The Game

By: Kathy


Enshrouded in shadows, he pressed back against the wall and retreated further within the concealing darkness. Even as he withdrew into the alley, his gaze never wavered from the object of his intense scrutiny. As his eyes tracked his opponent's every movement, a smile slowly spread across his face; the expression made him appear feral and ruthless. He stood in silence and watched until the adversary disappeared into the building. Eyes immediately rising to the third floor, he focused on the windows and waited for the forthcoming light. Breathe quickening, his smile grew as the anticipated illumination sprung to life and outlined the figure that came into view. His low chuckle disturbed the silence that filled the dirty, litter-strewn alley as he continued to watch the scene unfolding before him. His amusement grew as he saw the figure frantically move about the loft apartment. Raising his hand, he gave a quick two-finger salute. "Your move." Minutes later, as the sound of rapidly approaching sirens filled the night air, the mysterious figure had disappeared. The only indicator of his presence being the rapidly dissipating warm spot from where his back had pressed against the cold, hard wall.

Unaware of the silent voyeur below, the loft's single occupant stood by the table and stared down at the blood marring the otherwise pristine floor. Head unconsciously cocking to the side as the sound of sirens reached him, he let out a shaky breath. Walking past the horrific sight, he reached up a slightly trembling hand and unlocked the door. Even as he opened it, he leaned against the solid support. Then, as his knees buckled and gave out, he slowly sunk to the floor. Head leaning back to bang against the wood, he didn't even hear the approaching footsteps until a concerned, face appeared before him. Blinking rapidly, trying to shake off the lingering remnants of shock that were clouding his mind, he let out a pained gasp as everything snapped back into focus once again. "Simon, I... I..." Then, he surrendered to the shock once again and lapsed into silence.

Glancing back over his shoulder, Simon felt a tremor course through his body when he saw the taunting message that had been painted on the floor. Recognizing the familiar odor, he didn't need to wait for the forensic analysis to know that it had been written in blood. Attention returning to the man before him, he could only sit there in stunned silence. His daze interrupted by the sudden presence of someone beside him, Simon stared up and found Joel looking down at him. "What?"

Concerned, eyes darting from one man to the other, Joel laid a hand on Simon's shoulder. "How is he?"

Having his own concerns, for his missing friend as well as the one before him, Simon shrugged. "I don't know, Joel. He's in shock, I think. Get me that afghan off the back of the couch, would you?"

Nodding, Joel went to retrieve the requested item. Returning, he draped it over the huddled form himself and then rested his hand on a tense shoulder. "Forensics is on the way and uniforms are already questioning the building's other residents. Brown and Rafe are taking a look around the loft but so far... Well, so far all we've found is the... on the floor, the... Well, you know."

"Yeah, I know." Releasing a heavy sigh, Simon gave Joel a strained smile. "Thanks."

"No problem." Joel gave the shoulder beneath his hand a soft pat and then took a step back. "Should we try moving him?"

Before Simon could respond the silent man before them shuddered violently before sagging back against the door. Then, two dazed, confused eyes came to rest on the crouching police captain. "Simon, what…" Trailing off, his gaze finding the gruesome note painted on the floor, he let out a strangled gasp. "Oh my God! Jim!" Sending out a silent prayer for his missing friend, Blair continued to stare at the terrifying challenge issued forth in what he instinctively knew to be his partner's blood. His lips barely moving, no sound escaped as he read, "Let the game begin, Professor."

***

Upon regaining consciousness, Jim's first thought was to wish that someone would knock him out again. When that didn't happen, he struggled to dial down the pain. Only marginally successful, he cracked open his eyes and hissed when the light struck them. Fighting down nausea, he took a few deep breaths as he let his eyes close again. Just when he was getting ready to make another attempt at taking a look at his surroundings, he heard the sound of a door opening. Tensing, he lay still and listened to the footsteps that approached him.

"C'mon, Detective, it's time to rise and shine. No time for naps right now, we've got things to do. Besides, I'm sure the Professor will be making his move soon and I want to be ready."

Giving up the pretense, Jim slowly opened his eyes. His anger allowing him to ignore the pain this time, he stared up at the man standing beside him. "Who are you and what do you want?"

Quickly dropping to the floor, the man sat down beside Jim. Placing an elbow on his knee, he propped his head in his hand and stared at the captured detective. "Well, I suppose you have to call me something, don't you? After all, we are going to be getting very close over the next few days. Very well then, you can call me … let's see, how about Chief. Yes, that will do just fine. I rather like it."

Breathing heavily, Jim struggled against the ropes bounding him. "Think again, creep. There's no way I'll ever call you that." Feeling the ropes cut into his wrists, Jim stopped moving. "I don't know what your game is, but…"

"Oh, you just said the magic word." Grinning, the man leaned over until his face was close to Jim's. "Game. I like games, don't you? I'm sure the Professor does. I've been looking forward to playing with him."

"If you so much as touch Sandburg, I'll…"

"No, no, no, my dear Detective." Slowly, the man drew back away from Jim and then reached over to retrieve the bag he had brought into the room with him. "You see," he said as he unzipped it and began to riffle through its contents, "I wouldn't dream of touching the Professor. After all, then he might not be able to play." After pulling out a stun gun, he tossed the bag aside again. "You, on the other hand, I have no problem with touching." Reaching over, he trailed the weapon along the side of Jim's face. Smiling at the resulting involuntary twitches, he stopped when it came to rest on the bound man's chest.

"Play?" Conscious of the weapon that was pressed against him, Jim tried to brace himself for what was sure to come. But even as he prepared himself for the anticipated agony, his main concern was for his partner. "What are you talking about and what does all this have to do with Sandburg?"

"Isn't that so touching. Such concern for your … what do you call him? Partner? Seems rather inadequate a term, don't you think? Though I suppose it will have to do. As for what he has to do with all of this … like I said, I just want to play a game with him. With you too, I suppose. After all, you're a necessary component. He wouldn't play unless the prize was worth the effort. Are you? Worth the effort, I mean?" Keeping the stun gun pressed against Jim's chest, the man reached his other hand into the bag.

Eyes drawn to the bag, Jim waited to see what would emerge this time. Expecting another weapon, he was surprised to see a remote being pulled out instead. He turned to look towards the direction in which the other man pointed the remote and was surprised to see a collection of electronic equipment. Unable to look away, his eyes remained locked on the television when it turned on and a picture of his partner appeared on the screen. Instantly knowing what he was about to see, Jim inwardly cringed as the sound of Blair's speech washed over him. "Why are you showing me this? Turning it off!"

"What's the matter, Detective? You should find it reassuring. I did." After turning off the television, the man set the remote down on the floor. "I mean, it was after watching this press conference that I knew how to get the Professor to play. It seems there isn't anything that he wouldn't do for you, Detective. And that makes for a very interesting game. I mean, how far would the Professor go to save you? I already know what he would sacrifice of himself, but what about others? Would he take another life to save yours? Would he place another life in jeopardy to save yours? Oh, this will be a very interesting game. To see the lengths he will go to in order to save his partner. Or should I say to save his Sentinel."

When Jim turned to stare at him, the man laughed. "That's right. I know everything. And what you are, what you are to the Professor, will only make this so much more enjoyable. But for now, I must prepare my next move." Then, he discharged the stun gun and watched as the resulting shock caused Jim's body to jerk uncontrollably. Finally moving away, he smiled when the unconscious detective slumped over. "Yes, this is going to be so much fun."

* * *

Having finally managed to get Blair up from the floor and into a seat, Simon was now brewing some tea for the stunned young man. After pouring the boiling water into a mug, Simon reached for a tea bag and placed it in as well. Then, he carried it over to the table and set it down in front of Blair. As he sat down himself, Simon looked over to where Serena was kneeling down to take a sample of the blood. "Do you have any idea what it means?"

Before answering, Blair reached out and grabbed the mug of tea. Sagging slightly as the warmth penetrated his cold hands, he stared down at the dark liquid and let out a small gasp when it seemed to turn to blood for an instant. Blinking his eyes, he shook his head when he looked back at the mug and found it filled with nothing but tea again. "I don't know. A challenge, maybe. It doesn't really matter right now. The important thing is that whoever this guy is, he's got Jim and..."

"Hold it right there, Sandburg," Simon interrupted. "We don't know that this has anything to do with Jim. I sent Rafe and Brown out to try and track him down. Until they find out something or until we hear something, we can't be sure that Jim has been grabbed."

"I'm sure." Pushing the mug aside, not wanting to drink the tea now, Blair turned to look at Simon. "Rafe and Brown won’t find Jim. After he got out of court early today, he called me to say that he was going to come by here and grab a quick shower before making a run to the grocery store." A slight smile on his face, Blair added, "He was going to make spaghetti tonight and he needed some ingredients for that special sauce of his. He… um… he knows how much I like it. Anyway, I was just getting ready to leave the gym when he called. I offered to stop by the store but he said that he’d go." Blair looked over at Simon and let out a small chuckle. "After all this time, he still won’t tell me what’s in it." Clearing his throat, blinking back the moisture in his eyes, Blair started down at the table again. "The gym is on the other side of town so I figured he’d already be gone by the time I got home. I wasn’t too worried when he wasn’t here, but then I saw the… saw the bl… saw the floor." Releasing his grip on the mug, Blair ran a hand through his hair. "Something is wrong. Jim is somewhere and he's hurt. And this message, whatever it means, is connected to his disappearance. You can't tell me that you don't know that, Simon. Evidence or no evidence, you know that just as well as I do."

"Alright, if this does have something to do with Jim, then give me something to go on, Sandburg."

"How am I supposed to do that?"

Waving a hand towards the message, Simon kept his focus on Blair. "That little note over there is addressed to Professor. It’s pretty obvious that it’s a reference to you."

"Yeah, well in case you've forgotten, I'm not a professor," Blair retorted. "And I'd say that right now, after everything that's happened, the odds of my ever becoming one are pretty non-existent."

Before Simon could respond, a soft, "That's for sure," sounded in the room. Turning in the direction the remark has come from, Simon glared at the small group of uniformed officers gathered by the balcony. "Which one of you said that?" When no one answered, he stood up and went over to the three men. "I asked a question and I expect an answer, gentlemen. Now, which one of you said that?"

"I did, Sir," one of the officers stated as he took a step forward. Directing a sneer Blair's way, he stared in contempt at the shaken man. "First he causes all that trouble with all of his lies and now Ellison, a good cop, is maybe missing because of that fraud. How much more shit is this department supposed to take because of him anyway? We all know your plans for him. I can’t believe you actually think he can be one of us. Wanting to be a cop when he should be behind bars? He's a..."

"That's enough!" At Simon's yell, the man quickly took a step back to stand beside his fellow officers. Trying to stay calm, knowing that he needed to wait until after they found Jim and then deal with this attitude towards Blair, Simon gave each of the officers a glare. "I don't want to hear anymore of that crap from any of you, is that understood?" Waiting until each man had acknowledged the order, Simon then continued, "As for Sandburg, I consider him to be a member of my department and I won't tolerate any disrespect or harassment towards him. Whatever your personal feelings may be, you just make sure that you keep them away from the job."

"Yes, Sir," the officers mumbled.

"Good. Now get out there and start canvassing the building," Simon ordered. "Interview the neighbors and see if anyone saw anything." After watching the officers leave, Simon went back over to Blair. "Sorry about that, Sandburg."

"About what?" Blair asked as he looked up at Simon. "They were just telling the truth. Hell, I bet most cops feel the same way. I told Jim..."

"Told Jim what?"

"Nothing, just forget it. Right now we just need to find him." Blair stood up and walked over to where Serena was still examining the message.

Having pointedly ignored the conversation occurring in the loft, Serena looked up and gave Blair a small smile as he came to stand beside her. "Like you already know, it is blood. But until I can get back to the lab, I can't tell you whether or not it's Jim's."

Squatting down, Blair stared at the blood. "It is Jim's blood." Ignoring the look that passed between Serena and Simon, Blair continued to study the note left on the floor. "Jim is going to be so pissed when he sees this. I need to try and get the blood up before it soaks into the wood anymore than it already has. I need…" Trailing off, Blair looked over at Simon. "Can I clean this up, Simon? You know how Jim is about things like this. He'll… This needs to be gone before he gets back. I need…"

Peeling off the latex gloves she was wearing, Serena laid a hand on Blair's arm. "I'm sorry but we can't clean it up just yet. We haven't finished examining the area and we still need to get some pictures. But I promise you, Blair, as soon as we're done I'll have someone clean it up. You won't even know it was there."

"I'll know," Blair whispered before looking over at Serena. "But, thanks. I'd appreciate that a lot." When Serena gave his arm a gentle squeeze and then moved her hand away, Blair returned his attention to the message. Trying to push aside his feelings for the moment, knowing that his partner's safety was at stake, Blair concentrated on the meaning behind the words. "He addressed it to Professor. But did he mean it as an insult or as a compliment? Is he acknowledging someone he views as an equal or is he ridiculing someone he views as a impostor?"

"Blair?"

Hearing the concerned tone, Blair reassured, "I'm okay, Serena. Just thinking out loud."

Joining them, being careful to avoid stepping in the blood, Simon asked, "And what have you come up with?"

"That someone has a very sick idea of what's supposed to be fun." Looking up at Simon, Blair added, "Whoever this guy is, he wants to play a game. Like you said, it’s pretty likely he left this little note for me. Maybe he saw the press conference. I don't know. What I do know, or what I suspect, is that he wants to play a game and he wants to play it with me."

"How does Jim fit into all of this?" Simon mused. "Incentive for you to play this little game?"

Blair stood up but kept his eyes on the floor. "That and he’s probably the prize. If I win, Jim will be released. If I lose... Well, I guess I don't have to tell you what happens then."

"Jim is dead."

"Yeah." Remaining where he stood, Blair began looking around the room. His eyes landed on a picture of him and Jim. Seeing his partner’s … his Sentinel’s… smiling face, Blair was determined to get his friend back. "But that's not going to happen. I won't lose."

"Really? How can you be so sure of that?" Simon shivered when two slightly crazed eyes turned his way. Frozen in place by that unsettling gaze, he could only stand and listen as Blair answered his question.

Smiling, his feral expression matching the one that had appeared on his unknown opponent's face earlier that evening, Blair replied, "This guy's not the only one that likes to play games." Then, as he once again stared down at the message inked in his partner’s blood, Blair knew that nothing would stop him from finding Jim and the man responsible for this. And after he’d found them, he’d make sure that person would pay for ever having dared to harm his Sentinel.

Alarmed by the sudden change in the younger man's mood, Simon started to say something. But, after one look at the attention they were drawing from the forensics personnel, he grabbed Blair's arm and steered him over to his room. Once inside, Simon released the hold on Blair.

Rubbing his arm, Blair looked over at Simon. "What's going on?"

"I was hoping you could tell me that." Seeing Blair's puzzled expression, Simon elaborated. "What in the hell is going on with you, Sandburg? One minute you're worried about Jim finding blood on the floor and the next you're making some kind of vow of vengeance against this lunatic, whoever he is."

Frantically, Blair began to pace the small confines of his room. Hands waving, his breathing was ragged as he made one small circuit of the area and immediately began another. "I don't know, Simon. It's like…"

"Like what?"

"I'm just so… so angry … and guilty," Blair confessed.

"Yeah, but that's nothing new." When Blair stopped and turned to look at him, Simon explained, "I remember how you were when your friend Roy was killed. You were so set on finding out who killed him, so determined to see his killer brought to justice. But then, even though you might have gotten obsessed…"

"Obsessed!" Blair exclaimed. "God, Simon, Roy had just been killed and you guys were determined to blame Jamie for it. I wasn't obsessed, I just knew that Jamie would have never killed his brother. But you and Jim just wouldn't listen to me."

"Yeah, we were wrong about Jamie," Simon agreed. "But my point is that even though you got caught up in that investigation, you still managed to keep your emotions under control. For the most part, at least. Right now though, you're going from one extreme to the other. If you want to find Jim, you're going to have to keep your head together. Do you understand me?"

Letting out a sigh, Blair walked over and sat on his bed. "I understand, Simon. But there's something that you have to realize."

"What's that?"

"Before, when Roy was killed…"

"Yeah?"

"That time, I had Jim to help me." Placing his elbows on his knees, Blair buried his face in his hands. The next time he spoke, his words were muffled. "I mean the talk that you and I had helped me a lot and I really appreciated it. But, when I was really starting to let it all get to me, Jim was the one that helped me keep everything in perspective. This time… Well, this time, he's not here."

"No, he's not," Simon replied. "But I am, Blair. So if you feel yourself getting out of control, if you feel like you're getting overwhelmed, come to me."

"Thanks, Simon," Blair whispered. "I may take you up on that because right now… I just feel… God! I can't even describe it. There's all these emotions running around inside of me and I don't know if I can keep it together long enough to find Jim. I'm so… I'm angry and I feel so guilty. All those times when I was grabbed, I never understood why Jim would feel so guilty about it. It wasn't his fault. I never blamed him for any of it. But right now, I can't help thinking that this is all because of me. That Jim is there somewhere, going through who knows what, all because of me. It's tearing me up, Simon."

