Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

The Auction, Part IV

The next morning when they arrived in the bullpen, Blair headed straight to Rhonda's desk and handed her the long stemmed rose he'd picked up on the way to work. Jim trailed in behind him, a smile lifting the corner of his mouth as he made his way to his desk. They'd both brought their vehicles to work, and he'd wondered what the kid was up to when Sandburg had suddenly pulled into a lot next to a florist. Blair had waved at him to wait and had dashed inside, emerging less than five minutes later with the wrapped token. Now, Jim unabashedly listened to the conversation going on across the office.

"For you," Blair said simply as he handed her the deep crimson flower. "With thanks."

A blush of pleasure tinted her cheeks as she accepted the gift. "You didn't have to do this, Blair," she protested, even as she unwrapped the cellophane and deeply inhaled the rich fragrance, and then smiled. "It's lovely."

"What all of you did yesterday ... it was ... was incredible, you know?" he told her with naked sincerity. "I was – am – overwhelmed by the support and the validation. I'll never forget it. Not as long as I live."

Touching his arm lightly, she said, "I wish I could take credit for the idea. But when Cindy Lou and her team suggested it, well, we all thought it was a brilliant way to make the point that ... that we really are glad you're here." Her gaze dropped as she said hesitantly, "We know it's not been easy for you, or for Jim, either, for that matter. And we don't need to know the details." Glancing at Ellison out of the corner of her eye, she went on, "But we can make some educated guesses." Lifting her eyes again to meet Blair's solemn gaze, she hastened on, "We just figured it was time you guys knew that not everyone who works in this building is a jerk, you know? A lot of us think you more than paid your dues and you're right where you belong."

"Well, I know I'm where I want to be," he said warmly. "Gotta say, you ladies sure know how to make a man feel welcome. Can you, uh, pass the word about how truly grateful I am to all of you?"

"Consider it done," she assured him.

He leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before moving toward his own desk. Making eye contact with Jim, he quirked a brow and Jim shrugged. They both knew that lots of their colleagues all over the PD were making 'educated guesses' and that such speculation was unavoidable.

"It's okay," Ellison said softly as Blair approached his desk, to alleviate the worry he saw lurking in his partner's eyes. When Sandburg paused and didn't look too sure about that, he insisted, "I mean it, Chief. I'm okay with them guessing. I'm more than okay with them showing solid support for you."

Blair nodded and shrugged out of his jacket, hanging it on the hook beside Jim's, and then they both got to work, once again focused on trying to get a lead on Kincaid.

* * * * * * * * * *

Seven and a half hours later, Sandburg hung up after what felt like his thousandth phone call of the day. They'd been backtracking rental and for sale listings from three to four weeks before, trying to find Kincaid's centre of operations. He made a note on a short list of 'possibles' that they'd begin checking out more thoroughly in the morning. Standing, he stretched and winced at the low, creaking pops in his spine, and then picked up the sheet of paper to carry it over to Ellison's desk.

"You got anything?" he asked.

"Maybe three worth looking into," Jim replied. "Better than nothing. Two small warehouses in the industrial district and one down by the waterfront. You?"

"Two. Another old warehouse in the garment district, and what sounds like a rundown ramshackle place on the edge of town. None of the names tally with known or suspected associates, though. One, the warehouse, was rented by a Randall Wilson, and the house by Warren Finkleman."

"Given Kincaid's ideology, Wilson sounds more likely," Jim reflected, and then glanced at his own list. "I've got G. Baker on the waterfront, a Winston Mgabo, and a Tyrell Lafitte in the industrial park. Baker and maybe Lafitte might fit the profile."

"You think it's worth trying to get at least those three staked out tonight, just to see if they spot anyone suspicious?"

Jim considered it and nodded. Gathering up the two pages, he rose to take them to Simon. But Blair looked up at the clock and said, "It's getting late. I'm going to go change in the men's room and head downstairs to pick up my date."

Quirking an amused brow, Jim looked at him askance. "How're you going to fit nearly twenty women into that old jalopy of yours?"

Laughing as he bent to pick up his backpack, which contained a clean shirt and his shaving gear, he explained, "Obviously, oh great detective, I'm not. Most of the women are going to meet us at the roadhouse, but I'm at least going to offer Cindy Lou a ride over. Seems only right, ya know?"

"Okay, Chief," Jim nodded. "But don't leave the garage until Simon, Joel and I are down there to follow you, understand? It will only take a few minutes to organize these stakeouts."

"You got it, man," Blair agreed readily. "See ya in a few," he called over his shoulder as he loped across the office and out into the hallway.

* * * * * * * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, Jim and Simon were just finishing the stakeout arrangements when Ellison jerked his head up and around at the sound of an unexpected voice in the bullpen. Lifting a hand to Banks to signal a need to investigate, he left the office and found Cindy Lou chatting with Rhonda and handing over a stack of files.

"Cindy Lou," he called in surprise. "I thought Blair was taking you to the restaurant?"

Looking up with a grin, she struck a pose and drawled, "Oh, ah've got dibs on the ride home, Detective. But when he offered, ah thought it was only fair to let the li'l lady who came up with the idea of winning Blair have the pleasure of riding over with him."

"Oh? I thought it was your idea," he replied, curious.

"Ah wish ah could say it was," she returned. "But it was one of my new girls. She's only been with us for 'bout a month, an' two weeks ago, she came in one mornin' all starry-eyed. Said she'd seen an angel on the elevator, all big blue eyes 'n long gorgeous hair; said a long, tall, drink o' water had called him, Blair, an' we all cheered to know sweetie pie was back. Anyway, she reflected as how she'd sure enough love to win him in the auction, an' Margie said, 'Wouldn't we all.' An', right then, we started in talkin' 'bout why not? Why, when Blair agreed, she was so excited, she got right on the phone 'n called someone to pass along the good news! An' then, when the bidding went a mite higher than we'd imagined it might," she went on, with a mock glare at Rhonda, "the li'l gal offered up her credit card, to cover what all would be needed."

Jim nodded, remembering that he'd seen and overheard that conversation during the auction. A slender, pretty, young blond that he'd never seen before but had thought sounded familiar – and then, something else itched in the back of his brain and he frowned, trying to capture the errant thought. But Cindy Lou was rambling on. "So when Blair turned up a li'l while ago, offerin' a ride, and Gail just looked so wistful an' all, ah just knew she was hankering to go with him, so ah said ah still had a mite o'work to do, and why didn't she just hitch a ride? Why, she lit up like a kid at Christmas when I shooed her along with him." Chuckling, she winked as she added, "That boy better watch himself. I think she's got her eye on him."

"Gail, huh," Jim grunted, about to turn to his desk and retrieve his jacket. "Gail who?"

"Gail Baker."

He froze and then whipped around. "Gail Baker?" he repeated blankly, and a dim memory of a distant conversation overheard in the corridor outside the Records Unit two weeks before, a woman saying with a coldly triumphant tone, 'It's all set,' and a male voice drawling in response, 'You're a good girl, Gail. I'm real proud of you, darlin'. Real proud.'


"Just hold on a minute," he ordered Cindy Lou preemptively, his voice harsh and tight, and then he spun to hurry back into Banks' office. "Simon," he grated hoarsely, "the woman who proposed getting Sandburg into the auction is Gail Baker."

Banks frowned and then looked down at the sheet, at the 'G. Baker' beside the rental of a warehouse on the docks. "My God," he rumbled, "you don't think ...."

"He's with her now, down in the parking garage," Jim ground out, then turned on his heel to dash across the bullpen and into the stairwell. Banks surged up to follow him, pausing only long enough to say to Cindy Lou, "You might want to reschedule that dinner."

