This was a Christmas/New Year's gift from a friend--I have the nicest friends--and I wanted to share it with my other friends. Dolimir says this came to her in a dream, and since I personally know how persistent this muse can be, I can understand her need to write this down to get it out of her head.
If you enjoy it as much as I do, be sure to write her (Dolimir@aol.com) and let her know!
By the way, this story is responsible for me *finally* finishing Flux. :-)
Hope you enjoy!
"You're not the boss of me!" fourteen year old Jamie Lin shouted, stomping her foot in frustration, and throwing her long black braid over her right shoulder.
"I have a Power of Attorney that says differently," her guide said wearily as he rubbed his face, refusing to engage in yet another shouting match.
"I hate you!"
"Be that as it may, my decision stands."
"Just wait until Uncle James comes home!"
"Fine. You can discuss it with him the moment he walks through that door-- in approximately two hours and twenty minutes. In the meantime, you will finish your homework and the reading I asked you to do this weekend." The response was soft, but the tone yielded no quarter. "And don't even think about slamming that door, young lady."
A muted scream of frustration reverberated through the loft, but the door did not slam.
Blair took a deep breath, held it, closed his eyes, and slowly released the pent up air. He spent several minutes repeating the process until a knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Sighing, he crossed to the door and looked out the peep hole.
Jeffrey probably called him the moment the screaming began.
Blair opened the door and waved James' brother into the loft. "What can I do for you, Adam?"
The older man's gaze roamed around the expanded loft which now encompassed the whole third floor and took in the closed door to Jamie Lin's room. "Rumor has it you might need some backup."
Blair smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I think I have it under control, but thank you for your concern."
"It's the third fight this week, isn't it? And it's only Tuesday."
"What are you getting at, Adam?"
"This adjustment hasn't been easy for Jamie Lin. I'm wondering if you--" he stopped, however, as the professor raised his hand.
"Don't finish that sentence."
"I'm only saying--"
"I mean it, Adam. Do not finish that thought."
"Look, Sandburg, Jamie is my niece. I think I have a right--"
"You're right," Blair said quietly as he took his coat from its hook. "Jamie is Family. I am not."
"No. You've had your say. Well, guess what, Adam? You win. After fifteen years, you've finally worn me down. I quit," he said with a small, sad smile, and headed out the door.
"Where are you going?" the older man asked, flabbergasted.
"Out. I don't know. Away from here. Tell James...Jim that I'll send for my stuff in a few days. He'll be home in a few hours, unless you feel the need to call him right away. Jamie is in her room, studying. The watch is yours, man."
"Blair. SANDBURG. What's with the dramatics?" Adam called after the man; however, the younger man simply waved a hand over his head as he headed down the stairs.
Adam punched a speed dial button on his cell. "Jeffrey, Blair is on the way down. Follow him, but do not detain him. Understand?" Walking on cat's feet to the row of small windows which lined one side of Jamie's room, Adam looked in and watched for several minutes as the petite girl poured over her books and wrote in her notebook. He smiled briefly as he compared her to her mother. Smart. Opinionated. Resourceful. A tiny demon on wheels.
His cell phone ringing brought him out of his musings. "Yes? He what? How long will it take Andrew to get on his trail? Do it." Closing his eyes, he punched another number. "Elder. We seem to have a small problem."
"Where did Andrew find his car?" James Ellison demanded as soon as he strode through the doorway.
"At the University, but he's nowhere to be found on campus," Adam reported quickly.
"Makes sense," Jim sighed as he walked into the middle of the front room and stopped. "There are numerous bus stops all around campus. Hell, he could have gotten a ride with a friend."
"Do you want me to issue an alert?"
"No. Not yet. Let him calm down first," the Elder said, trying to take a deep cleansing breath. "So, what exactly happened?"
"He and the sprite were arguing again."
"And Jeffrey called you?"
"Yes, but I was on my way over here anyway. Father wanted me to discuss next month's gala at the ranch with Blair."
"And when you got here?
"He told me I had won, that I had finally worn him down and that he was quitting. He said he'd call you in a few days and let you know where to send his belongings. He then went downstairs and punctured two of Jeffrey's tires before anyone knew what was going on."
The Elder rubbed his forehead in frustration and concern. In all the years Blair had lived with him, he had never actually threatened to move. Had offered, yes, but never threatened.
"Jamie Lin," he called out to the closed door. "Would you please come here for a moment?"
The French doors banged open and a small blur rushed from the room and attached itself firmly to his side. "You're home. You're finally home. Maybe you can talk some sense into Blair."
"Talk some sense into Blair?"
"Yes, he's being absolutely unreasonable."
"In what way, sprite?"
"He said there was no way I could go to Tim Jordan's party tomorrow night."
"Isn't tomorrow Wednesday?"
"Isn't tomorrow a school night?"
"Well, yes, but it's not going to be that long. It's only supposed to be from 6 - 9 p.m."
"Is this seventeen-year-old, Tim? Senior Tim?"
