"This is just great," Blair complained after Allen left. Ignoring his throbbing head, Blair craned his neck around and tried to get a good look at his surroundings. "Where am I?" Taking in the vast open space, high ceilings and the overall dingy appearance, he said, "Well, I would say 'home sweet home', but my old warehouse was a little bit nicer than this dump. Not by much I'll admit, but some. Okay, Blair, let's just think this through. You've been kidnapped. Nothing new there. The kidnapper is a psychotic serial killer. Again, nothing new there. The only new thing is that this lunatic killed my friends. And if I get a chance I'M GOING TO KILL THE CRAZY, DERANGED, DEMENTED, SICK SON OF A BITCH!"

Struggling against the ropes that bound him to the chair he was sitting in, Blair continued to rant. "YOU HEAR THAT, ALLEN? IF I GET MY HANDS ON YOU, YOU'RE DEAD!" Gasping, Blair slumped. Groaning, he berated himself. "Okay, okay. Bad move. When am I going to learn that struggling against tight ropes does NOT make things better? Jim, where are you? This is about the time that you usually show up and kick some ass. Look, forget everything I've ever said about being able to take care of myself and not needing you to come to my rescue. This time, I'll be more than happy to play the damsel in distress. So please come riding up on your white horse, hell I'll even settle for the hayseed 'classic' truck of yours, and save the day. Not to mention saving my ass. I swear, for the next month I'll let you take the first shower in the morning. I won't lecture you if you want to get grease-ridden, artery-clogging, fat-saturated triple wonderburgers for dinner every night for a week. Just get here, like now. C'mon. It's cold, damp and smelly in here. And I really, really have to use the bathroom right about now."

Sighing, Blair continued to talk to himself. "Okay, Jim, so you're not going to be getting here within the next like five seconds. I can deal. It's fine. I'm just going to sit here and not think about what this guy's gonna do to me and try not to think about what he did to the others. God, I still can't believe that they're dead. What kind of person could do something like that to another human being? I can't believe he shot Mills and Boone. Oh, God! I don't even know if they're alive or dead. I should have checked on Mills when I was handcuffing myself to him. Why didn't I check on him? I really screwed up there. Mills. God, what did he do with Mills? Allen dumped Boone out of the car so hopefully someone found him, but what did the lunatic do with Mills? Mills and Boone could both be laying somewhere bleeding to death right now. And what did I do to help them? Nothing, that's what. I can't believe I froze up like that! Why didn't I DO something? Please, please let them be all right."

Leaning his head back, Blair closed his eyes. "Jim is going to be so disappointed with me. Not only did I allow myself to get kidnapped again, but I also let Boone and Mills get shot. And when he finds out that this is my fault, that all of these people died because of me, he's going to be pissed. And who in the hell is this Allen guy? I don't remember knowing anyone named Tom Allen. Especially not one who's a FBI agent. And how the fuck did this guy get to be a FBI agent? What, do those guys just take any psycho that walks in off of the street? Agent Tom Allen. What kind of name is that anyway? Guy's got two first names, or at least it sounds like he's got two first names. Tom Allen. Tom Allen. Allen, Tom. Allen, Tom?"

Brow furrowed in concentration, Blair repeated the name. "Allen Tom. Allen Tom? Why does that sound familiar? Allen Tom. Allen Tom? Holy sh... Oh my God. Alan Thomson. This is not good. This is SO not good. Why didn't I recognize him?"

"Good question," Allen observed at he re-entered the room, pushing a cart in front of him.

Startled by the voice, Blair turned to look at the other man. "Alan Thomson?" He said, voice conveying his confusion. "It really is you, isn't it?"

"I'm honored, Professor," Alan sarcastically replied. "You finally remembered." Tone hardening, he continued. "It sure took you long enough. What's the matter, Professor? Did your little dip in Rainier's fountain destroy a few of those precious brain cells?"

Ignoring the comment, Blair asked, "How? I mean... You're supposed to be..."

"Be what?" Alan interrupted. "Locked up?" Seeing Blair's nod, he continued, "I was. Isn't parole just wonderful? I tell ya, it was a work of art on my part. 'Oh yes, Sir. I truly realize that my actions were harmful and wrong. I promise I'll never do anything like that again. I whole-heartedly regret what I did and am truly ashamed by the pain I inflicted on others. I believe myself to be totally rehabilitated and I'll never act out in that manner again'. They ate it up. Of course, having the court appointed psychiatrist back me up didn't hurt. And the guy didn't even charge me that much for his supportive and very... um... liberating testimony."

Outraged, Blair yelled, "Of all the... They actually let you out? I don't believe it!"

"I'm standing here, aren't I?" Alan asked. "Come now, Professor. You never used to be this slow. Tsk Tsk. Such a shame." Walking over to Blair, Alan knelt down. Reaching out a hand, Alan began to fondle several strands of Blair's hair. "Now are you going to keep interrupting me?" he asked. Then tightening his hand into a fist, he grabbed a hold of Blair's hair and jerked sideways, "Or are you going to shut the fuck up and let me finish?"

Eyes watering, Blair retorted, "Sorry, man, but it was getting a little bit boring. But hey, if you want to finish then go ahead. After all, I could use a nap right about now."

Fist still entangled in Blair's hand, Alan drew back his other hand as if to strike Blair. Pausing for a few tense seconds, he then chucked and lowered his hand. "Nice try, Professor." Releasing Blair's head with a shove, Alan got up and walked over to the cart he had brought into the room. "But, you're not going to goad me into doing something rash. I've had a long time to think about what I was going to do to you when I got out of prison. Now that it's actually a reality, I'm going to do this right and savor every second of it. Now where was I before you so rudely interrupted me? Oh yes, my release. After I got out, I managed to win back my parents' affection. I mean, they were quite embarrassed over the whole scandal but I am their only child after all. Or should I say I was their only child. That was quite a nasty accident they had. Imagine the anguish I felt when after having just been accepted back into my parent's lives, they died suddenly in that dreadful accident. Of course, since they had already put me back into their will I was somewhat comforted when I inherited their entire estate."

"Gee, I wonder if that accident was really all that accidental," Blair sarcastically stated. "Or did it have a little help?"

"Nothing that could be traced back to me," Alan responded. "None of it can be traced back to me."

"Why?" Blair asked. "Why did you do it, Alan? Why kill them?"

"You've always known everything, Professor," Alan retorted, "so why don't you tell me?"

"I can't," Blair replied. "I can't even begin to imagine your reasoning, and you want to know why? Because I'm not a sick, perverted freak like you!"

Anger twisting his face into a scowl, Alan marched over to the cart he had brought into the room. Looking at Blair, he pulled off the towel covering the surface. Grinning, when he saw Blair pale at the sight of the newly revealed objects, Alan warned, "You think that you've seen horrors before? Well, just wait and see what I do next."

Voice shaking, Blair tried to reason with Alan. "Look whatever it is that you think I did back then, can't we just talk about it?"

