Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

They aren't mine but that never stopped me. I now share with you a story on what would happen if two of Jim and Blair's foes were to exact a bit of revenge.

The New Assignment

by K-Lyn

********************

DATE: Immediate execution

PURPOSE: Re-Programming

MISSION: Top Secret

He looked around his surroundings and smiled eagerly. He had hoped this day would come. Ellison owed him a big one. Nevada was hell on earth. Hot and boring.

He destroyed the transmission and stood to exit his office; time for a little payback.

********************

Acting Capt. Joel Taggert chuckled. Det. James Ellison was a mess without his partner. Capt. Simon Banks of the Major Crimes Division at the Cascade Police Department was out of town and Taggert had been assigned to fill in for the man. Meanwhile, Det. Blair Sandburg, Ellison's young partner, had been given the assignment of going to several outlining elementary schools to speak to the youngsters about safety on the street.

Most officers balked at the invitation. Not because they hated the Mayor for coming up with the idea or even because they considered the idea boring. It was well known that communication between the police and the civilians under their care had to be maintained in order for one side to work with the other. The problem was that most officers lacked the proper communicative skills to reach out to the youngsters. Let's face it, most cops are people of action not words, their profile demanded it. Of course, there are those few men and women, like Det. Blair Sandburg, who loved teaching, helping others and whom held an enthusiasm for life. Being around someone like him made you relax and smile and someone like this was able to reach across the barriers to bridge the communication gap between an officer of the law and the people he was hired to protect.

Blair allowed the children to see that an officer was also a person. A person who wanted to help others.

Taggert smirked as he looked up from his temporary desk and noticed that Ellison wore a stony faced look of determination as he continued to type away on the computer. Each key was pressed with impatience and disdain. The man hated reports and office work.

James Ellison was the complete opposite of his partner. If you were in trouble and needed to be rescued, Ellison was your guy. Trained in covert opps and physically fit, the man was loyal, honest and brave but he also had a down side and was also guarded, reserved and some who didn't know the man personally would consider him emotionless.

Of course that changed whenever Sandburg was around. Ellison seemed more relaxed around the kid. He smiled, joked and opened up. Sandburg was like Ellison's spotlight. All the man's carefully concealed shadows were exposed with ease whenever the younger man was around. Still Taggert had the feeling that the reason for this reaction was due to some deeply guarded secret the two shared. A secret Taggert suspected that Capt. Banks was aware of; Joel was, after all, a detective and a damn good one and had long ago decided to let the secret remain a secret.

The acting Captain looked over at two officers as they entered the bullpen, Petrie and Kendel. The two were gazing at Ellison while discussing something that was obviously not work related, a fact that caused Taggert to shake his head. He wasn't the only one who wondered why a guy like Ellison would take on a man like Sandburg to be his partner and his roommate. Those like Petrie and Kendel speculated that it was due to the fact that Ellison and Sandburg 'had it going on'.

Personally, Taggert had never considered that idea as realistic, Ellison and Sandburg loved women and the feeling was mutual. The problem was that the two attracted women with troubled pasts. Taggert snorted at he idea, "Career Curse". He was roused from his musings as he noted that Ellison suddenly looked over at Petrie and Kendel, which caused the two to end their conversation and to abruptly leave. The man and that damn cold stare, he could scare a shark into drowning.

Just as he resumed tackling the ever-growing stack of paperwork, a knock at the door pulled the acting Captain back into the real world. "Hey Jim, how's the Guitierrez report coming along?"

Ellison placed the report on Taggerts' desk and sighed, "Completed. Any word on whether Brown and Rafe need additional back-up?"

"It's been wrapped up. They're on the way back now. Seems Swanson took the bait."

Ellison sighed and looked at his watch. He suddenly smiled and Taggert nodded knowingly, "Yeah go get your partner, oh, and tell him that the Mayor was grateful to him for taking on Sullivan High. In his own words, 'It's the first time those students asked for a repeat visit'."

"Yeah but Prince Charming has better things to do than to be the Mayor's puppet."

Taggert nodded, "I hear you."

********************

The detective exited the precinct and quickly got into his truck. At times like this Ellison grew introspective. He wondered why it was he felt incomplete when the kid wasn't around and wondered if Sandburg felt the same. He remembered a time when he was alone all the time and remembered preferring it that way. Then Sandburg entered his world.

Silence was no longer preferred. Life took on interesting changes. Being alone was no longer desired. Not when you were offered friendship without judgments, not when you were accepted and brotherhood was given with no strings. Ellison caught himself smiling as he entered the High School parking lot and spotted his partner speaking to several teenagers. Mostly females. The resident genius was like a female vacuum. He could suck them in without conscious thought or effort.

Unconsciously, Ellison tilted his head and listened in on the conversation the other was having. Again Jim wondered what would have happened if Blair had never come to Cascade and instead had chosen another field of study or perhaps had gone to a different school. What would have happened if he had found another sentinel? What if his dissertation had been published and he had accepted the Pulitzer? Sandburg was a long-haired jeans wearing genius. A man that had more sides than a well-cut diamond and was just as valuable in whatever field he chose. He was the little brother to respect and care for. A man whom Jim was proud to be an older brother to and secretly proud to be a father figure for.

Of course Blair had adeptly become Jim's teacher, mentor and most importantly his confidante. Loneliness had definitely been replaced.

********************

The target was spotted and recognized. He placed his binoculars away and smiled with eager anticipation. Soon, Ellison will come to know hell on earth and Sandburg will watch unable to stop what will happen.

He stepped out of his rental and pulled a gun from his pocket. Again he smiled, "Good Night Sentinel."

The shot was fired and Ellison was down.

********************

Sandburg had just said his last goodbye and quickly walked over to where he saw his friend waiting patiently beside his truck. He paused when the other turned his head suddenly and then fell over. "Oh my God, Jim!!!"

Blair ran to his friend's side as he immediately pulled out his cell phone to call for an ambulance and to have dispatch inform Capt. Taggert of the situation.

Five minutes later Ellison was loaded onto the ambulance, Sandburg followed in Jim's truck, hoping the man would be all right. Meanwhile the area was searched and people questioned. No leads, no evidence - all questions remained unanswered.

