Written: 1999

Published: Sentry Duty 6 (2002), available from: www.agentwithstyle.com


JOB DESCRIPTION



K Hanna Korossy (Anna Kelly)






Usually Blair Sandburg was delighted at every greeting he received as he made his way through the Cascade Police building, each one added proof of the growing acceptance of his presence, of his belonging there. More and more people seemed to be learning his name, too, some of them the very same people who had originally ignored him in hopes he'd go away. Usually it was all a real kick.

Not that morning.

Blair shoved his hair out of his face with undue frustration as the elevator slowly made its way up to the seventh floor and the Major Crimes Unit. He should have just turned and gone right back to bed that morning as soon as he discovered his roommate had turned into a real grouch overnight, an indication of the day to come. Instead, he'd held on to his patience with an ever-thinning thread, through all of Jim Ellison's complaints about Blair's housekeeping, culinary skills, hot water consumption, and anything more he was able to think of. Something else seemed to be bothering the detective in reality; Blair had seen a flicker of it once or twice in the bigger man's eyes, but his one tentative inquiry had produced such an explosion, he just let Jim rant and sighed back his defense. He had no particular death wish. But Blair had made good his exit as soon as Jim paused to take a breath.

He had escaped to school, his habitual haven when life in the loft became a little too confining. The memo waiting for him on his desk hadn't given him a moment's worry at first. Not until he'd gone to the meeting with the dean and been told in no vague terms that his work of late was 'unsatisfactory' and that he'd have to either cut back on his 'research time with the police' or apply himself harder if he wished to keep teaching and studying at the university.

It had been a low blow. Only the day before, Simon had told him yet again, in front of all of Major Crimes, no less, that he was not a cop. As if that were news. Blair Sandburg considered himself to be an anthropologist, a student, and a teacher, maybe even a Guide, but he had no pretensions about being a cop. The dean, however, had managed to put in jeopardy even the little bit he was sure of about himself. So if I'm no good at school and haven't got a place here, what does that leave me with?

The elevator doors opened, and the first thing he heard was Jim Ellison's loud, angry voice.

Besides one really ticked-off detective.

Blair shifted his bookbag higher on his shoulder, tucking his hair behind one ear again in unconscious self-bracing, and walked into the lion's den.

The sight that greeted his eyes upon entering the bullpen looked normal -- everyone at their desks busy at work, Jim banging away at the computer with deliberate concentration -- except that the bullpen was rarely that quiet and studious. Upon second glance, it appeared the other detectives were less intent on their work than they were on avoiding Jim. More than one relieved glance was sent his way as his presence was noticed. Blair sighed to himself. Great, the designated whipping boy has arrived. He really should have gone back to bed that morning.

With affected nonchalance, Sandburg walked over to his partner's desk and dropped his bookbag next to it. Jim hadn't acknowledged his arrival, nearly the only one who hadn't yet done so, but the detective winced at the soft whump and sent a poisonous look at Blair before turning wordlessly back to the computer.

That's interesting. Blair narrowed his eyes, a little of his annoyance draining away. Hearing a little too much today, are we?

Time to throw caution and self-preservation to the wind. "Hey, Jim, how's it going?"

"Fine." The word couldn't have been sharper if it'd been made of broken glass.

Blair settled heedlessly into the chair next to the desk, leaning closer for privacy. "What's wrong with your hearing?"

"Nothing." Equally uninviting of response.

From one to two syllables; I guess that's progress. Not that his partner's stiffness had ever been much of a deterrent for Blair before. He leaned forward a little more, glancing idly at the computer screen as he did, then forgot what he wanted to say as he realized the screen was turned down so dark, the shapes on it were mere vague shadows to his normal eyes. Sandburg's frown deepened. "Jim, what's going on? Is everything turned up high? Have you tried--"

Jim wheeled around before he could finish. "I don't know; yes, it is, except for when it cuts out altogether; and, yes, I have, for all the good it did. Is that all you wanted to know?" Without waiting for an answer, he turned his back on Blair.

It took a minute for the anthropologist to sort that out. Cuts out altogether? What the-- "You mean sometimes it just goes out? Everything?"

"Yeah." Jim didn't turn around this time, but resignation was replacing the anger in his voice.

"Why didn't you call? We've gotta talk about this, Jim, I mean, there's gotta be a reason. Maybe if we--"

A single sharp shake of the head. "I haven't got the time, Sandburg. We're trying to find where the bank job gang is holed up. Later."