After walking over to the bed, Simon reached down, pushed some books out of the way and then sat down beside the distraught younger man. Placing his arm around Blair's shoulder, Simon gave him a little squeeze. "Like I said, right now you've just go to push all of that aside."

"Don't you think that I know that? Check your emotions at the door. That's what Jim told me." Finally looking up, Blair turned to face Simon. "And normally I'd be able to. I've gotten pretty good at doing that over the past couple of years. But this time, this time it's Jim."

"I know, Blair. I feel the same way."

"I know you do, Simon. Jim is your friend too. But for me, it's more than that. I mean, Jim he's my… my… He's my Sentinel."

Unnerved by Blair's words, Simon withdrew his arm and stood up. "Is this one of those things that I don't want to know about?"

"I don't know," Blair replied. "All I know is that since the press conference, things seem different. I seem different. I can't explain it. I don't understand it myself."

"Have you talked to Jim about this?"

"Not yet," Blair answered. "I've been meaning to but… Well, I just didn't know how to tell him. How to describe it to him."

Reaching up a hand, Simon squeezed his eyes shut as he pinched the bridge of his nose. "Look, Blair, whatever this is, you and Jim can talk about it later. For right now, let's just find him."

"All right." Standing up, Blair hesitated for a few seconds before speaking again. "I just hope we find him in time. When I think about what he's probably going through…"

"You can't think like that." Lowering his hand, Simon met Blair's eyes. "Yeah, if the blood out there is Jim's…"

"It is."

"…then we know that he has been injured in some way," Simon finished, ignoring the interruption. "But we don't know to what extent. It could just be a minor injury. And for all we know, this kidnapper may not have hurt Jim any more."

"I hope you're right, Simon."

"So do I." Simon walked over to the door and stopped to look at Blair. "Let's get back out there and see if they've found out anything else. Maybe one of the uniforms had some luck and one of your neighbors saw something."

"All right." Blair walked over to Simon and started to pass by when the captain placed his arm in front of the younger man. "What?"

"About those officers," Simon said. "If anything like that happens again, I want you to tell me about it."

"Yeah, sure," Blair agreed, even though he had no intention of doing what Simon had asked. "Whatever you say, Simon."

"Blair…" Simon began but stopped when the younger man brushed by him and then opened the door. Watching as Blair walked back over to stand by the message, Simon began to suspect that what had happened earlier might not have been the first time Blair faced the hostility and scorn of what were going to be his fellow officers. Wondering if they were ever going to stop feeling the affects of that press conference, Simon went to join Blair.

"There's something that we're missing," Blair announced when Simon came over to stand beside him.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, this guy wants to play a game."

"Yeah? So?"

"So part of this game would seem to be the chase." Though he remained in place, Blair began to look around the room. Eyes scanning every inch of the loft, Blair started to turn in circles.

"What are you looking for?"

"I'm guessing that this guy left some kind of clue. I mean he wants to play so you'd think that he'd leave something for us to go on, something to get the game going." Stilling his movements, Blair looked down at the message. "This, well this just seems kind of like a taunt, don't you think? Just something to make us want to go along with this sick bastard."

"And we need to find the first clue to get the game underway?"

"Yeah," Blair confirmed as he began to survey the room again. "We just need to…" Blair trailed off as his eyes came to rest on the VCR. "Hey, the VCR."

"What about it?" Simon asked as the looked towards the television.

"It's flashing twelve."

"So?" Came Simon exasperated response.

"Jim hates it when that thing flashes like that," Blair explained. "Whenever something happens and we lose power, he always keeps bugging me until I set the clock again. That thing never flashes very long. Trust me on that."

"Maybe something happened earlier," Simon rationalized. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything."

"But maybe it does," Blair countered as he walked over to the television. After he knelt down and took a closer look at the machine, he turned a grim looking smile Simon's way. "There's a tape in it."

Not understanding the significance of that, Simon shrugged. "So what?"

"I can't stand for a tape to be left in the VCR. Jim knows that. We both always make sure that we take the tape out whenever we're done watching something. We never leave one in there."

When Blair reached out a hand towards the VCR, Simon ordered, "Stop, Sandburg." Motioning towards one of the technicians, he explained, "We need to dust it for prints first. It's a long shot, but there's always a chance that this guy screwed up."

Blair leaned back. "But we need to see…"

"We will," Simon reassured. "After it's dusted we'll get the tape, take it down it the station and take a look at it. We need to check in anyway. I sent Joel back there earlier. He and Megan are looking into Jim's past cases, the ones that you worked with him, on the chance that this is some kind of revenge thing. Rafe and Henri are probably back there by now and I'll have them start checking similar MO's. Maybe this guy has done this before and there's some kind of record on it. We've got to check every angle on this one."

"Yeah, but while we're doing that, what will this guy be doing?" Blair asked. "The longer we delay, the longer this guy has Jim."

"I know that, Sandburg. But if we want to get Jim back, then we've got to be thorough. It could be our only chance of finding him."

Blair let out a sigh as his shoulders sagged. "I just have a bad feeling about this, Simon. A very bad feeling."

Not knowing what to say, especially since he had the same feeling, Simon stood and watched as the VCR was dusted. He could only hope that once they were able to view the tape it would somehow lead them to their missing friend.

After the VCR had been dusted, the technician ejected the tape and dusted it as well. Having found some prints, he carefully lifted them all. When he was done, he looked toward Simon, who gave him a nod. While Blair stood by and watched, the man pulled out a plastic bag and started to put the tape in it. Meanwhile, the captain turned to Serena and said, "Sandburg and I will be heading to the station now."

Looking around the loft, gauging how much longer they would need to finish gathering evidence, Serena said, "We're going to be here a little bit longer but I'll lock up when we leave and make sure that the loft is secure."

"Thanks, Serena," Simon replied. "I'll assign an officer to stand guard at the door after you leave. I want to make sure that Sandburg doesn't come home to any more surprises."

In response to Simon's words, Serena turned to look at Blair. "Yeah. I'll also arrange for this to be cleaned up," she said as she pointed down at the floor.

Simon nodded. "I know that Blair and Jim will appreciate that. Hopefully we'll be able to find something on that damn tape. Sandburg seems to think we will."

"Before watching it, be sure to take it down to forensics and have a copy made," Serena instructed. "They might be able to pull something useful from the tape. Something that may escape your notice."

"I'll do that," Simon agreed. After giving Serena a final nod, Simon walked over to Blair. "Let's go, Sandburg."

Tape in hand, Blair gave Serena a small wave goodbye before following after Simon. Once they were outside the loft, Simon said, "I want to check in with the officers before we go and see if they've found out anything. Do you want to go wait in my car? I shouldn't be long."

"No, I want to go with you," Blair answered. "If they did find out something, I want to know about it right away."

"Fine."

Starting on the third floor, they stopped when they located the officer who was canvassing that floor. Seeing the two men approach, Officer Patterson closed his notepad and looked up at them. "Captain."

"Patterson, what have you found out?"

"Nothing much, Sir," Patterson answered as he pointedly kept his attention on Simon and ignored Blair. "Seems the people across from Ellison's place aren't home and the others said that they didn't see or hear anything."

"Oh, c'mon," Blair exclaimed. "Someone had to have seen something."

"Perhaps you'd like to interview them yourselves, Detective."

"Can the attitude, Officer," Simon ordered.

"But, Sir…"

"I don't want to hear it," the irate captain interrupted. "If you're through here then get back to Ellison and Sandburg's. After forensics finishes up, I want you to stand guard outside the apartment. I don't want anyone getting in there again. And when the people across the hall show up, you can get a statement from them."

"Yes, Sir." After giving Simon a stiff nod, the officer walked off.

Simon stared until the man had turned the corner and disappeared from view. "Let's go talk to the other two officers."

After questioning the other two officers, Simon and Blair were disappointed to find out that neither of them had anything to report either. Simon ordered them to canvas the surrounding neighborhood in the hopes that someone had seen Jim being taken from the building. Then, he and Blair left to go to the station.

***

Once they arrived at the police department, Simon sent Blair on up to Major Crimes while he went down to drop the tape off at Forensics. Having handed off the tape and instructed them to make it a top priority, Simon went up to join Blair.

Seated at Jim's desk, Blair looked up as Simon entered the bullpen. "Well?"

"I left the tape and told them to put a rush on it," the captain answered as he walked over to the desk. "As soon as they're done, someone will bring it up."

"And until then we just have to wait?"

"No, we're going to see what the others have found out." Simon walked over to Rhonda. "Where are Taggert and Conner?"

"I told them they could use your office," Rhonda answered, concern evident in her voice. "They needed a quiet place to work. I hope that was okay."

"It's fine," Simon reassured. Then, he turned towards Blair. "C'mon, Sandburg."

After Blair had joined him, Simon opened the door and ushered the younger man inside. Following behind Blair, the captain stopped just inside the office and took in the scene before him. Seated at the table in his office, Megan and Joel were engrossed in the scattered files lying on it. "What have you got?"

After exchanging a glance with Megan, Joel cleared his throat as he turned to face the two men. "So far … nothing."

Dejected, Blair walked over to a chair and sat down. "What now?"

"Joel and Conner keep looking," Simon answered. "I’m going to go see if Rafe and Brown are back yet. Then, when forensics is done with that tape, we'll watch it and see if we can pick up anything from it."

"What about me?" Blair asked. "What'll I do?"

"Help go through these files," Simon suggested. "Maybe you'll catch something that Joel and Conner might miss."

Blair reached over and pulled one of the files towards him. "Fine, but I don't think this is going to do any good. I've got a feeling that this guy isn't in any of these files."

"We talked about this before."

"I know, I know," Blair replied. "Cover all the angles." Then, he turned his attention to the file.

Leaving the others to their study of the files, Simon went in search of Brown and Rafe only to have them walk into the bullpen just as he exited his office. Seeing the dejected looks on their faces, he knew they hadn't discovered anything. "So, I take it you didn't have any luck in finding Jim."

Frustrated, Rafe took off his coat and threw it down on a desk. "I just don't understand it, Captain. It's like he just vanished into thin air."

"That's right, Sir," Henri concurred. "We went to the courthouse and spoke with Beverly Sanchez. She said that the case was delayed because the judge issued a continuance. But by the time that happened, they'd already wasted most of the day in court while the defense attorney convinced the judge to issue it. I guess that Jim headed on home after leaving the courthouse."

"Yeah, I had told him to not bother coming in after court," Simon informed the detectives. "Told him that I'd call if we needed him for anything."

Looking into the captain's office, seeing Blair and the others through the open blinds, Henri asked, "How's Hairboy holding up?"

"About how any of us would be if our partner were missing," Simon answered. "Right now, he's helping Conner and Taggert go over some of Jim's old cases."

"Do you really think that there's a connection there?" Rafe asked.

"Hell, I don't know. But I'm willing to try anything if it'll lead us to Jim."

"Um… Sir…" Rafe began.

"What is it?" Simon asked when the detective hesitated.

"On our way up here… Well, we heard some talk about a message," Rafe said.

"There was a message left at the loft," Simon confirmed. "It said, 'Let the game begin, Professor'."

"Professor?" Henri once again looked over at Blair. "You think it was meant for Hairboy."

"Yeah, I do." Fixing both men with an intense look, Simon added, "And it was written in blood."

The partners exchanged an uneasy glance before facing their captain again. It was Henri who voiced the question for them. "Was it Jim's blood?"

"Serena took a sample. As soon as she can get back here and analyze it, we'll know for sure."

"But do you think it's Jim's blood?" Henri persisted.

Simon looked towards Blair as he replied. "Yeah, I do. But more importantly, Sandburg is sure of it."

"How…"

Holding up a hand, Simon brought a halt to the question. "It doesn't matter. Right now, I need you two to do a little checking for me. See if there are any cases with a similar MO. A person abducted and a challenge left behind. Any crimes where someone was challenged to a game like this."

"We'll take a look, Captain," Henri replied. "Just let Hairboy know that he's not alone and that we'll do whatever it takes to get Jim back."

"I will, Brown." While Simon watched the two detectives went over to their desks and turned on their computers. Within minutes, they were immersed in their search.

Sending up a silent prayer for Jim, Simon stared back towards his office. Just as he grabbed the doorknob, a harried looking man entered the bullpen and rushed over to him.

"Sir," the slightly out of breath man said, "I've got that tape for you."

"That was fast." Simon accepted the tape and clenched his hand around it.

"The tape wasn't very long," the technician explained. "We're getting ready to examine the original and see if we can pull anything off of it."

"You haven't watched it yet?"

"No yet, Sir," the man replied. "We wanted to get a copy to you as soon as possible. As soon as I get back down to forensics, we'll take a look at it. Hopefully, there'll be something on it that will give you a lead on Detective Ellison's whereabouts."

"Let me know if you find anything."

"Yes, Sir." Then the technician left the bullpen.

Taking a deep breath, trying to decide if he should view it in private before showing it to Blair, Simon studied the tape he held. Coming to a decision, hoping it was the right one, Simon opened the door and walked into his office.

Looking up as the door opened, Blair dropped the file he had been holding when he saw the tape in Simon's hand. "Is that it?"

"Yes, it is."

"Put it on," Blair ordered.

"Sandburg, maybe you should let me take a look at it first in private. We don't know…"

"Just put on the damn tape," Blair interrupted, his emotion-filled voice sounding hoarse. "Please!"

Wordlessly, Simon walked to the back of his office and turned on the television. Then, after one final look Blair's way, he put on the tape.

At the front of the room, Blair sat and watched Simon's every movement. Taking a deep breath, dread filling him, he clenched his hands into fists. Not even noticing when his fingernails penetrated the flesh of his palms, he didn't feel the blood trailing down his hands as the snow cleared and a picture formed on the screen.

When an image finally appear, it was of a man in a mask. Attentively, Blair leaned forward as the figure began to speak. "Well, well, Professor, I see you found my first clue. Very impressive. I can already tell that you are going to be a worthy and challenging opponent. Now, since I'm sure that you've seen my little note, I'm sure you know what this is about. Simply put, I want to play a game with you, Professor."

"Son of a bitch," Blair muttered when a lull came in the speech.

Then, as the image on the screen changed, a voice-over sounded as moments from Blair's press conference were played. "Up until I saw this, I was undecided about which of you to take. Judging by your history together, I knew that Detective Ellison would play along if your kidnapping were used as incentive. After all, he's played before when you were the prize, hasn't he?" Then the image shifted again and a picture of David Lash appeared. "Even though he wasn't aware of it, Lash issued a challenge when he took you. A challenge that Detective Ellison not only accepted but won as well. Though when you're dealing with a damaged intellect such as Lash one can't really view it as much of a victory."

When the masked figure once again appeared on the screen, Blair felt an incredible sense of rage fill him. For an instant, his surroundings seemed to fade away and he could swear he heard the distant sound of a wolf howling mixed with the pained cries of a large cat. Shaking his head, becoming aware of the room around him again, Blair tuned into the tape as the voice started up again.

"But then, after I saw your little sacrifice, I knew which one of you I wanted to go up against. You see, I know, Professor. I know. And that, well that just makes this all the more interesting. I've made my opening move, Professor. Now, it's your turn." The figure on the screen started to turn away but then paused and glanced back at the camera. "Oh, I suppose you want something to call me. It's only natural to want to know your opponent's identity. Regretfully, I can't tell you my true name. That would only hasten the end of our little game. So, for now, you can call me … Moriarty." The man gave a smile and tipped an invisible hat. "I know this is rather cliched but … the game is afoot, Professor."

Then the man, Moriarty, walked out of the camera's range. The tape continued but only the room in which it was shot was visible. As he kept watching the screen, hoping that he might catch a brief glimpse of Jim, Blair leaned forward in his seat as something tugged at the back of his mind. Suddenly, he stood up and raced over to the television. Pushing past a stunned Simon, Blair reached out and hit the pause button before pointing at the screen. "I know where this was shot!"

Attention drawn to the blood that was dripping from the cupped palm, Simon turned to Joel. "Got get a first aid kit. Rhonda has one in her desk."

Confused, Blair watched as Joel left the room. When the door shut, he glanced over at Megan. Further puzzled by the sympathetic and concerned look she gave him, he turned to face Simon. "Didn't you hear me? I said that I know where this tape was filmed. We have to go. Maybe Jim is there. We could… We need to… I have to…"

Simon laid his hand on Blair's shoulder and brought a halt to the stammered words. "First, we need to get your hands taken care of. Then we'll talk about the tape."

"My hands? What are you…" Trailing off as he looked down at his hands, Blair winced when he saw the damage he had unknowingly inflicted on himself. "I didn't even…" Suddenly feeling shaky, Blair swayed. Before he could fall, Simon pulled out a seat and gently pushed him down into it.

