Notes: ~ ~ is in Spanish.

A Change of Plans
by Voracity

Matt Sheppard looked up from the papers he was filling out. "Yeah?" he called, letting the person
who had knocked on his office door know he could come in. He stood as Xavier Trout walked
in, setting his briefcase down beside his usual chair. "Long time no call. What's going on this

"Not even pleasantries this time?" He smiled and sat down. "You're going to hate me for this, but
I've got to do it anyway." He leaned down, taking a file from his briefcase and handing it over.
He sat back and waited while Matt read it.

"So, what sort of intel do we have on this site?"

"Not much, very little actually, but I have a solution. This is the part you're going to hate." Trout
took a deep breathe. "There is a man, former Ranger, who knows your target's habits and style. I
want you to take him on for this mission."

"Okay," Matt said slowly. "So what part of this am I going to hate."

"It's Jim Ellison."

"Trout..." Matt stopped and drew a breathe in, letting it out slowly. "The man hates me, flat out
wishes I had never been born. I don't think he would do this for you."

Trout laughed. "Oh, you don't even know the half of it. You remember why you got into that
little fight, those hallucinations as you called them?" Matt nodded. "You were wrong." His
smile got wider, more predatory. "Not only are they real, but he's already had to fend off
someone else who found out. It wasn't even that long ago." Matt raised an eyebrow. "Brackett."

"Scumbag," Matt muttered, going back to the file. "Doesn't matter, he won't do it."

"I have a way, but I'm going to need you and Deke to go meet with him."

"Why Deke?" Matt asked. He sat back, crossing his feet under the desk. If Trout was making it
go like this, there must be a good reason, one that he should probably know about before hand.

"Like I said, his hallucinations weren't figments."

"So then, he could hear someone outside the debriefing room talking about what to do with him?"
Trout nodded and he shook his head. "I still want to see it before I believe."

Trout pulled out two tickets, handing them over. Under them was a thin envelope. "You need to
go see this man. I've already talked to him and Detective Ellison," the title got another raised
eyebrow, "and they are willing to hear you out."

"So, he's still more than willing to go get this target?" Trout nodded. "Revenge?"

"No, not really. More of a preservation instinct. Jim is not real happy to help, but he's the only
person who knows how this man thinks, how he operates, why he does it. You'll have to convince
him, maybe even do some strong convincing, but he should come eventually."

Matt opened the envelope, pulling out a small pile of folded up papers. "Sandburg, Blair. Who is

"Ellison's partner." A short pause. "In all senses of the word, no pun intended. He also,
according to Brackett's notes, which we confiscated, helps Ellison along with his senses. Some
sort of helper."

"Is he a cop too?"

Trout laughed, holding onto his stomach. "Oh, no, not even close. He's an Anthropologist.
Somehow, though, he's managed to work in a police station beside Ellison for almost a year now
and fit in, becoming quickly accepted as one of their own. All our intel says he is the best person
to get in anywhere. You could drop the man in an unfamiliar territory where he doesn't know the
language and in ten days he'll be the most loved person there."

Matt's frown got deeper. "So, I have to take an untrained person along too?" He leaned back,
tossing the papers onto the desk. "No."

"Hold it," Trout held up a hand. "No, he doesn't have to come. That's where Deke comes in.
Blair is willing, almost, to train somebody if Jim decides to go. He doesn't like it, but he is more
than willing to not let Jim get hurt. I asked what sort of person would be the easiest and best."
He smiled. "He said an open person, someone who could take in anything and roll with it."


"He does seem to fit. Also, it seems that part of their, Sandburg's and Ellison's, bond is their
non-working relationship."

"And Deke wouldn't object that strongly if it was needed," Matt finished. He twisted his chair
around some, thinking. "I want to talk to the man first, see what and who he knows. Take the
mission profile with me so I can see if he's up to it."

"Fine. He's expecting you and Deke tomorrow." Trout stood up, picking up his briefcase.
"Profile is in the folder. Tell me what you decide." He left.

"One of these days Trout, I will get you for doing this to me." Matt picked up the phone and hit
one of the speed dials. "Deke, man, up for a trip?"


Jim Ellison opened the door before the people outside could knock. He knew one of the people,
but the other looked like one of Blair's friends from school. "Come in Major." He moved out of
the way and waved them in.

"Thanks." Matt and Deke walked in, taking off their coats and handing them off to Jim, who
hung them up. They all headed for the couches, Deke and Matt on one, Jim on the other. "You
know why we're here...."

"I do and I'm still not hot on the idea."

Matt laughed. "You aren't the only one."

Jim smiled. "Good, now if only we could convince the politician."

Deke smiled. "Yeah, he does seem like one of them, doesn't he? All slimy and living under a
rock of paperwork."

Jim nodded and got up, tapping on a set of glass doors. "Blair, quit working and come out here.
They're here."

"Coming," came the yell. Soon enough a smaller, dark haired, wiry man came out and hugged
Jim. "Hi."

Jim tugged a curl and drew Blair back to the couch. They had discussed it before the men came;
they wouldn't hide what they were to the pair. They needed to know the truth here, or else some
very bad consequences could occur if Jim went.

Blair shook hands, introducing himself. "Hi, Blair Sandburg."

"Matt Sheppard," Matt said and pointed at Deke. "Deke."

"Sorry man, not real formal."

"That's cool. Anyone want a drink?"

"Water would be good," Deke said.

Blair nodded and headed into the kitchen to get him one. He came back, handing it off before
sitting down on the couch beside Jim and handing him one. He opened his own and took a deep
drink. "So, are you the one that I'm supposed to train to handle Jim's senses if he goes?"

"Yeah," Deke said. "I'm still not sure of what's going on here, though. Nobody gave anybody a
clear idea of the whole picture."

Blair nodded. "Yeah, sounds like bureaucracies everywhere."

"You would know," Jim said. He leaned forward slightly. "Basically I have heightened senses.
Blair trains me to use them, helps me when I get stuck."

"How heightened?" Matt asked.

Jim concentrated. "Major, you had something garlicky for lunch, strong and pungent, with
Seafood and pasta, Chinese I think. Deke your heart rate is doing double time and this has just
scared you to no end." He looked at them. "That heightened."

Deke whistled. "So you smelled him and heard me?" Jim nodded. "Across almost forty feet?"
Jim and Blair both nodded. "That's incredible." He turned to Blair. "Do you have something I
could read to get the whole idea? I would like to know what I'm about to get into and how deep a
hole I just dug myself."

Blair got up, coming back with his research files, which he had gotten together so they could be
stored someplace safer than the loft, and handed over the box. "This is all my research. Jim's
tests, facts, history, everything." He sat back down. "It's not really in order, I just threw it
together so it could be moved someplace safer after Jim dealt with Brackett."

"I had heard about that," Matt said. "Did Brackett find out or something?"

"He not only found out, but he came and blackmailed Jim into trying to help him steal a research
plane with a biological weapon." Blair shuddered. "That was too close."

"Biological weapon? In this area?"

"He stole some Ebola samples from Rainier's lab, threatened to blow it over the city if I didn't help
him." Jim took a drink of his water. "We got him though, Blair and I."

Deke looked up from the notebook he was reading. "I heard about that. He's now in some nice
federal prison talking to the walls. Apparently nobody believed him about supermen."

Jim held up a hand. "Sorry, not bulletproof and I only fly in vehicles."

"Or on vehicles," Blair said. He turned to look at Jim. "And I would appreciate it greatly if you
would warn me the next time you hang off the bottom of a helicopter."

Deke laughed. "Oh, man. You two *do* get into some major trouble."

"It's his fault," Jim and Blair said together, pointing at the other.

"My fault?" Blair asked. "I had never even come close to meeting a terrorist before I hooked up
with you or if I did they liked me. It is *so* not my fault that they all want me so they can get to
you man."

Jim chuckled. "Blair, how many times have they sent me messages saying 'I've got him now do
this for me'? Hmm? None. They just like you. My presence in your life has just made you more
noticeable." Jim smiled. "It's not like they can resist you, that's impossible."

Blair smiled at him, just a little wide and nasty. "Oh, really? Before I started at the police station,
what happened? Terrorists took it over the day I came in to fill out paperwork. In the last six
months? A serial killer takes me hostage to throw you off the trail. A bomber takes me hostage so
she can get back at you. Do you see a pattern here?" he asked sweetly.

"I told you to stay in the truck." Blair snorted. "If you would just listen to me, just once, it
wouldn't happen again."

Matt and Deke looked at each other and smiled. "Oh, this is going to be fun," Matt said, smile
brightening. "Deke, aren't you glad they *both* aren't coming along?"

"Imagine all the trouble we could get into," Deke said, shaking his head, going back to the
notebook. "They would fight on the whole trip. Benny Ray would probably chain them to the
outside of the plane."

"Or hand Blair to Margo to watch," Matt said, both men laughing.

"Vincent? Margo Vincent?" Blair asked. Matt nodded, shocked expression on his face. "How is
she? Man it must have been five years since I've seen her."

"She's fine," Matt said slowly. "How do you know her?"

"She and my mom, Naomi, met while she was in Europe. Naomi helped her come back
afterwards, and they came to where I was. Margo had been shot in the shoulder and I took care
of her while Mom left again. She was a great lady, great conversations. We had long discussions
for days...." Blair was stopped by a hand over his mouth. "Jim," was the muffled complaint.

Deke smiled at him. "Yeah, she said there was a story behind that scar, but she never would tell
me what it was." He shook his head. "You have led an interesting life, man."

"Thanks," he said through the hand, before licking it and nipping it so Jim would move.
"Thanks," he said clearly.

They were silent for a few minutes, Deke reading, Jim and Matt sizing each other up, Blair
pretending to be wounded by his lover's callousness in front of people they had just met.

Deke looked up, smiling at Blair. "I gotta tell ya, this is amazing," he said. He put down the
notebook. "Blair, you've got a training manual here in just this one if you could organize it."

Blair laughed. "Yeah, but who would use it?"

Deke nodded. "There is that. I can understand why you don't want this to get out." The tall man
sat back, relaxing. "How do we proceed, teach?"

"Long hard hours of working with Jim," Matt suggested.

"Tonight?" Blair talked over the Major. "A guided meditation to join me on the spirit plane."

Matt's mouth fell open. "Blair, you only have two weeks, maybe you need to..."

"Major Sheppard," Blair said, his posture getting stiff and formal, "Ninety percent of what I do is
knowing Jim in all his levels; how he feels, what he's thinking, what he's concerned about, where
he's focusing. Over half of that comes from our spirit guides and our bond." He took Jim's hand,
entwining their fingers. "If I'm not aware of him all the time on the most primal levels, he could
zone, or over focus, and be killed. That is something I'm not willing to risk, not for anyone or
anything." By the end of his speech Blair's body was rigid and his face was getting flushed.

"Blair, calm down," Jim said quietly, squeezing their joined hands. "That wasn't what he meant.
His world is facts, guns, and intelligence, not spirit guides, mysticism, alternate planes, and
strange things popping up."

Blair nodded, getting up. He gave Jim a kiss, looking deeply into his eyes, then went to the

The three men watched him go, two with failing hopes.

Matt turned, watching Jim tip his head to apparently listen. "Is he okay?" Jim nodded. "I know
he's concerned, I understand why, but this is all a little strange to us."

