Cutting Pains.

Jim watched as the emergency crews worked over his truck, grimacing as Simon walked out of the hospital. "Everything all right?" he asked quietly.

"Naomi had to be sedated," Simon grumbled. "Her doctor was not thrilled with this new twist. She glared at Blair, who glared back and told her it wasn't his fault, it was your truck." Jim rolled his eyes. "Seriously though, Blair's fine. Shaken, but not harmed."

"Good." Jim glanced at his truck again then he firmly turned away. "Now all we have to do is find out who's doing this and stop them, and not let Naomi out of the city."

"I have a plan for that," Simon admitted, rubbing his forehead with his thumb. "I've filed paternity papers to force her to stay in town. The judge is hearing it this afternoon in family court. I just delivered the papers to her." He turned and walked back into the building, following Jim. They stood outside Naomi's room, waiting. When she opened the door and gasped in surprise, they both gave her their dirtiest looks. "Going somewhere? I'm sure that the hospital will give you a ride down to the courthouse."

"Get out of my way," she demanded, trying to shove past him. It didn't work and trying to get past Jim was worse than futile. "Get out of my way! I won't be humiliated and pressured this way!"

"Gentlemen," a nurse said as she walked closer. "What's going on?"

"She's to appear in court this afternoon," Simon told her. "I just served the papers on her. We're going to argue over her disappearing into the night with my child."

"It's not yours," Naomi sneered. "You can't prove it."

"You didn't read the paperwork," Simon said calmly. "In it was an order for blood work so a paternity test can be done as soon as it's safe." He looked at the nurse. "She has to be there at two thirty. Can you make sure of that or do I need to get an officer to escort her?"

The nurse looked around, looking very unsure. "I think we can get her there. Ms. Sandburg, please get back into your bed."

"I'm leaving. There's no reason for me to stay here."

"Ma'am, unless you've signed paperwork, I can't let you leave," the nurse said, trying to sound reasonable. She flagged down another, older, nurse. "This man has paperwork stating that Ms. Sandburg has to appear at two thirty at the courthouse."

"And an order for a paternity test to be preformed," Jim added. "Can you help us with that?"

"Of course," the older nurse said calmly. "Ms. Sandburg, I have to agree, unless you've *already* signed paperwork, you have to get back in your bed." She moved past the two men and gently propelled Naomi back to her bed. "Just stay right there and we'll get a doctor up here for you," she told her, turning to look at them. "Maybe you two should go wait somewhere else, along with her son?"

"Sure," Jim agreed, stepping back so the door would close. He smiled at the nurse. "Where is Sandburg anyway?"

"The cafeteria. He said something about getting something to settle his stomach." She smiled at him. "I'll call down there if there's a problem."

Jim nodded and stalked off, going to find his partner. He knew Simon was going to have a talk with her. Naomi was going to try and take off again, and none of them wanted that. Even though he didn't really want the kid to raise, he'd stand by Blair on this one. From what he'd heard recently, Blair's childhood hadn't been as exciting as he had originally told everyone. No kid deserved to be deprived of the simple pleasures of childhood.


Simon looked over at the judge, who was frowning at Blair. "Sir, his testimony is relevant. He's Ms. Sandburg's other child."

"I'm not an only child," Blair muttered as he walked past him. He stood between the two tables. "I know it's unusual, but I want to put forward my own claim for the child, unless Simon's definitively proved to be the parent, then I'd like to back him up. What my childhood was like," he took a breath, "no child should have to go through what I did, Judge Stevens."

Judge Stevens looked Blair over, then turned to look at Naomi. "I cannot rule on the custody of the child until it's born, but I will hear about your upbringing," she told Blair. "I will add your name to Captain Banks' motion as well." She smiled at him. "Can you prove that it's worse than the average person's upbringing?"

