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Please note:  The copyright on The Sentinel and all it's characters is owned by Pet Fly Productions and Paramount.


by Kristine Williams

Part 9

Jim found the spare battery for his cell phone and made the switch, setting the older one back into the charger beside his desk. His headache hadn't left last night, and in fact was stronger than ever. The fact that Blair kept trying to talk about last night wasn't helping, but he did seem to be able to keep him from pushing the issue. So far. Last night had been the last straw, stress-wise, and although Jim did realize now that he'd been a little rough, he wasn't sorry. Discovering that their shooter was after Blair, and not Jim, and then coming home to find him gone--it had just too much. And then for his partner to take a simple argument, and turn it into some kind of trust issue. After all they'd been through, he could still put words in Jim's mouth that he never would have voiced. Or in this case, even felt.

What was wrong with that kid, that he could think Jim would feel that way? What kind of men had their turn in raising Blair, that would give him the impression anyone, at anytime, would change how they felt overnight? Time and time again, Jim tried to express and explain how important Blair's friendship was to him, even without the Sentinel abilities that had brought them together. And yet time and time again, Blair jumped to the wrong conclusions, faster than a speeding bullet.

Jim sighed and shook his head. He should have known better, with all the shit going on at the Station right now, all the talk he was hearing from down hallways and inside rooms about Blair versus Janet, Jim saving Blair and letting a fine officer die. He knew Blair couldn't hear half of what he did. But he had to know Jim was defending him. Hell, he'd told Blair he was sticking with him, no matter what.

Jim glanced around, wondering just how long Blair was going to take in there. He started to walk down the hall, and heard the voices.

"...you get Ellison killed over this, I'd worry if I were you."

It wasn't Carpenter, but Jim did recognize the voice.

"I think Jim can take care of himself."

"He'd be better off alone, than with someone like you."

God, who was that? Jim quickened his pace when he realized there was more than one officer in there. When he burst through the door, he found Blair standing at the sink, facing Fredrickson and Stewart.

All three turned to face Jim when he entered. "Sandburg, you coming or what?" Blair glared at Jim, and for a moment, he thought the kid was going to stay in there. Finally, he pushed past the other two and stormed out of the room, marching straight past Jim, heading for the elevators. After a stern look directed at the men in the bathroom, Jim turned to follow.

Blair was at the elevator, shaking his head. "That was just great, man. Next time will you come to the University and beat up the big guy for me?"

"What?" Now who wasn't communicating?

"You're really a piece of work, you know that?"

The elevator doors opened and they both stepped inside. Jim was completely puzzled. His partner was making no sense at all. "I thought you said something about liking this Blessed Protector bit. Now I'm getting crap from you for having gone in there? I don't get you, Chief."

"No, Jim, obviously, you don't." Blair pushed some curls out of his face and looked at the floor.

God, here we go again! "You mind explaining? Or is this some unwritten cultural rule I should already know about?"

"Just forget it, Jim." Blair waved both hands in the air, then stepped forward when the elevator doors opened.

Jim shook his head in exasperation and followed his partner into the parking garage. "I don't want to just forget it, Sandburg. I want to know what the hell's wrong with you lately." They reached the truck and Jim stopped, facing Blair.

"Not now, Jim." Blair glanced around the garage.

There were a few officers in the garage, fueling up their rigs and talking to each other. Jim didn't care, even though it was obvious they were watching. "Yes, Chief, now. Everything I say to you, you've been turning around into something else. If I didn't know better, I'd think you wanted to believe the worst."

"No, Jim, I think it's more a case of you not wanting to believe the truth." Blair shot a glance towards the other officers in the garage. "You're really no different from them on this, and until you realize that, we're not going to get anywhere."

Jim's eyebrows both shot up in disbelief. "Now you're calling me a liar, Chief?"

"No, Jim." Blair looked around again, then pointed to the truck. "Can we not do this here?"

"Where would you rather we did this?" Jim looked at the two officers nearest them. "They're enjoying the show, why stop now?"

