Disclaimer: The Sentinel and it's characters are copyrighted by Pet Fly Productions. The title is taken from Alexander Pope's work, "Essay on Man". Thanks to Wolfpup, beta-reader extrordinaire. One of the few people I know who can be so damn pushy and patient at the same time Feedback is always good. Positive feedback, even better. Whatever your thoughts, I'd like to hear them. you can email me at paula@netaccess.on.ca

My Guide, My Philosopher, My Friend

Alexander Pope


He hoped that the darkness of early morning would offer some cover. The shadowed form of the mailbox was ahead, he could just see it outlined in the pale street light. He clutched his package all the more tightly, he had to make it. Nervously glancing behind him, he thought he saw movement across the street. Putting everything else out of his mind, he quickened his pace. He had to hurry, he was almost there. A few more feet and he would have the satisfaction of this small victory. His fingers curled around the cold metal handle, as he quickly dropped the package inside.

Heart pounding, he darted into the blackness of a nearby alley. He knew there was no running and no escape. He could only stay and wait for death. The hammering of his heart echoed in his ears and he started to wonder if he just might die of a heart attack. Death, no matter how it happened, couldn't take him soon enough. His Sentinel was dead. His role as teacher and mentor had ended. Closing his eyes, he shuddered as he remembered the agony when his friend was ripped from him, his mind and soul screaming. Was it just a few days ago? He had died that day with his Sentinel. This would only make it final. The scrape of a footstep sounded and he released the breath he had been holding. He wanted this. He welcomed this. Turning to meet his executioner, he prayed that it would be quick.

"Why did you run?" The voice was deep but almost gentle. "You and your kind...your time has passed."

He heard the blade cut the air and felt it plunge into his chest. In his dying mind he heard the pain filled cry of a panther.

It was over.

Jim Ellison glared at the time on his alarm clock. 5:00! He still had another hour of sleep coming to him. Rolling onto his back and laying an arm across his eyes, he listened for any sounds that may have woken him. The loft was quiet. Everything was as it should be...he listened again. That was odd, Sandburg was awake. Blair Sandburg, who would almost sell his soul for five minutes more sleep. Is that what had woken him? Maybe there was something wrong. Throwing back the covers, he quietly made his way down the stairs. A cool breeze tickled his skin and he saw that the balcony doors stood open. Stretching out further with his senses, he heard the calm and steady beat of his friend's heart. He relaxed.

Blair sat in the still dark morning, leaning his back against the wall. He found the quiet calmness of the early hours almost tranquilizing. The city was still asleep. He could hear the soothing chirp of crickets and smell the freshness as the dew formed on leaves and trees. Even sounds of traffic seemed to be muffled under the blanket of darkness. Huddled in a heavy sweater, he wrapped his arms around his knees and smiled. A soft breeze gently lifted the long, thick strands of hair that framed his face. He enjoyed the coolness and realized that Autumn had finally come to offer some relief from the sweltering heat. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the brick. A soft smile played at his lips as he wondered if this was Nirvana. Naomi would know. He was at peace and he let his mind wander, almost in a free fall. He had found his answers.

"Blair?" Jim's voice was soft. "Everything okay Chief?"

Without opening his eyes, Blair knew that his friend's face would be frowning with concern. He could hear it in his voice. He took a deep breath and then opened his eyes. He was right, the frown was there.

"Yeah, everything's fine, Jim." He let his smile deepen. "In fact everything is great."

"Glad to hear it, kid. You want to tell me what it is you're doing out here communing with nature?"

"I guess you could call it that. Communing with nature. It's just that I realized something and it just ...I don't know...it just...." He couldn't find the words.

Ellison laughed out loud. "Whoa, hold on there Chief. I don't think I've ever seen you speechless. C'mon, out with it. What did you just realize?"

"I'm your Guide." The three words seemed to carry so much awe.

Jim moved to sit down across from his friend. "Of course you are. What do you mean you just realized that?" He looked into wide blue eyes and wondered, not for the first time, if he would ever come to understand the way Blair's mind worked. "Isn't that what you've been doing here the past year or so?"

Blair sighed. "Yes but, you know, I always wondered if I was really your Guide or if I was just someone who happened to know about this Sentinel thing. I was afraid that maybe my only part to play in this was to make you aware of your Sentinel abilities and then somehow help you find your real Guide." He sighed again and ran a hand through his long hair. "I mean I don't really fit the part..someone that is supposed to fill some kind of, I don't know, heroic destiny." He shrugged and smiled.

The Sentinel could only smile back at his partner's crooked grin. "You do a pretty good job there, Sandburg. You are my Guide. I know that. I don't think I've ever doubted it." He shifted on the cold concrete, trying to make himself more comfortable. "But what brought this on? What happened to make you see things differently? As far as I can remember, last night was an ordinary night."

"Wish I could tell you, Jim. I woke up this morning and for some reason it was different. I just knew." He looked away and saw the first signs of light break across the horizon. "And then I started thinking. Have you ever wondered why it is that you can find my heartbeat so easily? Even in a crowd?"

Ellison shrugged. "I guess it's because it's so familiar to me. I hear it every day, Chief."

Sandburg leaned forward and took one of Jim's hands. Placing it over the Sentinel's heart, he asked. "What do you feel?"

"My heartbeat."

Taking Ellison's other hand, he placed it over his own heart. "What do you feel?"

The Sentinel's eyes widened. "They're the same. Exactly the same."

Sandburg sat back. "I thought they would be. There are some other things that I started wondering about too. Why I chose to study Sentinels, all the time I spent looking at primitive cultures...even my growing up years. It's almost like Naomi knew. Let's face it, if I had spent my life going to regular schools and living some mainstream lifestyle, I don't know if I would have been too receptive to the idea of some super-sensed humans, whose purpose it was to protect mankind. It's like every step I took brought me here. Until now I've never stayed in one place too long, never let myself become attached to anyone, never really trusted anyone, except my Mom. And then I meet you. At first I was sure I stayed because I was going to have the chance to actually study a Sentinel. An anthropologist's dream." He smirked. "But before I knew it, I started thinking that this is where I was supposed to be. I guess where I was meant to be. It scared me to death. I was afraid to belong anywhere because I knew it would end."

Ellison remained quiet. This was the first time his partner had opened up to him without having to be prodded. He studied that expressive face, memorizing it. Each rise of an eyebrow, quick smile, every emotion was stored away.

"But this goes way beyond friendship, doesn't it." Blair continued. "It's not about being friends or partners. Well it is that, but it's more than that too. We're connected at a much deeper level. It's so hard to describe."

Jim sighed. "I know what you mean Chief. I've tried to describe it for myself." He felt uncomfortable and self-conscious even trying to put it into words. "I don't know how to explain it. You're just there." He looked into his friend's eyes, seeing complete understanding.

Blair's smile widened. "You are something else, man. That's it exactly. It's like you're always standing next to me. Even when I'm at the university, I still feel you're there." He laughed softly. "I've even caught myself turning around to look for you and then remembering you're at the station." The smile turned suddenly serious.