* * * * * * * * * *

Amused and not a little chuffed at how delightfully thrilled the attractive young blond was to be personally escorted to their group dinner, Blair held the elevator door open for her on the basement level. Given the signals upstairs in the Records Unit, he thought she might have brushed against him on her way past, but she stayed well over on the far side of the opening as she exited. Her smile was still in place, but it looked a little strained, and the girlish eagerness had evaporated entirely. Mildly disconcerted by the mixed messages, he decided she must be shy, and moved slightly ahead to hold the heavy door into the parking lot open ... and again she was careful to make no contact as she went through the portal. Didn't thank him, either, he noticed, nor did she respond to his light banter about the evening ahead and how much he was looking forward to the fun they'd all have. Shy was one thing but he seriously doubted that he was so intimidating that he'd rendered her completely mute. Once in the garage, he placed a light hand on her back, to steer her toward his Volvo, and couldn't help but notice how she stiffened at his touch and moved briskly away. Sighing silently, he told himself he never had understood women anyway, so it seemed she was going to be no exception to the rule. "It's just over here," he said warmly, gesturing across the crowded lot. She gave one short tight nod and moved in the indicated direction. Walking a half step behind, he decided that maybe she was an ice queen. Nevertheless, he continued to play the gentleman, unlocking the passenger-side door and holding it open until she was securely inside.

He hurried around the trunk and slid into his seat. "I'm sorry, Gail," he explained once he was settled, "but we'll be held up here for a few minutes. Jim and Simon will be following us over, and they want to go in a little convoy." He chuckled at how silly he knew that sounded as he put his key in the ignition switch, conscious that she was settling her good-sized handbag on her knees. "They're right behind me, though, so we'll be on our way soon." He looked back over his left shoulder toward the doorway, wishing they'd arrive, as he was finding the one-sided conversation tough sledding. "I hear there's a good band playing," he began as he turned to face her and froze at the sight of the revolver leveled at him. "Whoa," he exclaimed, his eyes widening as his gaze lifted to search her face.

"If you think I'd ever dance with a kike, you're delusional," she said coldly. "And we're not waiting for anyone. Let's go."

Stalling for time, he lifted his hands away from the steering wheel. "Uh, what's going on, Gail? Go where?" But the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that wherever they were headed, he could pretty much expect to see Kincaid there.

"Drive out of here now or I'll shoot you and be done with it," she ordered, and the steely look of virulent hatred in her eyes convinced him that she meant it.

"Okay, okay," he muttered, lowering his hands. With his right, he switched on the ignition. With his left, he quickly reached into his jacket pocket and hit the speed dial for Jim's cell phone, before clamping both fists around the steering wheel. He backed out and headed toward the exit. "Do I turn right or left?" he asked as they neared the top of the ramp.

"Right, toward the docks," she told him.

And that's when it clicked. He hadn't been told her last name when they'd been hastily introduced by Cindy Lou, but he'd bet his next year's salary that it was Baker.

* * * * * * * * * *

Rhonda and Cindy Lou gaped after the two men, stunned by their sudden display of forceful haste.

"What'd he mean, postpone dinner?" Cindy Lou asked, confused and completely mystified.

"I don't know," she replied, "but it looks like there's trouble. Who's this Gail Baker? What do you know about her?"

"Well, not much. She's a quiet li'l thing," Cindy Lou began but before she could say more, Rhonda heard the cell phone ringing on Jim's desk, and she leapt up to rush across the room to answer it.


When there was no response, she frowned, but then heard Blair's voice ask, "Do I turn right or left?" and a strange woman's voice answer, "Right, toward the docks."

Her throat and mouth went dry when she realized something potentially very serious was going down and she sank onto the chair behind Jim's desk, her free hand already scrambling for a pen and paper. Knowing that everyone in Major Crimes had been trying for a week to get a lead on Kincaid, she was very afraid for Blair and felt the breath catch in her chest. Her grip tightened on the phone as she pressed it tightly to her ear, straining to listen to be sure she didn't miss anything. Cindy Lou had followed her and was saying something but Rhonda waved at her urgently to be quiet. Looking up at the other woman, she whispered, "Get me everything you've got on Gail Baker – as fast as you can!" When Cindy Lou stared at her, not understanding, she hissed, "Hurry, dammit! Just get it!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim, Simon on his heels, charged into the underground lot, and stopped short when he saw the empty space where the Volvo should have been. "Damn it," he snarled in frustration. "She's got him." Fishing in his pants' pocket for his keys, he started toward the truck, but Simon grabbed his arm, abruptly pulling him back and off-balance. Furious, he shook off the grip, bellowing, "What are you doing! I have to go after them!"

"Jim! Settle down, dammit!" Banks roared back. "I know you're worried about Sandburg, but would you stop and think!" Pulling his cell phone from the inside pocket of his suit jacket, he lowered his volume but not the cutting intensity of his tone. "We know where they're probably going, and Sandburg's no fool. He knows about the warehouse and that we'll connect the name." Punching in a number, he kept talking fast, so Ellison couldn't interrupt. "We have the element of surprise on our side if, and I mean if, we don't go off half-cocked."

"But –"

"I said settle down," Banks intervened sharply, and tilted his head back toward the doorway and the elevator beyond, even as he began talking rapidly into the phone and walking back into the building. "It's Banks. We've got a situation. Officer kidnapped by, we suspect, one of Garrett Kincaid's people." Glancing back over his shoulder at Jim, who looked like he was ready to explode, Simon glared at him and waved sharply for him to follow. "I have a probable location. Meet me in my office in two minutes to discuss takedown tactics."

Jim glared in his turn at the ramp and the exit onto the street above and then grudgingly, tension cramping in his gut and his chest tight with anxiety, he followed his boss inside.

Terminating the call, Simon snapped the phone closed and jammed it back into his pocket. Punching the button for the elevator, he growled, "He's not an observer, anymore. He's a cop and he knows how to handle himself. Kincaid isn't going to kill him outright. The set-up was too careful, too elaborate – he's going to use him to lure us there. If you were using your brain, you'd know that. If we do this right, we'll be all over Kincaid before he has a clue that we're on to him."

Jim fumed in silence a moment more, and then he rasped, "I heard him – Kincaid. I heard him on the phone to someone in Records two weeks ago, before we knew he'd escaped."

"What? And you're only telling me this now?" Simon exclaimed, his eyes wide with disbelief.

Taut, furious with himself for not having connected the dots sooner, Jim grated, "I didn't hear him clearly, didn't know he was on the loose. Didn't really even register it consciously. I don't know ...." He sighed and shook his head as the elevator doors opened and they got on. "I just got ... angry. Furious that Sandburg had agreed to be in the auction. I guess subconsciously I recognized the danger. I just didn't make the connection until I heard her name and put it together with the rented warehouse – and that brought back the memory of his voice on the phone."

Banks rolled his eyes and hit the button for the sixth floor.

"He's gonna hurt him, Simon," he muttered in agitation, sick at heart. "To put pressure on us, to raise the ante. He's gonna hurt him."

Banks nodded grimly. "Blair's tough," he replied matter-of-factly. "He'll survive." Relenting, he squeezed Jim's shoulder reassuringly. "We'll be in position in less than an hour. We'll get him back, Jim. He'll be okay."

* * * * * * * * * *

Ran Jorgenson, the tall, blond Captain of the SWAT Unit arrived on the sixth floor, via the stairwell, just as they exited the elevator. Banks was already briefing him as they marched briskly through the bullpen. Rhonda jumped to her feet and hastened to intercept them. Cupping her hand over the cell phone's mouthpiece, she called, "Captain Banks!"

"Not now, Rhonda," he cut her off, as he pushed past.

