Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- OWW crossovers

Dash of Conspiracy, Enemies on All Sides
Part Eight
A Sentinel/One West Waikiki crossover
by Becky
March 2000

Several chaotic minutes later, Jim, Simon, and half the PD were on their way to a corporate office building in downtown Cascade. According to public records, Fiona Kellar-Shaw, a very successful executive in the computer industry, was part-owner of the newly finished complex awaiting tenants. In those same records was a note that one floor of the building was currently being leased by The Ennis Foundation. On paper, it was a small medical foundation dedicated to scientific research. In reality, it didn't seem to exist beyond those records and a phone number routed to the 'no longer in service' message. Phone calls to Ms. Kellar-Shaw's office had remained unanswered.

That had been all the evidence the police needed to move, warrant or not.

Malinson had huffed a bit about her partner being the mastermind behind everything, but had shut up after one ice-cold, blue-eyed glare from Jim. Nevertheless, she had demanded to be allowed in on the bust, citing official FBI interest and involvement in the case. Concerned that she might inadvertently alert Shaw, Simon nearly shoved Malinson into his car, then tore off after Jim who led the charge out of the garage, pushing the engine of his truck to its limits.

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

Megan and Blair were speaking in low-pitched voices when Shaw re-entered the room. He watched them a moment, then turned to Cory. "Wait for me by the elevator." The thug nodded once, then left, the sound of his heavy tread disappearing down the hallway to the right.

Shaw walked slowly across the room, idly straightening the cuffs on his sport coat. Megan watched him and took a mental breath, steeling herself for whatever Shaw had planned. Going by the deaths of Pratt and Eagen, it appeared that the man took care of his loose ends permanently. She glanced to the side and met Blair's eyes for a moment, reading in them both fear and courage. He gave her a quick nod, then raised his chin rather defiantly at Shaw.

"So now that you've got your little drug empire packed up, you're running?"

Shaw smiled slowly. "Running?" He shook his head and leaned against the counter opposite them. "I prefer to think of it as a strategic relocation. Nathan Shaw does not 'run'."

Blair snorted. "'Strategic relocation'? Sure sounds like running to me."

Megan narrowed her eyes and leaned slightly forward in her chair, ignoring the painful scratch of the ropes around her wrists. "N.S. Your initials are N.S."

"So they are." Shaw continued to smile, then glanced at his watch.

"Megan?" Blair queried, confused by the non sequitur.

She didn't take her eyes off Shaw as she replied, "Ennis. The name Mack was using for the case. It's not a name at all. It's his initials!"

Shaw applauded politely. "Very good, Inspector. Most impressive, I must say. It did worry me a bit when Wolfe discovered that name, but I'm afraid I was too attached to it to change. And since he didn't appear smart enough to make the connection, I let him live." He pulled a gun from his pocket and pointed it at Megan. "Too bad I can't say the same for you."

Blair flinched once, then forced himself to remain still. "You're just gonna shoot us?"

The fed pursed his lips and studied Blair, then the gun, before shaking his head. "Actually, no, I'm not. Well, to be honest, I hadn't planned on shooting you, at least. But then I wasn't planning to have Inspector Conner join our little party either." He set the gun on the counter and reached into an inner coat pocket. "But plans change. You two can keep each other company on your very short trip." Withdrawing his hand from the coat, he held up a pair of latex gloves and a vial filled with yellow and white powder.

Megan's eyes widened at the sight of the vial. A nearly silent gasp escaped from Blair before he clamped his lips together.

Shaw only smiled and tilted the vial to one side, admiring the powdered mixture. "I see you recognize it. Appropriate, don't you think, Mr. Sandburg? You've had two brushes with a watery grave with David Lash and Ms. Barnes, the second of which was temporarily successful. Seems only fitting that you have a second, permanently successful encounter with Golden." After snapping the gloves into place on his hands, he began to slowly work the stopper from the vial.

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

Jim screeched his truck to a halt at the curb in front of the building, tires bumping slightly against the raised cement. With a Kevlar vest secured across his black T-shirt and radio headset in place, he exited the truck. Taking his gun from its holster, he jogged to the double glass doors and pulled on both handles. Locked. Growling in frustration, he rattled them a few times, then backed up several feet and started scanning the windows of the fifteen-story building, wincing slightly at the glare of the midday sun off the glass. Behind him, he heard other cars enter the lot and park. No sirens had been used since they wanted a silent entry. Officers piled out of their vehicles and awaited orders. Simon's voice echoed over the lot a few moments later, calling out preliminary instructions.

