Connections by Lynt



Summary: FEEDBACK TO: Lyn
SentinelAngst Themefic for July 2006
SUMMARY: Someone from Jim's past brings danger to both men and Jim and Blair must establish a connection to each other in order to survive.
Submitted through the SenseXangstRevisited mailing list.
Rating: FRC - child safe half-star
Categories: General fiction
Characters: Blair Sandburg, Lt. Detective James Ellison
Genres: General
Warnings: Angst
Challenges: None
Series: None
Published: 07/13/06
Updated: 07/13/06


Connections by Lynt
Chapter 1: complete
Author's Notes:

Connections
By Lyn



Jim had being dreaming of another sentinel for several days now, but these dreams were unlike the nightmares he'd suffered when Alex had come to Cascade, not at all the terrifying visions of shooting the wolf; shooting Blair. There was none of the impending sense of doom he'd felt back then, though he still felt his primal territoriality surging. If anything, this presence seemed benevolent, protective.

He hadn't mentioned the dreams to Sandburg yet. The legacies from Alex were still burned deep into their memories and now that things were finally settling back into a comfortable routine, Jim was loathe to break the status quo. He'd have to tell Blair if it continued, Jim knew. If he had learned one lesson from Alex, it was to trust his partner.

He knew Blair had been watching him, his forehead creased into a thoughtful frown each time Jim felt his anger and impatience bubble to the surface over some slight, real or imagined.

Blair had asked what was bothering him, couching his questions innocuously enough and Jim had brushed him off with casual comments about too much work and not enough relaxation, but Jim knew Blair was puzzled... and scared. He had a right to be, Jim thought. The last time Jim had dreamed of another sentinel, Blair had died.

0~0~0~0~0

Blair knew that something was wrong. Jim had been tired and somewhat irritable for several days now. Snapping at colleagues and the general public alike, storming into the bullpen like a tornado, irate when Blair had borrowed his notebook to write down the new clerk's phone number.

Blair was worried, but Jim wasn't talking. They both needed some time off. They'd been pushed to their limits investigating a series of jewel robberies that had left two security guards dead. One had been an old friend of Jim's from his Academy days. He'd been unable to stand the stresses of the force and had opted to take an easier job. Jim had beaten himself up for days over that because he'd found the job for his friend.

Simon had promised them a long weekend once they got the case sewn up. A long weekend for Jim at least. Blair still had his teaching and studying commitments at the university to consider. Then a break in the case gave them an unexpected evening off and Blair suggested they go see a movie. Rather surprisingly, Jim agreed with alacrity.

0~0~0~0~0

Jim sighed in exasperation as the phone rang just as he was about to shut the loft door. Blair pushed past him, patting him on the shoulder as he did so. "I got it. I got it. Chill out, big guy."

"If it's another prank call...." Jim said threateningly as he leaned up against the door and waited.

"Hello? Hello?" After a pause, Blair shook his head and returned the receiver to its cradle. "Right again, Jim. You know, you could get a trace put on the phone," he said as he hurried down the stairs after his partner.

"For a couple of kids who've got nothing better to do, I don't think so, Chief." Jim held the lobby door open as Blair ducked under his arm.

"I guess you're right. I don't know, kids these days." Blair spoke in an uncanny imitation of an old man. That finally got a smile out of Jim and Blair visibly relaxed. Halfway to the car, Jim stopped, tilting his head in a gesture Blair recognized. Jim's heightened senses had picked something up. "Jim?"

The detective raised a hand in a silencing gesture and Blair took heed. "I smelled something," Jim began. "It seemed familiar." He shook his head in exasperation. "It's still there, but getting farther away." Jim looked up the street as he spoke and Blair followed his gaze.

Stepping closer to the sentinel, he placed one hand on Jim's arm, grounding him. "Try piggybacking your sight onto smell." The detective looked at him in some astonishment and Blair shrugged. "It works with sight and sound. Come on, give it a shot."

Jim nodded and focused on the elusive scent, determinedly blocking out Blair's herbal shampoo and after-shave and the tantalizing aroma from the bakery next door. Finding the odor again, Jim attempted to send his sight in the same direction, concentrating on dialing it up and going past the little grocery at the end of the street, across the road, into the mouth of the alleyway to the far end. Darkness. Too far. He registered Blair's voice faintly as he struggled to pull his vision back and refocus. Shaking himself from his fugue, he gasped and raised his hands to massage his pounding temples.

"Jim! You all right?"

Jim took a slow, deep breath and blew it out before answering. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just overdid it."

"Your control's a little shaky, man." Blair absently rubbed Jim's forearm. "We should really spend the weekend fine-tuning your piggyback skills."

"Not this weekend!"

"We haven't done anything for over a month now. No wonder you're a little rusty. I know we've both been busy but this is important," Blair continued, seemingly blithely unaware of his partner's mounting ire.

"Jesus, Sandburg, what part of no don't you understand? Is that all you ever think about? I'm having a weekend off and I'm not going to spend it in some lab doing tests," Jim ground out.

Blair stared at the detective for a moment, then began to stride up the street. He turned long enough to speak. "I got it, okay, Jim?" He slowed his pace as Jim hurried after him but did not stop until the detective reached out and grasped his arm.

"Sorry, Chief. Look, not this weekend, okay? We finally got a weekend free. With everything this case has dished out, I haven't been sleeping too well and it's the last thing I want to do. I guarantee I wouldn't be putting my best effort into it. I just want to switch off for a couple of days." He frowned. "And you've got to be feeling worse than me. How many nights this week have you stayed up late grading tests?"

"One or two." Blair grinned ruefully at Jim's frown. "All right. Every night. You're right. Sorry. We're both tired. Just don't fall asleep in the movie. I don't want to spend tomorrow telling you what it was about." Blair smiled, then looked skyward. "It's a beautiful night. Why don't we walk?"

Jim nodded and pocketed his car keys. "Sure, why not."

0~0~0~0~0

"Come on, Jim. It wasn't that bad, was it?" Blair danced along at his partner's side and looked up at the detective with a wide grin.

"I just find it real hard to follow the plot of the movie, Chief, when I have to keep looking at the sub-titles." Skirting the puddle on the pavement, Jim shook his head in exasperation as Sandburg simply splashed through it. "You make sure you take those shoes off before you come into the loft tonight."

"Yeah, yeah." Blair looked at his wet sneakers with a bemused expression and then ran to catch up with the other man. "You see, Jim, that's the beauty of the foreign movie. If it expresses enough through its visual performance, you often don't need the words to know what's going on."

"Are you telling me that you could guess what was happening just by watching those ninja guys jump around like lunatics?"

"Well, no, not exactly."

"Uh-huh."

Blair let a smile play at the edges of his mouth. "I speak a little Japanese." He ducked as Jim threw the expected cuff to his head and kept walking. The tension from their earlier argument about spending the weekend running tests on Jim's senses had dissipated now and comfortable banter returned.

