Dedicated to Sue, who won this in the Moonridge auctions <coughs> last year but was very, very patient. Thanks, Sue. I hope you think it was worth the wait.
It wasn't until they were heading for the waiting helicopter, its rotors circling noisily, that Blair realised he wasn't just Kincaid's protection until he'd reached the roof; the crazy guy with a gun was taking him along for the ride.
As he was dragged forward, he began to struggle, shouting at Kincaid and trying to get him to hear the truth, but the leader of the Sunrise Patriots wasn't interested.
With a snarled, "Get him in there!" Kincaid threw Blair against the side of the 'copter where strong hands grabbed him and hauled him up and backwards into the belly of the beast. Kicking out was useless as Kincaid pushed his flailing legs to one side and settled into the seat next to him, leaning into Blair to force him up against the metal side behind him and rendering his struggles even more ineffective.
"Let's go, Walters."
As the helicopter took off, Blair was certain that he wouldn't live to see it land.
Jim's feet pounded against the roof of the building as he raced towards the helicopter. Throwing himself forward, he made a desperate grab for the nearest landing rung and felt his nails graze it as the helicopter took off and flew away, carrying Sandburg with it.
For a brief moment, he was tempted to fire at it, to try to force it to land, but he didn't. While he'd happily see Kincaid plunge to a fiery death, he couldn't do that to Sandburg.
Growling beneath his breath, he headed back towards the stairs and ran down them, feeling the sharp impact of his feet against the stairs as he ran. He had to get Sandburg back. It wasn't just for the kid's sake, or for the sake of his senses; there was a strong, gnawing anxiety urging him on.
As Simon flattened himself against the wall, Jim ran past him, throwing a, "They took Sandburg!" over his shoulder as he went.
Finally, he was in the garage, Simon close behind him, a brief sense of satisfaction filling him as he saw Kincaid's 'troops' in handcuffs and being led away.
Ignoring the confusion, Jim headed for the outermost car and yanked open the door.
"It's all right!" Simon shouted at the uniformed officer, before diving into the seat beside Jim. "Where are you going?"
Jim didn't answer, just gunned the engine and screeched out of the garage, ignoring Simon's hurried slamming of his door and his struggle with the seatbelt. Maybe he could pick up the sound of the 'copter...track it somehow.
Slamming the brakes on at the end of the street, Jim jumped out and listened, trying to locate it, trying to focus in on the sound he needed to hear. There! He was sure he heard it. Turning, he concentrated on the distant sound, zeroing in, trying to see what his ears could hear....
"Damn it!" Simon lunged forward as Jim swayed then crumpled over the hood of the car. He had no idea what had got into Jim today; seeing things, hearing things, then manically determined to find his cousin's kid - assuming Jim was telling the truth about that one because Simon's BS detector had been pinging pretty badly. And now, he was out on his feet. "Jim? Jim!"
Just as Simon was about to yell for a doctor, Jim blinked and seemed to come back to himself.
"It's all right, Jim. You...fainted or something."
"I didn't faint - I zoned out."
"What?" What the hell was that supposed to mean?
Jim ignored him as he turned, looking around. "It's gone. I lost it." Pale-faced, he leaned his hands on the hood on the car and bowed his head.
"Look, Jim, we'll get your cousin's kid back, okay? Kincaid's troops ought to know where their lord and master's going."
It seemed as if Simon had said the right thing as Jim's head snapped up and his gaze narrowed. "Right."
As a slow, predatory smile slid over his face, Jim got into the car, and Simon followed him, the hair on the back of his neck standing up. He didn't know what was going on with Ellison and, now, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
It didn't take more than a couple of minutes for Jim to get the car back into the garage, and he abandoned it just as quickly as he'd co-opted it. Running past the open-mouthed uniformed officer, Jim ran back up the stairs and headed straight for the cells.
Kincaid's men were still being herded into them, so it didn't take Jim more than a moment to grab the youngest-looking one by the scruff of the neck and haul him off to an interrogation room. He ignored the indignant shouts of the others, and took a slow delight in the look of fear that was in the kid's eyes. However long he'd been involved with the Sunrise Patriots, it hadn't been long enough to give the young man the ability to assume a tough veneer.
Slamming the door behind him, Jim threw the supposed-soldier into the nearest chair, ignoring the way it almost tipped up, taking the 'hero' with it. Leaning down into the kid's face, he demanded, "Where's Camp Liberty?"