"What I think you did?" Came the incredulous response. "I know exactly what you did, Professor. You pushed me aside and then ignored me. I wasn't important enough for you to bother with back then, was I? No, not like the others. Not like Colleen, Jonathan, Ellen or your precious Monica. It should have been me! I was more important than any of them!"

"No, it wasn't like that," Blair protested. "I didn't ignore you. It's just that..."

"What, Professor?" Alan asked. "It's just what?"

"The others needed my help more than you did," Blair quietly finished.

"I needed you!" Alan yelled.

"No, you didn't."

"Yes, I did," Alan insisted. "You could help them but not me. I needed your help the most. You helped them control their senses, so why not me? Why didn't you help me?"

"Because you didn't need my help," Blair countered. "You weren't like them. You didn't have enhanced senses!"

"Yes, I did," Alan protested. "I still do. I am a Sentinel!"

"No, you're not," Blair disagreed. "You thought that you were, but you're not. You know that, Alan. Remember the tests that we did. Your eyesight is slightly better than normal. But you are not a Sentinel. You weren't one then and you aren't one now."

Running over to Blair, Alan tangled his fist in Blair's hair and leaned down. Faces close, Alan hissed, "I AM a Sentinel. Those tests proved nothing. My senses... they were just... they just weren't completely developed yet. But I know that I'm a Sentinel. I know that I am. And my senses could have been so powerful if only you'd helped me to develop them. But you wouldn't, would you? You were too pre-occupied with the others. Just because their senses were already working while mine weren't. You weren't willing to take the time to help me. You wanted instant results. So you just ignored me and completely discounted me. Well, you can't just push me aside this time, can you, Professor? This time, I'll make you help me. And with your help I'll finally fulfill my destiny and become a Sentinel, like I was always meant to be!"

"Alan, listen to me," Blair pleaded. "Please just listen to me for a minute, okay? First off, you're right. I did ignore you back then and I'm sorry. I was just so wrapped up in my research that I didn't make time for you. I'm sorry for that. But... Look, Alan, having enhanced senses isn't something that you can control or something that you can develop. Either you have them or you don't. I'm sorry, but that's the truth. And even having enhanced senses doesn't necessarily make you a sentinel. Believe me, I learned that fact the hard way."

"You're just lying," Alan screamed, "because you're mad about the others! I will be a sentinel and you're going to help me!"

"No, I'm not," Blair yelled back. "I'm telling you the truth. Everything you did, all the people you kill... killed, was all for nothing! For nothing! Ten people, good people who dedicated their lives to helping others, had their lives brutally ended for nothing. That very fact, the fact that you killed them, totally negates the possibility of you ever being a sentinel. Even if by some bizarre twist of fate or nature your senses do somehow become heightened, you will never be a sentinel. A sentinel protects and defends. You, you just destroy and injure. You will never and can never be a sentinel. And, believe me, I would rather die than help you in any way. So you might as well just kill me now and get it over with, because I will never give you what you want. NEVER!"

"You will give me what I want, Professor," Alan proclaimed. "Oh, believe me, you will definitely give me what I want."

Seeing Alan begin to touch the items lying on the cart, Blair said, "What? You think you can torture me into helping you?"

"Oh no, Professor, I wouldn't dream of hurting you," Alan replied. "Okay so I might dream of it, but I wouldn't actually do it. All right, so I might actually do it, but it wouldn't be anything permanent. No this stuff here, this is for Detective Ellison. You know, your sentinel."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Blair stated. "Jim isn't a sentinel."

"Please, Professor, I may be psychotic but I assure you I am not stupid," Alan said. "I've kept track of you since I was incarcerated. I must admit, I was surprised when your name started frequently appearing in the paper. Even more so when I noticed that each article related incidences involving the police. I thought to myself, 'Now, why would my dear, sweet, peace-loving Professor get involved with the police?' Then I saw the article about your drowning and Ellison's behavior. I suspected before, but that's when I knew for sure. You finally found yourself a genuine sentinel."

"You're wrong," Blair insisted.

"You're lying," Alan replied. "But don't worry, I'm not angry at you. After all, I wouldn't expect anything less. I knew you'd try to protect him. I knew that you wouldn't want to leave. But don't worry about it. Everything will turn out fine, you'll see."

"What are you going to do, Alan?"

"Nothing much," Alan answered. "Just do what I've been doing all along, eliminate the competition. Oh, and also get that added bonus of making you pay for what you did to me."

"Alan..."

"Don't worry," Alan reassured, "I won't make Ellison suffer. Well, not too much anyway."

"Alan..."

"And then there won't be anything standing in the way," Alan continued.

"Yes, there will," Blair insisted. "Even if you ki... get rid of Jim, there's still Monica Ryan and Jonathan Gibson. They're both potential sentinels."

"You don't know?" Alan mused. "That's surprising. I thought you would have kept track of them. Interesting."

"Don't know?" Blair inquired. "What don't I know, Alan?"

"About brave, patriotic Jonathan and sweet, kind Monica."

"What about them?"

"Nothing much," Alan explained. "They're just dead, is all."

"You're lying!"

"Would I do that, Professor?" Alan chided. "Come now, you know me better than that. I would never lie about one of them being dead. After all, it gives me so much joy knowing that they no longer pose any threat."

Stunned, Blair was silent for several long seconds. "How?" He finally managed to ask.

"Poor, pathetic Monica just got lost in her own little world and eventually forgot about all those mundane, ordinary things like breathing."

"She zoned," Blair stated out loud. "I can't believe it. She had a fatal zone-out."

"Evidently," Alan agreed. "Jonathan, on the other hand, experienced a somewhat more unpleasant demise. It seems one of his little 'training maneuvers' went wrong and his whole team was lost. Such a shame really. Oh well."

"They're all gone," Blair whispered in disbelief. "Jonathan, Ellen and... Oh my God, Monica. She's... I can't believe it. Why didn't her parents let me know? She... She's gone."

Expression hardening, Alan stated, "Yes, they're all gone. And soon Ellison will be too. Then it will be just me and you, like it should have been all along."

Suddenly feeling numb, Blair just looked on as Alan picked up a cell phone and approached him. "Now, all we have to do is make a little phone call."

"A phone call?" Blair asked. "And exactly who are we going to be calling?"

"Ellison, of course," Alan answered as he began to dial the phone. "After all, I can't very well kill him unless he's here now can I?"

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Entering the bullpen, Jim saw Simon talking with Joel and walked over to join them. "No luck," he stated when they looked his way. "I went back to Rainier and tried every possible route they could have taken to either here or the FBI field office. I couldn't find any traces of them. It's like they just vanished."

"Jim..."

"I should have been able to find something," Jim continued. "I should have..."

"Jim..."

Distractedly, Jim asked, "What is it, Simon?"

"I was just getting ready to call you," Simon said. "Cascade General just called."

Fear gripping him, Jim managed to ask, "Blair?"

"No," Simon answered. "It's Boone. He was found not far from the university. Seems a passing motorist discovered him lying in the street."

"And?"

"He's been shot, that's all I know," Simon answered.

"Is he conscious?" Jim asked. "Has he said anything about Sandburg? Does he know where Blair is? Does he, Simon? Tell me something!"

