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.

I've considered the many ways the Sentinel would continue if only someone would just get a clue. Considered why it was the original writers wanted distance between the two main characters. And wondered what it would have been like to be asked to write the episode that followed "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg". This is what I came up with.

They don't belong to me but should they ever need a permanent home, my imagination has plenty of room for them.

Thanks to Starfox for housing my stories and to you, the reader, the more there are out there the better. Again thanks to all you great emailers - I'll keep writing as long as you all keep reading. - K-LYN

NOTE: This is a darker story. Jim owies in the extreme and perhaps better read by someone of age.

WARNING: This story deals with rape and the aftermath of rape. Although there's nothing too graphic, you shouldn't read it if that bothers you.

Sorting Out The Future

by K-Lyn

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

One year and three months after The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg.

It had been six weeks. The search for a Ford Blue and White 1964 Pick-up had finally come to an end. Twisted and bent almost beyond recognition, save for the model number. Its last known driver and owner, least what was left behind after the fire still inside.

Denial was conquered by fact. Det. James Ellison, Cascade P.D. Major Crimes Division was declared deceased based on dental records and blood type.

According to those assigned to investigate the scene of the 'accident', a bomb had been placed on the side of the road and rigged to explode by a remote control. The murder, as it was now officially designated, had been carefully and unfortunately successfully executed. James Ellison would never come home again.

Det. James Ellison had been on his way to testify on a case that he and Det. Joel Taggert had worked on. His testimony would have helped to convict several high profiled illegal weapon distributors and put them in jail for a very long time. Ellison had been able to infiltrate the carefully maintained circle of suspects and successfully obtained names of individuals who distributed illegal weapons to some of the most unsavory aspects in the States and slowly expanding beyond the borders.

Working as a team, Det. Taggert was able to back the man up by acting like a potential buyer for an extremist group located in Southern Africa. James was the deliveryman under Taggert's employ. The men did their jobs admirably and were able to bring the operation to a dead stop.

Amongst the thirty people arrested, there were several businessmen, a couple of politicians and some high-ranking military personnel. This was a highly publicized feather in the cap of Cascades finest which made it even more important that things were done right and by the book. The most important testimony was considered to be that of James Ellison because he had been inside, had seen the weapons, actually delivered some of the contraband and knew in detail how things were done within the operation.

James Ellison had never made his appearance at court. The suspects still went to jail based on the extensive evidence gathered and thanks to Detective Joel Taggert's testimony, which incorporated the very extensive evidence supplied by two of the suspects that bargained for a lighter sentence.

Ellison's testimony would have made the conviction airtight but the attorneys for the prosecution were grateful that his untimely disappearance and subsequent death did not hinder the sentencing of these men. The death of James Ellison was simply a misfortune.

Through it all only one person refused to accept the facts presented to him. To everyone else Detective James Ellison was dead and was be greatly missed by all save the one person closer than the man's true family.

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

One Week Later

Blair Sandburg sat in the loft he had shared with a man who, at first, was simply a subject matter for his thesis. James Ellison was gifted with enhanced sensory perception. Simply put, he could smell, see, taste and hear better than any normal human being. Jim was a modern day Sentinel, pre-deposed to protect his city. Not a superhero, obviously else the man would be here and not ... but a man with a good heart and special advantages. Sandburg was initially supposed to assist Ellison in controlling these senses and in return he would be able to use this data to complete his masters and graduate from Rainier University. Slowly the researcher and his 'subject' became friends, roommates, partners on the force and Sentinel and Guide in private. They were better than friends - they had become family.

Today had been extremely difficult for Blair. Going to a funeral. Being shunned by his best friend's family members, feeling isolated in the pain he endured as only a Shaman could feel when his Sentinel was no longer nearby and alone in his hope that this was just some weird ripple in the space time continuum. Naomi, Blair's free-spirited mother, had telephoned but it was her presence the younger man badly needed and was unable to get. She was out of the country; helping to rescue some endangered species from extinction and couldn't (or wouldn't) return for another week. "Remember that my spirit is there for you. Always."

Blair sighed. Sometimes he had to admit, Naomi was seriously lacking in the maternal department.

The men of the Major Crimes Division of the Cascade P.D. stood by Sandburg and said goodbye to a detective who had changed from a cold distant individual to a man his co-workers had admired and called friend. Each knew that it was most difficult on Ellison's smaller partner and tried hard to comfort him. He didn't want to be consoled; he wanted Jim to break away from the very chains of Satan himself and return to where he belonged. The tribe and its Shaman still had much for the Sentinel to fulfill.

True, much had recently transpired. The accidental divulging of Jim's Sentinel abilities, the fact that Jim still didn't truly trust Blair and also the truth about their friendship. Blair had thought it was strong but Jim didn't share the belief. Blair sacrificed time, helped whenever possible, stood by the man through thick and thin. Never once asking or even considering restitution but hoping Jim understood that what he did; he did out of friendship. Until recently, he thought Jim did similar things for the same reason. Now, he figured Jim did it out of obligation. Still, none of this mattered. He'd move away, change his name and even eat Wonder Burger for the rest of his days, if only his friend would return.

No matter what had occurred, Blair considered himself a friend to Jim. Jim didn't have to share the feelings but he had to accept the fact.

Not long after the end of his academic career, Blair was offered other options. Being a survivor and still having the desire to work beside his taciturn roommate, Blair had gone through the Academy and passed with flying colors but along with the education he also came to realize that he could never take a life.

Not wanting to lose the younger man's outlook and input, a position was created in the department. Blair had become an Official Consultant and, after taking several classes and being subjected to various background checks, he was awaiting the documentation indicating that he would be Cascade PD's Official Case Profiler and thereby James Ellison's official partner. No one disputed the younger man's place. No one else could work with Ellison and no one even tried.

Blair saved many lives during his time with Major Crimes and had gained the respect and envy of his new peers. He accepted this a par for the course in exchange for becoming of the team in every way. Valued and respected.

Today was different. Today, he suffered silently, he suffered - hope.

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

Capt. Simon Banks had watched over and escorted the very quiet young man to the loft that was once home to two men Simon had come to consider good friends. The kid wasn't someone the Captain of Major Crimes would have initially considered a member of his department but time and knowledge of this man's capabilities made Blair Sandburg invaluable.

The current silence of the other concerned the captain. "Blair, if you want, I can stay."

Blair looked at the equally distraught man beside him and shook his head. "Really Simon I'll be alright. You should go hang with Daryl. It helps to be with family."

The much taller black man entered the loft with Blair anyway and went to make himself some coffee. Blair went into his room and removed his jacket, one of his shirts and his tie. As he exited his room he stopped and looked at the captain and his friend. "Simon, Jim told me a while back that he had arranged for a Will to be made and ... I ... Oh, God, Simon, this can't be real. He's not dead. I'd know it in my heart and my heart says he's still out there."

Simon walked over to the younger man and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Forensics has verified the remains. According to them, the basic body weight and the blood type are all those of James Ellison. I am so sorry Blair. If I had known that something like this was going to happen ..."

Blair stepped away, ashamed at his sudden outburst, and smiled, tears shining in his eyes. "You didn't know, couldn't have and this wasn't your fault."

Simon felt his tears forming inside as he remembered seeing Sandburg's face just after the truck had been recovered. The kid looked as though everything he was, his joy, his energy; everything had suddenly been wiped away. What was left was a tired, wounded soul. A soul with no one to care for. Jim Ellison had become the kid's big brother of sorts and somehow he had even become the father the kid never had.

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

Watching Blair in his moment of grief was like watching Simon's own son Daryl - so young to be carrying the weight of the world and so vulnerable. So very alone. Thank God Daryl had a large family and Simon knew his child would have others to care for him - Blair, without 'big brother Jim', had no one.

Being the Captain of a team like the Major Crime Division meant accepting certain responsibilities and when one of his people were injured or worse, Simon Banks believed it was important that he delivered the news to the family. He did so. First to Jim's father William, then his only brother Stephen and then by placing a call to Carolyn Plummer-Ross, Jim's former wife.

Still it didn't equate to watching what the news did to Jim's partner, best friend and confidant, Blair Sandburg. The younger man took the news very hard and his grief was very palpable.

The funeral had been hardest on Sandburg and the get-together afterwards even more difficult.

Simon had decided to personally escort the smaller man to the private gathering Mr. William Ellison had given to honor the memory of his first-born child. Simon watched as the elder Ellison ignored the young man's presence, something Jim would have been infuriated by, and seemed indifferent to the grief that showed clearly on the very expressive face. Somehow William seemed to blame Blair for his son's death.

Stephen, Jim's younger brother was present physically but was constantly on the phone handling business. He however did take time to speak with Blair. He thanked Blair for nudging his older brother into his life, inquired about the loft and informed Blair that he was aware that Jim's Will was to be read and that Blair would be contacted as to the time and date his presence would be required. A conversation that seemed cool and detached. Blair was an outsider at his best friend's Wake and made his visit short. Jim was family, these people were not.

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

"Blair you can come and stay with me. I have a guest room, it's in the back and you'd have privacy."

Blair smiled at the generous offer, it had been the fourth of its kind, and normally he might have seriously considered it, but right now he wanted-needed to be alone.

"Simon, thank you for seeing me in and for the company but right now, I would just like to be alone. I really, truly, appreciate the offer but I need some time to myself right now."

Capt. Banks nodded. "If you change your mind, or need to talk please call me or one of the guys. We're here if you need us."

Blair escorted the man to the door. "Thank you. Everything you've done, well, it means a lot to me."

As the door closed Blair turned around and gazed at the loft before him. It seemed colder and somehow a bit foreign to him. Suddenly he wanted to be anywhere but here. Just then the phone rang and Blair reached for it. "Hello?" Blair waited. "Hello, I-is anyone there?" Blair frowned and then hesitantly whispered. "Jim?" Then the phone went dead.

Frowning, he hung up the phone and went toward the stairs that led up towards his friend's room. He made it up three steps and slumped down on the edge of one. It felt wrong going into Jim's room - taboo. Blair had only been up there a handful of times in all the years he had shared the loft with the man. Jim liked his privacy and his room was the one place where he unwound. Blair respected that - still did.

The weary man closed his eyes in a struggle to still the voices in his mind but it was all too much. He began to cry. He had lost the only person who seemed to give a damn about an overly obnoxious anthropologist. Jim gave Blair a reason to apply his talents and energy towards something that meant helping others. He had instructed him on the value of rules and through this Blair learned a new way to live. Now all of it was gone. Jim had been officially declared dead. Still the battle continued deep in Blair's heart where he refused to accept the proven fact. It was irrational and maybe a bit childish but that was how he felt. It was this voice that shouted louder than the one that considered the facts true. The voice called out but no answer was supplied.

Slowly the loneliness and the silence swarmed around the young man. Blair wept and finally fell asleep alone on the stair below his friend's bedroom.