Stretching his sight and hearing further, Jim moved up to the third floor windows, using all his training -- cop, covert ops, and sentinel -- to search for any hint of where his partner was. Or if he was even there.

A familiar hand lightly touched his shoulder and Simon asked quietly, "Anything?" Fiddling with the straps on his own Kevlar vest, the captain stepped up next to him, glancing towards the windows a moment. He pulled his gun from its holster after securing the vest to his satisfaction.

Jim noted with relief that Malinson remained by Simon's car. "Not yet."

"Keep looking."

He nodded and continued to scan, his hand tightening around the grip of his gun, muttering under his breath. "Come on, Sandburg, talk to me." Fourth, fifth. Nothing. "They're here, Simon. I can feel them."

Simon started to say something, but another vehicle pulling into the lot distracted him. He turned as he heard familiar voices arguing with one of his officers. Frowning, he asked, "Jim? Why is Wolfe here?"

Most of his attention concentrated elsewhere, the sentinel answered absently. "I called him on the way over. Thought he'd want to be in on this. It was his case to start with." Sixth floor, seventh floor. Still nothing.

"He brought Dr. Holliday with him." Sighing, Simon waved them both over anyway, acknowledging the rightness of Jim's words.

Jim grunted in acknowledgment. "Figured she'd want to come." Eighth floor, ninth...wait...something... "Simon, I think I just saw something move in that ninth floor window." He pointed, then stared harder, but couldn't catch any other sign.

Simon swung back to face Jim and he squinted up at the window in question. "You sure? I can't see anything from here."

"I think..." Trailing off, Jim focused on the window again and pushed his hearing harder, willing it to work for him, actively searching for a familiar voice.

"...Sandburg, aren't you the least bit curious about my new Golden mixture? Perhaps the 'fire people' will pay you another visit..."

The words brought forth flashes of both memory and new visions.

.... Blair, eyes closed, lays crumpled on the ground with yellow blossoms clinging to his face and hair .... tiny flickering flames dance and crackle in near-laughter .... a gust of wind blows by, clouding the vision with golden-hued pollen ....

The sudden and very loud squawk of a radio sent Jim spiraling back to himself, crying out in pain. "Aah!" He clamped both hands over his ears, nearly dropping his gun in his haste to shut out the painful noise.

"Jim!" Simon's hands steadied him. "Are you all right? What did you hear?"

The sentinel shook himself, then carefully pulled his hands from his ears, still grimacing from the overload. "I heard Shaw. He mentioned Golden." Jim paused, remembering the images, then looked at the captain with anxious eyes. "I think he's planning to use it on them, Simon."

Simon drew in a harsh breath. Before he had time to comment, Mack and Holli joined them just before Brown and Rafe walked up from the opposite direction.

"We've got reports of multiple vehicles in the garage, including a few trucks," Brown quickly rattled off. "Looks like they're ready to move out."

"Any sign of Morgan?" Simon asked.

Rafe shook his head. "Not yet, but his car is parked in the back lot. He's here somewhere."

Simon activated his radio headset. "All right. We've got enough visual confirmation for a go. Teams 1 and 3 move in to the garage. Brown and Rafe will meet you there. Teams 2 and 4 cover the exits. I don't want anyone getting out of here. Ellison and I are going up; Team 5, you fall in behind us. Move out!" He took a step after Jim who was already returning to the front door, then stopped and turned to Mack. "You want in, Wolfe?"

Mack nodded. "Yes, Captain Banks, I do."

"Brown, find this man a vest and gun. He can go with you and Rafe."

"Yes, sir. Come on, Wolfe."

Another quick nod, a shared look with Holli, then Mack hurried off with Brown and Rafe.

Simon looked at Holli as well, who still appeared pale from the drug Morgan had given her. "Dr. Holliday...?"

Holli held up her hands. "Don't worry. I'm staying down here." She gave him a confident nod. "Good luck. Let me know if you need me."

