New Arrivals
Author-Sherrylou and Author-LindaS

Silent Justice
by Sherrylou and LindaS

Summary: An attack on Blair unites several members of Major Crimes into executing an unusual plan. Rated PG-13 for a little language and a minor sexual situation.

Author's Notes: This story was originally a short snippet posted for my listsibs on the SentinelAngst List. Requests were made to lengthen the piece, and I aim to please! Sorry it took so long, but I wanted the story to go one way (more Blair angst!) and my muse stomped her feet and pitched a hissyfit to get her way. Anyway, her tantrum won out. All spitballs are to be thrown in her direction. You'll know what I'm talking about when you read the story! A big thank-you to my sister, Linda, who helped me finish this story. Stuck at one point, knowing where I wanted to go and struggling to get there, Linda quickly churned out four scenes as incentive to get me writing again. Together, we then worked to bring the story to its completion. I also need to extend my praise and gratitude to my beta readers, Lorri (Nickerbits) and CJ (Alberte). What they do is truly amazing! Thanks!

Disclaimer: The Major Crimes Gang belongs to Pet Fly, Paramount, SciFi, etc., etc., etc.

Part One

Blair entered the bullpen, waving a quick 'hi' to Brown as he sauntered by the older detective's desk. His stomach grumbled with a roar that reminded him of the late hour and no food. "Down, boy," he mumbled to himself, patting his stomach. "Behave yourself."

Passing by Rhonda's desk, the stately blonde softy called out his name. "Oh, Blair. There's a note on your desk from Jim. I noticed it there when I dropped off those files you requested."

"Thanks, Rhonda," he responded, smiling. The day had been smooth sailing so far -- the Blake case had been resolved with little difficulty -- easily putting him in a good mood.

Reaching his desk, the detective picked up the note and read the message. "Stuck at the courthouse until two. Meet you at Akbar Cafe. Jim." Strange? Jim didn't usually go for Indian cuisine -- especially Akbar since their specialties tended to be on the spicy side. He crumpled the note and tossed it into the wastebasket. The wadded paper bounced off the rim of the basket and fell unnoticed to the floor. "Feeding time in ten," he told his empty stomach as it once again made its feelings on the lack of food loudly known.

With only ten minutes left to hike himself over to the restaurant, Blair decided that he'd better set a fast pace. Just four blocks away, he figured he could save some time cutting down the side street between Second and Market. Grabbing his jacket, the detective slipped it on as he walked to the elevator.

Halfway way down the side street, Blair heard a moaning sound coming from an adjacent dark alley.

"Hello? Anyone there?" he asked cautiously as he approached the entrance. The tall buildings blocked out much of the sunlight from the little alleyway. Shadows from the looming structures cast a dismal gloom over the small, dead-end street and Blair made his way hesitantly through the large boxes and other assorted trash that littered the pavement.

Hearing another moan, Blair ventured deeper into the obscure passageway.

Without realizing at first what was happening, Sandburg was quickly surrounded by three men, all taller than him with two that rivaled Mr. Atlas in physical mass. Wearing black ski-masks to effectively hide their identities, only dark, malicious eyes stared back at him. So deadly were their glares that it sent shivers down his back and fear knotted his stomach. His fear increased tenfold as his gaze focused on a gun pointed directly at his chest.

Weighing his option of going for his piece if an opportunity presented itself, Sandburg was stunned when that decision had been made for him. A large hand reached under his jacket, removed the gun from the holster and tossed the weapon down the alleyway. Blair took a few deep breaths to calm himself. Oh, this is so not good. What did I get myself into? Attempting to move sideways and skirt around the threesome, he was thwarted when they spread themselves out, blocking his escape from the dark alley.

"Hey, man. If it's money you want -- my wallet's in my back pocket. There's not much but you're welcome to it. I don't want any trouble."

The tallest of the three and the apparent leader spoke, disdain coloring his voice. "Trouble's what you're going to get, Sandburg. Didn't they teach you anything about walking into an unknown situation at the academy? You're so pathetic. A disgrace to the department." Putting the weapon away, he and his two cohorts moved closer to the trapped man.

Man, oh, man. They know my name. "Seems like you have me at a disadvantage." Blair tried to keep his cool as he glanced around the littered pathway for another avenue of escape. His shortcut was rarely taken by other pedestrians and too far from the main thoroughfare for anyone to hear his cries for help.

"That's the whole idea, you hippie freak. Your kind disgusts us. Parading around the station like you own the place, getting a detective shield while we work our butts off patrolling the streets or walking a beat, and then being assigned to Major Crimes -- elite of the elite. Who's ass did you kiss -- or was it the other way around?"

Anger flared through his veins as Blair realized that the ones who stood before him were co-workers; men he probably saw everyday. He knew that there had been hard feelings -- but to come to this? The detective made another move to circumvent the group, casually pressing along the brick wall. "Message received -- point taken. I'll just be on my way -- yikes!" he cried out as the leader grabbed him by the hair, pulling him back into the little group.

"Not so fast. We're not through with you yet. We just want to demonstrate what kind of support you'll receive out in the field from the men in blue, right, guys?"

A few snickers were heard as Blair was pushed from the muscle-bound leader to the other two men, each snagging an arm. They grabbed him between them in a vise-like hold as they painfully twisted his upper limbs.

"Hold him tight," the leader of the group commanded.

"Okay. Really impressive, man. You've scared me. You've had your fun. You've proved what big, macho pigs you really are." Oops! Wrong choice of words, Blair thought as the leader edged closer. His menacing stance suggested that he had more than just talking on his mind.

The first blow hit Sandburg low in the stomach, doubling him over and leaving him gasping for air. The two men jerked his arms tighter, yanking him back into an upright position. Blair moaned as the fist hit him on the left side and then came in for another quick jab to his stomach. Two more blows came in quick succession. Physical distress welled within his lower abdomen and radiated upward through his chest. Spasms racked his stomach and he struggled to inhale several deep breaths to ease the nauseous feeling.

Not through yet, the huge assailant delivered a roundhouse kick directly to the detective's upper torso. An intense and agonizing sensation seared throughout his body as Blair not only felt something snap but also heard a sickening, cracking sound. Wheezing heavily, head spinning, and his eyes scrunched tightly in pain, Blair foggily heard the words the leader vehemently spoke. The threat the man uttered terrorized him as those words formed a chilling vision in his mind.

"And if you say one word to your partner about any of this, we'll make sure he gets his own personal message. Bullets sometime go astray in a fire fight. One just might find its way to Mr. Cop of the Year."

The two men holding Blair up let go of his arms. Without support, Sandburg fell limply to the ground, one arm wrapped tightly around his stomach. Focusing his pain-filled eyes through the gray haze that blurred his vision, he watched the three assailants stroll casually out of the alley. Black spots danced before his eyes, merging together as one and delivering the young man into a blessed darkness.

"Hey, Rhonda -- have you seen Sandburg around?" Jim asked as he stared across the bullpen at the vacant desk. "We're suppose to be taking the Riley statement in a half an hour."

"He was here earlier, but left about twenty minutes ago. There was a message from you, something about lunch. Everything okay?"

"I'm not sure. Do you know where he was going?"

"No. Don't you?"

Leaving Rhonda's question unanswered, Jim walked over to Blair's desk and looked with dismay across its cluttered surface. Where to begin in this mess? Come on, Sandburg -- where'd you leave the note? Glancing down toward the wastebasket, he bent over and filtered through the trash with little luck. As he straightened up, he saw a piece of crumpled paper on the floor. Picking it up and smoothing it out, he read the message. Concern flitted across his face as he processed the scrawled words. I didn't leave this. What's going on here? Only you, Chief, could find trouble in the middle of a police department.

Jim rummaged through Sandburg's desk searching for the phone book. Finding it and flipping through the yellow pages, he located the number to Akbar Cafe and dialed. A standard greeting hailed him at the other end.

"Yeah -- hello. I'm looking for Blair Sandburg. Could you check and see if he's there. He's about five feet, nine inches tall, shoulder-length, curly brown hair -- what? Only a few diners and no one fitting that description. Okay -- well, thanks a lot." Hanging up the phone, he directed his gaze toward Brown.

"Problem, Jim?" Brown asked, seeing Jim's worried expression.

"Maybe," Ellison replied as he decided what his next course of action would be. "Hey, H. I'm going to run out and look for Sandburg. If he should return -- keep him here. Cuff him if you have to."