Where had the dart come from? What was inside the dart? Would James Ellison be all right?

********************

An hour later the doctor allowed Blair to see his friend in the Intensive Care Unit. He winced as he watched the unconscious man's body twitch and his pupils flick back and forth beneath the eyelids. It was as though Jim was experiencing a bad dream. One he couldn't wake from. The heart monitor beeped in time with the heart, which raced abnormally and was matched by the overstressed breathing sounds.

Blair placed a hand on his friend's head, "Please you can't die. You have so much to do."

The doctor had said that Jim was experiencing some sort of nerve attack. The real concern was how long it would last and what the side effects were. Toxicology came up with chemicals that were unidentifiable, new and never before used on a human host. Designer drugs. The bottom line was that James Ellison was caught in a sort of a nerve attack and no one knew how to help.

Blair sighed and leaned closer, "Jim, if you can hear me, I want you to know I'm nearby. Don't worry man. We- we'll figure this out." Without conscious thought he swiped away a tear that slipped from his eyes as he continued speaking. "The guys are looking into past cases and checking out any recent parolees who might have it in for you. Simon called in and he and Joel, they sort of suggested that it would be best for me to stay here - like I'd be anywhere else." He spoke softly now fighting to remain strong, "Just try to calm yourself and give the drug time to pass through your system. Everyone is trying to help but you have to do your part. You can do it. You can do anything."

********************

It had been three days of waiting, worrying and then finally on the fourth day Jim simply exhaled as he lapsed into a deep coma-like state. The doctors feared that the patient would soon become irreparably brain damaged. The guys at the station continued to search for any leads but had so far come up empty. Through it all Blair sat by his friend's bed, watching, waiting, and worrying.

Capt. Banks had returned later that fourth night and both he and Taggert had to force Blair to go home for some much needed rest and to change the clothes he wore.

Sandburg was told - ordered - not to return for the rest of the night. The two men assured their newest detective that they would watch over Ellison and call if anything changed.

One night. What could happen in one night?

********************

Jim drifted in a sea of warm darkness. It was like he was buried alive. He could hear, smell and was aware of his surroundings but he couldn't reach the outside world. He heard every tear-filled word that Sandburg said to him. He had heard Taggert's pleas to Blair to go home and rest. He heard Simon's ultimatum.

Nothing moved, nothing cooperated. He was stuck in some sort of quagmire and nothing seemed capable of rescuing him.

Simon had said he was going to get some coffee and the newspaper. The hospital seemed more hushed and he could tell it was late, night perhaps. He heard the door of his room open and hoped it was Simon returning, hoped this time he'd be able to speak. Instead he heard a different voice speaking near his ear. "Hellooo. It's me. Oh, hey, don't get up. Just thought I'd let you know how very proud I am of this little drug. It is quite potent. Oh and yes, there is an antidote, one I will offer to your little Guide in exchange for his life. In the meantime consider him dead because, oh and of course this is based on my past observation of the guy's undying loyalty to you, anyway, where was ... oh, yeah, by the time you take this antidote Blair Sandburg will no longer exist. Gotta go, Banks should be back any minute. Pleasant dreams."

********************

Ellison's heart raced. No, not Blair. He knew who the voice belonged to the moment he called Blair his Guide. Lee Brackett.

********************

Sandburg had fallen asleep on the couch. He wanted to rest just for a few minutes and now had gained three hours. He shifted on the couch when he heard the door close. Jim is home. He snuggled deeper into the couch when his mind lazily remembered that Jim wasn't home - he couldn't be.

Sitting up as soon as he opened his eyes, Blair came face to face with Lee Brackett. "What? How?"

Brackett loved toying with this man, his youth and genius presented a challenge to the other. Blair Sandburg was the kind of man people like the mercenary enjoyed toying with. Nothing in those eyes was kept hidden, it was all there, intelligence, fear, honesty, bravery, and uncertainty. A whole world to destroy and savor while doing so, "Hello Mr. Sandburg. Remember me? Of course you do. I am here for an interesting reason and thought you'd like to hear it."

Sandburg scooted away from the man as he sat close beside him, "How did you get in?"

Brackett laughed, "Come now Sandburg, breaking into a home is child's play to someone like myself. New locks or alarm systems, I'm a pro and love a good five minute challenge."

Sandburg swept his hair out of his face and then paused. His face soon held an expression of shock, "You? You did this to him? You drugged him, knowing how important he is? You son of a..."

Brackett smiled at the intelligence of this man and at how easily his emotions were exposed. He slid closer, "Now-now I come to offer his life for yours and you sit here and proceed in the childish act of name calling, really, I am truly surprised at you."

Blair looked at the phone and then towards the door. He then looked back at Brackett, "What do you want from me?"

Brackett chuckled, "Like I said an exchange. I give you the antidote and Ellison lives. You in turn will come with me. No questions, no attempts at escape. Complete surrender."

Blair looked down for a moment and spoke softly, "You'll leave Jim alone?"

Brackett smiled, "Is his life so important that you'd do this for him, without knowing your own fate?"

Blair looked up and met the man's gaze with such intensity it caused the other to flinch, "No one deserves to die before his or her time. I accept your offer, with one condition."

Brackett paused, "Since I hold all the cards, I don't have to yield to you in any way, however, humor me. What is your condition?"

Blair took a deep breath, "I want to see Jim improve. I won't leave without evidence that the bargain is valid."

Brackett reached out and touched Sandburg's face. He noted with interest that the man didn't flinch. "I really hope Ellison realizes your sacrifice. You, my dear Sandburg, are the most important facet of the Sentinel/Guide team. Invaluable."

Brackett released the other's face and watched as he stood and moved to enter his room. He followed close behind and went to stand at the bedroom doorway, "You know very little about so much."

Blair quickly added warmer clothing to what he wore but said nothing. As he was led outdoors he paused and looked at the loft once before closing the door. In his mind he wondered if he'd ever see this world again. Lee Brackett types played for keeps.

********************

Doing something covertly is easily done when you aren't considered a threat. Blair waited until Capt. Banks went for yet another cup of coffee. He pulled the curtain around the bed and carefully located a vein to inject the fluid into his friend. If Brackett lied, and Jim died, Blair would accept his fate. Still, Blair felt that he was wanted for something the creep considered important and because of that, Jim would at least be safe.

