I couldn't resist temptation any longer. I know, a 'real' '24' crossover should consist of enough action to make you dizzy, 24 chapters and, um, smarm? What's smarm? There was one '24' villain I always wanted Blair to meet. Since no one was interested in doing a crossover here, well, I had to do it myself. Testing the waters, so to speak. If you want a better one, go write it (:

Dangerous Encounters (Crossover with '24')

By Demeter

EMAIL: Demeter

They always return to the scene of their crimes.

It was a fact Blair had learned about criminals early on in his time with Jim, and maybe, the same went for his own sins of omission. Not having acted when he should have, not having acted soon enough. When Eli Stoddard had asked him to accompany a group on an expedition to Mexico, not far from Sierra Verde, Blair couldn't say 'yes' soon enough.

Maybe because he needed some purging. Maybe he'd known that his punishment was awaiting him here.

The angry shout almost made him jump out of his skin, spinning around, his brain giving the only command it deemed sensible as he saw the man in paramilitary attire, brandishing his weapon:

//Run.//

And run, he did, an eternity of moments, off the pathway, feeling branches scratch his calves, but he didn't care. The instinct of survival was stronger. The sounds behind him told him that his pursuer was falling back, and Blair changed direction again, pumping his legs until he stumbled over a root.

Cursing, he dragged himself up again, but he was lucky not to have injured himself except for a gash on his leg. The sting was painful, but nothing more.

Not so lucky anyway because an instant later, more of them emerged from behind the trees, talking fast, angrily. Blair held up his hands to communicate he meant no danger, //do I look like I do, man?// trying to decipher their words. Then one of them raised his gun, pointing it at Blair in an unmistakable fashion. He sank to his knees, his heart starting to hammer, as he thought of Jim, and that wandering off from the group might have been a stupid mistake.

He was still out of breath from his wild dash, and the lack of air might translate into a panic attack anytime soon, if he hadn't been so mad at himself. //Who am I kidding?// This whole expedition was a big mistake.

Blair had always been a firm believer in the value of talking things through instead of simply letting them brood until they blew up in your face - and that's why he should have stayed and lured Jim out of his shell, instead of running away. It never worked, not then, and certainly not now.

The man with the gun barked something at him that he probably would have understood if it had been said slowly, and in a friendly tone. Not a chance.

He raised the weapon again and released the safety. Blair closed his eyes... seconds ticking by and... nothing happened.

"Who is this?" a voice demanded, and before Blair had opened his eyes, he could tell that this guy was in charge. There was no anger in his voice; it was level, sounded almost interested. Probably somebody even more dangerous.

Blair felt a drop of sweat snake down his spin. He hadn't really adjusted to the humid climate yet, the way he'd done it easily on other occasions. One more thing the fountain had taken from him. Oh no, it wasn't a question of when the punishment would begin. The question was, when would it ever end?

He met the man's gaze unflinchingly, wondering if his death had only been delayed, as he conferred with the other men who were obviously his subordinates. He was kind of handsome in a creepy way, not unlike Garrett Kincaid.

// Like I need *that* image right now!//

If he was shaking, Blair was sure he could chalk it up to other reasons than being scared out of his wits. For example, the exertion that had to have been a bit too much for his abused lungs.

The man smiled, and Blair thought that could not be a good sign.

His instinct could be trusted all right, because the next moment the butt of the gun came down on the back of his head, leaving blinding pain and then nothingness.

@@@

The reverse was true on his way back to consciousness. When Blair could finally take in his surroundings, a tastefully furnished bedroom, his head was still hurting like hell, the pain making his vision blur for a moment.

But he could see the man sitting in the armchair just fine.

"What did you do that for?" he demanded.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sandburg," the man answered in English, giving a congenial smile. "But you have intruded on private property."

Blair held his aching head with both hands, as he cautiously tried to sit up. Lying down didn't seem such a good idea with this guy in his face. "Sorry about that, but this is kinda extreme. Couldn't you just put up a freaking warning sign? Who are you anyway?"

"I guess you know damn well." In a second, the man was indeed in his face, literally, his eyes gleaming dangerously. "Isn't Mexico quite a bit out of your jurisdiction?"

"My -- what?" Then it dawned on Blair what he meant. //Oh, damn it.// He had forgotten to take his observer's I.D. out of his wallet. How stupid was that? He wasn't an observer anymore. He'd never be a cop, but he'd probably be killed being mistaken for one.

How much more ironic could life get?

"Don't play me for a fool." Without warning, the other man slapped him hard. "I'm a patient man. I'll find out what has brought you here, one way or another."

"I'm an anthropologist!" //Even that is not true anymore, but it's nothing to this guy.// "It's true, I have worked with the Cascade police department as an observer, but I have no idea what you're talking about! I'm here on an expedition!"

On top of the heat, and his condition which hadn't been perfect to begin with, the blood spurting from his nose made it even harder to breathe.

"Maybe I believe you. But even if I do, letting you go could be quite a hazard, wouldn't you agree?"

@@@

The strangest thing happened. Knowing psychos like he did, Blair would have counted on being downgraded from this nice bedroom to some chains in a cellar or barn, but to his utter surprise, he was given a damp towel to clean up, and then led down the stairs into a dining room.