As the soldier shook his head, a strong smell filled the air and Jim almost recoiled before he managed to identify it as fear. Forcing himself to ignore it, Jim kept his position and demanded again, "Where's Camp Liberty?"
Again, the man shook his head, his grey eyes wide as he stared at Jim.
The door opened and shut again, and Jim didn't need to hear Simon's, "Ellison!" to know who was there.
Pointing to the mirror, Jim murmured, "There's a room through there. Tell me where Camp Liberty is or I'll throw you through the mirror."
Simon stepped forward but Jim ignored him, instead grabbing the kid by his jacket and hauling him up.
As Jim lowered him slightly, satisfaction soothing his need to destroy, Simon stepped back and the kid babbled, "It's this side of the Cascade Mountains, at the bottom. There's a river there."
"I know where the river goes," Simon put in, his voice quieter now.
"Great. Let's return soldier-boy to his companions and go visit Kincaid."
As the helicopter began to fly lower, Kincaid turned his head and looked at Blair. "Surprised you're still alive?"
Doing his best to hide his fear, Blair admitted, "You could say that."
A satisfied look showed in Kincaid's eyes. "I was telling the truth earlier: I can use a man like you."
The helicopter landed and Kincaid slid open his door, then reached back and dragged Blair out with him, pulling him over to where a car and driver sat waiting. As Blair was pushed onto the backseat, Kincaid once more sitting beside him, the helicopter took off, circled once then headed off into the distance.
"Relax, Sandburg. We haven't reached the end of our journey yet. Campbell," Kincaid leaned forward and tapped the driver on the shoulder, "any word from Nolan?"
"All right. Let's get back to Camp Liberty."
As he sat back in his seat, Blair caught the displeased look on his face, and couldn't help but mutter, "Maybe they were captured."
Kincaid turned his head; the hard stare making Blair wish he'd held his tongue. "Maybe you should shut up."
Easing back slightly to further the distance between them, Blair decided to take his advice.
By the time they reached Camp Liberty, Kincaid's annoyed look had deepened. As the car came to a halt, he got out, then turned back. "Campbell."
"Yes, sir." Blair was surprised the guy didn't salute.
"Get him out of the car, but hold onto him here until I get back."
Blair sighed and allowed himself, not that he had a choice, to be yanked from the car. As Kincaid disappeared into a tent, he took the opportunity to look around, noting, with a lack of surprise, that the American flag was flying in the middle of the compound.
Within minutes, Kincaid was back, fury in his eyes as he grabbed Blair's shoulder. "Get back in the car."
As Blair was forced into the backseat once more, he noticed that the brightly waving American flag was slowly being lowered.
"Shouldn't we wait for the helicopter?" Simon held on to the dashboard of the truck as it bounced along the uneven surface.
"No time, sir. Once Kincaid knows that his men have been captured, he'll move his camp."
Simon nodded, briefly aware that he was glad he'd missed lunch. He really didn't think his stomach could take much more of this.
Caught by surprise, it was only his tight grip on the dashboard and his seatbelt that held Simon in place as Jim slammed on his brakes. "What?"
"They were here."
Ignoring the screech of brakes that showed that the police cars following them had stopped too, Simon glanced around. "We missed them." He forced his fingers to relax their grip, and flexed his hands before following Jim out of the truck and into the area that showed so many traces of having been home to several tents and their inhabitants.
Jim seemed to be circling the area, and Simon felt a pang of sympathy. His son was safe, back at the PD with Rhonda, while Jim's cousin's kid, or some relative's kid anyway, was out there. With Kincaid and the Sunrise Patriots.
"The tracks go off in various directions." Jim paused to kick a tree. "It's going to take hours to track them all - and that's if the tracks last long enough."
"Jim, if Kincaid wants to use him to negotiate his men's release, he's not going to hurt the kid." It was cold comfort, but it was all Simon had to offer.
"I guess." Jim straightened, his jaw clenching. "I'm heading out to track what I can."
Simon nodded. "We'll split up the tracks. See how far we can get." Turning, he gave orders to the uniformed officers, then got back in the truck. At least while they were trying to follow the tracks, Jim would have to keep to the speed limit.