Simon returned the nod and jogged up the short sidewalk to join Jim and other officers at the front door just as one of them broke the glass around the lock. Jim was the first one inside.

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

The stopper of the vial came loose with a tiny pop. Blair flinched involuntarily and Megan glared at Shaw while pulling against the ropes holding her to the chair. "This won't work, Shaw. If we figured it out, so will Ellison."

Shaw set the stopper aside and held up the vial again to examine the contents. After a moment, he lowered the vial and moved his gaze to Megan. "That could happen, Inspector, but I doubt it. I am a careful man."

"Obviously not careful enough," Megan shot back.

Eyes narrowing slightly at the caustic remark, Shaw shoved away from the counter and stepped over to Megan, looming above her. She lifted her head and met his gaze, sunlight from the windows several feet away glinting in her eyes. Shaw grabbed her chin and held it tightly. "I am careful enough to know when it is time to leave and whom to silence before I go. There will be no one left in Cascade who is capable of exposing me." He released her chin with a rough push, then dumped a bit of the powder on a few glove-covered fingers. Wiping those fingers across her cheek, he marked her face with lethal streaks of gold. She tried to shift away but got nowhere.

"Leave her alone!" Blair yanked at the ropes, ignoring the coarseness digging into his wrists. "Hey!"

Shaw pinned him with two cold eyes, then left Megan and walked over to stand in front of Blair. Blair stared back at him, defiance in every feature. Idly, Shaw fiddled with the vial as he calculatingly watched his prisoner. "I do admit to being a bit puzzled by your ability to ID Morgan, Mr. Sandburg."

"Let's just say you weren't careful enough when you chose him."

"You could be right." He looked at his watch again. "Well, looks like our time is up. They should be ready for me downstairs." Shaw began tilting the vial and tapping its side, slowly shaking out the powder which floated down to sprinkle Blair's red shirt.

Blair's jaw clenched as Shaw moved the vial up higher, closer to his face. He jerked his head back as the golden powder drifted past his nose.

"Come now, Mr. Sandburg, aren't you the least bit curious about my new Golden mixture? Perhaps the 'fire people' will pay you another visit. Or maybe you'll see Ms. Barnes this time."

Head turned away, Blair muttered a terse phrase between clenched teeth. "Go to hell."

Shaw only chuckled. "Perhaps. Or perhaps not." He moved over to Megan. "Unfortunately, it will be obvious to even Detective Ellison that yours were no normal OD's, but that can't be helped I'm afraid." Powder floated downward, speckling her navy blue pants as Shaw tapped against the side of the vial.

Glaring at Shaw, Blair said quickly, "Try not to breathe it in, Megan."

Megan struggled with the ropes again, and once again didn't feel them loosen in the slightest. She swore under her breath, muttering a few words that even made Blair blink.

Shaw clucked his tongue reprovingly. "Such language! And here I thought I was doing you a favor by giving you a few extra moments of life." Sighing, he moved closer, letting the powder fall in front of her face. "So if you insist, I'll speed things up a bit."

Leaning back, Megan twisted her face away from the falling golden powder and continued to hound Shaw. "If you know so damn much about Ellison and Sandburg, then you should realize that Jim doesn't take someone messing with his partner or his friends very lightly."

Shaw paused a moment and pursed his lips. "True. But then, he won't know it's me, will he?" Returning to Blair, Shaw poured some of the drug into one gloved hand. He took a deep breath and held the hand, palm up, in front of his face. Realizing what the man planned to do, Blair inhaled sharply and slammed his eyes shut just moments before Shaw blew the golden powder into his face.

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

"This is the Cascade PD!" the bullhorn-enhanced voice boomed into the garage. "You are surrounded!"

Brown and Rafe had led the charge into the underground garage. Mack followed closely behind them, a borrowed gun from the SWAT arsenal in his hands. Taken completely by surprise, those responsible for manufacturing the drug either froze where they were, or ducked for cover behind vehicles, hands covering their heads. The drug distributors and hired muscle who had weapons of their own opened fire on the SWAT teams, erupting the garage into a deafening din of noise as gunfire was exchanged over and between vehicles. At least one suspect tried to escape via one of the trucks, but was stopped when a SWAT officer took out the two front tires.

"Lay down your weapons!"

