"Sorry I'm late, guys," Blair grinned as he walked into Simon's office. He handed Jim a coffee by way of explanation.
"So nice of you to finally join us, Sandburg," Simon growled. "As I was saying, time is on our side for once." He slid a folder to Jim. "This is Derek Masters, one of the West Coast's up-and-comers in the smuggling world."
Blair looked over Jim's shoulder. "Hey, I know him!" he gasped.
"You do?" Jim asked, an eyebrow on the rise. "Since when?"
Blair took a step backward. "Whoa, easy, Jim. I know him cause he ....hit on me over the weekend."
Jim's frown deepened. "The profile doesn't say anything about his being gay..."
A flush touched Blair's cheeks. "He's not."
Jim and Simon both began to grin. "That long hair..." Jim chuckled.
"Very funny. He frequents a bar on Crittendon." Blair thought for a moment, then nodded. "I could go back if you like, see if I can get in his good graces ---"
"I doubt he'll mistake you for a woman a second time," Simon started with a chuckle.
"Trust me," Blair said, eyes unusually cold. "We want this guy, right?" At their affirmative silence, Blair went on, "Well I’ve got a plan."
"A risky one, it sounds like," Jim put in.
"Life is a risk, Jim," Blair shot back. "I can do this -- and right now, it sounds like my plan is the only working one you've got."
"I'm going in with you," Jim said, standing up.
"Wouldn't have it any other way."
Three nights later, Blair walked through the Loft, loading his denim jacket into a duffel bag. Jim noticed two wide strips of cloth tucked over his arm --- one hunter green, the other candy-cane striped. "Chief?" he questioned.
Blair slid them in the duffel as well, then met Jim's eyes. "My undercover outfit," he said with a sigh. "I've already resigned myself -- this assignment, I'm gonna be cold."
No matter how much Jim tried on the way over, that was all he'd get out of Blair.
When they arrived at the bar, Blair led Jim to a stool. "Sit My last name is Simons. Keep an ear out for me." And he walked away.
Jim got himself a beer and nursed it, grumbling under his breath about "...damned pushy secretive Guides..."
His soft tirade came to an end when he spotted a now-familiar face in the mirror over the bar.
Derek Masters had entered the building. He walked over to the bartender and spoke sotto voice. Jim had to turn up his hearing a notch to understand the words.
"....cuse me... I received a phone call from a Sandy Simons..."
Jim frowned. *My last name is Simons,* Blair had said.
The bartender pointed at a table near the back. Masters smiled and thanked her before he sat down at the booth.
As he took a drink of his beer, Jim couldn't quite stifle the smile. Blair had chosen a table for the meeting where Jim could see them in the mirror, but at an angle where Masters wouldn't realise he was under observation. *Well, that explains the 'sit here' crack... Good job, Sandburg.*
He saw Masters look up and smile, standing gallantly as a woman walked up to the table. Jim gave her an appraising glance, and his smile grew. She was about five-six or five-seven, modest curves in all the right places, auburn curls spilling over her shoulders, rather gamine features, crystal blue eyes, a single wolf-shaped stud earring in her left ear ---
Jim gawked openly. In memory, he heard Blair's voice again. *Bought this so you'll always pick me out, even undercover...*
But this.... was a......
She smiled and shook Masters' hand. "Glad you could make it," a contralto sang out. "I'm Sandy Simons."
*My last name is Simons. Keep an ear out for me.* Jim trembled slightly as he looked at her clothing.
A hunter green miniskirt and a candy-cane striped tube top -- with Blair's denim jacket over it.
Jim took a deep pull on the drink as something fundamental in his world shattered and reformed ... into something he didn't --- quite ---- understand.
*You and me are gonna have a long talk, Chief.*
After a few moments of conversation, Masters laid his hand over 'Sandy's'. She gave him an acid look and Jim heard her say, "I wouldn't, pal. We're here for business, remember?"
"Who says we can't mix business with pleasure?" Masters came back with.
"I do. And he does." She pointed right at Jim.
*Sandburg, what the hell are you doing?* Jim thought, turning despite himself.
He was rewarded with a dazzling blue eye closing in a wink and the smile that was once so familiar --- now utterly dangerous on a woman's face --- spreading. "That, Masters, is Jamie. He's my bodyguard. He's had an eye on us in that mirror this entire time. Oh, don't worry --- he's under my complete control. Don't pull anything funny and he won't interrupt."