Jim smiled. "Was to me too, but Blair changed me." His smile got wistful. "He grabbed me and
made me see it his way. He's got this way, he can get anyone to do anything for him, make them
believe him. He can teach anyone anything and make them want to know more."

Matt smiled. "I had heard that. Actually Trout said you could drop him someplace where he
didn't know the language or culture and in ten days he'd be their folk hero."

Jim laughed. "Yeah, I could see that, but you would be hard pressed to find that country."

Deke looked impressed. "How well traveled is he?"

"Two hundred and fifteen countries and/or islands," Blair said, sitting back down beside Jim. "I
speak thirty languages somewhat, fifteen fluently, over fifty just reading."

Jim kissed his lover's cheek. "He's being modest. That doesn't count regional dialects or
sub-languages." Blair slapped his thigh. "You are amazing and are rightly proud of it and so am
I," Jim said, whispering the last part into Blair's ear, making him blush. He kissed the soft cheek
again, then smiled. "You are a constant source of amazement. The amount of information under
all those curls constantly knocks me over."

"Man, that amazes me too," Deke whispered to Matt, making the Major nod. They both turned to
give the couple some privacy.


Deke closed the loft's door, letting the Major go back to their hotel while he stayed to work with
Blair. He turned, facing the couple. "So, where do we start?"

Blair turned to Jim and whispered something. Jim nodded, sitting back on one of the couches.
"First we go meditate," Blair said, leading the tall African American man into the downstairs
bedroom. He motioned for Deke to sit, watching him while he lit candles and incense. Blair took
his seat on the other side of the low table, lighting the candles sitting there. "Have you mediated

"No, I tried a few years back, but there was nothing there for me."

"Hmm. Was it guided or not?"

"Not, I didn't see any of those nice calm places or images so I gave up."

"Can you see a picture at all?" Deke nodded. "Okay, I'm going to do a guided one with you.
Hopefully we'll meet Jim's and my spirit guides. Ready?" he waited for a nod. "Take a deep
breath, in through your nose and blow it out slowly. Good. Now another and close your eyes on
the exhalation. Take another and become in tune with your body. Feel your heartbeat, let it
become the only sound you hear, let it move your whole body with it's rhythm."

Blair closed his eyes, falling quickly into a similar state. He started instructing again, his voice
lower, more soothing. "In your mind let a picture form. See trees, a jungle scene. See the ruins
of a temple. Go into that spot, feel the humid air around you, the damp earth under your feet, feel
the leaves brush your skin as you walk into the scene." He went there himself, calling gently for
the wolf to come.

Deke opened his eyes, looking around the blue tinted area. He saw Blair walking toward him,
getting more solid with each step.

Blair stopped and looked around, frowning. "Where is he?" he muttered just before he got
knocked down by a big furry body. "Ah, there you are." Blair and his spirit guide, for it couldn't
be anything else, rolled around playing. Soon they stopped, letting Blair land on the bottom.

Deke smiled and sat down.

Blair looked back, smiling at the tall dark skinned man. He rolled the wolf off to the side. "We
need to talk to you," he told the furry one.

The wolf morphed into a not-Blair. "What troubles you Guide?"

"The Sentinel must leave me for a time to protect another. I can't go, but the people he goes with
have provided someone to protect him when I can not. We came to see if he would be

The not-Blair nodded. "That can happen, but even while he is gone he is still your charge."

Blair waved at Deke. "I know, but he will watch for me when I can't."

The not-Blair laughed. "He will do." He turned back to Blair. "Why are you not going?"

"We have to go to another country, to fight an evil man," Deke said. "Only Jim knows him well
enough to help up, but we can't bring Blair."

The not-Blair nodded. "It does make sense. You will do as a Guide, but he is not your Sentinel."
The not-Blair touched Deke's forehead, then morphed back to run off into the rampant growth.

Blair and Deke came back to the downstairs bedroom in the loft.

"That went well," Deke said, getting up to stretch.

Blair smiled and gracefully got up in one movement, turning it into a back popping stretch.
"Yeah, much better than I thought it would He was *way* too calm and knowledgeable about it."


Blair shrugged and they went out to eat the dinner Jim had been fixing while they were gone.


Deke picked up his key at the front desk, wandering his way upstairs. He made sure to make
some noise as he approached the door, just in case. Getting shot was not on his present agenda.
He unlocked the door, going inside, throwing the locks afterward. He sat down on his bed.

Matt Sheppard lowed his paper. "Have a good time?"

"Not too bad, a little strange." Deke pulled a pillow up, bunching it under his head. He toed off
his shoes, sighing as they left his feet. "I went to another plane, met and talked to a nice wolf,
came back and ate well." Matt laughed, making Deke turn his head. "You think I'm kidding?"

"If you aren't I'm going to drug test you."

"Do it if it turns you on, but you won't find anything." Deke closed his eyes and fell asleep

Matt got up, shaking his head, and covered Deke. "If this is how it's going to be, you gotta hit
further up the bed," he muttered, not even trying to pull the larger and heavier man up the
mattress. He sat back down, after digging in his bag for a little square box that he attached to the
phone, and dialed a number he knew well. "Hey, Benny Ray, how's the bar?" he asked quietly.


It was two weeks later when Matt and Deke got home to Hermosa Beach. Matt was sitting in his
office, looking over the reports from his absence.

Margo knocked on the door and stuck her head around. "You called?" Matt waved her in.
"What's up?"

Matt put down the paperwork, leaning forward and putting his arms on the desk. "You won't like
it." She shrugged. "We need to talk."

"You aren't removing me from this mission," she said quietly.

"Margo, this man has killed all the women in a fifty mile radius of his home," he started carefully.
He didn't want to antagonize the woman, one of the original members of the team, but he couldn't
let her go. "I can't let you go."

"I can take care of myself."

"What about the rest of us?" He had thought out this argument last night, worrying over it for
quite a few hours. "If there aren't any women around, how can you blend in?"

"I'll manage, camouflage myself."

"Margo, no offense, but you couldn't pass for a man if you had to. Your, um, attributes are too
noticeable and your whole body screams woman. I can't let you go, you could endanger the rest
of us if someone found out you were there."


He held up a hand. "I know, this sucks, but it's what's best this time. We can't let ourselves be
noticed and a woman in an area where all the others have been killed would look suspicious. We
have to travel to this site, not drop in. I can't see a way to do it."

She took a deep breath and waited a few seconds before answering. "So, what do I do instead?
Sit here and play barmaid?"

Matt laughed, very relieved. Margo could have made this go much rougher; and she could have
proved her point many ways, including at knife point in the middle of the night. "Oh, no, I have
something much worse planned for you." She gave him a questioning look. "Ellison's partner is a
bit of a magnet for terrorists. I want you to watch over him."

"Matt, I'm not a babysitter. I'm sure the man can handle himself, being a cop and all."

"He's not a cop, he's an Anthropologist; and in the two weeks I was there he almost got shot ten
times and was kidnaped by someone else."

"How has this man managed to live this long?" she wondered quietly.

"Oh, I think Professor Sandburg is quite a resourceful man." He smiled at her shocked look.
"Yeah, he said he knew you."

"Why does his being involved not surprise me?" She looked up at the ceiling. "So, I have to keep
watch of him?"

"Please." He rolled his eyes. "If you can keep up with him."

"Yeah, he was always a bit hyper."

"A bit?" Matt asked, shocked at the understatement. "I just spent two weeks watching Ellison
watch him bounce and work twenty hours a day until he collapsed into their bed."

"They're *partner* partners?" Matt nodded. "Then he'll be extra fun to deal with, won't he?"

"Yeah, probably," he said, nodding slightly. He shifted some. "I still need you to do some site
research for us and to make up id's."

"Okay," she said, getting up and leaving the office. At the door, she turned, "I'll pay you back for
this, you know that right?" She left, closing the door softly behind her.

"Damn," Matt said, putting his head down. "She's going to kill me." He started to wonder what
else could happen on this mission and how he could pay Trout back for dumping it on him.


It was the night before the final debrief, and it was time to finish bonding Jim to Deke for the
duration of his mission. Blair and Jim had agreed on getting a suite with two rooms, one of which
they would use, the other of which would be for the bonding. Deke had gotten there a few
minutes earlier, and was now sitting on the couch nervously waiting for something to happen.

"All right, this is stupid," Blair said finally. He stood up, pulling Jim over to sit next to Deke.
"We all know why we're here, and though none of us like it, it has to be done." He walked out of
the room to give them privacy, and so his heart could break without them knowing about it.

Deke turned to Jim. "I know it's hard, but he's right." Jim nodded, but didn't move any closer.
"So, um, we never discussed this but..."

"You have to top," Jim said quietly. They both knew his heart was in the room with his lover, and
that he would do his duty because he had to, but he didn't want to. "Blair," he moaned quietly, "I
can't do this part."

Blair came out of his room, sitting on the arm of the couch. "Let me let you in on a few theories
I've formed from solid observations. Jim imprints people in him that are important, like you and I.
Our smells, our tastes, body sounds, all that. His anchor, what keeps him from zoning, is that.
Usually our heartbeats from what he's told me. The way he imprints us is this way. It has to
occur, and reoccur, regularly to keep him centered; otherwise he will sink into a zone he won't
come out of." Blair laid a hand on Deke's. "I don't like it anymore than he does or you do,
actually I hate it, but I understand and accept why it has to happen. If I don't, I'll lose him
permanently because no one there could help him."

Jim got up, going into the bathroom. They could hear the shower start, hear the older man
fighting with himself.

Deke and Blair sat silently until Jim came out, dripping wet and in a towel. "Blair, I know this is
hard," he said, "and I love you." He pulled the younger man close, kissing him passionately for
the last time until he came home. "I'll miss you," he whispered and let his Guide go.

Blair stepped back, allowing his place to be taken by Deke, letting the strong arms that had
always held him hold this new man.


Blair walked back to what had been their room, closing the door silently. "And I you," he said
silently, collapsing onto the floor next to the door.

He got ready to start his first voluntary night alone since they had become lovers.


Jim watched his lover go, his heart hurting. He turned to look at his temporary guide. "I know
we have to, but I don't want to hurt him."

Deke held Jim, the man smaller and seemingly weaker in his arms. "I know," he soothed, as he
had been taught, stroking the short hair. "I don't want to hurt him either, but I also don't want to
have to tell him you got hurt because of me." He kissed the top of Jim's head softly. "Neither of
us want this, but we have to."

"I know," Jim said slowly, moving closer. They sat down on the couch, Jim placed his head on
Deke's shoulder. "I don't want to replace him, not with anyone."

Deke pushed Jim back some. "You aren't. You're adding a new card into the Rolodex. I'm not
going to replace him, I couldn't do that if I tried, but I will be in there with him, beside him. He's
still going to be guiding us, just from a farther distance." He smiled slightly. "He's still going to
be telling you what to do, just from at home where he's safe. Safer," he amended. He smiled and
stood, holding out a hand to Jim. "Let's do this so we can get it over with."

Jim nodded and they walked into the clean bedroom.


Blair laid on what had been their bed, listening to the quiet conversation in the main room. His
eyes leaked silently, not wanting to give up what they had for even so short a time to someone
else. He pulled his laptop over to him, spell-checking the final document and saving it down.

He made up his mind to leave them alone for a while, go out and find something else to do. He
grabbed the diskette and his jacket and wallet, waiting patiently by the door until he heard the
other door close, solidly.