"Home, sweet home." Kincaid's men had got his tent up next after the flagpole and flag, and he was glad of it. He wanted somewhere to keep the Vice officer - or anthropologist, if the kid were telling the truth now - while the rest of the camp was being built. "Take a seat, Sandburg."
As the kid moved past him and sat on the cot, Kincaid grabbed a chair and yanked it around so he could watch Sandburg while they talked. "Sandburg." The name was unfortunate, and would have to go. "I don't like that name. What other names have you got?"
He could see the fury in the kid's eyes and was pleased. Kincaid had known from the first that he could use him, and he was right. All he had to do was train the kid to obey - and that wouldn't take long.
"Blair?! What kind of a name is that?"
"One my mother liked."
Kincaid would never insult a man's mother, so he let it pass. "All right. It's better than Sandburg. So, Blair, are you a cop?" He could see the calculating look in the kid's eyes. "Tell me the truth - it'll be easy enough to confirm."
Blair shrugged, his eyes hardening as he stared past Kincaid. "I'm an anthropologist."
"So the good Cap'n Taggart lied to me."
The blue eyes met his at that. "He was protecting me."
Kincaid ignored that. He'd deal with Taggart the next time he saw him. "And what were you doing in the police department?"
"I'm doing a thesis on the police. That was my first day."
Kincaid grinned slightly. "You sure picked the right day to join."
A quiet, "Excuse me, sir," got his attention, and he turned to see Campbell waiting at the tent flap.
"Give me a minute, Campbell." Putting the chair back, Kincaid stood over Blair, one hand resting on the kid's shoulder. "There's nowhere for you to go, so don't bother trying anything." Leaving the tent, he grabbed Fielding as he passed by, and sent him in to keep an eye on the kid. Kincaid had little doubt Blair would try to escape. However, he was sure he had the supplies to make sure the kid couldn't.
Ten minutes later, Blair was watching in disbelief as a long chain, complete with manacle, was padlocked around the frame of the cot. "You've gotta be kidding me!"
"Nope." The smile on Kincaid's face reeked of triumph and Blair hated him all the more for it. "I can't trust you not to take off on me, and this way, I don't have to spare a man to watch you."
"You said it yourself, man: I have nowhere to go! I don't even know where we are!"
"And it's gonna stay that way. How you doing, Nicholls?"
The man Kincaid was addressing nodded as he finished fastening it around Blair's ankle. "He won't get that off. And the only way he's getting out is if he takes the cot with him."
"Good. I'll send a man over later with some food for you. For now," a water canteen was tossed onto the cot beside him, "that'll keep you going. C'mon, Nicholls, we got work to do."
As the pair of them left, Blair tugged at the manacle, then yanked at the padlock that was holding the chain in place. Okay, plan one - to make a quick escape - was out of the window. Time for plan two.
With a sinking heart, he realised he couldn't rely upon Ellison to come to his rescue. For one, the detective would have no idea where to look, and two...well, Blair had to face the cold, hard facts here: he'd been useful to Ellison but it wasn't like the guy was going to knock himself out trying to save him.
Lifting his head, Blair made up his mind; he'd be fine. He'd been pretty much on his own for a long time now, and he was a resourceful kind of guy, used to watching his own back. He'd figure out what to do...sooner or later.
Finally, Jim came to a halt. The falling snow meant that the tracks were gone; the trail leading to Sandburg obliterated in the snow's wake - even to his eyes. Simon seemed to have no problem with the snowflakes that whirled dizzily in front of them, but twice now, Jim had found himself drifting.
"Jim." Simon's hoarser-than-usual voice underscored how long they'd been searching, and Jim found his own thirst biting deeper at the sound. "We have to go back. One of Kincaid's men has to know where their second base is, or a way to contact him, at least. And that's if Kincaid doesn't contact us himself. He's going to want to do an exchange - your cousin for some of his men."
Jim shook his head. "The mayor will never go for it."
"Maybe not. But at least it might give us a way to find out where the kid is."
Shutting his eyes to block out the sight of that damned snow, and wishing he could block out the knowledge of Sandburg being lost out there, left to Kincaid's tender mercies, Jim nodded. It was time to regroup. He could get rested up, come back with a survival kit. The kid was out here somewhere, and sooner or later Jim would get him back.
Kincaid brushed the snow from his head and shoulders as he entered his tent. Nicholls had reported that Blair was asleep when he'd taken a portable heater in, and Kincaid was pleased to note that his newest recruit was still sensibly recharging his batteries.