"This is great, Jim." Blair shook his head then walked to the truck and got inside, slamming the door.

Jim sighed, then turned and walked to the driver's door. His ears tuned in to the pair beside the gas pumps just in time to hear their remarks. Lover's spat. Well, it wasn't the first time he'd heard that one. Blair was clenching his jaw in an almost comical attempt at anger. If Jim wasn't so frustrated with his partner right then, he might have laughed.

He started the truck and drove out of the garage, waiting for Blair to continue the conversation and explain himself. Three blocks later, he realized that wasn't going to happen.

"So, are you going to explain yourself or do I keep guessing?" Jim glanced at him while at a red light.

"Jim, it's simple." Blair looked at him, turning slightly in the seat. "You've been a cop for a long time. And the army isn't any different. Your natural allegiance is with them at a time like this. I was prepared to deal with that." He looked out the windshield and shook his head. "I wasn't prepared to deal with this."

If this was his idea of direct communication, Jim wasn't going to get anywhere. "Deal with what? I've told you where I stand here, Chief. And obviously you don't believe me."

"No, Jim, I don't think you believe you. You can't just ignore the facts."

"And what would those be?" Jim knew Blair was about to tell him once again he should be blaming him for Simmons' death. If this kept up, he just might.

"The fact that people are blaming you for having saved me over Officer Simmons. The fact that there's a lot of bad feelings at the Station because of me. The fact that I compounded those problems by accusing Carpenter of having shot at you."

Jim nodded. "I'm not denying any of those facts, Sandburg. I never said I was."

"Then why do you keep insisting these things aren't getting in the way, Jim?"

"Because they're not, Chief." Jim glanced at the street name they were approaching and made a left turn. "I told you why I pushed you out of the way the other day. I told you that it didn't matter what some of the jerks back at the Station might say, that they'd get over it. And yes, I've never denied your having mentioned your suspicions to Simon about Carpenter didn't cause more trouble." The apartment building they needed was to the right and Jim pulled in, parking in the first empty space he found. "And I believe I also said I wouldn't change anything I'd done." He put the truck in park and shut off the engine. "How you take that, and come up with me having lied to you, I have no clue."

"So what was that last night?"

"That was you not doing what you were told." He opened his door and got out, checking his pocket for the key to Ms. Perry's apartment.

"No, Jim, there was more there." Blair followed Jim up the stairs. "Admit it. Before you stopped, you were about to admit how you really felt. And I don't blame you, Jim. Hell, I'd be surprised if you didn't feel that way."

"Feel what way?"

"Guilty, Jim. Maybe wondering if you made the right choice."

Jim stopped outside the door he was looking for and turned to stare at Blair. "Sandburg, I have never lied to you. Not then, not now. I can't make you believe me, but I can't keep trying to convince you, either." He put the key in the lock and opened the door to Ms. Perry's apartment. "And I don't want to deal with this anymore if it's going to keep getting in the way here." He stepped inside and Blair followed. "I've got a sniper to find. You can either help me, or go back to the Station where it's safe and wait."

Blair shot him a dirty look, but said nothing. They took a few steps into the apartment and Blair looked around. "So, what do we look for?"

"Anything and everything, Chief." Jim found a desk and sat down, opening each drawer. Blair went down the one short hallway and disappeared into a room.

Three hours later, they were no closer to finding Steve Perry than they had been when they started. Her life seemed devoted to her former career in the army, and her lover, Janet Simmons. The next logical move was to talk to Janet's partner, Karen.

They drove across town in silence and Jim thought about the previous night. Sometimes Blair just refused to see how serious a situation was, or could have become. Only this time, instead of understanding why Jim was upset, and apologizing for having gone out and scared him like that, he'd gone completely ballistic about a subject Jim thought long taken care of. Trust. What it seemed to be boiling down to, was Blair not trusting Jim. Not the other way around. How much more did they have to go through, for Jim to prove his position? He'd trusted Blair with his life on more than one occasion, and wouldn't hesitate to do so again. And still, when things got tough, Blair assumed the worst. Expected it, even.

