New Arrivals
Author-Johanna C.A. Fally
Titles

Checklist
by Johanna C.A. Fally

Summary: Jim gets sick and Blair gets himself kidnapped. Again.

Disclaimer: The usual. Don't own them, don't make money with them, am too poor to sue. (Trust me on this.)

Author's Notes: Many thanks to my wonderful betas Shelley and Jae Luree. You were a great help.

Feedback: Appreciated.

He opened the door to his home and calmly tossed his keys into the basket that stood on a table near the entrance. He hung his jacket on the rack, put his shoes on the doormat, then went into the bathroom. A casual observer would have been surprised by the precision of his movements. It was almost dark, yet he didn't need to turn on the lights.

He certainly didn't want to.

Almost gracefully he folded to his knees in front of the toilet. He even made sure there was a towel handy before he leaned forward and started retching.


About an hour later, lying on his bed, still shivering uncontrollably, James Joseph Ellison knew one thing for certain:

Being a Sentinel sucked.

It wasn't so much the Guardian-of-the-Great-City part itself. He'd gotten used to that over the past three years, which was astounding enough considering his dislike for change. His highly developed senses enabled him to do what he had done -- consciously or unconsciously -- all his life: to protect those who couldn't protect themselves. Sure, heightened senses could make life decidedly difficult at times; but once he was past the shock that he was some sort of genetical throwback, they'd mostly proved to be a good thing. He didn't always like it, but he could live with it. No, the senses weren't the problem.

What really bugged him was the lack of control that came with them.

Jim Ellison was used to being in control. When he had found out -- very early in his life -- that he couldn't rely on anybody else, he had started to take his life into his own hands. He'd done so ever since. He had built not only a wall, but a fortress around his heart to protect it and he had done quite a good job, too. The Army had only added to his already tight self-discipline, filling the last cracks in the walls, allowing him to function without pain or fear. If it hadn't been for the helicopter crash in Peru, he would have succeeded in sealing his soul away for good. He didn't think he would have mourned the loss.

The crash had changed his life, but he had been able to cope. He was a survivor, and as long as he was in control, he was quite adaptable -- more so than most people gave him credit for. He had returned to Cascade, had found a place to live and a job he was good at. Everything had been fine. Not perfect, but fine. He hadn't been able to recall a time in his life when he had been truly happy anyway, so he had long ago ceased to look for happiness and settled for contentment instead.

Then his senses came back online and everything changed.

This time, he couldn't even rely on his own self-control. He couldn't do this on his own, he needed help. And help had come in the form of one enthusiastic grad student who drove him up the walls and made him furious and made him laugh and made him human again. So James Ellison had to adapt once more. He hadn't liked it one bit, at the beginning. He remembered how he had fought the change -- and his savior -- every step of the way. Blair Sandburg had been forced to drag his Sentinel into his new life kicking and screaming.

Speaking of Sandburg -- his roommate, partner, personal anthropologist, friend, and Guide still wasn't home. The Sentinel noticed the absence of his soul mate despite the pain he was in and started to move, driven by his awareness of his friend's talent for finding trouble.

Please, God, he thought, trying to get to his feet, let him be all right. Let him be at the University or on a date or shopping... just don't let him be in danger again. I'm in no shape to get him out of any mess he might have gotten himself into this time. Take it easy on me, okay? Just this one time.

Fat chance.


The beeping of the cell phone couldn't have come at a more inconvenient time. Blair Sandburg swore softly, smiled apologetically at the beautiful redhead he had been kissing, then dove for his backpack and started searching for his phone. Stupid thing. He should have turned it off. Yeah, right. Then Jim would probably panic, assuming he'd been kidnapped once again... or something similarly nasty. The worst thing was, he couldn't even blame his friend for his over-protectiveness, because more often than not Jim had a reason to worry.

So he didn't turn off his phone, and paid the price.

He had met Candra, his date, at a new health store where she worked. They had flirted on and off and he hadn't believed his luck when today she had walked into his office to visit him. Not one to miss an opportunity he had invited her to stay and things had developed perfectly. Well, at least until the phone rang. That certainly put a damper on the whole thing.

The mood was ruined.

This had better be an emergency. If Jim only wants to check on me, I'll kick his sorry butt!

"Sandburg."

"Blair, this is Simon."

Uh Oh.

Sandburg went from 'slightly pissed' to 'pretty anxious' in two seconds flat. He knew this tone of voice. Worse, Simon never called him 'Blair' unless something was seriously wrong. And that could only mean...

"Simon? What happened? Where's Jim? Oh, man, he's hurt, isn't he? How bad is it? Shit, I shouldn't have let him go on that stakeout without me. I should have known. Where are you? Which hospital? C'mon Simon, talk to me!"

"Sandburg, would you just stop babbling for a minute? I'm trying to tell you that Jim..."

"He's alive, isn't he? Please, please, tell me that he's alive! Oh man, what did they do to him? Why didn't he call me?"

Images of his friend, hurt, bleeding, tumbled through Sandburg's mind. He had to get to him! He had to be with him! Grabbing the car keys, scrambling over his perplexed date and out of the office, the young Guide prepared to rush to his Sentinel's side. Just hold on, Jim, I'm on my way.

"WILL YOU RELAX ALREADY?!?"

Simon's booming voice crashed right through the haze of panic that had started to envelope his brain.

"Simon?"

Blair's voice sounded fearful, pleading. Captain Simon Banks of the Cascade PD pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg were the best team on the force, they were loyal to a fault, dedicated to their job, devoted to each other, and his friends. He respected them, he valued them, he admired them. He would give his life to protect them. One of these days, though, he was just plain going to strangle them both.

