A Fine Line

By: Debbie

EMAIL: Debbie

RATING: PG-17 ( for some situations which are not normal and some words used.)

SUMMARY: Are things really as they seem?

 

The beginning of the story came to me and then the rest just sort of formed in my mind and I was able to write it all down. Please read to the end and don't assume what you read until you finish.

Thank you: A big thank you goes to Lyn for the wonderful (and quick) beta on my story. I appreciate all of your help, Lyn. Any subsequent mistakes are mine.

 

Detectives Henri Brown and Brian Rafe were assigned the graveyard shift of the stakeout. They arrived about a half an hour before their shift began. They were relieving two detectives from Robbery. The Major Crime detectives had been involved in the surveillance. In fact, the entire Cascade Police Department had become involved with the investigation of the serial killer who took delight in torturing the victims before killing them. Major Crime, specifically Detective Jim Ellison, had been assigned the case. So far, there had been four murders. All the victims had been grabbed from the mall, either near closing or after hours. But the bodies had been left throughout the city. Jim wanted to find the killer and put him out of business, as did the rest of the police department.

Brown and Rafe did a circuit around the mall parking lot and the neighborhood within a mile radius. When they came back to the mall parking lot, they saw a vehicle parked there. Brown and Rafe looked at each other and parked their car next to it.

"It looks like..." Brian looked over at his partner.

"I know. I'm going to check to see if anyone is inside. You call in the plate number."

"Right." Rafe got on the radio while Brown got out of the car and walked over to the green Volvo. There was no one in the car, but Henri saw the backpack on the passenger seat. It sure looked like Blair's. He went back to his vehicle and Rafe.

"The registration comes back to Blair. It's his."

"I know. His backpack is on the passenger seat."

"We have to notify Jim."

"And Simon. It wasn't here when we made the sweep at 1:30 AM."

"I know, H. You're the senior detective - you want to notify Jim?"

"Sure, Bri. Give me the easy job. Maybe Blair got a ride from Jim because his car broke down."

"They would have let us know, right? Let's hope so. Otherwise..."

Henri got out his cell phone and called the loft. He let the phone ring, until it kicked over to the answering machine. Henri disconnected the call. He then called Jim's cell phone also, getting no answer. He turned back to Brian.

"There's no answer."

"Call Captain Banks."

"Okay, okay. Don't push me." Henri made another call, calling Simon Banks at home. This time, the phone was answered after the fourth ring.

"Banks!" Simon didn't sound happy at all.

"Captain, it's Brown. Rafe and I are here at the mall and there's an abandoned car here. Um...I don't know how to tell you this, sir. It's Sandburg's car."

"Sandburg? What is he doing running around at this time of night? Is there any indication that he's around somewhere?"

"None, sir. We had our last circuit at around 1:30 AM. It takes about half an hour tops to run through the area. It wasn't there at 1:30 AM."

"Did you contact Ellison?"

"I tried, sir. There was no answer and it kicked over to the answering machine. I didn't leave a message. I thought maybe Jim had come and picked Blair up."

"Get CSU there right away and go over every inch of that lot. I want anything that seems relevant."

"Yes, sir. What about Jim?"

"I'll make a stop by the loft and see if he's there. If they're both there. I'll let you know."

"Yes, sir. We'll be expecting you."

Brown disconnected the call and turned to Rafe. "We call CSU, treat this as a crime scene and make sure everything relevant is bagged and tagged. Captain Banks is going by the loft to see if Jim or Blair or both of them are there. He'll let us know."

"If someone grabbed Blair, it would have to have been someone who was following him, who he probably knew, since there doesn't look like there was any sign of struggle or a fight. This doesn't look good at all, H."

"I know, Bri. But we'll find out the answers."

"But Blair's body could be dumped anywhere in the city over the next couple of days. And Jim's not going to be happy at all."

"I know it doesn't look good. But Jim will help us find the answers."

Both men were hoping the words were true.

~~~~~~~~

The pounding on the door woke Jim and he was momentarily confused. He sat up and then got out of bed, grabbing his robe and putting it on as he made his way downstairs to the main room of the loft. He noticed the doors to Blair's bedroom were closed and he was somewhat surprised Blair hadn't been roused by the pounding on the door.

There was another round of pounding before Jim made it over to the door and he realized Simon was on the other side. Jim jerked open the door after unlocking it.

"To what do I owe the pleasure, sir?" The irritation was clear in his voice.

"What took you so long, Jim?"

"Well, I was sleeping. Is that okay with you? What are you doing here?"

Simon noted the short, succinct sentences. He needed to ask the relevant question.

"Where's Sandburg?"

"Sandburg? He's in his room, asleep. Like I was, up until a few minutes ago. What's going on, Simon?" A note of confusion had been added to Jim's voice.

"Are you sure he's in his room?"

"Well, I don't chain him to his bed, but he usually doesn't sleep walk at night. And I can usually pick up his movements if he starts to roam around. The doors to his room are closed. I'm assuming he's asleep."

"Can you check, Jim? Did you hear the phone ringing earlier?"

"The phone? No. I heard no phone. I'll check, but I'm not waking Blair out of a sound sleep. He was up late the last couple of nights finishing up a paper he's going to submit to a magazine. He says it'll bring him fame and fortune."

Jim had walked over to the doors leading to Blair's bedroom. He quietly opened one of the doors, peering inside. He frowned. Blair wasn't in the bed. Jim looked around the room, but there was no indication of Blair. He turned back to face Simon.

"He's not there. I don't understand. Who was calling earlier? Blair?"

"No, it was Brown. He and Rafe are on the graveyard shift of the surveillance and they discovered a vehicle in the mall parking lot when they made their rounds." Simon paused, wondering how Jim would take the rest of the news. He looked directly at Jim. "It's Blair's Volvo, Jim. He wasn't in the vehicle and Brown said it wasn't there on their earlier circuit and it only takes about thirty minutes to go through the area. I've instructed them to call CSU and have the whole area gone through."

"I've got to go there, Simon. If it's Blair, then..." Jim seemed to lose his train of thought. He looked back at Blair's room, and then back at Simon. "He was home at 7:00 this evening. Neither one of us went out. He went to bed around 11:00; I went to bed a short time after that. I would have known if he'd left."

"Go get dressed, Jim. We'll both go to the mall parking lot and you can check things out."

"Yeah. Oh, God, Simon! What if Blair is the next victim?"

"Jim? You know I'll have to take you off this case if Blair comes up..." Simon couldn't say the word. He couldn't imagine it could happen to Blair. He watched as Jim slowly made his way upstairs to his bedroom to get dressed. Simon took that opportunity to call Henri on his cell phone to let him know Jim had been home, but Blair was missing and Jim didn't have any idea where he could be.

~~~~~~~~

Jim turned from Simon and walked over to the steps leading up to his bedroom. All kinds of thoughts were running through his mind as he slowly walked up. He reached his bedroom, looking around. He couldn't concentrate. The shock of it all was just beginning to hit home. This was Blair and this was Jim's worst nightmare.

Jim came downstairs about ten minutes later, dressed in blue jeans and a dark blue cable knit sweater. He grabbed his badge and gun from the drawer in the kitchen and turned to face Simon.

