Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers
Dash of Conspiracy, Enemies on All Sides
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
"Oh, and speaking of research..." Blair snapped his fingers. "Jim, I might need to cut out a little early tomorrow so I can do a quick run over to the University Library. I would have gone tonight, but I didn't have my copy card with me."
"The Library? I thought tomorrow was your day off."
Blair shook his head. "No, it's your day off. Me? I gotta do a bit of quick research for this lecture series I'm taking. Man, this dream interpretation stuff is pretty wild sometimes. Pretty cool too."
Simon raised an eyebrow. "Dream interpretation? Is that what you're taking this semester? I always thought weird dreams were caused by too much food or too much of you two."
Jim chuckled. "Oh, you're too kind, sir. Really."
Ignoring both of them, Blair rolled on, waving both hands in the air, words spilling out of his mouth. "No, no, really. Dreams are representative of our conscious lives, just put into symbolic form. Sometimes dreams are things that we can't face when we're awake or maybe it's something we're struggling to come to terms with. Or sometimes they're what we want to happen in the future. But whatever they are, they're important. And Jim's dreams...! Oh, man, don't even get me started on those."
Simon rolled his eyes. "Sandburg, let me tell you about one of my dreams. I dream that one day I'll come into my office and you'll be here, sitting in an actual chair, ready and attentive to do whatever I want you to do, which may include actually staying in the truck when Jim tells you to. And you will tell me how much you enjoy following my orders." He pointed a finger at Blair. "And...and you will call me 'sir' or 'Captain' at all times."
Feet swinging beneath him where he sat on the table, Blair stared at Simon for a long moment, nodding seriously, then raised one hand to tap a finger against his lips. "Well, you know what, Simon? That sounds like a classic wish fulfillment dream. Maybe a little fixation on the impossible too. You know, you can get help for those kinds of things."
Laughter bubbling up in spite of himself, Simon chuckled and grabbed a wad of paper from his desk, throwing it at Blair, who ducked and broke out into laughter himself. "'I can get help.'" He looked at Jim who was chuckling as well. "Don't the two of you have somewhere to be? I know I do. Come on, let's get out of here." Simon stretched past Jim to get his coat from the table, draping it over his arm again as he straightened.
A soft knock sounded on the half-open door and Simon restrained a long-suffering sigh, answering only with a "Come."
Megan pushed the door open a little further and stepped just inside. "Sorry, Captain."
"Conner, didn't I tell you to go home already?"
She inclined her head. "Yes, sir, you did. However, I found a couple lost souls looking for Jim and Sandy."
Blair slid off the table and moved around to look out the door as Megan walked further inside to let her companions in. "Who...?" A moment later, Blair started to laugh as he caught sight of the two people behind Megan. "Oh, man. Mack! Holli! What are you doing here?"
Jim shoved away from the table and stepped around to join Blair, a smile spreading across his face, lighting up his tired eyes. "Hey, you two. What brings you up our way?"
Handshakes and greetings went around, then Holli explained why they were in town. "I'm speaking at a series of medical and science lectures starting tomorrow evening. We ran across a DNA poison a while back and the organizers wanted to hear about it."
Blair made a face. "DNA poison. Ew. Sounds nasty."
Holli's lips firmed a little as she replied. "It was."
Mack only nodded absently in agreement as his eyes drifted away from the group to take in the office and its decor of angel and jazz player figurines. He squinted slightly to get a better look at a smaller picture sitting on the shelf next to a small radio. "Is that...what is that?" He pointed to the picture. "Some kind of bird?"
Turning to follow Mack's direction, Blair saw that he was referring to a picture of a rather ferocious-looking bluebird. He started to chuckle. "That is the infamous Mad Bluebird picture. I got it for Simon a little bit ago. Thought he might find some common--"
Simon cleared his throat noisily, interrupting Blair's explanation.
"--some humor. I thought he'd find some humor in it." He grinned at Simon, bouncing once on his toes. Mack chuckled under his breath at the glare Simon sent the ever-nonrepentant police observer's way. Jim only sighed and shook his head, then shrugged in a 'what am I supposed to do' way as the captain's glare turned his direction.
Finally letting go of a soft chuckle, Simon leaned back on the front of his desk and asked Mack, "And why are you here, Detective Wolfe?"
