Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing.
"The Cascade Caper"
Susan M. M.
Originally published in Ouch! #18 from Neon RainBow Press
Five minutes later, Jim pulled up in front of the cabin. The four men got out. Dr. Moyo'ema stretched after the long drive, then looked up at the cabin Sarah Saturday was lending him for the next few days.
"Very nice," he said aloud. To himself, though, he could not help thinking that Sarah's vacation getaway was larger and better constructed than most homes in Africa. He glanced at the satellite dish on the roof. There were entire villages in his homeland, many of them, that did not even have electricity.
On the porch, D.D. waved. "Jambo!"
The assassins waited until their quarry was away from the car. They had no desire for Moyo'ema or his escort to use the vehicles for shelter or escape.
Zimwima nodded to his partner, then clicked his walkie-talkie as an almost silent signal to their two colleagues on the other side of the cabin.
Jim looked up. His enhanced hearing caught the sound. His years of experience as an Army ranger told him it was a mechanical sound, not just an animal or a distant hiker stepping on a branch. He looked around, seeking the source of the sound. "Back in the car!"
Blair bit back the temptation to ask 'what's up, man?' He knew his partner and his abilities too well. Without a word, he placed a gentle hand on the doctor's arm and started to push him back toward the car.
Shots rang out. Both back tires of Jim's car were hit. Another bullet whizzed by, and struck the engine of the Crown Victoria, piercing the radiator.
"Shane, Cassie!" D. D. called out. "Trouble!"
"They're trying to cut off our escape," realized Cross. "Into the house, fast."
Listening, peering, Jim sought the assassins. He fired. One fell from a tree. Cross drew his own gun, and fired in the direction the shots had come from. (From which the shots had come?)
A bullet flew past Dr. Moyo'ema, missing him by less than an inch.
"Hurry, in," Blair urged. He pushed the doctor ahead of him.
Another bullet flew, striking Blair in the back. He collapsed, and knocked Moyo'ema to the ground, landing on top of him.
D.D. dashed out, Shane and Cassie only seconds behind her. Cassie and D.D. pulled Blair to his feet and started to drag him to the house. Shane grabbed Moyo'ema and half-led, half-shoved him inside.
"Get to the cabin," ordered Cross. "I'll cover you."
Jim took one last shot, then sprinted for the porch. Then he knelt, aimed, and provided covering fire for Cross.
Shane opened the door, just a crack. "Stop playing macho and get in here where it's safe."
Neither the detective nor the spymaster hesitated in obeying her. She slammed the door shut behind them and locked it.
Jim looked around. Blair lay on the couch. Dr. Moyo'ema was already examining him. Cassie and D.D. crouched by the window. They were watching, but only watching, nothing more.
"Why the hell aren't you shooting at them?" the sentinel demanded. The death squad was still firing at the cabin; why weren't the women firing back? Then it clicked. All the pieces he'd noticed subconsciously, but hadn't been able to put together, beyond a vague awareness that something was missing but not what. No rustle of cloth on holster, no smell of metal and gunpowder. "You're unarmed," he said accusingly. "What the hell are you doing in a situation like this without a gun?"
Cassie glanced at Cross for guidance. She was unwilling to admit that as convicted felons, they weren't permitted to handle firearms.
"The State Department wanted to keep the security presence as low-key as possible, which meant limiting how many members of the security team were armed," Cross lied smoothly. "All three are experts in hand-to-hand combat. But we don't have time to worry about that now. Right now we need to worry about that death squad, and about Det. Sandburg."
"How is he?" Jim and Cross asked simultaneously.
Dr. Moyo'ema shook his head. "The bullet will need to be removed. I take it that waiting for an ambulance is impractical under the circumstances?"
"The phone's dead," said D.D. "I already tried to call 911. And cell phones won't work here – we're in a no-service area."
"Then I shall need to remove the bullet. Did my medical kit make it inside?"