"I know that society tolerates a lot when it comes to the inadequacies of being poor," Blair told her, "but it's nothing compared to having to move every few weeks. As far as I can remember, we never stayed in the same place over fifteen weeks, and we were both ill then." He glanced back at Simon. "I'm sorry to have to bring this up, but yes, my childhood was not something that's comfortable and nurturing. I love my mother, but I don't want to see another child look around at the age of twenty and try to figure out why people want to take vacations to leave homes that the always live in." He blinked a few times. "The only thing I still have from my childhood is a small box of mementoes that I had to hide from my mother. She was determined to purge my life around the age of ten when we went to another commune, mostly because they demanded it. All of my education was self-taught. Yes, I had teachers, but how can a child learn when they're never in a school long enough to learn anyone's names? After a while, the life stops seeming exciting and becomes wearing. I was so surprised when my first semester in the dorm I was told I wasn't going to have to switch rooms all year unless I wanted to." He glanced at his mother. "Like I said, I love her, but I can't allow another child to grow up not understanding what a friend is."

The judge nodded. "I see." She looked at Simon. "You're sure you want to take charge of this child?"

Simon stood up. "Your Honor, I already have a teenaged son and my ex-wife said she'd be willing to help me as much as she could. We talked about this issue last night and she did say she'd support me and not try to play headgames."

Judge Stevens smiled at him. "I remember your divorce, Captain Banks." She looked at Naomi. "While I can't rule on the custody of the child yet, I can order you to stay in town, Ms. Sandburg. You will find a residence in town and stay there, going to *all* routine prenatal examinations and workups your doctor considers necessary." She signed a paper in front of her. "Also, the paternity test will go through." She looked at Blair. "Are you really prepared to continue to force custody if the child isn't Captain Banks'?"

Blair nodded. "Absolutely. I've got to figure out how to cut down my work hours, but I'll do it just so that the child has a steady life."

She smiled. "So be it. This is a temporary order, until we can discuss this more in-depth in a month. At that time, I will decide whether or not to make this a permanent order." She handed down the paperwork to Blair. "Please help your mother find a place to stay."

"We will," Jim said from behind Simon. "I know someone who's about to move, they said she could sublet their old apartment."

The judge smiled at him. "And you, Detective Ellison, what's your part in this case?"

"Blair and I work and live together," Jim said simply, letting everyone draw their own conclusions. "I'm also helping him run his father's bookstore."

Naomi glared at him. "You warped my son," she hissed. "I'll see you in *Hell* before I let you near my child!"

"Now now," the Judge said calmly. "We won't have any fighting in my courtroom." She looked at Jim again. "Are you going to back up your partner in this case?" Jim nodded. "Good. Then we'll see everyone...." She flipped through her desk calendar. "Three weeks from tomorrow." She looked at Naomi. "If you're not here, we will file a bench warrant and have you arrested," she warned her. "You will be found and brought back so we can decide who has custody of that child." She banged the gavel. "Dismissed." She stood up.

"All rise," the Bailiff called.

Everyone stood, waiting while the judge walked out of the courtroom.

Blair smiled at Jim and Simon, but he flinched at the slap to the back of his head. "Hey! You don't have that right!"

"I am your mother!" Naomi ground out. "How could you do this to me?"

Blair crossed his arms and stared her down. "Easy. I don't want another child to miss out on having a life that makes them happy. Unlike myself or Belinda." He walked away, heading outside. Jim glared at Naomi and followed him, just in case he was needed.

Simon walked around his chair and stared down at his former lover. "I will do what's best for this child," he said quietly. "It will have the best of all treatments, no matter what they are. It'll be loved and cared for. I'll even make sure that the child has a better than average education."

"Did you just hear yourself? 'The child', Simon? It has a gender!" She stomped her foot.

"Not yet it doesn't. Sexual characteristics don't start until the fifth month. We'll know then." He walked away from her.

Naomi rubbed her stomach and started to plan her escape.


Blair shifted in the rental truck, trying to get some feeling back into his butt and legs. "How much longer?" he asked Jim.

"She's packing right now," Jim said quietly. He glanced over at Blair, seeing the edginess there. "We could arrest her and force her into a more structured environment."

"I don't think that a prison infirmary is the place for her," Blair retorted dryly. "Maybe a bodyguard though?"

