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."

 

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