Obsession: Part 2

By: Kathy

NOTE: Set after "The Sentinel Too Part 2" but before "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg"

Opening his eyes, Jim experienced a brief feeling of elation; a feeling that quickly diminished as he noticed the blue tint coloring his surroundings. Recognizing the familiar hue and knowing that it indicated that he was dreaming, or more precisely having a vision, Jim frowned as the brief spark of hope faded away entirely. There for a moment, he had been certain that his sight had returned. Now he felt torn between disappointment over his continued blindness and apprehension over the reason for the vision; feelings that caused him to once again curse his sentinel abilities and all the burdens that came with them.

Introspection interrupted by the roar of a large cat; Jim was startled when he didn't recognize the sound as being made by his spirit guide. Instantly on alert, he began to survey his surroundings and was surprised by the realization that he was in the loft rather than the jungle setting in which his visions normally occurred. Sitting up in bed, he turned to look over the railing and bristled when he spotted the white tiger prowling around the living room. Grabbing his gun from its hiding place beneath his pillow, Jim got out of bed and began to stealthily creep down the stairs; his footfalls a mere shadow of an echo in the eerily quiet loft. Alarmed when the tiger began to stalk towards Blair's room, Jim hurried his descent.

When Jim reached the foot of the stairs, any further advancement towards the feline intruder was halted by the appearance of his own spirit guide. Memorized, Jim stood and silently watched as the panther cautiously approached the now still tiger. Waiting for the altercation that he was positive would ensue, Jim continued to observe the two giant cats. Wanting to get a little bit closer, Jim only managed one step before he was frozen in place when two sets of golden eyes turned in his direction. Pierced by the two intense gazes, Jim shivered as the cats studied him for several long seconds. Finally the cats turned to stare at each other again, seeming to dismissing the human's presence totally. Letting out the breath he had unconsciously been holding; Jim continued to watch the enigmatic scene unfolding before him.

Warily the two cats circled each other; intermittently letting out increasingly loud roars, they seemed to be locked in a territorial contest in which each was unwilling to surrender claim to the domain they both now occupied. Wanting to drive the intruder away, the panther crouched down in preparation to pounce on the tiger. Just as the panther was getting ready to leap, his attack was thwarted when a wolf suddenly materialized between him and his rival.

Recognizing the new arrival as Blair's spirit guide, Jim felt a momentary pang of guilt when he thought back to his previous encounter with the animal. Seeming to sense Jim's uneasiness, the wolf turned to look at him. Gazes locked, wolf and man focused on each other; the presence of the cats seeming to entirely fade away as they engaged in a silent communication. Emitting a sharp yip the wolf broke the intimate connection, causing Jim to stumble forward a few steps. Taken aback by the almost human look of amusement that appeared on the wolf's features, Jim thought he saw something vaguely familiar in the expression.

Feeling the tension that was permeating the air, Jim once again noticed the growls issuing forth from the two cats. Raising his gun, Jim aimed at the white tiger. Prepared to shoot the tiger if necessary, he watched on in alarm as the wolf approached the animal. Man and panther both immediately showed their disapproval of the action; Jim's shout of "Stop," nearly drowned out by the snarling hiss of the irate panther.

Ignoring the protests, the wolf continued his approach towards the tiger. Seeing the white tiger's head lowering in a demonstration of submission, the wolf didn't stop until the two were standing next to each other; then, lowering his own head, he gave the tiger's ear a quick swipe with his tongue.

Angered by the wolf's actions, the panther yowled in rage then crouched down and started to stalk over to the wolf and tiger's position; only halting when the wolf noticed the movement and give off a warning bark. Giving the tiger a final lick, the wolf trotted back over to the panther. Needing to assert his dominance in front of the intruder, the panther proceeded to re-stake his claim on the wolf by giving the canine a thorough grooming with his tongue.

Hesitantly looking away from the compelling sight, Jim turned towards the white tiger and was surprised by the look of sadness and longing that the animal was directing towards the intimate act. Seeing the expression, Jim wondering why it made him feel sympathy and a sense of camaraderie for the tiger while at the same time causing him to experience a feeling of apprehension and alarm.

 

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Jarred from his sleep by the ringing of the telephone, Jim lay in bed and kept his eyes closed a few seconds longer before slowly and hesitantly opening them. Even though he was met by darkness, Jim knew by the feeling of sun-generated warmth on his face and body that it was actually morning. Pushing aside the now familiar emotions of disappointment and anger, Jim tuned into the area below and listened as Blair stumbled out of his bedroom and made his way over to the phone.

Smiling as he heard his partner's nearly unintelligible mumble of " 'ello?" Jim threw off his covers and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Sitting up, he felt around the foot of his bed until he finally encountered his robe; then, hearing the familiar strains of Simon's deep voice on the phone, he shrugged it on and began to cautiously make his way down the stairs to the living room. Hand trailing along the wall as he made his descent, Jim paused for a moment as images from his vision returned. Still pondering the appearance of the cat and the meaning behind its presence, Jim missed a step and would have fallen down the stairs if two strong hands hadn't suddenly gripped his shoulders and steadied him.

Having ended his conversation with Simon, Blair had turned to monitor Jim's progress and became alarmed when he saw his friend falter and begin to fall. Running over to the stairs, he had quickly grabbed a hold of Jim. Fear and guilt making his voice sharp, Blair yelled, "Are you all right?"

"Fine, Sandburg," Jim reassured. "I just missed a step. No big deal."

"No big deal?" Blair repeated in an incredulous tone. "Are you nuts? You almost took a header down the stairs and you think that it's no big deal. Trust me, Jim. It's a big deal. A very big deal."

Pushing past Blair, Jim continued down the stairs. Arriving at the bottom, he turned and stared up the stairs. Using Blair's heartbeat to guide him, he faced his concerned roommate and stated, "Like I said, no big deal."

"Jim..."

Turning and heading into the kitchen, Jim interrupted, "What did Simon want?"

"What?"

"Simon," Jim patiently explained. "You know, the guy you were just talking to on the phone. What did he want?"

"He uh... He said that he was pulling the guards," Blair answered. "Because it's been a week since everything with... with Alan and nothing else has happened, he said that he can't justify their continued presence to the brass. Something about waste of resources and manpower best put to use elsewhere."

Spinning around, Jim stumbled before regaining his footing. Starting to slowly make his way over to the phone, he yelled, "I can't believe this. I told Simon that I'm still sensing someone, and he wants to pull your protection while this lunatic is still on the loose? I don't think so."

"Jim, wait," Blair pleaded. When Jim halted, Blair rushed over to stand beside him. Lying a hand on Jim's arm, he added, "Don't call Simon back."

Shaking off Blair's arm, Jim argued, "You need those guys down there, Sandburg. Especially since I..."

"Since you what?" Blair asked when Jim didn't finish.

"Drop it," Jim ordered. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Well I do," Blair protested. "I want to talk about it, Jim. I think that we need to, don't you?"

"There's a lot of things that we need to talk about," Jim countered. "Like what did Alan do to land his ass in prison? You still won't talk about what he did to you before, and Simon..."

Suspicious when Jim abruptly stopped, Blair asked, "What about Simon, Jim?"

"Nothing," Jim replied.

"What did you do, Jim?" Blair asked.

Sighing, Jim confessed, "I just asked Simon to look into this guy's record. It's not like it wasn't going to happen anyway. The Feds are still crawling all over this thing. Eleven people were murdered by some pretend FBI agent, a guy who just also happened to kill a cop, kidnap you and blind me; and let's not forget the fact that there's a real FBI agent lying in Cascade General's ICU with a hole in his chest. Believe me, sooner or later, the Feds are going to turn their attention to us. I, for one, want to be prepared when that happens. However, I can't be prepared unless I know what the situation is, so I asked Simon to look into it and let me know what he found out."

"And what did he find out, Jim?" Blair asked. "What did Simon tell you?"

"Like you don't already know," Jim replied. "He told me nothing, Sandburg, which is just what you were expecting. Why didn't you tell me that the records had been sealed?"

"You didn't ask," Blair responded. "And besides, it's not like I've wanted to think about him this past week. I've done everything I could to not think about him. Which hasn't been easy with you constantly throwing him in my face."

"Sandburg..."

"No, Jim," Blair cut in. "Like you said, let's just drop it."

"Weren't you the one that said we shouldn't do this anymore?" Jim asked. "You said that we should talk about stuff, get everything out in the open."

"Yeah," Blair agreed. "But..."

"But what?" Jim asked. "That only goes for me, but not for you?"

"No, of course not," Blair protested. "It's just that... I just can't deal with that right now. It's too soon. I can't start bringing up the past right now. Everything that happened, all my friends dying, seeing Mills and Boone shot and ... and what he did to you, it's still so raw. First I need to process all of that. Until I do, I can't even begin to think about dredging up all that other shit."

Voice soft, Jim inquired, "It was bad, wasn't it? What he did to you before, it was even worse than this time."

"Jim, please," Blair pleaded. "I..."

"Blair," Jim interrupted, "I just... I'm here for you, okay? Whenever you're ready, all right?"

Nodding, Blair whispered, "Thanks."

Before Jim could reply, a knock sounded at the front door. Making an abortive gesture to the small of his back, Jim halted in mid-move. "Shit," he cursed. Lowering his arm, he said, "Just stay here. I'll get the door."

"Jim..."

"I said I'll get the door," Jim stated. "Now get back. Go into the kitchen and put on some coffee or something."

Taking a deep breath in an attempt to regain his composure, Blair replied, "Whatever you say, Jim." Then, continuing to stay where he was, he watched as Jim slowly walked over to the door.

Hearing another round of insistent knocking, Jim yelled, "Wait a minute, would ya?" Reaching the door, he made a quick scan of the hallway. Not detecting anything familiar from the visitor, he asked, "Who is it?"

"My name's Jonathan Gibson and I'm a friend of Blair Sandburg."

Turning as he heard Blair's quick intake of breath, Jim asked, "Sandburg, isn't that..."

Anticipating Jim's question, Blair interrupted, "Yeah, it is. But he's... I mean, Alan told me that he was dead."

"Well, for a dead guy he sure sounds pretty healthy," Jim retorted. Turning back to the door, he demanded, "Prove it."

"What?"

"I said, prove it," Jim repeated.

"Well, how would you suggest I do that?" The man sarcastically asked.

"First I suggest that you drop the attitude," Jim suggested. Lowering his voice, he addressed Blair. "What about it, Sandburg? Is this guy Gibson?"

"I... I don't..." Blair stammered. "It's been a long time since we've actually talked. We usually just exchange letters or emails. It sounds like him."

"Sounds like isn't good enough," Jim insisted. "How about..."

"Hey," the visitor yelled, interrupting Jim, "are you going to let me in or am I gonna have to stand out here all day?"

"Keep it up and you will," Jim warned. Turning in Blair's direction he said, "Tell me something that only you and this Gibson guy would know, Chief."

Feeling shocked, Blair was silent for several moments. "Just... just give me a minute, okay, Jim?" Rubbing his face with his hands, Blair took a few deep breaths. "Okay, look, just ask him... Ask him what he said when I told him I started hanging out with cops." Seeing Jim's skeptical expression, he exclaimed, "Just ask!"

Briefly shaking his head, Jim turned back to the door and yelled, "If you're really this Gibson guy, then tell me what you said when you found out Sandburg was riding with a cop."

"What?"

"Do it!" Jim ordered.

"For crying out... All right. When I found out the kid was hanging with cops, I said something like, 'Better cut that hair then, Ace, ‘cause when those cops get a look at you, one of 'em's gonna end up busting your ass. And with the way you look, you don't want to be hanging out in any jail cells.' "

Grinning, Blair exclaimed, "It's him. He's alive. Let him in, Jim."

"Sandburg..."

"Let him in," Blair insisted.

"Fine," Jim growled as he opened the door.

Taking a few hesitant steps forward, Blair simply stared as the newcomer walked into the loft. Swallowing several times, he finally whispered, "Jon."

Standing by the door Jim was alarmed when, as the man brushed by him, the sound of a tiger roaring echoed throughout the loft. Unable to see what was occurring, Jim was almost overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness as he used his hearing to monitor the actions of the loft's other two occupants. Monitoring Blair's harsh, almost gasping, breaths; Jim also kept track of the heavy tread of Gibson's footsteps. Tensing as Gibson's reached Blair's position, Jim heard what sounded like cloth against cloth and hands rubbing against material.

Hugging, neither Gibson nor Blair noticed Jim's uneasiness. Startled by the sound of the front door slamming shut, the two men separated. When Blair made to move away, Jonathan reached out and fondled a few strands of Blair's hair. "Looks like you didn't take my advice, huh, Ace?"

"No, I didn't," Blair replied. "I haven't wound up in any jail cells either." Pausing for a moment, Blair added, "Well, okay, I have twice. However, Jim was with me one of the times and the other... Let's just say that I probably got out just at the right moment."

"Whatever you say, kid," Gibson replied. "So, wanna tell me what's going on, Ace? What's up with the cloak and dagger routine? Or do all your visitors have to pass a security clearance before coming into your home?"

Smiling, Blair replied, "It's a long story, Jon."

"Hey, Ace, every story with you is long," Gibson retorted. "I'm used to it, so lay it on me."

"You gotta give me a minute here, Jon," Blair requested. "I mean, you're the very last person that I'd expect to show up here."

"Why is that?" Gibson asked.

Before Blair could answer, Jim stated, "For starters, you're supposed to be dead."

Moving his hand to rest on Blair's shoulder, Gibson turned to stare at Jim, "What did you say?" he asked. "And who the hell are you, anyway?"

"I said you're supposed to be dead," Jim replied. "I'm Detective Jim Ellison. This loft is my home and Sandburg there is my partner. Any more brilliant questions, Sport?"

"What's your problem?" Gibson asked.

"Whoa, guys," Blair interrupted. "What's going on here? Jim, man, Jon is a friend. He's okay."

"You may think the guy's okay, Sandburg," Jim replied, "but I don't know him and from what I've seen so far, I've got my doubts about him."

"Now wait just a minute..."

"Jon, please," Blair cut in. "You're gonna have to cut Jim some slack. He's..."