"We'll do what we can, Chief," Jim said, putting a hand on Blair's hand, which was on his thigh. "Relax. Simon's waiting next to the doorway." He had a sudden thought. "Maybe we should put her up with Joan. I bet seeing Darryl will make her change her mind."

"Either that or make her hate them more," Blair suggested.

"But I bet Darryl would watch her for us."

"Maybe," Blair admitted. "I'll consider it." He leaned closer to Jim's warm bulk, shifting so they were sitting closer. "Think that the bomb was the cult thing or one of Naomi's friends?"

"I think it was the cult. So does the Captain of the Bomb Squad. She does a very good impersonation of a sailor by the way."

Blair snickered. "I bet. I heard she was a Marine."

"I heard Air Force," Jim corrected.

"Whatever," Blair told him. "Still military service." He looked up with a naughty grin. "Think we could get *her* to watch my mother?"

Jim chuckled. "I doubt it, but it's a pleasant thought."


Simon straightened up as the door opened, glaring at Naomi. "Going somewhere?"

"Yes!" she sneered, trying to get past him. He gently pushed her back into the apartment. "Let me go, Simon."

"Hey!" a neighbor yelled, sticking his head out the door. "Whatcha doin' ta her? We don't put up with domestic shit in this building."

Simon showed the man his badge, and the guy looked seriously unimpressed. "I'm enforcing a court order. She's not allowed to leave."

"Oh, okay then," the guy said, smiling at Naomi. "You ever need help, just yell. We're all nosy here." He pulled his head back in and shut the door.

"That isn't a fair order, you can't enforce it," she protested.

"Yes, I can," Simon reminded her. "As an officer of the court, I'm required to. As the father of the child you're carrying, I'll be damned if you're taking it and running." He pushed her back into the apartment and closed the door. "Don't try it again, Naomi. We will be watching." He walked away, heading down to his car. He could burn a lot of favors with this, but it'd be worth it. No one took his child and ran from him. He waved at Blair and Jim, smiling at the closeness of the two men. At least he had the department's support. That had surprised him, that the Chief would personally call and offer his help to keep Naomi in town. He knew the man had an angle, but he could accept the help without getting burned too bad - he hoped. He climbed into his sedan and shut the door, picking up his phone to call in his first favor.

Upstairs, Naomi looked out her window, just able to see Simon's car where it was parked and that he was sitting inside it.


Blair looked around his store the day after Christmas and sighed. No one was in there. No returns, no one was using their gift certificates yet. Not even a homeless person trying to stay warm up in the back shelves. At least all the college kids he'd hired were gone today too, so he didn't have to worry about paying them for not working. He straightened up as he saw someone walking toward the door, pasting on his brightest smile. "Welcome," he called as the two men and a woman walked in. He sorta recognized one but he wasn't sure from where. The people walked over to the register, smiling at him.

"Excuse me, do you know where I could find Blair Sandburg?" one of the men asked.

"That's me." Blair nodded them over to a nearby seating section. "We can sit and talk if you'd like."

The man leaned closer and tried to slap Blair, but he dodged. "How dare you do that to your mother!" he shouted. "She's a good and kind woman!"

"She's trying to take a child away from its father and give it the same miserable childhood that killed my sister!" Blair argued. "And who the hell are you to get into this?"

"We're Naomi's support group," the woman sniffed. "Where is she?"

"At the apartment we found for her." Blair looked them over. "I'll give you the address, but she's not allowed to leave Cascade."

"Why not?" the second man sneered. "Your *cop* buddies arrest her?"

"No." Blair turned the register key to 'off' and moved around the counter. "Didn't she tell you that the baby's got a health problem already?" They all nodded. "And that *no* one in the non- traditional medicine communities can help fix it?" They all stopped moving at that. "Not only that, but she's trying to leave the father, again, and raise the child on her own. She kept my father from me, and this guy's a good guy, even though he's a cop. He's one of the best good-guys I know."

"What does he do?" the woman asked.

"He's highly into the civil rights movement. He's already got a teenaged son and an ex-wife, who've agreed to stand with him on this. He's got a *huge* family, so big that you have to put a few photos together to get the whole group in one picture." Blair sighed. "He's the one that the blood disease came from. His sister died from it." He looked at the men, knowing now where he recognized that one from. "Yeah, my mom's got problems, and this is pissing her off, but this goes well beyond that. Naomi has some sort of problem with fathers in general."