"Let's go and see if there are some clues to find whoever this bastard is!"

~~~~~~~~

Blair's awareness was slow. He tried to move, but he was bound tightly. He tried to yell out, but the gag in his mouth prevented that. His head hurt, but he remembered exactly what had happened. There had been the phone call -- a friend of Blair's was in trouble and needed a ride. When Blair heard where, he said he'd be right there. He was somewhat surprised he had been able to get out of the loft without Jim hearing him moving around. He left the loft and went to help his friend. But when he had arrived at the mall parking lot, there was no one there. Except a few minutes later, when Jim's truck pulled up beside his car. Blair got out of his car, walking over to Jim's truck, to ask Jim what he was doing there. Jim opened the driver's door, got out and subdued Blair within minutes. Blair was so taken by surprise that he had no opportunity to do anything in defense of the move.

Jim got Blair into the passenger side of the truck and Blair had lost consciousness from whatever Jim had injected him with. As he lost consciousness, Blair realized Jim had made the phone call and had lured him to the mall parking lot. But that was as far as Blair had gotten before losing consciousness.

Now, Blair was awake and he tried to fill in the rest of the blanks. Maybe Jim was just trying to teach him a lesson. But Blair hadn't taken to spending nights, cruising the mall parking lot. Blair hadn't known any of the victims of the serial killer. Serial killer. A sick feeling formed in the pit of Blair's stomach. And he remembered a couple of days ago when he had surprised Jim by coming up on him when he was cleaning down in the basement of the apartment building. Jim had somehow not realized Blair was there, and had been real secretive about what he was doing. Blair remembered seeing buckets and cleaner and a mop.

A distinct smell all of a sudden came to Blair's nose. A smell of disinfectant and soap. Blair couldn't see anything of where he was and he realized there was a blindfold over his eyes. Could he be...?

No, it couldn't be! Why would Jim...? And why would Jim kill him? No, it just couldn't be!

Blair refused to believe Jim was a serial killer and that he was the next victim. It was just an odd assortment of coincidences. But Blair couldn't reconcile the fact that Jim had followed him to the mall parking lot and had subdued him without a word. Blair was racking his brain, trying to remember where Jim had been for the other four killings. They had been together at the loft. All of the other killings. Blair had remembered going to where the bodies had been dumped. Blair had no hard evidence Jim was the killer. It went totally against everything Jim Ellison was. Maybe it had been Jim's evil twin, who had taken over the loft and had followed Blair to the mall parking lot? Blair was getting a headache from all the thoughts in his mind. And he didn't want to believe any of them were true. He would know soon, though, if Jim came back to kill him.

~~~~~~~~

Jim stalked around the parking lot like a caged animal, reminding Simon Banks of the panther Blair had mentioned several times as being Jim's spirit animal. Not that Simon understood the whole concept of spirit animals and the more mystical side of the Sentinel/Guide connection when Blair explained things, but Blair always seemed to try to make him understand. Simon really liked the younger man and hoped nothing had happened to him.

Jim had avoided going near Blair's car. He hadn't even gone near it when Simon had pulled up to the scene. Brown and Rafe had already taped off most of the lot and Simon and Jim had gone under the tape when they arrived. The CSU technicians had already arrived and were diligently going through the parking lot, using spotlights to illuminate the area so they could see better.

Simon and everyone else kept their distance from Jim as he stalked around the lot, looking at different things. There didn't seem to be anything obvious there and nothing unusual about Blair's car. It was still unlocked, as though Blair had left the car for some reason.

The CSU technicians were dusting the car for prints and looking for anything useful.

Jim finally walked over to Brown and Rafe and asked them about the exact time-frame, from when they had done their check to the time they returned to the parking lot. Henri gave Jim the report, noticing Brian was just a little intimidated by Jim's almost growl when he demanded the information. Henri knew how upset Brian was that Blair was possibly the next victim and that they hadn't been able to do anything to prevent it.

When Jim kept on and on about what Brown and Rafe had seen and what they had been doing, Simon finally came over to step in.

"Back away, Jim. They've told you all they know. They went by the book and the way we've had this stakeout set up for weeks now."

"We should have altered the timing! The killer probably has been watching us, timing us. Getting our routine down pat! And Sandburg is paying the price because of it!" Jim had finally snapped and

Simon was on the receiving end of his fury.

"Jim! Settle down! We all feel sorry that Sandburg was the one who was taken! Are you sure you didn't hear him leave the loft?" Simon tried to keep his voice level, all the while standing in front of Jim, keeping Jim focused on him.

"I told you, Simon! He didn't leave the loft! I would have heard it! He makes so much noise that I have to wear ear plugs to block it out!" Sudden realization dawned on Jim's face when it connected to what he had said. He deflated, covering his face with his hands. "Oh, God, Simon! I blocked it out! He left and I didn't know it!"

"Jim? It's okay. We'll get a lead and we'll find him."

"Before his dead body is dumped somewhere in the city?"

Simon could only shake his head. "Jim, I'm going to have to pull you off of this case." Simon was surprised when there was no outburst from Jim. He looked over at Jim. "You understand, right?"

Jim looked up at Simon. Jim only nodded his head, as he stood there, staring at Blair's car.

"Okay, I'm going to have one of the officers take you home, Jim. Get some rest and take the day off. I'll notify you if anything comes up." Simon was expecting a fight from Jim.

But Jim only nodded his head yes. "Sure, Simon. I'm sorry I lost it." He turned to Henri and Brian. "I'm sorry, guys. It's just that it's Blair and..." It sounded as if Jim was going to lose it.

Brian spoke up first. "We understand, Jim. We'll push the lab and the technicians for results. There's got to be a break in one of the cases soon."

Jim turned and followed a couple of officers to a marked radio car beyond the perimeter of the crime scene and got into the back seat. He looked back one last time at Blair's car as they drove away from the scene. Then he focused his sight forward as they drove through Cascade.

~~~~~~~~

Jim thanked the two uniformed officers again when they dropped him off in front of the apartment building. He walked inside the building, but instead of going upstairs to the third floor, he took the stairs down to the basement. He hadn't meant to do it, but Blair had seen him and Jim was afraid Blair would turn him in to the police.

Jim had no intention of killing Blair. At least, he hoped he didn't have to. The other four were necessary. The voices inside his head were telling him to do it. He had tried to ignore the voices, but they were persistent and made him kill. Jim had wanted to tell Blair about the voices, but he was afraid Blair would think him crazy and have him locked away. After all, Blair had Power of Attorney over Jim's well-being if he thought Jim was crazy. But Jim couldn't be locked up. That would be his death. His senses would reel out of control and he really would go crazy.

Jim had come up with the idea to let Blair know about the voices. Jim had confidence in Blair. Blair could keep the voices at bay, could keep them quiet. Jim was sure of that. He just had to convince Blair of that. He had to make sure Blair didn't turn him into the police or have him committed. Jim was thinking they could go off together somewhere, just the two of them. Blair would help Jim. Jim was sure of that. Just because the voices told Jim to grab Blair to silence him, Jim was hoping to go against them this one time.

Jim unlocked the small room in the corner of the basement there. He was the only one with the key. He suspected Blair had seen the room when he had surprised Jim a couple of days ago, when Jim had been cleaning up after the last murder. Jim knew how Blair was going to look to him now. Blair would probably just want to run away, given the opportunity. Jim wouldn't give him the opportunity. At least not yet.

Jim flipped on the small light by the door, which gave enough illumination where he could see Blair still on the floor where Jim had placed him earlier that evening. Jim walked over to stand beside the bound form. Jim knelt down and ran his hand over Blair's cheek, covered partially by the blindfold. He already knew Blair was awake, at least aware, by the change in his breathing. Jim wouldn't remove any of the bindings just yet. He needed to talk to Blair and to have his undivided attention.

"Hey, Chief. It's me. I'm sorry about this. But I need your help. I think I'm going crazy. As you probably have guessed, I'm the serial killer. But it's not me. Well, it is me, but it's not." Jim paused, took a deep breath and settled down on the floor beside Blair's bound figure. "See, there are voices in my mind, telling me to do this. I didn't want to listen to them, I tried not to listen to them, but they were overpowering and I couldn't refuse. I thought about telling you about it when I first heard them, to see if you could help me with a dial to turn down the voices, but I thought you would think I'm crazy. It looks like that's the consensus anyway. Then you spotted me down in the basement a couple of days ago and I thought I'd been found out. I was sure you saw the room, but you never questioned me about it. Apparently the voices thought you a threat and they had me grab you. I want to fight the voices and not let them make me kill you." Jim reached out a shaky hand and placed it on Blair's arm. He could feel the small shudders running through Blair's body. He knew how scared Blair must be. Blair jerked slightly.

 

"A Sentinel can't kill his Guide. There's a genetic makeup saying that, right, Chief? Please let it be. I don't want to kill you. I want you to help me. You can help me fight the voices. I can't undo the bindings just yet. I'm going to give it couple more days." Jim moved around on the floor, getting more comfortable. He coughed from disturbing the dust there. "I'll make sure you have food and water, but I'm not going to release you. If I don't kill you, then maybe you'll believe me and help me. Just think about it, Blair. I don't want you to turn me into the police, or lock me away in a mental institution. I think you can stop the voices. I don't hear them right now. I know you're at least aware right now. I won't give you any more drugs, either. I don't have you bound too tight, so there's no risk of permanent injury. Get some rest, Chief. That's what Simon told me when he had the uniformed officers bring me back to the loft. He had me go to the crime scene. Unfortunately, as with the other crime scenes, there won't be anything for the CSU techs to find. It might just be best if I turn myself in and admit I'm crazy. But I know, deep down in your heart and soul, you don't want to see that happen to me. We'll talk, Blair."

Jim patted Blair's cheek again and felt Blair move fractionally closer. Jim got to his feet before Blair could move very much and left the small room, turning off the light before he left, locking the door after he closed it. He hated leaving Blair in the small room, tied up, blindfolded and gagged, knowing how Blair hated to be restricted. There was nothing else Jim could do right now. He couldn't trust Blair enough right now to allow him to be free. Jim took the stairs up to the third floor, putting Blair out of his mind, at least for the time being. Jim was tired and he needed sleep.