"Hmm? Oh." Grinning, Mack slung an arm over Holli's shoulders. "I'm keeping the good doctor out of trouble."
The "good doctor" rolled her eyes and shoved Mack's arm off. "Mack..." Mack just gave her an innocent look, ignoring the suppressed chuckles around them. Sighing, Holli continued with her explanation. "Mack, for some reason beyond my comprehension, decided to take his vacation time right now and come with me. He said something about making a 'nice tourist trip' of it. Personally...well, personally I think he came to see what the surfing is like in the northwest."
Jim perked up. "You brought your board?"
Mack nodded. "Of course. Why? You up for another challenge?"
Blair and Simon both laughed, glancing over at Megan. Blair spoke up between chuckles. "It's like this, Mack. We've been having this uncommon warm streak lately and since Jim's got tomorrow off, he plans to surf for awhile...well, knowing him, probably most of the day. And actually, he's already got a challenge or contest or whatever going -- with Megan."
Mouth hanging open, Mack looked back and forth between Jim and Megan, then directed most of his attention at Megan. "You challenged him? And he accepted? Has he, uh, has he ever seen you surf?"
Megan shook her head, smiling sweetly. "No, he hasn't. Not yet. But he was sounding just a bit too smug, so I figured a challenge was in order. Why? Do you want to join us?"
Hesitating, Mack looked at Blair and Jim, who looked at each then shrugged, saying together, "Sure, why not."
Mack raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Holli who laughed and nodded. "I'm in. I could do for a relaxing day at the beach before the lecture series gets started."
Smiling, Mack turned back to Megan. "You're on, Megs."
Jim raised an eyebrow, repeating the pet name. "Megs?" He looked at Simon, both of them saying the name -- "Megs?"
Simon frowned. "Do you two know each other?"
Mack and Megan both nodded. Mack said, "We met back in Hawaii years ago. Sheer chance. She was taking a class that I...well, I attended it, I guess you could say."
Megan laughed. "Attended. That's one way of putting it." She looked over at Simon. "I was in Hawaii for awhile and decided to take a few classes at a local community college. Deciding to expand my horizons a bit, I took an art class, sculpturing to be precise. I didn't last long, but I lasted long enough to meet Mack when he came in to model for the class one evening."
Holli's mouth dropped open. "Mack! You modeled? For an art class? Don't they usually want you," she looked around, then finished, "au natural?" A moment passed, then she held up a hand. "No, no, let me guess -- you needed the money."
Mack shrugged, a grin pulling at his lips even as his cheeks started to pink slightly. "It was good pay, Doc, what can I say?"
"Oh, Mack." Holli covered her eyes with one hand. Blair laughed softly and patted Holli on the shoulder while Jim and Simon looked at each other, then at Mack in some disbelief
Still chuckling, Megan added, "I think Mack expected the class to be mostly young women. I can still see his surprised face when he walked in to see half of the class were older women who took more interest in ogling him than the young women did." She shook her head. "Anyway, I think a week or so later, we bumped into each other at the market or something, got to talking, and the rest is or was history."
Sighing dramatically, Mack gazed at Megan. "Yeah. History. A month later, she moved back to Australia and we never saw each other again. A few letters here and there, but that was about it. Spurned. Abandoned." He turned to Holli. "Hold me."
Laughing, Holli hit Mack on the arm, making him give in to his laughter as well. "Oh, stop it. You're like some overwrought, lovelorn Romeo or something."
Blair looked between Jim and Megan, then asked the latter, "So, Megan, why didn't you, uh, say something when you met Jim about knowing his double in Hawaii?"
Megan shrugged. "I hadn't seen Mack in a long time and actually at first the resemblance didn't really occur to me." She looked over at Mack, smiling a little. "Last I remember, Mack had this fuzzy mustache and a bit more hair. And really loud Hawaiian shirts." She shifted her eyes back to Jim. "By the time I realized just why Jim looked vaguely familiar, I knew for a fact he wasn't Mack Wolfe and just decided to leave things as they were. I never thought the two of them had ever bumped into each other. Just how did that happen anyway?"
"Oh, well, now that's a story to be heard. You see--" Blair began, but then stopped as Simon interrupted.
"A story which can surely be told elsewhere. C'mon, guys, Daryl's coming over tonight for a visit. I gotta get home. Out. Out."