"She told us your father was a murderer," the woman said, coming over to sit in one of the chairs.

Blair sat across from her. "My father was a spy, but he was the guy that went in and rescued people. He dealt more with the intelligence and rescuing side than anything else. He was also one of the greatest guys from what everyone's told me. I didn't get to know him, or his husband of over twenty years, because of her thing against fathers." He looked at the two men. "If you guys know what that thing is, I'd like to know."

"You had a sister?" the second man asked.

"Belinda. She died when she was five. I was about seven at the time. We were in a commune and she had got a raging case of the flu. Dehydration and everything. The people there all encouraged Naomi to take her to the local free clinic at least, but she refused and my sister died because of it." He swallowed. "I'm sorry if this is a shock to you, but Naomi's not really stable mentally." They all glared at him. "She's *forgotten* that Belinda ever existed. She's thrown out all but one picture of her, which I had to fight to keep. She's never mentioned her. Even when she was alive, she didn't really deal with her." Blair tightened his ponytail. "Besides, that's not the issue. The issue is that she's trying to take off with someone's child, and that someone wants to be part of that child's life and give it a stable upbringing." He looked at the man he vaguely remembered. "Do you remember what I was like when we first met?"

The first man nodded. "Very well. You were nearly starved for attention, you were teaching yourself math, and you had on the grubbiest little set of shorts anyone's ever seen." He smiled faintly. "We all thought something horrible had happened."

Blair shook his head. "Nope, just another move. We never stayed anywhere. Yeah, it was great learning all about the world, but I would have sold my soul for some stability. Something that let me cling to it and didn't move. Simon's offering this child that, because Naomi won't."

Mitchell sighed and looked at his companions. "What now?"

"I'll give you her address if you want," Blair offered. "My partner and I have someone watching her right now to make sure she can't sneak off." The woman nodded. "By the way, if you'd like to check with the alternative medicine people, I keep a list in the office for my own use. I can give it to you."

"Would you know who to go to?" Mitchell asked.

Blair grinned. "I'm a recognized Shaman. A tribe in Peru recognizes me because I deal with some of the ritual stuff. I'm a Medicine, Hunting, and Warrior Shaman. With another year of full training to go." They all looked impressed. "I've already talked to the people that I'm training with about the baby and they said there's nothing, not even rumors out of the ancient books, of anything to cure the baby's weakness. There is a traditional treatment, which Simon is willing to do for the baby."

The woman looked at the men, then relaxed fully. "Yes, we'd like that information. All we know is that Naomi said you were keeping her hostage and forcing the law on her."

"Well, there is a court order keeping her from running away," Blair admitted. "And some cops are watching her to make sure she can't slip away, but we're trying to do what's best for the baby. My mother can take care of herself, that fetus can't."

They all nodded and stood up. "Very well then, let us go and talk to her."

Blair hopped up and went to write down the address for them, and make copies of the articles he and Jim had found about the baby's sickness. "Here," he said, handing it all over. "That's what we have so far."

Mitchell looked at the papers and whistled. "He's right, there's nothing I know of that would treat even the symptoms." He looked over at Blair. "Will you still be here later?"

"It's my store now," Blair proclaimed as he ran a hand over the polished wood countertop. "My father and his husband left it to me." He watched as his mother's friends walked out, then slumped back down. That had been difficult, but he'd been expecting it for the last week. Maybe he should warn Simon? He picked up the phone and dialed the station. "Simon, me. No, just some info. Mom's friends are in town."


Jim walked into the store and looked around at the mess, frowning at the books strewn around. "Blair?" he called, heading for the office. No Blair. "Sandburg?" he called, louder this time. When he didn't get an answer, he turned up his hearing, searching for his partner's life sounds. Nothing. He blindly reached for his cellphone and the numbers on speed dial. He hit the one for Blair's phone and grimaced when he got a busy signal. He was pushing the button to get Simon's phone when Joel walked in behind him. He turned to look at him. "Blair's gone!" he said. "My phone won't work and he's gone!"