~~~~~~~~

Blair had known immediately it was Jim who touched him. And then he heard Jim's plea. He felt the rest of Jim's touches. Blair wanted to do nothing more than tell Jim, yes, he'd help him. He also understood Jim's dilemma and his worry about being arrested or even worse, being locked away in a mental institution. Blair would never do that to Jim. He agreed with Jim that he could help him. It was a fundamental duty of a Guide, to help his Sentinel no matter what he needed. And if that meant helping him to hide his killing spree, then Blair was willing to help Jim do just that. Blair could hear the desperation in Jim's voice and could just imagine what those voices in his mind had been telling Jim to do. Blair wanted to believe Jim when he said he wouldn't kill Blair, that it was in Jim's genetic makeup as a Sentinel that he couldn't kill his Guide. And Blair was Jim's Guide. Blair never wished for that to be truer than right now. He would help Jim banish the voices and they would make a life somewhere other than Cascade. When Jim brought him food and water and removed the gag from his mouth, Blair would tell Jim he would help him elude the police, stay out of the loony bin and help banish the voices in his head.

Blair tried once more to release the ropes holding his arms and legs, but even though Jim had said they weren't tight, they were sturdy and held him firm. Blair allowed the tears to fall from his eyes, glad they hadn't fallen when Jim was there. He didn't want to appear weak to Jim, and risk having him kill him, just because of that. Blair wondered if there would be any way for him to get away if Jim undid the ropes holding him. Jim was bigger and stronger than he was. It would have to be a quick movement on Blair's part. And even then, Blair wasn't assured of success. For a big man, Jim was very agile and moved quickly. It was a result of his Army Ranger training, which Blair couldn't match at all. Blair just wanted an advantage before he decided exactly what to do for Jim. But that advantage probably wouldn't come.

~~~~~~~~

Jim's sleep was short and not fulfilling at all. He woke with a start, and heard the distinct sound of the voice in his head. It was telling him to dispose of Sandburg, dump his body at Rainier and get it over with now. Jim shook his head no and got out of his bed, running down the stairs from his bedroom and into the bathroom below. He looked at his face in the mirror there, surprised at the gaunt man looking back at him. Jim closed his eyes and opened them slowly, still looking in the mirror.

Jim spoke out loud. "I can't kill him. He's my Guide. He can help me hide the bodies. He can explain my behavior."

Jim kept repeating the same thing over and over, until the voice in his head was drowned out by his voice and quieted. At least for the moment. Jim left the bathroom and walked over to the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and got out a bottle of water. He opened the cabinet and got out the box of wheat crackers Blair loved and decided that would be Blair's meal. Just like a prisoner. Which Sandburg was, for now. Jim knew he had to be extra careful when he gave Blair the water and crackers. He knew the young man would try to get loose, even though Jim was sure Blair would help him. It was just the nature of captives to try to get loose and regain their freedom. And Blair would be no different than any other captive. Jim debated about giving Blair more of the sedative, to keep him unaware, but Jim didn't like doing that to his best friend. And Blair was still his best friend, despite what had happened.

Jim left the loft and took the water and crackers down to the small room in the basement. Jim unlocked the door, but didn't turn on the light this time. With his heightened sight, he didn't need the light and he decided Blair didn't need it either. As he walked inside, he decided how to make sure Blair didn't get away. Jim got behind Blair, sat down, and pulled Blair up to sit between his legs. Jim could feel Blair tense up as soon as he pulled him back against his chest.

"Just calm down, Chief. Now, I'm going to remove the blindfold and the gag. But I don't want you to yell out. If you yell out, I'll snap your neck. Okay?"

For emphasis, Jim put his hands around Blair's throat, squeezing ever so slightly. Blair quickly nodded his head yes. Jim could hear as Blair's heart started beating frantically to the implied threat. Jim patted Blair on the cheek again as he removed the blindfold.

"It's okay, Chief. We understand each other just fine. Now, I'm going to pull out the gag."

Jim pulled out the gag and true to form, Blair didn't yell out. Jim removed the cap from the bottle of water.

"Here you go, Blair. It's okay. No drugs." Jim held the opening of the bottle to Blair's mouth and Blair opened his mouth. Jim poured some of the water into Blair's mouth. "There. Does that help?"

Since Blair was still drinking, he nodded his head yes again. Jim pulled the bottle away.

"That's enough for now. We don't want you having an accident. I brought some of your favorite crackers too."

Jim opened the box of crackers and fed several to Blair until Blair indicated for him to stop. Jim gave him a few more swallows of water and then put both the crackers and the water aside.

"Did you think about what I was telling you?" At Blair's nod, Jim continued. "You can speak, Blair. Just don't yell out."

"I want to help you, Jim." Blair's voice cracked and his throat felt dry. "But you can't leave me here, tied up and gagged."

"I have to, Blair. I can't risk what you might do. I want to trust you, but it's hard for me to."

"If you release my bonds, I can help you get away. We're going to have to leave Cascade. We can't stay here and risk you getting caught. If you don't let me help you, someone else will catch you and either put you in prison or a mental hospital or shoot you. And I can't have you die, man! You were right! I can help you! But not like this! You've got to release me, Jim!" Blair had rattled off his explanation, wanting to get it all in. He was desperate for Jim to understand.

Jim picked up the gag and placed it back in Blair's mouth, not missing the increased heart rate again.

"I can't, Blair. Not right now. Maybe in a day or so. Get some more rest, Blair. I'll be back later."

Jim finished securing the gag and replaced the blindfold over Blair's face. Jim could hear the muffled cries as Blair tried to make him reconsider. But Jim couldn't. Not right now. Jim moved out from behind Blair and gently laid him down on the hard, cold concrete floor.

"You've got a slight fever, Blair. The cool floor will help. I'll be back later."

Jim got to his feet, picking up the water bottle and the box of crackers. He walked over to the door, turning back once, to see Blair moving around on the floor, trying to get loose. It was too soon. He couldn't trust Blair just yet. He said all of the right words. But Jim knew Blair often did that, just to throw a person off. And Jim wasn't going to be taken. Because if Blair tricked Jim, then Jim would have to kill him. No matter if Blair WAS the Guide to the Sentinel.

Jim left the small room, making sure it was locked when he closed the door. There was always the chance Blair could get loose from the ropes. But Jim wanted to make sure Blair stayed in the room. Jim returned to the loft, putting the partial bottle of water back in the refrigerator and the crackers back up in the cabinet. Jim went into the living room, sitting down on the couch there.

He was thinking about what Blair had said about leaving. It was true. They would have to leave. And Blair would have to drive. Jim had to concentrate on keeping the voices at bay. But if it happened in Cascade, it would happen wherever they went. He'd start to kill again. There was no guarantee Blair could halt the voices. And there was no guarantee he wouldn't kill Blair also. That was the worst thing. He really didn't want to kill Blair. But now there was no turning back after what he had done. Jim eventually fell asleep on the couch.

~~~~~~~~

Captain Simon Banks was not a happy camper. There were no leads to the latest missing person, the supposed fifth victim of the serial killer that had been terrorizing Cascade for the past month. And the fact that the missing person/victim was Blair Sandburg, full-time professor at Rainier University and a consultant to the Cascade Police Department, which sometimes turned into full-time also, didn't help matters any. Everyone with the Cascade Police Department, especially the detectives with Major Crime, were more determined than ever to find out who the killer was and to eliminate him without a trial, if he had killed Blair already. The really bad news, though, that Simon had just found out that morning the case was being taken from Major Crime and transferred to Homicide, because of Major Crime's close affiliation with Blair. When Simon had told Brown and Rafe, they had to be physically restrained from going and ringing the Chief's neck.

