Notes: First, let me say that Benton is dead and gone. Long gone, or at least gone long enough for the healing to start. Nothing against him, I just didn't want to deal with him this time. If you want, you can imagine him far away in a snowy wilderness pretending that nothing had ever sent him to Chicago. Or having tea with his dad on some alternate plane looking down at the guys. The manner of his death is stated later on in the story. Second, yes, this is an mpreg. Third, the last seasons of Sentinel did not happen. Nothing happened with what's-her-name. She was captured and pleaded for mercy.
Ray Vecchio looked up as his fellow detective walked up to his desk, noticing he was shaking badly. "What?" he asked, going back to his stupid paperwork. It seemed to multiply every time he left his desk.
"I need ta talk," Stanley Ray Kowalski said quietly. "In private. Want to take an early lunch?"
Vecchio looked at him, then toward the Lieutenant's office. "He'll throw fits. We're both grounded to the office until we get some of the papers whittled down."
Ray K swallowed. "I know. Please, Ray? I *need* to talk to someone sane right now."
"Fine." He stood up and grabbed his jacket, sticking his head into the office to forestall any arguments. "Stanley needs a buddy. We're taking lunch now," he said, then he walked away. Everyone was dancing on eggshells around Stanley until he calmed down. The funeral had been really hard on him and no one wanted to upset him and cause him to go ballistic on another cop again. Vecchio watched as Ray delicately sat in the passenger's seat of the Riv, then got in to drive. "Where are we heading?"
"I don't care, as long as I can have a beer," Stanley told him. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "My life has officially taken a turn for the worse and I need a beer."
"You're dramatic today," Ray noted as he pulled out of the parking lot. He glanced over, Stanley hadn't looked this bad in weeks. He was pale, shaking, and looked like he was going to be sick. "You gonna live until we get you a beer?"
"Yeah, probably. Unless I shoot myself in the head." Ray turned his head and opened his eyes. "My life is so fucked up," he said quietly, smiling. "Even your mother can't justify this one." He forced himself to sit up as they pulled into a parking lot of a small sports bar. "Thanks for this." He climbed out and walked inside, smiling at the hostess. "Two for non, he's comin'. Can we have a back corner? Private-like? We've got to have a talk."
"Sure." She waited until Ray had come in then walked them back to the darkest corner they had, lighting the lamp on the table. She handed over their menus. "Would either of you like something from the bar?"
"I'm havin' a beer," Stanley told her. "Get him one too, he'll need one eventually." She nodded and left them alone. Stanley pulled something out of his back pocket and played with it. "You know how things sometimes happen to those who live the odd life? Like we do?" he asked quietly.
"Yeah, and? Are we talking about odd weird or bad weird?"
Stanley looked at him, then paused as their beers were brought. He took a sip then handed over the balled-up paper he had been playing with. "I'm not sure yet," he admitted, then took another drink.
Ray unfolded the piece of paper, then looked at him. "Who is she? Did Benny know her?"
"It's me, Ray," Stanley said quietly. "While we were gone, I was taken by some psycho woman who decided it was our turn to bear the kids in the world." He took another long drink but the beer was taken from him. "Hey! That was gonna be my last."
"You're right, it is," Ray said dryly. He looked at the test results again, then looked at his fellow detective. "Did Benny know anything about this?"
"No. He was out shoppin' and stuff. One other guy was taken and his partner rescued us. He's an observer in Cascade's PD. His partner's a detective in their Major Crimes unit." He took his beer back and gulped it. "Benny had no idea. That was when he was havin' problems of his own. He was trackin' that stupid hunter guy." He put his head down, shaking it when the waitress came back. "Get me a burger, no veggies or anything, just cheese," he mumbled. "And some of the Muncho's chips. The nurse said I'd like them."
Ray nodded and handed over his menu. "Give me a burger, fries, and get him a sprite or somethin'." She nodded, leaving them alone. Ray looked at the younger man, then hesitantly put a hand over and patted the younger man on the back. "It'll be okay. Benny'll be smiling somewhere. It'll be a baby Mountie."
Stanley looked over at him. "I think the obvious has escaped again," he noted. He sat up and shifted to look at him. "I'll have to take a long leave of absence. I can't exactly tell anyone else why. The Canadians sealed the records." Vecchio shuddered. "That leaves me all the fuck alone, havin' this thing and I'm not even sure if I'm gonna be able to do it all the way. The doctor who did the tests said there was every chance that my blood pressure would kill me by my seventh month." He shut up when the waitress came back, barely weathering her confused look. "I'm a cop," he told her.
"Oh. I'm sorry. I heard that's stressful," she agreed, leaving their food and walking away. She knew not to expect a great tip from them now.
Vecchio sighed. "So, let's see. You're alone, you're knocked up, you're gonna be jobless for at least a year, and you're confused. Got that." Ray nodded, digging into his chips to nibble on them. "You all right?"
"Morning sickness sucks," Stanley said dryly. "I hate this. The nurse suggested these when I couldn't stand crackers anymore." He ate another and it was helping. A little. "Now you know. I need a friend."
"You need a keeper," Ray corrected, considering what he could do to help. Stanley pushed his plate away and put his head down again. "Eat, it needs it."
"It's looking really tempting to not be born," Stanley admitted.
Ray frowned. "You do that and I'll find one of those people who can supposedly bring back the dead so he can give you that 'I'm disappointed with you' look," he warned. Stanley looked at him. "I know, it's gonna be hard. I'm not gonna stop talkin' to you because of this. Hell, the world needs more Bennys." He shrugged. "What do you need?"
"Someone to kick me in the head," Stanley suggested.
"Not a chance. Not unless I can also tie you to the bed to make sure the kid's healthy and gets born."
"That's another thing," Ray said bitterly. "What am I gonna do after that? How am I gonna explain this to everyone? Especially my parents!"
"Calm down," Ray said patiently. "You need Ma, not me."
"No, I need male, not female, advice. She'll be really upset with the person who did this and then coo. I don't need cooing or pampering, I need reality shoved back at me so I can make plans. I need ta disappear and go where no one don't know me."
Ray patted him on the back, stronger this time. "It'll be okay. We'll go talk to the Lieutenant. He won't understand, but he'll start restricting duties now. He'll cover for us. He covered for too much shit before now not to."
Stanley stared to perk back up. "Ya think?"
"I know, or I'll kick his ass for you," Ray said seriously. "Eat. Now." Stanley pulled his plate over and started to nibble again. "I noticed you were shaking. Just that stuff?" Stanley nodded. "Is there anything else I need ta know now?"
"Right now? Not a thing, 'cause I don't know a thing," Stanley admitted. "I've thought about calling the guy I was captured with."
"Yeah, that might be a good idea. At least you could compare notes."
Stanley looked at him. "Ray, if something happens ta me, I want you to have Junior."
"You'll make sure he'll grow up like his other father. Like you said, the world needs more of him."
"As long as you tell Ma sometime soon so she doesn't freak and demand a marriage to the mother," he said with a small smirk. "I also don't want to have to deliver the thing."
"I'm hoping for a surgeon who has a liberal hand with the drugs," Stanley told him. "Want to go with me ta the Consulate to face down the Ice Queen? I'll need the records from the psycho bitch." He ate a bite of the burger and then put it back down. "I'll want that later."
"Yeah, I think that will need backup," Ray agreed. He nudged Ray then grinned at him. "Just think, maybe she'll get the thing a baby Mountie uniform."
Stanley cracked a smile and chuckled lightly, his mood lifting quickly. "Thanks, I needed that image."
"Hey, Benny's got to be one pleased daddy somewhere. He knows you'll do your best."
"Yeah, but is my best up to his standards? We never even discussed this."
"Yay. Sometimes life interferes with your plans." He ate a big bite of his burger and noticed Stanley was looking rather ill. "Drink the sprite and eat the chips," he ordered.
Stanley did as ordered, it was nice to have someone he could talk to again.
Ray looked up as Stanley came out to the car with a file a week later. "That's it?" He took the thin thing and looked inside it. "It's all here, summarized."
"She's not thrilled," Stanley said, buckling himself in. "When she called her supervisors they were surprised that it worked. They're contacting the other victim to warn him that it worked and I agreed that they could pass on my personal information in case he wanted ta talk." He slumped down. "Please get me away from here. Thatcher's perfume was really strong today."
"Sure, kid." Ray put the file in the backseat and started the car, pulling away from the curb. "How was Turnbull?"
"He's still giving me that 'poor you' look. Like I lost my puppy and he's wondering if I'm ready for a new pet." He looked at his new best friend. "You were right, the crap with my stomach stopped last night."
"Good. I knew it'd have to end sometime. Ma is waiting on you to explain what's going on and why you needed that information."
"Eww. Do I have to?"
"Yeah," Ray said patiently. "Remember, my Ma will hunt you down if you don't come clean."
"Good point. How does a quiet dinner out tonight sound? It's gonna be my last full paycheck for a while."
"I've got it."
"Ray, I can pay for it. It'll just be the three of us."
"No, I'll get it. You pick the place and I'll pay." He slumped down a bit more as they passed by the apartment block he and Benny had lived in. He was still having flashbacks about the attack that had killed him. "Did anyone ever get the shooter?"
"Yeah, he comes up for trial in about a month or so, unless he cops a plea." Ray turned the car around, heading back to the station when he heard the call coming over the radio. "Don't answer that, it'll send us out on another case. You don't have your vest on."
"It's in my locker. I'm not sure if it fits," he admitted.
"It'd better or I'm not letting you out the door."
"Love you too, Vecchio."
"Hey, I'm looking out for my future godson or goddaughter."
"True," Ray agreed, straightening up as they came up on the precinct's parking lot. "Hmm. SWAT."
"Fuck," Ray said as he pulled in and parked. He got out and looked at the commander. "Tell me we're not joining you," he said bitterly.
"No. Your boss wanted you for another case," the commander said tolerantly. He quit talking as Stanley got out and headed inside. "What's wrong with him now?"
"Flu," Ray said simply, heading in after him. He joined Stanley in the office, shutting the door behind him. "What case?" he asked.
"First, I want to know why Thatcher just called me and warned me that it was going to hit the fan," Lieutenant Welsh said quietly, looking at them. Kowalski looked like he was going to be ill. Vecchio looked uncomfortable. "Give," he demanded.
Stanley sighed and sat down, holding his head. "I needed more time," he admitted.
"Are you high?" their boss asked.
Stanley looked up and glared at him. "Don't start, sir. I'm having the crappiest year in my life." He stood up. "You wanna know what's wrong? Well, gee, let's start with the fact that I was captured and tortured while I was up North by a woman who decided men should have kids."
"Calm down," Vecchio said quietly. Stanley looked at him and he shrugged. "Now. Getting upset won't help your blood pressure and I'll have to take it out of you too soon."
"Fine." Stanley sat down. "You tell 'im."
Ray coughed, looking at the confused lieutenant again. "While up with Benny, Kowalski was captured by a woman who wanted men to bear the world's children. Her experiments were successful." Stanley stood up and hurried out, going to get ill.
"Are you saying what I think you're saying?" Welsh asked, looking stunned. Vecchio nodded. "Tell me Frasier wasn't."
"No, Kowalski *is*," Ray told him. "He's got the test results to prove it."
"Oh, God, he's still on some sort of medicine that she gave him."
Ray turned and slammed the door, then leaned down. "Wrong again," he said firmly, staring the older man in the eyes. "He's stuffed up. He's also having morning sickness and stress right now. Now, what case?"
The Lieutenant's eyes got very wide. "You're joking," he said flatly. Vecchio shook his head. "You've got to be joking, that's not humanly possible."
"Modern medicine is spectacular," Vecchio reminded him. "It can keep people alive long past the point of death and it can change basic human nature. I saw the test results myself and had him run a home one to verify it for me. Now, what case?"
Welsh swallowed. "Never mind. I don't want him on the street."
"He can still fit into his vest. Treat him like you would a woman in the circumstances," Vecchio offered.
"I wouldn't send a woman out to capture these people." He looked out at the bullpen then frowned. No one else was around. They all had stacks of paperwork on their desks. He looked at Vecchio again. "I can't send just you."
"Then make sure Stanley's got a fitting vest and send us," Vecchio told him. "I will watch his back, if only so I don't have to see Benny some day and tell him how I fucked up." He stepped back as the door opened and his sister walked in. "Tell Ma I'm takin' just her out to dinner tonight," he ordered. He took the file with a grim nod. "After this?"
"After this, you've got six cases going to trial," Welsh said quietly, noticing Stanley had reentered the bullpen. "You're riding a desk until they're done. I don't care how much others complain." He looked at Francesca. "You got issues?"
"No," she said, handing over a message. "I've got a phone message from the Mayor." She looked at Stanley as he rejoined them. "You look like shit."
"Thanks. I feel like it too," Stanley admitted. "Sorry, sir. Had to happen." He looked at Vecchio, who nodded. "We on?"
"Not for another ten minutes," Welsh told him, glaring at Francesca until she left. He handed over the phone message. "They decided to cooperate with us fully. Again."
Vecchio looked at the message, then winced. "That's going to be bad."
"Very," Stanley said, crumpling it in his hand. "Thatcher is gonna get an ass kicking." He looked at the file, then nodded. "Let me get my vest, then we'll get at 'er." He nodded at the Lieutenant. "For obvious reasons, I'm gonna ask you to ground me to my desk for a good reason. I'd like to keep this quiet."
"Of course. I'll say it's doctors orders."
"His blood pressure is already a problem," Ray admitted. He opened the door. "Get your vest, mine is in the trunk." He watched as Stanley walked out. "Not to my sister either," he said quietly, then he left. He stopped at his desk to pick up a few spare clips for his gun and loaded them as he walked out. "Gangbangers, fun," he said bitterly. He looked over as Stanley joined him. "I'm going in first."
"Sure ya are," Stanley agreed. "I'd probably puke on them." He climbed in and waited while Vecchio got his vest on and joined him. "We set?"
"Hell no," Vecchio told him. "We should have SWAT with us." He started the Riv and drove off, heading to do this assignment.
Later that night, Ray looked up as his mother walked into the hospital room. "He's a dumbass," he told her. She walked in and kissed him on the forehead. "He took out two shooters and didn't see the third, which was who got him in the neck. Fortunately, I remembered not to yell at him in front of the paramedics and to tell them not to give him shit for the pain or anything." He rested against her welcoming body. "Ma, this sucks."
"It does," she agreed softly. "Who is she?"
"What?" She pushed him back and looked at him. He nodded. "How? That is against the laws of God."
"Some woman who didn't want to do it anymore," Ray said bitterly. "Benny never knew. He was off chasing someone of his own." He slumped and looked at the sleeping body on the bed. "His personal doctor stepped in to take control of his medicines and his blood pressure," he told her. "I don't know what I'm gonna do."
She sniffed, then hugged him again. "You'll do what you have to do. The same as the rest of us will."
"He's havin' it, Ma, and I promised to take it in if something happens to him."
"Good." She tipped his face up. "You owe Benton that much from your friendship." She smiled at him. "How is he really?"
"Nauseous," Stanley said bitterly. "Again." He sat up, holding his neck. "How much longer?"
Ma Vecchio leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "You are still my son," she told him. "This oddness aside."
"Thanks, Ma," Stanley said with a grin. "I don't wanna get sick on you." She helped him up and into the bathroom, pushing his hair around to comfort him while he got sick. It's what good mothers did.
Ray Vecchio looked up as his Lieutenant walked past his desk, holding up a completed folder. The paperwork wasn't breeding quite as fast when he wasn't actively bringing in people. He looked up at the cleared throat, shrugging at his boss. "He's in the bathroom."