"He's what?" Jon asked when Blair didn't finish. "What's going on here, Ace? Why'd you think that I was dead? And exactly what's up with the cop over there?"

"Look, why don't you guys go sit down," Blair suggested. "I'll go make some coffee and then we can talk. Get caught up on everything, okay?"

"Sure thing, Ace," Jon agreed. "Any way you want to handle this is fine by me."

"Thanks, Jon," Blair replied as he watched Jon walk over and sit down on the couch. Turning to Jim, he ordered, "Go sit down, Jim."

"Sandburg..."

"Just go," Blair insisted. "Try to play nice, all right?"

"Only if he does," Jim replied.

Softly, Blair asked, "Do you need any help?"

"I've been walking around this place for a while now, Sandburg," Jim replied, "and I think that I can find the couch on my own."

Watching as Jim began to walk over to the couch, Blair said, "Just be..." Cringing as Jim banged his shin against the table, Blair weakly finished, "careful."

Listening as Blair sighed and then turned to walk into the kitchen, Jim carefully went around the table and sat on the couch. Fidgeting, Jim tracked Blair's progress as he filled up the coffeepot with water and then placed coffee grounds in the machine. Intent on Blair's movements, Jim winced as his ears were assaulted by Gibson's booming voice. "So, how long have you known Blair?"

Shaking his head, ears ringing, Jim asked, "What did you say?"

"I asked how long you've known Blair."

"Oh," Jim replied. "Couple of years now, I guess. How about you?"

"Longer than that," Gibson answered.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," Gibson replied. "Just answering your question is all."

"Well unless you want to land your ass outside on the sidewalk, or in a jail cell, I'd can the attitude."

"What is your problem?" Gibson asked. "I mean do you normally treat all of your guests this way, or is there some specific reason that you're acting like an asshole?"

"Yeah there's a reason," Jim answered. "You! I mean, where do you get off making some crack like that jail cell bit? Who the hell do you think you are anyway?"

"I'm Blair's friend, that's who I am," Gibson replied. "And like I said, I've known him a lot longer than you have, Ellison."

"Let's get something straight right now, you son of a..." Interrupted by a loud crashing sound from the kitchen, Jim turned and exclaimed, "Sandburg! Are you all right? What happened?"

When Jim started to rise from the couch, Blair answered, "Just stay there, Jim. I accidentally dropped a mug. There are pieces of it all over the floor and I don't want you stepping on some and cutting your foot."

"Chief..." "Ace..." Both Jim and Gibson spoke at once.

"Both of you just stay over there," Blair ordered. "If the two of you hadn't been acting like a couple of idiots, I wouldn't have dropped the thing in the first place. So just shut up and sit there! I'll clean this up and be over there in just a minute. Do you think the two of you can manage to go that long without starting up again?"

"It wasn't me, it was him," Jim replied.

"No way," Gibson protested. "He's the one that started it, Ace."

"I don't care who started it," Blair stated. "But if you two don't cut it out, I'm going to be the one that finishes it. Understand?"

"Okay, Chief." "Sure thing, Ace."

While Jim and Gibson sat on the couch, each ignoring the other, Blair quickly swept up the remains of the mug. Getting another mug from the cabinet, he began pouring coffee. "Hey, Jon, you still take yours the same way?"

"Yeah."

"Okay." Finished with the coffee, Blair carefully picked up the three mugs and went over to Jim and Gibson. Setting the mugs down on the table, he picked one up and handed it to Gibson.

"Here you go, Jon."

"Thanks, Ace."

"You're welcome." Picking up another mug, he said, "Here's yours, Jim." Unaware of Gibson's scrutiny, Blair held the mug in one hand while guiding Jim's hand to the mug with the other. "Careful, don't spill it," Blair said as Jim grabbed the mug. Waiting until after Jim had successfully taken a drink without burning himself, Blair picked up his own mug and then sat down on the couch. After taking a drink, Blair glanced back and forth from Jim to Gibson and then back to Jim again. "Want to tell me what the problem is?"

Hearing the identical response of "What?" from both sides, Blair sighed and said, "What exactly is the problem between you guys? You guys just met and you're already acting like you can't stand each other."

"It's not my fault that this guy's acting like a jerk," Jim said.

"Jim..."

"Yeah, well it's not my fault that you're acting like an asshole," Gibson interrupted.

"Jon..."

"Well, you're..." Jim began while Jon said, "I really..."

"GUYS!" Blair yelled.

"WHAT?" Jim and Jon both yelled back.

"Give it a rest, would ya?" Blair asked. "The last thing that I want to have to do is sit here and play referee to you two. So give me a break and cut it out."

For several seconds an uncomfortable silence filled the loft. Then, Jon turned to Jim and asked, "So, how long have you been blind anyway?"

Spluttering, Jim yelled, "What the hell..."

Blair exclaimed, "Jon!"

"What?" Gibson asked. "I was curious, so I asked. I mean it's pretty obvious the guy can't see. I know he's a cop so it's gotta be a pretty recent thing, right?"

Sitting his mug on the table, Blair leaned back against the couch and put his hand on Jim's leg. "Yeah it's a recent thing," he confirmed. "It's my fault. It happened because of me. All of it happened because of me."

Leaning forward, Jim attempted to place his mug on the table. Startled when a hand touched his, he relaxed when he heard Blair say, "Let me get that, Jim."

Not resisting as Blair took the mug from him, Jim smiled and said, "Thanks, Chief." When he felt Blair lean back, Jim laid his arm along the back of the couch. Feeling around until he located Blair's shoulder, Jim laid his hand on it and squeezed slightly. "It's not your fault, Sandburg. None of it was."

Concerned by Blair's pallor, Gibson softly asked, "What exactly happened, Blair?"

Staring down at the floor, Blair murmured, "Alan happened. He came back."

Slamming his mug down on the table, Gibson stood up and exclaimed, "Just tell me where the son of a bitch is, Blair! I swear, I'll kill the bastard this time!"

"Jon," Blair shouted. "He's already dead. He's dead!"

Looking at Jim, Gibson asked, "Did you kill him, Ellison?"

"No," Jim replied.

Turning to Blair, Jon gently asked, "Blair?"

"No, Jon," Blair replied. "I didn't kill him either."

"Well then who in the hell did?" Gibson asked. " 'Cause whoever it is, I wanna shake their hand and take 'em out for a drink."

 

"We don't know," Blair stated. "We don't know who killed him."

Sitting down, Gibson said, "Why do I get the feeling that there's a whole lot more to this story?"

"Because there is," Blair answered. "There's a lot more."

"Start at the beginning, Ace," Gibson stated. "Tell me everything."

"Wait a minute," Jim said. "Before Sandburg tells you anything, I want to know why you're here." Looking in Blair's direction, Jim added, "Don't you, Sandburg? Aren't you the least bit curious as to why a supposedly dead man suddenly turns up at our front door? I know I am."

"Can we just get one thing cleared up right now," Gibson asked. "I am not dead! What gave you that impression in the first place?"

"Alan did," Blair answered. "He said one of your 'training maneuvers' failed and that you and your whole team were killed."

"Look, I really can't get into any specifics," Gibson stated. "A lot of it's classified. What I can tell you is that the rest of my team was killed and that I was presumed dead as well. However, as you can see, I'm still very much alive. It just took me awhile to get back to the states is all." Turning to Jim, he added, "As far as my reason for coming here, that's between me and Blair."

"It's all right, Jon," Blair asserted. "Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of Jim."

"I don't think..."

"It's okay, Gibson," Jim interrupted. "In fact, I can probably guess what you want to tell Sandburg."

"Really?" Gibson sarcastically asked. "Well then why don't you just go ahead and give it a shot, Sport."

"You came here to tell Sandburg that you're a sentinel."

"What did you say?" Blair asked.

"The guy's a sentinel, Sandburg," Jim repeated. "And he's been in Cascade for a while now."

"First off, I only got in town this morning," Gibson stated. "And about this sentinel thing…."

"Don't even try to deny it," Jim warned.

"What do you know about this sentinel stuff anyway," Gibson asked Jim. "You…." Trailing off, Gibson stared at Jim for several seconds. "Shit!" he exclaimed. "You're the panther, aren't you?"

"And I guess that'd make you the white tiger, huh?"

Coming out of the daze resulting from Jim's declaration, Blair ordered, "Whoa, time out, guys! Would you just… Man, I need a minute here. White tiger? Jon is a sentinel? Oh man." Turning to Gibson, Blair asked, "So, uh, Jon. Um… Exactly when did you get to Cascade anyway?"

"This morning, Ace," Gibson answered. "My flight got in about an hour ago. I rented a car, got a motel room and then tracked you down. Why?"

"You're lying," Jim accused. "You've been here a lot longer than that. About three weeks longer, I'd say."

"You're nuts," Gibson replied. "Ace, I don't know what this guy's problem is, but I'm telling you the truth here. We've been through a lot of shit together. You know I wouldn't lie to you."

"I don't…" Jim began.

"Jim, not right now, okay," Blair requested. "Look, I trust Jon. If he said he got into town this morning, then he got into town this morning."

Scowling, Jim listened as Gibson said, "Thanks, Ace, that means a lot to me."

"Yeah, I know," Blair replied. "Tell me something. Exactly how… when… I mean, you're a sentinel? What happened? Last time we spoke, you still only had the four senses enhanced."

"Well, I guess a lot has happened to both of us since the last time we spoke, huh?" Gibson replied. "Looks like we've both got a story to tell."

"I guess we do," Blair agreed. "So, who goes first."

"Do I get a vote?" Jim asked.

"No," Gibson answered.

"Jon…"

Hearing the warning tone in Blair's voice, Gibson grinned and said, "All right, I'll 'play nice'."

"Thank you," Blair replied. "As much as I'd really like to get into all of this right now, we can't."

"Why not?" Gibson asked.

"Yeah, Sandburg, why not?"

"Because," Blair said, "we have to go see the optometrist, Dr. Graham."

"We can reschedule," Jim argued. "It's not like the guy's gonna tell us anything new." Waving his hand in front of his face, Jim sarcastically added, "Yep, just as I thought, still blind."

Wincing, Blair whispered, "Jim…"

"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim apologized. "I am, okay? It's just… I feel… Look, I don't really want us going anywhere right now. If this guy is telling the truth and he's only been in town since this morning, then that means…"

"I know," Blair interrupted. "But I won't live my life in fear, Jim. I refuse to live like that again."

"Again?" Jim asked. "When exactly did you live like that before?"

"After the first time that lunatic got a hold of him," Gibson replied before Blair could answer. "Back then…"

"That's enough, Jon!" Blair yelled. "I don't want to get into that right now." Addressing Jim, he added, "We are going to the doctor's office, Jim. Afterwards, we can meet Jon for lunch and talk a few things out."

"Chief…" "Ace…"

"I don't want to hear another word from either one of you," Blair ordered. "Jon, I imagine you're still tired from your flight. So, you go back to your motel and get some rest. Jim, you go on and head for the bathroom. While you take a shower I'll throw together a quick breakfast." When neither man responded, Blair said, "Move it! Both of you! Now!"

Smirking, Gibson leaned forward and peered around Blair to look at Jim, "Bossy little thing, ain't he?"

"Tell me about it," Jim complained.

"I'm not seeing any movement here, guys," Blair stated.

Standing up, Gibson said, "I sure have missed you, Ace."

Looking up, Blair replied, "Same here, Jon." Standing up also, Blair walked Jon over to the front door. "There a little diner just down the street. We'll meet you there around eleven, okay?"

"The one at the corner?" Gibson asked. Seeing Blair nod, he added, "See ya there."

 

Closing the door behind Gibson, Blair turned back towards Jim. "All right, Jim, let's hear it."

"Hear what?" Jim asked.

"I can see you clenching your jaw from over here, man," Blair replied. "Tell me what's bothering you."

"You really what to know?" Jim asked.

"Of course I do," Blair insisted.

Leaning back against the couch, Jim sighed and inquired, "Well, where do you want me to begin, Sandburg?" Turing to face Blair's general direction, Jim continued, "How about we start with the fact that if, and I mean if, this guy's telling the truth and he only got in town today, then that means I've been sensing the presence of someone or something else these past few weeks. There's still a threat to you out there and we have no idea what it is. Or how about we start with the fact that there's another sentinel here in Cascade, in my territory, and that just pisses me off. Or how about we start with the fact that I had another one of those damned visions again this morning. Then again, there's always the FBI investigation about Thomson and all that other shit; an investigation that will most likely come to focus on the two of us pretty soon. And let's not forget the fact that I'm still fucking blind. Can't forget that one, now can we? Or how about this one, Sandburg; how about the fact that this Gibson guy apparently knows everything that happened between you and this Thomson guy before. This guy knows all about something that you just can't bring yourself to share with me. So what'll it be, Sandburg? Which one should we start with?"

"Jim…"

"No, Sandburg," Jim interrupted as he stood up, "you're right. We shouldn't get into all that right now, should we? After all, we've got to go to some dumb ass doctor who'll tell me what I already know. I'm blind and I'm gonna stay that way. I've accepted it, so why can't you?"

"There's still a chance that you'll get your sight back," Blair protested. "We don't know if it's permanent. You could still… It could…. We don't know anything for certain yet."

"Whatever," Jim replied. Beginning to make his way around the couch, he added, "I'm gonna go take a shower."

Stepping forward, Blair placed a restraining hand on Jim's arm. "Let me go get everything set up for you." When Jim started to say something, he added, "Just let me help, okay?"

"Fine," Jim agreed.

Blair started to the bathroom but then stopped and turned towards Jim again, "Just what was all of that tiger stuff? What exactly did you see in that vision?"

"Later, Chief," Jim stated. "Besides, I think that Gibson should be around when we get into all of that."

"Why?" Blair asked. "I mean… Are you…"

"What, Sandburg?" Jim asked. "Spit it out."

"Just wondering if I should start looking for another place to live," Blair softly replied.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Jim yelled. "I already told you that wasn't going to happen again. Why do you have to keep throwing it in my face all the time?"

"Why do you have to keep throwing Alan in my face all the time?" Blair countered.