Ellison saw the change, even in the dim light. "What is it?"

"Just trying to remember something. Something Aristotle wrote about friendship...I'm probably not quoting it right...but it's something like a friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."

The words struck Jim like a thunderbolt. Leave it to Blair to easily define what he had spent months trying to sort out for himself. He had never understood how Blair had become so important to him. In the beginning he thought it was his desperation to understand what was happening to him. But that need had blossomed into friendship, and the friendship had grown into something more. They shared the same soul. The Sentinel swallowed hard against the emotion. Time to call on the famous Ellison reserve before he lost it completely.

"Guide, philosopher, anthropologist...that's one Hell of a resume Sandburg."

Jim moved to stand up, as he did he stopped and put his hand on his Guide's shoulder. "I'm glad you're here Blair." Moving towards the balcony door, he paused. "I sometimes wonder what would have happened if you hadn't moved to Cascade." He stared into his friend's upturned face and silently thanked the fates for his Guide. "I'm going to make some coffee."

As he walked to the kitchen he heard Blair's voice mutter softly. "I know what would have happened. I would have gone crazy from the emptiness."

The third murder had left no more clues than the first two. The Major Crimes unit had been called once again to the university campus. A professor had been found murdered. One stab wound to the chest.

Simon Banks wasn't quite sure why he had felt the need to be there. He had complete faith in the abilities of his investigating officers, but when the report came through that there had been a third murder at Ranier, the victim still unidentified, he decided he should be there. If someone had asked if it had anything to do with Sandburg, he would have given his customary derisive snort. In the privacy of his own thoughts he admitted that is exactly what had propelled him. His fears had been unfounded, but he couldn't rid himself of the nagging suspicion that these murders would somehow involve the anthropologist. If not immediately then eventually.

Focusing on the murder, he scanned the area, hoping to spot something that would offer a clue. Police instinct and training took over as he categorized the scene. The victim was a white male, probably late 60's, body showed no visible signs of violence. Banks grimaced, other than the gaping chest wound. There was no other bleeding or bruising, no scrapes or cuts. Whoever had done this had not met with any resistance from the old man. Just like the first two murders. He dreaded the thought that Cascade had become the hunting ground for a serial killer. Three murders in six days. Placing his hands on his hips, he surveyed the area around him. The violence seemed so out of place among the landscaped lawns and buildings. Trying to track a killer here would be next to impossible. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people crossed these grounds daily. How were they supposed to discover which one, in that myriad of faces, was the killer? Or if the killer was even connected to the university? Hopefully they would receive a letter or something soon. Didn't most serial killers enjoy taunting the police? Why was this one being so damned quiet? A small gasp caught his attention.

"Oh God, it's Professor Martens" Banks turned to see Blair standing beside him. He looked up at the captain, turmoil written across his face. "Man, he was such a sweet old guy, why would anyone want to kill him?"

Simon removed his glasses and started to massage away the tension he could feel building between his eyes. "I don't know Sandburg" he sighed. "We have just about as much to go on as the last two." He scanned the crime scene. "Where's Jim?"

Sandburg shrugged. "I haven't seen him. I've been here all day." He continued to stare at the body of his colleague. "This really sucks, Captain." He turned to walk away.

Banks stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Wait, where are you going?"

"I have a class to teach. I was on my way over when I heard the sirens." Simon read the sadness in those eyes. "I can't stay. If you need me I'll be over in the anthro building." He shook his head. "This really sucks."

Simon watched him jog across to one of the old stone buildings. He just wished he could shake the feeling that Sandburg was in danger. Probably just because the killings are here, he tried to rationalize.

"Simon? Was that Blair you were just talking to?"

Banks jumped, catching Ellison's grin as he did so. Damn the man, he walked softer than a cat. "Yeah, poor kid. He seemed pretty upset. I think our victim was a friend. He said he had to teach a class and that we could find him in the anthropology building later."

Jim nodded and turned his attention to the murder. "So what have we got? Same as the last two?" He took a closer look at the victim. "Oh no, not Martens." He crouched down next to the body. "Blair practically adored the man. We've gotta get this guy Simon."

"Yeah" Banks sighed. "Can you pick up anything? He's not leaving us much to work with. I'm getting desperate Ellison. I'll take anything you can give me."

After a few minutes, Jim realized that his heightened senses weren't giving him any more than the forensics team had. "Nothing Captain, I'm sorry. Maybe I can go over this again with Blair. I don't know what or how he does it, but he always seems to be able to direct my focus onto things I might have missed. We're turning him into a good little cop."

"Heaven forbid!" Banks laughed. "I'm going to head back. Let me know if you and the boy wonder come up with anything." He started to walk away. "Uh Jim? You don't have any kind of feeling about this do you?" Banks looked uncomfortable.

"Feeling? I don't understand what you mean, sir." Was his captain squirming?

"It's crazy, but I keep thinking that somehow these killings are connected to Sandburg. Don't ask me why because I couldn't tell you." He saw Ellison's puzzled expression. "I told you it was crazy. Just let me know what you find."

The class had not gone well so he had dismissed it early. Seeing Professor Martens had shaken him. Blair sat in the empty lecture hall trying to will away the vision of Martens' body lying there among the bushes. He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. Three killings. What the Hell was going on? He hadn't known the other two victims, but Martens...who would want to kill Martens? What could have been the old man's biggest offense? That he would absent-mindedly forget and light up a pipe in the lounge? Martens had been an anchor for Sandburg when he first started there. He had been taken under the old man's wing and offered support and guidance. Blair was certain that if he was a decent teacher, it was because of Martens. He leaned his head into his hands. It wasn't right! That sweet old guy should have been allowed to die at home, surrounded by friends and clutching that gnarled pipe of his.

So lost in thought, Blair didn't realize that Ellison had entered the room until he sat in the chair next to him. He didn't have the energy to look up.

"Blair?" The detective put a hand on his friend's back. "I'm sorry Chief. I know he meant a lot to you. You going to be okay?" He saw his Guide nod in response. "I hate to do this Chief, but I'm going to need your help. I need to see if I can get anything more from the crime scene. I've tried, but I think I need you there. Think you're up to it?"

Sandburg leaned back in the chair and gave Jim a sad grin. "Sure Jim, anything I can do to help get that sick bastard I'll do." Walking back to the podium to pick up his backpack, he said "It's not fair. He didn't deserve to die like that."

Blair took his customary spot just behind the detective. He tried hard not to look at the body lying there, but his eyes were drawn to it. Someone he admired and respected lay beneath that tarp and for what reason? Swallowing his anger, he fell into his role as Guide.

"Okay Jim, first identify all the outdoor smells and then filter them out." He watched his friend turn inwards and could almost see him shutting out the familiar smells. "Anything?"

"I smell pipe tobacco...and Old Spice."