"Fine." Welsh looked in the folder then nodded at his office. "When Kowalski graces us with his presence again, bring him in there. You've got a case." Ray blinked a few times. "Yes, a real one. Now." He went back to his desk to read the file, sign it, then send it on. When his detectives walked into his office and shut the door, he sighed. "Boys, we've got one hell of a chase. We've got an escaped felon. One of yours, Kowalski." Stanley shuddered. "He escaped a Federal SuperMax prison somehow and he's heading away from here. You're the only people we have to chase him and you took six months to capture him last time so everyone figures you know him." He leaned back. "This prisoner is tough enough that the Feds want him but they're not being very speedy on the subject at the moment." Both detectives nodded. "There is another problem with this chase. The last place he was spotted was in Cascade, Washington." Stanley blanched and had to sit down suddenly. "From the files we received, I know you know Sandburg. His partner is the one helping on that end. He's their supercop." Vecchio grimaced. "He's nice enough, if a bit uptight from what I understand. Therefore, you two will go out there, indefinitely." Stanley opened his mouth. "You can have your doctor find someone out there, Stanley. This will also get you away from Thatcher, the press, and the Mayor." Stanley nodded. "As such, you're going to be the brains and let Vecchio do all the running around. If you get back before the baby's born, then we'll throw you a baby shower. If not." He smiled and shrugged. "Then you can make up your own excuse." Stanley nodded and stood up. "Go make reservations, we're sending you by plane. Vecchio, there's something else, let him do that part." Vecchio stayed while Stanley waddled out to his desk. "This felon is going after Sandburg, Ellison's partner and the one who was trapped with Kowalski."
"Shit," Vecchio sighed. "I remember Ellison. I met him while on my wonderful trip to hell."
"Wonderful. You get to brief him this time as well. You can tell him or not. He's former Military, he should know about covert ops." He smiled. "Sandburg is a trouble magnet, the same way your friend and Kowalski were together. With this happening, things are getting worse. You are going to be loaned to that department as well. I think it's only fair since you'll be staying out there until this felon is caught."
"Yeah, you leave tomorrow. Take Stanley home to your mother so she can weep and all that good stuff."
"Yes, sir," Vecchio said, leaving him alone. "Hey, Stanley, I got ordered to feed you tonight so Ma can say her goodbyes too," he called. Stanley looked at him and grimaced. "Tough, deal with it. I'm gonna call now." He sat down and called his mother, getting her immediately. "Ma, it's me. We've just been given a new assignment out of town. Yeah, both of us. No, it was suggested I bring Stanley home with me tonight. That okay with you?" He grinned. "Sure. I'll have him pack, we'll do a late dinner. Thanks, Ma." He hung up. "Stanley, Ma said to pack first and you can have the couch you enjoy napping on so much." Stanley flipped him off. "I'm serious," he said tolerantly. Another mood swing, joy.
"I'll need time ta pack," Stanley complained. "Not to mention call all my utilities, talk to my landlord, all that good stuff?"
"Yay. We'll let Frannie do it for you," Ray told him. "That way all you have to do is call Stella and pack."
Stanley's frown got worse. "I haven't talked to her in months," he admitted. Vecchio looked at him. "What?" he said in exasperation. "It's not like she'd be *happy* for me." He turned back around, going back to making their reservations. "Do we want to temp as Air Marshals?"
"Sure, why not. Make the flight more interesting," Ray said calmly. It would also allow them to carry their weapons on. Since Stanley had started to show, trouble seemed to be attracted to him like mud to a five-year-old boy. They had to shoot their way out of breakfast that morning because someone had decided to rob the diner while they had been picking up their food to go. Last night it had been the convenience store that Stanley was getting juice from and a hostage situation. The SWAT guys were really fond of Stanley but they were tired of seeing him every week. "How cold does it get there so I know what to pack? Last time I was there it was the summer."
"It's like Chicago without the wind," Stanley told him. "Rain. Lots of rain."
"Then I'll pack the good clothes," he said, making notes of what he wanted to bring with him. Between his notes, he worked on his remaining paperwork. It would only breed again if he left it while he was gone. Especially if they were gone for months.
Ellison looked up as his boss opened his door and called his name. "What?" he called, standing up and heading in there. "Sandburg's on his way up."
"Good," Simon Banks, Captain over Major Crimes in Cascade, said as he closed his office door. "You know that felon you saw following him?" Jim nodded. "The people who caught him the first time are coming out to help us. We're getting a loan of a detective and one who's on desk duty, he was the one you saved when you saved Sandburg. They're in a similar condition." Jim winced. "The other guy's one of their best detectives as well. His boss called him a firebrand without a handle." Jim's wince got worse. "He'll be fine. I was warned that he is a bit of a trouble magnet as well." He tossed over a file. "This also came for you. Interestingly enough, the man you were ranting about a few summers ago turns out to be the detective we're getting on loan."
"He was undercover?" Jim asked. "Damn, he's a great actor."
"He had been in the role for nearly a year," Simon said quietly. "He's since gotten over it. He's the one helping the person you rescued. Stanley Ray Kowalski. Marksman level with his glasses, a few complaints for brutality in a fight situation. A quick temper, newly mourning his mate, and now this," he said gently. "I will expect you and Vecchio to get along. I will also expect you and Vecchio to work together better than you and Connor do. You'll be permanent partners while he's here since you're working on the same case. His partner can be your backup and paper pusher. He won't be happy but he should be used to it by now. He and Sandburg can commiserate over gaining weight." He smiled, looking very pleased with himself. "Any questions?"
"Who's original capture was he?"
"Wonderful," Jim said dryly. "Is he still going into situations?"
"Only when they come to him." Simon leaned back, getting comfortable. "Also, his mayor wants to treat him specially. He's very news shy right now. Try to keep the damage minimal. Find them an apartment near you. We're paying half the cost so make it a little on the cheap side if possible."
"Are they together?"
Simon shrugged. "Not a clue. Get them two bedrooms just in case. Any other questions?"
"No, Simon. I'll have Sandburg look into the apartment thing. Some of his contacts will be helpful for that. Two bedrooms, no stairs, good bathroom, right?" Simon nodded. "Fine. Rental cars?" Simon nodded. "Their pay?"
"We'll be halving the cost of their salary with Chicago."
"They're from Chicago?" Jim asked, frowning. "I've heard something about their cops and a mountie."
"That was Kowalski's lifemate," Simon said firmly. "He's since been killed. About a month before Kowalski found out he was pregnant. And yes, I checked, they were the major cause of damage in their town as well. Try to be gentle on Cascade while they're here. Anything else?"
"No, sir. Am I picking them up?"
"Yup, sure are," Simon said happily, handing over the faxed ticket stubs. "Here you go. They'll be in within three hours. They can stay at a hotel tonight if necessary."
"Yes, sir," Jim sighed, walking back to his desk. "Hey, Chief." He put down the files. "We're getting a loaner detective." Blair Sandburg, his Guide, lifemate, and partner smiled at him. "It's the guy I saved with you in Canada and his official partner from Chicago." Blair's face fell. "He's in the same situation," he said quietly. "Trouble magnet and all."
"That poor man. If he feels like I do, I feel really sorry for him and his partner. When are they getting in?"
"Tonight. I'm letting you find them an apartment within a week. Near us, no stairs, two bedrooms. Our department is paying half. Then we've got to find them cars."
"For how long?"
"A while. They're officially on loan to us."
"Do you know how much a rental car will cost them over six months?" Blair asked.
Jim shrugged. "Lease?"
"Just as bad. Let me work my contacts. I know some people who are selling their cars," Blair admitted, grabbing his phone book and Jim's phone to call around. "Just the two?"
"Yeah, apparently the mountie the other guy was muttering about died recently," Jim said quietly. Blair started to sniffle and Jim handed over his handkerchief. It was the only thing he could do that wouldn't upset Blair more.
Ray looked at his partner as they walked off the plane. "You couldn't hold it at all?" he complained. "I've never seen anyone get airsick like that."
"We had turbulence," Stanley defended. "I didn't see you being so calm!"
"I was in a plane crash," Vecchio nearly shouted. "I'm allowed to be stiff during turbulence. You puked your guts up more than anyone I've ever met."
"Hey, it's not my fault the little heathen didn't like the turbulence or the perfume stench," Stanley told him. "The future curler doesn't like what he doesn't like!"
"Gentlemen," a ticket agent said softly. "You're causing a scene."
"Detective," they snapped in unison, glaring at her.
"Sorry, detectives," she said, giving them a smile. "Would one of you be Vecchio?" Ray nodded. "Your friends are waiting for you in the security section since there was an attempted mugging that they stopped. Would you like directions?"
"Please," Ray agreed. "And the bathroom?"
"Not again," Ray complained.
"Shut it," Stanley snarled. "I'd like to see you be me right now."
"The bathrooms are just down the hall, and the security station is just past it through the 'personnel only' doorway," the agent said, hoping to break up this fight as well. "Have a nice evening, detectives." She watched as they walked away, the blond detective looking very unhappy with life. She wondered why he had such a touchy stomach, didn't detective have iron stomachs from all the bad things they saw as a part of the job?
Jim looked up as someone he knew walked in. "Vecchio," he said cordially. "The other?"
"Know that feeling," Sandburg said cheerfully. "Hi, I'm Blair. Stanley and I have met but we haven't." He shook his hand. "You've got to loosen up. We're a lot less strict out here. Jim routinely gets to destroy the city and no one says very much to him about it."
Stanley walked through the door, still drying his hands. "At least you're chipper," he noted.
Blair held out a hand. "Hey."
"Hi." Stanley shook it. "You're glowin'."
"So are you." He looked the too-thin detective over. "Tell me someone's gotten onto you about your weight," he pleaded.
Stanley nodded. "All the time but I can't seem to keep any on. I eat candy for breakfast and I can't keep it on." He looked at Jim. "Hey, Kowalski." They shook hands.
"Ellison. Welcome to Cascade."
"Home of Rain," Blair added for good measure. "I hope you brought good umbrellas." He stood up with a groan of strain. "I've got to quit doing that."
"We'll get you one of those lifting pillows," Jim promised, steering him out of the office. "Sorry, we had to stop a mugging in progress. The perps are presently regretting their decision to come to the airport tonight."
"Like it's my fault I tripped over the trashcan and into the coffee cart," Blair defended. "It was his bad luck to be running past when I tripped."
"Gee, Stanley, that sounds like your recent balance problems," Ray said dryly.
"Yeah, but I can still kick your ass on the range," Stanley said, yawning. "Do we have a hotel or somewhere? I'm whacked."
"Gee, you don't look tired," Blair said with a grin. "Not only do you have an apartment, I've found a few friends who were more than willing to part with some older cars to save everyone some money. Much cheaper than a rental and they both run. I had one of the PD garage monkeys crawl over them."
"Fair warning, they're *old*," Jim told them. "Blair's stuck with ancient cars since he could drive."
"I drive a Rivera," Vecchio told him.
"I drive a GTO," Stanley admitted with a grin.
"I drive a 1970 Mercury Marquis four-door," Blair said proudly. "Turns like a tank but not even Jim can destroy it and it takes bullets very well."
Ray chuckled, patting him on the back. "My first three Riv's were like that too. Stanley drives a pretty car and I drive muscle and beauty."
"Good. Mine's light blue." He looked at Jim. "He's driving a 1969 pickup so I don't know what he's complaining about. Anyway, we've gotten you guys non-gas guzzlers from the seventies. The top of the line in fuel economy for the time with the proper emission control devices added already," he bragged. "We got both of them for nine hundred."
"It's a universal law; grad students are poor," Jim shared, opening the door for them. "Head to the garage, we're on the second floor. Elevator's next to the walkway." He steered Blair past the traffic, just knowing someone was going to try to hit him.
"About this apartment," Ray said.
"It's got two bedrooms since we weren't sure if you were *that* close or not," Blair told him. "It's also got one huge bathroom, with a really nice tub for the times when only hot water will help the cramps. It's got a separate shower. It's got a powder room for when Stanley's hogging the bathroom as well. It's a loft space."
"Stairs?" Stanley asked.
"Three to get up to the door, that's it," Blair assured him. "I picked somewhere that I wouldn't mind living with my swollen ankles and back problems." He opened the door to his car, letting them in the back seat. "Here we go. In you get."
Vecchio walked around the car, inspecting it. "Two bullets? That's all?"
"I've only had it six weeks," Blair told him, grinning at him. He tossed the keys to Jim. "Here, since you're so paranoid." He helped Stanley get comfortable and showed him the seatbelt extenders. "There you are. Get in, Ray. Before Ellison gets paranoid and we have to fight our way out of here."
Ray slid into the back seat, admiring the leather. "This is really nice."
"It only cost me fifty bucks, new brakes, and about a case of oil and a good cleaning," Blair said proudly. "Plus some bondo so far. Real steel too," he said with a grin.
"Which is why it corners like a tank," Jim agreed, starting the car. "Bags?"
"Shipped," the detective said in unison.
"We've had problems traveling in the past," Stanley told him. "I've done so many undercovers where I had to go buy a whole new wardrobe it's not funny. Mine's coming via UPS to the station."
Ray grinned. "I sent mine to the address we had for you, Sandburg. It's coming via Postal Service."
"That's fine. We'll be on the lookout for them," Jim assured them. He pulled out of the space once the engine was heated, heading down into the evening traffic. "We left you maps on the kitchen counter and take out in the fridge," Jim told them. "We're down the street by three buildings and up two flights of stairs, the elevator's not working at the moment." He turned onto the main road back into the city. "Want a tour tonight or should I come pick you guys up in the morning?"
"Let's do the picking up thing," Stanley said, letting out another yawn. "I'm bushed."
"For puking the whole flight up, you sure are," Ray agreed.
Stanley leaned over and punched him. "Behave or I'll encourage the future mountie to kick me again so you have to stay up with him."
"Fine," Ray agreed tolerantly.
"If you guys need it, there's a nice gay section in town," Blair said, turning to look back at them. "Not making any judgements or anything, but if you need stuff it's there. Just ask, I know where everything in town is."
"How are you doing your doc?" Stanley asked.
"You're going to an actual doctor?" Blair asked.
Stanley ducked his head. "I had to. I went in to see why I couldn't quit getting sick." He shrugged. "He's found all sorts of neat stuff, like the fact that I now have blood pressure problems."
"You and our captain both," Jim soothed. "We'll figure that out if your doctor doesn't send you a recommendation. I've been trying to get Blair to see someone but he's being fussy."
"I like my midwife, Jim."
"Blair, if you're going to have blood pressure problems, I want someone with a degree to see you. In this state, you don't need licensed to be a midwife. Yours isn't. Either find one that is, and who works with a doctor, or find a doctor. Otherwise I'm going to knock you out and put you back in the hospital for a really long stay this time."
Blair rolled his eyes. "You know that the local ER's hate me on sight," he retorted. "They wouldn't admit me."
"They will if I commit you to a psych ward," Jim told him.
"Funny," Blair said dryly. "Just wait until we get home, Ellison. I can already feel a mood swing coming." Jim winced. "Good. I hope that thought hurt as much as what I'm going to do to you later will."
Stanley laughed. "It's clear that you guys are a couple."
"Yeah, we are," Ellison agreed dryly. "You?"
"Nah. Ray's my buddy. My guy died a few months ago."
Blair reached back, touching him on the arm. "I'm sorry, man. That sucks to have happen anytime, but especially now. If you need to vent or talk, I'm here. I'm pretty good at counseling about loss. I get a lot of practice at work with the families of the deceased."
"Thanks," Stanley said, sniffling a little. Jim handed back a handkerchief. "Thanks to you too, Jim." He blew his nose and put it into his pocket. "I'll wash it before I give it back."
"That's fine. I've bought a lot of them recently."
"Blair, do your people know about you?" Ray asked.
Blair nodded. "I couldn't quite hide it. I had a major cramp in the middle of the bullpen one day while Jim was gone. Simon got me calmed down and we kept the paramedics from taking me anywhere. The guys have been really good about keeping it a secret from the other cops."
"Our mayor got word and he's trying ta talk me inta doin' interviews," Stanley said bitterly. "I'm like some recruiting poster for him."
"That sucks," Blair told him. "He needs his ass kicked."
"Yeah, but I'm not in shape ta do it," Stanley reminded him. "Ray keeps reminding me I can't kick his ass for another four months." He patted his stomach.
"We'll figure out a way," Blair promised, sureness shining from his eyes. "I am a crafty and nasty person when I want to be. I'm sure we can find something to do to him." He smirked. "Many people have underestimated a Sandburg and lived to regret it. We're peaceful but very bad when we want to be."
Stanley smiled. "Thanks, Blair. I can tell we'll be buddies too." He grinned at Ray. "See, he thinks I should kick his ass."
"Wait until right before the election," Ray soothed. "It'll have more impact and he'll be out of office."
"Yes, that would be nice," Stanley purred, giving him a bright grin and a wink. "Thanks."