Jim nodded and gave Blair a gentle push towards the door. "Very good, sir."
As a group, they herded out of Simon's office and strolled through the bullpen towards the elevators, ignoring some of the double takes as the night shift officers in the bullpen got a look at Jim and then Mack. As they waited by the elevators for the car to arrive, Blair perked up a bit and turned to Jim.
"Oh, Jim, in all this excitement I forgot to ask. How'd the case go today? Any new leads?"
Jim held up a hand. "Nope. No case stuff. We're on vacation until the day after tomorrow. Conner and I already agreed. No discussion and no twenty questions. No nothing."
"Not even a yes or no...?" He drifted off at Jim's waving hand. "All right, all right. No discussion and no questions."
The elevator doors opened and the rest of the group loaded inside. Simon's low chuckle echoed in the car as he pushed the lobby button for Mack and Holli and the garage button for the rest of them. Jim tugged on a hank of Blair's hair and leaned towards him to say, "Just remember that goes for all sorts of 'twenty questions', okay, Chief?" Jim entered the car and leaned against a wall; Blair followed him in a moment later, turning to face the doors of the car.
As the doors closed, to let Jim know he understood the reference to sentinel testing, Blair muttered just for his partner's ears, "Yeah, yeah. I got it. Like you're gonna come out of the water anytime tomorrow anyway..."
"We have a problem."
The chair base creaked as the man stiffened and leaned forward, bending his head as he spoke in clipped tones into the phone receiver. "Tell me."
"Our new distributor...he had a few visitors."
"The police." A pause. "Was one of these visitors Ellison?"
"Yes. Ellison and Conner, that Australian inspector."
"Did he tell them anything?"
"Uncertain. They were asking about the girl."
The man moved a hand forward into the small circle of light cast by the desk lamp, shifting a pencil holder on his desk two inches to the right. A gold ring flashed on one finger. "There can be no uncertainties. Find out what he knows. And what he told them."
Sliding his hand to one side of the lamp, the man touched one of five small silver balls that hung suspended on a wood frame. He pulled it back, then released it, watching as it struck the nearest one, sending the vibrations through the next four, causing the one on the opposite end to bounce outward. "I leave it up to your judgment as to whether he can be trusted to continue. If not, you know what to do."
The line disconnected with a soft click. Reaching forward, the man hung up the phone gently, then leaned back in the wide-winged chair, steepling his fingers in front of him, watching the silver balls tap against each other in the half-shadows of the desktop.
The first early morning light filtered into the quiet loft apartment through the tall balcony windows. Tendrils of yellow warmth drifted across the couches and floors and walls in lingering touches on the belongings of the loft's occupants. As it glittered off the glass doors to the downstairs bedroom, a quiet, almost silent beeping went off, disappearing after a brief moment. A groan, a few mutters, the soft sounds of bedcovers being pushed aside, then the quiet shuffle of feet as a rumpled-looking man wandered out of his room, eyes still half-closed, hand raised to cover a yawn. He paused a moment in the hallway and squinted, listening, ignoring the beams dancing around his ankles. Then he shrugged and continued on into the bathroom, closing the door with a careful snick.
Soft yellow light crept up the walls to skitter across the floor of the upstairs bedroom, touching the other occupant of the apartment. The second man was still asleep, not hearing his roommate below as he turned on the water for a quick shower. As the tendrils stretched across the plump comforter, warming it gently, the man twitched a little, his forehead creasing. The light wavered, then paused...then slowly began to fade. Lost in his dreams, the man didn't notice.
.... running .... running .... flashes of jungle green .... trees .... vines .... hard dirt under his feet .... he is searching for something .... for what? .... bright sunlight shines down on him through the breaks in the overhanging trees .... a sound .... he stops .... listens .... darkness begins to gather ....
The man frowned, rolling in his sleep towards the fading light, following it as it slithered off the edge of the bed.
.... he looks up, seeing the sun being covered by gray clouds .... again, the sound .... a cry .... a plea for help .... he runs .... tree branches with tiny yellow flowers grasp at him, holding him back .... growling, he swats them aside, striking at them with his knife ....
His head rolled on the pillow and a hiss of displeasure forced itself out between clenched teeth.