Blair looked up at his partner, pleased to see the frown that had lined Jim's forehead just a few hours earlier had smoothed out. He still looked tired though, his complexion somewhat pale, dark circles framing his blue eyes. Blair doubted he looked any better. Jim was right. This should be a weekend devoted to leisure and relaxation. They had both earned it.

Jim was at the corner of Prospect now and the loft was just across the street. Blair put on a spurt of speed to catch up, then stopped and gazed at the store window he was passing. He glanced at Jim's rapidly retreating back and called to him. "Hey, Jim. Wait up a minute. There's some really nice pottery here."

Jim raised a hand in acknowledgement. "I'll see you at home."

Blair stood for a few more minutes, admiring the craft work in the window and looking for a notice proclaiming shop hours. He made a mental note to return when the shop was open.

"What the hell?"

Looking up at Jim's exclamation, Blair saw the detective pause at the edge of the sidewalk and followed his gaze up the street toward a darkened alley but could see nothing. Jim seemed frozen to the spot though and Blair hurried toward him. "Jim? What's up?"

Jim didn't answer, his stance frighteningly still, and Blair increased his pace. Reaching the silent detective, Blair instantly recognized the signs of a zone out and cursed. He didn't waste time on wondering what might have caused Jim's lapse, realizing it was more important to get the man out of the zone before curious passers-by began to take notice. Moving around in front of him, Blair tapped Jim's cheek with his gloved hand. "Jim? Come on, man you've got to come back, big guy."

0~0~0~0~0

The woman turned back to face her pursuers as she heard their footsteps echo in the alleyway. Backing up as they came closer, she held out an imploring hand. "Please," she whispered, tears coursing freely down her wrinkled cheeks. "Please let me go."

"What the hell?"

The voice carried easily to her enhanced hearing and she turned toward it. It was older now but still heartbreakingly familiar. She tried to school her surprise as one of her attackers followed her gaze, his eyes registering the tall man standing at the far end of the street.

"There's someone there," the larger man hissed as the smaller of the two stepped closer to the woman, pulling a knife from his pocket as he moved.

The small man squinted at the vague shape he could see in the distance and shrugged. "He's not going to see anything from there." His eyes narrowed at the small gasp from the woman and he turned back to her. "Now, Gracie. You shouldn't have run away like you did. We can't let you go. Who knows who you might tell or who you might have already told." He raised the knife menacingly.

Gracie backed up further until a dumpster blocked her path, one hand held tightly to her mouth as though she were afraid to speak. She shook her head, her hand now reaching to grasp desperately at the tall man's, her eyes wide and pleading. "I won't tell anyone, I promise."

Her words ended abruptly as the shorter man moved closer and in one fluid motion, drove the wicked-looking blade deep into her stomach. Gracie shuddered, her own small hand closing over the knife embedded in her body, unmindful of the cuts the sharp edge inflicted on her palm as she tried futilely to wrench the agony from within her. She moaned piteously as the knife was withdrawn, then she slid slowly to the ground.

The two men watched the woman as she took a labored breath, her eyes sliding slowly back to the man in the distance, who was still standing stock-still, his face turned toward them. The taller man shuddered. It was like the guy was looking straight through them.

"Jimmy?"

He started at the whisper that pushed from the dying woman's lips, then stared at his partner, the color draining from his face. "Shit, Mallory, you don't think..." He gestured helplessly at the now dead woman.

Mallory shook his head. "She's crazy, you know that, but I'm not taking any chances, Crawford. Get the car."

0~0~0~0~0

After several long seconds of quiet entreaties, Blair felt the slightest shudders run through Jim's body and he sighed in relief as the detective's eyes flickered momentarily. "That's it, buddy. Follow my voice. Come on back, Jim."

He heard a squeal of tires behind him and turned to stare in horror at the vehicle that sped directly at them. Without conscious thought, Blair pushed at Jim's unresponsive body, knowing even as he acted that he would be too late for both of them.

The force of the impact tossed Blair upward, the pain battering at him so forcefully he thought he would pass out just from the shock of it. He saw the ground and the sky swap places in a dizzying kaleidoscope that churned his stomach and then a second vicious collision with the hood of the car stole all coherent thought from him. His limp body rolled off the front of the car, leaving a wide smear of blood in its wake and collapsed into the gutter.

0~0~0~0~0

The pain that pushed him toward consciousness very nearly sent him spiraling back into merciful oblivion the moment he opened his eyes. A warm, gloved hand pressed down against his forehead as he attempted to push himself up. He tried to ask them to stop but only a wail of pain emerged from his dry throat. Matching actions to words, he tried to bat away the hands that increased his agony, only to find that his own hands were easily overwhelmed and held securely at his sides. A deep voice prodded at his consciousness and he welcomed the familiarity and struggled to obey its entreaties.

"Blair? Can you hear me? Open your eyes for me and talk to the doctors here, okay?"

Finally, his crusted eyelids cracked open and almost immediately slammed shut again against the assault of light and pain that threatened to crush his skull. Whimpering, he turned his face to one side and tried again. His eyes opened more fully this time to stare into chocolate brown ones that crinkled into a smile. "Thank God! Sandburg, how are you feeling? Can you tell the doctor where you hurt?"

"S'm'n?" The name came out mangled from lips that felt two sizes too big and he wasn't sure he understood himself, but the captain's face lit up at the attempt.

"Right here, Sandburg. Right here."

Blair panicked as Simon's face disappeared from view to be replaced by that of a woman, her eyes obscured by large goggles, a blue scrub cap sitting awry atop dark brown curls. "It's all right," she soothed. "Your friend's going to be right here. I just need to take a look at you now. Can you tell me your name and what happened to you?"

Blair felt himself become buried under the onslaught of stimulation and struggled to answer. He knew his name but the second question had quickly evaded his memory and he was confused now as to what his answer should be. The doctor leaned closer to him and placed her hand on his forehead, stroking gently. "What's your name?"

He felt an overwhelming relief that she seemed to understand his plight and some of his initial fear confusion abated. "Blair. Blair Sandburg," he said around a lump in his throat. He felt a hand pat his own rhythmically somewhere out of his field of vision and he concentrated on the touch, allowing it to ground and soothe him all at once.

"That's good," the doctor replied. "Do you know what happened to you?"

The answer hit him with such terrifying force that it threatened to steal his breath and he felt himself graying out. 'Oh God! The car!' The memory of the impact tore a pained groan from his throat and his body convulsed in a wave of agony. "Jim!"

"All right. Just try to relax. My name is Dr. Kelly. You're in the Emergency Room at Cascade General Hospital and we're going to take good care of you. There's going to be lots happening to you now, but you just let us do all the work. Okay? Blair? Open your eyes for me. Blair?"

But his eyelids were too heavy, a grey fog seeping into his mind. Blair allowed the voice to drone on as he let himself drift away. He felt something rub painfully along his breastbone and squirmed against the sensation but soon even that flittered away.

0~0~0~0~0

Blair's second return to consciousness was gentler than the first, when frenzied activity and a multitude of voices had surrounded him. His head throbbed distantly with an echo of pain and when he shifted to get more comfortable, a sharp shard of agony ripped up his arm.