Simon looked out from his office to see Detective Jim Ellison walking through the doors into the Major Crime bullpen. Simon's day had just gone from bad to worse, as he would have to explain to Jim about the case being taken from their hands. Simon walked out of his office and went over to Jim's desk, where Jim was standing, staring at a picture on the desk. Simon‚€™s eyes followed Jim's gaze and he had to smile. Jim was staring at the picture there of Jim and Blair, taken at Rainier when Blair had graduated, receiving his doctorate from the university. Jim had acted like a proud father, showing off Blair to anyone and everyone. Simon remembered Blair had endured all of the attention, happy that Jim was happy, grateful he had gotten to that day.

All of a sudden, Jim looked up and over at Simon standing beside him.

"We lost the case." It was said so matter-of-factly and casual.

"Yeah, Jim. I just got word and explained it to Brown and Rafe. But I've arranged to get all of the reports from CSU and Forensics."

"They won't show anything." Jim's voice sounded deceivingly calm and controlled. Simon glanced over in Jim's direction again.

"Every killer, no matter how smart and how careful, makes mistakes. This person will too." Simon turned to face Jim, moving closer to him. "By the way, what are you doing here?"

"Unless I'm mistaken, I still work here. Right?" Jim's gaze seemed to pierce right through Simon, and his voice had a slight edge.

Simon didn't back down. "Of course, Jim. But I thought I told you to get some rest?"

"I got rest. I need to keep working. Or else, I'll be out on the streets, looking for my partner."

Simon understood Jim's tone all too well. "Okay, Jim. You can keep working. But go home after your shift is over."

"No problems, Simon."

~~~~~~~~

Blair continued to try to remove the ropes on his arms and legs. He felt more aware and awake. The drug had dissipated from his system. He knew a fair amount of time must have passed since he had been injected. From his time spent in hospital, Blair knew sedatives used usually took at least eighteen to twenty-four hours to clear out of his system. And Jim had been true to his word -- he hadn't given Blair any more drugs.

Thinking of Jim, Blair remembered the detective had been there earlier. He wasn't sure how much time had passed since he had been abducted, kept unaware and blindfolded. Jim had known just what to do. Jim had given him water and crackers. Like the prisoner he was. Blair tried to remember how many times Jim had been there to feed and water him. But Blair's mind was still jumbled with all the thoughts running through it. He was still trying to come to grips with the fact that Jim was the serial killer. This was hard enough without Jim also playing mind games with him also.

Jim had mentioned something about going into the station and seeing how the investigation was going. Blair knew Jim would leave nothing behind as far as evidence. Blair was sure Jim wanted to be stopped, but not by the cops. He wanted Blair to help him.

Blair couldn't get loose. He didn't think he could, but he had to try. He knew Jim would expect it. Hell, he expected it of himself. Jim had fed and watered him and then had replaced the gag and the blindfold and left him alone on the hard, cold, concrete floor. Who even knew there was a room in the basement? Blair noticed the smell of soap and disinfectant wasn't as strong, so it had been some passage of time.

Blair didn't like feeling so disjointed and out of touch with his surroundings. Adding to the fact that Jim was the one responsible for his situation, Blair marveled at the fact he wasn't hyperventilating and in full panic mode. Blair knew he had to stay as calm as possible. Dealings with other psychos and killers in the past had taught him to remain calm and keep his head. Not that Blair wanted to place Jim in the same category as David Lash, Dawson Quinn and Alex Barnes, but... if the shoe fit...

Alex, maybe. Alex had heightened senses also and had gone off the deep end. Maybe there was a correlation between Alex and Jim and it had taken Jim longer to snap. Blair shook his head and tried to banish the thoughts. Jim wasn't crazy. Blair didn't want to believe that at all. He refused to believe it. There had been no inkling, no indication that anything had been off with Jim, that there were warning signs to indicate this was coming. Jim Ellison wasn't crazy. Blair kept repeating the same sentence over and over to himself. His mantra to keep himself sane, along with Jim.

~~~~~~~~

Jim looked at his watch. He needed to leave the station for a while. He'd use the pretense of going to lunch. He could always grab a couple of crackers out of Blair's stash. Blair didn't seem to have much of an appetite lately. Jim let a sinister chuckle escape and then quickly looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Everyone else in the bullpen was busy with their own work. Jim shut down his computer and got to his feet. He walked over to Simon's closed office door, knocked, opened the door and stuck his head inside.

"I'm going to lunch, Simon." Jim started to back out.

"Wait, Jim!" Jim turned back to face Simon. Simon got to his feet, moving from behind his desk. "Why don't I go with you?"

"Um... sorry, sir. I've got some things I have to take care of. I need to run by Rainier and explain about Blair's abduction. In the flurry of things happening, I forgot to call them. I thought I'd just run by there. I'm pretty friendly with most of the professors. They'll want to know from me and I want to do it in person."

"Okay, Jim. I'll see you later." Simon just stood in front of his desk, looking at Jim, marveling at the fact that Jim was so calm, so in control of himself and the situation. There hadn't been any helpful clues to indicate who had abducted Sandburg or how long until his body was found. Simon didn't understand how Jim could remain so detached.

"Bye, Simon. Later." Jim pulled the door closed as he left. A feral grin spread across his face as he slipped out of the bullpen unnoticed by anyone else and made a quick detour to the stairs in order to not encounter anyone.

'You must eliminate him! Now! He will only cause trouble!'

Jim shook his head as he tried to ignore the persistent voice in the back of his mind. But it was constant and ever present as Jim made his way down to the garage and towards his truck. He climbed into the driver's side and looked in the rear view mirror at the man he had become. Maybe it would be easier to kill Sandburg and then turn himself in. He could get help for his condition, get therapy, get counseling, and be able to take something to quiet the voices. Or maybe kill Sandburg and then kill himself. Follow his Guide into death. Jim shook his head again and looked away from his reflection.

He started the truck and drove to the loft. It was time for Blair's next feeding and watering. Jim let another sinister chuckle escape. It was as if Blair was nothing more than a pet.

"Yeah, my pet Guide. Feed and water him, and bend him to my will."

Jim laughed out loud, maneuvering the truck down Prospect.

He pulled into the lot behind and got out of the truck, walking purposefully towards the building. He got inside, unnoticed, and made his way to the basement. He had stocked the small room the night before with water and crackers so he wouldn't have to keep making trips up and down the stairs from the loft to the basement. Jim found the key to the room on his key chain and unlocked the door, looking around to make sure he was alone. He slipped inside the room, closing the door behind him.

He noticed Blair had moved around somewhat since that morning. But he was still bound securely. Jim grabbed the water and the cracker box and then did what he had been doing for a while now; he sat down on the floor, pulling Blair up and against his chest, in between his legs. And as before, Blair stiffened up, his heartbeat started pounding and his pulse, racing. Jim patted Blair on the cheek before removing the blindfold and pulling out the gag.

"It's just me, Chief. Lunch time."

"FUCK YOU, ELLISON!! LET ME OUT OF THESE RESTRAINTS!!" The words were yelled as loud as Blair could, as he tried to wrestle out of Jim's hold on him.

Blair had forgotten the agreement. And he had lost his calm and his head. He had reached his limit.

All of a sudden, Jim's hands were around Blair's neck, adding just enough pressure to make it uncomfortable.

"I thought I could trust you." The voice was deceptively calm. The hands tightened ever so slightly, the fingers digging in around Blair's windpipe and Adam's apple.

"You know what I can do." Jim didn't let up on the pressure, getting a perverse joy out of hearing and feeling Blair's panic increase fractionally as the time passed. The feral grin had spread across Jim's face again, this time more pronounced. Jim bent his head to whisper into Blair's left ear.

"The voice was telling me to end it all now. That you were nothing but trouble." A sinister chuckle escaped Jim's mouth.

