Congratulations, It's A...
John walked into the office, not expecting to see what he was seeing. Sam, picking her nose. "Do I want to ask?" he asked her.
"Cat hair," she explained with a wry smile.
"I didn't know you had a cat."
"Five years ago, and I'm allergic."
"Ah, cat hair, the immortal fuzz," Blair said as he walked in. "You'll never get rid of all of it."
"Too true," John agreed.
"I pulled this sweater out of storage this morning," Sam told them. "Then I sucked in a large ball of fur."
"Ah, so you were trying to get it out," Blair said as he headed for the coffee maker. "Who perked?" he asked.
"Maria. She's been here for about an hour." Both men looked at her. "Her mother's in town."
"Ah," Blair said wisely. "Jim does the same thing whenever my mother comes in. Speaking of which, she should be showing up any day now." He poured himself some hot water and grabbed one of his teabags, dropping it into the cup. "Anything new?"
"Just a few little spots to go over for the court case," Sam told him. "That's all you have to do today." Blair grinned at that. "Then I want to talk to you about the proposal you put on my desk last night." She stood up. "Into my office please," she ordered with a smile. He walked that way, his cup carefully cradled in his hands like it was the most precious thing in the world.
John sat down at his desk, shaking his head. He didn't know what was up with those two. He *liked* Sam, but not enough to spend every few days with her. He looked toward the door as the buzzer at the keycard slot went off and stood up to go see who had forgotten their ID badge this time. Standing there was a delivery kid, about middle teens, with greasy hair, and a single rose in a crystal vase. "Yeah?" he asked, opening the outer door to the unit.
"Delivery for Dr. Samantha Waters?" the kid asked, holding out a clipboard. He watched as John signed it for. "So, what is this place anyway?"
"This is where we catch all those people who go bump in the night," John said as he took the flower from him. "All the really bad and sick guys go through here." He tossed the kid a dollar tip and headed back to Sam's office. "Boss lady," he called as he came closer. "Strange delivery from an admirer." He walked in and saw her lose all color in her face. "What? It's a rose." He put it down. "I can have it checked for explosives if you want."
Sam shook her head quickly. "No, it should be fine. Thank you, John." She looked it over. "No card?"
"The kid didn't come bearing one. I can call down to the flower shop if you want, see who sent it?" Her behavior was disturbing him. Sam was a pretty together woman, she didn't faint because someone sent her a rose. She probably didn't get them that often, but it was still an atypical reaction. "Want me to call?" he asked again.
She shook her head. "No, I'll do it."
"No, you're going to call Bailey," Blair said firmly. She looked at him. "Or I will. The last time I saw him, he ordered me to look after you and I'm going to do it, even if he hadn't threatened to do horrible things to me while I slept."
Sam chuckled weakly. "Thank you, Blair. I'll call him after I find out who sent the flower." She pushed some hair back behind her ear. "Why don't you two go over your notes and practice being deposed?" They got the hint, but they also gave each other one of those silent communication looks. "I'll handle it," she reminded them. The men left her alone with the flower. She hadn't gotten one of those since she had shot *him*. A red rose was *his* thing, the thing he had taunted her with when he had stalked her. And now one showed up again, but *he* was dead. She had shot him herself. Had watched him gasp out his last breath. So who had sent it? She picked up the phone and dialed her boss's cellphone from memory. "Bailey, it's me. I just got a rose." The phone fell from her fingers as she caught sight of a small ribbon on the side. A blue ribbon? What, did she win something?
Blair looked up as Jim walked in, nodding toward the office. "It's your turn to go talk to Sam. She's freaked because she got sent a rose."
John smacked himself on the forehead. "No wonder. That was *his* thing!" He stood up and headed in there, without knocking. "Hey, I just remembered," he told her, giving her a hug. "Want me to stomp on it for you?" Sam pointed at the blue ribbon. "What's that?"
"It was up against the bottom of the rose and slowly unwound," she told him. "I have no idea what it means." She looked up at him. "Bailey said he's coming."
"Good, because you're a wreck," Blair said from the doorway. "Come on, Jim and I are driving you home and watching over you three." He watched as John pulled her up and grabbed her briefcase, taking both from him so he could wrap an arm around Sam's waist and walk her down to the garage. "Jim!" he called. "We're going!"
"Coming, just getting one of the good SUV's from the motor pool," Jim called back. He jogged after them, meeting them at the elevator. "Information for those of us who don't know?" he asked.
Sam swallowed hard. "Until a few years ago, I had a stalker. Serial killer, killed about fifty people that we found." She looked at the men. "He killed my first husband."
"And that was his sign?" Jim asked. She nodded. "Bailey's coming?" She nodded again. "All right. We're going to take you home and set up a watch around you," he said calmly. "I'm sure you've been here before."
"We're not going to restrict your movements, just observe for right now," Blair added. He looked at Jim. "Locking her in her house won't help her, but watching to see who's watching will." Jim nodded at the wisdom. "I'll even cook you guys lunch," he offered when Sam hadn't said anything.
She smiled weakly at him. "I'm sure it'll be great, Blair. Chloe would love to have you come help her with her cooking lessons." She flinched as the elevator dinged and opened. Jim walked out first, hand on his gun, as they escorted her to one of the bulletproof SUV's that they used for stakeouts. She even let Blair buckle her in, she was too deep in her thoughts to protest the care they were taking with her. She knew he was dead, she had killed him herself.
Bailey strode into the VCTF LA's office, looking like he owned the place and was about ready to tear it apart. "Hello?" he called.
"In here," John called from the meeting room. He looked out. "Sam's at home with Jim and Blair guarding her. Kowalski's on standby, but he's out doing work for the LAPD and I'm waiting on lab results." He ducked back inside, looking at the scanned-in pictures of the vase, flower, and ribbon.
"That's new," John Grant, head over the New York VCTF, said as he walked in. "Jack never left a vase."
"Or a ribbon," Bailey said grimly. "How is she?"
"Last I heard, Blair was telling her outrageous stories and forcing her to laugh," John said with a shrug. "It was working."
Bailey sat down at the head of the table, looking over the images. "Nothing written in blacklight ink?" John shook his head. "No messages?"
"And no dead bodies to correlate it with," John added. "I'm pretty sure she's not seeing someone, so I ruled the surprised actions of a lover out already."
John Grant sat down, staring at the images. "Why a blue ribbon?" He looked at his and Sam's boss. "Something she won?"
"Or some other sort of message," Bailey said as he stared at them.
"I had a sudden thought about baby boys," John admitted. "I checked, there's something you should see. I found it right before you called." He called up the other screen, putting it up on the big monitor at the end of the table. "That was entered today, according to the computer records Maria found." Bailey looked at him. "She's our computer person."
"I know, but what made you make that jump?"
"I considered all the times you got something blue," John said with a shrug. "And I got an email from a former coworker who just had a son."
Bailey smiled at him. "Good work. Can we trace this person?"
"Maria's working on it down in Computer Services with the regional hackers. They think they have a better way of tracking people." John Grant looked interested. "They're testing it here for use in the other offices."
"Oh. I guess we'll be getting it in a year then," John Grant sighed. "Any idea who the rapist that leaves Milli Vinilli lyrics on the bodies is?"
John shrugged. "Never had a run-in with him. Sounds bad though." John Grant nodded.
"Back to the business at hand. John, can you give me directions to Sam's house? I want to go tell her about this."
"Already slipped it to Blair," John told him. "He promised to break it to her gently. He hasn't called back since, but he's probably still in one piece."
Bailey shook his head, waiting while the other man wrote out the directions for him. "Both of you stay here or call in your night shift." He walked away, leaving them alone.
"So, a son?" John asked. "I wonder how that happened?"
"Blair said something about her saying he was a sick fuck," John said with a shrug.
John Grant nodded. "Yup, he was. He killed, he tortured, and when he got her, he tried to make her into his protégé. I have no doubt that he could have done something like this, I'm just wondering how."
"One of the processes that has come out of the infertility treatment has been to suck the DNA out of a borrowed egg and implant another set of DNA in there, not to clone but to make it an egg."
"So you're saying that he's somehow gotten her DNA and did this?" John nodded. "Would it be very hard? Take a lot of equipment?"
"He couldn't do it in the bathroom, but I've seen some small labs that could do it. Some cold storage, a powerful microscope, some petri dishes, and a mother."
"With our luck, it was probably his mother," John Grant snorted. "She's the real reason why Jack was insane. She turned him psychotic and then his illness added onto it." He shook his head. "I'm glad I won't ever have to deal with him again."
John started to open his mouth, but their computer person came in. Her flannel outer shirt was open to show off her sweaty tank-top, and her jeans were damp too. "Air conditioning went out down there," she explained as she sat down in her seat. "So far, we've tracked him through grade school." She looked at the men. "You did count and realize that the boy's sixteen?"
"Chloe's age," John Grant noted grimly. He looked at the birth certificate. "The boy would have been born about three weeks after her."
"Did Sam use infertility treatments?" John asked. His counterpart shrugged.
"Maybe you should ask," Maria suggested.
"I think I'm going to let her process for a day," John Grant said wisely. "She's probably very wound up right now."
Sam threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, Blair, the trouble you get into," she chuckled. "How did you get out of there?"
"Jim," he said simply, sharing her smile. "The big oaf tackled this guy, sending them sliding across the concrete floor, and then expected me to bandage his scrapes." His phone rang. "Sorry. Yeah?" he answered. He snorted. "Tough, you can tell her your version of events later." He listened. "Thanks." He hung up. "Someone with a heavily scarred face is coming this way in an official vehicle."
"That would be Bailey," Angel said from the kitchen, carrying out a tray of drinks. "I'll go get another glass." She walked back into the kitchen, coming out with another glass just as Blair opened the door. "Want a drink?" she called.
Bailey smiled at the beautiful light skinned woman, who happened to be a great artist in and out of the kitchen. "Sure."
"It's my recipe," Blair told him as he walked past him. "Any new news?"
Bailey looked at Sam and she smiled sadly. "He told you?"
"He sat down next to me and put his arm around my shoulders, and told me about him. He even patted my hand," Sam told him. "Do we know anything about this boy?"
"He'd be about Chloe's age," Bailey said as he sat down, taking his fruit drink from Angel. "We have Maria working on it right now and she's been in contact with George since it came in." He sipped the fruit drink, nodding. "This is really nice."
"I learned it from a Polynesian teacher we had guest-teaching at Rainier. She loved smoothies." He took his own glass, sipping it slowly. "Lots of rum," he told Angel.
"Rum flavoring," she corrected. "No alcohol for us."
Bailey looked outside. "How long has Jim been sitting out there?"
"He's coming in as soon as Ray gets here," Sam told him. "I've got it, Bailey, relax." He looked at her, giving her a touch of disbelief. "I'm the one who's supposed to be panicking, not you," she reminded him quietly.
"This kid might not want to hurt you," Blair said, putting out his opinion. Everyone looked at him. "Why announce yourself that way *before* you do something?"