"Come on Jim, you can wake up now."

The result was felt immeasurably slow but two minutes later the hand Blair held tightly slowly returned the grasp. Blair waited for his ex-superior to return and calmly apologized for the inconvenience but asked Simon if he would mind returning to the cafeteria once more to get a sandwich for him, knowing the captain wanted nothing more than to see Blair eat.

The door to the room closed and Blair smiled as he looked down at his now tightly held hand, "Jim, I have to go. Brackett offered me a deal. H-he told me you can hear me and that you know that he did this to you. I-I know you'd do this for me. It's the right thing to do." He took a deep breath and then spoke quietly to the slowly recovering man. "Find another Guide, Jim. Megan can help you for a while but you need to find another guide." Blair paused, he didn't want to sound upset, his life here was ending but Jim's would continue. It had to. Jim's well-trained use of his senses to fight crime would be Blair's legacy and that was enough. "I will miss you but I'm not afraid. Whatever happens, thanks for being a friend, brother and even, well, like a father to me. I will never forget you, man. Please never forget me."

Blair hesitated and then lowered his head and placed a light kiss on his friend's forehead, then whispered, "Remember, a Sentinel will always be a Sentinel. It doesn't matter who the Guide is Jim." Sandburg slowly released his hold on his friend's hand and quietly left the room.

********************

Capt. Banks returned with the requested food and coffee, surprised to see that Sandburg had left. "Probably went to wash up." He looked at the man on the bed and noticed a tear slipping down his cheek. "Jim?"

********************

Sandburg entered a gray sedan, which waited for him at the end of the hospital parking lot and was driven to a warehouse in the south part of Cascade. Brackett handed him some clothing and told him to shower and change in a small wash area at the back of a storage area, "Don't bother with modesty, shower and change."

Blair wondered why the shower and then wondered what would happen if he tried to escape. Slowly he looked at the room he was in. Brackett chuckled at the other's curiosity, "Oh, let me answer those unspoken questions. First, though you may be able to escape from here, I will still be free. I will kill Ellison, it wasn't difficult the first time and it won't be again. This time though, I will make sure that you see it happen and know it was your fault. I'm very good at what I do. Murder is very easy."

Brackett watched as Sandburg completed his shower. He reached for the towel as Brackett continued, "Why now? Because you are wanted. By whom? Later for that. As for the shower, it was a request. Remove the scent of the other, quite frankly it sounded a bit kinky to me but anything for the joy of separating you from Ellison."

Nlair remained silent. He dressed into a black t-shirt with a gray sweater, black cotton slacks, gray socks and black leather shoes. All new and untouched. Brackett stepped up to the man and handed him a cup with what looked to be coffee, "Drink this."

Sandburg looked away for a moment in defiance. "I don't need to be drugged. I told you I wouldn't try anything."

Brackett smiled evilly, "Gee Sandburg, Ellison can still be handled if you are not careful with that attitude of yours. Now unless you want me to shove this down your throat, you will drink it like a good little Guide."

Sandburg took the cup and drank the warm fluid. Brackett instructed him to sit on a chair just outside the shower room and to wait.

Brackett took the discarded clothes and tossed them into a furnace located two rooms away. By the time he returned he was somewhat pleased to see that Sandburg was attempting to escape, the guy was no quitter and remained a challenge begging to be met. Unfortunately the drug had slowed him down. His movements were clumsy and weak but still he refused to stop trying.

He reached out and pulled the man away from a window he had almost successfully escaped through. Sandburg winced as his hand was sliced at on a piece of glass but hid his injury. He refused to be a victim.

Brackett dragged his captive out of the warehouse and shoved him into another car. The two drove to the airport located five miles away.

Blair's memory turned to mush. He tried to ask passerbys for help but Brackett merely laughed loudly and told inquisitors that the drunk man was on his way to a wedding and had had a bit too much fun at his bachelor's party. People then laughed and ignored the two. Blair remembered wishing Jim would suddenly have the plane stopped but fell asleep shortly after boarding. No one came to rescue him.

********************

Ellison's body slowly recovered. Three days after the antidote was injected, Banks was faced with one angry man. It was true that Sandburg had disappeared. The Volvo was still parked outside the loft and the kid's ever-present backpack was still in the loft. It was also true that the young man would never leave Jim's side willingly. So when Ellison informed the captain of the details he was able to hear while he was incapacitated, well, Capt. Banks had to believe the man.

So a search ensued, favors were called in and still nothing turned up.

Ellison stood in Simon's office, reviewing the latest in leads when a call came in once again informing Banks that the latest snitch had nothing new on the missing detective. For all intents, he had disappeared without a trace.

Jim looked at his friend, worry marring up his usually unemotional face, "Simon why would Brackett want him? I'm the one with these damn abilities. Blair has nothing for this guy."

Banks nodded and then stated the obvious, "He is invaluable to you, Jim. Brackett wants to hurt you and what better way than by taking the one person most important to you?"

Ellison looked away, "Still the guy is a mercenary. He is doing this for a profit or something he values. So what is it or who would pay to have something like this done?"

Knowing he was grasping at straws, the ex-military man decided it was time to visit his old stomping grounds and wondered how the his old friend in the CIA was doing.

********************

Sandburg woke in a stark and brightly lit room. On a bed, in a room with a sink and a toilette. No window and the walls were wide, white and cool to the touch. The door to his room opened and Lee Brackett entered. "Welcome to my old home- well sort of anyway. Not much to it but it will do." He looked at his guest and smiled, "You and Ellison sentenced me to a place very much like this and it seems only fair that someone like yourself, someone who enjoys his freedom be placed here. I mean I owe you so much."

Blair stood and met Brackett's gaze, not caring about the consequence. Jim was fine. "I didn't try to kill a million people. You are a monster. Your reasons behind doing such a horrific crime meant nothing if millions have to die to get your message across. It is more important to help others and work together to achieve not destroy what we have."

Brackett smiled at the passionate statement coming from his captive, "That, my zealous friend, is why you are here. You will continue your work as a Guide, but for a new Sentinel." Brackett paused, " Well new to me but not so much to you."