.... he runs .... thorns and petals embed themselves in his clothes .... running .... running .... the cry again .... cut off in mid-plea .... running .... running .... bursting out into the open .... a large picturesque lake in front of him .... unable to stop .... tumbling forward .... falling ....
Hands knotted, clenching tightly. Below him, the shower turned off and the echo of water pelting the surface of the enclosure ceased.
.... holding his breath for the plunge .... closing his eyes .... landing hard on a flat, glassy surface .... breath rushing out in surprise .... opening his eyes to see heavy fogged glass between him and the lake water .... he rubs a hand on the surface, wiping away the haze .... something appears right below him .... something no longer living .... a face .... a face he knows ....
Eyes opening in instant wakefulness, Jim jerked upright in bed, swinging outward with his hand, aiming for the unreal glass. His cry of denial echoed around him.
A moment later, unbalanced by his abrupt action, Jim teetered on the edge of the large bed, then toppled over and thumped onto the floor. He mostly caught himself with one hand, but still managed to land on his hip with a loud thud.
Below, he heard the bathroom door being yanked open and feet jogging across the ground floor towards the stairs to his room. The concerned voice of his roommate floated up to him. "Jim? Are you all right? What happened? Jim?"
"I..." Swallowing and trying not to sound out-of-breath, Jim gathered up a few remnants of sanity and called back as he used the bedside table to stand. "Yeah. Yeah. I'm okay. I just... I'm fine." As he rose to his feet, he caught sight of Blair at the bottom of the staircase, a hastily-tucked towel around his waist, hair still dripping from the shower, a few strands clinging to his face. Jim swallowed again, feeling a shiver work its way up his spine. He repeated, "I'm fine."
Blair frowned. "You don't look 'fine' to me. Are you sure--?"
Jim held up a hand and turned away, stepping back from the staircase and out of sight of his roommate. His voice sharpened, some of his inner tension coming out in his curt reply. "I'm fine, Sandburg. Go finish whatever you need to. And hurry it up. I want to get a shower as well." He heard Blair hesitate, then walk silently back to the bathroom. Jim sank down at the end of the bed, resting his head in his hands. His eyes stayed open, willing the too-vivid images from the dream to dissipate before he had to blink.
A shudder tore through him. He almost lost his friend once to water when David Lash had taken him, though he'd gotten there in time to stop him. Water had appeared again when Alex Barnes had crashed into their lives. That time he hadn't been as quick. But he had brought Blair back, somehow, though he didn't quite understand just how it worked. And really he didn't care. His friend was still alive and, more importantly, still willing to be his friend.
Scrubbing his hands over his face, he forced the last bit of tiredness away and stood, relieved to find his legs solid beneath him, even with the dream-laden adrenaline coursing through his system. He took his robe from the hook on the side of the tall shelving standing against the wall at the foot of his bed. Sliding his arms into the soft gray cloth, Jim took another deep breath, willing his mind to think of more pleasant things. Today was a day to rest and relax and get a little fun in during the midst of the drug case. And he was determined to keep it that way.
Holding two beach towels and a bottle of sunscreen on his lap, Blair watched the scenery go by as they drove towards Cascade Beach. The radio played softly, filling the silence in the truck cab since neither man was saying anything. Blair mentally shook his head, remembering how Jim had rushed to get everything loaded and the two of them out the door -- even though they had plenty of time and were nowhere near running late. But Blair knew it was because Jim didn't want to talk about whatever had woken him that morning -- another dream, a bad one, Blair assumed -- and figured if they kept moving, Blair wouldn't ask.
So he hadn't asked. He wanted to. He had a feeling he needed to. But he didn't. Jim would talk to him sooner or later. Hopefully sooner.
The truck came to a stop and Jim turned off the engine. With a start, Blair looked around, realizing that they'd arrived and Jim had already parked. Juggling the towels and bottle, he reached for the door to open it. A hand touched his arm, stopping him.
"Blair..." Jim began. He stopped and sighed. Then started up again. "I don't...I didn't mean to...can I just hit restart or something?" A weak laugh followed his last comment.