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

The moon relinquished the sky and sunlight soon streamed through the window in the corner of the room and slowly the tired man roused from his sleep. He gazed around the room and remembered nothing. Just then the door leading to his bedside opened and two men entered.

"Well, well, how are we doing today?"

Suddenly, the memory flooded his mind. The explosion and then his abduction. "When are you assholes going to understand the seriousness of endangering the life of an officer of the law?"

The taller of the two stepped forward. "What we need from you is obedience, nothing more. When you have completed what we need, your death will become a reality."

"They will be looking for me."

The taller man motioned for the other to move to the wall furthest from him. "Really detective? It has been several days since your abduction. You really are a bit sensitive to drugs aren't you? Anyway, where are my manners? 'Your friends will search for you?'" The man chuckled. "Then perhaps you would care to explain to me why 'they' have held a funeral in your honor? Imagine six days after your little 'accident', they've located a body in your truck and, with no further investigation pending, they have given up on you." Suddenly the wall at the far end of the room opened up and revealed a television situated within. The screen came to life and the video recording of a funeral was in progress. The funeral of Detective James Ellison.

Ellison sat up to look at the mourners as the camera panned throughout the area and noticed one person in particular. He was off to the side, alone and looking smaller than all those around him. Soon the young man was joined by his co-workers but still seemed out of place.

Jim watched as the funeral ended and his father and brother headed in the direction towards the cars. His superior and fellow officers placed flowers on the casket and left. His partner was the last to leave. Slowly, almost hesitantly Blair stepped up to the casket. Though the captors couldn't possibly hear what the lone mourner was saying, Ellison could. "Jim? I still don't believe that you're dead. I can't, I won't accept it. Please forgive me. They say your soul can't be released unless those closest to you say goodbye." Blair looked skyward. "I won't ever say goodbye and if somehow you are still alive, please know that there is one person who believed it all the time. I promise to keep an eye out for you and to never give up hope." Blair placed a single pink daisy on the casket, turned to walk away and stopped. "I love you Jim, you are the best brother I could ever wish for." As Blair walked away, he paused once more, turned and seemed to see the cameraman. The video ended.

The taller man smirked. "Even that weakling gave up."

Ellison closed his eyes and held on to the fact that Blair was truly the only person who felt he was alive. Everyone, even his superior, gave up. They all said goodbye. Blair didn't. Ellison held on to the words and the hope behind their meaning. "What am I doing here?"

"My name is George and this is Donnie. We are couriers of sorts. You will be delivered to a person who has purchased you for a particular reason and paid a great deal of money to secure your presence. Reasons don't matter to us. You are goods we supply and I must say, you were the easiest to acquire."

Ellison looked around his cell.

George laughed. "There is no escape and starting now you will be injected with a very special drug. Prepared and ready for delivery."

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

Ellison felt detached and confused. At times he forgot who he was or where he was but held on to one image: the face of a young man looking into his eyes with an expression of total trust. The mental image calmed him for some reason but he just couldn't remember why.

He vaguely remembered that he had been transported by air and then by car to a rather huge home in the hills situated in some obscure area, which his confused mind could not figure out. The large dwelling was well hid by a very lush garden and seemed quite distant from any onlookers. The doors of the home opened and Ellison was half carried into the house and then down some stairs into the home's very large and cold basement.

He was dropped on the floor and a bright light shined on him. "Well, well, well. Hello my friend. Please, allow me to introduce myself. The name is Geoff Zeller."

Ellison was extremely disoriented and his memory sluggish, yet there was something about the name. Something familiar.

Zeller leaned forward. "You murdered my beloved brother. Come now, you do remember him don't you? He failed to assassinate a political official and, being that he was a man who took his job and his reputation seriously, was provoked into some vary rash actions. He took on you and your friends. Like I mentioned rash. Eventually he was chased by you to the roof where you pushed him to his death."

Ellison shook his head, the memory returned. "Klaus Zeller died by his own hands. He had shot his escape rope while attempting to shoot an officer of the law."

Zeller struck Ellison across the face. "Liar. Filthy American liar." Zeller walk away and stopped. "I have ended your life as you know it and now you will be forced to live another. Here you will endure an existence of indescribable pain. I will have you beg for mercy and then plead for your death. I will reduce you into an animal begging for freedom before you are finally forced to die."

Ellison sighed. "Go to hell."

Zeller smiled. "You think you are one of the brave ones don't you? You think you won't be broken. We shall see. My brother deserved to die with his reputation and the honor of this house intact. You stole that and now I shall laugh at your misery and believe me James Ellison, I could use a good, long laugh."

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

Blair attended the Will reading as did Mr. William Ellison and Steven. Per Jim, Mr. Ellison received all of his military medallions and all forms of his achievements because, per Jim, Mr. Ellison was responsible for the military man he once was and he thanked him for pushing him in that direction.

Jim left several bonds he had purchased to his brother to, as he put it, reinvest them and further his own financial future. He had been saddened by the fact that the two of them hadn't really become as close as he would have liked but wanted to be a part of his younger brother's future. He had hoped it was enough.

To Blair he left the loft and truck and all of his belongings within each. He said it was because of the work they did together and because he trusted Blair to handle his personal items with good judgment. The loft was no longer in escrow and the younger man would simply have to maintain the tax payments. The truck could either be kept or sold. Jim had made sure to make his payment two years in advance. The next payment wouldn't be due until 2006. He also offered Blair the plot beside his, stating that Blair was a terrible planner and since Jim had not remarried he considered it an honor to share this final resting place with his best friend. Blair smiled as tears slid down his cheek.

William Ellison was furious. The plot was one thing but he thought the loft should have been his to sell. Blair Sandburg was merely a friend to his son. "You, Mr. Sandburg, are nothing to me or my family. You were simply his partner and a poor one at that. You should have been with him -- you should have been the one... He said you helped him, well where the hell where you when this happened? It had been your duty to watch out for my son, instead you caused him undue damage by nearly exposing his personal life to the world and then you let him out of your sight. You are nothing but a leech living off my son's hard work. Nothing of his should be yours."

Blair said nothing. He had never believed in possessions as holding any essence of a person. Jim had been his friend and nothing would take that fact away. As for his not being there when this happened and not suffering the same end as his Sentinel, that was something he still wouldn't come to terms with. Jim was alive he had to be.

Still, the words William Ellison spat at him hurt deeply.

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

William Ellison, a man of strong convictions and even stronger anger, contacted his attorneys and decided that he would dispute the Will.

Three months later, Blair was evicted from the loft. The loft and the truck were to be held by the courts until a judge decided whether Mr. Ellison did indeed have the right to those possessions. The next court date was five months down the line with the possibility of continuance.

Blair didn't tell anyone at the precinct. This was personal and he really didn't want anyone to think ill of William Ellison - the man was just hurt because he hadn't had enough time to get to really know his eldest son. In any event, this was part of Jim's private life and Blair decided it should be kept this way.

Material things never held any sort of importance to the younger man; it was memories that bound his soul to his friend. Besides some of the personal belongings Blair took two additional things from the loft before he left; a picture of he and Jim when they went fishing together with Simon and Jim's Jag cap. Nothing else mattered.

Blair had asked Banks for a month off without pay. The superior couldn't deny the kid the time off, though he worked well with others, Sandburg just wasn't happy. It wasn't until Blair had left town that Simon discovered the kid was living out of a small warehouse, which was located in a very bad part of Cascade.

Being who he was, Banks did a little investigating and was furious to discover that Mr. William Ellison arranged to have the kid evicted from the loft and even angrier that Blair didn't tell anyone about his situation. No matter what else happened, Simon considered Sandburg a friend as well as one of his best men and wanted to help. Jim would have appreciated it and Simon would have it no other way. Now he found himself wondering whether the kid would be returning or had he planned on simply walking away.

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

Having saved a bit of money from the work he did at the precinct and the private tutoring he was doing to the students who still demanded his assistance with certain academic studies, Blair decided that he would drive up to Vancouver. There he would hang out with Angus, an old friend who ran a wilderness venture. Angus told him he was always in need of someone to watch the place at night and when his old friend offered his services, he was eager to have Blair arrive as soon as possible.

Seems no one wanted to stay up in the hills after the tourists season came to an end and because there were much more exciting things to do in the city at this time of the year. Blair, on the other hand wanted the quiet. He needed time to just think.

Angus was a transplanted Californian. He loved the water and nature in general. He could do just about any outdoor sport there was and was good at them all. He visited the area two years ago with his friend Scott and Scott's girlfriend Belinda and fell in love with the people of Canada and with the wilderness that existed here. His soul had found an inner peace here.

He promptly invested in 200 acres of land with money his father had left him in a Trust, built a business on what he knew and the business flourished. White Water Rafting, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, you name it, Angus could set you up. Unbeknownst to entrepreneur, Blair had listed him amongst the names for substitute guides for his Sentinel. Angus was in touch with his inner self, honest and thick skinned. Someone Jim wouldn't have been able to easily push aside. Now he was the only person, besides Simon and Naomi, that the young man felt he could trust.

As Blair neared the main house in his car he smiled, his still tanned and athletic looking friend was already running up to his car. "Dude, it's great to have you do this for me."

Blair parked, stepped out and then high-fived his host and friend. "Angus, man, I am the one who owes you big time. The offer was too good to pass on and the home away from home is a dream come true. Things were getting a bit heavy in Cascade and I just had to get away."

Angus placed a hand on Blair's shoulder and noted that his once exuberant friend was slightly depressed and that his overall demeanor seemed unusually subdued. "Oh, hey, I heard about your detective friend, heard they never found the murderer. I am so sorry man."

Blair looked away; it was not something he wanted to discuss here. Knowing he was behaving irrationally, he felt like running away from the truth, their truth, was the best way to deal with the situation. The longer he denied the truth others believed, the longer Jim stayed alive. Vancouver was a great escape. "Thanks man. So how bout you give me a grand tour?"

Angus laughed and did just that. While driving a small golfers-style cart around the property his friend showed Blair the sights.

The place was beautiful, peaceful and a great diversion for Blair's heavy heart. Angus enthusiastically showed him everything. He proudly told his friend about the few wilderness types that lived in areas nearby and from time to time stopped in to use the phones, bathrooms or just talk. Angus felt it was important to welcome these people free of charge and showed Blair the two small cabins he kept at the edge of the property that housed the bare essentials for just those times. Four days later and thoroughly well informed Blair was left to tend to the small venture, most of the tourists had left, three hiking types remained and it was currently just he and God's country. He took a walk outside, just to clear his mind and attempted to silence his personal demons.

Taking a half an hour stroll and he reached the river that ran beside the property, after a bit he decided to turn back. His mind was suddenly quiet, no thoughts of what to do now popped up. Here he felt calmed. As he walked along the path leading back to the main house he felt a presence nearby. He stopped and turned but saw no one. He heard a branch snap and paused. "Hello?"