Kneeling down next to the chair, Simon picked up one of Blair's hands and examined the bleeding palm. "You did quite a number here, Sandburg."

"It doesn't matter." Blair attempted to pull his hand away, but Simon easily maintained the hold on his wrist. "Look, Simon, that tape … I recognized the surroundings. It was made in my old warehouse. You remember it, the one that blew up. We have to get there."

"We will," Simon promised. "I'll go on and send Rafe and Brown to check it out while…"

"No!" Blair yelled. "I have to go there. It has to be me. I'm the one he wants to play this perverted game with so I'm the one that has to follow the clues. If he's watching and someone else shows up… Simon, he could feel that I've violated the rules or something. There's no telling what he'd do to Jim if I do something that he perceives to be cheating."

"Okay, okay." Simon looked up as the door to his office opened. Seeing Joel enter the room, he said, "Let's get your hands cleaned up and then we'll go. But I don't want you doing anything stupid once we get there. You'll do exactly what I tell you to do or so help me, I'll have you cuffed and sitting in the back of a squad car before you know what's happening. Are we clear?"

"Yeah. Just hurry it up so we can get out of here."

After nodding his thanks to Joel when the other man placed the first aid down on the table, Simon quickly opened it and began to take out gauze and antiseptic.

Eyes drawn back to the now darkened television screen, Blair let out a small hiss when Simon began to treat his hands.

***

This time when he awoke, Jim didn't attempt to open his eyes. Instead, he merely remained on the floor and bit back a groan as he suffered through the involuntary twitches and shudders that coursed through his body. Feeling the effects of the stun gun, effects that were amplified by his enhanced sense of touch, Jim's nerve endings felt as if they were on fire. Still trying to contain the moans that threatened to escape, he bit down on his lower lip. When the resulting blood dribbled into his mouth, his other senses spiraled out of control and he started to zone on the metallic taste.

Not fighting the alluring pull of the zone, Jim didn't struggle as he began to slip into the void. Soon, nothing of the outside world existed to him as he floated in the sensory haze. The taste of the blood expanded, pushing everything else aside until it was the only thing that existed to the sentinel. The cramping of his muscles, the coldness seeping into his body, the blood clotting on his torn wrists, the breath in his lungs growing shallow, his heartbeat becoming increasingly erratic, none of these things registered to him.

Just as he was almost completely lost, a new sensation began to register. At first, it was barely noticeable, easily ignored. But soon, it became more persistent and eventually grew in strength and frequency until it dragged him out of the painless existence. Desperately, he tried to cling to the rapidly evaporating remnants of the zone. As much as he struggled against it, he was brought out of the void and immersed in the world again. The taste of the blood faded away as his other senses were bombarded once more.

First, there was the coarseness of the ropes encircling his torn wrists. Then, his body jerked and quivered as his nerve endings registered again. Gasping he struggled against the ropes, this time uncaring of the moans that finally escaped. Wrestling with the dials, trying to bring the pain under control, his jaw clenched sporadically. Unable to get a fix on the dials, he gave up and simply rode out the ordeal.

Then, as the tremors passed and his body began to recover from the shock, the new sensation once again registered. A slight reoccurring pressure that seemed to be located in the vicinity of his abdomen. Forcing his eyes to open, staring at the ceiling, he winced as the weight of his body put pressure on his bond wrists. Taking a deep breath, he strained until he lifted his head up.

"Please don't strain anything on my account, Detective," his captor said. "Though is it nice to see you awake and aware again. I never imagined a stun gun would have such an extreme affect on you. Those senses must be as must of a curse as they are a blessing. Tell me, does having the Professor around really help you in dealing with them?"

Voice hoarse, Jim asked, "What are you doing?" Then, he winced as the pressure increased.

Pulling the knife away from Jim's stomach, the man moved until he was peering down at the captive detective. "Now, now, that's not how we play the game. There are rules to be followed. And, of course, penalties to pay when those rules are not adhered to." When there was no response, the man reached down and patted Jim's cheek. Smiling at the resulting glare, he leaned even closer. "Perhaps one of the most important rules, for you anyway, is that you will answer any question I ask of you."

"And if I don't?"

"Well, then, you must pay the penalty," the man replied. "So I ask again, does having the Professor around really help you in dealing with your senses?"

"Go to hell. I'm not telling you anything."

"Very well, then, you merit a penalty."

Unable to prevent it, Jim screamed as a sudden pain shot up and down his leg. Thrashing around on the floor, he unknowingly knocked his captor backwards. Finally coming to a rest, now laying on his side, Jim started to draw up his legs but stopped when the movement created a new round of agony. Panting, he looked down and saw the handle of the knife that was now embedded in his leg. Just as the sight registered on his pain-clouded mind, a hand reached over and viciously yanked out the knife. Panting, Jim just stared as the man said, "That wasn't very smart, Detective. But at least now maybe you've learned to follow the rules."

"Now then, answer the question."

Still defiant, despite the agonizing wound to his leg, Jim merely glared at the other man. After bracing himself against the pain, determined not to break no matter what other torments might be inflicted, Jim clenched his jaw as his captor once again approached.

"Detective, there’s no need to make this so unpleasant." Fingering the knife, the man walked over and knelt down next to Jim. "Why are you are being so difficult? All I want is a little bit of information. That’s not too much to ask, now is it?"

"Listen up, you sick, sadistic piece of…" Jim let out a scream when the man reached out and squeezed his injured leg. Nearly blacking out, he panted harshly when the pressure finally lessened.

"Really, you are putting yourself through all of this for nothing. What does it hurt to answer a few questions?" Expectantly, the man stared at Jim and waited to see how the detective would respond this time. But before the anticipated rely could come, a soft ringing noise sounded. Letting out a frustrated sigh, the captor stood up. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone. "Yes, what is it?" As he listened to the caller for several seconds, his expression turned to one of annoyance. "Really? I wasn’t expecting him to find it so soon. Well, this certainly puts a crimp in my game plan. I’ll just have to adjust my strategy accordingly. See that you delay them for a few minutes." Glancing down at Jim, he stepped on the wounded leg and pressed down. Briefly, he smiled at the resulting moans but then a look of annoyance appeared on his face. "I don’t care how you do it, just do it!" Angrily, he snapped the phone closed and then knelt down again. "Looks like the Professor is even more astute an opponent then I originally thought. Just makes the game all the more challenging."

Having managed to bring the pain somewhat under control, Jim was able to hear the phone conversation. After the call had ended, he gave a derisive sounding chuckle. When his captor glared at him, he smirked. "You really are one stupid bastard, aren't you? Did you really think you were an equal for Sandburg? God, he's going to get a laugh out of that when I tell him."

"Just what makes you think that you're going to live long enough to tell him anything?"

"Because, unlike you, I know Sandburg."

Angered, the man leaned over, grabbed two fistfuls of Jim's shirt and hauled the injured man toward him. "I know the Professor. I've been watching…"

"Yeah, watching," Jim interrupted. "You really think that just watching will let you know the kind of person Sandburg is. Hell, I've been living with the guy for years now and I'm just now beginning to see who he really is. All this time, I had no idea … Sandburg will beat you at this perverted little game."

"You're sure of that, are you?"

Locking gazes with the other man; Jim's voice was strong with conviction when he replied, "Yeah, I'm sure of that. Just like I'm sure that you're going to regret ever messing with us. And you definitely picked the wrong one to challenge. Hell, I'd have let you off easy. I'd have just killed you after I found you. But Sandburg… Well, Sandburg will make you suffer first. You really did screw up there, Genius."

Unnerved by Jim's words, as well as by the unexpected acceleration of his plans, the captor was silent for a few seconds. Then, recovering from the brief moment of uncertainty, he stood. "I've got some things to do. After all, I must prepare for the Professor's arrival. I advise you to not attempt to escape. You wouldn't want to be dealt another penalty."

Lying still, Jim watched as the man turned away. "I swear, if anything happens to him I'll…"

"Spare me the trite attempts at intimidation, Detective. It demeans both of us." With those words, he walked away. Pausing by the doorway of the small room he was holding Jim in, he turned and said, "By the way, we never were properly introduced. I apologize for that since I was at fault. I know you want something to call me. Some form of address for when you issue those unimaginative threats and mediocre warnings. As I told the Professor, you may call me Moriarty."

"I don't give a rat's as…" Stopping when the meaning of those words registered, Jim stared at Moriarty. "What are you talking about? When did you speak to Sandburg?"

Instead of answering, Moriarty gave a small contemptuous smile and then left the room. After watching the door shut behind his captor, Jim grimaced as he started to twist his bound hands. Feeling the ropes loosen slightly as the wounds on his wrists re-opened and the resulting blood made his skin slick, Jim increased his efforts to get free. Starting to feel the effects of blood loss from the wound on his leg, he struggled to remain awake. But just as he managed to free himself, shock finally overcame him and he passed out.

***

Impatiently, Blair sat and allowed Simon to treat his hands but as soon the bandaging was done, he pulled away from the older man. "Okay, you're done. Now let's go find Jim."

"Just wait a minute, Sandburg," Simon ordered. "I need to get everything ready. I'm not just going to rush in there half-cocked. As soon as I get the necessary arrangements made, we'll go."

"But…"

Holding up his hand, Simon forestalled any further arguments. "Not another word." Turning to Megan, he said, "I want you to stay here and keep an eye on him while Joel and I go get everything ready."

"Yes, Sir," Megan replied, her eyes on Blair's silent form. "I'll make sure Sandy doesn't do anything rash."

Simon gave her a quick nod and then addressed Joel. "Let's go. I want to move out as soon as possible." With a final warning glare at Blair, Simon left. Joel walked over and gave Blair's shoulder a gentle, supportive squeeze before following after the captain.

As soon as they had left the room, Blair stood up and began to pace. "I can not believe this! Of all the… Jim is out there in the hands of this lunatic and Simon is worried about procedure? I don't think so. I'm going to…"

"Going to what?"

Startled by the words, having forgotten Megan's presence, Blair came to a halt. "Um… nothing, Megan. Just talking out loud, you know? Hey, look, I… um… need to go out for a minute. I have to go to the… Well, you know."

"Okay, I'll go with you." A slightly smug expression of her face, Megan gestured towards Blair's hands. "After all, you might need some help."

"What?" Blair squeaked. "Look, Megan, I think that I'm perfectly capable of handling the situation by myself."

"Why do I get the feeling that you're talking about something other than a trip to the little boys' room?"

"Megan…"

"Sandy, I know that you're worried about Jim. I am too. But the captain is right. We can't just go blindly rushing in there without proper backup." Megan gave Blair a sympathetic look and her voice was soft when she continued. "If we do that, then we'd probably end up getting Jim killed."

"Not if I went alone," Blair reasoned. "I lived down there. I know the area. Besides, this guy is expecting me to go."

"Then you'd be walking right into a trap."

"I've got no choice. Jim's life is at stake."

Megan stood up and walked over to Blair. "Do you really think that Jim would want you to do that? Sacrificed yourself to save him?"

Eyes downcast, Blair murmured, "I've already done that." Then, he lifted his eyes to meet Megan's. "Do you really think that I can just stand by and do nothing? I know that Jim wouldn't want me to go, wouldn't want me to put myself in danger, but… Jim's life is at stake and I'll do whatever it takes to make sure he's safe. He's my best friend, my family, my… my…"

"Your Sentinel," Megan finished. When Blair started to turn away she grabbed his arm and stilled the movement. "Sandy, I may not understand all of this Sentinel business. I mean, I've only known about it a short time and I have to admit that some of the things I've seen, some of the way that I've seen Jim act, have made me wonder why you stay. Especially after… Well, after everything that happened when Alex Barnes showed up. But despite Jim's actions when we finally caught up with her, I know how much you mean to him. That day at Rainier, that day at the fountain, he didn't give up even when all the rest of us did. Then, after your dissertation got out and you gave your press conference. I saw that he means just as much, if not more, to you. I know now why you stay. The two of you, you're bound together. There's a bond between the two of you; your souls are linked. And if death couldn't defeat the two of you, what the two of you have together, then some bloody, egomaniacal jackass doesn't stand a chance."

Blair gave a small chuckle. "So is this you giving me a little kick in the butt to keep me in line?"

"No, this is me trying to tell my friend that everything will be okay," Megan replied. "But you can't try to handle this on your own. We all care about Jim. And we care about you. You're not alone so let us help you. Let us help you get your Sentinel back."

"She's right," a quiet voice agreed.

Having not heard anyone enter the room, Megan and Blair were both surprised when they turned and saw Simon standing by the door. Simon cleared his throat, showing a rare moment of nervousness. "Look, Sand… Blair, you know that this Sentinel stuff makes me uncomfortable. I'd rather not deal with it or think about it too much. But I do know that what Connor said is true. I've never seen partners so dedicated to one another. That commitment to one another has gotten the two of you through a lot of difficult times and it'll get you through this one as well." Expression becoming stern, he added, "But it also has gotten the two of you in trouble. Especially when you allow your concern to cloud your judgement."

"I know that, Simon."

"Do you?"

"I do, alright," Blair impatiently replied. "So, can we get going now?"

"Yeah, but just remember…"

"I know, I know. Do want you say or its handcuffs and the back of a squad car."

"That's right." Turing to Megan, Simon asked, "You with us on this one, Connor?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good," Blair said as he walked over to the door. "Then let's go get my partner back. And nail the son of a bitch that grabbed him."

After exchanging a worried glance, Simon and Megan followed after Blair.

Once out in the bullpen, Simon went over to Rhonda. "Is everything ready?"

Attention drawn to Blair, mesmerized by the sight of the body vibrating with pent up energy and aggression, Rhonda distractedly answered, "Yes, Sir. Everything is being set up right now."

"What’s being set-up?" Blair asked, his tone suspicious.

Dreading the outburst that was sure to come, Simon walked over to the fidgety younger man. "It’s nothing. But just as an extra precaution, I had the SWAT team put on standby. They’ll be joining us at the warehouse but they’ll just be there as backup. I want them there just in case something goes wrong. They’ve been apprised of the situation and they know not to do anything that could jeopardize Jim’s safety."

"I don’t like it, Simon." Blair turned a somber expression towards the captain. "It feels wrong."

"Feels wrong? What are you talking about?"

"I don’t know." Face showing both exasperation and frustration, Blair reached up and began to massage his temples. "It just feels wrong. I don’t know how to explain it. I really don’t. But… but I just think that you should call them off. Their presence… they shouldn’t be there. It’s just going to make things worse."

Taking in the lines of pain etched at the corners of Blair’s eyes and his pallor, Simon leaned closer and asked, "Is there something going on here that I should know about?"

Lowering his hands, Blair looked up and meet Simon’s worried gaze with one of his own. "I don’t know. I just… I just don’t think that they should be there."

"Can you give me a reason why?" When there was no response, Simon let out a small sigh. "I didn’t think so. Look, I promise that they’ll stay back. I’ll only use them as a last resort, okay? But I can’t go in there without backup."

"I understand," Blair replied. "But I still feel that it’s the wrong way to go."

"Well with as little information as we have to go on, it’s the only way that I can go," Simon defended his actions.

"I know but I’ve still got a very bad feeling about this."

Before Simon could reply, someone came rushing into the bullpen. Irritated, the captain looked up and his expression turned hard when he saw Officer Patterson standing by the doorway. "What are you doing here, Patterson?"

Out of breath, Patterson panted slightly. "Sir, Ellison’s neighbors finally showed up and I was able to take their statement."

"You left your assignment to tell me that?" Simon asked, his tone incredulous.

"Sir, Officer Jackson had finished his canvass of the neighborhood so he took over my post at Ellison’s," Patterson explained

"What about Officer McKinley?"

"He’s still out trying to find potential witnesses."

Angered that a subordinate had disobeyed his orders, Simon growled, "What you have to say had better be damn important, Officer. If not, I’ll have you brought up on charges so fast you won’t know what hit you."

"Understood, Sir." As he answered, Patterson’s eyes roamed around the room. When he saw Blair, he couldn’t stop the grimace of disgust that appeared on his face.

Noticing the expression, Simon took a step forward and placed himself slightly in front of Blair. "Do you have a problem, Patterson?"

Patterson schooled his face into a neutral expression when he saw the protective movement. "No, Sir. No problem at all."

"Then perhaps you should tell us what you found out."

Behind Simon, Blair cleared his throat and said, "Can’t this wait? We need…"

"…to get to Jim," Simon finished as he looked back at Blair. "I know. But your neighbors might have had some useful information. Brown and Rafe haven’t had any luck finding a matching MO. We don’t know the first thing about this guy. Hell, we don’t even know what he looks like. At this point, any information would be useful. We need to hear what Patterson found out." Turning back to the officer, he warned, "But you’d better make this quick."

"Yes, Sir," Patterson, automatically responded. "As I said, Ellison’s neighbors returned home and I asked them some questions." Unable to resist the urge, he let a slur against Blair slip out. "They didn’t want to talk about Sandburg. In fact they appeared to become rather angry when I mention his name. But they did have some nice things to say about Detective Ellison."