Smiling a little, Blair shifted to sit sideways in his seat, facing Jim. "I think we could all use one of those buttons." He looked down, picking at a thread on the towels. "I know something's bugging you, Jim. I'm fairly sure you're having some pretty intense dreams. I just wish you'd talk to me. I'm your friend. That's--"
"That's what friends do," Jim interrupted quietly and finished for him. "I know. I remember. I do, really." He rubbed a hand over his face, then looked out of the windshield towards the ocean surf. "I am having dreams. Bad ones. They're...disconnected mostly. Strange. I didn't...don't want to think about them."
Blair shifted again, lifting a hand to gesture with as he talked. "But if you don't think about them, talk about them, how will you understand them, get by them? You've listened to me tell you about more than one of my rather intense, sometimes really bad, sometimes really wild, dreams."
Jim returned his gaze to Blair, the memory of those dreams and who and what they were about flickering in his eyes. "I know. And I will tell you about mine. Just...not today. Okay? Maybe tonight. Today is supposed to be relaxing. No case, no tests, no thinking about anything more than surfing and 'beach sun'." He smiled at Blair, holding out a hand. "Deal, Chief?"
Pursing his lips in thought, Blair just looked at him a moment, then reached out and clasped Jim's hand in his, shaking it. "Deal." Still gripping Jim's hand, he yanked the larger man towards him and shook a finger in Jim's face. "Tonight we talk. About whatever you can remember. Including the one from this morning. No evading, no fudging, no running." Concern, friendship, and the need to help all lurked in Blair's eyes.
Chuckling in gentle amusement and in relief that they were okay, Jim raised his other hand in defense. "Whoa, easy there, Tiger. I'll be good. No need to bring out the big guns."
"Yeah, right." Blair released Jim and backed away to resituate the towels and sunscreen bottle. "And how many times have you said that?"
Jim opened his mouth to answer but was interrupted by a loud knock on the window behind him. Blair peered over the detective's shoulder, then grinned and waved his free hand. Shifting in his seat, Jim found Megan watching them. Dressed in a black Bodyglove body suit, a towel over one shoulder, bright yellow surfboard propped up next to her, hair pulled back into a ponytail, she appeared ready to take on all the surfers on the beach. She smiled at him, waving her hand back at the two of them, and raised her voice to be heard through the closed truck window. "You two done now?"
Jim sighed, then threw a half-hearted glare at Blair who started to chortle behind him. Head bent down as he searched for his missing sandal under the seat, he missed the glare and kept laughing. Jim turned back to look at Megan. "In a minute, Conner." When he looked at Blair again, his partner was sitting up and smoothing back his loose hair before pulling it into a ponytail. Jim watched a moment, then said in a hesitant voice, "I know I said I didn't want to talk about the dreams, but..."
Blair paused, then took the band from between his teeth to put it around the ponytail. "But what?"
The detective chewed on his lip a moment, then blurted out, "Could you just stay out of the water?"
"Stay out..." He blinked, then dropped his hands to his lap. "Some part of your dream this morning was about me being in the water and not because I was swimming..."
"Yeah." Jim sucked in a deep breath. "I guess it...got to me...a little."
Blair snorted to himself, shaking his head. "A little, he says. The man falls out of bed and he says 'a little'." He looked back at Jim, his lips pulling up into a small smile, prompting Jim to smile as well. "Yeah, I'll stay out of the water." Sandals on, hair back, towels and sunscreen in one arm, he opened the door and hopped out, then leaned back in. "Not that I was planning to get wet anyway. What do I look like? A masochist?" He shivered dramatically and shut the door.
Jim chuckled as Blair went on, ranting about the cold water and just how dumb did Jim think he was. He closed his eyes and breathed in and out once, a good long relaxing breath. Tapping on his window got his attention and he opened his eyes to see Blair looking at him expectantly. His partner pointed towards the water, saying, "The beach is out there, man. And you'd better get a move on before Megan here declares herself winner by forfeit."
"That," Jim hurriedly got out of the truck, "is not going to happen." Standing next to Blair just outside the truck, Megan laughed at Jim's abrupt exit. Ignoring Megan's frank appraisal of his own Bodyglove-outfitted person, he set about unstrapping his surfboard from the truck bed. Behind him he heard Megan's voice as she whispered -- loudly -- to Blair.
"If I'd known Jimbo would look like that in one of those suits, I would have suggested surfing a long time ago. He has quite the...physique."
Blair laughed and laughed harder when Jim glared at him over one shoulder. "Sorry, man, but just be glad Cassie isn't here. We'd have to throw her in the water to cool her off!"