Cassie nodded. "I'll go get it."
"See if there's a liquor cabinet," the doctor told Shane. "Whiskey or brandy by preference, but something to sterilize the wound and deaden his pain."
"Dead'n' th' pain sounds good," Blair murmured.
Jim hurried to his partner's side. "Take it easy, Chief. Don't try to talk."
"Firs' time I been shot at by commandoes." Blair tried to joke. "Thass life in th' Cascade PD – never dull."
"Commando," Cross corrected automatically. "It's a plural noun. And save your strength. Ellison's right; you shouldn't be trying to talk."
"Luckily, this is not the first time I have removed bullets in less than ideal conditions," Dr. Moyo'ema informed them. "And this room is far cleaner than many clinics where I have worked. Ahsante," he thanked Shane and Cassie as they delivered his black bag and a large bottle of Glenlivet.
Quentin Cross thought quickly, and made a decision. Maybe the Chairman wouldn't approve, but the Chairman wasn't here. "Cassie, take Sandburg's gun."
She looked up at him, her blue-gray eyes wide and startled.
He nodded to confirm the instruction. "Take his gun. It's a little late for the department to worry about diplomatic niceties. Go to the kitchen, make sure the door is locked. Bar it if possible. Then start boiling some water for the doctor." He reached down and removed his back-up pistol from its ankle holster. "Shane, you'd better take this, just in case. D.D., help Dr. Moyo'ema."
D. D. gulped, and tried to remember her Girl Scout first aid training. Shane grinned malevolently for just a second. Then her face was calm, almost expressionless, except for the glint of anticipation in her brown eyes.
"Don't waste your ammunition. Wait until you have a clear shot," Cross instructed Shane and Jim.
The next few minutes were tense. Dr. Moyo'ema removed the bullet, then lay Blair on his back on the couch, so that the weight of his own body would put pressure on the wound. Jim and the ISD agents stayed low, trying to duck the bullets that came through the windows. They fired back, once or twice, to keep the assassins off balance. Then an uncanny quiet fell over the forest.
"Think they're giving up?" Shane asked.
Cross shook his head.
"Why aren't they charging the building?" asked Cassie.
"Don't give them any ideas," Jim scolded.
"They must have realized that their supply of ammunition is finite. They're going to try to wait us out," predicted Cross. "They may be sending for reinforcements, or waiting for us to get tired and make mistakes."
"Won't someone know something's wrong when we don't check in?" asked D.D.
Cross nodded. He was supposed to check in with ISD's LA headquarters every eight hours. And he strongly suspected that Captain Banks would expect his detectives to check in periodically. "When no on hears from us …."
"This brave young man may not have much time to wait," Moyo'ema informed them sadly.
Cross and Jim looked up.
"He has lost much blood. Very much blood. He may not be able to wait until help comes."
"Then you'll need to do a transfusion." Cross' voice was firm, commanding.
Moyo'ema spread his hands helplessly. "Je regret – c'est impossible, under these conditions."
"Det. Sandburg was wounded saving your life. The least you can do is try." Brown eyes peered earnestly at the doctor. Cross rolled up his left shirt sleeve. "Sandburg and I are the same blood type."
"But I have no means to conduct a transfusion," the doctor protested.
"Every single person in this room has an IQ of 120 or higher," Cross pointed out. "Between the six of us, we ought to be able to think of something, some way to 'macgyver' a transfusion."
"Doctor, if there's something you can do, anything," Jim began. His voice trailed off, uncertain whether to beg for help or threaten for results.
"Let me think." Dr. Moyo'ema rubbed his forehead. "You are sure you're the same blood type?"
"Positive," replied Cross.
"The danger of a direct transfusion – assuming we can arrange such – is that you can donate blood faster than he can safely accept it. His veins might rupture. We would need …." Letting his voice trail off, the doctor rummaged through his medical bag. He pulled out a hazardous materials disposal bag. "This should work." He took off his stethoscope and pulled it apart. He handed the two black tubes to Cassie. "Boil these, please."
