The Thought That Counts

by Francesca

     Disclaimers:  Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly.  No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime.  (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!) Please go away if you're under 18!

     Summary:  I hate summaries.  Ok, here goes.  Jim and Blair celebrate some holidays and then Blair gets a boyfriend and then A Notorious Canon Villain tm shows up and there is big trouble.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll be really really annoyed with me by the end.  SO, YES, THERE'S MORE:  The sequel's coming, I swear!!!

     Warnings: 1) Language.  You know me.  2) Cliffhanger:  there's no happy ending yet, though there will be.  Eventually for them.  Soon for us.

     Notes: YES THE SEQUEL IS COMING SOON!  I know you all hate cliffhangers, I hate cliffhangers, and I'm only posting this because the sequel, or the rest of it, or whatever it is is kind of its own thing, and it's written in a different style.  I'm sort of experimenting here, trying to see if I can tell a story with only voices, so you've got to pay attention, there's no "he said, she said" in this.  Liked it?  Confused? The lines are open and you're on the air!  



     "Jim, you really didn't have to."

     "You don't like it."

     "Don't like it?  Man, I love it!  Really!  It's just, uh, great! So, uh, useful and practical — it's just that thing that you never knew that you needed and look! here it is! the thing!  And you found it! And gave it to me!  I'm just speechless, here, man.  Thanks!"  



     "Well it's just great.  Really.  Wow."

     "You don't like it."

     "Of course I like it — what's not to like?  It's a sweater — it's a great sweater, Jim! — big and thick and warm and just what I need for stakeouts, really — "

     "Except you hate it."

     "I love it!       "I love that you gave it to me.       "Okay, I hate it.  I'm sorry, Jim, I want to like it, really I do.  I'm trying really really hard to be open to it — "

     "I'll take it back."

     "No!       "I mean, no.  I want it."

     "Sandburg, you hate it."

     "Just the color.  And the style.  But it's warm, I can see how warm it is.  I'll sleep in it.  When I'm cold.  You know how cold I get, I can't afford to be turning down sweaters.       "Let go of my sweater, Jim.       "You gave it to me and I want it.       "So let go.       "Maybe it looks better inside out, you think?..."  


     "So, Sandburg?"


     "While we've got a minute — "

     "A minute?  We've been here for a thousand years, Jim, and we're gonna be here for another thousand years and if I don't get out of this truck I am going to FREAK OUT, Jim, and it is not going to be pretty, man, I assure you!"

     "Are you finished?"

     "Yeah, I'm finished.  What is it?"

     "Before I end up throwing away any more money, could you please tell me what you want for your birthday this year?"

     "I don't want anything, Jim.  Just good wishes, world peace, that sort of thing."

     "Oh come on.  You must want something."

     "I want to get out of this truck before I'm old, that's what I want."

     "Blair, I'm serious."

     "Blair?  Blair?  Oh my god, Jim — are we gonna die?"


     "Oh, thank god."

     "Sandburg, I am trying to say something nice to you, here, except you are being so annoying that I can't say it!       "Sandburg, you are not dead.  I can hear your heart beating.  So cut it out."

     "So say your nice thing already."

     "I can't now.  What do you want for your birthday?"

     "Really, man — I don't want a thing."

     "Look, Sandburg, I know you've been burned pretty badly in the gift department before, but even I can follow a simple order of you'd just tell me what you want."

     "Hey, come on, I wear that sweater."

     "In the dark.

     "Well, yeah.  And I use the thingy — "

     "You still have no idea what that is, do you?"

     "Well, no.  It sits on my desk and taunts me."

     "Could you at least point me in the right direction, this time?"

     "There really isn't anything.  Honest!"

     "Sandburg, I want to give you something!  Because you've been so great this year and now everything works!  Okay?! So don't give me such a fucking hard time!"

     "Was that the nice thing?"


     "Cause I didn't wanna miss it."

     "Well, you didn't."



     "So I just can't think of anything.  Give me another Ellison mystery surprise."

     "It's a — "

     "Don't tell me!  It's a personal challenge, now."

     "You've got everything you ever wanted?

     "I've got everything I need."

     "That's not the same thing.  Look, don't be all vegetarian about it.  What would make you happy?"

     "First of all, I am not a vegetarian.  Second of all, I can not even begin to imagine what you think vegetarian means in that context."

     "You didn't answer the question."

     "Jim, you just don't want to know, okay?  Trust me."