Jim shook his head and concentrated on lifting the board out of the truck. "Thank goodness for small favors."
Megan raised an eyebrow. "Cassie has a thing for Jim?"
"Cassie...Cassie, well, I think she sees Jim as the epitome of manhood or something. For awhile there, I think it wasn't the cases so much that she wanted involvement with." He paused a beat, then grinned. "I think she just liked following Jim around. The, uh, view and all, you know."
Turning around and setting the white surfboard down next to him, Jim said loudly, "If you two are done gossiping...."
"Gossip?" Blair and Megan spoke in unison as they exchanged looks. "Us?"
Jim sighed and waved a hand in the air. "Never mind. Are you ready for this, Conner?"
Her laughing smile changed, turning secretive. "Are you, Ellison?"
"Yep. Hope you're not a sore loser."
Blair just watched, eyes darting between them, mouth hanging partially open in a wide smile. Then he stopped and looked around. "Hey, wait, where're Mack and Holli? Aren't they supposed to be here?"
Just as Jim opened his mouth to respond, a red Ford Explorer drove into the lot and parked one spot over from them. Mack nearly leapt from the passenger side, taking a huge breath as soon as his feet hit the pavement. "Ahhh...yeah. Smell that fresh air, Doc? Glorious. Just glorious."
Holli exited from the driver's side a few moments later. "Yes, Mack. You've been saying that the whole way here, especially since you had your head out the window most of the trip."
Mack just shrugged and jogged to the back of the car, opening it and pulling out a bright purple surfboard. "Why do you think I have a convertible, Doc? Certainly not for my checkbook's health."
Smiling in fond bemusement, Holli walked around the car to join Jim, Blair, and Megan. While Mack also wore a Bodyglove suit, Holli wore a one-piece cream-colored bathing suit with a white mesh coverall and a big floppy hat as well as sandals. A canvas bag hung on one arm with towels peeking out the top. "Sorry we were a bit late. Mack slept through his alarm. I nearly broke down the door of his room banging on it."
Mack joined them, his surfboard held under one arm. "It wasn't that bad. And besides, they're early." He set down the board and clapped his hands once, rubbing them together in anticipation. "So, are we ready?" He looked around. "Your captain isn't here?"
Blair answered that one. "Simon took the day off too, but he's spending it with his son. We invited him once before, and, uh, well, once he stopped laughing, he politely declined."
Jim spoke up. "He did threaten to stop by, however. Something about seeing me get beaten by Conner." He directed a look at Megan who just smiled serenely at him. "All right, Conner, spill it. Just how good are you?"
Her smile grew wider. "Well, let's just say that croc-spotting wasn't the only thing I did growing up. Coming, boys?" With that, she picked up her board and headed down the walkway to the beach. Holli chuckled at Jim whose mouth hung open, then she hurried off to catch up with Megan.
Mack slapped Jim on the shoulder. "Come on, Ellison. It won't be that bad. I mean, at least she didn't make it past the quarter finals." He picked up his board and started to follow the ladies.
"The what?!" Jim exchanged a look with Blair who just shrugged and grinned. "You knew, didn't you?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Not waiting for an answer, he tucked his board under one arm and headed off after Mack.
Blair hurried to catch up. "You never asked!"
Blair stood next to the three surfers as they made adjustments to their suits and exchanged various friendly insults about who was going to win. Well, Blair noted, at least Jim and Megan were trading insults; Mack just watched and laughed.
Mack turned to Blair and asked, "Are they always like this?"
"Yeah. Pretty much. Part of that 'I'm the top cop' mentality, I think." Laughing, Blair danced away from an arm belonging to his partner that was swung in his direction.
Chuckling and shaking his head, Mack shifted to lean into his surfboard, interrupting the sparring. "So, just what does the winner of this all-important battle get anyway?"
Jim ran a hand down his board, wiping away a few stray sand grains. "Dinner."
"A homemade dinner," Megan clarified.
Blair added, "They tried to do something with the loser taking the winner's night shift, but I vetoed that. No way I'm going down with Jim when...I mean, if...if he loses."
Jim narrowed his eyes at Blair. "Just how long have you known that Conner had been in pro surfing contests, Sandburg?"