Jim watched as Dr. Moyo'ema slit two holes in either side of the hazmat bag. When Cassie returned a few minutes later with the wet tubes, he cut the end of each at an angle. Then he placed the uncut ends into the holes in the hazmat bag and fastened them into place with medical tape.
"Be brave," Dr. Moyo'ema told Blair. "This will not be pleasant."
Blair gave a little half-nod.
Taking a scalpel, the doctor made a small puncture in Cross' arm. Immediately he thrust the cut end of the black plastic tubing into the spymaster's arm, and secured it with medical tape. Then he did the same with Blair's arm. He watched carefully as gravity drove the blood from Cross' arm to the bag to Blair. He swore under his breath in Swahili. The dark tubing made it difficult to determine the speed at which the blood was flowing.
"Watch the clock," he directed D. D. "In theory, Mr. Cross should provide a unit of blood in four minutes. In six minutes, the donation must end."
"Agent Cummings is O positive," Cross informed him. "Universal donor."
D. D. gulped, uncomfortable at being volunteered.
"Let us see how this works first before we make a second attempt with another blood donor," Dr. Moyo'ema hedged.
Jim watched, unable to help, unable to look away. He touched Blair's shoulder, hoping the moral support would be enough.
Twice Dr. Moyo'ema adjusted the hazmat bag, slowing the flow of blood. He knew ruptured veins would be impossible to deal with without proper equipment.
"Six minutes," D. D. announced finally.
"I feel all right. I can give a little more," Cross insisted.
"I have no desire to have two patients," Dr. Moyo'ema informed him. "Hold this carefully," he told Shane, passing the hazmat bag to her. He removed the tube from Cross' arm and bandaged the wound. "Now we wait. We watch. And we pray."
Jim sat by the window, watching. He knew the assassins would be back, and he knew they'd have reinforcements. But he also kept his hyper-sensitive hearing tuned to Blair, listening to his breathing, his heartbeat. He knew he couldn't keep it up forever, or he'd zone out. For now, though, he tried to give 110%, monitoring any changes in his partner's condition.
Cross sat beside the unconscious detective. "Hold on, Blair. You can do it. You're strong. If you're anything like your mother, you've got the strength of twenty oxen … and the stubbornness of forty mules. You just have to hold on until the cavalry arrives."
Jim smiled, despite their plight. Cross' opinion of Naomi matched his own.
Cross whispered softly. "I am so proud of you, so very proud, for putting honor above honesty. Your lie was one of the noblest acts I've ever seen. I just wish I could tell you so when you're awake, but I can't." He laid his hand gently on Blair's shoulder.
Jim lost his smile. Referring to Blair's lie as a noble act – that had to be a reference to when Blair perjured himself, and claimed that his doctoral dissertation was pure fiction, when it had accidentally been released before Blair could edit Jim's real name out of it. But how did Cross know about that? It had been a nine-day-wonder locally, but it had slipped away from the public's mind years ago. The whole flap, horrid as it had been at the time, had been forgotten …at least by most. How did Cross know about it? How did he know that Blair had lied? And how did a fed, of all people, know Naomi Sandburg?
"Time to switch jobs, so we don't get stale," Jim announced. "Phillips, you take watch at the window. McBain, keep an eye on Sandburg. Cummings, you stay with Dr. Moyo'ema. Cross, come with me. We need to talk."
Cross raised an eyebrow. He was used to giving orders, not taking them.
"Uh-oh. The menfolk want to talk without us around," Shane said.
Cassie nodded. "Must be something they don't want us to worry our pretty little heads about."
Jim ignored their joking. He indicated the kitchen with his eye, then proceeded on, clearly expecting Cross to follow him. After a second's hesitation, Cross did.
In the kitchen, Jim made instant coffee. He didn't talk for a moment. After he handed Cross the mug of weak coffee, he asked, "Who the Hell are you?"
