Assignment: Sandburg

by and friends.

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KwaiGonCaineJinn: Did I miss story times?

qlht2: not as far as I can tell Charon

DakotaWilbury: ;-)

CurCyndi: maybe if we ask nice, Tae will give us a story

qlht2: Oh please TAE

qlht2: would you give us a story?

qlht2: I even had a bunny that you could use for your story

TAE: uhhh. Story? Who, me? what universe?

CurCyndi: please Tae...Teej and I'll be good tonight

qlht2: crossover TAE

TAE: urp... hmmmm.

qlht2: ask a silly question...

TAE: brb. I'm going to need fluids if I'm going to tell a story.

CurCyndi: YEAH!!! STORY!!!!

qlht2: STORY

AnneACK has entered the room.

Grywulf13: Hey Anne

DakotaWilbury: Hi Anne!

AnneACK: HI ladies

CurCyndi: Hey Anne... just in time for Story time

AnneACK: I love story time!

CurCyndi: wb Anna... just in time for story time

TAE: OK, now, you do realize, Lila, that I've been playing in a somewhat different sandbox of late, right?

CurCyndi: which sandbox?

CurCyndi: do we mean exactly?

qlht2: sandboxes are fun

TAE: Mickey's and I don't mean the mouse

AnneACK: Lots of fun!

Grywulf13: G**Car go boom...

AnneACK: as in the equalizer?

qlht2: Crossover?

AnneACK: I love mickey

CurCyndi: x-over?

TAE: yeah. But with what? hmmmmm. Who... what... when... where... why?

CurCyndi: well of course TS

CurCyndi: you do 'em so well

qlht2: Crossovers, Yum!!!



Thirty-five years he'd been stationed on this miserable rock. He'd saved them from blowing themselves up with their own weapons. He'd brought the iron curtain down. He'd even helped send illegal visitors from the future home. More than once. Yet, this was his first ever trip to the Pacific Northwest. The plane landed at SEA-TAC and taxied to the terminal, where they disembarked.

It was cold and rainy. Not particularly surprising, considering that it was early spring. Fortunately, it wasn't another El Nino or La Nina year. Just a normal, miserable, winter in Washington State.


"I know, babe. I'm sorry. The airline requires you to be carry-on luggage. You have to admit that it's better than the cargo hold."

"SSsssss! Pft!"

"Now, now. You know the rules. As soon as we get to the hotel, I'll let you back out."


"Of course. Salmon it is."

From the terminal, he picked up his check-through luggage at the baggage carousel and headed for the car rental agency. He stood patiently in line, cooly ignoring the sounds the cat was making from her carrier.

When it was finally his turn at the counter, he was forced to wait once again, as the clerk apologized and answered the telephone. He handed her his reservation and she smiled and slipped the keys across the counter at him, then motioned him towards the car park.


"Oh, all right, but stay out from under the seats and dash. I'm not going to play games with you, today." He put his luggage in the back seat and opened the front door. He slid into his seat and set the cat carrier on the other front seat.


"Just a second." He opened the carrier and let his companion out. "There. Better?"

The cat purred and rubbed against his hand. He smiled and rubbed the back of her neck in the manner she liked best. "I know. I'm sorry, but that's how this world is. It's bad enough that you don't act like a cat, I still have to explain you to just about everyone we meet."


"Manners!" he warned. Patting the cat once, he put his seat belt on and started the car, pulling out of the parking garage and following the signs away from the airport.

"Now, where are we going, again?"


"Oh, right. North to some place named Cascade, where we have to stop the world from ending, yet again."


"Don't talk to me in that tone of voice. When was the last time I had a break, eh? Five years? Ten? Oh, never? Gee, I wonder why I'm so tired?" He'd become cynical over the past quarter of a century, but felt duty bound to continue his mission. He desperately wondered if his species would 'ever' grow up.


He glanced down at his companion, and smiled. "No, I don't really mean it. I'd, just once, like to have some time off, is all. Even you've gotten to go home a few times. I never have. Once Miss Lincoln left, well... you know."