He turned and quickened his pace toward the house something suddenly felt wrong odd out there. Once he was safely on the porch of the large cabin, he again looked around the area. Nothing but trees for as far as an average man could see and nature's quiet. He shrugged and entered the house. Later he decided he was suffering from living in the city too long.

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

Ellison had been starved, beaten, tortured, placed in a deprivation tank for three days and raped several times whilst Zeller watched in complete amusement of the other's suffering. It was almost textbook examples on how to break a person's will to live. Thankfully his senses had cut out on him at some point and Jim was allowed a certain amount of mental peace. Still nothing seemed to break his spirit. He repeatedly struggled against his tormentors and tried, whenever possible, to escape.

This was infuriating to the man who now considered himself Ellison's owner. Zeller wanted the man to beg for his life or to cry out for death. He didn't care which, he wanted his brother's murderer to know the true depths of agony. Ellison did none of this and only once did he ask for someone named 'Chief' to help him and then asked for 'Chief' to forgive him. Zeller wanted to be on the receiving end of this plea and was denied. Whoever this 'Chief' was, Zeller hated them.

Zeller looked at a newspaper article which contained Ellison's photograph; he was determined to find some way to break the monster. The story was how the detective thwarted Klaus' efforts to assassinate his target.

Zeller frowned as he considered the man lying in the cell, Ellison was holding on to some hope. Something was keeping him going. He then requested information on every aspect of the man's life and discovered that he was divorced with no children, that he was not very close to his family, a career man and until recently was almost a recluse.

Det. James Ellison had had two partners and both were dead. That currently he had been partnered with a police consultant and had shared a spare room with the man. Zeller requested a picture of this observer and discovered that Blair Sandburg was an educated man - an academic.

Anthropologist, observer, teacher and now consultant. Zeller looked critically at the picture of this Sandburg fellow and tilted his head; he seemed too young and naive to be accompanying this butcher. Yet there was something about his eyes, something wise and old. He wondered if this Blair Sandburg had somehow become the man's family. He wondered if this was 'Chief'.

Neither men appeared to be the type to find same sex relations interesting, Ellison had given quite a fight before he had finally been raped and each time afterward, so there had to be something deeper there. Something Zeller could tear away from Ellison and use to finally break his spirit.

Zeller dug even deeper into the butcher's life, money and resources afforded him easy access to every aspect of James Ellison's life and he soon discovered that Blair Sandburg was listed as the sole benefactor of the man's home and possessions. Again, Zeller looked at the pictures his hired investigator took of Blair Sandburg at his current location and made a decision. Six hours later, Zeller arrived in Vancouver and was now amongst some tourists at the Wilderness Ventures.

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

Three days before Blair is left in charge

Angus had been concerned about the weak looking gentleman from the states. He didn't seem capable of going rafting. He eventually approached the man - Mr. Holtz.

Sandburg was out near the river that flowed past the property, fishing and deep in thought when he was approached by Angus and an older man. "Hey Blair can I ask you for a favor?"

Blair smiled. "Sure no problem. What's up?"

Angus said something to the older man and then placed a hand on Blair's shoulder, "Look normally I'd have one of the guys do this but I am booked solid for the day. Mr. Holtz over there is not really feeling physically fit to go rafting and has asked to sit this one out. He does enjoy fishing and I was hoping you wouldn't mind having a fishing partner until we return?"

Blair smiled pleasantly towards the older man. "Sure. Why not?"

Blair stepped up to the man and held out his hand. "Hello Mr. Holtz, my name is Blair."

Mr. Holtz grinned broadly, "It is a pleasure to meet you, Blair. Please feel free to call me Geoff."

Angus slapped Blair on the back. "I'll be back in four hours to check on the two of you. Mr. Holtz lunch will be prepared then but if you need anything let Blair know, he's familiar with the place. Also, if you get a good catch, we'll prepare it for you."

Mr. Holtz shook Angus' hand and smiled. "That would be terrific, everything is fine now. Thank you for your assistance."

Angus frowned, the man sounded different -stronger - but he decided it was just his imagination. He really did need some time back in the city.

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

An hour later and located in the center of the river, Blair prepared Geoff's line and gave it to the man. The two discussed weather, favorite vacation spots and their homes. Eventually the conversation turned to careers, Geoff was an import director of sorts and dealt in hard to locate exotic merchandise, he seemed quite comfortable with his accomplishments and was a bit of a traveler.

Slowly Geoff shifted the conversation and got Blair to speak about his job at the university and then his change of direction to his current employ with the Cascade Police Department. Geoff was intrigued, the younger man was indeed trusting, almost blatantly open, extremely well educated and well versed on several levels of topics. Still Geoff probed deeper into the younger man's life; he had to obtain the information he came for. "So who is you partner in Cascade?"

The boat was on land and the two were working on getting their gear onto dry land. Blair looked away. "He was in an accident and well his body was never recovered."

Geoff was surprised by the answer and obvious lie. This kid hadn't given up. He was like the other. "The two of you very close?"

Blair continued to avoid making eye contact. "Yes we are. He's more like a brother, family. You know?"

Geoff nodded. "I too recently lost a brother. He was murdered."

Blair looked at the man beside him. "Was his murderer caught?"

Geoff smirked. "I handled the matter."

Blair looked at the man a bit longer and then looked away.

Geoff moved closer to the younger man. "You disapprove?"

Blair smiled sadly. "Sorry, I meant no offense. If it could bring back the dead then maybe I might agree that revenge is the answer. But, well, my friend would not have approved and neither would I. Evil can't always win. The circle of hate and violence has to end somewhere."

Geoff suddenly became angry. "And only the weak surrender their honor."

"I'm sorry. I hadn't meant to appear judgmental. We all have ways of dealing with personal matters. I would be gravely mistaken to assume that my beliefs are the only just ones to make."

Geoff stood, refusing to let the topic end. "We are human, Blair. We have the right to make decisions that forge our future. Judging helps to form opinions. But for now, allow me to ask you something. If you found out that your detective friend was a prisoner, tortured and in need of help, what would you do to those who hurt him?"

Blair looked the man beside him in the eyes. "Assuming I found him and he was still alive, I would be grateful for the fact that he still existed. Time would heal his wounds, I would be there every step of the way if he asked and I would let him know I never gave up on him. He would do the same for me. As for those responsible, I would hope that the law could take care of them. I know that at heart I would also hope for their deaths, something I would try to deal with on a personal level, but I could never murder another." Blair looked at the man beside him. "I may sound weak to you Geoff, but it is who I am. Justice eventually handles itself, if not here then in the place beyond this life."

Just then Angus came to join the two and take Mr. Holtz to dinner. Blair stayed a while longer. The conversation with Geoff had bothered him and he wondered how it ever got that introspective. He had obfuscated about his friend's situation but basically it was what he believed. His friend was missing.

Blair looked out at the majestic wilderness view around him and allowed a few tears to fall because his friend wasn't here to share it. It was all so very frustrating. It was one thing to know, deep in your soul that your friend was alive and missing but it was hard to pass each day without knowing how to find him. He had tried everything that his three years of experience could suggest and even a few creative searches but it was futile. Nothing turned up. All the revenge types were where they should be and since no ransom note had been delivered it seemed Jim just couldn't be found. Still Blair wouldn't give up and no amount of fact or even the idea that he was alone in this seemed to. "God Jim I miss you. I-I wish I was with you - wherever that is."

Most of the tourists left that night and those remaining were scheduled to leave by week's end. Blair found himself looking forward to the solitude that would follow. At the moment, however, it was time he reconnected with his 'real' world and decided to call Simon, his surrogate, self-appointed 'Blessed Protector' and inform him of his whereabouts.

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

Captain Banks was just finishing up on a few reports when his phone rang, "Banks".

"Hi, Simon, it's Blair."

Simon stopped. "Where the hell are you?"

Blair chuckled. "Aww, Do you miss me Simon?

Banks sighed. "Sandburg!!!"

"Alright, jeez, I am in Vancouver, staying at a friend's outdoor activities facility, the Wilderness Venture."

"Sandburg, something's come up and Jim's accident file had to be reopened."

"What? Why?"

"Apparently someone had switched the results at the lab and the error was discovered yesterday. I am having this carefully investigated especially since someone seemed to go through a great deal of trouble to ensure the tests appeared to be Ellison's. Taggert did some digging and apparently the body belongs to a man who had been missing for a month. You were right Blair, it wasn't Jim's."

Blair closed his eyes and sighed. "I knew it. God, I so knew it."

Banks sighed. "I know you did. Look we are now treating this as a kidnapping and I would feel better if you would come in. Call it a hunch but I got to think that whoever did this might be looking for you."

Blair smiled at the concern he heard over the phone, sometimes Simon could be as bad as Jim. "I guess I can come in a couple of days. The place is closed up for the next month and I can't just leave right now."

"Alright, leave you number on my voicemail. That way I can access it whenever I need to, drive carefully and call me from the road."

"I'll be okay Simon."

"Sandburg, humor me alright?"

"Okay and thanks."

"Oh and Sandburg when you return, you and I need to have a long talk about friendship and sharing personal problems."

"Sir?"

"I will see you tomorrow mister."

Blair hung up the receiver and smiled again. Normally Simon's tone would have made the younger man nervous but he had better things on his mind. Jim was out there, there was proof and now, with additional help, he would find his friend. He decided to turn in early but was stopped by a knock on the door. He went to answer it and the door was suddenly violently flung against him. Blair tried to gain his footing and was shot in the neck with a dart.

Stunned the young man struggled to stay away from the approaching shadowy figures; his vision grew fuzzy and prevented him from making out the image of a person no standing over him. The voice was familiar. "So my young friend you think revenge is foolish? Well, let's just see how forgiving when faced with reality."

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

He was confused, dazed. He just wanted to be left alone to die. He was so tired and had nothing left to fight for. The boy's face reminded him that someone cared for him once but now he was stripped of most of his dignity, he wasn't worthy of such loyalty. Thinking of that face made him feel lonely and ashamed of how this kid would view him if he knew what had been done to him. He felt like an abandoned and abused animal. Once he had been strong but now he simply wanted to let go of life.

The door to his cell opened and he was dragged out. He was pushed into a shower room and clothing had been left for him to put on. He was grateful for the chance to clean himself up. Being a one time operative of covert ops gave him the ability to push the pain and humiliation aside but lately he simply didn't care. He gazed into the mirror and saw vacant eyes looking back at him from an unshaven face. He closed his eyes in an attempt to gain some kind of control and proceeded to clean himself up.

Half an hour later he was fed and taken to another room to sleep. He wondered what Zeller was planning but decided to take full advantage of the respite. He slept deeply. He dreamt of a time when he shared his life with friends. He dreamt of a friend who believed in him and respected him. When he woke he wondered if the friend would still respect him. Would there be anything left for the kid to remain loyal to?