"You're welcome, Stanley."
"Okay, on the left is the station," Jim told them. "We had to pass by it anyway." He continued to give a little tour as they headed to the apartments.
Jim led the other two detectives into the department. "And this concludes our tour. This is Major Crimes. Over there is the break room," he said as he waved a hand at it. "I can smell that Blair made the coffee this morning." The other detective currently in residence snickered. "Did he over measure again?"
"Nope, just right, like he used to make." The detective waved a hand. "I'm Rafe. Usually known as Ellison's backup with Connor. You'll meet her later. Jim, Simon's in a meeting with the mayor and chief of police. He said he'd get these two at least a desk soon." He stood up and walked over to Stanley, looking him over. "You're like Blair," he noted. Stanley nodded. "He let slip that someone else had been caught at the same time during a crying jag."
"When did he do that?" Jim asked.
"You were dealing with jewelry thefts at the country club," Rafe told him. "Connor and I let him cry on us." He shrugged. "I'm good for dealing with that. My sister's had five." Stanley winced. "Yeah, but I've also gotten to deliver two of them, dealt with all the stages because I lived with them during two of the pregnancies, and am very good at figuring out how to make food cravings an appealing meal to others."
Stanley smiled. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. We're all very delicate around Sandburg. Our very own little peacenik is very odd sometimes but he's got an amazing store of knowledge that usually ends up being just what you need if you can sit through the attached story."
"I knew someone like that," Stanley agreed, looking upset.
"Hey, sorry." He gave him a hug. "Why don't you go sit in the break room for now? Someone foolishly left danish in there." Stanley grinned and headed that way. Rafe grinned at Vecchio. "I'm also the best dresser around here. If you need help finding a tailor, I'm your man." He looked at Jim then suddenly hit him on the arm. "That's for leaving me with Connor on a PMS rip." He went back to his desk.
"As you can see, nothing's ever boring," Jim told Ray, rolling his eyes. "Okay, that's my desk. You can hog it for now."
"Wow, they give all you guys your own computer?" Ray asked. "Some of my guys still have typewriters."
"We had a small problem with paperwork not being done within the 48 hours before people were arraigned. We got sued. Do you guys actually time share?" Jim asked. Ray nodded. "Wow. That's got to suck. Ask Simon who they got the grant through. He worked on the committee. Though, the paperwork seems to have grown since they put it onto the computer."
"Morning, mates," Megan Connor said as she walked in. "Oh, hello." She shook Ray's hand. "Megan Connor."
"Ray Vecchio. Stanley and I are on loan from Chicago while we're catching a creep."
"Megan understands that. She came in under a switching and loan program and decided to stay," Jim shared. "Connor, have you seen Sandburg?"
"He should be in class," she reminded him.
"I was in at six and he was fixing coffee baskets then," Rafe told him.
"I knew he'd gotten up early but that's ridiculous," Jim complained, sitting in his desk chair. "Sit, it'll be a while. Our Chief likes to talk fishing with Simon."
"I'm surprised you let Sandburg out of your sight," Ray said as he pulled a chair over and sat down. "After the grocery store last night?"
Jim smirked at him. "I went and threatened campus security a few years back. They're very careful of Blair." Vecchio snickered. Stanley came out with a danish and a cup of coffee for them. "Thanks." Jim cleared a space on his desk. "I'm sure we'll be getting you guys one later."
Simon walked in, puffing contentedly on his cigar. "Ellison. Vecchio, Kowalski?" he asked. They nodded. "Good. My office." He walked in and left the door open.
"Our Lord and Master calls and he'll yell in a minute," Jim shared, taking his breakfast with him. "What's happened now?"
"SWAT said to thank you all for your help last night with the grocery store hostage situation. They said they're already tired of talking to Sandburg." He nodded and Stanley shut the door. "Someone named Thatcher called our Police Chief." Jim and Ray both groaned. "He wanted to know if that's what was wrong with Sandburg. I told him to refer that question back to you. He said that Blair was hereby grounded to the station." He held a hand up when Jim opened his mouth. "He's been aware of a peculiarity concerning you since you met Blair. He doesn't know what, or how, but he knows Blair is what makes you the cop you are. Blair is to get checked out on the range, get fitted for a vest, and to stay in the station as much as possible."
Jim shuddered. "You're telling him that."
"I already did. We called," Simon said, chewing on the end of his cigar. He took it out and flicked off the ashes. "This is the only non-smoking, smoking room in the station," he told the other two. "We get results so I'm allowed some perks." He looked at Jim again. "He'll be in today. Vecchio, I'll need you and Kowalski to qualify out here and to get new vests. We use a different, lighter system than yours."
"Much better than the old ones," Jim told them, getting comfortable. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, Brackett sent Sandburg a letter. Our beloved mail department sent it to the chief, that's why we had to talk to the Mayor as well. He does not know anything about Sandburg." He and Jim shared a look, then Simon glanced back at the others. Jim shook his head. "You'll probably need to. You've hinted very broadly too many times, Ellison. The others might not officially know, but I'm sure most of the *know*. And if not, then they need to be in another department."
Jim grimaced and looked back at the other men. "Blair is my guide. I have particularly high senses. He helps keep them calm."
"Wow," Stanley said. "We only got the Mountie who tasted *everything*."
"And was a walking crime lab with his tongue," Ray agreed dryly. "So?"
"Simon wanted you to know," Jim told him. "Sandburg will probably tell you how to keep me focused later. He likes to lecture."
Stanley snorted. "Really? I sorta remember him lecturing the bitch who had us." He grinned at Simon. "I need my glasses changed, can I have until later?"
"Of course. You have until later this week to qualify, but I don't want you out in the streets until you've got a new vest. Got it?" They nodded. "Good. What's left?"
"A desk?" Ray asked. "That way Ellison can spread out and look like he's doing work."
"You'll soon find Ellison clears at twice the speed as everyone else and it's Sandburg's fault usually," Simon told them. "Your desks are on the way." He pulled something out of his pocket and tossed it at Kowalski. "That's for you. The Chief's brother-in-law. He deals with a lot of rape cases for the department." Stanley nodded. "Also, I've got a great eye doctor, but they're expensive if you want his name. Very thorough." Stanley shrugged. "I'll dig that out in a few minutes. Jim, did you give them the tour?"
"Definitely. Someone in records wanted to know if they needed a badge as well. Connor had to get one and she wasn't sure."
"I think that's up to them," Simon offered. "They can have one of ours as a loaner. Did you want one, detectives?"
"Will we have problems if we don't?" Stanley asked. Simon shrugged. "Then I guess it wouldn't hurt to have both." Ray nodded at that. "Anything else we need to know?"
"I see my job more as a sounding board and counselor. That and someone to sign paperwork for you," Simon told him. "If you need help, you're more than welcome to come see me. I do not dictate your hours. The standard ones are something we're all encouraged to keep but we all know that some cases that isn't possible. I do ask that if your desk is clear that you're here. I also request that you live in your vest, along with Sandburg. I'm not going to keep you off the streets, just out of the worst danger. Jim gets the harder cases because of what he can do."
"Shit, the mob case," Jim groaned.
"I'm reassigning it," Simon said quietly.
"Simon, you can't," Jim complained. "I've already got the who worked out, I only need a bit more proof."
"Don't even ask, I've got a hit on my head," Vecchio told them.
"That's what we're worried about," Jim told him. "It's part of the New York families. You'll also find that we deal with a lot of the Triads here in Cascade. I've had three cases in ten years that dealt with them."
"Hmm," Stanley said. "Let me have the mafia case to look at, maybe I can help? I've got a friend in New York and I heard that they were getting pissed at the sloppy nature of the boys out here." Vecchio looked at him. "I checked when I heard we had someone in town," he admitted. "I'm not lettin' you get your head blown off until *after* I've screamed at you while I'm in labor."
Ray grinned. "You're all heart, Stanley, thanks." He looked at the captain again. "Are we free for today?"
"I want you to qualify today if possible and both of you to get your vests," Simon ordered calmly. "There's too much trouble drawn to Sandburg and Ellison not to."
Ray snorted. "Stanley draws it too. In the last month we've been witness or part of sixteen holdups, two hostage situations, and one bank robbery. Stanley's actually a good sniper when necessary. They freed him and kept me."
"I'll warn SWAT," Simon told him. "Qualify today if possible." Vecchio nodded so he dug around in his desk, coming up with his next eye appointment card. "Try these guys. They're pretty good. Tell them you just transferred out here for six months. No x-rays or anything harmful." Jim handed it back to Stanley. "Anything else?" They shook their heads. "Then let me welcome you to Cascade, home of 27 ways of having your morning coffee and home of 12 inches annually of rain. Remember, I'm here to make your lives easier if you need it and want it." They nodded and trooped back out. Simon relaxed then called his boss to remind him they'd need another two desks.
Stanley walked onto the range and waved at the guy who looked like a drill Sergeant. "I was told to requalify," he said quietly.
"You're one of the Chicago people?" Stanley nodded. "Good. I heard you needed new glasses. Got 'em?" Stanley pulled out the thick black frames and put them on. "Cute. I'll put you in bay two. Did you have any special qualifications?"
"I usually get jumpy on the walk-through," Stanley admitted. He popped a Spree into his mouth as he took his spot, laying his gun and spare clips on the counter. He put on his ear guards, then nodded. A light flashed, Stanley loaded his gun, cocked it, and fired one handed at the target, making nine out of ten. The tenth was borderline. He took a deep breath, ejected his clip and did it two-handed. When he was done, the instructor clapped him on the back. He took off the ear guards. "How was that?"
"Better than our sniper on restriction," he admitted. "We've got a walk through and a sniper course if you wanted to qualify."
"I hate doing it," Stanley told him, but he did follow behind. It'd get him in the field more often probably. It'd be better if they knew what he could really do. Benny had always chastised him for intentionally not doing well on the range to make him look more average. The walk-through had one non-combatant injury, a graze in the arm. The sniper course went quickly once Stanley told them he couldn't lay on his stomach and shoot. He was showing and he couldn't lay on the kid, it kicked him. He walked out with the signed forms, heading up to Simon's office. He tapped gently, then walked in and handed it over. "For you." He took off his glasses and stepped back.
Simon smiled at the scores. "Second to Ellison and one of our SWAT snipers. Good job, Kowalski." He looked up. "You all right?"
"I need more sugar," Stanley told him, shaking slightly. "I can't find a good chocolate coffee for the life of me and I forgot to pick up M&Ms last night."
Simon smirked. "Go out to the coffee cart, it should be in Vice right now. Have her make you Blair's chocolate coffee with a double shot. It should help. He only drinks it when he's having a major sugar fit and Connor drinks it when she's got PMS." Stanley smiled. "After that, come back in here for a briefing. You've got a new case."
"Yes, sir," Stanley agreed, heading to do that. He had to grab his wallet from his desk, but he did get a very thick, chocolatey coffee out of it. Just right. He nodded as he walked back in. "We've got a case."
"We were waiting on you," Ray quipped. "How'd you do?"
"I took Benny's advice and showed my ass," Stanley told him as they walked into the office with Jim behind them. Ray was frowning at him. "He used ta get so po'ed that I didn't do my real quality work on the range. Said I was lyin' to the department." He shrugged and sipped his coffee. He'd have to memorize her route. "What's the new case?"
"Oh, you'll like this one," Simon told them, giving them a smirk. "You're going to be more of a ...helper and a facilitator this time."
"Not again," Jim complained.
"Again," Simon agreed. "Our local gang heads made our mayor a promise. If there was going to be open warfare in the streets, they agreed to let him bring in a negotiator and to sit down for three meetings first. That way they might be able to work it out and not have a lot of bodies."
"The last time we did this, the cops became the targets," Jim shared.
"Joy," Ray agreed. "When and where?"
"Sixth and Main. It's a parking garage and you'll have the top floor to yourselves. You're moving up in the world. Last time it was a half-finished building with a strong breeze."
"Especially after one side tried to blow it up," Jim noted, taking the file. "Who is it this time?"
"The usual. The Bloods, one of the Asian gangs, and the Latin gang we've recently acquired."
"Hmm." Ray took the file to look through it, making Jim frown at him. "I know one of these guys." He shrugged. "It can only help." He looked at Stanley, noticing he had on his vest. "Good. When?"
"Tomorrow morning at eight. Tonight, you'll go visiting, hear their sides if they'll talk to you."
"I'll take the Tigers," Ray said. "Stanley, the Bloods. I know you've got a buddy of theirs in Chicago on your ass." Stanley nodded, continuing to sip his liquid god. "Did you finally find one?"
"Yeah. Just right," Ray said with a grin.
"Sandburg made it for women with PMS," Jim told him. He looked at Stanley. "How do you usually do your coffee?"
"M&Ms," Stanley said between gulps. "Now?"
"Go for it," Simon agreed, watching as they walked out. They seemed to be at ease. No worse than any of Jim's other temporary partners. He and Vecchio seemed to be a lot alike actually. That was good. Maybe they'd stay.
Stanley walked into the local hangout for the Bloods, holding up his badge to the door guard. "Someone called for a negotiator?"
"You're far from home, little man," the guard sneered.
"I'm on loan to Ellison and Banks," Stanley said with a smile. He handed over his cellphone. "Hit send. You can verify me if you want." The guard did and listened to the voice on the other end, then grunted and hung up, handing the phone back. He led the way back to their boss, who was playing pool badly. "You called for a negotiator?" Stanley asked, standing loosely at attention.
The boss looked up. "Give him your stick, we'll play a round."
"Are you gonna kill me if I beat you?" Stanley asked as he took the cue from someone.
"Nah. I want to test your mettle. Usually they send Ellison and his pretty boy."
"They'll be there. Along with my own partner. We're on loan." He watched as the guy sunk the eight ball out of turn. "My rack?" he suggested.
"Sure, go for it. We're playing nine ball."
Stanley shrugged and racked them expertly, then stepped back. "There you go, even a loose one." He grinned and watched as the balls were broken, and nothing went in. He took his first shot, sinking the one, then moved on to clear the table. He finished with the nine and looked at the local boss. "Now, what's the problem?"
The head of the local Bloods laughed and held out a hand. "I can deal with you. Who else is coming besides Ellison and his toy?"
"Vechio." He let him lead the way back to the table, sitting across from him. The bench was a little tight. "Sorry," he said, sitting sideways. "I'm gaining weight again."
"No problem. It's not that noticeable." He nodded at Stanley's stomach. "You keepin' that?"
"Probably," he agreed. "I hear they're hard to lose once you get one." He put a hand over his stomach. "So, what's the big that's causin' the war?"
"Mostly, poaching lands. Again. The Triads are muscling in on my boys and girls and I don't like it."
"Fair enough," Stanley agreed, nodding to show that he agreed. "Drugs, pros, or just property?"
The boss laughed. "I like you."
"Thanks. You're much nicer than Cal is." That got more laughter. "You think I'm kidding? He wants to kill my ass right now."
"Ehh, Cal's a hothead. Out here, the rain calms tempers."
"All but mine it seems," Stanley told him. That got a smile. "So, drugs, pros, or property?"
Ellison and Sandburg walked into the local Latino gang's hangout, holding up his badge to the guard. "Someone said we're having a meeting, I was sent to mediate."
Blair looked at him, speaking in rapid spanish. The guy looked confused. "Sorry, do I need to repeat it?"
"Let 'em back," a female yelled. She walked out and nodded at them. "We figured as much. This way." She walked them back to the meeting area. "They sent them again."
"And our partners. They're on loan from Chicago," Jim admitted, taking a seat and looking at the various bosses. "So, what's going on this time?"
"Before you begin, bathroom, just in case?" Blair asked. The woman looked at him. "What?" he asked.
"Bloat?" she asked, nodding at his stomach. He shook his head. "Really?" She looked interested.
"Bitch of a woman who decided she'd had enough," Blair told her. It wouldn't get past this room and she was one of his students.
She nodded and pointed at an unmarked door. "There."
"Thanks." He took a seat against the wall, sitting down to read while Jim did this part. He'd be handling the social stuff tomorrow. Everything had to be just right culturally speaking. He had learned that lesson last time. The woman sat next to him. "Food?"
"We're getting our own," she said quietly. "We'll need coffee, or tea for the bastards."