Finally, those inside the garage were overpowered and the SWAT teams moved in to disarm and arrest the suspects.

Rafe stopped behind one of the vans and peered through the open doors at the cartons stacked inside. Reaching in, he pulled a box over and opened the flaps. "Well, well, well, look H..." He lifted out a packet of white powder and showed it to Brown who had joined him behind the van. "I think we've hit the motherlode."

Brown nodded and gripped his gun as he glanced around the garage. "Have you seen Morgan yet?"

"No, I haven't. You think he got away?" Rafe set the drug packet back in the box.

"No way. We've got this place sealed."

Mack jogged around the other side of the van and pointed further into the garage, near the rear freight elevator. "Has anyone checked out that big black van back there? I think I saw someone duck inside just as the shooting started."

Brown shook his head. "Don't know if anyone has or not. Let's go take a look."

The three men strode quickly towards the van, weaving around the twenty-odd suspects and various officers. As the three rounded the back of the large vehicle, they heard someone moving inside.

With a grim smile, Brown nodded once and mouthed 'on three' to the other two men. He counted silently and on the third finger tore open the door. All three men held their guns on the lone man inside. Caught with only a cellphone held to one ear, Jake Morgan froze and stared wide-eyed at them. A gun sat on the floor of the van a few feet away and his eyes flickered to it briefly.

Mack took a step closer, holding his gun up a little higher. "Go ahead and try it. You'd make my day."

Wisely, Morgan decided instead to slowly lift his hands in the air, the cellphone crashing forgotten onto the metal floor with a clatter. A ringing could be heard on the opposite end of the line before it cut off.

"Calling your boss? Too late." Brown gestured with his gun. "Jake Morgan, you are under arrest for drug trafficking, assaulting two law enforcement officers, namely Cassie Welles and Dawn Holliday, possible accessory to murder, aiding and abetting, obstruction of justice, and whatever else we can dig up."

Rafe stepped inside, his gun still pointed at Morgan, grabbed one of his arms, and tugged him back out onto the pavement. Then Brown kept his gun trained on Morgan while Rafe quickly handcuffed him. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney..."

After he finished, Brown leaned in closer and hissed: "You'd better be glad we can't add treason to the list of charges, Dr. Morgan. We don't take kindly to being two-timed."

Mack chuckled low and dangerously in his throat. "I hear they have a nice penalty for treason. Or used to at least."

Morgan swallowed. "I..." He stuttered to a stop under the dark glares of the three men.

Growling, Brown shoved him away. "Move it. You don't have anything to say that I want to hear."

Rafe clapped one hand down on Morgan's shoulder. "Not so hot anymore, are you? Just wait until Dan gets to see you." He turned and pushed Morgan in front of him as they walked back to the front of the garage.

Brown pressed on his radio headset as he walked. "Garage secure, Captain. Morgan is in custody."

There was a long pause, then Simon finally replied with a terse "Good. Stay on top of things down there. Out."

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

Simon kept pace with Jim as they ascended the stairs to the ninth floor at a run. Several other officers followed only a few steps behind. The captain said quietly, "Can you still hear them, Jim?"

The sentinel nodded once, lips in a firm line. "Yes."

"...he won't know it's me, will he?"

Shaw's smug tone echoed in Jim's ears as they passed the eighth floor landing. His jaw tightened as he contemplated a few things he'd like to show the good Agent Shaw when he got his hands on him. A second later, he heard the distant ringing of a cellphone in the same room which was followed immediately by Megan's angry yell.

"No!"

Having turned up his hearing to eavesdrop on the phone call, Megan's shout caught him off-guard and he stumbled, hand grasping the railing of the stairwell. Simon grabbed his arm, calling his name in an urgent tone. "Ellison! Jim!" Behind them, the other officers came to a halt as well, exchanging puzzled glances but waiting for orders.

The captain's voice was lost in a whirling maelstrom of sound as Jim's control faltered and spun away. A jarring fuzz of static on the radio link preceded Brown's report of securing the garage and Morgan. By now, Jim's focus was destroyed and his contact with above lost; he angrily ripped away the headset, uncaring as it dangled from his Kevlar vest.

Simon gripped his arm more tightly. "Jim! What is it?"