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

Blair regained consciousness in what looked like a large garden house. He slowly sat up on the couch were he had been placed and noticed that he still felt extremely dizzy.

"Well it is about time you joined us my naive friend."

Blair shook his head in an effort to try to clear his vision. "Umm, mister, Mr. Holtz? What did you do to me? Why?" It was Holtz except it wasn't. This man wasn't frail or dressed in fleece and cargo pants. This man wore an expensive suit and he had the look of someone with power. He also looked as though emotions were foreign to him.

Holtz sat across from Blair and grinned. "Oh, perhaps I wanted to continue our discussion on a more personal and private level." Holtz leaned toward the disoriented man. "I'm afraid I haven't been completely honest as to my identity. My name is not Geoff Holtz, its Geoff Zeller."

Blair frowned and then. "Klaus Zeller's - uhh, brother?"

Zeller laughed. "So you remember, eh?"

Blair shakily stood and looked around for an avenue of escape. Two men came from behind somewhere and pushed him back on his chair.

Zeller laughed at his captives the weak attempt to flee. "Come now my young friend. I have done my research on you and I know that by now you have surmised that I was the one responsible for Ellison's little scrape and disappearance. You are quite intelligent and inventive as well. My motive is simple, I wanted revenge, he murdered my brother. Justice for his wrongful death."

Blair fought to regain control over his body and was still unable to completely shake off the slight disorientation he was experiencing. "Your brother died trying to escape. He injured several police detectives during his shooting spree. H-he shot the rope he was using because he was trying to kill Jim. He did it to himself."

Zeller crossed over to where his captive sat and struck Blair across the mouth. "Ellison murdered him in cold blood." Zeller turned, sighed and straightened his suit. Slowly he returned to the seat across from Blair, "Please excuse me. I sometimes have a terrible temper."

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

Blair wiped the blood that trickled from him mouth and shook his head in dismay. "Where's Jim?"

Zeller looked at the man in mild surprise. "How can you be so certain? Perhaps he is already dead."

"If he was dead, you wouldn't have brought me here."

Zeller laughed. "Perhaps I brought you here to see his body."

Blair tilted his head. "You idiots are all alike. You talk because you like to be heard, you brag and hurt others because you like the false sense of strength it gives you. Well I'm here. I am sure you've got some inane idea on how to hurt him further and I am the pawn. Nothing new, nothing original. So let's get to it."

Zeller looked at the man seated on the couch before him. He was frightened but tried to appear brave; willing to face anything and secretly Zeller wondered where his strength came from. "Well then let's go visit our mutual friend."

Blair tried to remain focused but felt numb and displaced. It was as though he were dreaming some sort of bizarre nightmare. He figured that he had been drugged and that the drugs made everything seem to tilt away from him as he was dragged down some stairs and through a cool hallway by two guards until they stopped in front of a metal door. Zeller, who had followed the trio to the basement, shoved his newest prisoner into the room behind the metal door.

Still fighting the disoriented feeling, Blair's eyes immediately fell on the man crouched in a corner facing away from the doorway.

Blair looked back at the door and noticed that it was quickly closed and then locked. The room seemed devoid of prying eyes, or at least that was what they wanted him to think. Feeling suddenly very nauseous, the drugged man took a deep breath in order to calm his stomach. When he felt better, he slowly walked toward the figure crouched in the corner of the room and hesitantly reached out.

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

He waited in the corner of his cell for what seemed like an eternity. He was going to escape this time or die trying. He had to try - he had his reason. The sound of footsteps coming toward his cell was reward for his patience and he prepared himself to act.

The door opened and the sound on one set of shoes stepped in. He smiled ruefully, the fools sent in only one man. He waited until the person came closer.

With speed borne out of desperation, he spun on the man and knocked him to the floor. He brought up his fist and froze.

"Jim, please."

He shook his head in denial. "No, you're not real. You can't be." He was prepared to bring his fist down, ready to break the nose and send cartilage to the brain, instant death, and again hesitated; he noticed that his victim simply closed his eyes as a tear slid from beneath the lids. The submissive action forced him to look closely at the individual.

Slowly Ellison touched the face, seeing what was there but not believe. He hoped it would not fade away in some dream-like manner and realized that this truly was the face that somehow helped him to keep his sanity; it was the face that held hope. "Chief?"

Blair opened his eyes and looked hard into the ice blue ones that gazed back at him. He couldn't speak. This had to be some sort of drug-induced hallucination resulting from the drugs he had been given. Still the face remained. The bruises, the light blue eyes that glowed with intensity all belonged to his friend. Jim was really here.

A hand slid around his neck, scooped him into strong arms and Blair was fiercely embraced.

Slowly he returned the hug even though he still felt a bit weakened. "Oh god Jim, I never gave up. I never stopped believing you were alive."

Ellison released his friend and pulled only far back enough to look at him. He noticed the blood at the corner of Sandburg's mouth and then noticed how Sandburg could barely keep his eyes open. His protective nature responded without regard for his own condition. "What did that animal do to you buddy?"

Blair smiled at the tone - they were together now. "I was just going to ask you that." Blair reached up to touch the older man's face and met the other's gaze. "No matter what has happened or what will happen, you'll be okay."

"What did they do to you?"

"Kidnapped. Drugged. Nothing I haven't done before." Blair smiled. "Jim, you're not a dream are you?"

Ellison felt tears threatening to fall and returned a small grin. "No Chief. God, I am so sorry about this, about so much more."

"Hey remember nothing that happened or happens is your fault. You're alive and I couldn't be happier."

The door to the cell opened. "How very heartwarming. Tell me Ellison how would you feel if we did to your little friend there what was done to you?"

Ellison slid in front of his Guide. "You touch him and I will kill you."

Zeller smirked. "Take 'Chief' here to the other room. Prepare him."

Ellison had fought the two men before and knew that he was now in no condition to win. He turned and faced his friend in shame. "I am so sorry Chief."

Blair touched the other's face and repeated their new mantra. "Nothing that happened or happens is your fault. That's all that matters. You're alive, please try to stay that way."

Stirred to action by the words and presence of his friend, the badly beaten man tried, nonetheless, to keep his friend with him but as predicted, he lost the battle and soon the two guards pulled his friend out of the room.

Zeller immediately injected the newcomer with another more potent drug and watched his guards escort the weakened man away. "So you are 'Chief'." Again he wondered at the strength the weaker of the two showed. It was almost too good to be true.

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

Ellison knelt in front of his captor, his body screaming from the pain but determined to do this for his friend, he closed his eyes. "Please."

Zeller smiled broadly. "What? I-I'm so sorry, I didn't hear you. Could you repeat yourself?"

Ellison slowly stood up but his head remained bowed. "Please don't hurt him. I beg you."

Zeller laughed, "I have waited so long to hear those words come from your mouth and now I find myself a bit disappointed. Now I want more. Yes, more. You will watch your friend suffer and die. Then you shall share the same fate."

Ellison stepped up to the man and desperation was quickly replaced with pure hatred. "You harm him in any way and I will kill you."

Zeller turned away from the man and paused. There was nothing but pleasure when baiting your enemy. "Your little friend and I had an interesting talk a while back. He told me something I found quite unbelievable. Said he didn't believe in revenge. Said that you would be disappointed in him if he killed anyone in your name. Actually believes that revenge isn't the answer."

"He's different. I however, am not. I have killed before and if needed, I will again."

Zeller laughed as he stepped out of the cell. He looked back at the man through the window embedded on the door. The moment the pale blue eyes met his a shiver passed through him.

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

Zeller watched the younger man sleep and noticed that twice in his sleep he called out for the other. It had been three days and the injections were not received well. Zeller wanted to use the young man to complete his revenge on Ellison. Wanted to bend his will but the designer drugs proved lethal. At one point the younger man's heart stopped. Zeller's med tech quickly resuscitated him.

Stranger still was the fact that Zeller received a report stating that at around the same time Ellison was begging for the life of his friend. Almost as though he knew his friend was dying. Zeller smiled, revenge was indeed the nectar of the gods.

The man in the bed stirred and looked at Zeller.

Zeller reached over and held his hand. "Hello, Klaus how are you feeling?"

"I-I don't remember... my name is Klaus?"

Zeller smiled broadly. "Yes my brother. You are safe for the moment. Your target is being held here and when you are ready you can complete your assignment."

"I am a spy?"

Zeller laughed at the smaller man's disorientation and reveled in the feeling of control the drugs had provided for him. "You are an assassin, one of the best. You were to take out a government official and had been prevented from doing so by a detective. We don't believe in failure do we now?"

"No?"

"Good, I expect for you to eliminate him as soon as possible."

The man closed his eyes and tried to force the feeling of confusion away. "You are my brother?"

Zeller grinned. "Of course. Half brothers really."

'Klaus' looked at him. "I don't have an accent."

Zeller nodded. "You worked hard to rid yourself of it. I am happy to see it was not affected in the accident."

"Did I hit my head?"

Zeller nodded. "You fell from a window, the detective shot your safety rope."

'Klaus' slowly sat up. "I-I don't remember anything. I'm so messed up."

Zeller placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "Together we will work on your..."

The younger man shivered and pushed away from the man beside him. "No, no you're lying. I'm not your brother and I-I won't kill do you understand? I won't."

Zeller was furious, "Damn you. You will work for me and you will make Ellison pay."

Blair shook his head and backed further away from the man as he approached him. "Please stay away. I-I, Jim?"

Zeller laughed at the younger man's need for the other and called several guards into the room. "I will have a talk with my personal physician about his failure to meet my expectations and then I will return. For now I want you strapped to the table."

The two men grabbed the weak but squirming man and placed him on the table. Blair kicked one man on the jaw and was struck hard on the face. He immediately succumbed to unconsciousness.

Zeller saw the man strike him and became furious. "You will not strike him again. Understand?

The man nodded.

Zeller sighed and touched the face of the younger man. "Even in sleep you appear naïve and innocent. James Ellison will weep when I take all of this from you."

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

Banks was furious. Sandburg hadn't called or shown up. He reached for the phone and called the place where Blair was staying. He came into contact with a man named Angus. "Look Blair is a responsible kid. Someone has to have taken him. The place was ransacked and his stuff is still here. The local constables are searching for him but there's nothing. It's like he was snatched up by aliens or something."

Banks tried to assure Angus that Blair would be fine, he then thanked the man and assured him that he would inform him should Blair turn up. Angus informed the Captain that Sandburg's car and personal belongings would be watched until he was located.

Det. Joel Taggert and Det. Henry Brown were present for the phone call. Brown looked at the report in his hand. "Captain, Zeller must have Hairboy. It's the only explanation that makes any sense."

Taggert nodded in agreement with his co-worker. "It seems only logical. I called Blair's friend Kelso and he confirmed that Klaus Zeller's brother is very protective. Said Geoff Zeller is also very sick. Seems the creep was digging into Sandburg's background and somehow his investigator messed up and contacted Kelso directly. Though it's unproven, according to CIA information it is believed that Zeller's family are heavily into the assassination business. This guy is ringleader. For a price he'll kill anyone. On the side he deals in smuggling and white slavery."