"Sir, wait! It's Blair!"

The three men froze at her words. "What?" Simon demanded. "On the phone?"

"Not talking, but he must have made the connection without Gail knowing – they're headed toward the docks," she told them rapidly, handing over the phone to Jim when he abruptly held out his hand. "I've sent Cindy Lou to get all the information we have on Gail Baker. She should be back any minute."

"Good work, Rhonda," Simon acknowledged. "Bring in the file as soon as you have it."

"Yes, sir."

As they continued into Simon's office, she returned to her desk. Brown and Rafe immediately rose to loom over her, demanding to know what was going on.

"I don't know for sure," she replied anxiously. "But I think Blair is being taken to Kincaid."

"Ah, shit," Brown cursed as he picked up her phone and punched in Joel's number.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Gail, what's going on here?" Blair asked calmly, or at least he hoped he sounded calm. Though he was fairly certain of their destination, he wanted to keep her talking, if only to relax her a little. He didn't like the way her gun-hand was shaking. If they hit a pothole, he could wind up being shot.

"You'll find out soon enough," she replied tautly, staring at him relentlessly, except for brief glances at the street to see where they were in order to give him directions when they needed to turn. He found it nerve-wracking to not anticipate her orders because she tended not to give him adequate time to brake slowly – and her hand was still shaking.

"Hey, c'mon," he cajoled, playing dumb. "What's the big secret, huh? I don't understand. If this is some kind of joke you ladies are playing on me, it's not funny, you know?"

"No joke, 'Mr. Natural'," she sneered.

He flicked a look at her and swallowed hard, pretending to be startled. "Wha ... I ... only Garrett Kincaid calls me that," he stammered.

She laughed, low and mocking.

"How do you know Kincaid?" he asked tensely, not having to fake it.

She didn't respond for so long that he began to think he wouldn't get an answer but, finally, she said, "He's my uncle."

"Oh, shit," he muttered, and shook his head. "Look," he began the obligatory spiel, though he was pretty sure she wouldn't buy it, "you don't have to do this. We can stop now before you get in any deeper. You won't get away with this, you know? We've taken Kincaid down twice – we'll do it again."

"Just keep driving," she commanded haughtily. "And, while you're at it, slide out your weapon and hand it to me – no tricks!"

Steering with his left hand, his eyes on the traffic, he reached under his jacket to pull his pistol from his shoulder holster and held it muzzle up toward the roof of the car. She yanked it savagely from his hand, and dropped it to the floor between her feet.

"Okay," he said then, pretending to be resigned to the inevitable – not that he had a lot of choice short of driving the car into a wall while attempting to wrestle the weapon from her. Not that the idea wasn't tempting, but he figured his odds of succeeding without getting shot weren't good, and he didn't think Kincaid would kill him before the cavalry arrived. "We're almost at the docks. Where do you want me to go?"

"To Hell, ultimately," she said vehemently. "But for now, turn left at the next corner and into the alley on the right."

"Man, what did I ever do to you?" he murmured, shaking his head.

"You helped put the man who is like a daddy to me in jail – twice," she growled. "I'm going to enjoy watching him take you apart, piece by piece."

"Great," he sighed as he slowed to make the turn. As if rambling nervously, he went on with the hope that someone – preferably Jim – was listening in, "Pretty desolate neighbourhood, isn't it? Just one empty, dilapidated warehouse after another. Not even any panhandlers or indigents around – you sure it's safe to leave those three vehicles parked around here? Somebody might steal them. Couldn't he find more comfortable accommodation? Or did he need a lot space – recruited a new army in the last couple weeks, maybe? I only see one guy down the alley there, by the side door. Oh, wait, there's another guy up on the roof. Pretty fancy automatic rifles."

"Shut up," she snapped, "and stop the car."

He got out and held his hands high. The guard grabbed his arm and shoved him inside the old warehouse. Inside, Garrett Kincaid was waiting for him.

"Well, if it ain't Mr. Natural," he drawled sardonically, sauntering closer. "Good to see you again, boy. I hear you're a liar and a fraud, and they still gave you a detective's shield. My, my – doesn't say much for the quality of law enforcement in this town, now does it?"

"Kincaid," Blair acknowledged cautiously, his hands still held high as he looked around. The place was caked with decades of grime and festooned with cobwebs. There were two floors, the one above open to view through the grilled metal flooring, and the section directly above had fallen away at some earlier time, creating a loft effect. "Can't say it's a pleasure to see you again. But man, I'd have to think prison was more comfortable than this hole." Returning his gaze to the escaped felon, he taunted, "Not much of an army, anymore, huh? You've got what? Ten, twelve guys here?"

"Don't need an army if a little bit of a thing like Gail can take you down," Kincaid observed sarcastically. "Good work, darlin'."

"I made him give me his weapon, Uncle Garrett," she bragged.

"Did you now?" he acknowledged with an approving smile, waving her further away from his captive. But he eyed Sandburg assessingly and reflected, "But if he's learned anything from that partner of his, he might well be carrying a backup." Flicking a look at one of his henchmen, a young muscle-man with a crew-cut, he ordered, "Mallory, search him."

Blair blinked slowly and took a steadying breath, knowing his ploy with the cell phone would soon be revealed. Wondering if Kincaid would order him to be summarily executed, he licked his lips and swallowed against the cramp of fear in his belly. He willed himself not to tense up as Mallory approached, and he held Kincaid's gaze coolly; planning to fight if it looked like things were going to go bad in a hurry, he wanted his muscles to stay loose. He couldn't beat the odds, but he'd be damned if he'd just stand still, waiting to be shot.

"So, what's the plan, Kincaid?" he asked as if only mildly curious, while Mallory patted down his back and sides.

"Revenge, boy. Sweet revenge."

Snorting, Sandburg replied, "You know, I always gave you credit for being smarter than that. When you got loose, you should have run in the opposite direction, and kept going. You're never going to get away with this."

"I see you're still a cocky bastard," Kincaid rejoined wryly, with a cold smile. "I always liked that about you."

"Sir!" Mallory called out urgently after he'd investigated the hard object in Blair's jacket pocket and found the phone. He held it out to his boss. "It's connected to someone."

Kincaid's eyes flashed dangerously as he grabbed the phone and glanced at the number. His expression hardened and his lip twisted in an ugly grimace of fury as his gaze lifted to meet Sandburg's. Figuring he might as well live up to his reputation for cockiness – though he wasn't at all sure it was warranted as mostly he could only remember feeling terror in this man's presence – Blair quirked a brow and smirked. "I guess that kinda screws up your plan, huh?" he goaded, knowing he was playing a dangerous game, not sure whether a furious Kincaid was more of a threat than a cold and calculating Kincaid, but anger usually put a man off-balance.

Wordlessly, Kincaid stepped forward, grabbed the collar of his jacket and jerked him forward to glare furiously at him – and then he backhanded Sandburg viciously in one smooth motion, so hard that Blair grunted and staggered a step to the side. Blair rubbed his jaw gingerly and dabbed at his bleeding lip, as he watched Kincaid cover the mouthpiece and demand of Gail, "How much would they have heard? Could they follow you here?"

Gaping at the phone, she shook her head as she tried to think. "I'm sorry," she stammered. "I didn't know."

"How much do they know?" he demanded again, his tone harsh, impatient.

"I didn't mention any street names," she replied anxiously. "Just a warehouse on the docks."

He nodded crisply and turned his flat, cold eyes back to Blair. Drawing his sidearm, he leveled it at Sandburg as he raised the phone to his ear. "Do I have the pleasure of speaking with Detective Ellison or Captain Banks?" he demanded, his voice brittle with rage.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Ellison," Jim replied, his tone frigid and his gaze locked with Simon's, as he held up a hand to stop the loud discussion in the office.