The door to his cell opened again and in walked Alex Barnes, "Hello Blair."

Blair backed up against the bed and unceremoniously fell on it, "You, are you alright? I mean, you..."

Alex smiled slyly, "Seems your dissertation has been read by several people. People who knew that Ellison would be difficult to convert so they did some digging and found me."

She stepped closer to the Guide, "I remembered some flowers that were sent to me. They were unsigned." Alex tilted her head, "Ellison may have the senses and a very compelling mutual attraction but you," she reached out and placed her hand on Blair's face, "you have the heart, compassion and forgiveness."

Blair backed even further away. Jim's alive. The price was worth this. "Sorry but I never forgave you." He paused as the woman stepped closer and then spoke, "I tried to help you and instead of a thank you card I got murdered. You are insane."

Alex laughed and sat beside the suddenly skittish man, closing her eyes and breathing in the air, his scent. She smiled appreciatively at the welcomed scent of fear, "Thanks to the government and some drugs, I've been bought and cured."

Blair looked at Brackett, "Your employers?"

Brackett laughed, "Did you really think that after that fiasco with you and Ellison, they'd be so forgiving? No. The scientists here work for a, oh how should I put this? They work for a bunch of people who desire to create the perfect army. Sentinels would be the perfect weapons. Able to see in the dark, hear vast distances, and smell explosives when entering a room. Not to mention the deadly harm they could cause to those who oppose what these people stand for. Alex provided the proof and I provided them with the control switch, you."

Blair looked away, "I am not a Sentinel. I do not have special gifts, much less a 'control switch."

Alex laughed and reached out to touch the other, causing him to pull further away. She smiled at the action and then spoke. "No little beauty, you most certainly are no Sentinel but control? Oh yeah, you are a Sentinel's little helper. One that seems to attract Sentinels in some strange way. You attracted me and Ellison. The question is, can you control a room of Sentinels?"

Blair looked at the two twisted people and then stood and walked to the other side of the cell, "I will not help to kill. Sentinels are supposed to protect their territory. No harm should come to an innocent. Jim is proof of that."

Brackett snickered, "Oh and he fights for truth, justice and the American way. Really Sandburg, how does Ellison cope with so much sugarcoated hero worship? The guy kicks you out of his life, allows you to be killed, drags you all over the jungles of Peru shortly after your amazing resurrection, ignores you while yielding to the delightful charms of Alex here, forces you to give up your career, your studies, hell dare I say your calling? And for what? Did he ever once say thanks? Did he ever sacrifice that much for you?"

Blair smiled defiantly, "I've done what I chose to do of my own free will. If I based my life of the checks and balances of some emotional score board, well I guess I'd be like you two. I admire James Ellison - not worship and he is my friend. What I do and have done with my life is based on my own code of ethics. I don't expect or want you to understand. I don't need it."

Alex laughed as she stood and walked towards the exit, "Any more of this admiration crap and I'd have to wonder if it was perhaps - sexual."

Brackett went to the door and waited for Alex to leave, "It's time for the injections to begin. You, Blair Sandburg, will no longer exist after tonight. Ellison will be no one to you. Tomorrow the tests begin along with your new life."

Blair watched as the two exited and waited. Instead of the door closing he watched as the door opened wider and two men entered. He moved away from the two but he was swiftly pinned down and injected with a sedative. He tried to pull away, to fight the effects but slowly drifted off to sleep.

********************

It had been one month and one week. Jim searched all of Cascade and then some. His friend in the CIA had gone underground for a while but had sent word that he would be able to meet tonight.

Ellison waited on the docks and gazed out at the water. Peter Quizione or 'Quicks' would be by soon. He said he had information on something Jim might be very interested in. Ellison looked at his watch; fifteen minutes more.

He had made sure that no one had followed him. Just in case. He closed his eyes and smelled the water around him, felt the wind and heard the sounds of some men celebrating a good fishing season in a bar a mile away. Ellison opened his eyes, steadying an emotion he now fought to keep hidden, complete sadness. No one could understand him, knew his secrets and keep them, like Blair. Ellison knew that if and when either of them fell in love, no woman would ever be able to completely understand their bond but would be required to accept it. Even now, without Blair nearby, Jim felt an anger that remained ready to explode. He wanted to reach out and murder Brackett. He wanted nothing short of death for this crime.

The man dared to damage what fate had created. Jim closed his eyes and somewhere in his mind he heard Blair speaking like he did that last day, "A Sentinel will always be a Sentinel. It doesn't matter who the Guide is Jim." Ellison smacked his hand on the rail he leaned on, "It matters to me. I may not know the history of Sentinels, Chief but I know myself. I need you." He sighed and quickly hid his emotions. His hearing picked up the sound of someone walking toward him.

"Hey Jimbo, how's it going?"

The man hadn't changed much. Still wearing a ratty olive green military coat, still balding and still greased what hair he did have to his head, and surrounding the figure was the unmistakable air of deception. Most importantly this man owed Ellison a huge favor and he paid his debts.

Ellison smiled stiffly, "Fine Quicks. What have you got?"

Quicks smirked, "What? No small talk? I am hurt." He then handed a thick envelope to the serious looking man. "The military was really tight lipped about this project but look at the pictures closely. Oh and Ellison, getting in there is tough."

Ellison nodded as he tucked the packet into his coat and then tilted his head, "You were followed."

Quicks laughed, "I know." He passed Ellison and smiled, "Never thought of you as the father figure type but guess it takes a special person to change Frosty-Ellison. He needs to be out soon. What they are doing to him will destroy what's left." Quicks jumped off the dock and disappeared down near the water. Ellison smiled knowingly. Below Quicks had a jet ski waiting and very well hidden. Jim hadn't even noticed it. The man was slick and very deadly but he delivered.

Ellison ducked into the shadows of a nearby shed as Quicks drove away. He then watched as two men in trench coats peered over the edge of the dock and then ran back the way they came. He waited until they had left and waited a moment longer until their back up left as well. Cautiously, he walked back to a nearby hotel, where he was registered as Hank Dirkson. It was located one mile from the dock and two miles from the loft. His truck was also parked there and the lights had been left on.