Masters frowned at Jim, then looked at 'Sandy' and smiled a smile of ---- appreciation! "Beauty and brains. I like you, Sandy Simons. All right....what can I do for you?"
She smiled and nodded, going back to the cover story Blair, Jim and Simon had worked out. "I'm looking for some guns. Not really big guns, but guns. I've got a buyer -- I've worked with her before -- who's interested in getting the upper hand on a few undesirable elements in her neighborhood, if you get my drift?"
Masters nodded. "Gang activity, huh?" At her nod, he nodded slowly. "Look, you've been straight with me about everything so far -- especially about the bodyguard -- I owe it to you to be the same. I can't get you the guns. but ---" he held up a hand as she opened her mouth. "I might know someone who can. Give me some time to set it up?"
"How much do you need?" she asked, tilting her head slightly in a charming gesture.
He thought for a moment, then smiled. "Well, I'm in Cascade for a couple more weeks --- pleasure, not business." He chuckled.
So did 'Sandy', nodding slightly. The profile had said Masters was an avid fisher, and there was a huge convention in Cascade most of the month with all the latest paraphernalia up for sale. "My buyer will want results soon," she hedged slightly. "Let's say within five days? Perhaps I can persuade her to wait a bit."
"You got a cell?"
"Sure do." She wrote a number down. "Don't be surprised if a male voice answers. 'Sandburg' is my bodyguard at home."
Masters nodded as he took it. "Understood. Popular lady, huh?"
"You might say that, yeah."
He chuckled. "Buy you dinner?"
She smiled and stood up. "Actually, I have a date tonight. But thank you for the offer -- and as a show of good faith?" She slid twenty dollars out of the denim jacket's pocket. "Here you are. Your dinner's on me."
Masters stood as well and shook her hand. "I'll be in touch, Sandy."
"I'll be waiting for your call, Derek." She released his hand and sauntered over to Jim, who stood. As she put her hand in the crook of his elbow and steered them toward the exit, she whispered, "Hear it all?"
"Sure did," he whispered back. "That is one hell of a makeup job, Sandburg. I'm using my sight on you and I can't see the seams of that bodysuit."
"That's cause I'm not wearing one."
"Impossible." They were outside by now, moving toward the truck. "I live with you, remember? I've seen you in nothing but a towel. There's no way you can...."
"Jim, we need to talk. At home."
"Yeah, Chief...I think we do."
The ride home was silent. Sandy led the way to the Loft, then held up a hand. "Just a sec. I have frozen my ass off all night. I'll explain everything -- but first, I've gotta get into some warmer clothes!" And with that, she vanished behind the French doors.
Jim blew out an exasperated breath and tuned his hearing to Bla-- Sandy's -- room, hoping he could hear the zippers and snaps of a bodysuit.
What other explanation could there be?
Instead, he heard fabric rustling, a slight curse as the candy-cane coloured tube top caught painfully on the nipple ring -- which made Jim smile involuntarily -- then a deep breath.
A second, and this one was blown out. A third, blown out. A fourth --- and a low moan of pain. The heart rate fluctuated wildly.
"SANDBURG!!!" Jim flew toward the doors.
"Don't, Jim," the voice said as the heart rate went back to its normal rhythm. A bit breathless, male voice. "I'm all right. Let me get dressed, and I'll tell you everything." A pause, and more fabric rustling. "And I so do not appreciate you eavesdroppin' on me. Tune it out so I can dress in peace?"
"Done," Jim called, face reddening slightly.
Three minutes later, Blair came out. He was in sweats and thick socks, and a sweater was draped over his shoulder. His shirt was fully open, to show the very male upper body once more intact. He grinned at Jim as he set his shoes and the sweater down and began to button the white button-down. "Thought I'd show you I'm all 'Blair' again," he said, explaining the open shirt.
"How'd you.... your heart rate went nuts! You sounded in pain!”
"Yeah, well, the transition is a little painful," Blair said calmly, pulling on his sweater and tying his hair back.
From male to female," Blair said in that same calm voice, sitting down and pulling on his shoes.
Jim sat with a THUD. "You make it sound so normal….”