"What I was trying to tell you, Sandburg, before you had that little hysterical fit of yours, is that it's over. The bust went down this afternoon. There was some resistance, though, and I guess Jim must have stumbled into something that affected his senses. He said he didn't feel so good. Nothing serious, but I sent him home about an hour ago and I thought you should know. Just in case."

"What did he stumble into?"

"How the hell should I know? He didn't tell me."

Sandburg dodged two of his students and almost fell down the stairs. He caught himself, trying to keep his voice calm, though he really wanted to grab Simon and shake him until he understood.

"Simon, if he was sick enough that you noticed it, his condition must have been pretty serious. You know how he hides behind that stoic facade of his when he's afraid he might lose control!" His voice grew louder with every word, panic gnawing at his guts. "Why didn't you call me right away? He could be dying by now!"

"Jesus, Sandburg, the guy only had a headache! It wasn't as if he was spitting blood or something, ya' know?!"

Simon tried to maintain his anger, but the kid's anxiety proved to be contagious and the first trickles of dread edged into his heart. Ellison had been rather pale when he left.

"That's usually one of the first signs that something's wrong with him. You should know that, Simon! You know how he is. You know how he gets defensive when he's not feeling well. The worse he feels, the worse his mood."

Ellison had been exceptionally short-tempered, even for his standards...

"He would have told me..." He stopped and thought about it. "No, he wouldn't. He wouldn't have gone to a doctor either, would he?" No, he wouldn't, damn his stubborn hide. "I'll put out an APB."

"I'll check the loft. He feels safe there, it's his home, the center of his territory. Even if Jim's out of it, the Sentinel will try to get there."

"Call me when you find him."

"I will."

Please, Jim, hold on. I'm coming. I'm coming.


Okay, so he was feeling like shit. No big deal, he'd gotten familiar with that feeling over the years. He'd learned to work around it. He'd just have to take it slowly, step by step, following the mental checklists he'd drawn up after some quite embarrassing incidents in the past.

ONE: Turn the pain dials down to two.

He did so and felt better immediately. He was tempted to shut the pain off completely, but decided against it. Sandburg had lectured him often enough about pain being the body's alarm system. Not that he would ever admit it, but he had learned to listen to Sandburg. His Guide usually knew what he was talking about.

TWO: Check the loft again. Make sure that Sandburg really isn't home. In your condition you could have missed him. Do it without your senses. The way you're feeling, they might not be the most reliable source of information right now.

He stumbled down the stairs, nearly falling twice because his knees felt like rubber. Damn. He was getting worse instead of better. Sandburg would throw a fit when he saw him in this condition. It took him a while to search the loft, but once he had established that Blair wasn't hiding in the kitchen drawers or beneath the bed, he mentally consulted his list again.

THREE: Look at yourself. Are you dressed?

Oh yeah. He clearly remembered the reasons for adding this point to his list. He did a quick inventory of his cloths. Shirt? Check. Pants? Check. Socks? Check. Shoes? Oh, yeah, shoes. He needed shoes. Can't go out looking for your Guide in your socks only, can you? He put on athletic shoes, fumbling a bit with the laces, and then remembered to take his jacket as well. This was Cascade. If it wasn't raining at the moment, it would certainly be raining soon.

FOUR: Do you have your keys? You don't want to lock yourself out, do you?

Keys. Where had he put his keys? He started to hunt through his pockets when a tiny voice inside his mind stopped him with the equivalent of a slap on the head. The basket, stupid. Where else would you put your keys? He took them, went to the door, then stopped.

FIVE: Since you're feeling like crap and you're still going out, this must be important. Could get dangerous, too, considering past experience. So where's your gun, Ellison?

He didn't want to take his gun. His gun was upstairs in his room and that was a long way up. All he was going to do was go looking for Sandburg. Most likely his car had broken down again, he had met a pretty girl at the University, or he had simply gotten so caught up in his work that he had forgotten about the time. He didn't need his gun for that.

SIX: Remember the last time you thought you wouldn't need your gun.

Shit.

He did an about-turn and started climbing the stairs.


"Come on, don't do this to me! Not now!!"

The Volvo coughed once, then died. Again. Sandburg got out of his car and kicked it furiously.

"I can't believe this!"

He grabbed his backpack and started rummaging for his cell phone when another car pulled up behind his. The passenger door opened and a big, sandy-haired man got out and walked over to him. The driver remained where he was.

Under normal circumstances, Sandburg would have been instantly alert. He was a trouble-magnet and for some reason he attracted psychos like other people draw stray dogs. Not to mention the numerous times somebody had tried to get to Jim through him. He had learned to be careful. But circumstances weren't normal. His Sentinel needed him. His instinct of self-preservation was somewhat dulled.

So instead of taking off the minute he saw the weapon, he stood his ground and eyed the car speculatively. In contrast to his Volvo it appeared to be in working order. It looked quite fast, too.

"Blair Sandburg?"

"Hm?"

Ignoring the gun, Blair continued to stare at the car.

"Are you Blair Sandburg?"

"What? Oh, yeah. Pleased to meet you. Say, 'that a fast car?"

The perp looked slightly uncomfortable. Something was definitely wrong here. The guy was supposed to be afraid. He was being held at gunpoint, for crying out loud!

"What are you talking about? Forget the car, you're being kidnapped here!" he reminded his uncooperative victim.

Sandburg looked at him disdainfully.

"Look, I don't have time for this shit. I know the drill. Just take me to your car already, I'm in a hurry here, man!"

That was a bit too cooperative for the perp's liking. What was wrong with this guy? Was he crazy or what?

"Don't try anything stupid, Sandburg. I'll shoot."

Sandburg just rolled his expressive eyes and walked towards the car.

"Yeah, yeah. Been there, done that. Are we heading towards the city?"

"Yes... no... JUST GET INTO THE FUCKING CAR!"