"Filter those out too. Professor Martens loved to smoke a pipe." Blair's voice faltered as memories flooded his mind. "I remember him joking about buying stock in Old Spice. He said this way he'd be rich when he retired." He sighed. "Dig a little deeper Jim." But he realized that his partner had needed no coaxing and was already searching for more.

"There's something else here. It's kind of woodsy. But not from here. I know I've smelled this before....I just can't remember when."

"Okay Jim commit it to memory. We're going to move to sight. Concentrate around the body first. Can you see footprints or any indentations in the grass?" When the Sentinel reported nothing, Sandburg moved to pull the shroud back. He felt his stomach roll as he took the corner of the cover into his hand. Closing his eyes, he pulled it back and went to stand behind the detective.

Ellison heard the change in his friend's breathing and the increased heartbeat. "Blair?"

"I'm okay...I'm okay. It was just kind of hard" He swallowed. "I'll be alright. Just tell me what you see."

"Tobacco residue on his jacket...grass stains on the knees of his pants...nothing that you wouldn't expect to...." He stopped.

"What is it Jim? Whatever it is focus in on it and tell me what you see." Blair had heard the sharp intake of breath. Whatever his friend had seen had shocked him. "Jim?"

Ellison shook himself and turned to look at his friend. "Under the blood, on his shirt, there's some writing. It's in red too but a different shade." He drew a hand across his face.

"C'mon Jim, you're starting to scare me. What did it say?"

"It says Armageddon and just below it is the word Sentinel."

The drive back to the loft was a quiet one. Each man lost in his own thoughts. Seeing the word Sentinel had done more than startle the detective, for some reason it had frightened him. Armegeddon, the final battle of good and evil. The picture it brought to mind was not a pretty one. And then there was Simon's cryptic comment about the killings somehow involving Blair. Had his captain suddenly become psychic? Ellison could feel every nerve in his body tingle. The battleground had just gone beyond the boundaries of the campus and moved into his home. The instinct to protect his friend, his partner, his Guide had been awakened and that was what he would do. But how? Who was the enemy? He reached over and put a hand on his friend's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. It was as much to comfort Blair as it was to make some contact, to reassure himself that everything was okay.

Without looking Sandburg reached up and rested his hand on his friend's. A wordless thank you for his concern. "I think I could live without ever having to have another day like today Jim." He drew his hand away and wrapped his arms around himself. "Armageddon? What do you think it means? And Sentinel? I don't get it. What does Professor Martens have to do with any of this?"

"I don't know Chief. I really don't know." He glanced down at the bundle that sat in his friend's lap. "What have you got there, Blair? Taking your clothes out to a Chinese laundry now?"

Sandburg laughed softly. "I'd almost forgotten about this. It came in this morning's mail at the university. It's probably nothing. I have some friends who send me things every once in a while. Stuff they think I'll find interesting. It's most likely another mask to add to my collection." He peered in the darkness of the truck to see the postmark. "Although I don't know who I know in Fort Benton, Montana."

The two trudged into the loft, both thankful to be home.

"Think I'll start a fire Chief, try to get some of the chill out of here. What do you want to do about supper?" No answer. "Chief?" He looked over to see Blair reading a letter he had taken from the package that now lay opened on the kitchen counter. He could see books, spiral bound and well worn. "Blair, what is it?"

"They're journals written by a Brian Stevenson. Ohmigod." Blair's eyes widened in astonishment. "He says that he is, or was at least, a Sentinel's companion. I guess what we call a Guide! Oh my God. Jim, you're not the only one left. This is incredible." He scooped up the books and letter and took them to the couch. "How did he find me? I mean, how did he know?"

Ellison went to sit beside him on the couch. He realized what this meant to Blair. And to himself. More insights to what they were dealing with. But beneath his desire to know more about his Sentinel abilities, Jim could feel his stomach knot. It could hardly be coincidence. The murders, the words written across the professor's chest and the arrival of the package were all connected. Simon's intuition had been right. He looked over at his best friend and felt a chill hand grab his heart. Armageddon. My God, what did it mean? He grabbed his Guide's wrist as he went to reach for one of the journals.

"Blair? What else does the letter say?"

He could hear the exasperation in Sandburg's voice. "I don't know man. I just want to take a look at these journals. I...What? I don't like the look you're giving me. What's wrong?" And then the penny dropped. "Professor Martens' death, the message, you think this is all connected?"

The Sentinel's face was grim. "Read the letter Blair. Please." He got up and went into the kitchen, leaving Blair to read in silence.

In the half hour it had taken Jim to fix a quick supper of soup and garlic bread, Blair finished reading. Even without heightened senses, Jim could see the effect the letter had had. His friend's face was pale and drawn. The hand that held the papers in a crumpled mass was shaking. Sandburg rose slowly from the couch and went to sit at the kitchen table.

"Here you go Chief." Ellison placed a steaming mug of tea in front of him and pulled a chair up to sit beside him. "Can you tell me what it said? Or would it be better if I read it myself?" It hurt him to see the torment in those eyes.

Blair wrapped his hands around the mug, hoping to gain some warmth from it. "Thanks for the tea, Jim." He took a deep breath. "I can tell you what it said." He stared down into the hot liquid trying to find the words to begin. The anguish in Stevenson's words had been palpable, and he felt himself shudder as he remembered them. "Promise me" he started, hearing the quiver in his voice, "Promise me that you'll never leave me behind."

The words were so unexpected and full of despair that they caught Jim off guard. Instinctively, he pulled his friend to him. "I promise" he whispered. "I promise." He felt Blair start to pull away.

"I'm okay Jim. I think I can tell you now." I just won't tell you everything, he thought. You don't need to know how Stevenson was destroyed when his Sentinel died. "Brian Stevenson was a Guide. His Sentinel was part of a Search and Rescue team that worked out of Fort Benton. I guess the Blessed Protector trait comes naturally to Sentinels. I'm not surprised." He smiled. "But Stevenson was like me, a teacher, well a Minister really who ran a small school. He had spent some time in East Africa when he was younger, doing missionary work, and stumbled across Burton's works. He said he became instantly obsessed with the idea of Sentinels and spent years doing research on them. Sound familiar?" Blair raised an eyebrow and even managed a small smile. "Well anyway, he goes on to say that one day this young guy shows up on his doorstep. He's distraught, almost out of his mind really. He begs Stevenson to take him in and help him. He swears he's possessed or something. He keeps hearing voices, and everything around him is in chaos. Naturally Stevenson takes him in and it starts to occur to him that the man's ravings could have been caused by his senses going wild. He says that he doesn't know why he thought this, in fact it made him wonder if he wasn't the one who was nuts. And the rest you can guess." He got up to pour himself more tea.

"And" Jim urged.