Capt. Banks frowned. "Do we have a location on this guy?"

Taggert nodded. "He owns a rather large place in a very remote area of Canada." Taggert placed the file in the Captain's hand and cleared his throat. "Sir, Sandburg saved my life the day Zeller came here, I want in on this."

Brown stepped up and was soon joined by his partner Brian Rafe. "So do Rafe and I, sir. Sandburg saved a lot of us that day and we'd like the opportunity to repay him."

Capt. Banks stood and looked out the window. "You are all aware that Ellison was this guy's first victim and now Sandburg could be dead too. This is all just a hunch."

"Yes sir."

Banks turned to face his men. "I'll arrange to get the proper papers. Please, I don't want to have to remind each of you that we will be out of our jurisdiction and we will have to tread carefully on this one." His men nodded. "Good. Dismissed."

Simon returned to gaze out of his window. He was also concerned for the young consultant and wondered if perhaps Sandburg had been able to find his partner. Zeller had only one reason for kidnapping the two - revenge.

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

Ellison had been forced to stay in his cell in isolation. Being a Sentinel this was not possible.

Sounds, smells and even touch combined a mixture of hate and anger that blended into his very soul and consumed with hatred. He wanted to kill Zeller. Sandburg was an innocent. His only fault had been being friends and guide to Ellison. Jim had heard when Blair's heart stopped and was filled with fear and then joy when his friend had been resuscitated. He also heard Zeller as he tried to trick Blair into believing he was his brother. Ellison smiled as Blair fought the drug and won. When Zeller ordered Sandburg strapped to the table he had a flashback to his own days of physical assault and hoped Sandburg would be spared. Thankfully, his wish had been granted - for the moment.

Now Jim paced his cell walking a tightrope between sanity and blind hatred, he didn't understand why his senses came back on line now, only that they did and that he would use them on his tormentor. Zeller was planning to harm his friend further and that could not happen. The Sentinel would protect his Guide.

The door to his cell opened and in came Ellison's target. For a moment it felt as though the captive was no longer in his body, he felt distant. Like he was watching his cell from some camera off to the right. Zeller stepped up and Ellison struck him swiftly and without regard to his victim's well being. The guard who accompanied Zeller had his neck snapped before he could raise his gun. Zeller tried to regain consciousness and Ellison struck him again. He stood up and was prepared to strike the man one more time - fatally. He was prevented from doing so by a sound only a Sentinel could hear beckoning him. His Guide was in trouble.

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

Blair felt hands on him and at first he thought it was a doctor and that he and Jim had been rescued but the hands were touching him in places that were -- wrong.

Slowly he forced his eyes to open and looked downward. The guard was touching him, placing his mouth on, "No. Noooo!!!! Get off of me you wacko. Stop it." Blair, still in a drug induced fog, noticed that he had been released from the leather straps and brought up his knee striking the guard on the side of his head. He immediately jumped off the table and quickly zipped up his pants. He tried to reach the door but was caught in the arms of another guard.

The first man walked over to him and struck him. "I was being gentle with you but now we are going to show you what we showed your friend."

The guard behind him kissed his neck and Blair squirmed and kicked at the man before him.

The guard behind him laughed. "Your friend took on three of us. Ass is sweet when it's earned. You won't stand a chance little boy."

The first guard struck Blair in the ribs twice and Blair went down. "I can't. Don't."

The door to the room swung open and the first guard was shot. The second guard went to grab Blair from behind and froze.

Blair looked up and smiled. "Jim?"

"Well, how very brave and very foolish." Zeller stood behind Ellison with two more guards in tow and a gun pointed at Ellison's head. "Blair, please come here."

The guard behind Blair shoved the disoriented man forward. Blair immediately moved to adjust his clothing to cover what had almost occurred. He glanced at his friend and, though still a bit dizzy, gave him a brave smile. "Thanks for trying Jim."

"Now, Mr. Sandburg or your friend will not be able to walk ever again." Geoff had lost his patience with these two. He issued a command and demanded it be followed.

Blair walked past his friend and was immediately pulled away by the guard who had come with Zeller.

Zeller looked past Ellison to the guard behind him. "I told you to watch this man, not assault him."

The guard never responded. A bullet between his eyes prevented any response. The other man in the room shared the same fate.

Zeller turned to face Ellison. "Seems I will be taking a trip and Mr. Sandburg will be accompanying me. I have gotten word that some of you friends are coming. Seems you were correct, they barely have enough to go on and yet they are coming here to check out what one would call a 'hunch'."

Ellison moved forward and the guard beside Sandburg pointed his gun at the captive's head.

Blair never flinched and looked at his friend trustingly. "Jim. Please don't. It's not worth it."

Ellison looked at his friend and smiled wryly. "It's the only thing that matters."

Blair returned his smile and was yanked away from Ellison's view.

Zeller looked at the tired man before him. This wasn't a broken man, no, this man's eyes blazed with the fire of hatred. "Yes, now I have my revenge. Now I see the suffering and fear in your eyes. Thank you. Know that your little friend will feel pain and I will alter his soul. Some day he will curse you and your memory for condemning him to a hell on earth." Zeller laughed. "Your punishment will be this and that you will live knowing he also lives in anguish."

The door to the room was closed and locked. Jim lunged at the door and pounded against it. "No. This is about me. Nooo."

Desperate to protect his friend, he searched the room for a way to escape. Slowly he tilted his head up and noticed a vent high and off to the left.

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

Blair tried to escape but was still weak, the drugs were apparently still in his system and his ribs were killing him. Geoff and the man with him obviously knew this and seemed unconcerned with tying him down. The guard whom Blair overheard was called Joe, shoved him into a white van and told him if he moved, he would be given something that would make him a living vegetable.

As the van pulled away from the trees that hid the large estate from view, Blair heard a thump on the roof and smiled. It was time.

Slowly he forced himself to move towards the front and placed his hands over the driver's face. Zeller struck Blair with his gun. A car moving on the opposite side of the road swerved to block the van forcing gravity to wreak havoc. The white vehicle fell on its side and slid along the street. A small fire broke out near the rear area of the van and smoke quickly filled the interior.

Ellison, who had pounced on the victim like a rather large jungle cat, was far from releasing his prey and had clung on to the van for as long as he could when the van swerved and he lost his grip. He fell to the ground and recovered in time to see the van slide down the street. It continued, eventually falling into a ditch and bursting into flames.

Slowly he rose and started to jog over to the wreck.

"Jim, oh my god. Jim?" Ellison didn't hear the cars screeching to a halt just behind him. He was too focused on the van and its occupants. He didn't even realize that his captain and friend was now beside him - stunned into silence by the detectives haggard appearance.

Taggert, Rafe and Brown ran to greet hit but halted when they heard his plea. "Please Simon, help him."

Rafe reacted quickly and with understanding -Blair was in the van. Simon stayed with Ellison just as Taggert and Brown made their way to assist Rafe.

Jim slowly sank to his knees and trembled from exhaustion. "He can't die. I ..."

Banks placed a hand on the detective. Just then the van burst into flames. Ellison shakily rose to his feet and began to run towards the danger.

Taggert and Rafe stepped out from beyond the flames and between the two men was a rather haggard looking individual.

Jim froze and waited until the two rescuers placed the smaller man on the ground nearby. Taggert looked at Banks and sighed. "We tried to save the others but it was too late."

Ellison misunderstood what he meant and he quickly began to check his friend's vitals.

Banks noticed the motions of his weary friend and tried to console him. "Jim, Blair is alive, he's just unconscious. The two others didn't make it out."

Ellison closed his eyes and pulled Sandburg into a fierce embrace. "May they both rot in hell." He felt Sandburg's hand wrap around his. It was then that he joined his Guide and succumbed to his own exhaustion still holding tightly to the smaller man in his arms.

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

Blair was the first to recover and wondered if it had all been a dream.

"Hey Sandburg how's it going?"

Blair looked up and noticed that Capt. Banks was sitting beside his bed. "Is it true? Is he…?"

Simon placed his hand on the smaller man's shoulder and grinned. "Yeah kid, you found him."

Blair tried to sit up and was pushed back onto the bed, "Sandburg, the doctor said for you to stay comfortable. Jim sent a message, he said he needs time. He... he has been through a lot."

Blair looked away. "They said that they tortured him. Zeller tried to drug me to forget him, to use me to kill him and I didn't." Blair closed his eyes. "They were going to ... tried to ...Simon they said that they..."

Simon placed a hand on that of the distressed man. "Right now you need to recover. The doctor said you could go home today if you're up to it. However, you will have to see a psychiatrist later on, but again that will be when you are ready."

"Will he be alright?"

Simon suddenly seemed very stoic. "He will be in time."

"He doesn't want to see me, does he?"

Simon placed a hand on the smaller man's and smiled. "He said as long as you are alright, he will be. For now though, he wants - needs some time to be alone." Banks sighed. "He needs to heal and, well, maybe, for now, he would heal better on his own.

'A Guide is supposed to help his Sentinel -always.'

As though hearing the thought, Simon spoke. "The doctors said that, situations like this, where the patient has been through as much as Jim, it's best to step back. It helps the patient get comfortable in his own skin."

Blair nodded sadly and surrendered his need to see his friend to the hope that Jim would heal if left alone. "If you see him again, tell him - no - make sure he understands that I'm here for him."

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

Several hours later, Capt. Banks drove the silent young consultant to his current warehouse dwelling.

Blair was ashamed of not informing him about the eviction from the loft and apologized. Simon informed Blair that it would all be straightened out, that Jim had a great deal to process at the moment but was sure that the older man would want him back in his old room.

Blair looked out the car window and sighed. "No, Simon, look, I really think it's time I get my own place. Jim's father was right. Two grown men shouldn't be living together, people talk and Jim doesn't need that right now. There are probably all sorts of stories going around at the station about Jim and me. I mean, people just like to assume stuff like that and, well, very few officers live together. Closed societies are very judgmental and, you know, Jim deserves to keep his reputation unblemished, especially now. Besides when all is said and done, Jim might feel better about me having moved out. You said it yourself, he needs time and time can change everything. This way, the choice has already been made."

Simon parked the car at the side of a curb and faced his passenger. "Look Blair, Jim needs you to be strong right now. I know where you rather want to be at the moment and I am sorry you can't be but you know he is not someone who's concerned with the small-minded ideas others may have and you shouldn't be either. So no more talk about gossip at the department, besides I have heard some of the whoppers myself and believe me, they are pretty bad, but it comes with the job or as you say 'closed societies'. You learn to ignore or you leave." Simon smiled. "Now how about you let me see what kind of place you've rented?"

Blair nodded and slowly exited the car.