"Isis, it's not the same thing. You aren't human. I am."


"Well, you aren't."

The rest of the trip was made in silence, as Isis considered what he said... and was feeling. He was, of course, absolutely right. It really had been a long time since he'd had a break, other than for illness or injury.

Reaching the city, Isis gave him directions to their hotel, where he parked the car and left her to go in and register. "I have a cat. Is that going to be a problem?"

"No, sir. Pets are allowed in the rooms. Will that be smoking or non-smoking?"

"Non. Isis gave up her cigars a few years ago," he said, deadpan.

The clerk looked at him oddly, "Yes, sir. You're on the second floor, as requested. Can I have someone bring your luggage, sir?"

"Thank you, yes. I left it in the car with Isis."

The clerk rang for a bellhop, who followed him back out into the now driving rain, to the car.

He opened the door and looked at the sleek black cat. "If you don't want to get soaked, you need to get back in the carrier." With a disgusted noise, the cat stalked back into the open cage and lay down, her back to the opening.

"Look, if you want to sulk, fine. If you want to get soaked, like I already am, that's fine, too. Just stop complaining about everything, will you? Isis? I'm talking to you." The cat pointedly ignored him. He sighed and shook his head.

Picking up the carrier, he opened the back door and the bellhop grabbed his bags and scurried into the hotel. He followed more slowly, frowning. Something was very different. Neither he nor his partner were normally so... snappish at one another. Perhaps it was the weather. He hoped it wasn't anything more serious. If it was, that would be handled, too.

Settled in his room, a nice, long, hot shower later, he called for room service. As promised, he ordered the smoked salmon for Isis, but decided on something a bit lighter for himself, ordering a chef's salad. When their food came, Isis growled at him upon seeing the lack of protein on his plate.

"I'm not that hungry, Isis. I'm really not. You enjoy your salmon and let me enjoy my salad." Isis again turned her tail to him and pointedly ignored him as she delicately nibbled away at her salmon fillet, leaving the rice pilaf and grilled vegetables on the plate.

"And you could use with a bit more carbohydrate in your diet." The cat continued to pointedly ignore him.

When the dishes were finally cleared away, he sprawled on his bed and turned on the television. When the news came on, he sat up abruptly. "We're too late."


"We. Are. Too. Late." He pointed at the television. "He called himself a fraud earlier today."


"They said that we had to stop him from making the worst mistake of his life, and we're too late." He glared at the cat, who simply shrugged and jumped up on the bed to curl up on the extra pillow.


"What? What do you mean, 'this wasn't it'?"


He frowned in consternation. "Are you sure?"

~yawn~ "Brwwww" you to say. 'just go to sleep', right. How are we going to fix this?" Isis looked at him, that patient, long-suffering expression he hated. "I know, 'Isis knows best'." he sighed and turned off the television and the lights, stretching out to try and sleep, wondering how he was going to fix this... this debacle.

Morning came, eventually; another cool, gray, rainy morning.

He awoke to the heavy vibration of Isis, curled up on his chest and purring loudly. He smiled and stroked the animal, smoothing the sleek fur. "Yes, good morning to you, too." He sat up, holding on to the cat and continuing his stroking. "So, what's the plan. If that news story wasn't the mission, then what is?"


"Don't give me that. What are we here for? You do know, don't you?"

"Brrttttffttt" Isis belched. Loudly. She looked mortified, but her human just laughed.

"I guess that answers that." he chuckled. "Now, what is it, exactly, that we have to fix, if it wasn't to stop that press conference?"


"Fine, after breakfast. Then what?"

"Meow." He sighed in exasperation and got up. Once dressed, he buckled a jeweled collar around his cat's neck and attached a fine, silver chain leash to it. They left the room to go downstairs for breakfast. There was a special section of the dining room that allowed pets and he sat at a corner table with Isis perched in a highchair, beside him. There were only a few other people there with their pets, most of them small dogs. Isis ignored them, although there was one that was desperately trying to escape its owner to come and investigate (more likely try and chase) the sleek black cat. Isis totally ignored the dog, much to that animal's annoyance.