"You're not going anywhere, Sandburg," Jim declared. "I told you, this isn't like before."

"But you said that Jon is a sentinel," Blair stated.

"Yeah I did," Jim agreed. "And yeah he is. But it's different than it was with… with Alex. I can't explain it, Sandburg. Just believe me, I don't want you going anywhere without me. All right?"

"Okay, Jim."

Listening as Blair started to walk away, Jim said, "But there is one thing, Sandburg."

"What's that, Jim?"

"I don’t want you around that Gibson guy unless I'm with you," Jim demanded.

"What?" Blair exclaimed. "Jim…"

"Not without me," Jim repeated. Sighing, he added, "I trust you, Chief. It's this Gibson guy that I'm worried about."

"I'm sure that he only came to me for help," Blair reasoned.

"He came here for a guide," Jim countered. "I mean, you were the one who told me that a sentinel needed a partner; someone to watch his back. I'm sure not a sentinel anymore but Gibson is. And I don't see any more guides around anywhere, do you?"

"Is that what you think of me?" Blair asked, tone conveying his hurt. "That I'd just leave because you're having trouble, because you're hurt. I didn't before did I? When you were blinded by the Golden, we didn't know if it would be permanent or not, but I never once thought about leaving." In a quieter tone, Blair continued, "Jim, even if you don't get you're sight back, I'm not going anywhere. It's like I told you before. It's about friendship. But now it's more than that. Now, it's about family, Jim. You're my family and I'm not going anywhere. And Jim?"

"What now, Sandburg?"

"Just because you’re blind, that doesn’t mean you’re not a sentinel anymore," Blair stated. "Don’t you know by now that there’s more to being a sentinel than just having enhanced senses. No matter what happens, you’re always still be a sentinel."

"Unless I choose not to be," Jim said.

"Yeah," Blair agreed. "Unless you choose not to be. But that’s not gonna happen is it, Jim?" When Jim didn’t answer, Blair persisted, "It’s not gonna happen, right, Jim?"

"Just go get the shower started, would ya?" Jim replied. Standing there, Jim listened as Blair stayed for a second longer and then went into the bathroom. Hearing the water start, he murmured, "Whatever I decide, won’t make any difference. Gibson will want you to go with him, Chief. I'm afraid that, one way or another, he'll make sure that you go. Whether you want to or not."

 

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

 

An hour later, Jim and Blair were getting ready to leave. Handing Jim his jacket, Blair asked, "Do you want to take the Volvo or the truck?"

"We'll take Sweetheart," Jim replied. "I get too cramped in that sardine can of yours."

"Don't insult the Volvo, Jim," Blair warned. "After all, she's a classic."

"A classic pile of junk maybe," Jim retorted.

"Like your truck is any better?"

"Hey, at least Sweetheart runs," Jim replied. "Can you say the same about that classic of yours?"

"Yeah," Blair asserted. "The Volvo runs. Well, at least most of the time."

Laughing, Jim said, "Then I rest my case."

Exiting the front door, Blair grabbed Jim's hand. "Shoulder or elbow?" he asked.

"Is this really necessary, Sandburg?"

"Shoulder or elbow?" Blair repeated.

Sighing, Jim said, "Shoulder."

Bringing Jim's hand up to rest on his shoulder, Blair began to lead Jim down the hallway. Coming to a stop when they reached the elevator, Blair reached over and pushed the button.

"I really hate this, ya know," Jim said.

"I know," Blair softly replied. "I'm sorry, Jim. I'm so sorry."

When the elevator doors opened, Blair started to lead Jim into the elevator; pausing for a second as he heard Jim say, "There's nothing for you to be sorry for, Blair."

Arriving in the lobby, Jim and Blair exited the elevator. Reaching the front door, Blair held it open for Jim and guided his friend outside with a gentle hand on the small of Jim's back. Outside, the two men stopped as Blair once again took Jim's hand and moved it to his shoulder. Giving the hand a quick squeeze, Blair released it and asked, "You ready?"

"Lead the way, Chief."

 

Walking over to the truck, Blair kept nervously glancing around. "Well, that was fast."

"What?"

"The squad car is already gone," Blair informed Jim. "Simon got the guard detail pulled fast."

"Blair…"

Taking a deep breath, Blair said, "I'm fine, Jim. Let's get going. After all, the doctor may have some good news."

"Hell, Chief," Jim replied, "if there's one thing that I've learned after all these years being around you, it's that anything is possible."

Reaching the truck, Blair laughed and said, "I'm not sure if I should consider that an insult or a compliment."

As Blair opened the door and helped him into the truck, Jim replied, "Believe me, Chief, it was definitely a compliment."

Grinning, eyes alight with happiness, Blair shut the door and then jogged around to the other side of the truck. Taking a moment to study his friend, Blair shook his head slightly. Still smiling he climbed into the truck.

 

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

 

Unbeknownst to either man, their interaction was being closely observed. Watching as the truck drove off, the voyeur emitted a predatory smile.

I was right. Leaving you with the other was the right thing to do. You're smiling again, laughing again. Your light is back, shining brightly from within. It's nearly the right time. Time for us to be together. Oh, I can't wait. I have so much I want to learn from you. So many things that I want us to do together. Soon it will be just the two of us. Together forever, just as it was meant to be. Nothing or no one will ever separate us, Blair. I won't let anything keep you away from me.

 

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

 

Coming out of the doctor's office, Blair said, "I can't believe that you did that."

"What?" Jim asked.

"You know what," Blair yelled. "That guy probably won't let us step foot in his office again!"

"So?"

"So?" Blair repeated. "So? So that guy is the best ophthalmologist in Cascade."

"He's an idiot," Jim said. "And he was pissing me off."

"Everybody seems to be doing that to you lately," Blair observed.

"That's 'cause everybody's been acting like an idiot lately," Jim reasoned.

Stopping in the middle of the hallway, causing Jim to bump into his back, Blair said, "I don't care how big of an idiot someone is, you don't tell a guy to go f…"

"Hey," Jim interrupted, "first thing, the guy was wearing some cologne that made him smell like he had been rolling around in sh..."

"All I'm saying," Blair interrupted, "is that maybe it wasn't a good idea to tell the guy that just because a person has trouble seeing that doesn't mean that there's something wrong with their sense of smell. That if he really wanted to help somebody then he should go take a bath and invest in some breath spray."

"The guy's breath was even worse than that cologne," Jim stated. "It smelled like he'd been sucking on a dead rat or something."

"Well thank you for that mental picture," Blair retorted. "That's just the thing I need to hear right before we go to lunch."

"Well it did," Jim insisted.

"Let's just go before you make me lose what little bit of appetite that I have left," Blair said as he grabbed Jim's hand and started guiding it to his shoulder.

Jerking his hand back, Jim said, "Your elbow."

"What?"

"My arm's getting tired," Jim complained. "I'll hold on to your elbow for awhile."

"Fine," Blair agreed as he grabbed Jim's hand again. "Just hang on."

Gripping Blair's elbow, Jim said, "I'm wouldn't think of doing anything else, Chief."

After they had reached the truck and Blair pulled out of the parking lot, Blair said, "So, tell me about this vision."

"Chief…"

"I know," Blair stated, "you said you wanted to wait until we were with Jon, but I don't want to just have this sprung on me in front of him. I want to know what's going on with you. Does this vision have something to do with the way you were treating Jon?"

"Exactly how was I treating him?"

"C'mon, Jim," Blair replied. "If you'd have your gun, you probably would've shot the guy. You were both on edge; circling around each other like…. Well, kinda like with you and Alex." Hearing Jim scoff, Blair added, "Jim, man, you have to admit that it was kinda like when you and I went to Alex's place here in Cascade. You could feel the tension in the air. I mean, it's not exactly the same, which I kind of figure is because Alex was a woman and Jon's a guy, well that is unless you…" Sneaking a peek at Jim, Blair said, "Nah. But you gotta admit it was similar."

"It is similar," Jim admitted. "but… Hey, what did you mean by that? Unless I've what?"

"Nothing," Blair replied.

"Nothing is right," Jim stated.

"So?"

"So what?" Jim asked.

"So tell me about the vision," Blair demanded.

"I don't think that I want to now," Jim sulked.

"Why not?"

"Well, you're the one who brought up all that stuff about… Well, you know," Jim explained.

"What does that have to do anything?" Blair inquired. "I mean, it's not like you're vision involved us. Well, I mean it kind of involved you and Jon since your spirit guides were involved. I guess they could be considered your counterparts or something, so in essence I guess that it could be considered as involving you and Jon. But me, I'm not… Well, that is unless… Hey, Jim, was the wolf there? You know, my spirit guide?" Pondering Jim's previous statement, Blair was quiet for a moment. "Um… Jim… what exactly did they do anyway?"

"Well, the vision started off with me in bed," Jim said. After a moment, he added, "Alone." Hearing Blair's chuckled, Jim smiled. Voice soft, he continued, "I could see again."

"Jim…"

Cutting Blair off, Jim said, "Anyway, I was in bed when all of a sudden I heard this roar."

"You're spirit guide, right?"

"Who's telling this story, Sandburg, me or you?" Jim asked.

"You are, Jim."

"Then be quiet and let me tell it, all right?"

"Sorry," Blair murmured.

Sighing, Jim said, "Shit, Chief, I'm the one that's sorry. It's just…"

"Look, Jim," Blair said, "I know that this kind of thing is hard for you. However, you've got to tell me what's going on. Now, you heard your spirit guide and…"

"First thing, Junior, I never said that it was my spirit guide that I heard," Jim stated.

"It wasn't?"

"No, it wasn't."

"Tiger?"

"Yeah."

"White one, right?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, white tiger. Got it. So, what happened next?"

"You're not gonna let this go are you?"

"Have I ever?"

Shaking his head, Jim started to tell Blair about the vision.

 

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

 

Pulling up in front of the diner, Blair stopped the truck and then turned towards Jim. "Just exactly how thorough of a grooming are we talking about here?"

Laughing, Jim replied, "Trust me, Chief, that wolf had never been cleaner in his entire life."

"Um… just so ya know, Jim," Blair said, "I haven't needed anyone to give me a bath in a long time, okay?"

"Trust me, Chief, that's one experience we definitely won't be sharing."

"That's a relief," Blair replied. "Well, are you ready?"

"No."

"Jim."

"But if you insist on seeing the son of a…"

"Jim!"

"Like I was saying, if you insist on seeing this friend of yours, I'm not letting you go alone."

Rolling his eyes, Blair said, "Whatever, man."

Getting out of the truck, Blair again took a quick glance around before jogging over to the passenger side.

Turing his head as he heard the door open, Jim said, "Let's go and get this over with. The sooner we're back at the loft, the better."

"I got to admit," Blair confessed, "I'm with you there."

As Blair helped him out of the truck, Jim said, "I am getting a cheeseburger so don't even start with me, all right?"

"Fine," Blair relented. "I guess after putting up with that doctor, you do deserve something special."

"You're damn right I do," Jim agreed.

Leading Jim into the restaurant, Blair said, "But you're not getting a double."

Starting to reply, Jim suddenly stiffened and tightened his grip on Blair's arm.

Wincing, Blair said, "Hey, you wanna let up? You're starting to hurt, Jim. Jim?"

Head whipping around, Jim's only response was to tighten his grip even more. "Blair…"

Before he could finish, Jim felt a violent shove to the middle of his back. Falling, he yelled as Blair was jerked from his grasp. Hearing the sounds of a fight, he screamed, "Sandburg? Answer me, Blair? Somebody, help!" Struggling to his feet, Jim extended his arms in front of him. His hands vainly searching for any contact with Blair, Jim yelled, "What's going on? Blair!" Tripping over something on the sidewalk, Jim fell once again. Dazed when his head impacted against the concrete, Jim lay there stunned; the faint scent of chloroform teasing his sense of smell as he listened to Blair's heartbeat grow fainter and fainter.

 

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

 

Moaning, Jim slowly regained consciousness; the sound of familiar beeps informing him that he was in the hospital, he opened his eyes and was once again met with darkness. Startled by the sudden appearance of a hand on his shoulder, he asked, "Who's there?"

"Relax, Sport," Gibson replied, "it's just me, Gibson."

"Um… Where's Sandburg?"

"Look, Ellison…"

"Bolting upright, Jim yelled, "Blair!"

Attempting to ease Jim back down, Gibson said, "Easy there, Ellison."

"Get your hands off of me," Jim demanded. Hearing Gibson back away Jim attempted to get out of bed; suddenly overcome by a feeling of dizziness, he fell back against the bed.

Approaching Jim again, Gibson had just reached the bed and placed his hands on Jim's shoulders when the door opened.

Entering the room and seeing the unfamiliar man leaning over Jim, Simon withdrew his gun and ordered, "Step back now!"

Slowly approaching the bed, Simon abruptly stopped as the stranger stepped away from Jim. Looking up, Simon briefly thought, 'This guy is huge,' before moving to place himself between Jim and the man.

"Simon?" Jim called out. "What's going on?"

"That's just what I was about to ask you," Simon replied. "I got a call that you were admitted to the hospital and I come rushing over here just to enter your room and find this guy leaning over you. What's going on, Jim, and who is this guy."

Speaking up, Gibson said, "My name is Jonathan Gibson."

"Sandburg's friend?" Simon asked.

"That's right," Gibson answered. "And before you ask, no I'm not dead."

"Gee, thanks for letting me know," Simon retorted, "I never would have figured that out for myself." Turning to Jim, he asked, "Is this guy okay?"

"All I know is that Sandburg is missing and, as far as I'm concerned, this guy is the number one suspect," Jim answered.

"What?" Gibson and Simon both yelled, startling each other.

Recovering first, Gibson said, "I didn't have anything to do with Blair disappearing. Besides, if I did then wouldn't I be with him rather than sitting here babysitting your ass?"

"I don't need a babysitter," Jim growled. "Especially if it's you!"

"Both of you just stop it!" Simon yelled. "Jim, tell me what happened. Where's Sandburg?"

"We were supposed to meet this guy for lunch," Jim explained. "We had just arrived at the diner and gotten out of the truck. Next thing I know, someone shoves me and I fall. Whoever it was took off with my partner!"