     "Of course I want to know!"

     "Forget it."



     "C'mon, tell me already!"

     "All right.  Fine.  You want to give me something — ?"

     "Yes.  Clearly we're finally understanding each other."

     " — then, fine.  Fine.       "Give me a kiss."

     "A what?"

     "You want to know what I want?  That's what I want.  Okay?  Bang, there you go.       "You asked."

     "I asked.  Yes.  Yes, I did.  I did ask."  




     "I'm trying to be!"

     "Sit down, okay?  Just sit down and don't move.  I'll lock up."

     "Man, that was so nice of them."

     "Yeah, it was."

     "They're a great bunch of guys."

     "Yeah, they are."

     "I mean, they didn't have to do that."

     "They must be getting used to you."

     "Yeah.       "Yeah.       "That's nice, isn't it."

     "Very nice.  Are you falling asleep?"

     "No.  I'm just, you know, relaxed.  Thass'all."

     And Jim came over and sat down next to him, and Blair was thinking about the party and the Major Crimes guys and so he only figured it out when he saw Jim's arm twitch and hesitate — and he knew then that Jim was reaching for him and then Jim did reach for him, and he touched Blair's arm and bent his head and dropped a nervous but deliberate kiss on the corner of Blair's mouth before pulling away quickly.

     "Happy birthday," he said quietly, and Blair looked at him with an absolutely naked expression and said, "Thanks."

     Jim got up then, heading for the stairs to his bedroom.  A few steps up he paused, turned to look back at Blair, who hadn't moved.

     "Aren't you going to bed?"

     "I think... I think I'll just sit up for a while," said Blair slowly, and he was staring into the empty space ahead of him thoughtfully, lost in a reverie, in a memory, and he looked calm and happy in a way that Jim had never seen before, and this made Jim's throat hurt somehow and he quickly wheeled and climbed up the stairs to bed.  


     "Well, look who's here!  We didn't think you two would make it!"

     "I didn't think we'd make it either, sir."

     "You got him?"

     "We got him.  He's being booked downstairs."

     "How did it go?"

     "Easy pickings.  He was there at the warehouse — with all the stolen merchandise.  Open and shut, Captain."

     "Good job.  Good job.  Get yourself some eggnog."  

     "Sandburg, you want eggnog?"

     "Yeah, okay.       "Thanks, Jim.       "Aren't you having any?"

     "I hate eggnog."

     "That figures."

     "You have plans for the holidays?"

     "No.  You?"

     "No.  Isn't Naomi...?"



     "We were never real big on the holidays.  Any of them."


     "Hey guys, congrats on busting the Grinch!"

     "Thanks, Brown."

     "Yeah, thanks, man."

     "I hope that bastard has a shitty Christmas!"  

     "So I thought I might, you know, work Christmas."

     "Oh.       "Well, I'll come in with you, if you want."

     "Yeah, okay."

     "I, uh — I thought I might volunteer down at the mission on Christmas Eve.  Just, you know, to have a little spirit.  You wouldn't want — ?"

     "I might.  Maybe."

     "Well, good.  Great.  Let me know."

     "Listen, Sandburg, is there anything, you know, special that you..."

     "Are you really asking?"


     "Well then, yeah.  I mean, you know.  I mean, I wouldn't mind, you know, getting...what I got for my birthday."

     "Jim, aren't you drinking eggnog?"

     "Sir, you know I hate eggnog!"

     "Yeah, I know.  I know.  Merry Christmas, Detective — there are some beers in a bucket in my office.  With your name on them."

     "Well!  And Merry Christmas to you, sir!"  


     "That was exhausting."

     "But worth it, Jim, wasn't it?  I think it was worth it..  I wish I could do that more."

     "When, Sandburg?  When could you possibly fit it in?"

     "I could sleep less."

     "You'll stunt your growth.  Oh, never mind."

     "Oh just shut up."

     "Meanwhile, bring some extra money to work tomorrow."


     "It'll be a slow day.  Hopefully a slow day. And usually there ends up being a pretty good ad hoc card game going."

     "Cool.  Sounds fun."

     And then Jim circled the loft, checking doors and windows and turning off the lights, and Blair tensed as he watched him because he knew now, knew what would happen now, and when Jim finally began to approach him across the dim room he had to steel himself to keep from visibly trembling.