"Point," Bailey conceded. He nearly jumped as the door opened, admitting Jim. "Ray's here?"
"Here, briefed, and shown the pictures that we've found so far." He handed over a small stack. "Maria found copies of his school pictures."
Everyone took a look at the copies, and it was obvious that this boy was Sam's son. He looked a lot like her daughter, Chloe, and very little of his father. Except for his eyes, he had Jack's eyes.
"Sam, I have to ask, how did he get an egg from you?" Bailey asked quietly. Blair glared at him. "We need to know in case he killed someone in a lab. There are still unexplained deaths in that case."
Angel smiled a little too sweetly at him. "Haven't you heard of cell sucking?"
Bailey nodded. "I have, but I didn't think it was around then."
Blair nodded. "It was. We found out we could do that back in the seventies." He sipped his drink. "Jim, go grab a glass, man." He glared at Bailey again. "There's lot of different ways he could have done this. It isn't her fault."
Sam laid a hand on his knee. "No, he's not saying it's my fault. He's saying that we have to have an explanation before things get out of hand, and he's right." She looked at her boss. "I did do a short bout of infertility treatment, we had three eggs stored in Virginia. When I got pregnant the natural way, we opted to donate them to science."
"Which would have been Jack," Angel finished. "Aren't you glad he's dead?"
Sam smiled and nodded. "I'd like to dig him up and throttle him though." She sipped her drink, wincing at the taste. "Are you sure you didn't put rum in this? It's really strong."
Angel rolled her eyes. "Yes, Sam, I'm sure I didn't put rum in it. I know better than to feed you guys alcohol during a case." She finished her drink and poured herself some more, giving the last of it to Jim when he came back with a glass. "Any new news?"
"Just that we've tracked him through Junior High," Jim said as he sat down next to her. "Then he seems to disappear into some sort of gifted program that's non-existent." He shrugged and looked at Bailey. "Ray's going to be calling with hourly updates as he gets them."
"Sam, do you want to go somewhere safe?" Bailey asked.
She shook her head. "I agree with my team, let's wait and see what he wants. He hasn't killed anyone yet, he only sent me a notice that he was alive." She finished off her drink. "Until he does something more than announce himself, I'd like to stay here."
"I'm following Chloe to school," Jim told her. "We arranged it this afternoon when I went to pick her up. She rolled her eyes, but then turned to her friends and said ‘look, it's my bodyguard'." Sam shook her head, but she was smiling. "The school's fine with it. Her friends thought I'd be good at it because I had muscles. One of them even tried to hit on me." Angel gave him a sideways look. "I smiled and reminded her I was her parents' age," he told her, making her grin.
"Chloe and I are still on for this weekend of riding," Blair added. "I'll ask her if she still wants to go after she wakes up from her nap."
"I think she'd almost kill to get out of the city right now," Sam admitted.
"As long as everything's still safe," Bailey told Blair.
"And if not, we could probably send an agent with you two," Sam added. Bailey nodded at that concession. "Did she decide which stables she's dragging you to yet?" Blair nodded. "Is it the big one she visited?" Blair nodded again, finishing off his drink.
"She's very focused," Angel reminded Sam. "She's been talking about that one roan gelding all week." The mother smiled. "And I bet they have something Blair-sized there too."
" Blair actually spent a summer working on a cattle ranch during his undergrad," Blair told her with a smile. "He knows how to ride already." Sam laughed. "It was easy-ish money," he explained to the group.
"No digs that summer?" Jim asked. "I thought you went on digs every summer."
"I used to, when I could get a spot. I got preferential placement the year before and was on the waiting list for the one that summer, mostly because I didn't feel like going to Sudan, but no one got sick or died so I was free and needed the money. Bill was a great guy, he taught me a lot about animals." He looked toward the door as the knob rattled. "Ray?" he asked.
Jim nodded and got up to answer it, letting in the last member of their team. "Problems?" He moved the bag the younger man had dropped closer to the wall so that no one would trip over it if they had to leave quickly.
"Yeah, neighborhood security didn't like us setting up out there. A neighbor complained," he told Sam. "I pulled the van into your driveway and they made me come in here as soon as I forwarded everything to my cellphone and the small receiver setup.." He grinned at Bailey. "They seemed almost insulted that she needed us."
"I'll have a talk with them on the way out," Bailey agreed. "Go ahead and set up the backup receiver."
"Take up part of the dining room table," Sam told him. "It's got a media plug beside the china cabinet." He nodded and headed back to the doorway to grab the bag he had dropped. She watched as he set up, but also watched Blair, who was watching Ray closely. "Want to go help him?"
"Nope," Blair told her, refocusing on her. "Just wondering how we get neat toys."
"We pay too much for them," Bailey said with some humor.
Blair grinned at him. "I know some engineering students who need the work, man. Want me to tell them to submit something? I'm sure they'd like a nice, juicy federal contract."
Bailey shrugged. "We have submission forms if you want them. We're a very technology heavy unit and we're always getting people who want us to try out their new gadgets." He stood up. "Are you sure that you're going to be fine?"
"We'll be camping here," Jim told him seriously. "No one's getting through that door without being dead or invited."
"All right then," Angel sighed. "Another round of agents living with us."
Sam shook her head. "Not quite. We'll have some guards, but I really don't think this kid will harm us. Push buttons, make references back to Jack, but I don't get the feeling of malice that I got from Jack's missives."
Angel looked marginally happier. "Great, then it won't last as long this time." She stood up. "If you're all staying, then we need groceries."
"I'll go with you," Bailey told her. He watched as Blair whipped out a pad and a pen, writing a bunch of things down and handing them over. "I'm not shopping for you two too," he noted dryly.
"That's for tonight, I'm cooking," Blair told him. "Add ice cream to the list too please," he asked with a smile.
Bailey shook his head as he followed Angel out, that boy could wrap people around his fingers so easily. It was too bad he was so damaged, he might be good for Sam. His focus would help her get over the final hurdle and let her start a real relationship again. He snorted as Ray ran out to move the surveillance van, it had been taking up most of the driveway.
Angel looked over at Jim, they were playing cards at the table while he watched the surveillance cameras. "I have to go see a friend's opening night," she told him, trying to be subtle. Jim grunted and laid down a card, and she realized that her earlier observations about men still held true. Subtle didn't work well with them. "Want to go with me?"
Jim looked over at her. "Like on a date?" he asked, looking slightly confused. She nodded. "What sort of art does he do?"
"He paints things on balls." She laid down a card, then the rest of her hand. "Gin."
Jim sighed and put his down, writing the total on the score sheet. "Is he any good?" She nodded. "Just the art show?"
"I wouldn't be adverse to dinner, but you'd have to get it," she told him. "I'm still between commissions."
He thought, then nodded. "Okay. I like you, we can go out as friends."
She sighed mentally. Sometimes men just didn't get it. From the living room, Sam laughed; it was almost like her best friend could read her mind.
Blair smiled at Ray as he sat down beside him. "Anything yet from John?"
"Just some grumbling because his plumbers called," Ray admitted. "Nothing else yet, it's like the kid dropped off the face of the earth around the age of twelve." He leaned a little closer to his buddy. "Are we still on for dinner Sunday?" he asked quietly.
"Yup, I'm going riding on Saturday with Chloe, and if we're done here then we're still on," Blair agreed, giving him a grin. "You still want to go to that club?"
"It's supposed to have a great dance floor," Ray defended. "Besides, it's not like they'll *fire* us for going there."
Blair nodded. "Okay. I could use a good night of shaking loose." He looked up, feeling Jim's eyes on him. "And then maybe a few hours of talking?"
"Definitely," Ray agreed with a grin. "Hey, Jim, wanna switch places yet?"
"No thanks, I'm good," Jim called back. "That car's still sitting across the street though."
"Why hasn't the neighborhood watch people busted them?" Ray asked, getting up to come look at the monitor. "Want me ta go look?" Jim nodded, so he left, walking casually over to the car. "Hey," he said, tapping on the window, his badge in his hand. "Open up." The window went down. "Why are you watching the Water's house?"
The woman in the car held up her private investigator's license. "I'm not watching her, I'm watching the house on the end of the block for a divorce case," she told him, giving him a smile. "And I got it cleared with the neighborhood donut patrol yesterday."
Ray frowned. "Can ya move some?" She shrugged. "We're actively watching the Water's house because of threats made against her." She started the car. "Thanks. Which house?"
"The Ramels, the white one on the left side of the cul-de-sac." She pulled away, moving up by a few houses.
Ray walked back into the house. "She's watchin' the cheaters on the end," he told Jim. "PI, really nice."
"Why wasn't she busted?" Angel asked.
"Neighborhood guys cleared her yesterday. She's moved on." Jim nodded. "She still on the monitors?" Jim checked, then nodded again, putting down his hand of cards.
"Shoot." Angel counted her cards and wrote it down on the score sheet. "Want to keep going, I'm at three hundred already."
Jim smiled. "I didn't bring anything else to do."
"Glad to be your entertainment," she quipped.
Ray flopped back down beside Blair. "She was kinda nice," he admitted. "I haven't liked a PI in ages, but she was pleasant and decent, not even smart ta me."
Blair patted him on the leg. "That's probably why she's still in business in this town of shallow people who think that they're God and why the neighborhood idiots like her." He grinned at his buddy. "I'm still going shopping next weekend." Jim groaned. "And my roommate has made his intentions very clear about not going with me the week before a holiday. Want to come help me pick out presents?"
"Chief, you have two weeks until Thanksgiving, you can wait," Jim told him.
"But the early bird doesn't have to deal with the mall on December 23," Blair reminded him. Jim shuddered. "Exactly."
"Go with him," Jim told Ray, staring him down. "I refuse to step foot into the mall this time of year."
Ray shrugged. "Cool with me. We'll go watch the freaks together."
"Yes, there will be those too," Angel said wisely. "Please don't take Chloe, she wanted green hair last time." She gathered up all the cards and shuffled them. "To five hundred?"
"Sounds good," Jim agreed. He accepted his newest hand and moved them around to suit himself.
Blair ignored the pair at the table, Jim could be so dense about women. "I've got to get some Christmas and Chanukah presents, and one Kwanza one for a friend back in Cascade."
"And a present for Simon," Jim reminded him.
"He's on my list," Blair said with an eye-roll. "I made my list very thoroughly."
"Good. Find something for me to get him," Jim said with a grin.
Blair just shook his head while Ray laughed. "Sure, Jim."
Outside the house, a young man strolled down the street walking his dog, looking in all the windows. He had noticed the extra cars at the one house but all of them seem to have left, except for the van. Maybe he'd drop in on them later after all. The owner was supposed to be a big fan of art.
Sam looked over Blair's proposal and tried to think of a way to help him. Profiling school she could get him into, but a regular college for psychology classes would be a bit harder. She didn't know anyone in any of the local departments. Maybe Bailey would, but she didn't. She signed off on it though, it'd be an immense help, that's why Blair was saying he'd go. She hadn't signed on to become the secondary profiler, but she was doing that and running the unit too, and it was taking up all her time. She enjoyed spending time with her daughter and her present work level wasn't allowing it. Though, Chloe seemed to really like Blair. Those two were nearly as close of friends as Chloe and Angel were. Blair seemed to grow on people that way.