"For me it is normal, Jim. Just like your senses are normal for you. I was born Blair Judith Sandburg. I was a perfectly normal little girl -- till I hit puberty. Blair Jacob Sandburg came into existence then."
Jim just goggled.
"I'm an FBH. A Full-Body Hermaphrodite. I'm either 100% male or 100% female. Well, except that I'm sterile both ways. But other than that, I'm either/or. I can't be both at once. So I'm either Blair ... or I'm Sandy." He grinned. "You can thank Megan for the name. That nickname seemed to fit my girl-side better. See, there's only twelve of us in the whole world, and nobody knows what causes us and I'm rambling again, huh?" At Jim's slow nod, he laughed. "I'm nervous, okay? No one but Naomi has ever known this."
Leaning forward, Jim asked softly, "Why didn't you come out and tell me this when you first moved in?"
Blair shrugged. "I'm not really sure," he said in total honesty. "Hiding it was second nature by then. The night Masters hit on me at the bar was the first time in forever 'Sandy' had come out to play -- and cause he'd dealt with her, I had to be her again tonight. And I've gotta be her whenever we deal with him." He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "What a mess."
What more could Jim add to that succinct statement?
Three days later, Blair was sitting at the kitchen table, chewing on a pencil as he ran a Net search on fibromyalgia. People who had that occasionally had one or more enhanced senses as a result of the condition -- fluctuating in and out. He was hoping by finding out how doctors tested for the condition he might find and/or adapt a few of the tests to suit Jim's senses.
His cell phone rang, and Blair bit the pencil into three pieces. Letting the two on either side of his face fall and spitting out the one in his mouth, he reached over the laptop and picked up the phone. Opening it, he sighed, "Sandburg."
A pause, then Masters' voice. "Right, Sandy said you might answer. Is she available? This is Derek Masters."
Blair closed his eyes. "Just a moment, sir. I'll get her." He lay the phone on the table and walked to the doors of his room, breathing deeply on the way. His fist impacted with the doors, knocking, as he finished his concentration.
With a soft moan of pain, Sandy returned. She crossed the room, holding up Blair's pants with one hand, and picked up the cell. "Simons."
"It's me, Sandy."
She forced a smile, knowing he'd hear it in her voice. "Derek! Hello! I'm assuming you have good news for me?"
"I do. He's arranged for a meeting with you -- at the docks. Dock 7, do you know where that is?"
"Great. It's in three hours -- I hope that's not too inconvenient."
"Nope, it's just fine. I'll see you then, Derek."
"Oh, his name's Thomas Edge. I look forward to it. See you then, Sandy." And he hung up.
Sandy closed the cell and then opened it again, dialing fast.
”Ellison," he barked into his phone.
"It's Sandburg," she said, rubbing the back of her neck. "Derek came through. Know of a Thomas Edge?"
She had to hold the cell away from her ear as Jim's speech began to turn the air blue.
Sandy insisted that Jim drive her to the meeting place. As they drove, her mind turned over the case information again and again.
Predictably, when they had found out that Thomas Edge was involved, both Simon and Jim turned into protecting lions. Edge, it turned out, was one of the more firmly entrenched smugglers --- as well as one of the more dangerous. Both of them had insisted over the phone that Sandburg be pulled from this -- as Simon had put it "Drag or not!"
That statement still caused Sandy to smile.
In the end, though, Sandy had won. They would go to the meeting as scheduled -- and Jim would tape everything in the truck. Sandy was wired.
She started to get out of the truck, sighing. "This stupid outfit. I hate miniskirts."
"First sign of trouble, Sandburg."
"No, Jim. They'll know you're here, that's the way I want it. But as 'Jamie', you don't budge till I say so. Got it?"
"Don't like it."
"Don't have to."
”Get going. Let's get this over with."
She took a few steps away from the truck. The first words on the tape were her admonition to Jim. "You stay put. I mean it."
Jim's reply was unprintable, but Sandy grinned as she imagined it.
Masters met her and kissed her cheek genteelly. "Derek," she said. "Where are ...."
"Right here, sugar," a cold voice said. Four men stepped from the shadows. All wore suit coats and jeans. Sandy recognized one from photographs.
"Mister Edge, I presume?"