     Jim sat down next to him and took Blair's face in his hands and Blair did tremble then, and Jim must have felt it because he was already leaning forward, pulling Blair's face toward his, when he stopped and seemed to get nervous.  Blair froze and closed his eyes, wanting to give Jim time and space and anything else he might have needed.  And he waited, heart jackhammering in his chest.

     After a moment, Blair felt Jim tug on his head again, and he bent toward him without opening his eyes, and Jim's aim was better now than last time and Blair stifled a moan as he felt Jim's lips, infinitely warm, infinitely soft, cover his for a moment, forever, a moment before pulling away.

     "Merry Christmas," he heard Jim murmur, and he nodded wordlessly in reply.  He heard Jim heave himself off the sofa, heard him softly climbing the stairs to the loft, heard him get into bed, and it was a long time before he could bring himself to open his eyes.  


     "Well hey there, birthday boy."

     "Hey yourself."

     "Oh look, the patented Blair Sandburg 1000 kilowatt smile.  Had a good time?"

     "A very good time."

     "With, what's her name?  Amy? Mary?"


     "Oh, Terri.  What, are you already up to the T's?"

     "Very funny.  You know, while I am small in stature, I'm certainly big enough to withstand your snide remarks and mindless jealousy."

     "Wow, you are in a good mood."

     "Well, she was totally my type."

     "Thin, lots of leg, small high breasts?"

     "Small, high, perky breasts, but yeah."

     "What are you going to do when you get through the Z's?"

     "I don't know.  Start again at A?  Try a different alphabet — hey, man, I know lots of languages."

     "The advantages of a classical education.  Get your feet off the coffee table."

     "I thought I might get a papal dispensation today."

     "Sorry.  No dice.  Rules are rules."

     "Yes.  Yes."

     And this kiss was of such intensity that it blotted the world out, shooting bolts of electricity through Blair's nervous system, sputtering and crackling through his body like a flame tearing down a fuse.  And when Jim pulled away Blair held his eyes, not wanting him to look down, because he had a raging hard-on, which he hadn't had before — the other kisses had left him conscious of a great emptiness, but now he felt full, overfull, full to bursting, which was somehow worse — and so he just looked at Jim, hoping it wasn't all spilling out through his eyes, hoping his eyes were appropriately blank, apprised of the game-plan, keeping his vow of silence, because everything had to remain unspoken and unsaid, because after all rules were rules — and certainly this fiery hardness was best left utterly unacknowledged.

     But Jim gave no sign of noticing;  he merely slid an affectionate palm across Blair's cheek before giving it a punctuating pat and getting up to go to bed.  


     When Jim took his mouth this time it was like a reprieve from reality, the long lingering kiss providing Blair not merely a glimpse but a sustained, frank glance around this alternate universe where he could be crushed up against the broad chest and encircled within the hard, muscular arms, and it was almost too long and too sweet and it was very nearly Blair's undoing.

     Except Blair Sandburg was stronger than that, really.  


     "Hey, birthday boy, where have you been all evening?"

     "Working, actually.  I've got this article due on Friday and of course I've only got three pages of it and — "

     "You were working on your birthday?"

     "Yeah.  It's my own damn fault, really — I've got to stop leaving things until the last moment, and this is such a great opportunity and — hell, I'll tell you about it in the morning, okay?  I'm just exhausted, I can barely keep my eyes open.  Goodnight."

     "Uh...       "Um.       "Yeah, goodnight."





     "Jim, listen, I...uh.       "I just, uh...       "I just wanted to tell you that, uh...       "Oh hell, Jim, you've been just great, you know? — just great to me, putting up with, you know, all this — but I just can't, you know — I just can't do it anymore.  I just can't live like this, I just can't survive on two kisses a year, and it's so unfair to you, what I've been doing — it's just selfish and wrong and, you know, it just isn't fair to me either.  I've got to grow up already and get over it and find someone who can give me what I need and stop fooling myself and stop abusing you — no, Jim, really, it's time I got on the clue bus and you've been just great — infinitely patient and infinitely kind, and I won't forget that, Jim, ever, but it is definitely time I let you off the hook here.  I just wanted you to know that — well, you know, thanks. I mean, thanks, man."

     "Well,'re welcome."

     "Maybe we can have, you know, a really good Christmas dinner this year.  Something really schmantzy."

     "Sure.  Sure we can."

     "Great.  Great."


     "Well, goodnight."

     "Goodnight, Sandburg.  Happy birthday."  


     "Jim, could you look a little less bored?"