"Easy now, easy," Simon's voice crooned soothingly from beside him and a large warm hand patted his hair back from his fevered brow.

Blair's forehead wrinkled in concern. This wasn't how it was meant to be. He felt a gnawing ache in his gut and his heart began to pound in remembered fear. "Jim!" His croaking voice sounded alien to his ears, and he struggled again against the hands that held him still. "Please," he finally gasped. "Where's Jim."

"Blair?" The sympathetic doctor from before was back. "If you get any more upset, I'll have to give you a sedative or you'll rip out those nice neat stitches I put in your arm. So, you stay calm for me and I'll explain everything to you. All right?"

Blair nodded, absurdly grateful when a sorrowful looking Simon stood up at the bedside and mopped carefully at Blair's tears. "Thanks. Sorry to be such a wuss," Blair whispered. "Where's Jim, Simon?"

Simon sighed deeply and sat on the edge of the bed. "First, let me tell you that Jim's alive. He's up in intensive care, but," the captain held up a hand as Blair's eyes widened and the heart monitor increased its beeping, "but the doctors are pretty sure he's going to be all right. Do you remember what happened?"

Blair felt his eyes growing heavy again and wondered if the pretty doctor had reneged on their agreement and doped him up anyway. He forced himself to concentrate on Simon's question, his brow wrinkling with the effort. "Went to a movie. Jim didn't like it. He stopped... he stopped by the road, I think he saw something, you know, saw something." Blair stressed the words to Simon, even in his befuddled state he was aware of the secret he must keep.

Simon nodded. "Then what happened?"

"He zoned, Simon." Blair reached up to rub at his aching head and shook the IV tubing that was attached to his hand in puzzlement until a gentle grasp returned it to the bed. "Don't know what did it. Tried to bring him back, then I heard a car. Tires squealing and I looked up and, and... I tried to push Jim out of the way, Simon, really, but there just wasn't enough time."

"Shh, it's okay, Sandburg," Simon soothed, his own eyes looking suspiciously damp. "Let the doctor talk to you for a minute, all right?"

Blair nodded his head miserably and looked to the opposite side of the bed where the doctor waited patiently, one hand encircling his wrist. "Okay, Blair. Do you remember me from earlier?"

Blair nodded but did not speak.

"When you were struck by the car, you received some very painful injuries. None are life threatening and you should be able to go home in a few days. You have a gash on your head that needed to be sutured and you appear to have a reasonably severe concussion, which is why you feel a little sleepy and confused. But we did some X-rays and we couldn't find any fractures. You did sustain a compound fracture of your left arm though. We've put that in a cast that can probably be removed in about six weeks.

"It seems that your arm caught the fender of the car as it hit you," the doctor continued. "The fractured bone pushed through the skin and we had to put some screws and a plate in there. It's going to be pretty painful for a while and you'll need some physical therapy on it. That's what caused us some concern in the trauma room. The bone fragment nicked an artery and a nerve and you lost a decent amount of blood, but the surgeons have repaired the damage. You're going to be off your feet and pretty sore for several weeks."

"Jim?"

"I'm not Jim's physician, Blair, but I can tell you that he is deeply unconscious. He's on life support right now as he was having some trouble maintaining an airway. If he doesn't show significant improvement tomorrow, the doctors will do another CT scan. Now, I want you to get some rest and try not to worry about your friend. His injuries aren't unusual in an accident such as this. It seems his head hit the fender of the car as you pushed him aside and then probably again when he landed on the curb."

The rest of the doctor's spiel was lost in a maelstrom of agony as the impact of her words imprinted themselves on Blair's mind. "I did this to Jim?" His voice was shaky, the sound barely there.

"No!" Simon was leaning into his face now, his breath hot on Blair's cheek. "You saved Jim's life, Blair. According to witnesses, after you pushed Jim to the side, the car seemed to deliberately swerve to hit him."

Blair snaked out a hand and grasped a manic grip on the captain's arm. "Simon! I need to see Jim! Please!"

"Maybe tomorrow, Blair," the doctor said. "You need to get some rest first."

"No!" Blair struggled upward in the bed, fighting violently against the hands that tried to detain him. "No! Jim! I need to see him!" He distantly registered a feeling of coldness snaking up his arm even as he ripped the IV out and tried to throw himself to the floor. "Simon!" he screamed, knowing he sounded hysterical but desperate now to get the message through. "You have to take me to Jim!"

Simon pushed him back against the pillows, though his restraint was gentle. "Not yet, Blair. Please, calm down, son."

Blair moaned as he felt the inexorable pull of the sedative dragging him into its twilight world. Numbly, he fumbled for, and found, Simon's hand. "Go to Jim for me then," he whispered, his eyes drooping. "He was zoned, Simon. He can't get back." His final sight before his eyelids shuttered closed was the dawning realization on the captain's face.

0~0~0~0~0

Simon stopped just inside the door to the ICU unit and leaned back against the door, almost afraid to go any closer. Even from here, he could see the ghost-like pallor of Jim's skin and the eerie stillness of his body. Though it had only been twenty-four hours since the accident, Jim's powerful body appeared to be already fading away.

The captain took a deep breath and stepped closer, smiling weakly at the nurse who sat at Jim's side. "Are you a friend of Jim's?"

Simon nodded and stood, watching his friend. "I'm his boss and friend, Simon Banks."

The nurse stood. "Please have a seat. I'm going to sit over in the corner and write out my report." She placed a small hand on Simon's and squeezed gently. "Talk to him. I'm sure he knows you're here."

Simon looked at her in surprise. "He's awake?"

"No, not yet, but it's thought that even coma patients have some awareness of the world around them. Perhaps if you talk to him about things that mean a lot, it may encourage him."

Sandburg, Simon thought. That's the only truly important thing to him.

Wearily, he sat down in the soft chair and scrubbed a large hand over his eyes. He had been called out to the accident when the first patrolman at the scene recognized Jim. By the time Simon arrived, Jim had already been whisked away, his condition critical. Blair had regained consciousness on the side of the road where the EMT's were readying him for transport, although he was totally disoriented. Simon had held onto Blair's cold hand as he'd been stabilized and then rushed to the hospital. He looked down now and shivered at the sight of the rust colored stains than spattered his sweater and pants. He hadn't wanted to go home and change until he knew Jim and Blair were out of danger.

While Blair was being assessed in the ER, the captain had hurried upstairs to get information on Jim. Until now, all they could tell him was that the detective had sustained a severe head injury and was unconscious. He'd had problems breathing and so they'd placed him on a ventilator. A CT scan had shown nothing of significance, though they thought it possible that he had a small subdural hematoma. They'd decided to treat him conservatively for now, but had not ruled out the possibility of surgery if he didn't improve soon. Blair's words, of course, put a whole new spin on things and Simon sighed, not for the first time that day. "Should be you up here, Sandburg. You're the expert on all of this."