"You know who I am. Cross, ISD."
"Who are you to Blair, and who's he to you?" Jim demanded.
Cross managed to keep a poker face. Jim ignored his face and listened to his heartbeat, his respiration, observed the dilation of his pupils. His sentinel abilities made him a human lie detector. "I never met him until a few days ago," said Cross.
"You just happen to know his blood type," and just happen to have the same blood type, Jim thought. He took a sip of his own coffee. "You hid it, but you were nearly as upset as I was when he was shot."
"For the time being, he's part of my team. Naturally, I'm upset when one of my team is hurt."
Truth, but only a half-truth, Jim judged. "You specifically requested the two of us as security liaison. You talk about Naomi as if you know her."
"I did, a long time ago," Cross admitted. "I haven't seen her in years."
"How long ago?" Jim was putting the pieces together, and he didn't like the answers he was getting. "Who are you to have the right to be proud of Blair?"
Cross sighed. He'd forgotten about Jim's hearing. "Let's just say I'm a friend of the family."
"How good a friend, and how long ago?" Jim persisted.
"I met her at a Vietnam protest. We were … very close, at one time."
"You were an agent provocateur?"
Cross shook his head. "I was protesting against the war. So was she."
"You?" Jim stared at the spy. He looked like the sort of man who would've served in 'Nam, or at the very least, been opposed to the anti-war protests.
"My brother Geoffrey was killed in 'Nam. I joined the protest movement so no one else's brother would die in a senseless war. Naomi believed in peaceful protests; she felt using violence made you no better than 'the warmongers of the military-industrial complex'." Quoting Naomi brought her face to mind, and his face softened into a half-smile. "One rally, someone decided more drastic measures would get our point across better. Things got … messy. The police started arresting people. The next thing I knew, a pretty redhead grabbed my hand and ran off, dragging me to safety. My parents thought I was insulting Geoff's memory by protesting against Vietnam. If I'd been arrested at a protest …" He shook his head. "They would have grounded me until I was 35. Naomi and I were alone, young and frightened, and we comforted each other."
Technically, Naomi had probably been guilty of statutory rape, or at least contributing to the delinquency of a minor, but Cross had been of no mind to press charges against her, then or now. If his mother had ever found out, though ….
"So where were you when Blair was born? The day he started school? When he needed a father to teach him how to ride a bike or throw a ball? When he needed someone to explain girls to him, or to show him how to drive?" Jim demanded.
"I didn't even know he existed until he was fifteen," Cross explained. "When I found out that Naomi had a son, I looked her up. I asked her if he was mine."
Cross gestured at his three-piece suit. "She was horrified at what I'd become. She thought I sold out to the Establishment. She admitted it was possible that I was Blair's father, but other men were more likely. Naomi's like H. G. Wells," he added. "She believed in free love. I asked about blood tests, maybe a DNA test … it was still experimental technology back then." Cross let his voice trail off.
After a moment, Jim prompted, "And the tests revealed?"
"She refused to permit any testing. She asked me to leave them alone, to stay away from Blair and out of their lives. Since I was in a dangerous line of work, it seemed best to honor her wishes. If Blair was my son, I didn't want him to become a target." Actually she'd said a lot more than that, but Cross saw no reason to explain to Det. Ellison that Naomi had told him that she hoped he wasn't Blair's father.
"So you just turned your back on him?"
"I did what I could, under the circumstances. I arranged a partial scholarship for him, when he started college a year later." And while he'd never used ISD resources to spy on Blair, or support him, he'd read every monograph Blair had ever published, and followed his career as best he could.
Jim nodded. "Blair told me he'd been really lucky with grants and scholarships to help him pay for grad school. That was you?"
"Not all of them. Some he earned on his own merit." Cross couldn't quite keep a note of pride out of his voice.