"Will do, Jim."

Following the route that Ellison thought his partner would have taken to the restaurant, he paused indecisively at the small, side street located between Second and Market. Be just like Sandburg to take a shortcut. With a hesitant look at the traffic and crowded walkways of the main thoroughfare, he turned and ventured into the narrow roadway.

As the Sentinel entered the side street, he extended his hearing down through the tunnel-like channel created by the tall columns of the surrounding buildings. Sifting out the normal, everyday city noises, he finally connected with the one sound he sought -- a heartbeat -- Blair's heartbeat -- fifty yards away!

His feet swiftly carried him to the entrance of an alley. Continuing on, running and stumbling -- not caring that he slipped on the rotting garbage and widely-strewn trash -- Jim hurried deeper into the dark alleyway. His breath caught when he spied the fallen figure of his Guide. God, no! Please be all right!

Jim knelt beside his unconscious partner, gently assessing his condition as nimble fingers lightly traveled over the body. He heard Blair's wheezy, shallow breaths and felt the several broken ribs and the tender bruising of his abused abdomen. Worry clenched his heart at the sight of the figure that lay so motionlessly at his feet. Oh, Chief. What the hell happened? Who did this to you? Someone had attacked his Guide. It was more than a simple robbery. The note indicated something more sinister. Was it something personal? Against him? Against Blair?

Pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, Ellison quickly placed a call to the station, informing the dispatcher that an officer was down and requesting back-up and an ambulance at his location. With the call completed, he turned his attention back to his partner. "Hang in there, Chief. Help will be here soon. Hang in there."

Removing his jacket, the older detective covered his injured friend, offering what little warmth he could. Afraid to move Blair and injure him further, he reached out to comfort his partner. One hand rested on a shoulder, lightly stroking, as he calmly spoke reassuring words. A need for a stronger connection welled within him and, with his other hand, he grasped onto Blair's wrist, feeling the steady thrumming of blood pulsing through the vein. The strong beat reaffirmed to the Sentinel his Guide's existence and, with that beat firmly pulsing against his fingertips, he sat back and waited.

Blair moaned softly, feeling a dull ache as he drew in each breath. Blinking his eyes several times, he slowly became conscious of his surroundings. Shit! Hospital room again. He was sure of it. He recognized the standard, institutional white walls, the early chrome decor, and the basic white linens that had been starched to the height of scratchiness. A gentle touch to his forehead, lightly brushing away a few stray strands of hair, made him aware of another's presence.

"Hey, there, Chief." A soft voice spoke. "How're you doing?"

Turning his head, Blair gazed up into the anxious eyes of his partner. "What happened?"

"I was hoping you'd tell me."

"I-I don't remember," Blair replied, breaking eye contact with Jim. He shifted his gaze back down to the light-weight blanket, running a hand across its surface. Must put starch even in the blankets, he thought, artfully avoiding the close scrutiny of the older detective.

Jim raised an eyebrow at that remark. He knew by Blair's avoidance and the rapid heartbeat that his partner wasn't being truthful. "Look, I know you may not want to talk about it now, but a crime has been committed against you. Forensics has the note and has been over the scene of your assault. Someone purposely planned that attack on you. And from the look of it, more than one. Who were they, Blair?" His questioning, though insistent, was cloaked with concerned compassion.

"Quit with the third degree. Just leave it, Jim. I told you I don't remember anything," Blair retorted, still refusing to make eye contact.

"Come on, Chief. I know you're hiding something. Did you recognize them?" Frustration tinged his voice. What was Blair hiding? Why wouldn't he tell him anything about the attack? Was he afraid of retaliation? Don't you know, Blair, that as your 'Blessed Protector' I would move heaven and earth to keep you safe?

Blair directed his stare to the wall in front of him, allowing the white wall to become a snowy blur. He couldn't look into Jim's eyes. Blair knew he would see the questions, the worry, and the resolution to avenge this brutal attack reflected in his partner's probing gaze. "I'm sorry, my mind's a blank," he contended, with a soft determination.

No. Jim didn't need to know the truth. No one needed to know. For now, it would be a secret he would keep. Let Jim have his suspicions. He knew the older detective didn't buy the 'my mind's a blank' act. But, it was his decision, his right. Eventually, he'd find out who the men were, but in his own way and time. He would seek his own brand of justice. The Guide would keep his Sentinel safe.

Entering the bullpen, Jim was greeted by the other members of Major Crimes with warm hello's and concerned questions about their favorite observer-turned-detective. Telling everyone that Sandburg was doing fine, he was touched by the out-pouring of attention and get-well wishes.

As Ellison maneuvered through the friendly group of co-workers, a loud voice boomed out his name and, before he knew it, he was seated in the captain's office with a hot cup of coffee planted firmly in his hand.

Glancing through the open door, Simon gestured toward the bullpen, pointing a hand at his people as they busied themselves once more. "They really do care about the kid, don't they?"

"Yeah," Jim replied, smiling. Taking a sip of the hot coffee, he watched as the captain walked back behind the desk and poured another cup. "I'll have to pass along all their get-well messages."

"How's Sandburg doing?" Simon asked, as he settled back into his chair with his own mug of coffee. He was distressed over Blair's attack and outraged that it had taken place so close to the station.

"Better. Doc says he can come home tomorrow. Has Forensics turned up anything on that note?"

"No. And the scene of the attack was clean, too."

"Damn. I just wish Blair would help us out here." Jim was at a loss over his partner's refusal to reveal even the smallest details of the assault. He had spent most of yesterday at the hospital with his partner and, yet, Blair managed to talk about everything except the attack.

"He's still being close-mouthed?"

"Yeah. I know he knows something. I can't understand why he won't talk to me."

"You know, the note was left on his desk." Simon had his suspicions. Voicing them now would cause them to face a harsh reality. He steeled himself for the tirade he was sure would follow.

Ellison sat up in his chair and, with piercing blue eyes, looked directly at his captain. "What are you getting at, sir?"

"Well, to have access, one would have to have a visitor's pass or..."

The coffee mug barely survived its trip to Bank's desk as Jim stood, slammed it down, and then, with both hands splayed firmly across the desk's edge, leaned in toward the captain. "You're certainly not implying that it was someone at the station who set this whole attack up?"

Ellison's imposing position didn't intimidate Banks at all as the captain continued on with his supposition. "There has been a lot of grumbling among the ranks -- especially the uniforms."

"No," Joel said, shocked. Unnoticed, he had entered the captain's office and had heard the last part of the conversation. Now, as Taggart stood by the open doorway, file in hand, he was at a loss for words.

Jim looked toward the ex-bomb squad captain who had inadvertently voiced his own disbelief. Ellison saw nothing but red as a rage burned deep inside him, leaving him virtually speechless. Joel effectively spoke the denial he had been feeling. He had to get out of the stifling office so he could think. He needed some time to himself -- to process, to find some order, to -- to -- whatever the hell Sandburg called it. Releasing his death hold on the desk, Jim straightened up and walked stiffly toward the door.

"Joel," Jim choked out and nodded toward Taggart as he exited the office. What Simon had said made sense. He'd even been toying with the same idea, letting it linger in the back of his mind. But to vocalize it? No. It was something he didn't want to do. He didn't want to say it; he didn't want to think it. The idea stuck in his craw. It was abhorrent. Sandburg had proven himself an asset to the department over and over and, yet, for some it was never enough. Why?

Watching the angry detective leave, Joel placed the folder on Banks' desk before asking incredulously, "You don't think someone here attacked Blair?"

The captain looked down at the folder before returning his gaze to Taggart. Leaning back in his chair, he released a long, weary sigh before answering the question. "Yes, I do. There's no proof -- and, not discounting the fraud issue -- I still believe some of the men were unhappy with the unusual way shortcuts were taken to get Sandburg on board at Major Crimes -- and I think the kid paid the price."

Ushering the walking wounded through the door, Jim guided his friend toward the bedroom. "What do you say, Chief? How about you get yourself into bed and I'll heat you up some soup? Can't stay too long; Simon needs me back at the station."

Blair, having experienced the prone position more than he'd desired for the past few days, veered left and made a move for the couch. "Uh-uh, Jim. I'm tired of being stuck in bed. I think I'll just sit out here for awhile. You know, watch a little mindless TV, maybe read a book." Sandburg also had another idea planned, but he couldn't execute it until after Jim was gone. "You don't need to hang around. Just going to sit here and vegetate. See?" Gingerly lowering himself onto the couch, Blair picked up the remote control and turned on the TV.