"Jim!" Simon yelled, drawing everyone's attention. "Just calm down a minute. Look, I don't know anything other than the fact that Boone has been shot. Let's get over to the hospital and get some answers, all right?"

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "Let's go." Then he turned and hurried out of the bullpen.

Racing to catch up with Jim, Simon barely managed to reach the garage in time to see Jim climb into his truck. "Ellison, wait up!"

Slamming his door, Jim started the truck and then waited for Simon to get in before racing out of the garage.

"Slow down, Jim," Simon yelled. "You won't be doing Sandburg any good if you get us killed on the way to the hospital."

Easing up slightly, Jim growled, "I know that, Simon. It's just..."

"I know, Jim," Simon interrupted. "I'm worried about him too."

Arriving at the hospital, Jim parked the truck in front of the ER entrance and ran into the hospital with Simon following after him. Running up to the admittance desk, Jim demanded, "You have an Agent Boone here, tell me where he is."

"Pardon me?" The nurse asked.

Coming to the rescue, a slightly out of breath Simon said, "I'm Captain Simon Banks, Cascade PD, I need to find out about an Agent Mark Boone who was admitted just a little while ago."

"Just a moment, Sir, and I'll see what I can find out."

"Now just a minute..." Jim began.

"Jim, let the nurse find something out," Simon interrupted.

Nodding, Jim stood silently and glared at the nurse as she accessed the computer.

"Yes," she said, "A Mark Boone was admitted just a little while ago. He's being prepped for surgery right now."

"We need to speak to him," Jim stated.

"I'm sorry, Sir," the nurse replied, "but that's not possible."

"Yes, it is," Jim insisted.

"Sir..."

"Nurse," Simon interrupted, "we really need to speak to Agent Boone. He may have vital information that we desperately need to know."

"I'll contact the doctor."

"Thank you," Simon replied.

A few minutes later, a doctor approached Simon and Jim. "You're here about Mark Boone?"

"Yes," Simon answered. "What can you tell us?"

"He has a gunshot wound to the chest," the doctor stated. Sighing, he added, "Honestly, gentlemen, it looks bad but I'm optimistic."

"That's good," Simon replied. "Doctor, it is imperative that we speak with Agent Boone. He may have information regarding some missing men."

"I'm sorry, but..."

"Don't even try it," Jim cut in. "We will be talking with him." Backing down slightly, Jim continued, "Look, Doctor, one of the missing men is my partner. So can we please speak with Boone? Just for a minute."

"I don't even know if that's possible at the moment," the doctor admitted. "He's been in and out of consciousness since he was brought in, but even if he is conscious now there's no guarantee that he'll be of any help to you."

"I've got to try," Jim insisted. "He may be my partner's only hope."

Relenting, the doctor said, "I'll go see if he's awake. If he is, I'll let you see him, but only for a minute."

"Thank you," Jim replied.

Watching the doctor leave, Jim said, "If he isn't awake now, he will be after I get in there with him."

"Jim..."

"I'm getting some answers from this guy, Simon," Jim stated. "No matter what I have to do to get them."

Pacing the hallway, becoming more impatient with each passing second, Jim came to a standstill and looked up as the doctor returned. "Well?"

"He's awake," the doctor informed them, "and actually very aware considering the circumstances. In fact, when I mentioned you he was rather insistent on speaking with you. So, if you'll follow me I'll take him to you."

Leading the two men back into the treatment area, the doctor stopped outside a room. "He's in here. But just remember, gentlemen, you only have a few moments before he'll be taken to surgery. And if he becomes agitated, you will leave immediately."

Nodding, Jim pushed past the doctor and entered the room. Vaguely aware of Simon and the doctor's entrance behind him, Jim walked over to the bed. Glancing down at the agent, Jim said, "Boone? Can you hear me?"

Slowly opening his eyes, Boone stared up for a moment in confusion before recognition replaced the dazed expression. "Ellison."

"That's right," Jim confirmed. "I need your help, Boone. Can you tell me what happened? Where are the others? What about Sandburg, is he okay? Was he shot too?"

"Allen," Boone gasped out.

Misunderstanding, Jim replied, "We haven't found him yet, but I'm sure he's fine. Now what happened?"

"No," Boone weakly protested. "Allen shot me. Shot Mills too."

"What?" Jim exclaimed.

"What is it, Jim?" Simon asked. "What did he say?"

Turning to look at Simon, Jim said, "He said that Allen shot him and Mills."

Ignoring Simon's startled, "WHAT?" Jim turned back to Boone again. Seeing the Agent start to lose consciousness, Jim ordered, "Stay with me, Boone. C'mon. Stay awake and tell me what you remember."

Forcing his eyes open again, Boone whispered, "On our way to the station. Allen just shot Mills and then me. Don't remember much else, just a sharp pain and pressure in my chest then the feeling of falling."

"Your own partner shot you?" Jim asked in disbelief.

"Not my partner," Boone murmured. "Just assigned to work with him a few days ago. Don't know him."

Watching as Boone finally succumbed to the pain, Jim straightened up as the agent slipped back into unconsciousness. Pondering what he had heard, Jim didn't hear Simon calling him. Wincing as he felt a sharp sting in his arm, Jim shook his head slightly and then turned to look at Simon. "What was that?" He asked while rubbing his arm.

"I pinched you to get your attention," Simon informed him. "You were totally gone and we have to get out of here. They're going to be taking him to surgery now."

"Oh right," Jim replied. Walking out of the room, Jim uttered a quick "Thanks" to the doctor.

Taking a moment to express his gratitude to the doctor, Simon left the room and caught up with Jim who had already almost reached the exit. "Jim!" Simon called out. When Jim didn't stop or acknowledge him in any way, Simon yelled, "Stop right there, Ellison!"

Coming to a halt, Jim waited for Simon to catch up to him before turning to face the captain. "I don't believe this!" Jim yelled. "You said that you had checked these guys out, Simon."

"I did, Jim," Simon insisted. "They both checked out, I swear. Do you really think that I'd want another repeat of that Lash incident?"

"Well want it or not, it's definitely beginning to look like we've got another situation like that on our hands," Jim stated.

"Jim, I don't know what happened," Simon said. "But I will find out how this guy managed to get through the system, how he managed to get assigned this case."

"None of that matters right now," Jim responded. "How this guy got here, how any of this ties in to Sandburg and those others. It can all wait until later. Until after I've gotten Sandburg back. After I've taken this Allen guy out."

"Jim..." Simon began but was interrupted when Jim's cell phone rang.

Shrugging at Simon's questioning look, Jim pulled out his phone. "Ellison."

Watching as Jim became frozen in place, Simon whispered, "Who is it?"

Ignoring Simon for the moment, Jim spoke into the phone. "Where? When? I'll be there. But I swear if you hurt San..." Jerking the phone away from his ear, Jim drew back his hand as if to throw it against the wall.

Reaching out to grab Jim's arm, Simon asked, "What?"