Sandburg, who took that as a 'yes', obeyed quickly, quite oblivious of the nervous glances the kidnappers shot at him.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" he snapped. "Drive, man!"

Maybe he'd still get to his Sentinel in time.


SEVEN: What about backup?

He would have liked backup. He wasn't feeling too good. In fact he was feeling weak and nauseous and he was fairly certain that he was running a fever. In a moment of clarity he realized that he wasn't in any shape to leave the loft, let alone drive through the city looking for his wayward Guide. The problem was that his instincts didn't care. Blair should have been home by now and if he wasn't then he was most likely in trouble. Knowing Sandburg, make that Trouble with a capital T.

So, what about that backup?

Simon. Simon knew about his senses. And, even more important, Simon knew about Sandburg's penchant for Trouble. He'd call Simon and ask him to... do what? Put an APB out on the kid? Just because he wasn't home on time?

How about asking him to come over and accompany you to the University, so you won't kill yourself by passing out and running off the road, stupid? And talking about stupid -- why don't you just call Sandburg while you're at it? He does have a cell phone, you know? You gave it to him yourself.

EIGHT: Start using your brain.


The beeping of Blair's cell phone made everyone in the car jump. He automatically reached for his backpack and was stopped by a large hand grabbing his wrist.

"What d'you think you're doin' ?"

Sandburg looked at his captor. Something in the anthropologist's eyes revealed that he considered that a really dumb question.

"Answering my phone?"

"You're being kidnapped here, Dude. No phone calls."

"Yeah. That's bright. You know how my friends react when I don't answer my phone? They start to panic, that's how they react. And believe me, half a dozen frantic cops isn't your idea of fun."

"Your friend's a cop?!?"

"Well, yeah. What did you think? That you were ordered to abduct me because of my pretty baby blues?" He noticed the glimmer of unease in the other man's eyes and softened his tone. "Listen, man, I won't say anything. How could I? You're right beside me with a gun in your hand. I won't do anything foolish, okay? But I need to answer the phone, I've been waiting for this call."

His captor raised the gun, and then nodded tersely. Blair decided to ignore him for the time being. He got hold of his phone and flipped it open with shaking hands. His heart hammered in his chest. Had they found Jim?

"Simon?" he asked.

Silence. Then:

"Sandburg, what's wrong? I can hear your heart racing."

Thank God. Jim was alive and well enough to use his senses. Sandburg had to close his eyes for a moment, tears of relief stinging behind his lids.

"Jim."

He was alive.

"Sandburg, what's going on?!?"

Alive and quickly going into Blessed Protector overdrive. Now that he knew that Jim wasn't lying somewhere in an alley, hurt and alone, Blair could allow himself to let a bit of the tension go.

"'What's going on?' I thought you were in trouble! I thought you were..." He glanced at his audience and mentally switched gears. "I thought you were hurt. I thought you needed help. Simon told me about the arrest and about your... problems. Why the hell didn't you call me? Why the hell didn't you tell Simon to take you to the hospital? Why the hell did you..."

"Sandburg!"

He stopped.

"Yes, Jim?"

"Breathe."

He did so. Oh, yes. He'd needed that. Why did he always forget to breathe when he was getting worked up? Must be the lack of some mental panic button. Jim's calm voice stopped him from drifting and brought his mind back on track.

"Chief? Are you with me?"

"Yeah, man. I was just so worried, you know?"

"I didn't want to scare you, Chief. I'm sorry, okay? Now, would you please tell me what's going on? I can hear a car in the background and it's not the Volvo. There are two more heartbeats in there with you and I don't recognize them either. I'm getting worried here, Chief. Do me a favor and tell me you haven't been kidnapped again, will you?"

Blair promptly began to feel guilty.

"Uh, Jim?"

Jim wasn't going to like this. Fortunately, Blair didn't have to tell him. The Sentinel, trained detective and long suffering friend that he was, figured it out by himself.

"You HAVE been kidnapped."

Jim's voice carried a mixture of accusation, resignation and something else that Sandburg couldn't quite identify.

"It wasn't my idea, okay? I didn't plan this! Simon called me at Rainier and told me about your headache and I kind of panicked and almost fell down the stairs but I didn't 'cause I caught myself in time and then I tried to get to you but my car broke down and now I'm on my way back to the loft and are you really all right? You sound kind of strange."

"Forget about me. I'm fine. Did they hurt you?"

"No."

"Do you think you can get away from them?"

"Not right now. But I'm working on it."

The perp waved his gun, clearly getting impatient. Sandburg frowned at him and indicated that he needed more time and didn't like being interrupted.

"Do you know where you're headed?"

"Nope."

"Do you have a clue about who might be behind this?"

"Not yet."

Jim groaned.

"Did you get the license number?"

"This is Washington. You know, somewhere behind the seven hills, over the four dwarfs... or something like that."

Blair's captor looked at him strangely. The Guide glared at him, wincing inwardly. Man, that was lame. I just hope Jim is catching on. He needn't have worried. His sentinel knew him well.

"A Washington plate with the numbers seven and four. Okay. Anything else that could be useful?"

"Well, you know, I always wanted one of those Japanese cars. A Toyota, maybe. Dark green, you know how I love the park."

"Which park?"

"Where we found that monk, the one smuggling opium, remember?"

"Gotcha."

"Are you sure you're all right?"

"Never felt better."

Jim was lying through his teeth, which normally wouldn't have escaped Blair's notice, but his captor chose just that moment to cock the hammer of his gun and glare at him, prompting him to finish this strange conversation at once. Jim, of course, heard it. "Blair?" Jim's alarmed voice asked.

"Gotta go, Jim." Blair concentrated on keeping his own voice calm and reassuring. "See ya'."

"Be careful."

"Always."