     "Security always looks bored, Simon.  You want me to dance with Mrs. Penton-Smith?"

     "We're supposed to be on the lookout for terrorists."

     "I don't think there are going to be any terrorists.  I think the whole thing was just a scare."

     "Well, I hope you're right.  Where's Sandburg?"

     "I don't know, look around.  He's the short guy in the tux who's under sixty."

     "Well, yeah, it's not the most swinging of crowds, is it?"

     "Uh, no.  Unless the terrorists are seventy year old women with blue hair wearing cocktail dresses, I'll be sure to spot them right off. Even without Sentinel senses."

     "Good band, though."

     "If you like Sinatra."

     "Yeah, right.  Bad band if you don't."

     "Yeah, I'm a little worried about Sandburg.  Last I saw him he looked ready to hang himself from the nearest gold-plated lighting fixture."

     "Well, not when I saw him.  He was okay."


     "Oh, you know Sandburg.  Sandburg could make friends in the middle of the Mojave Desert."

     "What, don't tell me that he's dancing with Mrs. Penton-Smith?"

     "Hah.  Nah.  He was over talking to Christopher Chase."


     "The youngest son.  I suspect they were bonding over a mutual dislike of Sinatra."


     "Yeah.  He's managed to find the only other bored twentysomething in the place.  So don't worry about him, I'm sure he's having a great time."

     "Oh.       "Oh."

* * *

     [Oh.  Oh.  Yes.  Yes.  Please!  Oh, god, Chris, I — ]


     "Hmm?  Oh, yeah, sorry, Simon — I think he must have left already."

     "Right, okay.  So let's get out of here."  


     [ you, under my skin.  I've got you, deep in the heart of me.  You're so much a part of me — ]



     "Morning yourself.  Converted to Sinatraism, have you?"

     "Well, it wasn't so bad by the end.  It kind of grows on you."

     "I'll call the de-programmers.  Two weeks of Sergeant Pepper and you'll be right as rain."

     "Or kill a family in L.A."

     "Hah!  Right!  So we have our patented Blair Sandburg 1000 gilowatt smile on this morning, I see."

     "Yeah.  Oh, man, yeah — is this coffee fresh?"

     "Help yourself."

     "I had a really really good time last night, Jim.  I met this guy — "

     "Christopher Chase.  I heard."

     "Uh, did you hear, or did you, um, hear."


     "Oh, I see.  Well, you know, it was a very big closet — hell, I've rented apartments smaller than that closet.  Not, by the way, that I don't appreciate the irony.  But, you know, any port in a storm.  And god it was fun!  And I needed some fun, Jim, really I did.  And Christie's great, you'll really like him — I mean, I was a little worried when I found out who he was and all, but it turns out that he just hates his family, and he's violently green — okay, I admit, he's a leftie as only someone with a massive trust fund can be, but nobody's perfect, right? and at least he's not a broker or something."

     "Well, thank god for that."

     "Laugh if you want, Jim, but — shit, is that the time?"

     "I'm not laughing, Sandburg."

     "God.  I've got to get in the shower and get changed and get this tux back — "

     "I'm stopping off on the way to the station."

     "Shit, Jim, do me a favor and drop mine off for me, will you?  I promised I'd meet Christie for lunch and then I'll have to rush to the station so I can catch up — "

     "Make sure the shower curtain's in the tub, will you, Sandburg?"

     "It's in, it's in, I swear!  Anyway, you don't mind, do you?"

     "Mind?  Why would I mind?"  


     "You know, you can bring him around here if you want."

     "What?  Oh, thanks, Jim, that's really nice of you to say."

     "It's not about being nice, Sandburg.  I mean, you live here, don't you?  This is your home after all and...well, you should be able to have anyone here that you like."

     "Wait, hang on a sec — okay, fine, I've saved it now."

     "I mean, you pay rent, don't you?  I almost feel bad taking the money — you're hardly here, anymore."

     "Well, you know, it's just that his place is bigger and he lives alone, so it just sort of seemed to make sense.  Meanwhile, I've been meaning to ask you — would you mind maybe just redoing a couple of the early tests...?"

     "Sure.  Of course.  Whenever you want."

     "It's just that I'm finally writing this chapter and I just thought it would be worth rechecking the results before — "

     "Absolutely.  No problem."

     "Thanks, that's great."

     "You didn't, uh... I mean, you haven't, you know, told...?"