He had no doubt that Blair would try to escape but he was positive that, once that proved futile, the soldier would settle down and learn to toe the line. His background was to be deplored but Kincaid prided himself on being a fair man, and he was prepared to give the kid a chance despite his ancestry.
Taking off his jacket, and stretching out on his own cot, Kincaid realised that his headache had eased off, and the itchiness of his skin that had been annoying him on and off all day had disappeared again. With a sigh, he tucked his hands behind his head. It was probably stress. It got to them all, even him - not that he'd ever let it get the better of him. He was a soldier doing his duty, and nothing would stop him.
Opening his eyes, Blair peered through the darkness towards the other cot. He could hear Kincaid settling down for the night and could practically picture the other man stretched out on the bed, that annoying look of triumph still on his face.
"You're awake then."
Blair jumped at the sudden statement.
"You'd be better off getting some more sleep. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day." There was a pause then, "And don't even think about trying to get that manacle off. I've always had sensitive ears and I won't be pleased if you wake me up."
Thoroughly disturbed, Blair turned over so his back was to Kincaid and stared into the blackness. Sensitive ears...and sensitive sight. His thoughts whirled as he considered the thought but finally he shook his head and closed his eyes firmly. It was just a coincidence. He hoped.
Jim lay on his back, his eyes fixed on the ceiling that he could see far too clearly through the darkness. Realising he was risking a zone out, Jim closed his eyes firmly and turned on his side. Questioning that faux-soldier a second time had proved useless; he was only aware of Camp Liberty and Jim had finally yielded to Simon's demands, let Kincaid's man go back to his cell, and then Jim returned to the loft to get some sleep.
He knew it made sense. He needed rest to help bolster the control that he'd been losing in the mountains. It felt almost as though his senses were searching for Sandburg too; needing to find him. Sighing, Jim conceded that he felt responsible for the kid. If he hadn't agreed to let Sandburg help him - not that he'd had much choice; it was Sandburg or a psychiatric ward - then Sandburg wouldn't now be in Kincaid's hands. Assuming the kid was still alive.
His jaw clenched automatically on that thought. Sandburg had to be alive. If he weren't, Jim was going to spend the rest of his life hunting Kincaid down and making him pay.
Inhaling slowly, Jim tried to relax his muscles. He needed to sleep, to rest, to be fresh in the morning to go back to the mountains and search every inch of them if that was what it took to get Sandburg back.
Finally, he slept, and dreamt all night of a prowling panther while a wolf howled in the distance.
"Up 'n' at 'em!"
Blair forced his eyes open, blearily gazing at the tent canvas. It was morning. And Kincaid was awake.
"If you want any breakfast, I suggest you get up now, soldier!"
As soon as Blair was sitting up, Kincaid nodded as if satisfied, then marched out, a flurry of snow blowing in before the tent flap fell shut. Blair shivered and reached for his shoes. He was still tired, and that was making him feel colder, he was sure. He'd spent all night dreaming of a pacing wolf, howling in the wilderness, with a jackal keeping guard, and while he didn't need to be a psychiatrist to work out the hidden meanings in his dreams, his disturbed sleep meant that morning had come all too soon. And what a morning.
The tent flap opened and Walters came in, a tray in his hand. "You'd best eat that. The colonel's gonna start your training today."
Blair grimaced. Great; a day spent training with a psycho. What fun. Taking the tray, he waited until Walters had left before looking it over. Shrugging, he reached for the fork, noticing the lack of a knife. At least if he were to start training, they'd have to take that damned manacle off him.
It was hours before Kincaid finally let his newest recruit return to the tent to rest. Despite the blow to the Sunrise Patriots with the loss of the rest of his troops, Kincaid had to admit he was pleased with the man he'd managed to acquire. With Blair around, he felt stronger, more in control, less irritated with the annoyances that had plagued him for months. He'd even been able to stomach the meal he'd eaten, instead of pushing it away from him in disgust as the taste overwhelmed him.
The kid had seemed even more nervous at being forced to eat with him, but Kincaid suspected that was because of the other men in the canteen. Taking a swig of water, Kincaid debated letting Blair interact with the rest of his troops - what was left of them anyway - then decided against it. He'd already overheard mutterings in the ranks about how Blair should be used to regain some of their captured men but Kincaid wasn't prepared to let him go.