"Your boy here thinks he's pretty smart," Kincaid snapped. "But he's about to learn how stupid it is to play games with me."

"Yeah, well, my partner's smart enough to have gotten you so riled that you're not thinking straight," Jim challenged levelly. "You wanted Sandburg for a reason, right? You must have been planning to issue us an invitation to your party anyway. He just expedited the process."

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

While Jim kept Kincaid talking, across the room, Simon gave swift direction. "Okay, let's recap. The control point will be here," he said just above a whisper, pointing to the agreed upon location on the map open on the conference table. "Patrol cars are already sealing off the area. Ran, you'll deploy your men, here and here, ready to move in on command. Brown, Rafe, you're coming in from the side alley. We'll evaluate the situation on the scene and go from there. Everyone clear?" He looked around at the other men in the room – Ran, and Joel, Henri and Brian, who had joined them minutes earlier, and then Jim. When they all nodded, he said, "Let's roll." Brown quickly detoured to grab Ellison's jacket while, the phone still clamped to his ear, Jim followed the others out.

"Well, you're right about that, Detective Ellison," Kincaid replied, his tone more contained, and Jim could hear his breathing level out, indicating that he was calming down. "I want you and the good Captain Banks to come alone, or your little buddy here is going to die a swift if very painful death. Do I need to issue you directions, or can you find your own way?"

"We need the address," Jim responded evenly as he got on the elevator with the others. "We've only been able to figure out a general location from what we overheard."

Barking a laugh, the felon drawled, "Oh, you're smooth, I'll give you that. Now, listen up, Detective. I do mean that I don't want to see any other cops, you understand? You come alone or I promise you, the next time I'll have my people cut your families to ribbons. Are we clear about that?"

"Yeah, we're clear," Jim told him dryly. "You want Captain Banks and I to march in there alone so you can kill the three of us at your leisure. It's an interesting plan, Kincaid. Did you really think we'd go for it?"

"I see you need an incentive to get here quickly," he replied, and Jim winced, realizing belatedly he'd pushed too hard.

"Kincaid, wait!" he shouted. "You kill him now, and we've no reason to come at all, except to take you and your clowns down." Simon and the others looked at him with sharp alarm.

"Takes time to mount an operation, Detective, I know that," Kincaid drawled, and the evil in his voice made Jim's skin crawl. He strained to hear, frustrated to only be linked by sound – and what he heard scared him. Blair's heartbeat suddenly jumped, and he heard his partner say urgently, "You don't want to do this, man," and then the sound of scuffling, a grunt and then a shot reverberated through his skull; he jerked the phone away from his ear in reflex, nearly doubled over by the pain.

Simon grabbed the phone and heard Kincaid say, "You hurry, and your boy might still be breathing by the time you get here. Take time to mount a SWAT operation, and he'll sure 'nuff be long dead before you get into this warehouse."

And then the line went dead.

"Jim, what – ?"

"He shot him, Simon. The bastard just shot Blair!" Jim grated, through clenched teeth.

Fury flared on Simon's face, followed by icy determination. As the elevator doors opened and they raced along the corridor toward the garage, he called out, "As soon as we're in position, we go in. Ran, your sniper takes the man on the roof, and you and your team go up the back fire escape – your men are to take down any target they can get. Brown, Rafe, you have the guy in the alley. Once we know you are all in position, Jim, you and I will go in the front, to keep him distracted, while the others come in from the top and side. We'll tell him he's surrounded and order him to lay down his arms and surrender, not that he'll do much more than laugh at us. Joel, you're in the control van – call an ambulance to be at the perimeter, to come in as soon as we give the all clear."

They ran for their vehicles and, sirens blaring, roared out of the garage.

* * * * * * * * * *

Sprawled on the filthy floor, Blair gritted his teeth and curled against the searing burn in his side as he pressed his hand down hard on his jacket, using his clothing to stem the rush of blood from the graze. He wasn't sure if Kincaid had meant to wound him more seriously or not, but decided to pretend he'd been hurt relatively badly. The odds were good that because he'd been wrestling with the nearest goon for his weapon, that he'd thrown Kincaid's aim off.

"Drag him up to the next floor," Kincaid ordered.

Sandburg moaned when hands grabbed him roughly under the arms and hauled him up. And then he forced himself to let all his muscles go lax, feigning semi-consciousness as they dragged him across the floor. Feeling weak and nauseated from the shock of the attack, he struggled to concentrate and listened as Kincaid deployed his men around the warehouse and ordered Gail into a back corner. If he hadn't been hurting so badly, he might have had to fight a slight smug smile as he realized that Kincaid was so arrogant that he actually appeared to believe Jim and Simon might come alone. And even if they didn't, he appeared utterly confident that they wouldn't have time to arrange much backup if they arrived, as ordered, within fifteen minutes, the time it would take to get there from downtown – so he was concentrating most of his force on the front of the building.

While Kincaid was deploying his men, Blair was dragged up metal steps that battered his body, and he didn't fight the urge to grunt and groan in protest, though he kept his eyes closed to keep up the illusion that he was oblivious to everything in the world around him except the pain he was experiencing. When they dumped him on the metal, cross-hatch grating of the second floor, he peered cautiously through his eyelashes, and could see that he was lying near the edge, with a clear view of the double wooden doors at the front of the building. Kincaid waved one of his men over to them, to open them a crack and keep watch on the street outside, before turning to lope up the steps.

Knowing his partner and his boss, Blair was absolutely positive that his friends would be bringing a lot of other friends to the party, and that belief gave him hope that he might just survive this little adventure. What with them already having the lead on the warehouse address, he was sure the open phone line during the drive from headquarters to the docks would have given Simon more than enough time to organize an assault on the building. Best of all, now that Kincaid thought he was down for the count, all he had to do was watch for his chance to help when the time came. However, regrettably, he also knew that Jim and Simon no doubt thought he'd been badly hurt, but he had to trust that their discipline would keep them from making any stupid mistakes out of fear for him. So ... for the next fifteen minutes or so, all he had to do – all he could do – was play possum and wait.

Wait, and battle the fear that clutched at his chest and curdled in his belly.

Oh, and hope that the 'scratch' on his side hadn't taken out such a big hunk of flesh that he was in danger of passing out from blood loss. Closing his eyes, he focused on his breathing, marshalling his strength and energy for when he needed to act.

* * * * * * * * * *

Jim's face was a rigid mask of control, and he sat with all the animation of a stone statue, his fists clenched on his knees, as he stared straight out the windshield. As soon as they hit the street, Simon's sedan in the lead, followed by Joel, Henri and Brian in the nondescript van that held a wealth of electronics, and the armoured black SWAT vehicle, he rasped, "What did Kincaid say?"

His lips thinning, Simon's features hardened. When he didn't answer, Jim turned his head with slow deliberation to stare at him. "What did he say?" he repeated, his tone hard, dangerous.

Swallowing, cutting him a fast glance before concentrating again on wheeling around vehicles too slow to get out of his way, Banks ground out, "We can't believe anything he says – you know that. For all we know, he shot the gun in the air."

"If you believed that, you wouldn't have told Joel to have an ambulance ready at the scene," Jim grated. Visibly struggling to maintain his hard-won control, he ground out, "I was deafened by the shot. Couldn't hear ...." His voice caught and he turned away to again stare out the window. "Is he dead?"

"I don't know," Simon admitted hollowly. "I don't think so."