Jim thought a moment. It had taken years for Naomi to learn to use the words 'policeman' or 'cop' naturally, instead of saying 'pigs' to him and his co-workers. Not that she'd ever called him a pig to his face, but you could tell she had to stop and think about her phrasing. She would cross the street to spit in a fed's face. What Cross said made sense. She wouldn't want a spy in Blair's life.
"If I hadn't broken my promise, if I hadn't given in to the urge to meet Blair in person, he would never have been shot," he murmured ruefully.
Jim turned just before there was a knock on the kitchen door.
Cassie stood there. "Blair's awake. Dr. Moyo'ema wants him to have some water."
Jim filled a cup at the sink and hurried to his partner's side.
"How long have you been there?" Cross asked.
"Long enough to know that what you were discussing is none of my business." Her blue-gray eyes had glared at Cross in frustration or anger many times, but she'd never looked up at him sympathetically before.
Simon Banks glanced at the clock on the wall and frowned. Even allowing for bad roads, Ellison and Sandburg should've made it up to that cabin over an hour ago. He looked around the squad room. It was nearly empty, except for Rafe and Megan. Everyone else was out fighting crime, a never-ending struggle.
Rafe Taggert was on the phone, trying to nag the lab for faster results. CSI and NCIS and such shows gave the public a skewed view of police investigations; in real life the lab took a lot longer and delivered a lot less.
Megan Connor was at her computer, typing up a report. Or trying to. Simon didn't need Jim's senses to observe the way her eyes kept flicking from the PC to the clock to the phone, or that her fingers were stumbling, making and correcting more mistakes than usual. It was a good thing they didn't actually type anymore, or she would've wasted a lot of paper and ink.
The dark-skinned captain walked over to Megan. He tried to keep his voice casual. "Connor, you heard from that man of yours yet?"
Worried green eyes looked up at him. "No, and he was supposed to give me a 'down and safe' when they got to the cabin."
Rafe put his hand over the receiver. "Blair and Jim are trouble magnets, Simon, and you know it."
"Yeah," Simon muttered under his breath. "Yeah, they are." Without another word, he returned to his office. He shuffled through his files until he found his copy of the security arrangements for Dr. Moyo'ema. He dialed the phone number for the cabin. He heard what sounded like a fast busy signal. He swore; that was the no circuit signal. Then he tried Ellison's cell phone.
"The party you are trying to reach is out of range or unavailable."
He got the same message when he dialed Blair's cell phone, and again when he dialed Quentin Cross'. Simon gently replaced the receiver, resisting the urge to slam it down. He swore quietly. After a deep breath, he picked up the phone again. He flipped through his Rolodex, hunting for the number he needed. Then he dialed the Thurston County Sheriff's Office.
"Deputy Dave Korossy, please." Simon waited a minute to be transferred. "Dave? Simon Banks. Yeah, doing fine. He's fine, too. Darryl's growing like a weed. How are Ruth and the twins? Good, good." He listened for a minute.
"Dave, I need a favor. Two of my people are escorting a VIP up in your territory. "Yes, that's the one. Yes, I know we should've informed you officially in advance, but the feds wanted to keep this low-key. You know what a publicity hound your boss is; he'd have tried to get his picture in the paper with Moyo'ema and call the radio station his brother-in-law owns to announce his security plans to all and sundry."
Simon nodded and listened. "Long and short of it is, my people haven't called in. Their cell phones are in a no-service area, and the phone at the cabin is out of service. Could you divert a chopper, maybe do a quick fly-by to make sure there's no sign of trouble? Or send a car up to check out the cabin? Call it a gesture in the interest of interdepartmental cooperation. Okay, then call it payback for never telling Ruth about the time -- Thanks, Dave. 'Preciate it."
Simon hung up the phone. He sighed, wishing he could do more.
Jim cocked his head, listening. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what?" D. D. asked.
"Helicopter," Jim replied succinctly.
Shane turned to Cassie. "I don't hear anything."
Cassie shrugged. "Maybe he's like Radar on M*A*S*H."