"And now his Sentinel is dead, and he most likely is too." Blair's hand shook so hard he had to put the mug down. "A month ago Stevenson was contacted by some guy who said he wanted to do an article about a modern day hero and that he had heard that the minister had a real live hero living with him. Stevenson said he brushed the guy off but started to get really nervous. He and his Sentinel had been just as careful as we are. They kept a really low profile. The guy turned up again and this time threatened Stevenson. He said that he knew about Stevenson and his Sentinel and that their time was over. The guy was obviously insane. But the scary part is that Stevenson was convinced he was a Sentinel. He said something about being able to hear Stevenson's fear and that it sickened him." He left the mug untouched on the counter and slid down to sit on the floor. Swallowing hard, he tried to continue. "Michael Davis, that's Stevenson's friend, was out of town on some kind of field training. He never had a chance, Jim. The guy hunted him down and killed him. He...he tore out his heart and left his body in the woods." Blair rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. Stevenson's agony tore at him. It was all he could do to not cry out in sympathy.

Jim went to kneel beside Blair. He started to pull him into a hug, to offer some comfort, when Blair shoved his arm away. His voice was savage. "No! No! Don't you see? This isn't about me. It's about you! Stevenson said he's coming after you. He's the one who told Stevenson about us. He tried to reach us but we were camping. So he sent me everything he could. This guy is out to kill every Sentinel he can find."

The shock on Ellison's face would have been comical if Sandburg had felt like laughing.

Jim's voice was almost a whisper. "You mean that there are others? Other Sentinels? I thought you said that I was some kind of genetic throwback."

"I was just going by Burton's studies. Stevenson seems to think that there are more of you. He doesn't say why though. Maybe a certain number of Sentinels are born in each generation. Who knows? It's not like anyone's written a textbook about it." Blair's fist pounded into his thigh. "Man, what are we talking about? It doesn't really matter right now does it? What are we going to do? I'm going to call Simon, you're going to need protection."

In one fluid movement he was off the floor and heading for the phone. Ellison's hand stopped him before he could reach it. He had been set to tell Sandburg that he didn't need protecting. He could take care of himself. The idea of calling for help rankled him. If Stevenson was right and he was a target, he had been given an advantage that Michael never had. A warning. And as this argument played out in his head, he realized the underlying current. He was a Sentinel. He didn't need someone protecting him. He looked up at his best friend and wondered if his pride was really worth jeopardizing Blair's life. For all of Blair's concern that it was Jim who was in danger, he knew that whatever threatened him, threaten his Guide.

"Hang on Blair" He stood up. "I'll call Simon."

The relief in Sandburg's voice was obvious. "Thanks man. I was sure you were going to fight me on this one."

Jim's talk with Banks had gone more smoothly than he had expected. It surprised him that his captain had accepted everything he had said without question. But when he thought about it, he shouldn't have been surprised at all. Simon had seemed to come to terms with Ellison's Sentinel abilities almost more quickly than Jim had. If you accepted the fact that there was one Sentinel, why not more? Before hanging up, Banks promised to send some backup to watch the loft and that he would do some follow up with the police in Fort Benton.

"Just glad to see that my instincts are still on the mark. I knew that Sandburg was involved in this somehow. Just what is it with you two? I'll stop by later on, after I've talked to the police in Montana."

Sighing as he hung up the phone, the detective had to ask himself the same question. He leaned against the small shelf, arms folded. Life had become a series of bizarre turns, starting with the day Sandburg had handed him that business card and offered his help. What events had brought them together didn't matter, Ellison knew he had found his sanity that day. Who would have thought it? James Ellison, the no nonsense dealer in hard facts and evidence, and Blair Sandburg, free thinker and an even freer spirit. What was it Simon had called them earlier? Batman and Robin? The Sentinel laughed to himself. More like Arthur and Merlin.

"Hey Jim, you zoning over there?"

"No Chief, just thinking." He pushed himself away from the shelf and went to warm up the soup. He was hungry.

Blair sat crosslegged on the couch, Stevenson's journal balanced on one knee and a notebook on the other. His pen flew across the page as he made notes. The minister's Sentinel studies had taken him to places and conclusions that Blair had never even considered or thought possible. Jim was going to hate it, but ideas for new tests had already started to take form. Stevenson believed that there was a psychic link between Sentinel and Guide. That was just too cool to ignore. But then this was something he had started to suspect as well. This link or bond seemed to grow stronger with each ordeal they faced. Maybe that was how it worked? Each Sentinel and Guide had to face some set of trials, some kind of initiation rite? Burton's writings were just so frustratingly vague on certain issues, they made the anthropologist want to scream. If the early life of a Sentinel and Guide was a series of tests, he hoped that he and Jim had finally passed. His life had become a wild rollercoaster ride.

Sandburg was so completely absorbed in his reading, that Jim had to shake his shoulder to get his attention. "Here" He held out a mug to Blair.

"No thanks, Jim. I don't want any tea. This stuff is incredible..."

"It's not tea, it's soup. I know you too well, you'll sit here all night reading if I let you. Eat first." He saw Sandburg start to form an argument. "The soup, Blair."

Blair grinned sheepishly. "Yeah, okay. I guess taking five minutes won't hurt." The grin turned wicked. "Are you sure you weren't somebody's mother in another life?"

Ellison gave his friend's head a gentle swat and laughed, before he walked away. "As long as it wasn't yours Chief, I can live with that."

"Jim? What did Simon say?"

"He's sending some men over to watch the house, and he's going to call the Fort Benton police to see if they have any information about Stevenson. Could be this is a hoax, Blair."

"If it is Jim, then Simon has a pretty sick sense of humour. 'Cause as far as I know, he's the only other person who knows about you. And I guess he threw in the murders at the university just to throw us off."

"Yeah I know, it didn't work for me either. Can't blame a guy for trying though." He cocked his head to one side, listening. "Squad car. I can hear the radio. I'm just going to go down and talk to them." He saw the panic on Sandburg's face. "Don't worry. If he was out there and he's a Sentinel, he would have heard that phone call and known that Simon was sending some backup. He would have made his move by now. I'll be right back."

Something about that logic bothered Blair. The killer's heightened sight would make Jim an easy target at almost any range. He didn't like the idea of his friend leaving the building. "I'm coming with you."

"Hey Hairboy. See you've got yourself into some more trouble." Brown had just started up the stairs to the loft. "Hi Jim. Banks called and asked me to check up on you two. We've put a couple of uniforms outside, front and back. I'm going to park myself downstairs until the captain gets here. I know that you two will have the inside covered." He looked at Blair and saw the strain written in his face. "We've got it covered Sandburg. It'll be okay."

"Never doubted it. How 'bout some coffee?"

Brown watched Blair head back up to the loft. "What are we looking at here, Jim? Banks seems to think this is connected to the campus killings. Is Sandburg the target?"

Ellison sat down on a step. "We're working on the assumption that this is connected with the university killings." He slowly kneaded knotted muscles in the back of his neck. "There's been a threat and I think both Blair and I are targets right now."

The aroma of coffee filled the stairwell as Blair returned with a mug and plate in hand. "Thought a muffin would go with the coffee. I'm heading back up, got a lot of reading to do." He turned to start up the stairs but stopped. "Hey Brown, be careful okay?"