"Patterson."

Hearing the warning tone in his superior’s voice, the officer allowed himself a momentary feeling of satisfaction from the hurt look on Blair’s face before he continued. "They said that when they left the building earlier they saw some kind of delivery van parked by the curb. They didn’t think much of it at the time, but now…" Patterson let his words trail off, the meaning clear to everyone in the room.

"Did they notice anything about it?" Simon asked. "A name or phone number on the side?"

Shaking his head, Patterson answered, "They said that they didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to it. But they thought that the name began with a ‘P’ or ‘D’ and that there was possibly a two in the phone number."

"That’s not a whole hell of a lot to go on," Brown stated, looking up as he adjusted his holster.

Patterson averted his eyes and when he answered, he sounded apologetic. "Yeah, I know. I really wish I could’ve gotten some more useful information but I figured that every little bit would help."

Still upset with the officer, Simon nonetheless grudgingly expressed his gratitude. "Well it’s more than we had before. It might not have anything at all to do with Jim’s disappearance, but it’s worth checking into." Simon looked over towards his assistant. "Rhonda…"

"I’ll get right on it," the astute woman answered, having correctly anticipated the request.

"Good," Simon replied as he gave Rhonda a nod. "SWAT should be in place now so let’s go."

When the others started towards the door, Patterson took a step forward. "With all due respect, Sir, I’d like to accompany you. Like I said before, Ellison is a good cop and I’d like to help get him back. After all we have to protect our own, don’t we?"

Aware of Blair’s impatient fidgeting, Simon agreed, "Alright, you can go. But this time you make sure that you follow my orders."

"Yes, Sir."

"And don’t think that I’m going to let this incident slide," Simon warned. "We will be discussing your actions later."

Pushing aside his anger, Patterson looked past Simon to stare at the man still partially concealed behind the captain. Even as he gave his superior a small nod in acknowledgement, he blamed Blair for the reprimand he was bound to receive. Seeing the other man flinch in response to his heated gaze, Patterson ducked his head as an unpleasant smile appeared on his face.

Intent on the upcoming raid, Simon missed the subtle interaction between the two men. Glancing around the bullpen, he made sure each member of his team was ready. "Let’s move out."

Matching Simon step for step, Blair strode out of the bullpen with the others. Managing to keep some distance between himself and Patterson, Blair maneuvered to place Henri between the two of them as the group entered the elevator. Nervously, Blair bounced in place once they were all inside and began their descent to the garage. Mind focused on finding his partner; he missed the question being asked. "What?"

Leaning forward slightly, Patterson peered around Henri and stared at Blair. "I just asked if you found something useful on that tape." At Blair’s puzzled expression, the officer disgustedly added, "The tape. The one you found at Ellison’s."

Instead of Blair, it was Megan that answered. "Yes, we did. Sandy recognized the place where the tape was made. Seems it’s a warehouse where he used to live."

Suspicious, Blair spoke up before anything else could be said. "How did you know about the tape? Or that we were even planning something?"

When it seemed as if Patterson was going to ignore the questions, Simon glared at him. "Speak up, Officer."

Quickly eliminating the condescending sneer that had been on his face, Patterson looked away from Blair. "Sir, I saw the tape when you … and Sandburg … stopped to talk with me after you left Ellison’s apartment. As for how I knew something was about to go down, when I arrived at the station everyone was talking about this thing with Ellison. Someone mentioned SWAT; then, when I got to the bullpen and saw all of you looking like you were about to leave, I figured it out." His tone sarcastic, Patterson added, "That’s what cops do, Sandburg. Figured you would’ve known that by now, especially since you’re planning on becoming one."

"That’s enough, Patterson," Simon barked. "One more word and you’re staying behind."

"Yes, Sir." After giving the sullen response, Patterson remained silent until they reached the garage.

Once the group had piled out of the elevator, Simon ordered, "Brown, you and Rafe take Patterson with you. Connor, Sandburg and I will go in my car."

"Yes, Sir," both men replied. Then, they went over to Brown’s car and got in. Following along behind the two detectives, Patterson spared a brief glance over at the others before climbing into the back seat.

Waiting until after the others had departed, Megan turned to Simon. "I don’t like Patterson’s attitude. Why are you allowing him to come with us? You should just leave his ass here." Then, remembering that she was addressing a superior officer, she hastily added, "Sir."

"Look," Blair began as he stepped between Megan and Simon, "right now, I don’t really care what Patterson thinks or where he goes. The only thing I’m concerned about is getting my partner back. So cut the crap and let’s go." Leaving behind two stunned police officers, Blair stormed off to Simon’s car and climbed into the front seat.

"Like the man said, let’s go get his partner," Simon said and then went over to join Blair.

"Yeah, but after we do, I’m going to have a little chat with Officer Patterson." Wearing a small, satisfied grin, Megan went over to Simon’s car. After a mumbled complaint about being stuck in the back seat, she got in the vehicle.

***

This time Jim slowly emerged from the darkness, blood loss and shock making it increasingly difficult to fight his way back from unconsciousness. For a brief instant, he forgot his current situation. Then, as he lay there wondering about his partner's whereabouts, the memories came rushing back. Groaning, he willed his sore and aching body to respond and slowly brought his now freed hand out from behind his back, only to wince at the sight of the torn and bloody flesh.

After blinking his eyes rapidly several times, his vision finally cleared and with a soft moan he rested his numb hands in his lap as he glanced around at his surroundings.

Momentarily, he allowed himself a brief feeling of relief when he spotted the nearby door. He tried to dial up his hearing in order to see if his captor was nearby but soon gave up when he got no results. Letting out a soft growl of frustration, he clenched his jaw and began to drag himself towards the exit. Each jarring movement sent bolts of pain shooting up and down his injured leg. Determinedly, wanting and needing to get back to Blair, he continued on despite the agony. When once again the dials refused to cooperate as he tried to dial down the pain, he simply focused on the thought of what his partner must be going through at the moment. Having been in the same situation himself, he could easily imagine the fear and worry Blair had to be feeling right now.

As his thoughts centered on his partner, Jim's world narrowed down to the door in front of him. The goal of alleviating his partner's pain effectively blocking out any awareness of his own, the source of his freedom was the only thing that existed to him. Just as he was mere inches from his goal, the door opened and he found himself staring up at his captor.

Irate, Moriarty stared down at the man lying on the floor. His body vibrating with barely suppressed fury, he asked, "Going somewhere, Detective?"

Not willing to give up without a fight when he was so close to gaining his freedom, Jim somehow managed to bring up his arm and hook it around the other man's legs. Calling forth the last of his reserves, he yanked forward and brought Moriarty crashing down to the floor. Even though he knew that his actions would bring forth another of his captor's penalties, Jim still smiled when he heard the resulting yelp of pain and surprise. Exhausted, he slumped against the floor.

Standing up, Moriarty brushed the dirt off his clothing as he glared down at Jim. "That wasn't a very wise move, Detective." Further angered by the resulting weak chuckle, he squatted down next to Jim. "Do you find something amusing about your current situation?"

Chuckles ending in a gasp, Jim coughed before answering. "Yeah, actually I do. You. Oh man, did you hear that noise you made?" Letting out another chuckle, even weaker sounding than the first, Jim struggled to catch his breath. "That was… that was the funniest thing I've heard in a long time."

"I'd advise you to stop laughing at me, Detective." Although they lacked the strength to be called chuckles, Jim's action was clear when his body began to shake again. "I said stop laughing at me!" In a rage now, Moriarty walked to stand beside Jim. "Stop! Laughing! At! Me!" Each word was accompanied by a vicious kick to the detective's side. Rage spent for the moment, Moriarty panted as he looked down at the now still body.

Regaining his composure, Moriarty put his foot against Jim's side and nudged the unconscious man over. "You just had to provoke me, didn’t you?" Leaning over, he grabbed Jim's arms. Relishing the feeling of the warm blood, he squeezed the abused wrists tightly as he dragged Jim into the room. "I don't have time for this! The Professor has forced me to move up my time table and now I'm forced to deal with your foolishness."

With a grunt, Moriarty heaved Jim the rest of the way and then proceeded to drop the detective onto the ground. Smiling, he watched at the other man's head impacted against the concrete. "No need to panic yet though. My plan will still succeed and I will triumph over the Professor." Then, he knelt and re-tied Jim's hands, being sure to make the ropes even tighter this time. "Let's see you get out of this." Giving the ropes one final yank, he leaned back and viewed his handiwork. Satisfied by the sight of the bonds cruelly digging into the already damaged flesh, he smiled and then stood up. "That ought to hold you. And now, I've got to go prepare for the Professor's arrival. Oh, and for his friends, of course. Though I suppose some of them would take offense at being referred to that way, wouldn't they?" Laughing, Moriarty walked away.

***

Drumming his fingers against the dashboard, Blair stared out the windshield. "Can't you hurry it up, Simon?"

"For the last time, Sandburg, sit back and shut up!"

Slumping back against the seat, Blair's only response was another frustrated sigh although he did turn and give Megan a small smile when she laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. When Megan pulled away and leaned back into her seat, Blair turned and stared out of the window. Unconsciously, he started to rub his leg as a dull ache settled into his upper thigh. As the earlier pain in his head returned, Blair leaned over and rested his forehead against the window Letting out a breath as the coolness seeped into his slightly fevered flesh, Blair's eyes slipped closed. Despite his concern for Jim, the motion of the car soon lulled him into a light doze.

Glancing over at Blair, Simon said, "Looks like he's out of it."

"Maybe that's for the best." Leaning forward again, Megan worriedly looked at Blair. "He really doesn't look good, Captain."

Attention now focused on the road again; Simon didn't look at Megan as he replied. "I know that, Connor. He's been getting steadily worse all night."

"We should have left him at the station."

"Do you really think that he would have gone for that?" Simon let out a small snort as he glanced at Blair again. An expression of fondness on his face, he added, "The only way we could've left him behind was if we put him in a holding cell. And judging by some of his past escapades, I doubt that even a cell would've stopped him for very long. One way or another, he was going to that warehouse. At least this way, we'll be able to keep an eye on him. Be there for him in case..."

"In case we don't find Jim alive," Megan finished. "I don't believe that he's dead." When Simon glanced back at her in surprise, she explained, "For some reason, I think that if Jim were dead, Sandy would know. I can't explain it, it's just a feeling."

"Great. More feelings," Simon muttered.

"You don't feel the same?"

Tightening his grip on the steering wheel, Simon reluctantly admitted, "Maybe I do. Hell, I don't know. What I do know is that there's more to this Sentinel business than what they've told me. I mean, that day at Rainier… at the fountain… when Sandburg… and then Jim…" Bringing the car to a stop when a light turned red, Simon turned to stare at Megan. "We both know that something happened that day, something that was beyond our comprehension. I didn't question it because we had Sandburg back and that's the only thing that mattered to me at that moment. But since then… Well, let's just say that I've had a lot of sleepless nights since then. Reliving that instant, feeling that there was something happening that was just beyond our awareness."

"You felt it too, didn't you?"

When the light changed, Simon hastily turned around and started the car moving again. "I don't know what you're talking about, Connor."

"There for a few seconds right before Sandy started breathing again, it felt like there was this… this charge in the air." Excitedly, Megan leaned forward even further and tried to get a glimpse of Simon's face. "My skin was tingling, wasn't yours? Then there was that sound and…"

"That's enough!" Simon yelled. "I don't want to talk about it anymore."

"Why not?" Megan asked, her voice soft. "Ignoring it won't make it go away. Sooner or later, we will have to tell them what we experienced that day. You do know that, don't you?"

"Connor…"

"They protect each other, Sir, but we protect them," Megan interrupted. "As they guard the tribe, we must guard them. From others as well as from themselves."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Everything that they've been through, everything that they will be going through, we have to make sure that they don't let it tear them apart," Megan explained. "Their greatest strength can also be their greatest weakness at times."

"And just what would that be?"

"Why their love for each other, of course," Megan answered. "Like now, when one of them is threatened, the other thinks nothing of jeopardizing his own life if by doing so the other is saved. But on the other hand, when we do find Jim, it'll be Blair's love that will allow him to recover from whatever has been done to him. Just as Jim's does when Blair is the one hurt."

"Why would that tear them apart?"

"Because they're also a couple of self-sacrificing idiots who react without thinking and don't hesitate to commit new heights of stupidity if they believe their actions will help the other." Sitting back with a slight huff, Megan crossed her arms. "That's part of where we come in. I just wish one of us had known what Sandy was planning to do. Maybe we could've prevented everything from getting so out of control. But there's nothing we can do about that now. All we can do now is try and shield them as much as possible. I know that they've been through a lot already but I think the worse is yet to come."

"Because Sandburg is going to be a cop?"

"Yes," Megan answered. "Judging by what we've already seen, and what we probably haven't seen, I think we can be sure that there will be problems. I'm just worried that one of them will do something foolish."

"The only thing Sandburg has left to do is leave." Realizing what he had just said, Simon sat in shocked silence for several seconds. "You don't think that he'll…"

"If he thinks it's the best thing for Jim, then yes he would leave," Megan said. "Don't you think so?"

"Damn it," Simon cursed in frustration. " If he does leave, Jim would just track him down."

"Not if he thought it was what Sandy wanted," Megan argued. "As much as it would hurt him, Jim would let Sandy go."

"He'd be miserable without Sandburg."

"Just like Sandy would be miserable without him. That's why we have to protect them from themselves too."

"There's just one problem with that." Glancing up into the rearview mirror, Simon saw Megan's puzzled expression. "What if leaving Cascade is what's best for Sandburg?"

"Then that's when we'd have to do the hardest thing." Eyes downcast, Megan softly added, "We let him go. But we make sure that wherever Sandy goes, he takes Jim with him."

"I don't know if I could let them leave," Simon confessed.

"If it comes to that, you'll be able to. The same way that I'll be able to let them go."

"And how is that?"

"If it gets to the point where leaving is best thing for them to do," Megan explained, "we'll let them go because no matter how much it hurts, you always want what's best for the people you love."

Not knowing how to respond, Simon merely continued to drive in silence. The frown on his face deepening when he heard a slight whimper of pain coming from the man beside him.

***

In a state between awareness and sleep, Blair only managed to catch a few words of the conversation occurring around him. Tuning the distressing words out, he immersed himself in the dreamlike world he had found himself in and shivered as a chill ran through his body. Buffeted by a sudden barrage of aches, he let out a groan as his leg cramped and threatened to give out. Crashing down to his knees, he was only vaguely aware of the moisture seeping through his pants. His hands clenched into fists, reopening the self-inflicted wounds, as he threw back his head and let out a scream. The sound of a wolf howling in pain converged with his own agonized cry until the two were indistinguishable from one another.

When the pain finally lessened to a bearable level, Blair opened his eyes and found himself staring into the face of a large wolf. "Don't take any offense, but I'm not so sure that I'm happy to see you. Considering the fact that I was dead the only other time I've seen you, I'm a little bit leery here. You can understand that, can't you?"

In response, the wolf leaned forwards and nuzzled Blair's cheek. Nervously, Blair stayed still and slowly reached up a hand. Lightly, he stroked the soft fur. Feeling a brief pang of loss when the wolf pulled back and severed the contact between them, Blair cleared his throat. His voice hoarse, he asked, "So, what are you doing here? More importantly, what am I doing here? Jim is the one who has the visions, not me."

Growing uncomfortable from the close scrutiny he found himself under, Blair struggled upward. Finally managing to get to his feet, he took an unsteady step forward and then looked down at the wolf. "See, I'm fine. So whatever it is you want me to do, let me know. I'm not really for sure how time passes here in relation to the real world. Or would you call it the waking world? I don't know. All I do know is that we're going to be getting to the warehouse soon so I probably don't have a whole lot of time here."

When the wolf gave a decidedly amused sounding snort, Blair gave the animal a stunned look. "Are you laughing at me?" Still trying to decide whether or not he should feel insulted, Blair was startled when the wolf came over and took a hold of his hand. Nervously, he gulped as he looked down and saw the sharp teeth gently clamped down on his palm. Before he could protest the action, the wolf started forward. Stumbling, Blair followed along side the animal. Attention focused on the ground, trying to avoid tripping, he let out a soft gasp when they finally came to a stop and he looked up. There before them was the panther. One of its hind legs was coated with blood and its front paws were firmly ensnared in binding vines. The animal lay unmoving on the hard ground and didn't appear to be breathing. Letting out an alarmed cry, Blair started toward his partner's wounded spirit animal only to be awakened by a not so gentle shake.

Eyes flying open, Blair surged forward and yelled, "Jim." Just before his head could impact with the windshield, a restraining force pushed him back against the seat. Confused, he rapidly blinked his eyes as his gaze settled on an extremely worried looking Simon. "Simon?"

Hearing the confusion in Blair's voice, Simon glanced back at Megan before turning his attention back to the dazed man beside him. "Are you all right, Blair?"