The detective didn't even look at him before he tore away, taking the remaining stairs to the ninth floor two and three at a time. Simon yelled after him, realizing belatedly that the sentinel must've heard something he didn't like. "Jim! Jim!" Not getting a response, he growled to himself, then hurriedly answered Brown's report.

"Good. Stay on top of things down there. Out."

Above, he heard the opening and closing of a stairwell door. Waving a hand to the other officers, Simon gestured for them to follow as he quickly made his way up the stairs. "Come on!"

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

~ring~

"No!"

Megan's shouted protest did nothing to stop Shaw. She could only watch in horror and fear as the golden powder settled on Blair's face, painting it with a light coating of yellow speckles. So intent was she on Blair -- who was stoically holding his breath -- that she nearly missed the ringing of the cellphone. Shaw's muttered grumbling about bad timing dragged her attention away from Blair in time to see Shaw debating how to juggle the vial and manage to get his cellphone at the same time. Before he had a chance to decide, the ringing abruptly cut off.

Shaw frowned. Megan took a sudden breath and glanced towards the doorway, hoping she would see Cascade's finest barreling in at any moment. When nothing happened, she returned her eyes to Blair, wondering just how long he could hold his breath. Leaning slightly towards him and wishing she were a little closer, Megan whispered, "Hold on, Sandy. Jim's not gonna let us down."

A second later, her words proved wonderfully accurate as a door slammed open somewhere in the hallway, and pounding footsteps heralded the Jim's entrance into the nearly empty laboratory from the left side of the door. Megan let out a grateful sigh of relief. Several moments passed and more footsteps, followed by Simon's loud voice calling out "Cascade PD!", echoed outside the room. A quick exchange of gunfire ensued as Cory -- Megan assumed -- coming from the opposite direction had met up with the SWAT officers in the hall.

Shaw straightened just a bit, glaring at Jim. "Ellison." He held the vial up and shifted towards Megan.

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

Heart pounding with adrenaline and fear for his partner, Jim stalked into the room, holding his gun on Shaw and eyeing the vial in the fed's hand warily. "Put it down." He glanced quickly at Blair and Megan, noting immediately Megan's rising panic and Blair's tightly closed eyes -- and the fact that his partner wasn't breathing. Jim's nose reported in, informing him of the Golden powder that dusted his partner's face.

"You were not supposed to be here, Ellison." The fed's face flushed an angry red.

"Life's tough." Jim moved closer to Shaw. "Nathan Shaw, you are under arrest. Move away from them and put it down!"

Shaw inched closer to Megan, the vial tilting precariously.

Jim fired once, hitting the fed in the upper arm -- opposite of the hand in which he held the drug. Shaw crumpled to the floor, the vial falling and spilling harmlessly on the tiles. Jim took one step towards the downed man, but Simon and two other officers were suddenly inside the room and moving past him, guns at the ready.

Simon unnecessarily pushed Jim towards Blair. "Take care of Sandburg. We'll handle Shaw."

Jim holstered his gun and crouched in front of Blair, swiftly tugging the front of Blair's shirt up to begin using the cleaner inner lining to wipe away the toxic crystals surrounding his partner's nose and mouth. He spoke softly, reassuringly. "Hold on, Chief."

Blair shifted once in his chair, but kept his lips pressed tightly together. His heartbeat resounded loudly in Jim's sensitive ears as the younger man fought against the urge and need to breathe. Behind him, Jim heard Shaw gasp painfully as the officers quickly treated his wound, then cuffed him before hauling him up to take him downstairs.

Shaw panted as he spoke. "It seems that I...underestimated you, Detective. I'll do better...next time."

The captain glared at the fed while directing his words to the two officers. "Get him out of here. Have someone look at his arm, but keep an eye on him at all times." The officers nodded and disappeared out the door with the prisoner.

One eye on Jim and Blair, Simon holstered his gun and moved behind Megan to untie the ropes around her wrists. "Conner? You okay?"

"Yes, sir, for the most part."

"What happened?"

Her own eyes fixed on Blair, Megan replied, "Just before you got here, Shaw blew a handful of that drug into Sandy's face -- bugger!" She inhaled sharply as her arms were released. Pain spiked along her muscles as she pulled them forward slowly, rubbing her sore and scratched wrists.

Simon swore and moved around to work on Blair's ropes.