     "No!  Jim, of course not!  I wouldn't!  This is just between us, I'd never tell anyone else."

     "Thanks, Sandburg.  Actually, you know, as I think about it... I've learned so much in the past three years — I mean, you've taught me so much — I wonder if quite a lot of those early results would be different now."

     "Yeah, that's true.  Faster, anyway.  You know, that might be really interesting — maybe devising a series of tests that we could do on a      regular basis...reaction time, sensitivity...kind of chart your progress over the long term — if I could just come up with an appropriate scale..."

     "Whoa, Sandburg!  That sounds like doing tests for the rest of my life!"

     "Well, maybe, Jim — but it could be really really worth it!  Would you at least think about it?"

     "Okay, I'll think about it.  If it's that important to you.  Sure.  


     ["...come on, don't be like this!"

     "Are you in love with him, or what?"

     "No!  I told you!  I used to be, okay?  I used to, but I'm over it now,  I swear!  I used to be in love with him, but I'm not anymore.  I'm over masochism as a lifestyle, all right?"

     "No fair making me laugh when we're fighting!"

     "All's fair in — "

     "Spare me the cliche.  It's not worthy of you.  Besides, you are such a fucking liar.  You've called his name when — "

     "Who died and left you fantasy Nazi?"

     "The previous fantasy Nazi?"

     "And you point fingers at me.  Look, I've figured out the difference between fantasy and reality, okay?  It took me twenty-nine years to do it, but I've finally managed it."

     "Yeah, well, I just wish you'd fantasize about someone a little less accessible.  What's wrong with Brad Pitt?"

     "Puh-leaze.  And believe me, Jim is plenty inaccessible.  I'm over him, I tell you."

     "Well, then, what kind of a hold does he have over you?  I's I can only get so far with you, and then there's this big walled-up area covered in barbed wire with a big fucking sign on it saying, "Property of Jim Ellison!"  What is he to you, anyway?"

     "He's my partner and my roommate and my best friend — no, scratch that, Jim is my family, okay?  He's practically the only family I've got."

     "And so what — you're going to live with him forever?  I don't live with my family."

     "You hate your family."

     "That's not the point — I wouldn't live with them even if I did like them.  Because I'm thirty, Blair!  And people don't live with their families at thirty if they have other options."

     "Jim needs me, okay?"

     "Oh god, tell me if you're going to go into your 'it's a cop thing and you wouldn't understand' routine so that I can call the violinist over."

     "It is a cop thing and, no, you don't understand!"

     "What is he, shellshocked or something?  He gets flashbacks? mutilates cats if left unattended — what?"

     "Look, it's his business and it's a confidence and I don't see where it matters to you!"

     "Oh you don't, do you?  Well, it does matter to me — it matters a great deal to me because I love you, you fucking twerp, and I want you to come live with me and I'm being blocked by 200 fucking pounds of fucking cop!"

     "No, no you're not, Christie — you're being blocked by me, okay? I'm not ready for that yet — it's too soon, way too soon.  Can't we just keep things as they are?  I like things as they are."

     "And it's not about Jim?"


     "Christ, but you're a liar!"

     "Would you just stop dragging him into this?  Can't this just be about us?"

     "It is about us — all of us — the happy trio!"

     "Look, Christie, Jim is my friend and my partner and I owe everything to him and he needs me and I am just not going to leave him right now, okay?!  And that doesn't mean — look, I love him but I'm in love with you and right now that's the story, that's the deal on the table!  take it or leave it!"

     "Oh, I'll take it.  You know I'll take it.  I'll take you on any terms, Blair."


     "Any way I can get you."


     "Fuck, I'm pathetic.  But it's true, Blair, and I just can't help wanting to have you in my house — "

     "Christie — "

     " — all the time, and not to have to share you with...with anyone. Tell me you'll think about it."

     "I'll think about it."



     "Come here."

     "What, right here?"

     "Oh, Jim won't like that, will he?"

     "Jim won't be home for hours."





      "God, your mouth.  I love your mouth."

     "It's yours.  Fuck it.  Fuck my mouth."

     "Oh, Blair.... Blair.  Bl — ]  


     Knock, knock, knock.

     "Hi, Chris."

     "Hi, Jim."

     "Blair's not home yet."

     "I know.  Actually, I wanted to talk to you."

     "Oh.  Well, sure.  Come on in."


     "You want coffee?  A beer?"

     "No, thanks.  Look, I just wanted to tell you that — well, that Blair doesn't know."