"Don't worry, I will. Just try to relax a bit. G'night Blair." He grinned at the expression on Sandburg's face. "I mean Hairboy."

Blair was still chuckling as he closed the door to the loft. It wasn't until he felt the firey sting and found himself sitting on the kitchen floor for the second time that evening, that he realized what had happened. Looking across to the balcony doors he could see the lines of broken glass that radiated from the small hole. He'd been shot. He reached up for a dish towel to slow the bleeding from his thigh as Jim and Brown burst through the door.

With more calmness than he felt, he looked up at Jim and said. "I think we can safely rule out this being a hoax." He squeezed his eyes shut. "Man that hurts."

Ellison paced the emergency room waiting area. Without ceremony, he and Brown had scooped Blair off the floor and taken him to the hospital. With Sandburg protesting the entire way. There had been some tense moments as the two men carried their injured friend to the Ford. The two uinformed officers had been there to offer them cover, but you couldn't fire at what you couldn't see. The sniper had been swallowed up in the darkness.

"Call it in to Banks!" Jim snapped at Brown. He threw the Ford into gear, and left Brown and the other officers to find a shooter he was sure was long gone.

The ER nurse briefly appeared to report that the wound was a clean through and through and that after a little stitching Blair would be released. Jim had nodded his thanks and then was left to continue his pacing. The errant thought that had now become a mantra, once again occupied his thoughts. 'This never should have happened' He tried to focus on the fact that his partner was alright but he wasn't quite willing to let go of his guilt yet. 'Blessed Protector. Sandburg should ask for a money back guarantee. Money cheerfully refunded after 30 hospital visits.' The shrill ring of his cell phone interrupted his self-recrimination.


The voice on the other end was unfamiliar. "You know I could have killed him, if I had wanted to. I think we should talk."

"Talk" The word was forced through the detective's clenched jaw.

"Face to face." Pause. "Please. And I would like this meeting to be just between the two of us."

"I know about the killings in Montana. What makes you think that I would agree to meet with you?"

There was smugness in the voice. "The fact that I know you don't want me to continue to use your friend for target practice. We can make this meeting on your terms. You pick the place and time. I realize I was a bit hasty in, how shall I say it, dispatching our fellow Sentinel. I won't make the same mistake. There is much we can learn from each other. I should have seen that."

Jim couldn't believe the conversation he was having. The man he was speaking to had just admitted to murder. But the tone had been so conversational that he could have been admitting to something as simple as missing a meeting or not returning a call. Ellison looked Heavenward. 'Wonderful, a Sentinel sociopath'.

"Still there Ellison?"

"Yeah, still here. Alright, I'll meet with you. Not tonight. I'll meet you tomorrow morning, early, around 7:00. There's a small restaurant that opens for breakfast not too far from where I live. It's.."

"I know the one." Again a pause. "Alone please. I promise you, you won't be in any danger. At least not tomorrow." A small chuckle drifted through the phone. "Goodnight then. Oh, please tell Sandburg I apologize for this evening. I needed to make my point."

"Jim?" Blair's voice startled him. He turned to see his Guide standing next to him, a look of concern clearly pasted to his face. "You okay? You looked like you were about to zone out on the call. Who was it?"

"I called the station to see if they had come up with anything." He lied. He saw his friend's pallor and his guilt rose up to choke him. "I'm sorry Chief...this never should..."

Blair held up a hand to stop him mid-sentence. "Don't even start Jim." He sighed. "You can't take responsibility for every nutcase in Cascade." Stifling a yawn, he smiled. "Can we go home now? Those are some mighty fine drugs they pumped into me. I gotta lie down."

"Come on Hopalong." He put his hand on Blair's shoulder. "We'll have you tucked into bed before you know it." His grin faded as he watched Sandburg lean heavily on the cane. Anxiety began to gnaw at him. How was he supposed to keep his friend safe from another Sentinel? He would be fighting the same heightened senses that had always given him the upperhand.

Blair seemed to be reading his mind. "We'll beat him Jim. Together he can't touch us." He stopped at the truck's door. "Uh, sorry to ask man, but I think I'm going to need a leg up here." He laughed softly. "Now even I think that was a bad pun."

Jim felt the tremors going through his partner's body as he helped him onto the passenger seat. "Chief? You're shaking."

"I'm okay. Just nerves I guess." Ellison closed the door and walked around to the other side. 'That and being scared shitless, Jim.' Leaning back against the seat, Sandburg let the painkillers dull his mind a little further. While laying there on the examining table, doing his best to ignore the pain, it ocurred to him that he felt relieved. He had been the target, not Jim. The emotion in Stevenson's words still haunted him and refused to let go..."I felt his heart stop...and when he took his last breath. I prayed it would be mine too...that when he died, I would die. Why did he leave me behind to relive his death with every breath I take? This is my Hell, it must be..." Blair knew that it wouldn't be any different for him. If he lost Jim...he couldn't think about that now. This thing was far from over. They needed to plan their next move. But he was so tired. He looked at his friend as they drove home and watched the emotions that briefly crossed his face. The guilt, the anger. The fear? He wanted to find the words to reassure his partner but Stevenson's grief kept him silent. He let his eyes close against that grief. He just wanted to sleep and then wake up to find this had all been a bad dream.


"Just sleepy Jim. Don't worry. I won't make you carry me up to the loft." The voice was barely a whisper as sleep finally came.

Carrying Sandburg up to the loft was exactly what Ellison ended up doing. He hadn't the heart to wake him. Carefully manouvering his way up the staircase and to the apartment, he decided that keeping his conversation with the other Sentinel secret would be best. Blair would insist on following him. He couldn't have that. Everything would be over tomorrow anyway. Jim would meet with the man and would end it there. He gently got Blair into a standing position, cradling him under one arm. Fumbling for his key, he heard someone moving in the loft. He froze and let his senses do the rest. Cigar. Simon. He let out his breath and gently knocked on the door.

The door flew open and Simon swallowed whatever he had to say.

"He's dead on his feet Simon, painkillers...stress..." Jim said quietly.

Simon only nodded and reached to take Blair's other arm. Blair's eyes opened at the touch, and he looked at Simon through a drug filled haze. "Hey Simon."

Jim's eyebrows rose at the almost affectionate smile on Bank's face. "Hey Sandburg, glad to see you're in one piece."

Together the two men got the anthropologist to his room. Taking care not to jostle the injured leg, Jim got his friend arranged comfortably on the bed. Leaving the door slightly ajar as he left, he joined Simon in the living room.

"What a day" Ellison groaned as he fell onto the couch. " I think even Blair would have to admit that he's taken quite a beating on this one." He reached up to take the beer Simon offered him. "Did Brown bring you up to speed?"

Simon turned his gaze from the bedroom, "Takes a licking and..." He shook his head and went to sit across from his detective. "Brown told me what happened. I don't like it, but I don't think we made any mistakes either. Are you two going to be okay here, or should we be moving you to a safe house? The security is still in place."

