Author's Notes: This story is a part of my The Sentinel/MacGyver series, set in time after Follow the Tiger and before The Promise of Christmas Future (ie, Cory's in it, but not Ian). Since the relationships between Blair, MacGyver, and Sam are drawn in the first five stories (The Maze, Control, Coatlicue, Ares Bugle, and Heirs to a Nightmare), you may wish to read them first. If you are the impatient sort, I do have an overview to the first five, but it is with my Mag 7 version of Synchronization in Chaos on Lady Angel's site, and it does spoil those stories
I would also recommend reading the others of the series, especially Follow the Tiger, which introduces Cory. References to Charming the Hawk are also made, and Amanda Chambers was introduced in my The Cascade Virtual Tales episode, Mishaps with Dinner.
This story takes place in the fall of 2001, several weeks after 9-11.
As always, I wish to thank several people. Zadra, my sanity and character check; Shallan, my military advisor who's helped me a lot with Cory's father; Sealie, who's always pushing me to write; my betas Melanie, Robin, and Lori; and as always to wolfpup who does the posting so I can focus on writing. And I am deeply grateful to all the wonderful people who continue to email me about my stories. I appreciate hearing from you.
Please send any comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy the ride.
Disclaimer: Most of characters are not mine. I'm borrowing them out of deep reverence, affection and respect. I will accept only personal fulfillment, and no monetary gain. If you do sue, you will not get much and I will send over my Black Lab mix, who will stare at you pathetically for hours and probably con you out of all your food.
Please do not reproduce, copy, or otherwise use any part of this story without permission from the author.
Rated PG-13, mostly for language
Administrative Leave. They were forcing him to take administrative leave.
Yes, America was attacked. Yes, he was in the Pentagon when it happened. And yes, he burned his hands. He was healing and could handle going back to work. He didn't need time off to think about what happened. What was there to think about? His country was hit and it was his job to protect her, to make plans that minimized the danger to his people protecting her. It was as simple as that.
As far as 'working things out', he had thought enough when it was happening. When faced with never seeing his family again, he had thought about what that would mean. It hadn't taken very long to go over the balance sheet of his life.
For his wife Patty, he had regretted that they hadn't taken the trip to New England to go antiquing like she had dreamed about. Perhaps now they could, before the upcoming war heated up. But she knew he loved her; he made sure of that. It was a lesson he had learned a long time ago with another woman.
When he thought about his sweet daughter Missy, he was thankful he had seen her grow into a beautiful, self-sufficient woman. He had only regretted that he wouldn't be able to walk her down the aisle when she met the right man. Now, he still hoped he would one day.
Then there was his youngest boy. He wouldn't have picked a Navy career for a son, but Mark seemed to thrive at sea. The two of them had made peace a long time ago over the decision. Mark would do fine.
Of course, his pride and joy was Russell, his and Patty's first boy. A Ranger, Russ was part of the Army's best and brightest, the elite. The young man showed every indication of going fast and far in his career, just like the old man.
However, he did have a few major regrets. They were centered on his eldest son, his and Jinah's son.
He had always been at odds with Cory. He had had more fights with the boy than the other three put together. Cory had been the one to refuse to play football, insisting on all the martial arts mumbo jumbo. He had been the one to hack into his top security system at work, catching the attention of the DXS. He had been the one to run away, disappearing into the Wyoming wilderness for almost a month. He had been the one to refuse to follow the family tradition of military careers, joining that pansy spy organization. Only his friend Bill ever seemed to be able to figure the boy out.
Cory had also been the one he had almost lost last summer. Nothing thrown at him September 11th had been as bad as seeing his boy in a hospital bed, severely injured and developing mental problems. He had never felt so helpless as he had staring into his son's pale face.
Yet in typical Cory fashion, he couldn't stay near family and specialists while he recovered. No, Cory had first taken off for Wyoming, then California. Who knew what craziness the boy was involved in, living in the land of fruit and nuts? He feared finding out what had become of him.
However, he was Jinah's son. His last tie to the woman whose very name still had the power to tug at his heart. He didn't want to lose him, but Cory had yet to give up and admit that he had screwed up his life.
Perhaps he should pay his eldest a visit. After all, the Army had given him the time off. He only needed the plane ticket.
It was time for General Thomas Buchanan to finish balancing his books. He had to see if he could straighten out his black sheep before he headed into war.
Two days later, San Francisco airport
Cory Buchanan was typing away at his laptop, trying to organize the information he and Sam had collected on their visits to various U.S. airports. The Phoenix Foundation had been asked to consult on how to make them safer amidst the new threats and swiftly changing rules. Considering recent events, Cory wanted the report on Nikki's desk as soon as possible. He took a sip from his Starbuck's cup as he typed.
Of course, the task would have been a lot easier if Sam had been helping. Cory secretively shot another glance at his partner. The other man was simply staring out into space. While Sam wasn't a constant talker, the silence was wearing thin. The other man had been pre-occupied since they had chased down the possible terrorists yesterday. Even after a couple of nudges from Cory, Sam still hadn't told him why. His gut tightened. Cory feared he knew why.
For the past few months, the two men had been constantly together. Sam had been there for him like no one else ever had. He was there through Cory's knee surgery and the long recovery process. They had stood by each other during the events of 9-11, each worried about their father's whereabouts. With Cory's knee nearly back up to speed, they had been traveling the country gathering data for Phoenix. Even more importantly, Sam had been aiding the new sentinel in handling his senses. Cory loved the amazing things he could do with his newly discovered talents. Taking another sip of coffee, he enjoyed the rich flavors flowing over his tongue. He couldn't have asked for a better guide to help him function. Overall, Cory was thriving with his new job, his enhanced senses, and especially his new partner and friend.
Then yesterday Cory had seen Sam staring at the cover of a news magazine. Realization had hit him hard. A year ago, Sam would have been overseas, one of the photojournalists tracking down stories in the aftermath of the tragedy. It was something Sam was, by all accounts, extremely good at. Yet instead of photographing the world, Sam was now stuck guiding a sentinel. His friend had given up his dream job just to enter a new life with Cory. Was Sam now regretting that decision? Did Cory have the right to hold him back?
The speakers boomed the announcement for boarding. Sighing to himself, Cory shut down his laptop. Noting that Sam hadn't moved, he kicked him in the foot as he slipped the computer into its bag. Sam jerked, then glared at him.
"Time to go," Cory explained as he stood up. He was looking around while pulling the strap of his bag over his shoulder when it happened. A spike of brilliant light from the windows shot through his eyes and straight into his skull. The surrounding perfumes, food, and body odor flooded his nose. The sounds of hundreds of footsteps thundered into his ears, punctuated by the conversations around him. Cory doubled over in agony.
A few moments later, the flood pulled back. "Cory? Cory! What is it?" an urgent whisper begged.
Rubbing his brow as a headache appeared, Cory straightened up to look into his partner's worried face. "I don't know. Everything spiked."
Sam continued to stare at him worriedly. "Do you need to lie down? We can try for another flight."
Cory shook his head, in spite of the jabs of pain behind his eyes. "It's over now. I just want to go home." Ignoring Sam's unconvinced eyes, he pulled the strap back over his shoulder and walked resolutely towards the gate.
Two hours later
Cory sank gratefully into the passenger's seat of Sam's Subaru. The headache that had started in San Francisco had grown into a monster during the flight to L.A. It had been a struggle to remain coherent enough to disembark and pick up their luggage. Now his stomach was joining in, churning with nausea. All Cory wanted was to get to the firehouse and sink face first into his bed.
Thankfully, Sam was familiar with his bad headaches. With only a few worried glances, he had carried both their bags to the car. Once he had tucked them away in the back, he slipped into the driver's seat. After a penetrating look at his partner, Sam wordlessly handed him an empty MacDonald's cup from the back seat and started the engine. Cory smiled to himself. No use for him to throw up all over the car. Closing his eyes, he simply endured the drive to the firehouse.
Pulling up in front, Sam gently nudged him. "I'll park the car. Think you can get inside?"
"Yeah," Cory softly replied. Moving out of the car nearly tipped the uneasy balance between his head and stomach, but he managed to get to the door without losing his breakfast. Fumbling slightly with the keys, he clicked open the lock and stepped inside. He attempted to drop the keys onto the small table at the entryway, not noticing when they hit the floor or that the door didn't latch behind him. The only thing on his mind was to climb the stairs to the bathroom.
"What in Hell is this?"
Cory stopped in his tracks. Praying he was hallucinating, he slowly turned to find his father entering behind him. He looked all too real. "Dad?"
The General looked at him suspiciously. "What are you, drunk at THIS time of day? Or are you on some illicit drug?"
The booming voice was like a ball slamming into his skull. Doing his best not to flinch, Cory replied, "I'm not drunk."
The soft words were lost in the maelstrom of temper. "I knew you were in trouble, but drugs! I thought I taught you better than that."
"Dad," Cory whispered, silently pleading for an end to the torture.
"Look at the mess you've made of your life! I can't believe that a son of mine would behave in such a disgusting fashion..."
The angry words Cory no longer had the ability to fight washed over him, increasing the pounding in his head. His enhanced hearing merged with his enhanced touch, feeding each other into overwhelming pain. Next thing he knew, he was on his knees throwing up on the carpet.
Sam pulled his car into its spot behind the firehouse. He knew when Cory looked that white, he was having one of his excruciating headaches. Deciding to leave the bags in the car for now, Sam trotted up the walk to the back door. Cory hadn't had a bad one for almost two weeks. Was it due to his partner's still recovering head, or to the sensory spike he had at the airport? Considering that Cory had seemed fine until the spike, Sam suspected that was the cause.
So the question was, why did he have the spike? Sam mentally kicked himself. He had been lost in his own morbid thoughts at the airport and had no idea what triggered the attack. Now Cory was paying the price for Sam's attention lapse. Quickly, Sam ran down the list of new meds the doctor had prescribed and the holistic remedies Blair had suggested. Too bad nothing had worked so far except for poor Cory riding out the pain in a dark and quiet environment.
As he climbed the stairs from the garage to the living quarters, Sam heard an unfamiliar voice shouting. Confused and worried, Sam dashed through the kitchen and into the entryway. There was a huge man yelling at Cory, who had dropped to his knees. A surge of anger roared through Sam when he spied Cory's bleached-white face. Instantly, he was standing between the man and his downed partner. "Shut up!"
"Shut up?" the man repeated. "Who the hell are you to tell me to shut up?"
"I live here. And keep your voice down."
The man crossed his arms, making no effort to keep quiet. "I will speak to my son any way I please."
Sam blinked, stunned for a moment. "You're Cory's dad?" Swiftly, he sized up the graying redhead, noting he had to be at least a couple of inches taller than Cory's 6 foot, but that they had the same husky build. Sam thought he detected some similarity about the eyes, though the man's were blue-green compared to Cory's dark brown.
He was also still red in the face from anger. "Yes, and I'm speaking to my son."
Hearing Cory retching behind him firmed up Sam's resolve. "You can talk to him later, once you've cooled off and he's feeling better."
The man puffed up in anger. "I am not going anywhere."
"Yes, you are," Sam replied coldly. If any of his family had been there, they could have warned the general that Sam was not to be pushed when he used that tone of voice.
However, Thomas' own temper was already fully ignited. "Who the hell are you to tell ME when I can speak with my son?"
Sam took a step forward, hoping the man would take a hint. "I'm Cory's partner and this is my home. And you are leaving now."
"I am going nowhere--"
Noticing that the front door was still open, Sam took another step forward. "I said leave." With a spin, Sam hooked a foot on the man's leg, nearly toppling him. While the general was off-balanced, he pushed him through the door. Sam then slammed the door in the man's face and locked it. Forcing his anger down, he turned to Cory.
Cory was still on his knees, holding his head with shaky hands. Sam walked over. "Cory?"
"Yeah. Better with you here."
Sam gently squeezed his friend's arm in acknowledgement. "Come on, buddy, let's get you into bed."
An agonizing whisper asked, "Did you just kick my Dad out?"
"Yep," Sam replied with no regret in his voice. He helped Cory to his feet.
"Oh boy," Cory whispered as Sam lead him to the stairs.
An hour later, Phoenix Foundation
Mac raced to catch the elevator, making it just in time to keep the doors from closing. Pushing the button for Nikki's floor, he smiled at the young woman with the mail cart. Then he focused on his breathing, wondering why Nikki wanted him so urgently.
His first thought was his sons. Blair and his partner, Jim, were scheduled to bring a prisoner from Cascade to L.A. that day. His son had downplayed the task, saying Jim was calling it a 'milk run'. However, Mac knew how easy assignments had a way of going bad.
His other son Sam and his partner Cory were also due in from San Francisco. They were on a typical, data-gathering assignment for Phoenix. But just to show that Murphy was still alive and kicking, the pair had caught a suspected terrorist the day before. Mac smirked to himself. Leave it to Sam to recognize a man listed on the 'to be questioned' list, and Cory to track him through a cemetery. But outside of anything unexpected, he doubted they should run into any more trouble. Of course, with his family the unexpected was to be expected.
On the other hand, Nikki's SOS may not have anything to do with his sons. During the previous few weeks, the world and especially life in the USA had become more uncertain and dangerous. Five nights spent sleeping on the hard church pew in Nova Scotia when the airlines had shut down emphasized how close Mac had come to being on one of the planes that had crashed on 9-11.
Exiting the elevator, Mac could hear the loud voice from the reception desk. He gave Nikki's assistant Natalie a weak smile when she waved him to go on in. Apparently, Nikki needed help with a bear. Mac quietly opened the door to slip in, hopefully unnoticed.
It wasn't going to be that easy. The huge redhead stopped talking when Mac entered. "Who are you?"
"Name's MacGyver," Mac replied easily, holding out his hand.
"MacGyver recruited your son for Phoenix," Nikki explained as the man warily took his hand in a firm shake. "Mac helps supervise our computer division."
Mac shot Nikki a look as he felt the bulls-eye being painted on his back. "Glad to meet you, Mr....?"
"General Thomas Buchanan."
Mac's eyes briefly widened. "You must be Cory's Dad." While Cory had often spoken fondly of his brothers and sister, and even occasionally mentioned his stepmom, he rarely spoke of his father. Mac had a bad feeling he was about to discover why.
"General Buchanan was just telling me that he feels it's a mistake for Cory to be in California," Nikki explained.
Mac kept his face neutral. "I don't understand, sir. Your son has been doing an excellent job for us."
"I don't see how that can be, considering he was stoned only an hour ago!"
Lifting an eyebrow, Mac replied, "Stoned? That doesn't sound like Cory, and he was scheduled to fly in from San Francisco this morning." Several possibilities swirled in MacGyver's mind as he talked. A problem with Cory's senses or one of his bad migraines popped to the top as likely candidates. Drugs or alcohol was low on the list, considering how careful the young man had been since the re-activation of his sentinel abilities.
"He was unsteady on his feet when he finally showed up at his residence this morning, though the term hardly fits, considering it's a firehouse. His doctors in D.C. felt he should have undergone a psych evaluation, and I fear they were right."
Mac met his eyes. "Cory's mental health is fine. But as you know, he suffered a severe concussion last summer and that type of injury can take a while to heal. My guess is that he had one of his migraines this morning."
The General only humphed at the explanation. "And let me guess, only his 'partner' can help him with it. Who knows what kind of drugs that little creep's been feeding my son?"
Confused, Mac looked at Nikki. She was struggling to keep her face blank. "Apparently, Sam and the General didn't hit it off." Mac's frown deepened. Sam usually could get along with just about anybody.