"What makes you think that this guy is involved?" Simon asked.

"Because he's…"

"Ellison," Gibson warned.

"It's okay, he knows," Jim said.

"Knows what?" Simon asked.

"About sentinels," Jim answered.

"What are you doing?" Simon exclaimed. "Why are you talking about this in front of…" Trailing off, Simon took a good look at Gibson. "Is he? Are you?"

"He's a sentinel, Simon," Jim confirmed.

"This is just great," Simon complained. "You're blind, the kid's missing and there's another sentinel running around town." Sighing, he continued, "And you think he had something to do with Sandburg's kidnapping because…"

"Because he needs a guide," Jim answered, "and he knew Sandburg wouldn't leave me. So he just took him." Addressing Gibson, Jim exclaimed, "You did, didn't you? Where is he you son of a bitch?"

"I didn't kidnap Sandburg!" Gibson yelled. "I would never do something like that to him!"

"Then why are you here?" Jim asked. "And how did I get here?"

"If you'd just shut up for a minute, I'll explain," Gibson replied.

"Talk," Jim ordered.

"I had just parked when I saw Blair struggling with someone," Gibson explained. "I looked down and saw you lying on the ground. When I looked back up, the creep had grabbed Blair and was holding something over his face."

"It was chloroform," Jim stated. "I smelled it."

"Anyway," Gibson continued, "I was running down the street trying to get to Blair, but before I could get there, the kidnapper shoved him into a car and took off."

"Why didn't you go after them?" Jim yelled. "You should have gone after them!"

"And leave you lying there on the ground unconscious?" Gibson asked. "I know Blair. He'd want me to help you, and he'd never forgive me if I had just left you lying there and chased after him. You and I both know that."

"I don't care," Jim said. "You should have gone after him, tried to save him. If something happens to him, I'll…"

"You won't have to," Gibson interrupted. "If something happens to him, I'll do it myself."

"Nothing is going to happen to Sandburg," Simon insisted. "We'll find him. You, Gibson, what else did you see? Did you catch a license plate number? Can you give a description of the kidnapper? Give us something to go on."

"Nothing," Gibson replied. "I can't give you anything to go on."

"What are you talking about?" Simon asked. "You were right there, surely you saw something."

"A glimpse," Gibson answered. "But then… then…"

"You're sight cut out didn't it," Jim stated. "You saw Sandburg being thrown into that car and for some reason it caused your sight to cut out."

Voice quiet, Gibson said, "Yeah. I just… It happened again right in front of me and just like last time there was nothing I could do to stop it."

"What do you mean 'just like last time'", Jim asked. "Don't tell me… Gibson, does this have something to do with that Thompson guy?"

"Yeah," Gibson confirmed. "I was there when he got a hold of Blair before. I failed him then and I failed him again today."

"We both failed," Jim replied. "I let him go with Thompson before, and today I wasn't able to stop someone from taking him again."

"Jim, you can't blame yourself," Simon said.

"Back off, Simon," Jim growled.

Surprised by the venomous tone, Simon asked, "Jim?"

"I do blame myself for this, Simon, but I also blame you," Jim stated. "I told you that the threat to Sandburg hadn't gone away, yet you pulled his protection. If those cops had still been watching him, none of this would've happened."

"Jim, you don’t know…"

"Yes, I do, Simon," Jim interrupted. "The person who grabbed Sandburg is the same person who killed Thompson. Because of you, my partner's in the hands of a killer."

"Jim…"

"Not now, Simon," Jim said. "Right now, the only thing I want to do is find my partner."

Stepping forward, Gibson asked, "And how do we do that?"

"We?" Jim asked.

"Look, Ellison, you and I may have our differences and believe me the last thing that I want to do is spend any time with you, but we both want to find Sandburg," Gibson declared. "You have to admit, we've got a better chance of doing that if we work together."

"Fine," Jim agreed. "But just remember that Cascade is my city and when this is over, I want you gone."

"I think that we should leave that up to Blair, don't you?" Gibson asked. "I can guarantee you, he'll want me to hang around for awhile."

Speaking up, Simon said, "As Sandburg would say, why don't you two just knock off the alpha male display. Let's concentrate on finding Sandburg, then you two can carry on with these ridiculous territorial disputes. Does that sound okay to you, gentlemen?"

"All I want to do is find Blair," Gibson stated.

"Good," Simon replied. "How about you, Jim?"

Closing his eyes, Jim said, "Sandburg is the only thing that matters to me right now, Simon. You know that."

"I do, Jim," Simon agreed. "I do."

"If my sight doesn't return, I can't make it without him." Jim whispered as he opened his eyes. "After all, how can I live in the darkness if I don't have my light?"

 

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

 

Opening his eyes, Blair squinted at the bright light. Looking around, his vision bleary, he tried to make out his surroundings. "Talk about your sense of déjà vu," he muttered. Then, remembering what happened, he exclaimed, "Jim!"

"Don't worry, Pet," a soft, feminine voice responded. "Ellison is perfectly fine. I didn't hurt him. Well not too much anyway."

Locating the speaker Blair rubbed his eyes, attempting to bring the blurred form into focus. "Who are you?"

Stepping forward, the woman replied, "Someone who's been waiting a long time for this moment."

Staring at the unfamiliar woman, Blair again asked, "Who are you? Why am I here?"

Ignoring the question, the woman said, "You know, at first I was just going to kill you. That's what I came here to do. Then, after I saw you in person for the first time, I just couldn't do it. I wanted to get to know you." Smiling, she added, "Then I'll kill you."

Still suffering from the effects of the chloroform, Blair struggled to sit up. "Like I hadn't guessed that already," he sarcastically replied. "Do me a favor, would ya? Before you kill me, could you at least tell me who you are? Seems so impersonal to not even know the name of my murderer, ya know?"

Closing her eyes, the woman shuddered as a look of ecstasy appeared on her face. "I knew it would be like this," she whispered. Opening her eyes, she looked at Blair again. "You and I are going to have so much fun together, Pet."

"Quit calling me that," Blair yelled.

Expression hardening, the woman replied, "I'll call you anything I want, Pet. Let's get one thing straight right now. You belong to me now."

"I belong to no one."

Laughing the woman walked over and knelt down beside Blair. Leaning forward, she brought her face close to Blair's. Inhaling deeply, she murmured, "Your scent. It's so intoxicating. Hmm. She was right."

Alarmed by the woman's proximity, Blair jerked backwards and stammered, "W…who was right?" Alarm changing to puzzlement, as he was finally able to take a look at his captor, Blair's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Who are you?" he murmured. "Do I know you?" he asked in a louder voice. "You look… familiar somehow."

"No, Pet, you don't know me," the woman answered. "But you do know someone who's very close to me; someone who is very important to me."

Gasping, Blair said, "You… You look like…"

"Who, Blair?" the woman asked when Blair fell silent. "Who do I look like, hmm? Who do I remind you of? Go ahead and say it. Don't be afraid, Pet. Say it!"

"A… Alex," Blair whispered. "You remind me of Alex Barnes."

Holding out her hand, the woman replied, "Hi, I'm Christina Barnes, Alex's sister." When a shocked Blair simply stared at the proffered hand, Christina used the distraction to lash out with the other. Relishing the feeling of her fist impacting against Blair's face, Christina watched in bemusement as Blair fell to the floor, once again unconscious. Standing, she said, "It's so nice to finally make your acquaintance."

 

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

 

After having checked out of the hospital AMA, despite the strenuous protests of his doctor as well as Simon, Jim demanded that Simon take him to the scene of Blair's abduction. Grudgingly, due to his own concerns over Blair's safety, Simon agreed to the request.

Stoically, Jim stood and accepted Simon's help in getting dressed. "Hurry it up, Simon," he ordered. "The longer we're here, the colder Blair's trail gets. I need to get there and see what I can pick up."

"Don't you mean what we can pick up," Gibson asked.

Jim ignored him and said, "Let's go, Simon."

Holding up Jim's jacket, Simon replied, "All right, let's just get your jacket on and then we're out of here." After helping Jim put on the jacket, Simon grabbed Jim's hand intending to guide it up to his shoulder. Feeling the slight tremor racking Jim, Simon asked, "Are you sure you're up to this, Jim?"

"I'm fine," Jim insisted.

"You'd better be," Simon stated. "Because I don't want to have to face Sandburg if something happens to you."

Nodding, Jim gripped Simon's shoulder tightly. "Let's go find my partner."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When they arrived at the area where Blair had been abducted, Jim immediately opened the car door and started to get out of the vehicle. Halted by the restraining hand that descended upon his shoulder, he demanded, "Let me go, Simon."

"I will, Jim," Simon replied, "as soon as you agree to stay in the car until I get over there and can help you out. The last thing any of us need is for you to do another header onto the concrete, don't you agree?"

"Fine," Jim agreed. "Just hurry it up."

"Well ya know, Sport," Gibson spoke up from the back seat, "I can always help y…"

 

"Don't even think about finishing that sentence," Jim growled. "And quit calling me Sport."

"Anything you say," Gibson replied. Seeing Jim nod, he added, "Sport."

Before Jim could respond, Simon appeared and asked, "Are you ready?"

"Yeah," Jim answered.

While Simon assisted Jim, Gibson got out of the car and began prowling around the area where Blair had been grabbed. Nostrils flaring, he said, "You're right, Ellison. I can smell the chloroform. It's faint, but it's definitely there."

Conducting his own scan as Simon guided him around any obstacles in the area, Jim agreed, "Yeah, it's fading fast but I can still pick it up." Coming to a stand still, Jim lifted his head slightly as he scented the area. Inhaling deeply, he said, "There's another scent here. It's kinda familiar but… I don't know different somehow."

"Scent?" Simon asked. "What kind of scent?"

"A person's scent," Jim answered.

"Yeah," Gibson agreed. "I smell it too, but I can barely pick up on it. Blair's scent is kind of overriding everything else. It's like… Like…"

"Like you instantly focus on his scent," Jim supplied. "Your attention is immediately drawn to that one scent because you know it belongs to him."

Eyes widening slightly, Gibson exclaimed, "You're right! That's weird, man. I've never had anything like that happen before. It's… it's…"

When Gibson simply trailed off, Jim said, "Gibson? Answer me, Gibson!" Receiving no response, he said, "Simon…"

"I don't know, Jim," Simon interrupted. "He's just staring off into space and there's this totally blank expression on his face."

"Shit," Jim cursed, "he's zoned. Get me over to him, Simon."

"Jim…"

"Just do it!"

Focusing on Gibson's vital signs, Jim was alarmed by how quickly they were slowing. "Hurry, Simon!"

"All right," Simon said, "we're here."

"Can you guide my hands to his shoulders?"

"Sure," Simon replied as he took a hold of Jim's hands and placed then on Gibson's shoulders. "Now what?"

"Just stand back a little bit," Jim instructed. Hearing Simon take several steps back, Jim murmured, "Well, I guess it's time to see how much I've been paying attention to you, huh, Chief?" Clearing his throat, he called out to Gibson, "Jon, can you hear me? Just listen to my voice." Squeezing the tense shoulders under his hands, Jim continued, "I really need you to come back. Blair needs you to come back. We've got to find him, remember. C'mon back now, Jon." Relieved by the sudden intake of breath and the slight relaxing of Jon's shoulder's, Jim said, "Welcome back, Gibson."

Confused, Gibson asked, "What was that? What the hell happened? One minute, I'm standing here smelling Blair's scent and the next I'm… I'm…"

"It's called zoning out," Jim informed the puzzled man. "Something that I've experienced myself a time or two."

Taking a shaky breath, Gibson said, "Well that's one experience that I don't care to repeat."

"Unfortunately, you don't have much choice in the matter," Jim replied. "At least not until you get some more control over your senses."

"And just how do I do that?" Gibson asked.

"Um… "

"It's Blair, isn't it?" Gibson guessed. "He can help me get control, can't he? That's what he did for you, right?"

"It's what he does for me," Jim answered. Releasing Gibson, Jim took a step back. "Simon, I'm ready to start looking again."

Walking up to the two men, Simon gripped Jim's elbow and asked, "Where to now?"

"I want to try and focus on that scent again," Jim answered. Slowly turning around in a circle, Jim frequently inhaled deeply. Stopping, he said, "It's more concentrated in this direction." Walking forward, trusting Simon to steer him away from any obstacles, Jim tracked the scent. Coming to a halt, he informed, "Sandburg's scent and that other scent are mixed together here. This is where he was grabbed." Sniffing the air, Jim stated, "This is where she grabbed him."

"She!" Simon exclaimed.

"Yeah, he's right," Gibson confirmed as he walked up to Jim and Simon. "There's a faint trace of perfume as well. It's not that heavy, but it's definitely there. It's combined with the unknown scent."

Growling, Jim said, "I know what it is."

Alarmed by the feral note to Jim's voice, Simon asked, "Jim, what is it? What are you picking up?"

Jaw clenched, Jim grated out a harsh, "Alex. I'm smelling Alex."

"Alex!" Simon exclaimed while Gibson asked, "Who?"

Choosing to answer Simon, Jim said, "It's not exactly her scent, but it's similar. Whoever took Sandburg, they're definitely related to Alex."

"You can tell that just by the person's scent?" Simon asked in disbelief.

"Yeah," Jim replied. "I first noticed it with you and Daryl. Sandburg helped my refine the ability, at least with scents that I'm familiar with, and Alex's scent is one that I would definitely know anywhere. We need to check into her background; find out about her family."

"I'll get Connor and Joel to start checking on it," Simon said. "Meanwhile I want to get you back home. You're still hurting."

"Simon…"

"You are going home, Detective," Simon ordered. Voice softening he added, "Besides, there's nothing more we can do right now, Jim. You know that. Until we find out something about Alex's family, we've got no leads. We've got nothing to go on. As hard as it is, the only thing we can do right now is wait."

"And while I'm just sitting on my ass doing nothing, what's happening to Sandburg, Simon?" Jim asked.

"He's strong, Jim," Simon replied. "Look at some of the shit he's been through; he made it through all of that, and he'll make it through this too. If there's one thing that I've learned about Sandburg, it's that he's a survivor. We'll get him back, Jim. We will."