Closing his eyes, Jim clenched his jaw and his fists tighter to stave off the shakes, and his body fairly vibrated with impotent fear and fury. He drew a ragged breath and opened his eyes to glare at the heavy, rush hour traffic that was slowing them down. "If I'd made the connection sooner –"

"Stop it," Banks commanded ruthlessly, his fists clenched on the wheel as he fought for every second of speed he could gain. "This isn't your fault. I need you in control, not mired in guilt or wild with rage. Get it together, now." Glancing again at Jim, his tone softened as he added, "And don't be buying grief. We'll know soon enough how bad it is."

Swallowing hard to dislodge the lump in his throat, Jim nodded bleakly.

As they approached the docks, they all killed their sirens and the SWAT vehicle peeled off, to come around the warehouse from the far side, closer to the fire escape in the far back corner. They passed the patrol cars cordoning off the area and, a block away and out of sight of the warehouse, Simon pulled over and Joel parked behind him. The two big men leapt out of the car and ran back to the van. Brown slid the side door open and held the Kevlar vests until they'd shucked their overcoats. Once they'd donned the vests and pulled their coats back on, he handed them the small earpieces and miniature microphones that would allow them to stay in touch with both the van and the SWAT team.

"The ambulance is on its way," Joel assured them soberly as Brown and Rafe climbed out of the van. With a hasty, solemn exchange of glances with Simon and Jim, they raced away to circle around the block and come into the alley from the back, where they would sneak to the side door while Jim and Simon drew the attention of the remnants of the Sunrise Patriots to the front of the building.

Banks and Ellison returned to the sedan and a long two minutes later, as soon as the others had radioed that they were in position, Simon drove around the corner, to park across the deserted street from the warehouse. Resolutely, they got out of the car and walked to the middle of the road. "Kincaid!" Simon shouted. "Police! This will be your only warning. Come out with your hands up!"

The right hand side of the wooden double doors in front of them creaked open, revealing only a dark interior.

Jim quirked a brow at his boss, who rolled his eyes. "We're going in," Simon said quietly for the benefit of those listening. "Give us ninety seconds, and then take them down."

And then, counting on Kincaid's need to gloat before he cut them down, weapons in hand but pointed at the ground, they strode across the street. Jim listened intently and then murmured into his own microphone as they neared the building, "One man on the roof, two in the back and four in the front on the second floor. One in or near the alley, six near the front on the first floor and one other near the back corner."

Simon glanced at him, surprised at the blatant release of information acquired through his enhanced hearing, but Jim just shrugged tightly. Blair was in there and he didn't care who knew about his senses if it helped get his partner out alive.

On the top of a three-story building a block away, a SWAT sniper with a silenced weapon sighted the gunman on the roof, and brought him down before he could sound an alarm about the police closing in on the warehouse. Keeping to the shadows in the noisome alley, Brown and Rafe snaked in a crouched lope to the side door, the sentry there only partly visible behind the door that was half-way open behind him as he tensely watched the street out front. At the back of the warehouse, Captain Ran Jorgenson led his men soundlessly up the fire escape to the second floor. He checked the door stealthily and, finding it locked, laid a small charge to blow it open.

Simon pushed the left side of the double doors open, and he and Jim marched in side by side. Both men blinked to quickly adjust their vision to the gloomy interior. With a rapid scan, they'd placed six visible gunmen before the self-styled colonel called out with rich satisfaction, "Captain Banks and Detective Ellison, as I live and breathe. Welcome, gentlemen, to my humble abode."

They looked up at where he was standing close to the edge of the open second floor loft, his left arm locked around Sandburg's throat while he held a revolver to Blair's temple. Though his posture suggested he could barely stand, Blair met Jim's gaze steadily and, hardly moving his lips, he breathed, "I'm okay."

Jim gave a barely perceptible nod.

"What now, Kincaid?" Banks demanded.

"Well, first, I'd appreciate it if you dropped those weapons you're holding," the man drawled with a cold, empty smile. "Immediately, gentlemen," he added, his tone harder as he dug the barrel of his weapon into the skin of Blair's temple. "Or I'll blow your boy's brains out right here, right now."

"And then what?" Simon called back, buying a few more seconds of time. "You shoot all three of us?"

"Not before I have a little fun," Kincaid gloated. "I want some satisfaction for all the trouble you've given me. Now drop those weapons or, I swear, I will –"

An explosion erupted at the back of the building. The sound of Brown taking down the guard at the side door and Gail screaming in sudden terror, added to the sudden confusion. Taking advantage of the split second of surprise, Blair elbowed Kincaid hard while simultaneously snapping his head back to smash into his captor's face, and then he twisted out of Kincaid's loosened grip. Even as rapid shots exploded at the back of the second floor, he grabbed for the gun, and they toppled to the grating, wrestling for dominance. Below, Simon and Jim dropped and rolled in separate directions, and came up firing. Rafe and Brown charged in from the side, low and fast, picking their targets with deadly aim. Above them, Kincaid squirmed out of Blair's weakened grip, but even as he rolled free and brought his revolver up, Sandburg scrambled for the gun in his ankle holster, leveling it and shouting, "Drop it!" When Kincaid continued to bring his weapon into line, Sandburg fired.

In less than a minute, it was over. The smell of cordite and wisps of gunsmoke filled the air and, for an infinite moment, there was only silence. Jim heard a low moan of pain from above, but all he could see was both Blair and Kincaid sprawled on the metal flooring; and then he was racing up the staircase, lunging forward two steps at a time, not sure what he'd find. But when he reached the top, he gulped a breath of relief. Kincaid, his expression livid with fury, was pressing a hand against a wound in his right shoulder, and Blair was braced on his side, half-raised on one elbow, both hands supporting the pistol he held trained on his erstwhile captor. Sandburg looked up at him and gave him a crooked smile. "Hey, Jim," he rasped, his voice thin with effort, "good to see you, man. You wanna take over here? I'm, uh, I'm kind of tired."

"Sure thing, Chief," he replied tautly, his glance taking in the blood soaking through his partner's jacket and the small crimson pool on the floor nearby. Ruthlessly, he stalked toward Kincaid and roughly flipped the man onto his stomach. Ignoring the cursing protests, he hauled the bastard's wrists together and cuffed him. Simon had just reached the top of the staircase when Jim swiveled to kneel beside Sandburg.

The pistol slipped from Blair's hands, and he barely managed to whisper huskily, "Really, man, I'm okay," before he passed out. Jim reached out quickly to cradle his head before it hit the floor, and he paled with sudden fear. Cocking his head unconsciously, he quickly honed in on Sandburg's heartbeat, and then his tension eased as he looked up at Banks and nodded.

"Joel, all clear," Simon called over his mike, striving to keep his alarm from his voice. Jim didn't seem to be panicking, so he figured Sandburg couldn't be in immediate danger of dying. "Blair's alive but hurt. Send in the ambulance." Looking around, he added dryly, "Actually, you better call for several more – and the coroner's wagon." Moving across the floor, he crouched beside Jim, who had swiftly checked Blair's wound before lifting his partner's head and shoulders gently to rest against his chest. "How bad?" Simon asked, his voice unsteady.

"Bullet gouged out a chunk of skin along his ribs, and it looks like he's lost about a pint of blood, but he'll be okay," Jim told him, his voice thick with relief.

Banks gripped his shoulder briefly, and then stood, hastily checking to ensure that no other officers were down or injured. SWAT team members were herding wounded men from the back of the warehouse. Below, Rafe hauled an hysterically weeping Gail from her dark corner, while Brown and two of Ran's men secured the first floor, kicking away weapons, and cuffing the wounded. Assured that everything was under control, Simon holstered his weapon and then moved to meet Ran, who was coming out of the shadows, his assault weapon slung over his shoulder. Simon shook hands with his colleague and said gratefully, "Good job – and thanks."