"That weirdo physically kicked me out of my son's home!" the general roared. "I have half a mind to bring the little creep up on charges."
"Sam did what?" Mac again looked at Nikki for confirmation. She shrugged.
"That little creep shoved me out and locked the door in my face," Buchanan bellowed.
Mac straightened, his own anger beginning to rise. "General, Sam would only take such extreme measures if he felt they were warranted."
"And exactly how well do you know this 'Sam'?" the general sneered. "If he's an example of who you hire here, I've no doubt my son's a model employee by comparison."
"Sam's my son." MacGyver's voice turned silky, cutting through the general's tirade with ease. "That was my home you visited this morning, neither of our boys take drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, and if Sam kicked you out, then I will stand by him."
Buchanan stared at him in shock. "Your son?"
"My son." Mac crossed his arms and stared at the man before him. "If you like, I'll see about arranging a time for you and Cory to get together. But it will be on Cory's terms."
"I want to see my son."
"And you will. Just not now."
Growling under his breath, Buchanan stormed out of the office. Nikki and Mac traded looks. "What do you think happened?" Nikki asked.
"Sam must have felt the general was a threat to Cory." Mac rubbed a hand over his face. "My guess is that either his senses were out of control or he was fighting one of his migraines."
Nikki sighed. "This isn't good. Does Cory's father know about his senses?"
Mac shook his head. "I've kinda gotten the impression things are strained between Cory and his father."
"As Sam would say, 'Duh'," Nikki replied with a smile. "If he said even half of the things to Sam that he said to me, I'm not surprised he got mad. I just can't believe he tossed him out. The man must have at least three inches on Sam and forty pounds."
Mac shrugged. "Never underestimate what Sam can do if he sets his mind to it." He looked at his friend. "You're not going to reprimand him, are you?"
Nikki laughed. "No, I was thinking about giving him a raise, since he handled General Buchanan so well." She sobered. "I just don't get it. Cory's a sweetheart. How could his own father believe those kind of things about him?"
Mac could only shake his head. "Just reminds me how lucky I am to have such good relationships with my boys."
Jim finished signing the form and handed it to the assistant D.A. Ms. Taylor glanced over it. "Thank you, Detective Ellison. Mr. Walker's testimony will sew up our case nicely."
"The Cascade P.D. is happy to help out." Jim shook the woman's hand. "Any idea how long the trial will take?"
Taylor shrugged. "We're hoping it should be done in a week."
"Are you and your partner heading back to Cascade this afternoon?" Lieutenant Steve Sloan asked the visitor.
Jim smiled as he shook his head. "We're hanging around until Walker's ready to go back."
"Do you have a place to stay?" Ms. Taylor asked.
"I can give you some recommendations," Steve added.
"We're set. Sandburg's dad lives here in L.A. and he's putting us up."
"Good." Taylor nodded, satisfied. "Just leave the front desk a number where you can be reached, and I'll have my secretary call you when Walker is ready."
With a final shake of hands, Sloan led Jim into the main lobby. "Do you and Sandburg have plans for the week?"
Jim chuckled. "A couple of ideas, but we're mostly playing it by ear. A lot depends on how much time Sandburg's dad or brother can take off work."
"And how much time your English lady can make for you during her business trip," Blair added as he joined them.
Steve smiled as he caught the slight reddening of the fellow detective's cheeks. "Well, if you like to surf, there's a private beach outside my dad's house if you're interested. Or if you need anything else while you're here, give me a call." He handed the two men a business card.
"Thanks, Steve." Blair shook his hand. "You've been a big help."
"Professional courtesy," Steve returned with a smile.
"We appreciate it," Jim replied as he shook his hand.
Once the L.A. detective left, Jim turned to his partner. "Well?"
Blair smiled, bouncing on his toes in excitement. "Mac wasn't at his desk, so I left him a message. Sam's cell is off, so I'm not sure if he's back in town yet. But Mac gave me the code for the firehouse's back door, so I should be able to get us in."
Jim playfully cuffed his partner's head. "Then let's go."
An hour later, the partners were outside the firehouse. As Blair pulled the blue Taurus next to Sam's Subaru, Jim stared at the building. "It really is an old firehouse."
Blair shot him a puzzled look. "That's what Mac said it was."
"I thought he was just joking."
Blair laughed hard as he turned off the key. "Man, Jim, you know Mac. Can you imagine him joking about something like this?"
"But an honest-to-god firehouse?"
"Well, look at it this way -- If Mac blows something up in the work shop, there should still be some fire pumps in there."
Chuckling, Jim climbed out of the Ford.
Sam read over his report, half listening for any sign of life from his partner's room. After making sure Cory was safely sprawled across his bed earlier, Sam had cleaned the carpet, retrieved their bags and made sure the firehouse was secured. Then he struggled with his report for Nikki.
Normally, writing came easily to Sam. Yet this afternoon, his mind was drifting into too many directions. If he wasn't dwelling on the discovery he'd made in San Francisco, he was wondering what had happened to his partner. He had never seen Cory go downhill so fast and it scared him. Whatever made him think he could guide a sentinel as well as his brother? He was hoping his dad came home from work early, so he could talk with him. He really needed the sounding board.
Thoughts of Mac led to thoughts of Cory's dad. Sam couldn't believe the man could be so blind to the misery his son had been in. MacGyver would have never acted that way with him or Blair, and Mac hadn't known them all their life like General Buchanan had Cory. He was beginning to understand why his friend would run away into the Wyoming wilderness for nearly a month rather than return home.
The sound of the garage door rising caught his attention. Suspicious, Sam stood up and walked over to where the firemen's pole stretched down into the garage below.
"Wow, look at the space in here."
"Your dad could park a semi if he wanted to."
Smiling as he recognized his brother's and Jim's voices, Sam grabbed hold of the pole and slid to the floor below.
"Sam!" Blair greeted him. "Man, that looks like fun."
"You'll have to try it while you're here," Sam replied with a grin, walking into his brother's embrace. The confident arms felt good.
Blair pulled back, frowning. "Are you okay?"
Sam shrugged as he glanced upward. "Yeah, I'm okay." He turned to offer his hand to Jim. "I didn't know you guys were coming in today."
"Trial's starting early," Jim replied, studying him. "Everything okay with Cory?"
Sam sighed. So much for the misdirection tactics. "Cory had a sensory spike this morning and ended up with one of his really bad headaches."
Blair's frown deepened. "I thought you said he hadn't had one of those in a while."
"He hasn't. I'm not sure what happened."
"Was he exposed to something new? Drink or eat anything different?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing that I could tell, but we were at an airport. Who knows what kind of new stuff was floating past us."
"What did Cory say?" Blair asked.
"We haven't discussed it yet."
Blair's voice gained a scolding tone. "You guys have to talk about that kind of thing, Sam. It's the only way you're going to be able to deal with it."
"I know!" Sam then forced himself to stop, not wanting to yell at his brother he so rarely saw.
"Back off, Chief." Jim gently laid a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Cory around?"
"He's still in his bedroom, hopefully sleeping. You guys just don't understand how hard those headaches hit him. He went from fine to green during the time it took to board the plane in San Francisco and land at LAX. He gets so white and shaky, it scares me."
Blair tilted his head. "So it hit just before you boarded?"
"Yeah. I asked if he wanted to try for another flight, but he said he just wanted to get home. We've been on the road for the past three weeks, and I think it's easier for him to deal in his own bed instead of someplace strange."
"So when you got here, he was in no shape to talk," Jim supplied softly. He knew how comforting his own home felt when his senses went out of control.
Sam nodded. "Then his father didn't help."
"His father?" Blair asked, confused. "What does his father have to do with this?"
"Apparently, the general was waiting for him when Cory opened the front door. By the time I got inside, the bastard was yelling at him while Cory was on his knees throwing up."
Jim blinked. "I thought his dad lived in D.C.?"
"He does. I have no idea where he came from and Cory was way too sick to deal with him. I shoved him out the door and locked it."
Blair's eyes bugged out. "You kicked Cory's dad out? Are you kidding?"
Sam shrugged as he crossed his arms. "Nope. And I'll do it again, too. I can't believe he'd treat Cory like that."
"You really kicked his dad out?" Blair still couldn't picture his mellow brother kicking out a friend's father.
Jim cuffed Blair on the head. "Not everyone has a nice dad like you do, Chief. And from what little he and the Nighthawks have said, there's a lot of baggage between Cory and his father."
Sam sighed. "Yeah, Cory almost never mentions him, though he calls his sister at least once a week."
"Maybe that's why Cory had the spike," Blair thought out loud.
"No, Cory was hurting long before we got back," Sam pointed out. "His father just finished him off."
Deciding they had had enough serious discussion for now, Jim wrapped his hands around Blair's and Sam's necks and squeezed. "How about we table this until later? I could use a drink, and I'd like to see what your dad's done to the place."
Sam returned a weak smile. "No problem."
Thomas Buchanan studied the pages his contacts had faxed him. He could only shake his head when he read that Cory's new roommate had been a photojournalist up until that summer. Of course the creep would have been one of the news vultures. The mention of the young man's good reputation in the field didn't impress the general in the slightest.
However, the father's resume was much more interesting. He was surprised to learn that MacGyver had been on the bomb squad in 'Nam; he had figured the man would have been one of those peace-loving, hippie types. Of course, anyone who dealt with live bombs usually had a screw loose.
Then the general read the information that MacGyver had been with the DXS for several years. That would explain why Cory would catch his attention. The international group had been sniffing around his son since the hack job in Arizona. He was sure if he dug deep enough he'd find a connection between Cory's former boss, Craig Bannister, and his new boss, A. MacGyver. Unfortunately, most of the man's work was still classified.
During the past decade, MacGyver's activities were more open. The general could only shake his head at the variety of investigations and causes the man had worked for. Definitely had the markings of a left-wing liberal. Yet there was a scattering of police and other reports that hinted at a more complex man.
Unfortunately, the reports couldn't answer his most important questions. Why was his son with these people, and what kind of influence were they on him? He needed to know more than a handful of facts. He needed to know their character.
Admittedly, he had lost his temper earlier. One of his few failings, and Cory did have a tendency to bring it out of him. He would have to suck up and go back. Not to the young creep, but surely he could talk to the father.
His new course decided, he straightened his tie and headed for the door.
The soft sound of voices washed over him -- had been for a while. Tentatively, Cory opened his eyes. The previous flood of pain had slowed to a trickle. Closing his eyes again, he contemplated whether he wanted to test the balance by standing up. Perhaps he should try another test first.
Relaxing his mind, he sent his hearing searching outward. It was easy to latch onto Sam's voice. It had become his anchor in his new life, just as Sam himself had. Concentrating for a moment, he recognized Sam's brother and his partner's voices as well. Apparently, Jim and Blair had gotten in early.
He withdrew his hearing. Once more drifting half asleep, he thought over the scene in the entryway. He wasn't quite sure why his father was visiting -- last he heard, he was still getting treatment for his burnt hands. Unfortunately, the tirade was all too familiar. Cory had often been the focal point for his father's unpredictable temper. While Thomas Buchanan had never been physically abusive, his voice was a well-trained weapon. Cory had learned early how to weather it. In fact, he had often invited it in order to deflect its power from his younger siblings. Even Patty crumbled during the rare times its force was directed at her. The only people who had ever braved the storm for him was Bill and Master Po, until now.
Sam had not only faced the general, but apparently had won the battle. Of course, that would only make the upcoming war harder, whatever it was. Still, Cory couldn't help but feel a little awed by Sam's defense.
For Sam, he needed to make the effort to be civil. Gingerly, he sat up from the bed. When his stomach's protest was minimal, he reached for his shirt.
Jim looked up when Cory entered the kitchen. The younger man had filled out into a healthy weight since last summer, but his face was pale and there were faint circles under his eyes. Jim could understand why Sam was so protective of him in this state.
Sam, too, had spotted his partner. After a moment of study, he softly called out, "Hey, Cor. Feel like some tea?"
"Yeah," Cory sat down in the chair Jim had pulled out for him.
Blair gave him a gentle smile. "Head still hurt?"
"It's in the background now. I can deal."
Jim nodded to himself. He knew that place well from when his own senses were bothering him. The key was to maintain the balance that was keeping the pain in the background.
Sam set the cup of strong, black tea in front of Cory. "Toast?"
"Nah. Not ready for that yet."
Still nauseated then. Cory was definitely not out of the woods yet.
As Sam took his seat, Cory asked, "Did you really kick my dad out this morning? Or did I dream it?"
An uneasy mix of defiance and sheepishness crossed Sam's face. "Yeah."
A corner of Cory's mouth lifted. "Thanks."
More confident, Sam sat back and returned the smile. "You're welcome."
Blair glanced between them. "You're not mad?"
Cory ruefully shook his head. "When the general starts yelling, nothing will stop him. The best you can do is deflect him. Usually I can handle it, but not today."
Sam shrugged. "I knew you couldn't. So when he kept yelling, I had to take action." Cory chuckled. "What?"
"Sam, PRESIDENTS tremble when my father starts shouting. I can't believe you did it."
Jim smirked at Sam's puzzled face. "That's our Olsen. Facing down raging bulls is just part of the job, right, Sam?"
"Why was your father so pissed, though?" Blair asked.
"Hard to say." Cory took a cautious sip of tea. "I'm not even sure why he's here. But I think he thought I was drunk or on drugs, so that might be part of it."
"Yeah, I remember him yelling something about drugs," Sam confirmed.
Blair frowned. "Why would he think that? I know Sam said you were pretty wobbly getting off the plane, but why would he jump to that conclusion?"
Running his middle finger around the rim of the cup, Cory could only sigh. "I'm his problem child who never does what he tells me to. He simply expects me to be in trouble. Drugs are probably the worst thing he can think of, so of course that's what he thinks I'm doing."
Jim chuckled. "Obviously doesn't know the MacGyver clan very well. Does Mac keep anything stronger than ibuprofen in the house?"
Sam shook his head. "Though I keep Excedrin in my bathroom. And there's some of the drugs the doc keeps trying for Cory's head in his room."
"Anything working?" Jim asked.
Both Cory and Sam shook their heads. "He's being going through some of the new migraine meds, but nothing seems to work," Sam explained.
"How about the feverfew I sent you?" Blair asked.
Cory again shook his head. As Blair opened his mouth, Sam held up a hand, "and I am NOT about to try the drum idea."
"Drums?" Cory repeated, turning another shade whiter at the thought.
"It's suppose to help break up the pain," Blair explained.
Jim glared at him. "It never helped me, either, Chief." He turned back to Cory. "You just have to give it some time, Tiger. It takes a year or more to recover from a serious head injury."
"We probably should just try to minimize the senses angle," Blair suggested. "Sam said you had a spike this morning. Any idea what triggered it?"
"No." Cory shrugged as he stared at his tea.
"What were you doing when it happened?"
"Boarding for our flight was called. I packed up my laptop, kicked Sam, and stood up."
"Kicked Sam?" Jim repeated, eyebrow lifted.
Cory shot his partner a glance. "Sam was in his own little world this morning. He didn't hear the call."
Blair turned to his brother. "What were you thinking about?"
Sam studied the bottle of Coke in his hands. "Stuff."
"Sa-am." Sam only shot a glare at Blair without moving his head.
Cory glanced between the two brothers. Jim thought he looked worried.
Appearing to have made a decision, Sam looked up. "Cory and I caught a suspected terrorist yesterday."