Relenting, Jim said, "All right, let's go."

Angered, Gibson yelled, "That's it? That's all you're going to do? Just have a couple of your buddies try and track down a person who, for all you know, may not even exist. What kind of a colossal screw-up is that? You may be content to sit around and do nothing, but I'm not."

"What just what do you propose to do?" Simon asked. "Right now, tracking down Alex's family it the best, and only, shot we've got at finding Sandburg."

"Ellison and I are sentinels," Gibson hissed. "So I do think that there's something more that we can do. Why don't we track the scents, Ellison? We can following their scent trail."

"How are we supposed to do that?" Jim asked. "There's too many other scents around. We won't be able to isolate the one that we want to track. You've already zoned once and you'll do it again if you try to pick out Sandburg's scent. How exactly am I supposed to track anything? I can't fucking see in case you've forgotten."

"There's got to be something else," Gibson pleaded.

"There is one thing," Simon replied. Seeing Gibson's questioning look, he said, "Pray that we find him in time."

 

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

 

When Blair awoke again he found himself lying down in the back seat of a vehicle; his hands and feet tied. He was forced to remain motionless as he listened to the soft hum of the motor.

Craning his neck to look out the window, he was only permitted a brief look at the occasional passing blur of the landscape. Trying to get a glance at the front of the vehicle, he only managed to get a look at the back of his captor's head. Licking his dry lips, he said, "Hey, what's happening? Where are we going?"

"Good," Christina said as she glanced in the rearview mirror. Locking eyes with Blair, she explained, "I was beginning to think that you were going to be out of it for the rest of the day."

"Um… Look, Christina… Uh, it is okay if I call you Christina, isn't it?" Seeing Christina nod, Blair continued, "Why don't you end this right now before you get into even bigger trouble. We'll go straight to the cops and you can turn yourself in. You know that they'll go easier on you if you do that. If you wait, make them hunt you down, they'll just go harder on you. Come on, you don't want to do this."

"Oh but you're wrong, Blair," Christina protested. "I do want to do this. In fact, I've been looking forward to this for awhile now."

"Why?" Blair asked.

"Because you destroyed my sister," Christina yelled. "Because of you and because of what you allowed Ellison to do to her, my sister is warehoused in some run down, dilapidated psychiatric institution. She's locked up in that so-called hospital, being totally neglected and not receiving any proper treatment or care at all."

"I'm sorry about Alex," Blair stated. "Sorry that she's in a place like that. But what has that got to do with your kidnapping me? I'm not responsible for where Alex is. The reason she ended up there is because of her own self-destructive actions. If you want to blame someone, blame Alex. She put herself there and she didn't need any help from me to do it." When Christina didn't respond, Blair asked, "What are you going to do to me anyway?"

"It's not what I'm going to do," Christina replied. "It's what you're going to do."

"What?" Blair asked. "What are you talking about?"

"You're going to teach me," Christina informed Blair. "You're going to teach me everything that I need to know to help my sister."

"You want me to teach you know to be a guide?"

"A guide?" Christina asked. "Is that what you are?"

"Someone referred to me as one before," Blair answered. "It just seemed to fit, I guess."

"Then yes, I want you to teach me how to be a guide to Alex," Christina stated.

"Then what?" Blair asked. "After I've taught you everything that I know, what happens next?"

"Simple," Christina replied. "I rescue Alex and help her to get better."

"Yeah?" Blair inquired. "What then? You'll just live happily ever after? You're forgetting one very important fact."

"What's that?"

"Your sister is a psychotic killer!" Blair yelled. "Do you honestly believe that she will just be so grateful to you for helping her that she'll suddenly have a change of heart? That she'll stop being a criminal? Have you even thought this through at all?"

"She's my sister," Christina repeated. "That's all that matters. She's my sister and I can't leave her in that place. I won't." Glancing back at Blair, she added, "It's not like you'll be around anyway, so there's no need for you to worry."

Slumping back down against the seat, Blair closed his eyes.

 

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

 

Pulling up in front of the loft, Simon turned to Jim and asked, "Do you need me to help you get upstairs?"

"No," Jim answered. "I'll be fine on my own."

"I'll help him," Gibson volunteered. "It's not like I've got anywhere else to be."

"I know you be thinking that you're going to wait with me," Jim said.

"Yeah I am," Gibson insisted. "Besides, I want you to fill me in on this Alex woman."

"Gibson…"

"He's my friend too, Ellison," Gibson interrupted, "and I deserve to know."

"Whatever," Jim growled as he opened the car door. "Well, what are we waiting for? Simon needs to get back to the station."

Climbing out of the backseat, Gibson stood by and watched as Jim got out of the car. Stepping forward, he grabbed Jim's arm. Irritated when his help was simply shrugged off, he said, "Look, Ellison, I don't particularly want to spend any time alone with you either but I'm doing it for Blair's sake. And that's something I thought that you, of all people, would understand."

Relenting, Jim didn't rebuff Gibson's next offer of help. Clenching his jaw, Jim demanded, "Call as soon as you find out anything, Simon."

"I will," Simon promised. "And you two try not to kill each other, all right?" Seeing similar tense nods from both men, Simon pulled away after Jim and Gibson stepped back from the car.

The two men stood there, one watching, the other listening, until the car turned a corner. "Let's go," Gibson said.

Instincts protesting any dependence on this man, a man that could still possibly be a very real and dangerous threat, Jim bristled as Gibson turned and began to lead him into the building. "So you're a Navy Seal, huh?"

"Used to be," Gibson replied. "You were an Army Ranger, huh?"

"How did you know that?" Jim asked.

"Same way you knew."

"Blair?"

"Yep."

"What do you mean used to be?" Jim inquired.

"I got an honorable discharge after my last mission," Gibson informed.

"Why?"

"My last mission went bad."

"You mean the one where your team was killed?" Jim asked, memories of his own lost men filling his mind.

"Yep."

"What happened?"

"Shit, Ellison," Gibson exclaimed. "They died and I didn't. What more do you want me to say?"

Coming to a halt, Jim pulled on Gibson's arm until the other man turned to face him. "I want to know if I can trust you?" Jim growled.

"How do I know that I can trust you?" Gibson countered. "Looks like we're in the same boat here, Sport."

"Don’t call me that!" Jim yelled.

"You started it!"

"You…" Sighing, Jim lowered his voice and continued, "We can't keep doing this. I've got enough to deal with right now without having to deal with you too."

"And you think that I don't?"

"Let's just get upstairs."

"Fine," Gibson agreed.

When the reached the loft, Gibson said, "Keys."

Reluctantly, not wanting to give Gibson any more control over the situation, Jim handed over his keys.

"Thanks, Sp…"

"Don't even."

Chuckling, Gibson turned to unlock the door; which caused him to miss the small smile the ghosted across Jim's mouth.

Trying to put aside his growing kinship towards his fellow sentinel, Jim pushed past Gibson and entered the loft.

Entering the loft behind Jim, Gibson shut the door and then said, "So tell me about this Alex."

Sighing, Jim agreed, "Let's go over to the couch and sit down, then we'll talk."

Trailing behind Jim, making sure that the other man didn't bump into anything, Gibson joined Jim over by the couch. After they were both seated, he turned to Jim. "Talk."

"Alex…" Jim began. "She's… She's like us."

"A sentinel? Well, what happened?" Gibson asked. "Did Blair help her?"

"He tried to," Jim answered, "until we found out that she was a criminal."

"A criminal?"

"A thief," Jim clarified.

"I bet that didn't go over too well with Blair, huh?"

"No," Jim answered, "it didn't. He refused to help her anymore and she… She…"

"She what, Ellison?" Gibson asked. "What did she do?"

"She killed him," Jim whispered. "She killed him."

 

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

 

Still under the effects of the chloroform, Blair had fallen into an uneasy sleep after his brief talk with his captor. Jarred awake when the vehicle came to a sudden stop, he blinked his eyes rapidly. Startled when the car door behind him opened, he tilted his neck back and saw Christina standing there.

"We're here," she announced. "Get out."

Looking down at his bound wrists and ankles, Blair sarcastically asked, "Well, how do you suppose that I do that?"

Reaching in, Christina grabbed Blair's shoulders and pulled him from the car. Heedless to his protests, she smiled as he fell onto the ground. "C'mon," she demanded. Staring down at him, she coldly asked, "You can crawl, can't you?" Continuing to stand there, she watched as Blair struggled to get to his knees. Frustrated by his slow progress, she reached down and grabbed his hair. Using her hold on him as leverage, she pulled him up to his knees. "Hurry up!" Keeping a firm grip on Blair, Christina started walking.

Struggling to stay upright, Blair only managed a brief glimpse of their surroundings. He just had time to take in the dense trees and the dirt road he was crawling along before they reached their destination. Loosing his balance as he tried to climb the stairs Christina was dragging him up, Blair fell to his side. "Just wait," he yelled as Christina reached for him again. "Please, just wait a minute."

"What now?" Christina impatiently asked.

"Could you please just untie me?" Blair requested. "At least my feet. I mean, where am I going to go? I don't even know where we are."

Squatting down, Christina pulled out a knife. Pushing Blair over onto his back, she waved it in his face. "You'd better not think of running," she warned. "I know these woods a lot better than you do and I promise you, I will hunt you down." Lightly tracing the knife down Blair's cheek, barely breaking the skin but not drawing blood, she added, "And I've got no problem with messing up this pretty face of yours."

Shuddering slightly, Blair felt the pressure against his face increase slightly; he then winced as the blade scratched his cheek, causing a slow trickle of blood to run down his face. Exhaling deeply as the knife was moved away, Blair lay still as Christina reached down and sawed through the rope binding his ankles.

Standing up, Christina ordered, "On your feet."

Turning to his side once more, Blair placed his still bound hands against the stair underneath him and pushed himself upright. Once he was standing, Christina tightly grasped his elbow and once again began dragging him up the remainder of the stairs. When the reached the porch, she pushed him in front of her, shoving him over to the door.

Walking up behind Blair, she ordered, "Open it."

Pushing the door open, Blair took a few hesitant steps into the room. Turning to glance back at Christina, Blair froze when he saw a familiar figure lying on the bed in the corner of the room. Shocked, he stumbled back a few steps, only to crash into Christina.

Steadying Blair, Christina laughed and said, "Oh, did I forget to mention that?" Shoving Blair towards the bed, she addressed the room's other occupant. "Hello, Sis. We're back."

Falling against the bed, Blair looked up. Speechless, he continued to lie there as Alex reached out a hand to stroke his cheek.

"Blair," she whispered. Then, feeling wetness, she glanced down and saw the blood coating her fingers. Glaring up at Christina, she yelled, "I told you not to hurt him!"

"What's the difference," Christina asked with a shrug. "Shit, Alex, you killed him. Now you're getting all upset over some little scratch?"

"I made a mistake before," Alex said. "One that I won't make again. And it's one that you won't make again either. If you hurt him any more, I'll…"

"You'll what?" Christina interrupted. "Kill me? Go ahead and try it, Alex. We both know you don't stand a chance against me. You never have. I'll do whatever I want to him. Don't worry, I won't kill him. But that doesn't mean that I can't have some fun." Walking over to stand beside Blair, Christina placed her hand on Blair's head. "And we're going to have lots of fun together, aren't we, Pet?"

Glancing between the two women, Blair thought, 'I am in so much trouble here.'

 

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

 

When Jim finished telling him about Alex, Gibson was silent for several seconds before erupting. "You son of a bitch! You call yourself Blair's friend and you… you were going to fu…" Standing up he paced in front of the couch. Coming to stand in front of Jim, he glared down at the silent man. "Don't you have anything to say?"

"No," Jim quietly replied. "You're right to be pissed off. But I promise you, no matter how much you might hate me right now, I hate myself more. Sandburg says it was just some kind of mating instinct thing. He acted like it didn't bother him too much, but I know that it did. I can't explain it to you, Gibson. I don't understand it. I didn't then and I still don't now." Leaning his head back against the couch, Jim sighed. "Shit, Gibson, if it had been you there, you probably would have acted the same way. Don't tell me that you haven't experienced some weird shit since your senses came on-line."

Sitting down beside Jim once again, Gibson admitted, "Yeah, I have. I mean, I don't normally dream of a white tiger, panther and wolf."

 

"Yeah, they can be kind of disturbing, can't they?"

"But shit, Ellison, couldn't you have… I don't know… Fought it somehow?" Gibson asked. "Are you trying to tell me that in some cases, I'm gonna be ruled by my instincts. No control over what I do?"

"I got control," Jim protested. "I stopped her from shooting Blair. I was in control."

"Sounds like you not too sure of yourself, Sport."

"Well whether I was in control or not, Alex was caught."

"Her senses really fried out?" Gibson asked. "She ended up totally out of it?"

"Catatonic," Jim confirmed.

"Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

"About what?"

"If that's where we would've ended up if we hadn't meet Blair," Gibson replied. "I know that the only reason I'm still functioning is because of what I learned from him before. The meditation and relaxation techniques, the control measures he taught me for my other senses. If I hadn't had that training to fall back on, if I hadn't known and realized what was going on with me, I probably would've ended up in a padded cell right next to that bitch."

 

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "Maybe." Shaking himself out of his reverie, he turned and asked, "So how did you meet Sandburg?"

"You really want to know?"

"Its either listen to you talk or sit here and go out of my mind with worry and frustration," Jim stated.

"Like you won't be sitting here worrying about him while I talk," Gibson replied.

"Like you won't be too?" Jim asked.

"Good point," Gibson observed. "I met Blair a few years back. My kid brother was going to Rainier and I was in town visiting him. I had taken some leave because my senses had started causing me trouble. Anyway, I'm sitting there with my brother catching up and I mentioned the stuff about my senses. He starts going on and on about this friend of his that I have to meet. I agreed, mainly just to get the kid to shut up, and went to meet with this friend the next day." Chuckling, Gibson said, "I've got to tell you, Ellison, when I first met Blair, I wasn't all that nice to him." Seeing Jim smile, Gibson asked, "What?"

"I called him a neo-hippie witchdoctor punk," Jim explained. "And that was before I threatened to search his office for drugs."