"Calm down," Joel said quietly, pulling the phone from Jim's hands and hitting the button for the phone book. He found Simon's number and hit it, smiling when he got an answer nearly immediately. "We've got a problem. Sandburg's missing, the store's a wreck," he said, looking around, "and Jim's not much better." He made a noise and hung up, dragging Jim over to a chair and sitting him down. "Simon's coming," he said patiently. "You've got to calm down."

Jim glared at him. "I can't calm down, he's missing!"

"Everyone in the department will be out looking for him, we consider him one of our own." He snorted at the intense glare that statement got him. "Ellison, we all know that you two are together. That's why most of us will be looking for him!" He shoved Jim lightly, forcing him further back into the chair. "Simon's calling in everyone and they're coming this way as fast as they can."

Jim stared at up at him. "Call Naomi," he ordered quietly.

Joel snorted. "Man, I'm leaving that up to Simon. I'm not getting anywhere near that argument." He turned as the door opened, giving Simon a thankful look. "He's not making sense yet," he warned as he moved out of Simon's way. "He wanted me to call Naomi."

Simon shook his head. "After we know what's going on." He grabbed Jim by the shoulder and shook him. "Tell me what happened," he demanded.

Jim frowned at him. "I walked in and found the mess." He pointed at the books thrown about. "I yelled, I searched, I didn't find him."

Simon nodded. "Okay. Then I've heard from him last." He looked over as the door opened again. "Good, you're here," he told the Captain of the Bomb Squad.

"Why are you here?" Jim asked.

"Because they put me in charge of this case," she noted dryly. "They thought your unit might be a bit....emotionally involved." She smiled at Simon. "This the crime scene?"

"As far as we know."

She snapped her fingers and her people rushed in, starting at the office and working their way out into the store. "We'll find him, guys. Don't worry about it."

Simon nodded. "Good. I'd hate to have to let Ellison go after them."

She chuckled. "I'm sure we'll be able to follow him once you let him loose." She looked around at the mess. "Is this from the cult case or from his mother's problem do you think?"

"I'd say the cult," Joel said, pointing at a book that had been laid out on the counter. "God is our friend? Wasn't that from the cult's bookshelves?"

"Yes," Jim said, jumping up. "We know where most of the remaining members are."

"The Feds have it, Jim," Joel warned him. "We won't be able to get to them."

"Bet me," Jim snarled, heading out of the store. He knew Simon was following him, but he didn't care, he was going to save his Guide one way or another. He shrugged off the hand trying to grab his arm and kept going. The rental truck was around here somewhere. He pulled out the keys and unlocked the door, but he was slammed against the side, making him stare at the Captain of the Bomb Squad. "What?"

"You're going to stay here," she ordered. "I want you where the kidnappers can find you, Ellison. No cowboy antics. No running off on your own. You take your orders from me this time and I'm not Banks. We don't play like that in my sandbox." She snatched the keys from him and dragged him back into the store, handing him off to Simon and Joel. "He stays!" she said firmly. She smiled at Jim. "Then, once we have a ransom demand, you can go destroy them all you want. Okay?"

Simon groaned. "What if they don't call? They could want them both. Sandburg is one of the key witnesses against them."

She smiled. "Ellison's the real witness and they know it. If they had wanted just Sandburg, they'd have taken him somewhere else and wouldn't have left us a clue. A snatch on the street would have been much easier and more effective if they only wanted Sandburg." She reached over and patted Jim on the head. "Don't worry, I'll let you rip them up with your bare hands, just give me a while to help you find them first." She pulled back her hand at the growl. "I'm going to go help my guys," she said, nodding, then following them around the store.

Simon squeezed Jim's arm. "Let her do this part," he whispered. "Save your energy for going through some Feds to get to the cult leaders."

Jim nodded, but he didn't relax, even after he was put back into the chair. Someone was going to pay and he would have fun making sure of it.


Naomi opened the door, frowning at the cop she vaguely knew. "What?"