"Really?" Blair punched him in the shoulder. "Good job. How'd you do it?"
"Sam recognized him from a flyer we had," Cory explained, watching his partner carefully. "I tracked him to a cemetery. He got suspicious and we had to chase after him. Sam finally tackled him in a mausoleum. We held him until the feds could arrive."
"Sounds like a good job all around," Jim replied, puzzled. "Was there a problem?"
"Was the guy someone you knew?" Blair suggested, studying his brother.
Sam sighed. "No. But I did recognize a name. In the mausoleum."
As Blair's brow wrinkled in confusion, Jim felt his gut tighten. That wasn't a place you'd want to recognize a name. But who did Sam know in San Francisco? Then it hit him. "Which sister?"
"What?" Blair glanced at his partner, his eyes widening as the implications sank in.
"Damn." Jim bowed his head, remembering the beautiful and strong woman.
"Sam," Blair began, still in denial. "The Halliwell family has lived in San Francisco for generations. Maybe it was an ancestor?"
"Born 1970, Died 2001?" Sam refuted. "Besides, I checked the newspapers last night. They said Prudence Halliwell was killed this past spring by an unknown assailant, and was survived by her sisters, Piper and Phoebe Halliwell, and her father, Victor Bennett." Cory reached over to squeeze his friend's arm, hearing the grief in Sam's voice.
Blair's eyes were worried. "Did you call them?"
"No." Sam sighed. "It's been over five months, Blair. I didn't want to upset them by reminding them of their loss."
"I thought you kept in contact with Phoebe," Jim asked.
"We did for a while, but a year ago she met some guy and it sounded like it was getting serious. I haven't heard from her since last winter."
"Oh, man." Blair ran both hands through his long curls. "I can't believe it. I mean, Prue was small, but she was so strong, too."
"They faced a lot of dangers, Prue and her sisters," Jim reminded him softly. "Since the assailant wasn't identified, I'd bet it was a demon."
Sam nodded. "That's what I figured, too. But Piper and Phoebe wouldn't be able to tell the police that, so the case is still open."
"Ah, excuse me," Cory interrupted hesitantly. "Did you guys say demon?"
Jim, Sam and Blair exchanged glances. Then Blair raised his glass. "In honor of a strong, brave woman named Prue Halliwell, I propose we tell the story to our new tribe member of how she and her sisters protected a witan-to-be from an evil weardian."
Sam and Jim clinked their own beverages against Blair's. "To Prue Halliwell."
MacGyver listened to his voice mail as he walked to his office. After the meeting with General Buchanan, he had been called down to the lobby to consult on a problem with the new security system. Then he'd been called to the lab to look over one of the designs to aid in baggage screening. Somewhere along the line, he had missed lunch and hadn't had a chance to check on Sam or Cory yet.
The second message was from Sam, saying they had made it back, but Cory had a major headache so they'd work on the reports at home. Sam also said he had to discuss a 'situation' with Mac when he got home. MacGyver had a good idea what situation his son was referring to.
The fifth message was from Blair, saying he and Jim had delivered their 'package' and would meet him at the firehouse. Mac smiled to himself. He had been looking forward to this time with his elder son. Perhaps Blair could help Sam figure out a way to minimize Cory's headaches.
Then he reached the desk of his young secretary. One look at her face was better than words that there was a problem. "What's up, Michelle?"
Michelle looked distinctly nervous. "I'm sorry, MacGyver, but he was pretty insistent."
"Who was insistent about what?" MacGyver asked gently.
"A General Thomas Buchanan. He demanded to talk with you. When I said you were out, he insisted that he'd wait. He was sitting in the chair over there, but, well, he kept glaring at me, and he's, well..."
"Scary?" Mac suggested.
"That's the word. I couldn't work with him there, so I finally told him he could wait in your office."
Mac sighed. He didn't like his staff to be in the line of fire. "I know what you mean, so that's okay."
Michelle leaned forward. "Is he really Cory's father? Cory's so much nicer."
"Can't pick your relatives." Mac took a deep breath and opened his door.
The general was standing by Mac's desk, holding a picture frame in his hands. Mac immediately recognized it. "That's both my boys." Mac laid his cell phone next to his computer and waited.
Thomas set it back to its prized spot on Mac's desk. "What does the other one do?"
"He's a police detective up in Washington state." Seeing the look of disbelief on the big man's face, Mac added, "Blair's with the Major Crime division. He says the long hair makes it easier for him to blend in and talk with witnesses. Personally, I think he just hates barbers." Mac sat at his chair and waited.
After a pause, the general offered, "I'm sorry for losing my temper before. I worry about Cory, and I feared the worst this morning."
Mac nodded, accepting the apology as he understood the feeling. After all, the white bandages on the general's hands reminded MacGyver that he had been a hero during 9-11. The man had a lot on his mind without adding his son. "I've worried about my boys a time or two. And I assure you it was a headache this morning. They really knock Cory out."
"Then how can my son be very effective for you?"
"We work around it. Cory does his work when he can, and he has a nice set-up at the firehouse so he can work at home if he needs to."
The general didn't look entirely convinced, but apparently decided to let it go for now. "I would still feel better if Cory was back home getting professional care."
"And I'd feel better if Blair wasn't carrying a gun and chasing after the most dangerous criminals in his city. But it's not up to me." Mac tilted his head to the side. "I assure you, Cory is getting the best care. His knee surgery last August was successful and he's recently started back into his hapkido. The headaches are still a problem, but considering his condition five months ago, the doctors say he's progressing nicely."
"Then why is he living with you?"
"When Cory came to Phoenix, he was new in town and still struggling with that knee. I've been renovating an old firehouse, so there's plenty of room. It's been a good fit -- he's a good kid, he and Sam have become friends, and we could help him out after the surgery. Besides, I felt I owed him."
"Well, your son did save Sam's life in Wyoming." From the shocked look on the general's face, Mac realized this was news to him. "Cory pulled Sam out of a raging river. I have no doubts that if he hadn't seen him, Sam would have drowned or died of hypothermia."
"Cory saved someone?" the general repeated.
Mac hid a smile. "For that matter, he and Sam recognized a suspected terrorist yesterday and captured him for the feds."
The general looked down his nose at him. "How would Cory know what a terrorist looks like?"
"Phoenix has been working very closely with airports and airlines to find ways to make air travel safer. Cory and Sam have been on a fact-finding mission the past few weeks, and had access to some of the confidential security alerts." Mac leaned forward. "You son is a very capable, intelligent young man. The Phoenix Foundation is privileged to have him working for us."
The general stared out into space a moment. Mac could almost see the wheels grinding in his head. "I am meeting with some people this evening. However, I would like to see Cory tomorrow."
Mac nodded. "I can pass on the message. Where are you staying?"
"Maybe it was a woman's perfume?" Blair asked.
Cory could only shrug. "I don't remember smelling anything new."
Blair thought a moment. "Which of your senses spiked first?"
"They all spiked."
"But did one hit you before the others?"
Cory closed his eyes, trying to visualize the terminal. Then he shook his head in defeat. It unsettled him just to think about it.
Sam frowned. "You can't remember?"
"Everything just flooded in at once."
"How's your head?" Sam asked, studying his sentinel's face.
"Still fuzzy, but not bad."
"Are you still grilling them, Chief?" Jim asked, straightening his tie with his jacket folded over his arm.
"Whoa, Jim." Sam stood up to get a better look. "Just who is this girl?"
"A-Man-Da," Blair replied in a sing-song voice, followed by a wolf whistle.
Cory raised his eyebrows. "I take it she's a hottie?"
Jim glared at them. "Amanda is an intelligent, witty woman."
"Amanda is a hot-looking dish," Blair clarified with a smirk.
"Lady," Jim corrected. "She is a classy English lady."
Sam attempted to hide his smirk without a lot of success. "And just how serious are we about this English lady?"
Jim shrugged, causing his partner to laugh. "It's serious," Blair answered with a gurgle.
"And when are we going to meet her?" All heads turned to see MacGyver leaning against the door frame leading to the garage.
"Hi Dad!" Blair walked over to give him a hug. Cory felt a surge of envy. He wished he could be so happy to see his own father.
Stepping back, Mac turned to look at Jim. "I take it you have dinner plans?"
"He sure does." Blair ducked as Jim playfully swatted at his head.
"Amanda's in L.A. on business this week," Jim explained. "So we made arrangements."
"Do you two have a lot in common?" Mac asked.
Blair chuckled. "Oh yeah. Sam, when your sentinel starts talking about how great a girl's voice is, he's smitten." He ducked again when Jim made a more determined swipe.
"Are we going to meet her?" Sam asked.
"We'll see," Jim replied.
"She must have survived a meeting with Blair," Cory commented with a smirk. "Surely the rest of us can't be that bad."
"Oh, she survived a lot more on their first date. Like a close encounter with a fire extinguisher." Blair ducked again. "I told him flowers would work better, but she didn't seem to mind that much."
"A fire extinguisher?" Sam asked with a grin.
"I need to get going." Jim glared at Blair. "No tales."
"Ah, but they're such GOOD tales!" Blair laughed.
Mac chuckled. "Have fun. And it would be nice to meet her."
"Especially before the wedding," Sam added with a straight face.
Jim rolled his eyes as he walked out of the room.
Mac turned to Blair. "Just how serious is this?"
Blair sobered. "He's got it bad."
"She calls him about once a week, whether she's in the U.S. or Britain. I don't want to imagine her phone bills."
"We've GOT to meet her," Sam announced.
"Agreed." Mac then turned to Cory. "How are you feeling?"
Mac gently squeezed his shoulder as he walked to the phone. "How about I order some Chinese while you guys tell me what happened today?"
Two hours later, beach
Jim took a deep breath as he walked along the sand with Amanda. The feel of the beautiful woman's hand in his tingled all the way up his arm, cooled only by the salty breeze. He could walk this way forever.
Then Amanda gave his hand a slight squeeze. "You seem to be in a melancholy mood this evening."
Jim gave her a sad smile. "I guess I am. Had some bad news this afternoon." They walked a few more steps, Jim thinking and appreciating Amanda allowing him to think. "Got word that a young woman who helped Blair's brother a while back was killed last summer."
"Oh, that's horrible, Jim!" Amanda gently pulled him closer so she could entwine her arm with his. "Did you know her very well?"
"Not really. But it seems like such a waste. She was a beautiful girl around Blair's age. Yet instead of working on her photography and laughing with her sisters, she's laying in a cold mausoleum. No matter how much I see it on the job, it isn't right."
"I know." Amanda tucked her head against his shoulder, her soft warmth seeping through his shirt. "You must feel helpless, sometimes."
He kissed her forehead. "Sometimes." They walked silently for a while, Jim drawing comfort. Then he asked, "How's the meeting coming?"
"Very well, actually. Seems that there's quite a market in America for good Scottish malt." Amanda leaned back to smile at him. "Grandfather will be pleased."
Jim returned the smile. "Does that mean I may see you more often?"
Amanda's smile deepened. "Now that you asked, there is something in the works." As Jim's face turned puzzled, she explained, "The family is thinking about setting up an American office."
"Where?" Jim asked, trying not to show how much the answer might mean to him.
"There are three locations under discussion. One is here in L.A."
"Too smoggy," Jim replied.
"Chicago," Amanda added.
"The humidity would kill you in the summer."
Laughing lightly, Amanda admitted, "And I've managed to place Cascade on the list."
"Good city. Next to the ocean. Great police force."
"So I've heard." Amanda lifted up to plant a kiss on his lips. Jim deepened it, enjoying the taste of after-dinner wine and pure Amanda.
"More kisses like that, I'll bribe and threaten the board into choosing Cascade."
Jim chuckled. "Just point out who needs threatening and I'll be there."
Empty Chinese take-out containers littered the kitchen counter while dirty plates and utensils laid unnoticed on the table. The four men were too busy laughing to clean up. "So let me get this straight," Sam forced out, trying to rein back his mirth. "The coffin was also a jet ski?"
"Man, Mac, that sounds like something out of a Bond movie," Blair added, gurgling.
"Sometimes they gave me cool stuff," Mac told them with a smile. "But most of the time I had to--"
"Improvise," his sons declared together. Mac gave them a glare, but his heart wasn't in it.
"Now-a-days, you're lucky if you get anything more complicated than a pocket calculator," Cory replied.
"Which for Dad should be more than enough." Blair smirked as his father shrugged, unoffended.
"So, Blair, any big plans for tomorrow?" Sam asked as he tried to cover a yawn.
"Probably take it easy, maybe do some sightseeing with Jim," Blair replied. "I'm guessing all of you have to go into work tomorrow."
Mac's smile slowly crossed his face. "I'll need to go in for a couple of hours tomorrow, but should be able to get the rest of the day free."
"Nikki said that once we get our reports in to her, we can have the day off," Cory added.
"Yeah," Sam yawned again. "She said we should have some down time after flying all over the country the past few weeks."
"And it looks like it's time to hit the sack," Mac observed, standing up and reaching for the paper plates.
"I'll help you clean up, Dad." Blair squeezed Sam's shoulder as he stood up.
"You two head for bed," Mac urged.
Shrugging, Cory stood up and followed Sam back to the bedrooms. Just before reaching his door, Cory laid a hand on Sam's arm. "Sam."
His partner turned around, face puzzled.
Cory took a deep breath. "You know, you can talk to me anytime about anything, right?"
Sam tilted his head to the side. "Yeah. Why?"
"You could have told me about Prue last night."
"Yeah, I know." Sam straighten his neck with a shrug. "I just didn't want to talk about it."
As Cory turned towards his room, Sam grabbed his arm. "Cory, it's nothing against you. It just hit too close to home."
Now Cory looked puzzled. "What do you mean?"
Sam glanced towards the kitchen. "Prue and her sisters were really close, like Blair and I are close. So it wasn't hard to picture what they must be going through. Especially since three years ago, Blair nearly drowned."
"Blair was helping out some evil sentinel before he realized she was evil. She decided he knew too much. Man, Cory," Sam ran a hand through his hair. "It was way too close. By the time I flew in from Mexico, he was hooked up to all these machines, and nobody knew if he was going to wake up, and if he did, if he'd still be Blair."
Cory's stomach clenched as Sam took a deep breath. He often worried about his brothers, both in the military, but he had never really examined what it would mean to lose one of them.
Sam stared at the wall. "All I could think about last night was what if it had been Blair who was gone. He and Dad are all the family I've got -- I don't want to lose him."
"It wasn't Blair," Cory assured him. "And if some day it is him, you won't be alone. I'll be there, if you want me to be."
Sam blinked. "What do you mean, if I want you to be?"
Cory shrugged. "You gave up a pretty good journalism career to be a guide. Must be tough with all the potential news stories floating around since 9-11."
"And go back to being the objective observer?" Sam shook his head emphatically. "No way. I want to be out there making things safer, not reporting on people making things more dangerous. And that's what we're doing, protecting our tribe, as Blair would say."
"So no regrets?" Cory asked softly.
"No regrets." Sam answered. "You?"
"Even when I kick your dad out?"
"Especially when you kick Dad out."
The two young men shared a smile. Then Sam turned for his room. "See you in the morning, partner."
"Good night, partner."
Around the corner, Blair bounced softly in place from where he and Mac overheard the conversation. "Well, that takes care of that."
Mac frowned at him as he finished shoving the plates into the trash can. "What do you mean?"