"Deal," Blair agreed. "Someone else went to talk to them. What will you guys need?"
"Paper, pens. Stick pens are fine for us."
"Ehh, that won't do for the others. I'll get decent pens." He grinned. "I don't want another clash like last time."
"True," she agreed.
"Do you two mind?" one of the men at the table complained.
"Do you really want to be blown away because something isn't right at the table?" Blair asked. He looked at the man over the rim of his glasses. "Really. The Bloods won't care that much, but the Triad will. Any insult will only make this worse."
"Good point, Chief," Jim agreed. "That's why I bring him around. He handles the cultural stuff while I kill, maim, and crash," Jim reminded them. That got some laughs. Jim was notorious for doing property damage. "Why don't you two go discuss that in the other room?"
"I'd hate to have to kill them if you're hurt," Sandburg said as he stood up with a little bit of help from his helper. "Remember that. My temper knows no bounds when it comes to Ellison." He let her lead him out.
"He's a fiery bitch today," one of the bosses pointed out.
"Don't let him hear you call him that," Ellison said with a shudder. "Blair is not in a good mood. He's been homicidal for the last week."
"The last time I saw someone glowing like that with that sort of temper, they were pregnant," one of the others noted.
Jim nodded. "So I've heard. One of our detectives on loan is the same way. He's with the Bloods because he has some connections in Chicago."
"I had heard the Mountie's boyfriend is out here," one of them noted with a nod. "We were sorry to see him go. That bastard will be paying in prison."
"I'll tell Stanley you said so," Jim promised. "He'll be there with Vecchio tomorrow."
"I thought he was a Vecchio," the man said, looking really confused.
"No, Vecchio was undercover at the time. Kowalski was pretending to be Vecchio." He smirked. "Kowalski is his mate. Vecchio is just like me, only old school." They nodded, they could appreciate that. Old school Italians had ways about them that were well understood.
Vecchio knocked on the door, sneering at the bodyguard. "I'm one of the mediators. Let me in or get blown away." The door opened and he let himself be patted down but didn't relinquish his gun. They were more searching for wires. The guard pointed and he headed to a small table in the corner, nodding at the young man sitting there. "I was told I'm part of the mediating team. I'm Ellison's partner." The man waved a seat and a beautiful woman came out to pour him a glass of water. Which Ray didn't touch. "Now, give me the reasons so we can work out all the shit soon. I'm too damn tired for this."
"But detective," the man said quietly, with a large smirk. "You don't like us?"
Vecchio gave him a look. "I deal with the mafia, little boy. You've got nothin' on them. Capice?" The man nodded, looking very pleased with that. "Now, what's the problem?"
"They're complaining about my entrepreneurial spirit," he said with a smirk. "They don't like it."
"Yeah, well, they are longer established. I'm not sure why a smart guy like you hasn't branched into the higher crimes. Drugs and whores are for the more mundane crooks." He picked up the water and made a show of looking at it. "You better not try anything with me. Kowalski is having a bad day." He took a sip then put it aside. Nothing in it but a bit of sugar.
"Hmm. The blonde that was with the Mountie?" Ray nodded. "We checked on all of you. We've had...dealings with Ellison in the past." He snapped his fingers and a young woman walked over. "Get him something to nibble on. Our Italian friends always need to have food during negotiations."
"Just some bread," Ray told her. She nodded and left to get him some. "At least you have manners. That's why I sent Stanley to the Bloods. I figured you'd be more reasonable and I wouldn't get into a fight tonight."
The man laughed. "Very true. I'm glad I did my research with you." He held a hand out. "Will you guard our interests?"
"I'm guarding the city's interests," Ray corrected, not shaking it. The man smirked and nodded. "Now, give. I want details. It's the only way to fix this. I'll be talking with Ellison and Sandburg tonight."
"He said something about cultural significance and making everything fair and equal," Ray said with a shrug. "I'd rather blow all you away for making me get out of bed that early."
"Hmm. Interesting. Is Kowalski yours now?" He took a sip of his tea.
"No. I'm watching his back for the Mountie. He put him into my care." He leaned back and crossed his arms. "Are we wasting time?"
"No. Just waiting on some food. I'd rather have a peaceful meeting." He looked up as the waitress came back with food for both of them. "Good. Go away." She nodded and scurried off.
Ray looked back at her, then at the man again. "Breast implants that big on someone her size look really odd."
"True. I was going to have that fixed next week." He ate a bite of his fish, smiling at the tingle he got. "Puffer fish."
"Better you than me. The only fish I like is in sauce." He picked up a piece of his garlic bread and ate it. "Why aren't you doing computer, extortion, or other higher crimes?"
"We're branching out. That's just our base."
Stanley looked up from his seat on the couch, watching Ray and Blair work in the kitchen. "So, what's your guys going for?"
"Their regular ground and another few blocks. Yours?"
"That and their stable. Yo, Vecchio, what's your guy's beef?"
"That's their base and they'll be expanding from there," he called. "They want more ground and they're trying to take it."
"Okay, so I can plan out a nice table with food," Blair agreed. "I've got the whole list ordered for tomorrow." He handed over a bag of herbs. "Put that in there." He went back to chopping for the salad.
Vecchio sniffed. "What is this?"
"It's for Jim."
Jim looked over and shook his head.
"Tough, I want it," Blair called without looking.
"I'll put in a little, you can add more to your plate," Ray told him, adding a pinch of the herbs. They smelled really strong. Then he stirred the sauce, watching as the herbs incorporated. "Got any oregano?"
"Only the dried stuff. I haven't seen any in the herb market," Blair admitted as he pulled down the plastic bottle. "All natural and dried but still dried."
"It'll rehydrate in the sauce," Ray allowed, adding in a few pinches, crumbling them into the pot. He stirred for a few more minutes then tasted it, nodding. "Not bad. We can each add to it for our own tastes." He looked at Stanley, who shook his head. "No hot sauce?"
"I'm not craving it today. I only wanted it on the crab," Stanley told him. "Thanks though." He turned back to look at Jim. "Can we do this and not die?"
"This makes my third time," Jim admitted. "They keep trying when things break down but then I get pissed. They know this now. Last time there were a few bodies and the seconds had to come in to negotiate." He looked at Vecchio, who had been at that meeting as a guard. "Ask him."
"He was a fierce bitch," Ray agreed. "My boss said that he never wanted to face you down again." He glanced at Blair, then at Stanley. Jim shook his head. They'd have to bring them. "Blair, have you set up the waiting area?"
"I have. We'll have one area set out in clear line of sight for everyone else to sit and wait but not hear. Only the bosses at the table. Jim, how many of the Latino bosses are we getting?"
"They nominated one and a second."
"Good. I've only planned for three spots." Blair dusted off his hands and handed over the mushrooms. "Here you go." He checked on the defrosting meat, flipping it over before putting it back in the microwave and turning it back on. "That should be ready soon."
"The sauce needs about ten more to simmer," Ray told him. "What else are we cooking?"
"I bought fresh pasta, and there's dessert in the fridge," Blair told him.
"Thanks. I didn't want to have to make fresh."
Blair shuddered. "I hate making pasta. We don't have a roller." Ray gave him a look. "Really. I like the presses. It's much more simple. I used to have a hand-crank machine but I managed to lose a screw so it doesn't work anymore."
"Hmm. Ma has one herself, but every once in a while she uses the traditional method." He pulled the pasta out to look at it. "This'll go well. Nice choice."
"Thanks," Blair said with a grin. "I try. The Gods know Jim would survive on burgers if I let him."
"Yeah, Stanley's a pizza and chinese guy," Ray agreed. "Ma has to work so hard to get him to eat real food."
"I laid down the law. Jim's cholesterol was already bad. It was that or I was going to knock him into a zone out and keep him there until it came down. He had been sneaking and eating it for lunch and a midnight snack." He gave Ray a smug look. "Simon told me about his cholesterol test."
Ray snickered. "We only have to worry about stress with Stanley. The guy won't gain weight for anything." Stanley gasped and grabbed his stomach. "What?" he asked, walking out to check on him. He put a hand over Stanley's stomach, feeling a wiggling feeling. "The baby's moving," he said with a smile. "About time."
"He just kicked and then moved," Stanley groaned, panting to get his breath back. "Got me hard too. Felt like he was yours and you were kicking in a door." He relaxed under the strong hand massaging his stomach, letting him handle it. This was the way it should be. Benny should be here to do this. He started to sniffle and Ray let him go so he could run into the bathroom.
Blair followed, walking in and shutting the door so they could have some privacy. He sat down with a grunt of pain and held Stanley while he cried. "It's all right," he soothed. "He's watching you and telling Ray thanks for being there."
Ray looked at Jim, who shook his head. "Benny," Jim said quietly.
"Yeah, I wish like hell he was here too. He'd be gettin' a kick outta this. His own dad wasn't there that often and he often said he didn't want kids until he was sure he could be there all the time." He leaned on the back of the couch. "He'd be spoiling Stanley so bad he'd be complaining but the guy needs it. It's not my place though."
"You do what you feel you have to do," Jim told him, giving him a nudge. "Basketball's on."
"Sure." Jim turned on the tv, giving them the cover of noise. "You could spoil him."
"I'm already tense enough around the guy," Ray admitted. "He needs to be held sometimes but that's not really my thing."
Jim smirked. "Giving comfort and sex are two different things, Ray. Think about this as practice for getting a wife."
"At my age?" he snorted. "I'm too far gone for that." He stood up, going back to stirring the sauce. He checked on the chicken, then pulled it out and drained it before adding it to another baking dish. The sauce went over it along with some cheese, then it went into the oven. He washed his hands then went back to the couch. "Benny would have gotten him something corny like flowers to mark this new step. I'm not sure I can do that."
"So find him something like a stuffed cop bear," Jim said with a shrug. "I got Blair a gift certificate to his favorite bookstore because he had been pleading to go on another major spree through it." Ray grinned at that. He leaned over. "Is the Federal Prosecutor with his last name his sister?"
"His ex," Ray said with a grimace. "Stella. Is she heading out?"
"Connor mentioned her. She thought they might be related and wanted to know if she should tell her that Stanley was out here."
Ray shrugged. "I don't know. I have no idea what is going on between him and Stella. They've got some funky thing that makes him worry about what she thinks and, from what I heard, stalk her a bit now and then."
"Joy." Jim nodded back at the bathroom as the door opened. He looked back. "Hey, Stan." Stanley looked at him. "Connor mentioned someone and I'm not sure if it'll make you happy or pissed." Stanley shrugged as he walked out to join them. Blair had said he wasn't allowed in the kitchen. "Someone with your last name is the Federal Prosecutor working with Megan."
"Stella," Ray said at Stanley's confused look.
"Shit," Stanley said, slumping down in his chair. "Just what I need. Did Megan tell her I was here?"
"Not yet, she told me she wanted to know if she should."
"Megan also said she was like some Norse ice goddess," Blair offered.
"Hmm. Another wonderful Stella mood," Stanley quipped. "I saw a lot of that one in our last days." He reached over and snagged the phone, dialing Connor's home number. "Is it my ex?" She babbled something and handed the phone over. "Hey, Stella. Yeah, it's me. No, I'm on loan. We still haven't caught that felon yet. Yeah, I'm fine. Lunch? Not for the next week or so. I'm working on the mediation. Nah, ask Megan, she'll explain. Sure, Saturday should be fine." He smiled and hung up, then groaned and shook his head. "She's in a foul mood."
"Connor's done that to me a few times too," Jim shared.
Ray shook his head. "I was escorted around by Stella after my assignment for my own protection and so she could get all the information they might need for the case. This is pure Stella." He glanced at Stanley, who was slumped down with his chin on his chest. "Are you gonna tell her?"
"I think she'll probably notice I swallowed a bowling ball," Stanley reminded him. "It's not like I can hide him."
"Speaking of sex. When are you going to find out what it is? That way we can figure out what to get you?" Blair butted in.
Stanley gave him a smile. Blair was his best buddy. He understood. "Get 'im a vest, he'll probably need it."
"We'll be doing another ultrasound next Wednesday," Ray told him. "What about you two?"
"Blair doesn't want to know," Jim said dryly. "I'd rather know so we can make some plans in advance."
"Jim," Blair warned.
"I'll find out and not tell you," Jim offered. "I need to know so we can redecorate the room and tell your mother."
"You've heard from my mother to tell her?"
"Well, no," Jim admitted. "Are you just going to surprise her with it the next time she breezes through town?" Blair nodded, going back to put on the pasta.
"Blair, give it another few minutes," Ray called. Blair shrugged and started to work on something else, the dishes. Ray looked at Jim. "You don't like his mother?"
"His mother's a bit...liberal for my tastes," Jim shared.
Blair snorted from the sink. "Yeah. My mother, the hippie, will *love* this situation. Jim, did you really *want* to visit my mother in a Canadian prison after she breaks in to kill the woman who did this to us?"
"Not really," Jim admitted, starting to laugh. "I'm sure she'd be outraged and start to picket the place first."
"This would probably be the only case where my mother would agree with the death penalty," Blair agreed.
"What are you gonna tell her if she shows up before you pop?" Stanley asked.
"I'm going to say it's nothing," Blair told him. "I refuse to hear that rant. She'd try to take me away from Jim." He came out to look down at Stanley. "Don't let my mother suck you in either. She can be the original bitch sometimes. She'll see this as some great social injustice and go on a long rant, then be stopped by you walking away so she'll grab you and hug you until you have to shove her away. At which time, she'll start to nag you about your diet and all that good stuff. My mother is presently a strict vegan, bordering on going macrobiotic. You don't want that. There's no chocolate."
Stanley grimaced. "I'm sure I can get away from her. After all, I have mood swings and a gun."
Blair laughed. "I doubt that would stop my mother."
Jim shook his head. "Not at all," he agreed. "Speaking of psychotic people, did you actually write back to Bracket, Blair?"
Blair nodded. "Yup, sure did. Guess what he's found out." He grinned. "Solitary isn't fun." He went back to the dishes.
"Bracket?" Stanley asked.
"Psycho who saw some of Blair's earlier work and came after us to make him help him steal stuff," Jim told him. "He's in prison."
"And staying there," Blair added. Someone knocked on the door so he went to answer it. "Hey, Simon. Did they call off the mediation?" he asked as he let him in.
"No, I've got worse news," Simon admitted. He looked at everyone else. "Maybe you should sit, Blair." Jim looked at him, staring him down until he spit it out. "The Canadians have decided they want to see this...experimental procedure through as a means of infertility treatment." He held up a hand at the opening mouths. "They've moved the doctor to a secure facility and they've extended an invitation to you both to come up and be looked over, not to stay. My response was a long laugh, but apparently someone wasn't joking. We got a head's up from Chicago and Thatcher."
Stanley stood up. "Let them come," he said calmly. "They'll take me over my dead body and after I've killed as many as I can."
"That's what I thought you'd say," Simon agreed. "And I told Thatcher you'd say that. She agreed with you. She also suggested that you get very comfortable out here for now. She said she told them you were sent out on an assignment, but not where. We're close to the border but not that close. You should be fine here. I thought you'd like to know immediately."
"Oh, yeah, I wanted ta know this," Stanley agreed, looking at Ray. "I can stay if you wanted ta go back to your family."
"Ma will be pissed if I don't bring you back," Ray reminded him. "She adopted Benny too." He looked at Simon. "What happens if they come personally?"
"Then I'll expect to not have to clean up *dead* bodies," Simon told him. "If they try to capture you, I expect you to fight. All of you." Jim nodded calmly. "Let's face it, Canada isn't exactly the home of strike teams."
"No, they've got something better. Mounties who walk into situations without a gun and can handle it without backup," Ray told him. "Benny did that all the time." He stood up and gently put Stanley back into his seat. "They're not coming. They'd send Turnbull first. He's got a personal relationship with us and they'd think he could convince us."
"I asked but she didn't know if they'd accept your medical records instead," Simon admitted. "Someone is very hot on this subject and it might get messy."
"Just what we needed with Stella in town," Stanley said bitterly.
"You know her?" Simon asked. "I thought she might be family but she's never come to the office."
"She's my ex," Stanley told him, giving him a grimace. "We've got a love-hate thing going." Simon nodded, he had an ex wife, he could understand that. "Her career was more important that helping me come back from my assignments." He heaved himself up. "I'm going to the bathroom. How long before dinner?"