When Blair raised up a hand to rub at his face, they all noticed the fresh blood seeping through the bandage covering his palm. "I had a… a dream. Guess it was a little bit intense, huh?"

"You could say that," Simon replied as he pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it against Blair's hand. "Let me see the other one." When Blair raised the other hand, it was in a similar state. "Damn it." The captain reached back to take the scarf Megan held out to him. "Thanks, Connor." Having now wrapped both of the other man's hands, Simon held them in his own and applied pressure to the re-opened wounds. "You want to tell us what that was all about?"

Instead of answering, Blair asked, "You're going to have EMT's standing by, aren't you? At the warehouse, I mean." When Simon nodded, Blair let out a relieved sigh. "That's good. We're going to need to get Jim to the hospital as soon as possible. He's lost a lot of blood and he's in shock." Voice quiet, he added, "I don't know how much longer he's going to last if we don't get him some help soon. He's in pretty bad shape."

Leaning forward, causing Simon to hastily move out of the way, Megan asked, "How do you know that, Sandy?"

Letting out a rather hysterical sounding laugh, Blair cryptically answered, "I guess Incacha really did pass something on to me after all." Sobering, he grimaced when a particularly violent twinge resounded up and down his leg. "Though I don't know why it choose now to start up. Hell, after everything that's happened since he died, you'd figure it would've showed up a lot sooner than this."

"Blair?"

Hearing the unspoken question in Megan's voice, Blair turned to stare at the others. "I can't get into it right now. Later, after we find Jim, then maybe I'll be able to explain it but not right now. Are we almost there?"

With a jerk of his head, Simon answered, "See for yourself."

Looking in the direction the captain had indicated, Blair found himself staring at the burned out remains of his previous home.

***

From his secure position, Moriarty avidly watched as the police officers began to arrive. Smiling, eager to see what they thought of the surprise he had left for them, he patiently awaited a glimpse of his adversary. His breath caught when he finally saw Blair. Wishing that it could be a more personal contact, yet knowing that it wasn't time for that yet, he observed his opponent slowly climb out of the car. Disturbed, he frowned as the woman in the backseat hurriedly raced to the Professor's aid when the man seemed to have trouble standing. But before he could focus on the sight too much, something else drew his notice. With rapt attention, he looked on as several dark-clothed figures deployed and moved to surround the warehouse. "Yes, yes, it is just as he said it would be." Slowly, his finger inched towards the button but at the last moment he managed to restrain himself. "No, not yet. But soon."

***

As Simon got out of the car, he automatically looked over at Blair. Seeing that the younger man was having some difficulty standing, he started over to help but Megan beat him to it. Satisfied that she could handle Blair, he walked over to Rafe and Henri. "What's the situation?"

"SWAT is taking position around the building," Henri answered. "As soon as you give the order, we'll move in."

"Okay." Looking over at Blair and Megan, Simon continued. "I want you and Rafe with me. We're going to go in and see what's happening inside."

"What about Sandburg?" Rafe asked.

"Sandburg is staying out here until after we check the situation out."

Rafe exchanged a look with his partner. "No disrespect, Sir, but how are you going to manage that? There's no way he's going to want to be left out of this. Especially since there's a chance that Ellison could be inside."

"You two just make sure you're ready to move out," Simon replied. "I'll handle Sandburg."

When Simon started to walk off, Patterson stepped forward. "Sir, I was wondering if…"

"No, Patterson," Simon interrupted, knowing what the officer was going to ask. "You're going to sit this one out for right now."

"But, Sir…"

"What part of no don't you understand, Patterson?"

Chagrined by the reprimand, Patterson backed down. "Sorry, Sir."

Satisfied by the officer's acquiescence, Simon turned his attention back to Rafe and Henri. "We'll be going in as soon as I have a few words with Sandburg. Be ready." After seeing both men nod, Simon walked back over to his car.

Looking up at the sound of someone approaching, Blair saw Simon. "So when are we going in?"

"Well, Rafe, Brown and I will be going inside in just a few minutes," Simon answered. "You, on the other hand, are going to sit down before you fall down."

Moving away from Megan's supportive hold, Blair unsteadily swayed on his feet. "I'm fine and I'm going in there with you."

Leaning forward, Simon grabbed a hold of Blair's shoulders. "Sandburg, you are not fine. Now I don't know what's going on with you, but you're in no condition to go into an unknown and likely dangerous situation right now. You're going to stay here with Connor while we check things out. Then, and only then, will I allow you to go inside if I think it's safe for you to do so."

"Simon…"

"If we find Jim inside, I'll send Rafe or Brown out to get you," Simon interrupted. "But until I get an idea of what that lunatic has left for us in there, I want you to stay out here."

Shoulders slumped; Blair stared down at the ground. "Fine, I'll wait."

Giving Blair a gentle shake, Simon ordered, "Look at me, Sandburg." When Blair lifted his head and met Simon's gaze, the captain added, "I mean it. Don't you try and pull anything. I want you to promise me that you won't come in until I give the word that everything is clear."

"All right," Blair reluctantly agreed. "I won't go in until you give the okay."

Only partially satisfied, Simon looked over at Megan and knew by the look she gave him in return that she would make sure Blair remained outside. Then, he finally released the younger man and gave Megan a nod when she immediately resumed her supportive stance beside Blair. "I'll let you know something as soon as possible."

Filled with worry, both Megan and Blair silently watched as Simon walked back over to Rafe and Henri. "It'll be all right," Megan reassured when the three men then began to make their way towards the remains of the warehouse.

"I'm not so sure about that." Blair replied as he began to feel a growing sense of dread.

***

Once inside the warehouse, Simon, Rafe and Henri began to slowly make their way through the charred building. "Stay close," the captain ordered.

"Yes, Sir," both men replied in unison.

They continued on in silence for several seconds when suddenly Henri came to a halt. "What's that?"

"What?" Simon asked as he looked towards the detective.

Pointing off to the side, Henri replied, "It looks like there's some kind of light coming from that direction."

Looking to where Henri was pointing, the other two men could also make out a faint glow. "What in the hell is that?"

"I don't know, Brown," Simon answered, "but we're going to find out." Gesturing for the others to follow him, the captain started towards the light. "Be careful. There's no telling what kind of surprises we're going to run into."

***

Outside, Megan had just managed to convince Blair to sit down inside Simon's car when Patterson came jogging up to them. "So what do you think is going on in there?"

Still angry with the officer, Megan turned to glare at him. "Go away, Patterson."

Holding up his hands, Patterson tried to placate the upset woman. "Hey, I didn't mean anything by that."

"Just like I suppose you didn't mean anything by all those remarks you made earlier," Megan retorted.

"Ease up, Connor."

"That's Inspector Connor to you, Patterson," Megan angrily replied.

"Fine, Inspector Connor."

Hearing the sarcasm in the man's tone, Megan took a step towards him. "Look, Patterson, I…"

"Megan, calm down," Blair replied from his seated position in the car. Leaning forward, he peered up at Patterson. "Did you want something Patterson or did you just come over here to get in a few more insults? Either way, I'm so not up to dealing with you right now. I've got more important things to worry about. So why don't you just get lost."

When Patterson started towards Blair, Megan moved to block him. "Don't even think about it."

Patterson let out a derisive laugh. "Oh, that's great, Sandburg. What? Banks and the big boys aren't around so you get a woman to protect you?"

Megan started towards Patterson, but was stopped by a hand holding her back. Looking down, she was that Blair was gripping her arm. "Sandy…"

"He's not worth it, Megan." Using his hold on Megan as leverage, Blair stood up. "As for you, Patterson, I don't need Megan, Simon or anyone else to protect me. So if you've got a problem with me, you take it up with me." Taking a few steps forward, Blair placed himself between Megan and Patterson. "You don't mess with the people I care about."

"Really?" Patterson replied. "Well this psycho sure seems to be messing with Ellison. So what are you going to do to him? Or maybe you don't really care about Ellison all that much. After all, you sure seemed willing to get a few minutes of fame at his expense. Of course, that was before you realized everyone would see you for the lying piece of shit you really are. You may have tried to score a few points by coming forward with the truth before everyone found out on their own, but that doesn't excuse the fact that you're nothing but a lying, disloyal, pathetic excuse for a partner. And if they do find Ellison dead in there, it'll be because of you!"

With a scream of anger, Blair launched himself at Patterson and the two men fell to the ground. Despite the pain from the wounds on his palms, Blair clenched his hands into fists and landed several blows to the officer's face. However, due to Blair's weakened state, Patterson soon got the upper hand and had Blair pinned to the ground. Staring down into the pale face, the officer hissed, "I'm going to enjoy this."

Just as the raised fist was about to strike, Megan reached forward and hauled Patterson off of Blair. "Get the hell away from him!"

Sprawled on the ground, Patterson watched on in disgust as Megan then knelt down next to Blair. "Stay out of this," he growled.

"Oh, I don't think so," Megan replied. From her protective stance over Blair, she faced the officer. "I'd suggest you get away from us right now before I do something unladylike and kick your ass."

Patterson stood and sneered down at them. "Just try it, Connor. You don't belong here any more than he does."

"Well since Captain Banks doesn’t seem to share that opinion, I guess you're just going to put up with us, won't you?"

"We'll see about that," Patterson cryptically replied before storming off.

Alarmed by Patterson words, Megan worriedly stared after the officer. But then, a soft moan drew her attention and she turned back to Blair.

***

Inside the warehouse, Simon slowed his pace as they drew near to the source of the light. "Stay back while I go check it out."

"All due respect, Sir, but shouldn't Rafe or I check it out?" Henri asked. "There could be some type of booby trap up there."

"Look, Ellison is…"

"Our friend too," Henri finished. "We're worried about him too, Sir. But we're worried about Sandburg also. If there is some kind of trap up there and we accidentally set it off … Well, it's better if you're in the clear. No matter what we find or don't find in here, someone is going to have to deal with Sandburg and that someone need to be you, Captain."

Although he didn't like it, Simon realized the wisdom behind the words. Reluctantly, he agreed, "All right. I'll stay back here while you go check it out."

Henri gave his captain a nod and then ventured forward, leaving the other two men behind. Alert, he prowled forward, constantly scanning his surrounding for any signs of a trap. After several long, anxiety-filled minutes he finally reached his destination. Crouching down, he saw something lying in an eerie pool of light. Letting out a curse, he reached down to pick up the object. Just as his hand closed around it, a series of loud explosions rocked the ground.

***

Finger still on the depressed button, Moriarty's face held an expression of rapture as he watched the various images being displayed on the multitude of screens in front of him. As he watched, police officers scattered and fell to the ground. He began to laugh when another of the remote controlled bombs, that he had set earlier, exploded and showered the officers with debris. Searching the screens, his eyes finally settled on the one he sought. He smiled as he watched Megan cover Blair's body with her own to shield him from injury. "Soon you'll come to me, Professor. And then, there won't be anyone around to protect you."

***

Flinching as another explosion thundered, Megan shifted until her body covered more of Blair. "Stay still, Sandy," she yelled when Blair attempted to push her away.

"Megan, let me up." Heaving upward, Blair finally managed to dislodge Megan. Sitting up, he looked around in shock. "What…"

"Bombs," Megan said as she sat up herself. "Quite a few of them from the sounds of it."

***

"Brown," Simon yelled. "Are you all right?"

Making his way back to the other two men, Henri stopped for a moment when another explosion sounded. "I'm fine," he answered.

"Then hurry it up so we can get outside and find out what the hell is going on." Simon let out a sigh or relief when Henri reappeared. Then, he saw the object his detective was holding. "Not another one."

Holding up the tape, Henri nodded. "Yeah, it was the only thing there. Another little clue from this nutcase."

Reaching over, Simon took the tape from Henri and then stuck it in his coat pocket. "We'll deal with it later. Right now, we need to go see what kind of damage was done outside. From the sounds of it, this Moriarty character set off some fireworks. I just hope no one was hurt."

"You said it, Sir," Henri said as they started back out of the building.

When the three men finally emerged, they were confronted with a scene of frenzied activity. Officers were frantically rushing around, trying to aid the wounded. In the distance, the sound of approaching sirens could be heard. "I'm going to go find Sandburg and Connor. I want you two to assess the situation and then come report to me." Trusting his two detectives to carry out his instructions, Simon started towards his car.

His pace becoming quicker with each step, Simon hurried over to where he had left Megan and Blair. Arriving at his car, he was worried when he found no sign of them. Then his fear abated when he heard a familiar, and welcome, voice calling out his name. Turning to where the yell had come from, he saw both Megan and Blair tending to some wounded officers. Rushing over to them, he came to a standstill when the wounded man Blair was trying to help suddenly pushed the younger man away.

Simon lunged forward and just barely managed to catch Blair before he could fall to the ground. Still maintaining a hold on the other man, Simon glared at the officer and yelled, "What in the hell is the matter with you?"

"I don't want his help," the wounded man sneered.

When the outraged captain started to respond, Blair softly said, "Don't, Simon. It's all right. We just need to make sure that help is on the way."

Giving the officer a final glare, Simon steadied Blair and then turned the younger man to face him. "I can hear the sirens already, so help is coming." Critically eyeing Blair, Simon asked, "How about you? Are you all right?"

"Yeah," Blair wearily answered. "Both Megan and I are fine. When the first explosion sounded, Megan shielded me. Then, when it was all over, we went to help the ones that were wounded." Blair leveled a steady gaze at Simon and asked, "What about you and the others? Are you guys okay?"

"Yeah, we're fine," Simon reassured. "I sent Rafe and Brown to check on the situation while I came to see how you and Connor were doing."

"What about inside?" Blair inquired. "What did you find? Was Jim…"

"Jim wasn't in there," Simon hastily interrupted. "All we found was…"

"Was what?"

Silently, Simon pulled the tape out and held it up for Blair to see. "This. We just found this."

Blair closed his eyes and let out a shaky breath. "I'm getting so tired of this crap. I want Jim back. I swear, when I find the son of a bitch that took him, I'm going to…"

"You're going to stay back and let us take him into custody," Simon finished.

Looking at the tape that Simon still held, Blair asked, "When can we see it?"

"I want to see what's going on here first," Simon replied. "Once I know what the situation is, we'll head back to the station."

Even though he was anxious to view the tape, Blair knew that Simon was right. "Okay. I'll stay here and help until the ambulances get here."

When Blair turned away, Simon stood for several seconds and watched as several other officers also rebuffed the younger man's offer of help. Shaking his head, he allowed his eyes to slip close for a second before once again looking at the heart-wrenching scene. Not able to stand it anymore, he was just about to intervene when Rafe and Brown came up to him.

"Captain," Rafe called out.

Turning to the two detectives, Simon asked, "What did you find out?"

Out of breath, Rafe panted slightly as he answered, "Everyone is accounted for and even though there are a lot of injuries, there aren't any casualties."

"That's right, Sir," Henri added. "From what we can tell, those explosive devices didn't have a whole lot of force behind them. It was enough to cause a panic and send some debris flying, but it doesn't seem like they were intended to cause any serious damage."

Puzzled by this unknown assailant's actions, Simon wondered, "What kind of game is this guy playing?"

Unsure themselves, neither Rafe nor Henri had an answer for their captain.

***

Growing bored with the chaos that he had created, Moriarty focused on the screen showing the Major Crimes members. "Oh come now, don't just stand around and chat. Take the Professor back to your little precinct so that he can see the clue I left him." As he continued to watch them, he smiled when he saw Rafe and Henri leave again and afterwards Simon gestured towards Megan and Blair. "It's about time," he murmured when he saw the trio head towards the captain's car. "But what can I do to keep myself entertained for the time being?" Laughing, he added, "Oh, I believe that I just thought of something that will be very fun. Yes, very fun indeed." Still chuckling, he walked away from the screens.

***

After Simon had rounded up Megan and Blair, the three of them went over to his car. "Rafe and Brown are staying here. We're going to go back to the station and watch this tape. Maybe this time, it'll lead us to Jim."

"I hope so, Simon," Blair replied as he climbed back into Simon's car again. "I have this feeling that time's running out. For Jim as well as for us."

Neither of the police officers responded to the statement as they got into the car and then headed back to the station.

After a tension filled trip, they finally arrived back at the precinct and headed up to Major Crimes. As soon as they entered the bullpen, Rhonda hurried over to them. "I heard about what happened. Is everyone all right?"

"We're fine, Rhonda," Simon replied. "There was just some minor injuries among the SWAT team members. No one from our department was hurt."

"Thank God," Rhonda murmured.

"Right now, we need to get into my office." Holding up the tape, Simon added, "We found another little clue at the scene."

When the three of them started into the office, Rhonda called out, "I really need to speak to you for a moment, Captain."

Impatient to view the tape, Simon asked, "Can't it wait?"

"No, Sir. I don't think so," Rhonda replied. "This is something you need to know."

Addressing Megan and Blair, Simon instructed, "Go on inside, I'll join you in just a minute."

Blair opened his mouth to say something but then just simply nodded and went into the office.