Standing under the awning of the hotel, watching the rain pouring down, he glanced at his cat.

"Of course I'll carry you. Where are we going?"


He frowned, puzzled. "Where?"


"Are you sure?"


"If you say so." He mumbled to himself that he wished they would give him a bit more information, sometimes. Isis pointedly ignored him. Tucking the cat beneath his trench coat and ducking his bare head against the driving rain, he hurried to the rental car. Getting the door open, he slid in, tossing Isis across the seat and slamming the door closed. "Remind me to find a better parking place, will you?"


The library was a warm, dry place, thankfully. He spent most of the day doing research. By the end of the morning, he had a lot of questions. By the time the library closed at nine that night, he had a few answers. He returned to his hotel room and made some calls... without using the telephone. Once he had everything he needed, he sprawled on the bed. "He's a sentinel."


"You knew that."


"You didn't think to tell me?"


"What do you mean, 'what difference would it make'? It means..." His voice raised almost to a shout. With a great deal of self control, he forced himself to calm down. "It means that... that they aren't all gone, lost in the mists of time. Why didn't they tell me? Why didn't you tell me?" There was no answer from his companion. He hadn't really expected one.

He spent the next two days doing further research, including using his 'special' sources. By the time he was finished, the media frenzy was over and there was an eerie calm.

Dressing in his tux, even though it was broad daylight, he headed out. The weather was clear, the skies cloudless and a beautiful shade of blue. With Isis on her leash, he headed first for Rainier University.

With his cat trotting along beside him, he made his way into the Administration Building. He paused at the receptionist's desk. She smiled up at him, then jumped and nearly fell out of her chair when a large, black cat jumped lightly to the top of her desk. "Forgive me. Isis, you weren't invited up." The receptionist gaped as the cat huffed and jumped back down to the floor.

"C-can I help you?" she asked, a bit nonplussed.

"I certainly hope so. My name is Gary Seven. I've an appointment with the university president.

"Oh?" Then she remembered the conversation she'd overheard the previous day. "OH!" she exclaimed, rising. "Of course, Mr. Binkley mentioned that you would be coming. Just let me buzz him and let him know that you're here." She pushed a button on the intercom and when she received a response, whispered into the microphone, glancing up at the visitor. He smiled and waited patiently for her to finish.

"Mr. Binkley will be right out, Mr. Seven."

"Thank you."

"Uh, you know, that's a beautiful cat. I don't think I've ever seen a cat on a leash before. Was it hard to teach him?"


"Isis, she didn't know. Isis isn't a 'he', she's a 'she' and she does take offense at the mistake. However, she was never 'taught' to walk on a leash. She simply deigns to use it to keep people from asking even more difficult questions."

The young woman frowned in confusion and looked down at the cat. "Uh, sorry?" Isis turned and looked her in the eyes. The woman was instantly mesmerized by the glowing green orbs. Gary had to stifle an urge to laugh. He turned as a door opened and a short, heavyset, nearly bald man stepped out. He reminded Gary of a pig he'd once known. Isis took one look and hawked.

"Yes. I think you may be right." Pasting a smile on his face, he watched the little man as he approached... scuttle, was the word that came to mind... two minds, actually.

"Ah, Mr. Seven, how nice of you to visit. Ah, what brings you to our fine establishment, might I ask?" Oily. Obsequious. Two more adjectives two minds shared. His smile became somewhat sickly as he gingerly shook hands with the man. Just as suspected, the hand was soft, moist, and clammy. He managed to not grimace in distaste and, more importantly, didn't wipe his hand on his coat. "Actually, I was hoping to speak to one of your doctoral candidates. I read some of his research and was hoping he might be able to help me."

"Oh, really? Which one would that be?"

"Blair Sandburg." If it weren't so pitiful, he might have enjoyed the way Binkley deflated.