"To be honest with you Simon, I don't know. If we are dealing with another Sentinel it will be next to impossible to move anywhere without his tracking us. I know what I'm capable of, and I'm guessing that he's probably the same. " He got up and began to circle the room. "I don't know, up until today I thought I was the only one. Both Blair and I did."

"Should we assume this guy isn't working alone?" Banks asked quietly. He saw the questioning look on his friend's face. "Well, you have Blair..."

Ellison ran a hand across the top of his head. "I am just not thinking straight. That hadn't even occured to me. I don't think there was anything mentioned in Stevenson's letter, but we'll have to wait until Blair wakes up to find out. I think he would have told me if there was. I'll tell you Simon, he's handling this a lot better than I am. Once we both got over the initial shock of Stevenson's warning, Sandburg was right at it, going over those journals for something that might help us. Good thing one of us is focused." He drained the last of the beer. He didn't really remember drinking any of it. " What did you find out from the Fort Benton police?"

"Pretty much what you told me. Both men were murdered days apart. No clues to either murder. They're still on the books. The man I spoke to was very interested in finding out what I had. Seems Stevenson and Davis were well liked in that town. I got the feeling that Davis was a close friend. I told him that as soon as I had anything solid I would be in touch." Bank's tone changed. "Do I have anything Jim?"

Ellison could almost feel a guilty flush rising to his cheeks. "What do you mean, Simon?"

"I know what you're like, Ellison. Every time the kid is involved you take it personally and start thinking that you're the only one that can protect him. We're not there are we? Is there anything that I should know?"

Jim hoped his face looked sincere. "No, nothing Simon. I'm afraid I've been too busy playing catch up with this one."

Simon almost looked convinced. "Alright, but I want you to let me know the minute you know something. Understood Detective?"

"Yes sir."

"Good. I'm going to call it a night. Tell the kid goodnight for me, and I'll see you in the morning." He walked to the door. "You call me if there's anything Jim. Got that?"

"Yes sir. Goodnight Simon."

He hated lying to his captain, his friend, but he didn't want to risk scaring the killer off. He would be there at that meeting and he would go alone.

The lumber yard was deserted. The cloying smell of wood and oil assaulted his senses. Jim automatically turned down his sense of smell, relying on sight and hearing. It would be so much easier if Blair were with him. But that was the point of this exercise wasn't it? Somehow that bastard had gotten to his partner. Sandburg had been taken from the loft and he was somewhere in the lumber yard waiting for rescue. Ellison opened up his hearing, searching for his Guide. He could hear it, the heartbeat that so often had acted as a beacon for him. It was faint as if coming from a distance. He focused as much as he dared knowing the threat of a zone out. Confident that he had pinpointed the sound, he moved towards it and after a few minutes was rewarded as the sound became louder. Nearing one of the buildings, he could hear voices. One was definitely Blair's and he sounded calm. The words were too muffled but he didn't get the impression that his friend felt threatened.

They were in the shed directly ahead of him. He could only hear two voices, two heartbeats. Ellison liked those odds. Standing just outside the door, he listened again. The voices had stopped. Blair was still in the room, but the other person had moved. He scanned the area around him, searching for the second heartbeat. Too late, he heard it behind him. The sound of something coming through the air was immediately followed by a painful blow across Jim's shoulder blades. The force of the blow sent him stumbling into the shed. He rolled with it and came to stand, looking into the surprised face of his partner.


Ellison smiled his relief. Blair was okay. He wasn't being restrained. He seemed healthy enough. The relief was short lived as he turned his attention to his attacker. The man stood there, a two by four raised over his head. Before the kidnapper had a chance to swing it at him, Jim thrust his foot out, catching the man in the abdomen. His opponent fell to the ground. Looking for the gun he had dropped, the detective saw it lying very near to Blair's feet.

"Sandburg, toss me my gun!" He couldn't believe that he even had to ask.

His Guide just shook his head, sadly. "Can't do that Jim. Sorry man."

Jim's shock at hearing that response gave the killer time to regain his footing. He slammed his body into the detective's, sending them both crashing to the ground. Jim felt the air rush out of his lungs as his head connected with the concrete floor. He saw the fist coming at him. Laying there stunned, he watched Blair come up behind the man. Sandburg would help him. The Sentinel's eye's widened in horror as he saw his friend hand the knife to the stranger.

"I'm sorry Jim. In villages where two sentinels are accidently born, there is always a contest. Only the strongest one is allowed to survive. A Guide can only follow one Sentinel." Ellison saw his friend shudder as he allowed the knife to be taken from him. "It's the way it has always been." A tear etched it's way down his cheek. "Please forgive me" he whispered.

Ellison looked up into the snarling face of the killer, his killer. His mind rebelled at the betrayal. "No!" The word was torn from him. "Blair!" He closed his eyes and waited to feel the dagger pierce his heart.

"Jim!" Ellison felt hands shaking him. His eyes flew open to see Sandburg standing over him. With one Herculean shove he sent the young man across the room. The living room. Nightmare. Just a nightmare. His body shook with the remembrance of the all too real emotions. His breath came in ragged gasps and his heart threatened to explode.

"That must have been one hell of a dream, man." The painfilled voice came from across the darkened room.

"Oh my God, Sandburg!" Jim leapt from the couch. Blair lay on the floor, where he had fallen over the coffee table. "Blair, I'm sorry. I am so sorry."

"Tell me your dream, and I'll tell you vhat it means" Sandburg said, in what he hoped was a decent imitation of a gypsy accent. He was now back in his own bed with Jim in full mother hen mode. Blair kept insisting he was fine and that he knew it was an accident, that he shouldn't have tried to shake his friend awake. But, his friend had been screaming, screaming in terror and agony.

"Maybe later Blair, not now. You need to get some sleep. You're sure you're okay?" Jim sat on the edge of the bed, doing his best not to look his partner in the eye. He still couldn't believe what he'd done. "I...I hurt you. I am so sorry."

"Jim!" The exasperation in the voice was clear. "Please, enough already. You wanna make up for this? There's only one thing you can do." He waited for the Sentinel to look at him. "Well two things actually. Stop apologizing for something you had no control over and tell me what the dream was about."

Blair saw the "no" before Ellison said it. "You are such a hardass at times, man. You know that? Fine." He reached over and turned out the light. "If you don't want to talk about this you may as well go back to bed." He felt the bed shift as his friend stood. He heard him move towards the door and stop.

"You wouldn't help me." Jim's voice was quiet. Blair wasn't sure he had heard him right.

"What do you mean I wouldn't help you? I've been begging you to let me do ..." He sat up and turned the light on. "Oh, you mean in your dream. Help you with what?"