Jim quickly turned the engine off and then moved to his hotel room. He paused, checked it for any unwelcome visitors and then tossed his coat on a bed. He opened the manila envelope and read the short memo on top.

DATE: Immediate execution

PURPOSE: Re-Programming

MISSION: Top Secret

RESULT: Injections begun

There was a note attached to the memo. 'Brace yourself Ellison.'

Orders from Section 9. Test subject is expendable. The results are the key to constructing the weapon and are considered top priority.

The next entry was completed by another department.

Injections have begun. Subject receptive. Memory loss complete. New memory acceptance difficult. Injections will force total loss of existence. Subject will be expected to terminate in five days with continued injection.

Query: What if injections are halted?

Subject may recover completely but conditioning will be lost and there is the possibility that the subject may become schizophrenic. No basis for comparison. Drug experimental.

See Alex Barnes for more.

Ellison closed his eyes against the shock, "Brackett and Barnes!?! God Chief what the hell is this?"

The photos showed Barnes focused and preparing for duty of some sort. They showed Brackett and Barnes working together. The next two were pictures of Barnes speaking with a frail looking man. Blair.

They had pulled his hair into a very tight braid, his face seemed hollowed, his eyes lacked the fire that always burned in them and he seemed exhausted.

One last photo showed Brackett dragging Sandburg away as Barnes looked in the other direction.

Ellison turned the picture around and noticed writing on the back.

5148 Brandon, Alice, TX - Good luck and remember all debts are now paid in full.

Jim called Simon's cell phone number and informed him of his findings. "Jim, they're probably expecting you to come. I don't like this."

Ellison's mind was filled with such anger that nothing could stop him from moving ahead with his rescue attempt. Sandburg was his Guide. His. Modern day society would never understand the concept of one man claiming proprietary ownership of another; modern day society had names for the strange closeness. Jim didn't care, Blair understood and that was the only thing that mattered.

Brother, friend, Guide and conscience.

********************

A day later, in another hotel room, the argument was raised again. Jim looked at his superior and smiled, "Let them expect me. Sandburg is not theirs to keep." Nothing could stop the Sentinel from retrieving his Guide. Brackett and Barnes would die for this.

It was time to get the plan executed.

********************

Simon watched his lead detective with considerable concern. It was nearly two months now and James Ellison was preparing to rescue the one person he trusted most. Simon wondered why it was that whenever the young man was gone for too long, Jim became more closed off. At the moment the detective was down right withdrawn. Is being a Sentinel about relying on a Guide? How much importance does a Guide have? What kind of control?

"Jim the Arial maps Joel got of the area are in your duffle. Rafe arranged to have someone meet you, says it's a very close cousin and he'll be able to drop you off in a wooded area. Rhonda has a car waiting for you there. Seems she had a friend in the area and this friend hates the military. Go figure. The rest you know."

Ellison nodded at the way his 'tribe' responded when one of their own was in need of assistance and smiled, "Give everyone my thanks Simon. I truly appreciate their help." He turned to leave when he felt a hand on his elbow and then felt something slip into his hand; a vial with a syringe. "This is from Dan Wolf, he's been working with the doctor who was researching your recent stay, says if they are using a mental inhibitor this will relax Sandburg if he starts to get uneasy during his trip back." Simon met his friend's gaze, "He may not be the man you know. He may be changed."

"He is family Simon. Nothing else matters."

Simon nodded and noted the conviction and certainty of the man in front of him. James Ellison would return with his charge or not at all, "Good luck and please be careful."

Ellison turned to leave and stopped in the doorway to look back at his superior. He smiled sadly and left.

********************

The injections were administered and the smaller man's body rebelled. It was as though his inner spirit fought against what was being done. Eventually what was left was a pale version of a once vibrant and intelligent man.

He did as he was told, spoke in brief sentences and needed directions to do the simplest of things. The scientists raised his dosage frequently which began to inflict a new set of problems for the test subject. Now the young man was assaulted by an almost reoccurring nosebleed. He was getting weaker and thinner from his refusal to eat.

Alex tried to learn as much as she could from the Guide but to no avail. She had come to appreciate his knowledge and even felt a bit regretful that he couldn't last longer but knew that it was time to move on. Blair was becoming less coherent.

Brackett knew the young man would die soon. It pained him to see a man he considered a challenge wasted in such a manner. The abstinent detective could have been used further. The destruction of his morals could have died by his very own hands. A waste. Still, Brackett also knew that Ellison would succeed in his search for the other. He hung on to the idea that when the two were reunited, Ellison would be forever destroyed.

The one conclusive fact discovered through the tests was that a Sentinel, when accepted by a Guide and vice versa, became completely attached to the other.

The experiment was failing, Sentinel and medicated Guide were incompatible and now was the time to clean-up and move on.

DATE: Immediate execution

PURPOSE: Program failed - Sentinel still available for future research. The other is to be extinguished. No longer a vital resource. Note: Subject must be willing for experiment to be successful. Drugs too debilitating.

MISSION: Top Secret

STATUS: Subject diminishing. Abandon project. Erase records.

********************

Ellison was in the forest outside what looked like a water purification plant. He knew better and his senses confirmed his instinct. It was early evening and he waited til darkness covered the building. Slowly he crept into the building. For a Sentinel, breaking into a building was simplistic and for the moment, his senses were extremely well sharpened, Blair was nearby.

What made him slow down was the absence of sensors and alarms. He got past a rather thick steel door and entered an area that might have been recently used for something other than what was expected. The scent he sought was present but not the person.

Jim leaned against a darkened corner. Sandburg had been moved. With his eyes closed he picked up the scent of his friend's blood. He followed it to a smaller room where the scent seemed to disappear. Just then someone came into the area.

Two men, removing several crates and placing them into a truck. Jim didn't hesitate. Slowly he followed the men and those crates, hoping that they would lead him to Blair.

All the crates were placed carefully into a large truck and the doors were then closed. Jim who had slipped into the truck when the two had moved to retrieve more crates, waited in the dark silence and again his hearing became acutely heightened. What he heard caused the man to pause. It was a familiar heartbeat.

He followed the sound to a crate located in the front area of the truck. He noted that there was a rusty lock keeping the lid closed but otherwise nothing else seemed unusual. Knowing better, the Sentinel quickly picked the lock and opened the crate.