"Uh..." He looked at Megan, then back at Jim. "Well, we went out to lunch one day while you were in court, just before the, uh, case I've been forbidden to mention started. We got to talking and surfing came up. She told me about how she surfed at Bondi Beach, Gold Coast, a few other places, you know. If I'd known you were gonna get all smug and accept her challenge without being a good detective and getting all the information first, well, maybe I would've told you." Blair stepped over to Jim and slapped him on the back, his hand making a smacking noise as it contacted with the rubber. "Just think of this as a test of character, Jim. Win or lose, you'll be a better man for it." His lips twitched in an effort not to grin.
The detective stared at his partner for a moment, then released his surfboard where it was dug into the sand near the water. He grabbed his shorter friend and ran one hand along his side, fingers dancing along his ribcage. Blair yelped and pulled away, laughter ringing in the air.
Chuckling softly, Jim let him go, then turned to Mack. "Did I ever thank you for teaching me how to tune a ukulele? Those lessons have become quite...useful."
Blair spluttered and hit Mack's arm. "Do you know what he does to me? Do you know what he sings?" He shuddered, glancing over at a bemused and curious Megan. "Trust me, Megan, you don't want to know."
Megan smiled, then lifted her board. "Well, then, before the man starts to sing, I declare this contest as officially begun." She turned to Jim, winking. "And Jimbo, I hear you make excellent red sauce. I'll be looking forward to sampling it." With that and another smile, she dashed into the water, heading into the waves.
Jim and Mack exchanged looks, then Mack followed in after her. Jim paused a moment, pointing a finger at Blair. Blair raised his hands. "I'll be fine. And I'll stay out of the water." He slapped Jim on the back again. "Go get her, Jim." A tug on Blair's ponytail, a rather competitive grin, and he was off, chasing Megan and Mack through the waves.
Blair watched a moment longer, then turned and jogged back up the sand to where they'd left Holli. He plopped down next to her where the doctor sat on a beach towel, leaning against a pile of sand that was covered with another towel. Blair stretched out his legs, sighing out happily as the sun began to warm him up. Dressed in dark green shorts and a blue Mr. Zog's Sex Wax T-shirt Jim had gotten him a couple years back as a joke gift, he felt infinitely relaxed. Toeing off his sandals, he dug his bare feet into the sand at the end of the towel. He lifted his head, eyes closed, to the sky. "This is the life."
Next to him, face mostly shadowed by the large-brimmed white hat, Holli chuckled. "I take it warm days like this are rare?"
"Oh, yeah. We get a handful each year. Other than that, rain and haze are the order of the day." He gestured broadly, taking in the sun, the water, the surfers in the waves, and the other morning beach visitors beginning to appear, kids in tow. "When it's really nice like this, man, the beaches around here just get crowded. I mean, there're always people out here -- surfers, cyclists, guys with metal detectors, joggers, all sorts. But when it gets sunny like this? You'd think no one's left running the city! And speaking of sun..." He twisted to the side and dug under Jim's towel, folded next to him, and pulled out the bottle of sunscreen. Flipping open the cap, he squirted some into his hand and started rubbing it into his arms.
Holli lifted a hand to tilt her hat up to look at him. "So, Blair, besides refereeing surfing contests, what else have you been up to since Hawaii?"
Blair chuckled as he got another palmful of sunscreen for his legs. "I'm still partnered with Jim, chasing down those bad guys. Though with Megan here, it's more of a three-way partnership at times. Makes life kinda interesting."
"I imagine it does. It doesn't seem like they get along very well." She shifted to one side, leaning on her arm.
He shrugged and closed the sunscreen, putting it back under Jim's towel. "I think they just like to bicker. They're friends, more or less. They respect each other. They work well together, even if they did protest against it for awhile. And when I'm at the University for classes, I don't have to worry about Jim not having backup with him. Better for all of us."
"Hmm." Silence fell between them for a bit as they communed with the sun. Then Holli spoke up again. "Oh, I almost forgot. Nui sends her greetings. She sent something with me to give to you, but it's back at my hotel. I'll have to drop it by the station. Seems you to have been keeping in touch via email."
A soft smile painted itself across Blair's face. "Yeah. We're burning up the email lines." He looked over at her. "Is it a book? She mentioned a book she was gonna try to send me."