Leaning forward and hesitantly taking Jim's lax hand in his, he cleared his throat and began to speak, trying to approximate the soothing tones of Blair's voice as he had heard it when the anthropologist was pulling Jim back from a zone-out. "Jim? Come on, man. If you can hear me, you need to come back now. Blair needs you, and so do I."

0~0~0~0~0

Pushing open the door to the ICU unit, Simon nodded at the nurse who stood at Jim's bedside. In the four days since the hit and run, he was no closer now to finding the perpetrator than he had been at the beginning. They had no license-plate number and Blair's memory of the events and the car were sketchy at best.

A woman's body had been found in an alleyway several blocks away from the accident. She was thought to be a prostitute but had not yet been identified. Stabbed to death. Whether her murder had anything to do with the hit and run was anybody's guess, but Simon had all of his men following up all leads on both cases, looking for anything that might give them the break they needed. Unless Jim regained consciousness and told them what he'd seen, it was all they could hope for.

William Ellison had been contacted immediately following the accident, and had spent several hours at Jim's side, his gaunt face stoic. He'd been courteous enough to Simon but seemed ill at ease in Blair's presence and the very mention of the possibility of Jim being zoned made him bristle with anger. "Absolute rubbish," he blustered, his voice quiet in deference to their location but firm.

"Mr. Ellison..." Blair struggled up from the wheelchair he was seated in and took a couple of limping steps toward him. "You know I've been working with Jim for over three years now, helping him with his senses. You know of the problems he suffered when he was a child -"

Ellison cut him off with a chop of his hand. "Fairytales and nonsense," he hissed. "There was no proof then and there's none now."

Blair opened his mouth as though to protest but Simon stopped him with a small sharp shake of his head. Everyone's tempers were frayed, their concern and worry over Jim's continued comatose state leaving them frustrated and exhausted, Blair more so.

Later that day, in the corridor, William had requested that he be allowed to visit his son alone.

Simon watched the nurse check the monitors lining the room, then glance at the young man who sat slumped in the wheelchair beside the bed. Shaking her head, she made her way to the captain's side.

"How're they doing, Cathy?"

The blonde nurse shrugged and tucked a stray lock of hair back into her ponytail. "Jim's a little better, I think, Captain. His vitals are closer to normal this morning, and he's beginning to challenge the respirator, all good signs. Blair is exhausted. I called you because I was hoping you could convince him to go home and get some rest. He'll do his friend no good if he collapses."

Simon nodded and patted the nurse's shoulder. "I'll see what I can do."

Stepping closer to the bed, he once again marveled at the connection these two incongruously different men shared. Over the past couple of years, Simon had watched the partnership become a friendship forged of mutual respect for one another. Jim and Blair had become brothers of the heart and soul in every sense of the word, and sometimes Simon wondered if their relationship was even closer than that. There was something between these two men that defied the standard descriptions one normally would use for partners and friends. Simon had seen that for himself, despite all his protests that he wanted nothing to do with 'the Sentinel stuff'. After Blair's drowning and subsequent revival by Jim, there seemed to be an almost tangible link between them.

Simon studied the young man beside him carefully. Blair sat in the wheelchair, his shoulders hunched with fatigue, his casted arm resting in a sling that supported it and prevented any pull on the stitches that closed the deep gash over the broken bones. His face was pale and bruises stood out in stark relief on the waxy skin from his jaw to his brow.

"Blair?" Simon waited a moment until Blair slowly lifted his head and blinked at him.

"Simon?" He straightened suddenly in the chair, wincing as the movement elicited pain somewhere and then stretched carefully. Simon could now see the blue-black circles that framed Blair's swollen, reddened eyes and the fine lines of tension that creased his brow. "What time is it?" he asked, his voice a painful croak.

"Time for you to go home," Simon answered gently as he placed his hands on the handles of the wheelchair.

"No!" Blair sat up ramrod straight and reached once more for Jim's lax hand. "I can't, Simon. He's almost back. I can tell."

"And you'll be no good to him when he comes round if you collapse. I'm going to get Henri to take you home. I want you to get some food into you, get a couple of hours sleep," Simon wrinkled his nose, "take a shower, or I'm going to get that pretty young doctor who seems to have taken a shine to you and get her to sedate you again."

"Simon -"

"I'll keep talking to him for you," the captain promised solemnly. "After watching you two together for the past couple of years, I think I've picked up a thing or two. Go. If anything happens before you get back, I'll phone you right away."

Blair stared at him for a long moment, then appearing to realize the other man was not going to back down, he nodded slowly. Leaning forward, he put his mouth close to Jim's ear. "Jim? I have to leave for a little while but Simon's going to stay with you. I want you to listen to him, follow his voice. You need to come back now, Jim." His voice hiccuped on the words and he bent his head and rested it briefly on the unconscious man's chest. Finally, he raised his head and looked up at the captain. "Remember, any change at all."

Simon nodded. "I won't forget."

0~0~0~0~0

Perry Corcoran looked up in concern when the TV news reporter mentioned Detective Jim Ellison's name. Standing from his desk, he crossed quickly to the office door and summoned the two men lounging in the outer office. "Mallory! Crawford! Get in here now."

Crawford looked at his partner and shrugged, then tossed his crumpled magazine aside and headed into his boss's office. "Problem?"

"You tell me," Corcoran said, turning up the volume on the TV.

"Detective James Ellison, a former recipient of Cascade's Officer of the Year award is still in a coma after being struck by a hit-run driver three days ago. His condition is listed as guarded at this time. The police observer who was with the detective at the time was also injured but was discharged from hospital this morning. Cascade Police are asking any witnesses to the accident to contact them immediately."

Corcoran rounded angrily on his men. "I thought you said Ellison was dead."

Mallory flailed his hands as he spoke. "He looked dead! There's no way he could have survived that. I hit him head on."

"Well, it looks like he's tougher than you think," Corcoran ground out. "Is there any chance Gracie could have contacted him before you eliminated her?"

"Why would she do that? She know him or something?" Mallory stopped at the threatening glare on Corcoran's face. Too many questions. His boss didn't like too many questions. From the way this was all turning out, Mallory didn't think he wanted to know anything more. Corcoran had a screw loose, he figured. Talking about super people and how he and his super-soldiers were going to take over the world. Maybe he'd spent too much time with the crazies in the asylum, like Gracie. Now, he shook his head vehemently. "No. There's no way. We were onto her too fast."

"You didn't tell me about the other one, the police observer."

"I thought he was just a bystander."

"Did he see you?"

"I don't... I don't think...." Mallory looked helplessly at Crawford. "No, no way," he said finally.

"Fix this mess," Corcoran ordered. "Shut Ellison up for good and then find the observer and get rid of him. This project is too important to be destroyed now."

Mallory was already nodding and pulling his partner out the door. "Consider it done, boss."

0~0~0~0~0

Simon swallowed a cool sip of water then reached for Jim's lax hand once more. He racked his brain, trying to think of something new to say that might trigger Jim's return from limbo. He stilled as he felt a minute pressure against his hand. Tentatively, he squeezed Jim's hand, then smiled as he felt an answering squeeze. Leaning forward, Simon reached up to press the call button. "That's it, Jim," the captain encouraged. "Come on back."