"Cory's spike this morning. He was obviously worried that Sam's pre-occupation meant Sam was having second thoughts about their partnership. Sentinels have fear-based responses. Upset their happy world and their senses are disrupted. Now that Cory's sure that Sam's not going anywhere, they should straighten out."
Mac lifted an eyebrow. "Don't you think you're being a little bit simplistic?"
"Nah. Trust me, a secure sentinel is a happy sentinel."
"That might be true with Jim. But Cory's not Jim."
"They're both sentinels."
"Sentinels with different backgrounds. Cory's background with the Nighthawks allows him to be more open than Jim, especially about quasi-spiritual and physical things like visions and senses."
Blair shook his head, smiling. "Trust me, Mac. With him and Sam back in synch, Cory'll be just fine now."
Mac rolled his eyes. "And I think you spent too much time under your mother's influence."
1:04 am, Firehouse
Cory quietly placed his laptop on the kitchen table as he walked towards the fridge. As had happened in the past after one of his monster headaches, he was now wide awake and famished. Pulling out the makings for a peanut butter sandwich, he paused a moment to listen. The sounds of three deep-sleeping humans assured him that he hadn't woken anyone up. Then he chuckled to himself. Jim must be serious about his lady if he wasn't back yet. Pouring a glass of milk, he carried his snack to the table and booted up the laptop. He still had a report to write.
Twenty minutes later, a soft sound broke his concentration. Mind still on the report, Cory loosened the control on his hearing, expecting Jim back from his date. Suddenly, he realized there were three sets of footfalls within the firehouse. Cory froze. It couldn't be Jim, or even Jim with Amanda. Without a conscious thought, Cory turned off the laptop. It was hard to believe that burglars would rob a place with three male residents and a guest, but it was L.A. He quickly turned off the kitchen light, allowing his eyes to adjust. He needed to alert the rest of the household to the danger.
A creak at the entryway drew his attention to the front door. As Cory's head turned, he heard someone else enter the kitchen from the garage entry. Prepared, Cory quickly flipped the light back on, startling the invader. As the dark-haired man covered his eyes, Cory spun backwards with a circular kick. As the man crumbled to the floor, Cory turned to face the second attacker. He had barely taken a glance at the face when his senses spiked. Crying out, Cory tried to cover his own eyes, only to take a knife slash across his forearm. He sank to the floor, senses out of control.
"Cory!" Sam raced into the kitchen, swinging his bat at the man attacking his partner. Behind him, Mac followed with his hockey stick. The third man tackled Sam, landing a punch to his left eye. Sam retaliated with an elbow to his gut and his own punch to the man's jaw. Mac swung his hockey stick to prevent the second man from driving his knife into Cory's unprotected back.
"Freeze, Police!" Blair shouted, holding his Sig in preparation to shoot. Unfortunately, there were too many moving people in the small room for Blair to comfortably fire. The second and third men raced for the front door, Blair giving chase. Sam started to follow until he spotted Cory curled up on the floor. Changing direction, he knelt next to his sentinel as MacGyver separated the knife from the groaning third using his stick. Then Mac picked up the phone.
As Steve Sloan pulled up to the curb, there were already three patrol cars with their flashing lights in front of the building. Beams of lights pinpointed where the officers were searching the shrubbery for the would-be robbers. Another officer was placing a limping Hispanic man into one of the cars. "Sure you don't want me to take you home, Pop? I didn't expect a detour when I said I'd pick you up."
In the passenger's seat next to him, Dr. Mark Sloan watched the scene with interest. "Oh no, that's okay, Steve. I'm not really ready to go to sleep yet anyway." After several hours of sitting with an old friend whose wife was in ICU, Mark knew he wouldn't sleep for a while. The white-haired man leaned forward. "That looks like an old firehouse."
Steve blinked, then double-checked the address. "This is the place." Then he spotted the curly hair of the Cascade detective. "There's Sandburg."
"Someone must have remodeled it into a home," Mark suggested as he opened the car door. Father and son walked over to where Blair was talking with an officer.
"...lost them about a block over in that park. I'm not familiar with the area, so I didn't know where they might go." Blair looked up and spotted Steve. "Oh, hi Steve. Man, they didn't call you out of bed, did they?"
"No, I was picking up my dad and heard the call." Steve indicated his father. As the officer nodded at them and turned to her patrol car, Steve continued, "Dad, this is Detective Blair Sandburg from Cascade. Blair, my father, Mark Sloan."
"Hi, Mr. Sloan," Blair greeted, his eyes darting towards the street before shaking the older man's hand.
"You see something?" Mark asked, looking over his shoulder.
"No, sorry." Blair rubbed his eyes. "I'm waiting for the EMT's. In the scuffle, my Dad's housemate took a knife wound to his arm. It's not real serious, but he's been fighting headaches all day and he's wiped."
Mark nodded. "I'm a doctor at Community General, and one of my old students said there was a bar brawl and an apartment fire with injuries coming in. They may be stretched thin tonight." Tilting his head towards Steve's vehicle, Mark continued, "I do have my bag in the car. I can take a look at him, if you like."
Blair beamed at him, though his eyes were still weary. "I'd appreciate that."
As Mark retrieved his bag, Steve glanced around. "Where's Ellison?"
"He was still out when all this happened," Blair explained. "Amanda's from Britain, so when they do see each other, Jim loses all concept of time. But I called him and he's on his way." As Mark rejoined them, Blair led them into the firehouse. "Thanks for doing this. Cory was severely injured last summer, and I suspect he's seen enough of hospitals this year."
"What happened -- car accident?" Mark enquired.
Blair paused a moment. "Cory used to work for an international agency."
"Classified?" Steve asked.
"Yep. He's mostly recovered, except for the headaches. Jim says that's normal after the kind of head injury Cory had."
Mark nodded. "It can take a year or more." He glanced around. "Someone has really done some nice work to this place."
"Thank you." MacGyver stood in the doorway of the kitchen, studying the newcomers.
"Dad, this is Lt. Steve Sloan, who's on that case Jim and I are doing the prisoner transfer, and his father, Dr. Mark Sloan. Guys, this is my father, MacGyver. He's the one remodeling the place."
Mac gave them a faint smile and a nod. "Nice to meet you. Wish it was under better circumstances." He glanced at Blair. "Paramedics?"
"Not yet, but Dr. Sloan said he'd take a look at Cory's arm."
"I'd appreciate that." Mac waved them into the kitchen. Inside, Cory sat at the table, his head resting on his good arm. Sam stood next to him, elevating Cory's injured arm and holding a bloody towel against the injury. His left eye was red and swelling.
Blair frowned. "Still bleeding?"
"A little," Sam replied.
"Let me take a look," Mark requested. He gave them one of his warm smiles. "I'm Doc Sloan, here with my son, Detective Sloan." He tilted his head towards Steve. He gently took over from Sam as Blair made introductions.
"What exactly happened?" Steve asked.
Blair shook his head. "I heard banging and ran to the kitchen to check it out."
"Same here," Sam added, picking up a bag of frozen peas to place on his eye. "When I got here, there was a man on the floor, and another guy had just slashed Cory's arm. I was going to help Cory when some guy came out of the garage door and tackled me."
"There were three men." Cory lifted his head, his pain-filled eyes meeting Steve's. "I was working on a report here in the kitchen when I heard something. One came in from the garage, and I knocked him out. A second guy came in from the front foyer." Cory paused to rub his face. "He's the one with the knife. I'm not sure what happened next."
Sam and Blair both frowned, studying Cory. Mac jumped in. "I separated the man from his knife before he could do any more damage to Cory."
"Separated?" Steve enquired.
Mac smirked. "Hockey sticks are useful things. We've left the knife alone for your forensics to check out, and there's the one from the guy Cory knocked out." He tilted his head towards the floor by the counter, where a hunting knife lay, then towards one by the trash can. "Then Blair had to come in waving his gun."
Recognizing the bone of contention, Sam slipped in, "Yeah, they took off after Blair shouted, "Freeze, Police."
Blair shrugged. "They didn't know I wasn't from L.A. And I needed the gun for the prisoner transfer, Mac, you know that. Besides, you and Sam already had all the good weapons." When Steve lifted an eyebrow, Sam smirked and nodded towards his bat.
"Was anything stolen?" Steve asked.
"Everything upstairs seems to still be here," Mac drawled. "I haven't had a chance to do more than a quick glance of the garage area, but that all seems to be where I left it." Blair frowned at the news. Meeting his father's eyes, he realized the more dire possibility had already crossed his father's mind.
"They probably didn't expect Cory to be awake," Sam pointed out, "or if they cased the place earlier in the week, they might have expected only Dad to be here."
"I'd still like you to inventory the place tomorrow, Mr. MacGyver, and let me know what you find." Steve requested.
"This arm is going to need some stitches," Mark interrupted. He studied the pale face in front of him. "How bad is your headache?"
"On a scale of one to ten, it's an eight with ten potential."
Mark nodded. "If you like, I can stitch it up here and give you a prescription for antibiotics and painkillers."
Cory glanced at Sam. "Just the antibiotics. Pain meds and me don't mix too well."
Mark frowned. Before he could ask any more questions, Jim walked through the door. "Chief? Mac?"
"All here," Blair replied, quickly introducing Steve's father.
"I should have known something like this would happen." Jim walked over to pull the peas away from Sam's eye and examined it.
"Huh?" Steve asked.
Cory tried to smile, though it was a rather pathetic attempt. "Yeah, what did you tell me? 'Every member of that family draws trouble like nails to a magnetic, and when you put them together, trouble's a sure thing.' I see what you mean, now."
The MacGyver family glared at Jim. Jim glared at each one in turn. "It's the truth, and you know it. Cory needed to be warned." He turned back to Sam. "Any dizziness?"
Sam only sighed. "Just sore."
Blair glanced at the tools Doc Sloan was setting out on the table. "Why don't we discuss this in the other room, and let Dr. Sloan take care of Cory's arm?" Leaving Cory with the doctor, MacGyver led the rest to the living room, Jim pausing to squeeze Cory's shoulder.
Once they were seated, Steve asked, "Mr. MacGyver, I noticed you have an alarm system. Was it activated?"
"Just MacGyver, and yes, it was."
Blair met his father's eyes. "It's not a simple system."
"No, but I'll modify it again tomorrow."
Steve, glancing between Mac and Blair, stated, "You don't think this is a robbery, do you?"
Jim also looked at his partner and MacGyver. "Nothing was taken?"
Mac shook his head. "They should have found plenty to steal in the garage without taking the risk of waking us up here."
"Did the robber you catch look familiar?" Steve asked. All three men shook their heads.
One of the officers poked his head inside the door. "Lieutenant, call for you."
As Steve left, Jim again stared at Blair and Mac. "Okay, what are you two thinking?"
"The men were Hispanic," Blair began.
"And the accent of the guy we caught was South American, perhaps Colombian," Mac added.
"Oh man, you think this is connected to Colombia?" Sam asked, worried.
Jim lifted an eyebrow. "Colombian? Has anyone in this family besides Cory ticked off anyone from Colombia?"
Mac shrugged. "Not recently."
Sam shook his head.
"I think they were after Cory," Blair sighed.
"Because he had the spike when he was fighting them?" Sam asked.
"Ah hell," Jim swore, "Like with Lilah."
"Exactly," Blair replied.
Mac lifted an eyebrow. "I thought you said the spike was due to he and Sam being out of synch."
"What?" Sam glared at his brother.
Blair sighed. "You were right, Dad; I was being simplistic."
"Simplistic about what?" Sam asked, becoming annoyed.
"So who's Lilah?" Mac interrupted, trying to steer the conversation to the more immediate threat.
"An old girlfriend I ran into a while back," Jim explained. "I was getting sensory spikes when I'd see her. At the same time, we were investigating a series of murders with a special kind of triangular knife."
"We found out that Jim's spikes were his senses warning him of danger," Blair added. "He subconsciously remembered seeing such a knife in Lilah's purse years before, but he didn't consciously remember it. Yet his senses did, and were trying to jump into a higher state of alertness."
"So Cory's subconscious recognized a threat and triggered the spikes." Mac tapped his nose, thinking. "Those men could be connected to his missing time in Colombia. But why did he have the spike in the airport?"
Sam shifted the frozen peas to the other hand, thinking. "Cory had just stood up. Before then, he was on his laptop, and he would have been ignoring everything while he was working on it. Maybe he saw something when he stood up, but not enough to actually recognize it."
"Or someone," Jim clarified.
"The second guy," Sam declared. "Cory took out the first one. It wasn't until he turned to face the second guy that he had the spike. He must have been watching us at the airport."
Jim thought a moment. "We're going to have to keep an eye out, make sure Cory's protected until we catch this guy."
"I'll call Craig. He may be able to shed some more light on this," Mac added.
"Some milk run this is turning out to be," Blair grumbled.
"I kept telling ya, Chief. Vacations with MacGyvers are always interesting."
Sam stepped back into the kitchen, noticing that Dr. Sloan was preparing the sutures for stitching. Taking a deep breath, he walked over to his partner. "Cory? How you doing?"
"I just want this over with," Cory mumbled into his good arm.
"It would probably help if you let me give you a local," Mark pointed out gently.
Sam squeezed his shoulder. "It could help."
Cory shook his head, not raising it from his arm. "The controls are all over the map as it is."
Sam squeezed his shoulder again, thinking. "Okay, just focus on my voice, okay? Hey, did you see that letter from Wind River? I think it was from Grandmother Nighthawk." Sam could already feel the muscles start to relax under his hand.
"She usually writes me about every other week," Cory replied, voice muffled.
"Was she going to that Pow Wow thingie you were telling me about in Denver? With the dancers and the food?" Mark held up a syringe, a question in his eyes. Sam nodded.
"Nah, that was Marcy, Dave's mother-in-law. Grandmother doesn't like leaving Wyoming. Bill teases her that she thinks the world drops off at the border."
"Bill certainly doesn't think so," Sam chuckled. "Any idea when he'll be back from Germany?"
"No. The way things are right now, I'm not sure he's getting back any time soon. He's probably going to be sent someplace else."
Sam squeezed his shoulder again. "I'll have to meet him when he gets back, if he's still not too mad about his truck."
A soft chuckle escaped the table. "Not your fault. Besides, we fixed the door and the cabin floor for him."
"At least Jim, Blair and Dad did," Sam reminded him with another squeeze. "I'll have to take you up to Grandpa Harry's cabin in Colorado some time. It's near Ouray and the mountains are beautiful. There's even a little lake nearby with fish."
"That would be cool."
"Done," Mark pronounced, putting the needle into a bag and pulling off his gloves. He lowered his head down near Cory. "I'd like you to come in tomorrow, so I can check on your records and give you some antibiotics. But for right now, why don't you go to bed?"
Cory shook his head, which was still lying on his arm. "Don't I need to talk to the detective?"
"That can wait." Mark patted his head lightly.
"Sounds like good advice." Jim gave the doctor a nod, then exchanged looks with Sam. "Come on, Tiger, let's get you into bed." Together, Sam and Jim helped Cory to his feet and guided him towards the bedrooms.
"Thank you, Dr. Sloan." MacGyver held out his hand. "I appreciate you taking care of Cory."
"Call me Mark." The doctor noted the laptop on the table as he gathered his things. "Was Cory working this late?"
Mac chuckled. "I'm sure he was. Cory's a computer expert, and they tend to be night owls."
"Where does he work?"
"He started working for us at the Phoenix Foundation this fall."
Mark smiled as he shut his bag. "I've heard of them. I take it you work there, too?"
Mac nodded. "For a while now. Sam started there this fall, too."