If he had a dime for every time he heard that excuse... "Jim--"

"Later." This time the answer left no room for argument, as Ellison turned enough to pin him with a steel glare. The Sentinel's patience was gone, and Guide or no, Sandburg was in harm's way.

Fine, later. Who was he to argue, he wasn't a cop. He wasn't even officially Ellison's partner. He was just the Guide -- why should Jim listen to him?

Jim shoved a file at him without a glance, and Blair disgustedly got down to work. He only glanced up once, to see that Jim's computer screen was now turned up blisteringly bright, and the detective sat inches away from it, squinting nearsightedly at the screen.

Disgust turned to dejection, and Sandburg returned to the paperwork without a single comment.


The day wore on with grinding slowness, building on to Blair's concern. There was something definitely wrong with his partner. Besides the swings from near-deafness to agitation at every noise, as well as every other sensory extreme possible, Ellison was pausing more and more often to rub at his temples or his eyes, unable to relieve the discomfort that showed in the pinched lines of his mouth. His face was flushed and his eyes, the few times he deigned to look at his partner, seemed dulled and sickly to Sandburg. Illness -- could that be it? Other imbalances in body chemistry, whether from drugs, pheromones, medicine, all seemed to acutely affect his senses; why not a bout with some bug? In their two years of partnership, other than cases of injury, Blair hadn't seen his partner afflicted with anything more serious than the occasional cold, which this didn't seem to be. It was quite possible something more would affect him more profoundly. Now if only he'd let me help, maybe we could figure it out and do something about it...

"Jim, man, if you're not feeling well, why don't we call it a day? I bet Simon could get someone to cover." Sandburg wouldn't have been surprised if stiff-upper-lip Ellison had a stockpile of sick days saved up, too.

No response. Blair made a face; clearly they were in low-volume mode at the moment.

He tapped his partner on the shoulder. "Jim?"

Ellison flinched away from him as if burned. Uncompromising anger lit his eyes as he reared on the anthropologist. "Sandburg--" he growled.

"Listen up, people!"

Saved by Simon. Blair withdrew with guilty relief. Apparently Jim heard the captain, too, because he turned toward Banks impatiently.

"We've got a location on the gang: 1228 Lincoln, Saunders Pharmaceuticals. Ellison, you've got point; Turner and Burgess, back-up; Rafe and Brown, you're with me on stand-by."

Jim was already on his feet, reaching for his jacket. Blair stared after the captain in dismay, then at his partner in disbelief.

"Jim... you can't go! Does Simon know what's going on with your senses? This is suicide!"

"I can do my job," Jim said coldly, not even looking at Sandburg as he shrugged into the coat.

"Jim--"

"You coming or staying?"

"Jim, listen, I think everything's going haywire because you're coming down with something, man. If you go out there, you're just gonna make it worse."

Without a word, Jim turned and stalked out the door, heading for the elevator.

Blair winced, deep inside, like someone watching an accident unfold and unable to stop it. No, like someone who'd tried to stop an accident and couldn't. It was impossible when he was the only one who was in a position to see the danger and no one listened to his warnings. Maybe Simon... He'd have to try the captain when they got there. Jim would kill him, but better that than the detective getting himself killed. And in the meantime, Blair was the Guide, even if there was no one willing to be guided. He'd have to do the best he could to watch out for his Sentinel.

Grabbing his own jacket, Blair flew out the door after his partner.


The four cars, all unmarked, and two more patrol units converged on Saunders Pharmaceuticals quietly, not wanting to warn those inside of their arrival. Simon Banks had watched Ellison slip out of his truck with the stealth of a cat, leaving the door ajar to avoid making noise, then make his way toward the building, using what cover he could as he went.

On the other side of the truck, Sandburg had slipped out almost as quietly, also not shutting his door. Simon lifted an eye approvingly; the kid had learned a lot since he'd first started tagging along with Jim. Turner and Burgess shadowed Jim, following him as he moved in on the building, trailed by several uniforms, while Sandburg slipped back toward Simon. Still doing what he was supposed to, staying out of the way and, ideally, out of danger.

He slid around the car with his usual agile energy, glancing up over the hood at Ellison once before turning urgently to Simon. "Simon, something's wrong with Jim."