"Yes, it's a book all right. Something about dreaming and Hawaiian symbolism. She said you've become interested in dreams lately."
Blair folded his legs underneath him and turned to face Holli, both hands gesturing in the air as he talked. "Oh, yeah, have I ever! I'm taking this lecture series at the University. It's just wild! Some really great stuff. Nui told me about this book that's out-of-print and has a lot of the older Hawaiian mythology of dreams. I wanted to get a copy of my own, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere. So she said she'd find a way to get hers to me."
Holli chuckled softly at his enthusiasm. "Dreams, huh. I've had my share of some really crazy ones."
"Well, in this lecture series, we're just getting into the good stuff of interpreting and, let me tell you...."
Megan let the wave carry her to the shore, waiting until just before the bottom of the board starting scraping along the sand to slide off and stand. She hefted her board up and propped it in the sand for a moment, using her free hand to wipe water off her face and slicking back the loose strands of hair from her eyes. She turned to look out at the waves where Jim and Mack still competed with each other. Grinning, she shook her head, picked up her board, and strode through the sand towards the spot they had staked out a few hours earlier before the competition had begun. When she got there, she found Holli by herself, face shaded by her hat as she read a book. Coming to a stop next to Holli, Megan dug the board in the sand. Holli looked up at her, squinting into the sun.
Megan chuckled. "Jim conceded the contest. He and Mack are currently trying to 'out macho' each other."
Holli laughed. "Boys will be boys." She picked up Megan's towel and tossed it to her.
"Thanks." Megan patted away the residual water droplets from her face. "Where's Sandy?"
"Sandy? Oh, Blair. He's around somewhere."
Happy giggling was the only warning they got as a herd of children stampeded by, calling to each other as they raised down to the water's edge. A moment later, Blair's voice called after them. "Give me a minute, guys." He stopped next to Megan and Holli, eyes bright and carefree. "Hey, Megan. You win?"
"Of course. Was there any doubt?"
"None." His grin got larger. "Glad I've already stocked up on the ingredients for that red sauce."
Megan chuckled. "Who're all those kids?"
He glanced behind him, then laughed. "I met up with a friend. She's here with family and they have this passal of kids who all want to make sand castles. None of the adults know how, so I volunteered to help the kids."
Shaking her head in amusement, Megan reached for the zipper on her Bodyglove. "Can you help me out of this thing, Sandy?"
Blair blinked and paused. "Uh..."
"I've got a bathing suit on underneath it."
"Oh." Blair laughed nervously. "I knew that."
Between the two of them, plus some occasional assistance from Holli, they got the Bodyglove suit off. Blair blinked again as the one-piece, sporty maroon suit Megan wore beneath it came into view. Oblivious to the attention, Megan dropped the bodysuit to the ground and ran the towel over her arms. "Tell me, Sandy, have you ever tried surfing?"
"Huh?" He mentally shook his head. "What? Sorry. Got distracted. What was the question?"
Holli hid a smile, coughing into her hand. Megan raised an eyebrow and looked at Blair, repeating her question. "Have you tried surfing?"
"Um...no, not really. Well, once. When Jim and I were in Hawaii, he and Mack tried teaching me. It didn't, uh, really take."
Megan queried. "Didn't take?"
He looked at Holli briefly, then returned his gaze to Megan as he clarified. "Well, finding a dead body in the water wasn't the best way to start off learning to surf. And frankly, between that and, uh, well, Alex, let's just say that at the moment, I'm not too fond of any water I might end up underneath for any amount of time."
A little girl, black skin gleaming in the sun, appeared at Blair's side and tugged at his hand. "Come on, Blair. We've got a good spot. You have to come now."
Blair chuckled. "Okay, okay, Nikki, I'm coming." He looked back at Megan and Holli. "I'll see you two later." Nikki tugged at him again, pulling him off-balance as she started back towards the group of kids, still holding onto his hand. "Hold up, Nikki, I'm coming..."
The two women watched him walk to the water's edge and kneel down on the sand, beginning to show the gathered kids what to do. Megan sat down on the towel next to Holli. "He found a dead body in the water?"
Holli nodded. "Yeah. It wasn't pretty." She paused, then asked, "Who's Alex?"
"Alex..." Megan inhaled deeply, then breathed out in a rush. "Alex...is a long story."
Continued in Part Three...