"Must be nice, working with your son."
"It is. Sam was giving us informal reports during his travels anyway, so it's nice to make it official."
"I know the feeling. I've occasionally aided Steve with a case, and it's always feels good to help him out."
Mac glanced out to the entryway to where Blair was talking with Steve. "Yeah, I wish Blair lived closer. But then, I'd probably only worry more about him."
Understanding lit Mark's eyes. "How long has Blair been with the police?"
"Two years, but he consulted for them for about four years before that."
"It's hard, watching your son put himself in danger," Mark sympathized. "I console myself with the fact that he's doing it to protect others. But it's still hard, especially on the occasions when I've been called to Emergency because Steve's been hurt."
Mac exchanged looks with the doctor, realizing the man had the same fears. "A few years ago, I got called to Cascade because Blair had nearly drowned. One of the hardest things I've ever had to face was seeing him on life support."
Mark reached over to pat Mac's shoulder, his face somber with memories. "I know the feeling."
Next morning, San Diego
Russ Buchanan ran a hand through his deep red hair as he waited for the phone number to click through. It was longer than he liked, but they hadn't been near any barbers while on their mission. He would have to take care of that during his leave in the states.
A smile stretched across the husky man's face. "Hey, Fluffy Top."
"RUSS!" the voice on the other end squealed. "You're back? How long?"
Enjoying the eagerness in his little sister's voice, Russ replied, "A couple of weeks."
"You in D.C.?"
"Nah, San Diego."
"Then you're closer to Cory and Dad."
Russ blinked. "Huh?" His gut clenched, remembering his last visit to his brother in the hospital. Had Cory gotten worse?
"Oh yeah, you haven't heard. Cory took a job in Los Angeles."
A wave a relief flowed over him. If Cory had a new job, he had to be doing better. "Doing what?"
"He's working for some think tank called Phoenix. He loves it so far."
"Yeah," Russ chuckled, "I can see Cory at a think tank. What's Dad doing out here? I heard that the Pentagon got hit."
"Yeah, on the Army side." Russ could hear the joy leak out of Missy's voice. "He was out in the hall when the plane crashed. He burnt his hands helping other people out."
"Damn," Russ whispered. He had known by the fact he had no news that his father hadn't been killed, but he hadn't realized how close it had been.
"God, Russ, it was so scary. But you know Dad -- he's up and running, upset that they're making him take time off."
"How's Mom doing?"
"Okay, but I think Dad was starting to drive her crazy, which is why she told him to go on this trip by himself. She's going to love having you home."
"And why is Dad here?" Russ asked again patiently.
He could hear Missy's sigh over the phone. "He thinks Cory's 'screwing up his life' and wants to 'straighten him out.' You know how he gets."
Russ sighed himself. He did know how their father got with Cory, probably better than Missy did. His thoughts wandered back to the fight he had overheard when he was ten. He had been the only one in the family who hadn't been surprised that Cory ran away afterwards. That Bill had talked Cory into coming back had to have been nothing short of a miracle.
"I have no idea what he thinks Cory's up to, and I didn't even find out he was leaving until after he was gone -- I left Cory a message, but he's been on travel and I think I was too late to warn him."
Normally, Russ didn't worry about Cory. It was usually Cory looking out for the rest of them. However, his independent brother had been awfully pale and shaky the last time he'd seen him. "How's Big Bro doing health-wise?"
"He's a lot better since last summer. They worked on his knee this fall, and Cory said he's almost back to speed. Still gets bad headaches, though."
Was he ready to face the general by himself? Or was it time for someone to look out for him? Russ made a decision. "Give me Cory's address. Maybe I can head him off."
Cory walked into the kitchen to spy Blair at the table and Jim standing next to the coffee pot. "Good morning."
Jim nodded at him as Blair muttered, "Morning."
Jim lifted up a mug and Cory nodded. Taking the newly filled mug from the fellow sentinel, he glanced back at Blair. "You know, you guys could have slept in."
Jim shrugged. "We did sleep in, considering. How are you this morning?"
"Arm's sore, but the head's back to normal." Cory glanced around the kitchen again, remembering the previous night's events. "Cops have any leads?"
Blair and Jim exchanged looks. "Nothing was stolen," Blair commented.
Cory's brow wrinkled. "Nothing? But at least one guy came from the garage."
Sam walked in, still towel drying his hair. He looked up and noticed Cory's expression. "What's up? Dad hear back from Craig yet?"
Cory turned his puzzlement to his partner, noting the bruised, puffy eye. "Craig? What's Craig got to do with this?"
Sam sighed. "What do you remember from last night?"
"Three guys. Two from the garage, one from the entry." Cory looked down at the floor, thinking. "I took down the first guy from the garage, but the guy from the entry came up behind me. I turned..." He looked back at Sam. "I spiked again."
Sam nodded. "Jim says he's had spikes when his subconscious see something dangerous that his conscious mind doesn't remember. And the guy you took out spoke with a Colombian accent."
Cory's eyes grew wide. "Oh, God."
Jim reached over to squeeze his shoulder. "We don't know anything for sure yet, but Mac's checking it out."
"Won't help much." Cory took a deep breath, forcing back his panic. "I never remembered anything useful from there, and Craig felt there had to be more people connected to the cartel than we originally thought."
"You say you don't remember anything?" Blair asked.
Cory seemed to close in on himself. "Only a nightmare of being chased through the jungle."
"Sentinels never just forget something. Everything they sense is stored away." Blair drummed his fingers on the table. "We could try to tap into it."
Cory frowned, looking even more uncomfortable. "What do you mean?"
"Hypnosis." Blair smiled reassuringly. "I've done it with Jim."
"No." Everyone turned to Sam, who had pulled away from the counter he had been leaning on. He crossed his arms as he glared back, his black eye making him appear more stern.
"Sam, I've done it with you, too," Blair reminded him.
Sam studied Cory a moment and made a decision. "Blair, we need to talk." He walked over, pulled his brother up from the chair, and hustled him through the door.
Once the door was shut, Blair turned around on the landing. "Sam, what in hell..."
"You are NOT going to talk Cory into this," Sam ordered him. "He's not ready."
"We need to know what happened," Blair explained patiently.
"Not that badly."
"Come on, I've done it loads of times with Jim, and it's helped him a lot. A lot of clinical psychologists use it."
Sam crossed his arms in a desperate attempt to keep his temper. "So I'm not a scientist like you and Dad, but I know enough that if Cory's repressing it this hard, he's probably not ready to handle it."
"No, Blair. All those other times, I bet Jim wanted to remember, and had some distance from the event you were trying to bring up."
"Well, I wouldn't say he wanted to exactly..."
"It's been less than six months for Cory. He has no time nor distance from the ordeal. And it was bad, Blair; he lost a partner."
Blair took a deep breath, retaining his patient tone. "Sam, we need to know."
"Do we really? You, Dad and I got a good look at the guy and can give a description. There should be some fingerprints on that knife. That should be enough to identify the bastard. We can just keep an eye out while we let Craig and your friend Sloan handle it."
"It would help if we knew what we were up against."
"Is it worth dredging up something that could harm Cory?" Sam paused a moment, struggling to put into words what his gut was trying to tell him. "Blair, this is neither the time nor the place to force it. Just now in the kitchen I could see how much he's trying not to panic at the mere mention of Colombia. I will not have you go poking around in his subconscious and accidentally trigger something he's not ready to deal with. He's been through enough for now."
"It might help him if he could remember."
"And maybe there's a good reason why he can't remember."
"Why don't we see what Cory says?"
"No, you are not going to badger him into it."
"Sam, I know what works."
"And I said NO! You're not messing around with Cory like that, and that's final!" Sam stormed down the stairs, suppressed anger radiating out from him in waves.
Blair turned to follow when a soft voice interjected, "He's right, Chief." Jim had quietly opened the door and was leaning against the frame.
Blair crossed his own arms. "What do you mean, he's right? And how do you know what we were talking about?"
Jim smirked. "Remember, two sentinels in the kitchen?"
A sheepish smirk crossed Blair's face before he could stop it. "Oh, yeah. And what do you mean, he's right? We know from experience it's better to get this stuff out in the open."
"That's our experience, Chief. And Sam's right when he pointed out the time difference. I had over five years to distance myself from Peru. Cory's barely got his life back on track. He was about ready to bolt while you two were arguing in here."
Blair ran a hand through his hair. "I want to help them, Jim."
"I know. You want to keep them from running into the problems we had, right?" Blair nodded. "Did you ever think that we needed to have some of those problems in order to work effectively together now?"
Blair blinked. "But what about Alex? Or the diss disaster?"
"Okay, those were bad," Jim admitted with a smile. "And I can't say Lash was a happy time I'd like anyone to relive. But those were OUR mistakes and OUR lessons. Sam and Cory will have their own mistakes and lessons. You've given Sam the framework of how to be a good guide. Let him guide."
Blair sighed. "He does have good instincts."
"Of course he does. He's a MacGyver." Jim playfully cuffed Blair on the head.
"Where'd Cory go?"
"He's off chasing his own guide."
Sam was throwing a baseball against the brick wall in the garage to relieve his pent up anger. Emotions rolled inside him, too chaotic and furious to unleash on his only-trying-to-be-helpful brother. He had to cool off.
Suddenly, a hand caught the ball as it bounced off the wall. "Blair," Sam began, only to find Cory standing there.
Tossing the ball to his other hand, Cory gave him a sideways glance. "Kinda giving it a beating, aren't you?"
"Better than beating up something else," Sam returned, making a grab for the ball.
"Or someone else?"
Sam sighed as he stared up at the ceiling. "I've never been this mad at Blair before."
Cory chuckled, rolling the ball between his hands. "Which only proves you two didn't grow up together. The worst fights I've ever had were with Russ. I've had some pretty good ones with the twins, too."
"But you're still close," Sam pointed out.
"It's part of being close," Cory returned. "You'll see."
Sam just shook his head. "I don't know..."
Cory tossed the ball back and forth between his hands. "Thanks, by the way. That's the second time you've stood up for me in the past twenty-four hours."
"That's what partners do." Sam grabbed the ball and threw it against the wall again. "I just hope I'm doing this right."
Cory frowned at him as he caught the ball. "What do you mean?"
"Blair knows so much more about sentinels."
"I'd rather go with you on this," Cory told him frankly. "Though you could have consulted me, you know."
Sam gave a shrug. "I was afraid Blair would hound you until you agreed. He can be pretty insistent. "
"But you're right -- I'm not ready," Cory pointed out, sensing Sam's insecurity. "And you haven't steered me wrong yet."
"But I'm still pretty new at being a guide."
"I'd rather have you than Blair. Nothing against your brother, but his energy and helpful suggestions would have me going postal in no time."
Sam managed to crack a smile. "He does wonders for Jim."
"Jim's former Army. Trust me, it probably takes all that energy to get through to him sometimes."
"Thankfully, I don't need so much energy for you." Sam sighed. "We still need to come up with a plan of attack."
"And I still need to meet with my father." Cory sighed as well. "Man, I do not want to have to explain any of this to him."
"You don't have to meet him."
"Yeah, I do. I need to find out why he's flown across the entire country to yell at me."
Sam tilted his head to the side. "Sure you can handle him?"
"Oh yeah, now that my head's not threatening to blow itself up." Seeing Sam's look of disbelief, Cory smiled as he began tossing the ball again. "Honest, he's not that bad. Just that what makes him a good Army officer doesn't always translate into being an understanding father. With the way things are now, the country needs him to be the general. If he has to talk with me in order to have his head in the game, the least I can do is listen."
"Even if he's just yelling at you?" Sam asked, mystified.
Cory chuckled. "I learned a long time ago that while I can't control his temper, I can control how I react to him. It'll be fine. I just have to pick someplace neutral." He turned to the stairs. "Any suggestions, Mac?"
Surprised, Sam spun around to spy his father stepping off the stairs. "How long have you been there?"
Mac smiled. "Not long." He caught the ball from Cory's hands. "Craig's sending a team to work with Lt. Sloan. Any ideas who this guy is?"
Cory shook his head. "I just get a very uneasy feeling when I think back to the spike."
Mac tossed the ball to Sam. "Steve wants us and Blair to each sit down with the sketch artist and see if we can get a picture."
"We also need to see Dr. Sloan this afternoon, too," Sam reminded them.
"So it's lunch with Dad." Cory could feel his muscles tighten.
Sam's brow wrinkled in thought. "We need to make sure it's a place we can secure. Are Jim and Blair still helping us?"
Mac nodded. "Yeah. Though I don't like you two fighting."
Sam shrugged. "I don't like it, either."
Squeezing Sam's shoulder, Mac continued, "I know the owner of a little seafood place. I'm sure she'll let us set up there. We can at least make sure you and your dad have both privacy and security, hopefully without him realizing it."
Dr. Jesse Travis walked by his mentor's door, then stopped. Turning around, he walked back to check on whether his eyes were deceiving him. They were not. Mark Sloan was at his desk, sorting through a file. "Mark? What are you doing here? Alex said you didn't leave last night until after one."
Mark smiled at the slight blond man who was like a second son. "Had some things I wanted to check."
Jesse spun a chair around and sat down. "How'd you get in? I thought your car was still in the shop."
"Steve dropped me off. There was some trouble involving some visiting detectives last night, and Steve wanted to stay on top of it." The doctor quickly filled in his young friend on recent events.
"Sounds like Steve has a live one," Jesse commented, frowning thoughtfully.
Knowing the look, Mark tipped his head to the side. "What is it?"
"I don't know, but the name Blair Sandburg sounds familiar."
"Steve says that he and his partner are considered two of the top police detectives in Washington state. Maybe that's why?"
"No, that's not it." Jesse shook his head. "I'll remember at some point. Anyway, what do you think?"
"Interesting family. They seem quite close, even with Blair living in another state. While I suspect they weren't telling Steve and me everything, it could be due to the classified work their friend Cory has done in the past."
Jesse nodded. He had helped Mark solve many mysteries and trusted his mentor's instincts. "What are you looking at?"
"Cory Buchanan's medical records. Last night he refused any painkillers, and I can see why. That young man's had a tough time."
"Addiction problems?" Jesse asked.
"No, but he seems to have some curious sensitivities to a host of drugs."
Jesse tilted his head to read the papers. "Not good, considering all the surgery he's had."
Mark tapped his fingers on the file. "I may talk with his surgeon and his neurologist. I could see in his eyes how bad his headache was last night. Surely there must be something that can be done to help him. "
Jesse glanced at his watch and stood up. "Well, if there's anything I can do, let me know."
Lorraine's on the Ocean
Cory ran a hand through his hair as he waited in the entryway. In spite of his reassuring words to his partner, he never enjoyed handling his father in one of his moods.
He needed to be focused mentally to deal with the general, yet his mind kept drifting back to the previous night. Cory tugged on the cuff of his long sleeve shirt, making sure the stitches were hidden. He did not want to add the incident to whatever argument his father had in mind.
Thomas Buchanan strolled into the restaurant, his commanding presence announcing his authority even in civilian clothes. Holding back a sigh, Cory stepped up. "Hi, Dad."
"Cory." The general surveyed his surroundings. "Nice place."
His father was trying to be civil. Cory nodded in agreement. "I have a reservation for a table upstairs. It has a great view of the ocean."
"Good enough," the general replied.
Silence reined for several moments, both men uncomfortable. Then Cory turned to the stairs. "It's this way."