"Connor…"

"It's okay, Sir," Megan interrupted. "I'll take care of Sandy. You just find out what's going on."

When Megan then went into his office, Simon turned back to Rhonda again. "What is it?"

After his assistant had finished explaining the situation to him, Simon ordered, "Get me Brown on the phone right now."

Hurriedly, Rhonda went to the phone and began to dial.

***

When he entered the room where an unconscious, restrained Jim still lay on the floor, Moriarty merely silently observed his captive for several long seconds. Then, he walked over and kicked the detective. Not satisfied when the other man didn't respond, he knelt down and began to slap Jim's face. Starting lightly at first, the blows soon grew in force until they rocked Jim's head back forth. Finally getting a reaction, Moriarty pulled his hand back when Jim started to moan.

Slowly, Jim's eyelids fluttered open and two dazed, confused eyes stared at the man kneeling down next to him. When his vision cleared and the form in front of him wasn't a blurred blob anymore, Jim let out a weak puff of air. "Are you still here?" he asked. "I was hoping that I'd wake up and find out you were just some bizarre dream. I've had some real wild ones after eating some of the experiments Sandburg insists on calling dinner."

"So, I see you're still hanging on to the sense of humor despite the trouble it's gotten you into," Moriarty remarked. "Well, let's see if you still feel up to making jokes in a few minutes." Leaning over, he brought his face close to Jim's. "You see, I just sprung my little surprise on your fellow officers. You should have seen them scurry when the first blast went off. It really was quite amusing. Oh, by the way, did I mention that the Professor was there too. I really couldn't see what happened to him though. So much debris and wounded lying around, you know. I do hope he's all right, don't you?"

Enraged, his anger giving his a burst of strength, Jim started twisting and writhing on the floor. "You bastard! If you've hurt him, I'll…"

"You'll what?" Moriarty asked, contempt coloring his words. "I'll do whatever I want to him and there's not a damn thing you can do to stop me. But, if you're lucky, I'll let you watch." Leaning closer, he leered at Jim. His voice low, he added, "Do you want me to tell you what I'm going to do? Do you, Detective? First I'm going to…" Pausing for a moment, Moriarty leaned closer until he could whisper in the other man's ear.

Straining against the ropes binding his arms, Jim was forced to listen as his captor continued to list the vile acts awaiting his partner. Suddenly, as the anger reached the boiling point, he heard the infuriated cry of a panther as he violently wrenched his hands free of the restraints. The remnants of the frayed ropes still clinging to his wrists, Jim latched onto Moriarty's throat. Relishing in the look of surprise that appeared on the other man's face, the sentinel slowly squeezed. But, he was forced to release his hold when pain exploded in his leg.

Scrambling backwards, his fist bloody from striking the wound on Jim's thigh, Moriarty gasped for breath. "Well, when the Professor is threatened, you're just full of surprises, aren't you?" He managed to croak out after he caught his breath.

***

Finishing his conversation with Henri, Simon hung up the phone and then turned to Rhonda. "Let me know as soon as they get here."

"Yes, Sir."

Simon nodded and then went into his office. Ignoring the questioning looks directed his way; he walked over and put on the tape.

"Aren't you going to take it down to Forensics first?" Megan asked. "Like you did with the first one." Silenced by the irate look Simon directed her way, Megan didn't make any further comments.

Ignoring the interaction between the two police officers, Blair focused on the television screen. As the tape began to play, he leaned forward. An intense expression on his face, he watched and hoped that this tape would lead him to his partner.

On the screen, the snow cleared and the masked form of Moriarty appeared just like on the previous tape. "Well, Professor, if you're seeing this then that means you found my first tape and correctly identified where it was made. Very nicely played. I'm impressed. That also means that you also found the little surprises I left for you. Or should I say that I left for your fellow officers. Though they would probably take insult at being referred to as such, wouldn't they? Honestly, you would think that they would have been expecting something like that. Are you sure that they are worthy of you, Professor? I doubt it." On the screen Moriarty shook his head and began to pace. "But enough of that for now. I suppose you're wondering about your partner? Oh yes, Detective Ellison. Quite an interesting subject actually. Did you enjoy the time you spent studying him?"

When Blair flinched at the last statement, Megan laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. Focused on the screen, Blair didn't even notice the movement.

"Enough of that though," the image of Moriarty said. "And enough of this little talk. As before, the next move is yours, Professor." Like with the last tape, Moriarty walked out of view and the tape continued with just the surroundings showing. After a few minutes, it ended and snow filled the screen once again.

Going over to the television, Simon shut everything off and then turned to Blair and Megan. "How in the hell are we supposed to get something from that? It gave us nothing to go on. Unless… Sandburg, did you recognize where the tape was made? Like with the last one?"

Blair shifted in his seat before looking at Simon. "No, Simon. I had no idea where it was made. I'm just as confused as you."

Not convinced that Blair was telling the truth, Simon started to say something but he was interrupted when the door opened and Rhonda came into the office. "Sir, Rafe and Brown are here."

Looking out the window, Blair saw Rafe and Brown leading Patterson into the bullpen. "What's that about, Simon?"

"That is about getting some answers," Simon said before walking out of the office.

Megan and Blair looked at Rhonda who simply shrugged and said; "The Captain will explain everything." Curious as to what was going on, they went to join the others out in the bullpen.

"What's going on?" Blair asked as he walked out of Simon's office.

"That's what I'm about to find out." Simon walked over to Patterson and stared down at the officer. "So do you want to explain yourself?"

Nervously, Patterson stared up at the furious Captain. "I don't know what you're talking about?"

Leaning down, Simon brought his face close to Patterson's. "While we were out, Rhonda was looking into that information you gave her. When she couldn't find anything, she got in contact with Ellison's neighbors. You know the ones you questioned. She thought they might have remembered something else. Care to tell us what they told her?"

"How am I supposed to know that?" Patterson asked. "What's she doing calling them in the first place? She doesn't have the authority to do that?"

"Unlike you, she was concerned for Ellison and wanted to do whatever she could to help find him."

Squirming, Patterson averted his eyes. "I want to find Ellison too."

"Really?" Simon asked. "Well then, why did you lie?"

"I didn't lie about anything." Came the outraged reply.

Without taking his eyes off of Patterson, Simon said, "Rhonda, that information that you gave me earlier, I think now is a good time to share it with everyone else."

"Yes, Sir." Rhonda cleared her throat and then spoke up so everyone could hear her. "I did contact the O'Bryans. They told me that Officer Patterson never questioned them. In fact, when I talked with them, they had only recently returned home. I had dispatch contact Officer Jackson and he confirmed that fact. He said that he spoke with them when they returned but that they had told him that they were gone all day and hadn't seen anything. But that they did express their concern for Detective Ellison" Turning to Blair, she gave him a small smile as she added, "And they expressed their concern for Blair as well."

When Rhonda finished, Patterson tried to run from the room but Rafe and Henri moved to restrain him. Struggling, the officer pleaded, "You don't understand."

"What don't we understand?" Simon asked, his voice cold and hard.

"Nobody was supposed to get hurt," Patterson cried out. "All I ever wanted to do was get rid of Sandburg. This guy said that if I went along with him, then the little fraud would be gone for good. That's all I wanted. I never meant for anyone else to get hurt."

"You son of a…" Surprising everyone, Blair once again launched himself at Patterson. The force of the impact sent all four men crashing to the floor. Blair was a furry of fists and feet as he kicked and punched the man beneath him. It took Simon and Megan to finally pull him away from the bloodied officer. Struggling in their grip, Blair kept trying to break free as Henri and Rafe got to their feet and then hauled Patterson up from the floor. "Let me go, Simon! That bastard helped that sick, sadistic son of a bitch grab my partner! Let me go!"

Unaccustomed to seeing this amount of rage coming from the normally peaceful young man, it took all of Simon and Megan's strength to hold Blair back. "That's enough, Sandburg!" When that didn't register with the struggling man, Simon yelled, "This won't help us get Jim back!" The mention of his partner's name registering when nothing else would have, Blair finally calmed.

"Let me go," he ordered. When the others didn't release him, Blair tried once more to shrug off their hold. "I won't do anything, I swear." Reluctantly, Megan and Simon released Blair. Though they both stayed ready to grab him again if it became necessary. Staring at Patterson, Blair growled, "How are you involved in this?"

"You honestly think that I'm going to answer to you?" Patterson sneered.

"Oh, I think you will," Blair answered, his voice low and filled with rage.

"You're wrong."

Stalking forward, brushing off Megan and Simon's attempts to restrain him again, Blair slowly approached the mesmerized officer. His voice hypnotic, he continued to speak. "Tell me, Patterson, you've heard the stories, haven't you?"

"W… what s… stories," the officer stammered.

As Blair continued towards Patterson, everyone simply stood and watched, all of them shocked by the transformation in their friend. Ignoring the stares, Blair directed a feral smile towards the officer. "Why the stories about Jim and how it deals with people who threaten me, people who harm me. You heard about Lash, right? Shot five times point blank in the chest. I know you've heard about that one."

In response, Patterson slowly nodded his head.

Grinning, Blair said, "Good. That's good. Well, let me tell you something, Patterson." Finally coming to stand before the other man, Blair reached out a finger and trailed it down the officer's face. Cocking his head to the side when the other man flinched away from the touch, Blair warned, "If you think its Ellison that you should be afraid of, then you're dead wrong. Because if you don't start talking right now then you're going to envy Lash. By the time I'm finished with you, you'll be praying for someone to shoot you."

Unnerved, Patterson glanced over at Simon. "You can't let him do this, Banks!"

Simon walked over and laid a hand on Blair's shoulder. Looking at Brown and Rafe, he ordered, "Take Patterson and put him in an interrogation room." Switching to glare at Patterson, in a low voice he added, "I'll be in to question him in a few minutes."

"Wait a minute," Blair called out when the two detectives started to lead Patterson out of the bullpen. When they stopped, Blair started to take a step towards the officer but was restrained by Simon.

"Blair..."

"I'm not going to touch him," Blair said as he glanced over at Simon. "I promise."

"Why do I not find that very reassuring?" Simon asked.

"Simon..."

"All right," Simon relented. "But the second you start to lose it again, I'll..."

"I'm not going to lose it," Blair interrupted.

Keeping a close eye on the younger man, ready to grab him again if necessary, Simon watched as Blair turned back to face Patterson.

Nervously, Patterson struggled within Rafe and Henri's grasp. But when he couldn't free himself, he turned to stare at Blair. Open hostility and contempt on his face, he asked, "What do you want?"

Leaning towards Patterson, Blair brought his face close to the other man's. "You don't like me, that much is clear. But I was just wondering, what you have against Ellison?"

"Ellison? I don't have anything against him. He's a good cop." Expression hardening, Patterson strained forward, only to have Rafe and Henri haul him backwards. "You're the only one that I've got a problem with. You're nothing but a..."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Blair interrupted. "I'm a fraud, a liar, and a cheat. Did I leave anything out?" When Patterson started to say something, Blair held up a hand. "I don't want to hear it. Right now, I don't really give a shit what problems you have with me. I could care less what you think or feel about me. But what does bother me, what really pisses me off, is that Jim is out there somewhere. He's hurt, in the hands of some psychopath and you helped put him there!"

"Ellison isn't hurt," Patterson protested. "The guy said that he wouldn't hurt Ellison."

"Really," Blair sarcastically replied. "And you honestly believed that?" When the other man didn't answer, he continued, "Well tell me something, Patterson. Whose blood do you think that was anyway? Whose blood did Moriarty use to leave that little note?"

"I don't know, but it wasn't Ellison's."

"Yes, it was," Blair hissed.

"Like I'm supposed to believe you?" Patterson asked. "Hell, given the choice, I'd take the word of that nutcase over you any time. Besides, hurting Ellison was never in the plan. The idea was to just keep Ellison out of the way for a while. Give everybody a chance to see that you don't stand a chance around here without him covering for you. Keep Ellison away just long enough for... for..."

"For what?" Blair asked. "Long enough to get rid of me? To convince me that I'm not cut out to be a cop? Do you really think that I need you for that?" Blair let out a bitter sounding laugh before he continued. "You've got no idea do you? You were played, Patterson."

"No, I wasn't!" Patterson yelled. "You think that lunatic could have pulled this off without my help? I was the one that spied on you and Ellison. I told him what people around here think of you. This Moriarty guy..."

"...gets off on playing with people's lives, playing with their emotions," Blair finished. "And he used you to get what he wants. Getting rid of me was never his intention. If he did that, then he wouldn't be able to play this little game of his."

"But..."

"But nothing!" Blair yelled. "Don't you get it, Patterson? You're just a pawn. He manipulated you into doing what he wanted you to do. He used you to set everything into motion. And you fell for it, didn't you? Because of your hatred for me, you didn't stop to consider what you were getting yourself into, what you were helping this guy do." Eyes narrowed, Blair asked, "Or did you? Did you know about the little surprises he left at the warehouse? Did you? Didn't that give you some sort of clue that Moriarty wasn't being straight with you? Or is the idea of getting rid of me so appealing that you're willing to risk the lives of decent, committed cops who were just trying to rescue a fellow officer?"

"Let me tell you something, Sandburg," Patterson replied. "Those officers you're talking about? I saw the way they treated you. You think that I'm the only one that wants you gone? Think again. Problem is, most of them don't have the balls to stand up to Banks. But I do!"

"I don't give a fuck!" Blair yelled, the expletive startling everyone in the room. "Don't you get that yet? I don't care what you or anyone else thinks. The only thing that matters to me is my partner." Blair took a deep breath before continuing in a lowered tone. "I will get Jim back. But you'd better listen up, Patterson. If you or anyone else ever hurts Jim or tries to use him to get to me again, you'll regret it."

"Is that supposed to be some sort of threat?" Patterson scoffed. He started to laugh but stopped when he saw the look in Blair's eyes. With dawning horror, he realized that he had gravely misjudged the man standing in front of him. And with that realization there came doubts. "It's... It's true, isn't it? Ellison, he's..."

"My partner," Blair finished. "And I'll do whatever it takes to protect him."

Flinching away from the hard expression on Blair's face, Patterson mumbled, "Whatever."

Disgust on his face, Blair said, "Get him out of here."

Looking towards their captain and receiving a nod, Rafe and Henri escorted Patterson out of the bullpen.

After they left, Simon said, "I'm going to go question Patterson, try and get some answers out of him. Maybe... maybe he can tell us something."

"Sure," Blair distractedly agreed. "You do that."

"Sandburg?"

Shaking his head, emerging from his thoughts, Blair looked up at Simon. "I'm fine. Just thinking is all."

"Jim will be all right," Simon reassured. "I'll get something out of Patterson."

"Get real, Simon," Blair impatiently replied. "Patterson doesn't know anything. Moriarty would never have told that guy any of his plans, not the important ones anyway. Patterson was just a tool. Something to be used and then discarded. You won't get anything from questioning that guy."

"If you really think that," Simon replied, "then why do you not seem worried about it? As far as we know Patterson is our only shot at finding Jim; he's the only link we have to this Moriarty. The tape was a dead end, no clues there. Yet you don't seem all that concerned about any of this. Why is that?"

Using anger to mask his nervousness, Blair exploded, "Of course, I'm concerned! Of course, I'm worried! This is Jim we're talking about, Simon!"

"Sandburg ... Blair, are you telling me everything?" Simon asked in a gentle voice.

"What... what are you talking about?"

"I'm just suggesting that maybe something about that tape seemed familiar to you," Simon answered as he laid a hand on Blair's shoulder. "That just maybe you might've recognized where it was made, like you did with the first one. Are you sure it didn't seem familiar? Not at all?"

"Yes, I sure!" Blair yelled as he jerked away from Simon and walked over to Jim's desk. "Don't you think that if I did recognize something, I'd tell you? Don't you think that I want to get Jim back?"

"I know you do," Simon replied. Walking over to Blair, Simon lowered his head until he could see the younger man's eyes. "I also saw the way you were earlier tonight. Those explosion, those officers being injured, you blamed yourself for all of that, didn't you?" When Blair simply shrugged, Simon continued. "You're not at fault here, Blair. You didn't plant those explosives. You didn't kidnap Jim."

"This guy, he talked about the press conference," Blair softly replied. "How do I know that seeing it didn't set him off? You said it yourself, Simon. Rafe and Henri couldn't find any similar MO, any similar cases. What if this is the first time that this guy has done this and he did it because he saw that damn press conference? All of this, it's all my fault. It all goes back to my dissertation. But then everything seems to, doesn't it?"

"Blair..."

"Go on and talk to Patterson," Blair overrode the captain. "Who knows, you may be able to get something out of him."

Simon stared intently at Blair for several seconds before finally nodding. "All right. You stay here though."

"Fine."

Not liking the younger man's tone, having the distinct feeling that Blair hadn't been totally honest with him, Simon hesitated a moment before moving to leave the bullpen. At the doorway, he paused and turned to look at Megan. "Take the tape down to Forensics, Connor. Maybe they'll be able to get something off of it."