Smiling to himself, Kincaid had to admit that the thought of Banks going crazy over losing Blair was an added bonus. It was just a pity it wasn't a thorn in Ellison's side as well.
Jim growled to himself as he stalked into the bullpen. There had still been no communication from Kincaid about trading Sandburg for some of his men. If Jim weren't a policeman - and if the paperwork wouldn't have been horrendous - he'd televise himself shooting Kincaid's men one by one until the Sunrise Patriots handed the kid over. Jim also had a sneaking suspicion the mayor would object as well.
There was also the possibility that Sandburg was dead.
Closing his eyes, Jim forced that thought away from him. Sandburg wasn't. He didn't know how, but he was positive he'd know if Sandburg were dead. Therefore, the kid was alive and, regardless of Simon's views on the matter, Jim was heading back out to the Cascade Mountains to look for him.
And when he got his hands on Kincaid, Jim was going to kill him.
Lying on his cot, the cold from that damned manacle seeping into his ankle, Blair kept his eyes closed and did his best to keep his breathing even. Having a panic attack wasn't going to help him.
Kincaid was a Sentinel, he was almost sure of it.
Kincaid's sight was definitely enhanced, probably his hearing too, and his sense of taste and of smell were also heightened - that was evident by his reactions to his meal. So that only left his sense of touch.
Blair shuddered slightly. He'd assumed that Jim was a tactile person due to the amount of times that Jim touched him - nothing inappropriate; casual pats to his arm or back, even an arm slung around his shoulders once - but Kincaid was doing the same thing as though he couldn't bear to keep his hands off him. Blair wasn't getting any kind of vibes off the guy and he really doubted that Kincaid had any tolerance for anyone who wasn't one hundred percent straight, but the man kept on touching him.
If Blair were honest with himself, it was creeping him out.
The tent flap crackled as it was pushed back and Blair's hackles rose at the sound. Kincaid was back.
"Resting? That's good."
Blair gritted his teeth as Kincaid patted him casually on the shoulder, the feel of the man's hand making his skin crawl.
"The snow's stopped so we'll be going for a run in an hour or so...well, that's assuming we can find a pair of boots that'll fit you." The hand patted his shoulder again. "You'll be no good running in those shoes."
Kincaid turned his back, apparently unaware of the scorching glare Blair was directing at him, and pulled his shirt off, exposing his rash-covered back. Blair bit back the gasp that almost escaped him, not wanting to give the faux-soldier another reason to hover over him. It looked like Kincaid had a problem with his sense of touch too.
"Ellison!" For a second, Simon thought his authoritative bark was going to fail, then Jim turned back, a barely patient look on his face. Sighing, and shaking his head, Simon gave in. "If you're going back, so am I. You'll be a sitting duck if you do that Zen thing in the middle of the mountains."
Jim frowned, then a half-smile appeared on his face. "Zone out, Simon, not Zen."
"Whatever. And on the way there, you can explain yourself to me. Now get out into the bullpen and pretend to do some work while I organise another search party."
Simon grabbed the phone as the door closed behind Jim. A search party was good but a search party with a helicopter would be better, especially now the snow had stopped. And Simon knew a mayor who owed him and Jim a favour.
"Step it up, Blair! Soldiers have to run in all conditions!"
Blair stared at the landscape as they jogged, wishing that the man behind him would trip and knock himself out. He was sick and tired of listening to Kincaid bark orders. However, the self-styled soldier had to be pretty sure of his ability to control Blair to let them go jogging alone. Kincaid, of course, had no idea that he was a Sentinel who was vulnerable to zone outs - a fact that Blair was all too ready to take advantage of. Needing a bit of a breather, Blair slowed and came to a halt in the middle of a plain, the Cascade Mountains with their snowy caps looming close by.
"You can do better than this, Blair."
Kincaid's hand rested on his shoulder and Blair resisted the urge to shrug it off, instead turning and letting it fall as naturally as possible as he asked, innocently, "Do you hear that?" Blair couldn't hear a thing but hearing was an easy sense to zone out on so....
For a brief moment, Kincaid looked confused, then, "Chopper!"
As his hand reached out to grab Blair again, Blair stepped away, his head turning as he looked to see what the Sentinel had unexpectedly heard. "I don't see -"
"Let's get back - get a move on!"