He must think I'm no better than the rest of them. What more proof did Blair need that Jim wasn't going to dump him when things got sticky? Twice Jim considered pulling over and hashing it all out once and for all. But he couldn't. They had a shooter to find, before she found one of them.

Karen Blake's apartment was the same size and price-range as Steve's. Jim led the way to the door, ignoring a voice inside that told him to make Blair stay in the truck. That would just add fuel to his neurotic fire. Karen was home as he expected, on leave pending an internal investigation.

"Detective." She squinted against the sun, looking from Jim to Blair as she stood in the doorway. "I suppose I was expecting you sooner or later. Come in."

Jim entered first, scanning the room out of habit to make sure Karen was alone. "Blake, I'm going to have to ask you a few questions."

"Of course. Probably all the same ones Captain Banks already asked." She crossed the room and sat on the couch, pointing to the chairs opposite her. "Please."

Jim sat down, then Blair reluctantly moved to the other chair and sat. Maybe whatever came of this would prove something to him.

"You know about Steve Perry disappearing?" Jim got right to the point.

Karen nodded. "Yes, I'd heard. And no, I don't know where she is or might be. No, I don't know if she had any family in Cascade. Yes, she and Janet were lovers for some time. No, her parents had no idea, and never met Steve." Karen shot a look at Blair. "And yes, I believe she wants to kill one of you."

That was definitely to the point. "Why?" Jim leaned forward a little, trying to get Karen's eyes back to him. "What would she gain from that?"

"Revenge," Karen shrugged. "Justice, maybe."

"That's not justice, that's murder." Jim held her eyes, more in an attempt to keep her from looking at Blair again.

"Some might think otherwise." Her eyes pulled away from his and she looked at Blair again. "Some might wonder why a good cop had to die."

Jim felt his jaw tighten. "Janet was there defending innocent people against a sniper. That was her job, and she died performing that job."

"She died because you didn't save her!" Karen's eyes flashed back to Jim's and the hatred displayed there was obvious. "You could have!"

"Maybe I could have. I don't know that for sure." Jim tried to keep his voice level and maintain control of the conversation. "Any number of things could have happened. Sandburg could have been killed. I could have been killed. You could have been killed. But only one thing did happen." Karen's anger seemed to quell slightly and she sat back against the cushions once again. "If the situation had been reversed, you would have saved your partner and let Sandburg take the shot. What happened, happened. I can't change any of it." He glanced at Blair, then looked back at Karen, who was shaking her head but saying nothing. "Now you have a chance to change an outcome. Will you take it?"

"I can't help you." She stood and paced to the far end of the room. "She left after you showed up at the rental agency and I don't know where she went." Karen turned back, facing Jim. "But it's over. She's gone."

"How do you know?"

"She told me."

Jim focused on her heartbeat as she stood there. "And you believe her?"

There was a pause, and Karen's heartrate increased by a fraction. Sweat began to build on her forehead. "Yes, I do. She wanted Sandburg dead, so you'd feel the same way she did when Janet was killed. But she couldn't go through with it." Karen reached behind her for a pack of cigarettes on a table. Lighting one, she looked at Blair. "I tried to talk her out of it, but I wasn't too convincing." She waved the match out and exhaled a large amount of smoke that Jim had to tone down his senses against. "For the record, I didn't start those rumors back at the Precinct."

"But you didn't correct any."

"Jim," Blair cautioned.

"No, he's right." Karen answered Blair's concern. "I didn't stop them. In fact, I may have encouraged one or two. I admit it. I was angry, and I still am." She moved forward a bit, but stopped before reaching the couch. "Janet shouldn't be dead. But I can't wish you were instead. Not that I'm going to be a cop for very much longer, but Janet was. She was a damn good cop."

"And she would have given her life for any civilian. Just like we all would." Jim stood then. "And she'd understand saving a partner first."

Karen nodded reluctantly.