Maybe they could make this work, it wouldn't be the first time her daughter knew more about someone than she did. Chloe had proven herself very astute about people, up to the point of having her dismiss one of their bodyguards in Atlanta because she felt ‘funny' around him. The agent had later been charged with child molestation of six other girls. So maybe Chloe knew something about Blair that she didn't, but at least he was healing. She'd hate it if Blair and Ray started having problems though. They worked well together. Both were energetic, and they complimented each other. Blair knew a lot about a lot of subjects, but Ray knew the streets and the people on them. Together, you could leave them somewhere and they'd be able profile a neighborhood in a few hours. They'd done it on the team's last case, finding out why a neighborhood was hiding the rapist, even though they were being preyed upon. Ray had found out why, the rapist was the local crime boss's nephew, and Blair had convinced the neighborhood to stand up to him, and the crime boss to not hurt them for it. Sam sighed, she could use two more teams like Ray and Blair and she didn't want to see them hurt for anything. Especially not when Blair was getting closer to healed and he started dating women again.
She tossed the proposal aside and laid back on her bed. It was weird and tiring having a house full of people again. It had just been her, Angel, and Chloe for so long that all these extra people trying to be quiet were sticking out vividly. Ray had just snuck past her door on the way to the bathroom, Jim and Angel were talking quietly in the dining room, and Chloe was listening to that god-awful music again. "Chloe!" she yelled. "That was confiscated! You had better not have gotten that CD out of my closet." She climbed out of bed, but Blair met her at the door, holding the CD out. "Thanks, but I could have...."
Blair waved a hand. "Not a problem, I was in going in there to talk to her anyway." He walked away, going back to Chloe's room.
Sam snapped the CD in half and tossed it out. She had told her daughter she couldn't have any of that misogynist bastard's CDs before her daughter had bought it. Chloe knew the rules and the punishments. When she moved out, she could buy herself another copy. Until then, Sam was going to keep destroying them as soon as they were carried in the door. She winced as the new music started. "That's not much better!" she called.
Chloe came down the hall and walked in. "It's the old school rap, mom. It's about the inequalities in the system. Yeah, it's got a few bad words, but nothing about killing women, or about raping women, or even about slapping women. Blair even explained away the racist remarks by telling me about the history of the civil rights movement."
Sam sighed. "Fine, but keep it down. You know I hate rap music."
"Yes, mom." Chloe gave her a hug. "He also burned me a few of the other songs back then. Did you know that gansta rap and dance weren't always the only styles that there were?"
"Well, I feel old now," Angel said from the doorway. Chloe grinned at her and ran back to her room. "Jim and I are going to go outside and check out the grill that was left here. Ray's *insisting* that we've got to have a unit party sometime and we're the only ones with a yard."
Sam chuckled. "That'd be fine, but they're in charge of the food. Have fun." She closed her door and locked it, not because she was worried, but because everyone would keep bothering her if she didn't. Chloe's music started to go up again, but it quickly got turned back down. She sighed and went back to her bed. It had been a long day and tomorrow was going to be just as full of helpful people.
Jim sat up from his position on the couch and looked over at Blair and Ray, who were both staring at the door too. All three men drew their guns and held them ready. "Freeze!" Jim shouted as the door opened, scaring the young man who had been walking the dog earlier. "Federal Agents, get against the wall!"
Ray grabbed the guy and shoved him against the wall, patting him down. "Nothing," he announced. He slapped the guy across the back of the head. "Aren't you dumb, breaking into the house of one of the top FBI agents in the country."
The guy whimpered. "I'm just an art thief, really. I'll cooperate, just don't hurt me!" He started to cry.
"Great," Blair sighed. "Paperwork to keep us up." He grabbed the phone and called the cops. They'd still have forms, but not as many.
Sam and Chloe walked out a few minutes later to see the thief sitting on the floor in full lotus position and Jim scowling at Blair.
"No one will be able to get him up," Jim protested.
"Which means he can't run away," Blair reminded his partner. "Just because *you* forgot your handcuffs doesn't mean we have to sit here and stare down at him. This way he's not going anywhere and if he tries, we'll hear him grunting in pain long before he can get up."
Sam laughed. "It's a novel approach," she told Jim. "I doubt I could get out of that position fast enough to run away."
"Me either," Chloe agreed. "And I'm much more flexible than you are, mom."
"Gee, thanks," Sam said dryly, ruffling her daughter's hair.
"I can," Blair said with a grimace at Jim. "As I've had to prove once because his army buddy wanted to surprise him by sneaking into the loft."
Jim just shook his head and went out to wait on the cops. He wasn't getting into this argument again. It hadn't been his fault anyway, his friend had wanted to surprise him by breaking in and jumping on him. Boy, had he been sorry. The cops pulled up with their lights on, but no siren, and two large men got out. "He's in there," he said, pointing behind him. "Watch out for the short guy with curly hair, he's in a sniping and vicious mood." He followed the cops inside, and watched as Blair fed them good coffee. Both cops laughed at the position the thief was in, they thought it was a great idea for when you didn't have handcuffs too.
Sam and Chloe went back to bed, they weren't needed. Jim gave their backs a look of longing, he wanted his new bed too. Or even his old one, where things were never this complicated.
John walked into the unit and stopped dead. In front of him, hanging from the ceiling was a ‘congratulations, it's a boy' banner, with teddy bear balloons floating around it. Someone was going to get it. He called the building manager first. "This is VCTF, up on the sixteenth floor, and someone appears to have broken in and added stuff to our space?" He listened. "No, none of us have children. Please send up the security team, Director Malone, and the crime scene unit." He hung up before the manager could complain or ask any questions, and dialed Blair's cellphone. "Keep her there," he said quietly. "Joshua's struck again." He hung up and waited. Bailey was somewhere in the building, as the page going through the PA system proved. Security rushed in a few minutes later and looked around. "It's Dr. Water's latest stalker," he explained. "Ask Director Malone." The security guys all looked gruff, they all liked Sam, she was a nice lady who didn't talk down to them. Someone was going to pay!
Bailey walked in a few minutes later, already shaking his head. "This is tacky," he announced.
"So are the cigars sitting by the coffeepot," John agreed. "But we didn't do this."
"I know." Bailey looked around, noticing the crime scene people walking their way. He went to let them in, explaining it to them. They didn't look too happy either. Then he went to talk to the security chief, someone was going to get it for letting this kid into the unit.
Blair casually walked over and grabbed Sam's purse, putting it down for her. "That was John, he sounded stressed when he said you couldn't leave yet." Everyone looked at him. "That's all he said. We're staying until we get the all clear."
Sam glared at him. "I need to see the scene too."
Angel took the direct approach, dialing the unit. She smiled when she heard the gruff voice on the other end. "John Grant? You're in town?"
"He is?" Sam asked.
Angel nodded. "So, how bad is it?" She frowned. "Really? Do you need Sam? Blair just said she's staying here until you guys call back." She laughed and looked up at her best friend. "Bailey agreed, you're staying here so you don't throw a fit. His words." She listened some more. "Sure, we can do pictures. Thanks." She hung up. "Apparently the kid walked into your unit last night and hung up stuff." Sam started to glare again. "Balloons, party favors. Cigars. Big banner." Sam shook her head with a sigh and sat down. "But they agreed, you're staying here." She smiled at Blair. "Next time, she can eat you alive."
Blair grinned. "I'm sure she will, but Bailey said that I could boss her around for her own good. He said he expected it of me."
She punched him as hard as she could on the arm. "Just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I need protecting. I don't need a keeper."
"No, right now you need a guard who's looking at the *entire* picture, not your daughter and not your friend. I'm looking out for all of you, not worrying if this kid's going to attack my kid at school, or if he's going to kill someone. I'm here to protect you all and I'm going to do that, even if I do have to become a pushy asshole. I can even give you references if you want. I'm very good in that state."
She shook her head. "I'm looking at the big picture, Blair."
"Then why did you keep Chloe home from school?" Jim asked. "We have a plan in place for her safety." She opened her mouth. "It's not like we have a lot to do right now, Sam, so let us do our job. Even if you don't like it, you're reacting. Let us think while you react. It's a privilege of rank."
She was quiet for a moment, then nodded. "All right. Chloe, if you want, you can go to school." Her daughter smiled. "Go get ready." She looked at Angel. "Are you coming with us?"
Angel nodded. "Yup. I plan on tackling John so I can find out why he can't write letters." She watched as Sam went back to her room. "Guys, that was really close. I'm not sticking up for you again," she said quietly.
Blair looked over at her. "I meant what I said. She needs someone to look out for her because she's looking out for you guys. That's why we're a team. If she can't accept it, I'm sorry, but she needs it more than you and Chloe do. This kid hasn't come anywhere near you two but he's sent her two different messages." He crossed his arms. "It's wonderful to have a family to look out for, but someone has to look out for the person who looks after the family." He walked over to the porch door and walked outside, stopping when he saw the young man in the backyard. "Jim!" he called. He pointed at where the guy had run, watching as Jim followed him, Ray with him. "Shit!" He grabbed his phone and called John. He had to know.
That kid had to be Joshua, he looked almost exactly like Chloe.
Jim and Ray came back empty handed and all three men silently agreed that they were moving this family right then and there.
Sam looked around the spacious apartment Blair and Jim had found for themselves, nodding at the accommodations. "This is really nice, guys."
"Thanks," Blair told her. "I decided I wanted a bedroom that was bigger than a closet this time." He looked at Jim, who had grunted. "And he still has his staring off into space spots."
"It was Scott Stoddard's old place," Jim explained. "Three floors that he wasn't doing anything with." He looked around with pride. "I like what we've managed to build, it's comfortable."
"And we remembered the extra room for when Naomi drops in," Blair said happily. Jim grunted in agreement. "I got an email from her. She'll be here sometime in the next month." Jim grunted again, but this time one eyebrow went up. "And she's found more baby pictures." Jim shook his head and walked away. He liked Blair's mother, but she was best in small doses, like a lunch meeting. Preferably without the baby pictures she'd make him look at. He headed for the kitchen to get himself a drink. "Blair, show Sam to the office. She can have that room, Chloe can have Naomi's, and Angel can have yours."
Blair gave him a look. "Why am I giving up my room when we have the second office almost done?"
"Because there's no bed in there, Darwin," Jim said with a smile. That'd pay Blair back for making him run after the guy this morning. Fast little sucker too, like a rabbit.
"We could always go pick up the futon," Blair reminded him. "You do have a truck and they said it'd be in yesterday."
"Point," Jim sighed. "Come on, let the women wander around and look at your trophies." Blair shook his head. "I'm not carrying it by myself and it's *your* office."
"We have to wait for the other guards," Blair reminded him. "We don't have security here yet."