"Fine. But, I'm going to make sure you eat and take your medication before I leave. Non-negotiable."

Blair raised his hands in surrender. "Whatever, man." He wasn't going to argue. The sooner Jim left, the sooner he could get on with it.

Jim was a little puzzled at his partner's quick acquiescence, but, then again, a compliant Sandburg was a rare commodity and he welcomed the agreeability of his roommate. He opened the refrigerator and removed the Tupperware containing the soup. Pouring some into a saucepan, he set it on the stove to heat. With the lunch preparations started, Jim got a glass of water and the medication and went over to sit by his friend.

"Here, take these," Ellison said, as he held out the pills and water. Debating with himself over the advisability of upsetting his roommate, he decided to make one more last ditch effort to find out the truth.

"Blair," Jim started. He reached for the remote control and clicked off the TV.

Whoa. Sounds serious. Sandburg quickly took the pills and set the glass down, turning his attention to his friend.

"Look, I know we've been going around in circles over this, but I'm asking you to trust me -- to allow me to help you. Tell me something -- anything at all that you remember about the attack. I know you know more than you're letting on. If you're afraid..."

"I'm not afraid, Jim," Blair interrupted. "I told you it all happened too fast. Just three --" He quickly closed his mouth, fearing he had revealed more than he intended. Man, he did not want to get into this discussion again. Why couldn't Jim just let it go -- take a lesson from Naomi. He'd been getting the third degree from Jim for the last two days and was tired of the persistent interrogation.

"Just three -- what? Three men who beat the crap out of you? Three men who left you lying injured in a dark and deserted alleyway?" His voice rose with the questions and he felt his anger increase as he thought of those three men and what they'd done to his Guide.

Blair placed his hand gently on Jim's shoulder and lowered his voice, his calm and easy tone soothing his friend's ire. "Jim, let it go. Please. This is something I need to handle on my own. End of discussion. Now, is the soup ready?"

Ellison sighed. Well, at least he got a number out of his taciturn friend. With the realization that Blair wasn't going to voluntarily offer any more information, he rose reluctantly and returned to the kitchen. He wasn't down for the count yet. Both he and Simon had quietly sent feelers throughout the station in an effort to determine likely perpetrators. And, just like in any workplace, there were also the regular sources to hit for the latest office rumors and gossip. Hmmmm. Maybe a visit to the locker room just might be his next step. Always a lot of bravado and cheap talk. Yeah. A good place to kind of lurk in a dark corner with his hearing dialed up. Smiling, Ellison dished up the soup and called his roommate over to the table.

"Quit fussing, I'm not going to break, man. I might not be ready to run a 10K, but give me a few days." Having settled back onto the couch after lunch, Blair pushed the blanket off that his partner had so deftly tucked around him.

"Sandburg," Ellison growled threateningly. Knowing that his roommate's definition of 'taking it easy' differed widely from his own, visions of handcuffing Blair to his bed flitted through his mind.

"All right. Okay. I promise no laps around the loft. Now, don't you have to be getting back to the station?"

"Why do I get the feeling you're trying to kick me out? You got a hot date, Chief?"

"Yeah. Me and the tube," Blair said, waving the remote control in the air. "Now get before Simon puts out an APB on you."

With one last warning look that clearly implied 'keep your butt on the sofa,' the older detective slipped on his jacket, grabbed his keys and headed out of the loft.

As soon as Jim was out the door, Blair carefully pushed himself up from the couch, stifling a groan caused by the upward movement. "Getting old there, Sandburg," he mumbled. Hunched over, one arm pressed tightly across his ribs, he shuffled across the room to the shelving unit that held some of his candles. Selecting a large, round one that gave off a slight evergreen scent, he made his way back to the living area and set the candle in the center of the coffee table.

Slowly lowering himself to the floor, sitting cross-legged in front of the coffee table, he struck a match and lit the candle. One candle was all he needed -- one small flame to focus on -- to center himself as he began his meditation.

Blair let his mind go blank, releasing all the negative energy that had been bottled up since the attack. Taking a deep, cleansing breath, he winced as abused abdominal muscles protested the action. He rolled his shoulders and head, relaxing the tense muscles, and then concentrated on his breathing.

In the quiet of the loft, all he could hear were the soft sounds of his inhalations and exhalations. In... out... in... out. Peaceful. Quiet. A tranquil 'whooshing' rhythm, which wrapped comfortably around his body and caressed his inner soul; imaginary tendrils warmly enveloping him in a serene embrace.

He continued his slow, meditative breathing and focused on the glowing flame. Allowing his attention to linger on the small, flickering light, he separated the colors -- white, yellow, blue -- all the way down to the crumbling black of the wick.

Black. The color of the masks. Faces hidden by pieces of dark material. Forbidden, ominous feelings floated through the darkness, surrounding him with a sense of fear and helplessness. Blair's eyes shifted back to the flame. It danced and twirled, the yellow tip flickered -- sparked -- and, all of a sudden, the scene of his attack flashed before his face. A sneering voice. Punishing grips on his arms. Flailing fists connecting with his abdomen. Choking back the bile rising from his churning stomach, he blinked several times, shaken by the vicious images. As he calmed his breathing and refocused on the flame, he cleared his mind of the vile incident and settled into a relaxed state once again.

Soon, all Blair saw was the blazing light. It's brightness seared into his retinas; the flame melded into a faceless head. Words became tangible -- solid -- circling around the head, taunting him. "You're so pathetic. A disgrace to the department." Lips formed on the faceless creature, speaking the words louder, filling his mind with its hatred and animosity. The words reverberated over and over again, relentlessly pounding in his head. Then, slowly, features took shape -- dark, invidious eyes, snarling lips, a hawk-like nose -- leaving a known face staring back at him. Startled, blue eyes opened wide, choking breaths came in ragged gasps, and then Blair let out a cry that pierced the eerie silence of the room. "Morrison! Eddie Morrison!"

Staring into the captain's office through the partially opened blinds, Joel was unable to just sit and watch the two men locked in a fierce discussion within. Tossing down his pencil, he got up from his desk. With a sharp rap on the captain's door, he swallowed a deep breath and squared his shoulders before entering and asking, "Is this a private meeting or can anyone attend?"

"Joel, we were --"

"Don't try to con me, Jim. You were discussing the attack, weren't you?"

The detective's blue eyes met Joel's intense brown ones, acknowledging the straight-forward question. "Yeah, we were," he stated matter-of-factly.

"What have you found out?" Taggart knew that both men had been doing their own private investigation since the assault. Over the years, he had watched Ellison work and had been constantly amazed at the little nondescript clues the detective would find that others often missed. He was sure that Jim had worked some of that "Ellison magic" on this case. Closing the door behind him, he moved a little further into the office.

Simon handed Joel a cup of coffee and gestured toward a chair. "Unfortunately, we have no evidence that can legally be admitted, but we do know who the perpetrators are."

"So, who are they and what are we going to do about it?" The ex-bomb squad captain took a sip of his coffee, then cast a determined gaze in Banks' direction.

"We?" Simon arched a questioning eyebrow, a slight grin breaking at the corner of his mouth at Joel's inclusive reference.

"Yes, we. So, what's the plan?"

An awkward silence filled the small room as the question remained unanswered. Jim threw a quick glance toward Simon, his eyes silently asking how much information they should reveal.

Joel, picking up the non-verbal communication between the two men, broke the silence. "Look, I know how the both of you think and I know you're not going to just sit back and let whoever attacked Blair roam free."

"You have to realize, if we're caught, it could be our jobs. Think carefully before you get involved in this scheme," Simon warned Joel, hoping to scare the detective off.

Banks' advice didn't deter Taggart. He knew that there was nothing to think about. He considered Blair a friend, in fact, a very good friend. His decision had been made the moment he had crossed the threshold. "Count me in."

"All right." Jim nodded his acceptance of Joel's involvement and smiled. Bringing the large detective up to speed, he rehashed his earlier discussion with Simon. "We know, for a fact, that the assault was carried out by three uniformed officers."

Ellison paused momentarily in his rendition as he recalled the earlier scene in the locker room that had revealed the identities of the three assailants. When he had overheard whispered words mentioning Sandburg's name, his hearing tightly focused onto the hushed tones of a conversation several locker rows away. Picking up bits and pieces, he'd realized that Potts, working in Dispatch, had arranged an impromptu meeting with two other officers, Morrison and Conaway. Nervous about being found out, Potts whined his concerns to the two men. Morrison first berated the worried man, but then took time to placate his fears. Soon, all three were reminiscing and chuckling over their escapade; Morrison being the most-outspoken.