Blair snuck out of the suite, heading down to the front desk. He walked up, waiting in the short
line. "Hi," he asked the receptionist, "do you know where I can find a Kinko's or some other
twenty-four hour copy place?"

She nodded and handed over a small photocopied map. He nodded and left the hotel, heading the
three blocks to get it printed out, just in case.


Blair paid off the cabdriver, turning to look at the bar in front of him. The Silver Star. He knew
inside would be Deke's friends, maybe even Margo. "Oh, well," he told himself, heading inside,
"might as well do this now instead of tomorrow."

He stopped at the door, looking around for a familiar face. When he couldn't find anyone he
knew, he went to the bar. "Beer?" he asked the pretty blonde woman, who nodded and handed it
over. He paid and took a drink, heading to a corner table.

Matt Sheppard was looking out the window of his office, watching his patrons move around, two
of his team mixing into them. He smiled at the slight, curly haired man who walked to a corner

Matt walked to the phone, made a quick phone call, and left, heading down to offer what comfort
he could.

"Blair?" he asked gently, startling the younger man from his thoughts. "Hey."

"Hi. Pull up a drink and sit down?" He waved a hand at the stool.

Matt motioned to a waitress and sat, looking over his guest. "How we doing?"

Blair swallowed, then took a long drink. "Truth?" Matt nodded. "I couldn't be there right now."
Matt patted his hand and sat back some to let the waitress place the glass in front of him.
"Thanks, Melody," he said. She nodded and left them alone. "So, then, I take it they're doing it?"

Blair laughed. "Oh, yeah, that would be a delicate way of putting it." He looked at the three
people headed to the table. "Well, either I've attracted trouble again or your team is here." He
smiled up at Margo. "I'm guessing it's trouble though."

Margo swatted the back of Blair's head. "Yeah, you and trouble do seem to be in a long term
relationship." She leaned down and kissed his cheek. "You all right?" He nodded. "Ready?"

"I'm getting the manual printed right now. Kinko's does great work, even in the middle of the
night." He smiled. "Told the guy it was research on gorillas, he looked impressed."

Matt groaned. "Blair..."

"Oh, Matt, leave it," Margo said. "He's not getting anyone into trouble and it could help us

"Us?" Matt asked, raising an eyebrow. "I thought we had already hashed this out."

She laughed. "Oh, we have, but I'm still going to get you for it."

Both the other men had been looking back and forth between the verbal combatants. Finally the
smaller one reached across Margo's stomach to introduce himself. "Nick."

"Blair Sandburg," he said, shaking the offered hand. "Ellison's partner."

Benny Ray nodded and shook his hand also. "Benny Ray."

"Cool, southern?" The man nodded, suspicious. "I don't ever hear names like that except from
the south. Sorry, part of being me."

Benny Ray looked relieved and nodded, stepping aside so the waitress could place their drinks
down. "So, I hear you've got to talk to us tomorrow? About Jim?"

Blair nodded and looked around. "Yeah, but not here. That's also what I'm having printed." Matt
shook his head again. "What? An easy instruction manual is a good idea. It was also Deke's

"And what is brother Deke doing now?" Margo asked, taking the seat beside Blair's. "He and
your partner seem to be missing." She caught the dirty look she was sent. "Never mind, I'm sure
you'd tell us if you wanted us to know."

Blair patted her hand. "That's okay, I know some of this is confusing. Just thinking back about
how confused Jim was puts it well into perspective." He finished off his beer.


Jim dropped his towel and crawled onto the bed, earning him a whistle. He glared at Deke. "Not

"Sorry, trying to lighten the mood."


"Don't what? Try to lighten the mood, make this easier for both of us?"

"Exactly." Jim laid down on his stomach.

"Fine, I can go with silent and dirty." He stripped hurriedly, crawling onto the bed. "You know,"
he said, close to Jim's ear, "I'm not any more fond of this idea than you are."

"I know, I don't want things to be different. This will be the first time I've voluntarily been away
from Blair since we bonded."

Deke understood and pulled him in, holding him close to comfort Jim and himself at this strange
turn of events in their lives.


Margo, Blair, and Benny Ray were still sitting at the table, Matt and Nick having left to take care
of a few problem customers. Blair sat looking into his beer, trying hard not to think about what
was happening back at the hotel room.

"Blair," Margo said softly, putting a hand on his. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm just trying hard not to think about this." He took a deep breath. "This is not only our
first separation, but the first time our bond has been severed." He finished his beer in one

Benny Ray shook his head at the waitress, telling her to slow him down. "So, that's what you
need to talk to us about?" Blair nodded. "Okay, so there's something special about Ellison?"
Margo punched his arm and shook her head. "Sorry, maybe this isn't the best place."

Blair nodded. "Yeah, that's probably a good ideas. It's not something we should talk about with
this many people around."

Margo nodded. "Yeah, that's a good idea. Matt's told me some of it and I was a division head
when he came back."

"Thank God," Blair said. "You'll handle him if something happens to Deke?" He looked up, dark
blue eyes pleading.

"Blair, I'm not going." Both men looked shocked. "He's a predator of women. I can't blend in if
there's not one in a fifty mile radius." She laid a hand over Blair's. "Matt's asked me to watch out
for you while they're gone." Blair started to laugh. "Well, think about it, you need someone who
knows terrorist to help you out."

Blair snorted then picked up her hand and kissed the back. "I would be more than honored to
have you guard my virtue, my lady."


Jim laid face down on the bed, listening to his temporary guide's body. He opened his senses,
imprinting Deke in him.

Deke calmed himself, as Blair had taught him, in the face of Jim's misery. He straddled the
smaller man's back, stroking the firm flesh gently. "We'll take as much time as you need."

"Thanks," Jim said quietly. He shifted to get more comfortable, letting Deke calm him. "That's
nice," he murmured and shifted a little more.

Deke smiled, feeling Jim's surrender under him. He reached over, grabbing the small bottle of
massage oil he had brought. He poured some into his hand, dropped the bottle, then warmed the
oil between his hands. He stroked the firm back, working the stress out. "Just calm down, you
run this show," he said, leaning down to work the back of Jim's neck.

Jim moaned, letting himself go. He would do it because he had to, but he would let Deke lead
him. He relaxed fully under the knowledgeable hands working him. "Good," he moaned, shifting
so the hands would work another spot.

Deke breathed a sigh of relief. Everything would be fine now, Jim could stand his touch. He
moved down, stroking and massaging the shoulders. He could work the other man up until he
was ready and willing. All it would take was some time.


Matt and Nick came back to the table, bringing the next round of drinks with them. Matt sat
down next to Blair, passing him a weak beer. "Here." Blair took a sip and scowled. "You know
we can't serve you if you're drunk." He smiled. "And you're real close." Blair nodded and went
back to finding answers in the amber liquid.

Nick looked back around the thinning crowd. "It's getting late."

Matt checked his watch. "It's only eleven."

"True, but we gotta travel tomorrow night," Benny Ray said, standing. "We should be going."

Nick nodded and finished his drink. He stood, putting on his jacket. "Yeah, ten am comes early."
He smiled at Margo. "Need a lift? Your car's been in the shop for weeks."

She shook her head. "I have more research to do before morning meeting." She nodded her head
toward Blair. "I'm going to stay for a while longer."

The two men nodded and left.

Matt looked across Blair. "Home?" he mouthed.

"Later," She replied. "Too soon."


Deke got up some, letting Jim flip over under him. "Hi," he said smiling.

Jim grinned. "Hi, that felt great."

Deke's smile got wider. "Yeah I've never got any complaints yet."

Jim laughed, watching as the tall man's face came closer and closer to his. They shared their first
kiss, tender and soft. Deke pulled back, checking to make sure he had done the right thing. Jim's
slight smile reassured him, so he went back for another, and another, and another. They ended up
devouring each other's mouth, probing for tastes, suckling on the other's tongue.

Jim pulled back in shock. "I... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..."

Deke laid a finger across Jim's lips. "I know. We take it at your pace." Jim nodded and he
removed his finger, replacing it with a soft kiss. "Just tell me what you want."

Jim took Deke's hands, putt them on his chest, moved them around. "Slow."


Blair and Margo watched the few people out on the dance floor.

"Want to join me?" he asked her. She nodded and they went to move to a slow jazz sax tune.
They ground together slowly, sensually, to the music.

Matt came back downstairs and stopped to watch the two of them. He had never seen anything so
sensual. He had never pictured Margo like that, never saw her as the passionate person she was a
that moment. He stood there, the revelation shocking him to his core, seeing his team-mate in a
whole new way in that instant.

Matt pulled himself together and went to their table and continued to watch. This was a new
mystery for him to figure out, one where none should exist.


Deke and Jim switched places, laying side by side so they could explore the other's body.

Jim skidded his fingers across Deke's nipples, making the other man moan. He smiled and
scratched lightly across them, sensitizing them. Deke arched and Jim smiled more, taking a risk,
bent down to taste one. Deke moaned again and grabbed Jim's head, pulling it closer.

Jim pulled back, smile still in place. "I didn't think you'd be that sensitive."

Deke smiled. "Oh, babe, you have no idea how sensitive this body is." He rolled Jim onto his
back, taking his own taste of the broad chest, the pert nipples, the strong throat.

Jim let go, let all of his control go, gave into it. He let the feelings Deke creating wash him clean
and floated away on them. All thoughts of Blair, of their relationship, left. He started to taste as
he was tasted. He touched as he was touched.

Jim let Deke be the aggressor, laying there and enjoying what was given.

Deke mouthed the lip of Jim's navel, sucking gentle on the flesh. Jim rolled them over to explore
the mass of dark flesh that would be his for the next few weeks. He knew this was the next major
step to making sure everything would be all right on their trip, Jim taking part willingly. He was
sure now they could do this.


Blair led a laughed Margo back to the table.

Matt smiled at the picture they made: the energetic young man, the now not-so-serious woman.
He was still amazed that he had never realized that Margo was a 'woman'. He had known, but
hadn't put the two concepts together in his own mind; she had always been one of the guys, a
team-mate. He could see the changes Blair had caused - the easy playfulness and comfortable
sensuality that she exuded. He smiled at them, seeing theirs come back, the intensity of their
happiness blindingly bright in their smiles. He listened as they chatted about some country they
had both visited.


Deke pushed Jim's head off his stomach, where it had been torturing his navel, bringing it back
up to kiss.

Jim 'hmm'ed as he laid his body down Deke's. He shifted, bringing their cocks together, making
them arch and moan. They laid there rubbing and humping, getting closer to completion with
each movement of their bodies.

Deke searched the bedside table for the little bottle of lube. Jim pulled back, letting him look for
it. Deke placed it gently on the bed beside them, ready for when they would need it.

Jim sighed and sank back down. "Later," he said, licking the swollen lips of his partner.

Deke rolled him over, pinning him. "Of course, when you're ready."

Jim pushed up, thrusting his hardness into the tight thigh above him. "What about when you're
ready?" He tried to roll them, but Deke's greater height and weight stopped it.

Deke's smile got wider. "I'm more than ready," he ground down into Jim's stomach, "just waiting
on you to beg." He panted and ground down again, stroking his silky hardness against the tight

"I want on top," Jim whispered.

"Ride me babe," Deke panted and rolled them over.

Jim straddled him, stroking himself. "Now?"