Banks thought that the reports he received from his men and Ellison's stories about what the kid thought was a sufficient living space were embellishments created by self-appointed bigger brothers but they were nothing compared to what one saw with their own eyes. It appeared that though Blair had a job with the precinct and was able to pay off school loans and credit bills, he had little left for food and a decent place. Still, Simon remained silent, Blair didn't need to be judged - he needed a friend.

Heedless of the vermin and the smell of mildew, Simon stayed the night talking with his friend.

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

Blair tried to get around his friend's desire for privacy and instead called every day for two weeks to inquire whether or not Jim was ready to receive visitors and each time he heard 'no'.

Still he persisted by speaking with the doctors who answered all his questions mainly because he was still listed as Jim's next of kin. The medical staff also informed the concerned Guide of the medication and food the detective received and he was pleased when he also discovered that Jim had told them to expect and to accept the younger man's calls. 'At least he hasn't turned me away completely.'

During this period, Blair stayed away from the station and his duties as Consultant. He became more introspective and continually wondered if Jim hated him. Maybe his friend thought Blair had given up, maybe he thought his Guide was ashamed of him or maybe Jim was disappointed in Blair for something he hadn't even considered - maybe because he didn't find him sooner and had to rely on being kidnapped. Round and round the thoughts went. A tornado of wild tumultuous thoughts that continued to swirl; it had no eye of calm, just the irrational ability to grow. Bottom line was, that he hated being apart from his friend but knew of no way he could reach him unless he went against the injured man's wishes.

It was at this time that the concerned younger man also remembered and took time to call Angus at the Wilderness Venture to apologize for not staying on the job longer and to promise to make it up to him. Angus simply laughed and told him that he was happy his friend was safe and that in the future, he would detour any tourist from meeting Blair unless they were of the female persuasion. Apparently, Angus needed to be educated on other things. Angus also informed Blair that the Volvo would be driven to Cascade by a staff member who would be visiting Washington in a day or two and would be passing through Cascade.

Grateful, Blair thanked him and promised to go down when he had time.

A week passed. Blair returned to the department and was soon assigned to work with the still un-partnered Det. Joel Taggert. Joel enjoyed working with the younger man and loved listening to his theories. The kid had uncanny insight about things and was quite helpful but at the moment something was missing in the normally overzealous man.

The seasoned detective recalled the times he had worked with James Ellison and how the detective tried to almost big brother Taggert who was at least six years older. It was very apparent that James Ellison was accustomed to being in charge, being protective and didn't like it any other way. Taggert chuckled at the memory; the man's behavior was incorrigible. It suddenly dawned on the older cop that Jim's need to be in control was answered by Blair's need to be needed.

It explained why Blair was different, able to take care of himself but at the moment seemingly empty on the inside. Lost.

There were dark circles under his once vibrant blue eyes and then there was the lack of appetite that had most of the Major Crimes Unit concerned. Sandburg was slowly working his way towards a burnout. If anyone was in need of a big brother this kid was it. Fortunately, Taggert had some experience in that department and intended to apply it here.

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

James Ellison sat motionless in a chair in the corner of his room. The doctor's diagnosed him as being extremely withdrawn due to his recent abuse. Their solution? See a psychiatrist.

As ordered, he completed the mandatory visits and was soon deemed well enough to terminate further visits. The doctor told him that when he was really ready to open up, he would see him. Ellison knew that the doctor didn't really consider him ready for the outside world but right now it just didn't seem to matter. The doctor was giving up and Ellison had to agree, it just wasn't worth it.

The world as Jim knew it had become a very painful place to exist within. Touch felt invasive and hurt on many levels; speaking was something he did with a specific reason in mind, not to 'chit-chat'. Looking at anyone meant seeing their reaction to his face and seeing their pity. He wanted none of it. He felt the world could see his shame and he was unable to protect himself.

At night there was the dark thoughts and the even darker dreams. He had nowhere to turn and nowhere to escape the pain.

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

Tortured, raped, and now forgotten. Jim felt tired, lonely and hurt. Yet, it was his desire to remain isolated. He didn't want pity.

At times he thought of the other. The kid probably thought he was angry with him or hated him but at the moment Jim simply felt empty and unable to cope with his friend's concern. Blair needed him in control and Ellison was ashamed of not being able to deliver.

The HIV tests came up negative and would have to be repeated in a month. No permanent damage had occurred to his rectum and though the healing process was slow, in time he would heal.

Simon had stopped by to see how he was doing, to share information about the case, and to tell him that the kid missed him. But again Ellison simply felt detached and felt unimpressed with the concern shown by his superior. Even his senses seemed to have dulled and the effect was welcomed.

Simon also told him that his father had been informed of his rescue and was going to stop in and Jim simply nodded. He figured that a visit from his father would be nothing more than a distraction. His father wasn't big on pity or showing sympathy. Cold aloofness he could handle.

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

William Ellison was ashamed for his son. His boy had allowed someone to torture him and violate him repeatedly. He wondered if his son even bothered to fight back.

James should have done better; he was in the military and still he had been incapable of protecting himself. William knew if it had been him, he would have died before allowing anyone to touch him like that. "Jimmy it's just so disgusting. First you lived with that kid, and let me tell you that seemed strange to me, and now this. What will happen if the people you work with found out about this? You'll never be able to move up the career ladder, let alone find a nice woman to marry and settle down with. Imagine how your children would feel if they found out about this. It's all so very disturbing and sick. You know people talk and I bet they will believe the worst."

The younger Ellison looked at the man who caused him so much pain in the past and was stunned at his ability to pour verbal acid on the wounds within his soul. "Please Pops I need for you to leave right now."

The older Ellison was shocked out of his ranting. "Why? Jimmy, I am only discussing the truth with you. Surely you can bear to hear that, it is what the doctors suggest - facing reality. I mean, even that Sandburg guy understood his place after I had him evicted, he didn't even put up a fight and chose to face facts. Of course this was after I told him about the way things looked, what people believed. Jimmy, just consider what this would do to either of you if the media had heard about the rape and the fact that you had left the loft to your - your friend. People would have simply said 'the faggot probably deserved every moment of it'."

James Ellison rose slowly and determinedly stepped up to his father. "I never thought that I would say this. I had hoped that you and I would have been able to breach this-this terrible gap between us. Now I just wish you would disappear from my life. The things you've just said are insulting and unforgivable. Not to mention what you did to my friend - a man who deserves more than I can ever give in return for a friendship I never thought possible. To stand here and pretend that you don't know ... you know damn well why I need Blair around, you of all people know that I have a-a special problem and I can't believe that you are so blind that you can't see that he helps me. I know you aren't blind. I know you have witnessed how much he has done for me and still you would prefer to twist all of that into some sorted stereotypical perversion.

Jim turned away and tried to slow his breathing, his body aching for relief. He refused to surrender to the desire. Anger provided strength. "I didn't ask to have this happen. I did fight. I know you probably thought I should have let them kill me or committed some - some self-destructive act. The strange thing is, at one time I would have welcomed death. Knowing no one would have given a damn about me and feeling the same way about everyone else. But so much has changed, I have purpose - hope and that is what kept me alive. I have a life worth fighting to keep. Now please leave."

"Jimmy, I ..."

"Please leave."

Mr. Ellison turned quietly and did as his son wished.

James Ellison watched the door close and realized that no amount of time could heal his soul from the hurt his father had just inflicted on him. He was a man without family. Slowly he prepared to go back to the loft, today he was going home. Alone.

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

Blair walked home from the station. His vintage car died yet another spectacular death in the station garage. Obviously, the return trip from Canada had taken its toll on the classic, and, being the last to leave for the night, he couldn't even bum a ride from one of his co-workers. Still, he welcomed the unexpected solitude.

His walk took him past his old residence. He looked up and noticed that Jim's replacement truck had been parked outside and that the lights to the loft were on. Jim had come home.

Blair paused across the street and wondered if he should go up. He took a step forward and stopped. "Sandburg, if he wanted to see you, he would have done so." He struggled with his thoughts and Blair decided that perhaps Jim still needed time. Time that didn't include his old roommate. After all Blair was still suffering from nightmares over his kidnapping and he supposed that Jim had to be struggling with some of his own. Usually the two benefited from the company of each other but maybe times had changed. Maybe Jim decided that it was time to terminate the roommate thing. Hell, the guy just recently divulged a lack of trust in him and though he had apologized for the indiscretion, Blair still hurt from the accusation that a Guide would even consider harming his Sentinel in any way.

A cool droplet of water landed on the tip of his nose and interrupted the young man's musings. Blair buried his hands into his pockets, turned and continued on his journey. Away from the loft.

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

Ellison had heard the heartbeat approaching. He was stunned at how his senses, which had been muted for some time, suddenly came back online. The heartbeat sounded so close. He went to the windows facing his balcony and saw his guide standing across the street. He closed his eyes and whispered. "Please Blair, please come in."

He heard the younger man speak and was hurt to see him turn away. He wanted to go and ask him in, but he still felt cold on the inside, empty, and weak. He felt hopelessly damaged and couldn't seem to make himself function. He sighed as he watched the younger man walk away from him. The further the figure, the more alone he felt.

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

Blair walked the three miles to his current place, it was a good way to think about 'things' and when he reached it he prepared himself for bed. Dinner was something he didn't feel like dealing with and lately a meal was something he ignored on a regular basis. At the moment he was exhausted and his very soul was in pain. Jim should have let him know he was back and all right. Sure, even he understood the need for privacy but he only wanted to know if his friend was doing better.

Blair showered and sighed. "Friendship sucks. There are just too many damn twists and turns." Blair put on his boxers, a T-shirt, flannel shirt and fleece jacket. He followed the top layer with sweat pants and then his wool socks to insulate his lower region. He gazed in the mirror and laughed self-depreciatively. "I come in peace. Give me your hot women."

He walked to the cot he was using as a bed and took two blankets with him, checked for any rodents on his bed and curled up to sleep. He knew that there were nightmares waiting for him and mentally prepared himself for waking up and being a bit disoriented about his location. He closed his eyes and waited for the inevitable. The mental struggles.

The Guide in him fought with the teacher who in turn fought with the friend. Jim was hurt, he should just storm into the loft, see if he was alright and then, if asked, leave. No, time was needed. 'People who were raped often need to be left alone and in time they will reach out to those around them. A friend would be there, no matter what. A Guide stays at his Sentinel's side. He has never trusted you and maybe he prefers being alone.'

Blair decided that a good nightmare was needed to silence the voices in his head and eventually fell asleep.

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

Ellison cleaned the loft in order to silence his thoughts and when he entered Blair's room he stopped. 'Blair's room.' For the first time since he had returned to the loft he noticed that everything his friend owned had been packed. The courts and his father were very thorough. They were even prepared to auction off Ellison's furniture and had even had someone appraise his belongings and affix tags on certain items. His father was ready to erase his eldest son's very memory in return for a profit. William Ellison was very methodical, erase first the friends, then the possession and eventually, probably in a shorter time than expected, the memory.