Shaking off Simon's hold on his arm, Jim put the phone back in his pocket. "That was Allen."

"And?" Simon prompted.

"He's got Sandburg," Jim stated. "He wants me to come to where they are. Said if I don't, he'll hurt Sandburg."

"What's the location?" Simon asked. "I can have SWAT and our guys mobilized and ready to go within half an hour."

"It's no good," Jim replied. "He said that if anyone else shows up, he'll kill Sandburg."

"Jim, he won't even know we're there."

"I don't know about that," Jim said. "Remember back at the loft? When we talked about this feeling that I've been having."

"Yes," Simon answered. "You said it was similar to when Alex..."

"When Alex Barnes was around," Jim finished. "And if I've been sensing this guy, then there's a good possibility that some, if not all, of his senses are heightened. If that's so, then Sandburg's dead as soon as any of our guys get anywhere near them."

"But he can't be the one you've been sensing," Simon protested. "You said you've been having this feeling for about three weeks."

"Yeah?"

"So Allen can't have been in town that long," Simon reasoned. "You couldn't have been sensing him."

"First off, we've got no way of knowing how long he's been here," Jim argued. "And second, who else could it be? I mean c'mon, Simon, what are the odds of two lunatics, both of them obsessed with Sandburg, showing up at the same time? It had to have been Allen."

Giving Jim a skeptical look, Simon just asked, "So how do you want to handle this?"

"I'm going to go," Jim replied.

"Jim..."

"It's Sandburg's only chance," Jim said. "And besides, after everything that went down with Alex, I owe him, Simon. I can't let something happen to him. Not now, not after I just got him back."

"I don't like this."

"You don't have to," Jim responded. "Just let me go and don't do anything to interfere."

"Jim, you know that I can't do that," Simon declared. "I can't let you go into this without backup. I have to call this in, so give me the location."

"Sorry, Sir, but I can't do that." Pushing past Simon, Jim ran out of the hospital.

Bypassing his truck, knowing that Simon would put out an APB on it, Jim raced over to a guy climbing onto a motorcycle. Pulling out his badge, Jim yelled, "Police business." Then, pushing the guy aside, Jim climbed on the motorcycle himself.

Glancing over his shoulder, Jim saw Simon running toward him. Ignoring the yell of "Don't you even think about it, Ellison," Jim sped away from hospital.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Flinching as Alan tossed the phone onto the cart, Blair said, "You just made a big mistake."

"Oh," Alan asked, "and what mistake would that be exactly?"

"Thinking that a weak, spineless, cowardly, pathetic jerk like you could ever take on Jim and win," Blair retorted. "There's no way you could ever beat him. He's going to kick your ass and I'm going to enjoy watching every second of it."

"Don't be so sure of that, Professor," Alan cautioned. "After all, I got to all of the others, didn't I? I beat them and I'll beat Ellison, too."

"You're wrong," Blair protested. "Jim is nothing like the others. You don't stand a chance against him."

Laughing, Alan picked up a bag from the cart and walked over to Blair. "I think your precious sentinel will be at a disadvantage when he encounters the surprises I've left for him."

"Surprises?" Blair asked. "What are you talking about, Alan?"

"Let's just say that my encounters with the others were very enlightening," Alan replied. "Detective Ellison's senses are an advantage, but they can also be quite a disadvantage too. If you know how to exploit that disadvantage, he can be rendered harmless." Smiling, Alan added, "And I, for one, definitely know how to exploit my enemy's weaknesses."

"Alan..." Blair began.

"Time for you to be quiet now, Professor," Alan said as he pulled out a gag. "After all, your voice, your guidance is one of Ellison's greatest advantages; one which I will definitely need to eliminate. But only temporarily, of course."

Violently shaking his head, Blair attempted to evade Alan's grasp. Suddenly stunned by a blow across his face, Blair was rendered incoherent enough for Alan to affix the gag. Shaking his head, Blair frantically attempted to dislodge it. Halting his movements as Alan once again reached into the bag, Blair's eyes widen when he caught sight of the blindfold.

Ignoring the pleading look in Blair's eyes, Alan deftly placed the blindfold on Blair. Leaning over, he whispered in Blair's ear. "How does it feel, Professor, to be totally helpless and defenseless? Kind of like how I felt all that time I was in prison. You know, I think I like you like this; totally at my mercy." Reaching into the bag once again, Alan pulled out the last item. "Only one more thing to go, Professor. Are you wondering what it is? Wondering what I'm going to do to you next?"

Reaching out to Blair, Alan laughed as he brushed up against Blair's face causing the other man to flinch violently. Inserting a white noise generator into Blair's ear, Alan said, "How will it feel to you, I wonder? No sight, no speech, no hearing. Totally lost inside your own head. No stimulation. Nothing but the total void of sensory depravation." Reaching for Blair's other ear, Alan said, "Don't worry though, I'll record every second of what I do to Ellison. Believe me, that something I don't want you to miss seeing. But I really can't have you attempting to interfere when Ellison gets here. So just sit tight, Professor, and put that vivid imagination of yours to use. Imagine what I'm doing to Ellison while you're sitting here totally immobilized, unable to help him. Not able to do anything until it's all over and Ellison's dead."

Inserting the other generator, Alan quickly switched them both on. Chuckling, Alan watched as Blair proceeded to whip his head side to side before letting it drop down in defeat. With a final caress of Blair's cheek, Alan walked away. "I'm waiting for you, Ellison," he said out loud. "Time to eliminate the final obstacle. After I've killed you, there'll be nothing left standing in my way."

Twenty minutes later, Alan sat inside the warehouse watching the security cameras and waiting for Jim to show. Finally, he caught sight of Jim on one of the TV screens. "Ah, trying to sneak in the back way, huh, Sentinel?" Alan stated. "You are so very predictable. Good for me, but very bad for you."

Continuing to watch as Jim slowly and cautiously approached the back entrance to the warehouse, Alan encouraged, "It's all right. You can come on in. It's safe. Don't be afraid now. Come and rescue the dear Professor; just a few more steps now. Closer. Closer." Just as Jim reached out and grabbed the door handle, Alan said, "Let the games begin." Then, flicking a switch located on the control panel for the security system, he turned on a security light that was mounted by the door.

Suddenly blinded by the bright light, Jim yelled and stumbled backward a few steps before tripping and falling to the ground. Stunned, he lay there for a few seconds. Rapidly blinking his eyes, Jim sat up. "Shit!" he exclaimed. Vision blurred, he reached up a hand and rubbed he eyes. Frustrated when his eyes remained teary, Jim struggled upright and approached the door again. Dialing down his eyesight to avoid any further injury, he again reached a hand out and grasped the doorknob. Bracing himself for whatever lie on the other side, Jim slowly turned the knob and pushed open the door.

Crouching down, Jim slowly crept into the room. Eyesight temporarily impaired, Jim compensated for the potentially lethal disadvantage by dialing up his hearing. Quickly entering the room all the way, he moved over to some boxes piled beside the door. Ducking behind the convenient cover, he took a moment to scan the room. Hearing two heartbeats, he assumed that the racing one was Blair's and that the slower, calmer one belonged to Allen. Notching up his hearing a little more, he attempted to pinpoint the location of the two heartbeats.