He looked over his shoulder as a contingent of doctors and nurses bustled into the room, then back to see Jim's drowsy, slightly unfocused eyes open as he swallowed convulsively against the tube in his throat.

"If you could excuse us for just a few minutes, Captain," Doctor Reed requested. "I'll come out in a moment and give you an update on Detective Ellison's condition."

Simon nodded and stood up from his chair, wincing as his aching knees and back protested the move. "I need to phone Blair, Jim's partner. Give him the good news." Taking a final relieved look at his friend, Simon strode from the room and headed toward the bank of public phones at the end of the hallway. His progress slowed as he saw Detective Rafe step out of the elevator and hurry toward him.

"Rafe?" Simon made it a question, not liking the grim set of the detective's mouth.

"I had a phone call from Dan Wolfe," Rafe began. "The murder victim who was found in the alley? She's been positively identified as one Grace Ellison."

Simon was sure his jaw hit the floor. "There's got to be some kind of mistake."

Rafe shook his head. "Her fingerprints came up. Megan and Joel are on the way over to Mr. Ellison's house now. Dan wants a formal identification, and with Jim..."

Simon nodded, then pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his smarting eyes. "Yeah. Christ, what are the chances that this is all some kind of bizarre coincidence?" He sighed and motioned toward the phones as he saw the doctor emerge from Jim's room. "I'm starting to sound like Sandburg. Give him a call, Rafe. I sent him home to get some rest an hour or so ago. Jim's waking up and I want Sandburg here if I'm going to tell Ellison that his mother has been murdered. I'll go talk to the doctor. Get some advice on how much we can tell Jim."

Simon watched Rafe walk off, then strode back to Doctor Reed's side. "How's Jim, Doctor?"

The doctor smiled. "I think we can safely say Detective Ellison is out of the woods, Captain Banks. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen such a swift recovery. He's a little shaky and weak of course, but he's alert, oriented to time and place and demanding that he be discharged."

"Does he remember the accident?"

"No, but that may change over the next several hours or days. Then again, he may never remember it," the doctor replied. "I want to do a repeat CT scan of his skull this afternoon, just to double-check that there is no brain injury. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I think we can transfer him to a regular room tomorrow and look at discharging him in two or three days."

"You might want to revise that," Simon muttered.

The doctor looked at him quizzically. "I'm sorry? I don't understand."

"A woman was murdered near the scene of Jim's accident," Simon said. "A preliminary identification of her fingerprints indicates that she was Detective Ellison's mother."

"Oh, dear."

"Yeah. Anyway, I want to wait until Jim's partner gets back here before I say anything to Jim. Do you have any idea how much I should tell him right now?"

The doctor appeared to mull over the question for a moment before he spoke. "It could be more harmful to withhold the information from him, Captain. I honestly can't predict how he'll react, but I'll stay on the floor until after you break the news in case I'm needed."

"Thank you." Simon shook the doctor's hand, then returned to the waiting room to await Blair's return.

0~0~0~0~0

Batting impatiently at Henri's hands, Blair attempted to wrap the plastic sleeve around his broken arm and secure it.

"Let me help you with it, man," Brown grumbled as his fingers pulled on the securing strings once more. "If you get your cast wet, you'll have to go back and get a new one put on."

Blair rolled his eyes but held his arm out obediently until Henri had the sleeve positioned correctly and fastened snugly.

"That's not too tight, is it?" the detective asked as he touched Blair's fingers.

"It's fine, H. Geez, you're as bad as Jim..." His words faded at the mention of his partner's name and Blair felt his control slipping again. He gently pushed Henri toward the bathroom door. "I can take it from here, man."

"Yeah, okay. I'll be just outside the door if you need anything." With a final glance around, Henri walked out and pushed the door shut behind him.

Blair stepped under the warm spray of the shower gratefully. He turned up the heat slightly, allowing the water to massage sore muscles and clean the road rash on his side, wincing as it stung the still inflamed grazes. He deliberately kept his thoughts from straying to Jim by constructing a list in his head. Chores that needed to be done around the loft and at the university now that he was out of the hospital.

He washed his hair, then reached out to turn off the faucet. A sudden chill assaulted him and he shivered violently, feeling an unexpected surge of nausea that left him trembling and dizzy. He laid his hand flat against the tiles and dropped his head to his chest, trying to breathe slowly through his mouth. After a moment, the unpleasant sensation passed and he stepped from the tub.

Henri was just hanging up the phone as Blair came out of the bathroom, awkwardly wrapping a towel around his waist. "What is it?"

Henri turned toward him, the frown that seemed to have taken up residence between his eyes smoothing out as he smiled. "Jim's awake."

There was something troubling in the detective's dark brown eyes though, a hint of concern and Blair took a step closer to him. "What aren't you telling me?"

Henri sighed and grasped Blair's elbow, gently turning him in the direction of his bedroom. "Let me give you a hand to get dressed and I'll fill you in on the rest."

0~0~0~0~0

Blair fairly vibrated with tension as Henri helped him out of the elevator. His features were white and strained as he walked toward Jim's room.

"Blair!" Simon stopped him as he put his hand on the door handle.

"He sensed her, Simon." Blair's voice quavered with emotion. "The night of the accident. There was something..." His brow wrinkled as he fought to concentrate. "We'd been having some phone calls. Hang-ups. Jim thought it was kids. When we left for the movies, he sensed something but he couldn't get a fix on it." He rested his head tiredly against the closed door. "There's no mistake?"

"No. I'm sorry, Sandburg."

"Jim doesn't know?"

"Not yet. The doctor's been with him for some time. I thought that maybe it would be best if you were here when he gets the news."

Blair nodded then reached for the door handle. "Yeah. Thanks."

Jim's face turned toward them as they entered the room. "Blair." His blue eyes were dull and washed with fatigue but he managed a small smile as he whispered Blair's name.

Blair made his way quickly to his partner's side and lowered himself into the chair, trying not to wince as pain flared. He reached for Jim's hand and squeezed the cold flesh, pasting a tremulous smile on his face. "Hey, man. It is so good to have you back. You look pretty good, considering."

Jim apparently was not fooled by Blair's manner. His brow furrowed and he looked from Blair to Simon who stood hovering by the door. "What's wrong?" His voice faded on the final words and he winced. Blair held a cup of water to his lips and he drank a few small sips then lowered his head back to the pillow. "What's wrong, Sandburg? Are you all right?"

"I'm not the one lying in a hospital bed."

"You look like you should be," Jim rasped. "Cut the bullshit and tell me what's going on."

Blair stared at the wall above Jim's head but before he could speak, Simon stepped forward and placed his hand on Blair's shoulder.

"You and Blair were hit by a car several days ago, Jim. You've been in what the doctors believed to be a coma until now. Blair sustained a serious fracture of his arm and a concussion." He smiled as Jim raised a shaky hand and traced along Blair's bruised cheek.