"Yes," she answered hesitantly, then rushed forward with her defenses. "Uncle James, everyone who's anyone is going to be there. I'll be completely ostracized if I can't go. Everyone will think I'm a baby. Do you know how hard it's been to make friends here?" She looked at him with big blue eyes and a quivering bottom lip.
"And what did Blair have to say about that?"
"He said he understood my dilemma..."
"And that I could go."
"I don't think I see the problem then."
"He said I could go, but only if he went with me. I mean, come on, Uncle James. I'm too old for a chaperone."
"This wouldn't be the Tim who has a--"
"Twenty-one year old brother. Yes, Elder, I believe it is," Adam said quietly from the couch.
"I see. And what did Blair say when you gave him your--opinion?"
"He said if I didn't want him to go, I could take Jeffrey or Adam instead."
"And which did you choose?"
"As if! I'm fourteen years old, Uncle James. I'm a senior in high school. I think I'm old enough to attend an after-school party by myself, don't you?"
"So what do you think?"
"First things first, sprite. What else did you say to Blair?"
The petite teenager looked hesitant. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Blair is gone, love. We don't know where he is."
Blue eyes blinked back at him, scared. "Is he okay?"
"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me."
Jamie started twisting the end of her plaited braid, refusing to look at her uncle, who simply stood and waited patiently for her to make eye contact.
"I...I told him...I toldhimIhatedhimandhewasn'tthebossofme."
"Oh, sprite," Jim moaned. He turned and sat beside his brother.
"Do you want me to put an alert out on him now?" Adam asked. Jim shook his head.
Jamie trailed slowly after her uncle. "He's just mad. He'll be home any minute now."
"I don't think so, sprite."
"Wh-what do you mean?"
"Can he do that?"
"Yes, sprite. We don't hold people hostage."
"But-but--what about his duties to you?"
"Adam, do you mind leaving us for a minute or two?" James asked quietly.
"As you wish, Elder."
Jim held his hand out toward the suddenly frail-looking teenager. She moved hesitantly, but he enveloped her in his warm arms, and sat her on the couch beside him.
"What Blair does for me, sprite, he does out of love."
"But he's the Guide!"
"And he's what? Chained to me for all eternity?"
"No. But he can't just walk away, can he?"
"Does this mean he doesn't love us anymore?" the small voice quavered.
"I don't know what it means, sprite."
"Well, fine. Who needs him anyway?"
"I think we do, Jamie Lin. I think we do."
"Who's teaching you the way of the Adept?"
"Blair is," came the sullen response.
"Who played with you every time we went to Europe?"
"You both did," she said defiantly.
"Yes, but who explored the castle with you and told you ghost stories and played in the stables with you when your mother and I were busy with Family business?"
"Blair did," came the quiet response.
"And who helped you bake a cake for your mother's birthday when you were six?"
"Blair did," came the even quieter answer.
"And who takes you to concerts and museums?"
"And who picks you up when you're sick at school?"
"And who takes care of us every day?"
"Blair," was the whisper.
"And who taught you to reprogram Sam so he sang all his responses to old show melodies?"
"Aha! I knew it!"
"That was really rotten, Elder."
Jim chuckled as he held the teenager close. "Do you really hate Blair, sprite?"
"No," was the sullen reply.
"Would you be sad if he didn't ever come home again?"
Big blue eyes gazed up at him for the first time. "He will come home, won't he?"
"Why should he?"
"Because we love him."
A knock on the door interrupted them.
Adam stuck his head into the loft. "Elder, Blair just withdrew two thousand dollars from his bank account."
"Thank you, Adam."
"Do we?" he asked the teenager quietly as his brother withdrew.
"What's he going to do with two thousand dollars?" Jamie Lin asked in a frightened voice.
"My guess is that he's going to buy a plane ticket."
"But where is he going to go?"
"Isn't she at a retreat in New Mexico?"
Jim remained silent.
"But I don't want him to go." The plea was spoken almost too quietly for a sentinel to hear.
"I don't want him to go either, but maybe we should let him be," Jim said in a resigned voice. He squeezed her shoulders, stood and walked into the kitchen. "I mean, after all, he makes all sorts of unreasonable rules. When was the last time he let us go to Wonderburger without making a fuss?"
"But the food there really isn't good for us," she countered.
"He makes you go to bed at ten o'clock."
"Yeah, but that's because I'm a real cranky butt in the morning if I don't get eight hours of sleep."
"He makes you do all your homework every night before you can watch television or work on fun stuff."
"But I'd get in trouble at school if I didn't turn my homework in every day."
"Yeah, but he never lets you go out with your friends without a chaperone."
"But that's...that's cause he's scared."
The teenager blinked big, blue, wet eyes at him. "He said he never wants to lose me again. When Sergio Bianco kidnapped me...when you and Uncle Adam were searching for that asshole--I won't apologize for using that word, Uncle James, I won't because that asshole killed Benjamin-- when Blair found me...he just held me for the longest time, crying. Blair never cries, James. Never. He told me he'd never been that scared in his entire life. And Uncle James, he's died...and he said it was nothing compared to losing me." Her breath hitched as the first tear rolled down her cheek.