He sat on Blair's bed, most of the kid's clothes were gone, his backpack removed and the picture the younger man had of the two of them while on a short vacation removed from the window sill. Suddenly Jim realized that Blair was living elsewhere, that he had been standing outside the loft in the rain and walked, not drove, walked away. Did Blair no longer want to be here? Was Blair ashamed of him? Were they still friends? He knew Blair didn't give up on him when everyone else did and that he had called the hospital almost every day, but what about now? What did his father say to his friend? Was Blair safe? Happy? Would Blair care that Jim cared? Was he moving on?

He stood again and began to pace within the small room. Blair wasn't judgmental and no matter what, he would be there for his partner. Jim sighed. Tomorrow he would go to the precinct and feel out his co-workers and maybe see his friend. He decided that it was time to recapture his old life. The shrink had said he needed time to heal and to decide what he wanted. It all seemed like blather until now. Time was up.

He realized that he had something to work towards. He had a purpose. His job and his friend. Things to protect, reasons to live. Once again he realized that it was his friendship with the man that made his life worth living. Sandburg was his light.

Zeller had harmed his body but he'd be damned if the man would destroy everything he and his friend had accomplished. He would die before he would surrender his friendship without a struggle.

This was his life and it was time to start living, no matter what. Now it was time to reclaim what was his all along.

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

"Jim?!? Hey everybody, Ellison is back!"

Last night it had seemed so very easy, but in the light of day, James Ellison felt nervous and unsure if this was the right thing to do. Now, as he was heartwarmingly surrounded by most of his co-workers, something inside eased. This was his place in life.

Simon stood in his doorway and smiled at the sight. "Alright people, let's get back to work. Ellison in my office."

Banks waited until he the detective sat, noting that his friend was thinner and moved a bit slower. "Jim how are you?"

Ellison smirked. "Ready to report for duty sir."

The captain shook his head and smiled. The man sitting in front of him seemed a bit ill at ease and by the way he was casually looking out towards the bullpen, only one person would end the tension. "Have you spoken with your partner?"

"No sir. I thought I would see him today and..."

"Jim, he didn't come in today. Taggert said he had stopped by and found Blair barely able to walk straight. Seems our Consultant walked home last night, in the rain, because the tin can he drives broke down. Got sick. Joel made sure he took some Tylenol and went back to bed."

Ellison scooted forward. "Do you have his address?"

Just then someone knocked on his door and Taggert walked in. "Jim? Uh. Sorry Simon, I just wanted to talk to him, that is, if you two are finished here."

Capt. Banks' eyebrows rose. "Joel? Is there something wrong?"

"Yeah Joel what is it?"

Taggert seemed to think about it and then entered the office closing the door behind him. "This is off the record, sir."

Simon nodded and allowed curiosity to keep him silent.

Joel shifted from foot to foot and sighed, "Jim, I understand that things have happened while you were in captivity, things that have been kept on a need to know basis, I don't need to know and I respect your privacy but I also understand that whatever happened to you caused you a great deal of pain and as a friend I am here for you. Anyway, sometimes things like this change a person but shutting out the one person who, as far as I am concerned, has been there for you; never giving up on the hope you were still alive. Well," Taggert looked out the window and then again at Ellison. "I just think that if you have issues with the way Blair handled himself at Zeller's you should speak to him about it. I also think that if you feel the two of you can't work together," Taggert glanced toward Capt. Banks. "then sir, I would like to request that Sandburg be assigned as my permanent partner."

Ellison was stunned, hurt and proud that Blair had elicited this reaction from Taggert. "Joel has Sandburg said anything to make you think that we would no longer be working together?"

Taggert walked towards the window. "Jim, I have been partnered with several good people and a bad seed. Sandburg is good people and, well, he takes things harder than most. He's just not his usual self and I thought that if you wanted to terminate your partnership, I wanted to put my request in. The kid is innovative and a pleasure to work with - I trust his ideas and I trust him. I also heard that Smythe in Narcotics is thinking about inviting Sandburg to join his team. He thinks that he can eventually use him in more hard to fit in situations and Blair's being a profiler is the least of that department's interest. Personally I would prefer Sandburg stay away from that department. Smythe is a good man but his methods are a bit over the top and, well, I would try to ensure Sandburg never gets swiped from Major Crimes."

Simon cleared his throat. "Joel, you didn't answer the man's question. Has Sandburg said anything to suggest he'd consider working elsewhere?"

"No sir but, like I said, he's not his usual self. I mean he's been somber and lacks his usual enthusiasm. Now he's sick in that damned warehouse and when I left I noticed a rat the size of a football hiding near his bed. He needs something, you know, to build up his self-esteem. I know Jim is still coping, but I think the kid needs maybe a talk or something."

Simon sighed. "What you said about the kid's place is right. I spent a night there. Don't know why he places himself in situations like that. I mean, I know he is still paying off loans but surely he can afford a better living space, at least one that was rodent free."

Joel looked at Ellison and noticed he was avoiding looking him in the eye. "Jim, like I said, whatever happened to you out there, well, I am sorry. I respect you, you know that, and that is why I felt I should speak to you about this. You and Blair are two halves of a whole, but at the moment you are both hurting and I just want to help and I know I can do something for Blair."

Ellison nodded. "Thanks Joel - we're fine or we will be and I truly appreciate your concern for Sandburg but what I need right now is his address. The two of us need to talk."

Taggert smiled - happy to get all of this out and into the open. "How about you follow me in your rental and I'll lead you to the kid's place."

Ellison grinned at the other's need to 'escort' him. "Thanks Joel you're a good friend."

Simon walked the two out of his office. "Gentlemen, keep me informed. For now I think I'll call Smythe in Narcotics and tell him we have no intention of letting the kid out of our grasp." The captain noticed the humorous smiles directed at him and quickly tried to extinguish them. "We trained him, taught him to follow orders, for the most part, and now Smythe wants the broken-in version. No way, gentlemen, not on my watch. Dismissed."

Ellison and Taggert shook their heads and left.

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

Sandburg felt terrible. He remembered the doctors telling him to protect himself from drafts and stuff, that his immune system had been weakened by the strange drug Zeller forced on him but it wasn't like he was walking around in a T-Shirt and shorts. He leaned over the toilet once more emptying his insides of the fluids he had there.

He washed his face, looked in the mirror and giggled. "Okay so just give me the women you can spare. Hot or cool."

He walked over to his cot and sat. "<Cough ACHOO Cough> God this really sucks."

A knock on his door startled him out of his small pity party and slowly he made his way to the door, blankets in tow. "Joel?"

He pulled the door back and was startled once again. "Jim?!? <ACHOOO> Oh hey come on in. <Cough Cough> Just don't get to close."

Ellison frowned at the younger man's condition. The kid wore several pieces of clothing and still shivered. "You alright there Chief?"

Blair smiled at the missed nickname and shrugged. "Hey enough about me. How are you? I tried to visit but... Did the doctors clear you for duty? <ACHOOO Sniffle> You look a little down. Are your senses okay? Jim?"

Ellison followed the suddenly bouncy but ill man deeper into the warehouse and quickly noticed a rat off to the left, and two to the right. Then he saw the two cracked windows that faced the north wind blowing into the building creating a draft within the poorly insulated walls. "Chief it's drafty in here. How do you keep warm?"

Blair coughed and pointed to the two space heaters that faced where he had arranged two chairs and a cot. "Jim, I am self-sufficient. I can take care of myself you know. <Sniffle -- Cough> I mean people like your... I mean some people may think I am incapable of taking care of myself but look around you man, I've <cough cough> got a roof over my head, a place to sleep, food in the fridge down there and my own money. I'm doing just fine."

Ellison nodded, noting the defensive tone his usually unguarded friend was using. This person was too guarded to be the Blair Sandburg he knew. "Chief my father is an idiot. He told me a bit of what happened when I was ... away. He had no right saying whatever he said or doing what he did to hurt you."

Blair looked away. "It doesn't matter. I don't want to discuss any of that. It's you I that I want to hear about. Tell me how you are. <sniffle> You look, I don't know. Lost?"

Ellison sat on one of the chairs and smiled sadly. Sandburg was truly the only person in his life that could see his soul. "I'll be okay. Just need time."

Blair sat on his cot and pulled the blankets tightly around him. "I really wanted to see you. I tried to sneak in once but those people at the hospital were quick." Blair looked at his friend and then looked down. "Jim are you mad at me? Did I hurt or insult you somehow? I mean, well, you've never been an open person but you've never shut me out like this before."

Ellison looked down. "No Chief. Like I said. I just needed some time. I felt so - so out of control. I had to collect myself. I needed some time to find me. That's all."

"Did you find you?"

Jim smiled. "Getting closer."

Blair stood up and pulled the other chair next to his friend's. "Jim, <sniffle> I'm here for you no matter what. Zeller told me most of what he had done to you. I am so sorry. The guy was an animal. <cough> I hope he rots in hell." Blair placed his hand on Jim's and Jim moved away from him, preferring distance from the sincere emotions projected his way.

"Please Jim tell me what's going on?"

Ellison closed his eyes and hugged himself. "Chief how can you stand to be near me? I let Zeller break me down. I'm weak and the things that they... I'm disgusting. What if - - he stole my certainty in things - in me."

Blair stood up, blankets shoved aside and went to stand in front of his friend. "Look at me James Ellison. Right now."

Startled the older man complied without fail. He looked into two intensely warm eyes.

"He stole nothing. He hurt you - badly and hopefully he is paying for that but the man you are inside, the man who tried to save my life, the man who had enough strength to endure the pain, to come back to the living, the cop, my friend and the Sentinel are all inside here." Blair placed his hand on Jim's heart and smiled. "No amount of pain, drugs or time can change this. I never gave up on you. I still believe in you, respect you and always will. Please Jim, don't let Zeller win. Don't let him destroy your heart."

Ellison placed a hand on his friend's shoulder. "My father asked me why I didn't just ... after they ..." Jim looked into those sapphire colored eyes and searched for the acceptance and understanding he always found there. He wasn't disappointed. "I told him that I was here because I knew that someone still believed in me. Someone cared."

Blair blinked as a tear fell from his eyes and hugged the older man. "Oh God Jim. Thank you for holding on. This city needs you. Simon needs you. I need you, I will always need you - you're the big brother I always wished for and don't you ever forget it. I-I love you, man."

Ellison froze as the words his friend spoke reached his heart and soothed his soul, slowly he reached around the smaller man's body and released all of the stress and hurt he held inside. He felt tears fall from his eyes and held on to the one person who seemed capable of absorbing his pain. This was the one person in the world who would allow the normally strong man this single moment of emotional expression without judgment.