Silently, Alan sat and watched the scene unfolding before him. Smiling, he murmured, "Hello, Detective."

Hearing the soft words, Jim jerked his head up and peered over the top of the box. Growling softly when his eyes still refused to function properly, Jim yelled, "It's over, Allen. Why not make it easier on yourself and surrender now?"

"What? Just when the fun's started?" Alan called out. "I don't think so, Detective. I've got so many things planned for us. Or for you, I should say. Surrender? Never, you'll have to kill me because I'll never surrender to you. And it's far from over; we've just begun, Detective."

Making a futile attempt at reasoning, Jim yelled, "Look, Tom..."

"Tom?" Alan replied with a laugh. "You have no idea do you? You still don't know who I am. Well, I really shouldn't expect anything else. After all, the dear Professor didn't remember me until just a little while ago."

"Where is Sandburg?" Jim asked. "If you've hurt him..."

"Oh, please," Alan interrupted, "save the pathetic little threats for those common, petty criminals that you normally face. I assure you, Detective, you've never encountered someone like me before."

"I don't know about that," Jim replied. "You seem just like a typical, ordinary, everyday lunatic to me; nothing that I haven't seen before."

"Well, since you brought it up," Alan sarcastically stated, "you're not exactly seeing much of anything right now, are you? Poor, Jimmy. Feeling a little bit worried about now?"

"Cut the shit," Jim yelled, "and tell me where Sandburg is."

"Gee, more worried about some civilian ride-along that one of your fellow brothers in blue? Wonder why that is?" Alan inquired. "Mills is dead, by the way, just in case you were concerned. Though why would you be? After all, Mills is just a fellow officer whereas Sandburg is something all together different. A fact that you're very much aware of, what with being a Sentinel and all."

"I don't know what you talking about, Allen."

"Funny, Blair expressed a similar sentiment when I mentioned it to him," Alan stated. "Anyway, don't worry about the dear Professor, he's fine for the moment. I really haven't had time to give him the attention he deserves yet. But after I've killed you, I'm going to give Sandburg some close, personal attention; which is something that I will derive an immense amount of satisfaction from. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Professor."

Cringing at the cruel laughter that followed those words, Jim frantically tried to pinpoint Blair's location again. Suddenly, the air was filled with the pulsating, loud sounds of heavy metal music. Dropping his gun, Jim slapped his hands against his ears in a futile attempt to block the noise.

Falling to the ground as the debilitating sensory assault successfully incapacitated him, Jim lay convulsing on the floor unable to move as Alan slowly approached him.

Standing beside Jim, looking down with contempt at his temporarily defenseless enemy, Alan simply stared for a while before slowly kneeling. "So the great Sentinel has fallen; cowering on the floor, utterly pathetic and totally helpless." Chuckling, Alan observed, "Oh yes, you definitely have weakness and I do know how to exploit them." Reaching out a hand, he pushed Jim over. "Which shall I take first?" Brushing a fingertip over Jim's face, Alan mused, "Should I start with your eyes or maybe your ears? I would start with taste, but it'd be a shame to cut out your tongue now. Then, I'd miss hearing all those delicious screams and titillating pleas for mercy."

Moving his hand down to grasp Jim's tightly clenched hands, Alan said, "How about touch? No, maybe smell. Five senses, each so appealing. How ever will I chose?" Sitting back on his heels, Alan declared, "I know what I'll do. I'll let you choose. Yes, Sentinel. You will be the one who chooses the order in which I destroy your senses."

Standing up, Alan walked over and reached down to grab Jim's arms. Grunting slightly, he pulled Jim over to the center of the room. Dropping Jim's arms Alan watched in amusement as Jim dropped down onto the hard concrete. Laughing as he heard the thud of Jim's head impacting against the floor, Alan proceeded to tie Jim to the restraint he had already embedded into the concrete floor. Securing Jim, and satisfied that the detective wouldn't be able to escape, Alan walked over to the cart.

"What shall I use to get your attention?" He asked out loud. Selecting an item, Alan returned to where Jim was lying on the floor. Squatting down, he contemplated the other man for a moment. "Let's see if the Professor will think you're so special after he sees what I do to you. Now that I think about it, I might not kill you after all. No, I don't think I will. I'll just leave you totally sensory deprived. No sight, no touch, no sound, no smell, no taste. A senseless Sentinel. Don't you just love the irony in that?"

Looking down at the a still unconscious Jim, Alan exclaimed, "Oh how rude of me. I really should be having this conversation with you, shouldn't I? Let's wake you up now; I'd love to get your input on this little plan."

Holding his hand in front of Jim's nose, Alan watched as Jim's nostrils flared. Moving back as Jim suddenly strained upward, Alan said, "Amazing what a little thing like smelling salts will do to that enhanced nose of yours, isn't it?"

Coughing, Jim struggled against the restraints holding him down. Catching sight of Alan, he yelled, "Let me go, you son of a bitch!"

"Now, tell me something, Detective," Alan replied. "Has that actually ever worked before? I mean, someone letting you go just because you told them to? So why insult both of our... well, mine anyway... intelligence by making such a ridiculous demand?"

"What do you want, Allen?" Jim growled.

"You saw what I did to the others," Alan replied. "You know what I want?"

"To kill me," Jim responded. "So what are you waiting for? Get on with it all ready."

"Now that's why I decided to wake you up," Alan stated. "Well one of the reasons anyway. First, I've decided that I might just leave you alive and I wanted your input on that decision. Second, what's the point in torturing you if you're not awake to scream in torment? I mean sure I'll still enjoy it, but let's face it; I'll get lot more pleasure out of it if I can see your face contort in agony while I'm subjecting you to new heights of pain and suffering."

"You're one sick, twisted freak," Jim replied.

"So everyone keeps telling me," Alan retorted. "You know if I was in the least bit self-conscious, I might start to feel a little bit uncertain about my behavior right about now." Smiling, he added, "Lucky for you, I'm a very confident, self-assured kind of guy."

Standing up, Alan moved away from Jim allowing the detective to finally get a look at his partner. Squinting, Jim was able to make out Blair. Seeing his partner's condition, Jim yelled, "What did you do to him?"

Looking back at Blair, Alan answered, "Nothing. I told you that already. I've just made sure that he can't interrupt our special time together. Later is for the Professor and I. Now is only for you and I."

"What are you going to do?"

"That depends on you, Detective," Alan replied. "Like I said, I've decided that I might leave you alive. Am I to assume that you'd prefer that rather than having me slit your throat at the end of our activities?"

Seeing Jim open his mouth, Alan said, "Don't be so quick to answer, Detective. There's a slight catch. You see, you'd keep your life but you'd lose your senses. So what will it be? A quick painful death to put you out of your misery? And believe me, Detective, by the time I'm through with you, you will definitely be quite miserable. Or do you want to live out the rest of your life in a dark, empty void; unable to hear, smell, taste, touch or see?"