"D-did you say 'B-B-Blair SSandburg?" he squeaked, turning pale.

"Yes. Is he available? Can I talk with him?"

"Y-you haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

"His dissertation. He... it's a fake."

Gary frowned. "Fake? What dissertation? When did he submit it? When was it defended?"

"Uh... it wasn't. He... he went on television a few days ago and admitted that it was a fraud. That there is no such thing as a sentinel."

"But, I don't understand. When did he submit it?"

Binkley frowned in confusion. "Uh... I'm not sure he ever actually did." He looked totally puzzled for a moment, then hurried on, "But he and Chancellor Edwards held a press conference just a few days ago where he claimed that it was all a fake." Binkley smiled happily.

"How could his dissertation be a 'fake' if he never submitted it?" Gary asked, in a very reasonable tone of voice.

"What? Oh, I don't know. You should talk to Chancellor Edwards about that. Is there anything else I can do to help you?" He dry-washed his hands. He'd done his homework and knew that Gary Seven Enterprises was worth well over a billion dollars. He was hoping for a nice, big donation. He was out of luck.

"Where can I find the Chancellor?"

"In her office, I believe. It's down on the second floor of this building. In the back."

"Thank you." Gary turned to leave.

"Wait, why are you here?"

He turned back for a moment to reply. "I'm here to prevent you from making a very big mistake."

"Mistake? What mistake?" He practically fluttered in agitation.

"Blair Sandburg's dissertation isn't a fake, and I can prove it."

"You mean, that policeman has 'supersenses'?" Binkley started to laugh at the absurdity of it.

"The policeman? I have no idea. I have some of my great-uncle's writings that my great-aunt didn't destroy. I wanted to offer him their use for his research. I have provenance on my documentation. All he has to do is write it all down."


"Thank you for your assistance and time, Mr. Binkley." Gary turned and left, his cat by his side, her tail an exclamation mark behind them. Binkley and his secretary exchanged horrified looks. Binkley snatched up the receptionist's phone and rapidly punched in a number.

"Come on, come on. Pick up, pick up, pick up! Chancellor Edwards? There's a very important visitor heading your way I want you to... Chancellor? CHANCELLOR!!!!"

Shoulders slumping in defeat, he gently cradled the phone. "She hung up on me."

"I know. Sometimes, I wonder how we ever made it out of the caves."


Gary chuckled. "Well, cats still 'are' in the caves, come to think of it."


Gary's chuckle became a laugh.

"So, he said she was on this floor, 'in the back'... ah. That must be it." There was a solid wooden door at the end of the hall. As he approached, he heard a phone ringing. Moments after opening the door, he heard the phone clunk back into its cradle. 'She could have been pretty, if she weren't so sour,' he thought to himself. Isis agreed with a faint little "mrrr"

"Chancellor Edwards?"


"My name is Gary Seven, and I'd like to have a little talk with you."

"On what subject?"

Gary's smile turned cunning. "One to the benefit of your university, and possibly yourself."

"I'm all ears." Her smile was hungry.

no, she isn't, Isis thought to her partner. But I could make her...

Suddenly, Chancellor Edwards began to sneeze. One horrific expulsion of air after another, after another. Totally uncontrollable, she sneezed, then gasped, then sneezed again, then began struggling for breath. Gary's expression turned from surprise to one of concern.

"Chancellor? Is something wrong?" He glanced down at Isis and realized the problem. Scooping the animal up, he tossed her out the door and slammed it closed behind her. Isis let out a screech of indignation, then set to clawing at the door, wanting back in.

After several more minutes of gasping and wheezing, Chancellor Edwards regained control of herself and practically fell into her chair. Gary poured her a glass of water from the pitcher on her desk, not noticing the single cat hair that had blown into the receptacle

The chancellor gratefully accepted the glass and practically chugged the water down. When she was finished. she looked up at the strange man. "Sorry. I'm deathly allergic to cats."