"Save my life." Jim moved back to sit on the bed. "I was searching for you because I thought you had been kidnapped by this other Sentinel. But I think you went with him willingly. When I found you, you refused to help me. I was fighting for my life. You told me that a Guide could only follow one Sentinel. That when two Sentinels exist in the same village they would have to battle to prove who was strongest. The Guide would go with the winner." Blair almost winced at the desolation in the voice. "I lost." Ellison rubbed his face, trying to erase the memory. "You were going to let him kill me. You handed him the knife."

"That would never happen. You know that."

"I know that Chief."

"A Guide's role is to guide and protect his Sentinel."

"I know that Chief."

"Then why won't you look at me?" He laid a hand on Jim's arm. "It was only a dream. A bit of leftover anxiety from all the crap we've been dealing with."

Blair saw Jim's eyes rise to finally meet his. "This Sentinel/Guide thing is forever." He smiled. "Maybe a little bit longer. Sorry man, but you are stuck with me."

"There's no other way I would have it, Sandburg." He reached over and gave his friend a tap on the cheek. "Thanks Blair." He glanced at the clock. "It's almost 6:00. Too early to get up. Simon's pretty much placed us under house arrest. We're not going anywhere today, so maybe we should take advantage of this and get some more sleep." He stood. "C'mon lie back." He made a grab for the blankets and heard Sandburg groan.

"Tell me you are not going to tuck me in, man."

"Indulge me Blair, it's been a rough night." He smiled. "Remind me next time I see Naomi, to thank her for raising such a great kid." He closed the door.

Jim stood at the kitchen counter, hands on his hips, debating if he should leave a note for Sandburg. He decided against it, he wasn't sure what he would say. He was getting very good at lying to his friends. Twice to Blair, once to Simon. He didn't like it but would do what he had to, to protect Blair. He steeled himself as he opened the door to the loft. Time for lie number four, to convince the cop on duty that it was really okay for him to leave. Checking his watch, he saw he had 25 minutes to get to his meeting. That would be plenty of time, and hopefully he would be back before his partner noticed he was missing. He wanted to be able to tell Blair that it was over and that they could get their lives back to some sort of normalcy.

The diner was empty when Ellison arrived. He was early and took a seat that gave him the best vantage point. His gun lay ready on the seat beside him.

Before he had opened his eyes, Blair Sandburg had known that there was someone else in the room. When the hand clamped down over his mouth, he was only slightly surprised. For some strange reason he had known that the "someone" wasn't Jim. Opening his eyes slowly, he stared into the eyes of a killer.

"Get up and dressed quickly Sandburg. We're running on a tight schedule here." He stepped away from the bed, and Blair was able to get a good look at the intruder. He was tall and solidly built like Jim. The anthropologist couldn't help but wonder if all Sentinels shared physical attributes. There was the same keen and intelligent look, but where his Sentinel's was tempered by compassion, all that lived behind the eyes that bore into him was a chilling coldness. "I'll be waiting for you just outside the door. I'll be listening, so don't try anything."

Sandburg dressed quickly, wincing at the complaining muscles in his thigh, but it wasn't to comply with any orders. His mind was racing. Where was Jim? He hadn't heard anything. No sounds of a fight. He needed to find out if his friend was alright. As he limped out into the living room he quickly looked around. He had half expected to see Jim's body lying there. His eyes trailed up to Ellison's bedroom.

"He's not here. If that's what you're worried about. I sent him off on a little wild good chase. I thought it would be easier that way." The man held Blair's jacket out to him. "Are you ready?"

"Can I at least brush my teeth and get washed?" He started for the bathroom, wondering if he would be allowed to.

"You've got five minutes Sandburg."

Blair's heart almost stopped. How many times had he heard those words from Jim? He wondered if he would ever hear them again.

By 7:15 Ellison started to feel uneasy. Taking his phone out of his pocket, he punched in the number for the loft. He knew the answering machine would pick up, that Blair was probably sleeping. He hated to wake the kid, but he needed to be sure he was safe. The machine picked up and delivered it's message. Jim waited for the beep.

"Sandburg, pick up the phone." He waited. "Blair?" Each second of dead air magnified the dread he was feeling. The message tape ran out as he grabbed his gun and left the diner.

The cop Jim had spoken to earlier was no longer at the door. Stepping inside the condo's entrance, he found the man lying just inside the door, unconscious. He yelled for the second officer positioned at the back of the loft. Jim's heart sank like a stone. What had he done? He ran up the three flights of stairs to the loft, hoping against hope that he would find his friend there. It was empty. His Guide was gone.

The panic that he had felt in his nightmare returned. His Guide was gone, taken by another Sentinel. In his dream he had known where to look. In his waking hours he didn't have a clue. The lumber yard kept intruding on his thoughts. That was the dream, he argued silently, that wasn't real. But then he suddenly found himself back at the university describing what he smelled to Blair. A woodsy smell. And just beneath that smell had been petroleum. The lumber yard at the docks! That's where he had smelled it. His subconscious had recognized what his conscious mind could not. It seemed like a longshot, but it was all he had.

"You're not anything like the others." The statement startled Blair, bringing him back to his present surroundings.

"I'm not like what others?" The conversation had, up to this point, been almost pleasant. Sandburg hoped to keep it that way until Jim could find him or he could figure out what to do. Riley, as he had been told the man's name, hadn't bothered to tie him up. That worried him. Stevenson's warning that Riley was insane kept nagging at him. To look at the guy, he seemed pretty normal. Nice looking, nicely dressed. He was a quiet talker, almost soothingly quiet.

"The other Guides, teachers, mentors, shamans...you all call yourselves something different. The others were always older...so out of touch. But that's not you is it Blair? I've been watching you and Ellison for days now. Your relationship is different. Better than the others I've seen."

"Just how many others have you seen?"


"And they're all dead now?" Don't ask questions you don't want answers to, Blair!

"Yes, all dead. They were weak, so out of place in this time." Was that regret he saw on Riley's face? "But you and Ellison, you're different."

"That's what you said. Different how?" Keep him talking, the longer he talks, the longer you keep breathing.

"Yours is more like a partnership. He treats you like a kid sometimes, I've seen that." Riley paused, and Blair got the feeling that he was trying to see if he had struck a nerve. Sandburg just looked at him coolly and said nothing. "But you don't seem to mind it all that much, do you? He listens to you though. Not that the others didn't, but there is more trust with you."

A question was gnawing at the back of Sandburg's mind. He wasn't sure he wanted to ask it, but he had to know. "Your Guide? What happened to him? Where is he?"

"You naturally assumed I had one." He saw the anthropologist's nod. "My Guide is dead. I didn't kill him. He died years ago. It was too soon. We had just started. He made me believe in him and then he died. I realized after that, that I didn't need him. I didn't need to channel my power through him. That's where the others all fail."

"Fail? I don't understand."

The calm demeanor slipped away, and Blair saw rage. "You make us weak!" The words were a snarl. Riley had grabbed his shoulder. His fingers dug into flesh and bone. "You hold us back. You're afraid, and you cripple us with that fear." He suddenly released Sandburg and took a step back.