Just as Blair began to slump from a lack of oxygen, Jim wiped the last of the dust from around his nose and mouth. "Breathe!" he yelled to his partner, grasping his shoulders to keep him from falling.

Blair gasped in one harsh breath, then another, panting a little. "Oh god oh god oh god." At the same time, Simon managed to get the ropes loose, and Blair made a pained sound as he carefully pulled his arms around to lay loosely in his lap. The shift in balance added to the lightheadedness made him tilt precariously. Jim tightened his hold as the younger man collapsed forward, nearly sliding off the chair. Shifting to kneel rather than crouch, Jim wrapped strong arms around Blair, one hand on his back, the other cupping the back of his head.

"Deep breaths, buddy. That's it. Another." Ignoring the yellow powder that rubbed onto his Kevlar vest from the contact, he smoothed his hand over Blair's back, feeling tiny tremors as the oxygen in his lungs was replenished. "You doing okay here, Chief?"

Blair nodded once against his chest, then slowly pushed himself upright. Jim kept his hands on Blair's shoulders, supporting him, guiding him. "Oh, man, that sucked." One hand twitched upward to his closed eyes, but Jim caught it.

"Hold on, Chief. Let me find a better way to get the rest of that stuff off." He patted down his pockets, then looked at the captain. "Do you have a handkerchief on you, Simon?"

Simon nodded and pulled a folded handkerchief from his back pocket. "Here." Jim took it and straightened, heading over to a nearby sink to dampen the cloth.

Still seated in the other chair, Megan shifted and laid a hand on Blair's knee. "You okay, Sandy?"

Blair nodded, his breathing settling slowly back to normal. "Yeah. I think so." Clumsily, he moved one hand to rest on hers. "Thanks."

Simon touched Blair's shoulder briefly from behind. "Did you get any of that drug in you, Sandburg?"

Hesitating, Blair shrugged slightly. "I don't know, Simon. I mean, my nerves are doing a marathon run right now, so it's a little hard to tell." He laughed nervously.

Jim returned and tilted the younger man's face up with one hand. "I'm gonna do a little face washing here, Sandburg. You ready?"

"More than ready. Just be careful."

Realizing that Blair was talking about his previous reaction to Golden, Jim nodded. "I will." With careful concentration and sentinel sight and touch, Jim wiped the handkerchief over Blair's face, taking special care around the eyes. When he was satisfied, he handed the handkerchief off to Megan to clean the smear of Golden on her face away. Jim released Blair's chin, then touched his hand to his partner's cheek. "Okay, Chief. Safe to open your eyes."

For a few long moments, Blair didn't move, then slowly he opened his eyes, blinking a few times. Jim waited, body tense, as Blair swallowed hard.

"Blair?" A dozen questions lay unspoken in that simple word.

Blowing out a rough breath, Blair shuddered once, then covered his face with his hands. "Nothing's yellow. I'm okay." He repeated the second sentence several times, assuring himself, Jim, or maybe just the world in general. Another bolt of delayed panic shook him and he said it again, with more conviction. "I'm okay."

Simon closed his eyes in silent thankfulness and Megan squeezed Blair's knee a little harder. Jim crouched before him again, curling his hands around Blair's wrists and rubbing his thumbs over the back of Blair's hands.

"Yes. You're okay." He leaned in, resting his forehead against Blair's, breathing carefully so he wouldn't inhale any stray Golden. "You're just fine."

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

Simon and Megan watched for a moment, then Simon touched Megan's arm and pointed to the door. "Let's, uh, go have a look at those scrapes." She nodded and rose from the chair, following Simon from the room to allow the sentinel and guide a few moments of quiet before things got hectic again.

Simon pulled the door closed behind them and signaled over one of the uniformed officers. "Rodriguez. No one is to go inside until Ellison says it's okay."

The young officer nodded in understanding and stood at attention in front of the door.

As Simon and Megan started toward the elevator, Rodriguez' hesitant voice stopped them.

"Captain Banks?"

He turned slightly and responded. "Yes?"

"Is Sandburg...okay?" His eyes darted over his shoulder at the door, then back to the captain.

A quiet smile formed on Simon's face and he nodded. "Yes, he's okay."