     "Know what?"

     "That you're in love with him.  He can't see it.  He still thinks you're unattainable.  And I have absolutely no intention of disillusioning him.  I don't know what the hell happened, how you managed to miss your chance so badly, but I'm just not noble enough to stand back and let you have him.  I'm really sorry, but I'm just not.  And I just wanted you to know that.  I want you to know that I'm going to fight you for him."

     "I see."

     "I mean, I love him.  You of all people should be able to understand that.  I've never met anyone like him before."

     "No, I'm sure you haven't."

     "And maybe I'm not as tall as you or as big as you or as traumatized as you are or whatever you are.  But I'm plenty fucked up in my own way and I want him."

     "I see."

     "I don't know what kind of hold you have over him, but I'm going to do my damnedest to break it."

     "You're younger, richer, and better looking than I am — I don't see why you shouldn't."

     "Well I wish I had your confidence.  I'm scared half out of my mind.  Jesus, Jim, what the hell happened?"

     "I don't know what you mean."

     "You know perfectly well what I mean."

     "I didn't know."


     "I didn't know until after he'd met you."

     "Oh, god, what a fucking mess...Why didn't you tell him as soon as you knew?"

     "How could I?  I'd had three years.  How does it look if I tell him the morning after he finally meets someone else?"

     "It looks passive-aggressive and possibly pathological."

     "Exactly.  There wasn't any choice."

     "That's terrible.  That absolutely sucks.  I'm really sorry.  Not that I'm going to let him go or anything."

     "Why would you?  I wouldn't."

     "I'm going to work like gangbusters to convince him that he's better off with me."

     "Well, you've half convinced me."

     "Ah.  Ah.  So you wouldn't, um, consider maybe putting in a word on my behalf and making all our lives easier, would you?"

     "'Fraid not, no.  I'm not that noble, either."

     "All right, fair enough.  So when should I expect Ellison's first strike — and at the moment you've got home court advantage."

     "There isn't going to be a first strike."

     "There's not?"


     "I don't get it.  You won't give him up but you're not going after him either?"


     "So what are you going to do?"

     "Nothing.  I don't see why I should stop when I'm just getting good at it."

     "Well, okay, it's your choice — at least I know where we stand.  I should go.  I'm making him dinner."

     "Go for something labor intensive.  He notices."

     "Yeah, I figured that out.  It's always time over money with him. Which is a shame really, because I've got buckets of the stuff.  My luck to want someone who can't be bought or bribed."

     "You've tried?"

     "Oh yeah.  He's relentlessly unimpressed.  He doesn't seem to want anything.  He's just hell to buy for — I'm absolutely dreading the holidays.  He says it's the thought that counts, but — hey Jim?  Jim?  Are you all right?

* * *

     Click, thud, crash.

     "Well, you know, I've heard that the lion will lay down with the lamb, but I never really pictured them watching the game together over a beer."

     "And why not?"

     "Yeah, why not, Blair?  I stopped by, Jim had the game on..."

     "Weren't you supposed to be making me dinner, tonight?"

     "He did, Sandburg.  And he went all out!"

     "Yeah!  All out to the pizzeria, and all out back!"

     "Terrific.  Jim, what have you done to Christie?  A couple of hours with you, and the honeymoon is definitely over."  


     "Mr. Chase?"


     "Would you step this way, please?"

     "I don't see why I should.  Who are you?"

     "Who I am isn't important.  Who you are, is.  You, Mr. Chase, are the bottom of the food chain, I'm sorry to inform you.  If you would, please."

* * *


     "Blair Sandburg, hello?"

     "I'm in trouble, man, I — "

     "Christie — ?!"

     "Mr. Sandburg, how lovely to hear your voice again."

     "Jesus, Brackett, you fucking son of a bitch!"

     "Come downstairs and join us, Mr. Sandburg.  Right out front.  Or I'll blow his fucking head off.  Now, please.  Ten.       "Nine.       "Eight.       "Seven.       "Six.       "Five.       "Four.       "Three.       "Two — Mr. Sandburg, it's good to see you, you're looking well.  If you wouldn't mind driving, please — keys are in the ignition, thank you very much."

     "You okay?"

     "Yeah.  Yeah, I'm fine.  Is this some of that cop stuff that I wouldn't understand?"

     "Yeah.  Brackett, could you not point the gun straight at his head — what if we hit a pothole or something?"