"We have to stop Perry. You know that."

She nodded again, but said nothing.

"I can't help you if you won't help us."

"She's gone, Detective. Janet was the only thing that kept her in Cascade in the first place." She smashed out her cigarette in a tray on the coffee table. "And yes, if I see or hear from her, I'll call right away."

"You do that." Jim turned and motioned for Blair to lead the way out.

"Do you believe her?" Blair opened the truck door and got in.

"No." Jim started the truck, then glanced back up at the apartment before backing out. One quick focus satisfied him she wasn't on the phone to anyone. "She might want to believe Steve has given up, but I don't think she does."

"There's a lot of that going around."

Jim shook his head. "You know, Sandburg, I'm getting a little tired of this."

Blair looked at him and started to speak, but stopped himself and looked away.

"You've accused me of lying, to you and to myself. You seem to think you know what I'm thinking, but you're wrong." He glanced at his partner and found him apparently listening, with eyes focused straight out the windshield. "I know you understand the dynamics of this situation, Chief. But apparently you don't understand mine." Jim had to pause while making a left turn around some utility workers. "I can't make you believe me. But the fact that you don't hurts." They pulled into the Station garage then and Jim put the truck in park, looking at Blair. "You're bound and determined to put me inside one of those boxes of yours, and I don't understand that. And frankly, I'm getting a little tired of this attitude. I did save you over Simmons. I did make a conscious choice, and I'd make the same one over again. Whether you want to believe that or not doesn't change the fact that it's true. And yes, some of the officers here think I made the wrong choice. I can't change their minds and won't even try. But I'm not one of them, Chief. No matter what you want to think."

Blair was nodding, glancing out into the garage at the officers walking in and out, all of whom looked in their direction as they passed. "That's great, Jim. Are we done?" He looked at Jim then and raised both eyebrows.

"Yeah, we might be." Jim opened his door and got out. "You wait here, I'll be right back." He didn't wait for an answer, but walked across the garage to the elevators, leaving his partner in the truck. As he stepped into the elevator, Jim couldn't help but wonder if he'd missed some alien pod in the loft that morning. This sure as hell wasn't the Blair Sandburg he was used to.


"Shit!" Blair ran a hand through his hair and closed his eyes for a moment. What the hell was he doing? Alienating the only person who'd ever meant anything, that's what. God, Jim had been behind him all the way. He'd saved his life, defended him against the rest of the officers, kept defending him even after he'd complicated things further by accusing Carpenter. And that bit at the loft last night, that hadn't been anything more than him being concerned. Blair hadn't realized the shooter might be after him, instead of Jim. But after his friend had explained, had Blair calmed down? No, of course not.

He sighed and sat back in the truck, pressing his head into the headrest. The hard truth--if he was as honest with himself as he was accusing Jim of not being--was that he felt guilty. Maybe not guilty to be alive, but responsible for Jim's current stress. Own up to it, Sandburg. Your friend saved your life. Someone died. All the people he works with daily are blaming him for having saved the wrong person. He defended you. You compounded that problem by accusing one of them of trying to kill Jim. Still, he defended you. You knew when you got back last night Jim was upset and scared, and instead of respecting that, you accused him of lying about his feelings. So what's really going on? Jim Ellison doesn't lie, and he sure as hell doesn't waste his time defending someone he doesn't believe in. So where was this attitude coming from? If not from Jim, then ...

"That's right, Sandburg, you're an idiot." Your own feelings were so mixed up you projected them onto Jim. He knew that now. Knew that it was his own feelings of guilt and responsibility that he had been shoving aside. God, he was still getting used to this whole situation. The fact that his friend would save his life so unconditionally--and then defend him time and time again--was hard to come to terms with. Maybe those therapy sessions when he was a kid weren't so far off the mark? Was he testing Jim, to see where his limits were? Or was he really trying to push his friend out, to avoid getting any closer?