"You sure you're okay, Chief?"

Blair nodded and rubbed at his eyes. "Now you're awake, I'm fine." He leaned in closer to Jim. "The thing is, just before the accident, you were focused on something further up the street and you zoned. I was so busy trying to talk you out that I didn't even hear the car until it was almost on top of us. You hit your head while you were zoned and you were concussed. I guess it took a while for your brain to sort through all the trauma."

"The other sentinel."

The words were whispered and Blair recoiled in surprise. Turning, Simon sent Rafe from the room, asking him to contact Megan and get an update on her progress, then he turned back to Jim.

"What other sentinel, Jim? Are you talking about Alex Barnes? She's locked away in Conover -"

Jim shook his head, agitation evident on his face. "Another one. I've been having dreams about another sentinel, another jaguar."

Blair's eyes widened at the implication of Jim's words. He reached for Jim's hand, enfolding it in his own. "I think you may have heard a murder going down and you zoned out on it. There was a woman's body discovered in an alley not far from the hit-run."

"No." Jim's tone was vehement. "This sentinel is not a threat." He rubbed at his temple with his fingertips, then closed his eyes before speaking again. "I don't know how I know but she wouldn't have killed anyone. I got the feeling in my dreams that she was trying to warn me, to protect me."

"Jim?" Simon waited until Jim's eyes opened and focused on him. "We've identified the woman who was murdered. I'm sorry, Jim, the woman was identified as Grace Ellison."

"My mother?"

"Jim, I'm sorry." Blair lifted Jim's hand to his face and rested his forehead against it.

"Who did this?"

Simon shook his head. "We don't know yet. There were no witnesses, and Blair didn't get a good look at the car that hit you."

"I'm sorry," Blair said again.

"No. Not your fault. I heard her call to me," Jim began softly, seemingly unaware of the tears that coursed down his pale cheeks. "The phone calls. It was her perfume I smelled that night. She was trying to get to me and I didn't understand."

"Jim, this wasn't your fault." Blair leaned forward and framed Jim's face with his hands, forcing the detective to look at him. "You didn't know. You had no way of knowing."

Jim pulled his head away and shifted laboriously to his side, facing away from them. "I should have known," he whispered harshly. "She was my mother. I should have known." He jerked away as Blair reached out a trembling hand and placed it on his shoulder. "My father was right all along. He told me my senses were a curse. What good were they when she needed me? Please, just leave me alone for a while."

"Sure, Jim. All right. Can I get you anything before I go?"

There was no reply from the grieving man, and Blair allowed Simon to help him out of the chair and lead him from the room. His knees buckled beneath him as they walked into the hall and he felt Simon's hands shift to grip him around his waist as his vision began to gray out.

"Shit!" Simon's voice seemed to echo from far away and Blair pushed feebly at the hands that lowered him carefully to the floor.

"I'm 'kay," he whispered.

"I need some help here."

Footsteps echoed up the corridor at Simon's call for help and Blair felt himself rolled onto his side as his stomach suddenly convulsed and he began to gag. There was nothing for his stomach to expel and he suffered through several seconds of painful dry-heaving, that shredded his throat and made his eyes water. A cool hand pressed against his burning forehead and he leaned into it gratefully.

"Blair? Can you hear me?" The voice was unfamiliar and Blair ignored it in favor of drifting away from the sudden hot throbbing in his arm and the pain in his heart.

0~0~0~0~0

William Ellison nodded slowly as the sheet was pulled back and the waxy, dead features of his ex-wife were revealed to him.

A hand touched his elbow and pulled his drifting thoughts back from what might have been, and he looked down into the compassionate eyes of the young Australian police inspector. He couldn't remember her name.

"Do you recognize the deceased, sir?"

"Yes. Yes, I do. She is... was Grace MacDonald Ellison, my ex-wife."

The inspector nodded. "Thank you, sir. Do you feel up to answering a few questions?"

"I'd like to see my son first," William replied. "Steven is out of the country, but Jim will need me. You said he's awake at last?"

"Yes, sir, he is." The woman led him to the door of the morgue. "We can talk on the way to the hospital."

0~0~0~0~0

"I've forgotten your name."

Megan looked over the back of the seat at William Ellison. He sat hunched into the rear seat of Joel's car, his shoulders stooped and his face tight with tension. The similarity to Jim was uncanny despite the gray hair and weathered face.

"Conner. Megan Conner."

William nodded slowly. "Jim mentioned you. I visited Australia a few years ago. Pretty place, though I never seemed to get out of the company's office long enough to really sight-see." His gaze drifted to the passing scenery. "What do you want to know, Inspector?"

"When was the last time you had contact with your ex-wife?"

William pushed a sigh from his lips and allowed his mind to drift back in time. He recoiled as the sound of a slamming door and Grace's shrill, angry voice echoed in his memory.

"You shouldn't be forcing Jimmy to try to turn off his senses. Dr. Masters says you could cause him irreparable harm by doing that!"

William snorted and downed the dregs of his whiskey. "More harm than having them in the first place? Look what they've done to you. Migraines, seizures, asylums. Masters doesn't give a damn about our son. To him, he's just a curiosity, a guinea pig. Next thing you know, he'll be putting Jimmy in a tent and charging admission. Maybe you could make it a mother-son act."

His face stung as she lashed out and slapped him hard across his cheek. Grace's eyes flashed with unbridled fury. "I can't take any more of your humiliation. I didn't want my gift to be passed on to either of our boys. I know the pain, the burden these senses are, but Dr. Masters can help Jimmy, can help us both." Her mouth thinned into a determined line. "I'm leaving, Bill and Jim's coming with me."

"No." William pushed her toward the front door. "You want to leave, fine, but Jimmy stays here where he belongs."

"I'll fight you in court if I have to."

William leaned in close and snarled his next words in her face. "You really want your dirty laundry aired in public, Grace? If you don't care about the world knowing that you're some crazy woman who thinks she's Superwoman, at least consider your sons. You want to subject them to all that humiliation? You think it wasn't hard enough on all of us when you were in and out of the asylum all these years. The looks from the neighbors, the whispers in the Country Club? Jimmy coming home with bloodied noses and black eyes because he was defending his crazy mother to some playground bully? And if you were to prove you were telling the truth, do you want to look over and see your son strapped to the bed next to you, while they perform their research on him?"

Grace opened her mouth to reply then her gaze drifted upward and William looked over his shoulder to see Jim standing at the top of the stairs, a frightened and wide-eyed Steven cradled protectively against his side.

William sighed. "Go back to bed, boys."

"Mom?"

Grace closed her eyes briefly and a solitary tear snaked down her cheek. "Listen to your father, Jimmy. Take Stevie and go back to bed. I... I love you both."

Jimmy turned and herded his little brother back toward the bedrooms. He paused and turned back, giving his parents a tremulous smile. "Love you too, mom. Goodnight."