Banks had been following the progress of the men, mentally counting down, and the words took a minute to sink in. Then he frowned at Blair. "What? What are you talking about, Sandburg? Jim's doing fine."

Simon Banks considered himself an observant man. Years on the street had earned him his 'street eyes', but one didn't become captain without learning how to read people, too, especially the men under him, and then deal appropriately with what he saw. And the one he knew best of all his men was Jim Ellison. Captains weren't supposed to have favorites, but their friendship had long superseded work. Not to mention that Ellison was his best detective. When something was up with Jim, Simon usually noticed.

On the other hand, anything to do with Jim lately also included Blair Sandburg, and Simon had come to know the kid pretty well, too. As Sandburg glanced over the top of the car again, it was clearly with worry.

"He is right now, but he's coming down with something and it's messing with his senses. They've been overloading or cutting out on him without notice."

Simon pursed his lips, his eyes on the three men. Ellison had stopped about 100 feet from the front doors and stood poised behind a tree, waiting for Turner and Burgess to also get into position. Turner was to take the mirror position on the opposite side of the doors, while Burgess slipped around back. The uniforms also settled in various spots along the perimeter of the property, two going around back with Burgess. In about another minute, they'd be ready to move in.

The captain turned back to Blair. "Jim seems all right. He wouldn't go out if he wasn't up for this -- he must've gotten whatever it was under control."

Sandburg blew out a sigh of utter frustration. "He thinks he has. C'mon, Simon, this is Jim we're talking about." Blair's hands were flying, punctuating his words, a sure sign of his involvement in what he was saying. "Have you ever known him to willingly back out of duty when he was anything short of comatose? Guy thinks he's Robocop." The last was said under his breath, probably not for Simon's ears.

Simon chewed his lip, once more watching the men. They'd be moving in at any second. The kid had a point; Jim did often seem to think he was indestructible and wasn't above putting his own life at risk because of his unwillingness to show human weakness. But he certainly seemed fine to Simon, and to pull him now would risk blowing the operation, warning the gang inside of their presence and possibly starting a high-risk shootout.

"Simon--" Blair began insistently from next to him.

And then the decision was made for him.

Gunshots erupted, chaotically out of the blue at first, then clearly originating from the building. Somehow, the group of bank robbers, the murderers of two security guards, had noticed their presence and opened fire.

The job had graduated from serving a risky but typical arrest warrant, to a task for the SWAT team.

"Fall back!" Simon bellowed over the car, as he pulled a rifle out through the open window of his car to lay covering fire. The uniforms had already begun to do the same, too far back to be in danger of being hit themselves by anything short of a long-range rifle. Rafe and Brown mirrored the captain's actions, and the windows of the building started shattering in succession at the volleys of gunfire exchanged.

Burgess and the two patrol officers with him were retreating to the side instead of circling around front again, Simon saw with relief, already far enough away that they seemed safe. Three less to worry about. Turner was nearly out of the building's range, too, falling back to the thick, squat slab of concrete that sat by the edge of the property and bore the company's name. That only left...

"Jim," Blair breathed.

In all the fury of the exchanged fire and coordination of retreat, Simon should never have heard the kid speak, but he did. Twisting around to where he'd last seen Ellison, he stared at the sight with the familiar pain of a man who had sent people to their deaths before and perhaps had done so now. And with the increasing horror of a helpless friend.

Jim had moved out of the limited shelter of the tree, apparently on his way back toward the large rock that was a few feet away, his direct path of retreat. But something had stopped him halfway there, and he stood frozen mostly out in the open, bent over in obvious pain with his hands clapped over his ears. Simon had seen the signs before and recognized the overload with trepidation. He turned back toward the kid. "Sand--"

But Blair was gone.

Trepidation turned to outright dread.

Brown's exclamation of "Sandburg!" and Rafe's warning "Captain..." came at the same time as he located the anthropologist. Sandburg was darting toward the incapacitated detective, slipping only loosely from cover to cover, but mainly vulnerable. A particularly close shot, striking near his feet, nearly made him freeze for a moment, but then he was off again. Getting to Ellison was clearly his main goal, to the point of ignoring his own safety.

Banks cursed anthropologists and graduate students and stubborn civilians under his breath, but it was too late to do anything at that point and, truth be told, the kid was probably the best one to deal with Jim if it was a sensory overload. The only important thing now was to make sure he stayed in one piece to do it.