Deke nodded and grabbed the bottle. He undid the cap with one hand, stroking Jim's back with
the other to keep him calm. He brought a slick finger up to play with the tight hole, but Jim
tensed. "Sssshhh, when you're ready," he whispered. He sat up, pulling Jim in for a kiss. They
shifted back, letting Deke's back rest against the headboard. Jim moved some pillows behind
Deke's back to keep his new Guide comfortable. They went back to devouring the other's mouths.

A while later, during the kissing and rubbing, Jim moved one of Deke's hands to his butt. Deke
slid some lube on a finger before he distracted Jim by pulling his head in for a deep, throat
swabbing, tongue sucking kiss. When Jim's attention was fully on his mouth, Deke slipped the
finger in.

Jim hissed at the trick, but wiggled around on it. He could feel the differences of this finger, so
different from the one that usually prepared him. Longer, wider at the knuckles, moving in
different patterns; but he had to forget that other hand, that other man, even if just to get through
this. He closed his eyes, focusing on the body that surrounded him and he surrounded.

Deke went slowly knowing how hard this was for Jim. He could see the tension returning to the
body, the closed eyes, every little thing that spoke to him of regret. He carefully coated the inside
of that tight orifice, going back for more lube every now and then. He did it slowly, giving the
other man time to adjust. When Jim started to finally get into it, he added another, with more

Jim laid his head on Deke's shoulder, letting him do what needed to be done. He relaxed as much
as he could and let it happen. He knew when the second and third fingers were added, and he
went with it.

Deke pulled Jim's head around. "Ready?" Jim nodded. "No, answer me."

"Yes," Jim said quietly. He closed his eyes and concentrated on not tensing at the pressure
entering him.

Deke sighed when he got all the way in. They stayed there for a few minutes, adjusting to each
other, to the new situation.

Deke and Jim rocked slowly, gently, together. They climbed higher and higher up, until at the
crest the bond was complete.

Jim stayed where he was, not wanting to move, or make the acknowledgment that things were
different now. Deke let him get used to it, to the new touch on his soul that would never leave
now. They stayed there for a long time, just getting used to this with the other person.


Margo and Matt carried a sleeping Blair through the door in the bunker, placing him on the couch
and covering him.

"Should go home," came a fuzzy, sleepy voice.

Margo squatted down beside the sleeping man's ear. "You're safe here. Go ahead and sleep for a
while. I'll get you home when it's time."

"'Kay, thanks," Blair said, starting to snore. He rolled onto his side, cuddling up to his blanket.

Margot smiled and stood, her smile disappearing when she noticed Matt staring at her. She
turned and left, going off to do the necessary research.


Blair unlocked the hotel room door, heading straight for his room. He closed the door, gently
because he didn't want to disturb the couple. He threw off his jacket, tossing it across the bed. He
turned at the gentle knock. "Yeah?" Jim came in, enfolding him in a strong hug. "I'm fine."


"Jim, I'm okay with it," Blair said as he sat on the bed. He patted the mattress, prompting Jim to
sit. "You know I don't like it, but I know it had to happen. I've gotten over it."

"Blair, I..."

Blair laid a finger across the mouth that was trying to help, but could only make the pain worse.
"It's all right, I know. I understand and I've worked though it. I'm still not comfortable with it, it
still hurts, but I'm down with it." He patted Jim's knee and stood. "Meeting's in a few hours.
You should probably go shower and pack."

Jim nodded, stood, and started to walk out. He turned, grabbing Blair into a fierce and tight hug.
When he finally let go and left the room no further words were spoken between them.


The team assembled around the table, watching Blair pace.

"Okay, let's get started," Matt said. "You've all seen the mission profile and pictures. Are we all

"Not quite," Margo said. "I found an anomaly to the profile." She tossed a few papers on the
table. "There's a strictly enforced law stating any group of more than four people is to be
considered part of the rebellion and will be arrested, questioned, then shot."

Matt picked up the papers, reading over them, frowning. "Damn. I'm going to get Trout for this."
He looked around his team trying to figure out how to do this with this new restriction. He was
already short a member with Margo not going. Who else could he cut? "All right, so we need a
volunteer to stay and run info to us," he said finally, letting them decide.

Benny Ray looked around. "One?"

"He's a predator," Margo said. "There's not a woman in fifty miles of him." She leaned on the
table. "Matt and I agreed I shouldn't go."

"Why aren't they stopping him?" Nick asked. "I mean money and controlling the locals is one
thing, but you'd think something would have been done by now."

Margo shook her head. "They're too scared of him." Nick started to swear.

Matt waited until everyone had calmed again. "So, we still need one volunteer."

Nick and Benny Ray looked at each other. They had been clued in earlier about Jim and Deke, so
it was between them who wouldn't go.

Finally Nick broke the stare. "I don't have any contacts in the region. I'll stay." Matt nodded, then
motioned Blair over.

"Ready?" He got a nod from Matt and handed out small books. "Okay, here is an FYI on Jim's
senses and on the area." He smiled at Matt. "There are some known archeological sites nearby so
we have some incredibly detailed maps." He looked around at the shocked faces. "What? We
need to know things like where people live, local cave systems, and how to be unnoticeable too."

Margo started to laugh, eventually joined by Matt. "Oh, man, leave it to the academic to know
these things." She patted Blair's arm. "Any on our target's property?"

Blair nodded and opened his book to the first map. "There's a cave system on the edge of his
property. Some are pretty deep and livable. A few years back an expedition to the ruins on the
southwest corner of the estate stayed in them." He flipped a few more pages. "This is a slang
phrase list, common to the area."

Benny Ray flipped back. "Blair, would you like to switch jobs?"

Nick started to laugh. "Yeah you coulda saved Mr. Guns there some major problems on a few
missions." Benny Ray scowled at him, making Nick laugh harder.

"Okay people," Matt said. He turned to Blair. "You needed to give us some basic instructions on
the use and care of Jim?"

Blair shook his head. "All in the book." He closed his. "Quick referenced, cross indexed light

Matt nodded and patted him on the shoulder. "Thanks, it won't leave here."

"I know, I trust you." He smiled sadly, looking at his watch. "I gotta leave soon." He hugged
Deke, Matt, Margo, and lastly Jim. He walked out, not looking back.

Matt looked at Margo, nodding. She nodded back and they went back to planning the final details
of the mission.


Blair woke to someone pounding on the loft's door. He stumbled down the stairs, rubbing his
eyes and scratching himself. He opened the door, scratching his chest. He felt his mouth drop.

She held up a bag and walked in. "Breakfast."

Blair closed the door, still shocked. "Jim?"

"Nope, Matt sent me." She caught his scowl. "They landed two hours ago. Relax."

Blair nodded and headed for the bathroom.

Margo smiled, looking around the loft. She looked at each piece of art and decoration, the view,
the phone numbers programmed in, then laid out breakfast when she heard the shower stop. She
was sitting at the table, sipping her coffee, when Blair came out wrapped in a towel. She watched
as he headed up the stairs. She dished his plate up, smiled and put it front of him when he came
down dressed.

"So," he asked around a mouthful of food, "why are you here?" Her smile around the edge of the
cup got wider and he groaned. "Babysitter." She nodded. Blair finished his breakfast quickly.
"So, you're here to protect me from the city's psychos. I'm not real surprised. Matt seemed
surprised at what mine, and Jim's, life was like." He wiped his mouth. "Thank you."

Margo ruffled the still damp curls. "We couldn't leave you alone, couldn't let you be alone."

He grabbed her hand, squeezing it. "Thanks."


Benny Ray drove them into the closest village, stopping in front of the local boarding house. Matt
checked them in, coming back out to hand out keys. They all went to their rooms to prepare for a
quick recon that afternoon. Matt turned just in time to keep his head from being broken open by
the man that came through the bathroom. He blocked his swing, throwing him aside. Benny Ray
caught him, holding him still while Matt knocked him out. They laid him on one of the beds,
searching him for anything useful. Matt came up with a picture of them, folded and refolded
many times. It was an old one, back when Chance and CJ were around. He handed it over,
letting Benny Ray look at it while he continued to search the unconscious man. He came up with
a wallet and stick of gum but nothing more. Matt headed through the bathroom to check on Jim
and Deke. They were fine, apparently hadn't gotten into their rooms before the man had come

Jim and Deke came back through to look at the man. Jim snarled and picked him up, shaking
him. The man woke up and squeaked, wetting himself.

"Ellison," he whispered, then started to pray.

Deke smiled and pried Jim's hands off the man and backed him into the bathroom until he was

Matt and Benny Ray had watched all this in awe. Benny Ray turned back to the man. ~Tell me
what you know or I'll let him have you,~ he said in Spanish.

The man whimpered, but started to tell them things. ~The boss gave me the picture of you, said
you were coming for him. He told me to stop you. You and anyone with you.~

~Who?~ Matt asked.

~Mr. Escoran. He's the local man around here.~ He swallowed. ~You wouldn't really give me
to him, would you? He's a mean one, a killer. He'd tear me apart and eat my insides for fun.~

Benny Ray nodded. ~Yup.~ The man blanched.

Matt pulled Benny Ray aside, into the bathroom. "Okay, so what do we tell him?"

"How 'bout that he succeeded in injuring us but not killing us," Deke said.

"Killing would bring the local sheriffs, wounding wouldn't," Jim agreed. "We could head out this
afternoon, discretely saying we're going to another town if we need to. Some make-up would fix
the bruises."

Matt nodded and went back into the room, but Benny Ray stayed behind for a minute. "What did
you do to that man? He said you'd eat him for fun," Benny Ray asked, laughing.

Jim smiled, a dark and predatorily menacing smile. "He and I had a run in while I was in Peru.
Seems he wanted something from one of the tribe's women and I told him no."

Benny Ray nodded and walked out.

Matt was giving their attacker his instructions. ~You'll tell him you wounded us, not seriously.
Tell him you told us to leave.~

Benny Ray got in the man's face. ~If you try to screw us on this, we'll send Ellison after you. He
remembers you, real fondly, and is just waiting for a chance to renew your acquaintance.~ He
stood up and backed up. ~Understood?~ The man nodded and they let him leave.

Matt raised an eyebrow and Benny Ray smiled. "What? He wouldn't do it any other way." Matt
nodded and pulled out their maps to plan this afternoon's activities.


Blair headed into the station, and brought Margo with him. He knocked on Simon's door. "Hey,
got a minute?" He was waved in. Simon quickly hung up when he saw the woman behind Blair.

"Sandburg, you know better than to bring your women to the station." He scowled.

Blair and Margo laughed, her closing the door. "Oh, Simon, you know that wouldn't happen. Not
with Jim," Blair said.

"How is he anyway? He get where ever okay?" Margo nodded. "Let me guess, you're the
replacement Ellison?"

Margo nodded, smiling. "Yup, Sandburg Babysitters are us." She held a hand out. "Margo

"Oh, yeah," Blair said. "Margo, Captain Simon Banks. Captain Banks, an old friend Margo
Vincent." He waved at the other.

Simon was enchanted. Ms. Vincent was definitely not a female version of Jim. She smiled at
something besides Sandburg, including him. He cleared his throat. "So, are you hanging around

"For the next few actually, then I have to head back to Hermosa Beach for a day or so and I'll be
back after that." Simon nodded. "Is my presence a problem? I could probably help Blair do
some paperwork or something."

Simon waved his hand. "No, that's all right. We weren't really expecting Sandburg in while Jim
was on ... Sabbatical anyway." He sat back. "What do you do? I met some of your colleagues
and they seemed to do something different each time we talked." He smiled. "Or can't you tell
me that either?"