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

Inside the room, Jim heard the door close and sent a whispered 'thanks' in Simon's direction. He waited a few extra moments, then drew back from Blair. Carefully tugging on the abraded wrists, he pulled Blair's hands away from his face. Two semi-dazed eyes met his and they exchanged quiet smiles.

"Chief? Did you get any of that drug in you?"

Blair's eyes flickered to the broken vial laying several feet away on the tile floor, then refocused on Jim. "I don't...I don't think so."

"Are you...still not seeing anything?"

He shook his head. "Yes. No. Not really. Well, maybe a weird haze, but I think that's more from oxygen deprivation. And I feel kinda strange. Twitchy. But like I told Simon, my nerves are just bouncing all over the place. Lots of adrenaline." Pausing to take a breath, he blinked and swallowed, then looked around the room. "Where're Megan and Simon?"

Jim inclined his head towards the door. "They left to go back downstairs. Which is where we need to go if you think you're ready."

"Yeah. Okay. Um...give me a hand up. I'm not sure how steady my legs are gonna be." Blair laughed a little. "And I really don't want to end up falling on my face."

Chuckling, Jim stood and pulled his partner up in one smooth motion. Blair wavered for a few moments, his hand going to his head. "Oh, man...head rush."

Jim casually draped an arm over his shoulders. "That okay?" Receiving a quick nod, the sentinel pulled him closer for a moment, tilting his head downward. "Good boy."

Blair swatted Jim's chest. "If you pat me on the head, Ellison, I'll be forced to hurt you."

Grinning, Jim led them out of the room, nodding once at Rodriguez as they paused in the hallway. "Room's ready to be checked. Shaw dropped a vial of whatever drug concoction he'd created on the floor. Warn Forensics when they get here."

"Yes, sir, Detective Ellison." A pause, then, "I'm glad you're okay, Sandburg."

Blair gave him a smile. "Thanks."

Jim's smile got a little wider and he tapped Rodriguez on the shoulder before he and Blair headed down the hallway to the elevator. The doors opened as they approached and Forensics officers poured out. Once the car was empty, the two men entered; Jim kept his hand resting firmly on Blair's back before easing up to his shoulders again just as the doors slid closed.

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

"...So his wife didn't know a thing about it?" Holli's voice was incredulous.

"Not a thing." Blair emphasized the words with a gesture in the air, his arms unimpeded by the bandages around the rope burns on his wrists. Digging his bare toes into the sand at the end of the beach towel, he squinted up into the warm afternoon sunlight. "I guess they had some kind of 'don't ask, don't tell' kinda marriage. Really strange, if you ask me."

Holli shook her head and leaned back to rest on her elbows, her mesh cover-up falling open to reveal the white swimsuit underneath. "I'd have to agree with you there."

In silence, they watched a volleyball game being played several feet away, the four players yelling and laughing in equal measure as the ball bounced back and forth over the net. Three were men, dressed in varying colors of swim trunks and tank tops. The fourth was a woman in a one-piece swimsuit, with her long hair tied back into a ponytail. Around them, the afternoon sun shone brightly, pleasantly warming the sand and the air.

Blair curled his legs underneath him and looked down, picking at a loose thread on the seam of his green shorts. "The real loser in this was their daughter. I cannot believe Shaw had his own daughter killed."

"I know. Jim told me what he'd pieced together from Potts' story and what little Shaw told them before the feds showed up -- that she'd somehow stumbled onto their operation. Shaw had Potts watching her and when she threatened to tell the police, he made her disappear along with the entire set-up in Hawaii. Potts came to Cascade with Annalisa and kept her a prisoner." Holli sighed. "Shaw wasn't ready yet to kill her, but then...when she'd found out he was in Cascade..."

Blair picked up the story. "Yeah, she gave Potts the slip and tried to get to the cops. It was sheer bad luck that she ran into Morgan first. And when Morgan found out who she was, he told Shaw who then had Morgan do his dirty work for him when he forced that drug on her. Just like he had Morgan kill Eagen after he missed me with that car. And Pratt, too." Blair shook his head and stared at the waves out beyond the volleyball players. "It's almost too much to take in..." His voice trailed off.

Holli sat up and touched his arm. "Are you okay, Blair? I mean, it was only yesterday that..."