"Ten more minutes or so," Ray promised. Stanley nodded as he walked past him. "And?" he asked once Stanley was gone.
"That guy, Turnbull, is he a brunette, about twenty-seven, reminds you of the guy on the Brawny paper towels?" Ray nodded slowly. "He checked in with us this morning. I don't know if he's here on behalf of them or not. Thatcher didn't know, she just warned me that he had disappeared from his post."
"That's a bad sign. Mounties never abandon their posts," Ray said quietly.
"I'll set it up so you two can have dinner tomorrow," Simon told him.
"Bring him here," Blair told him. "If we hide Stanley and I, it'll only make it worse."
"Fine," Simon agreed, smiling at him. "How are you feeling?"
"I've got hemorrhoids, Simon, how do you think I feel?" Blair retorted with a grin. "Think about Joan in her last three months."
"Yes, I remember those days," Simon agreed. "Are you still coming in?"
"I'd better. I can't live in my office and I don't want to risk going into labor at the college. There's no telling where the news would get to."
"Good point. When does the semester end?"
"Two weeks," Blair sighed, looking happier. "Then I'm off all summer."
"I'll try to arrange for you to have a counseling or an advisor's position," Simon told him. "That should give you all summer to get through this." He nodded at Jim. "I'll see your report tomorrow within an hour after they break. Do you have anything on this felon?"
"I've been able to track him twice, Simon, but nothing else," Jim admitted. "He's crafty and he's been moving a lot."
"That's fine." Simon gave him a squeeze to the shoulder. "I'll see you tomorrow, Stanley," he called as he headed for the door. "We want to be kept informed, Jim. Don't tell us about it after the shit has hit the fan." He left, leaving them a bit more morose.
Ray pulled out his cellphone and dialed home. "Ma?" He waited while his sister got her for him. "Hey, Ma, it's me. Didn't you get it yet? I mailed a letter two days ago," he said with a smile. "No, something a bit bigger. The Canadians want to study Stan. Yeah, them. They want to know if it's feasible or not. No, he's sulking in the bathroom." He listened to her rant and her suggestion. "Ma, we've still got a few weeks. Sure, of course I'll get you out now and then. Yeah, I think Stan could probably use you right now. No, Stella's out here on a case too." He grinned. "Thanks, Ma. I'll arrange it for as soon as possible. I'll have them notify you. Love you too. Yeah, Thatcher. She seems to be stickin' up for us, but still." He laughed. "Sure, Ma, by Friday. Love you. Bye." He hung up and grinned. "My Ma's gonna go have a *talk* with Thatcher."
"Maybe I should tell my mother," Blair mused. He grabbed the phone and then some paper and a pen. He dialed the last number he had for her. "Hey, this is Naomi's son Blair. Yeah. Any idea where she is?" He laughed and wrote it down. "Did she say where after that?" He grinned and wrote that down too. "Thanks, man. Are you sure?" His smile got brighter. "Thanks." He hung up and looked at Jim. "She's meditating at a Buddhist temple down the coast and then she was heading here."
"Call her," Jim allowed, waving a hand.
Blair called the temple. "Hello. I'm Blair, Naomi Sandburg's son. Is she there still or has she left?" He grinned. "Yeah, tell her that I have big news for her and I need to see her ASAP. Yeah, if not sooner. Like tomorrow morning sort of ASAP. Tell her it's not a police thing, it's a personal thing and it's big news." He laughed. "Thanks. Peace to you too, brother." He hung up. "She'll be here by noon."
"Call Simon and warn him," Jim reminded him.
"Oops." Blair called Simon's cell. "My mother's on her way in," he warned. "Tomorrow at the latest. Yes, I do think my mother is a match for the entire Canadian Mounted Patrol. Or don't you remember her taking down the last mayor? Of course." He smirked as he hung up. "Simon said he's hiding tomorrow." He looked toward the kitchen, then at Ray. "Now?"
"Yeah, I'll do it while I check on the chicken," Ray told him, getting up to check on dinner. He liked to cook, it was soothing. It reminded him of his mother's kitchen and her calming influence. Not her present mothering attitude, but her usual one.
Blair looked up as Naomi stormed into his classroom, then grinned at the students. "I know I said we would meet today come hell or high water, but high water just happened. The redhead is my mother. For those of you who have your paper, I'll need them. Read the next chapter. I'm now free until the end of the semester." They nodded and filed out, chatting and smiling at Naomi. It must be bad if his mother looked that pissed at someone. "Hey, Mom," Blair said, coming out from behind his lectern.
Naomi looked at her son, then frowned. "Blair, why do you look pregnant?" she asked, looking into his eyes. The last student squeaked and ran out, going to talk to her friends. She didn't need to get between them and ask her question. "Blair, I'm waiting."
Blair walked over and checked the hall, then shut the door. "Because I am, mom. See, I was kidnaped by this Canadian doctor with another guy. She was tired of the women bearing the children so she devised a way for us to do it. She did it against our wills and primed our bodies with an egg. Then we foolishly weren't told what was going on when we were rescued. Jim had no idea. It's his." He walked over and put her hand on his stomach, making her eyes open wide. "See?" he asked with a grin.
"Blair!" She pulled her hand back. "That's wrong. So very wrong! Someone will pay!"
"Calm down, mom. There's a little more to this story. The Canadians want to explore this experiment further so they want to examine us. Not keep us or so they've said, but then again...." He shrugged. "The other guy transferred out here as a loaner detective. You'll like Stanley." Someone knocked on the door so Blair walked over, opening it for his Chair. "I think you remember my mother."
"I do." He looked at Blair, then at Blair's stomach. "Again?"
"No, this is the only time I'm doing this," Blair told him.
The chair did not look impressed. "Why did you cancel class?"
"It's an upper level, I had to keep my mother from storming the Canadians for doing this to me." He patted his stomach then winced as he was kicked. "Ow." The chair reached out and touched Blair's stomach as well, eyes going wide. "We're keeping it very close and tightly held," he shared.
"Fine. I can agree with that," the chair told him, glancing at Naomi. "Canadians?"
"One of them did this to him," Naomi said, coming over to stroke her baby's back. "I just found out."
The chair nodded. "Then I'll accept this one. Will you be teaching the rest?"
"Unless something very bad happens," Blair told him.
"Good. Did you need anything?"
"Sanity," Blair quipped. "I had the urge to clean again last night. I actually went through and alphabetized my books by subject last night." The chair winced. "Yeah, the *whole* collection, even that stuff in the boxes. So I need sanity, or at least Jim says I do."
"I can't give you any of that, but if you need help with grading or anything, let me know." He smiled at Naomi. "Are you staying?"
"Nope," Blair said, shaking his head. "Not for more than a week. Jim's already upset with me." He grinned. "Don't worry, sir."
"Fine, Blair. I'll expect good test grades from your students." He left them alone.
Blair looked at his mother. "Jim really is stressed. He's trying to do the nursery."
"That's fine, Blair. I understand fully," she agreed, giving him a hug. "Let's go pick up Jim for lunch."
"Okay. Maybe we should pick up Stan as well. Since the gangsters worked it out last night by blowing the Tigers up, we're pretty free right now. He's stressing over telling his ex wife." He picked up everything then left with her, taking her back to the station. He walked into the bullpen with her behind him, waving at Simon and Ray, who were chatting in the office. "Mom, you remember Simon, but this is Ray. He came out with Stanley and is taking care of him."
"I'm sure you must be pleased that you're going to be a father," she said with a smile.
"It's not mine," Ray said, shaking her hand. "It was his former mate's. He died about a month before Stanley found out."
"Ooh, that poor thing," Naomi sighed. "Still, you're a good friend so I'm sure you'll at least be an uncle." She smiled at Simon. "Has Blair been a good boy?"
"More peaceful," Simon told her. "There hasn't been a hostage situation in nearly a month," he assured her.
"Good." She smiled at Ray. "Where might your partner and Jim be? We were going to take you all to lunch."
"Stan's ex came and dragged him away," Ray told her. "Jim followed in case he needed someone since I wasn't here then."
"That's fine, I'll get them over dinner," she promised. "Would you like to come with us?"
"Someone's always with Blair and Stanley these days," Simon told her. "Just in case something happens."
"Good. I like that you're taking care of my son," Naomi told him. "It makes me very happy." She took Ray's arm, leading him out. "I like your suit. I wish someone would teach Blair how to dress nicer. I understand about him feeling more free in the flannel but I'd like him to look nicer every now and then."
"I've tried," Ray told her, weathering Blair's snort. "I try very hard with all those around me." He gave her hand a pat and grinned at Blair.
"Don't even think about becoming my stepfather, Ray," Blair warned. "My mother scares Simon."
"I do not," she scoffed. "Simon has nothing to fear from me as long as he makes sure you're fine, sweetie."
Ray laughed. "Just like my own Ma."
Stanley looked across the table at his ex. "So," he said, trying to think of something to say.
"Stanley, are you really sick?" she asked quietly.
He shook his head. "Not anymore. That ended a few months ago. Now I'm just craving stuff and peein' all the time." He grinned and patted the hand she had lying on the table. "I'm fine."
"Stanley, you look like you've got a big growth."
He shifted over in the booth, putting her hand onto his stomach, watching her face as she gently pushed. Then the future soccer center kicked her hand. "That's what's wrong. It was some Canadian doc who was tired of being a broodmare," he said quietly.
"Oh. My. God," she whispered, staring him in the eyes. "Tell me that I wasn't just kicked by a tumor?" she pleaded.
He shook his head. "I don't see him that way." He removed her hand. "It's Benny's before ya ask." He moved back to his seat, looking at her again. She still looked shocked. "This is why I didn't call immediately," he said gently. "I knew you'd be shocked."
She took a deep breath and relaxed. "Stanley, how?" He shrugged. "You don't know?"
"I was out of it for the most part. I remember it hurt," he told her. She rolled her eyes. "She did something, primed the pump. Then Benny and I celebrated a capture, not knowing any better."
"Is that why I saw Turnbull in town?"
"Ray said he was in town. We're not sure why," he said, scratching the back of his head. It was a nervous gesture he had picked up recently. She reached over and put a hand on his arm, scooting around to give him a hug. "Thanks, Stella. I didn't think you were gonna throw a fit, but I wasn't sure, ya know?"
"I know, Stanley. Things aren't always the easiest between us." The waiter came toward them and she ordered for them, something simple and light. "How are you doing otherwise?"
"Mostly okay," he admitted, giving her a sheepish look. "Ray's watchin' out for me. He'll be the Godparent, or the dad if I don't make it." He swallowed hard. "Benny would be proud, don'tcha think?"
"I do," she agreed gently, giving him a smile. "I know I am. You're going to make a great father." He smiled at that. "Does anyone else know?"
"Ray's Ma. Welsh. Thatcher. Our present boss. Sandburg's like me." He moved as the waiter brought them salads. "Geez, Stella, salad?"
"You need it," she told him, giving him a look. "Everyone like that needs a lot of vegetables and milk."
"I drink a lot of milk," he admitted. "Just in my coffee." He grinned at her frown. "I'm not givin' it up," he told her.
"Fine. I won't nag you about the possible health risks of passing caffeine through to the...it." She shook her head. "Do you have a name?"
"Not yet. We're goin' in for an ultrasound later this week."
"Good. I want to know, so I can find something nice for you both." She looked at him. "Are you are and Ray...." She trailed off then shook her head. "Not that I need to know." She looked at her salad, adding dressing and smooshing it around.
"No, we're not. He's just really nice. He's doin' it in Benny's memory and all that."
"I'm glad you're not alone, Stanley. I'd hate that for you," she said softly, giving him a look. "I want to be an aunt."
"Of course," he snorted. "It's not like I'm gonna let Frannie give it girl talks."
Stella smiled. "Thanks, Stanley." She reached over to take his hand to hold while they ate. This Ray was so much calmer than he had been when they had been together.
Jim smirked from behind his magazine, eating his own lunch. Those two would be fine. He noticed someone else watching the pair and memorized his face so he could look him up in the database later. When his phone rang, he quickly answered it, hearing the message on the other side. "Wonderful," he said dryly, turning it off. He didn't want to join Blair and Naomi for lunch, not even if he did want to warn Ray about this new threat.
Jim walked into the bullpen and pulled on Ray's arm, dragging him into the office. Simon looked up as he walked in, looking confused. Jim turned to look at Ray. "Someone was following the cranky woman Stanley was married to," he announced. "Skanky, sounded like he came from your neck of the woods. Dark hair but it was thinning badly. Green eyes. Sallow skin. Yellow teeth. Smelled like Old Spice. Wearing a dingy, probably used to be black, suit."
Ray shook his head slowly, then quickly. "Old Spice?" Jim nodded. "The only guy I know smelled more like one of the oriental ones, Samsara or something." He leaned against the table. "Did Stan see him?" Jim shrugged. Ray opened the door. "Stan!" Stanley lifted his head. "Who was watching you at lunch?"
"That's Tony, he's been following Stella for weeks now," Stanley told him. "A hitter from your day. He's looking for you." He stood up with a wince and walked into the office. "Why?" He looked at Jim. "Did you follow us?"
"It was either that or go to lunch with Blair's mother," Jim told him.
"Hm. Good choice," Stanley said with a smile. "She's just told me I can't drink coffee."
"You probably shouldn't," Jim agreed. "But it's your body and your little person." He looked at Simon. "This is worrying. He kept touching something in his pocket."
"He's mostly a knife guy," Ray told him, looking out at the bullpen. "Where did Sandburg go now?"
Jim listened, trying to find him. He frowned and picked up the phone, calling Blair's cellphone. "Where are you?" He listened to the running commentary. "Good, someone followed Stan to lunch." There was a sound of brakes. "Blair?" He paused. "Sandburg!" he said angrily. Blair answered, sounding a little less than calm. "Are you all right?" he asked patiently. "Was it your fault? That's fine. I'll come get you and take you to class."
"I'll go," Stanley offered.
"Hell no," Simon told him, butting in. "If someone followed you to lunch to get your ex wife and she was being nice to you, what makes you think he won't use you?" Stanley pulled out his gun and waved it around. "Not a good enough reason. Vecchio, go with him."
"Yes, sir," Vecchio agreed, taking Stanley with him, Stanley had the address of where Blair had the car accident. "Did Stella tell you about Tony?" Stanley nodded. "She isn't worried?"
"Supposedly there's a Fed trailing him."
"Sure there is," Vecchio agreed. "Because we've learned so very well to trust them." He peeled out of the garage, heading down the street. It was how he usually drove and the Cascade traffic was much smoother than the Chicago traffic. "Ma's comin' out this weekend, then she'll be back when it's closer to time. She demanded."
"That's cool," Stanley said happily. He pointed at the point where Blair's car was, rolling down the window. "No cop?"
"The other guy and I changed insurance cards," Blair told him. "A cop's already filled out the paperwork. He was waiting for the light to change." Blair turned around, grabbing his bag and coat, then locked his car and got into the back of Ray's car. "Okay, tell me about this new person."
"Yes, dear," Blair said patiently. He buckled up and Ray took off again. "You enjoy chases don't you?"
"Oh, yeah, Jim and I bonded over our first one," Ray admitted with a smile. "There's a guy from my past following Stanley's ex to hopefully find me."
"Okay. And he looks like?"
"Dirty greaseball with too much cologne who does laundry wrong and everything fades," Stanley shared. "Dark hair, green eyes. Rank and sweaty."
"Hmm. I think I saw him on campus the other day," Blair admitted, starting to frown. "This really does suck. Oh, Stan, my mother said she's sorry she scared you. She just wants what's best for you. She asked that you not shoot her the next time you meet."
"You pulled your gun on Blair's mother?" Ray asked.
"She took my chocolate and coffee," Stanley explained, sounding perfectly rational.
"I can't wait to hear you explain to that Simon when word gets back," Blair told him. "Since it was in the halls and all." Ray groaned. "What?"
"Nothing. Don't worry about it," Ray assured him. If he shared, it might set off Blair's mood swings. He needed to spend more time with Ellison, he was still sane. They could keep each other sane.
"Hey, Blair, after this is done, wanna switch out ta Chicago with us?" Stanley asked.
Ray stopped the car and looked at him. "No. Welsh would kill us." He started the car again, going through the yellow light.