He shut the phone and put it back into his backpack, not really listening to the perp's angry monologue about stubborn hostages and good jobs turning sour, and completely ignoring the driver, who hadn't said a word the whole time. Something bothered him about the conversation he'd had with Jim. He'd been so happy to hear his friend's voice that he hadn't really listened to the things he DIDN'T say... which usually were as important as the things he did say.

"Do you even listen to me?"

Jim had sounded like his usual self, insisting that he was fine. Yet there had been something in his tone of voice... something strange, tense. Not his usual 'I-know-what-I'm-doing-so-I'm-giving-the-orders-here' voice, but more an 'I'm-needed-so-I'll-do-what's-necessary-and-drop-dead-later' voice.

Shit.


Shit.

Well, at least he was alive and undamaged. He hadn't even sounded particularly frightened. Of course, Sandburg wasn't easily frightened generally. Otherwise he would have left Jim long ago. Sometimes his Guide was too courageous for his own good. Jim leaned back against the cool wall and tried to collect his strength, fighting the desire to give up and let unconsciousness claim him. No time to fall apart, though. Sandburg needed him. Fever and nausea made it difficult for him to think, but that didn't faze him because he had another checklist for occasions just like this one. He opened the appropriate mental drawer and started going through his list.

ONE: Pull yourself together.

At this mental command, Ellison straightened and opened his eyes; unconsciously slipping into what Sandburg called his 'military-mode'. Using a meditation technique his Guide had taught him he took a few deep breaths, pumping oxygen into his system and bringing his body and his senses firmly under control.

TWO: Where did you just put the phone?

He looked around until he found the phone lying on the floor beside him. He hadn't even noticed he had dropped it.

THREE: Hit the speed dial. Call Simon.

Speed dial. Oh yeah. 1 was Blair, 2 was Simon. Simon would help. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed that help, he was getting worse by the minute. Good thing he had his checklists.


Captain Simon Banks was on his way to the loft when his cell phone started ringing. He just hoped it was Sandburg, telling him that Jim was home and tucked safely into bed. Although he didn't like to admit it he was worried about his best detective and he was feeling guilty because he had forgotten how dangerous the exposure to an unknown substance could be to the Sentinel. Blair hadn't been there, so it had been his responsibility to take care of Jim. He hadn't done a very good job so far. Thinking about the possible consequences of his thoughtlessness he flipped the phone open and gruffly bellowed:

"Banks."

No answer. All he could hear was heavy breathing. The tall police captain stared at the phone and frowned. If this was some kind of joke there was going to be hell to pay.

"Who is this?" he demanded.

He didn't have time for this nonsense. One of his men, who happened to be his friend, needed help and he wasn't going to waste precious time with some pervert who... His thoughts were interrupted by a hoarse voice, whispering something that he couldn't understand. That did it.

"This is Captain Banks of the Cascade PD. Identify yourself or I will --"

"Sandburg."

"Excuse me?"

Why did the voice sound so strangely familiar? And why was his heart suddenly beating like a sledgehammer?

"My Guide's been kidnapped." Forlornly. There was a short pause, then a disgusted growl. "Again."

Guide? Kidnapped? Wait a moment...

"Jim?"

God, please don't let it be Jim. Let it be some kind of sick joke. Tell me that Jim and Blair are both safely home, bickering as usual. Please tell me that this broken, pain-filled voice doesn't belong to my friend.

"Yeah?"

No such luck. Simon took a deep breath and forced himself to remain calm. He was only two blocks away from the loft. All he needed to do was keep the detective talking and maybe he'd even find out what the hell was going on.

"Jim, where are you? How are you? What happened?"

"I'm at home. I'm all right. Blair has been kidnapped, though."

Not again. What was it with that kid?

"By whom?" "Don't know."

"Okay. What do you know?"

One block. Hang on Jim, I'm coming. Damn, I already sound like Sandburg.

"His car broke down." Jim sounded stronger now, more coherent. "He was taken by two men in a dark green Toyota with a Washington plate and the numbers seven and four on it. They are somewhere in Cascade. About five minutes ago they passed the little park in Chinatown where we found the dead monk, remember?"

"Yeah, I remember. How do you know all that, Jim?" Simon couldn't help but ask. He was quite sure it was a Sentinel thing and he didn't really want to know, but he had to keep Jim awake.

"I called him."

I knew it. A Sentinel thing.

"Through some mystical Sentinel/Guide connection between you?"

"We're talking about me here, Simon, not Sandburg. You know how I hate all that supernatural crap that comes with this Sentinel gig. I usually use the phone."

Simon couldn't help it. He smiled. Yep. That's Jim Ellison all right.


"So, you're kidnappers. Do you like your job?"

"Shut up. I'm not talking to you."

"Why not?"

The kid actually managed to sound offended. Peter Collins groaned and hid his face in his hands. Nobody had prepared him for a hostage like this. He wasn't quite sure how Sandburg did it, but he got right under your skin and made himself comfortable there. And God was he stubborn! No wonder Charlie concentrated on driving and kept his mouth firmly shut and his eyes on the road.

"Why won't you talk to me, man? There's nothing better to do at the moment. I'm just trying to make conversation here."

"Because this is a fucking kidnapping!" Peter yelled. "You are the hostage. We are the kidnappers!"

"Well, yeah. I'm aware of that. You mentioned it often enough. I'm not stupid, you know? But I've got some experience with situations like this one and I know how unbelievable boring these long drives can be. So why don't we relax and make the best of it, hm?"

"You've got 'some experience' with being kidnapped?"

"Oh, man, you have no idea."

Peter knew he probably didn't even want to know, but some kind of morbid fascination made him pursue the issue.

"Just how often does that kind of thing happen to you?"

The answer, delivered in a cheerful tone of voice, made him blanch.


Simon let himself into the loft, once again silently thanking any deity willing to listen for Jim's foresight that had made him give his friend a spare key.