The words the officer had uttered, joking about the little hippie walking into an unknown situation and being a disgrace to the department, how good it had felt to take the newest detective in Major Crimes down a few notches, and the threat he had made to Blair about 'Mr. Cop of the Year' Ellison, cut deep into Jim's soul. The incensed detective, listening from his hiding place across the room, had to restrain himself from physically taking out Morrison at that very moment. Reining in his anger, Jim had left the locker room and spent the next hour in the gym working off his frustration before returning to the bullpen and filling in the captain on what he had found out.

"Eddie Morrison was the chief instigator of the attack along with his two cohorts, Frank Potts and Brett Conaway," Jim continued, his voice clearly displaying his distaste for the three men. "However, as Simon stated, there's no admissible evidence, so we have nothing to take to IA. Nothing that would implicate the three with the attack. And, we can't just go around casting out unwarranted accusations. So, we've decided to seek our own brand of justice. Just a little something to let the three know that we know what they did and what to expect if they ever attempt to hurt Sandburg again."

Ellison continued to lay out the plan, with both Banks and Taggart offering their own suggestions and ideas. Three heads joined together plotting out the details and, before long, everything had been firmed up and assignments handed out.

"I think we're all set," Jim said, wrapping up the meeting. "We execute the plan tomorrow. That way everything will be settled by the time Sandburg returns the following day."

"He's coming back so soon?" Joel asked.

"The Doc cleared him for light desk duty and he's anxious to get back. I just want to make sure his return is as hassle-free as possible.

"Well, don't worry. I'll handle Potts," Taggart announced with certainty.

"And Conaway will be a piece of cake." Banks grinned as he thought about his part in the scheme.

"That leaves Morrison. He's mine." A feral glint flashed in Jim's eyes at the mention of the name. He was looking forward to putting Morrison in his place. Nevertheless, they all had agreed that there would be no overt physical violence. Jim couldn't deny that he was slightly disappointed. He would have liked to have thrown one or two punches at Morrison -- just something to help the officer re-think his opinion of Sandburg. The detective shook his mind away from that thought. No violence meant no violence, however, it didn't mean he couldn't put the fear of death into one oversized bully.

As Blair glanced at the clock, he realized that Jim would be arriving home soon, which didn't allow him much time to carry out his little retribution. Wrapping an arm around his injured ribs, he gingerly made his way over to the dining table. Sitting down, the determined man flipped opened his laptop. Eddie Morrison! The name tumbled around in his head. He wasn't sure of the other two men involved in the attack, but he had his suspicions. He'd have to forgo seeking justice on them, but Eddie Morrison -- that was a different story. Blair could still hear the sneer in Eddie's voice as he'd threatened his partner. "Bullets sometime go astray in a fire fight. One just might find it's way to Mr. Cop of the Year."

Knowing that what he was doing was probably illegal, okay definitely illegal, Blair hacked his way into the Cascade Police personnel files. It was easier than he thought, then again, he had most of the passwords from constantly fixing the computers in the Major Crime Division. Locating Morrison's record, he made a few interesting changes. Recommendations were downgraded and a transfer to foot patrol was added. Exiting personnel, Blair pulled up bookkeeping. After an adjustment of Morrison's grade and rate, he proceeded to locate bank accounts, car loan, mortgage and credit cards. Morrison would soon find himself in a financial disaster.

Blair smiled. The table was now turned and Morrison would discover a reversal of fortune. The uniformed officer would be too busy trying to rectify the computer's errors to act on any of his threats against Jim. For now, at least, his partner would be safe and justice, in its own round-about way, would be served.

Leaving the bullpen, Jim decided to exit the building by way of the locker room. The patrol officers were changing shift, and the detective quickly spied Morrison and his friends over by their lockers. Momentarily hanging back in the next row, he listened as Morrison joked with Potts and Conaway and made plans for the three of them to meet for some beers. Jim dropped his eyes and continued past the row of lockers, carefully avoiding the unethical officers so as not to tip his hand. For him, tomorrow couldn't come soon enough. Tomorrow he would be able to use his Covert Ops training and then he'd see if Morrison would still be laughing. The detective's lips turned up in a slight smile at that thought.

Stealthily, the Sentinel withdrew from the room. Now, it was time to head home to his Guide. If Blair wished to maintain his silence regarding the attack, so be it. Jim would let Blair think that he was accepting his partner's decision to keep quiet. Tomorrow, he would exact his revenge and justice for Blair.

The next morning found Blair still lounging around in bed as Jim entered his room carrying a cup of coffee. The aroma tickled the sleepy man's nose. Opening his eyes, he pulled himself up in bed and accepted the proffered cup.

"Might as well take advantage of your day off," Jim suggested.

Blair took a sip of the hot coffee and pulled the blankets up around his chest. Even though his muscles and ribs still ached and he knew he'd be stiff later for remaining too long in bed, it felt good staying all nestled under the covers.

"Listen, Chief," the detective began, "I'm going to be late tonight, so don't wait up."

"Late? How late?" Blair was now fully awake. "Is it a stakeout? Because if it is, I should be with you."

Jim hadn't taken into account his Guide's sense of duty when he made the statement. Even injured, he should have realized that Blair would insist on accompanying him to a stakeout. Now he needed a viable excuse that would satisfy his partner.

"It's not a stakeout, Sandburg. In fact, it's not even related to police work." The Sentinel was glad that his Guide couldn't hear the increase of his heart rate and, hopefully, he wouldn't see the lie that he felt was boldly painted across his face. "It seems that Simon snagged an extra ticket to the Jags game tonight. We'll probably be going out for some beers after the game -- that is, if it's okay with you. I mean, if you need me home..."

Blair cut off Ellison's meandering words, attributing his partner's discomfort to the idea of leaving him alone for the evening. "No, Jim," he reassured his roommate. "I don't need a baby-sitter. Go out and enjoy yourself."

"You're sure it's okay?" Jim was feeling guilty over the lie.

"Sure, now go -- and tell Simon I said, 'hi'." Blair watched his partner leave. There was something not quite right with Jim's explanation, but who was he to complain. At least it gave him another day and night free from worrying about his partner asking too many questions while he struggled to evade answering those questions. Of course, that, in itself, was strange, come to think of it. Jim hadn't asked once last night about the incident. Amazing! It was like his partner had forgotten all about it.

One thing for sure, Blair knew that when he reported for desk duty tomorrow, if not Jim, then Simon or one of the other detectives in Major Crimes would be all over him for a statement that said more than "attacked in alleyway by unknown assailant." He rubbed his head and wondered what he would tell them. Well, one of his problems should be taken care of by then. Tomorrow was payday. What he wouldn't give to see the expression on Eddie Morrison's face when that steroid-enhanced, muscle-bound cretin opened up his pay envelope. Blair set the cup of coffee on the night stand and snuggled down into the blankets. "Mmmm. Nice," he mumbled contentedly. Deciding to heed Jim's advice and take advantage of his day off, he closed his eyes and opted for an early morning nap.

Joel surveyed the small room. Due to its size, it was infrequently used for meetings or seminars and now was mostly utilized as an occasional storage area, but it suited his purpose just fine. All of the tools were carefully laid out on the table and a lone chair was situated in the center of the room. Moving over to the table, his hands lightly fingered the wire cutters, ones that he had used many times. As he picked them up, the familiar weight triggered a flash of memories -- running, fear, a deafening explosion -- and he reverently set the tool down. Joel shook himself from the momentary reflection. Now's not the time, Taggart, he chastised himself. The dark-skinned man emitted a deep sigh. Remember, you're doing this for Sandburg.

Kneeling to examine the chair, Taggart checked the small, black box that was fastened to its underside. Giving the box a hard, quick tug, he was satisfied that it wouldn't inadvertently fall off during his little ruse. The trap was set, now all that he needed to complete this scenario was one sniveling weasel, namely Potts.

Warning the other members of Major Crimes to stay clear of this area for the next hour, Taggart busied himself while waiting. Less they know -- the better, he thought. Especially if this plan backfires. Joel had seen the curious looks sent his way from Brown and Rafe as he'd made his request earlier that day. They knew something was going on, but were wise enough not to push for details. And Rafe certainly didn't question him when he had asked for the favor that would eventually lead Potts to this room.