"So I see. I'm sorry, She goes with me everywhere. I sometimes forget that some people can't handle their presence." He watched curiously as the Chancellor tried to surreptitiously clear her throat. To regain her attention, he asked, "I wanted to speak to you about one of your graduate students."

She looked up, still trying to dislodge whatever it was from the back of her throat. She had an almost unbearable desire to hawk, but restrained herself. "Oh? Which one would that be?" Whatever it was, she couldn't feel it with her tongue... which seemed to feel a bit odd, as well.

"His name is Blair Sandburg."

She flushed a dark crimson. Still trying to dislodge whatever it was, she coughed. Hard. It did her no good. Whatever it was, just seemed to shift, still tickling, still there, still annoying. "Mr. Sandburg has been dismissed from our Graduate program and fired from his job as a teaching fellow."

"Why? He never submitted his dissertation. From what I've discovered, you and that Sid Graham acted far out of the scope of university ethics by releasing an unsubmitted and undefended dissertation."

"He held a press conference!"

"He had no choice. The media circus you and that publisher cooked up nearly got good people killed, and several people injured. Including the man you set up to be the patsy."

"Blair Sandburg wrote..."

"Wrote what? A story? So what? It was never claimed by him that it was his dissertation. Others made that claim. You exacerbated the problem. Your responsibility to this university, not to mention to those students in your graduate programs, was sadly, woefully mishandled."

Chancellor Edwards stood up. "It doesn't matter. He's gone. Pfft, finito. Out of here."

"I have proof of his topic."

There was a moment of breathless silence. Then, still attempting to quietly 'take care' of whatever was annoying her throat, she whispered, "What?"

"Proof. That Sentinels exist. That they were real."

"But..." She paled.

"If your university isn't interested in it, I'm sure that I can probably convince my old alma mater to offer him a spot. NYU would probably jump at the chance, particularly since I have an entire crate of my great-uncle's writings that have heretofore been unknown."

"Y-your great uncle?"

"Sir Richard Francis Burton."

She collapsed back into her chair, gagging and again gasping for breath. Her tongue felt swollen in her throat.

"I take it that you're uninterested?" He watched in confusion as the woman gasped for breath. Frowning as he realized that she was in serious trouble, he grabbed her phone and dialed 911.

President Binkley arrived before the paramedics, hoping to salvage something from the debacle he could see looming on their horizon. Spotting Isis in the hallway, curled up by the door, he frowned. The cat lifted her peridot eyes to his, looking through him and searing his soul. He shivered and burst into the office, leaving the door open behind him, only to find Chancellor Edwards stretched out on the floor while Mr. Seven tried to calm her and keep her breathing.

Gary looked up, first spotting Isis in the doorway, where she sat like a statue of Bast. He frowned and said, "No." Isis sighed and rose, turning away as the paramedics arrived. She was nearly trampled in the rush, but managed to dodge the scurrying feet.

As a paramedic placed an oxygen mask over Chancellor Edward's face, she turned pale and abruptly vomited, spraying the paramedic and the hovering President.

Gasping and gagging, one of the other paramedics stepped in and turned her on her side so she wouldn't aspirate. She heaved until her stomach and, more importantly, her throat and mouth were empty.

Gary had gotten out of the way the moment the paramedics arrived. He stood in the doorway, Isis in his arms, watching the action and stroking the soft, silky fur.


"That's good. Do you think they'll reconsider?"


Gary glanced at the now vomiting university president. "Nothing like hitting them when they're down, eh?"


Gary smiled, faintly. "That cut it a bit close, don't you think?"


Gary frowned, "Just what exactly did you do, anyway?"


"A hair? One hair?" He started laughing, quietly. "Only you."

Seeing Binkley being assisted by a paramedic, he waited until the rotund little man recovered, then motioned him to come over. Eyes lighting up in hope, Binkley scurried over, immediately.

"Yes, Mr. Seven?" His hands were dry-washing again.

"Since the chancellor is, uh, hors d'combat, I'll make you the same offer I made her."