When Jim didn't respond, Alan continued, "I know, tough decision isn't it? I mean, sure you'd be alive but you wouldn't exactly be living now would ya?" Standing up, he walked over to Blair. "And it's not like the Professor here would be around anymore. I mean even if I don't take him with me, but of course we both know that I will, how long would he continue to stay? After all, with your senses gone he really wouldn't have much use for you now would he? The only reason he's stayed with you for so long is because of your senses. Everything with the Professor comes down to the senses; comes down to this sentinel thing."

Reaching down a hand, his fingers hovering by Blair's face, Alan said, "We all have our obsessions. Some attainable and some not. Some are ours for the taking, you just have to have the courage to reach out and grasp them." Fingers making contact, Alan jerked his hand back when Blair violently flinched away from him. "Others are a little bit harder to acquire. They resist our possession and valiantly attempt to evade our grasp. But if we are persistent and our endurance holds out long enough, then eventually even the most seemingly unobtainable objects are ours for the taking."

Straining against the restraints, Jim asked, "And what exactly is it that you want?" Relieved when Alan moved away from Blair, Jim relaxed slightly. "What exactly is your obsession? Killing people with heightened senses? Or is it just to be a sick, twisted psycho that gets off on pretending to have heightened senses himself?"

"I'm not pretending!" Alan yelled. "You're not the only sentinel in this room."

"You're a sentinel?" Jim sarcastically asked.

"Yes, I am," Alan insisted. "I've always been one. I was one then and I'm still one now. But he won't believe me. Not back then and not now."

"Back then?" Jim inquired.

Walking back over to Jim, Alan yelled, "Yes, back then. How stupid are you anyway? Did you really think that I hadn't met the Professor before? I've known him for a while now, longer than you have and longer than any of the others did. All of the others, they tried to steal him away from me. Tried to distract him and turn his attention to them. But they're not around anymore. All that's left is you, and as soon as I deal with you then he'll be all mine. And there'll be no other distractions left to take him away again."

"You can't honestly believe that." Came Jim's incredulous reply. "Do you honestly think that Sandburg would allow someone to OWN him? If you really believe that, then you don't know him at all."

"When you're gone, he will want to be with me," Alan insisted. "He will!"

"Never."

"HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL! HE WILL!" Alan punctuated each scream with a vicious kick to Jim's side. Out of breath from his exertions, Alan panted as he gasped out a final, "He will."

Jaw clenched, Jim attempted to dial down the pain that was now radiating throughout his abdomen. Tensing in anticipation of further blows, Jim looked up to find that Alan was staring down at the floor. Continuing to watch, Jim was puzzled when Alan shook his head slightly and seemed to come out of the daze he had fallen into.

Turning his attention back to Jim, Alan smiled and asked, "Have you come to a decision yet?"

"A decision?"

"About your fate, of course," Alan replied. "Do try to keep up, Detective. Now, do you want me to kill you when I'm done or do you want me to leave you alive? Really it's a very simple decision. I don't know what's taking you so long. Are you normally this slow, Detective? I'm surprised you make any arrests at all."

"What the matter with you?" Jim exclaimed.

"What's the matter with me?" Alan asked. "Oh you're so right, Detective. I don't know what I was thinking. That's just so rude of me. I don't know where my manners are. Of course, proper etiquette dictates that I must properly introduce myself before I start torturing you. Please forgive my momentary lapse."

"No problem," Jim retorted.

"Thank you so much," Alan replied. "Now where should I begin? How about we make a game of it? Won't that be fun?"

"A what?" Jim asked in disbelief. "You want to play a game?"

"Yes," Alan stated. "You know, twenty questions. Although we should probably make it five or ten. After all, we are on a schedule here. So come on now. What's your first question? Ask away."

Shocked by the sudden change in behavior, Jim was speechless for several seconds. Finally, he looked up and asked, "How did you meet Sandburg?"

"Now how did I know that your first question would relate to the dear Professor over there?" Alan mused. "To answer your question, several years ago I was undergoing treatment at a medical center. It was some type of foolish psychiatric counseling. My parents were the ones who insisted that I undergo therapy. Though I simply can not fathom the reasoning behind their belief that I needed it. I mean me in therapy? How ridiculous can you get? Can you believe they actually threatened to cut me off financially if I refused to go? Anyway, one day I noticed this flyer announcing a study of people who were having any odd sensory experiences and I immediately called the number listed."

Turning to stare at Blair, Alan continued, "From the moment he answered the phone, I found myself captivated. It was just something about his voice. It called to me and soothed me all at the same time. I explained to him that I had noticed his flyer and that I had been experiencing sensory oddities, that on occasion I could see farther than what would be considered normal. He said something about sending me a questionnaire, but I knew that I had to meet him. He said that a face-to-face meeting wouldn't be necessary and then promised to send me the questionnaire in a few days. Then he told me that he had to go to a class so he said goodbye and hung up the phone."

Whirling back around to look at Jim again, Alan said, "But I knew that our brief conversation couldn't be our only contact. I knew that we had to meet. He felt it too. I could hear it in his voice. So I managed to track him down. When I finally got to Rainier and met him for the first time, the second I saw him I knew that he was what I had been searching for all my life. But he, the dear Professor, didn't even remember me. At first I felt angry, but I soon forgave him his oversight. In the beginning, he was quite accommodating and met with me frequently. But then the others began to show up. And soon he began to ignore me. I was pushed aside to make room for them. Suddenly, I wasn't worth his time or effort. But they, of course, were. Ellen, Jonathan and his precious Monica; all of them became more important to him than I was. More important than me, the one that had the first claim on him. Eventually, I had to remind him of that claim."

Chilled despite the oppressive heat in the room, Jim shivered. "What did you do? Exactly how did you remind Sandburg of your so-called claim?"

Knelling down beside Jim, Alan replied, "Sorry, Detective, but that was a private, special moment between the Professor and I. It wouldn't be right for me to tell you about it." Sighing, he added, "Unfortunately, he didn't exactly share my reverence for our encounter and I wound up spending the next several years of my life behind bars. My parents, in all their hypocrisy, totally turned their backs on me and didn't come to my aid during the dreadful ordeal. Eventually though I managed to secure my release and then I proceeded to win back my parent's affection, not to mention access to their bank accounts."

As his hearing came back on-line, Jim briefly tuned in to Blair's heartbeat and was alarmed at how fast it was. Splitting his attention between his partner and Alan, Jim listened as Alan continued to speak.

"You know, there's nothing you can't buy in this country if you have enough money," Alan observed. "Say, for example, a person wanted to arrange for a car to experience some sudden and fatal technical difficulties; ones that appeared totally accidental, of course. Some discreet inquiries to the right people, a clandestine meeting to exchange some funds and voila. You find yourself grieving at your parents' funeral. It really was a beautiful affair. Such colorful floral arrangements and the eulogies were simply divine."