"But you said that Jim and I weren't like the others, that we weren't weak." He tried to massage some feeling back into the tortured joint.

"Yes and that's why you're here. That's why you're not dead. I want what Ellison has. I want to feel that trust, brotherhood." Blair did not like the way the conversation was heading.

"You want to join Jim and me?" Oh that sounded lame, Sandburg.

"No, Blair. You will be my Guide and no one else's."

"I don't think so, man. It doesn't work that way." Shut up, shut up, shut up Blair! Play along with him. But he couldn't.

"We'll see, once Ellison gets here. But I'm surprised. You haven't asked me about the killings at the university. Not the least bit curious about those Sandburg?" Riley pulled a dagger from his jacket, running his hand along the blade before he set it down on the table. "Here's the murder weapon."

"Why did you kill those people? How do any of them fit into this?"

Riley picked up the knife and returned it to his pocket. "Oh they don't really. The first two were just an opportunity to see Ellison in action. To see if he had all five senses. The last one, well that was for you, Blair."

Sandburg's eyes widened. "For me?" He thought he was going to be ill.

"Yes, I needed to get your attention, and I saw you having lunch with the old man."

Blair was out of the chair before he knew it. "You son of a bitch, you killed him for nothing? You are one sick bastard." The words came out as a gasp as a searing pain enveloped his thigh.

Riley's eyes narrowed. "You had better hope I'm not. Or I'd say your chances of surviving the day don't look all that good right now." He stopped and cocked his head to one side, listening. A gesture Blair had seen Jim do numerous times. "Company's here. Armegeddon." He walked over to where Blair stood and dragged him to the centre of the room.

Sandburg wanted to call out, to beg Jim to turn around. He knew that Jim never would. Images of Jim's dream started to form in Blair's mind. This was turning into Jim's nightmare.

Ellison felt like a man sleep walking. This couldn't be real. He would wake up. But then he heard it, the heartbeat. Blair was here. And so was the other one. He swallowed and closed his eyes. He had to focus on the present, but the horror of the dream threatened to overwhelm him. He tried one of Blair's breathing exercises and it seemed to help. With his gun gripped tightly in his hand he stood outside the shed door and listened. Two heatbeats, both of them still in the room. The idea of surprising them was absurd. You couldn't sneak up on a Sentinel. He carefully turned the knob and swung the door open. He held his gun out before him and entered the room. Blair and the killer were standing in the centre of the shed, with Blair standing just to the front of him.

"Welcome Detective Ellison. We finally meet. Dylan Riley's the name. I hope you'll forgive me if I don't shake your hand, but mine seem to be a bit full right now." He tightened his grip on Blair, causing the younger man to wince.

Ellison spared the man a quick look and then turned his eyes to Blair. "You okay Chief?"

"Yeah, I'm fine Jim." He even managed a grin.

"We seem to have a bit of a dilema here. Two Sentinels and only one Guide." Riley's voice was ice. "I'm afraid that we're going to have to reduce that number by one."

"Just let him go, Riley."

"Maybe that would be best." And without a warning he shoved Blair at Jim. Startled, Jim lowered his gun and moved to catch his friend. The injured leg buckled under Sandburg as he put his full weight on it, and he fell into Ellison, taking him down with him. The impact sent the detective's gun sliding off into a corner.

Jim risked a quick glance at his partner and saw him nod. "I'm okay. He's got a knife Jim."

With the speed of a cat Ellison was back on his feet and lunging for Riley. He saw the flash of steel as he hurled himself at the man. Jim's hand reached for the wrist as he made contact. He misjudged the blade by a fraction of an inch and felt it slide down the palm of his hand. Warm blood made his hold twice as slippery. Riley wrenched himself from Ellison's grasp and with a wild swing drove the blade into the Sentinel's upper arm. Jim went down on one knee but looked like he was far from being out of the fight. Panicking, Riley searched the room for the detective's gun. This battle was not going as he had planned.

Blair had managed to right himself and saw his kidnapper moving towards Jim's gun. He flung himself forward and was just able to grab Riley's pant leg. The man went down hard, and Sandburg allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his partner stagger to his feet. Blood! His heart cringed at the sight of it. When had Jim been hurt? There was so much of it. But somehow his friend managed to get there just as Riley kicked Blair's arm away. Jim hauled the man to his feet and slammed him into the wall. The small shed shook with the force, but Riley just seemed to shake it off.

Blair realized, with horror, that the other Sentinel could also turn down his pain and take as much abuse as Jim could. But Jim was bleeding and weakening fast. Ignoring the pain, he limped towards the gun, using the wall for support, and picked it up. Turning, he saw Jim being thrown to the ground. Riley knelt over the detective and raised the knife over his head. Ellison's energy was gone, he'd never be able to defend himself.

Blair held the gun in a two handed grip. "Back away from him and put the knife down."

The sneer on the other man's face made Sandburg's blood turn to ice. He wasn't going to put the knife down. "You won't shoot me. You said it yourself. A Guide's role is to guide and protect a Sentinel. I'm a Sentinel. You haven't got the guts."

"That was a private conversation, Riley. It's bad manners to eavesdrop. Now put the knife down!"

Sandburg saw it. The look of resolve. Oh God, he's going to do it! He's going to kill Jim! His finger squeezed around the trigger and he felt the gun jerk in his hand. Five bullets caught Riley high in the chest sending him backwards and away from Ellison. He limped over to the body and looked into those lifeless eyes. Stunned at what he had done, he let the gun fall to the ground.

"You heard it wrong. A Guide's role is to guide and protect his Sentinel." His voice choked. "But I guess you never really got a chance to find that out, did you."

He heard Jim's groan as he pushed himself into a sitting position. "Hey Jim, take it easy. He's gone." He tore a strip of fabric from his shirt. "It's probably not the cleanest, but in a pinch it'll do." He began to wrap his friend's arm. "Everything's going to be okay. I'll call an ambulance, it'll be fine." He finished bandaging the one wound and moved on to Ellison's hand.

"You're rambling, Blair." He reached his good hand up to cradle his partner's neck. "You saved my life." He felt himself sway. "Whoa, I feel a little dizzy Chief."

Sandburg scrambled to sit behind him. "Here lean against me. You've lost a lot of blood Jim, you've got to keep the wounds elevated." Shrugging out of his jacket, he used it to cover his friend. With his free hand he reached for Jim's cell phone and made two quick calls. 911 and one to Simon. He flipped the phone closed and dropped it beside him. "Help's on the way Jim."

"You okay Chief?" He had noticed the blood on Sandburg's leg. The bullet wound must have opened again.

Blair laughed softly "That's a strange question coming from a human pin cushion. I'm fine, Jim." He unconsciously tightened his embrace around his partner. Today had been too close. "Relax, we're both okay."

His eyes strayed to Riley's lifeless body. A life he had ended. He would never had imagined himself capable of killing someone. But he knew if it meant preserving the life cradled in his arms, he would do it again.

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