Footsteps echoing down the hallway signaled that someone was heading in his direction. Taggart gave one last look around the room and steeled himself for his upcoming performance.

Gently waving the cigar beneath his nose, Simon took in the aroma of the tobacco leaves. With a little regret, he placed the cigar back into his pocket. There would be time later to smoke it, and, by then, it would be much more enjoyable. Sitting up in his chair, he reached for the intercom buzzer.

"Rhonda, is Conaway here yet?"

The intercom crackled and his administrative assistant's voice replied, "He's just arrived. Do you want me to send him in?"

Simon smiled to himself. "Give me a minute -- and then send him in."

Banks took one more glance at the file in front of him. Patrol Officer Conaway had graduated in the middle of his class. Apparently not a leader, the young rookie had sought out officers with more experience and latched onto them. Unfortunately for Conaway, his last choice had been Morrison. With a better role model, Conaway might have made a half-decent cop. A knock at the door interrupted his thoughts.

"Enter," the captain barked, as he pulled himself up in his chair and folded his hands on his desk.

Conaway adjusted his tie and brushed off his impeccably pressed uniform. He entered the room with nervous anticipation. It was unusual for a patrol officer to be on loan to Major Crimes, especially one as young and inexperienced as he was. Stepping squarely in front of the captain's desk, Conaway introduced himself.

"Patrol Officer Brett Conaway, reporting for duty, sir." He stood at attention.

Banks had to restrain a chuckle. He wasn't used to the formal greeting. While his men respected him and, at times, feared him, there was still a relaxed attitude around the office. Sometimes a little too relaxed, he reflected, as his thoughts went to his newest detective.

"At ease, Conaway." Simon watched the officer adjust his pose. Even at ease, the young man looked like a poster boy for Militia Men Quarterly.

"And take a seat."

"Yes, sir!" The officer sat on the edge of the chair, his back still ramrod straight.

Simon gave the slender young man a once over. He wasn't bad looking -- fair-skinned, blonde with deep, brown eyes -- this assignment should be perfect. The captain cleared his throat.

"Conaway, as your commanding officer may have told you, I've asked for you to be on loan to Major Crimes for an indefinite period of time." Simon paused, watching the officer puff up in self-importance. "I take it that you don't have a problem with this assignment?"

"No, sir!" Conaway emphasized the 'no'. He couldn't believe his luck.

"You'll be working with Detective Brown in the waterfront district down near Miller Street. Detective Rafe will serve as back-up."

The officer gulped. He was well aware of that district. It was filled with prostitutes, drug addicts, gang warfare, and generally the 'scum of the earth' types. He'd be lying to himself if he didn't admit that the assignment made him nervous.

"You'll be going undercover in an attempt to break a prostitution ring that we believe is also involved in designer drugs." The captain saw the officer's slight tremors and ignored them as he continued with the assignment. Reaching next to his desk, Simon lifted a box that was sitting there and placed it before him. "I can't emphasize to you how important and delicate this operation is. Here's your outfit. Try it on and report back to me in 30 minutes."

Conaway rose and picked up the box from the desk. As he approached the door, he heard the captain call out to him, "And don't forget to shave!"

The young man left and Banks just shook his head. That little fool didn't even ask what his undercover assignment was. Well, he'll find out soon enough. Guess I'd better let Brown and Rafe know that there'll be one more officer on tonight's stakeout.

Part Two

Carrying a large carton, Frank Potts nearly collided with Taggart as he entered the small room. A vacant space in one corner soon became filled as the officer set the carton down.

"Adding a new skill to your job description?" Joel teased Frank as he watched him straighten up.

"Yeah, Carton Carting 101 -- and I've just about mastered it. Whew! Rafe wasn't kidding when he said it was heavy." Wiping a hand across his forehead, the middle-aged officer plopped down on the only chair in the room. An old-timer compared to the new batch of rookies that had recently inundated the station, he still prided himself in keeping in good shape. "I'm getting too old for this," he kidded. "Early retirement's looking better all the time."

"Uh-oh." Taggart's voice was low and deadly serious.

Potts warily glanced up at Taggart. "What do you mean, 'uh-oh'?" He moved to stand up, but a firm grip on his shoulder kept him in place.

"Well," Joel paused for dramatic effect. This was too easy. "I didn't tell you to sit down but, whatever you do now, don't stand up."

"Don't stand up?" A look of realization and horror crossed Potts' face as his eyes darted nervously around the room. His gaze settled on the table with the tools -- tools that were standard issue for members of the Bomb Squad. "You don't mean?" Frank gulped, unable to finish asking the question.

"Sorry about this, Potts. I was asked to prepare a little demonstration, you know, a refresher course for some of the Bomb Squad officers. The seat's been rigged with a pressure-sensitive bomb. Nothing too powerful. Just something to leave a little, but meaningful, impression. Of course, I had planned to use that box you brought in for the demonstration -- not a live body. If one of the guys had accidentally slipped up in dismantling the bomb, his hands might smart for a little while, but, from where you're sitting, it could pack a powerful punch to a certain part of your anatomy."

Taggart knew that Potts, not being familiar with the Bomb Squad procedures, wouldn't question the idea of using real explosives in a police station. Of course, the clueless officer had no idea that he was really sitting on a dummy bomb. Joel wanted to subtly intimidate Potts to get his point across and not to go as far as to actually injure the man.

Beads of perspiration sprouted across Potts' forehead and a thin stream trickled down his back. He wiped his sweaty hands on his pants' legs as he glanced down at his private parts. He had been kicked there before and knew the intense agony such a blow caused. How much more would it hurt when a small charge blasted right below his treasured manhood? He took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to quench the fear that was escalating inside his chest.

"I'm rather attached to these parts," Frank joked weakly. Then the officer tossed the kidding aside as he implored, "You've got to do something!"

Picking up the screwdriver and waving it in the air, Joel spoke reassuring words to Potts. "Just relax. I'll have you up and out of here in no time." He knelt beside the chair, making a big show of examining the box.

"Say," Taggart said as he paused in his examination and shifted his eyes up to Potts. "Did you hear about what happened to Sandburg?"


"I said --"

"I know what you said. Could you just get on with this? I need to get back to Dispatch." One foot was now tapping nervously on the floor and both arms were wrapped tightly around his chest, trying to still his body's trembling. Potts drew in another shaky breath and wondered what terrible things he had done in his lifetime to end up in this position. His speculation was soon answered with Joel's next words.

"Anyway, everyone in Major Crimes was pretty upset over the incident, including myself." Taggart removed the last screw from the box's lid and lowered the cover to the floor. "We'd all like to get our hands on the person or people who'd attacked Blair. In fact, if I knew who'd hurt Sandburg, let's just say it would be very tempting to take matters into my own hands. Why, with my background in explosives, by the time I was through, there might not be enough pieces left to ID the body." A slight grin threatened to erupt across his face, so the detective quickly turned his back away from Potts as he rose to retrieve the wire cutters.

A deep, fear-laden shiver coursed through Frank's body and he squirmed in his seat. What's he implying? He doesn't know anything, does he? He wouldn't actually -- nah, it's just all talk. However, to be on the safe side. "M-maybe it was a one-time incident. M-maybe it was just a m-m-misunderstanding."

"I sure hope you're right," Joel said gravely, emotions now under control. He stooped next to the chair, with wire cutters in hand. "Now, brace yourself while I snip this wire, you know, just in case. Even an old-timer like me can make mistakes. Of course, it's important for one to learn from them." Taggart's dark eyes met Potts' frightened ones. With one solemn look, the message was delivered.

Potts nodded his head and silently agreed as he squeezed his eyes shut. He placed both hands protectively around his crotch and held his breath. Please-please-please! No boom! Morrison be damned!

With a quick snip, the 'bomb' was disarmed.

"All done," the ex-bomb squad captain announced.

Not looking back, Potts tore out of the room, knocking the chair over in the process. Joel listened to the fast 'clacking' of uniformed shoes echoing down the hallway and fading away as the stairwell door closed with a muffled 'thud.'

A self-satisfied smile crossed Taggart's lips as he gathered up the tools. He paused as he came to the last tool and fondly tapped the wire cutters with his fingers before putting them away. The tool had served him well in the past and, once again, had brought him good luck. Righting the fallen chair and carefully removing all evidence of what had transpired in the little room, Joel remarked happily to himself, "told him I'd have him up and out of here in no time."