Eyes gleaming with avarice, Binkley nodded, agreeing even before he heard the proposal. "What would you like, Mr. Seven?"

"I have some heretofore unknown manuscripts of my great-uncle's."

Binkley frowned, wondering what the papers might be worth. "And?"

"And, they provide a great deal of evidence to support Blair Sandburg's theories. I'm certain that, with these papers, he can finish, submit, and defend, his dissertation on sentinels."

"How? He's a fraud." Binkley, still seeing dollar signs, wasn't really paying very close attention.

"Not if you say he isn't. Not if you blame Chancellor Edwards for exceeding the parameters of her employment by having gone in with Sid Graham on the 'leaking' of his supposed dissertation. Not if she is censured for ethics violations.... supporting a cheating student because his father has money? I'm surprised that the university isn't already under investigation on that, to tell you the truth." He waited as the possibilities ran through president Binkley's tiny little pea- brain. Gary stifled a smile when he saw the lights come on.

"Why, yes. Yes. You're absolutely right!"

"And, in exchange, I'll loan you my great-uncle's papers."

"Uh, who was your great-uncle?"

"Burton. The explorer, not the actor."

'heretofore unknown'... 'Burton'... 'loan'... he couldn't see dollar signs, but he could certainly see prestige, and a draw for other scholars to come to his university. "Deal!" He extended a hand to seal the deal. Gary again took the distasteful appendage, very briefly.

"Excellent. Don't you think you should contact Mr. Sandburg?"

"Oh, my, yes. He cleared out his office, yesterday. Let me make some calls."

Jim had his partner in a headlock, giving him a noogie, much to Blair's consternation.

"Oh, man. Not the hair! Not the hair!" his friends were laughing, with him, not at him. The ringing of a phone pulled Rhonda from the group to answer it.

"Blair? It's President Binkley, from Rainier?" She sounded concerned.

Jim, frowning, released his friend. "What's he want?" he snarled.

"He says it's important. Blair?"

With a sigh and a 'just a sec' wave of a hand to his friends, Blair made his way through the debris still in the bullpen to Rhonda's desk. "This is Sandburg."

He listened, first frowning in annoyance, then blankly, in disbelief. Then his eyes cleared and he began to smile. "Really? Are you sure?" He began to bounce in excitement. His eyes roamed over his friends; seeing their concerned faces, he lost a bit of his excitement and exuberance. "Uh, can I get back to you on that?" He listened some more and he looked at Jim. He could tell from the way Jim's jaw was clenching and releasing that he wasn't listening, but really, really wanted to. He looked at his mother, who had a hopeful look on her face. That the president of the university would call... maybe he didn't have to become a jack-booted pig, after all. His eyes drifted to Simon and Megan, who both regarded him with concern. He smiled. His gaze turned to Joel, Rafe and Brown, and the expressions on their faces, and his smile became a grin. "I'd love to meet him. I'd love to talk to him, and you, of course, President Binkley. Oh? Really? Well, how about now?"

He shook his head at Jim's expression of protest. Simon frowned, worried. His mom... his mom had that same hopeful look she'd had throughout most of this debacle. "Uh, where should we meet?" He turned away from his mom and his friends, so he couldn't see their expressions any more. "That'd be great. Sure. Uh, I'm going to have people with me. Will that be a problem?" He cast a hopeful glance towards Jim, who now had a resigned look on his face. Seeing the way Blair was looking at him, Jim sighed and nodded. Blair gave him a huge smile and turned back to his phone conversation. "Okay. So, where?" He listened, nodding "Yeah, I know where that is. We can be there in half an hour." He listened some more, the vibration back in his body. "Oh, no, President Binkley, thank you!" he hung up the phone very softly. Taking a deep breath, he turned. "You know who that was. Right?"

Everyone nodded. "Seems someone, a great-nephew of Burton's has some manuscripts. Stuff on sentinels." He could see everyone holding their breath, wondering what he would do. "He wants to meet me, talk to me." He looked at Jim, expecting censure, he saw only resignation. "Jim?"