From their vantage point at a balcony table, Blair shook his head. "Cory looks like he's sitting on a nest of fire ants, waiting to be bit."
Jim maintained his vigilance as he replied, "Confronting an Army general is intimidating, even when he's your father." He glanced at the pair as they climbed the stairs. "The good news is that he's as unsettled as Cory."
Blair examined the man again. "He is? He doesn't look it."
"They never do, Chief."
Shaking his head again, Blair glanced at his partner. "Anything?"
"No." Jim listened a moment to check on Sam, sitting behind a small palm on the main floor and Mac, sitting at a table towards the rear exit. "I rather doubt they'll try anything here."
"Too public, and I haven't heard any indication that we were followed here. After last night, my bet is that they'll wait to attack Cory when he's isolated."
Blair drummed his fingers, watching Cory and his father sit at a corner table through the mirror on the wall behind Jim. "We can't just play a waiting game. We need to draw them out."
Jim smirked as he did another visual check. "You're starting to sound like me."
"Guess I hang out with you too much," Blair chuckled.
Glancing at his partner, Jim quietly asked, "Would you be upset if that changed?"
Alarmed, Blair's head whipped around to stare at Jim. "What change?"
Jim dropped his gaze at the table. "Amanda's company may set up their American headquarters in Cascade."
Hiding a smile, Blair did another visual check on Cory. "So Amanda would move to Cascade?"
"Yeah." Silence weighed heavy a moment as Jim again surveyed their surroundings. "I haven't felt this way since Caroline. Hell, I'm not even sure I felt this way with her."
Blair nodded thoughtfully. "So if Amanda moves to Cascade, you want to ask her to marry you?"
"Which means you certainly won't need a roommate." As Jim shifted uncomfortably, Blair grinned widely. "Hey man, I think it'd be great."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Mind having a place where I can have a girl in the living room without worrying about you walking in? Are you kidding?" Blair laughed. Then his face grew serious. "Honest, Jim, Amanda's a great woman. If anyone deserves a great woman, it's you. Besides, we would still see each other at work and socially. I'll probably see you more than Amanda." Sweeping the area with his eyes, Blair casually asked, "Have you told her about the sentinel stuff?"
Jim sighed. "Not yet."
"You need to tell her."
"I know. I'm just..."
"Afraid? If she loves you, it shouldn't make a difference."
"And if it does?"
Blair shot him another glance. "Then you'd know she's not the one."
After placing their drink orders, Cory fought to keep from fidgeting. What was it about his father that could make him feel like an awkward kid again? Anger rose at the realization. He was almost thirty, for heaven's sake. His father no longer had any authority over him. He studied the general a moment. Perhaps it was time to take a page from his partner and try the direct approach. "Dad, why are you here?"
"You should be home."
Cory's eyebrows lifted. "Dad, I haven't lived with you and Patty for years now. In fact, you've relocated at least three times since I've moved out."
The general stared at him unfazed. "Things have changed."
"What's changed?" Cory asked as his brow wrinkled. "Are you worried about Patty after 9-11?"
"No. You're the one in trouble."
Cory barely kept from rolling his eyes. "I'm not in trouble. In fact, things are great here."
"Great? Are you telling me that yesterday morning was 'great'?"
"No. But I'm going to have those headaches no matter where I'm at. Here, Phoenix is willing to let me work around them. There aren't too many other places that would do that."
"Then you shouldn't be working."
"I'm not an invalid, Dad."
Thankfully, the waitress picked that moment to return with their drinks. When she asked if they were ready to order, the general glared at her. She darted away.
Holding back a sigh, Cory pointed out, "We should look at the menu. Mac said the swordfish is really good here."
"And exactly what is this 'Mac' to you?"
"Mac's a great guy, Dad. There's a lot I can learn from him. He and Sam have really helped me out."
"If you need help, you should come back home."
Cory picked up his glass to keep from saying something he'd regret later. He hated it when his father got into one of his stubborn moods. He drank the ice tea, almost wishing it was a beer. Almost, because he decided a long time ago he wasn't going to allow his anger with his father to force him into stupid choices. With his senses barely under control, alcohol would be stupid. He pointedly bowed his head over the menu, though it took a few moments before he could focus on the words.
It took all of Sam's willpower not to storm up the stairs to check on his partner. Only yesterday his sentinel had been throwing up during a confrontation with his father. No matter what Cory had said, he didn't believe that dealing with the general would be easy. Mentally, he knew he needed to let Cory talk with his dad. Emotionally, Sam wanted to stand between them and make sure the general didn't hurt him again. It was probably a good thing Jim placed him downstairs, even though it was wearing on Sam's nerves. He had to trust that Blair and Jim would keep things from getting out of hand.
The stormy relationship between Cory and his father reminded Sam how lucky he was. Once the initial shock wore off, MacGyver had been a great father to him. Not too many men would leave their job to travel the world with their new-found son. Sam often thought back on that year fondly, remembering the dance of getting comfortable around each other while touring old and new places.
Blair, too, had been a great brother so far. Never before had he felt so much trust in another person. Sam was still amazed that Blair and Jim had dropped everything twice to help him in different states. For someone who had been alone for so long, it felt good to know someone cared.
Which was why the argument hurt so much. While he had been lectured by his father within the first 12 hours of knowing him, he and Blair had never had a serious disagreement before. Perhaps Cory was right; it was overdue. However, it really wasn't so much that they had fought that bothered him. It was that they had fought over sentinels.
Yes, he had read over Blair's notes and the infamous dissertation. Personally, he thought Blair got carried away attributing all of Jim's problems as 'fear-based', but he wasn't the anthropologist. Thankfully, Blair's notes had been more problem specific. Sam appreciated the practical information on what glitches Jim had had with his senses and how he and Blair worked through them. He had used those techniques with Cory and was gratified at how well they worked.
However, the notes had also pointed out how much Blair worked on pure instinct. Sometimes his brother hadn't known the answer until the problem was almost out of hand. It didn't take a genius to realize that he and Cory may face a situation Blair and Jim had not. Could Sam trust his own instincts? Could he come up with solutions like Blair could? He didn't know, and it scared him that Cory might be the one to pay the price if he could not.
In just a few short months, Cory had become important to him both as a partner and as a friend. Never before had Sam felt such a responsibility for the well-being of another. All he had was his brother's notes and his instincts to go by. The argument had struck at the very juncture between Blair's knowledge and Sam's instincts. Which one was correct? He still wasn't sure if he had made the right choice. Yet in the face of Cory's ill-concealed panic, he knew he couldn't have done anything else. Hopefully, Blair understood that.
Cory ran his finger around the glass rim as his father gave his order to the nervous waitress. Poor thing was going to deserve a huge tip.
He still had to figure out a way to reassure his father. Perhaps it was time to change the subject. "How's Patty doing?"
"Is she still refinishing that cabinet?"
Cory paused, hoping the general would continue to speak. When nothing more was forthcoming, he asked, "Heard from Russ?"
"No. I don't expect to hear from him until the mission's over. He's busy fighting the war on terrorism."
Cory could hear the unspoken 'unlike you' at the end of the sentence. He ignored it. "Have you heard if Mark's carrier is heading for the Middle East?"
"Not yet, though I expect those orders to come down soon."
Nodding, Cory thought back to Sam's fears for his brother. Cory had a bad feeling he may be joining his partner in that area soon. "Are you going to be shipping out somewhere?" Perhaps that was why the general wanted him 'home', to look after Patty.
Silence reined for a few moments. So much for small talk.
"You should be under the care of professionals."
There was no way he could prevent the eye roll. "Dad, believe it or not, they do have medical professionals in California. My knee surgery was done by one of the top surgeons in the field."
"The doctors in D.C. said you should see a shrink."
"I did see a shrink. The DXS made sure of it."
"Only three visits. Then you left for Wyoming as soon as you could get on a plane."
"Well, I got tired of hearing about PTSD all the time."
"You were hearing other things. Imaginary things."
"I just needed some time to myself, Dad. I hear real things now." Which was the truth, thanks to Sam. Cory wasn't going to even attempt to explain sentinels and tigers to his father. It would only prove to the general he was crazy.
"A few days out in the wild doesn't take the place of a professional psychiatrist."
"Worked for the Native Americans."
Silence fell between them again as father and son stared at each other. The mood grew heated in the silence. Both parties realized the dam was about to burst.
"I want you home."
Cory made a final attempt to put his finger in the dyke. "I am home, Dad. I have a good job, good friends, a partner who watches my back, and whether you want to believe it or not, I am fighting the war on terrorism. Here, in this country, trying to prevent 9-11 from happening again. I can't do that in D.C."
"You shouldn't be working at all!"
"Why the hell not?" Cory forced his mouth closed to prevent any more of his frustration from pouring out.
"Don't swear at me!"
"I'm sorry." Cory fought to sound repentant, hoping it would be enough.
"You're too fragile to work."
"I am not fragile. I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm almost there. Moving back to D.C. won't change it."
"You're too sick to realize you're sick!"
Cory took a deep breath. "I'm recovering, Dad. I love you, but you can't tell me what to do anymore. I'm staying here."
The general stood up. "We'll see about that." He stormed out of the room as Cory laid his head on the table.
An eternity later, a hand squeezed his good arm. "I take it things didn't go well?"
Cory lifted his head to see Sam slip into his father's seat. "That's a mild way of putting it."
"Blair said it looked like you two were fighting, then the general stormed out of here. What happened?"
"Dad thinks I'm insane."
"What?" Sam started to chuckle, then paused. "You're serious?"
Cory shrugged as he straightened up. "At the D.C. hospital, I heard people on the floor above me. Dad thinks they were imaginary."
"Did you tell him about your senses?"
"And prove that I'm insane? Trust me, he'd never believe it."
Sam tilted his head. "You know, he can't do anything. The burden of proof is on him, and all of Phoenix would testify that you're fine."
"Doesn't mean he won't make my life miserable trying."
The waitress appeared with the food. "Oh. Where did the other man go?"
"He had to leave," Sam told her with a smile. "What did he order?"
"Mahimahi," Cory told him.
"Yum. I'll eat it for him."
The first grin since arriving at the restaurant stretched across Cory's face as the waitress set the plate in front of his partner.
Community General Hospital
After lunch, the group stopped at the police station. Everyone gave their reports, with Blair and Sam taking their turns with the sketch artist. Leaving Mac behind to take his turn and to consult with the arriving DXS group, the sentinels and guides headed for Community General and Cory's doctor appointment.
While Jim and Blair positioned themselves in the hospital lobby, Sam walked with his partner to find Dr. Sloan's office. So far, none of them had spotted anyone with a suspicious interest in Cory. Sam's nerves were still on edge, though. He would feel better once Craig had his protection in place. Then perhaps they could set the trap that Blair had suggested.
Mark Sloan smiled at the two young men as they entered his office. "Good afternoon. How are you feeling?"
Cory returned the smile. "Better than last night."
"That's good. Now let's see if there's an exam room free."
As Dr. Sloan picked up the phone, Sam glanced around the office. It wasn't a prestigious room. Instead, the light curtains, humorous plaques, and soft furniture made it warm and comforting. It fit well with the opinion Sam had formed of the doctor.
"There'll be one free in a few minutes." Sloan turned to look at Cory. "We will need to give you an antibiotic, though. I noticed from your records you've had some problems. Is there any one drug that's given you the least reactions?"
Before Cory could reply, a short blond man wearing a doctor's lab coat entered. "Hey, Mark, I just remembered where I'd heard the name 'Sandburg' before, and I think it might..." He paused when he noticed the other men in the room. "Oh, sorry, didn't know you were busy."
Sam straightened up. "Sandburg? Blair Sandburg?"
"Jesse," Mark began.
"Do you know my brother?" Sam continued. Cory, picking up on his partner's sudden tension, also began to study the intruder.
The other doctor shrugged. "Nah, I've just heard of his work. I got real excited over the initial press releases, since heightened senses would explain some of the sensitivities I see with drugs and pain thresholds. I was disappointed when he had to retract it."
Mark glanced around in confusion. "Press release? On what?"
Cory and Sam traded glances. "Ah..." Sam stalled.
"Is there a chance I could meet your brother?" Jesse asked, blue eyes still filled with excitement. "If it isn't a touchy subject, I'd love to ask him some questions."
Cory sighed, his head slightly turned to the side. "You'll be meeting him in five, four, three..."
From the hall, a voice called out, "Jim! Jim, what's going on?"
"Two, one," Cory finished, with Jim entering the room on 'one', Blair trailing behind him. Jim glared at both doctors, causing Jesse to flinch.
Blair glanced around. "Ah, what's going on here?"
"Well," Sam drawled as he thought fast. He waved a hand at Jesse. "Dr, ah,"
"Jesse Travis," Jesse supplied, still watching Jim warily.
"Dr. Travis is a fan of your work. You know, with sentinels."
Blair's eyes grew wide.
"He was just saying that while he was disappointed to hear of your retraction, he'd still like to discuss your theories."
Blair blinked, then glared at his partner. "Are you ever going to learn about subtlety?"
"This is too big to be subtle, Chief."
Suddenly, Jesse's own eyes grew wide. "Oh wow. It's not just a theory anymore, is it? Which means your press conference was... Oh wow."
"What theory?" Mark asked.
The weardian and witan pairs looked at each other, thoughts unspoken zipping between them. Quietly, Sam pointed out, "There's more going on with Cory's headaches than just senses. A doctor in the know could help."
Blair nodded. "I'd have to go along with that. Jim?"
Jim sent another icy look at the young doctor. "We don't know him."
Sam turned to Jesse. "Will you promise to keep this quiet?"
Jesse, eyes darting from one man to the other as his mind raced, replied. "As long as it's not illegal, sure. Doctor-patient confidentiality."
After another moment of studying the doctor, Jim nodded. "Okay. Cory? It's your head."
"And I'm desperate enough to try anything," Cory admitted. "I'm with you."
A grin spread across Jesse's face. "Then it is true. You've found sentinels... Wait a minute! Buchanan's file! All his trouble with drugs." Jesse turned to Cory. "You're a sentinel."
"What's a sentinel?" Mark asked in confusion.
Blair took a deep breath. "Just remember that this has to be kept quiet. Jim was nearly killed when the news came out last time -- that's why I gave the press conference."
Jesse nodded excitedly. "No problem. As long as you don't mind if I use what I learn on other patients who may have similar problems."
"That would be great." Blair started to bounce slightly. "I've always hoped what I found could be used to help others."
"Help others with what?" Mark asked.
Blair smiled. "Why don't we all sit down, and I'll tell you about a theory by Richard Burton. The explorer, not the actor..."
Jim smirked as he drove the rental car back to MacGyver's. Blair was practically bouncing in the seat next to him. It had been a while since he had seen his partner this excited.
"...said about medicines and their affects on senses, it's just like what I'd suspected, but didn't have the background to confirm it. And his suggestion about the antibiotics... man, I've got to write that all down. This is so great."
Jim checked the rearview mirror to make sure Sam's Subaru was still behind them. "Hopefully, he knows how to keep his mouth shut."
"Yeah, but it's worth the risks if he can help Cory. Even better if he can help others with heightened senses."
"Cory's the only reason I agreed with this."
Blair surveyed the side mirror, checking for anyone shadowing them. "You're worried about him?"
"Not so much worried. He just has enough on his plate without adding in those headaches."
"Yeah, that's for sure." Silence reined for a moment. "When do you think the DXS will put their security in place?"
"Better be soon."
"You'd think they'd have done it this morning."
Jim's jaw clenched. "Probably not a real high priority."