"Yes, Sir," Megan replied before going into Simon's office to retrieve the tape.

After Megan had entered his office, Simon looked towards Rhonda. "Any word from Joel?"

"He called while you were viewing the tape," Rhonda answered. "They've searched the area but there's been no sign of any more explosive devices. He was just getting ready to head back to the station when we talked, so he should be any time now."

Simon nodded. Then with a final warning look at Blair, he left the room.

Having emerged from the captain's office, Megan overheard the last few moments of the conversation. "Well, I guess that I'll just wait until Joel gets here and then I'll take this down to Forensics."

Irritation showing on his face, Blair said, "I don't need a babysitter, Megan."

"I know that, Sandy," Megan replied, "I just..."

With a sign, Blair walked behind Jim's desk and slowly sunk into his partner's chair. "I'm wiped. I think everything is just catching up with me. So I think I'm just going to sit here and rest for a few minutes. Recharge, you know? Try and regain some of my strength for when Simon gets something out of Patterson and we can finally go nail this Moriarty and get Jim back."

Uncertain, Megan hovered in the doorway. "I don't know. Maybe..."

"Look, Rhonda is here and Joel should be walking in the door any second," Blair interrupted. "Go take the tape to Forensics. Who knows? Like Simon said, they may be able to get something from it."

Instead of replying to Blair, Megan addressed Rhonda. "You'll stay until Joel or I get back?"

"Of course," Rhonda stated. "I'm not going anywhere."

Casting one final look Blair's way, Megan let out a frustrated sigh at the sight of Blair, his eyes closed, reclining in the chair with his feet propped up on Jim's desk. Shaking her head, she hurried off down the hall towards the elevator.

Hearing Megan's retreating footsteps, Blair let out a near silent groan as he slowly eased his legs down from their elevated position. After a flare-up a few minutes ago, the pain in his leg had settled down to a constant, dull throb; but now, two bands of fiery pain encircled his wrists. Oddly enough, the pain seemed to have altered over time. Now it seemed to resonate throughout the afflicted areas, almost like a phantom pain. It buzzed along his nervous system and, even though it still seemed to be concentrated in is leg and wrists, he could feel mild aches throughout his whole body. But even as his mind began to ponder the meaning behind the pain, he consciously shied away from those thoughts and where they led.

Satisfied that Megan had left the area, Blair slowly stood up. Aware of Rhonda's attention, he stretched. Wincing slightly, he planted his feet more firmly and locked his knees when his leg threatened to collapse under him. Even though the ruse hadn't worked on Megan earlier, Blair realized that it could possibly succeed with Rhonda. For a moment, Blair felt a brief twinge of guilt at what he was about to do; but then, he pushed it aside and concentrated solely on finding Jim. With a smile on his face, Blair turned to Rhonda and said, "Rhonda, I... um... need to go out for a minute. I have to go to the... Well, you know."

"What?" Rhonda asked. Then, seeing Blair shift on his feet slightly and the slight jerk off his head towards the direction of the hall, she said, "Oh, um... Well, I suppose that would be all right. After all, you're just be right down the hall."

"Yeah, just down the hall," Blair agreed. "I won't be gone that long."

"All right," Rhonda replied. "If Joel or Megan gets back before then, I'll tell them where you went."

Averting his eyes, not able to meet the concerned, caring look Rhonda was giving him, Blair mumbled, "Yeah, thanks. So... um ... I'll be right back." Then, before Rhonda could say anything else, Blair walked out of the bullpen. Once out in the hallway, he let out a sigh of relief when he didn't spot anyone. As he hurried over to the stairs, he muttered, "You sure have got a thing for warehouses, don't you, you sick son of a bitch?"

***

When Jim showed no signs of further movement, Moriarty stood and cautiously approached the detective. Coming to within a couple of feet of the other man's position, he stretched out a leg and prodded Jim with his foot. Satisfied when there was no response, he walked around the still form and then squatted down. Now facing Jim, Moriarty let his gaze travel over the bruised, bloody body in front of him. Eyes finally coming to rest on the other man's face, Moriarty took note of the vacant expression on the slack face. Believing that the sentinel had fallen into a zone as a result of the pain, Moriarty let out a small chuckle. "So this is the mighty Sentinel? I must say, I'm rather disappointed. Yes, very disappointed indeed." Standing up, Moriarty absent-mindedly brushed off the dirt that was clinging to his clothes. Then, satisfied that Jim wouldn’t emerge from the zone unless brought out of it by someone, he left the room.

Once his captor had left, Jim’s blinked his eyes and the glazed look was replaced by one of alertness. His progress slow, blood loss and shock having almost pushed his body to the breaking point, Jim eventually managed to sit up. He clenched his jaw against the pain and forced his hands to move. Fingers fumbling, his movements sluggish, he undid his belt and took it off. After that was done, he shrugged off his shirt, wadded it up as best he could and then placed it against the knife wound on his thigh. He bit back a scream as he lifted his leg high enough to slip the belt under it. Then, he brought the ends up and fastened the belt over the makeshift bandage. Finished, he simply sat there for several seconds. When he felt everything start to gray out, he fought against the impending blackout until the feeling subsided.

Feeling more alert, he began to look around the room. Trying to find another exit, not wanting to risk escaping through the door that his captor had walked through; Jim surveyed his surroundings. He let out a frustrated growl when he couldn’t see any other ways out of the room. With the last of his strength, which was fading rapidly, he began to once again drag himself towards the door.

***

After leaving behind the catatonic Sentinel, Moriarty once again went to the row of monitors he had set up. His attention attracted by one of the images being displayed, he watched as officers shifted through the debris at the warehouse. "Searching for more surprises?" he asked out loud. "So sorry to disappoint you, but there’s only one surprise left and it isn’t for you." A grin on his face, Moriarty laughed. "I just hope the Professor likes it."

***

As he walked out of the station, his escape having gone unnoticed, Blair let out a relieved sigh. He took a brief glance back at the building he had just left and then he pushed aside the last of his lingering doubts as he took off down the street. Cursing the fact that Simon had brought him to the station and also berating himself for being too upset to drive earlier, Blair took a mental tally of the money he had in his pocket. Knowing that he didn’t have enough for a cab, he started towards the bus stop on the corner. All the while, he kept searching for an approaching bus. Having spotted none by the time he reached the corner, he raced on past the empty bus stop. The thought of rescuing Jim driving him, Blair left the station, and those that would help him, further and further behind.

Stumbling several times as his leg protested the movement; he managed to remain upright as he continued on down the street. Images and sounds from earlier raced through his mind. The earth shaking blasts, the shower of debris, the confused shouting and yelling. Lastly came the memory of wounded officers declining his offers of help. Inwardly, he cringed as he pictured the disgusted looks on their faces as they turned their backs to him. Emotions in turmoil, he blindly continued towards his destination. The location deeply embedded in his mind; there was no need for him to consciously monitor his progress. Footsteps never faltering, he immersed himself in those thoughts; knowing that he needed to process them before he faced his opponent. As he continued on, he attempted to bring his thoughts under some semblance of order. He tried to clear his mind in preparation for the upcoming battle, knowing that he couldn’t afford any distractions during the imminent showdown.

***

Senses on alert, Jim remained on guard for any surprise visits from his captor as he once again reached the door. Dialing up hearing, he listened to see if anyone was standing outside. Hearing nothing to indicate another presence, he reached up and grabbed the doorknob. Using it and the wall as support, he slowly dragged himself upright. Once he was standing, he remained still for a moment and gave himself time to adjust to the change in position. Satisfied that he was at least partially steady on his feet, he turned the knob and cautiously opened the door. Trying to be as quiet as possible, he limped out of the room.

***

Skidding to a halt, Blair looked up in surprise when he found himself at his destination. Mentally grabbing a hold of his errant emotions, he took a few deep breaths to bring his racing thoughts under control. Letting out a shaky breath, he started towards the building. But even as he approached, he felt a shiver rack his body. Dreading the fact that he had to once again enter this place, for an instant he could almost feel the weight of the chains holding him down in the chair. Shaking his head, clearing away thoughts and emotions, he continued on towards the warehouse.

***

Attention diverted from the scene that he had been watching; Moriarty jumped slightly when the alarm sounded. Turning towards the monitor sitting off to the side, he grinned when he saw the image being displayed. Rubbing his hands together, he said, "Let the real game begin."

Then, he glanced over at the monitor situation next to the one he had found so pleasing and smiled even bigger when he saw the image of the vacant room. "Nice ruse, Detective," he said, "but never try to beat me at my own game. You’ll lose every time. And, unfortunately for you, I play for keeps." After taking one final look at the screens, he turned and walked away.

***

Slowly, due both to his cautiousness and his injuries, Jim inched down the hallway. His back against the wall, as much for protection as for support, he paused for a moment when he heard a slight noise. Grimacing when a rat darted across the floor in front of him, Jim only hoped that he was headed in the right direction as he started down the hall again.

***

Warily, expecting some sort attack or trap, Blair walked over to the door. His approach unhindered, he reached the entrance but paused before going inside. Straining, he tried to hear if anyone was nearby; but when he couldn’t detect any other presence, he hesitantly opened the door. Wincing as the loud creak broke the silence, he peeked inside. Not seeing anything, he edged his way closer to the open doorway and then slipped inside.

Back against the wall, he came to a halt once he was inside the building. Letting his eyes slip closed, he took a deep breath. Gradually, he began to feel a pull towards to the right. Opening his eyes, he looked off in that direction. Not sure why, he let his instincts guide him as he began to walk down the hallway. Praying that he was making the right decision, he relented to the feeling and followed its lead.

***

Jim abruptly came to a stumbling halt as a sound nagged at the back of his mind. Making a conscious effort, he tuned every thing else out and tried to concentrate on the elusive, yet oddly familiar, noise. Finally managing to lock it down, he let out a muttered curse when he recognized it. Starting down the hallway again, he tried to increase his pace. Still using the wall for support, he hurriedly hobbled forward.

***

Feeling the need to hurry, Blair increased his pace. Tripping on his way down the debris-strewn hallway, he crashed down to his knees. Feeling the impact radiate up and down his spine, he let out soft groan. Briefly giving in to the despair that he had been feeling all night, he let his head drop down. Hands clenched into fists, he repeatedly pounded the floor.

***

Coming around a bend in the hallway, Jim abruptly halted when he saw the kneeling, hunched over figure. Even though he couldn’t see the other man’s face, he knew who he was looking at. He opened his mouth to say something but stopped when he saw the fists impact with the concrete. Wincing, knowing how much the action had to have hurt, he began to speak again when the other man suddenly looked up at him.

***

Wincing as a result of the pain he felt when he hit the floor, Blair let out a soft groan. Then, determined to get up and start looking for his partner again, he slowly lifted his head. At first, his mind refused to believe what he was saying. But then, the figure standing before him spoke.

***

Seeing the confusion in Blair’s eyes, knowing that the other man was shocked by his sudden appearance, Jim softly called out to his partner. "Hey, Chief." Then, a small smile on his face, he added, "Looks like I won’t be making spaghetti for dinner after all."

 

Blair let out a choked sounding laugh as he continued to stare at Jim. "Oh no, don't think that this is going to get you out of your turn to cook dinner. And, by the way, I expect dessert too." Bracing a hand against the wall, Blair moved to stand. When Jim started forward to help, he waved the other man off. "No offense, Jim, but if you try and help, we'd both end up on the floor."

Silently, Jim watched as Blair stood up. Worried by his partner's slow movements, he closely scrutinized the other man's condition. Not seeing any indications of wounds, other than the bandages on Blair's hands, he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I think that I should be asking you that question," Blair responded as he finally managed to get to his feet. "You look like you're about ready to pass out."

"Already have," Jim distractedly replied. "So, where are you hurt?"

Ignoring the question, Blair asked one of his own. "What do you mean you passed out?" Then, under his breath, he muttered, "I thought it was bad but I didn't think it was this bad."

"What?"

"Huh?"

"What did you just say?"

"What are you talking about?"

Letting out a frustrated sigh, Jim closed his eyes. Opening them again, he pinned his partner with an exasperated look. "You said something about how you knew it was bad but didn't think it was this bad."

"What was this bad?"

"That's what I'm asking you."

"You're confusing me here, Jim." Absently-mindedly, Blair reached down and began to rub his leg. "Let's just get out of here. Maybe after the docs have had a chance to look at you, you'll make more sense." When Blair started towards Jim, the other man held up a hand causing Blair to come to a halt. "What?"

"What did you do to your leg?" In response to Blair's puzzled look, Jim added, "You're limping?"

"I am?" Blair asked in a surprised tone. "I hadn't noticed. Guess I just pulled a muscle or got a cramp. It doesn't matter. Let's just get you out of here."

Subconsciously, Jim noted that his partner seemed to be favoring the same leg that he himself had been stabbed in. But before he could focus on the thought, something else registered. "You're here alone, aren't you?"

"Yep," Blair confirmed. Then, seeing the angry look on Jim's face, he asked, "What's the matter?"

"You came here alone."

"And your point is..."

"You know better than that. Never go into a dangerous situation without... Wait a minute. How did you even find me?" Before Blair could answer, Jim said, "You can explain later. Right now, we've got to get you out of here. There's this guy. He calls himself..."

"Moriarty," Blair finished. "Yeah, I know all about him. Let's see, sick, sadistic bastard who gets off on playing games. I think that about sums it up, wouldn't you agree?"

"How did you know? No. On second thought, I don't want to know." Jim shook his head. "You get out of here and go find a way to contact Simon. I'm going to go deal with the gamester."

"I don't think so," Blair protested. "You know what I think. I think that you're going to hobble your ass on out of here while I go play with this Moriarty character. Me and him, we've got a game to finish."

"I'm not leaving."

"Neither am I."

"Sandburg..."

"Ellison..." When Jim started to say something else, Blair hastily continued. "Look, Jim, right now you're in no condition to take on anybody. You're lost a lot of blood, you're in shock, you've got injuries to your leg and your wrists."

"But..."

"This warehouse," Blair overrode his partner's attempt to speak, "is the one where Lash held me. Believe me, I know this area well. There's a phone booth just about a half a block away. If I stay here and keep Moriarty busy, do you think you could make it there and call for help?"

"You don't know who you're dealing with here, Sandburg," Jim cautioned. "This guy..."

"...has a lot to answer for," Blair growled. "And I intend to make sure that he does."

Worried about his partner's behavior, not liking the crazed look in Blair's eyes, Jim insisted, "I'm not leaving you here by yourself so you can just forget that little plan of yours."

"Would you just get out of here?" Blair walked over to Jim and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Just go and leave Moriarty to me. Everything will be okay. I'll be okay. I can handle this. I can handle him."

Not convinced, Jim continued to protest. "You don't get it, Sandburg. This guy is vicious."

"Then that makes two of us."

Jim suppressed a shiver at the coldness in his partner's tone and expression. "Blair..."

Frantically, Blair jerked his head around and looked for any sign of their tormentor. "Jim? Where is he? Do you know where I can find him?"

"I don't know," Jim answered. "I can't get a fix on him."

Keeping one hand Jim, Blair leaned closer to his partner. "How are your senses?"

"Working. Well, for the most part," Jim answered. "But it sounds like he's got a white noise generator set up. Several of them actually. I can't get past them and it's throwing all my other senses off."

"Just great." Grabbing Jim's arm, Blair slung it over his shoulders and then placed his own arm around Jim's waist. "New plan. We get the hell out of here and call in the cavalry. Keep an eye on the place and hope to hell that this nutcase doesn't give us the slip while we sit back and wait for Simon to come charging in here to save our asses."

"Sounds like a good plan to me," Jim replied as he leaned on his partner.

Even though he didn't think he could withstand the burden, Blair somehow found the strength to keep them upright as they started down the hallway. "Yeah. Besides, it'll do Simon good to come to our rescue for once. He needs to get out from behind that desk. Too much paperwork and too many pineapple danishes. The exercise and fresh air will do him some good."

"Yeah, I'm sure he'll be thanking us for this," Jim replied.

Stopping for a moment the two men looked at one another. "Nah," they both said. Exchanging a grin, happy to be together even under these circumstances, the partners tightened their grip on each other and started walking again.

***

Further down the hallway, Moriarty pressed back against the wall and stared after the retreating forms. Smiling, he started to creep down the hallway and cautiously follow after the two men.

***

Slamming the door behind him, Simon left the interrogation room and stalked down the hallway towards Major Crimes. Angered, both by Patterson's attitude and the officer's seemingly lack of information, Simon's irritation grew when he walked into the bullpen and he didn't see Blair anywhere. Looking over towards his office, he saw Megan and Rhonda. "Where's Sandburg?"

An arm around Rhonda's shoulders, Megan looked up at the captain. "Gone."

"Gone? What do you mean gone?" Simon yelled.

Having just walked into the bullpen himself, Joel came to a halt when he heard Simon yell. "Is something wrong?"