She nodded. "Sorry, nature of the business." She shrugged. "Let's just say I'm a former
investigator in a ... governmental capacity and leave it there."

"Ah, retired and hanging out with Sandburg to keep him out of trouble. Sounds like you should
have stayed with your old job, he's tough to keep straight."

"Funny man, really funny. I'm not that bad, just a little hyper." He smiled, one of those brilliant
mega/light-inducing ones. "It's not like someone's going to invade Rainier while I'm there."

"You better hope not," Simon and Margo said together. They laughed, each looking at Blair and
starting again. Finally Simon stopped and leaned forward. "Would you like to register your
presence?" he asked her.

She shook her head. "I like to keep a low profile. If that's all right."

Simon waved his unlit cigar around. "Yeah, that's fine. I just don't want to know if something
happens. I don't want to be the keeper of the secrets of Blair Sandburg this time. Got it?" He
stared at Blair, who swallowed and nodded. "Good. Jim didn't leave any paperwork and you
don't have any court dates in the next little while, so you can just come in if we need you if you

"That's cool. I have tons of stuff to do for classes tomorrow." He stood. "Simon, man, thanks for
all this."

Simon waved his cigar again and they left.

In the elevator, Margo turned to Blair. "He's a nice guy. Seems to care a lot about you and Jim."

Blair nodded. "Yeah he's our best friend, even after all we've put him through with Jim and us."


Blair was standing in front of his Anthro 101 class, pointing out various tribal regions on the map.
He suddenly grabbed his shoulder and fell to the floor.

The whole class surged forward, Margo first. They surrounded him, someone going for the
department secretary just down the hall.

"Blair," Margo asked, holding his head in her lap. "What's wrong?"

"Jim," he moaned and passed out.


Blair woke up in the emergency room, a very worried Margo holding his hand. "Hi," he said. She
handed over a cup, letting him drink his fill. "Thanks." He handed it back and turned her wrist to
see her watch.

Only two hours had passed, but that was more than enough to worry her and Simon, who was in
the waiting room. Blair knew what was wrong, or to be more precise who that wrong had
happened to, but not how to fix it.

"Margo, he's been shot," Blair said calmly. "Don't give me that look, that's what Guides do. He's
been shot and the rest of the team is in trouble."

Margo nodded and pushed his hair behind his ears. She didn't know what or how he knew, or
even if he was right. She had to get to her purse and call Nick. "I'll be right back, gonna call
home." Blair nodded and she walked outside. She dialed the number to the bunker phone, where
Nick should be. "Nick? Do we have problems?"

[No, why?]

"Blair said Jim was shot, in the shoulder from where he grabbed."

[Ooookkkay, so he would know?]

"I don't know. When's their next check in?" She looked at her watch.

[Four hours from now. Do you want me to make arrangements for you two to come here?]

"I don't know. I'm going to try to get some more info from him." She hung up and walked back
inside, running into Simon on the way. They both went into the cubicle, waiting on the doctor.

Finally, they were allowed to leave, with strict instructions to watch for more pains and to go to
his regular doctor. Margo and Blair were driven home by Simon, who followed them up the

"So, what happened," Simon asked.

"Jim's been shot," Blair said from the bathroom. He came out, washcloth to wipe off his face.
"And before you ask, yes it's happened before."

Simon nodded and sat down. "So, what happens now?"

"We go back to LA," Margo said. "We have the resources there to monitor the situation.

Blair nodded, his scheming little mind going full speed. "Yeah, you probably should."

"We Blair."

"You," Blair said. He walked over to her and touched a spot on her neck, squeezing just lightly.
She passed out. "Told you Star Trek was a good show to watch, Simon," he said, running up the

Blair grabbed the bag he had packed, just in case, a few days ago. He carried it back downstairs.
"Handcuffs," he said, pointing Jim's spare gun at Simon.

Simon's mouth dropped. "Blair, you can't do this, you can't go alone."

"Shut up Simon and cuff yourself to her around the coffee table. I know it'll only hold you until
I'm gone, but I need the few minutes."

Simon nodded and pulled out his cuffs, winding them through the coffee table. "I'll be listening if
you need me." Blair nodded and took the keys from the basket.

"Tell her I'll see her, to go home," Blair said and closed the door. He ran down the stairs to Jim's

Simon got his keys out and nudged Margo. She woke up, looking around in shock. "He's gone to
help," was all he got out before Margo was out the door after Blair. Simon shook his head,
putting away his cuffs. "Good luck Sandburg. You'll need it. Especially with that woman after
you." He pulled out his cell phone and walked around the loft to make sure everything was set
for a week or so's absence. He called Rainier and told Blair's boss a good lie, worthy of the
missing man. He locked the door behind him and left for his office.


Blair was sitting in LAX, waiting on his next flight, when a young man he vaguely recognized
leaned over the back of the seat. He didn't look up or acknowledge him.

"What makes you think you're getting on that plane," Nick asked him.

"You're a photographer, better get your stuff and meet me on the next plane," was all Blair said as
he continued to send out emails to set up his cover. "You've only got an hour and a half."

Nick stood up, frowning. "You're not getting on there," he said. Blair shrugged and typed some
more. Nick looked around for Margo, she should be there by now. Finally he saw her coming
over. He shrugged and stepped out of her way.

She pulled Blair's hair, pulling his head back. "You're coming with us."

"You might want to go get some art supplies and a tranquilizer gun," Blair said, pulling his head
forward, pulling his pony tail out of her grasp. "You've only got about an hour or so left."

Margo sat down on one side of Blair, Nick on the other. "Blair, you have to leave this to us.
We're trained for this."

Blair laughed. "Yup, and so were they. Now then, I think it's my turn and if you want to come,
you'll do as I say." He shut his laptop and stood up. "'Scuse me, gotta hit the stores." He picked
up his bag and left with it.

Margo nodded for Nick to go after him while she called Trout. "Hey, it's me. Seems we've got a
glitch." Pause. "They have?" Short pause. "Okay, we're fixing it now. Leaving in an hour."
She hung up and went to find the men. She pulled Nick aside. "He's right, they were captured.
Seems there was a leak on Trout's end, but it's cleared up." She looked over at where Blair was
buying some supplies. "What's he got planned?"

"An expedition," Nick said, frowning. "You're the artist there to copy some drawings from some
caves, I'm a photography student working on a project, and he's studying the ruins on the estate."
They followed as Blair walked away. "We leave in forty-five minutes. Our passports are in my
car. I've got a bag. We've got everything we need except cameras, film, and the tranq gun he
asked for." He shrugged. "I don't know why."

Blair smiled at them over his shoulder. "It's not threatening." He walked into a store selling
camera equipment. "I'd get what you need. We only have one stop in Mexico City and it's for a
half hour." He walked past them and left for the gate.

Margo opened her phone and made a call, asking the person on the other end for the things they
would need. She hung up and headed for the gate while Nick got their things out of the car.


Blair smiled at the gate guard, pulling down his sunglasses. "Hi, I'm Professor Sandburg. I'm
expected. Here to meet about an expedition out to the ruins?"

The guard nodded and waved them through, calling up to the house.

Blair stopped their jeep in front of the large house. He got out, walking up to the door. He
knocked politely, waiting while it was opened. He would get them this far and the two others
could find out what they needed to know. A guard opened the door. "Hi, I'm Professor
Sandburg, here to see Mr. Escoran about a trip out to the ruins." The guard waved them in.

They were escorted to the living room, sitting themselves to wait. Nick leaned over to Margo,
pointing out discreetly the security cameras. She nodded and he sat back up.

Mr. Escoran came in, shutting the door behind him. "Mr. Sandburg, I was pleased to hear of your
interest in the ruins." He shook all their hands, smiling extra at Margo. "It was a bit odd that it
was so late coming." He sat down, waving at the couch for them to sit.

"Yeah, but I only got permission the day before. You know how bureaucracies and boards of
directors can be." Blair shrugged. "These are the other two members of my team. This is Nick,
he's a photographer working on a cave paintings project. Margo is his wife, she's an artist and
will be doing drawings at both the ruins and the caves." He waved at them and smiled. "I hope it
won't be an inconvenience for us to be here."

"No, not at all. I've always supported the study of the ruins and the caves. It's no problem. Where
do you plan on being?"

"Well, we were thinking about doing the ruins for two days and the caves for another. We have
camping supplies and the necessities in the jeep. In the event of bad weather, we would start in
the caves and stay there, venturing out to the ruins as they aren't that far."

"It sounds like you've been here before, but I can't place you. Were you on an earlier expedition?"
He sat forward. "You do look familiar though."

"No, not really. I was here on one, but got lost, a few years back. I ended up with a native tribe
about fifty miles away." He shrugged. "I have a terrible sense of direction, that's why we keep
Margo around." He smiled at her, prompting her to laugh.

"Really? I was in the opinion it was for more than that," she said.

Blair turned back to Escoran. "May we have your formal permission?"

Escoran sat back, playing with a button on his shirt. "I do have nice references for you three from
some of the other researchers that have been here. I don't see why not. My guards can escort
you," he said and stood.

"That's not necessary. Doctor Michanis, the Anthropologist that was here a few years back gave
us a map. We wouldn't want to take up any of their valuable time." Blair smiled. "Of course if
you insist, it would be appreciated, they might know of a good camping spot."

Escoran smiled at Blair. "Not really, none of my men are familiar with the concept of camping."
He waved a hand. "Go as you like, just don't block the road please."

Blair nodded and shook Escoran's hand. "Of course not. We'll be sure to pull off to the side."
They were shown out by a different guard.

Nick got into the back, checking their supplies. "They've been gone through," he said quietly.
Margo nodded and got in.

Blair got behind the wheel. "Of course. They want to make sure we aren't here to cause harm."
He turned the jeep around and headed back toward the gate. He turned onto the little dirt path.
"Bumpy ride, watch out," he warned.

They were stopped just past the gate by a guard. "Yes?" Blair asked.

"Mr. Escoran's guard found a gun. We need to confiscate it." He held out a hand.

"It's a tranquilizer gun," Nick said, opening it, showing them the darts. "It's in case some animal
decides to attack."

The guard looked at it, then called up to the house on his radio. He handed it back. "That's fine.
Just remember to pull all the way off the road in case we need to get by." He stepped back and
let them go.

Blair handed the map to Margo. "Tell me when to stop. I wasn't kidding about having a bad sense
of direction."

She laughed. "You mean there's something you can't do?" He nodded. "I'm amazed."

"Me too," Nick said. "How'd you set this all up since yesterday?"

"Michanis is a friend. He got me the map and the references." Blair turned a corner. "Not all that
hard. Escoran's known for letting studies on the ruins and caves go unmolested and he's usually
very helpful."

"Right around here, Blair," Margo said. He nodded and picked a good clearing to pull of on. He
turned to Nick. "Okay, head that way," he pointed, "for almost a mile and make camp. I'm going
to the caves for a minute to see something."

Nick laughed. "Why?"

Blair just smiled and grabbed his bag. He walked away, taking the keys with him.

Nick looked at Margo, who shrugged. They unloaded and headed for the clearing Blair had told
them to go to.


Blair walked back into camp and laid his bag down. "Still there?" Margo asked and he nodded,
sitting down.

