Beta Read by: Gemini
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter and Juan Carlos Coto
internal thoughts in italics
"When's the last time you went on a date?" Blair asks, in between bites of his bagel.
He catches me just before I'm about to take a large bite of my donut. My mouth is hanging open, and I swear he timed that remark perfectly. I figure that there are two ways that I can handle this situation, one that will land me an hour-long lecture, and one that will hopefully get him off of my case.
"I don't think that's any of your business, Sandburg. You're crossing that line again."
Blair waves a hand dismissively and downs the last of his juice before answering. "This has nothing to do with the Sentinel stuff. I'm just curious."
I can see where this is heading now, and I can feel my defense mechanisms locking into place.
"Remember the old saying, curiosity killed the cat? Well, I think that applies here quite nicely."
He's smiling now, flashing me that "I've got an idea" look. I hate that look, it always spells trouble.
"I've got an idea, Jim. You've got tonight off, right? What do you say the two of us paint the town red?"
I know I'm going to regret this, but the thought of maybe getting in a few games of pool, downing a couple of beers, and generally unwinding, sounds pretty tempting.
"Under one condition, Chief. You keep out of my love life, do you hear me?"
He does the old "Scoutís honor" sign, and I'm pretty damn sure Blair Sandburg was never a Boy Scout.
"Scoutís honor, man. I'm strictly there as an observer."
If it weren't for that tiny blip in his heart rate, I might even have believed him...
I'm just about to polish off the remains of my breakfast, when the phone rings. Blair rolls his eyes in the direction of the phone, but makes no attempt to answer it. He knows as well as I do that the only person who calls this early in the morning is Simon. I get this hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach as I reach for the receiver. I just hope that it's not another one of those robberies again. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep my emotions in check if it is. I've managed to keep my feelings regarding this case from Sandburg up until now, but I'm not sure I can do it any longer.
Blair listens in on my conversation, and before I've hung up the phone has already put on his shoes and jacket. He hands my jacket out to me as I walk towards the door. All I can do is hope that he doesn't notice that tremor in my hand as I take it from him. I keep telling myself that the tremors are just an aftereffect from the bullet wound to my shoulder just a few weeks ago, but even I find that hard to believe.
We arrive at the crime scene, and I find myself drawn to the vault.
There it is again. What's happening to me? Get a grip, Ellison.
I shake my head, trying to clear the fog from my brain. Fog? No, it's more like a mist, a light dew that drizzles its way along my senses, enveloping everything in its path. It feels good, sensual, and at the same time...forbidden. I feel helpless, drawn to the light sprinkling of sensations that cool and heat my body at the same time. I can almost taste its sweetness, a nectar born of passionate promises. My hands tremble as I near the vault.
"You picking up something?Ē Blair tosses me a concerned glance from across the room.
I nod, not wanting to let my hand fall away from the door of the safe. "It's kind of hard to define. Well, maybe it's just a nervous reaction."
He presses me about my findings, wanting to know every detail of what I'm feeling. I guess this is as good a time as any to tell him that I've felt this way before. I honestly didn't think it was important. I never really made the connection between the other robbery scenes and this one until now.
I can practically see the wheels in Blair's head turning. The two old men in the room with us have taken to whispering in the corner. I'm sure they think we're some kind of lunatics.
Blair has me walking around the room measuring intensity levels. I can feel a kind of shift as I near the safe, but part of me is unsure of exactly what it is Iím feeling.
I've taken the old men's statements, and quite frankly I'm ready to leave. The thieves really cashed in this time: five hundred thousand dollarsí worth of jewels. The question is, how did they manage to break into the window of a building thirty stories up?
I don't say anything on the elevator ride down to the lobby. I can feel Blair's eyes on me, a million unanswered questions running through his head. He waits until we exit the building before he asks me the one uppermost in his mind.
"So it's gone now?"
"Everything's back to normal," I say, trying to avoid a lengthy, drawn-out conversation.
Of course, Blair is not as quick to dismiss things as I am, and we end up talking all the way back to the truck.