"I think Welsh might be really happy. It might cause all the problems to suddenly disappear," Stanley said with a mean grin. "Besides, it'll give him happy memories of Benny's time."
"That's true," Ray admitted. "These two cause less problems than Benny ever could, but still. Welsh will kill us for suggesting it." He had to stay calm about this until he could warn Welsh. Chicago would not put up with the level of damage Jim caused. The department would be sued. They dropped Blair off and watched as he walked into the building. As soon as he got out of sight, Ray looked at his partner. "That's a bad idea," he told him gently. "We'd be sued."
"Yeah, but I'll miss 'em," Stanley complained.
"No one said you and the baby mountie can't visit," Ray reminded him. "Maybe you can find him a wolf in the woods or somethin'."
Stanley smiled. "That would be cool. Thanks, Ray." He gave him a hug then started to sniffle. "I hate this part of this." Ray handed over a box of tissues and looked inside again before pulling away from the curb. "He can't get into trouble here."
Ray snorted. "Yes he can. He has in the past."
"Geez, and you think I'm bad," Stanley quipped.
"You are," Ray reminded him. "Who was it that had to have peanut butter so snuck out and managed to have to shoot his way out of the grocery store?" Ray asked. He turned the corner, heading back to the station. Stanley's phone rang and Ray listened.
"Sure, Simon. No, we're heading back right now. Yeah, it was a small fender-bender. The guy hit Blair in the engine. No, not a problem, why?" He groaned. "Fine. We're halfway back. Sure. Thanks. We'll meet him there." He hung up. "Turn around, the biology building is under assault. We're meetin' Jim there. We've got twenty before SWAT can get there."
"Okay," Ray said, putting the light on the roof and doing a nice u-turn in the middle of the street. To much honking but what did he care?
Jim looked up as the nurse came into Stanley's room, giving her a shrug. "He's asleep again."
"Good. He probably needed it. His blood pressure was very high." She checked the numbers then smiled. "I think he should be fine. It's back to normal. The other one is on his way up. He's still complaining about the bandage ruining the line of his suit. The other man is soothing him as they walk."
"Of course Sandburg is," Jim agreed dryly. "Blair likes to calm others down." He looked at the bed again. "Are you sure it was just a blood pressure surge?"
"I'm sure," she said patiently, leaving him alone. This observation ward had a lot of people like that young man on the bed. Too stressed, but able to head home. He really did need to lose some weight though.
Ray and Blair walked in. "He nappin' again?"
"Yup," Jim said, leaning back. "Blair, quit fussing."
"I'm not," he defended. "I'm being very good. Aren't I, Ray?"
"For being you, yeah," Ray agreed, smiling at him. "At least we didn't have to rescue you this time."
"Next building, not even close," Blair said with a grin. He saw Jim's expression and walked over, giving him a long hug. "I'm fine," he said patiently.
"I'm sure you are. I'm still going to worry." The door opened and Jim looked at the person, one eyebrow edging up. "And you are? Since you don't look like a doctor."
"He's a mountie," Ray told him. "This is Turnbull. He's been the one following Stanley around recently." He pulled him inside then closed the door again. "Give."
"Is he all right?"
"His blood pressure spiked," Jim told him. "That's it."
"Good." Turnbull smiled. "I'm guarding him against others coming to force his participation in the follow-up to that experiment." He smiled at Blair. "Someone has suggested that the children should be raised in Canada."
"Hey, if they'll pay off my student loans, find us all jobs, and find me a warm spot to live, I wouldn't care," Blair told him. "But they're not coming near me with a needle, a machine, or anything else medical."
Turnbull smiled. "Of course not. That would be heinous and I owe it to my former friend to protect his offspring. Not that I wouldn't do it for Stanley himself, but I feel honor bound to protect his Canadian heritage." He smiled at Stanley. "I'm sure you understand."
"'Course I do," Stanley said tiredly. "Everyone wants to protect him for Benny and then for me." He sat up, looking around. "What happened?"
"You passed out," Jim told him.
"We got 'em all, right?" Jim nodded. "Good. I'm glad I held on that long." He looked at Ray. "When do I get out?"
"Soon. By tomorrow," Jim assured him. "The nurse has already said you should lose that gut." He grinned. "She has no idea."
"Even better," Stanley admitted. He looked at Turnbull. "How long?"
"Until I leave or until someone else finds you?" He came over and touched Stanley's forehead, giving him a tender look. "Until I leave? When you come back. I'm officially suspended but Inspector Thatcher is covering for me. Until someone else finds out? Probably a bit longer. They know, roughly, what state Blair is in but you're still being thought of as being 'somewhere on assignment'. There are many people who admired Constable Frasier who are most anxious that you not be hurt by this."
"Too late," Stanley told him.
"I know and I understand, detective. This is traumatic and tiring. I do wish you would take better care of yourself, no more rushing into situations and the like, but I can't force you to stop and go on desk duty. I do worry about you, and I'm very happy that you have people who will watch out for you." He smiled and Stanley gave him a weak smile. "The city won't be the same if you don't come back. The underprivileged children in your old neighborhood miss you, as do I. You were always very nice to me. Much nicer than Detective Vecchio was at times." Stanley smiled more at that. "So you simply must take care of yourself, otherwise we'll miss you much more."
"I'm trying," Stanley told him.
"Good. Now, what is this one going to be?"
"A future curler," Ray told him dryly. "Finished being mushy?" The constable turned and nodded. "Good. Okay, let's get Stanley out of here and back to the apartment so someone more needy can have the bed. He's got an appointment tomorrow anyway." Blair went to talk to the nurse while Jim found Stanley's clothes for him. Ray looked at Turnbull. "You know something," he accused quietly.
"I know many things, detective. Including the fact that your Lieutenant wants to talk to you about the shooter's trial," he said quietly. He glanced at Stanley, then back. "It's about to get rather messy. As I said, I'm here on my own. Inspector Thatcher had nothing to do with this." He walked out, heading back to his hotel.
Ray pulled out his phone and called Welsh's office. "Yeah, you sent a mountie message?" he asked Huey; the other detective had answered. "Son of a bitch," he said quietly. "And?" He looked at Stanley, shaking his head at the worried look. "You're sure? Yeah, she's actually out here on another case. I'll call the cop she's workin' with, she might know. Thanks, Huey. Yeah, he's here. I'll tell 'im." He hung up. "The person who shot you and Benny escaped during his trial." He swallowed. "Welsh was his bait. He's fine. A little banged up and two grazes. Huey said so." Stanley leaned against Jim's side. "He hasn't been recaptured. They've teamed up with someone on my ass." Stanley's eyes narrowed. "Also, Thatcher's just hung herself. They fired Turnbull." He stood up. "So we're going to go back to Jim and Blair's for the night. That kosher with you?"
"I'm fine with it," Jim agreed. "I can get Simon to meet us."
"Good. It might be for the best." He looked over as the door opened and Blair walked in with the nurse. "We're hiding at your place tonight."
"Okay," Blair agreed. "What happened to the Mountie? He was really upset."
"He got fired. Thatcher's rope ran out."
"Really?" Blair asked, getting his crafty look. He looked at Jim, who shook his head. "I think it's time *I* talked to the Canadians." He walked out, heading to have this talk in private. He had memorized the nearest consulate's number just in case they needed it. "Yeah, give me to the person hunting for Sandburg." He snorted. "This is him, constable. Now. Yes, I am having a mood swing, all the way to pissed off." The constable put him on hold and it was the shortest hold in history. "So, not only are you hunting us to perform more experiments on us, you fired the one mountie who came out to protect another's child?" He snickered. "Really, like you didn't know." He smirked. "That's what I thought. Now, shall we have a discussion about what you want in return for our medical records?" He burst out laughing. "Prove it. Do a DNA test, I can prove it wasn't hers. Because I was awake, Inspector. I was lying there only partially drugged while she switched her DNA in the egg for ours. Being kidnaped many times has given me a high tolerance for drugs."
He shifted, getting more comfortable. "I'm considering it an anonymous donation actually. As does my mate. Yes, him. Try *Detective* Ellison. Yes, him," Blair said, starting to smirk. "Really? You mean like the fact that one of Constable Frasier's friends risked himself to come check on us? Yes, him. No, if you want our medical records you'll rehire him. Man, listen to yourself. All I have to do is go public. I have the proof in me." He grinned. "That's what I thought you'd say. Anything else?" He listened to the reasonable man make an ass of himself, smirking the whole time. "Are you done?" He laughed. "That's nice. We have a doctor. We're both seeing him. Stanley had another one who was more than willing to cover for him. The only thing you could offer me right now is a promise to never have it done again on an unwilling subject and Constable Turnbull's life's work given back to him. Otherwise, you'll be seeing me on the morning news within a week. Yes, he is in Cascade. As I said, he came to check on us." He hung up and headed out to the car. "Hey. They're thinking," he told Jim. He looked back at Ray, Stanley was napping on him again. "They're claiming the babies are Canadian because the egg had been hers before she stripped the DNA out of it."
"They're screwed then," Ray noted. "Dual citizenship works in the favor of the mother."
"I promised them my medical records and not going to the press if they left us the hell alone and gave Turnbull back his job. Also to never do it to another unwilling victim."
"That's dangerous," Jim warned.
"So is our life, Jim. What are they going to do, storm Cascade?" He snorted. "If they come anywhere near here, then I'm going to go to a nice judge and I'm going to tell them what's going on to get someone released." Jim looked confused. "Who do you think wants this kid more, Jim, Bracket or the Canadians?"
"He's dangerous," Jim reminded him.
"Not to me. Not right now. And we can always hand him back after we're safe."
"Your master plan has holes the size of a train," Ray offered. "This Bracket might make you miscarry because he hates you."
Blair turned and grinned at him. "No he won't. He's obsessed with the whole sentinel thing. Since there's every chance this one will be one he won't hurt it. Even if he's started to loathe us he needs me to validate his own obsession. For that matter, Lash has my picture plastered around his cell as well. Simon won't like it, but I will be safe. Lash won't kill pregnant people. I do validate Bracket's evil wishes." Jim was still looking stunned. "As a last resort of course," he soothed.
"No," Jim said, shaking his head. "If I have to, I'll go see Steven and send you two with him." He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, heading back to the loft. He called Simon on the way. "Blair's going odd," he announced as soon as it was answered. "Hey, Daryl, I need your dad. Yeah, because of that." He waited. "Simon, Blair's gone odd. The Canadians are planning something and he wants to remove Bracket from jail to protect him." He smiled and handed over the phone. "For you."
"Yes, Simon, I know what I said. It was a worst-case scenario. Really. Hey, even Lash is obsessed and he won't kill a pregnant woman." He snickered at the spluttering. "Worst case, Simon. Yeah, we're taking Stanley back to our house. No, no problem. Come on over once Daryl's gone." He hung up. "He thinks it's an imaginative plan."
"That's captain speak for whacko," Stanley put in.
"Nah, Simon never handles me that carefully," Blair told him with a grin. "It'll be fine." He turned around, watching the city go past.
"If you say so," Jim and Ray said in unison.
Blair met with the Canadian representative in the conference room of the police station. The man was not looking happy with life. He looked like his underwear was too tight. Blair waved a seat across from him and got comfortable. "I see you've come with papers." He looked at the man and gave him a gentle, motherly smile. "Trying to fuck me over again?"
"No," he said bitterly. The Prime Minister had called him personally to order him not to embarrass the country ever again. He laid the paper on the table. "This is the form they faxed over for you to sign."
Blair read it over, then shook his head. "I wasn't willing." He pushed it back. "Nor am I giving custody to you or your country." The man blinked a few times. "It is mine and my soulmate's child, and you're not getting her. Ever. Even if I have to move to Brazil." He smiled again. "Got another one of those? That way I can send it to Stanley and lighten his mood."
"Yes, where is Constable Frasier's husband?" he asked, glancing around.
"Not here." Blair grinned. "You missed him by about six days." He put his feet back onto the floor then leaned forward. "I'm serious. Since your precious doctor gave an interview, there are people looking all over the world for us." The man swallowed. "Do you really want me to go onto national television and make people cry over this?"
The man pulled out another form with a grimace, shoving it over. "Read that."
Blair read it, it had all his demands in it. It even had a clause saying that Constable Turnbull was going to be given his job back and that the Canadians only wanted his medical records. Blair picked up a pen as he got to the bottom, then looked at him. "Why would I want to sue your government for damages? I'd rather sue the doctor."
"She was on our payroll at the time," the politician said grimly. He looked over then stood up as Stanley came in. "Detective," he said less glumly.
"Oh, hey, Stan," Blair said, letting him read the form. Ray grunted in annoyance then signed it, handing the pen to Blair so he could sign it as well. "There you go." He handed it back and stood up. "Thank you for coming all this way."
"Your medical records?"
"You don't want records of the birth?"
"Yes," he sighed. "We'd like a preliminary copy though." Blair handed over a diskette. "What's this?"
"Microfilm disk. My record is really heavy and my doctor didn't want me lifting that much weight." He took Stanley's arm and walked him out. "We'll forward the rest back to Thatcher because she's been decent to us throughout this whole thing." He closed the door, letting him fume by himself. "Why did you come in?"
"We're gettin' ready to head back out to handle some scummy drug dealer. Jim wanted you back upstairs before he left."
"Oh. Okay. Don't you love how they worry about us?"
"Yeah, but it means they care," Stanley told him. They headed into the main part of the station and Stanley got free of the clinging, walking beside Blair again.
"Well, well," a nasty voice said from behind them. "What have we here?"
Blair looked back at him, then grinned. "We have a bigot. Do you need to know how to spell that?" He pushed the button for the elevator. "Or did you need something along the lines of learning how to read? I know the Chief sent out a message after the last time I got harassed to leave me alone."
"What's so special about you?" he sneered.
"Easy, I'm helping Ellison and am partially responsible for his amazing capture rate," Blair said snidely. "It's amazing what you can do when you know people." He got onto the elevator, noticing most of them weren't exactly friendly members of Vice. "Hey, guys. Stanley." Stan stepped on, squeezing in beside him. "Toodles." The door closed and Blair sighed. "I hate that."
"Hey, Sandburg, why are you looking so girly," one of the Vice detectives sneered.
"You obviously need your eyes checked," Blair noted dryly. "I'm no less hairy than I was the last time you tried to kick my ass in the showers because of your repressed latent homosexuality." The elevator stopped on four and he grimaced at the person. "Want to walk?" he asked quietly. Stanley shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Yeah, my back aches," Stanley told him as the doors closed again.
"Ooh, is the poor detective sore from being fucked?" the same guy asked.
"No, I've got a bad back for totally different reasons," Stanley told him, glaring at him. "Don't make me get Vecchio. He hates it when he has to restrain me from killing people. It'll make the second time this month." The Vice people shut up.
Blair patted him on the arm. "It's okay. I understand why you pulled the gun on my mother. If she had taken coffee out of my hand I'd have done it too." They finally came to their floor and got off, heading into the bullpen. Blair rolled his eyes as the Vice squad walked down to their section of the floor. "Morons." Jim looked at him. "We rode up with Vice."
"Ah," Vecchio said wisely. "Stanley, do I have to take your gun from you?" Someone higher from Vice was walking in the door so he looked at her. "Blair, get me Stanley's gun, okay? I don't want him to mood swing today and kill someone." The second in command from Vice looked upset. "What?"
"Oh, shit, it's you two," he said, looking at Blair.
"The guys who just po'ed yours? Yeah," Stanley said with a bright grin. "I got tired of the insinuations."
The woman shook her head. "Not that. The Canadians...." Blair glared at her and she backed up. "Shit! Does Banks know?"
"Jim!" Blair snapped. "She just accused me of being kidnaped by the Canadians."
Banks came out of his office. "What's going on?"
"This nice detective just accused them of being the ones who the press is hunting for," Ray told him.
Banks glared at her. "Was there some other reason why you came over?"
"I was sent to politely ask Sandburg to leave our guys alone."
"Have them leave me alone first, I only quip back," Blair said, walking over to his chair and flopping down. "Anything else?"