     "I want to make sure you're properly motivated for what follows. Everything's possible if we're all properly motivated.  Isn't that true, Detective Ellison!  May I have the phone, please, Mr. Sandburg — so kind of you to save me the trouble of dialing...       "Hello, Detective.  Or Detectives — a big hello to all of you listening in.  Detective Ellison, we'd really appreciate it if you'd join us.  Now, please, right here in front of the police station.  And I wouldn't advise you to try anything — I'm all snuggled up in the back seat with Mr. Chase — Mr. Chase and me and my very very oversensitive gun.  So move it, Detective."

* * *


     "Go.  Go, Jim.  I don't see that we have any other choice."

* * *

     "Detective Ellison, how nice to see you.  Mr. Sandburg, would you kindly slide over and let Detective Ellison drive?  Yes, that's right, just keep going, I'll tell you where to go."

     "Brackett, what do you want to steal this time?"

     "Actually, Jim — may I call you Jim? — I've already stolen what I wanted to steal.  I've had quite some time to think lately and I've decided that it would quite useful to have my own Sentinel.  I'm afraid I'm here to steal you.  And, of course, Mr. Sandburg, since he seems to be part of the package.       "Why, Mr. Chase, you seem surprised.  Have these two never told you what they are?  They never told your that they are Sentinel and Guide?              "Well!  Mr. Sandburg, how very refreshing to find someone who won't kiss and tell — take 22 North, here, please."

     "Brackett, you are completely off your gourd, you do know that."

     "As I say, I've had quite a lot of time to think about this.  And I think I can steal you — I think that you're possibly the most useful thing I can steal.  As the saying goes, give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and — next exit, please.       "You see, Mr. Chase, Jim here has heightened sensory awareness. How did you put it in that introductory chapter, Mr. Sandburg — ?  He can see before others see and sense what others can't.  Which is to say, he's the perfect thief.  Consider me your guidance counselor, Ellison — we're going to start you on the road to a brighter, richer future."

     "I'm not going to cooperate."

     "You will, Jim.  You will.  Left at the next turn-off.  Yes, right here.  You'll do everything I tell you or I'll kill your Guide.  It's called leverage, Jim: get used to it."

     "Look, Brackett, if it's just me and Jim you want — "

     "Pull up next to that truck.  Turn the engine off.  The keys, please.  Thank you."

     " — let Chris go.  You don't need him, he's useless to you."

     "Everyone's useful in their own way.  Mr. Chase here is here to provide motivation for Detective Ellison."


     "OH GOD! Oh god oh god oh god — "

     "Now, now, don't move, Mr. Sandburg:  I'd hate to have to kill you too.  I do realize that killing you would put an end to our working relationship.  But I will kill you if Detective Ellison tries anything. If our relationship is to end it might as well be on my terms.  So I hope you are now properly motivated for your new career, Jim.              "If you would both step out of the car please.       "Yes, up the ramp and into the cargo area.       "See, I've been waiting for your arrival — I hope you like the accommodations.  All mod cons.  Into the cell, please, Detective."

     ["Jim, don't.  Don't go.  Just freeze."]

     "Detective Ellison!  Move!       "Do you hear me?!"

     "He's in a zone!"


     "A zone!"

     "This is some kind of trick!"

     "It isn't!  You've seen it happen before — he gets overloaded by sensory input.  Let me bring him out of it."

     "Okay.  No.  Wait, let me think!  Goddammit!  You're saying he can't move?"

     "He can't move."

     "All right, look, there's a tranquilizer over there, on that table.  Inject him with it."

     "I won't!  He's already in a physically depressed state — it could kill him!"

     "Mr. Sandburg, think how sad it would be if Detective Ellison wakes up to find you dead."

     "Mr. Brackett, if you kill me, Detective Ellison won't ever wake up at all!"

     "I don't believe you."

     "Try me.  You kill me and this is all over before it begins.  You can use him as a door stop."

     "You're bluffing."

     "I'm not.  I'm his Guide.  You're just learning what that means."

     "Don't move, Sandburg!"

     "I'll move if I like.  You won't kill me — he isn't watching, and that's how you want it, isn't it?""

     "I'm warning you — whaa?"

     When Jim finally moved, a statue come to sudden life, it was with such grace and speed that Brackett was taken aback.  It was over in seconds.

     And when Jim looked at Blair, he knew that more than the case was over.  Everything was over.  Absolutely everything.  

The End