"May I come in?" Joel asked. She waved him in, but only to where she could close the door. "You know the cult case that Ellison and your son were working on?" She nodded slowly. "He's been taken by someone in that cult so that he can't testify."

She went pale and grabbed hold of a wall to steady herself. "Have you found him yet?"

"We've heard from them; Ellison, Banks, and most of the SWAT team have gone after them. Banks told me I should inform you now."

Naomi picked up a small vase and threw it at his head. "How long have you known!"

"A few hours. We wanted to wait until we were sure before coming to you so you wouldn't get upset." He picked her up, kicking and shrieking, and carried her into the living room. He tossed her down onto the couch and looked down at her. "We're all under orders not to upset you. That's the other reason why Banks sent me, that and so I can take you to him once we find him." She opened her mouth. "He's fine. They let us hear his voice over the phone." That only Ellison had heard his voice was something he wasn't going to think about. He didn't want to know. "Ellison figured out where they must have him and we've got the Feds, who were supposed to be watching them, on our side. All we have to do is wait."

She fell backwards, one arm covering her eyes. "Why does my son believe this is a better life?"

"Because he helped save fifty lives when they busted that cult," Joel told her calmly, sitting near her feet. He picked up a bare foot to rub the swollen ankle. She kicked him. "I thought you might like it," he explained. "My sister always needed her feet rubbed when she was pregnant with her three."

Naomi relented and let him give her a foot massage. It killed time, and made her feel better. Even though she was going to get away from him soon.


Blair had a front row seat as the door caved in and Jim stormed in. "They went that way," he called, nodding to his left and behind him. "Heard a van about three minutes ago."

Jim rushed over and grabbed the padlock on the chains, trying to figure out how to break it.

"Let me," one of the SWAT guys said, pulling out a lock gun. He picked the lock and got out of Ellison's way. They'd all been briefed about not getting in his way, especially when it concerned his partner. People tended not to survive when they got between Sandburg and Ellison. There was a shout from the direction that almost everyone had gone and all three of them turned that way.

Simon walked in, all but spitting and hissing. "They decided to take the easy way out," he growled. Then he turned and slammed his fist into a support girder. "All but two of them."

"We'll find them, Simon," Jim assured him, his voice cold and steely. He checked Blair over, just to make sure he was all right, then grudgingly let the paramedics have him. He crossed his arms as he watched them check him, monitoring them for anything funny. He didn't flinch when he felt a cool hand touch his arm, but he did look down at the Captain of the Bomb Squad. "What?"

"I want you to track them," she said quietly. "Just as soon as your partner is fine. If you want, I'll take him back to your house and have him watched."

"I need him to track them," Jim simply said, turning around to watch the paramedics load his partner onto a gurney. "He wasn't that hurt."

"No, sir, but we need to take him as a precaution," one of the paramedics tried to tell him. Jim growled at him, adding a flash of teeth. "Um, okay. Wanna ride with us? I'm sure you'd be able to keep him calm." He let out his breath when Jim followed the gurney out to the waiting ambulance. "Captains, who's following?" he asked tactfully.

"I will," Simon told him. He looked at his counterpart. "Jim'll be back in a few hours with Sandburg. Can you get it started without them?"

"The real question is, can Ellison track them after that amount of time," she corrected. Simon frowned at her. "I don't want to know how he does it, but I reserve the right to come grab him if we need him," she assured him lightly. "Otherwise, we need to call in bloodhounds."

Simon shrugged. "He should be able to. Did they take off in a car?" She shrugged. "Start the preliminaries and I'll get them rushed through." He jogged out to his car, starting it as the ambulance pulled out of the alleyway. His lights went on and he followed right behind them, using his hands-free system to call Joel. "He's going to General. Only bruised. Able to move, speak, and is probably trying to calm Ellison down." Then he hung up and concentrated on the growing traffic problem.


Naomi walked into the Emergency Room and shrieked at someone to find her son for her or else she was going to go hunt him down. Jim stuck his head out of a room and motioned her that way, so she followed him and found her son taking a nap on the bed. "How is he?" she asked, trying to sound more reasonable.