Grinning, Alan added, "For the right amount of money, you can even buy yourself a whole new life. Don't you think it's amazing what some of these computer hackers can do? For the bargain basement price of ten thousand dollars, they'll set up a phantom identity. An identity so believable and so credible that it can even stand up to even the most intense and thorough security checks. And with that identity you can become anyone you want to be. You can become a singer, a doctor, a lawyer, even a FBI agent."

Standing up, Alan said, "I really do hate to cut this short, Detective. Believe me, I've found our talk to be thoroughly enjoyable. But alas, our time is growing short. So, one more question and then we'll proceed to the next event on our itinerary."

Looking at Blair, Jim simply said, "No matter what you do to me, you'll never get what you want. You can torture me, maim me or even kill me, but you won't succeed. If Sandburg goes with you, it will be because you forced him to." Turning to look at Alan, Jim added, "And he will never stop trying to escape. You will NEVER be able to break his spirit. I should know. I've touched it. Sandburg has the purest, bravest spirit of anyone that I've ever known. I've found him to be the most determined, strongest and courageous, not to mention stubborn and persistent, person that I've ever known. And I know that you can never and will never defeat him."

"Perhaps," Alan replied. "But then again, you didn't see him after our last encounter. I did break him before and I will do it again. Unfortunately for you, you won't be around to witness it."

Walking away from Jim, Alan once again went over to the cart and began looking over the items lying on it. "Hmm. Sight? Touch? Taste? Sound? Smell? Which shall I take away first?" Laughing, Alan picked up an object. "Oh yes, this will do very nicely." Turning to face Jim, he said, "Ready to play another game, Detective? However this one probably won't be as much fun. For you at least. I have a feeling I'm going to thoroughly enjoy it."

After seeing the object Alan held, Jim turned most of his dials all the way down. Glaring at Alan, he growled, "Bring it on."

"Good for you, Detective," Alan replied with a laugh. "Maintain that calm, collected fašade. I applaud and encourage the effort. I'd be interested to know how long you can keep it up after I begin working on you."

Clenching his jaw, Jim warily watched as Alan slowly approached and knelt down beside him. "At least I won't have to listen to your demented ranting anymore," he stated when Alan placed the headphones on his head.

"Enjoy it while you can, Detective," Alan advised. "After all, soon you won't be hearing anything ever again."

Violently shaking his head, Jim tried to dislodge the headphones but stopped when Alan reached over and pulled the right one away from his ear.

"I wouldn't do that, Detective," Alan advised. "If you don't cooperate..."

"You'll do what?" Jim interrupted. "Torture me? We both know that's going to happen. So what else is there left for you to do?"

"Nothing," Alan replied. "To you at least. The Professor on the other hand, there's a lot that I can do to him. I only need him alive. Unharmed is a totally different matter all together. In fact, you're probably right. I should wound him a little bit, shouldn't I? That'd make it much harder for him to escape."

"Wait!" Jim yelled as Alan moved to stand up.

"Change your mind?" Alan asked. Grinning when Jim nodded, Alan said, "I thought that you'd see things my way. Now let's get started, shall we?"

Flinching slightly as Alan reached over and resettled the headphones to cover both of his ears, Jim braced himself in preparation for whatever was about to happen. Senses raging out of control, Jim tried to dial down his hearing then tensed as Alan leaned over him and began to touch the headphones. Suddenly the headphones emitted a loud squeal, causing Jim to wince. Anticipating the coming blast of noise, Jim's body tightened. Muscles tensing and body straining in expectation of the pain, Jim suddenly sagged back against the ground when instead of the mind searing, agonizing noise he had been awaiting, the soft strains of a slow ballad issued forth from the headphones. Opening his eyes, Jim found himself looking up into the laughing face of his captor.

"Oh, man," Alan gasped out. "If you could have seen your face then. I'm telling you, it was quite an amusing sight to behold. I might just keep you around for awhile, Detective. After all, I haven't had such an entertaining plaything in a long time." Seeing Jim's confused look, Alan added, "Did you really think that I would start with hearing? I mean come on. What's the fun in doing this if you can't hear me taunting you while it's happening? We will definitely be saving sound for last."

Leaning down to remove the headphones, Alan set them aside and then caressed Jim's face. "I think we'll start with sight," he whispered. "Imagine it, you lying there helpless. Not knowing where the next pain will be. Lying there in total darkness, completely at my mercy." Sitting back, he said, "Oh yes, I definitely like that idea." Standing, Alan walked back over to the cart and began looking through the items lying on it.

Seeing that Alan's attention was diverted, Jim began pulling at the restraint encircling his wrist. Grunting softly as the rope bit into his flesh, Jim grinned when the resulting blood began to coat his lacerated wrist and caused the rope to begin to slide slightly. Increasing his movements, Jim felt the rope begin to slip over his hand. With a final jerk, his hand was freed and he reached over to begin working on the rope restraining his other arm.

Turning around, holding a bottle aloft, Alan's look at pleasure quickly morphed into an expression of rage when he saw Jim. Screaming, he ran over and flung himself on top of Jim.

"No you don't," Alan yelled as he fell onto Jim. Still tightly grasping the bottle with one hand, Alan used the other to grip Jim's freed arm and pin it to the floor. "You're not going anywhere," he exclaimed.

Bucking against Alan, Jim attempted to free his arm. Experiencing a feeling of extreme relief when Alan let go of his arm, Jim was suddenly stunned by an unexpected and vicious backhand.

Staring down at the dazed man trapped beneath him, Alan grinned as he used the brief repose to twist the lid off of the bottle that he had continued to hold onto during the brief struggle.

When Jim shook his head slightly and then looked up Alan quickly upending the bottle, spilling its contents over Jim's face. Screaming as his clouded mind registered the resulting burning sensation, Jim raised his freed hand and began to frantically scrub at his eyes.

Hearing spiking, Jim heard the warehouse door open and then running footsteps that were quickly approaching his and Alan's position. Briefly, he wondered how Simon had managed to find them. Then he surrendered to unconsciousness.

 

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Other than a brief moment of consciousness in the ambulance, during which time his flailing fists struck the EMT, Jim remained unconscious all through his admittance to the hospital and the following examination by the doctor.

Moaning softly, Jim began to wake up. Mind muddled from sleep and pain, it took a second for him to notice the darkness surrounding him even though his eyes were opened. "What?" Flinching slightly as a hand came to rest on his shoulder, Jim relaxed when he smelled the reassuring scent of Simon's cigars. "Simon?"

"Yeah, Jim," Simon replied. "I'm here."

Bolting upright, ignoring the pulling sensation from the IV's attached to his arm, Jim yelled, "Sandburg!"

"He's okay," Simon reassured. "He's in the next room and he's fine. I promise."

"I want to go to him," Jim said.

"Not right now, Jim," Simon protested. "You need to rest. You both do."

"Simon..."

"In a little while, Jim," Simon interrupted. Clearing his throat, Simon said, "Um... Jim... About your eyes."

Ignoring the concerned tone in Simon's voice, Jim demanded, "Just tell me what the doctor said."

"Your eyes have been exposed to an unknown chemical compound," Simon answered. "They don't have any ideal as to whether or not the... the blindness is... per... permanent or not." Worried, Simon asked, "Jim? How are you holding up? Are you okay?"