Throwing up his hands, Simon turned to face the other man. "Wrong? What could possibly be wrong? Some maniac has kidnapped Ellison, half the SWAT team has been injured from explosive devices, a cop is apparently mixed up in this whole mess and to top it all of, I've got Sandburg running around loose somewhere, getting himself into who knows what kind of trouble. So, no, nothing's wrong. Everything's just great."

"Wait a minute," Joel said as he took a step closer to the captain. "What do you mean there's a cop mixed up in this?"

"Not now, Joel."

"Simon..."

"Later, Joel, I promise," Simon interrupted. "Right now, let's just find Ellison and Sandburg." Turning back to Rhonda, Simon growled, "How long ago did he leave?"

"Just a few minutes after you left," Rhonda answered. "I'm so sorry, Sir. He said that he was just going to the bathroom and I..."

"It's not your fault, Rhonda," Simon reassured the distraught woman. "You're not the only person Sandburg has given the slip to."

"That's right," Joel added, remembering the time Blair had sneaked out of the loft while he was guarding the younger man. "When Jim is in trouble, Blair will do whatever it takes to help him."

"The problem is," Simon said, "that this time, they're both in trouble and we've don't even know where they are." Letting out a sigh, Simon rubbed his forehead. Suddenly, he brought his hand down and exclaimed, "The tape!"

"Sir?"

Hearing Megan's questioning tone, Simon turned to her. "The tape you took down to Forensics, is it still there?"

"Yes, Sir," Megan answered. "They said that they'd send it back up when they were finished with it."

"Rhonda, get Forensics on the line and tell them to get that tape back up here right now." When his assistant moved to carry out his instructions, Simon muttered, "I knew there was something he wasn't telling me. Just wait until I get my hands on you, Sandburg."

Exchanging a puzzled glance, Megan and Joel could only wonder why their captain had such a predatory gleam in his eyes.

***

Panting, Jim stopped which brought Blair to a halt also. Glancing down, worried by the fresh blood seeping through the shirt binding his partner's thigh, Blair said, "Just a little bit more, Jim. You can do it. Lean on me, I've got you."

"Yeah, I know it, Partner," Jim replied. When Blair averted his eyes, Jim lifted a hand and guided the other man's head up so that they faced each other again. "Blair?"

With a slight movement, Blair dislodged Jim's hand. "Later, Jim. Right now, we need to get you out of here so you can get that leg looked at."

At Blair's prompting, the two men started walking again. "Why do I get the feeling that I'm not the only one that's gone through hell tonight?"

"Hey, I came home to find you missing. So, yeah, I guess you could say that I've had kind of a rough night," Blair replied.

"But there's more to it than what you're telling me, isn't there?"

"Why don't you just be quiet and save your breath for dragging your butt out of here?" Blair retorted.

Jim remained quiet but looked sideways at his partner and felt a sense of foreboding when he saw the closed-off expression on the other man's face. But before he could question Blair any further, he spotted a door. "Is that where you came in at?"

Squinting, Blair peered ahead of them and was able to make out the door. Recognizing it, he confirmed, "Yeah, it is. Just a few more steps and we're out of here."

***

Four sets of eyes turned to stare at the man who ran into the room. Coming to a standstill the Forensics technician held up a tape and said, "Um... you wanted to see this?"

Hurrying over to him, Simon yanked it from his hand. "Thanks."

Bewildered, the tech stood and watched as the two men and two women all filed into the captain's office. Shrugging his shoulders, he turned and left the bullpen.

After they had entered the office, Joel asked, "Shouldn't we get Rafe and Brown in here?"

"No," Simon answered as he went over and put on the tape. "They're with Patterson. I want him kept isolated until this situation is resolved. I don't want to take the risk of any of his buddies helping him escape."

"You really think that they'd do that?" Megan asked.

Remembering the hostile attitudes being displayed towards Blair earlier, Simon answered, "I don't know but I'm not taking any chances."

"Patterson?" Joel asked. "Is he the one mixed up in all of this?"

Simon nodded. "Yeah. Apparently he's been helping this Moriarty guy."

"I don't get it," Joel said. "Why would he do that?"

"Let's just say that some people aren't exactly overjoyed that Sandburg is going to be a cop," Simon replied.

While they waited for the tape to start, Joel pondered the captain's words and what meaning they held for Blair's place at the station.

"All right, let's watch this closely," Simon ordered as the tape began to play. "Obviously, Sandburg must have found something he recognized. I know it's a long shot, but maybe we'll see something familiar, something that will tell us where they're at."

When the first viewing failed to spark any recognition, Simon rewound the tape and started it again. Halfway through the second showing, the captain suddenly hit pause. When the others started to all talk at once, he held up a hand to silence them. Then, while they watched, he walked over to the screen and stared at the paused image. "Oh my God, I know where this is! I can't believe I didn't recognize it the first time." Turning to the others, he explained, "The warehouse ... that son of a bitch used the warehouse that Lash took Blair to." Walking over to his desk, Simon picked up the phone and dialed a number. Eyes locked on the image being displayed on the screen, he gave some hurried instructions after his call was answered. Finished, he hung up and ordered, "Rhonda, tell Rafe and Brown what's happening. Joel and Connor, let's get going. We've got some friends who probably need our help right about now."

Nodding in agreement, the two officers followed after their captain as he raced out of the room.

***

Reaching the door, Blair grabbed a hold of the handle. After taking one final look around the hallway, he slowly opened the door. Tightening his grip on Jim, he led his partner outside. "We made it," he said once they were out of the warehouse. "Can you see the phone booth?"

"Yeah, I can. It's just over there," Jim answered. "Let's go."

After the two men had taken several steps towards the phone, Blair came to an abrupt halt. Before Jim knew what was happening, his partner moved away. Wobbling slightly now that the support had disappeared, Jim exclaimed, "What in the..." Steadying himself, he managed to turn around. Just as a soft, "Sorry, but I can't let this guy get away," reached his ears, he saw Blair disappear back into the warehouse. Limping as fast as he could, useless leg dragging behind him, Jim had just reached the door when it slammed shut. As his hand moved toward the handle, he heard the sound of a lock turning. Sagging against the cold, hard metal he raised his fist and banged against the door. "Sandburg, get your ass out here right now!" When his partner didn't respond, Jim continued to pound on the door. All the while, he continued to yell for Blair but he was met with silence. Exhausted, unable to remain standing anymore, Jim crumpled to the ground.

As painful and difficult as it was, Blair turned away from the door. Trying to ignore Jim's shout and the blows against the door, he took a step down the hallway. Peering into the blackness, he called out, "I know you're there, Moriarty. You wouldn't leave before the game was finished, would you? Show yourself."

Several feet away, a black-clad figure detached from the wall and stepped into sight. "So, we meet at last, Professor. I must say, you weren't much of a challenge. Frankly, I'm disappointed in your performance."

Eyes never wavering from the man in front of him, Blair slowly stalked forward. "Oh, but you haven't seen my last move."

"I don't image it will be any more ingenious than your others," Moriarty scoffed.

"That's where you're wrong," Blair replied, his voice low. "See, before I had Banks and the others around. But now, it's just you and me. Alone. No referees to make sure that we play fair. No witnesses either." A feral grin on his face, Blair continued to advance towards the other man. "Did you really think that I would let your challenge go unanswered? That I would allow you to harm my Sentinel without any kind punishment or repercussions?"

Held captive by the sight of Blair's approach, Moriarty let out a gasp when, for an instant, the other man seemed to morph into the stalking, menacing form of a wolf. But when he blinked his eyes, the figure before him was that of a man again. Dazed by the illusion, Moriarty's momentary hesitation allowed Blair the time to strike. Shocked, he felt himself slammed back against the wall. Looking down into the face of the man holding him, Moriarty saw only the snarling grin of the wolf as razor-like teeth descended. Even as he let out a piercing scream, darkness came over him and he passed out.

***

Alarmed by the scream, Jim renewed his assault on the door. Just as he was about to try and pry the door open with his bare hands, he jerked around with his fist upraised as he felt someone touch his shoulder. Losing his balance, he began to fall when two strong arms reached out to steady him.

Lowering Jim to the ground, Simon asked, "Jim, are you all right?"

Instead of answering, Jim said, "Sandburg is inside with Moriarty. You have to get in there Simon. I just got through hearing a scream. Blair..."

"Okay, Jim, just calm down," Simon interrupted as he gestured for the paramedics to come over. "Stay here and let these guys look you over. I'll go find Sandburg." When Jim started to say something, Simon overrode the anticipated protest. "Don't argue with me, Jim." After the paramedics had placed Jim on a gurney and wheeled him over to the ambulance, Simon turned and tried to open door only to be hampered by the lock "Get me something to break down this door!"

While Simon watched, an officer ran over to a squad car and opened the truck. But before he could find something to pry the door with, it swung open on its own. Everyone stared at the empty, dark doorway as a figure began to emerge. Weapons raised, the officers stood ready to fire. As they watched, Blair appeared. For several seconds, the guns remained aimed at him then they were slowly lowered.

Moving forward, Simon grabbed Blair's shoulders. When the younger man didn't respond, Simon shook him. Coming out of his daze, Blair slowly blinked several times. "Simon? Is that you?"

"It's me, Blair," Simon softly replied. "Are you all right?" When Blair nodded, Simon asked, "Where's Moriarty?"

Jerking his head towards the open doorway, Blair answered, "In there." Then, he broke free of Simon's hold and hurried over to Jim.

After staring at the reunited partners for several seconds, Simon gestured for Joel and Megan to accompany him inside the warehouse. "Let's go get this guy."

Cautiously, the three officers proceeded into the building and made their way down the darkened hallway. Spotting someone laying on the floor, they pointed their guns. "Put your hands where I can see them!" Simon yelled. When there was no movement or response, he said, "You two stay here. I'm going to check it out." Weapon raised, he walked towards the still form and prodded the figure with his foot. When the man merely slumped over, Simon knelt down and then let out a gasp when he got a good look at the other man's face.

Alarmed by the captain's reaction, Megan and Joel went over to him. As they stood there staring down at the two men, Megan said, "What in the hell happened to him?"

His fingers on Moriarty's throat, Simon took note of the man's steady, but slow, pulse. Drawing back slightly, he couldn't take his eyes off of the vacant expression on the catatonic man's face. Seeing no sign of intelligence or awareness in the man's eyes, Simon shook his head. "I don't know, Connor. And to tell you the truth, I don't think that I want to know."

***

Five Days Later

Standing in the kitchen, Blair watched as Jim emerged from the bathroom and went over to the couch. Eyes following his partner's slow movements, and the unsteady balance on the crutches, he fought down the urge to go help the other man. He let out a breath when Jim managed to sit down without incident. Then, he went over and sat down himself. "We need to talk."

Having been expecting this, but dreading it also, Jim turned to face Blair. "I know." Letting out a sigh, he asked, "Where do you want to start?"

Averting his eyes, Blair stared at the television. A small smile briefly appeared on his face as he took note of the VCR; the correct time now displayed on the front of it. "I... um ... guess that you spoke to Megan and Simon already."

"You mean about Patterson? The treatment you've been receiving down at the station?" Pausing for a moment, Jim then added, "Or about the other stuff?" When Blair didn't answer, Jim continued. "I know that some weird things went on while you guys were trying to find me. I know that some even weirder things happened after you found me. But I don't... I mean, I'm not..."

"You're still not ready to make that trip with me," Blair interrupted as he finally turned to face Jim.

"I just... Can't all of this just wait for a while?" Jim asked. "Now just isn't a good time to start dealing with all of this. I'm still recovering. You're going to be starting the academy soon. Can't we just hold off for a while, deal with all of this later? I just... I'm not ready to get into all of this now. Honestly, I don't know if I ever will be."

Standing up, Blair began to frantically pace the room. "Well, maybe I'm ready. Maybe I need to take this trip, to deal with this. Because I have to tell you, Jim, there is some pretty freaky stuff going on and it's scaring the shit out of me. I have to find out what's happening, how to deal with all of this. If I don't..." Coming to a standstill, Blair let out a shaky laugh. "God, Jim, did you see that guy?"

"Yeah, I did," Jim answered in a quiet voice. "I saw him."

Throwing up his hands, Blair yelled, "I don't even remember what happened! One minute, I'm locking that door and the next, I'm outside and Simon is shaking me."

"If you're worried that you're going to be charged with something, don't be," Jim said. "We still can't get any kind of ID on this Moriarty guy. Nobody's getting anything out of him. The guy doesn't even have a scratch on him so nobody can say that you touched him. Whatever did happen, it's over with now."

"It's not over with, Jim. It'll never be over with." Standing there, Blair seemed to withdraw into himself. "And now, after everything that's happened, everybody at the precinct will have even more reason to be suspicious about me. It's not like they don't already hate me. I mean, Patterson is a cop and he helped that son of a bitch."

"Don't worry about them," Jim replied. "Megan and Brown go the word out. If they bother you in any way, they'll have to deal all of Major Crimes. As for Patterson, the guy gives all cops a bad name. He's going to pay for what he did. Simon will see to that."

"You don't get it, do you?"

"Nothing to get," Jim stated. "It's over now and everything is fine. I'm going to get better, you're going to graduate from the academy and then we'll be back out there on the streets taking down the bad guys."

"Really? Well there's one problem with that plan."

"What's that?"

Facing Jim, his face full of regret, Blair softly said, "What if I don't go to the academy?"

"What are you talking about?"

"I can't be a cop, Jim," Blair confessed. "I thought I could. I thought I could do it, but I can't. It isn't who I am. Truthfully, right now, I don't know just exactly who I am. But whatever I may be, whatever I could be, a cop isn't it."

Jim stared at Blair in shock. "What are you trying to say, Sandburg?"

Before answering, Blair walked over and sat down next to Jim. "What I'm saying is that I can't... I need to find some answers, Jim."

"Give me a break!" Jim exclaimed. "What is this? Some kind of new age crap that you got from your mother?"

"No, Jim," Blair protested. "This is coming from me. I... I feel like... like I'm drowning here." Seeing Jim's slight flinch, Blair laid a hand on his arm. "Everything has happened so fast. My life has changed so fast. Now, there's all this other stuff to deal with. I just... I feel like I'm wandering around lost. I need to take some time. Get my bearings back and decide what I'm going to do with my life now."

"Are you trying to say that you're going to leave?"

Seeing the hard, angry expression on Jim's face, Blair sighed. "Like it or not, things have changed. We've changed. I don't know exactly how yet or even if we're finished but for right now, I need to take some time and get to know myself again. Get to know the person that I am now." In a quiet voice, Blair added, "And, whether you like it or not, Incacha did pass the way of the Shaman on to me when he died. I have to admit that I wasn't comfortable with it then and that was back when it had no real significance or impact on my life. But now, after everything that's happened over the past few days, it's really starting to scare me. So I think it's time for me to finally explore this legacy that was passed on to me. Learn what it means exactly. Even if you're not ready to take that trip, I am. Not particularly because I want to, but because I need to; especially after what happened at that warehouse."

"Sandburg... Blair, I..." At a loss for words, Jim trailed off.

Standing up, Blair started over to his room. "I'll keep in touch, Jim. Let you know where I am and everything. Before I leave, I'll talk with Megan. She can help you with your senses while I'm gone. Who knows, maybe you'll like it better if she's your Guide."

"Connor isn't my partner and she sure as hell isn't my damn Guide," Jim growled. Seeing that Blair had stopped, Jim continued. "Like it or not, that's your job." Seeing the tightening of Blair's body, Jim let out a sigh. "But you're more than that, Blair. More than just my partner or my Guide. You're my... There's something that I never told you. Something that happened in the temple after A... after Alex drugged me. I was... I was lost then, Blair. Lost in the darkness with no way out. I called out to Incacha for help. He told me... that I had to find my l... find my light. That the darkness would flee from the light. And when I did find my light... it was ... it was you, Blair. You were my light. You are my light."

"Jim, I..."

Jim held up a hand. "Just let me finish, all right? I need to get this out now or else I probably never will." When Blair nodded, Jim continued. "With you to light the way, I was able to find my way out of the darkness. Maybe now... now it's time for me to light your way, to help you find your way out of the darkness. I don't know what to do or if I'll even be able to help you; but... well, I guess what I'm trying to say is ... I guess maybe I am ready to take that trip with you. Or even if I'm not exactly ready, I am willing to try."

"You realize that there's no way of knowing where this trip will take us; no way of knowing where this path leads, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," Jim replied. "But as long as we're together, we'll find our way. And by the time the journey's done, we'll have both found ourselves again."

"But I'm the one lost, not you."

"Like I said," Jim replied, "You're my light, Blair. If you're lost, I'm lost."

"And if I've found then you will be too?"

Jim nodded. "I may not like it, I definitely don't understand it, but we're connected. You may be my Shaman, I guess we'll find that out along the way, but I do know that you are my partner and my brother. I don't know what fate or destiny awaits us on this journey. But there's something that I do know. Whatever may happen, we'll face it together."

The End