"Jim? Are you there? JIM!!"

"Stop shouting, Simon. I feel crappy enough as it is."

Simon went to the couch and studied his best detective critically.

"You look it, too."

"Thank you so much. Now, can we go and rescue Sandburg already?"

"Me, yeah. You? Only place you're going is straight to the hospital, Detective. That's an order."

"I don't need to go to the hospital. I'm fine."

"Jim, I've seen corpses that looked healthier than you do."

"Gee, Simon, you really are trying to lift my self-esteem today, aren't you?"

Uh Oh. Ellison was getting sarcastic. Not good. A sarcastic Ellison equaled a pissed Ellison. And a pissed Ellison equaled a dangerous Ellison. Hell, the man had been deadly even before his Sentinel instincts resurfaced. Years in the military, especially in Covert Ops, had seen to that. Now, with five enhanced senses and the primal instincts to match, he was more dangerous than ever.

Way to go, Banks. He's already on edge. Make him angry as well, so he'll kill the unlucky punks who were stupid enough to kidnap his Guide.

"Listen Jim, I know you're worried about Sandburg, but the truth is you are in no condition to go chasing after him." There was that jaw muscle working again. Jim Ellison obviously didn't like what he heard. Tough. "I'm sorry, I can't allow you to go. I already called the precinct, Major Crimes is taking over as of now. The guys are working on it. We've got every uniform in Cascade looking for the green Toyota and Sandburg. We'll find him. You need to..."

"I need to find my Guide."

Stubborn as usual.

"I hate to break this to you, Ellison, but you look like death warmed over. Which means you must feel even worse. So why don't you sit this one out and let me take care of you, huh?"

"I can't."

Simon exploded.

"WHY NOT, FOR CHRISSAKE? What kind of crazy hero-complex do you have?"

Ellison winced at the loudness of his friend's voice but didn't back down. No surprise there. Ellison never backed down from anything. He was sitting on the couch, looking as if he didn't even have the strength to get to his feet, his captain towering over him like some kind of pissed off guardian angel, and he didn't bat an eye.

Somehow that was worse than him going ballistic. Simon could handle an enraged Ellison. He had plenty of practice with that. This quietly determined Ellison, however, was another matter. He couldn't yell at the man, because he didn't want to hurt him. He couldn't really threaten him, because his scare tactics didn't impress the Sentinel. He didn't even dare touch him without warning, because if Jim's senses were out of whack, that would hurt him, too, and he looked bad enough as it was. In other words, Simon didn't know what to do with his headstrong detective.

He tried reason again. "Jim, you can't even get up, let alone drive."

Wrong choice of words.

The Sentinel growled softly and stood up, swaying dangerously. Simon automatically reached out to steady him, but Ellison shook him off harshly. The sudden movement nearly sent him back down to the couch, but sheer determination made him regain his balance and remain standing.

"If I make it to the car, will you drive me?"

"Jim..."

"Will you drive me?"

Simon looked into the fierce blue eyes of his friend and ground his teeth. That bullheaded, stubborn, stupid... he'd never make it. He'd black out and fall and... the ice cold gaze never wavered. Damn. He'd make it. It might kill him, but he'd make it. He'd get up and get down to the car and he'd go looking for Sandburg and never stop until he found him and then he'd just drop dead.

"How's your sense of touch?"

"What?"

"Is it safe to touch you or will I hurt you?"

"Touch is okay, but I'm having problems with my sight, probably due to the killer headache," Jim eyed his captain suspiciously. "Why?"

"Shut up and grab the keys."

With that Simon slung an arm around his protesting detective's hips and went in search of one missing anthropologist.


Sandburg had never liked the docks. First, because they smelled; second, because they were a maze of dark alleys and ugly buildings; and third, because he had been held captive in that area one time too many. This time, he had been brought to one of the old warehouses -- a hangar-like construction with tiny windows and a distinct lack of furnishing.

His captor was a middle-aged, balding man who once might have been athletic, but who was now developing a beer belly. He didn't look very dangerous, but Blair had learned the hard way that appearances could be deceptive. He was standing on a platform in the middle of the warehouse and smiled congenially when the sandy-haired kidnapper led Sandburg to him and then melted into the background. The driver had parked the car and disappeared up the stairs into the deserted office area.

"Mr. Sandburg. How good to see you. How do you do?"

Sandburg, who had been studying his 'host', shook himself out of his reverie and blinked twice.

"Huh?"

Cultivated amusement was replaced by mild irritation.

"Excuse me, but am I boring you, Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair shook his head.

"Uh huh. No. Of course not. I'm fascinated."

"Then why do you keep staring at me that way?"

Sandburg moved uncomfortably, feeling slightly embarrassed. He cleared his throat and smiled sheepishly.

"Well, you know, I'm kinda used to being kidnapped and all..."

"You are?"

"Yes. Definitely. Believe me. I have it down to an art form. This time, however..."

"What is it?"

"Uh... to be honest... I was wondering who the hell you are. I don't know you, so you either want to use me to get to Jim or you're yet another psychopath who has it in for me. The problem is that a) you're not the usual type of ex-con, ex-soldier, killer or thug that Jim attracts and b) psychopaths usually do their own kidnapping, they don't send hired muscle to snatch me. You can't be one of Simon's either, because everyone knows I drive him up the walls, and anyhow, if someone wants to rile him, they tend to go for Jim. So, you see, I'm at a complete loss. Care to enlighten me?"

His captor stared at him slack-jawed.

"You don't know? He didn't tell you?" Amazement gave way to amusement, and the man began to cackle. "He didn't tell you! Ha! That's a good one! He didn't tell his partner about his most dangerous enemy. I love it! He didn't tell you!"