"Yeah, and then some." He pulled out a map, a hand drawn thing on coarse paper, and handed it
over. "Here. Intel as of almost a year ago. No new renovations." Blair started to set up his tent.

Margo looked at it, then looked at Blair. "How?"

"Friends," was all he said, crawling inside. "I'm meditating," he called out and zipped up the tent.

Nick looked over her shoulder. "Good friends to have."

"Yeah, it looks like it," Margo said. They sat down and planned what was going to happen while
keeping an eye on Blair's tent for anything strange.


Matt Sheppard looked up as the door to his cell opened. He smiled at Margo, swinging the keys
lazily. "Hey, how's Blair?"

"Ask him yourself in a minute," she said, coming over and undoing him. "Where are the others?"

"Benny Ray's next door, Jim and Deke are in another hall someplace. I can hear him screaming
on occasion."

"Yeah, he's been shot, they're probably taking advantage of that." She helped her team leader
stand then handed over a pistol she had managed to sneak in along with the other weapons her
contact had gotten them. "Come on."

They left, joining Nick in the hall. They let Benny Ray go, Nick handing him his spare pistol.
The team moved down the halls silently, searching for the other two members of their team. They
found them, after taking care of a few guards surrounding them, and unstrapped Jim from the
table. Nick unhooked Deke from the chair he was strapped into, waiting while he got dressed,
then helped him out into the hall. Margo and Benny Ray helped Jim out, each holding up an arm.

They slowly crept out of the mansion, moving one group at a time across doorways and hall
entrances. When they finally made it to their point of entry, the met with resistance.

One of the guards got off a yell before he was shot, alerting the men in the security room. Pretty
soon there were five or six guards coming up behind them and another few coming up the lawn.
Matt had Jim and Deke hidden, with Nick to protect them, while he, Margo, and Benny Ray
fought it out.

Margo shot two of the guards coming up the lawn, just barely missing the other. Benny Ray and
Matt took care of the guards coming from the house, shooting, hitting, or punching them if they
came close enough. Matt and Benny Ray were each grappling with a guard, their guns useless at
such close range, Margo had just taken down the last one of hers. She turned, shooting Matt's in
time for him to dodge the new guard's swing with the butt of his gun, meant to cave in his skull.
He took out that guard, then helped Benny Ray with his, before going back for the three hidden


Blair led Jim into his tent, trusting Margo and Nick to take care of their team-mates. He laid Jim
down carefully, wincing when the gun shot wound started to bleed sluggishly. "Man, I leave you
alone for a few days and look what happens," he muttered more to calm himself than for Jim's

He carefully rebandaged the wound, pouring liberal amounts of antiseptic over it in the process.
He got Jim changed into a clean shirt, using the dirty one to fashion a sling for the injured arm.

Jim smiled at him, reaction a hand up to ruffle the curls he adored. "Thanks Chief," he said

Blair smacked him across the back of his head. "Never again, do you hear me?" Jim nodded,
biting his lip as Blair tied off the last bandage tightly. "Good." He smiled at his mate. "Very
good. We're never going to do this again," he said quietly, leaning down for a kiss.

Jim pulled him into his lap with one hand, holding him close. He gave Blair the comfort he
needed, let him know he was all right. They rocked together gently, reaffirming Blair's place in
his life, in his soul.

Finally, Matt tapped on the outside of the tent, squatting down to look inside. "Hey, how's the

Jim stroked Blair's hair one last time, then helped him up. "Blair bandaged it well enough." He
stood up, using Blair's shoulder as a support. "We gotta move."

"We're going to the caves," Blair said.

Matt's mouth hung open. "But, aren't they on the edge of his property? He'll look there." He
didn't know what to make of what Margo and Nick had told him, but he could see now they
hadn't been lying. "We can't go there, we need to leave the area and go someplace safe."

Blair stood up and shouldered his pack, which he had gotten together earlier. "The caves have a
few that go through to the other side. There's a native tribe on the other side of them that has
agreed to help me. We," he motioned to Jim and himself, "are going to the caves, come along
if you want." He got out of the tent, holding it open so Jim could get out. He quickly got the tent
down and rolled up. He turned to Margo, kissing her on the cheek. "I'm going to the caves with
Jim, wanna come?"

Matt scowled at the three of them, then nodded. He had to admit, under torture maybe but he
would admit it, Blair knew what he was doing and the area better than he did at that moment. He
helped Benny Ray up, letting Nick get Deke. They all followed Blair, who was helping Jim

They were almost there when they saw headlights. Blair stepped back, letting Margo lead them
across the road. He tapped her shoulder, showing her the way to go. She nodded and guarded
them as they all crossed and followed Blair.


Blair set Jim down on the cave floor, handing him his pack. He went to help the others, bracing
Deke as he got down onto the floor. He pulled Matt aside, but he knew Jim would be listening.

"Okay, this cave isn't the one that goes through. There's a passage back there," he pointed, "that
leads to a small spring, mostly clean water, good enough to drink usually. The men won't search
in there, most of them are locals and that's a holy spring to the natives, which they're scared
shitless of. We've been given permission to be here by them, but can't defile it." He smiled. "In
other words, no bathing directly in the water. I'm going to go get the healer, she's waiting on the
other side of the through and through cave for me. Bring everyone except Margo and Nick back
there. They know *we're* here so won't hassle them. If they ask, just tell them I went back to the
jeep for something and we moved here because we heard gunfire." He patted Matt's arm and
started to leave.

"Blair," Matt said. He handed over a pistol, or tried to.

"Nope, don't need it. I'm safer here than at home," he said and disappeared around the cave

Matt shook his head and turned to look at his team. "Is he always like this?" Margo and Nick
nodded so he shrugged. "Okay, you heard the man. You two set up out here and we're going into
the back." He pulled Margo and Nick aside. "This is going to make an interesting report, isn't
it?" They nodded and he left them alone to do what they had to so they would all be safe.


Blair smiled at the warrior that met him at the other side of the cave, hugging him tightly. ~How
are you?~ He stepped back and looked him over. ~I see your wife's not feeding you enough.~

The warrior laughed. ~Oh, Lost One, you kept your sense of humor. She comes, not alone. May
we help you another way?~

~They're going to need a safe way around the town, but otherwise...~ Blair shrugged. ~Just a little
misunderstanding. My mate and I may or may not go with them.~

~You must all come back to the village, we'll celebrate while your mate heals,~ the woman
coming out of the jungle said. She patted the bag she carried. ~In the spring cave?~

~Yes Mother, in the spring cave. Be safe, there are many of the guards around.~

She laughed, kissing his cheek. ~I'm just an old woman on the way to the holy spring, they
wouldn't bother me.~ She leaned closer. ~Besides, I want to see your mate for myself. One that
you dreamed of, that took you away from us, had better be something very special.~ She patted
his hair again and made her way through the cave entrance.

Blair smiled up at the Chieftain that had come with her. ~Father,~ he said, moving easily into the
man's arms. ~How are you?~

The man smiled, holding him close. ~We have missed you, Lost One. The village has not
prospered as it had since you left.~ He held Blair out at arm's length. ~Is your mate the one?~

Blair nodded. ~A fine watcher, father, even if he is stubborn and thinks he's right.~ He smiled, a
glint of mischief coming through. ~You would be shocked at all the things he's gotten me into.~

The Chieftain laughed, ruffling Blair's curls ~You never needed help to get into trouble. Just
think about how you came to us.~ He led Blair back into the caves, the warrior following behind


Jim sat up, looking around. He could smell Blair on someone else, someone who was coming
toward them. "We've got company," he said softly. Matt nodded and picked up his gun, but Jim
stopped him by grabbing his hand. "Blair sent him. I can smell him on her."

Matt put the gun away, nodding at Benny Ray to do the same. They waited while whoever it was
talked with Margo. Finally she poked her head through the small opening. ~Which of you is the
Lost One's mate?~

Jim laughed. ~I am.~ He turned to Matt. "Blair sent her. She's probably a healer, from herbs
she's carrying."

Benny Ray got up, helping her through the opening. "Here ma'am."

She smiled up at him, patting his cheek. ~A good warrior.~ She smiled at Jim. ~I wonder if my
daughter would like him?~

Jim laughed. ~Maybe, but I think he has another.~ He sat up some, letting her unwrap his
shoulder. ~I could ask him though.~ He looked at Benny Ray, smiling. "She wants to know if
you would like to meet her daughter.

Matt started to laugh. "That's all he needs, a woman." He shook his head. "Tell her he's just
gotten rid of his last wife and he needs time to be a man again." Jim translated, making her

~That's all right, she needs one that can hold her in tightly. She's too wild, my youngest.~ She
poured some water over the wound, making Jim hiss. ~This needs something, the fire burns in

~I can't take many things,~ he warned her.

She smiled, kissing his cheek. ~As it is with all watchers. Your Lost One had many dreams of
you while he was here with us. We are all glad he has found you.~ She dipped some water out of
the spring, putting a few herbs in the bowl with it. ~This will hurt, do not yell, the guards are
nearby.~ She poured it over his shoulder, a hand over his mouth to muffle the scream he tried not
to let out.

Matt hurried over, handing over his shirt so Jim could gag himself with it. She nodded at him and
poured some more, this time making Jim pass out. She looked up at Matt. ~Such a warrior as he
shouldn't have to be put through this. He's much too important to all to risk.~ With that warning
to him she stood up, grabbing some moss off the ceiling. She packed it onto the wound and
rebandaged it. ~You will come to our village, he may not travel now.~ She left them alone.

She and Blair met in the outer chamber. ~He is very ill, he must not travel for a while. You will
come to the village so he may heal.~ She patted his head and left.

The warrior's head perked up. ~The guards are here,~ he said quietly.

Blair nodded and motioned for them to sit. When the guards came, they were all talking about
some of the cave drawings.

"You're not supposed to be here," the guard said, pointing at Margo and Nick.

"Actually," Blair said, "we heard gunshots and thought it better to hide just in case." He motioned
around the cave and at the natives. "We met them here, they were explaining the significance of
the paintings."

The guard radioed in, and more came, Mr. Escoran with them. "Mr. Sandburg," he said, "why are
you here instead of at the ruins?"

"We heard gunfire and thought it would be best if we hid in here. We met up with the Chieftain
and his son in here. They were explaining the paintings to us." He waved a hand around. "As
you can see, it's just us. Their healer just left."

He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't say anything about others." He got this predatory smile.

Blair laughed. "Why else would there have been gunfire and a search? I'm not that naive to the
ways of the world, Sir." He waved at the chief. "I met him the last time I was here, when I got
lost. We were catching up on the village outside and he offered to come and tell us about the
paintings. Said the last person got some of them wrong and he didn't like that."

"How did you two meet?" Escoran asked.

"One of the local estate holders found me finally and they were at his house to talk. I met at
Henry's house." Blair shrugged. "They were both very nice to me."

Escoran nodded and left, the guards following him. "Just stay here," he warned from outside.
"The intruders are very dangerous bandits."

"We were going to the village for a while in the morning," Blair called.

"Fine," was yelled back.

Matt came out then, and Blair smiled at him. "We've been invited to the village," Blair told him.
"They'll help us leave here peacefully." Matt nodded and went back to the spring.


Blair was pounced on his way into the village, two of the older children screaming and coming up
to hug him. He smiled and rolled around with them, playing.