Kincaid tugged and Blair acted. Knocking the hand away, he took off at his top rate across the plain, hoping the helicopter would come into sight before Kincaid managed to get them both under cover.
Naturally, Kincaid was following, but Blair was going at a far faster speed than the one he'd assumed previously and he hoped it was enough to keep his distance. A heavy weight landing on his back, and sending him sprawling face down in the snow proved him wrong, but Blair was down but not out. Yet. Rolling, he hit out with his fist only to miss as Kincaid ducked out of the way.
Blair knew that as Kincaid was a trained soldier and he was, well, an anthropologist, anyone laying odds on who would win a straight out fight would be nuts to back Blair, so Blair wasn't surprised when he found himself pinned, flat on his back, with an irate Kincaid holding him down. Lurching up as far as he could, Blair screamed in Kincaid's face and grinned with triumph as the Sentinel recoiled, his hands automatically going to cover his hyper-sensitive ears. This time Blair's fist made satisfying contact with Kincaid's face, and Blair scrambled to his feet and ran as the Sentinel's hands left his ears and grabbed for his suddenly bleeding nose.
Fully aware of the stinging in his hand that was a vivid reminder of the end of the Switchman case, the thought drifted through Blair's mind that Naomi would be incredibly disappointed that he'd punched two people in just as many weeks, but it disappeared as Jim's truck came hurtling into view, several police vehicles behind it. Letting loose a triumphant holler, Blair jumped up and down, waving his arms in case his Sentinel couldn't see him.
The truck skidded to a halt with both Simon and Jim leaping out, and Blair practically fell into Jim's arms.
Blair got one glimpse of Jim's concerned face as he nodded, then he was handed over to Simon and the Sentinel stalked past them towards Kincaid.
The confused query came from Blair and Simon both, and Blair looked up into Simon's face.
"It's good to see you, kid." Simon glanced over his head. "Jim was worried about you."
Blair followed his gaze over to where Jim seemed to be arresting Kincaid with a hint of excessive force. "He uh...was?" As Kincaid was pushed face down into the snow, Blair added, "Is Jim supposed to be doing that?"
Jim glanced up, a feral look on his face. "Snow's good for nosebleeds." Kincaid was yanked back up, and Blair saw his face pale even further as Jim murmured something in his ear.
The radio crackled, and Simon leant into the truck to answer the call, leaving Blair with a full view as Kincaid was pushed towards one of the other police officers, his hard stare never leaving Blair's face.
Blair's gaze shifted to meet Jim's, and he was unnerved to see the same possessive look in Jim's eyes. Stepping back, his shoulder hit the edge of the open door, and earned him a, "Watch it, Sandburg!" from Simon.
As Jim stepped forward, Simon straightened up, accidentally giving Blair somewhere to hide behind. "They've got the rest of the Patriots," he announced, a satisfied tone in his voice. "They were sitting around a camping stove keeping warm when our guys went in." He turned, a smile on his face, giving Blair the idea that maybe, just maybe, the police captain liked him...a little. "Jim will give you a ride down, right, Jim?" At the stiff nod, Simon continued, "You'll have to come in and give a statement but that can wait until tomorrow. Take a few hours to decompress. Jim, I suggest you stay out of the way until Kincaid's safely locked up. Come in with the kid tomorrow."
There was a slap on his shoulder, then Simon headed over to one of the other cars, leaving Blair to face Jim.
"Jump in." The glare softened, Blair's knotted nerves relaxing slightly with it. "I'll bet you'll be glad to see Cascade again."
"Oh, man!" Blair shook his head. "You got that one right!"
It wasn't until the outskirts of Cascade itself was in view that Jim noticed Sandburg finally relax. Dusk had fallen and the city was lit up like a Christmas tree, but the kid wasn't able to see it as his eyes were firmly closed and the soft snoring was an obvious sign that he was dead to the world. Jim wasn't surprised. Adrenaline spikes were all well and good when you needed them but you tended to crash afterwards. Pulling over to the side of the road, Jim slid his jacket off and draped it over his friend, oddly pleased when Blair made a quiet noise of contentment and snuggled further down in his seat.
