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