Blair did another visual check of the side mirror. "Is it just me, or does something about all this seem off?"
"It's not just you."
Jim pulled into a spot behind the firehouse. After shutting off the motor, the sentinel closed his eyes while concentrating on his hearing. Blair wordlessly laid an anchoring hand on his arm. Jim's eyes popped open. "There's someone at the back door."
Blair tried to see past the bushes by the back door. "Is it Mac?"
"Damn. We'd better check it out."
Jim stepped out of the car, waving at Sam and Cory to stay in their own vehicle. Pointing his Colt skyward near his shoulder, Jim hand-signaled Blair to take the left side of the bush while he took the right. Blair, his own Sig ready, nodded grimly in confirmation. They circled around the bushes.
"Freeze, Police," Jim shouted as he jumped around the shrubbery.
The husky redhead dropped the book he was reading as he jumped to his feet. Holding his hands above his head, he replied. "Sorry, officer."
Blair lowered his gun slightly. This young American with a military bearing didn't match up with the men from the previous attack. "What are you doing here?"
Green eyes glancing back and forth between the partners, the man explained, "I'm looking for my brother. Our sister said he lived--"
"RUSS!" Cory rounded the bushes at a trot.
"Cory!" Jim and Blair lowered their weapons as the brothers embraced, pounding each other on the back.
Stepping away, Russ looked around again. "You know, I'd always heard that crime was bad in L.A., but I didn't realize it was so bad you needed personal bodyguards."
Cory chuckled. "Nah, but that's a long story. Let me introduce you first." He waved at Sam, who was standing behind him. "That's my friend and partner, Sam Malloy."
Sam offered his hand with a smile. "Nice to meet you. Cory talks a lot about you and the twins."
Russ smiled widely as he shook the hand. "Yeah, Missy said you've been keeping an eye out for Big Bro."
Cory continued, "This is Sam's brother, Blair Sandburg. He's a police detective." The two men shook hands. "And that's his partner, Jim Ellison."
Russ paused, eyes wide. "Ellison? Captain James Ellison of the Ranger's First Battalion?"
"In another life," Jim replied.
Russ' eyes grew wider. He instantly stood at attention to shoot off a crisp salute. "Captain, sir!"
Behind him, Blair snickered. Sam glanced at his brother. "Peru?"
"Yep," Blair replied with amusement, watching his partner shift uncomfortably under Russ' worshipful gaze.
Jim struggled to keep from glaring at his partner, knowing the young officer would think it was directed at him. "It's Detective Ellison now. You don't need to salute me."
"Respect should be given to those who earn it, sir," Russ replied, his voice sharp with military precision.
Taking pity on the older sentinel, Cory grabbed his brother's arm. "Come on, Fireball, let's go inside and catch up."
Jim glanced around. "Yes, best not to stand out in the open."
"What's up?" Russ asked, catching the undercurrent.
Cory sighed as he led Russ to the door. "Colombia has come back to bite me on the rear."
Laying a protective arm across Cory's shoulders, Russ glanced around. "Then inside you go."
The sketch artist has done a good job. The face of the man who had tried to kill Cory is staring up at me. Who is it, and how does he connect to the young sentinel? From the severity of the spikes, the man certainly isn't a friend.
In the past few months, Sam and I have witnessed Cory's pain and hard work towards recovery. That kind of thing tends to wipe off the public veneer people show to others and reveal the person beneath. I like what I've seen. Cory's a tough, highly intelligent young man who doesn't back down when things are hard or painful -- if he had to do it, he did it. He also seems to like working with Sam on his senses. His smile as he masters a new technique or does something new is a pleasure to see. Bascially, he's a good kid I'm glad to welcome into my home and my family.
That's why I'm worried about the Colombian deal. After Wyoming, I dusted off my security clearances and looked over the files from Cory's last case. The evidence of torture still curdles my stomach. No one, especially a budding sentinel, should go through that. Thankfully, it looks like they didn't have him for long. Did they drop him off in the jungle to die? Or did the 'Primal Sentinel', as Blair calls it, reemerge from its hibernation, spot a chance and take it? If I was placing a bet, it would be on the Primal Sentinel.
Yet that isn't what bothers me. The whole case and the investigation afterwards doesn't feel right. Cory, with his extensive knowledge of the DXS computer systems and limited field experience, shouldn't have been put into such a dangerous situation without more backup. The fact that he was sent on the mission while Craig was out of the country is another red flag. The whole deal stinks like last week's garbage, but no one besides Craig seems to notice.
This latest attack doesn't fit, either. There was a lot of risk involved, coming to the US and attacking a man who doesn't remember anything. If Cory and his partner were simply caught and tortured for invading the compound, then why go to all that trouble? There must be something buried in Cory's amnesiac mind that can still hurt these people. What is it?
Spotting the DXS agents return to the conference room, Mac picked up the other sketch and walked up to them. "Howdy."
The younger man frowned as he opened the door. "We've already told the lieutenant we didn't need any more help."
"I'm not with the police," Mac replied. He held out his hand. "Name's MacGyver."
The older agent turned to face him. "THE MacGyver?"
Mac shrugged. "I used to work with Bannister."
"Come on in," the older agent motioned. "I'm Chuck Reynolds."
"David Todds." The young man tilted his head as he sat down. "Why are you on this case?"
"Cory works for me at Phoenix and rents a room at my place," Mac replied. He held out the papers. "These are the sketches of the men who broke in. The artist is making copies of them right now. Any word back on the prints?"
Reynolds shook his head. "They're being processed, but not a high priority."
"Do these pictures match anything from the original file?" Mac asked. He didn't think they did, but it had been a couple of months since he'd looked.
"No," Todd replied after studying them. "We have no evidence they weren't just thieves in the wrong place and time."
"Is that the same reason why there hasn't been any security on Buchanan yet?" Mac asked nonchalantly.
"Buchanan's no longer an agent and everyone knows he screwed up," Todds pointed out. "This is probably nothing."
Mac lifted an eyebrow, holding back his temper. "Have you ever met Buchanan?"
"Then perhaps you should find out facts instead of relying on rumors." Mac stood up and walked out the door. They weren't going to get any help from that angle. It was up to him and his boys to protect Cory.
"Let me get this straight." Russ sat up in the comfortable den chair. "Your new partner, that skinny beanpole, threw the general out?"
Cory narrowed his eyes playfully at his younger brother. "Sam's not a beanpole and yeah, he kicked Dad out."
"Wow," Russ breathed. "I didn't think anyone could make Dad do something he didn't want to do."
"You've never seen Sam when he's determined," Cory chuckled. "It's like the proverbial unstoppable object meeting the immovable wall. I wish I'd been feeling better to appreciate it."
Russ tilted his head. "How are you now?"
"Fine. It's those headaches that are killers."
Frowning, Russ studied the ice in his glass. "I guess you didn't get to talk to Dad to find out how he's doing."
"Oh, he's as snarly as ever. I saw him at lunch."
Russ studied him. "What happened?"
Cory sighed. "Short version? Dad thinks I'm insane and wants me to move back in with him and Patty. I told him I was staying here. He stormed out before the food was served."
"He wants you to move back in?" After staring at his older brother a moment, he shook his head. "Unbelievable."
Cory stared at the end table. "No, just controlling, arrogant and typical Dad."
"Well, you were in pretty bad shape," Russ offered. "The doctors were giving Dad all sorts of horrendous predictions about how much care you were going to need and how long it would take. One even told him you'd never recover."
"But I am recovering," Cory pointed out. "I'm doing fine."
"Yeah, but you went through hell, Big Bro. Tough men have been known to self-destruct after going through what you did. It's hard for me to believe you're doing so well, and it was Dad who had to listen to the docs."
Cory could see the anxiety still residing in his brother's eyes. "Honest, Russ, I am fine. There were just things that I had to work out for myself. And if that changes, I promise to get help."
Russ nodded. "I know that. And that's probably part of the problem."
"What do you mean?"
"You know what Mom always says; I got Dad's temper and you got his stubbornness. Dad and I can bring the house down with our shouting matches, but eventually I'll cave in. You're the opposite. You just weather Dad's yelling, then go out and do whatever you were going to do anyway."
Cory shrugged. "True."
"While we may whine and complain about it, the rest of the family follows the chain of command. You don't. Dad doesn't know how to deal with that."
"I'm not moving back to D.C."
Russ laughed. "I know that. Bet Mom and Missy know that, too. It's just a matter of finding a way for Dad to realize it's the right thing."
"You didn't hear him at lunch. He just kept harping on me to go 'home'."
"Too bad Bill isn't here. He's usually the one to talk Dad into leaving you alone."
Cory smirked. "Maybe I can have Sam kick him out a few more times."
"You know, I'd pay money to see that."
"And you'll see it for free if he shows up here again." The brothers turned to spy Sam standing in the doorway. Seeing he had their attention, Sam's expression softened. "Dad's pulling in. We need to hear what he's found out and Jim's got an idea."
Cory tilted his head as he studied Sam's face. "What kind of an idea?"
"Blair says we need to set a trap."
Russ frowned. "Can I get in on this?"
"We were hoping you'd say that," Sam replied.
That evening, Little Milano
Thomas Buchanan was exiting the restroom. It had been a nice dinner with good food and renewing old friendships. Too bad George and Maggie had to leave early to attend their granddaughter's recital. He would have liked to talk some more. It had kept his mind off his own family problems.
As he walked towards the front, the sight of two young men at a center table, a redhead and a brunette, caught his attention. They reminded him of his sons. Too bad lunch went so wrong. Too bad Cory couldn't be more like Russ, who knew how to listen to the old man.
Then the redhead turned slightly to pick up his glass. Why, that WAS Russ. When did he get back? Why was he here? Then he realized the other man was Cory. A surge of anger ran through him. Why didn't Cory tell him Russ was here? He had taken a step towards the table when he realized their voices were growing louder.
"Don't you start, too," Cory retorted.
"Just because Dad said it doesn't mean he's wrong," Russ returned, sitting back in his chair angrily.
"Aren't you old enough to think for yourself yet?"
"I'm not the one missing a few cards out of my deck."
"I'm NOT crazy!" Cory stood up from the table. "God, why can't any of you believe me?" He stormed out of the restaurant.
Thomas stepped behind a potted tree to keep from being seen. As he watched Cory leave, he wondered if he and Russ could combine forces. He turned to spot Russ tossing money on the table to cover the bill and leaving in the opposite direction. He tried to catch up with his son, but the boy was moving fast. As he entered the back lot, he spotted Russ climbing into a blue Taurus. He quickly unlocked and climbed inside his own rental. He barely managed to keep the other car in sight.
Where was Russ going? Who was driving? Perhaps Russ had called one of his colleagues? Or perhaps he ran into someone in the parking lot. Although he didn't think Russ knew anyone from L.A.
The car pulled under a low hanging tree. Thomas parked in another shadow-darkened area, then walked in the same direction as his son and another man. He was just passing a park when a hand wrapped around his mouth and pulled him to the side. He was about to try to wrestle away, injured hands be damned, when Russ whispered, "Dad, what are you doing here?"
The hand dropped. Thomas turned to see his attacker, a tall muscular man in his late thirties, glaring back. "I saw you and..."
"Keep your voice down," Russ hissed.
Thomas made an attempt to be quiet. "Russell, what in the blazes is going on here?"
"Some Colombians attacked Cory and a couple got away," Russ explained.
Suddenly, the soldier and father inside him snapped to attention. "Attacked? Is he alright?" He noticed the stranger focusing on a large window across the park. Inside was Cory, just beginning to work on one of his martial arts routines.
"He took a knife wound to his arm, but Sam and his family scared them off, " Russ explained worriedly. "We just didn't want them making another attempt when he's alone and unprepared."
"So we're setting a trap to catch them," the stranger added grimly.
A third man slipped in from the shadows. "We're all set. Any indications that Cory was followed?" Thomas suddenly recognized the young man from the picture in MacGyver's office. Blair, wasn't it?
"The Captain thought he saw a suspicious car, but I didn't catch it," Russ replied.
"Call me Jim," the stranger corrected. Then he turned to the smaller man. "Things may happen quick. Let's get into our places, Chief. Buchanan, you and your father stay here, out of sight. Keep listening to your radio. And be careful -- the wildlife around here can be deadly." He and MacGyver's son slipped back into the darkness.
Thomas turned to Russ. "Who was that?"
"Didn't you recognize him, Dad?" Russ asked softly with a smirk. "That's James Ellison."
"Captain Ellison? The Ranger?"
As Cory's body flowed through the familiar movements, he tried to center his mind, to reach that point of total awareness that would aid in a possible fight. Never had the desire to reach that state been so great. He needed to leave his emotions behind if he was to face his out-of-reach past. He couldn't chance another debilitating spike. Unfortunately, his mind didn't want to empty. He tried again. As his body lunged and spun, his hearing drifted outward, the feeling of the air's resistance against his skin pre-empting a zone.
He could hear Sam's breathing and heartbeat behind a nearby screen, listening to the others on his earpiece. MacGyver was secreted downstairs, monitoring the rest of the equipment. Jim and Blair were approaching the shrubs around the dojang. Everything was on schedule.
Man, he hoped this worked. There was no way he and Russ could stage a fight every night.
A part of him felt safe, knowing so many kept watch. Yet deep down there was a sense that as long as Sam was nearby, they could face anything. He felt both buoyed and anchored by his friend's support. Was that what Jim meant about a sentinel requiring a partner? Or was it simply a matter of trust and friendship?
He would have to do something nice for Master Chad. It couldn't have been easy to clear out the dojang on short notice for their trap. But the man had also studied under Master Po and was more than willing to help a fellow student. Even after so many years, that great man still opened doors for him. He must focus on his teachings.
Breathe. Pivot. Kick. Note the light pain radiating from his recovering knee. Ignore it. Feel the air push against the hairs of his arms. Block. Strike. Acknowledge the tug of the stitches as he moved and dismiss it. Hear Sam's breathing. Feel the sweat trickle down the side of his face. He was safe. He was strong. Breathe. Strike. Pivot back.
The enemy was approaching. The thought crystalized without precursor. Taking a deeper breath, Cory continued to move as he listened. A soft scrape against the stairs. The footsteps in the room behind him. The soft sound of Mac sending out the alert. Sam shifting in preparation. The pungent yet somehow familiar scent wafted around the door. The enemy had arrived. He was ready.
Sam stretched, trying to keep his muscles loose. He envied Cory's movements. His own forms never looked so smooth or deadly. Yet if he watched carefully, there was a slight hitch when Cory shifted most of his weight onto his weak knee. His partner was not fully recovered, as much as he would like to pretend he was.
Too bad they had to set the trap now. Sam feared it was a lot to place on his friend who still wasn't ready to face last summer's trauma. Yet Blair was right; it was better for them to pick place and time than let the Colombians attack Cory when and where they wanted. He had to stay alert in order to protect his partner as much as he could now and help him through the aftermath later.
Did Jim and Blair make it into their positions yet? Was their extra help in place? Had anyone taken the bait?
God, he hadn't felt this nervous since Bosnia.
Then his father's voice whispered over the headset, "Heads up, we've got company."
Sam silently slid over to the edge of the screen, watching the area behind Cory.
As one of the invaders entered the room, Cory automatically dove into a tumble, missing the knife that flew over the spot where his chest had been. Rolling onto his feet, Cory struck out at the assailant. First, the knife was knocked out of his hands, then a side kick swept him off his feet. The man looked up into Cory's impassive face as the sentinel held him to the floor.