The Chief turned to Matt. ~He always was an old child.~ He smiled and helped them to a hut,
laying Jim on a skin covered platform. ~You'll be safe here.~

~Thank you.~ He shook the chief's hand and turned to look at his team, who was definitely
looking a bit worse for the recent wear on them. "We're staying for a while," he said.

Margo nodded and left to go get Blair.

Benny Ray looked at Matt. "Major, is this such a good idea? Getting the natives involved? It
could cause a lot of trouble for them."

Matt waved around. "Do you see another way?" Benny Ray shook his head and sat down to rest.
"Okay. Now then, I want a report on how you got here, Nick."

"Blair, sir," he said. He sat down, folding his legs up under him. "He ... felt Jim be shot. Margo
said he passed out in front of his class, grabbing his shoulder, the same one Jim got shot in.
When he got home, he knocked out Margo, slipped out. I caught up with him at LAX and he
didn't even look at me. All he said was ‘your a photographer'. He arranged everything, from the
trip to what we did, who we were, got us permission to stay on the land. Everything. He even
got us the house plans. Margo and I couldn't let him come alone, so we were dragged behind

Jim laughed. "That's my Blair, Hurricane Sandburg. Better lash yourself down or get caught up
in it."

Benny Ray smiled at him. "That how he got you?"

Jim laughed some more, deeply, grabbing his shoulder. "Yeah. I was so caught up in all of my
senses he just swept inside my defenses and took root. I came out of zone and found him kissing
me, but I couldn't do anything but kiss him back. I pounced him, end of story, start of fairytale."

Blair came in, snorted, and sat down on the pallet next to Jim. "Sure it was, man. Just a routine
happily ever after. Do I have to tell them about the color coded tupperware or the water timer that
kept shutting off while I was doing my hair? Or, heaven forbid, my mother's first visit?"

Nick laughed. "Man, if she raised you, she must be some woman. I wouldn't want to mess with

Blair smiled. "Nope, not my mom. Naomi Sandburg is a fierce hippy warrior in her son's
defense. She's taken down many a principle and teacher in my behalf. And almost Simon and
Jim too, come to think of it." He stroked Jim's forehead. "You're still hot, it's time for more tea."
He walked out of the hut.

Jim rolled slightly. "He wasn't kidding about his mother. When she found out I was sleeping
with her son, the first words out of her mouth, to me, were ‘why are you tainting my son and how
long will it take me to clean his spirit'. She and Blair traveled extensively when they were
together, to a lot of places. She's the champion man wrecker. My captain still shudders when her
name is mentioned after the fit she threw in his office when she found out Blair was going
undercover." He shuddered. "I still don't want to think about that. She tried to tear Simon and I
a new one. He stood up to her, and so did Blair, but she still almost killed both us. Verbally."
He laid back, hearing Blair coming.

Blair came back in, bowl with steam coming out of it in hand. "Tea time," he said/sang. Jim
moaned. "I know you don't want to upset my mother by not taking it and dying."

Jim's eyes got very wide. "Naomi's here?"

Blair laughed. "Oh man, you should see the look on your face." He handed over the bowl,
watching as Jim drank it. "No, this is the tribe I ended up with when I got lost a few years back.
I was here almost a year and a half, actually closer to two years or so. I was adopted by the
healer and the Chief." He took back the bowl and left.

"Wow," Nick said. "He is quite a man. Did you know?" he asked Jim.

Jim shook his head sleepily. "No, and that's probably not all there is to the story either." He
closed his eyes and fell asleep.


Blair smiled up at the men coming through the brush. ~Hi dad, Henry,~ he called. They came
over, the new man shaking Blair's hand. ~Man, you've gotten older.~

~And you still haven't grown up,~ Henry said. He smiled and sat down. ~So, did they tell you?
And how is your mate?~

~He's all right. Fevered. And yes, they told me you were marrying her. I'm glad she found
someone that will take care of them.~ He nudged some dirt with his toe. ~So, how long?~

~The marriage? In three days. Will you be here?~ Blair shrugged. ~I would like it if you would,
so would she.~ Blair nodded and Henry switched subjects. ~So, tell me about your mate? Is it the
one you dreamed of?~

~Yeah, he is.~ He looked over, seeing the shocked expression. ~It's destined. The dreams proved
it.~ Henry laughed. ~Yeah, tell me about it. I hadn't even known myself until I met him, tried to
help him.~

Henry clapped him on the back. ~You're with him and that's all that matters. I would like to meet
with him, threaten him to take better care of you.~

Blair laughed, standing. ~Him take better care of me? What am I, fragile?~

~Trouble,~ Henry said simply. They went to the hut. "Hello," he told them.

Blair waved at Matt, who almost had his pistol out. "This is Henry, he's the estate owner that
‘saved' me from being lost here. I believe you have some friends in common." He turned to
Henry, snapping his fingers. "Oh yeah, Jack Kelso said hi. Told me to tell you if I ran into you

Henry smiled. "How is he?" Blair wiggled his hand. "That good?"

"He's teaching freshmen this semester." Henry nodded and Blair left.

Nick leaned over to Matt and whispered, "I want to be Blair, he has some of the strangest

Matt smiled and nodded. "So, Company or otherwise?" At that moment, Margo came back in.
She yelled and hugged him, talking in some vaguely middle eastern dialect. "I'd say Company."

Margo turned him around. "Guys, this is Henry, he used to be my controller." She smiled. "I'd
heard you retired down here somewhere to live like a king, but here?" She waved at a mat and
they both sat.

Henry pulled a lock of her hair. "Yes, I did. I also found a certain young man when he got lost.
Or so they tell me." He shrugged, hugging her again. "I'm so glad you got out."

"Me too," she said. "But things eventually got better for women field agents."

"Sure they did," Henry said, snorting, "and I can fly without equipment." Margo nodded and let it
drop. "So, you need to go home?" She waved at Matt, making him frown. "You should be in
charge," he told her in the language they had just greeted each other in.

"But I trust him and he retrieved me from retirement," she replied in the same language.

He nodded and turned back to Matt. "Home?"

"US," Matt said, making Margo groan. "Los Angeles to be exact." Henry nodded and pulled out
a map. "What's this?"

"The route you'll take out of the brush. It'll get you to a city, where you'll get home."

Matt looked it over. "How far is it to the city?"

"Sixty kilometers or so to the South. Not a large city, but large enough to get lost in. I know you
can't travel for a while, so I'm going to bring you home with me. There you'll be able to call your
boss and tell him you live. He called me this morning and I told him, but he didn't seem to
believe me, but then we've never liked each other very much."

Matt nodded and handed the map to Benny Ray. "Okay. We thank you."

"Not a problem. I wouldn't let Blair or Margo rot out here." He stood and pulled Matt into a hug.
"Hurt her and deal with me," he whispered. Matt nodded and stepped back. "I'll come back
tomorrow and we'll get you moved. The Chieftain's wife says he should be able to be moved by
then. I'll bring a car close and we'll get you back that way." He turned to go. "Oh, and I sent a
message to Escoran telling him the three guests he had were taking refuge at my house. That
should waylay any suspicion and spare the village." He patted Margo's head one last time and

Benny Ray looked at Margo. "How do you and Blair meet the same people?" She shrugged and
he went back to studying the map.


Blair was smiling and saying something to the woman serving him, a child sitting in his lap,
when Nick came and sat next to him. "Hey," he said. He pointed at the serving woman. "This is
Nera, she's the one Henry's marrying in a few days." Nick nodded at her and she left, taking the
child from him. "What's up?"

"How do you do it?"

"What?" Blair asked, confused.

"You charm every woman, you have better contacts than my whole group put together and
everyone likes you when they first meet you. How do you do it?"

Blair laughed. "Oh, man, I want you to tell that to Jim's boss. He and Jim both called me names
when they first met me. Jim actually called me a ‘neo-hippie witch doctor punk' and Simon called
me a ‘demented flower child' or something like that." He took a bite of the food, holding out the
bowl so Nick could take some. "Truth?" Nick nodded. "I get on a lot of people's nerves at first
but I'm one of those people that grow on you. I just do it really quick when I prove I have
something special about me. My first day at Jim's station, I helped thwart terrorists taking over
the station. My first day at Rainier University as an undergrad, I solved a persistent problem my
advisor had been having." He shrugged and took another bite. "My first two weeks or so here I
was delirious with a fever, but I seemed to need taking care of so they adopted me." He held out
the bowl so Nick could take some more. "I don't know how I do it, it just happens." He shrugged
and took another bite.

Nick nodded. "I'm just usually found to be annoying to those I meet. Maybe that's what's wrong.
I don't grow on people."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Benny Ray said. "You grew on us."

Nick laughed. "Yeah, I had to of. You were ready to kill me the first time we met."

"Nah," Benny Ray said as he sat down, "just shackle you to the roof of the van and let you ride up
there until you calmed down into a normal acting person." He smiled. "You should have seen
him then. He was pretending to be a criminal to catch some dirty Marshals. He was *so*
annoying Matt had to stop me from using him as a shield when the shooting started. You should
thank him for that sometime," he told Nick. "Actually Matt said a lot of the same things about
you that he did Blair when he got back from Cascade." He stole some food from Blair's bowl.
"What is this? Or shouldn't I ask?"

Blair smiled. "It's beef, stewed in broth from a few root veggies that grow naturally around here.
It's not bad, nutritious, and fills you up very well. They pack it in leaves and dry it to take on
trips." He ate some more. "Becomes something like shredded jerky, chewy and all."

"Maybe we should get some for when we travel," Nick said. "This is great."

Benny Ray nodded. "Much better than rations." Blair and Nick shuddered. "Oh, come on they
aren't that bad."

"Bet me," Blair said to Nick. They cracked up laughing. Blair looked up, seeing the Healer and
her daughter coming. "Benny Ray, just smile and I'll translate for you." He nodded toward the
approaching women. Benny Ray nodded.

~Blair, how are you? Is everything all right?~

~Very well. Jim's fever is almost gone and I was just enjoying the sunset. How are you Mirith?~

~Well,~ she said and blushed, looking down. ~The meat was all right?~

~She cooked tonight,~ her mother explained.

~Very well. We all commented on it.~ He waved at the other two men. "Mirith cooked the meat
tonight," he told them. ~How goes the search for a mate? I can't imagine why you haven't been
kidnaped yet by some man who wanted you all to himself.~

Mirith laughed. ~Blair,~ she said and rolled her eyes. ~You know no man would want me
because I'm stronger than them. Pretty soon, my father's going to auction me off to another

Blair laughed. ~Oh, I don't think he'd do that. He doesn't want to lose you to marriage so he
scares off all the men who come looking for you. He even warned me off you.~

~Blair, I was a child then and had a large fascination with you. He warned you off so I couldn't
near you.~ She smiled and sat. ~He doesn't scare off the men.~

~Yes he does,~ Blair said. ~He scared off him this morning,~ he said, pointing at Nick. ~You
should have heard some of the tales he told them.~

The healer laughed. ~Lost One, you still haven't given up your tongue I see.~ She walked off,
laughing still.