What he saw inside made him now feel as though he were a visitor at a wake. Blair lay inside, wearing a black thermal shirt, black slacks and unconscious. Ellison noticed that the kid's face had blood on it near the nose and that prompted him to check for further injuries. There were none but the nosebleed had him concerned. His Guide was unconscious and extremely emaciated.

"I wondered how long it would take you to find the little scrapper." Brackett stepped out of the shadows and faced his adversary. Smiling at the face of hatred. "There's not much left of him I'm afraid. Probably will die tonight or tomorrow. I will really miss him. Thought we'd have his DNA looked at, maybe clone him and reuse what comes of that." Brackett felt positively giddy. Ellison was caught.

The lights on the inside of the cargo area of the truck lit up and Ellison saw Alex Barnes and several scientists standing there, hidden by a dark burlap curtain and a very large white noise generator which was promptly turned off. One thin pale-faced man spoke, "Why? He is dying, nothing more than a shell. You knew he'd be either dead or too far-gone. Why risk exposure? Why risk your life?"

Ellison placed a hand protectively over that of his unconscious friend's and smiled at the idiot, "Being a Sentinel is more than abilities. Nature selects. Man cannot tamper with this. Never this."

Ellison looked at Alex and smiled, "You had a chance but now you're nothing more than a freak with no control over your gifts. Your spirit is no longer that of a Sentinel. You are nothing now."

Suddenly there was the sound of a door being blown off its hinges. The large garage door fell away from the truck and three masked men stepped in. "All of you stay where you are. One move and we will kill you."

Ellison looked at Brackett, "I'd love to settle this with you but I think you and Barnes will discover that your bosses are not the type that like to be disappointed. These people intend to collect."

Jim carefully hoisted his friend into his arms and again noted the sallow skin and the lightness of the body he held. He looked at Brackett and then Barnes, "If you two ever come near him again, I will kill you. My pledge as a man and as a Sentinel."

********************

Brackett watched as Ellison and the three mercenaries left in a black van. He wondered if the men were from the Cascade PD. He was about to leave when one of the scientists stepped in front of him. "You will return to the station sir. This needs to be cleaned up."

Brackett was about to try to escape when a dart was shot into his neck and one into Barnes. He knew that Ellison was right and mentally cursed the man. It would be a very long time before he saw sunshine again. A very long time.

********************

Jim waited until they were at least five miles away from the truck. "Thank you all for helping." Megan, Banks and Taggert all smiled. Simon moved to sit beside Jim while Joel handled the streets of Memphis in the Ford van sequestered by Rhonda's 'friend', aptly named Tex, "How is he?"

Ellison held the smaller man's cold body as a father would a son, "He's weak. I need to get him some help."

They drove for two hours and reached a remote area in Alice, Texas. The van pulled up in front of a small house and stopped.

Dr. Seymour Gordon, retired medical practitioner and godfather to Daryl Banks, waited. It had been a long time since he had had a patient.

********************

TWO WEEKS LATER

Ellison entered the loft followed by a slim timid figure of a man he called friend. Blair Sandburg had survived but the drugs were still wreaking havoc with his system. Nosebleeds still occurred but were lessening and though Blair remembered his life in Cascade, he was often confused, filled with fear and woke at night searching for his Sentinel. Calling out her name. 'Alex Barnes.'

Jim hated the last. He was Blair's Sentinel. No one else. Dr. Gordon warned him not to press too hard, not to force the ties between he and Blair. "In time Blair's system will recover. Only then will we know if the drugs were a permanent change to his psyche or not."

********************

Sandburg stood by the doorway into the loft, lost and confused. Waiting for instruction. He watched the taller man, Ellison, with apprehension. He was like Alex but he seemed colder somehow. Sandburg had memories where he could see Ellison smiling and laughing and found it difficult to believe those images, since the man in front of him rarely did any of this.

Sandburg even recognized the loft and that he once lived here but that was before Ellison had tossed him out. Right? Alex loved Blair. She only hurt him when he was displeasing her and that was all right. Wasn't it? She had promised to come for him. He was to wait one month and then, if nothing happened, he was to execute the final order.

He had one week left and hoped she would come.

********************

Jim showed the kid to his room. When asked if he was hungry, Sandburg immediately prepared lunch not waiting for the other to offer. He never noticed that he retrieved the necessary items for the meal without asking their location. It was something his roommate watched with both joy and sadness.

Doing as suggested without question. Sandburg was now extremely neat, quiet, reserved, and content to stay in his room - out of sight. He only spoke when spoken to and acted when told how.

In a nutshell, Sandburg had changed dramatically and the difference was aggravating to his friend, who wanted his old friend back.

********************

Banks and the rest of the guys from the station tried to win Blair over by hanging out at the loft to watch a game or two but it left the man feeling more intimidated and he often retreated into his room.

Jim tried to take him to some of his old haunts but only received more looks of confusion.

It was becoming apparent that Blair Sandburg was never going to be his old self again and Ellison hadn't a clue how to handle the situation.

Jim had lost it that Saturday night. He had asked Blair if he had eaten and instead of speaking, the other promptly went to prepare a meal. Ellison grabbed the still too thin hands and forced Sandburg to meet his gaze, "Tell me, Blair, do you have a mind in that head of yours or would you jump out of the damn window if I told you to?" He shook the other. "Answer me damn you."

Sandburg froze in fear; this Sentinel would hurt him, just as Alex and Brackett would. Sandburg couldn't speak, he didn't know what to say and was soon in the midst of a panic attack.

Suddenly he was pulled into the bathroom and Ellison was placing a cool towel on the smaller man's forehead. It was a while before Blair realized that Ellison was apologizing for scaring him and trying to calm him - not hurt him.

He had another nosebleed.

Jim hated the words he had spoken earlier. Never during their friendship had those eyes gazed at him with such complete terror and now he had no idea what to do to relax his panicked friend.

The nosebleed was bad. It lasted fifteen minutes before it slowed. Jim cleaned Sandburg's face and clothing. Called Dr. Gordon and was told to have Blair drink vitamins he had issued him and to lie down. As soon as he hung up the phone, he made the silent man drink a glass of orange juice and then helped him get to bed.