With that, the mastermind behind Blair's kidnapping doubled over laughing, babbling about Jim's lack of trust in his friend, his inability to help his friend, his poor choice of friends, as well as Jim's impending death.

The Guide stared at him in disgust for a while and then started looking around for a place to sit down. He had the feeling that this could take a while.


Okay. So far so good. He had managed to convince Simon to help him instead of taking him to the hospital and he had made it to the car -- in a very undignified way, granted, but he could live with that. Of course he'd have to kill Simon if he ever told anyone. He vaguely remembered informing his captain about that and eliciting a small chuckle from the big man, but the next couple of minutes were kind of fuzzy. He dug around for his checklists for help.

FOUR: Get Simon to help you.

Done. Damn, he was good. He was getting ahead of his own checklists.

FIVE: Have you got your keys, your badge, and your gun?

He felt around for the required items and smiled proudly. Yep. Everything there. He had even locked the door. Well, to be precise, Simon had done that for him, but the result was the same. The loft was secure. Nobody could violate their home while they were gone.

SIX: Find your Guide.

Yeah. Okay. How?

SEVEN: To remember correct procedure, go to checklist #3.

Yep, those checklists had been a great idea.


"I will make him beg. I will make him kneel before me and beg for your life. No, even better, I will make him beg for his own life. How long do you think will it take to break him, huh? How long till tough, cold blooded Jim Ellison will crawl on his knees and cry? And he will cry. Cry and whimper and beg for mercy. He will pay for what he did to me! Do you hear me?!?"

"Hm? Oh, yeah. Sure man, I hear you. Cry and whimper. Beg for mercy. Pay for what he did to you."

"Are you making fun of me?"

"Wouldn't think of it. You're the one with the gun. Keep on talking, I'm listening."

Break Jim Ellison. Jeez. As if a second class moron like this one had a chance in hell of coming even close to that goal.

Not that Blair was complaining, though. As long as Mr. I-will-make-him-beg kept talking he didn't think of doing anything nasty to Blair. Jim was always very upset when he found his friend had been hurt. And since he couldn't shake the gnawing suspicion that Jim was not feeling so hot he better make sure nothing happened to him.

He didn't want to worry his Sentinel.


The Sentinel was worried.

He and Simon had found Sandburg's car about two miles from Rainier University. He had been able to track his Guide's scent to the highway, where he had lost it in the traffic. So they had gone to the park and he had tried to pick up the trail again, but the barrage of smells drifting in from various Chinatown restaurants and herb shops proved to be too distracting even for a Sentinel.

He wasn't in a panic yet. Sandburg, trouble-magnet that he was, was able to take care of himself and he hadn't sounded too troubled on the phone. He probably wasn't in any immediate danger, but Jim didn't like the thought of his friend being held hostage by God knew what kind of madman, especially when he didn't know his Guide's whereabouts, so he was getting testier by the minute.

He had crossed off point ONE (Go to your Guide's last known location and look for clues.) and TWO (Filter out his scent and follow it.) on his 'How To Find Sandburg' checklist and he didn't like point THREE at all. Point THREE was relevant only when he was out of options. Which he wasn't. Yet.

He tried to call Sandburg again, but somebody had finally turned off the phone. This was neither surprising nor especially alarming, but that didn't mean he had to like it.

Most detectives of Major Crimes were out on the streets, questioning snitches and generally beating the bushes of Cascade's underworld in search of their favorite police observer. So far, all they had dug up was three of the FBI's Most Wanted list and one kidnapped boy who was not Sandburg.

The mayor was the only one who was truly happy. Every time Blair Sandburg was kidnapped, Major Crimes spring-cleaned Cascade.


Blair Sandburg snuck a glance at his watch and suppressed a sigh. If Jim and the guys didn't show up soon, he was going to rescue himself. He seriously considered shooting his kidnapper in the process. A man could only take so much bullshit and this jerk was way past the acceptable limit.

"I will make him beg!"

Here we go again.

At least he had found a relatively comfortable spot on the floor near the wall. Sitting cross-legged on his jacket -- he didn't want to catch a cold on the damp concrete -- he hugged his backpack and tried to work himself into a light trance. It was easier to ignore his captor's increasingly boring monologue if he was meditating and, maybe he could reach Jim that way.

Not that his Sentinel would appreciate the effort. Jim was an infuriatingly rational person. He'd probably still deny the existence of his spirit guide if it hadn't practically bitten him in the ass some time ago. Luckily the black jaguar knew how to treat his stubborn protege. Blair chuckled softly. Jim and the spirit world was a story all to itself. Life could have been so much easier if the Sentinel only acknowledged the connection between himself and his Guide.

Not that he ever would.

Jim Ellison was a master in the art of denial.


THREE: If everything else fails, use that non-existent bond between you and your Guide to track him.

Everything else had failed.

Time to visit the Sandburg zone.


When he felt Jim reaching out to him, Sandburg's eyes jerked open abruptly. He was caught completely off guard, finally having reached a pleasant state of meditative calm. His serenity, however, was shattered when the Sentinel's soul touched his. He could actually FEEL him, his scent, his breath, his very presence. Jim's emotions, a tidal wave of worry, frustration, anger, and need rushed over his Guide and enfolded him. He could sense his Sentinel's fierce protectiveness and immediately felt a lot safer.

Jim?

No answer, but a sense of relief washed over him. The mental equivalent of a gruff hug made him smile, then Jim drew back again. Although the contact dimmed somewhat, the connection stayed open, and Sandburg took this chance to feel his way along the invisible cord and check on his Sentinel's state of health.

He didn't like what he found.


"Jim?"

"Hm?"

Damn, had he drifted again? He straightened and found himself staring into Simon's worried face. Where was he? Why was Simon here? Where was... oh, yeah. Blair had been kidnapped. Again. They hadn't been able to find him, the kidnapper hadn't called and he had felt his strength fading, so he had given up and tried to find Sandburg by... oh, crap.