"Point," Jim agreed reluctantly. He hated it when Blair was right. Ray bounced in a few minutes later with a few of the cookie-cutter agents LA seemed to breed by the dozen. "We'll be back," he announced. "Leave my setup on the roof alone." He followed Blair out to the truck.
Sam sighed in relief. "Thank God. Maybe we'll get some calmness now. Chloe, want to go look out at the water with me?"
Ray shook his head. "I don't think so, not without either body armor or some guards."
Angel snickered quietly. This was almost funny, everyone bossing Sam around this way.
Everyone jumped when someone knocked on the door, letting Ray go answer it. "Yeah?" he asked the redhead standing on the other side.
"Is my son here?" Naomi asked.
Ray blinked a few times. "He'll be back in a few. Come on in and be frisked. Nothin' personal, but it's gotta be done." He patted her down efficiently and turned her loose. "Thanks for your cooperation." He headed for the kitchen to put on some coffee.
Sam smiled at Naomi; she'd seen pictures of her before. "I'm Sam," she introduced, "Blair's boss. This is my daughter, Chloe, and my roommate, Angel." Everyone shook hands. "Blair said you were coming this month."
Naomi smiled. "I got done recentering and reconnecting to myself a little early." She hugged Angel. "It's always good to meet sisters of love." She patted Chloe on the head. "Want to go watch the water with me? They've got a great view." She led the girl away. "Just don't touch Jim's telescope, he growls when he has to fix it."
Angel, looking a little scared, looked over at her roommate. "Did she just say what I thought she did?" Sam nodded. "Okay then. I think I'm going to go tour Blair's trophies. Shall we?" Sam walked after her, stopping to look at a painting.
Ray opened the door when he heard the kick, frowning at the box the men were carrying. "Body?" he asked.
"Futon," Blair panted.
"Mommy's here!" Naomi called.
Jim dropped the box.
"Jim!" Blair yelled, extracting his foot. "I think you broke it!" He sat down and pulled off his sneaker so he could look at the swelling flesh. "Yup, it's broken."
"Oh, dear," Naomi said, bending down to kiss his cheek. "I'm sure it'll be fine soon enough." She kissed Jim's cheek too, then pinched Ray's for the third time that day. "Want some help? I put one of those together last month for a friend. I could probably even do it by myself if you wanted to take him to get x-rays," she said in the most nauseatingly cheerful tone of voice.
Jim just nodded. Naomi was too happy to be around for long. "Come on, Chief, let's go get you a cast."
"Man, I hate casts," Blair complained as he hobbled out toward the truck. "Make sure I get an air cast this time, okay? No telling the nurses to bandage me up past the knee this time."
"But you quit moving," Jim noted smugly as he got in to drive.
Naomi pulled the box inside and closed the door. "Good, now the men are out of the way." She smiled at Chloe and Ray. "You could go too."
Ray shook his head. "Not a chance," he snorted. "Sam's been threatened, this is my job and I'm staying no mater what." He looked her over, he really hated her. She was too perky to be human. "You could always follow them."
Naomi laughed. "Oh, it's good to find a mind that I can joust with. Now help me carry this wherever so I can set it up." He grunted as he picked up one end of the box, letting her lead the way. At least until she went into the wrong room. He knew exactly where Blair wanted it, he'd helped paint last weekend.
Jim smiled at the nurse as he held the door open for Blair. "Broken foot," he told her.
"He still needs to have something over it," she said smartly. "We can't have people running around barefoot here."
"Then get me a wheelchair," Blair said coldly. "I'm in pain, I'm sore, and I'm armed!" She sneered at him. "And I'm a federal agent so I'm just a *little bit* unhinged right now." She walked back inside and got him a wheelchair. She'd let someone else take on the problem case. She had a word with the duty nurse, who took the wheelchair out for her.
"Broken foot?" she asked as Blair sat himself down.
"The big lug dropped a futon on it," Blair explained. "Right about when he heard my mother's voice."
The nurse looked down at Blair. "Are you carrying?"
"I'm a federal agent, but I'll gladly put it in a lockbox," he offered. "Just as long as I get something for the pain."
She smiled. "Good, I'm happy that you're cooperating today, Agent Sandburg." She wheeled him back to the room with the locked boxes that the cops used too. "Just put it right in here and we'll take you to a curtained off area right away so you don't have to threaten another nurse." She watched as he locked the small gun into the box and took the key. "I've been meaning to ask you, why do you carry such a small gun?" she asked as she wheeled him back to a private cubicle.
"I don't like weapons, but if I don't carry one then I get hurt worse," he said with a one-sided shrug. "Every time I consciously forget it, I either end up needing one, getting shot at, or back here." He smiled at her. "Now for the drugs?"
"I thought you were a natural painkiller person," Jim said, looking confused. He'd never seen Blair ask for drugs like this before.
"Jim, my foot is throbbing, my leg is aching, my back is protesting the way I had to walk in here. My nuts hurt from where we almost got into the wreck on the way here and I ran into the gear shift when you took that corner badly. That same turn that sent me into the gearshift also wrenched my shoulder when the seatbelt came undone and that pain is currently sitting in my neck. I want drugs," he said calmly, turning back to the nurse. "Please?"
"Honey, for that sort of pain, I'd want it too." She walked away, going to get him someone who could give him drugs. And who'd help her laugh at the incidents. Really, that man was just too much some days.
Blair looked back at Jim, his serious expression firmly in place. "Jim, the next time someone tries to cut you off, do *not* go up onto a sidewalk and nearly hit a telephone pole. Do not swerve around the telephone pole and nearly tip us over. And do not give me this sort of pain again or you'll be sharing it."
Jim sat down on a chair and waited. Blair would forgive him later.
Sam looked down to the parking lot when she heard someone pulling in. "I wonder who that is?" she muttered, heading back into the apartment. Ray was just opening the door as she got there. "Who is it?" she asked.
"Oh, that's just Bob," Naomi said, giving him a fond smile. "He's my herbalist. He's bringing me stuff to help my poor Blair." She took the bag and paid him, from her son's wallet naturally. "Thank you, Bob." She waved as he walked away and headed for the kitchen to make her poor baby some tea. He'd need it when he got home.
Ray's phone rang and he slapped it , tagging it before pulling it out. "Kowalski," he answered. He smiled. "Hey, Jim, how is he?" He looked at Naomi. "Hold on. Hey, you, it's Jim," he said, handing it over. "Something musta happened. Blair was singin' in the background," he told Sam.
"That poor man," Naomi sighed as she hung up. "They forced those horrible drugs on him." She handed Ray back his phone. "He'll be home in an hour or so, Jim thinks, and Blair's going to go to bed."
"Okay then, we've got to set up security for the night," Ray said, nodding at the agents. "Do that." They walked off, talking about how to deal with the current residence, which had a few different openings. He turned to Sam. "Which room were you gettin'?"
"I was going to take that couch that I napped on earlier," she admitted. "It's reasonably near Blair's room. That leaves the new futon, Jim's office, and Jim's bed."
"Oh, there's a few other spots." Ray looked around. "All right, you, take the guest room. Sam, you and Angel can share the offices, let Chloe have whichever couch she wants. I'll camp on Blair's floor so he's not left alone and the suit-guys'll work on the entries." He walked away, thinking it settled.
"They have a guest room?" Naomi asked.
Sam nodded. "Jim said they made it just for you." She nodded behind her. "Chloe was in there last I knew. Want me to show it to you?" Naomi nodded so they walked that way.
"You seem very comfortable around my son," Naomi said casually. "Is he getting better and ready to move on?"
Sam shrugged. "We're friends. Anything else will have to come from him." She opened the guest room door, startling her daughter, who had sneaked one of Jim's porn magazines out. Or at least she hoped it was Jim's, it was military women.
"Dear, if you wanted to look at those, you should have asked. I know just where Jim and Blair keep their stashes." Chloe blushed and escaped the room.
"We'll be talking," her mother called after her. She shook her head. "That was rather awkward." She waved at the room. "All yours. Angel and I will be in Blair's office." She walked away, heading to the safety of the office. "I just found Chloe looking through a pornographic magazine," she announced as she walked in.
"Hmm," Angel said, looking at the young girl sitting in the corner. "Is that why you came in here bright red?" Chloe nodded. "Was it good?"
"No. It was laying there and I was interested, that's all." She glared at her mother. "It's not a crime to wonder."
"No, it's not," Sam agreed, "but we'll still be discussing this later." She smiled. "I think it's about time for another mother-daughter talk anyway, don't you?"
"If we do, can I go out on a date?" Chloe asked.
Angel laughed. "Sure you can, princess. As long as we meet this person and talk to them first."
"Deal," Chloe said, hopping up and using the chance to escape. She'd rather be embarrassed in private.
Angel and Sam shared a hearty laugh.
Ray popped his head in. "Did you hear anything about an accident?" he asked. Both women shook their heads. "It was on the news. Someone tried to run Jim off the road so he hit a sidewalk. Captured really prettily by a newscrew on lunch break." He grinned. "Caught Blair goin' into the dashboard, the seatbelt snapping on him, and him crashing into Jim's side."
"Jim drives a standard," Sam reminded him with a light blush herself.
"No wonder he was in a lot of pain," Angel said with a grin. "At least they probably know him at the hospital."
Ray nodded. "They're at the usual place. Jim said Blair threatened a nurse if she didn't give him drugs." His grin got brighter. "So I'm really going to be bunking down in there with him in case he needs something. If you need anything, just holler." He ducked back out, heading back to Blair's room. He was turning down the bed for his buddy. Blair would be able to come home and fall right into it.
Sam and Angel started laughing again. It really wasn't funny, but....
Joshua looked around his spacious rented room with a smile. It wasn't as good as the setup he inherited, but it was okay enough, for now. He sat down at the computer, activating the programs his father had put on there to track his favorite obsession, Joshua's mother. "Mommy, I'm coming home," he promised, running a finger down the cheek in her picture. "We'll be together, but not like daddy wanted," he promised her. "I think you'll like me a lot more." He smiled. He hadn't ever really known his father, but his grandmother had been so very helpful before she had died. Too bad about her accident.
He smiled when her address came up as ‘moved to a protected spot'. "I'm sure you'll be very happy together. I think he'd make a lovely step-daddy." He smiled and leaned back. At least until the phone rang. "Yeah? Oh, hey, I've been waiting for you, man. Yeah, got the card right here. 41259218483738739309898. Expiration march of next year. Jack O'Toole. Yup, it's my daddy's." He laughed. "I don't think he'll care if I use it or not. After all, he's the one who gave it to me. Yeah, just send the delivery guy with the slip." He hung up. "Time for the next part. Maybe she'll want to talk to me soon." He switched screens, ordering dinner for himself from a local pizza place that had online ordering. "Yeah, mushrooms," he sighed. "Food of the Gods."
Blair hopped into his and Jim's loft and stopped. His mother was still there. "Not now," he told her, heading for his room. "Let me sleep it off first."