Blair shook himself and smiled at her. "Yeah. I'm okay. Well, mostly okay." He fingered the bandage around one wrist. "These things are annoying as hell. But I didn't really get any of the drug in me. I had just reacted to the thought of it." Holli didn't look convinced and Blair chuckled. "Don't worry. I'm fine. Jim wouldn't've let me out of the apartment otherwise. That man hovers like you wouldn't believe!"

Holli laughed out loud at the indignation in Blair's voice, amused at the image it brought to mind, but she also heard the affection and thankfulness behind it. Relaxing back onto her towel, she let her hat cover her face as she asked, "So, what happened to the winning dinner from the surfing bet?"

"Megan reminded Jim about it as soon as we arrived today. Rather smugly too. They're still debating what day it's gonna be." He paused, then grinned. "They're also debating if it was really fair for Megan to agree to the bet without letting Jim know about her 'shady surfing past' as he calls it."

Holli chuckled, then pushed the hat back to squint at Blair. "Oh, remind me before we leave that I have that book from Nui in the car. If I get all the way back to Waikiki with it, Nui will never forgive me."

Before Blair could say anything, a voice called out to them from the direction of the volleyball game. "Hey, you two! Are you gonna play or what?" Holli and Blair looked at the players, then at each other, eyebrows raised as they tried to decide if the voice belonged to Jim or Mack.

"Sandburg, get your lazy butt down here!"

Blair chortled. "Definitely Jim."

"Yeah, Doc, get a move on. Megan's tired of being the only one hooted at." A tiny pause followed by Mack's voice again: "Ouch! You didn't have to pinch me so hard. I've got tender flesh down there..."

Holli burst into laughter again. "Definitely Mack."

"No doubt about it. Jim's not that crazy." Blair pushed himself to his feet, then wiped his hand over his blue T-shirt before holding a hand out for Holli. She took his hand and let him pull her easily to her feet. Offering an arm this time, he smiled. "Shall we?"

Inclining her head, she laced her arm through his and together they strolled down to the game pit where Jim and Simon were taking a water break and watching with tolerant amusement as Megan, in the same one-piece maroon swimsuit from two days earlier, slowly poked and prodded Mack out of the volleyball area. "Hooted at...I'll give you hooted at, Wolf-boy."

Both of Holli's eyebrows went up in surprise as they stopped next to the net. "Wolf-boy?"

Mack laughed, dancing away from Megan's pinching fingers as they edged closer to his purple trunks again. "Uh...never mind, Doc. Not something you want to know about."

"Hmm...I don't know, Mack. Sounds like it might be important to me." She bit down on the silly grin that wanted to escape.

Megan poked Mack one last time, laughing when he yelped and moved away faster. "Men."

Blair protested. "Hey!"

Megan smiled at him. "Present company excepted, Sandy."

Jim and Simon returned to the sand court. Jim scooped up the volleyball and threw it their way. Blair caught it reflexively, then glanced back at them. He was still surprised that Simon had agreed to join them at the beach that morning. But then, seeing a few women watching the game -- including one very smugly smiling Amy who was eyeing the big man in his tank top and shorts rather appreciatively -- Blair had to wonder if a little 'manly showing off' hadn't been the deciding factor. Biting down on a laugh, Blair looked at the captain as he spoke.

Simon grinned. "Since you've been 'excepted', Sandburg, you get to play on the girls' side."

"Come on, Mack, let's show them how to play the game." Jim grinned rather evilly. He high-fived Mack, then Simon, and the three of them settled into their places on the other side of the net.

Blair exchanged a quick glance with Holli and Megan, then spun the ball a few times. "Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you, Ellison."

Jim snorted but didn't respond, just let his smirk grow wider.

Hiding his own grin, Blair turned and took a few steps back into the service area. Holli took off her cover-up and dropped it at the side of the court, then she and Megan quickly fell into position. Blair spun the ball a few more times, getting the feel of its weight. Satisfied, he held the ball low, crouching just a bit. "You ready over there, guys? I don't want you to say we won unfairly."

"Tough talk, Sandburg. You're gonna lose. Big time." Jim hunched down a little, tugging on the ends of his shorts to get comfortable as he waited for the serve.

"Prepare to eat those words, Ellison!" Blair tossed the ball high into the air. "Service!"

- The End -