"Mr. Ellison?" William felt a hand on his arm and he came back to the present with a jolt. They were at the hospital, parked in the visitor's parking lot and the two Major Crimes officers were looking at him with concern. "Are you all right?" Conner asked.

William nodded slowly. "I'm fine. I haven't seen Grace since she left when Jim was twelve. She left no forwarding address and never bothered to contact us again. I tried to get hold of her at the sanitarium several years ago when Jim's helicopter went down in Peru and we thought..." His voice trailed off again and his eyes grew haunted as he grappled with that horrific memory, then he shook himself and looked at Megan. "There was a new man in charge and he told me the sanitarium had closed down. He had never heard of Grace. I'm afraid there's nothing more I can tell you." He pushed open the door and stepped out into the rain. "I'd like to visit my son. If there are further questions, you know where to find me."

0~0~0~0~0

He was so hot. Agitated, Blair pulled fretfully at the covers that made his skin burn with heat, slapping away the hand that pulled the offending items back over him. Coolness touched his forehead and he rolled toward it, lifting his head to follow when it moved away.

He groaned as a headache flared at the movement and didn't fight the hand that pressed him back toward the bed. Slowly, he opened gritty eyelids and looked around blearily. An unfamiliar, pretty face leaned over him and smiled. A nurse, Blair decided, by the look of her white uniform.

"Mr. Sandburg? How are you feeling?"

Blair considered the question. Sweat slicked his hair and trickled down the back of his neck, causing him to shiver. His broken arm throbbed painfully with every beat of his heart and his head kept time. His mouth was dry and his tongue felt thick and swollen in his mouth. He licked his lips and croaked out his reply. "Lousy. What happened?"

"You haven't been taking care of yourself." Blair looked beyond the nurse at the sound of Doctor Kelly's familiar voice. Frowning, but her features softening as she approached the bed, the doctor shook her head. "You took a nosedive in the corridor and scared your Captain Banks half to death."

"Why?" Blair rubbed at his head with his uninjured hand, as he tried to make himself understood. "Why am I back in the hospital?"

Doctor Kelly seated herself on the edge of the bed. "You've developed an infection in the tissues of your arm, Blair. It was always a possibility after the accident, but I had hoped that the antibiotics would do the job. Unfortunately, with the stress you've been under with your friend, and the fact you haven't been obeying my orders to get plenty of rest meant you had no reserves left to fight the infection."

Blair looked away guiltily. "Sorry," he said. "There's just been too much to think about. First Jim, and now..."

"I heard about Detective Ellison's mother." The doctor reached out and straightened the IV line. "It's a terrible thing, but you won't do him or anyone else any good if you make yourself sick by not looking after yourself." She sighed and stood, moving to the foot of the bed to pick up his chart. "The infection may have been inevitable but you'll recover a lot quicker if you get plenty of rest, eat well and try to avoid stress. Now, your fever is still quite high, so you'll be our guest for a few more days until the intravenous antibiotics get a handle on this infection. You're lucky we caught it early before it infiltrated the bone. I can see you're in considerable pain so I'll get Tessa to put something in your IV to alleviate that and let you rest."

She held up a hand as Blair opened his mouth to protest. "No buts, young man."

An overwhelming lethargy consumed him almost as soon as he felt an icy sensation trace up his arm from the IV site. Fighting to hold open his drooping eyelids, he managed to get out what he needed to say. "Need to see Jim."

Her voice came to him as though from a far distance and a motherly hand stroked his forehead. "Jim's going home tomorrow. I'm sure he'll be in before he leaves."

"Jim...."

0~0~0~0~0

The following afternoon, Simon went to the hospital to pick up Jim and take him home. The doctor had ordered strict rest for the still weak detective, over Jim's protestations of course that he be allowed to stay with Sandburg. Doctor and patient had finally come to a compromise with some help from Blair himself, who was concerned that Jim wasn't sufficiently recovered to be discharged. Jim's bed had been moved into Blair's room overnight and providing he went home and slept the following night, the doctor had agreed the detective could return the next day and stay at his partner's bedside.

Simon looked in on Blair who was still in some pain from the infection in his arm. His fever was steadily dropping though and he certainly looked better than he had the day before when he'd collapsed outside Jim's room.

Jim had spent some time with his father and talked about his mother, but neither man was able to come up with any idea regarding what she had been doing in the years since she'd left the Ellison house. Jim was still grief-stricken over the loss of his mother and consumed with guilt over his inability to assist her and perhaps prevent her murder. Nothing that William, Simon or even Blair said made any difference to his conviction that he was somehow to blame for her death, and Simon vowed that Grace Ellison's murderer would be brought to justice.

Looking over now at the man hunched into his passenger seat, Simon attempted to pull Jim from his depression. "We'll find who did this, Jim."

Jim stared vacantly out the passenger window. "Maybe. Does it really matter?"

"What! What does that mean?"

"It won't bring her back, Simon." He slammed a fist against the dashboard. "I should have known. I should have been able to help her. What good are these senses of mine if they can't help me save my own mother?"

"Did you know your mother had heightened senses?"

"No, not really. She was in and out of hospitals a lot, suffered from almost constant headaches. She always used to tell me I was special to her, that she loved Steven as much as me but that I was her special one. She was seeing a doctor called Damon Masters. Dad tells me that back then, he just thought she was mentally ill. Even when my senses developed, he tuned it out, terrified I was suffering from some kind of genetic nervous disorder, inherited from her. Like he said during the Aaron Foster case, he didn't want me labeled a freak, and I guess he'd already lost Mom, he didn't want to lose me too. Mom and Dad argued a lot. I remember coming down the stairs with Stephen the night she left home. They didn't know we were there and they stopped talking the moment they saw us, but with my senses, I'd heard pretty much everything that had been said anyway."

"Which was?" When Jim didn't immediately answer, Simon looked over at him. "Jim, if it's personal, I'm sorry, but you know as well as me, it could be the smallest clue that busts this case wide open."

Jim nodded. He stared blankly out the window. "She wanted Doctor Masters to treat me as well. At the time, of course, none of us knew what was wrong with me, and I certainly didn't think my mother was a superwoman." He smiled a little at that. "My mother had taken me to see the doctor against my father's express wishes. He found out. Dad didn't want anyone to know. Deep down, I think he was trying to protect me, although I think a part of him was concerned with his own public image should the word get out that both his wife and his son were mentally deranged."

Jim yawned and scrubbed tiredly at his eyes. "Once my mother left, I was ordered to keep my mouth shut about the voices I heard and the things I could see and smell, and after zoning out a couple of times and scaring myself half to death, I was more than happy to. I know the doctor ran some kind of sanitarium outside of Cascade, Dad said he tried to get in touch with my mother after the chopper crash in Peru but no one had any idea where she was. I figured she didn't want to be found."

Simon nodded and steered the car into a parking space in front of the loft. "I've got Rafe and Brown chasing the doctor up now. Look, Jim, cut yourself some slack here. You weren't to know your mother was in trouble and there wasn't any way for you to prevent her murder. Give yourself some time to heal and to grieve. Sandburg's going to need you too."