"Either way, you're an idiot." Blair lifted his head and looked toward the door to the elevators. He had to apologize. He had to explain to Jim that he didn't mean what he'd said, and that it was his problem, not Jim's. Maybe he should even do it upstairs, in front of the Captain? That way he could apologize to Simon as well, for having dragged him into the middle of it all.

Blair climbed out of the truck and took a deep breath. Eating crow was never his favorite thing to do. But he'd brought this on himself, and Jim didn't deserve any of it. Blair didn't deserve him sometimes.

He'd only taken a few steps away from the truck when he felt the cold metal press into the back of his neck.

Blair drove Steve's car out of the parking garage, turning left towards the bay as she instructed. The barrel of her gun pressed into his right side.

"You don't have to do this." He spared her a quick glance and was rewarded with a jab in the side.

"Shut up and drive," Steve warned. "Take the next right."

He complied. Back in the garage, he'd hoped Jim would be coming down, and maybe tuning in ahead of him in time to hear them getting into her car and pulling out. But Jim was still upstairs. Or just not listening. Who could blame him? Blair wasn't exactly on the top of his list right now. And after Jim had basically rescued him in the men's room, only to have Blair put him down for it--Well, he'd blown it.

"Park here. And don't try anything."

Blair pulled into the parking garage she pointed to, and tried to ignore the gun pressing into his side as he searched for a vacant spot. "What is this place?" He parked at the far end, close to a service elevator.

"Get out." Steve raised the gun and aimed it at Blair's face.

He opened the door and climbed out slowly, his mind running through a multitude of possible escapes as she was getting out. Each one he came up with ended with Jim zipping the bag closed over his lifeless face. That movie played out in the few seconds it took Steve to get out of the car and point the gun once again at his head.

"Open the trunk and get the bag out." She motioned with the weapon in her hand and Blair walked to the trunk.

Inside was a duffle bag he hefted out, feeling the distinctive shape of a rifle inside.

"Now, to the elevator. We're going up."

They got on the waiting car and Steve hit the top floor button, ignoring the small sign on the panel claiming the 12th floor was still under construction. Blair kept an eye on the gun trained on him. He knew there was no way he could take her that was a sure bet. She was taller than he, and obviously in peak physical condition. Her army training and the ice in her eyes suggested she'd have no trouble at all taking him out, and probably wouldn't even break a nail doing it.

When the elevator doors opened on the top floor, Blair could smell the paint and dust of recent construction.

"Out." Steve motioned with the gun. "All the way to the left."

Blair did as he was told, walking into the empty office complex and following her direction. The offices were still open, with just a few walls in half-completion. It was enough to disrupt a clear view of the floor, and Blair had to step over and around several piles of tools, extension cords and piles of electricians wire.

"Over there, sit down."

Blair's eyes followed her extended finger and rested on a crate set against a round pillar in the center of what looked to be a reception area. He glanced around as they approached the crate, his mind desperate for a solution he couldn't find. Jim wasn't here, he had no idea what was happening. But if Steve wanted to kill Blair, why were they here?

"Sit." Steve pushed Blair down with one hand on his shoulder while the other hand pressed the gun into his forehead. "I'm not afraid to use this."

Blair swallowed back a rush of adrenaline. "I'm sure you're not."

"Hands behind your back." Blair complied and the gun was removed from his head. Her hands quickly took his wrists, and he felt cold wire wrapping around each one, securing his hands behind his back and around the pillar.

"This won't bring her back." Blair tried to reason with Steve as she wrapped the last of the wire around his wrists.

"Nothing can bring her back." Steve gave the wire one last tug, then came back around to face Blair, pulling the gun back out of her belt. "But that doesn't mean I have to be alone in my suffering."

Blair's heart was racing, and he was thankful she couldn't hear it like Jim would. "So you want to kill me? To make Jim suffer, is that right?"

Steve shook her head and glanced around the room nervously. "I did, at first." She walked to a window and looked out, then checked the door. "But I've decided to kill Ellison, instead." Blair's heart skipped one beat and his hands balled into fists, causing the wires to tighten. "I think it would be better appreciated."

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