Behind him, Sam tackled the second invader who was creeping up behind Cory. Just as Sam was about to punch the guy, a voice yelled, "Freeze! Police!" Steve Sloan, along with five of his detectives and officers, streamed into the room. Jim and Blair brought up the rear. Jim pulled Cory to his feet as Blair walked towards his brother.
Sam glanced at his guy, recognizing him from the night before. Yet the guy Cory was backing away from was new. "Blair, we're missing..." Then he spotted a man who had come in behind the police, sliding towards his partner and carrying a knife. It was the one causing Cory's spikes. "NO!" Sam grabbed the screen and threw his weight against it. He slammed into the man, knocking him to the floor and pinning him down with the bamboo.
Jim was there instantly, pointing his weapon into the man's face. "Freeze!"
Blair helped Sam up from the floor. "You okay?" Blair queried anxiously.
"I'm fine." Sam touched Cory's arm. "Cory?" Cory stared at the man Jim was helping Steve arrest, face blank. "Cory?"
Cory shook his head and looked up. "I'm okay."
"Headache?" Sam asked, worried.
"No." Cory looked back down at his assailant. "He's not bothering me anymore. But I still don't know who he is."
Sam squeezed his arm comfortingly.
"Looks like you pulled your stitches," Blair gently pointed out.
Noting Cory's eyes were still not totally focusing on them, Sam wrapped his hand around his partner's shoulder. "Why don't you sit down, and we'll get Jesse to take a look at them."
Thomas pushed his way into the busy room, Russ trailing behind him. He had seen most of the action from his vantage point in the park. A part of him was still shocked at how fast Cory had taken his attacker down. While he knew Cory had been taking martial art lessons since he was a boy, he hadn't realized just how proficient he had become at it. He had also witnessed both times Malloy had protected his son. Perhaps he had been a little hasty in judgement.
Then he stopped. Cory sat on a stool in the corner, a small blond man working on his arm. Next to him stood Malloy, squeezing his shoulder and talking to him. For a moment, Thomas felt like he had been transported to the past. How many times had Bill Nighthawk talked to him while a medical professional worked on an injury? How many times had Bill been there to cover his back? Suddenly, he realized it was the same kind of friendship between his son and the lanky man by his side. The kind of friendship he had not known to treasure until their careers sent Bill and him in separate directions.
Cory was right. He was home.
A tug on his arm brought him pulled him back into the present. "Dad?"
He looked at Russ. "Let's go see how your brother is doing."
Blair looked up from his notebook as Sam padded into the kitchen. "Did I wake you?"
"Nah," Sam replied as he opened the fridge. "Couldn't sleep."
"I know what you mean." Blair sat back in his chair, nodding when Sam pulled out the milk and lifted an eyebrow. "I'm still a little wound up, though it's a relief that Steve has those Colombians in jail."
"Yeah, at least we don't have to worry about them going after Cory again." Sam placed one glass of milk in front of Blair as he sat in the opposite chair. He swallowed some milk, then looked at his brother. "Blair, about this morning--"
Blair lifted a hand. "Don't apologize."
"Sam, it's me who has to apologize." Blair leaned forward so he could emphasize his point. "For a long time, I've had to fight to help Jim. I fought with Simon, Rainier, the police department, and even Jim himself. We were doing something totally new and people don't like working outside their box. There were times when even I wasn't sure I was doing the right thing. Yet I had to fight, because I knew if I didn't, Jim would suffer the consequences.
"And that's exactly what you were doing this morning. You were protecting Cory, your sentinel, just as fiercely as I protect Jim. That's our job. Don't ever change that, even if the person you're protecting Cory from is me."
"But you know so much more than I do," Sam softly pointed out.
"You know more about sentinels than I did at this stage," Blair countered. "And there have been plenty of times when all I had to go on was my gut instincts. You're doing a good job in taking care of your sentinel. I can see how much Cory trusts you. Trust in yourself."
"I still don't like fighting with you."
Blair reached over to squeeze Sam's shoulder. "Me, neither. And it was my fault. I worry about you and don't want you getting hurt. I forget that you're perfectly capable of taking care of yourself and Cory."
Sam shared a look with his brother. "Thanks."
Blair smiled reassuringly. "Any--"
Both young men heard a loud thump. Sam frowned. "That sounds like it came from Cory's room."
They dashed to the door of Cory's bedroom. Jim met them there, a concerned look on his face. Quietly, Sam pushed the door open. The bedding was rumbled and partially pulled off the bed, but Cory himself was not there. A tap on Sam's shoulder drew his eyes to Jim, who pointed to the corner. Tucked between the wall and the dresser was Cory, sitting on the floor with his arms holding his curled legs tight to his chest. Even in the dim light, Sam could tell he was shaking.
"Cory?" Sam eased over to where his friend sat and knelt in front of him. Cory only squeezed himself tighter into the corner. The dark eyes were dazed, not seeing Sam. There was something about them that pinged the guide's memory. Sam glanced back to his brother and Jim. MacGyver had joined them, studying Cory worriedly. "Blair, this is like at the Halliwells."
Blair nodded. "Primal Sentinel. Might be a flashback to Colombia."
Sam nodded as well. Made sense, considering their recent tangle with the Colombians.
"Try to connect to him," Blair softly urged. "but be prepared for him not to acknowledge you."
Sam gently laid his hand on Cory's forearm. "Cory, can you hear me?"
"No," Cory whimpered.
"Core, it's Sam. It's safe. You're safe."
Cory shook his head. "No."
Sam glanced back. "He's freezing."
Jim handed him a blanket off the bed. Sam gently tucked it around his friend, then wrapped his hand around the base of Cory's neck. When Cory didn't pull away, he rubbed the tense muscles. "Cory, it's Sam. It's okay."
After a long, agonizing moment, Cory whispered, "Sam?"
"Right here, partner."
Dark eyes blinked. "Where... What..."
"We're in your room in L.A." Sam continued to rub his neck. "What do you remember?"
Cory blinked again. "I was... I think... I don't know." Sam waited as his friend paused. "A flash of someplace dark. I think that one guy was there." Cory lightly ran his left hand over his upper arm. "I'm hurting. I, ah, I don't understand."
Mac frowned at the action.
Sam's sole focus was still his partner. "It's okay, Core. How's your head?"
"Hurts," Cory admitted, "but not too bad."
"Why don't we get you back into bed?" Sam suggested, suspecting his friend might not be totally awake.
"No!" Cory tried to grab Sam's arm through the blanket. "Don't leave."
Sam could feel his gut tighten. He'd never heard Cory sound so scared. "I'm not leaving. But why don't we get you off the cold floor?"
After a moment, Cory nodded. Sam helped him to his feet. When Cory spotted others in the room, he nearly took a step back. Sam squeezed his arm. "It's okay. It's Dad, Blair and Jim." Sam could feel Cory relax. At least the sentinel was back enough to recognize his new friends.
Jim gave him a warm smile. "Let's go to the living room." The older sentinel figured Cory needed to know he was surrounded by friends.
"Yeah, we can see if there's any funny movies on," Blair added.
Cory looked around, still dazed. "Okay."
Cory opened his eyes to find himself on the living room couch. Jim was sleeping in the recliner, while Sam and Blair were stretched out on the floor. How did they end up sleeping here? Vague flashes of Sam kneeling next to him on the floor, rubbing his neck, drifted by. Could he make any more of a fool of himself?
The younger sentinel suddenly felt eyes on him. Looking over, he found Jim studying him. Jim indicated the kitchen with his head, an understanding look on his face.
A few minutes later, Cory had managed to step around Sam and Blair to join Jim in the kitchen. The older sentinel was sliding the pot into the coffee maker. "How are you doing?"
Cory sat in one of the kitchen chairs. "Okay." He stared at the table's wood grain. "Sorry about last night."
Jim pulled out the chair across from him. "Nothing to be sorry about, Tiger. I've had some pretty intense nightmares, myself."
"You ever wake up huddled in a corner with your best friend staring at you?"
"How about having your best friend find you as you're reliving your aunt trying to kill you at age seven?"
Cory's eyes shot up to stare at Jim. "Really?"
"Really. I survived because I trusted my partner and he helped me through it. Sam wants to be there for you; you just have to let him."
Rubbing his hands up and down his face, Cory shook his head. "I guess I'm just scared that Dad's right. I am cracking up."
Jim chuckled. "I'm probably not the best judge of sanity, but I'd have been surprised if you didn't have nightmares after yesterday."
"Me, too." Jim and Cory looked up to see Blair running his hands through his hair, leaving it even more unruly. "Everyone has nightmares. And you've been through enough to have some doozies."
"Yeah, but you guys didn't have to stay up with me."
Jim shrugged. "No problem."
"Besides, we suspect it wasn't just a nightmare," Blair added.
Cory looked up, even more worried. "What?"
"Sometimes a sentinel will go into a primal state," Blair explained matter-of-factly.
Panic was beginning to seep into Cory's eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Just that you go into a state where you're relying more on instinct and your senses than your brain," Sam explained as he entered. He walked over to squeeze Cory's shoulder. "I saw Jim go into that mode in San Francisco because he was protecting Blair and me from that evil sentinel."
"Jim doesn't usually remember much afterwards," Blair continued.
"That might be part of the reason you don't remember much from Colombia." MacGyver, fresh from the shower, had joined the group. "You may have needed to enter that state to get away from your captors."
Sam squeezed his partner's shoulder again. "Which is why you were in it last night. Your mind took you back to Colombia, and you went into primal mode just like you were then."
Cory rubbed his face again. "This stuff is never simple, is it?"
"Nope." Sam knelt down to look Cory in the eye. "But that's what I'm here for."
Returning Sam's smirk, Cory nodded.
Deciding they needed to change the subject, MacGyver asked, "So, what's on the agenda today?"
"Dr. Sloan invited us over to his place for a barbeque," Blair replied. "He lives on the beach."
"Sounds like fun to me." Sam stood up. "And is that coffee done yet?"
Afternoon, Sloan's beach house
Mark, wearing a bright red chef apron, placed the last burger on the grill. He looked up and smiled. His son was teaching Sam and Russ how to surf. Cory, warned not to get his stitches wet, was yelling pointers from his towel in the sand. Jesse and Blair were sitting in beach chairs, deep in discussion. The hot sunshine was cooled by a slight breeze off the ocean.
MacGyver walked out on the porch. "I put the salad in your refrigerator." The man paused, watching the younger men. "Thanks for inviting us. The last couple days have been intense, and the boys needed this."
"It's a pleasure to have you," Mark returned. "Is Jim coming?"
Smirking, Mac sat his glass of iced tea on the table. "Jim's picking up his British girlfriend. Blair's been teasing him, so we're all looking forward to meeting her."
"It should be a pleasure." Mark studied Cory a moment. "Steve told me about last night. Is Cory going to be okay now?"
Mac sighed as he also studied the young man in question. "Between you and me, I fear this is only the tip of the iceberg."
Mark turned to look at him. "What are you going to do?"
"Some more digging. Let Cory heal some more. Protect him if they come back."
"Could get dangerous."
"Yeah. But somewhere along the line, Cory's become one of my boys. I need to help him."
Mark nodded. "Know what you mean. I have a few students like Jesse who have become as dear to me as my children. I'll do anything for them."
Mac turned to the doctor. "I'd imagine med students are too busy to get into trouble like my boys."
Sam jogged through the surf to the beach. Leaving his board upright in the sand, he shook the water out of his hair. "Wow, that was fun."
Cory smiled wistfully. "I always love to surf."
"Next time," Sam promised as he examined a bruise forming on his elbow. "Hopefully, when I'm better at it."
"You're not doing too bad for a beginner." Cory cocked his head slightly. "Maybe Jim will have some time to work with you."
"The rental just pulled in. And I can see why he likes her voice. It's deep and resonating."
"Amanda's with him?" An evil grin spread across Sam's face.
Catching the look, Blair called out, "What's up?"
"Jim's here with his English Lady," Sam called back.
Blair's grin matched Sam's. "Oooo, A-Man-Da."
Cory, stretching his neck to look, spotted the woman walking next to Jim. Her deep yellow blouse and skirt emphasized her wavy dark hair, muscular legs and elegant beauty. Cory softly whistled. "Man, she is a hottie."
"Really?" Sam squinted, trying to catch a glimpse. "Oh wow, those are some legs. How can he let her go back to England?"
"That's Jim's girlfriend?" Jesse asked, seeing the older man escort a tall brunette over to Mark and MacGyver. "How'd they meet?"
"She won Jim in a bachelor's auction."
"You're kidding?" Cory whipped his head around to look at Blair. "Jim actually signed up for a bachelor's auction?"
Blair started laughing. "Jim didn't sign up. Our Police Commish ordered him to do it after we arrested one of the organizers."
"That sounds about right," Sam chuckled.
"Quiet, here they come," Cory shushed. The four young men tried to look innocent as Jim led the beautiful woman to them. Jim gave them a glare, having heard the end of the discussion.
"Hi, Amanda," Blair greeted the woman.
"Hi, Blair," Amanda returned, giving him a warm smile. "Who are all your friends?"
Blair quickly ran through the introductions, then stood up. "Here, take my chair."
"Or you can have my beach towel," Cory offered as he stood up, eyes staring past them.
Blair watched his back as the younger man walked away. "What's up?"
"General's here," Jim replied. He grasped Sam's shoulder to prevent him from following. "Let's give them a few."
"Hi Dad," Cory greeted.
"Son." The General looked around. "What is this place?"
"It's a beach house owned by some friends. You met Steve Sloan last night. He and his father live here." Cory began to walk down the beach alongside his father.
After several minutes of silence, Thomas commented, "You really fit in."
"Pretty much," Cory replied cautiously. "It helps to have friends and a good job."
"Russ says that one of those friends is James Ellison."
Cory hid a smile. "Yeah, Jim's cool. He's Blair's partner up in Cascade. Sam says he's always been like a big brother to him."
"He has quite a reputation."
"I understand Blair's gaining a good one, too."
They walked another couple of yards. "Are you certain you don't want to go back to D.C.?"
Cory took a deep breath. "Dad, this is where I need to be right now. I need to feel useful. I need to help with this country's security. And that's what I can do here with Sam and Mac."
Thomas nodded. Cory felt relief flood his body. The impasse was over, at least for now.
Russ suddenly appeared next to them. "Hey, the food's ready!"
Jim watched as the three men walked back. Cory's father had finally accepted that Cory was on the right path. He looked around at the laughing faces of his friends, old and new. Jim took a deep breath. Cory was safe, the day was beautiful, and the woman he loved was getting to know his second family. Life couldn't get any better.
Author's notes, 5/4/03: Glad to have finally wrapped this one up. Not really sure what I'll do next. Got a couple of options, but a lot depends on whether RL will allow me time to work on them.
For those concerned about Amanda, Jim and Blair -- Jim said on the show that he'd like to be married, and I honestly see him in that state. It's part of Jim's natural growth since the series. I'm sorry if this offends some of you, but I've always tried to stay true to the characters and the storyline flowing through the series as I see them.
For those who are worried, rest assured that the stories will always be about Jim and Blair (and Mac, Sam and Cory). I kinda see Jim and Blair like Nash and Joe from Nash Bridges -- a friendship so close, that even Joe's wife refers to Nash as Joe's 'other spouse'. Blair will see Jim as much if not more than Amanda due to their job, and Amanda has her own business to run. Both Amanda and Ian are secondary characters -- they will never hijack a story.
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