"You presume correctly," he ordered. "Pat 'em down."
As Masters and Sandy submitted, the underling frisking her suddenly drew his gun and pointed it at Sandy's head. "Boss, she's wired!"
Jim stiffened, a hand going to his gun as the other went to the handle of the truck door.
Sandy burst out laughing.
All action stopped, all eyes were focused on her. Wiping her eyes as if she were crying, she managed to giggle out, "Of... of course I'm wired, you nut!"
Edge stepped a step forward. "And just why are you wired, my dear? Thinking of a double-cross, perhaps?"
"More like trying to prevent one." She tapped beside the microphone taped inside the jacket she wore. "This little beauty is insurance. My bodyguard's taping this entire meeting -- just so things don't suddenly, mysteriously, change at some future date."
Masters grinned openly at her before turning to Edge. "See, what did I tell ya? Beauty and brains!"
Edge finally smiled. "Ms. Simons, you are indeed a shrewd businesswoman. I have a feeling our liaison will be long and profitable. Jenkins, put that damn gun away."
Griping, the underling did as he was told.
"Good thinking, Sandburg," Jim whispered as he took his hand off the door handle.
Three weeks and five meetings later, Jim and Blair took the tape of the final meeting Sandy had had with Edge to Simon's office and played it.
Details unfolded on it of a meeting in a different warehouse in a week's time -- where the guns Sandy's 'supplier' wanted would be arriving.
"Good job, Sandburg," Simon said. "We'll start closing our trap."
The last meeting began. The crates were beginning to be opened, when Sandy nodded. "Everything looks like it's here," she said.
And at that moment, one of the SWAT members got itchy. A gunshot rang out prematurely.
"Damn bitch set us up!" a goon cried, whirling and drawing on Sandy. Before he could blink, her foot came up and the gun was kicked out of his hand. He cursed and lunged at Sandy.
Masters blocked his way and they wrestled. Sandy lunged at another goon and grabbed his gun. She pointed it at Edge himself. "Cascade police, Edge. You're surrounded."
"And you're dead," the smuggler said, drawing and firing in one smooth motion.
Fortunately, Sandy was already on the move, throwing herself to the ground and rolling. She didn't fire the gun, but she threw it at another goon, hitting him. The shot he fired went wild.
The SWAT team and Major Crimes moved in. There was enough evidence there in the crates to put Edge away for a long time.
Provided they caught him. In the melee, he began to slip away. Sandy was the only one to notice, and she gave chase. She slid out of her spike heels and ran after him. "EDGE!" she cried as she let fly with one of her shoes. He whirled and the shoe hit him heel-first in the shoulder. The projectile had enough force that it acted like a knife, burying in his shoulder and felling him.
Sandy paused for a second, then laughed. "What the hell!" she giggled. "I did it!"
"You sure did!" Masters panted, racing up behind her. "Great job! Police, huh?"
She just looked at him, frowning as part of her took note of Jim and Simon walking up to them --- guns at their sides, not brought to bear. That was unusual.
Masters smiled and held out his hand. "Let me properly introduce myself, then. Dean Masterson, ATF."
Sandy shook his hand and her smile spread. "For real?"
"For real," Jim said as he holstered his gun. "He's been undercover, building up the Derek Masters persona for months. We just found out the ATF connection this morning. Edge was the target, has been for a long time."
”And I've rarely had such a charming partner as you," Masters --- Masterson --- said as he raised Sandy's hand and kissed the back. "Perhaps we'll work together another time?"
"We'll see," she hedged, smiling at him.
"What's your real name?" he asked her.
"Sandy," she said. "Sandra Blair Sandburg."
"My partner," Jim said a bit coldly.
"Then I envy you, Detective. I truly do." He touched Sandy's cheek lightly and turned back into the building to supervise the cleanup.
"You okay?" Jim asked.
"I'm fine," Sandy smiled. "I'm ready to go home, though."
"Let's go --- oh, and Sandburg, do me a favour?"
"What's that, Jim?"
He pointed at the one shoe she still carried. "Remind me never to get you pissed at me when you're wearing those lethal weapons."
Sandy laughed and as they left she asked, "Hey, have you ever seen the Quantum Leap episode where a stiletto heel really was a lethal weapon? A murder weapon to be precise...."
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