"Dammit, Ellison, are you all right?"

Of course he was all right. What a stupid question! He had everything under control. The only thing bothering him was the low moaning he could hear. Who was making such an godawful noise? It was difficult enough to concentrate without this distraction.

"Okay, hold on, I'll get you to the hospital. Just... don't move. Keep on breathing. And don't zone on me. Don't you dare zone on me! Never should have allowed you to come anyway. Shit, Blair's gonna kill me if I let anything happen to you."

Simon was babbling. That was bad. Simon never babbled. Why did Simon babble? He didn't think Blair was hurt, did he? Blair was fine, a little worried, perhaps, but unharmed. He could still feel him. Couldn't Simon? Why couldn't Simon feel Blair? Why could he... oh, CRAP.


"Come on, Jim, don't do this to me!"

"Simon?"

"Yeah, I'm here. Wait a moment, I need to strap you in, and then we're going to the hospital. Just relax."

"I did it."

"You did what? Just stay still, don't move. I'll take care of you."

Now wait a minute...

"Take care of me? What do I look like - Sandburg? I can take care of myself! I'm fine!"

"Yeah, sure. That's why you're pale, shivering and weak as a kitten. You're going to the hospital, Mister, and that's an order!"

"Would you just listen for a second? I did it. I found him."

"You did WHAT?"

"I found him."

"How?"

Don't make me tell you. It's embarrassing enough as it is...

"Do you really want to know, sir?"

"Is it a Sentinel thing?"

"Yessir."

"Then I don't. Just tell me where to go."


Sometimes Simon Banks just couldn't believe this man. One moment he looked like he was ready to roll over and die and then, in the blink of an eye, he was tense and focused like a bloodhound on a trail.

It was a joy to watch.

This was more than just a man looking for his friend. This was Detective Jim Ellison hot on a trail. This was Captain James Joseph Ellison on a mission. This was the Sentinel of the Great City going for his Guide. Or, in other words: This was Jim looking for Blair, and God help whoever was coming in between them. They didn't stand a chance.


"He will crawl on his knees and beg..."

"Oh, will you shut up already?"

He didn't say that. He didn't just say that to a raving lunatic with a gun in his hand!

Peter Collins didn't get it. Instead of leaving he had decided to stay and watch the strange hostage from a shadowy corner; not quite sure why, but unable to go. He had witnessed the longhaired young man face a grinning psychopath without so much as batting an eyelash, had watched him trigger one of the man's endless tirades about Jim Ellison and make himself comfortable on the floor, starting to MEDITATE for God's sake! As far as he could see, Blair Sandburg had had the situation perfectly under control.

And then he went and told his captor to shut up.

What the fuck had gotten into him? Had he lost his mind? Had he finally panicked? Although he didn't look as if he was in a panic. Exasperated. Yes. Irritated. Yes. At the end of his patience. Certainly not afraid or panicky or even nervous, though. On the contrary. He was positively fuming.

"I've about had it with your threats! They're unrealistic, unimaginative, and totally uninteresting! Jesus Christ, man, can't you come up with something besides 'I'll make him beg'!?!? I mean, we're talking about Jim Ellison here! We're talking about a guy who has to count to ten every time he's required to say 'please'! We're talking about a guy who barely nods when I push his ungrateful ass out of the line of fire! And that's on a good day! On a bad day he doesn't even nod, and he yells at me for not staying in the truck! You want to make this man beg? Settle for something a little more likely, why don't you? Like bending steel bars with your ears or singing 'The Star Spangled Banner' correctly!"

That did it. He'll kill him.

Peter might have been a hired thug, but there were limits to his ruthlessness. He could not stand still and watch an armed sociopath slaughter an unarmed grad student. At least not without getting paid for it.

He had just opened his mouth to call to his boss, when the angry roar of an engine made them all spin around. The closed doors of the warehouse flew open, ripped half off by the impact of Peter's green Toyota. The car came to a screeching stop between Sandburg and his kidnapper, shielding the anthropologist from any harm. The door on the driver's side was kicked open and revealed a very big, very pissed off man with blazing blue eyes that held the most feral expression Peter had ever seen.

"Cascade PD! Drop your gun!" his voice thundered. "Sandburg, are you all right?"

The student, who didn't seem overly surprised by the sudden development, simply nodded. His lips moved and although Peter didn't hear a sound, the large detective seemed to relax a bit.

"Ellison! You bastard!"

Wow. THAT was Ellison? No wonder Sandburg hadn't seemed too worried. With backup like this he didn't need to.

"Drop your weapon! You are under arrest!"

"Do you really think I'll give up that easy, after what you did to me?!?"

"I don't even know who you are... and, frankly, I don't particularly care. Drop your gun."

"You don't know... YOU RUINED MY LIFE, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!! I SWORE REVENGE! I TOLD YOU I'D DESTROY YOU! I SPENT YEARS PLANNING HOW TO BREAK YOU! I SENT YOU HATE LETTERS EVERY FUCKIN' CHRISTMAS!!!"

"Oh, that was you?"

"'Oh, that was you?' OH, THAT WAS YOU?!? I'LL KILL YOU!!"

Peter dove for cover as the two men opened fire. He thought he heard Sandburg scream, finally scared -- though for his partner, not for himself.

This, he decided, was the perfect moment to disappear.

Keeping his head down he scrambled through the door. He didn't need the Toyota, Charlie's sedan would do nicely. He could be in Vancouver before the stupid cops knew he had been involved. All he needed to do was get away before... before he ran into Ellison's backup, half of the Cascade Police Department, led by Captain Simon Banks and his Major Crimes Unit. All of them armed to the teeth. All of them seriously ticked off.

"Cascade PD! Freeze!"