"What kind of information?"

"Stuff Burton wrote over a hundred years ago. Stuff everyone thought had been destroyed."

"Can you salvage your dis?" Megan asked very softly.

Blair sort of half-nodded. "Maybe. Not the same, but... maybe. Writing on newly discovered works of Burton... yeah. I can still get those letters."

"What about the movie and book deals?" Jim asked, very softly.

Blair smiled, eyes sparkling. "I told you, man. I already have my brass ring. That's not going to change." Jim frowned, still trying to come to grips with this new possibility. "Don't you understand yet, Jim? I told you a long time ago. Don't you remember?"

"Yeah, Chief." Jim smiled. "I guess it took me even longer to get it than it took you, huh?"

Blair smiled. "So, who wants to come meet this guy?"

There was practically a stampede for the doors.

They met at the hotel dining room. Blair immediately spotted Binkley, and led his entourage over to the banquet table in the corner. Blair was staring at the stranger, but spoke to Binkley. "I'm here."

Binkley, smiling broadly, stood up. "Ah, thank you for coming, Mr. Sandburg I'd like you to meet Mr. Gary Seven, of Gary Seven Enterprises," he said the business name like a devout Catholic mentions the Pope. Jim frowned, he knew that name, then decided that his dad must have had dealings with the company and shrugged it off.

"Mr. Seven, it's a pleasure to meet you. May I present my friends?" Blair went around the entire group, introducing them. Gary smiled as he realized that almost all of them were cops... all but one. And a very pretty one, at that. He was a bit surprised to discover that the lovely lady was Blair's mother. He always did have a weakness for redheads.

They all settled down around the table. Jim found himself sandwiched between Naomi and Blair, much to her displeasure.

Seeing the murderous expression on her face, Gary touched her hand. He hadn't planned the seating arrangement, but he was pleased with it, nevertheless. He smiled at her, and suddenly, all thought of her son and his problems vanished from her mind.

Jim felt something touching his leg. Frowning, he looked down. There patting his knee, was a black cat. She looked up and he found himself zoning on the emerald eyes. Suddenly, he blinked and shook his head.

"Jim, isn't that great?" Blair was asking.

"What?" He realized he'd missed a lot, but he'd been talking to... she'd been... she was... he suddenly saw the cat, only now, it was in Seven's arms, still looking him in the eye. Now, however, it gave him the same kind of chills he got when he spotted the panther. "Uh, what was that, Chief?" He focused on his friend.

"Mr. Seven is willing to loan me enough documentation to finish my dis on sentinels, all based on Burton's work. Isn't that great?"

"Yeah, Chief. That-that's great."

Blair frowned, "Jim? I'm still going to be able to get my Ph.D. Isn't that great?"

"So, you'll be going back to teaching?"

Blair looked around the table, seeing the worried looks on his friend's faces.

"Well, no. I don't think so. I, uh.... For now, I just want to get my dis finished."

"Then what?"

"Then? Well, I'm not sure. I mean..." He looked around the table and thought hard. "I honestly don't know. I'm pretty disillusioned with the whole academic thing at the moment, you know?"

"So, what are you saying here, Chief?" Jim wondered aloud.

"So... I'm still considering the offer you guys made me. But I'm not sure it's right for me. Not yet. Maybe I'll accept, maybe not." Seeing the disappointment on everyone's faces, including Mr. Seven's, he frowned. "You're an impartial person, Mr. Seven, what do you think?"

Gary looked down at the sleek black cat in his arms and smiled. "I suggest you simply follow your heart."

Naomi looked at him in sudden interest. "That's a very interesting philosophy, Mr. Seven."

"Gary, please." He smiled, his head tilted as though he was listening to someone else at the same time. Jim shook his head and then reached up to tug at his earlobes. He felt a tickling sensation in his ears. Frowning, he stared at the cat. She winked at him and his frown deepened.

Naomi practically gushed, "In that case, it's Naomi."