"Dear, your friend is in there waiting on you," she called after him. She glared at Jim. "What did you do to my son this time?"
"Nothing," Jim admitted as he closed the door. "Someone tried to run us off the road. I evaded, otherwise Blair and I would both be hurt much worse than we are." He looked around. "Who's where?"
"Those awful clones of humans are up on the roof and watching some sort of monitor in the kitchen," she said with a wave in that direction. "Sam and Angel are sharing Blair's office. Little Chloe is on a couch and Blair's friend has stated repeatedly that he's camping on my son's floor." Jim frowned at that. "You don't like him?"
"No, but I don't want to know what they're going to do either."
"Chill," Ray said quietly. "I wouldn't ever touch Blair while we're here. He gave me the lay of the land." He nodded back that way. "Any drug instructions?"
"No, he didn't come home with any. The doctor said he could use the refill from his last prescription if he needed something stronger than Tylenol." He rubbed his thumb across his left eyebrow. "He should be fine once he wakes up and starts itching."
"Good deal. I'll deal with him. Marzetti and Falwkes have the roof, everyone else is switching around to do the monitoring gig. Night." He walked away again, going to comfort his buddy.
Naomi stared at his back for a moment, then at Jim again. "You don't like him?" she repeated.
"I like him just fine, but I don't want to have to smell sex in here every day for a month," Jim told her. "It's only polite. Ray's got his own place with a maid service." He walked away, heading for his own room. "Goodnight, Naomi. We'll see you tomorrow." He firmly closed his door before she could ask him any more uncomfortable questions.
Naomi was still frowning as she walked back to her room, but it was okay. Jim would be straight with her tomorrow. He could safely admit to her that the thought of her son being gay bothered him because it brought up questions in his own mind. She'd understand, she was like that and he knew it. They'd have a long talk tomorrow over tea and coffee. She closed her door, wondering what her son was doing to all these nice people. His problems were quickly starting to overshadow Sam's and that wasn't right.
Chloe looked over at the man joining her on her trail ride, smiling to herself. She really liked Blair. He was good for her mother, he made her relax again. Her mother had been happier since meeting him than she had since her husband had died. But she knew that Blair was having some sort of problems that he was seeing someone professional about. He was seeing her mom about them too. She'd overheard them the other night, talking in her mother's office about a rape, Blair's rape. It had made her so mad that she wanted to burst into the office and give him a hug. He obviously needed a hug, he didn't look like the Blair she had met the very first time, back at some conference her mother had dragged her to.
Maybe she'd talk with Blair himself. It might not hurt, and her mother probably wouldn't be too pissed at her for it. If she was butting in, Blair would tell her, he was that sort of guy. The bodyguard behind them made discussing something personal a bit awkward, but it was something she was kind of used to. She looked back and nodded the guard back some. He actually followed the order too, she must be looking a lot like an adult. "Blair?" she asked quietly. He looked over at her. "I heard what you were talking about with mom the other day," she admitted. He went pale. "It doesn't matter to me," she said quickly. "I mean it does, but it makes me angry and I want to go beat the ho down until she's broken, bloody, and begging for a clean death, but it didn't bother me personally. It's not your fault." He nodded once and turned back to the trail. She gathered her courage. "The reason I'm telling you this," she continued, "is because you're good for my mother." He looked at her again. "You untighten my mother until she's loose and cool again, not some uptight bitchy creature that thinks I'm fragile and unable to see boys for the inhuman beings that they are," she said quickly, then took a deep breath. "I think you're really good for her, and if you weren't having the sort of problems that you are, I'd like to think that you and my mom could be really cool together. You know?"
Blair leaned over and gave her a hug. "Thanks, Chloe. It's good to know that you like me that way." He smiled at her. "But your mother and I are just friends."
Chloe laughed and punched him on the arm. "Sure you are. Mom doesn't let just anybody boss her around you know. You achieved the impossible, and didn't even get killed. Uncle Bailey almost died when he tried to protect mom the last time." She glanced back at the guard, then ahead, then back at him. "All I'm saying is that if something happens, then I'm cool with it. You're good for her and I won't be a hell-child to torment you about it. End of discussion." She nudged her horse into moving a bit faster, and heard the guard following her.
Blair let his horse plod along, thinking about what the very insightful child had said. He did like Sam, even that way, but he wasn't going to act on it. And not only because she was his boss either. He liked her as a friend and wanted to keep her as that, not as some sort of fuck buddy. Besides, it would hurt Ray if he acted on it and he didn't want to hurt Ray for anything. The guy was so understanding that it was a miracle. They'd even talked about what had happened a few times, and Ray had understood as much as someone who hadn't experienced it could. Ray was the miracle in his life and he'd keep him for as long as he could. No matter that Sam made his stomach clench every time he saw her, or that he had started being able to tell her perfume from everyone else's. No, Ray deserved better from him than that and he'd get it for as long as Blair could give it to him.
Sam walked into the unit the next Monday morning and looked around. No banner. No balloons. No sign that Joshua had done anything. She nearly sighed in relief. Then she jumped because Mary, their secondary profiler, had just tapped her on the shoulder.
"Are you okay?" she asked, looking worried. "Did he put something else in here?"
Sam shook her head. "I'm fine, just a little jumpy." She noticed the folder. "For me?"
"A preliminary profile on Joshua, using what we knew about his father." She saw the wince. "I'm sorry, Sam, but I had to look to figure this out." She handed it over. "I think you'd be surprised though. He hasn't killed yet." She followed her boss into her office. "We can't find a trace that he's killed anybody. I think he wants to meet you, that's why he's doing all this." She clasped her hands behind her back as she watched her boss read the file. "I couldn't figure out another reason, sorry."
"Don't be sorry," Sam said as she sat down. "It's a good reason, and a healthy one." She read over the reports with a nod for their efficiency and preciseness. "It's very well done," she praised. Mary was only about two years out of Profiling school and was looking at this posting as a learning opportunity. "We can't find any deaths?"
Mary swallowed. "We found one connected with the Jack file," she admitted, "and someone did look into it, but they said it was an accident and we couldn't prove otherwise." Sam looked up. "Jack's mother died two years ago on her estate. It was a riding accident. Apparently her horse threw her and she broke her neck." She shrugged. "The ME's report is on my desk if you want it." Sam shook her head and went back to reading. Maria stayed silent until she was done. "Do you want to set up a meeting?" she asked. "We've got it narrowed down to three different addresses and I was going to give them out at the morning meeting."
Sam leaned back. "I'm thinking about it," she admitted. "If he's that harmless, I'd like to know what he wants from me. He knows I can't be the mother he's probably always wanted, so why go to all this trouble?"
"Because he's alone, he's sixteen, and he's probably heard stories about you all his life," Blair said from the doorway. "We just drew straws. If you want to go meet him, I got the long one. John will get the monitoring van and Bailey." He smiled at Maria. "Any clues on where he's been for the last few years?"
"One," she admitted. "There's an entry in some court records about someone asking for custody of him from his grandmother. Some sort of brain-trust corporation. It was denied by the second judge who heard the motion." Two sets of confused expressions waited patiently for her to continue. "The first had an accident right after turning it down. The second judge agreed to hear an appeal and heard the case, but he denied it too. Then almost everything about the motion was burned during the fire last year in the courthouse." She shrugged. "Again, no evidence of wrong-doing, but I can't find anything on the brain-trust that filed it. The lawyer is presently in an asylum upstate, there's no mention of the corporation anywhere in the state or national registries. All I can find is that one motion's notice of denial."
Sam nodded. "Good work. Have you told Bailey yet?"
"He got that news this morning when he woke me up at five," she said with a grimace. "Apparently he was having nightmares and wanted to work on something instead." She smiled at Blair. "The guys downstairs in the hacker division did find something else, and this I just got. He's been using a credit card under the name Jack O'Toole. Claims it's his father's." Sam nodded. "They're running down finances right now to see where the money to pay for it is coming from."
"Jack and his mother both had money," Sam told her. "He probably inherited or stole a lot of it. We never could find Jack's accounts overseas." She looked at the file again. "All right," she decided. "I'm going to meet him. Blair, find me a way to get a message back to him." Mary handed over a slip of paper. "What's this?"
"The phone number that used the credit card last," she said with a smile. "Should I send everyone else out on the chase or have them get ready to follow you?"
"We're following her," Jim called from the other room. "Sam, you won't believe this."
She stood up and walked out to the other room, stopping when she saw the feed playing on the closed circuit monitor that watched the hallway by the keycard slot. "What's that?"
"It's you," Blair said quietly. "This weekend. There's Naomi." He looked at Jim, then back at John and Bailey. "This just started." He shut up when writing appeared at the end of the loop.
"Where's that?" Bailey called. "I want a map of that park right now!" He yelled as he walked back into the office area. Someone went running for their computer to pull up what he wanted. "Sam, you're not going alone," he told her.
"No, I'm taking Blair with me openly," she reminded him. "The plan stands," she told her people. They looked up and nodded, then got back to work. "I want that tape analyzed as soon as possible and I want all the information collated for a meeting in a half-hour." She walked into her office and shut the door, heading immediately to the phone to call Angel. She deserved to know what was going on.
Blair looked around at his team. "Gear up," he ordered. "John, go check the van." Jim silently pulled a larger gun out of his desk drawer and handed it over. "Thank you." He replaced the one he was carrying and accepted the two extra clips. "By the books people," he said as he followed Maria and Mary into the conference room. "Any newer news?"
"Just one thing," Maria said with a smile. "We know exactly where he is. He's not hiding his tracks at all, not even trying." She handed Jim a print out. "Go there, it's his lair."
"Go there while we're meeting with him," Bailey told him. "Don't disturb anything, just scout it out. If we have to go in, I want this to go flawlessly and without incident." He looked around, but everyone agreed with him. "Bring me up to speed," he demanded.
Sam looked at the young man sitting on the park bench and was shocked. She hadn't gotten a good look of him yet, not at this age, but he looked just like her daughter. She walked over to him, Blair standing a few feet away, close enough to help her if she needed it. "Joshua?" she asked as she sat down. The eyes that turned to look at her were his father's. That pure blue that was so deep and hid so many secrets.
"Mom, you came," he said with a grin. "I'm sorry I had to be so dramatic, but I doubted that you'd believe me if I just showed up one day on your doorstep." He held out a hand, which she shook. "As you can see, I'm even sorta useful."
Blair looked the kid over. "No, you're scary," he corrected. "You scared a lot of people, including her."
"Butt out, man. You're not the father yet." He looked at Sam again. "I know why you brought him, but he's not necessary. I'd never hurt you. I heard all about you while I was growing up. Everything dad had on you was in a file that I got when I was ten." He held out a small CD carrying case. "It's all in here if you wanted to look at it." He nodded at Blair. "Can we talk without the suit?"
"That's cold, man," Blair sighed. "She goes nowhere without me, or someone tougher than me. Pick."