Jim lay on the couch outside the bedroom and sighed in frustration, "I am so sorry Chief. So sorry." He fell asleep, hoping tomorrow would be different from today. Hoping Blair would never look at him with such fear again.

********************

It was late when he woke suddenly and looked around his room, "Alex?"

His mind played back a memory. Alex stroked his face and kissed his lips, "If I don't return for you remember your instructions. Go and find his gun. He means to hurt you. I want you to prevent him from hurting you. Promise me."

Sandburg uttered his reply into the darkness and to the mental image, "I promise Alex. No more. I don't want to hurt anymore."

Slowly he stood and walked to the couch noting that it was now empty. Ellison had left earlier and had gone up to his bed. He looked up and then slowly climbed the steps. He remembered the other kept the weapon nearby and spotted the gun sticking out from beneath the sleeping man's pillow. Slowly, careful of the sleeping man's senses, he reached for the weapon and slid it out from beneath the pillow.

Sandburg made sure the safety was off and lifted the gun. He felt a tear slide down his face and slowly he raised the gun. Just before the shot rang out, his mind's eye could've sworn he saw a panther fly through the air and towards him. Then he sank into darkness.

********************

Jim held the unconscious body in his arms tightly. His gun was on his bedside table, with the safety back in place. He closed his eyes and was again assaulted with the memory of what had just occurred.

He remembered being deeply asleep when something pulled him back into awareness. He had reluctantly sighed at the interruption and opened his eyes to figure out what had woken him. It stunned him to find that the sound of Blair's heartbeat was nearby and beating faster than normal. He turned in his bed as he followed the sound and prepared to check on his friend. Maybe it was a reaction or maybe he was dreaming. His eyes easily focused on his friend standing in a dark corner of his room. Ellison was about to say something witty when he saw his friend raise the detective's own gun to his temple.

Jim leapt out of his bed and threw himself at his friend. A shot rang out as he collided with the other and he held onto the body as his friend passed out.

Now he sat with his arms around the man who meant more to him than his own brother and he was yet again at a loss as to what to do next. Obviously Blair was given some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion. It was a weapon those in covert situations used to destroy evidence of their work. He cursed himself for not being prepared for it. His Blair would never have done such a thing. The man revered life and he most definitely hated guns, never wanted to be near them and carried his reluctantly on the job.

Ellison looked down at the tear stained but gratefully undamaged face, "Chief please come back to me. I need you."

Jim continued to hold the smaller man's body. It was the first time since finding the kid that he was able to touch his friend without rebuke. Never one for words, he communicated better with touch. A pat on the back, a gentle squeeze on the shoulder and once in a while draping an arm around a friend.

Ellison smiled at the fact that Blair Sandburg, prince of chatter and obfuscation was basically a shy person and it had taken the young TA a while to accept Jim's pats as a sign of friendship and it had taken the kid longer still to return the gestures. Now they were back to square one except this time, Sandburg was terrified of being touched and cringed each time it had happened forcing the older man to hold back and that hurt.

Slowly the figure in his arms began to stir and Jim wondered how much longer would it take his friend to return to normal. He needed to fix this. He needed his friend back.

Sandburg opened his eyes and looked around, "Alex?"

Ellison was immediately furious. She was the reason the kid just... and now he... calling her name when he should ... I'm the one who's ... He forced the fragmented thoughts aside as he helped the disoriented man to stand up and then made him sit on the larger bed.

Now Jim paced the width of his room to release the agitation that threatened to push him over.

A whispered voice interrupted the silence, "I want to see her James. Please, I am her Guide."

Jim stiffened. All the anger, worry, fear suddenly consumed him. He exploded, "You want to see her? The woman who murdered you once before? The bitch that kidnapped you and then tortured you within an inch of your life? You want to see her?" Ellison grabbed the man off of the bed and shook him, "Hear this and understand me. She is gone. You will never see her again - I promise you. If I have to shake you until you come to your senses I will."

Sandburg tried to pull away and pulled until his back was up against the wall. "One more thing. If you ever try to do something like this again, t-to take your life and destroy it, I will make sure that you live longer than God intended and that each day is hell for you. Do you understand me?" He pulled Blair away from the wall and shoved him back until his head thumped against the brick, "Answer me damn it. Do you understand me?"

Sandburg nodded and was released.

Ellison turned away, cursing his anger and his lack of control. "Chief, you are my Guide, you were never Alex's Guide and as for Brackett, he was never a friend - never." Jim turned back and noted that Sandburg's nose was once again bleeding and he had made no move to stop the flow.

Sighing, he took the smaller man by the elbow and pulled him down the steps to the bathroom below.

He wiped the face clean of the blood and the few tears that slipped from the eyes which avoided returning his gaze. He then handed the silent man a new sweatshirt and watched him get into bed. Sandburg didn't say a word. He trembled the few times the two touched physically, leaving Jim to wonder if he was cold or simply afraid.

Not wanting to get the other upset again the older man paused at the bedroom doorway, "I'll see you in the morning."

No response was returned. He closed the room door and went to lie on the couch. His gun was now hidden in a toolbox and locked safely away.

********************

Blair didn't know how to react. The older man was furious at him but not because he hated him. Right? Instead he got the distinct feeling that Ellison's reaction was from fear. He feared for Sandburg's life.

Alex never cared that way. Alex ...

Suddenly his mind was flooded with the image of the woman's face. She held a gun to his back, led him to a pond of some sort. Suddenly he found himself in the pond. He was drowning. The memory made him shudder as the image played in his mind's eye. It can't be true.

His mind flashed to another image, this one of Brackett. Again threatening him with a gun, again gazing at him in anger.

Blair shivered once more. What was real and what was fabricated? Who was he? Slowly he rose and noticed the other door in the far corner of his room. He put his feet into some slippers and walked to the door. He slowly opened it, the outside air was cool and inviting. Without thought and as quickly as he could, Blair climbed down the fire escape and ran.

He didn't know where, he just needed to be away from Ellison, from memories that overlapped and made no sense, from the voices in his head and those in reality. He had drowned once and was drowning now. No one saved him then. No one was here now.