"Fine. They only tied him up. No torture, no questioning, no drugs." Jim scanned his partner again, then his mother-in-law. She and the baby sounded fine, much more relaxed. "Most of the rest of the cult's members committed suicide before we got there. Only the top two people are still free and we're going to be hunting them later."

"No, you're not," Naomi said harshly. "I think my son's done quite enough with you today."

"Shut up, Mother. Jim needs me to help him track those assholes down before they can recruit more members." Blair opened his eyes and rolled onto his back so he could look at her. "Jim works much better with me there and these two won't hurt anyone but themselves if we act quickly." He looked over her shoulder at Joel, who shrugged. "Any luck yet?"

"They had a car waiting," Joel told him. "We think we may have found it, it was burning, but empty."

"Another car or a cab?" Blair suggested.

"Or bikes," Jim grunted.

"Not unless they changed clothes. They were in regalia," Blair told him. "Pearl gray robes over linen pants and a cotton T-shirt. Hemp sandals. Rope belt. You can't bike in that sort of robe without either drawing attention to yourself as you fall because it got tangled, or you have to rip it, which they wouldn't do because they believe the robes are holy garments." He sat up with a small moan of protest. "I really need someone to realign my back. Remind me to make an appointment, Jim." He swung his legs around. "Someone go get my paperwork and we'll go help."

"No, you won't!" Naomi yelled. "You will not go anywhere with these *cops*! I will not have my only child put into danger by some thug with a power trip."

Blair stood up as he stared her down. "I'm not your only child, Naomi. There was Belinda. There was Jacob. And now there's the one you're carrying. Get it right." He pushed past her, going out to the desk himself. He waved at the protesting nurse that was running toward them. "I'm fine, but I'm needed in the manhunt." He took the clipboard she held out and signed it, giving her a grateful smile. "Wanna check my mother? She's supposed to be having a definite lack of stress." He patted Joel on the back. "Thanks for watching my mom, man," he whispered as he walked behind him, waving his paperwork at the guards. "Jim, truck," he called. Jim, of course, was right behind him.

Naomi spat at Joel, but missed him almost completely. A drop fell onto his highly polished left shoe. "I will not allow my son to be sucked into your lifestyle."

Joel waved the nurse over. "Can you please admit her again? She's not supposed to be under this sort of stress and we're worried about the child's health." He handed over the paperwork that Simon had given him. "The father happens to be Sandburg's boss." He saw the raised brow and smiled. "Blair's, not hers."

The nurse gently pulled Naomi to the room Blair had occupied, going to see if she needed to be admitted. After a few minutes and a pill for her nerves, it was determined that the baby was fine. She was released into Joel's care, with a prescription from the attending physician for the next time she had a moment like that.


Jim walked into the room where the two cult leaders were standing, gun drawn, Blair safely behind his back. There were already two other cops in there on the standoff, but the cultists didn't look too impressed with any of this. They also didn't look scared, and they didn't look too upset.

Blair tapped on Jim's arm and whispered, "They're expecting to die here," to his partner. He slid around Jim, smiling at their angry looks. "Yup, it's us," he told them, moving slowly closer, one hand going into his pocket. He came out with something that a friend of his, who was very into horror movies, had made for them. He tossed the bag of false blood onto the robes, making the cultists shriek and move. "Your God isn't going to protect you," he told them, looking at their attempts to clean the fake blood off their holy paraphernalia. "He's abandoned you. He's not even going to give you a good death here. Give up, you won't be killed by the cops, man."

"Then we'll sacrifice ourselves!" the woman screamed.

Blair shrugged, looking nonplused. "With dirty robes? Will He accept anyone who's not perfect? That's why you were so stringent in picking followers, why so many of them died during initiation. He demanded perfection, yours and your followers. But you're not perfect anymore. Now you're just two mortals with dirty, blood stained robes who are in trouble with the law." He snorted. "I bet He's even refusing to listen to you. Especially after you lost all His followers to the law." The man bellowed and pulled a knife, a ceremonial dagger used to kill those that didn't fit into the faith, rushing Blair before he could move. He managed to get him on the arm, but Blair had managed to move mostly out of the way. He kicked the man as he moved past him, tripping him up so he fell onto the floor face-first. He panted as he looked at the woman. "You're next," he told her, his eyes narrowed in pain. "Even if I have to take you down myself."