Stanley started to reach for his gun and she ran out of the room. "Kowalski, hand Vecchio your gun," Simon said patiently. Stanley grumbled but he did hand it over. "Thank you. Didn't you have anything to do?" Stanley looked miserable and shook his head. "Then how about you go pick up one of your fellow detectives at the airport? They sent him out to look for you two." Ray opened his mouth. "There hasn't been an incident in months," he said patiently. "Stanley can drive all the way out there and come back without being kidnaped. I'm sure of it."
"Sure," Stanley agreed, grinning at him. "Thanks, boss." He jogged out, heading down the stairs. Going down was so much easier than going up. He didn't even miss his gun at the moment. He had a spare in the car.
Jim walked into Vice and up to Blair's main antagonist, lifting him up out of his chair and holding him slightly off the ground. "Did I not tell you to leave Sandburg alone," he growled. The man whimpered and wet himself. "Good." He let him go, glaring down at him. "Leave Sandburg alone. If something happens to Sandburg, then not only am I going down, but also part of Major Crimes. Got it?"
"Is he blackmailing you?" their captain asked.
Jim shot his glare at him. "No, he's the reason we have such a high clearance rate. He's managed to talk perps out without needing the bullshit we get from the negotiators. He's also the one who makes sure things work smoothly when we get new arrivals. Remember that before you sic your men on Sandburg or Kowalski again. Sandburg will protect Kowalski as fiercely as Vecchio will." He turned around and stomped back out, heading to his desk. He looked around but his bullpen was empty. There was a note sitting on his desk so he sighed and opened it. "Wonderful." He grabbed his spare vest and hurried out to help with the situation. Who was the idiot who let Kowalski out without a weapon and alone?
Stanley grinned at the detective who he had met. "So," he said cheerfully, standing up to take a shot at someone's back. "Why're you in town?"
"We came to talk to you two. There's going to be a budget cut soon." He lifted his head up but nearly got shot. "Why aren't they shooting at you?"
"Ellison." He stood up and took out the three shooters quickly, then fell back down and reloaded. "Fun. Yay." He slammed his last clip in and sighed, looking back there. Someone did shoot at him this time. It chipped the metal of the table beside his head. "Vecchio is going to kill me." He found the sniper's position from his next shot and took his own, hitting him in the top of the head. "Woo-hoo!" he said happily, standing up and showing his badge to the last two. "Cascade and Chicago PD. Drop 'em." The guys looked at each other, then slowly put their guns down. "Thank you. Now kick 'em over here." He nudged Huey with a foot, getting him to stand up as well. "You guys coulda waited. I mean, I was only here ta pick up him." They got down on their knees with their hands behind their heads. Ray handed over the handcuffs, watching as Huey handcuffed them. He pulled the antenna of his cellphone with his teeth and hit the button for Simon's. "We're done, I'm pretty sure of it. We're gonna need an ambulance or three and a few body bags. Yeah, perfectly fine," he said happily. "My blood pressure's great today." He heard another shot and glared in that direction, pointing it at the cop standing there. "PD, asshole, put it away!"
"You're not local," the cop said. He looked at the badge. "Oh, shit, you're Ellison's buddy." He put his gun away and carefully walked over a body to help gather Stanley up, taking him to a chair. "Here, you stay here," he said. "Who's the other guy?"
"He's from Chicago. My home group," Stanley said happily, grinning at him. "I'm fine."
"Of course you are, but since Ellison went and threatened most of Vice earlier, I'm not taking that chance." He walked over to Huey and shook his hand. "Nice to meet you, detective. Welcome to our insanity. Will you be staying on as well?"
"Just for a few days. I'm here on union business. They're trying to shut down our precinct."
"What!" Stanley shouted, standing up again. "What the fuck was that?"
"The mayor says we're the slowest, least producing unit in the city and he's gonna shut us down."
"You guys are down two detectives, no fucking shit!" Stanley said angrily.
"We had to borrow replacements, but we're still slow," he said quietly, giving him a shrug. "They said you could switch to Vice."
"No fuckin' way," Stanley said coldly. "There's no way I'm headin' back there. I hated it there. I hated their fuckin' attitudes and all that shit they wanted me to do. Fuck 'em." Someone yelled outside and in his phone so he hung it up. "Vecchio's almost here. You're tellin' him."
"Fine," Huey agreed, nodding gently. "Are you all right?"
"Fine," Stanley said, glaring at him. "Don't start on my stomach either."
"Why? I figured it out before you came here. It's the only reason Welsh would sit you two at your desks for more than a day." Stanley grunted in annoyance, sitting down again. "Over here," he called. "Two downed security personnel, one downed tourist. Mostly downed gunmen and two in custody." He got out of the way of the local guys, and Vecchio. "We've got to talk."
"I heard," Vecchio said dryly. "You think a hit would solve that?"
"Nope. Someone tried that already." He patted Vecchio on the back and went to help Stanley back up. "Let me see," he said gently, looking at the small cut on his scalp. "You'll be fine."
"Of course I will. This doesn't change anything."
Simon walked in and patted him on the back. "Nice job. Both of you." He shook Huey's hand. "I'm Captain Banks." He smiled at Stanley. "We have a reputation of people staying once they come in for a while."
"My family is there," Ray told him. "I doubt they'll move."
"Hey, they were gonna send you to Homicide," Huey told him. "You seem to do well with dead bodies."
"Fuck 'em," Ray said fondly, giving him a smile. "I'd rather stay."
"We'd love to have you," Simon told him. "Talk to your mother, she might like that. With you here, the usual chaos that Ellison brings in has been managed quietly. We like quiet management. It means less property damage." Stanley snickered. "You okay, kid?"
"Just fine." He pointed up at the ceiling. "There's a body up there too. Sniper idiot."
"Thank you. I'll send someone to get it down." He walked Stanley out to the car, putting him in the back of it where Sandburg had been stored when he started to get hyper. "Here, watch each other." He turned around and looked around. "Ellison's late," he announced, cracking some people up. "Never mind, I can hear his truck chugging. It must have blown another belt or something." He shook his head as he watched his people and the CSIs work efficiently. He waved Jim over once he screeched to a halt, short an inch of hitting a patrol car. "They're over here." He looked behind him but the car was gone. "Or they were here. Who took my car!" he shouted.
"Someone in a uniform, sir," one of the uniforms reported. "Um, Tigger or something if I remember right."
Jim put out the APB for the car from his truck then went in to tell Vecchio. "Someone stole Simon's car," he said with a faint smirk.
"Let me guess, two people were in the back?" Jim nodded. "I pity them. Stanley had a gun."
"He's about out of bullets."
"He only needs one from the back seat," Jim told him, then he shook his hand. "Ellison."
"Huey. Chicago's 27th." He smiled and looked at Vecchio. "We'll need to talk to you about what'll happen when you get back."
"If I come back," Ray snorted. "I love Chicago, but this is too much."
"There's a Lieutenants's spot in your old hood," Huey offered. Vecchio shuddered. "I know, it'd make you do paperwork, but it'd be near home."
"I'd never hear the end of it," Vecchio sighed. "Let me talk to my family about it. How long you in for?"
"Three days. I'm in the Intercontinental." He looked around. "Who do I give my statement too?"
"We'll take you down to the station and let you fill out the forms yourself," Jim said happily.
"Less for us to do," Vecchio agreed. He heard a siren and looked outside. "I think the boys are back."
"This is insane," Huey told them. "What is going on?"
"Sandburg and Kowalski are worse than Kowalski and Frasier any day, hands down," Vecchio told him with a bright grin. "Let's see, this brings it up to ten hostage situations, six fire fights, and seventeen attempted robberies?" he asked Ellison. Who nodded. "Since we got here."
Huey shook his head. "Better you than me," he noted, heading out to talk to that nice Banks captain again. Maybe he could do the safe paperwork now. Without bringing the two people back to the station. "Sir, detective Vecchio suggested I can fill out my own paperwork?"
"Sure. We appreciate that sort of initiative," Banks said with a smile. He waved a patrol officer doing nothing over. "Take him back to the precinct and up to Major Crimes. He helped in the shootout."
"Yes, sir, Captain Banks. Sir, did you get my application?"
"It's on my desk. If you pass your test, I'll see what I can do." The patrolman smiled and led the foreign detective off to take him back to the home base. "I don't know if I'll have a spot if Kowalski or Vecchio stay," he muttered, "but I'll definitely try and put you first on my list. He's polite, I like that in a detective. We could use more like that. Maybe he'll teach Ellison manners." One of his detectives must have heard, he burst out laughing. "What? It could happen," he said as he walked past him.
Rafe smiled at him. "And you thought Sandburg did damage with Ellison," he said quietly.
"No, I think Kowalski does it best to date. Though, I almost miss the high speed car chases and building destruction. Those forms were mercifully short." He looked behind him as his car was parked and someone got out, getting onto their knees. "Get him. I didn't bring any cuffs."
Rafe went back to take care of this suspect. "You idiot. You kidnaped Sandburg?" The man groaned and laid down on his face. "You can't suffocate, there's not enough oil there. Simon, I think your car's leaking oil."
"Thank you, Rafe." He watched as Rafe Miranda'd the perp then took him away. Simon looked in the backseat, watching his two problem children eat ice cream. He shook his head, not wanting to know how they had gotten it. He went to help Ellison, he was still sane. It was a nice change.
Banks looked at the foreign detective, then at the two who were quickly becoming some of his best. "I will leave it up to you. The chief said we could have one more right now." They grimaced. "Of course, if Stanley decided to take six months off...." He left it at that. There would be a position open in six months. He was sure of it. Brown was talking about transferring to be with his fiancé since she liked her job so much.
"I'll probably have to take some time off anyway," Stanley agreed, patting his rotund stomach. "This one'll need some constant care for a while."
"So will you," Ray reminded him. "Having a baby hurts, kid." He looked at Huey. "I called back there. They really want to put me behind a desk?"
"They think it'd be less costly," Huey admitted with a slight grin. "And if Kowalski comes back the only place they want to stick him is Vice. Which would get him looked at by the Social Services people." Stanley nodded. "I don't know what to tell you guys, I'm only the messenger of doom."
"Eh, we don't blame you," Stanley assured him. "I blame the stupid mayor, he who can't balance a budget." Ray nodded his agreement at that. "What about your family, Ray?"
"They think Cascade would be a nice change," he admitted. "There's almost no one here though and Ma would shrivel up without her friends and the old neighborhood. They're talking about it right now. Everyone's got a long life history back there. Hell, Frannie finally picked a man so she wouldn't have to move or be without a job."
"That's something at least," Stanley admitted. "When's the wedding?"
"They went to Vegas. Ma screeched herself hoarse over it. Expect to hear about it when she comes in tomorrow." He patted Stanley on the shoulder. "I don't know yet, sir. I've looked at the prospects, they all want the younger guys."
"There is a way to switch departments every few months," Huey told him. "I checked into that. It's like you go and fill in during emergencies and vacations. You'd have a home city but nothing else. Or you could do a foreign exchange thing. I know you've got someone here who did that."
"And liked it so much she stayed," Banks agreed. "I don't need an answer right now. The only guy who had put in for the open spot didn't pass his exam. I checked early and he missed it by five points."
Stanley groaned and rubbed his stomach. "Calm down," he told his future son. "Just calm down and we'll be fine."
"That's your sixth one of those today," Ray noted, starting to frown. "Are you sure you're in false labor and not the real thing?"
"The doctor said I was havin' false pains," Stanley said firmly. "It's not time yet." He went back to stroking his stomach. "What about the salary thing? I know we were splitting it between the cities."
"That's the main reason why I only have one spot to fill," Simon admitted. "We've got a SWAT position open that was offered to you, Stanley." Stanley shuddered. "I know, SWAT is for the unattached, the young and dumb, or the really brave." He looked at them. "If you guys want to stay, we'd love to have you. If not," he shrugged. "I'll gladly write you glowing letters."
"Thanks," Stanley said, standing up with a bit of help. Then he promptly collapsed as another pain hit. "Ow."
Ray squatted down, stroking his back. "I want you to see that doctor again," he said calmly. "And I mean it."
"It's too early."
"And? I was born a month too soon and they managed to save me. Hell, there was born the other day at under a pound and it managed to live. You're only two weeks early." He helped Stanley back to his feet, holding him while he swayed. "Call him, Kowalski. Don't make me pull my bastard act out for you."
"You mean it's worse?" Stanley joked, grinning to show he didn't mean it." His eyes widened and he grabbed Ray's hand. "That was worse."
"That's a labor pain," Simon told him. "They're always worse. Ellison!" Jim's head snapped up and he hurried in. "Time those, get him to the hospital. We'll join you."
"The doctor said he'd come to the house and do it so no one would ask any questions," Jim told him, taking Stanley with him. "Ray, aren't you coming?"
"In a minute. I'll get Sandburg from school." He waited until Jim was gone. "I'd love to stay, Simon. I'll talk to Stanley about staying off the force for six months or so, maybe something will come up."
"Oh, something will," Brown said from the doorway. "Sandburg just called. He said he's in pain and he wants to kill Jim?"
"I'm going," Ray said, smirking at Huey. "See, we brought it with us. No more strange stuff in Chicago."
"No, not in the least," Huey agreed, waiting until Ray was gone to look at Simon. "We're very thankful it's all moved here actually. Please, keep at least one of them." Simon laughed. "I'll talk with our people back there and tell them that Stanley would rather commit suicide than go to Vice. Maybe they've got something." He shrugged. "I guess that means I get to see the babies after all." He grinned as he walked out.
"Babies?" Brown asked.
"Stanley was the other one," Simon told him. "You hadn't figured that out?"
"I thought he was talking about twins or something," Brown said quickly.
"I'll want to know as soon as you want to transfer down near her," he told his detective.
Brown smirked. "I'm moving next month. I'm typing up my resignation right now. Which one gets my spot?"
"I don't know. I'll figure that out soon enough. Thank you, Brown."
"Hey, they calm down Ellison. That's a major miracle and someone should thank God for them being here. I was going anyway. I'd rather have it go to one of them than some little punk down in Vice." He went back to his desk, telling Rafe that Blair was in labor too. Rafe headed out to go help, he had promised Blair he would be there.
Later that night, Jim laid the two infants together in the chair, watching as they snuggled up to each other. Ray had noticed it earlier. Stanley and Blair were both drugged to the gills after the birth. He looked over as Ray came down from Jim's room after checking on them. "I think you're right. One of them is a Sentinel and one's a guide," he said quietly.
"Which one's which?"
Jim pulled out a flashlight and shined it near the babies. Only one of them protested. "That one." He turned it off and put it away, watching as the other baby's cuddling made the cranky one fall back asleep. "You're staying?"
"Ma said she wanted to move away from the neighborhood. Too many thugs." He shrugged as he sat on the couch. "I don't know. Housing out here is really expensive. She's used ta having a big house with Maria and Tony and their kids plus me, Frannie, and her."
Jim smirked and went to get something for him. "It's in need of work," he admitted, hading over the listing. "I thought about buying it myself. Not the absolutely best neighborhood, but on the other side of town from the gang wars. It's in suburbia. Near enough to drive in. And since it's not in the city it's a little cheaper. It's got a nice yard."
"So all we'd have to worry about was home invasion and the suburban drug culture?"
"It's a little low rent for home invasion," Jim admitted. "This is firmly working class neighborhood. It's a mostly second-generation immigrant area as well. Greek instead of Italian, but it was the closest I could find to where she'd feel comfortable."
"Hmm." Ray smiled at him. "You're pushy."
"I am, but you're also the first person I could stand working with all the time in a very long time. I even get annoyed with Blair." Ray nodded. "That one's got five bedrooms. There are bigger ones in the same neighborhood."
"I'll look at it tomorrow and tell Ma," Ray told him, putting it down. "Hand me baby Benny." Jim handed the new sentinel over and he smiled at him. "Morning, little creature. You gonna be like your dad or the other one?" The baby yawned and made a grab for his nose. "Yeah, you're gonna be like Stanley, but we'll try to raise you right so your other dad would be proud." He stroked over the fine blond hair. "I'm sure Benny would love you whole lots."
"What happened to him anyway?"
"Some gang bangers put a contract out on him and some sleazy thing from the gutters carried it out. He burst in during the middle of the night after a long stake-out. Stanley barely survived. He was grazed on the thigh and nearly willed himself to death. Benny's wolf jumped in front of the gunman, biting his arm but not before Benny had been hit center mass. He was dead as soon as the shot went off." He looked at the baby again. "I'm sure you're gonna see your dad and your granddad soon enough though. It seems to run in your family to see the dead." He grinned and ran his finger down what was going to grow into Benny's nose. "Yeah, you'll be fine." He handed him back and watched as the kids settled down again. "What about you two? You gonna stay here?"
