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Jim was well-known in the PD for never taking his entire vacation entitlement. He wasn't the only one - several of the detectives were obsessive enough about getting 'the bad guys' off the streets that they almost resented taking time off. And it wouldn't be the first time that an arranged holiday had to be cancelled because a trial where they here giving evidence had been set for a date when the detective in question should have been lounging on a sunny beach somewhere far from Cascade.

And all of them were known for their bouts of bad temper - necessary, Blair had decided, to relieve some of the stress that inevitably built up.

He had seen it in Jim more than once, and as he saw it beginning again he thought back over the previous occasions.

The first time, he hadn't known Jim well, and had not really been aware of anything building up until Jim put no fewer than six bullets into David Lash.

The second time - Blair recognized in hindsight - had been Quinn. Jim had been so, so close to dropping the man down the mineshaft. As if disposing of the man who had killed Gil Brody, kidnapped Simon and shot Blair himself would ease the stress that was building up inside him. But Simon gave Jim a week off to look after Blair, and that had worked.

But now the stress was building again... only this time Blair recognized what was happening, and went to see Simon, on a day when Jim was in court. At least, Blair thought, sitting waiting to give evidence can be boring, but at least it's undemanding. And Jim has dealing with defence lawyers down to a fine art.

"He needs a break, Simon," Blair said.

"Sandburg, I can't force the man to take a few days off when he says he needs to come in every day to cover his workload - "

"So cut his workload, dammit! There are plenty of other detectives in the department!"

"Sandburg, I have the Mayor, the Commissioner and the Chief of Police all insisting that they want 'the BEST' man on so many investigations - "

"Doesn't it occur to them that a) other officers might feel resentment when so many jobs are given to one man, and b) there's a limit to what any one man can possibly do? There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and he has to use some of them to eat and sleep - "

"From what Jim has said about you, there are times when you need to remember point b."

Blair's face reddened slightly. "How do you think I know the way overworking can stress someone out? At least when I know I'm getting stressed I'll take half an hour to meditate, but I've never been able to persuade Jim that meditation is good for anything. He sees it as... well, hippie pseudo-mysticism. He accepts that I seem to find it useful, but then I'm an academic; he's a Man of Action. Mysticism is beneath his dignity." He sighed. "Even an afternoon off to go and yell at a Jags game would help, but what he really needs is two or three days off, when I can persuade him to go camping beside a fish-filled river and we can spend a sunny day or two just vegging out, fishing, relaxing, with nothing to worry about except catching enough fish to give us fresh protein.

"Come to think of it, Simon, when did you last have a relaxing day or three fishing?"

"Too long ago to remember," Simon admitted.

"Then why don't the three of us take a few days off and go fishing? Joel can take over the running of Major Crime for a week and Jim's bad guys will still be here thumbing their noses at the cops a week from now."

* * * * * * * *

The three men relaxed beside the river, enjoying the warmth of the sunny summer day. Fishing rods lay on the ground beside them, but all three were too comfortable to make a move. They had spent the morning fishing, had kept one good fish each to take home the following day and now were simply absorbing the undemanding peace of Cascade National Forest.

They would pack up mid afternoon the next day and head for home; time enough to resume their demanding lives the day after. And with luck, Blair thought, the past few days would have relaxed Jim enough that he would manage to keep going for some weeks... and let Simon realize that despite the demands made by his superiors, he had to keep Jim's workload inside realistic boundaries.

And Blair himself? Unseen by the others, he smiled a little ruefully. He would manage, as he had done for years, to keep a watchful eye on his sentinel and his boss, and - somehow, now that he knew what to watch out for - keep them both from overdoing things.

For that was part of a guide's job.


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