Conaway set the box on the bench next to his locker. Opening the door to his locker, he looked into the mirror. Rubbing a hand across his chin, he didn't feel any stubble. Oh well, if the captain wants me to shave, then I'll shave. He lifted the lid off the box, examining the contents. On top sat a black latex mini-skirt, black fishnet stockings and a pair of black pumps with the highest stiletto heels he'd ever seen. Brett, what have you gotten yourself into?

As Conaway made his way back to Major Crimes, he was followed by a variety of wolf whistles and catcalls. Stumbling once, he straightened his midriff top, making sure that both sides were even, and then pulled at the hem to his skirt. He couldn't believe how short it was -- so short that he couldn't even bend over in it. Fortunately, his legs didn't look half-bad, he'd only nicked them once. It had been a good thing the blade in his Sensor Excel was new, and being fair-haired did have its advantages. Tucking the wig's long blonde hair behind his ears, he pushed open the door to the bullpen and bumped into one of the detectives.

Rafe caught the young lady before she could fall. "Sorry, Miss." Giving the outfit a once over, he wondered what a girl dressed like that was doing unescorted in the building. "Can I help you?"

"N-n-no," the male voice stuttered.

Rafe's eyes widened at the deep sound that came out of the 'female' before him.

Making as dignified a dash as one could make in stiletto heels, Conaway quickly crossed the room to the captain's door.

Brown, watching the scene unfolding before him, couldn't contain his laughter.

"What's so funny?" The confused detective asked.

"You've just met the other officer involved in tonight's stakeout."

"Oh," Rafe replied and shook his head. "He's not too bad looking as a girl. Hope he has some padding on, because before tonight is through that cute little tush of his will be black and blue."

The captain had heard the commotion outside his office and knew who it was before there was a knock on the door. "Come," he commanded.

Conaway walked into the office, finding it hard to stand at attention without wobbling.

Gads, he's better looking than some of the women I've dated. Simon almost choked at the vision before him and hastily cleared his throat. "Sit."

Banks watched as the officer carefully lowered himself, sitting with both knees pressed together. He noticed that Conaway even had put on the artificial nails, giving the hands draped across his lap a long, lean feminine look. "Not bad, you should do fine." Simon carefully examined the man in front of him. "Nice job on the make-up."

"I was -- uh, took a theater course in college." Conaway wiggled a bit in the chair. "By the way, sir, how long is this assignment?"

"Originally one night -- but it could be longer." Simon was pleased to see Conaway squirm at the answer.

"Longer, sir?" One night would be bad enough in this get-up.

"Depends on what happens. We're a pretty tight family in Major Crimes and we're short-handed. One of our detectives was recently injured. If anything else should happen to him -- well, let's just say that this assignment could turn out to be rather lengthy, if you catch my drift." Simon's eyes blazed as he emphasized the last statement.

Conaway swallowed. Shit. No way. How could he have found out? It's not possible, but, then again, he is captain of Major Crimes. "Y-yes, sir." Conaway decided that at this point it was time to break off his association with Morrison. "I do understand, completely, and I'm sure your detective will be just fine."

"Good, I'm glad we've come to an agreement. Now, go find Detective Brown and report for duty." Simon watched as the man wiggled out of his office. Boy, it's going to be downright bitter tonight. The kid's legs will sure be cold in those stockings. The captain pulled out his cigar and leaned back in his chair. Lighting the cigar, he slowly took his first puff. Ah, sweet victory!

Morrison, being a creature of habit, pulled up outside his favorite drinking joint. He figured that he would knock back a few beers, maybe a few chasers, and tell tales that were sure to amaze the lowlifes who frequently inhabited dives like this. Maybe he would even be able to cajole a few drinks out of his cronies. So immersed in his thoughts of booze and arrogant pomposity, he never noticed the ominous shadow lurking down the street watching his arrival.

After a few hours, Morrison was feeling good, well, more than good. He knew that he shouldn't be mixing drinks and that he would pay a price for it in the morning. However, right now he had a pretty good buzz going and, if he didn't know better, the woman at the end of the bar was making eye contact with him. Not one to pass up an opportunity, and being a guy who was definitely confident in his masculinity, Morrison approached the female. Not a bad looker. Giving her the once over, Eddie took in the long, brown hair and luscious, red lips. She looked a bit worn around the edges, like she'd been around the block once or twice, but that didn't matter to him. Hey, beggars can't be choosers.

"Can I buy you a drink?" Real original, Morrison thought, but he wasn't in the mood to be creative. He had certain needs and either the dame was interested or not.

"Sure," she replied in a husky voice, flashing a smile.

Eddie snapped his fingers for the bartender. He ordered drinks and then turned his attention back to his female companion, thinking how the evening had just taken an interesting twist.

After a few drinks, Morrison knew he had to make a move or else he would be too wasted to function. But, before he could say something, the dame -- he hadn't even asked her name -- leaned over and brushed a kiss across his cheek ending with a playful nip to his ear. Suggestively, her hand traced a path down his chest to his inner thigh.

"Perhaps we can take this outside," she whispered with a deep, throaty voice. She tossed her head toward the backdoor.

Morrison was more than ready to follow. The anticipation and excitement had already aroused him. He shivered as he once again felt her hand travel back up his thigh, lightly skirting across the front of his pants, then reached over to take his hand.

Letting her lead him through the dark and smoky bar, Eddie followed her out back. The darkness of the alleyway surprised him and he strained his eyes in the direction of the streetlight. Out again. Second time this month. Unconcerned, Morrison reached toward his pretty prey. He preferred the dark anyway. It provided a touch of anonymity. Grabbing the woman, he drew her closely to him and aggressively fondled her breast, before pulling her in for a lip-crushing kiss.

Her hands pushed against his shoulders and severed the brutal kiss. "Let's take it a little slower," she requested sultrily, as she gentled the over-exuberant man.

After a few passionate kisses, Morrison's experienced companion broke the embrace and moved her hands down to his zipper. Undoing it, she slipped a hand inside.

"Let me..." she breathed out as she knelt down on her knees.

Morrison closed his eyes and tilted his head back, waiting for the ecstasy to begin. Oh, god. Good. This is going to be so good!

No sooner had Eddie closed his eyes then he felt an arm wrap around his throat, pulling him away from the kneeling woman. Before he knew what was happening, he was manhandled into a vicious chokehold. Shocked, Morrison clawed at the arm. He wasn't used to being in this position. He was the one always in control, always the boss. "Wha..." he squeaked out before the arm tightened, momentarily cutting off his air supply. Forced to his knees, he felt the cold metal of a gun's barrel pressed firmly against his temple.

Shit, shit, shit! Morrison screamed internally. What have I walked into? He wanted to scream, but the strangling chokehold prevented any sounds from escaping. Please let me pass out before the bullet hits.

No such luck as Morrison heard the hammer release. His muscles tensed, expecting the impact of the bullet to shatter his skull, but all he heard was a metallic 'click.' Morrison went limp as the arm around his throat relaxed, permitting him to take in several gulps of air. Trembling, Eddie felt a warm wetness spread across his crotch and he started to gag. An arm shoved him forward as he doubled over and proceeded to violently empty his stomach of its contents. He felt himself yanked back up and the arm re-tightened its hold around his neck.

Eddie didn't know what to expect next, then a low, menacing voice hissed, "Now, who's walked into an unknown situation?" He felt his stomach twist as he realized the importance of those words and their implication. A shiver worked its way up his spine as more words brushed across his ear. "Now, tell me, who's a disgrace to the department?"

The officer gulped. He could feel the warmth of the attacker's breath upon his neck adding heat to the words. "You may make threats, Morrison, but I make promises. Understand this -- if anything should happen to anyone in Major Crimes, I'll be back, and the next time this gun chamber won't be empty."

As the deadly words were spoken, Eddie felt a constricting pressure around his neck and black spots danced before his eyes. Then, he was abruptly released and, with a quick shove, sent sprawling across the scattered trash that littered the alleyway. Rubbing his throat, he quickly turned to spot his attacker. No one! There was no one in the alley. Morrison knew that his attacker had to be someone from Major Crimes, possibly Ellison or that captain. Shell-shocked, he rose to his feet and stumbled toward his car, never noticing the garbage smeared across his shoulder or the large urine stain spread across the front of his pants.

Removing the dark ski mask, Jim watched Morrison's progress with a smug grin. As he entered his truck, he gave the woman sitting in the passenger's seat a pat on the hand, slipping her a few bills along with the gesture. "Thanks, Sugar. I owe you one."