There were already two men and one woman seated at the table, and Blair shuddered unwittingly.

//Welcome to the freak show.// Not very far now from admitting that he was *scared*, and still in the same dirty, sweaty clothes he'd worn all day, he surely fit in.

"What the hell is this supposed to mean?" //All right, Blair, you can *really* shut up now.//

"Si, Ramon," said one of the men. He had dark hair and a moustache, his expression clearly showing his disapproval. "What's he doing here?" They all spoke English at the dinner table.

Ramon grinned. "Everyone's got the right to a last meal, don't they?"

The woman regarded him curiously; Blair almost felt more uncomfortable under her feverish gaze than with the words he was just trying to ignore. He cast a quick look at the other man, blond, boyish looks; he could have been called handsome if it weren't for the obvious needle marks in his arms, and the wild eyes Blair had seen before in a student who was using. Creepy.

He'd stumbled into a nightmare, but not just his own.

"You might want to think about talking, Mr. Sandburg," Ramon told him conversationally. "There are some men under my command who really like to find new ways in order to extract information from prisoners. You don't want to get too close to them."

He and the bearded man shared a grin, and started to eat. So did the blond man and the woman.

Blair was feeling sick, but he guessed it wasn't too clever to enrage his 'host' at this point. Reluctantly, he began to eat as well.

@@@

He flinched at the sound of the door. No light was being switched on, and he thought of Jim with a mixture of longing and sadness. He hadn't even said a proper goodbye - and there was no way he'd get out of this hell anytime soon. //Alive, that is,// he thought with a mirthless laugh that turned into a sob beyond his control.

Blair had tried the locks and the window until his fingers bled, and there was absolutely no way out of here.

The door closed again, softly. Maybe some kind soul was here to finish the job, before the interrogation continued? When a hand closed over his mouth, his body almost convulsed in a panicked reaction though. Damn it, he wasn't ready.

"Shh," a voice whispered. "Be still, will you?"

Blair nodded, as much as that tight grip allowed, and an instant later he could breathe again, which promptly turned into a coughing fit.

"What do you want from me?"

"Get you out of here, back with your group," the blond man who'd been at the dinner table, said firmly. He hadn't been there during the questioning - Ramon Salazar had been, though, and he'd thoroughly enjoyed it.

"Yeah, right," Blair said disbelievingly, hissing in pain when the bed dipped, as the man sat down beside him.

"My name is Special Agent Bauer, and I'm here on an undercover assignment. And frankly, I can't use you here right now."

//Yeah... right.// There's a reason not to take drugs. It definitely made people mushy in the brain.

"You are going to get me out - how, Agent Bauer?"

"Hector and Ramon won't be here tonight. Claudia can be trusted."

What kind of game was he playing? "You sure you can manage that between two fixes?" Blair almost expected to be punched again, but Bauer seemed to look almost - embarrassed? No, that had to be his imagination. A trick the moonlight was playing on him, or maybe just that he was about to go crazy from the pain.

"Part of the deal. Just trust me. I'll come back for you in an hour."

To have a tiny bit of hope was almost as cruel as having none.

At the door, Bauer turned once more to say, "I'm sorry I couldn't prevent this."

Then he was gone. Obviously, he hadn't expected Blair to answer.

@@@

There wasn't much of an argument. Bauer shot the guard who tried to intercept them, point blank. Blair wasn't granted a moment of staring in horror at what had just happened. or at his own near-indifference, because that man had been one of the interrogators - he was dragged along the path behind the estate.

Claudia had disabled the security system. Blair hadn't been too sure about her, until he saw the look that passed between her and the agent. That was why. She was sleeping with him.

Not that he cared at all.

They had taken one of the jeeps from the estate and driven for about fifteen minutes. The rest of the way had to be made on foot. Torture. //No.// He'd never use this word lightly again. Even though he could hardly keep upright, every step away from the mad brothers' house was worth it.

"That way," Bauer pointed into the direction where there were tiny lights to be seen. "I can't go all the way with you. "

"Agent Bauer, I..." There was a lot he wanted to say. But none of that would have changed anything, for either of them, so he settled for a simple "Thank you."

Bauer just nodded at that. "From now on, you better forget you ever saw me. I guess you know that both of our lives, and Claudia's, depend on it."

Blair shivered in the cold night air. "I understand."

"Good. So go now."

@@@

"Oh my God! Blair!" His mentor jumped up from where he'd been sitting by the campfire. "It's you! I'm so glad you're alive!"

Stumbling his last few steps, Blair mumbled, "But I only was away for one day..."

Stoddard reached out to steady him. "What? It's been days since you--"

He broke off as another man emerged from one of the tents, a relieved smile on his face. Blair blinked at him, sure he had fallen asleep in that creepy house and was now dreaming. This prospect was too dreadful. He'd barely made it into the camp with his strength waning, and no, he couldn't take a single step more.

"Welcome back, Chief," Jim said, catching him easily.

Holding on as much as he could with the blackness closing in on him, it was nevertheless okay. He'd made it through that last part, stumbling, getting up again, even crawling for a part, but damn right, he'd made it. Answers could wait. Freaking *talking things through* could wait.

The pain was still there when he slipped into sleep a while later, but it was manageable when he could feel the warmth of Jim's body, spooning up carefully behind him.

The End