Ran nodded soberly and looked toward Sandburg. "How's your man?"

"He'll be fine," Banks replied warmly, with the ghost of a smile.

"I saw him take down Kincaid," Ran told him then. "He did good. Real good, especially for a rookie."

"Sandburg's got four years of experience, and he's a damned good cop," Simon rumbled staunchly, glancing toward Blair with an expression of warm approval.

Jorgenson grinned and clapped Banks on the shoulder. On his way to the stairs, he called jokingly over his shoulder, "Well, I'd hope a guy that's worth five thousand dollars would be more than just a pretty face."

Simon chuckled and nodded, and then he moved to the edge of the floor to wave the arriving EMTs up the steps.

* * * * * * * * * *

"I seriously do not want to be stuck here overnight, man," Blair stated emphatically, giving no quarter to the fact that he was flat on his back on a treatment table in the Emergency Room of Cascade General receiving a blood transfusion, or that he looked like death warmed over and had about as much get up and go as an arthritic squirrel.

Jim scratched his ear as he eyed his partner bemusedly, noting with misgiving the stark pallor and deeply etched lines of pain around his eyes and mouth. "Chief, you were shot less than two hours ago."

"It's a scratch," he retorted with a huff. "Okay, so it was a deep scratch that required fifteen stitches, but it was still a scratch. As soon as I stop making like some kind of vampire, I'm good to go." When Jim just shrugged, he whined piteously, laying the pathos on thick, "C'mon, Jim. I hurt and I'm tired and I just want to sleep in my own bed. Is that so much to ask? Tell the doc that you were a medic and get him to sign me out in your care. Besides, once the shock and the medication they gave me for pain wears off, I think I may be a basket case, you know? And I'd really like to fall apart in the privacy of my own room, if you don't mind. God, this'll sure teach me to be cocky about being the big winning ticket item in an auction! I mean, I was feeling like pretty hot stuff, you know? And it turns out to all be a scam so Kincaid can kill me – oh, and you and Simon, too. Instead of going dancing with nearly twenty really great women, I end up being smacked around, shot at and – well, man, the whole evening was a real bust, you know? And like that's just ... so wrong."

"Okay, okay," Jim acceded, holding up his hands in defeat and grinning despite himself. "Don't pout. I'll go see what I can do about getting you out of here."

"Good." He sighed and closed his eyes, only to open one and order, "So go!"

"I'm going, I'm gone."

"Just make sure you come back," Blair grumbled.

"That whole pathetic spiel was just an excuse to use the word 'bust', wasn't it, Sandburg?" he accused as he walked backwards toward the door. "Don't think I don't know that."

Blair snickered and waved at him weakly to go. Jim grinned, glad he'd caught the wordplay. He'd overheard Ran's comments earlier that because Jorgenson had seen Blair take Kincaid down, despite being wounded, he was going to credit Blair for the bust. The Captain of the SWAT team wasn't an easy man to impress, and the fact that his partner had taken a monster like Kincaid down personally would go a long way toward establishing Sandburg's credibility as a cop with those who had a problem with him carrying a badge. When he'd relayed the message to his partner, Blair had looked surprised, and then well-pleased. But – his speech slightly slurred by the pain medication he'd just been given before he was stitched up – all he'd said was, "I couldn't've done it without a li'l help from my frien's, man. S'good to have such great frien's."

Jim's grin faded as he headed out into the corridor, in search of the physician. The kid looked like hell and probably should be kept in hospital overnight, but he had to admit, if only to himself, that he wanted to take Blair home as much or more as Sandburg wanted to go. Chewing on his lip as he tilted his head to listen for the doctor's voice, he tried not to think about how scared he'd been that Blair might never ....

His gut twisted suddenly and a hollow ache ballooned in his chest. Determinedly, he shut down the thought before he could fully contemplate the idea of the loft without Blair ever being there again, because coming so close to losing his partner was just too damned hard to face head on. Sandburg was fine. Exhausted, irritable and whiny, but fine.

Thank God.

* * * * * * * * * *

Not quite an hour later, his lover's arm around his waist and leaning heavily against him, and his arm around the kid's shoulders, he supported Blair into the loft. Though Jim fully intended to help him directly to bed after he'd slipped off the blood-encrusted jacket, Blair resisted and tugged weakly toward the living room. "Too early to go to bed," he complained, his tone fretful, a clear sign that he should go straight upstairs but would be too stubborn to rest. "And I'm hungry."

"Okay," Jim agreed reluctantly, but unwilling to fight about it. "But first, let's get you cleaned up a bit and into some clothes that aren't saturated with blood."

Wrinkling his nose, Blair looked up at him dolefully. "Guess I stink, huh?"

A fond smile flitted over Jim's lips as he lightly ruffled Blair's hair and said softly, "Yeah, Junior. You stink pretty bad."

"Okay, clean up first and then food," Sandburg agreed, once again leaning on Jim as they slowly made their way across the floor to the bathroom.

Settling Blair on the closed seat of the toilet, Jim helped him ease out of his shirt and T-shirt, and then steadied Sandburg to ease his jeans off his hips. The wincing eyes and muted hiss bore testament to the discomfort he was feeling from the ugly, stitched up wound that stretched for nearly three inches just under his ribs. Though he suspected Kincaid had been trying for a gut shot, Jim's throat went dry when he considered how close the bullet had come to plowing through Blair's heart. Sandburg shivered miserably, bringing his attention back to the matter at hand. He filled the basin with warm, not quite hot, water, and then carefully washed away the blood that had smeared over his friend's side, belly, hip and leg. When he was done, he tossed the washcloth into the hamper and gently dried Blair's skin, taking care not to pull on the wound. And then he soaked another cloth and tilted Blair's chin up to wash the sweat and grime of the warehouse from his face, and then his hands and arms.

Giving him a soft smile of indulgent understanding, Sandburg murmured, "I could've washed my own face and hands."

"I know," he replied as quietly, his gaze hooded. Finished, he said, "Stay here. I'll get you some sweats." Nodding, Blair leaned his shoulder against the sink for support.

A few minutes later, he helped Blair to the couch and eased him down. "Still hungry?" he asked.

"Yeah," Blair replied. "Something light. Comfort food. Soup, maybe? And tea?"

"You got it, babe."

Blair leaned his head back against the cushion and closed his eyes while Jim busied himself in the kitchen. When the soup was ready, he poured it and the tea into large, ceramic mugs and carried them, along with a mug of soup for himself, into the living room. Setting the tray on the coffee table, he handed Blair his soup, put the tea in easy reach, and then settled in his chair.

"Hmm, this is great," Sandburg sighed contentedly. "Thanks, Jim." After another sip, he reflected pointedly, "Man, I hope that this time the prison system manages to hold onto Kincaid like they're supposed to." He paused again, and then mused, "But, you know, I was thinking that he's, I don't know, like a rite of passage for me, or something."

Jim frowned at that and looked at him askance.

Wincing as he shifted to sit a bit straighter, Blair continued, "Well, think about it. My first day working with you as an observer, he takes over the PD. Then, well, just before things went south at Rainier, leading me to become a cop, he takes over the stadium. And now, he's my first bust as a detective." Shaking his head, he observed, "Sometimes the universe is very strange and mysterious, you know? I never would have thought a fanatical white supremacist with pronounced terrorist tendencies would ever factor so often or so significantly in my life."

"Guess it comes with the territory when you hang around with a sentinel," Jim muttered with a grimace, thinking about how different, and how much safer, Blair's life would have probably been if they'd never met.