It was strange, this feeling of comfort. Touch was warm and safe. Speech yielded comfort and love. There was no pity or disgust, just safety, friendship and a feeling that everything would turn out fine in the end. Jim knew that here beside his friend, there would be no hurt. He could be unguarded and it was respected.

They stood there until Jim felt strong enough to let go. Sandburg smiled as he looked up at the man before him. "You know, the next time some female says we aren't sensitive, I swear I will laugh in her face." <ACHOO>

"Chief you really need to see someone about that cold." He reached up and felt his friend's forehead. "And fever - I'd say you're at 102 right now, kiddo."

Blair waved his friend off and went to sit on his cot. "What I need is to know that you are going to be alright. I'll get over this in no time."

Ellison placed a hand on his friend's shoulder and smiled. "Thanks Sandburg, I think I just got what I needed."

Blair smiled and sneezed again. He also noticed his friend looking at him with a question forming.

"Chief?"

"<Cough cough> Yeah, Jim?"

Ellison hesitated, things like this always made him uncomfortable but he realized that this was the only person with whom things like this could be discussed. "I was just wondering. Well... Are you coming back to the loft? I mean, I want you to, if you want to."

Blair looked away from his well-meaning friend and shrugged. "Maybe it's time I started rooming on my own. Don't want people to talk you know? <sniffle>" Blair sighed and shook his head in disgust. "Your father is really good at forcing people to see the ugly side of life but in a way he is probably right. This is for the best."

Ellison sat across from his friend and noticed how Blair was fidgeting. His father had placed doubt into his normally positive friend and mentally it was one more thing he hated about his parent. "Chief what did he say to you?"

Blair refused to look his friend in the eye and shrugged. "<Sniffle> <Cough>Doesn't matter, not anymore. Look, I just think that, for a while, maybe we should stay the way we are. I'll still come over but won't be around so much. Then in time you ..."

"No."

"Jim?"

"I said 'no'. He sighed and tried to calm himself but this was too important. "Damn it, Chief, damn it all to hell. Now, you look. I want you to come home. Our home. You are the one person I never expected to listen to or be frightened by any kind of gossip. When you met me, people told you I was a hard ass, difficult. You didn't give in to what others said, it didn't stop you from becoming the kid brother I never had." Ellison smiled. "Hell, even I treated you unfairly and when you should have left - you stayed. The loft was nothing more than shelter to me. Now it's home, because I share it with someone who knows how to enjoy life. Someone who is family - mine. It's our home for as long as either of us need and want it to be. Please Chief don't allow my old man to take that away."

"Jim I really can take care of myself. I'm taking the classes required by the department, doing pretty good in them and I'm getting paid now. The department has even paid for half my loans. <Cough> I am fine."

As Ellison stood and smiled down at the man his Sentinel abilities compelled him to protect and his big brotherly feelings forced him to care for. "Chief I know you can take care of yourself but who is going to take care of me?"

"<Sniffle> Jim, I..."

Ellison hoisted his friend to his feet. "Chief, don't argue with me on this."

Blair smiled. "Alright, since you put it that way <ACHOO>."

"Good." Jim placed an arm around the smaller man's shoulder and determined that the temperature just went up a notch. "Come on junior. Let's take you to the doctor."

"Jim."

"EEEyessss?"

"Come on I really hate hospitals, you know? <Cough -- cough>"

"What and you think I like it there?" Jim practically dragged the other along with him. A smile appeared on the stoic face as he realized that his life, though a bit dented, was good as new. At least it would be once his friend was better and they were back at the loft. "Let's go Chief."

"Awww man."

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

Taggert waited for an hour or so, then Ellison and Sandburg emerged from the warehouse. The two piled into Ellison's rental and drove away. The seasoned detective smiled, knowing all was right in his temporary kid brother's world. He reached for the cell phone and called Capt. Banks. "Mission accomplished."

Simon laughed. "Guess we still need to find you a partner my friend."

Taggert chuckled. "How about something in a size 8 with brown eyes and a Jamaican accent?"

Simon laughed loudly. "Yeah and the day that happens, I will return to active duty."

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

The doctor chastised Blair for exposing himself to such poor living conditions. He told him that the bronchitis he contracted was at a dangerous level, a little longer and he would have had pneumonia. The physician carefully looked at the two men before him and also scolded them both on their apparent lack of sleep. Then he ordered the two home and to rest.

Ellison liked the older guy, he at least got Sandburg to say 'yes sir' and mean it. Then Sandburg was given medication and told to go home. Their home. As they entered the loft, Blair made a beeline for the couch. Though Ellison wanted him to get to bed, he figured this way the two could relax and he would still be able to easily monitor his friend's health.

Blair sighed in contentment. It felt good being here, being home. It felt right.

"Hey buddy, I'm gonna take a shower. Then maybe I'll call Maria's and get some tacos for me and some chicken soup for you."

Blair smiled - Jim had to be getting better. The man was already taking charge and Blair decided it was all right, for now. "Okay. I can handle chicken soup." Minutes later, the younger man drifted off. The medication and sense of security working magic on his sick body.

Jim grabbed some blankets from Sandburg's room, tucked his friend in and marveled at the warm feeling he got from this simple moment of normalcy. Blair made him feel good and needed. The kid was special and there was no way on earth Jim was going to let go of this friend easily. Life was worth living when you had people who cared for you and made you care in return.

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

Half an hour later someone knocked on the door. Blair woke and went to answer the door thinking Jim had ordered the food, "Oh -- uh--- hello Mr. Ellison. <Cough -- Cough> Uh, your son is in the ... uh ... he'll be out shortly. Please, umm, I'm just, umm, ..."

"Chief, c'mon, get back on the couch."

Blair looked from the senior Ellison to his friend and decided his bedroom was a good place to go. Quickly he stopped by the couch and grabbed his blankets retreating to his room. As he closed his door he smiled, Jim had unpacked his things. He went to lie on his bed and wait out the storm brewing out front.

William Ellison smirked. "His type isn't easily pushed away."

Jim closed his eyes. "Thank God for that. Look are you here to insult my friend and I with innuendos or is there some purpose for this visit?"

Ellison senior didn't miss the anger directed toward him and he smiled. "There's the son I know." He turned and looked at the place his son resided in for the first time. His attorneys had been there but William hadn't. It seemed an interesting collage of tastes and expressions. He mentally noted that the more earthy part of the loft were probably Sandburg's and that the pricier couches and stereo equipment were his son's. "I came by to apologize. I just wanted you to know that I don't want us to be strangers. I don't want my bad treatment of Sandburg to come between us."

Jim went to the windows looking out of the loft. "Why? Why would you go against my final wishes and hurt the one person on this earth that I respect and trust? The one person who respects and trusts me. How dare you cause such pain to him. You didn't want the loft or anything in it. You simply wanted to inflict pain. My memory, my very existence didn't matter to you. You didn't even welcome Sandburg near you at my funeral." Jim paused to turn in time to see the shock caused by this statement.

"Look I don't know what he said to you but..."

Jim held his hand up. "Part of the 'treatment' I was subjected to was watching how those closest to me gave up the search and believed the lie. I saw how you and Steven stood apart from Sandburg. How easily you decided that whatever good there was to my life could be shoved aside or sold." Jim stepped closer to his father. "Now please just ..."

Just then the doors to Sandburg's room opened and he ran to the bathroom.

Jim abruptly stopped speaking and quickly went to check on him.

Blair tried to wait but his stomach had other ideas. He hoped he wouldn't disturb the two Ellisons with his retching. His hope fell on deaf ears.

Jim knocked on the door and then stepped into the bathroom. He waited until Blair was done and handed him a glass of cold water to rinse his mouth out with. The ex-medic then helped his slightly weakened friend back to his room. Blair noticed Mr. Ellison standing by the couches, watching he and his son and he paused. "Jim I'm alright. Please don't let me interrupt. I can take care of myself."

Jim tightened his hold to reassure his friend that nothing was wrong and then whispered. "Alright. Now get back into bed and I will wake you for dinner."

Blair looked over at Mr. Ellison and smiled weakly. "I guess I must look pretty pathetic sir. Please forgive my appearance <cough>." Blair looked away and entered his bedroom.

Jim waited until he closed the doors to Sandburg's room, using the time to take a deep cleansing breath, and turned to face his father, his face devoid of emotion. "I have tried to meet you half way. I have tried to include you in my life; tried to introduce you to my friends. Blair is one of my closest friends. You have seen the way he has helped me with my-my abilities and how he protects me with his life by keeping this secret."

"I have seen that he can also expose you to the very thing I had warned you about."

Jim shook his head. "I owe that man more than words can express and you of all people know why but, instead of treating him with the respect he truly deserves, you were ready to ignore him because it wasn't in the best interest of the Ellison family." Jim closed his eyes. "You gave up on me and then you tried to erase my very existence just like you did - mom. Well, just consider the job complete"

"Jimmy, I said I was sorry and I meant it. Christ, he'll get over it and so should you."

Jim sighed. "Pops, twice I made the mistake in doing just what you have done. I chose to believe the worst and jeopardized a valuable friendship. The moment I suspected betrayal I turned on my friend. God, I was so very wrong and any normal person would have turned their back on me and walked away. Blair forgave me for those discrepancies, he believed that somewhere deep inside I was a good person. I unfortunately can't do the same for you. See, I wasn't raised that way. Please, I need you to leave."

Mr. Ellison moved to the door and paused. "Someday, if you ever need me, I promise I will be there for you."

Jim nodded. "I only hope I won't have to take you up on that."

William Ellison looked over at Sandburg's room and looked back at his son. "Tell your friend, I truly am sorry. For everything."

The door closed and Jim lowered his head. "Not as sorry as I am."

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

Forty minutes later the food arrived and Sandburg had come to the table. They ate in silence.

Blair wanted to say something but decided it best that he say nothing.

Soon the dishes were cleaned and the two went to sit on the couches. "Jim you okay?" Well, it was twenty minutes later.

Jim looked at the concern and care showing on the face looking back at him. "Promise me something Chief."

Blair nodded. "Sure."

Ellison smiled at the sincerity the word held. "Promise me you will always care about me."

Blair frowned. "Why wouldn't I?"

Ellison moved to sit on the couch and was immediately joined by his young friend. Again Jim smiled at the sincerity of his friend's question and the action that followed. "Because it's just you and me kid."

Blair smiled broadly and tilted his head. "More than I will ever need."

Jim hugged his friend. "Thank you for saving my soul." Tears slipped from his eyes as he hugged his friend, his brother.

Sure there were more medical exams to endure and the psychiatrist would still have to see the man but nothing they could do was as beneficial to James Ellison's health as the presence of his Guide, brother and friend.

He could breathe now, feel now and be now. So he held on and hoped time would still for a moment longer.

Blair held on just as tightly knowing that in time things would be all right. His friend was back and they had a future to tackle. A story never ends. It either continues or branches off into new directions and Blair smiled at the directions he could see from where he was at the moment.

END

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