He found himself now standing in the park where Alex, or was it James? Where he sorta remembered eating hot dogs and talking, laughing, and feeling safe. It was late and the darkness prevented anyone from noticing the strange man sitting on a bench late at night in sleepwear.

Blair's nose began to bleed again. He felt so tired of being afraid and uncertain. He wanted to disappear and wished that he had succeeded in shooting himself. It seemed death was better than this struggle. Still somewhere deep in his mind he realized that suicide went against his own beliefs. Life was valuable

It began to rain and he laid his head against the backside of the bench, occasionally wiping away the blood that continued to flow from his nose. He again heard Alex call to him, felt her drowning him and slowly he fell asleep in a wave of confusion and dizziness.

********************

Ellison had heard the door in the other room open and before he was able to coherently piece together what was happening, Sandburg had made it down the fire escape and was running down the street.

He quickly grabbed his coat and truck keys while focusing his hearing on the sounds of the rapid heartbeat and the pounding of the feet on the pavement outside. He drove in the direction he last saw the younger man but soon came up empty. Jim was about to reach for his cell phone and call Simon, when he again suddenly picked up on the sound of his friend's heartbeat.

In his mind he heard his Guide's voice, "Come on Jim, you've done this before. Piggyback your sight onto the sound."

Smiling sadly at the now distant memory, he spotted his Guide sprawled on a bench, drenched in rainwater and passed out in the park.

Quickly he drove his truck into the park with the lights flashing. Parking near the bench, he immediately went to his friend's side, noting that Blair's nose was bleeding steadily. Ellison felt the damp skin and determined that it was too cool and needed to be warmed up. He hoisted the unconscious man into the truck and got in. With the heat turned up he headed back to the loft.

The thought of taking Blair to the hospital did occur but he vetoed the idea, knowing the younger man would probably take off again. At least in the loft, he could monitor his actions and this time there would be no more late night activities.

********************

Jim lowered his friend onto the couch and quickly retrieved yet another set of clothing for him. Then he undressed Sandburg, dried the cool and incapacitated body off, wiped the face clean and redressed him. He got two blankets and wrapped them securely around the smaller man.

Ellison was exhausted and wondered how long it would be before Sandburg tried something else and if he would succeed this time. He hadn't slept much since Blair had gotten home and he was quickly losing his edge, he didn't want to lose his friend just because he was sleepy. That would be unacceptable.

He moved to sit on the couch beside his friend's head, when the man in question slowly woke. Stormy blue eyes gazed upwards as the carefully covered body shivered. He looked around and whispered, "J-jim?"

Ellison smiled sadly, "Yeah Chief?"

Blair sat up sideways and looked at the man beside him, "S-she never cared for me did she?"

Ellison knew Sandburg was asking about Alex Barnes. He met the saddened eyes and shook his head, "No Blair, she never cared for you."

Blair looked down and then back, "Lee never cared either, did he?"

Jim heard the pain behind the questions. He wanted the kid to remember who did care not who didn't. "No he didn't either but do you remember who does care?"

Sandburg looked at the other man just as a tear slipped from his left eye, "You. You've always cared. You've hurt me but you've always cared."

"When did I hurt you?"

Blair sniffled, "I remember you throwing me out, telling me that I-I can't be trusted," Blair gasped as he fought back the emotions swirling inside. He looked at the other, "I remember you calling me stupid." He paused, "I don't seem to attract the best in others do I?"

Jim pulled his friend in close. "Those things I said were hurtful but we worked past that. Please Chief, believe me when I tell you that we are closer than any brothers could be. I love you like family and more."

The younger man trembled within the arms wrapped around him but Jim was pleased to discover that he made no attempt to move away. "Chief you once called me your Blessed Protector. I am proud of that and would always try to keep you from harms way."

Blair sniffled again as his head drooped against Jim's shoulder, "I'm so tired."

Ellison smiled at the childlike way the words were spoken, "You want to get to bed?" When no response was given, the older man tilted his head and looked at the face beneath his chin. Blair had once again succumbed to exhaustion.

Scooting further into the couch while maintaining his grasp on his friend, the two men fell into the a deep unguarded slumber.

********************

Ellison woke the next afternoon and felt a cool breeze hit his face. The balcony doors were opened slightly. He looked down and noted that Sandburg was gone. He stood abruptly, walked to the window and found his friend staring at a black van parked across the street from the loft.

Jim froze and immediately focused his hearing on the van. It was abandoned. The area outside the loft was secure.

Blair woke from whatever trance he was in but kept his eyes on the van, "They're here for me aren't they?"

The Sentinel waited and met the frightened gaze with a smile, "No Chief. There is no one in the van."

He pulled the blankets closer to his body and looked away, "I'm a mess aren't I?"

Ellison chuckled, "No more than usual junior."

Blair smiled, "Thanks."

The Sentinel paused and checked his friend's health with his senses. The expression on the others face wasn't guarded or confused. "Chief?"

Blair looked away, "I didn't want to die, Jim. She and he, they planted the thought, I would never... I mean there is so much to do, to see..." Blair looked at his roommate and stopped talking.

Eyes met, understanding blossomed and he carefully placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, "I know you Chief. You love life too much to leave it." He looked at the view outside the balcony doors and his face was hardened by anger, "I know that those responsible for this will pay."

Blair leaned into his friend's hold and sighed, "It doesn't matter as long as we're okay." Again two pairs of eyes met and both smiled.

Jim knew he'd never forgive and forget but he'd pretend for the good soul standing beside him, "Yeah Chief we'll be fine. Now let's get you on the couch, you're still not well."

"Yeah but ... "

"No 'yeah buts'. You need to recoup and recover. That means rest."

"How about I... "

"No." Ellison smiled - the old Sandburg was stepping forward.

"What if I just...?"

The older man had already shoved his friend back inside and onto the couch where he was immediately wrapped with yet another blanket and then pushed onto the pillows that were stacked behind the resistant man, "No means no, Chief."

"Jimmm..."

"No, no and no." Ellison smiled at the continued efforts of his young friend to extricate himself from the couch.

Things would be all right. The Guide was now where he should be and with the Sentinel who would always ensure his safety.

********************

Yes, I know. How about a large cold dish of revenge? Hey, give me time.

Thanks for reading.

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