"Don't do that, man," Blair chided gently, easily able to guess the thoughts worrying his friend. "I'm not complaining, well, except for the fact that they keep letting him escape. I just think it's a bit odd, and I don't really believe in coincidences – he's like a metaphor or something. The antithesis of what we're about, about who we are and the kind of men we try to be – the difference we try to make." Sighing, he rubbed his forehead. "Guess I'm not making much sense. Must be the drugs."

"You shouldn't've had to deal with him, not this time," Jim finally confessed. "I screwed up, Chief."

Sandburg's gaze narrowed and a frown furrowed his brow. "What do you mean? Screwed up how? From my perspective, you and the others rode to my rescue ... and did a damned fine job of it, I might add."

Sighing, Jim sat forward, the half-drunk mug of soup cradled in both hands between his knees. "I, uh, I heard his voice on the phone that day Cindy Lou asked you to be in the auction," he said slowly, studying the floor intently. Giving his head a little shake, he looked up at Blair. "I just didn't recognize his voice – not consciously, anyway. And then it didn't twig for me until I heard Gail's last name and made the link with the warehouse rental. I should have put the pieces together a lot faster than I did."

Blair rolled his eyes. "Yeah, well, remind me to buy you a cape the next time I'm at the mall – every super hero should have one," he replied sarcastically. "C'mon, Jim, would you give yourself a break? That was days before we even knew he was on the loose. A distant, probably pretty unclear voice on the other end of the line of a phone that was down the corridor and in a huge room with nearly two dozen people talking on the phone or to one another? You're good; hell, you're great. But it's amazing you heard him at all, and then remembered it when you did. Let it go."

When Jim just shrugged his shoulders, clearly not convinced, Sandburg growled, "I mean it. Let it go or I'll go over there and kick your ass."

The tone and the improbable threat from a man who could barely stand, startled Jim into a snort of laughter. His eyes crinkling with amusement, he drawled, "You really think you're up to that, short stuff?"

"Maybe not tonight," Blair allowed with a grin. "But, hey, tomorrow – no question."

"You're right, I think the drugs are messing with your head," Jim retorted sardonically, but he felt relieved of a burden he'd been carrying since late that afternoon. "Finish your soup and your tea, and we'll get you into bed before you flake out on the couch."

"Ah, you're going to play 'nurse' and tuck me in," he teased, the sparkle in his eyes triumphing over the dull haze of exhaustion. "Guess that means I get to play 'doctor', huh?"

"Yes, Sandburg, I'll tuck you in," Jim sighed with great forbearance. "But no playing 'doctor' tonight, Romeo. Tonight all you're going to play is good little patient." When Blair snorted and appeared aggrieved, Jim chuckled and urged affectionately, "C'mon. Drink up."

Having already practically inhaled the soup, Blair obligingly started to lean forward to exchange the empty mug for the full one of tea on the table, but he gasped softly at the sharp pull in his side. Immediately, Jim was up and beside him, taking the mug and then handing him the tea. When Blair took it but focused on taking a couple, slow, deep breaths, Jim hunkered down and gripped his shoulder supportively. "You okay?" he asked anxiously.

Nodding, Blair blinked slowly; his voice was strained as he replied, "Yeah. I just forgot for a minute. Moving's a bit of a challenge tonight."

Jim's jaw tightened against the emotion that clogged his throat. "I was scared, you know?" he rasped. "When I heard that shot."

Looking into his eyes, Blair murmured, "I know. The blast must've nearly blown your eardrum."

Quirking a brow, Jim admitted wryly, "Yeah, it did. We were in the elevator with the SWAT guys, heading to the garage. If any of them had any doubts about my sense of hearing, well, I guess they probably don't anymore. I nearly hit my knees."

"I knew you'd be listening and, well, I heard what Kincaid said. He thought I was hurt worse than I was," Blair told him. "I felt bad – that you didn't know I was alright."

"Yeah, well, the important thing is that it wasn't anything that won't heal," Jim replied diffidently as he stood and put the empty soup mugs on the tray. "I'll just clean up the kitchen, and then I'll help you up the stairs."

His expression warm with affection, Blair watched him pick up the tray and stride to the kitchen. He sipped the tea while Jim washed the few dishes and utensils, and then gratefully accepted his partner's support to their room, where Jim pulled down the duvet and sheet and helped him ease into bed. And then, with a tiny smile, he firmly tucked the covers around Blair's shoulders.

"Sleep well, Chief," he murmured and then stood to undress, but paused when Blair murmured quietly, "Jim – I really am okay. You can relax."

He bowed his head and nodded, buying time to swallow the sudden lump in his throat. When he lifted his head, his gaze roamed the darkened room as he rasped, "A week ago, you asked me if I could name five things that make me happy. But I only gave you four. You want to know what the fifth one is?"

"Yeah, Jim, I'd like to know," he replied softly. "Like I said, we can pay more attention to doing stuff that you enjoy, if we know what those things are."

Jim sniffed and swiped at his nose. "Well, this'll be an easy one, 'cause it's something that I've already got every day," he said, his gaze still flitting around the room. But then, he took a breath and met Blair's eyes. "The fifth thing is you, Chief. Having you here. Having you as my partner ... in, uh, every way." Shrugging uncomfortably, embarrassed, he bowed his head and turned away as he started to unbutton his shirt.

Behind him, his voice husky with emotion, Blair murmured, "I love you, too, man – more than I'll ever have the words to express."

He smiled and nodded. "I know, Chief." Quickly, he finished undressing, then eased into the bed. Gently, he drew Blair against him, so that Blair could sleep with his head pillowed on his shoulder. "Now go to sleep," he commanded with mock ferocity.

"Good night, Jim," Blair snickered as he snuggled close, one arm across Jim's chest. More tired than he wanted to admit, he yawned as he added, "See you in the morning."

Jim nuzzled the silken curls and was just drifting off himself when he heard the low, sleepy chuckle. "And, uh, Jim? That makes seven things. Way to go, man!"

Grinning, he tightened his embrace as he tenderly kissed Blair's temple. And eight, and nine,’ he counted silently to himself, adding 'safe' and the sound of Blair's laughter. "And a whole lot more, Chief," he whispered, aware that Blair had finally succumbed to sleep. "A whole lot more."



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2006 05:08 am (UTC)
I probably owe you a comment
for each section, but I couldn't take time to MAKE them! I was too busy reading and thank GOD I came over after you'd posted all the parts! If I'd finished part one... and there'd been NO part two, whoa, I would NOT have been responsible for my actions! Man, you had Kincaid's voice down pat, woman! That was amazing. And the auction was a brilliant touch. BRAVO on a great read and a totally spot on post-TSbyBS story.

And Bless Linda for figuring out the picture thing! WOOHOO! NOW, who did the manips??? They were WONDERFUL!
Jul. 14th, 2006 05:39 am (UTC)
Re: I probably owe you a comment
LOL! I'm SO glad you enjoyed this story -- and yeah, Peter's work is gorgeous. ::grins:: And I won five more from her during the online auction!!!

And Linda, man, she's great with all this coding stuff. Showed me how to use photobucket. (Now, if I could just remember! But my mind is a sieve when it comes to this kind of coding thing. But, she's so great to have coded the references right into the story, so I didn't have to worry about it! I swear, she's the best beta, period!)

Thanks for taking time to comment, sweetie!
Jul. 14th, 2006 05:11 am (UTC)
Forget the question about the manips!
I went back to part one and found it. I was so entranced with the cover photo, I didn't read the stuff ABOVE it! LOL! Peter did a beautiful job and woohoo to Gerri for making this story possible! :)
Jul. 14th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Re: Forget the question about the manips!
I've sent your wonderful comments to Peter! And I'm so grateful to Gerri for what she contributed to Moonridge for this story. But, strictly speaking, LOL, it was written before the online auction and it was Janet who had the idea for it. (Janet comes up with REALLY great story ideas! And I'm SO glad she shares them with me!)
Jul. 14th, 2006 12:56 pm (UTC)
Wow. This was great! I always love some good angst with Jim and Blair, especially when there's a happy ending. Really love the idea that Jim was upset because of something he'd heard and hadn't realized. And the ladies standing up for Blair is just a great added touch. I really liked this.