Sighing, Jim rolled his head back and let the feral anger he'd been carrying around inside dissipate. When he'd seen Sandburg, he'd thought he'd feel better about the whole thing: thought that heavy weight of guilt and responsibility inside him would go, instead it had been swamped by the feelings of anger and...possessiveness - it seemed to be the right word - that having Kincaid near Sandburg caused.
Jim shook his head. Why he was feeling possessive over Sandburg was a mystery. The kid was the wrong sex and even if Sandburg had been female, Jim had never felt that way over Carolyn. Unless....
A thought occurred to him and Jim glanced over at the sleeping figure again. Of course, it all made sense now: Kincaid had kidnapped Jim's partner - for all that Sandburg wasn't a cop, he'd been handy to have around during the Switchman case and had handled himself well when it came to containing Veronica Sarris. Any cop would have reacted the same way when his partner was kidnapped.
Satisfied, Jim put the truck into gear and drove off. He had his partner at his side, and all was well.
Blair muttered sleepily and batted a hand at whatever was shaking his shoulder.
"C'mon, Chief, wake up. I'm not going to carry you upstairs."
Jim! Blair's eyes flew open and he jerked back as he found Jim's face inches from his own.
"Hey, relax, it's me. Kincaid's on his way to jail right now, remember?"
Oh, he remembered, all right. "Yeah. I know." Blair managed not to flinch as Jim squeezed his shoulder lightly before letting go, then pushed Jim's jacket off him and into the Sentinel's hands, disturbed by the fact that he'd felt safe and warm while covered with Jim's jacket. "Uh, thanks."
"You're welcome. I didn't want you getting cold."
As Jim pushed his door open and stepped out of the truck, Blair looked around. They were at the loft?
"C'mon, Sandburg, I'm freezing my butt off here."
Licking his lips, nervously, Blair got out and stood to one side as Jim locked the truck securely. "Hey, Jim, I'll uh...catch a cab to the warehouse and see you tomorrow, okay?"
"What?" Fortunately for Blair's self-control, that possessive look hadn't reappeared. "If you really want to go back to the warehouse, I'll give you a ride but I thought you'd stay over tonight."
"Stay over?" Blair hoped Jim would ignore the way his voice cracked.
"Yeah. I don't think it's a good idea for you to be alone right now. You've had a rough day. Or two."
"That's an understatement, man."
"Yeah, I know." Jim rubbed his hand over his head, as if trying to buy himself a little time. "It's late, you're hungry - I doubt if Kincaid fed you that well - and I make a mean pasta dish. So just come on inside and we'll...talk about things."
Blair's uneasiness deepened as he realised a few things. One was that Jim had to be desperate to stop him from leaving if he were willing to talk things over; a few days in Jim's company had convinced Blair that the ex-Ranger, Sentinel and cop was not the kind of guy who liked talking. Blair just didn't know if Jim realised why he was trying to stop him from leaving. "Jim, I -"
"You're not telling me you'd rather be alone?"
"It's not that," Blair protested. "It's just...." He really wasn't sure how to explain to Jim that being around a Sentinel, any Sentinel, was freaking him out right now.
"What?" Jim prodded.
Blair shook his head. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"What?! Sandburg -" As Blair turned around, Jim grabbed his elbow and turned him back. "I understand, okay? If you want to talk about it, I'll listen; if you want to veg in front of the TV, that's fine. I don't care. But I don't think you should be alone."
"I'll be fine, okay?" Blair pulled his elbow free and held up his hands placatingly, hoping that Jim would accept that.
"No, I don't think you will be."
"Are you sure it's not you who has the problem here, Jim?" Blair demanded, though he knew the accusing tone in his voice was a mistake.
"God damn it, Sandburg, you're not going back to that damned warehouse tonight so don't even think it." With that, Jim latched onto his shoulder and hauled him towards the door.
"Jim!" Barely thinking about it, Blair wrenched himself away, feeling the sleeve on his much-abused jacket rip a little.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Sandburg? You're acting like I'm the enemy here!"
"You're not the enemy, okay?! You're just a - a Sentinel!" Blair practically hissed the last word, wanting to keep his voice down but needing to make sure it was heard.
"I'm a...how is that a surprise to you, Sandburg?! You knew I was a," Jim's voice dropped on the word too, "Sentinel the first time you met me!"
"I didn't know Kincaid was one too though! Not until today!" Blair flinched as Jim's gaze seemed to narrow, focussing on him with an intensity that didn't seem quite human.