Blair couldn't control the shudder that convulsed his body. Jim's close proximity and his warm breath in Blair's ear was enough to send Blair over the edge. The pressure around his neck increased even more, if that was possible. And Blair suffered elimination, both of his bowels and his bladder at the same time. Adding to that, a small choked cry somehow escaped. Tears flowed freely down Blair's cheeks as all pretense of dignity and honor was gone. He could almost welcome death now. Just to end the humiliation and suffering.

Jim loosened his hold then and reached over to wipe away Blair's tears.

"Just... stop, Blair croaked, nowhere near his normal voice, somewhere between a cry and a whimper. Blair sniffled and suddenly a handkerchief was there, covering his nose, accompanied with a gentle command of, "Blow", which Blair did. That only served to increase his flow of tears.

"Why?" Still a croak, Blair couldn't find his courage or his voice.

Jim took the handkerchief and wiped Blair's nose again after another sniffle.

"I need your absolute trust and word, Chief."

"I told you I would help..."

"Then you break the rules and make me hurt you, humiliate you. I thought a Guide would trust a Sentinel."

"I'm not some robot, Jim. Programmed to automatically..." Blair stopped suddenly, closing his eyes. He was doing it again. His voice was rising. Jim would choke the life out of him.

"It's okay, Blair. I'm not going to kill you. I don't want to kill you." It was as if Jim was reading his mind now.

Jim picked up the water bottle and gave Blair a drink. "We don't want you to dehydrate. And I'm going to have to clean you up."

"I can..."

Jim cut Blair off. "You could, but it's not an option. I can do it. I've done it in the past, in the Army. As a medic. Some guys couldn't do anything for themselves. I'm used to helping others."

 

Blair thought this all had to be a nightmare. It couldn't possibly be real. But then Jim flipped him over onto his stomach, flat on the cold concrete floor and started to remove his clothes. It was a position that gave Jim the greatest leverage and control. Blair could only lie there and submit to what Jim was doing and try to control his tears. But they seemed to have a mind of their own as they ran down his cheeks.

Soon, Jim had stripped him and had rebound his arms and legs and had replaced the gag in Blair's mouth. Blair hadn't even realized the ropes had been removed. Jim had done it all without Blair's knowledge. Jim patted him on the bare back.

"You just stay here. I'll run up to the loft, get a change of clothes for you and get you cleaned up."

Blair listened as Jim left the small room, locking the door behind him. Blair didn't think his humiliation could be any greater, but it was. Now he was naked on the floor, shivering from not only the humiliation, but from the cold in the room, as the tears continued to roll down his cheeks. If there were a way out of here, Blair would turn Jim in to the police. And the mental institution. Jim deserved to be humiliated too after what he had done to Blair.

Soon, Jim was back in the room, cleaning up Blair and his mess. He was gentle and considerate and dressed Blair in his warmest pair of sweats and his thickest socks. Blair was lulled into a sense of complacency up until the time Jim replaced the rope bindings, the gag, and the blindfold over Blair's eyes. He was snapped quickly back to reality.

"I've got to go back to work. I had to fib to Simon, telling him I was held up by one of the anthropology professors at Rainier." Jim chuckled again. "I guess it wasn't really a fib."

Jim got to his feet, turning Blair onto his back. He put Blair's soiled clothes in the bag he had brought down from the loft and put his own soiled clothes inside also. He had to change clothes after Blair's elimination too. Jim put the bag in the far corner of the room. He'd do the laundry after he came home that night. He placed the water and the crackers back in the cabinet there, over the counter on the same side of the room. He hadn't given Blair any of the crackers, but there were more pressing matters to attend to. Jim paused by Blair, focusing his senses on the younger man. Blair had calmed down considerably and his breathing indicated he was probably about ready to drift to sleep. Jim silently left the small room, locking the door behind him. He had called Simon earlier, explaining he had been held up by an anthropology professor. It was true. It wasn't a fib at all.

When Jim returned to the station, there were some more reports from the investigation. It was just as Jim suspected - nothing showing up. He helped Rafe and Brown track down the meager leads that had come into the station. But the bulk of the investigation was being handled by Homicide. And Jim was reminded once more that he had to turn over all his files and investigation over to Homicide. All files and all shreds of leads and evidence. Jim made a stink about having to give up *his* investigation. But in the end, he did give up everything he had on the four murders and the little they had been able to determine on Blair's abduction so far.

~~~~~~~~

Blair jerked awake and tried to move. Again. But it seemed that Jim had bound him just a little tighter than before his *accident*. God, he was really embarrassed about what had happened. He had lost control of his body totally. He tried the restraints again. He was just too weak. The tears leaked out again from behind the blindfold.

'I can help Jim. He's got to know I just wouldn't throw him to the police or into a mental hospital. I'm his friend and that's what I've got to get through to him when he comes back. I've got to keep calm.'

Blair tried shifting on the cold concrete floor but got nowhere. He wanted to get loose, get out of the small room and knock some sense into his best friend. It was inconceivable to him that Jim could be the one responsible for the four brutal killings they had investigated over the past couple of weeks.

Blair had to establish alibis for Jim. He had to have documented proof that Jim Ellison was in no way responsible for four cold-blooded killings.

Even as Blair was wracking his brain, trying to remember dates and places they were, the reality of his situation pushed itself to the forefront of his thought processes. He was the fifth victim. No matter how much he tried to deny it or wish it away. His utmost worry and priority was to convince Jim not to kill him. It was all he had to focus on. Waiting for the next time Jim would come and *tend* to him. God, he felt like some pet or an animal in a cage in a zoo. Put on display for Jim's amusement.

Blair shook himself from his thoughts. He had to remember Jim needed him to help him banish the voices. He just needed Jim to release him from the bindings, the gag and the blindfold so he could help. Jim had to trust him to do the right thing. He had promised Jim he would help. Jim just had to take him at his word.

Blair shivered from the cold, even though he had sweats on. He was afraid of catching pneumonia and then laughed at such a thought.

'Jim will kill you before you have a chance to catch pneumonia, silly.'

Blair tried to think of something encouraging, but there was nothing encouraging about this situation. More tears started to fall as Blair thought about all the things he was going to miss -- the university, his students, the other professors, the police department, the Major Crime detectives, Captain Banks, other officers at the police department, his mother, his friends, his relatives, the beach, the parks, the loft. Jim.

Blair tried to yell through the gag. But Jim had made sure it was sufficient for the job. All Blair could hear was a faint muffle. No one would ever hear him. And he knew from experience, he couldn't yell out when Jim removed the gag. It brought immediate punishment, which Jim reveled in. And took delight in.

Blair had exhausted himself. His last thought as he was drifting off was that he was thoroughly screwed.

~~~~~~~

Captain Simon Banks stepped off the elevator. He was surprised to see Jim Ellison sitting in a chair outside one of the Intensive Care Unit rooms. Jim was staring at the floor.

 Simon had come to the hospital to check up on Blair. It had been three days since the warehouse explosion and Simon had been concerned that Blair was still unconscious.

Jim had also been injured in the warehouse explosion, although theydidn't require that he stay in the hospital. Simon had told Jim to go home and get some rest. Jim had started to defy him until Simon pulled rank and told Jim he couldn't sit at the hospital 24/7. Now, apparently, Jim had returned to the hospital. Simon walked over to stand in front of Jim.

"I thought I told you to get some rest, Jim."

Jim raised his head slightly to look at Simon. Simon noticed the look of worry and the tiredness on Jim's face.

"Th-they called m-me. He suffered several seizures. He's still unconscious. They don't know‚€¶ if‚€¶ when‚€¶ he'll come to. I had to come." Jim covered his face with his hands.

Simon could see Jim's shoulders shaking ever so slightly. He placed his hand on Jim's shoulder in support. "I'm sorry, Jim. I thought his doctor said Blair was holding his own?"

"He did. Blair was. They've done x-Rays and scans, trying to find out what happened." Jim uncovered his face, looking at Simon again. "It's my fault. I should have known‚€¶ "

"Stop that, Ellison! You couldn't have known! And I know you didn't plant those explosives. You can't carry all of the guilt whenever Sandburg gets hurt."

Jim slowly got to his feet, mindful of his injuries, and started to pace back and forth. Simon noticed Jim's limp seemed more pronounced. He moved to stand in front of Jim and placed his hand on Jim's chest. Jim stopped his pacing.