"He seems to have that affect on guys like us, huh?" Gibson said. "So just as I'm getting ready to storm out of his room, somebody starts blaring this radio. Felt like somebody jammed ice picks into my ears."

Nodding in understanding, Jim said, "Let me guess, the next thing you know this guy is right there beside you making everything better."

"Yep," Gibson replied. "After he brought the pain down to a dull ache, I was a little bit more inclined to listen to him."

"I know exactly where you're coming from."

Looking at Jim, Gibson said, "Yeah, I suppose you do." Clearing his throat, he continued, "I had quite a bit of leave time accumulated so I decided to take it and use the time to work with Blair. He helped me get control. More importantly, he taught me how to keep it."

"He's good at that," Jim stated.

"Yeah, he is," Gibson agreed.

"So what senses were heightened?"

"Everything except touch," Gibson answered. "Blair warned me that it could possibly become heightened also. He had just started teaching me ways to deal with that if it ever did happen when…"

"When what?" Jim asked.

"When Alan took him," Gibson explained. Sighing, he said, "I shouldn't go into it. If Blair wanted you to know, he'd have told you."

"We were going to talk about it tonight," Jim said.

"Ellison…"

"It's okay, Gibson," Jim interrupted. "I'm not gonna ask you to talk about it. Blair and I will talk when we get him back."

"Yeah," Gibson agreed, "when we get him back."

"Just one thing though," Jim said. "Blair told me that it was bad. Worse than what Alan did to him this time."

"What exactly did the psycho do this time around?"

"Besides blind me, you mean?" Jim asked.

"Sorry, Ellison," Gibson apologized. "Sometimes my mouth kind of gets ahead of my brain."

"Yeah, I think that comes along with the heightened senses," Jim stated.

"So I take it that I'm not alone in this little short coming?"

"Definitely not," Jim replied with a smile.

"That's nice to know," Gibson said with a smile of his own. Sobering, he asked, "Now what about Alan?"

"God, I don't know where to start," Jim said.

"At the beginning is usually a good place," Gibson suggested.

"All right," Jim replied. "You know the other people Blair worked with? The other ones with three or four enhanced senses?"

"Yeah," Gibson answered. "I know about them. I've even met some of them."

"Well before coming here, " Jim said, "Alan killed all of them."

 

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

 

"I said that you're not to hurt him again, Chris!" Alex yelled.

Leaning over Blair, Christina pressed her knife against Alex's throat. Laughing when Alex flinched back, she warned, "I got your pathetic ass out of that hellhole you were in, Alex; don't think for a second that I won't put you back there. You're not in charge here, I am." Pulling back, Christina grabbed Blair's arm and jerked him to his feet. Shaking him, she yelled, "You said that this guy could help you. So the two of you had better get your asses in gear. We've got a job to do and the only way we can pull it off is if you get your senses back. I promised my employer that I could do this job. It's my ass on the line if we fail. And I won't be the only one to suffer the consequences if we do, Sis."

Shoving Blair away from her, Christina said, "I'll leave him alone for now. Besides, I had my fun on the way here. You ought to have seen the way he was falling for my sob story. 'Oh, Alex, is my dear, beloved sister and I just have to help her. I have to rescue her from that horrible place.'" Laughing, she continued, "That look on his face, a mixture of pity and compassion with just a dash of contempt. Too bad I didn't have a camera."

Jerking his arm out of Christina's grasp, Blair yelled, "Whoa, just wait a minute here. Time out, okay?" Looking at Christina, he said, "You mean to tell me that you're…" Turning to Alex, he stammered, "She… You're both…"

"What can I say," Christina interrupted. "I guess it's just in the genes or something. Isn't that right, Sis?"

"Whatever you say, Chris," Alex replied.

"And don’t you forget it," Christina warned. "Either of you. I'm going outside and secure the car. Wouldn't want my little Pet trying to escape or anything. I'll only be gone a few minutes so don't even think of trying anything."

Staring after Christina as she left the cabin, Blair flinched at the sound of the door slamming shut. Slowly, he turned to face Alex again. "Alex."

"Blair."

"You can't keep me here, you know," Blair said. "Jim will find me. You know that he will."

"From what Christina tells me, Ellison isn't able to find much of anything right now," Alex retorted. Patting the bed, Alex said, "Blair why don't you come over here and sit down?"

Raising his still bound hands in front of his chest, Blair said, "I think that I'll just stay right here."

"Please, Blair," Alex pleaded. "I won't hurt you."

"You won't hurt me?" Blair repeated. "Are you nuts? Do you really expect me to believe that? You killed me!"

"And I'm sorry," Alex replied. "So come on over here. It's okay."

"NO!"

"You had better not make me angry, Blair," Alex warned. "Right now, I'm the only thing keeping Chris from hurting you. If you think that I'm bad, you haven't seen anything till you've seen Chris play with one of her pets."

"And I suppose you're gonna protect me from her, huh?" Blair sarcastically asked.

"That's right," Alex exclaimed. "She went to Cascade to kill you, you know. When she'd come to visit me at the hospital, all she talked about was making you pay. I pleaded with her to leave you alone. I told her all about my senses, you, Ellison, everything. Told her how I could use my senses for business; that if she could just get me out of the hospital and help me get my senses back, there was no limit to what we could do. I was having trouble convincing her until she went to Cascade and got a look at you. She came back to the hospital and couldn't stop talking about what she wanted to do to you."

Shuddering, Blair asked, "What exactly did she say she was going to do to me?"

Leaning forward, voice low, Alex said, "Trust me, Blair, you don't want to know." Smiling, she continued, "It's not often that someone catches Chris' attention the way that you have. But when someone does… Well, let's just say that my sister isn't satisfied until she experiences some truly intimate and intense contact with whatever, or whomever, catches her interest. And that is one encounter with my sister that you do not what to have, Blair."

Backing up until his back hit the wall, Blair slowly slid down to the floor. Head tilted to the side; he peered up at Alex from behind the curtain of hair obscuring his face. "And you're going to protect me from that, huh?"

"As long as you give me what I want," Alex replied. "You help me get my senses back and I'll make sure my sister doesn't harm you."

"If I refuse?"

"Then I'll stand back and watch as she wrings every secret, every thought, every feeling out of you," Alex stated. "That's what see does, you see, on those rare occasions that she finds someone like you. She's got this thing about breaking people. About taking a strong, defiant person and taking them apart piece by piece, not stopping until she's taken everything from them that she possible can. Then, after she's learned everything that she can, after she's destroyed the person's mind and spirit, she finally takes pity on them and kills the empty shell left behind."

Getting up from the bed, Alex walked over and knelt down next to Blair. "You don't know how often she's called me while she's been watching you. Calling me, wanting to get her hands on you and keep you for herself. I kept managing to put her off though. Telling her that we needed you alive, convincing her that I needed your help." Reaching out a hand to stroke Blair's hair, she continued, "So you'd better be nice to me, Blair, and give me what I want. Otherwise…" Trailing off, not need to finish the unspoken threat, Alex asked, "So what's it gonna be, Blair?"

Instead of answering, Blair asked, "What exactly has been happening with your senses?"

"Everything since the temple is kind of hazy," Alex answered. "I don't remember much of anything that's happened since then; just a feeling of floating actually, of drifting in and out of consciousness."

"And your senses?"

"Completely gone," Alex finally confessed. "Since the temple, they've been completely back to normal. Nothing heightened at all."

"You do realize that it may not be possible for you to get your senses back," Blair stated. "I told you about this, Alex; about the whole spiritual aspect. You were given a choice and you went against everything being a sentinel represents. There's no coming back from that, and there's no second chance. Any hope of your ever being a sentinel was destroyed in that temple." Standing up, Blair glared down at Alex, "And even if there was some remote possibility of you regaining your senses, I would never and will never help you!"

Rising to her feet Alex slowly advanced on Blair, stalking towards him as he backed away from her. Lunging forward, she grabbed his shoulders and pulled him close to her. "You will help me, Blair," she hissed. "Do you really think that I warned Chris off to protect you? I warned her off to keep her away from what belongs to me. When I told her about you, I knew what her reaction to you would be. I was relying on that reaction to get me out of that place they put me in and to get you here with me." Releasing Blair, she shrugged and said, "I really don't want to see you hurt, but I will do whatever it takes to make you help me. If that means letting Chris play with you for a little bit, then that's fine. The choice is yours."

"I told you," Blair screamed into Alex's face, "there's nothing I can do! Your senses are gone and they're not coming back! No matter what you do to me, that's not going to change!"

"Well, we're just have to see about that won't we?" Alex replied. "Isn't that right, Sis?"

Standing in the doorway, having returned and been silently watching Alex and Blair, Christina sarcastically asked, "Does this mean you're going to let me play with him now?"

Walking over to stand beside Christina, Alex slung her arm around her sister's shoulders. "Sorry, Chris. I was out of line before." Drawing her sister into a hug, Alex stared at Blair over Christina's shoulders, "You're right, you are in charge here. If it weren't for you, I'd still be locked up."

"That's right," Christina replied. "I am in charge here."

"Of course you are, Sis," Alex agreed. "Now, go on and play. You've earned it."

"Really," Christina replied in a hopeful tone. "I can play with him?"

"Yes," Alex replied. "But just don't hurt him too bad, yet. For now, we still need him."

Pulling back to look at Alex, Christina asked, "Later?"

Still staring at Blair, Alex purred, "Later, you can do whatever you want to him."

 

Whispering, Christina asked, "Will you watch?"

"Oh yes," Alex replied with a low chuckle. "I will definitely watch."

"Good," Christina said. Leaning close to Alex, she gave her sister another squeeze before turning to face Blair. "Are you ready for me, Pet?" Christina asked Blair as she slowly approached him. "Because I'm definitely ready for you. I've been waiting a long time for this and I intend to enjoy every single second of it."

Warily eyeing Christina and Alex, Blair waiting until Christina was just a few feet away from him. Rushing forward, he collided with Christina and knocked her back into Alex. Racing past the fallen women, he ran out the door. Disappearing into the wilderness, he heard muffled screams and shouts coming from inside the cabin. Hurrying his pace, he pushed past the tree limbs blocking his way and blindly ran away from the screams; knowing that what awaited him in the cabin was far worse than whatever may be hiding in the woods that now surrounded him.

 

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

 

"So they're all dead?" Gibson asked when Jim finished telling him about Alan.

"Yeah."

"I can't even begin to imagine what Blair's been going through."

"He really hasn't talked about it," Jim said. "I've tried to get him to talk to me but somehow he always manages to turn it around to my…" Trailing off, Jim raised a hand and gestured towards his eyes.

"Your blindness?" Gibson asked. Seeing Jim's nod, he inquired, "Do they know if it's permanent?"

"The doctors aren't too hopeful," Jim replied. "Personally, I think it is. Sandburg, though, Sandburg is convinced I'll get my sight back." Sighing, Jim said, "Hell, I don't know. Right now, I don't know much of anything except that I need to get Blair back. What is taking Simon so long anyway? He should have called by now, let us know something."

"I'm sure…" Interrupted by a knock at the door, Gibson said, "I'll go get that." Standing up, he walked over to the door and reached out a hand to open it. Hesitating, he said, "What if…"

"Don't worry," Jim said. "It's Simon. I can smell his cigars."

Inhaling deeply through his nose, Gibson said, "Hey, you're right."

"So you wanna let him in, Gibson."

"Oh, right." Opening the door, Gibson stepped back and allowed Simon to enter the loft.

Walking into the loft, Simon glanced between Jim and Gibson. "Well, at least the two of you haven't killed each other yet."

"Simon, what have you found out?" Jim asked as he started to rise from the couch.

"Just stay there, Jim," Simon ordered. "I'll come over to you."

Sitting back down, Jim asked, "You did find out something, didn't you?"

"Yeah, I did," Simon replied.

Alarmed by Simon's tone, Jim asked, "Why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to like what you're about to tell me?"

Sitting down next to Jim, Simon said, "Because you won't. I know that I didn't when Connor and Joel told me."

"What is it, Simon?"

"First, you're right. Alex does have a sibling; a sister named Christina Barnes. From what I've found out, she's even worse than Alex," Simon stated. "And second. Jim… Oh hell, Jim…"

"What, Simon?" Jim asked. "Tell me."

"Alex is no longer in custody," Simon said. "Apparently about a month ago, she escaped from the psychiatric hospital."

"But she was catatonic!" Jim yelled.

"Not any more," Simon replied. "It seems she started showing signs of consciousness soon after she was brought to the hospital. She's been awake for two months and somehow her sister managed to get in to see her and get her out."

"Why didn't someone notify us?" Jim asked. "How could they not tell us about this?"

"Seems they're blaming it on some sort of procedural screw-up," Simon answered. "Personally, I think they were just trying to cover their asses; trying to avoid any lawsuits."

" I can not believe this!" Jim yelled. Slumping back against the couch, he said, "You said that this Christina was worse than Alex."

"Yeah," Simon confirmed. "From what I found out so far, at least."

"Tell me about her," Jim demanded.

"Jim, I…"

"Tell me!"

"She's been linked to several killings, but nobody's ever been able to find any concrete evidence against her," Simon explained.

"What kind of killings, Simon?"

"Bad ones, Jim, all right," Simon replied.

"Simon…"

"She gets off on torturing her victims," Simon exclaimed. "They're… It's just bad, Jim. Some of the worse stuff that I've ever seen."

"And she's got Blair," Jim stated. "I can't believe I let her take him. I should have done something. I should have stopped her!" Rubbing a hand over his face, he asked, "Did you find anything for us to go on? Any leads as to where she might have taken him?"

"No," Simon answered. "Not yet, Connor and Joel are still checking. They'll find something, Jim."

"But will they find it before it's too late?" Gibson asked as he stepped up behind the couch.

"I don't know," Simon confessed. "I just don't know. At this point, we don't even know why this Christina grabbed Sandburg."

"I think I do," Jim said.

"Jim?"

"Alex lost her senses at the temple and odds are they didn't return when she woke up," Jim stated. "She knows how much of an advantage they can be, so she probably wants them back."

"So they took Blair because…" Gibson began.