"You're it then," Joshua said as he stood up. "Walk with me, mom?" She stood up and they walked together toward one of the jogging trails. "I'm sorry I bugged you, but I wanted to get with you. I thought it was time. I'm old enough to not be a burden, mentally or physically. I'm useful, as you've seen, and I'm every bit someone that you could use on your team." She looked at him. "I'm quite a lot like my father," he said quietly, "but I've never killed, yet. Wanted to, nearly did, but I haven't acted yet. And I figure that you're the one person that can keep me from going bad like daddy did."
She looked down at the CD case again. "It's one hell of a sales pitch," Blair told her. She glared at him. "He's right. You'd get to study an embryonic serial killer from the ground up. A lot of people would kill for that chance." He paused. "No pun intended."
"It's a good point, but I'm not in private practice," Sam reminded them both. She stopped Joshua. "This is very hard for me. I can't help but wonder how you came to be because I know I didn't give birth to you."
"Yeah, that's kinda covered in there too," Joshua admitted, blushing a little. "Daddy was really graphic about that too. Oh." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box. "His will said that if and when I came to you, I was to give you this." He held it out but she didn't take it. "It won't bite. He said it was rightfully yours and he wanted you to have it back. He thought it was most fitting that I give it to you."
She took the box and slowly opened it. Inside was a small charm bracelet. "It was mine when I was seven," she said quietly. "I lost it one day." She looked up. "How did Jack get it?"
"Daddy said he stole it from the person who picked it up. Some sort of groom or something." He shrugged. "It was explained on one of the files but I didn't read most of them. I wanted to know why daddy liked you so much that he would kill those around you. It almost made sense in a way." He gave her another of those self-depreciating smiles. "And now I want to be part of your life. I don't want to take your daughter's place, but maybe find some way that I could be with you?" She didn't say anything again, she was just staring at the CD case. "Mom, I need you," he told her. "You're literally the only thing that's keeping me from harming people. People like that asshole who cut you off the other day and flipped you the finger. People like that guy who tried to cop a feel a few months ago at that party." He grinned. "I've been strong so far, but a sixteen year old guy isn't known for his self-control. I just wanna be closer to you." He stepped away from her. "I'll let you think about it." He turned and ran off, outdistancing the agents spread around the park easily.
Blair took Sam's arm and led her back to her car, getting in to drive her home. She had a lot of things to think about and more to read. He'd be there for her of course, but only she could do most of this. He saw Jim following them and smiled. Yeah, they'd be there for her.
Blair looked up from his spot in the van as the door opened, frowning at the young man standing there. "How did you sneak up on us?" he asked him.
"Easy," Joshua told him as he stepped in and closed the door. "You've got a blind spot for anything under three feet, and the shadows covered everything else." He shrugged and sat down. "I wanted to talk, can we?"
"Sure," Blair agreed, pushing a button on the console. "Fair warning, I've got to record it or it could mean my job." The teen shrugged. "Coolness. What did you need to talk about?"
"I really don't want to hurt mom, but I really do need her," Joshua admitted, looking down at his hands. "The people that raised me for the last few years weren't the best role models and I don't have a lot of qualms about people dying, ya know?" He looked over and Blair nodded. "And I don't want to hurt her, but I was being honest this afternoon. I really will start to kill soon if she's not there for me. I know myself, man, and I'm so very close to the state that my daddy was before he fell in love with mom." He smiled at Blair. "That was in the files too, why he fell in love with her." He shrugged. "Not that important, but I thought maybe you could talk to her."
Blair nodded. "She's going to hear the tape too. As for a closer relationship, that'd be pretty hard on her and Chloe. Your father killed her first husband and Chloe's father. She can't ever forgive or forget that."
"And I know that, I really do, but I *need* her, man. You don't understand how easy it is to see all humans as pitiful beings."
"Yes, I do," Blair said quietly. "I know how very easy it is. Being a genius from day one gives you the same perspective. My mother had to fight long and hard to keep me from that arrogance and she didn't always succeed. There have been plenty of times that I thought it'd be a mercy to kill someone and put them out of my misery, even a few of my students. But I knew that if I did, then something worse would happen, I'd lose everything good in my life."
Joshua smiled brilliantly. "Exactly, man. That's what I mean. You do understand." He nodded toward the house. "Can I get you to explain that to mom? I mean, I don't want to join the unit or anything, but I'd like to have her in my life and be able to help her whenever I can. I even learned profiling from the people that had me."
"Who had you?"
"Some brain trust out of Maryland. Their new offices, supposedly. Smelled like death. They were all too happy to take advantage of that pity feeling." He looked down at his hands again. "I'd be willing to take it slowly, as long as she's willing to talk to me. Maybe even like me some."
Blair patted him on the shoulder, but the boy flinched. "Hey, I'm not the one who'll hurt you. You know that." The boy frowned. "Want me to look at it?" Joshua shook his head. "Tell me what happened?"
"It was nothing. I ran into one of those people from the brain trust tonight. They fucked up though." He shrugged lightly. "He's in the hospital, in very bad shape. That's the other reason why I'm here," he sighed. "Mom can make them back the fuck off." He looked at Blair, who looked pissed. "Why?"
"Because I know these people. They came after me once," Blair admitted coldly. "While I was in college. They fucked up then, my mother was in." He reached over and moved the collar of Joshua's shirt out of the way. "You need stitches."
"Maybe," Joshua said, shrugging him off. "But I can see to that."
"Family doesn't mean that, Josh. You don't desert family that way." He picked up the phone and dialed the house. "Sam, me. Josh is sitting here and he needs some medical attention. No, Jared's people nearly got him," he said bitterly. "He's got a gouge on his shoulder that probably needs stitches. Yeah, I know Jim could do that, but he's up there." He hummed and hung up. "Come on, Ray's coming out here and we're going inside." He grabbed the teen's arm. "Listen to me, don't push it," he advised. "She's really messed up about this, all this has brought back some very traumatic memories. She's got to have time to work through it if you're ever going to build on anything." Joshua nodded. "Good. Now let's go." He led the young man up to the house, passing Ray with a grin. "We'll be back in a few. Stop the tape for me, okay?" He tapped on the door, nodding at Joshua when Jim opened the door. "He needs you to look at his shoulder. It's bad." He let the boy go when Jim grabbed him, heading to where Sam was sitting on the couch to sit beside her. "Did you ever meet Jared? He said he had met one of you guys."
"He met the woman who followed me," Sam said quietly. "I read the files and reports though. Why do they want him?"
"Because Joshua has the natural viewpoint of the world of any serial killer. He was a tool, the same as Jared was."
"How did you meet him?" Jim called. "I don't remember him."
"He was the guy who subbed in for Henry that time, the guy who helped solve that cop shooting," Blair said with a grin. "He was too unfamiliar with everything so I cornered him one day and asked. I knew what he was talking about." Everyone but Joshua looked at him. "They came for me too, man. Back during my undergrad. Geniuses and sociopaths share a very common view of the world." Sam nodded. "So, anyway, I asked him if he had heard of this supposed brain trust and he flinched, then he told me he was on the run from them because he had escaped. I put him in touch with my mother and her network of people who could help him get everything he needed to move on." He relaxed. "How bad is it?"
"This one isn't as bad as some of the scars on his back," Jim told them. "Kid, didn't anyone ever take care of these?"
"Why would they? They caused them." He tried to straighten up, but Jim pushed him back down. "Let go," he said calmly. Jim backed up. "Thanks."
"Jim, think trauma victim," Sam advised. "Sit him in a chair instead of bending him over. Or grab one of the stools out of the kitchen." She smiled at the boy. "What did they want?"
"Me to come back, what else," he snorted. He glanced around. "No others?"
"They're sleeping," Sam told him. "It's been a long day."
Joshua stiffened as Chloe walked out of the hallway. "Not quite," she told her mother. She crossed her arms and glared at the other teen. "So, you're him?"
He nodded. "And I don't wanna steal your mom, just get some for myself," he told her. "I need a mom too."
She nodded. "Good, as long as we've got that settled." She strode over and looked at his back, turning pale. "Eww. Did you kill them?"
"Nearly." He looked her in the eyes. "You never have to worry about me hurting you," he promised. "You're mom's first kid and my older sister. Family isn't like that as someone once told me." She smiled slightly. "But you make me *really* nervous so can you please back off? Sometimes I still have involuntary responses and it sucks badly to be on the other end of them." She backed off by a few feet. "Thanks."
Chloe looked back at her mother. "I think he'll be fine," she said. "Not to live here, but to get to know."
Sam smiled at her daughter; Chloe often knew more about people than the average person did. "We're going to take it slow if we build anything," she promised. "And he won't be taking your place."
Chloe snorted. "As if!" She looked at Joshua. "Were you at my school the other day?" He nodded, grinning. "Thought so. Why go into the girl's locker room? You were pretending to be a computer repair guy."
"Because I know *nothing* about girls," Joshua said with a self-depreciating grin. "And I wanted to look." He shrugged then winced. "Jim, man, that stings," he complained.
Jim brought a stool out of the kitchen and made him sit on it. "Good, that means it's cleaning it. It'll hurt no matter what."
Blair looked the boy over. "Want handcuffs?" he asked him. "Just in case?" Joshua nodded. "Okay." He pulled out his set and walked over slowly, holding them up. "Hands out." The teen held his arms out, watching as Blair handcuffed him and kept control of the chain joining them. "Focus on me. It'll be okay. The stinging is a good thing, much better than the ripping pain that could be if you had left it longer."
Sam's curiosity got the better of her and she got up to come over and help. She hissed when she saw the open gash. "How did they do that?"
"Honkin' big knife," he said with a snort, and a wince. Jim had just poured more antiseptic over the wound. "Tried for my throat. I shoved it up his ass, literally. He's at some hospital trying to explain it to some doctor." He grinned. "I didn't kill him though."
"That was very good," she praised. "Not killing him was a great start." She looked over at Chloe, who waved her on. "Can you go get Angel? He should probably meet her too if we're going to get to know each other."
"I know she's beautiful and an artist," Joshua told her. "But won't she throw fits?"
"No, she won't," Angel said as she walked out of her room. "I don't throw fits over normal people." She smiled grimly at the boy. "You're not killing?"
"Not yet. I figure mom here might be able to keep me from killing anyone." He grinned at her, then bit his lip as the needle slid into his skin. "Jim, man, I'm very sorry if I hurt you."
Blair tapped him on the forehead. "You won't hurt him. I won't allow it. Got me here?" Joshua looked at him. "I mean it. I'm not the nice hippy pacifist my mother is, not anymore."
"Thanks, Chief," Jim said with a grin for his partner and best friend. He completed another stitch. "At least the knife didn't have any poison on it," he said as he started the next one. He felt the muscles tense under his hand and tapped the boy on the other shoulder to try and distract his innate responses. "Don't do it, kid, it'll hurt you more."
"Hug him, mom," Chloe suggested. "He won't hurt you."
Joshua shook his head quickly. "Nah-uh. Never. Daddy would come back from the dead and kick my ass if I ever hurt her."