"The cavalry coming?" asked Cross.
"Maybe. Or reinforcements for them, or just an innocent bystander," Jim said.
"Let's take a chance on it being the cavalry," suggested Cross. He fired his pistol out the window.
"Did you hear that?" Deputy Todd Whitecloud asked his partner.
"Gunshot," confirmed Deputy Max McCaskell. "And right where Korossy asked us to look for trouble. Let's take a closer look."
Whitecloud steered the helicopter in the direction of the gunshot. They approached the cabin. Using the loudspeaker, he called out, "This is the Thurston County Sheriff's Office. Is everything all right?"
Suddenly a hailstorm of bullets attacked the chopper.
"Everything is not all right," McCaskell announced, lifting the helicopter to a higher altitude. "Call for back up and let's get out of here."
"While the helicopter distracts bad guys, how about we take the fight to them," Jim suggested. "I could sneak out the back door, try to flank them."
Cross thought a moment. "Risky."
"I was Special Forces in the army." Jim assured him, "I can do this."
Cross nodded his consent. "Take Phillips and McBain as back-up."
"Just one," Jim countermanded. He didn't want to have to try to keep track of two uncertain allies in the woods, not while he was listening and watching for the assassins. Without Blair to help him focus, the ISD agents might distract him.
"Shane, go with him," Cross ordered. "Cassie, stay here and guard."
"Save your ammunition,"Uyoga said. "They're out of range."
Ignoring him,Mjusi took one final shot before reluctantly lowering his weapon.
Jim took a deep breath. The fresh mountain air smelt of pine and wildflowers; it was a distinct improvement from the odor of his partner's blood. Inside, he'd felt helpless sitting next to Blair's sickbed, and confused by Cross' announcement that he was Blair's father. Outside, he could accomplish something. He hated waiting. Going after the bad guys – that was more his style. Jim took another deep breath, his muscles relaxing without his even realizing it.
"What now?" Shane asked quietly, her voice just above a whisper.
Jim kept his face impassive, managing not to frown. He hadn't wanted her for back-up. Feds were nothing but trouble at the best of times, but these feds …. McBain acted like she'd never touched a gun before, and Phillips had been too eager when Cross had handed her his back-up piece. Between the two of them, they reminded him of The Andy Griffith Show, when Sheriff Andy let Barney Fife take the bullet out of his pocket and load his gun. There was something about the three of them that was off, something he just didn't trust. They'd been competent enough about the hotel security, but he had his doubts about how they would handle a combat situation. He didn't want a partner he didn't know and couldn't trust getting them both killed.
"How are you at moving silently in the woods?" Jim demanded.
Shane smiled. As a thief, she had learned to move as silently as a ghost. "I can manage."
"Good. You go that way," the sentinel pointed right, "and I'll go this way. Based on the angle of fire, they're in front of the cabin and to the sides, hidden in the trees. We'll try to flank them."
She nodded and slipped away.
Jim worked his way to the front of the cabin, ducking behind the lilac hedge for cover. He fired one shot in the general direction of the assassins. Almost immediately they fired back. Jim gave an evil grin. Now that he knew where they were, it was easy to aim. Using his superior hearing, he shot at the source of the bullets. He fired four times, then listened again. He heard the labored breathing of a wounded man, and foreign words whose meaning he could not comprehend, but by the tone and context had to be profanity.
Shane fired, and Jim heard more cuss-words in Swahili, or perhaps Luganda.
Jim searched the trees for the glint of metal, for the reflection of the sun on their guns. He listened. And he fired again
When two cars from the Thurston County Sheriff's Office arrived, one assassin was dead. The other three were wounded, bandaged, bound, and gagged.
Cross knocked on the half-open door of the hospital room. "May I come in?"
"Sure." Blair indicated the attractive redhead standing beside his bed. "This is my wife, Megan Connor. Agent Cross."