"For reason you came to Cascade, Gibson," Jim interrupted. "Alex needs someone to help her with her senses. But there's just one problem."

"What's that, Ellison?" Gibson asked.

"Alex isn't a sentinel anymore," Jim explained. "I don't think there's any way Sandburg can help her get her senses back. And when they find that out…"

"There's no telling what they'll do to Blair," Gibson finished. When he finished talking, Gibson cocked his head to the side. "Ellison, do you…"

"Yeah," Jim said, "I hear it to. There's someone coming down the hallway."

Walking over to the door, Gibson opened it to reveal Megan standing with her fist raised, preparing to knock on the door. "Who are you?"

"Who are you?" She countered.

"Jon Gibson," Gibson introduced himself as he held out his hand. "And you?"

Taking Gibson's hand, Megan warily watched as he raised it to his lips and pressed a gently kiss to the back of her hand. "Megan Connor."

"If you two are finished," Jim said, "I'd like to find out if Connor's got any information that she'd like to share with the rest of us."

Reluctantly looking away from Gibson, Megan said, "I do. We've found out a possible location where Sandy might be."

"Sandy?" Gibson asked.

"Sandburg," Jim explained. Addressing Megan again, he sarcastically replied, "Well, if you don't mind, maybe you'd like to share that information with us. That is if you're through flirting, of course."

"Jim!" Simon yelled.

Walking past Gibson to stand in front of Simon and Jim, Megan said, "That's all right, Captain. I know that Ellison's just upset because of Sandy."

"Just tell us what you got, Connor," Jim demanded.

"After doing some more digging, Joel and I discovered a cabin owned by Alex's Grandfather," Megan explained. "It's not that far from Cascade; just outside of Tacoma actually. Joel's at the station speaking with the police commissioner in Tacoma arranging for some of their officers to meet us there."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Jim asked. "Let's go."

"Jim, you know that you can't go," Simon argued. "You either, Gibson," Simon added when he saw Gibson open his mouth to speak. "Jim, you're on leave and Gibson, you're not even a cop. There is no way that I can allow you two to go. Connor and I will go to this cabin. If we find anything, we'll let you know."

"Simon," Jim protested, while Gibson said, "Banks."

"I don't want to hear it," Simon stated. "Connor, let's go." Standing up, Simon followed Megan over to the door. Pausing in the doorway, he turned and ordered, "I mean it, you two. Stay put!"

After Simon and Megan left, Gibson asked, "So how long should we wait until we follow them?"

Tilting his head to the side, Jim listened for several seconds. "They're in the elevator now, but it's stopping on the second floor to let someone it," Jim informed Gibson. "If we go out the back way, we should be able to get to your car before they get outside."

Walking over to Jim, Gibson leaned down and grabbed Jim's arm. "Then what are we waiting for?"

Standing up, Jim said, "Let's go get Sandburg back."

"And make sure those two never think about grabbing him again," Gibson growled.

"Exactly," Jim growled back, both men wearing identical feral grins.

 

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

 

Drained both emotionally and physically, Blair stumbled and fell to the ground. Wincing as his hands were skinned and scrapped, Blair lay there panting and gasping for breath. Attempting to bring his ragged breathing under control, he strained his hearing to listen for any sounds of pursuit. Hearing voices in the distance, he struggled to his feet and began running again and managed only a few more steps before collapsing once more. When Alex and Christina emerged from some nearby trees, he closed his eyes in defeat as they approached him.

"Blair, Blair," Christina chided. "Why did you run? I told you it wouldn't do any good, didn't I? You've been a bad boy and now you've got to be punished. Doesn't he, Alex?"

"Yes he does, Sis," Alex agreed. "C'mon, Blair, get up!"

Opening his eyes, Blair glared up at the two women. "Why don't you just kill me now and get it over with?"

"We still have a use for you," Alex replied.

"And besides," Christina added, "where would be the fun in that? Now get up!"

"NO!" Blair yelled. "I'm not going back there with you. This is over. Do you hear me? It's finished. NO MORE!"

"Fine," Christina replied. "If you don't want to come, then fine. I can always go play with Ellison. I think I'd like that. How about you, Alex?"

"Oh I can think of lots of things that I'd like to do to Ellison," Alex said. "Is that what you want, Blair? Do you want us to go pay Ellison a little visit?"

Unsteadily climbing to his feet, Blair warned, "If either of you go anywhere near Jim, I'll…"

"You'll what, Pet?" Christina asked. "You just be a good boy and Ellison won't get hurt."

Bowing his head, Blair murmured, "All right."

"Then let's go," Alex demanded.

Standing still, Blair didn't protest when Alex and Christina approached. Aside from a small shudder, he didn't respond as they each grabbed an arm and started leading him back to the cabin.

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After they entered the cabin, Alex and Christina both released Blair. Pulling her knife, Christina used it to cut the ropes binding Blair's wrists. "Strip," she ordered.

"What?" Blair asked.

"You heard me, Pet," Christina said. "Strip!"

Seeing the determined look on Christina's face, Blair decided to appeal to Alex. "Alex, c'mon. You said that you needed my help here. You don't want to let her do this."

"Yes, I did say that," Alex replied. "But so far you haven't been very forthcoming with it. Maybe after some time with Christina, you'll decide to be a little bit more generous with that help."

 

"Don't keep me waiting, Pet," Christina warned. "I can get a little bit mean when I get impatient."

Wrists numb, Blair slowly began to fumble with the buttons on his shirt.

"Hurry up," Christina demanded.

"I can't," Blair exclaimed. "My hands are numb."

Stepping forward, Christina brushed aside Blair's hands and reached for the buttons herself. "Allow me, then."

Dropping his hands to his sides, Blair closed his eyes as Christina slowly began to take off his shirt.

"There," Christina said as she finished unbuttoning the shirt and pushed it off of Blair's shoulders. Tugging it the rest of the way off, she tossed it onto the floor. Eyeing the shirt two remaining shirts, she said, "Well, that's one down and two to go." With a laugh, she started on the next layer.

When Christina finished removing Blair's shirts, she dropped to her knees and began unfastening his jeans. Feeling Christina's hands on his zipper, Blair took an involuntary step back. "No!" He yelled. "Stop it, Alan!"

Sitting back on her heels, Christina took a quick glance back at Alex who simply shrugged her shoulders. Voice low, almost a caress, Christina asked, "Who's Alan, Pet?"

Seeming to come out of his daze, Blair looked down at Christina. "What?"

 

"Who's Alan?"

Paling, Blair repeated, "Alan?"

"Yes," Christina replied. "Who is he?"

Taking a deep breath, getting a hold of himself once again, Blair said, "You should know, you killed him."

"So he's the one that had you and Ellison," Christina said. "Tell me, Pet, what did he do to you?"

"Nothing," Blair answered.

"Somehow I don't think that's entirely truthful," Christina remarked. "This is going to be even better than I thought. Come back here, Pet."

When Blair didn't move, Christina grabbed a hold of his jeans and yanked. Stumbling forward, Blair was about to fall when Christina placed her hands on his hips and steadied him. Then, she reached for his zipper again.

 

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

 

Trailing behind Simon and Megan, Gibson asked, "Are you sure they won't spot us?"

"Not if you know what you're doing," Jim retorted.

"I know what I'm doing," Gibson insisted.

"Well then we shouldn't have any problems, should we?"

"So how do you think Banks is gonna react when we show up there?"

"Do you really want me to answer that?"

"No, I guess not," Gibson replied. "So, what's the deal with Connor?"

"What about her?"

"She seems nice," Gibson said. "I like her." Hearing Jim scoff, he added, "Really, I do. You know, she kinda reminds me of Blair. I mean, not physically or anything. Plus their demeanors are completely different. But… I don't know… She makes me feel relaxed, calm. Like Blair does. Does that make sense?"

"I guess," Jim replied. "I don't know. Sandburg would know."

"Yeah, he probably would," Gibson agreed. "So what are we going to do when we get there?"

"Get Sandburg back."

"And what about this Alex and Christina?"

"Unfortunately, even though I'm on leave, I'm still a cop," Jim replied. "They'll be arrested."

"Yeah, well you may be a cop but I'm not," Gibson said. "And I'm thinking about a little revenge."

"If you do something," Jim responded, "then I'd have to arrest you."

"Yeah but like you said, you're on leave?"

"That I did."

"So," Gibson said, "do you really think they'll be there."

His slight smile disappearing, Jim replied, "God, I hope so. If not… Well, I don't even want to think about it. They have to be there. He has to be there."

Neither man said anything else as they continued to follow Simon's car.

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Pulling up in front of the Tacoma PD, Simon climbed out of his car. "Shit," he exclaimed as he caught sight of two familiar figures pulling into the parking lot.

"Sir?" Connor asked as she got of the car. "Is something wrong?"

"Yeah," he replied, "but it's not like I wasn't expecting it."

Turing to see what Simon was staring at; Megan smiled as she caught sight of Gibson and Jim. "No, Sir, it's not that unexpected, is it?"

Scowling, Simon walked over to Gibson's car and watched as he got out and went around to help Jim. When they approached him, he said, "Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't I tell the two of you to stay in Cascade?"

"I don't remember hearing anything like that," Jim said. "Do you remember hearing anything like that, Gibson?"

"No, Ellison," Gibson replied, "I don't remember hearing anything like that."

"You three get back in my car," Simon ordered. "I'll go in and talk to the police chief. With any luck, he won't ask too many questions."

"All right, Simon," Jim agreed. "But hurry."

"I will, Jim," Simon promised. "You're not the only one who wants to get him back."

Nodding, Jim said, "We'll be waiting."

When Simon started walking over to the police station, Megan, Jim and Gibson got into his car. After they were seated, Gibson looked at Jim. Noting the tilt to his head, Gibson asked, "What? Do you hear anything?"

"Nothing," Jim answered. "There for a minute, I thought I heard something. It was faint, but… I don't know. I lost it. I can't focus, can't concentrate."

"Yes you can, mate," Megan said. "Just take a few deep breaths."

"You sound like Sandburg," Jim stated.

"He's been working with me," Megan confessed. "Coaching me on how to help you when he isn't able to be around."

Clenching his jaw, Jim reluctantly followed Megan's voice. Closing his eyes he took several deep breaths. Listening to Megan's soft words, Jim concentrated. After a few seconds, Megan's voice suddenly transformed into the familiar, soothing voice of his guide. Listening to Megan's words, but in his mind hearing Blair's voice, Jim relaxed and allowed his hearing to expand. Gasping, he jerked forward. "I heard it!"

"Jim?" Megan called out. "Are you all right?"

"What's wrong with him?" Gibson asked.

"I think he went a little bit too deep," Megan distractedly answered. "Jim! Can you hear me?"

"I'm fine, Connor," Jim reassured.

"What the hell happened, Ellison?" Gibson asked.

"There for an instant, I heard Sandburg's voice and his heartbeat," Jim explained. "I only heard him for a few seconds, but I did hear him!"

 

"Well could you tell anything?" Gibson asked. "Is he all right? Have they hurt him? How far away is he? Tell us something!"

"It went away too fast," Jim irritably replied. "I couldn't make anything out too clearly but I know it's him. I do know that we're close."

All three were startled by Simon's return to the car. Getting into the car, he said, "Well…" Trailing off as he noticed the excited expressions on Megan, Gibson, and Jim's faces, he asked, "What's going on?"

"Jim heard Sandy," Megan exclaimed.

"What?"

"I was able to extend my hearing," Jim explained. "For an instant, I picked up on Sandburg. He's nearby."

"Well everyone just keep it together," Simon ordered. "I spoke with Captain Smith. He and several of his men are going to go up to the cabin with us. It's about an hour's drive from here. If all goes according to plan, we'll have Sandburg back soon."

"What's the plan?" Jim asked. "We can't just go storming in there. That's liable to get Sandburg killed."

"Smith is bringing snipers and SWAT with him," Simon explained. "These guys know what they're doing. If I didn't believe that, I would've arranged for our guys to be here. You know I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize Sandburg's safety." Turning to face Jim, he asked, "You do know that, don't you, Jim? The guards on Sandburg were pulled sooner than I was told. I was expecting them to be there through the end of the week. The commissioner went behind my back and called them off. I wouldn't leave you or Sandburg unprotected like that."

"I know, Simon," Jim replied. "I just…"

"It's okay, Jim," Simon interrupted. "Let's just get him back. And then, I'm going to have a long talk with that commissioner of ours." Seeing Smith and several other officers exit the police station, Simon said, "There they are. It's time."

"Good," Jim and Gibson both replied.

Chilled by the feral expression on the two sentinels' faces, Simon shuddered and then started the car.

 

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

 

Undressed down to his boxers, Blair stood shivering in the chilly cabin; very much aware of the two sets of eyes currently traveling over his nearly naked body, his shaking increased.

"Not bad," Christina commented. "Not bad at all."

Feeling very exposed; Blair shifted from foot to foot and crossed his arms over his chest.

"What's wrong, Pet?" Christina asked. "You've got the full attention of two very, if I do say so myself, beautiful women. Most men would love to be where you are now."

"That's assuming that the two women aren't psychotic, insane killers," Blair retorted. "Somehow I think that if anyone were in my place right now, they'd be feeling exactly what I'm feeling."

"And what's that, Pet?"

"Total loathing and contempt," Blair answered. "Not to mention complete and utter repulsion."

Walking over to Blair, Christina backhanded him across the face. "That's not a nice thing to say, Pet."

Wiping the blood from his face, Blair said, "But it is the truth."

Drawing her hand back again, Christina screamed, "Why you…"

"Enough!" Alex yelled, halting Christina in mid-swing. "He's got to be able to talk when you're finished, Sis," she stated.

"Fine," Christina replied as she lowered her hand. Glancing down, she ordered, "Drop your arms." When Blair hesitated, she yelled, "DO IT!"

Dropping his arms, Blair fought the urge to flinch when Christina brought her hand up and placed it on his chest. Backing up as Christina advanced, Blair continued to walk backwards across the room until the back of his knees bumped against something. Grunting softly as Christina suddenly pushed him over, Blair braced himself for the anticipated impact that was sure to follow. He was surprised when he bounced slightly as he landed on the bed. Before he could move, Christina climbed up onto the bed and straddled his chest.