"Cover him!" Simon yelled over first to his men, then to the patrol officers. They needed no urging. Nearly all of them knew Blair personally, and he was almost one of them. Not to mention he was risking his life to save one truly their own. The covering barrage became furious and determined, for the moment almost stopping altogether the return fire from inside.

Sandburg made it the last few feet to the detective, who was still just about doubled over, and Simon could see the anthropologist talking furiously even as he slung an arm around the bigger man and guided him behind the nearby rock. There, he shoved Jim down to the ground, wholly in cover, and crouched down facing him, still talking. He seemed nearly oblivious to the gunfire that raged around him.

A minute went by as Simon watched the pair anxiously. Jim finally seemed to be responding, his eyes open and now answering the kid, while Blair watched him earnestly. The anthropologist was holding on to his partner's shoulder, flexing it encouragingly. Simon's gut eased a fraction.

His partner... Banks had long resisted the word 'partner' when it came to Blair Sandburg, civilian. But this was Sandburg the friend, maybe even some kind of Guide like Jim had reluctantly suggested once. And the captain had seen less devotion and bond between some full police partnerships. His eyes stayed on them even as he monitored the gunplay around him.

The two finally reached some sort of understanding because Blair looked up at him then, seeking Simon out, and motioned they were coming in. Simon didn't like it, but he nodded. The SWAT team was on their way, called by Rafe as soon as things had gone south, but that would still take a little time, and Ellison and Sandburg were under minimal cover at best.

Blair flinched from a particularly close strike that chipped away at the rock they were huddled against, and he glanced at Simon again. Time had run out.

"They're coming in; ground fire," Simon yelled, pitching his voice loud enough so his men would hear it but it wouldn't carry to the building. "Now!"

Five long seconds, and it was over.

Sandburg pulled Jim up and both of them made a run for it, the anthropologist still firmly latched onto his partner's shirt and Jim following behind, a little sluggishly, but mostly of his own volition. Then they were off the property and Simon leaped up from behind his cover, dashing forward to grab onto Ellison from the other side and get all three of them behind the car. Even if the firepower those inside had couldn't seem to reach to the perimeter of cars, the captain was taking no more unnecessary chances.

First thing was first. They got Jim sitting on the ground between them, his back to the car, and Simon eyed the sagging detective critically. "Jim? You all right?"

Jim dropped his head back against the cool metal of the car and closed his eyes. "Yeah. Just... got a little loud there."

"And a little bright, and a little overwhelming," Sandburg cut in sarcastically, the hand that was bunched in Jim's jacket white with tension. He shoved his hair back with more restraint than Simon would have thought to give him credit for, his voice cool with it. "You could've gotten yourself killed out there."

It was a reminder the captain didn't need. "And just what did you think you were doing out there, Sandburg! You realize you nearly collected a few holes yourself?!" he growled.

"I didn't have a choice, Simon -- you saw," Sandburg answered, still muted. His attention was on Jim, though, putting a hand against the detective's forehead as if to check for fever, only to have Ellison swat it away. Unperturbed, he put it back, and for some reason this time Jim let him.

Yes, Simon had seen... and so had every other officer there. But Sandburg had been the one to go. "It was still dumb," he muttered, a little more subdued.

"Uh-huh," Sandburg agreed absently. "Simon, he's got a fever. I think that's what's been causing the swings." As if to confirm his words, Ellison suddenly shivered. The expression Blair threw at Simon was pure I-told-you-so. "He needs to be home in bed."

"I can make my own decisions." Jim opened his eyes, glaring at Sandburg. "I feel fine now." He pushed away the graduate student's solicitous hand with irritation. "Simon--"

"I think Sandburg's right," Simon suddenly said. He ignored the kid's shocked look. "You shouldn't have been out here in the first place, Jim; it was dangerous. You're lucky your partner went in to bail you out." Another astonished look, this time from both of them. "As soon as the SWAT team gets here, take him home and put him to bed, Sandburg."

"Simon--" Jim began again in protest, going to push himself up, only to get wobbly and sink back down again.

Simon put his hand up to forestall any more argument. "You're the one who's always telling me you need the kid to help you with these senses, so why don't you listen to him? Sounds like he's thinking more clearly than you are today." And because the kid was beginning to grin at him with clear delight, he threw in, "For a change." Blair appropriately schooled his face, but his eyes still shone with pleasure. Well, maybe an occasional compliment wouldn't make the kid too much more insufferable than he usually was.