"I'd like to, but with the new death threats we've gotten I don't want to risk their lives. Jeremiah and Blair are too important to risk that way." He looked up at the bedroom. He was still surprised that Jeremiah was a boy, the ultrasound had said female. "Were they unconscious or just sleeping?"
"They were snoring. Why?"
"They're whispering to each other. Blair's talking about getting a big house with a yard out by Simon." He shook his head. "Joan came from money and Simon got the house in the divorce. Try for a cheaper area, Chief," he called up the stairs. "We can't afford a few hundred thousand for a house."
"We got offered one out by the Prescott school," Blair called down. "Melanie in Vice is selling hers."
"That is a nice house," Jim agreed, grinning. She was the only one in Vice that they could stand. The only problem would be the neighbors. That was a conservative neighborhood the last time he had checked on it. "Neighbors?"
"Melanie said the place was becoming too gay for her to stay there," he admitted.
"I like that then," Jim admitted. He went to get some juice, handing it off to Ray since he was going up there to do another check on them. He went to pick up the paper, looking at the cost of anything near there. Expensive, but nice. He could do that.
Ray came down the stairs, shaking his head. "Stanley said he's staying. Even if I don't. He said he hates the gang stuff at home anymore and he would rather become a sharpshooter instead of going back to Vice."
"Well, I'm sure he and little Simon Benton will be very happy here. Besides, it doesn't quite get as cold as it does in Chicago. He could probably also help people going undercover."
"If it's one thing he knows, it's that," Ray agreed. "Stan had a lot of problems when he became me. He was just coming off one and the thing with Stella. The poor guy never gets a break on that stuff." He looked at the babies. "I hope Ma really wants to move."
"Did you remember to have someone go pick her up?" Jim asked.
Ray grinned. "That's where Rafe went. They should be back soon." He curled up, looking around the loft. "People will think he and I are together."
"People already think you're together," Jim corrected. "Even if he moved in with your family it wouldn't make much difference. Cascade is pretty liberal about that stuff. We've got a great gay area. Maybe he can find someone once he's ready."
"I'm sure he'll try," Ray sighed, standing up. "I should take him home."
"Let them nap. It's hard to push out kids. Blair nearly killed me." Ray snickered. "If you want, you can cook if it makes you feel better."
"Yeah, I probably should. They won't want to eat but they'll need it. Crap, bottles."
"I sent Rafe out with a list," Jim said smugly. "Hopefully they'll be back before these two wet the chair."
Ray snorted. "Probably just afterwards. If my mother didn't kick him about for daring to pick her up."
Jim snickered, that was so like a mother. Speaking of, he picked up the phone and called Simon's house. Naomi was crashing on his couch. "It's a boy," he announced. "Oh, hi, Daryl. Did you move in?" He snorted and laughed as the teen went to get his father. "It's a boy. Perfectly healthy, just a little tiny." He looked at them. "No, they're sucking on each other right now. Jeremiah. Nope, just fine. Sleeping but fine. Now he wants a house." He snickered, shaking his head. "No, not next to you. We can't afford the house next to you. Really?" He smiled at Ray. "That's great news. Thanks, Simon. Yeah, I'll tell Rafe when he gets back. He's picking up Ray's mother. Oh, really?" He was laughing as he hung up. "There was a small disturbance at the airport. It seems your mother tried to beat the ticketing people because they wouldn't let her go fast enough. She only started to hit Rafe. She actually slugged the baggage people. Rafe explained that she was having a grandchild born then. It's fine." He smirked as he leaned against the back of the sofa. "Also, Brown handed in his resignation today, for a month from now."
"Woo-hoo," Stanley called quietly from the bedroom.
Ray rolled his eyes. "Want food? Ma's on her way."
"No thanks. I'd hate to have to get rid of it later on."
"That too shall get better. Maria only ate soup for a month after giving birth."
"Fun," Stanley said dryly. "Hey, how is little Simon?"
"He's napping and sucking on Jerry's nose," Jim told him. "They're comfy."
"Then Blair was right?"
"Yup, looks that way. We'll worry about that later. You rest. Otherwise we'll have another break in and I'd have to let Blair kick their asses." Blair snorted. "You never noticed? They happened more when you guys were tired."
"We were always tired, Jim," Blair retorted. "I could use a hug." There was some shifting. "Thanks, I like your hugs, Stanley. You're very good at it. Think we can talk Jim and Ray into doing this the next time?"
"Nah, they don't make Armani maternity wear," Stanley quipped.
"Even if they did, I wouldn't be in it," Ray said firmly. "Scrambled eggs?"
"Add some toast and I might not eat you too," Blair called down, doing his best pitiful impersonation.
"Sure, kids. I'll add some toast. Want jam too?" Ray called back.
"No thanks. Just toast."
Jim opened the door at the knock, getting out of the way. "The babies are in the chair and the two moms are upstairs," he said as the little woman walked past him.
"Hey, Ma," Ray called without looking up.
Ray's mother looked at the children, then smiled and touched what had to be hers.
"The other one, Ray's mother," Jim said gently from behind her. "The blond is Stanley's."
"Such cute children," she cooed, touching them both. "Raymondo, we are moving here to stay with the new grandchildren."
"Yes, Ma. Jim's given me a place to look for houses already." He cracked another egg into a bowl. "Jim. How many?"
"Maybe three each?" he suggested. Then he shrugged and looked at the experienced person. "We're making them scrambled eggs and toast. Should three be enough?"
"That should do for now," she agreed, going to shove her son out of her way and cook. Her son was not competent enough in her eyes to cook for such important occasions. "Raymondo, fix them a bottle and put more in the refrigerator. Then put real diapers on the poor things. They should be wetting any time now."
"Yes, Ma," he agreed, taking the packages that were laying on the table. He handed Jim the diapers with a smile. "That's my Ma."
"I noticed. She's one hell of a woman, Ray. I wish my mother had been like her. Or that Naomi was like her." He heard a squeal of brakes and winced. "That should be her." He walked over and opened the door, making sure everyone was out of the way. "Rafe, the blond is Stanley's. Don't let Naomi get too attached."
"Yeah, because I can stop the woman," Rafe said dryly, glaring at him. "Not even Simon stands up to that woman. You're closer to superhuman than I am."
Naomi squealed as she walked in, walking over to look at the precious ones. "Which one is mine? Not that I care. Hand over the baby," she ordered.
Rafe handed it over and got out of her way. "The blond is Stanley's," he said quickly, getting well away from her. Mothers! Fussy creatures who could get very pushy! He looked at Jim, who shook his head. He supposed it was best to let them get it out of their systems. They would be normal in a few weeks.
"Mom, let go of Stanley's child," Blair called down between the rails. "Hold your own grandchild."
"The baby had better call me aunt, son, I'm not near old enough to be a grandmother."
Ray's mother snorted. "Of course you're not." They shared a look and Sophia Vecchio smirked at her. "Everyone will know anyway."
"Maybe but I'd like to keep my real age secret for now. I had Blair when I was very young." She handed Ray the baby she had been holding and picked up her grandson. "You are precious. What's your name?"
"As in bullfrog?" Naomi asked.
"Yup. That's what he's going as for Halloween too, mother. No arguing, I'm not changing it."
"It's not a very Sandburg name," she complained.
"It's definitely an Ellison name," Jim told her. She grimaced and he shrugged. "It is. I could have asked for Jim Jr."
"Naming something determines it's nature, Jim. Would you really want to curse your child to live your life over?"
He nodded. "Most of it," he agreed. She sighed and sat down to hold her grandson. "Here, put a diaper on him since you won't hand him over," he said, handing over a diaper.
"Disposables are so bad for the environment," she said, sounding disappointed with them.
"It's not like I'll have time to deal with cloth ones," Blair called down. "I still have to finish my diss and work with Jim, mother. Give it up, I went for convenient this time. We use environmentally friendly toilet paper, it balances out."
"I am impressed that you went with a home birth," she praised.
"We had to, otherwise the press would have been there," Ray told her. He walked over with a cup of cocoa. "Here. Give me the little guy, I'm good at diapering." He took the baby and changed it on the chair, then let it go back to sleep beside it's buddy. "There you go, Jer. You nap. You can be gushed over later." He went back to help his mother, who was making a lot more food than he had been. "Ma, they're still tired."
"They need it," she said, pinching him on the cheek. "Argue and be swatted."
"Yes, Ma." He and Jim shared a look. "Mothers!" he said subvocally, getting a laugh from Jim.
"What's so funny?" Naomi demanded.
"Nothing, Naomi," Jim told her. "Thinking about teaching my son how to play football."
"That's a dangerous and aggressive sport, Jim, teach him to play chess instead!" she demanded. "It will help his brain more than that ridiculous game that might as well have been played by cavemen."
"Mom," Blair warned.
"Fine," she sighed, starting to pout. She picked up her cocoa and took a sip. "Thank you, Ray. You're very nice." She smiled at him. "Are you and Stanley joining Jim here in the loft?"
"No, I'd never put up with Hairyboy's morning routine," Ray told her. His mother looked at him. "Wait until you see it, Ma. He's got five different bottles of stuff he uses each morning. It takes him forever to get ready."
"I'm sure you could deal with it." She pinched him again. "You're marrying Stanley."
"Ma!" he shouted. "I'm not with him that way!"
"I do not care!" she said firmly, making it an official order. "The bambino has to be protected, you are doing so. That makes it your child as well. Benton would approve, I know he would."
"Ma, I like women," Ray told her.
"You'll learn to like him," she said firmly. "And you can always have more some other way so you do not traumatize poor Stanley."
"Ma!" he said, starting to beg.
"Raymondo," she warned. "My word is law."
He groaned and looked up at the loft, or the ceiling. "A little help here please?" he called out.
"Ma, I love Ray but it's like a brother," Stanley told her.
"It does not matter. He will protect you and the baby. What is his name?"
"Simon Benton Kowalski," Stan said, kneeling on the bed slowly so he could look down at her. "Ma, please. Don't traumatize him like that. I'd have to cheat on him to have sex someday and he deserves better than that."
"I know my son and his tastes. Bring in a woman to put between you if you must, just be discreet. She can give you more children." She nodded, it was settled in her mind.
"Ma," the two men whined in unison.
"See, I knew I was right. Stanley, admit that you like Ray that way."
"He's cute and all but he'd toss out all my clothes and he'd never dance with me," Stanley complained.
"You dance?" Ray asked.
"Oh. Nice." He looked at his mother. "See? We don't know each other that well."
"You've shared blood and life, you will marry," Sophia said firmly, glaring at her son.
He backed down, she had a spoon in her hand. "We'll talk about it, Ma," he promised. "Maybe Stanley will find someone he likes better than me."
"Bah. It will not happen. That child is a Vecchio by adoption. It will become a Vecchio by marriage." She went back to her cooking.
Ray groaned and hung his head, shaking it. "Yes, Ma."
"Ray!" Stanley said.
"Stanley," Ma Vecchio warned, glaring at him.
"Yes, Ma," he whined, laying back down. "Maybe the Mounties will invade now?" he whispered to Blair.
Blair snickered. "Probably not. They would have announced themselves if they were going to do that." He patted Stanley on the arm.
"Blair, darling," Naomi said from the bottom of the stairs. "I would like you and Jim to vow to each other as well, sweetie. It would make me so happy and it would make for a more stable home for the little Sandburg."
"Too late," Blair called back. "It was private. We're not redoing them."
"Sweetie, I'd like to see a new one," she said firmly.
"No, Naomi," Jim said firmly, earning a glare. "We nearly got shot during the last one. Between that and the Canadians wanting to see the babies, I doubt it'll be safe for years. Our private ones are good enough for Blair and I. Accept it or not."
She started to cry. "How can you be so mean to my baby boy," she complained, heading into the bathroom.
"It's not like he could get rid of me anyway," Jim called after her. Sophia walked past him and slapped him across the back of the head. "Hey!"
"You hush! Mothers always know best."
Jim looked down at her. "That would require her to be here more often than a few weeks every two or three years," he shared. "Blair and I said our vows in the middle of a shootout. It was all we needed. She can deal with it." She glared at him. "I mean it."
She grabbed him by the ear, twisting it until he bent down. "New parents often want a renewal of their vows. It takes away the insecurity of having a child. Do so now if you must, but placate her or she will plague you about it forever. I know her kind." She let him go and went back to the kitchen.
Jim trudged up the stairs and gave Blair a kiss. "You're mine, right?"
"Of course I am," Blair said with a grin. "Guide and Sentinel forever."
"That's so sweet," Naomi said from the top of the stairs. "Now the other part."
"Mother, Guides and Sentinels are genetically soulmated for eternity," Blair told her. "Saying that we are Guide and Sentinel means everything else you could have wanted and then some. It also means I'm probably not going to live long past Jim's death. Or else I'll be insane or insensate. It means that even if I wanted to, I can't leave him because he'd die without me and therefore I'd go too." She sniffled. "Do not start, Naomi. I am a shaman, fully recognized." She nodded and headed back downstairs. "Better?" he whispered.
Jim nodded. "Ray's Ma is fierce."
"She is, but she's a good woman," Blair assured him. "Now, get me some food and bring the babies up here to sleep with us."
"I've got the crib set up," Jim complained, heading down to do as he said. "Better?" he asked Ray's mother.
"Much. Now you can counter her arguments." She looked at her son. "You won't get off that easy. There will be a priest involved."
"It's not legal, Ma."
"So? There must be a priest somewhere who does such things. Find him!"
"Yes, Ma," Ray said patiently.
"There's one in town but he's Lutheran," Blair called down.
"We are Catholic, nothing else will do," Sophia told him. She dished up the food and handed Jim a plate, letting him carry Blair's while Ray carried Stanley's. It was only right for fathers to take care of the new mothers when they had just given birth. She followed with the babies, settling them were the parents could see them while they ate. "You eat up," she ordered. "I will not have you wasting away to nothingness. Feel fortunate that you're not breast feeding." Both men shuddered at that. "Good boys. You eat." She kissed them each on the forehead, then went down to check on the nursery and give it a good cleaning. What she found amazed her, apparently Jim did know how to clean things properly. A good spouse was so hard to find and it looked like Blair had found one equal to one of her own children.
Stanley and Ray shared a look, then a sigh. They'd have to convince her that they weren't suited soon. Or else they'd find themselves married and together until she died, and probably afterwards as well. "At least you can cook," Stanley muttered.
"Yeah, and you could be scrawnier so it won't hurt you any," Ray agreed.
"Oh, kiss already," Naomi ordered. Both men looked at her and she growled. "Now!" Ray walked over and gave Ray a peck then backed away and wiped his lips off. "There, see, that wasn't so bad. You'll get used to it," she said in her usual cheerful voice. "I'm sure Jim and Blair can tell you all about the joys of gay sex and marriage."
"I already know," Stanley told her. "I'm a widow."
"Oooh, you poor thing." She gave him a hug then gave one to Ray. "I'm sure he understands that you'll need time so he won't push you to do anything right away."
"That's gonna be odd," Stanley noted, grinning at her. "I'm usually a top." Ray shuddered. "So yeah, we'll handle it. Thanks though." He stuffed his mouth full and chewed very hard.
Blair leaned over. "We're not becoming mothers like them," he whispered. "I swear I will hurt myself if I do that."
Stanley snickered. "Yeah, me too," he agreed, grinning at Blair.
"Oooh, a quad," Naomi said happily. Everyone shook their heads. "I'm sure you'll see it soon enough," she told them, heading down to go fuss in the nursery. "Jim, where are the stuffed animals?"
"The baby books and experts said no stuffed animals in the crib," Jim told her. "It's a leading cause of suffocation in babies." He walked that way and looked inside, pointing at a shelf. "They'll go there as we collect them until he's old enough to play with them."
"Fine," she sighed, looking miserable. "Spoil my spoiling."
"Hey, he can play with them when he's older, just not until he's able to walk." He left her alone, giving Sophia a desperate look. "Help," he mouthed. She smiled and nodded, winking at him. Maybe she wasn't such a beast of a mother after all.