Placing her hands to either side of Blair's head, she leaned down and hovered over Blair. "What should we start with, huh? Any preferences?" Chuckling, she added, "Or suggestions?"

Barely breathing, Blair froze in place as Christina brought her face down to his and slowly licked the blood trickling down his chin. "You're sick!" he yelled.

"Yeah, and?" Christina replied with a laugh. Hands moving to fist in Blair's hair, she held his head captive and brutally kissed him.

Bucking upward in an attempt to dislodge Christina, Blair began to wildly thrash around on the bed. Bringing his hands up to Christina's shoulders, he violently shoved her off onto the floor.

Rushing forward, Alex knelt down beside her sister. "Christina!" Gently turning Christina over, Alex carefully examined the bruises already forming on her face. "Christina? Answer me." Softly, she called out, "Chris?"

Stirring, Christina slowly opened her eyes. Confused, she stared up at Alex. "Alex?" she whispered.

Glaring up at Blair, Alex said, "You shouldn't have done that, Blair." Standing up, she stepped past Christina. "Nobody hurts Christina. Nobody!" Lunging forward, she fell on Blair and wrapped her hands around his throat. Squeezing, she leaned down and hissed, "Nobody."

Spots dancing before his eyes, Blair futilely clawed at Alex's hands. Unable to dislodge them, he reached up to strike at her face. As his nails scratched her cheek, he began gasping, drawing in huge, painful breaths, when she released him.

Hand flying to her cheek, Alex remained lying on Blair and glared down at him. Leaning back slightly when Christina came to stand behind her, Alex pressed against her sister. Looking down as a knife suddenly appeared in front of her, Alex glanced back at Christina. Sharing a smile with her sister, she wrapped her hand around Christina's. Fingers entwined, they brought the knife down against Blair's flesh; both laughing when the resulting screams echoed throughout the cabin.

 

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

 

Leaning forward, Jim impatiently asked, "How much longer, Simon?"

"We're close, Jim," Simon answered.

"We've got to hur…" Jim trailed off as he heard the roar of his spirit guide.

Beside Jim, Gibson jerked. "Was that…"

"Yeah, it was," Jim confirmed.

"What's going on?" Simon asked.

"I think time is running out," Gibson stated.

"What?"

"Just hurry, Simon," Jim said. "Hurry."

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Several minutes later, Simon brought the car to a stop and announced, "I think we're here." Turning to Jim and Gibson, he ordered, "You two stay here. I mean it this time." Turing to Megan, he said, "Let's go."

Hearing the car doors open and then shut, Jim asked, "What do you see?"

"We must not be too close to the cabin because I can't see it," Gibson stated. "Banks and Connor are over there talking to that Smith guy. Looks like the sniper and SWAT guys are deploying. Some are moving off in different directions."

"I'm going to try and extend my hearing again," Jim said. "See if I can pick up on Sandburg."

"Go ahead," Gibson replied. "I'll watch your back."

Knowing it was unnecessary, but feeling the need to do it anyway, Jim closed his eyes as he dialed up his hearing. Immediately, he locked onto Blair; becoming instantly alarmed by the small moans of pain his partner was emitting. Eyes snapping open, he exclaimed, "We have to get to him!"

"Ellison?" Gibson yelled, reaching out a restraining hand as Jim tried to open the car door. "Talk to me! What did you hear?"

"They've hurt him," Jim yelled, struggling to break free from Gibson and get to Blair. "He's in pain!"

Leaning over, Gibson grabbed Jim's shoulders and slammed him back against the seat. "Just stop for a minute, Ellison. Just stop and think!" Relaxing his grip when Jim stopped struggling, he continued, "I could probably sneak past Banks and the others, but you can't. Tell me where he is and I'll go." Leaning close to Jim, he growled. "I'll go and get him back. And, I'll make them pay."

"They're about a half mile north of here," Jim informed Gibson. "Lock onto Sandburg's voice. It'll lead you straight to them."

"What if I zone?"

"Once you hear the pain in his voice, the anger will keep you from zoning," Jim replied. "Trust me, I know. Now focus and tune into Sandburg!"

Taking a deep breath, Gibson extended his hearing, searching for Blair. "I've got him," he yelled. Then, face hardening, he growled, "You're right. He's in pain."

"Just follow the sound," Jim repeated. "Follow it right to Sandburg."

Opening the car door, Gibson stated, "I will."

"And Gibson?"

Pausing with one foot outside the car, Gibson asked, "What, Ellison?"

"Just make sure that you bring him back here," Jim warned.

"I will," Gibson promised. "After all this is where he belongs, isn't it? I know that now, Jim. He belongs here with you."

Nodding, Jim replied, "And I belong with him."

Without responding, Gibson exited the car and crept past Simon and the Tacoma officers. Tracking the sound of Blair's continued moans; Gibson began growling softly. Anger quickening his steps, he raced towards Blair's location.

 

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

 

Inside the cabin, unaware of the approaching men, Alex and Christina stood next to the bed and stared down at Blair. Hearing Blair moan, Christina remarked, "Well, he can still talk."

Laughing, Alex replied, "Yes, you did show amazing restraint. I'm proud of you, Sis. That is some very good work."

"Hey, you didn't do so bad yourself, ya know." Smiling at Alex, Christina suddenly stated, "I'm starving. What have we got to eat around here, anyway?"

"Well why don't you go find out for yourself," Alex suggested. "I'm going to go to the bathroom and clean up some." Glancing down at her clothes, she asked, "Do you think this blood will come out of my blouse?"

"I don't know," Christina answered. "Usually I don't wear any clothes when I play with someone, so I've never had to worry about it before."

"Smart move," Alex observed. "What about Blair here? Think we should tie him up or something?"

"Nah," Christina replied. "He's not going anywhere now."

"Whatever you say," Alex stated as she walked into the bathroom.

Tracing a finger down Blair's bloodied chest, Christina said, "Be right back, Pet." Then she turned and walked over to the small kitchen area.

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Standing outside the cabin door, Gibson bristled when he heard the exchange between Alex and Christina. Continuing to listen, he waited until both Alex and Christina's attention was diverted before reaching for the slightly ajar door. Slowly pushing it open the rest of the way, Gibson crept up behind Christina. Reaching out, he grabbed a hold of her and, before she could even make a sound, he snapped her neck. With a feeling of extreme satisfaction, he dropped the body to the floor.

Turing around, intent on getting Alex, he started towards the bathroom but was unable to continue when he got near the bed. Looking down at Blair, his heart ached at the sight that greeted him. Reaching down, he gently brushed matted curls off of Blair's sweaty forehead.

"Blair," he whispered. "Can you hear me, Ace? It's me, Jon. I'm here. Everything's okay now."

Jerking back when he heard a voice say, "Isn't that just so sweet," Gibson turned to glare at the woman leaning against the wall, observing the interaction between Blair and himself.

"Alex, I presume."

"You seem to have me at a disadvantage," Alex stated. "You know me, but I don't know you."

"I'm a friend of Blair's and that's all you need to know," Gibson replied. "Well now that I think about it, there is probably one more thing you should know about me."

"Really?" Alex responded. "And what would that be?"

"I'm the guy that's going to kill you," Gibson informed her. "I'm also the guy that just got done snapping your sister's neck."

Eyes peering around Gibson, Alex let out a snarl when she saw Christina's body lying on the floor. "You son of a bitch! I'll kill you!" Screaming, she rushed towards Gibson, only to be brought up short by the sound of a gunshot. Staring down in disbelief, she saw the bloody hole in her chest. Looking up, she stared at her killed. "You!" She hissed before falling to the floor.

Standing in the doorway, Megan stared at the Alex's body for several seconds before lowering her gun. "I've been wanting to do that for a long time," she stated. Holstering her gun, she turned to look at Gibson. Seeing Blair, she exclaimed, "Sandy!" When Megan rushed forward to the bed, several officers, including Simon and Smith, walked into the cabin.

"Connor," Simon yelled, "What the hell…" Trailing off as he spotted Blair, Simon whispered. "My God."

Beside him, Smith yelled, "We need a medic in here! Now!"

 

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

 

Several hours later, Jim was sitting by Blair's bedside. Tightening his grip on Blair's hand, he said, "We've been doing this too much lately, Chief. I don't know about you, but I think it might be time for us to make a few changes."

Leaning back slightly when he heard movement out in the hallway, Jim turned to face the door as it opened.

"Hey, Jim," Simon greeted as he walked into the room. "Any change yet?"

"None," Jim answered. "He's still unconscious."

Pulling over a chair, Simon sat down beside Jim. "What does the doctor say?"

"She thinks it's nothing to worry about," Jim replied. "With all of the pain meds, not to mention the shock, she says it's to be expected."

"What about his injuries?"

"Some of the cuts were pretty deep," Jim explained, "and he lost a lot of blood. But overall, the doc says that he was pretty lucky. If you call having your chest carved up lucky, that is."

"Since he's likely to be out for awhile, why don't you let me take you home," Simon suggested. "You could rest and get cleaned up some."

"I'm not leaving," Jim stated, his tone leaving no room for argument.

"I didn't really think that you would," Simon replied. "Do you mind some company?"

"No," Jim answered. After several second of quiet, he asked, "So what's going on with Gibson and Connor?"

"The Tacoma DA isn't going to pursue any charges," Simon informed Jim. "The killings were both ruled justifiable. They were both pretty shaken though so I told them to go get some rest. They're going to come by here later to check on Sandburg." Looking at Jim, Simon asked, "What's up with those two anyway? Watching them, they kind of reminded me of… Oh, shit."

"That's right, Simon," Jim confirmed. "I think Gibson found himself a guide. If Connor agrees to it, that is."

"Well from what I saw," Simon said, "I don't think he'd have to try very hard to convince her." Clearing his throat, he added, "There's something else I need to talk to you about."

"What?"

"Boone," Simon answered. "He's dead."

"Shit," Jim cursed.

"Yeah," Simon replied, "I know what you mean."

"What about the Feds?" Jim asked. "The case?"

"Seems they're going to let it go," Simon stated. "All of the bad guys are dead, so there is nobody left to prosecute anyway. Besides, I don't think they wanted the media to get a hold of the story. Can you imagine the press? I mean, a criminal managing to not only join the FBI but gets assigned to a case in which he is the one who's actually committing the killings? They'd have a field day with it."

"So the Feds want to just cover the whole thing up," Jim sarcastically remarked.

"I hate to agree with them, Jim," Simon said, "but all things considered, don't you think that would be the best thing for everyone involved?"

Sighing, Jim agreed, "I guess so." Stretching, Jim asked, "What else did you want to talk to me about, Simon?"

"How did you…" Simon began. "On second thought, never mind. I don't want to know." Hesitantly, he said, "It's just… I mean, your… I don't know what to…"

"Spit it out, Simon."

"Your sight," Simon finally said. "It's not back and…"

"You were wanting to know if I think it's going to come back," Jim finished. "Right?"

"Yeah," Simon replied.

"I don't know what to tell you, Simon," Jim said. "I'm still blind and I don't know when, or if, that will change. Right now, I just need to focus on Sandburg. I've got to be there for him. Help him get through everything that's happened. All of this, everything with his friends' being killed and that Alan guy, everything with Alex and her sister, it's going to take time for him to process it all. Before we can make any decisions about the future, we have to deal with all of that first."

"You don't sound like you plan on coming back to the PD," Simon stated, "even if your sight does return."

"I don't know yet, Simon," Jim answered. "Right now, all we can do is take it one day at a time. Sandburg and I both have a lot of healing to do, physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. We've given everything of ourselves to protect and defend this city, our tribe, but now it's time for us to focus on ourselves. Now that Gibson's here, we've got someone we can entrust the tribe's safety with."

"You make it sound like you're… I don't know… passing on the torch or something," Simon stated.

"For a little while, at least," Jim replied.

"So your trust this Gibson guy?"

"Yeah, I do," Jim insisted.

"I don't know what to say, Jim."

"Just promise to watch out for Gibson and Connor like you have for Sandburg and me," Jim replied. "Help them keep our territory safe until we return."

"I will," Simon vowed. "I will."

"I know you will," Jim stated as he scooted forward and laid his head down on Blair's bed. "I know you will, Simon."

Resting a hand on Jim's back, Simon said, "Rest now, my friend. I'll be here to stand guard over both of you."

Nodding his head, Jim closed his eyes.

 

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

 

Opening his eyes, Jim found himself in a familiar forest setting. Scanning the area, he finally spotted the wolf and panther as they walked out from the bushes. Side by side, the two animals approached the human. Coming to a halt, they both sat; appearing to be waiting for something, they both stared on in amusement as Jim began to pace.

"Well, are you just going to sit there?" Jim asked the animals. "C'mon, guys, how about letting me in on what's going on, huh?"

When the wolf merely lowered himself all the way to the ground and the panther proceeded to lick the wolf's ear, Jim yelled, "Fine, be that way. It's not like I expected anything else. These damn visions…"

Before Jim could finish, his attention was drawn to some rustling in the bushes. As he continued to stare, the white tiger slowly approached the clearing. Stopping, it turned and let out a soft roar before continuing over to the wolf and panther.

Watching the wolf and panther greet the tiger, Jim didn't notice the other new arrival that had been following the giant cat. Hearing a yip, he turned and saw a red fox come bounding over to join the other animals. Somehow instinctively knowing that he was seeing Megan Connor's spirit guide, Jim continued to watch as the animals all greeted one another.

Almost as soon as it began, the greeting was finished; the tiger and fox backing away as the panther and wolf got to their feet once again. Moving aside, the panther allowed the tiger to pass by him, seeming to cede his territory to the other feline. After the tiger and fox had disappeared, the panther and wolf began to walk off in a different direction. Stopping, they turned to look at Jim again. With a final roar, the panther turned and ran off with the wolf following closely behind him.

Awaking with a jerk, Jim sat up. Smiling as he heard Simon talking with Megan and Gibson out in the hallway, he reached out a hand and gently laid it on Blair's arm. "I don't know where we'll go from here, Chief," Jim whispered. "But wherever it may be, we'll go there together."

 

The End

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