Megan extended her hand. "You're the chap Sandy was working with on the Moyo'ema case. Pleased to meet you."
Cross raised an eyebrow at the nickname 'Sandy.' As he shook hands with her, he asked, "I hate to impose, but could I borrow your husband for a few minutes?"
"Debriefing, huh?" The Australian woman nodded. "I'll go get a cup of coffee."
"Thank you." He waited until Megan Connor Sandburg shut the door behind herself. "I'm not here for a debriefing. I came to apologize."
"Apologize? For what?"
"It's my fault you were shot," Cross confessed glumly.
"You didn't pull the trigger."
"You wouldn't have been shot if I hadn't requested you and your partner to work on Dr. Moyo'ema's security detail. And in requesting you … I broke a promise to your mother."
"I knew your mother, thirty years ago."
Blair did the math. His face went white.
"I didn't know Naomi had a son until you were 15. When I found out about you, I tracked Naomi down. I asked if we could do a paternity test."
Blair looked up at the spy expectantly.
"She refused permission for testing. She asked me to stay away," said Cross.
"Mom did what?" Blair was flabbergasted.
"She agreed I might be your father. She said she hoped I wasn't. She accused me of selling out to the Establishment."
Blair glanced pointedly at Cross' short hair, his suit and tie. "Did you?"
Cross shook his head. "I joined the ISD for the same reason I protested against 'Nam: I wanted to stop good men from throwing their lives away in useless wars. Somewhere along the way I joined the Establishment, but I didn't sell out."
"You were an anti-Vietnam protester?"
"That's how I met your mother. She was the most vibrant, most alive person I'd ever met. Passionate about the peace moment, the environment, about life in general. Beautiful, intelligent … I'd never met anyone like her before." His brown eyes took on a faraway look.
"You sound like you're still half in love with her," Blair observed.
"She was a difficult woman to forget." Especially for a boy of sixteen, he thought. "It hurt when she told me to stay away from you, to stay out of her life – and yours." He sighed. "But I was a field agent at the time. I didn't want anyone to go after me by hurting you, so I agreed to what she wanted."
Blair nodded. He'd seen that sort of thing too many times, both as a police observer and as a cop.
"If I'd kept my promise, you wouldn't be lying here in a hospital bed."
"I'm a cop. Risks are part of the job." Blair took a deep breath. "So my Dad is James Bond. Cool."
"Hardly James Bond." Cross smiled wryly.
"You said you were a field agent," Blair realized. "Aren't you one any more?"
"Actually, I'm the director of ISD's west coast offices," Cross admitted.
"So you're M rather than Bond. Still cool. You were on this mission personally because Moyo'ema is so important, or –"
"Because of you." Cross relaxed slightly. This was going much better than he had dared to hope. "I might be your father. I hope I am; any man would be proud to claim you as his son. But I don't know. Since you're already being poked and prodded and having blood drawn every ten minutes, would you be interested in a DNA test?"
Blair inhaled sharply. For years he'd wondered who his father was. All his mother had ever said was that there was a long list of candidates, up to and including Timothy Leary. He thought long and hard -- for at least a nanosecond. "Yes."
"Thank you. Your mother knows I work for the government. She doesn't know I'm with ISD. I'd prefer to keep it that way, at least for now."
There was a knock at the door. Megan peeked in. "Is it safe to come back?"
"I'm done here, for now. Thank you for your indulgence, Ms. Connor." He resisted the urge to kiss his daughter-in-law on the cheek. "Thank you again, De- " He corrected himself. "Blair." Turning to Megan, he said, "Take good care of him."
Megan watched as Cross left, then turned to Blair. "What was that all about?"
"You'd better sit down. I've got something to tell you."
Blair hurried when he heard the knock on the door. He opened it, and saw Cross standing there, a large manila envelope in his hand.
"I've got the results," the spymaster announced. Although he'd faced terrorists and heads of state with utter aplomb, he couldn't quite conceal the tinge of nervousness in his voice.