Blair turned to Nick. "Didn't her father warn you off this morning by telling you horrible stories
about his daughter?" Nick smiled and nodded, knowing where this was going. ~See? He told him
you were stronger than all the men in the tribe together and that you ate men for breakfast when
they tried to speak to you.~

She smiled. ~My Mother's right, you do still have your golden tongue. Stick it out so I can scrape
some gold off so all men will want me?~ Blair laughed and stuck out his tongue, making her
sigh. ~I see your mate has already gotten it all. No wonder you stay with him.~ She laughed. ~I
should steal him so I'd be rich too.~

Blair shook his head. ~Nope, can't have him. He's the one I dreamed of, even if he does irritate
me some days.~ He shook his head. ~I wonder some days why I walk this path. I should get a
nice woman like you to take care of me, make me fat and lazy.~

She laughed. ~That couldn't happen. He wouldn't let it,~ she said, pointing at the man standing
behind him. ~He guards you too closely for me to steal you.~ She smiled up at Jim. ~Don't

Jim sat down behind Blair. ~Yes, I do.~ He growled at her. ~You'd have to fight me to get him.~

She laughed. ~I wouldn't stand a chance against a warrior such as yourself. But your friends
would be a great challenge.~ She smiled at Nick. ~He is like your mate, he would be good for

Jim shook his head. ~I think he has another he is destined for.~ He smiled. ~I don't know about
the other though.~ Blair his hit leg. "What?"

"Don't do that Jim, she might try to make a move on him," Blair said, rubbing the spot he had just
hit. "Think about how mean that would be to her."

Jim nodded. ~I know he's just gotten rid of one wife, she couldn't take the life of a warrior,~ he
told her.

~I think they have mates at home, Mirith. No offense, but I don't think they could stay anyway.
Their lives are in a *big* city with many people and strange things.~

~Including the people,~ Jim said. ~You wouldn't believe some of them. Purple or green hair done
in sharp styles that hurt when you touch them. Women that hunt the men. They wouldn't be able
to live like this, it's almost alien to them.~ He smiled. ~Now my Captain, at home, he would be
perfect for you. His son is sixteen and he's a powerful man and warrior.~

"Jim!" Blair said. He covered his eyes and shook his head. "You can't fix her up with Simon, we
can't get him down here. Besides, Darryl would have your head for it."

Jim smiled and nuzzled Blair's ear. "Maybe not. He's been looking for a step-mom himself.
Simon said he tried to fix him up with one of his teachers."

Blair arched his neck back, giving Jim better access. "Oh, man, I've got to talk to him when we
get home, I've got the perfect woman."

Jim turned Blair's face. "I thought we agree that you wouldn't do that again, not after that last

"There was nothing wrong with them Jim," Blair protested.

Jim smiled. "Did you say that they both got arrested for domestic assault?" He turned to look at
Nick. "Those two, the only way to describe them is bipolar. Sometimes it's love and sometimes
it's hate."

"Clothes tearing, don't care where we are or who's watching loving or screaming, throwing things
arguments, huh? But don't we have that?"

"We will not discuss that, Blair," Jim warned. Blair nodded and the subject was considered
dropped. ~So, why don't the men around here flock to your door? You seem to be a good
woman, good wife material.~

~Because I'm too strong for a woman,~ Mirith said. ~Men don't want a woman that can compete
with them. They want one that will sit at home and wait patiently while they hunt or play games
with the men.~ She sighed, and looked up. ~It's late, I should be getting home, no proper woman
would be sitting out here surrounded by men this late.~ She got up and smiled at them. ~Guard
them well Watcher, I may just come in tonight and find a way to keep them here with me.~ She
ran off, back to her family's hut.

"Men," Blair said, "be very careful of who crawls in with you tonight. She just said she's going
to find a way to keep you two here."

Nick looked at Benny Ray and smiled. "Oh, I don't know about that," he said and stood up. He
went back to their hut, Benny Ray following him.

Blair looked back at Jim. "Should we go in there and bother them?" Jim shook his head. "Okay,
I'm fine right where I am." He snuggled back into Jim's arms, pulling them tighter around him.
"Don't let me fall asleep."

"Don't worry, I'll protect you, Lost One," Jim murmured, pulling on a few curls with his lips
before planting a soft kiss on the top of Blair's head. "I'm not leaving again."


Matt swept his room for bugs and smiled. Henry had left them alone, just like he had said. He
knocked on the connecting door with Benny Ray's room, going in when he was given permission.

The other man was handing his dirty laundry to a maid. She took it and left, leaving them alone.
Benny Ray sat on the bed, falling backward with a groan. "I'm too old for this," he moaned,
covering his head, which Matt knew hurt.

"You're not too old," Matt said, coming over and sitting beside him. "I'm too old, but you're
not." He smiled at the eye that reappeared. "What?"

"You're not that much older than me."

"Yup, but those twenty-six months make all the difference." He ducked the pillow that came
toward his head. He was unprepared for the body that hit his and rolled him under it so he could
be punched.

Margo stood in the doorway, watching all this, a sad smile on her face. She quietly left before
anyone could catch her.


Margo met Nick downstairs later that night, both foraging for a midnight snack. They conspired
quietly, building monster sandwiches and going to the den to watch some tv off the satellite..
They found "Cops" and settled down to watch the stupidity in quiet comfort.

Once it was over, Nick looked over at Margo, appraising her mood. Usually it was Benny Ray
raiding the refrigerator with him. "What's up?" he asked, taking a drink of milk.

She looked at him, but didn't say a word.

"You aren't usually the one that I raid the frig with and all, so what happened that upset you?"
She raised an eyebrow and crossed her arms. "Well, you do only eat things like this when you're
upset so give." He smiled his most charming and friendly smile and waited.

Finally Margo answered him. "It's nothing."

"Yeah and I'm the Pope."

"I wouldn't say things like that here," she said, poking his arm. "This is a mostly Catholic

"I'm sure you'd save me from the ravaging hordes and all," he said, patting her arm and moving
around so he could face her. "Now, what's up? Tell me or I'll go get Deke to hold you down and
tickle you until you're over it." He grinned, making Margo laugh. "You think I'm kidding?"

She shook her head. "It's nothing, just something I didn't expect to see earlier hit me where I
didn't expect and now I'm working through it." Nick nodded. "That's all, nothing tragic."

"Okay, if that's it," he said and turned around. "If you want to talk, I've always had ears."

Margo picked up a couch pillow and hit him with it.


Deke stepped off the plane. "Man, it's good to be home."

Nick pushed him out of the way slightly. "Yup, smog sweet smog."

Benny Ray stepped out. "Don't you mean the amorality capital of the world."

Margo looked at him, shading her eyes. "Isn't that New York, what with the financial district and

"Hey!" Nick said, turning and almost tripping on a kid that rushed past him. "New York is a
great town."

Matt walked behind them, shaking his head. "Kids. Home," he said. They all cracked up

Blair and Jim walked down the walkway, holding hands, smiling at the people in front of them.
"It's good to make new friends," Blair said.

Jim pulled him in for a hug. "Yeah it is, and we're all really lucky that you consider us that," he
whispered into Blair's ear.

"Man, stop it and come have a drink with us," Nick called.

Blair smiled and moved away slightly. "Can't, connecting flight in an hour."

Margo came back up the walkway and pulled Blair away, bringing Jim because he wouldn't let go
of Blair's hand. "Not even close. We switched it, it's tomorrow. Simon knows so relax." She
pushed them into the custom's line. "Now then, you're cordially invited to our place for a drink.
Accept or we'll sick the men on you." She smiled at Blair. "I don't think you'd want that."

Jim looked at Blair, who shrugged. "Okay."


Blair raised a beer glass up. "To new friends, may we not loose touch," he said.

"Here here," everyone replied and drank.

Nick came up first. "Man, we ought to keep you around. Things would be so much easier with
you here." He looked over at Matt, smiling. "After all, we always could use someone to tell us
how to do it."

Matt tossed a handful of peanuts at Nick and smiled at Blair. "He's right, we could use both of
you. Nice salary, someplace warm, many benefits including travel." He looked at Jim. "And
we'd never leave Blair behind again."

Jim looked at Blair. "No way. We lead too much of an interesting life as is. We both like the
heat and all, but we need less terrorists in our lives, not more."

Blair laughed. "Besides, could you see our trouble magnet selves here? The city would stop and
Cascade would be peaceful."

Jim pulled on the ponytail of his lover. "Don't tell Simon that, he'll make us move." He turned
back to Matt. "Seriously? We'd love to, but we couldn't do this all the time. If you need us, you
can call,"

"Occasionally," Blair added in.

"And we'll come to help, but not all the time. It'd tax who we were too much."

Matt nodded. "I can understand that, and we'll keep you in mind for emergency back-up.
Especially when we're up there." He and Jim touched glasses. "To the next time, may Blair not
have to rescue us."

Jim laughed. "But you'll get used to it, I did." He drank and everyone laughed again.

Epilogue 1: Two months later.

Margo sat in Matt's office, wondering why she had been called in tonight. No one else was here.

Matt looked up from the paper he was working on. "Are you mad at me? Leaving the team?"

She shook her head. "No, why?"

"You've just been distant recently and I wondered why." He put down his pen and sat back.
"Was there something I did to upset you? Hurt you maybe?"

She stiffened. "No, not really. I've not noticed any change in my behavior."

Matt smiled. "It started around the time in South America. We've not had the easy and playful
relationship we used to and I was wondering why. What I had done to make you so distant?"

Margo thought back to the scene she had witnessed. "Nothing," she said quietly. "I just realized
some things on that mission and I'm still thinking about them." She sat back.

Matt came around the desk, sitting in the chair next to her. "So did I," he said and leaned over to
kiss her cheek. "Many things, including a lesson on how we aren't always what we seem."

Margo was shocked. "But, I... I..."

"Let me guess, you saw me and Benny Ray rolling around to relieve some tension?" She nodded.
"Nope, not like that. I'm not anyway, didn't ever ask him."

She looked at him, mouth falling open. "You're not?" He shook his head. "Then what?"

He smiled and picked up the remote control to the stereo. "Dance with me?" He stood and
helped her up.

Epilogue 2: Almost a year after the team's return from South America.

Blair swung his desk chair around. "Yeah? Come in!" he called.

Nick popped his head around the door. "Got a minute for old friends?"

Blair smiled and stood, pulling him into the room and hugging him. "Yeah, always. What can I
help you with?"

"Well, we have a meeting up here and we needed a native guide or two. Could we borrow you?
Say in about an hour or so?"

Margo came in, giving him a tight hug. "We've already talked to Jim and Simon, he'll be here in
a few minutes."

Blair motioned them in. "Sure, but I have meeting with a seminar student in a while. She's
having some problems and came up to see me personally."

A young woman backed through the door, hands held out before her. "No, please," she said.

Margo and Nick had their guns drawn before the words were out of the girl's mouth. The man
backing her up stopped and looked at them. He decided to flee.

"Jim," Blair whispered, "incoming."

They could all hear the siren come on outside. Nick turned in time to see the woman fall and he
rushed over to catch her. Blair cleared off his couch and Nick placed her on it, stepping aside so
Margo could check her over.

Blair knew there was something different about this girl, but he didn't know what. Until the wolf
came out and batted the back of his knees. He got the point quickly and moved Margo out of the
way. "You need to come back now," he said, using the Guide voice, but it didn't work.

Deke and Matt came in, shaking their heads. Deke walked over to the couch, feeling pulled to it,
and kneeled down beside her. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"She fainted when the guy ran," Nick said.

She moaned and tried to sit up, but Deke held her in place. "Sshh, you're safe now. Just relax,
he's been arrested."

She looked over at him and said, "You have the most soothing voice."

Blair started to laugh and handed Deke a new copy of the ‘handbook' for training a sentinel.
"Here man, you're going to need it."

The End