"Language," Angel reprimanded. "No swearing in this house unless you've just slammed yourself with a hammer."
"Or a door," Chloe added. "That's always my best one, the closet door."
He laughed. "Thanks, guys." He looked at his mother. "I'm willing to take it slow," he said through a clenched jaw as Jim worked faster. "I'm just really looking forward to getting to know the real you, not Daddy's files." He started to move but Blair caught him. "Thanks," he sighed. "I really can't control it sometimes." Jim injected something into his back, making him wince, but then sigh in relief as the burning started to work. "Thanks, man. Those reflexes suck, but they don't work as well when I'm numb."
"It was trained into you," Jim told him. "It'll take years to lose it, if it's possible." He tied off the last stitch. "There, all done. Sam, call Bailey," he told her. "He has to know."
"I'll do it," Angel said, going for the phone. "He won't yell at me." She picked up the phone and brought it into the kitchen to talk in private.
Joshua pulled something out of his pocket. "Mom, I want to give you this. I don't really need it, I have more than enough money to get a real apartment in the city, and I think you could do something really good with it." He held it out and she slowly reached out to take it. "It's from Daddy to me, but I don't think he'd mind. He might even find it funny," he added with a grin. "Especially if you set up a counseling practice there." He looked at Blair. "You could train him and everything, he'd do a really good job at it. He listened to me and understood everything I said."
"I'm thinking about it," Blair admitted. Jim looked at him. "My present degrees aren't doing me any good, or anyone else any good," he reminded his friend. "I'm not pulling my own weight on the team because I'm just a red-shirt. I'd like to be able to do more." He looked down at the handcuffs, reaching into his pockets for the keys. "I might even be able to finish helping myself and a lot of other people."
"I think it's a great idea, Chief," Jim agreed. "If that's what you want, go for it. I'm behind you, even when you have to do papers at three in the morning." He picked up a bandage and covered the neat stitches, taping it down. "There, all fixed, for now." He put up the first aid supplies, heading into the kitchen to store them back in their cabinet.
Someone pounded on the door, and everyone let Chloe get it, even Sam. Bailey wouldn't yell at her. "Hey, Uncle Bailey. He's not the sicko I thought," she said happily.
"Bet me." Bailey stormed in and looked down at the boy for a moment, then at Sam. "You let him in?"
"He needed medical attention," Blair told him. "Those same people that had Jared had him and they tried to kill him tonight." He glared at the older man. "We asked first."
"Yes, they did," Sam agreed. "Joshua, why don't you go use the bathroom to clean off some of the blood?"
"I'll help," Angel told her, leading the young man to the guest bathroom. "I think we should talk anyway," she said as she closed the door.
Sam faced off with Bailey. "Did he kill them?" Bailey shook his head.
"That's good, he said he wasn't trying to," Blair told him. Bailey looked at him, starting to glare. "Do you know what it's like to look at the world and see pitiful little creatures that can't hope to meet up to the peak of intelligence where you're sitting?" Bailey shrugged. "That kid's there. He's all but taken that final step."
"I agree," Sam said, glaring at Blair herself. Then back at Bailey. "He's needy, but he's still good. He's right, I can probably help heal him. I'm not sure if I can make him a normal teen, but it could help to keep him on the straight path."
"And he's promised not to hurt us," Chloe added. "He was at my school the other day, checking out the cheerleaders in the locker room. Normal teen guy stuff. "
"That's not the point," Bailey told her. "He's dangerous, Sam."
"He's dangerous because the people who had him trained him to be that way," Jim told him. "He willingly let Blair put handcuffs on him and hold him still while I stitched his back. He went without pain killers until the tenth stitch." Bailey looked at him. "I know what you used to be, the same as you know what I used to be. How many years of training did it take us to be that hard? And the kid's got some innate responses that speak of that sort of training, and worse. He's got some pretty old, deep scars, Bailey, and I think the kid's right. He needs Sam."
"Talk with him, Bailey," Blair suggested. "He's hurting and needs some help. This is the most natural help he can get."
"We're going to be having a talk," Bailey promised him coldly.
"Hey, I'm all for it," Blair replied in the same voice. Everyone looked at him in shock. "Like I told the kid, I'm not my mother. I know very well how he sees the world." He pocketed his keys and cuffs, then left the house.
Jim started to go after him, but Sam put a hand on his arm. "Bring him by for lunch tomorrow," she told him. "Listen to him tonight. I think you'd be surprised." Jim nodded and hurried after his best friend and roommate.
Bailey headed for the guest bathroom, stopping when he heard Angel threatening the kid, and the boy not responding. He was listening! He tapped on the door, smiling at Angel when she opened it. "I agree and I want to talk to the boy."
"The boy has a name," Joshua told him with a cocky grin. "And as long as you came with a new piece of tape we're all good." He smiled at Angel. "I promise. Sam's my mother and I wouldn't hurt anyone that would make her sad. Besides, I'm really sure my father would come back from the dead and kick my ass if I did. He said so." Angel nodded and left to go get that extra piece of tape. Joshua hopped up to sit on the sink. "So, you wanted to bitch me out too?" he asked. He saw Bailey staring at the mirror. "Them? They're only painful in memory now."
Bailey pulled him down and turned him so he could look at the teen's back. "Who did it?" he asked.
Joshua shrugged. "I have no idea what his name was. Sick fuck is what I called him. He wanted me to become what you used to do, only for their agendas." He looked at Bailey. "I won't hurt her," he repeated. "I'd never hurt her. Or Chloe, or Angel, or even the future step-dad." Bailey frowned. "Blair." The older man shook his head. "You mean you haven't seen it? He's like this fierce housecat protecting his favorite petter. She's good for him, helping him heal from whatever happened to him. I think she can do the same for both of us, making us reconnect with people without the pity feelings." He shrugged delicately. "She's really good at that and I'd like to get to know my mother. I know I freak you majorly, but yay. I need her on so many levels, Mr. Malone." He leaned in. "If you try to take her away from me against her will, I will come after you," he noted quietly in that calm, almost bored, tone of voice. "If she sends me away herself, then it's okay with me, I'd understand, but I don't want to mess this up. And I'd like it if you didn't either. I can be good, if she's willing to help me. If not, I could turn into my father and protect her anyway. Or like that Jones guy who's been trying to do the same thing. Oh, by the way, did you want him?" he asked, changing the subject rapidly.
Bailey blinked. "You'd kill me?"
"If I had to, if you came between us and she didn't want it. Yes. Cleanly and painlessly. I'm not that much like Daddy." He shrugged. "I'm going to do whatever she says. If she wants me to go, then I will. If you try something to hurt her, then you're mine." He grinned. "I'm trying though."
"True, he didn't hit you yet," Sam said from the doorway, holding out the tape roll. "Get it wet?"
"One corner won't stay down." He took the tape and ripped off a piece, handing it to Bailey. "If you wouldn't mind?" he requested, turning around.
Bailey caught his look in the mirror and taped down the errant piece of bandage. "There." He turned the boy back around. "I'm very protective of Sam, even more so than Blair is." Sam snorted. "And there is *nothing* that I won't do for her. Got it, kid?"
"Got it, Uncle Bailey," he said with a grin. Bailey growled at him and Joshua's smile got brighter. "As long as we're on the same page, man, we're all good. I have no doubt that you'd try to take me out if I did something to her. Of course, you'd have to get in line behind Ellison, Sandburg, and Kowalski." He shrugged when Sam looked curious. "Ellison would do it for the same reason Bailey would. Sandburg is highly protective of you, almost like you're his mate. Kowalkski would do it because Chloe and Angel couldn't pull the trigger personally. I've been watching them. Ellison I could probably get past. Kowalski too, especially right after he wakes up. Sandburg would hunt my ass down though, and it'd be legendary. You'd get a very simple call saying that you were safe and then he'd disappear. I'd be in small, torn up, nasty pieces and my place would look a lot like a wild animal attacked me." He grinned again. "I'd never make it past him because revenge would become his religion of choice. Bailey would have to take the time to fly back out here, and he'd team up with Ellison, but they'd probably be the ones to find my mangled bodily pieces. Then they'd have to tell you, which would have to come from Ellison or Rasto so Bailey wouldn't have to face you over it. You'd probably try to save Blair and make him come back, but you'd lose him to some jungle or some native tribe somewhere inaccessible and he'd never hear about it." He looked at Bailey. "Did I get it right?"
"Very right," Bailey said dryly. He looked down at him. "How did you know?"
"They taught me to profile my victims, to examine them and look for weaknesses."
"If you had to, how would you take out the team?" Angel asked from the hallway.
"Hmm." Joshua hopped back up onto the sink's edge. "Probably one by one. Any trap would be caught by the always observant Jim, or by Ray, who's not as dumb as he wants you to think. John I'd leave alone, I feel some sort of kinship with him." He moved his sore shoulder some and Sam reached behind him, grabbing the Advil from the medicine cabinet so she could hand it to him. "Thanks, mom." He dry-swallowed three of them. "I'd probably have to take out Jim and Ray in an ambush, something in the field while they're distracted. Bailey would probably fall to a simple trap, something like a car bomb or something simple like that. Done at some really odd time, like a 2am trip for beer." He popped his neck. "As for Maria, Mary, and Blair, they're studiers. Maria, do something to her computer that brings her out to look at the mainframe or the wires, get her then. Something simple like an air shot to the neck. Mary would probably go down best in the field, but she doesn't like field work, so maybe something on the way home. An accident scene that makes her slow down and get her with a poisoned dart or something exotic, to fit her dreamer personality." He looked down at the bottle. "Sandburg? I'm not sure I can beat him. He can get inside my head. If I had to do it, he'd have to be nearly first." He looked at Sam. "Unless taking out Jim did something funky to him," he said innocently, his eyes showing that he knew something was up there. "Blair wouldn't fall for a trap, or a car bomb. He's too unpredictable for a routine assassination attempt. Maybe something to do with his books or artifacts. Gas canister in a mask or something. Maybe a new one because he'd know what was in his house and instantly be aware that something was wrong." He smiled. "Not that I'd *do* it, because that would make you mad, mom."
"Thank you," Sam told him, giving him a short hug. "Can you get home?" He nodded. "Then why don't you head over there and I'll see you tomorrow? We'll go to the park again and talk?" He nodded, starting to smile. "All right. Leave me your contact information in case something comes up."
"Well, there's a case coming if the LAPD ever gets their stick outta their ass, but it's a bad cop sorta thing," Joshua told her as he hopped back down, handing over the Advil bottle. "Thanks for helpin' me tonight." He kissed her on the cheek and punched Chloe on the arm as he walked out of the house.
Angel leaned against a wall. "He's interesting."
"Yeah, but I'm still not sure what he wants from me," Sam reminded her. "If all he wants is what he says, then maybe." She looked at her best friend. "What do you think?"
"I think he was being honest," Chloe told her. "He needs a mother, someone to teach him restraint. He didn't have you growing up, he had psycho people and bad guys, which made him the way he is." She looked at Angel. "Did you notice that neither of us were on that list?"