"Sit down, Jim. You don't need to be pacing." Simon was able to lead Jim back to his chair and sat him down.

"What if --"

"Don't, Jim. Sandburg is a fighter. He'll make a full recovery." Simon didn't want to believe anything else.

"I hope you're right, Simon." Jim wanted to believe it also.

"Why don't you go home, Jim? Your doctor told you to rest."

"I've got to stay here, Simon. It's Blair. I can go back in. My ten minute allotment. They sometimes let me stay longer. To talk to him."

"I'll stay with you."

Jim looked up at Simon incredulously. "You don't have to, Simon. You should be at the station. You're short-handed."

"You let me worry about that, Jim. After all, I'm the captain. I have to be here anyway. Sandburg would never forgive me if I allowed you to run yourself ragged after getting injured. And he will be on my case."

Jim actually chuckled as he got to his feet. "I'll tell him to give you a break."

Simon watched as Jim walked into Blair's Intensive Care room. Simon walked over to the window and looked through at Jim standing by Blair's bedside. At least the young man wasn't on a respirator.

Simon remembered getting the phone call three nights before relating the information about the explosion on a supposed *safe* stakeout with his best detective team. Simon had rushed to the hospital with more questions than answers.

Once at the hospital, Simon found out Blair was unconscious, had broken his left ankle, left wrist and several ribs, suffered cuts and bruises and a hard knock to his head, which apparently had caused his unconsciousness. The doctors were running tests and scans to determine why he was still unconscious. Jim, on the other hand, was awake and aware, and very concerned about his partner's unresponsiveness so far. Jim had broken his left arm, had wrenched his right knee and ankle and had various cuts and bruises but had not required a stay in the hospital. His doctor had prescribed rest and as little movement as possible.

Jim explained some nonsense about not being able to *sense* the explosion. Simon didn't buy it for one minute. He wasn't going to have Jim take responsibility for something that was in no way, shape or form, his fault. Jim, on the other hand, was more than willing to take responsibility, reiterated that it was his fault and he had an obligation to his partner. Jim, of course, wanted to wait until Blair was placed in a room at the hospital, but Simon was going to have none of that. He pulled rank and took Jim to the loft to rest. Up until this point in time.

Simon watched Jim as he came out of Blair's room after his ten minute visitation. The pain lines were evident on his face and he slumped down in the chair beside the one where Simon was sitting, outside the room. Jim stared out in front of him and finally spoke to Simon.

"I told him to hang in there."

"Let me go in and see him and then I'll get you home, Jim. You can come back tomorrow."

Jim only nodded as Simon got to his feet and walked into Blair's room. Simon neared the bed and was taken aback at how still and silent Blair appeared. Simon reached out and patted Blair on the shoulder.

"You scared at least ten years off both Jim and I, kid. You can't do this to Jim. He needs you. And as usual, he's blaming himself for what happened. You've got to come to and set him straight, Sandburg. And he's not taking care of himself since you've been injured. He needs to rest and regain his strength, so he'll be better able to help you when you need it. Take Jim's advice, Blair. Hang in there."

Simon came out and got Jim to his feet without a fight and followed him back to the loft. He left specific instructions for Jim that, if he got the rest he was supposed to, that he could come back to work ‚€Ę desk duty only - in a couple of days. Jim promised to get the rest he needed.

~~~~~~~~

Blair tried yet again to free himself. If anything, Jim had stepped up the humiliation. Blair figured it was only a matter of time before he'd be killed.

Jim no longer talked to him about helping to banish the voices. He no longer spoke of Sentinels and Guides and the two of them going off together. He no longer said a word about his friend and buddy, Blair Sandburg.

Blair had gone mute, too scared and paralyzed to say a word, and put into motion the final act. Blair was terrified Jim would squeeze the life out of him, without a thought of their history of their friendship. When Jim came, Blair didn't even try to free himself from the hold Jim had on him. He was a broken man.

Blair felt the sob in his throat, unable to come out past the gag in his mouth. There were no more tears, dried up long ago. Blair almost welcomed the end, just to have a finale to stop the anticipation. Maybe he'd get the courage the next time Jim came to the small room in the basement. He could beg and plead and push Jim to do the final act.

~~~~~~~~

Jim had been back on desk duty for two days. It was really boring, but he was getting caught up on his reports, along with everyone else in the department. Now he knew how Blair felt when he was overloaded with everyone's reports. And Jim vowed not to do it to the young man again. If he ever returned to the station.

Jim's phone rang and he picked it up. It was the hospital, telling him Blair was getting close to coming to. Jim thanked the nurse for calling and then went to tell Simon. He asked for permission to go to the hospital.

"Sure, Jim. Tell Sandburg I'll stop by later when he's feeling up to visitors."

"I will, Simon. I hope it's really true and he comes to. It's been a week and I'm really starting to worry. The doctors say the swelling has gone down and there haven't been any more seizures since three nights ago. They had been talking about neurological problems -- speech, hearing, eyesight, cognitive reasoning, memory... There's a whole list of things that could be wrong. I'm hoping there's nothing wrong‚€¶ but no one will know until he wakes up."

"Just go, Jim. Let me know the prognosis."

"Thanks, Simon."

Jim went to the hospital and spoke to the nurses in Intensive Care. There had been very brief periods of awareness from Blair over the last couple of hours. Jim asked if he could stay in Blair's room continuously and the nurses gave him permission. Jim thanked them and walked into the room. The curtains on the windows had been pulled closed and the light was muted in the room. Jim understood why it had been done. Blair had suffered head trauma and since then, several seizures. It was a scientific fact that head trauma and seizure patients suffered sensory problems due to overload of stimuli. Jim knew that only because Blair had mentioned it. It was odd to know Blair could possibly be suffering from stimuli overload. All the more reason for Jim to be there to help.

Jim pulled the chair over by the bed. He sat down by Blair's right side and placed his hand on Blair's arm.

"Hey, Chief. I'm here again. The nurses tell me you're about ready to come to. It's about time. You've been resting for a week. Simon's even concerned about you. And you know it's serious if Simon's concerned about you."

Jim kept up his running monologue, hoping Blair heard him and responded. He was sure he could get through to Blair.

After some time, there was a slight movement in the bed and Jim noticed Blair's eyelids moving, and his fingers twitching slightly. It was only a matter of time.

"That's it, Blair. I knew you could do it. Now, are you going to open your eyes for me? C'mon, Blair. You can do it."

Blair awoke to a different reality. He was on a soft bed, no longer bound, gagged or blindfolded. His groggy mind couldn't quite grasp the differences. But then, it came to him. Jim had come to his senses, so to speak, and had agreed to let him loose. Blair tried to open his eyes, but it was a nearly impossible feat. He kept trying, though. He had to find out what was going on. He heard a soft voice nearby, encouraging him. Finally, he was able to open his eyes just a little. He couldn't see anything with the darkness in the room, but after a few minutes, he *sensed* movement near the bed.

Soon, an unmistakable touch was on his cheek. At the touch, Blair's eyes flew wide open as he tried to see the man touching him. Blair wanted to scream out, but remembered the last time he went against Jim's wishes. The touch came again. He had to get away. Now! Now was his chance - he was no longer bound, gagged or blindfolded. He could get away. Blair moved in the bed, anxious to get as far away from Jim Ellison as he could. But he was finding it hard to move around. The touch moved to his shoulders to hold him in place. He fought it off as much as he could.

"Blair! Calm down! Take it easy! You've got to quit moving around. You'll open up the stitches and cause yourself more pain. Just relax."

Blair couldn't comprehend what Jim was going on about. He just knew that he had to get away from him. It had been a mistake for Jim to allow Blair freedom again. Now Blair could tell others about Jim.

"Leave me alone, Ellison! You don't have control over me anymore. I'm going to let everyone know that you are the one responsible." Blair was able to grab the call button and press it to get the nurse into his room.

"Can I help you, Mr. Ellison?"

"Actually, it's Mr. Sandburg. Can you come in here?"

"Of course, Mr. Sandburg. It's good to hear that you are awake. I'll contact your doctor."

"Thank you. And can you get security to remove Mr. Ellison from my hospital room?"

Jim looked at Blair like he was crazy. "Chief, what are you doing?"

"I don't want you anywhere near me, Jim. I know the whole sordid tale. You admitted to me that you were responsible for the other four murders." Blair scooted just a little bit further away from Jim.