Sometimes you can't win.


His head hurt. His ears hurt. The overwhelming smells of blood and gunpowder made him nauseous. He felt terrible. All he wanted to do was to sit down, so he slid to the ground and closed his eyes. He didn't need them to check on Sandburg. His Guide was fine. A little shaken, but fine. He heard him scramble around the hood of the car and fall to his knees beside him, heart hammering like crazy.

"Jim? Oh, my God! Jim!! Are you hurt? Did he shoot you? Answer me, dammit! JIM!"

Strong hands gripped his shoulders, held him, and then frantically flew over his body, checking for injuries. He opened his eyes and found his friend in a panic.

"Simon! Rafe! I need some help here!"

What? No, he didn't want that. He didn't want to be taken to the hospital, he didn't want to be poked and prodded and drugged. He wanted to go home, crawl into bed, and be pampered by his Guide.

"Sandburg, stop it!" he growled, pushing away the probing hands. "I'm fine. I don't need help!"

"Jim! Thank God! Are you hurt?"

Was he hurt? He concentrated on his body. He felt queasy, sore, and dizzy, but he couldn't detect any holes that shouldn't be there. He smelled blood, but it wasn't his own.

"No. I feel like crap, though. Can we go home now?"

"How are your senses?"

"I don't wanna discuss my senses. I want to go home! I have a headache! I feel sick! I spent the past few hours combing the city for you!"

"Jim..."

"And don't you 'Jim' me! You're the one who got kidnapped! Again! When I'm feelin' better we're gonna have a long talk about that nasty little habit of yours, but now all I want to do is go home!"

"I didn't do it on purpose, okay? I was KIDNAPPED, for Pete's sake!"

"I don't care if you did it on purpose or not! You did it! You do it all the time! You can't even go to the store without getting yourself kidnapped! I should handcuff you to my side, but I'm afraid I'd get kidnapped, too! I don't know which major deity you managed to piss off in a former life, Sandburg, but this has to stop! -- And who is Pete?"


The detectives of Major Crimes gathered around their friends and listened in shamelessly, grinning widely. They watched their favorite police observer hover protectively over his irritated partner, soothing his anger, calming his frayed nerves, all the while ignoring his bitching. They noted how Ellison grumbled and growled and yet allowed Sandburg to gently touch and prod him while checking for injuries.

"Jim, man, hold still! I'm not finished yet!"

"Sandburg, I'm fine! Dammit, let me be! Simon!"

Simon grinned down at his detective, who -- despite all his yelling and complaining -- already looked better. Sometimes it seemed that Sandburg's presence alone was providing his Sentinel with additional strength. The bodies of their fellow detectives shielded them from the chaos around them, giving them the privacy they needed to work their own special brand of magic.

He looked at the paramedics who had just arrived at the scene and down again at his best team. Nah. He knew what they needed.

"Sandburg, get him home," he growled. "I don't want to see his face in the bullpen until he's 100%. Jim, shut up and do as Sandburg says."

"Simon..."

"Did you just say something, Detective?"

"No, sir."

"Good. You can give me your report tomorrow. I'll stop by the loft and pick it up. Brown, Rafe, take them home."

"Yes, sir."

It wasn't easy, keeping a straight face when the two detectives pulled Jim up and led him to the cars, Sandburg talking all the while, forcing Rafe aside so he could support his Sentinel and calm him at the same time, but somehow Simon managed. He watched Jim lay down on the backseat -- a testament to how sick he really was -- and Sandburg climb in behind him, riding in the back with him although that meant he had barely enough room to breathe. It would have been ridiculous if it hadn't been so darn cute.

Simon allowed himself a fond little smile, then he shook himself and did what he did best: he started bellowing orders and taking charge of the situation.


The Guide tucked his Sentinel in and regarded him critically. He still looked too pale for his liking and he had hardly complained when fed a cup of chamomile tea to calm his upset stomach.

"So, any idea what caused this?"

"Yeah. I shouldn't have eaten that damn chicken burrito."

"Burrito? What burrito? Simon said you were having trouble after that arrest this afternoon."

"Actually it started shortly before. I guess the chicken was bad, but I didn't notice because it was so spicy and because I was preoccupied. I puked my guts out for two hours before I realized you were missing -- sorry it took me so long to find you."

"I dropped my date, almost broke my neck falling down the stairs, got kidnapped, and was sick with worry -- all because of a bad chicken burrito?!?"

"I refuse to feel guilty because I ate a burrito. But, yeah, it was kinda my fault that you got kidnapped again."

"Don't even start with the guilt trip, big guy. It was not your fault."

"I could argue, but right now I feel too bad to bother. I just wanna sleep. Can we talk tomorrow, Chief?"

"Yeah, man, we'll talk tomorrow. You sleep and get better."

" 'kay. Night, Chief."

"Good night, Jim."

"Uh... Chief?"

"Yes, Jim?"

"Could you secure the loft? I found the appropriate checklist, but I'm too tired to get up again."

"Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Sleep well."

The Sentinel nodded and snuggled deeper under the covers, already half asleep. Drowsily he listened to his friend as he locked the door, checked the windows, and made sure the loft was safe. The familiar heartbeat almost made him purr in contentment. His Guide was home. All was well.

On the brink of sleep, he heard Blair getting ready for bed and then stopping at the foot of the stairs.

"Jim?"

"Hmmmm?"

"Tomorrow, we will talk. We will talk about you eating greasy chicken burritos without checking them first, about that bond between us -- I know you used it to find me -- AND we will talk about those ominous checklists, you hear me? You never told me about them."

"Hmmm. Whatever you say, Chief."

"Good night, Jim." Then, Sentinel-soft: "Sweet dreams, my friend."

The Sentinel smiled, closed his eyes, and finally slipped away into sweet nothingness.

The End