"Yessir," Jim mumbled unwilling acceptance, but Simon suspected he'd only won so easily because the detective was feeling awful despite his protests to the contrary. The captain watched, grimacing in concern, as his friend shivered again, hunching over against the chill, not even protesting when Sandburg pulled off his own jacket and draped it on him.

The SWAT truck pulled into the long driveway, headed toward them. Blair looked at Simon over the bowed head between them, worried and determined. Simon jerked his head toward Ellison's truck in unspoken permission, willing to let the kid call the shots now. Whatever Sandburg was to Ellison, he was a good friend, the rare kind who didn't let himself be pushed away when he was needed, and he'd take care of Jim.

The gunfire was down to a trickle with no one around for the holed-up gang to shoot for, and Simon pushed himself up to go talk to the arriving SWAT team leader. Rafe and Brown fell into step beside him.

"Is Ellison okay?" Rafe asked, glancing over his shoulder toward Simon's car.

Banks nodded. "Yeah, just got a little dizzy. It looks like he's coming down with the flu." He looked back for a moment, too, to see that Blair had gotten his partner to his feet and was maneuvering him into the truck's passenger side. "Sandburg's taking him home."

No one questioned that. It seemed such a given, no one thought to. Simon would have wondered about that a little more except that this wasn't the time. He reached for a cigar as he went to meet the SWAT leader, his thoughts already moving on to possibilities for routing the hold-up men.


Jim dozed in the truck on the way home, unaware of anything but the ache that had stolen through his body and the seemingly endless shivers of cold that rattled his teeth and made his head hurt. Getting sick like some school kid was embarrassing enough, but doing it in front of his colleagues, to the point of needing to be rescued -- by Sandburg, no less -- was downright humiliating. He was all too happy to let it all drift away in the aguey haze his mind seemed to be in.

The peace his mind rested in now, anyway. The initial part of the trip home had descended into nightmare as his senses became even more erratic, helplessly spiraling out of control. Sandburg had pulled to the side of the road finally and worked with him to turn everything down to the lowest it could go. It had taken some effort and he'd had to start again several times as his weakened control gave way, but finally it was all blessed darkness and quiet. Sandburg's hand on his shoulder was the one thing he was still acutely aware of from outside himself, and even though he suspected they had started up toward home again, he couldn't bring himself to tell his Guide to keep both hands on the wheel. The grounding was secretly reassuring after the overwhelming blitz of before.

He truly had thought he could handle it. His head hurt and he'd felt tired and a little sick, but Jim Ellison was too much the professional to go into a dangerous situation knowingly endangering others. And the sensory peaks and valleys had been annoying but hardly incapacitating until then. Sandburg worried too much as a rule, anyway.

And then the gunfire had begun and his world exploded.

After that he didn't remember very much until he was behind the rock, Blair's hand on his arm, his voice turning down the volume of Jim's too-loud world. Somewhere in him there was furious outrage that Sandburg had risked himself to come after Jim, but it seemed too far away to deal with right then. Not when even thinking seemed too much effort.

The hand was moving on his shoulder, coaxing response, and Ellison finally roused himself enough to open his eyes and look around. They were home. Blair was letting go, getting out and rounding the truck to his side. With lingering annoyance, Jim managed to get the door open and stumble out on his own, swaying a little on the sidewalk. He waved Sandburg's offered hand away and the anthropologist finally gave him a last doubtful glance and then got back in the truck to park it around back. Jim determinedly shuffled his way into the building on his own.

The elevator got him dizzy, or maybe it wasn't just the elevator because the floor was still moving when he got to the loft door. The key made it in after several tries.

Home.

Finally, the world was beginning to make sense.

The stairs looked far too long and steep, even with the promise of his large, comfortable bed at the top, so Jim finally opted for the couch, shedding coat -- coats? -- as he went. Probably Sandburg's jacket. The kid seemed determined to play mother hen that day.

Then he flopped down on the couch and stopped thinking about anything at all.


Vague comfortableness, even in the midst of feeling lousy, was the first thing he was aware of. He was wonderfully warm under a heavy layer of blankets, and his headache had eased some with sleep and the cold compress over his forehead and eyes. Jim hated being fussed over... but this felt kinda nice. And it had been a long time since someone cared.