"You can't just let this go, Jim. I really think you should tell Simon what's going on."
I do my best to keep my eyes on the road, but I can't help but give him a quick sideways glance.
"No!" I really didn't mean for the word to sound so abrupt, but sometimes the kid just drives me to the brink of insanity. This is my job, dammit. I can't go around "feeling" my way through it. I need proof, hard evidence, something concrete. Sometimes I wonder if Sandburg's feet ever touch the ground.
I try to lighten the conversation a bit, suggesting places where we might spend our evening out together. At least he's smart enough to let this one go, but I'm never sure for how long. Blair Sandburg has a way of bringing things up at inopportune times.
We park the truck and head up the elevator to Simon's office. Another robbery, and still no leads. I don't need sentinel senses to feel a lecture coming on.
I can see the lines of tension in Simon's face as we enter the office. We take up positions in chairs in front of his desk and await the inevitable speech that he no doubt has been rehearsing for the last hour.
"There's been seven robberies in the past three months, each netting over a hundred thousand dollars in gems, all pulled off by daredevil acrobatic stunts."
I can hear the frustration in his voice, and find myself thinking out loud. "They've beaten every security system just by doing things nobody would expect."
Blair nods in my direction and then adds his two centsí worth. "High wires, trapeze, and now this."
I try to replay the robbery scene in my head, blocking out the feelings that only manage to complicate the case. If I can just keep things in perspective, take in the evidence without my emotions getting the best of me, I'm sure I can crack this. "It's as if they swung down from the roof on a cable and broke through the glass," I say, not really expecting a reply.
Simon looks at me dejectedly, as a resigned sigh passes from his lips. "Maybe they should sell tickets," he murmurs, more to himself than to us.
I feel a bit uncomfortable with my next statement, and I'm just hoping that he keeps an open mind. "Well, actually, sir, we've been checking out circuses, local gymnastics teams, that sort of thing, to see if any of their people had records. One high-wire act -- it played Cascade a couple of months ago. They came up clean. Also, none of the out-of-towners that have stayed in Cascade have been here more than a couple of weeks."
Simon doesn't seem to find this theory ridiculous, and I'm more than happy to leave with my dignity intact. He tells us to, "Keep at it," and I move towards the door. I assume that Blair is going to follow at my heels, but no such luck.
He wouldn't! I whisper to myself.
"Wait. There's something new with Jim's senses," he blurts out, totally oblivious to the fact that my face has taken on this charming shade of red.
I can feel the fire in my cheeks flaring as Simon looks me in the eye.
"I don't think we need to bother the captain," I manage to grind out, gesturing for Blair to make a hasty exit.
"What's he talking about, Jim?"
Blair tosses aside my best attempt at visual daggers and continues. "This is not nothing, Jim."
Simon, being the practical man that he is, asks Blair if this new "development" will in some way benefit the case. For the first time in our working relationship, Blair is at a loss for words. If only I could harness that moment...
We spend the rest of the day basically chasing our tails. Whoever these guys are, they're definitely professionals; there's no doubt in my mind. By the time five o'clock rolls around, I'm actually looking forward to our evening out. A distraction is just what I need right now. This case is really starting to bug me. If there isn't a break soon, I'm thinking about making Sandburg join the circus.
We stop at the loft to change, and I find myself being scrutinized by two piercing blue eyes.
"You're not gonna wear that, are you? Come on, Jim. You gotta, you know, put yourself out there."
I can feel the redness in my cheeks quickly returning. "Put myself out there?"
Sandburg's doing that ridiculous little... movement that he says drives the women wild. Personally, I think he's acting like some kind of animal during mating season. Hell, what do I know? He's the one with the full calendar and the black book. Maybe he has a point.
I can't believe I'm actually going upstairs to change. For some reason, I feel compelled to listen to him. I don't quite know why, but whatever it is, it certainly has gotten the best of me. He even talks me into using some of that cologne that he boasts about, what next? The kid will probably have me wearing plaid and growing my hair long if I don't be careful.