She flashed him a crooked smile, "No, I still owe you for all those times you looked the other way. Sure I can't interest you in coming home tonight?" He was one fine-looking man in that formfitting black turtleneck. She certainly wouldn't mind sharing her bed with him at no charge.

He shook his head.

Sugar sighed, "Well, you can't blame a girl for trying."

Blair could feel the bullets zing by his head. Ducking for cover, he looked for his partner. Jim! Where was Jim?! He glanced anxiously around again and saw a motionless body lying twenty feet away, out in the open. His heart shattered as he recognized the jacket. Preparing to dash out toward his partner, an arm held him back.

"What are you doing, Captain? Let me go. I've got to get Jim!" Blair felt like the air was being sucked directly out of his lungs and the world was closing in on him as he watched a deep, crimson liquid pool form around the fallen man.

"Sandburg, I can't let you go out there," Simon hissed. "I already have one officer down, I don't need another."

The flashing lights of the police vehicles cast an ugly glow on the scene and he watched quietly as the Swat Team stealthily entered the building. One shot rang out and then silence reigned over the area. The young detective heard an "all clear" called and then felt Simon release his tight grip. Sandburg dashed over to his partner and gently turned him over, cradling the body in his arms.

"Oh, Jim. God, no," Blair cried, as he surveyed the blood-soaked wound. There was too much blood, covering Jim's shirt and spilling onto the pavement. Deep, dark, life-giving liquid that now flowed ceaselessly from the unmoving form. Blood that covered his hands and soaked into his pants as he pressed firmly onto the wound. Drawing his friend closer, he attempted to will his strength to the mortally wounded man. Blood-slick, trembling fingers reached up to the carotid, fearful of what they would find. He choked back a sob. No pulse. The deathly pale face, a testament of a life that was no more. Dead. His Sentinel, his friend, his brother was dead. Tears filled his eyes, blurring his vision as he reverently touched the lifeless face.

"Jim." He could utter no more than a heartbroken whisper.

The horrific scene spun dizzily around him in a surrealistic fashion, colors blended and muted against the ungodly red of the blood. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. Blair shook his head and closed his eyes, trying to bid the incident away. He felt a presence looming over him and looked up to see Morrison standing above him, gazing down at the tableau.

"Bullets sometime go astray in a fire fight. Looks like one found its way to Mr. Cop of the Year," Morrison sneered. He walked away, chuckling to himself, and slowly placed his gun back into the holster.

"Nooooooo!" No. No. No. Morrison wouldn't have really carried out his threat, would he? Blair hugged his friend, rocking him gently. The blood wouldn't stop flowing. He could feel the warm liquid all around him, staining his hands, staining his clothes, staining his soul. A firm hand touched his shoulder. Looking up, grief-stricken eyes met sorrow-filled, brown ones.

"Blair, you need to let Jim go."

He shook his head 'no.' Come on, Jim. Open those beautiful, blue eyes of yours, he internally begged. You're not dead! Tears coursed down his face and he clutched the body tighter, protecting it as others reached to take his friend away. He struggled as strong arms and hands pried apart his frenzied grip. "Nooooooo!" Blair howled as the body was wrenched from his arms.

Entering the loft after what he'd determined was a successful encounter with Morrison, Jim heard a loud cry coming from Blair's room. Rushing into the bedroom, he found Blair scrunched up in the corner of his bed, wild-eyed and panting.

"Easy there, Chief," Jim said in a soothing voice, approaching his distressed friend cautiously.

The older man sat down on the bed and gently placed a hand on the shaking shoulder. "Blair? You with me here?"

A small gasp escaped the trembling lips and the panic-filled eyes blinked several times before recognition set in. Blair looked around the room and then at his friend. "J-jim? Oh my god, Jim?" He grasped at the black turtleneck, searching for the blood. "You're okay. You're not dead."

"That must have been some nightmare. I'm just fine, thank you very much." He rubbed his friend's shoulder reassuringly, feeling the small tremors lessen. "It's still a long way to dawn, so, why don't you settle back in bed?" The older detective had feared the attack would produce a new generation of nightmares. He'd been surprised that none had been forthcoming up to this point. Perhaps this dream would give Blair the impetus to discuss the incident. "You want to talk about it?"

"N-no, uh, don't really remember much. You just get in?" Blair asked, quickly changing the subject. There was no way he wanted to talk about Morrison or the threat that man had made. He released his hold on Jim's shirt and straightened the tangled covers.

"Yeah, it was a great game. Now, go back to sleep." Jim picked up a stray blanket from the floor and tucked it back around his roommate.

With the adrenaline spike of the dream wearing off, Blair's eyes became heavy with sleep. "So, uh, who won?" he mumbled, pulling the blankets tighter around him.

"The Jags. We'll talk in the morning." Ellison moved toward the door, pausing as he heard Sandburg's voice call out to him.

"That's a strange outfit to wear to a basketball game, isn't it?" the young man asked, commenting on the all-black clothes.

"It was 'Spirit Day.' Wear the team colors and get a free hat."

"Hey, man. You know their colors are blue and white." Blair remarked, now a little more awake.

"Yeah, well, I went as the mascot."

"W-what?!" What was Jim talking about? Everyone knew that the mascot was tan with dark spots, not black like Jim's spirit guide.

Damn! The kid's too much on the ball. Ellison shook his head. "Go to sleep, Chief." He quietly closed the door and headed up to his own bed.

The captain took a long sip of his coffee and then stared at the other two men in his office. "So, Jim, where's Sandburg this morning?"

"Yeah," Joel added. "Being his first day back, I thought you two would be attached at the hips."

Jim chuckled. "Don't think I didn't try. However, according to Sandburg, he has too much work to catch up on now that he's back. He went down to Dispatch to get a transcript of the radio calls in the Sanchez matter."

"Well," Simon paused, directing the question to either man. "How did your mission go?"

A well-pleased expression crossed Taggart's face as he recalled yesterday's undertaking. Potts had been trembling with fear when he'd realized the gravity of the situation and the danger it represented toward his 'manly' parts. "I can assure you that my fellow received the message loud and clear."

"Same with Conaway," Banks interjected. "He has no desire to be on the outs with Major Crimes."

Ellison sighed as his two friends looked at him expectantly. Both Simon and Joel seemed so sure of the effect they had on Conaway and Potts. Jim wished he felt the same way about Morrison. "Well, Morrison got the message and he was pretty scared last night. But, you know how bullies are. Come the first light of day and they're all bravado. He might need a repeat performance."

Simon understood Jim's view. He knew many men similar to Morrison. They weren't easy to break. "Why don't we just wait and see what happens before you do anything else?"

"I guess so." Jim rubbed the back of his neck. "I'd better get down to Records. Promised Sandburg that I'd pick up some files for him. By the way, in case he asks, Simon, you and I went to the Jags game last night."

Taggart followed Ellison out of the office and proceeded back to his desk. He glanced around the room. The men and women, the officers and detectives were not just friends but family, including Blair. Funny, how just a few years ago the kid was tagging along with Jim saying that he was writing a thesis on police society. Joel wasn't disappointed with the turn of events. Blair's arrival may have stirred up the department, but he also brought with him insight and a different way of looking at the facts. It never surprised Joel when it was Blair who came up with the missing piece of information. Yeah, he was glad that the kid had stayed.

Staggering out of the elevator, Conaway headed toward Major Crimes. He couldn't wait to get rid of the box in his hands. His feet were killing him; each painful step a reminder of the previous night's undercover detail. Those heels he'd worn had been murder and, by the end of the evening, his feet were swollen and blistered. This morning, in the locker room, it had taken a paramount effort to slip his aching feet into the standard-issued shoes.

As the uniformed officer approached the entrance to the department, he turned to push the door with his backside and then thought better of it. There wasn't a spot on his posterior region that wasn't covered with bruises. The number of aggressive propositions last night had been unbelievable! It had been all he could do to keep the 'johns' from manhandling the merchandise. And Detective Brown was supposed to be his 'pimp.' That so-called officer of the law certainly didn't do a very good job protecting him. Where was the detective when the local chapter of Rainier's bad boy fraternity decided that he would be the perfect choice for their evening's entertainment?

Kicking the door with his foot, Conaway rushed through making sure it didn't catch him on his tender bottom. Heading straight toward the captain's office, he spied the detective in question and hesitated. Right now, all he wanted to do was to quickly deposit the box and avoid any confrontations.