BTW~ I was wondering if you'd found a new website yet. I was wanting a friend to read your Sentinel in the old west series. I just love all your stuff!
Jul. 19th, 2006 10:37 am (UTC)
Hey, thanks for your comments! I'm really glad you enjoyed the story.

I may not have a website until fall for my TS slash but, if you send me your email addy (mhay18@shaw.ca), I'll send you copies of the stories you'd like. It's really neat to know you're recommending the Bitterwood Creek series to your friend. Much appreciated!

Jul. 19th, 2006 04:58 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! It's amejisuto.kagetsu@gmail.com There's no rush, Kitty is out of town for ten days, so take your time. I just thought it would make a neat coming home present for her.

Have you thought about hosting your fiction at one of the archives? 852 or something? I mean, I know it's a pain in the butt to load it all, but damn I love re-reading your stuff! I hate that it's not gonna be on line.
Jul. 14th, 2006 09:03 pm (UTC)
How can I count the ways this story makes me happy?
What a great ride! The fear of not being accepted after the dissertation brouhaha, the subsequent refuting of his character by Blair and then the accepting of the badge were all life altering experiences. For Jim and Blair to become a life couple after that is courageous. Love is such a motivator isn't it?
I love the true-to-character voices you have used for each person. It made everything so vivid in my mind as I read along.
:::Sigh::: too bad it had to end.
Thanks for sharing with all of us, we are so fortunate!
Jul. 14th, 2006 09:14 pm (UTC)
Ah, hey, what lovely feedback! I'm so pleased to know you enjoyed the story so much; thanks so much for letting me know. And, yeah, these guys are nothing if not 'courageous' ... but then love can make any of us stronger than we ever thought we could be! ;)
Jul. 16th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you!! The parts that really got to me emotionally were the conversations in the tent and after the auction-loved how the women showed their support during the bidding, and of course in and out of the hospital. Having Kincaid turn up was great I just love this bad guy, lol. Thank you.
Jul. 16th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC)
Luna, I'm so glad to know you enjoyed this story! And, yeah, I love Kincaid as a bad guy, too, LOL. Thanks for your comments! Much appreciated!
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:21 am (UTC)
Another great story from you! Thank you, and Gerri, for sharing it with us! And Peter for the great manips, and starwatcher for her coding expertise. Everything came together perfectly. I love when Kincaid shows up; you did him much better than the last time we saw him on tv. Thanks for a terrific read!
Jul. 17th, 2006 05:51 am (UTC)
Sallye, Hey, I'm really glad you enjoyed the story and artwork!!! And, wow, what a compliment, that I portrayed Kincaid better than the show's writers and actor did! ::blushing happily::
Jul. 19th, 2006 07:33 am (UTC)
This story was so good. I loved the idea AND the execution! I always like to wallow in your descriptions, like the sun on the water when they were fishing, and the arthritic squirrel *G*! You keep them well in voice, and I always like it when the women show some power!

The art was just wonderful and each pic really went with the scene. I liked the stylization as well.

I do have a question. Didn't they finish searching Blair after they found the phone on him? Did I miss something? I guess, in my head, the co-terriorist handed the phone to Kincaid and finished searching Blair or something.

Anyway, this was a great read, and I really enjoyed it!
Jul. 19th, 2006 10:20 am (UTC)
Annie, hey, thanks for the wonderful feedback! I'm really glad you liked the story and the art.

LOL. I wondered if anyone would trip over the search thing and debated making it clearer. I was hoping the description of only patting down Blair's back and sides, finding the phone and Kincaid's fury, moving close to smack Blair, etc, would indicate that everyone was disconcerted to find out the cops had been listening in all along, and the search was forgotten in the swirl of subsequent events. I'm sorry if that threw you off, in that you imagined it had continued.
Jul. 20th, 2006 06:38 am (UTC)
Nah, I just wondered if I'd missed something somewhere. Great story and art!
Jul. 23rd, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
I adore your characterizations here. I swear, you've hit every single reason why I think Blair would make a good cop... and hating the idea of shooting at people makes him a better cop. And this Jim is perfect. He may look like an asshole from the outside, but it's all in love. And I'm with Blair on the Kincaid thing... it's like a metaphor. Just perfect!
Jul. 24th, 2006 12:41 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm glad you enjoyed the story so much! Thank you for taking the time to let me know, and to write such lovely comments.
Aug. 20th, 2006 04:13 am (UTC)
I really loved this and read it right away then hesitated with the comment. I wanted to discuss an element that really moved me about the story, but I also realized it probably changed the story's impact for me and I got all bogged down and alas never commented. So now I am back.

You write beautifully and this is a terrific story and I have printed it out, like so many of yours and it is going in 'your' notebook so I did love it. The part that really grabbed me though, was the women banding together to show Blair how much they appreciated him. That rang so true to me because of Blair's canon, and to a certain degree fanon characterization, and I know he was so touched by their approbation when he was taking so much crap from the macho shit heels. But then when his win at the auction became part of the plot against him I felt terrible for him and betrayed on his behalf because he deserved the honor!

Silly, I know, but I did feel that way. I know he is just an invention of the mind but I still felt so bad that was taken away from him when he really needed it... so erm... this is what you did to me, got me all ratcheted up and needing chocolate worrying over Blair's psyche. Obsess much? Moi?

Thank you so much and pass the Kitkat bars ; )
Aug. 20th, 2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow, what a terrific note! I really appreciate that you told me how the story affected you and that you felt badly for Blair. To tell you the truth, I felt kinda bad doing that to him, myself, for the same reasons you gave. But I rationalized that he still had the experience and it was an 'honest' expression of support by all the women, regardless of Gail's personal motives, and I'm sure he'll still get his night out on the town with the winners, LOL.

Truly, it means so much to me to know that the story engaged you so thoroughly and that you found the scenario so credible and affecting.
Sep. 20th, 2006 10:37 am (UTC)
Hi there, I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed this story. I found via the nominations page at the LMFA and have just read it in one gorgeous big chunk.
Loved the idea of the girls all banding together to show the bigots just how much they valued Blair. Oh and the minute there was the comment about the idea being the plan of the girl who'd only been there a month, I started shrieking to Blair not to get into the car (luckily I was alone in the house at the time!)

And Jim "touching" Blair in the tent was just lovely!

I've been reading Sentinel fic for about a year - it's all lit_gal's fault and am having such fun discovering great new authors and stories (usually I'm a devoted Xander girl in BTVS)

Oh and I loved your Bitterwood Creek series. I printed it off to take on a very boring business trip and it kept me happily occupied for hours.

Anyway, sorry, I didn't mean to write an essay, but just wanted to let you know I loved the story and the artwork is yummy. Hope you don't mind if I have a nose around your LJ and see what other stories you've got lurking there.
Sep. 20th, 2006 04:35 pm (UTC)
LOL, nose around all you'd like! Sorry, not too many stories on the LJ, but a few. Most are on either Starfox's site or the hidden muse site, well, my TS stories anyway.

Thanks so very much for your great feedback on The Auction! I'm delighted to know you enjoyed it and that you also liked Bitterwood Creek. If you're not sure about the urls for my webpages for other stories, drop me a line at mhay18@shaw.ca

I really appreciate you taking the time to leave comments on this story!
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )