Blair wasn't armed either, but Blair had done this before. He'd be fine. Jim would be fine. Montana unhooked the whip from his back pack. Where were those other cops?

Something was happening. He could feel it. He uncoiled the whip. A man ran out of the building, and past him. And right in range. He didn't think. He lashed out, and caught the man, pinning his arms to his waist. And at that moment, he heard the sirens.

Seconds later, the patrol cars pulled next to him and Banks climbed out - just as Jim rushed out the building.

"This him, tiger?"

"You did this?" Jim looked at him. "You'll have to teach me that. Yeah, that's him. Simon, Blair's in there alone. Is there someone from rape services?"

"On her way. Blair's with the victim now?" Simon looked equal parts concerned and resigned. Jim, his face grim, nodded.

"What's wrong? Is Blair in trouble?" Montana retrieved his whip from the uniformed officer who had cuffed the runner.

There was something happening, but he didn't know if it were good or bad. The captain and Jim were clearly worried about something.

"He's...I'll take you up there, Montana. You'll see."

"Jim..."

"Yeah, Simon?"

"Just...if you need me tonight, I'll be home."

Montana looked at both men in confusion. What the hell was going on?

Jim led him up two flights of stairs to a dingy apartment off a filthy hallway. He gestured to the open door.

Montana looked, and found he couldn't move.

Blair was sitting on the dusty floor, holding on to a middle-aged black woman, who was gently sobbing on his shoulder as he stroked her back. Her sweater was torn and her skirt was pushed high enough on her hips that Montana could see where her stockings and underwear had been ripped. He tried to look away, to give her some dignity.

When he did, when he concentrated on Blair's face, he saw something else, or thought he did. Something...moved between his lover and the woman, and as it did, Blair became paler and the woman's sobs became softer and her breathing became steadier.

It was painful to watch but he could not tear his eyes away from the scene. It was as if he'd been given leave to watch something sacred instead of a rumpled man holding a damaged woman on the floor of an empty apartment.

"Yeah, I know, babe." Jim spoke in a whisper, as if he, too, were conscious of some form of holiness.

"What's...what's he doing?"

"Helping. Hurting. Two sides of one coin." There was love and pride and worry in Jim's voice.

Blair murmured something to the woman. She nodded and allowed him to help her to stand, and then let him support her out of the apartment. She shied away from the larger men as they passed them, but Blair soon calmed her again.

They stood silently as the two of them made their way to the staircase.

"What's going on? Jim, something happened. I *felt* it."

He shook his head. "It's something he does, that he needs to do. And he'll pay for it later."

"How?"

"You'll see, babe. I can't describe it now."

Hand-in-hand, they followed Blair and the woman to the waiting patrol cars. A woman from rape services was there, but the victim would not let Blair go. To Montana's surprise, the rape specialist didn't argue at all. Blair himself looked fine...until he took a look at his eyes.

"Jim, what's wrong? If Sarah's eyes were that bright, I'd be taking her temperature."

"He's not feverish. It's...something else." He blinked. "Come with me to the station and help me put this piece of crap away."

Montana shook his head at the change of subject but allowed Jim to take him back to the truck as Blair drove away in the back seat of the rape counselor's car, still holding the victim.

"Will he be all right with them?" Montana watched the small blue Ford drive off into the distance towards Cascade General.

"It doesn't matter." Jim's knuckles on the steering wheel of the truck were pure white. He was angry at something.

"Babe? What's going on?"

"We have to get this guy processed ASAP so we can get Sandburg." Montana couldn't get another word out of him for the rest of the trip.

********

"I've got him fingerprinted, Jim." The big guy - Taggert - put a sheaf of papers on the desk as he hurried to do yet another piece of processing the perp. "Megan's running them now. Why don't you take him to interrogation?" Jim nodded. Montana, who had finished giving his statement - to the rather nattily dressed "Rafe" - watched as the Major Crimes division of Cascade Police Department worked to get Norris Bertram behind bars as soon as humanly possible without skipping any essential step along the way.

"I'll just get this statement to Captain Banks." Rafe stood up, and squeezed Jim's shoulder as he passed by. He wasn't the only one to do something like that, and he wore the same expression of concern as the rest.

"Babe, do you need me?"

"I'll be done with this guy soon." Jim, his lips pressed together in a thin line, disappeared down the corridor with Bertram.

Someone brought Montana a cup of surprisingly good coffee. When he looked up, it was Captain Banks.

"What's going on?" He cradled the cup, which bore the Cascade PD shield, in his hands. Montana welcomed the heat. He'd been feeling oddly cold.

"What do you mean?"

"Why is everyone so worried about Blair? Jim is jumping out of his skin and I *know* you guys don't normally work like this. That poor guy - Brown? - has been fending off phone calls for the last twenty minutes."

"It's...something that happens." He looked uncomfortable.

Jim came out of the interrogation room with a pad in his hand. He handed it to Banks, who glanced at it and nodded. Jim returned the nod and gathered up Montana with his eyes. As they walked out together, Montana could feel the tempo of the room change.

When five minutes passed before the elevator showed up, Jim took off down the stairs. Montana flew behind him, clutching his fedora. He didn't mind in the slightest. He was, if anything, more nervous than Jim - at least Jim knew what was going on.

Jim used his siren on the way to the hospital. He didn't even wince at the sound.

******

"Where is he?" Jim strode into the Emergency Department as if he owned it, Montana keeping pace with him.

"He's in room four, Detective Ellison." A nurse pointed. "But he's not alone. He's with the victim, and she's being examined."

Montana stared. A rape victim allowing a man to be in the room with her? A *strange* man? Jim just stood there, clenching and unclenching his jaw muscles and his fists.

A middle-aged black man in blue work clothes, the name Evon stenciled over one pocket, walked up to him. "Did the nurse just call you 'detective?'"

Jim gave a little start. "Y-yes, sir. I'm Detective Jim Ellison. This is my...friend, Professor Jones."

"I'm Evon Laurent. Do you know anything about the animal who did that to my wife?"

"Is that your wife in there, Mr. Laurent?" Laurent nodded. "I had the privilege of booking him myself."

"*You* caught him?"

"Actually..." Jim turned to Montana.

"Yes, yes, he did. I was there." Jim wanted to say something, so he went on quickly. "How is she, sir?"

"That young man...who is he?"

"My partner, Blair Sandburg."

"He's an angel sent from God. Lennie, she's been holding on to his hand since they came in, and she's bearing up, and I can tell she's going to be fine. Every time she looks the tiniest bit upset, he just squeezes her hand again and she's back and talking to that lady and to me. God *bless* that boy."

"He's *blessed* all right." Jim sat down heavily on a chair by the door.

"Mr. Laurent, you can come in now." A woman in scrubs poked her head outside the room. Laurent smiled and practically ran in. As he did, Blair left.

Montana could not stop staring at him. His eyes were still fever bright, and they never stopped moving, but his face was pale and drawn, and instead of bouncing, he moved like his limbs were made of lead. Even his hair looked limp.

Jim jumped up and put his arm around Blair's shoulders. "We have to get him home *now*." Montana nodded and moved to Blair's other side. Together, they all but carried him to the truck. He huddled between them on the seat. At first he sat completely and uncharacteristically still, but as they neared the loft, he began to shiver. Jim turned on his siren and broke records at that point.

Blair's shivers were turning into shakes when Jim finally screeched into his parking spot. Not only was he unable to get out by himself, Blair wasn't able to stand. Montana helped Jim carry him into the loft and then up into Jim's bedroom, where Jim gently laid Blair in the center of the bed and began to wrap him in the covers.

And, without thinking, where Montana pushed Jim away from their lover, who was shaking violently. "No! That's wrong!"

"Babe, you don't even know what's going on here. Let me take care of him." He bent to finish his task.

"I can't explain it, but...this is *my* job, tiger. And that's not what Blair needs. Has it worked in the past?"

Jim shook his head. "Nothing really works, but this keeps him still until I can call Simon to help for when the shaking gets worse."

"You'll tell me later. Undress him, and get him under those blankets."

"Are you sure?" Jim stood still.

"No, but it feels right. What's wrong?"

"I've never..." Jim shook his head and began to take off Blair's clothes. As Montana stripped off his own, he wondered at how awkward Jim was, fumbling at the shirts and the jeans. As he tossed his underwear by the bed and went to help Jim, he realized what was going on.

"You've never done this before for him. I'm sorry, Jim...I forgot you two made love for the first time this morning."

"I've undressed him before, but not when he was like this." It was hard...Blair was trying to help, but that only made it worse. Finally, they got him down to skin. Montana even insisted they undo his hair. Then, they got him under the covers and Montana crawled in next to him and gathered him into his arms. Blair was cold but his shakes slowed and he had enough strength to pull himself closer to Montana.

"Babe...should I undress, too?"

"I don't know. What the hell is going on?"

"Damned if I know, and *he* hardly remembers. It happens when we get a severe trauma like a rape or a kidnapping. He...takes care of them and then he gets like this. He just shakes for hours, getting worse and worse. I keep him warm - wrapping him up, you know? And if it gets bad, I call for help. Simon's come, and Taggert, and once we even had Megan. Doctors can't do a thing."

"How bad does it get?"

"He screams. He's had convulsions a couple of times. The worst...the worst was a little girl." Jim sat on the bed and stroked Blair's hair. "She'd been assaulted and watched that animal do the same to her little brother and mother and then he killed them. He was her stepfather. Blair held on to her for almost two days. I was worried sick, and when she finally let him go, when her aunt showed up and I took him home, we needed three men to hold him down."

Blair whimpered, as if he remembered what had to have been two days of hell. Montana pulled him even closer. "Shhh, boss. I'm here. I'm getting a picture here, and I don't like it."

"What? What's going on?" Jim sat up straight.

"He's a shaman. He heals. This doesn't happen all that often, does it?"

"Couple times a year." Jim's voice was bleak. "A couple of times too often. Only when someone else is really badly off. We can't stop him. Hell, we can't make ourselves stop him."

"You can't. He *has* to do this, even if it means his own destruction. It's part of his job description. Did Blair take psych courses in college?"

Jim blinked. "Yeah. That was his minor....Montana, you're shaking."

"I'll be fine..." It was suddenly hard to speak. "Blair's...taken in all of that woman's hurt and shame and he's overloaded. I'm...taking some off." He could feel those alien emotions pounding into him.

Jim immediately stripped off his own clothing and got into bed on the other side of Blair. He reached an arm over to grasp Montana and the pounding eased.

"Tiger, careful. Not your job."

"*My* job." Blair's voice trembled.

"Boss?"

"Don't let go. Get...help. Jim...knows."

Montana looked over Blair's head towards his lover. "Do you?"

Jim frowned and then his eyes widened. "Yeah. I have to...I'm sorry, babe."

He let go of the two of them. Montana braced himself for the emotional punishment. Through it, he could see Jim sitting cross-legged, his eyes closed. Moments that felt like hours later, he felt presences settling down around them. He could almost see the shapes...the hawk, the wolf and the black jaguar...as they took their places around him and Blair.

And then it all eased. Their bodies stopped shaking and Blair warmed in his arms. Then Blair began to cry - ugly, brutal sobs that were ripped from his throat as he buried his head in Montana's shoulder. Another pair of arms wrapped around both of them, cradling Blair between two bodies.

Finally, Blair stopped and settled immediately to sleep. Unwilling to leave him alone and almost equally worn out by the emotions of the day, the other two joined him, secure under the watchful eyes of their spirit guides.

*********

Blair took a careful sip of his chamomile tea and honey. "Oh, that's good." His throat hurt and his nose was clogged from all the crying, but at least his mind was clear. He sat up in bed, wrapped in Jim's robe, while the three of them ate a belated supper of soup (frozen left over homemade soup, not canned) and sandwiches.

"You sure you're okay, Chief? It usually takes you a day to recover from one of..."

Jim was cute when he worried. "I'm okay. Montana did his job." He smiled at him. "I don't even remember the other times clearly. This time, I do."

"It won't happen again, boss." Montana's voice was certain.

"Of course it will, babe. Next time someone needs him..."

"Next time, we'll know how to handle it. Next time I'll know what was going on. Why didn't you say so?"

"Because I couldn't describe it. It just...happened, and we knew it had to do with victims but we couldn't figure out why. And Blair was no help."

Montana grasped Jim's shoulder. "I know. He couldn't be. Next time Blair does this, get the wolf at least. And call me. I'll take care of things." Blair nodded.

"Montana?"

"Yeah, tiger?"

"Who's Sarah?"

Blair grinned. Life was going to get even more fun now.



Copyright 1999 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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