his gaze to his mother, Naomi, who leaned against a desk, a smile plastered on her face. "Thank god Dee isn't here," ran through his mind. He didn't think he could have dealt with the two of them coming face to face along with everything else he'd been through today. "Mom, what are you doing here?"
Reaching out, she patted his face. "I'd never miss this occasion, darling."
Alarm bells began to go off in his head. Ignoring them, Blair said, "This is great. Everybody's safe and out of the hospital and happy." At least that's why he hoped everyone was gathered together and all staring at him. He fought the urge to flee.
Simon cleared his throat. "That's not exactly why we asked your mom here. I understand you gave up your job at the university, and I saw you over there in my office. So, we decided we needed to do something to keep you under control."
Whatever it was, it didn't sound good. Blair brought his hands up. "Whoa, whoa, look guys, it's handled, okay? I'm outta here--"
"You're finished in this department, Chief--."
Blair flinched. He hadn't thought hearing the words would hurt so much. "Yeah, well, I-I sort of…well, I figured that."
"--as an observer." Jim tossed something at him.
Reflexively, Blair caught the leather wallet and slowly opened it. A gleaming gold shield shone up at him. Confusion and dread began to knot in the pit of his stomach. "What is this? This is a detective's badge." He looked back up, his eyes running over the faces gazing at him. His mother wore an expression of forced happiness, and Megan looked decidedly uncomfortable, her smile anxious. "I don't deserve this," he stated, holding the billfold out.
Simon took it from him. "No, you don't, at least not until you go to the Police Academy and complete firearms training. And if you do, Detective Ellison is looking for a permanent official partner."
With a supreme effort, Blair kept his expression neutral while his heart pounded in his chest. He could feel the grip of Scully's Sig Sauer in his hand, his finger tightening on the trigger, the recoil jerking his arm up slightly. With sentinel-like sight he tracked the bullet, seeing it pierce Mulder's chest, a crimson stain blossoming from the crisp, neat hole. He couldn't carry a gun, not after what he'd done. He wasn't going to kill someone again.
Blair shook himself out of his nightmare recollections, feeling rather than seeing Jim approach him. He realized he had to say something. "Uh, yeah? So, does this mean a paycheck?" That's it, Sandburg. Make a joke. Make them think everything's okay….
Jim laughed. "Can you say 'back rent'? Come on, what do you say?"
Blair caught Megan's eyes, mentally begging her to save him.
She must not have understood his silent plea, because she chimed, "Say something, Sandy."
He babbled the only thing that popped into his head. "I'm still not cutting my hair."
Jim laughed again, an irritating "Ho, ho, ho."
"I'm not going to do it." Blair took a step back, feeling cornered, his emotions churning, ready to explode.
Jim hooked the crook of his cane around Blair's neck, wrapping him in a headlock as he gave him a noogie. "They're going to love you at the Academy. Captain, I'm going to make a little Blair-skin rug for you here…"
Blair rammed his elbow into Jim's mid-section and slipped out of his hold. "Let go of me!" He backed away from the group, feeling their surprised gazes on him. "I just--I can't deal with this right now, okay? I need some space!" Whirling, he dashed out of the bullpen and headed for the stairs, wishing he'd never come back to Cascade.
Ellison stared after his friend, wondering what in the hell was going on. He'd thought Blair would jump at the chance to be an official member of the force, to be Jim's partner. A tight grip on his biceps was the only thing keeping him from following Sandburg. He looked down to see Naomi's hand clutching his arm, her eyes flashing.
"I hope you're happy. I showed up here because I owed you that much, after all the bad karma I set in motion, but I went along with this little charade for Blair's sake, not yours. You didn't seriously expect him to believe that speech, did you? My son, a cop? That was a stretch even before he flushed his academic career down the toilet for you."
"Naomi, I'm trying to make things right here--" Jim growled between clenched teeth, denying the truth behind her words.
She snorted, tossing her head. "Right? Right? You're everything that's gone wrong in Blair's life. I don't know what he sees in you, why he's stood by you all this time, but I hope this is the end of it. I hope he finally sees you for what you are. You've taken advantage of him since the moment you met. He sacrificed his good name, his reputation, his entire life, to protect your little secret. And all you can offer him in return is a piece of tin, the promise of a measly paycheck and the likelihood of an early grave?"
For a moment, Jim thought she was going to spit in his face. Instead, she brushed past him, then turned in the Major Crime doorway. "If you're truly his friend, you'll let him go; you'll leave well enough alone. I think you've done enough damage, don't you?" Then she was gone in a storm of jasmine scented air.
Ellison stood there, feeling his jaw clench, sensing everyone's eyes on him. He whirled on the remainder of their party, his glare sending them scurrying. Everyone but Megan, that is.
"Jim--" she started, her good hand reaching for his.
"Don't, Connor, just don't. Oh, hell, go ahead and say it. I fucked up again."
She shook her head, and he felt her fingers curling around his, tugging him into Simon's office. Shutting the door behind them, she looked at him for a long moment before she spoke. He felt like she was weighing him, appraising his worth. "Jim," she finally said, "it's in your nature to try and control your environment, to make the people and events in it fit into an orderly pattern. If something's off kilter, out of whack, you want to straighten it out. Maybe it's a sentinel thing. Maybe order is easier on heightened senses, or maybe it's just your own anal-retentiveness. But when something goes wrong, your first instinct is to fix it, to return everything to the nice, calm, predictable status quo. But Sandy's life isn't a problem for you to solve. It's his, and his alone when it comes right down to it. You can't force him to fit into your mold, sentinel/guide bond crap be damned."
Jim turned away from her, crossing the room and staring out the window into the late winter morning. He didn't want to hear this, he really didn't. Deep inside, a part of him knew she was right, that if Blair chose to leave, chose another life, he should let him go. But damn if he didn't want to hold on, to dig in his heels and refuse to admit that perhaps they'd passed the point of no return, that their lives had been irrevocably changed. But he couldn't ignore that still, quiet voice in the back of his mind, reminding him of his flaws, pointing out all the reasons Diandra was the better choice, was the one Blair should have found, was the sentinel he should have guided.
He let out a long sigh. "So what are you saying? That I shouldn't have done anything? That I shouldn't have let Simon offer Sandburg a position?"
When Megan answered, he realized she was right behind him. "I'm just saying you need to give him some time. You need to give yourself time. You need to figure out what's more important, your nice, safe, predictable job, and the illusion of not being a freak, or Sandy's friendship."
Her words stung, and he was reminded of the fight that they'd had nearly two weeks ago, in the hospital. She'd been rather free with the "freak" term then as well. He ducked his head, avoiding her probing eyes. "Being a cop is all I know--"
"So? Who said you had to stop learning the moment you pinned on the badge? Maybe it's time we all took some time off and re-examined our lives, figure out what this being bonded thing really means. God knows I need a hell of a lot more training at this companion thing." She stepped into his space, smiling up at him. "Just think about it, okay? No one is going to think twice if we decide to take some vacation time. We've been through a bugger of a year."
He tucked a stray lock of her auburn hair behind her ear. "Well, when you put it that way…."
"We'll make arrangements when Dee gets back. Or maybe we could head to the East Coast. A change of scenery might be good."
Jim put his hand on her shoulder. "Speaking of scene changes, I'm ready to get out of here. How about you?"
Megan nodded and headed for the door. "What about Sandy?"
Jim forced a smile. "I'm taking your advice. He can have all the space he needs to figure things out." But he was damned if he was going to let Blair walk out of his life.
To Be Continued...