His hearing seemed to be cooperating a little more, too, and he let it expand some. There were soft voices in the background, maybe from the kitchen, and Jim used them as a focus to know how far up to go.

"...keep telling you, Simon, it's -- ow! -- no big deal." Blair's voice. Jim drowsily knew it without a moment's thought.

"Uh-huh. Jim's gonna have both our heads if he wakes up and finds out you were hurt and didn't tell anyone. Why didn't you mention it back there?" Simon, but what he said drove some of the cobwebs away. Blair, hurt? Jim forced himself to wake up all the way, ready to crawl his way out from blankets, needing to know what was going on far more than he needed the rest.

"And here I thought you cared." But there was humor in his Guide's voice, not pain... "It's just a few scratches, Simon."

"Captain," came the almost-stern correction.

"Captain. It's not like I got shot or anything, Simon."

A longsuffering sigh. "No, but that's only because the bullet hit the rock instead of you. If it hadn't been close, the chips wouldn't have scratched you up, would they? Shouldn't have been out there in the first place -- you've still got the shakes," Simon grumbled. Illness... and maybe the relief there was nothing more seriously wrong with Blair, made Jim almost lightheaded.

"That's just adrenalin, man. It's all just kinda starting to sink in. But I couldn't leave him out there, you know that. His senses were screwed up; he needed me."

The words and the earnesty with which they were said almost made him bristle... except they were true. Maybe more than one of his friends would have been willing to risk their lives for him if he was in trouble, but Blair was not only his friend but also his Guide... and his partner.

"All right, I think that does it for your arm. Just don't get that gauze wet. Have you had your tetanus shots recently?"

"Yes, Mom." Blair's guileless tone almost made Jim grin.

"Sandburg--" Simon growled in warning. There were soft sounds of things being put away, then, "There anything the two of you need?"

"I think we're all set, thanks. Jim's temp's gone down a little and I fixed some soup for when he wakes up. Mom's recipe. Chicken soup -- you know, Jewish penicillin. Did you know that chicken soup has been proven to increase the flow of nasal mucus? It's supposed to help the body get rid of germs faster. It's also--"

"Goodbye, Sandburg."

"Bye, Simon." That delighted lilt again. "Thanks for stopping by. I'll be sure to tell Jim you came."

"You do that. And tell him I don't want to see him at work until he's got this licked completely. I have enough problems without..." The rest was a lost mumble as the captain retreated down the hall. The door shut quietly behind him to the sound of a quiet laugh.

More soft sounds, then footsteps that came close and the compress was changed for another, resoaked one. The back of a hand brushed his cheek to check for temperature, and the fingers were cool so Jim guessed he still had one. Sandburg must have agreed because another blanket was added to the pile already on him and tucked in on the sides.

"Didn't your mom ever tell you it's not nice to eavesdrop?" Blair's mildly admonishing voice came out of the blue. "I'm okay. Get a little more sleep and then I'll get you some soup."

How he knew, Jim didn't wonder, but despite the protest that automatically came to his lips, the extra warmth fogged his mind and he just smiled with his eyes still shut, already beginning to drift again. He'd have to remember to thank Sandburg, both for what he'd done at the pharmaceutical company and for the nursing -- after he'd had a no-doubt completely useless talk with his Guide about taking risks. But for now, sleep sounded like a good idea. His partner would keep watch.

Jim Ellison fell into contented sleep.


He would never wish illness on anyone, least of all his best friend, but Blair was grateful for the downtime it offered. A few days at home on nursing duty would certainly try his patience after a while, particularly after Jim started feeling better and got vocal again, but for now it felt like time to regroup, get his thoughts back together. And catch up on some schoolwork before he really did get into trouble.

School was important; there was no question of that. Blair Sandburg was an anthropologist in heart already, even if he didn't have all the papers to prove it yet, and he had every intention of earning those papers. And he wasn't a cop -- that had been painfully obvious only that day. But none of that was as important as what he did know about himself and his place. He was the Guide to the Sentinel, and a best friend, whether that involved risking his life or fixing chicken soup and changing compresses. Blair had instinctively done what he'd had to; Simon's grouchy fussing and Jim's ghost of a smile had said as much. He was Jim Ellison's partner.

With a satisfied sigh, Blair settled back in the chair to read and keep an eye on his friend.

The End


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