"What! I don't know what's been going on in your head, Sandburg, but I would suggest we get a psych consult for you. Murders? Me? I hate to be the one to break this to you, buddy, but you've been unconscious for the past week. Ever since that explosion at the warehouse where we were on stakeout." Jim looked directly at Blair, hoping the reality would get through to his friend. His hopes were dashed when he saw the blank look on Blair's face.

"Explosion? Warehouse? What in the world are you talking about, Jim? Don't try to change the subject. You kept me bound, gagged and blindfolded in the basement of the apartment building. I don't know how long it was, but I'm glad to see you've come to your senses." Blair paused, looking over at Jim momentarily, before looking away again. His hands fidgeted around on the bed. "I think we should talk to Simon and let him take you into custody. We can plead temporary insanity. Since you told me about the voices, I can help set up your defense. I won't let you go away by yourself. I'll be able to get access to you. You won't spiral out of control. I promise you." Blair stopped talking, as the nurse walked in and came over to the bed.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Sandburg? Dr. Mason will be in later to do a full examination. He'll want to run a CAT scan and a MRI to make sure the swelling has completely gone down and there are no aftereffects of the trauma you suffered. Are you in any pain?" She was recording the readings from the various machines and monitors surrounding the bed.

"No, I don't have any pain. Why am I hooked up to all of this equipment? I didn't suffer any trauma, unless it was by Jim Ellison's hand. Jim's the one who should be hooked up to machines and monitoring equipment. Can I use a telephone? I've got to make an important phone call."

"Just take it easy, Mr. Sandburg. You've just come to from a week long period of unconsciousness. Do you remember what happened to you?"

"Yeah, Jim Ellison kidnapped me and was in the process of killing me. He's suffering from auditory hallucinations, telling him to kill. He wants me to help him. He really doesn't want to kill me. He's ignoring the voices because I'm his best friend." Blair looked from the nurse to Jim and back again. The meaningful looks on their faces told the story. He tried to get out of the bed, but was hampered by leads and the IV line. He pulled out the IV line and pulled off the leads. He swung his legs off the side of the bed, intent on getting up, not sure he could make it to the door and out to freedom. He had to try, though.

Jim noticed that Blair was still caught up in whatever illusion he had created while unconscious. He wasn't going to believe them. He tried to hold onto Blair after he had pulled out the IV line and pulled off the leads, but it was hard to do one-armed. The fool was going to hurt himself. Blair tried to pull out of the hold.

"Stay put, Sandburg! I'm not going to hurt you! I haven't hurt you. I didn't kidnap you and I didn't hold you against your will. And I would NEVER, EVER, EVER kill you." Jim kept his hold on Blair, trying to get through to him. He looked Blair straight in the eye, hoping his sincerity and the truth of his words penetrated Blair's false perception of the world as he saw it.

"And I would never lie to you." The last sentence was whispered as Jim's face was inches from Blair's face and they were staring at each other.

Blair shuddered and started to shake uncontrollably. He was wracked with shakes, and sobs soon began. He allowed Jim to hold him tighter.

Jim looked over at the nurse and nodded his head. She understood and left the room, leaving the two men alone, sensing they needed the time alone.

 

"Ji - im? Wh-what hap-pened?" Blair's tears were flowing freely now. He couldn't seem to stop them from falling. He couldn't control anything right now. It was okay, though, because Jim was with him. Not the Jim who was the cold-blooded killer, but the Jim who was his friend, who was always there when he needed a friend, when he needed a foundation.

Jim increased his hold on Blair; grateful Blair had come to his senses and acknowledged reality. He patted Blair's back. "It's okay, Blair. You just confused reality there for a while. I never knew you had such a vivid imagination. You'll have to give me the whole story once you get released from here."

"I don't remember -- an explosion, Jim." There was a raw edge to Blair's voice.

"It's okay, Blair. You were shook up pretty bad. We were trailing those gun runners and we got a tip they were going to be at the warehouse. It was determined later it was a set-up. I should have known and taken better precautions." Jim paused, looking away from Blair. He couldn't look back at his friend, knowing he was the real cause of Blair's hurt and pain. "We separated once inside the warehouse and the explosives were masked from my ability to sense them. We basically didn't know what hit us."

Blair tentatively reached up his right hand and gently turned Jim's head back to face him. It felt so real. In the back of his mind, Blair was wondering if *this* was real. Maybe the true reality would manifest itself again. Blair shook his head, as if trying to clear it of cobwebs and fuzzy thinking. He saw the smile coming across Jim's face. Blair frowned.

"...believe me?" There was concern on Jim's face now. "Blair?"

"I-I want t-to." Blair reached up and wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand. More threatened to fall. He remembered the tears he cried as he lay on the cold, damp floor of the back room in the basement of the apartment building. He remembered Jim's hands around his neck, the pressure increasing incrementally, cutting off his oxygen. The look on Jim's face as he took perverse delight in torturing his *supposed* friend.

Blair shook his head again, not sure what the true reality was. He pushed away from Jim and Jim let him go, noting the increase in Blair's heart rate and the momentary look of panic on Blair's face.

"You okay, Blair?" Jim's concern sounded genuine.

"I'm not sure. Can you call Simon? I need to talk to him." Blair tried not to sound accusatory. He was able to stand up from the bed, using the bed as his support.

"Okay, Blair. If it will help you."

"I think it will, Jim. Can you?" Blair was practically pleading.

Jim backed away and nodded his head. He walked over to the phone and called Simon at the station. Blair could hear Jim's end of the conversation.

"Yeah, Simon? Blair came to and he wanted me to call you and ask if you would stop by to see him. He wants to talk to you." Jim looked over at Blair as he was listening to Simon. "Yes, sir. Well, he doesn't really remember the explosion." Jim nodded his head, looking away from Blair. "No, Simon. He really wants to talk to you. I think it would be best if you would stop by and talk with him. He needs to be reassured right now." Jim glanced in Blair's direction again and smiled. "Okay, Simon. I'll tell him. Yes, Simon. He knows that. Okay. See you soon. Bye."

Jim hung up the phone and walked back over to stand by the bed. "Simon said he'll be by shortly. He wanted me to tell you he doesn't do this just for anyone."

Blair sat back down on the edge of the bed. His left arm was wrapped around his midsection and Jim could clearly see the pain lines on Blair's face. His burst of exertion had nearly done him in.

"Why don't I have the nurse reattach that IV line and give you a pain shot?" Jim tried not to sound too demanding.

Blair was looking at the floor and nodded his head minutely. He still wasn't sure what HIS reality was. He didn't look up as Jim left the room to get the nurse back inside. He started mumbling to himself, "Jim Ellison isn't crazy." He repeated it over and over.

Jim heard the mumbling as soon as he walked back into the hospital room. He couldn't make out the words at first, but then he inched up his hearing several notches in order to decipher what Blair was saying. What he heard caused him pause. Blair was mumbling the same sentence over and over, "Jim Ellison isn't crazy."

"Damn, Chief. What is going on in that brain of yours? Is this an after-effect of the trauma you suffered? Some kind of memory loss or alternate universe you've conjured up?"

Jim kept his distance from Blair and the bed while the nurse helped to get Blair situated back into the hospital bed and got the IV reattached and the pain shot administered. Blair didn't interrupt his mantra and basically ignored the ministrations of the nurse. Shepaid no attention to Blair's ramblings but did pause by Jim before she left the room.

"I've contacted the doctor to let him know Mr. Sandburg is awake and aware, although he appears to be suffering from some residual after-effect of either the head trauma or the seizures."

"He seems to have fantasized a whole other scenario than what actually happened to him. I tried to make him see, but he thinks I traumatized him in his scenario, so he's not going to listen to a thing I tell him. I'm hoping Captain Banks will have a better shot at getting through to him."

"It may be a permanent condition, Mr. Ellison."

"I hope not."