"But he has so many rules."
"Shut up. Shut up. Shut up," she cried, flying towards her uncle and pounding on his chest with her tiny fists. "It's because he loves us. He loves me. Oh god, Uncle James. We have to find him. I have to tell him I don't hate him. Please, Uncle James. Please."
"Okay, sprite. Okay. We'll find him," he whispered as he picked her up and held her tightly to his chest.
"How?" she sobbed.
"How did he find you in the fortress?"
She knocked on her head. "He talked to me in here."
"So call to him."
She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. "He's closed off. He won't answer me," she said in a frightened voice.
"Then I guess we better head to the airport. Do you think if we can get close enough you can track him despite his ignoring you?"
"If I'm close enough," she whispered, wondering if she was strong enough to do it; remembering her balking refusal to practice the skill two weeks before.
"Let's go gather Adam and Jeffrey then."
"Hurry, Uncle James. Hurry. Before it's too late."
"This way, Uncle James," Jamie Lin cried out as she turned and ran down the terminal causeway.
"Jamie Lin," Adam shouted as he and the Elder ran after her, with a full security force behind them scrambling to keep up.
Jim focused his eyesight to the end of the terminal and saw his friend and guide cock his head to listen to the overhead announcement, then stand, ticket in hand, heading for the departure gate.
"Blair," Jamie Lin screamed hysterically as she saw her uncle head down the rampart. Heads all over the causeway whipped around seeking the source of the heartbreaking cry. The guide turned to see what the ruckus was about. "Uncle Blair," the teenager sobbed as she ran towards the security gate, but was stopped by the officers who check luggage.
Blair hesitated a moment.
"Please, oh God, please don't leave me, Uncle Blair," she cried, trying to shake off the guards who stood in her way. "Oh please, I'll be good. I swear, I'll be good. Let go of me," she screamed, trying to push the nearest guard off of her.
"Shhh, sprite. Everything's okay. Calm down, love," Blair whispered soothingly to her as he wrapped her in his arms, letting Adam and the Family's security soothe the guards' fears. He guided her to the plastic chairs in the waiting area.
The petite teenager crawled into his lap and hung her arms around his neck. "I swear I'll be good, Blair. I swear it."
"I know, love," he said squeezing her back. "But it's not a matter of being good or bad. You're a teenager for goodness sakes."
"Then what?" she sniffed.
"I can't continue to make Jim choose between us."
"Listen, sprite. You're his adept. I'm his guide. We're suppose to be working together to protect him, with Simon--"
"You're still young. You haven't fully come into your power yet. I know you're anxious to prove yourself, but you still have so much to learn."
"And in the meantime, you're so sure you're right that you won't even listen to me anymore--that puts Jim in a position where he has to choose which one of us is more right and that hurts him, sprite. Because he doesn't want to hurt either of our feelings."
"I know. It's just so--"
"Darn frustrating," Blair smiled, laying his cheek against her head.
"Yes," she sighed.
"I know. So I think it's best if I go. I'll find you another teacher--one who understands girls better than I do...."
"NOOOOOOOOOOO," she wailed, tightening her grip on his neck. "I love you."
"And I love you."
"I don't want you to go."
"I don't want to leave, but--"
"NO," she shouted again. Snuffling, she looked up into his blue eyes. "Being grown up means not always getting what you want."
He cocked an eyebrow at her.
"Like going to parties on school nights."
He smiled gently down at her.
"They're going to have beer," she admitted quietly.
"I kind of figured."
"Yeah. I mean, I wasn't always old, you know. Do you really want to have a beer? I mean I can always...."
"NO," she shouted and laughed at the same time.
"So what are we going to do, sprite?"
She snuggled back down against his chest. "We're going to work together."
"We're not going to make Uncle Jim choose between us because you and I are partners, and if we're ever gonna stand a chance against any of my uncles we have to produce a united front."
"That's right, squirt," he whispered as he hugged her fiercely to his chest.
"We're gonna make them take us out to have Thai," she grinned impishly at him, her fingers playing with his curls, "because all this soul baring makes a growing adept hungry."
"I'm down with that," he laughed, scooping her up and holding her tightly to his chest. He walked back through the security gate. "Let's get out of here, my little witch."
"Anything you say, my witch doctor," she giggled as she pressed her face into his neck.
"Everything worked out, Chief?" Jim asked quietly, blinking back surprisingly bright eyes.
"I think so," the guide smiled.
Adam sighed. "So does this mean I have to figure out some other way to wear you down, brat?"
Blair smiled brilliantly at him. "'Fraid so."
"I'm down with that," Adam smiled, tugging the long black braid of his niece.
"Home, James," the tiny voice whispered with a yawn, cackling evilly as the men around her groaned.