Blair suddenly realized that his mother was 'coming on' to the guy who was offering him back his lifelong dream. "Uh, mom?" Blair asked, a bit tentatively.

"Not now, honey. So, tell me, Mr. Seven, just what is it that you do?"


Isis abruptly got up from her comfortable spot in Gary's lap and simply sauntered across the table to take up residence in Jim's face. "So, uh, Blair. You were telling me that your dis is back on?"


"But you're not going to go back to teaching?"


"So, uh, how are you going to make a living, if you're not going to the academy?"

"I didn't say I wasn't going to the academy, Jim. AND, I'm not saying that I am. Mr. Seven has offered me a grant that is," he shook his head in awe, glancing at his new mentor... who was coming on to his mother! "More than generous. I won't have to worry about a job until after I defend." He frowned, then sighed. "Only..."

"Only what, Blair?" Simon asked.

"Well," he glanced around the table at his friends. They all wanted him. Wanted him to be around, wanted him on the team, permanently and professionally. He shook his head. "Oh, man. I really like the roller-coaster, you know?"

Gary looked up from his quiet conversation with Naomi, "Follow your heart, Blair. It won't steer you wrong." He turned back to his conversation; Naomi seemed oblivious to everything else happening around them.

Blair paused for a moment, then finally nodded. "The roller-coaster it is." He looked at them, one by one. His mother wasn't paying any attention to him, for which he was glad, "Simon? I think I'd like to accept your more than generous offer."

All the cops broke out in delighted smiles and cheers.

Jim leaned close and spoke softly to Blair, "Are you sure, Chief?"

"I'm just following my heart, Jim. It's still about friendship."


"Yeah. You got a problem with that, Ellison?"

"No. No, I don't. Do you think you'll have any problems with the job? It means you'll have to carry a gun."

"I'm not as... adverse to that as I once was. I mean, the first case we worked together, I held one. Of course, I didn't shoot it."

"No, you didn't. But you've become less and less adverse to the use of them. I'm sorry."

"Jim, don't. It's not your fault. Every step, I made my own choices. You had your input, but no one, and I mean no one ever forced me to do anything I really didn't want to do."

"I just don't want..."

"I know, man. Believe me, I know. I'm still trying to get used to this whole idea of it being permanent."

"Not your usual thing, is it? Permanence, that is?"

"Yeah, but you know what?"


"I like it."



"You do realize, of course, that we're going to have to start taking separate vacations."

"Huh? Why?"

"Because being roommates, partners on the job, we're never gonna have a minute to ourselves."

"Well, there's always dates."

"Not until after you check them out through NCIC."

"Oh, man. Look who's talking? You want to compare bad dates, Jim?"

"No. I just want to make sure this is what you really want."

Blair smiled. "Yeah. I think it is. If it changes? I'll let you know. Until then, I've got a lifetime pass on the roller coaster."

Jim grinned and reached over to ruffle his friend's hair.

Blair laughed and pushed Jim's hand away. Leaning close, he whispered, "So, Jim? How can we get my mom and Mr. Seven to, uh, well, pry them apart?"

Simon leaned in from the other side of Blair. "Sandburg? Knowing your mother, I suggest you let nature take its course. You don't really think she's going to fall for him, do you?"

Blair frowned and looked over at the couple.... "Uh."


Blair's hands automatically came up to pet the cat. Glancing down into the crystal green eyes, he lost himself in the clear depths. "Uh, you're right, Simon. She's a big girl who can make her own decisions." Jim and Simon, surprised by the sudden change of heart, exchanged amused glances.

"Smart move, Sandburg," Simon declared.

Blair smiled at his friends and settled back in his seat. So, his mom had met a new man. He certainly wasn't the first, and probably wouldn't be the last. Watching them, he shrugged. "Follow your heart." He nodded, his blessing given.

Turning to his friends, "So, what say we blow this popsicle stand and go out for pizza somewhere? I feel like celebrating." He got no arguments.

The End

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