The nurse left the room and Jim remained, keeping an eye on Blair, hoping the true reality clicked in for Blair. Blair kept looking at the far wall, not looking over at Jim, not even realizing Jim was back in the room. He just knew that he was free now and he would get Jim the help he needed. Simon would help them. Jim said Simon was on his way. Blair started to feel tired and closed his eyes, feeling safe enough to do so.

~~~~~~~~

Simon sat at his desk after the phone call from Jim. It sounded bad, according to what Jim had said. Blair didn't remember the explosion, but Jim didn't say what exactly Blair did remember. Jim had said Blair needed reassurance. And that Blair wanted to talk to him. He had asked for Simon specifically. Well, if the kid wanted to talk to him, Simon would go. He had always said he was available to any of his men. And even though Blair wasn't an official member of Major Crime, he was still for all intents and purposes, Jim's partner, thus he was a member of the unit. Had been for several years now. And even though Simon would never admit it to anyone, least of all Jim or Blair, Simon considered Blair like another son. He felt a parental urge towards the young man.

Simon got to his feet and left his office. He'd go to the hospital and talk to Blair. Help him however he was able to. Simon had heardthe hurt in Jim's voice when he announced Blair wanted to talk to Simon. Simon was sure Jim had tried to help Blair. The two men were friends. They helped each other all of the time.

Simon reached the hospital and went up to Intensive Care. He was told that Jim was inside Blair's room and that there had been a *confrontation*, whatever that meant. Simon walked into the room and saw Jim by the door, his back up against the wall there, looking over at Blair, who lay in the hospital bed, apparently asleep. Simon stopped by Jim first.

"Jim?"

"He came to. He immediately pulled away from me as soon as I touched him. I told him to calm down and he accused me of kidnapping him,having him bound, gagged and blindfolded in the basement of the apartment building and that I was a murderer. That I confessed to him. He went on that I was suffering from auditory hallucinations and then he started mumbling that, and I quote, 'Jim Ellison isn't crazy'. He was given a pain shot and wore himself out."

"Damn! The kid has an active imagination, doesn't he?"

"Or else it's his reality, Simon. I don't want to say this, but he may be the one who's crazy. But he believes everything that he told me. He wasn't lying to me, Simon. I'd know it if he were lying. He was dead serious about the whole thing. That's what concerns me the most."

"I'll see what I can do, Jim. Why don't you wait outside, and don't listen in, okay?"

"Simon, I can't do that! I'm worried about Blair here! I'm not going to abandon him!"

"Jim, he wanted to talk to me. Give him the privacy to tell me whatever he wants to tell me. You know I won't hurt him."

Jim looked at Simon and saw the sincerity in his eyes. Jim nodded his head.

"Okay, Simon. I'll be just outside. And I won't listen in."

Simon patted Jim on the shoulder. "It'll be fine, Jim."

Jim looked once more over at Blair, a sad smile come crossing his face. He then turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.

Simon walked over to the hospital bed and looked down at the peaceful figure lightly dozing there. He gently shook Blair's shoulder and two sleepy blue eyes opened to look up at him.

"Hey -- Si-mon." It was sort of croaked out of Blair's mouth. Simon reached over and grabbed the water cup and held it while Blair took a drink. "Thanks, sir. For coming, too."

Simon put the cup down on the table there. "No thanks necessary. Jim told me you wanted to talk to me. Is everything okay?"

Blair looked down at the blanket and fiddled with the edge, smoothing it out and picking at a thread. "I'm -- ah, not sure, sir. Do you have any suspects in the four mall killings?" Blair looked up at Simon with the last line.

"Mall killings, Sandburg? I don't know what you're talking about, son. There haven't been any killings for over a month." Simon kept Blair's attention.

"Abducted at the mall, killed and dumped throughout the city. The first one was a male, in his thirties, the second a female in her twenties, the third another male in his twenties and the fourth was a female who was only eighteen years old. Her name was Julie Monroe and she was a freshman at Rainier." Blair looked pleadingly towards Simon, hoping it was true.

"I'm sorry, Blair. I would know about four murders. The whole department would know about four murders."

"Jim is the murderer. He abducted me, subdued me, and kept me prisoner in the basement of the apartment building. It's where he killed the others. He confessed to me, Simon! He said he heard voices telling him to kill. He wanted me to help him, thinking with our Sentinel/Guide connection, I could help banish the voices and stop him from killing. But he was going to kill me!"

"Blair, think about what you're saying! Jim wouldn't harm a hair on your head! He's your friend. And he would never kill anyone. He's a police officer and one of the most moral and righteous men I know. You know deep in your heart that Jim would never do this. You've been unconscious for a week since a warehouse explosion you and Jim were caught up in on a routine stakeout on an illegal gun running operation." Simon paused in order to gauge Blair's reaction to what he was saying. Blair had looked away and had closed his eyes.

"Are you okay, Blair?" Simon let his concern show.

Blair opened his eyes again. "It's the same as Jim told me. Am I crazy, Simon?" Blair pleaded with the older man.

Simon wanted to laugh, but knew it was no laughing matter. Blair was dead serious in his question. Simon did let a smile come across his face, though.

"No, you're not crazy, Blair. Maybe a little mixed up. You just need a little solid proof."

"How do we find that?"

"I have all the reports from the warehouse and the explosives used. Joel even went there and did some of the preliminary investigation because it was you and Jim involved. I can even get the paramedic crew and the fire department detachment that responded to the warehouse explosion to come and talk to you."

Blair looked at Simon incredulously. "You'd do that for me?" He sounded doubtful.

"Of course I would, Blair. Don't sound so surprised. If Jim would have thought about it a little bit, he would have come up with the same thing."

"He tried to tell me he would never hurt me, never kidnap me, never hold me against my will. I wanted SO much to believe him." Blair's tears had made a reappearance, and he turned away from Simon, studying the blanket once again.

Simon patted Blair on the shoulder. "I'm going to go and get that proof I talked about. You want me to send Jim back in?"

Blair only nodded his head, not saying a word. His hair cascaded down, obscuring his face. He made no move to push it out of the way.

"It will be okay, Blair."

Simon turned to leave the room. As he reached the door, Blair's soft "Thank you" came to his ears. Simon was smiling as he walked out of the hospital room. He spotted Jim down the hall, looking out the windows to the unusually sunny day in Cascade. Simon walked down the hall and Jim turned to face him about halfway. Simon closed the distance between them.

"I did as you asked, Simon. How did it go?"

"I'm going to go get proof of the warehouse explosion, Joel's report, the report from the paramedic crew responding and the fire department detachment and the first officers on the scene. He just needs tangible evidence of what really happened."

"Why didn't I think of that, Simon?"

"Because you were thinking that, as friends, Blair would believe you, no matter what. And in any other situation, he probably would have. On this occasion, he believed you as the bad guy and had you as a serial killer. Oh, by the way, he wants you back in the room. He's still a little shook up and I think he can use his friend this time." Simon gave Jim a smile and a slight push towards Blair's room.

Jim smiled back at Simon and spoke as he walked down the hall, "You're his friend, too, Simon. Thank you. From both of us."

~~~~~~~~

Blair finished writing out the last of his memories from his 'alternate universe'. He had given both Jim and Simon a full rundown of the minute details he remembered from his story. And now, he was writing it down as yet another way to banish it from his mind. He closed the journal he had used and rose from his bed, placing the journal in the lock box he kept under his bed. Out of sight, out of mind. He glanced over at the clock on the bedside table and noticed he had to leave. He was due at the station at 11:00. He had promised both Jim and Simon he would come back.

He had questioned both men several times whether they wanted to take the chance that he'd go off the deep end again. Both Jim and Simon assured him everything would be okay. Blair had been given several brain scans and tests to measure his cognitive abilities, had talked to numerous psychiatrists and neurologists, who gave him a clean bill of health and pronounced him fit.

It was true. Once Simon had given Blair the proof of the warehouse incident and the subsequent reports and eyewitness accounts, Blair's memories of the incident had returned partially. There were still some gaps, but nothing glaring and nothing to really worry about. The doctors had pointed to his numerous concussions and hits to the head and trauma as to the reason for his *reality break*, as they were calling it. It still worried Blair to some extent, but he didn't show that to anyone else. It was just something he'd think about every once in a while, wondering if it could happen again, even more permanently.

But Blair didn't court trouble. He suspected as long as he had Jim, and Simon, and other good friends to show him the right way and the true reality, he'd be okay. He just had to make sure he always had someone else to rely on.

Blair put on his coat, grabbed his keys out of the basket and left the loft. He was needed by his friend, and this time, it was real.

The End