She fell to her knees, praying loudly for guidance. Everyone let her, knowing she wasn't going to get an answer. After five minutes, tears started running down her face and she looked at Blair. "He's not answering," she whispered. "You blocked our path to Him."

Blair shrugged, more one-sided than not. His hand was holding the cut closed and putting pressure on it and the pain was now a numb feeling more than real pain. "It was never there without the syrup he was feeding you." He held out his injured hand. "Come on, take it and we'll let you tell everyone about how he drugged you."

She wiped her tears away angrily. "I will not." She pulled out her own ceremonial dagger, holding it against her stomach. "I'll do it."

"And we can still save you before you die," Blair reminded her in that same calm, patient, teaching voice. "Modern medicine is wonderful that way. They'll be able to save my arm and your life all before the sun finishes setting." He stepped left, after the male leader's body was cuffed and removed, letting Jim get in his former position. "Do it if you feel you have to," he encouraged, "but it won't let you get to Him. You've violated his tenets and you won't go to your version of heaven." She shook, but her hands relaxed. That's when Jim lunged, catching the knife before she got it more than an inch into her stomach. She was screaming as she was cuffed, praying for vengeance.

Jim spun and grabbed Blair's arm, grabbing one of the paramedics at the same time. "The male leader's dagger did it," he told the paramedic, watching over her shoulder as she examined the deep gash. "Find the dagger," he yelled as he follow Blair out to the ambulance, growling when he wasn't allowed in. "That's my partner."

"Detective, you can take my car," a uniformed officer called, holding open his door. You just didn't get between Ellison and Sandburg, especially if one of them was injured. He looked around as his car sped away, smiling at his partner. "At least Sandburg's not critical," he noted lightly. His partner crossed himself and said a silent prayer in thanks. No one had died during the short standoff.


Naomi stormed into the Emergency Room and everyone at the desk pointed her in the right direction. She walked into the room, moving the door out of her way with the force of a hurricane, and glared at her son. "How could you do that?" she hissed.

"Mother, I saved their lives," Blair said in that same calm, patient, teaching voice. "I had to do it by dissing their religion, but it was effective. No one died." He looked at the large bandage on his arm and grimaced. "I'll even be able to shelve books tomorrow."

"Fat chance," Jim said from his seat in the corner. He looked at Naomi. "Are you going to yell again? Because if you are, I'm going to step outside and fill out paperwork."

"Not necessary," Simon said as he walked in, gently moving Naomi out of his way. "I'm sure you can do it tomorrow." He smiled at Blair. "Good work, Sandburg. Everyone at the scene praised your calmness and ability to talk to them in their lingo." He looked at Jim and grinned. "Nice tackle too. The cops were very impressed with you too." He smiled at Naomi. "As you can see, it's nothing more than a large papercut."

She glared at them. "I won't allow this to continue," she warned, storming back out. Right into the path of Joel, who she grabbed and made come with her. After all, he had driven her. And he seemed to be able to calm her down without saying anything.

Jim looked over at Blair. "Can I say I nearly yelled like she did?"

Blair grinned. "Sure, man, I expected you to shove the paramedic out of the way and climb into the back anyway." He looked at Simon. "We're off for a few days," he told him, still smiling. "You can find us at the bookstore."

Simon chuckled. "Of course I will. That's what I expected to happen." He walked out, leaving them alone, passing by the nurse who had some papers for them to sign.


Jim helped Blair onto the couch and sat beside him, touching his injured arm gently. "I think you need to make some choices, Chief. Each time you were in the hospital today could have been much worse."

Blair sighed. "I know. But I didn't get the exhaustion lecture the second time."

Jim smiled faintly. "That's because she had already given it to you." His hand drifted up, tangling in the dark curls. Slowly he pulled his Guide's face over, kissing him gently. "I think we both need to make some decisions," he whispered against the soft lips as he pulled away from them.