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.

***

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