"He's a S-" Jim bit the word off, and Blair would have sworn there was a growl underlining his tone as the truth dawned on Jim. "He's not having you!"
There was definitely a growl rumbling in the Sentinel's throat as he dragged Blair towards the elevator and pushed him into it, Blair's struggles not even seeming to register. It wasn't until Blair was in the loft that Jim let go of him again, and Blair backed off, his wide-open eyes noticing the way the Sentinel was keeping between him and the door.
"Jim, I think you need to calm down a little here."
The Sentinel glared at him, that possessive glint back in his eye. "He's not having you, Sandburg. I found you first."
"Hey, I found you - remember?" Blair babbled, hoping he was saying the right thing. "I came looking for you. I didn't go looking for Kincaid; Kincaid kidnapped me."
"He'll never touch you again!"
"That's good!" As the Sentinel paced up and down, Blair took the opportunity to put the couch between himself and the well-trained ex-Ranger who was freaking him out. "I don't want to see Kincaid again. I punched him in the face - I don't think he's gonna be pleased with me."
The pacing slowed. "You hit him."
"That's right; I was trying to get away from him."
"Yeah, you were." The Sentinel stopped. "You did good."
"Right, I did good." Blair took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself down now that Jim seemed to be calmer.
"I told him I'd kill him if he came near you again." Jim stepped towards the couch and Blair noticed how much his hands were trembling. "I meant it. He's a Sentinel; he shouldn't be near you."
"Well, he's not going to be near me, remember? He's in jail now."
"Yeah, he's in jail; he's gone. That's good." Jim nodded then took a breath and slowly exhaled. "I didn't mean to scare you."
"It wasn't that, Jim." Blair sank down onto the couch, sure that the crisis - or whatever the hell it had been - was over.
"Jesus. I..." Jim sat down too. "I just dragged you in here like a - a..." He shook his head and scrubbed his hands over his face. "I guess you were right to call me a Neanderthal."
Blair shook his head. "I think it was some kind of Sentinel imperative, Jim. Kincaid was determined to hang on to me and you...."
"As soon as I got hold of you, I did the same thing." Jim's voice was filled with self-loathing.
"No, it's not the same. At least," Blair shook his head again, "I don't think so."
"It looks the same way to me, Sandburg, and I think you'd have agreed with me a few minutes back."
Turning to face his friend, Blair asked, "And if I tried to walk out now, what would you do?"
"I'd..." Jim paused, then sighed. "I'd drive you to the warehouse or make sure you got a cab. It's dark, it's late - that's a rough area to be in this time of night!"
Blair smiled, his heart warmed by the protectiveness in Jim's tone that underlay the note of defeat.
"You want me to call you a cab, Sandburg?"
"Nah." Blair shook his head. Now that Jim was prepared to ease off, he wasn't as freaked out as he had been. "You offered me a pasta dinner, remember?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah." Whatever Kincaid was, he wasn't Blair's Sentinel. And he had to admit, it felt right to be at Jim's side - it felt as right to be with Jim as it had felt wrong to be near Kincaid.
"Okay, one pasta dinner coming up."
"Good, I'm starving." Sliding off his coat, Blair followed Jim into the kitchen. "I worked in an Italian restaurant one summer. I loved it - the hours were good, the pay was okay, and all the pasta I could eat."
"I'd better make enough for three then, right?"
Later that night, with sleep eluding him, Jim rolled over in bed and gazed down towards the couch where Sandburg was. His Sentinel eyesight had no trouble cutting through the darkness and cataloguing every detail of the sleeping figure, and Jim revelled in the sight, glad that he'd managed to pull back and stop himself from driving Sandburg away.
He still didn't know where that feral anger had come from, and he now knew there was no way he could explain that sudden possessive rage as being anything cop-related. Maybe he'd have to admit Sandburg was right; maybe it was Sentinel-related, though Jim cringed at the idea, hating the thought that he could be so out of control thanks to his stupid overactive senses and the effect they had on him.
Closing his eyes, Jim tried to force himself to sleep. Whatever it was, and whatever Sandburg's part in all this was, he belonged with Jim. Kincaid would have to find his own helper...aide...sidekick? Jim smiled slightly, sure that said sidekick would not be pleased with any of those titles. Well, whatever Sandburg was, he belonged with Jim and they'd figure it out together, and that was a comforting thought.
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