Angel looked shocked. "No, I didn't." She looked at Sam. "Slowly?"
"Definitely slowly," she agreed with a smile. "I don't think I could handle fast, especially with how he refers to Jack." She shuddered. "I have the files he gave me on the table," she told Bailey. "I made a personal copy to look at." He nodded and headed that way. "Really?"
"I won't promise not to hold it against him," Angel sighed, "but he does need you." She hugged her friend. "I'm going to go back to bed and think about this." She went to her room.
Chloe hugged her mom too, but for longer. "I think it's pretty cool. Not too many people can say that their mom's healed a serial killer wanna-be." She went to her room too.
Sam walked out to join Bailey at the table. "Did it work?" she asked. "That's a new burner, I've never used it before," she explained when he looked up at her. She sat down beside him. "It does explain a lot. There are things in some of those folders that I don't remember, things that apparently were so important to him that it made him fixate on me. It's disturbing, but I understand so much more now," she explained.
He grunted. "I'm going to make an official copy and keep one for myself. I need to know too, Sammy." He kissed her on the cheek. "Will you be all right?" She nodded. "You're sure?"
"I still have Ray outside. He won't hurt me. Somewhere I know that he's got normal feelings and that he thinks he loves me. Only time will tell if he continues on this path."
Bailey stood up. "I'm going to need weekly reports if you continue to interact with him," he said gruffly. "It could be quite a boon to get into his mind." He left the house, stopping at the van. "I'll send someone to relieve you in a few hours," he told Ray.
Ray held out a tape. "This was in the machine. Blair and the kid had a talk before he found the injury." He glanced around. "Is he gonna be okay?"
"And Blair. I never knew."
Bailey looked down at the tape as the door closed. He walked to his car and got in, going back to the office to make some copies.
Bailey looked up from his reading of the transcripts of some of the files as Blair walked in. "Sit," he ordered. Blair did so, not looking the least bit nervous. "You know that personal relationships within the group are frowned upon?"
"Screw you, man. My life is my business," Blair said coldly. "Not even you have the right to tell me who I can and can't be friends with." He crossed his feet at the pissed look he received. "You guys need me a lot more than I need you. As was pointed out to me recently, I can do other things. There's nothing going on in my life right now that you have the need-to-know about."
"What about this thing with Jim?" Bailey asked. Blair shrugged. "You don't think that's important?"
"Ask Jim," Blair told him.
"And this problem you have following orders when it regards Sam?" he asked sharply.
"I did follow orders. Joshua came to me, in the van, to talk about why he was doing this. I recorded it, just like I was ordered to. When I found out he was injured, I called my boss to ask for her opinion. She said it was okay to bring him in there. *She* knows I'd never hurt her or put her in danger."
Bailey leaned back. "You love her."
Blair snorted. "Man, you don't have a clue, do you? I'm presently gay because I was raped. I couldn't ever be with a woman. Sam's the only one that's allowed within three feet of touching distance. We're friends, man, get over it. You can keep your alpha position over her." He stood up. "Anything else? I've got more important things to do, like paperwork."
"You're not scared of me at all, are you?" Bailey asked with a cruel smile.
Blair gave it back, only more coldness from his eyes. "I've seen worse than you, been kidnaped by them, and watched them die. You're just a bureaucratic asshole who happens to protect the same people I do. As long as we keep it at this level, we don't have to clash. I'll do what I think is best while you're gone, and when you're here, I'll do what's best for her anyway." His smile got warmer. "Deal?"
"Fine," Bailey agreed. "Just remember, Blair, you're here because I helped you."
Blair leaned across the desk. "You didn't have to, you did it so I'd owe you one. I don't do favors unless we're *very* close. You don't fit there." He stood back up. "Besides, I know that you sent my diss to the Pentagon, to someone in Covert Ops, and that they've been watching Jim again. If he's hurt, I'm coming after you." He watched as familiar type of tape landed on the desk. "Yay, and?" He crossed his arms. "Now you know. Geniuses are very close to serial killers in some respects. I could cross that line. No one's pushed me that far. Yet." He left the office.
Bailey smiled at the kid's back. Maybe he'd be good for Sam. She certainly felt safe enough with the odd man. "As long as I don't have to go to the wedding," he told himself. "I hate weddings." He signed a form, but left it laying there as he stood up. He gathered everything else and headed for the elevator.
On the desk were two pieces of paper. One, a letter, the other, a recommendation for Blair to go back to college. He'd do the world more good as a profiler. The elevator closed on him and he shuddered, remembering the words from the night before. He pushed the button for the next floor, determined to take the stairs for a while. At least until he got somewhere that the kid couldn't get to him.
Blair faced off with the three teachers he'd be under for the next two years of his life.
"You lied until your dissertation was classified, then you refused to talk about it. You were protecting someone," the first one said. "Will you divulge that information now?"
"Not a chance in hell," he told her. "You don't have the need to know. If you did, then I'd tell you what you needed to know. Until that time, I'd forget that was from me." He really didn't like these three.
"This job you have," the third asked. "What do you do?"
"I work with the Violent Crimes Task Force, Los Angeles division. We catch serial killers and serial rapists. I work with agents from many walks of life, including one that used to work on sex crimes in New York City. I'm learning from them while I explain the societal pressures and events that happened to the criminals we work on catching. My job coincides with that of the two profilers on staff. According to my boss, she wants me to join their ranks. She thinks my unique view of the world will be a very major help to the unit."
"And after that?" the second one asked. "Did you have other plans?"
Blair nodded. "I'd like to counsel people who needed it. Male rape victims. People who are coming out of cults. People who get ignored by people like you." The first board member glared at him. "Yay, but I tried to see your partner over my own rape and he told me I was hallucinating. I'm not doubting in the least that you feel the same way." He looked at his watch. "Are we done yet? I have to go eat lunch because I have an overnight shift tonight."
The third one smiled. "I think you'll make an excellent addition to our department, Mr. Sandburg."
"Dr. Sandburg. I was awarded my Ph.D. after it was classified." He gave them a cocky grin. "My board was very thankful it was handled by someone else actually."
The first one nodded. "Good. You have one week to register, get your books, and arrange for your funding. We'll be expecting quite a lot from you. We hope you'll live up to our expectations."
"Sure. Just as long as I'm not expected to kill the people above me for their spots, then we're all good." He grabbed his briefcase. "I'll see you next week. Is there a requirement sheet?" A packet was handed to him. "Thank you." He waved and left, tucking the papers into his briefcase.
Out in the hall, a graduate student in line for an interview nudged the one beside her. "Isn't that the guy who lied?"
"And he's been accepted here? Maybe I don't want to go here after all."
Blair turned and looked back at them. "Actually, my dissertation was *classified*. I had to lie," he said with a cool smile. He turned around again and headed to his car. He had an appointment with Sam at her new office.
Sam looked up as Blair walked in, giving him a smile. "What do you think?" she asked, pointing at the paint chips.
"Wood," he told her. "With creme walls." He grinned at her. "I'm in. They tried to be assholes and I told them they didn't need to know. Ran into a few students too, they know."
She shrugged. "You lied because it was classified. It doesn't matter that it didn't happen in that order." She plucked the soft rose color off the wall. "You really think creme?"
"A warm creme, not a sterile white," he told her. "Calming and soothing, but no one will get agitated at it and it'll add light to the room." He looked around the large office. "Maybe some wood accents, something like teak bookends or wall sconces. I saw a great fake set the other day." He looked at her again and she was smiling. "What?"
"That sounds more like your office," she teased.
"Hey, when I get out, I might think about that," he admitted. "Think you can work with me?"
"I already do," she reminded him.
"I meant in a more theoretical sense. I'm going to do what I know."
She nodded. "That'd be fine, Blair. We'll work it out when you come to that." She looked out at the entryway, where her son and daughter were together. "What's going on?" she called. "It's too quiet."
"Joshua was just telling me about this live-in program for troubled youngsters that you recommended," Chloe called back.
Sam walked out to look at them. "I'm not demanding, Joshua, but I know the counselor there and she's very good. I think she could help you a lot."
"And there'd be other teens there too," Blair added as he walked out. "You need to learn about peer influences."
Joshua looked at him. "You don't think I'd lead the rest?"
Blair nodded. "I know that you would, and that you'd probably be okay at it, but you still would get the peer influence. You'd get to miss all that stuff with the malls, but the kids would at least be more like you."
Chloe nudged him. "Maybe you could even help some of them the way mom helps you."
Joshua sighed. "All right, I'll *try* it," he conceded. "For a month."
"Two," Sam said with a smile. "That will give you enough time to start to fit in and get to know people. If you don't like it, then we can pull you out."
"Yeah, the brochure says that you're allowed weekly visits and letters," Chloe added. "I'm sure I could talk mom into letting me come up and visit."
Joshua smiled at her. "Deal." He looked at Blair. "I'll be expecting more protection of the mom from you, dude. If I have to break out to come save her, then you're toast." He stood up and gave his mother a hug. "I'll try it because you want me to," he told her. "But I probably won't like it."
"Think about it this way," Blair said, clapping him on the back. "You could get to screw with all their minds too. You'd get loyal people who think you're great."
"Blair," Sam warned.
"What? I could," Joshua reminded her. "It'd be nice to have someone else order the pizza and chinese sometimes." He let her go and stepped away. "When?"
"You have an appointment to go look at it in three days. Dr. Chloris will want to meet and talk with you before anything is decided and you'll get a tour." Sam patted him on the cheek. "I'll even let John take us up there if you want. He's leaving around that time."
"Sure." He smiled at his sister. "You going to come too?"
"Nah, I have a date at the mall," Chloe said with a grin. "We're going to go guy-bash an ex of a friend." She looked at her mother. "Unless you need me to go."
Sam shook her head. "That should be fine, Chloe. Just be careful."
Blair smiled at her. "You'll need Greek food. It goes best with ex bashing." Sam looked at him in disbelief. "What? I've had to help do that too. Greek food does best. Especially if it's got phillo dough around it."
Chloe laughed. "You're the greatest uncle," she told him, hopping up to give him a hug. "I'll pass that along. Anything to feel sorry for a friend that just broke up?"
"Spicy Thai. That way you can cry and excuse it as the peppers."
"Women use ice cream," Sam told him.
"Must be a gender difference," Blair said with a shrug. "Or eat comfort food with them. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, that sort of thing."
"Hey, that we can do," Chloe agreed, heading outside to the small park attached to the building. "Come on, Josh, we've got to make plans to buy you stuff for your incarceration."
"All right," he sighed, following her. "But I don't have to shop," he called as the door closed.
"You have some very good, but very strange children," Blair said quietly.
Sam nodded. "Yes, I do. But they're mine and you'd better learn to deal with them, Uncle Blair." She went back into her office. "Teak?" she called.
"Or bamboo would work," he said, following her. "And a receptionist too." The office door closed after him, but the planning continued well into the night.
TH E END.