"Well, if it isn't Bart," Henri called out.

Shit, too late! "It's Brett. The name's Brett," Conaway corrected.

"Yeah, Brett," Brown repeated the name, rolling it slowly off his tongue. "You did a good job last night -- real convincing."

"I'll say convincing," Rafe chimed in. "The competition wanted to purchase you from Brown for his own stable. What was it he said?" Rafe turned to his partner and winked; a hint of mischief glimmered in his eyes.

"That you had real class -- and a nice caboose." Henri chuckled at the way Conaway blushed.

"Yeah, but maybe he should change his name from Brett," Rafe suggested. "Maybe change it to Bridgett or Bertha."

"Bertha! You've got to be kidding. Nah, he can keep Brett. It's one of those boy/girl names like Dale or Sean or --"

"Come on, whoever heard of a girl named Brett?"

"Well, there's Brett Butler and Bret Sommers and --"

"Brett Butler?" Rafe interrupted. "Wasn't he the lead character in 'Gone With the Wind'?"

Conaway couldn't stand the bantering anymore. "Enough guys. The discussion is moot because I won't be available for any more stakeouts." He observed the blank expressions on the two detectives' faces and continued with an explanation. "My brother runs a security firm and he's been after me to work for him. I've decided to take the job. It's a nice 9 to 5 job that doesn't require any dressing up."

Henri, obviously disappointed in losing a pigeon, especially one that he had hoped to get many miles out of after last night's performance, held out his hand. "Sorry to see you go. You did a good job."

"Yeah, well, thanks." Conaway set the box down on the detective's desk and accepted the hand. "Uh, here's the costume. I hope this doesn't affect your stakeout." The officer shuffled his feet nervously and then glanced toward the bullpen's exit. "I, uh, guess I'd better be going."

Rafe watched as the young officer hurried off. "Think we went too far? I tell you, H, you never know when to stop with the kidding. So, what do you think the captain will say when he finds out? He already warned you about scaring away the help."

Both detectives' eyes traveled toward the captain's office, wondering who was going to break the news.

"I'll flip you for it," Brown remarked quickly, as he pulled a coin from his pocket.

From inside his office, Simon had watched the interplay between the men. Grinning to himself, he knew that he had assigned Conaway to the right two detectives. One thing for sure, he could always count on Rafe and Brown for a good hazing.

As Blair entered the bullpen, he barely avoided being run over by the fleeing officer. "Hey, what's with Conaway?" he asked curiously. Most of his fellow co-workers just shrugged their shoulders, but he noticed two detectives that suspiciously kept their heads down.

Simon, who decided that now was the time to raise his concerns, made his appearance and directed the same question toward Brown. "I would also like to know 'what's with Conaway.' He didn't have a problem with last night's assignment, did he, Detective?"

Rafe snickered as he watched his partner squirm.

"No, of course not. He did fine. It's just that -- that --" Brown shot a pleading glance toward Rafe. Help me out here, partner.

"It's just that he's been offered an opportunity to work for his brother," Rafe added quickly, casting an amused sidelong look at H. Saved your butt this time. He saw the nervous detective visibly relax and let out a small sigh of relief.

"That's right," Brown interjected. "His brother owns a security firm. Conaway felt that he would be better suited for that type of work."

"I see." The captain glared at his two detectives. "As long as it wasn't because you two scared him off."

The two men shook their heads.

"Wow, that's really strange," Blair stated, having listened to the exchange concerning Conaway.

"What's strange, Sandburg?" the captain questioned.

"I was just down in Dispatch. Rumor is that Potts suddenly announced that he's taking early retirement -- and now -- Conaway's leaving." Sandburg pondered the two seemingly incongruous reports for a moment before crossing to his desk. Passing by Taggart's desk, he didn't see the grin on Joel's face as the man looked up from his paperwork, nor did he see the conspiratorial glances exchanged between Taggart and Banks.

Jim was all smiles as he returned from Records. By now, the rumors of the two officers' imminent departures had spread throughout the building. Two down and one to go. Of course, that one's Morrison. He could only hope that the man would take the 'not so subtle' hint from last night's visit.

Sitting down at his desk, Ellison's good mood continued as he worked through the neatly stacked pile of paperwork. Passing a file over to his partner, he grinned at Sandburg's mound of cluttered mess covering the desk. Observing Blair's still pale form and the grimace of pain as the young detective stretched for the file, his countenance changed. His earlier contented state vanished and, internally, the Sentinel seethed, every bone in his body ready to hunt down Morrison and crush the sniveling cretin for injuring his Guide.

Noticing the change in his partner's mood, Blair silently conveyed with a meaningful look his well-being to Jim. Beginning to verbally reassure the older detective, their interchange was interrupted by the arrival of Megan.

"So, did you get that problem resolved?" Jim asked as Connor approached his desk.

"Maybe," the Inspector offered. Having spent the better portion of the morning in the bizarre domain of the Personnel Department, she was only too happy to return to the saneness of Major Crimes. "Of course, the matter of my middle initial being wrong seems minor compared to what one officer's going through."

Connor hesitated a moment before continuing her story. "Apparently, one of the uniformed officers ran into quite a computer snafu. Came in this morning to find out that not only was his paycheck wrong, but he was also demoted and transferred to foot patrol. They had him filling out a stack of paperwork with no guarantee that it would even rectify the problem. In the midst of that, a call came in from a bank to check on his employment. It seemed that there were some questions about missed payments on some loans. Well, this officer started to really flip out. Went absolutely bonkers. Paperwork went flying throughout the department. He cursed out the personnel employees and their computers, and then swore that he was being terrorized at night. Funny thing, when they were carting him off, it sounded like he was naming Major Crimes as one of the co-conspirators."

By now she had the attention of the whole department. Jim, Simon and Joel all exchanged looks, wondering about the identity of the officer. Before one of them could raise the question, another voice asked, "So, Megan, who was this officer who came unglued in Personnel?"

Connor turned toward Blair. "Well, Sandy, it was someone named Morrison. Looks like they're going to do a Psych evaluation on him."

Jim studied his partner's face at the mentioning of the name. He wasn't sure, but he thought for a moment that he saw a hint of satisfaction crossing the younger detective's face. Before he could question Blair, he heard Simon's booming voice call out, "Ellison, Taggart. My office, now."

Being the last one in, Jim closed the door to the captain's office and sat down. He noticed the smug look on Simon's face and the beaming smile that graced Joel's.

"Well, looks like we're three for three. Though, I have to admit, Jim, I never would've thought you were that well-versed in computers to handle Morrison. Deviated from the plan a bit, didn't you?"

"I didn't -- I mean it wasn't me, Simon."

"If it wasn't you, Jim, then who?" Taggart inquired.

After giving the door a quick rap, Blair stuck his head in. It hadn't taken him long to figure out that Conaway and Potts were the other men involved in his attack, especially with the way his three friends kept throwing their supposed 'secretive' glances back and forth. By the way they were grinning, he'd guessed that they had a hand in whatever had gone down with those two officers. And then, there was the matter of Jim's outing last night to a basketball game. "Just wanted to thank you guys." Blair let his statement sink in as looks of puzzlement crossed the three men's faces. "And, thought you'd like to check out the sports section, specifically the basketball scores." Tossing the newspaper onto the captain's desk, he smiled and closed the door.

Confused, Simon stared at the newspaper on his desk. "What was that all about?"

"I think Sandburg was just thanking us for the way we handled the situation," Jim replied.

"And how would he know?" Joel asked, thinking that they all had been so careful in their plotting and execution of the plan.

"After all, he is a detective," Jim started as he picked up the paper and turned to the sports section. "And, according to the paper, the Jags were in Chicago last night."

The three detectives grinned at each other and simultaneously laughed, "Busted!"

Blair looked up from his desk. He could hear the laughter coming from Simon's office. Later tonight, he would extract the details from Jim. He figured it would be an interesting story. For now, he planned to just bask in the knowledge of how much his friends cared about him. If ever he had any qualms about belonging and being a detective in the past, he had none now.

Leaning back in his chair, he reflected over the past week's events that had led him to this moment. He recalled from his readings that Emperor Justinian had said that justice is the constant and perpetual wish to render to everyone his due. Well, Morrison, Potts and Conaway had just received their dues. Damn! It felt good! Justice had been dished out, not in its customary manner, but it still felt downright good!

The End