"C'mon in," Blair invited.
"Is it your dad, Sandy?" Megan called from the living room.
"We'll find out in a moment," Blair said, as he ushered Cross into the living room. He waved a hand at the couch in invitation.
Cross eyed Blair, examining him carefully before he sat down. "You're looking better." He turned to the redhead sitting in the chair by the window. "Hello, Megan."
She nodded at him, unsure whether to call him Dad, Mr. Cross, or what.
Cross glanced curiously around the room. It fit Blair and Megan: bookshelves jam-packed with old textbooks, mostly anthropology, but also history, sociology, criminology, and mathematics, next to Tom Clancy and Agatha Christie paperbacks, a new set of Encyclopedia Britannica next to Jane Austen and Isaac Asimov, a battered, obviously much used dictionary beside Emily Dickinson and Eudora Welty, tribal figurines and curios from four different continents, travel posters in brass frames. The furniture was comfortable, but not fancy.
"I should be off desk duty in a few days," Blair acknowledged. "Have you looked at them yet?"
"No, I thought it would be better if we saw them together," confessed Cross.
From the kitchen boomed a deep voice: "A few days? Try a week or two, Chief." Jim Ellison emerged from the kitchen. "Yo, Cross, can I get you a beer?"
"Michelob or Foster's ?"
"Foster's, if you have it."
Blair glanced pointedly at the triptych of Australian posters on the wall: Sydney harbor with the famous opera house presiding over it, Ayers Rock, and Kuranda rain forest in Queensland. "With an Aussie wife? We always have Foster's in the house," he said. He looked down at the envelope. "Do you want to open it, or should I?"
Cross mused wryly that as anxious as they both were, perhaps it would be safer if they waited for Jim to come with the beer and hand it to him, or perhaps give it over to Megan. Taking a deep breath, he passed the envelope to Blair. "You do it."
In the kitchen, as Jim fetched beer from the refrigerator, he could hear the difference in Blair's heart rate as he took the envelope. He listened to the sharp inhalation of his partner's breath as he hunted through the disorganized cupboard for the potato chips. He heard the tear of paper as the envelope opened, and hurried into the living room so he could see the results firsthand.
Blair stared at the paper. Cross looked down at it.
"Well, what's it say?" Megan demanded when the two men said nothing.
Jim frowned as he stepped into the room. He could tell by their reactions what the paper said. Without a word, he set the tray on the coffee table and laid a hand on Blair's shoulder.
"It's negative. He's not my – we're not related," Blair announced.
"I'm sorry," Cross said. He uncrossed his fingers, and hoped no one had noticed the superstitious gesture. Especially since it hadn't worked. He reached out for the beer can and drained half of it in one gulp. "I was hoping …."
"Yeah. Me, too." Blair reached for his own beer, but held it in his hand, unopened. Sighing, he forced a calm expression on his face that he didn't feel. "Well, back to a long list of candidates, up to and including Timothy Leary." Timothy Leary, Abbie Hoffman, Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz …he sighed again, not wanting to contemplate the list of names that no longer included Quentin Cross.
An awkward silence encompassed the four of them, followed by an even more awkward spate of small talk in an attempt to fill the silence.
After a moment, Cross asked, "May I borrow your bathroom?"
"Sure, as long as you put it back," Blair joked half-heartedly.
"Down the hall, first door on the left," Megan directed him.
Cross nodded and left the room. He paused outside the bathroom door. Whispering too quietly for anyone but a sentinel to hear, he said, "Ellison, do me a favor. Don't tell Blair about the scholarships and grants. I don't want him feeling obligated to pay me back."
In the living room, Jim sipped his beer. He nodded his head almost imperceptibly as he reached for a handful of potato chips. He'd keep the secret of Quentin Cross' charity. He just wished he could do something to console his partner at the disappointment of not finding his father … especially this man, who would've been worthy of being Blair's father.