Jim looked at him quickly. "Something I don't know?"

"I think he's feeling guilty that he didn't pull you out of the zone quickly enough to prevent the attack on your mother or to prevent you being hit by the car."

"That wasn't his fault..." Jim began then smiled sadly and shook his head. "Quite a pair, aren't we? Thanks for the ride, Simon. Let me know as soon as you hear from Henri and Rafe, all right?"

"I'll keep you posted," Simon said noncommittally. He didn't want Jim too involved in this investigation. The detective was too emotionally involved.

A break in the case came just as Simon pulled away from the curb when a phone call came in from Henri. The detectives had managed to trace Grace Ellison's whereabouts some years before to the private asylum on the outskirts of Cascade. Getting the address, Simon arranged to meet them there.

He arrived at the same time as the fire department and watched in horror as a body was loaded into the back of the coroner's van. He took a moment to speak to the firefighter in charge, then, as he headed back to his car to call in Forensics, he saw Rafe and Henri arrive. Walking over to him, Rafe gestured in surprise at the smoking building.

"It appears someone decided to burn a large amount of paper in a garbage can in the Director's office," Simon explained. "The dead man poured an accelerant over the paper to make it burn better. Unfortunately, it exploded and set fire to him as well. One dead and it appears that the institution hasn't been used for some years. There are no patients here."

"Who's the dead guy?" Rafe asked.

"Preliminary identification says it's a Perry Corcoran, owner of the place. We'll have to wait on an autopsy for a formal cause of death and ID."

"We ran a check on Doctor Damon Masters and the asylum on the way here," Rafe continued. "He died ten years ago, cause of death was judged to be a suicide though there were some questions over it. He was a gambler, heavily into debt. Corcoran took financial control of the sanitarium a year before Masters died."

0~0~0~0~0

In all his years on the force and all the time since his senses had come online, Jim had performed a sensory scan of the loft before he even reached the front door. In the past few years, it had become a security blanket of sorts. If he picked up Blair's heartbeat, it acted as a calming balm, making even the worst day bearable, reining in his often overwhelmed senses. Jim had come to think recently that it wasn't just Blair's heartbeat, or Blair's unique qualities as Jim's guide that soothed. Rather, it was the man himself and the tangible reminder of their friendship.

Blair wasn't here though. His partner lay in a hospital bed, burning with fever and in pain once more because of his association with Jim. With his thoughts in turmoil, and grieving a mother he could scarcely remember, Jim made his way along the corridor, thinking only of going to bed and hoping he could forget the trauma of the past few days at least for a few hours.

His guilt over Blair's injuries was compounded by his shame at the anger he had long harbored for his mother's apparent desertion and an unease over whether he'd been subconsciously tuning out his mother's presence in the recent days because of the blame he'd placed on her for deserting him and his brother. There was the funeral to organize too. Having been unable to trace any other family for his ex-wife, William had vowed that Grace would be laid to rest in the Ellison family plot. Jim wanted to help with the plans for the service but it was a difficult thing to do for someone you felt you never really knew.

As he turned the key in the lock, he yawned hugely and set a mental alarm in order to get back to the hospital as quickly as possible the following morning.

He was inside the apartment and closing the door, keys tossed into the basket, his thoughts on deciding if he felt hungry enough to eat before he went to bed, and as he turned toward the kitchen, he caught a flicker of movement, a flash of metal. There was an explosion of muted gunfire and a bullet impacted the wall inches from Jim's head. Reaching out for the light switch on the wall, Jim flicked it off. Dialing up his sight and hearing in order to track his opponent, he threw himself bodily across the room and rolled behind the shelter of the support beam in the kitchen.

Risking a quick glance around the edge of the beam, he saw his attacker standing in the open doorway of Blair's room, a handgun in one hand tracking the darkness in front of him. He lifted something to his mouth. Silver glinted and Jim saw immediately what it was. He clasped his hands to his ears in a futile attempt to block out the first shrilling blast of the dog whistle but it hammered through him in waves of excruciating agony, sending him crashing to the floor.

Simultaneously attempting to dial down his hearing and evade the gunfire, Jim rolled himself toward the haven of the kitchen island. His frantic efforts were clumsy and had every sense spiking as he fought to push away the pain that threatened to cleave his brain.

Finally he could see the dial in his mind's eye and he panted through the receding headache and inched it down toward zero. Faintly he heard his attacker laugh.

"Well, looks like Corcoran was right. Fuck, all that time I thought the guy was crazy."

And then there was blessed silence. Jim managed to get to his knees and shuffled forward until he could risk a look around the edge of the counter. The man stood by Blair's door still, the dog whistle swinging from his fingers by a cord. Jim watched him reach into his pocket and pull out a flashlight, thumbing it on and swinging the beam in a wide arc around the apartment.

Ducking back before the flashlight illuminated him, Jim reached up and groped for the fruit bowl that sat on the counter. He curled his fingers around a small apple and, bringing it down to the ground, he rolled it quickly toward the coffee table in the living room. It hit the table leg with a satisfying thunk and Jim watched as the intruder jumped then turned his flashlight in that direction. Slowly, the man stepped away from Blair's door and walked into the living room.

Crouching, ready to pounce, Jim waited for the right moment. As the man took a step past the kitchen entrance, Jim dived from his hiding place and tackled him around his knees. The detective's weight and forward momentum had the other man toppling over with a short, surprised yelp that was cut off as his head impacted the edge of the coffee table.

Grasping him by the scruff of his neck, Jim hauled the limp body over onto its back and shook the man violently. One hand reached up weakly to grip Jim's wrist and the man moaned.

"Who are you?" Jim demanded. "Who sent you here?"

"Corcoran," the man sputtered, blood dribbling down his chin. "Didn't know if you saw who hit you. Told us to get rid of you both. Tying up loose ends. It was all Corcoran's idea."

"You murdered my mother?"

The man's eyes widened in fear at the quiet note of rage in Jim's voice and he struggled suddenly to get out from beneath the detective. "Your mother?" he croaked then he stiffened. "No! Wait, please! It was Corcoran's idea. Had some crazy idea about creating a super race. Nobody believed him. We all thought he was nuts. When Gracie got away, he said she knew too much, had to be wasted."

Jim silenced the man's shocking words with a hard, sharp right to his face, then another and another.... Hands grabbed him from behind, dragging him away from his quarry and he roared with rage, using his feet to kick out at the limp body when his fists would not reach.

"Jim! Enough! You got him. Enough!"

He sagged to the floor, spent and shaking, only dimly aware of others stepping past him, rolling his unconscious attacker to his side. A large figure loomed over him as the confining hands dropped from his shoulders. Simon kneeled in front of him, big hands framing his face, his thumbs brushing away the unintended tears.

"Enough," Simon whispered, his own voice quavering.

Jim fell forward, resting his head briefly against the warm, solid chest of his captain, takin

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story archived at http://www.squidge.org/peja/cgi-bin/viewstory.php?sid=28577