"I'm blind and I have a splitting headache," Jim retorted. "How do you think I'm doing? Now just drop it and tell me what's going on with Sandburg."

"Jim..."

"Tell me!"

"He's catatonic," Simon stated. "He's awake, but totally unresponsive. The doctor's haven't got a clue as to what's wrong with him."

"What's wrong with him," Jim replied, "is what that sick, perverted freak Allen did to him. Putting all of the crap on him."

"What are you talking about?" Simon asked. "What did Allen do to him?"

"You were there," Jim responded. "You saw what he did."

"I was there?" Simon asked. "What are you talking about, Jim?"

"When you guys showed up and got Allen," Jim said. "You know, when you stopped him and saved us. Though I don't know how you managed to find us."

"Jim..."

"What, Simon?" Jim prompted when the other man fell silent.

"We didn't save you," Simon informed Jim. "We got an anonymous call to 911 informing us of your location. When we got there, you and Blair were both unconscious and lying next to each other on the floor."

"What about Allen?"

"What about him?" Simon asked.

"Is he in lock-up?" Jim inquired. "Please tell me you caught the son of a bitch."

"Jim..." Simon began. "God, I thought that you knew. I mean, I assumed that you did it."

"Knew what?" Jim asked. "Did what?"

"Jim, when we got there, Allen was dead." Watching as Jim's face, paled, Simon was further alarmed by the other man's sharp intake of breath. "Jim? What is it? What's the matter?"

"It can't be," Jim murmured.

"What?"

Looking up at Simon, Jim said, "Allen can't be dead."

"He is, Jim," Simon insisted. "I saw the body myself."

"Oh my God," Jim exclaimed. "I have to get to Blair! NOW!"

"What? Jim, I told you that you could see him in a little while..."

"Now, Simon," Jim interrupted. "I have to get to him now."

"WHY?" Simon yelled.

"Because Allen's dead," Jim explained.

"Yeah," Simon agreed. "So the threat to Sandburg is gone."

"Really," Jim asked. "If that's so, then why am I still having that feeling?"

"What are you..." Simon began. "Shit! You mean..."

"That's right," Jim confirmed. "Whoever or whatever I've been sensing these past three weeks, it wasn't Allen. Even though the threat he posed to Sandburg has been eliminated, there's still another one out there somewhere."

"Take me to him, Simon," Jim demanded again.

Placing a restraining hand on Jim's shoulder, Simon said, "Fine, but just wait a minute. I'll go talk with the doctor, see what he says."

"Hurry."

"All right," Simon agreed. Pausing by the door, he added, "Meanwhile, we need to be thinking of some way to explain all of this. People are going to want answers and I need to know what to tell them."

"Whatever," Jim wearily replied as he leaned back and closed his eyes. "But right now, all I want is to be with my partner."

"I'll see what I can do," Simon promised.

After Simon left the room, Jim dialed up his hearing and immediately located Blair's slow, steady heartbeat. Calmed by the reassuring sound yet also feeling a sharp increase in the need to be with his partner, Jim reached over a hand and began to feel along his arm. Locating the site of the IV, he slowly and carefully eased the needle out of his arm. Slowly climbing out of bed, he tentatively took a few steps away from it. Arms stretched before him, hands searching for the door, he gradually made his way across the room. Remembering the direction that Simon's voice had come from, he allowed the memory to guide his footsteps. Triumphant, he grinned when his hands finally made contact with the door. Running his hand down the door, he eventually located the doorknob.

Pausing, he leaned his forehead against the door for a second. "C'mon, Ellison, you can do this. It's just like what happened with that Golden crap; this is nothing that you haven't dealt with before. So just get your ass in gear and get to your partner." Taking a deep breath, Jim opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

Head tilted to the side; Jim leaned against the wall and quickly locked onto Blair's heartbeat. Letting the sound guide him, he hesitantly started along the hallway. Fingers trailing along the wall, ensuring that he wouldn't miss the door, Jim followed the soothing rhythm. Stopping as he noticed the different texture under his fingertips, Jim smiled and again felt along until he reached a doorknob.

Entering the room, Jim started in the direction of Blair's heartbeat. Stifling a yell, Jim cursed softly when his leg impacted against something. Reaching down, he felt around and located the chair he had bumped into. Angrily shoving it aside, he continued over to Blair.

Stopping as his legs bumped into the bed, he laid a hand on the mattress. Slowly moving his hand around, he stopped when he brushed up against flesh. Briefly he grasped the arm he had located before running his hand up the arm. Jim smiled when his hand finally reached the shoulder and he felt soft strands of hair brushed against the back of his hand. "Hey, Chief," he greeted.

Needing further contact, Jim continued to run his hand along the shoulder and up Blair neck until his palm gently cupped his partner's cheek. "I need you to wake up now, Blair. C'mon back to me." Sighing, he added, "You've never failed to reach me when I've zoned and I just hope that I'm able to do the same. I don't know if what you're experiencing could be called a zone-out exactly, but I'm sure it's something similar. Wherever you're at right now, I know that you probably want to stay. God knows that sometimes I would rather just stay in a zone than come out and face everything again. I know that you're in a calm, quiet, peaceful place right now. But you've got to fight your way out. I need you, Chief." Leaning down until his face was close to Blair's, Jim repeated in a hushed tone, "I need you."

Jerking his head back slightly when he heard Blair groan, Jim encouraged, "That's it, Chief. Wake up."

"Jim..." Blair murmured.

"I'm here, Blair," Jim reassured. "You're safe. Rest now. Got to sleep, I'll watch over you."

Hand still cupping Blair's cheek, Jim smiled when Blair sighed and then turned slightly to briefly nuzzle against his hand. Hearing the change in Blair's heartbeat and breathing which indicated that his partner was now sleeping, Jim repeated, "I'll watch over you."

 

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Down below in the parking lot, a solitary figure sat in a car and maintained a constant vigil. Looking upward, eyes instinctively drawn to the window of Blair's room, the lone sentry's attention never wavered.

You're safe now, Blair. I saved you when the other couldn't. I wanted to keep you with me. I needed to keep you with me. But I knew that now isn't the right time. So rest now, Blair. Recover and regain your strength. And after you've mended then I'll come to you. I'll come for you. And it will be glorious. We will be glorious together.

In that room, when I walked in and saw you there, I experienced a brief taste of your essence. And that taste left me craving more. That fool didn't know how to treat you right. It was my pleasure to kill him. I almost killed the other, too. His importance to you is the only reason he's still alive. That and the purpose he still serves. I know that he's the only one who can help you heal. Once he's accomplished that, he'll have no further value. Until then though, I will continue to let him live. Continue to let the two of you stay together.

For you, I will be patient, Blair. For you I will calmly wait until the time when we can be together, until the time when I can truly and completely know you. Until the time my hunger is fulfilled and I've feasted on your spirit and soul. Until I've learned all of your secrets and can fully partake in the knowledge that you possess. "Soon, Blair. Soon you will be mine."

The End