Familiar Stranger

(Part Six)

"What's happened, Jimmy?" his father asked, watching nervously as he hung up the phone.

"We've got a break in the case. I need to go down to the station and fill Simon in," he explained as he ogged upstairs to get his wallet and a few other things he would need.

On his way back down, his father said, "I'll come with you."

Jim shook his head. "No, Dad. I don't want you in the middle of this. It could get dangerous."


"Please. I don't want anything to happen to you like it did the last time. It'll be easier for me to concentrate if I know that you and Blair are both safe. Okay?"

His father looked reluctant, but said, "I guess. If that's what you think is best."

He put a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks, Dad. I appreciate your help today. Hopefully, it will all be over soon."

"I'll try calling Stephen again. I couldn't get through to him in Hong Kong before. At least, now I'll have some good news to tell him."

"I'll be back as soon as I can."

"Be careful, Jimmy."

He nodded, picked up his jacket and headed for the elevator. On the way down, he could hear the heart beats and restless noise of the crowd waiting for him outside. And yet, even though he was forewarned, he still wasn't prepared for the blinding glare of camera flashes and the explosion of questions that hit him as he opened the door and stepped out of the safety of his building. Detective Ellison, do you have any comment on the charges made against you? Is it true that these crimes were your way of getting back at your former partner Blair Sandburg? Does this have anything to do with the way gay police officers are treated on the Cascade P.D.? The roar of so many voices asking so many painful questions felt like an assault, and he winced in pain.

He pushed his way roughly through the crowd to his truck and hopped inside. They pressed up against the truck windows and continued to pound away at him with questions. He hurriedly started the engine and started to drive off, blowing his horn insistently until the reporters and curiosity-seekers scattered. His head pounded, and he felt decidedly sick. But this will all be over soon, he told himself. I just have to bust this prick and clear my name. And then Blair can come home.

Miraculously enough, there was no press waiting to ambush him at the station. He supposed that they had presumed he would be persona non grata among his colleagues. Or Perhaps they simply thought he wouldn't have the guts to show up at the precinct. Whatever the reason, he was grateful for the break.

He parked and dashed inside, hoping nobody would spot him so he wouldn't have to face the press hounding him on the way out. He took the elevator up to the third floor. As he got off, everyone in the hallway stopped to stare. He could hear the whispering. What is he doing here? But he ignored them. He had more important things to take care of, and he made a beeline for Major Crimes.

When he came through the door, Simon and Taggart were gathered around Brown's desk, the three of them deep in conversation.

Simon glared at him. "Just what the hell do you think you're doing here? I already told you--"

"It's a cop, Simon," he blurted out.


"Has to be. The gossip around the station. That's how he knows so much about me."

"Don't you think that's going out on a limb a little?" Simon asked, keeping his voice professionally neutral.

But Jim could read his expression without difficulty. It said: Don't you think that's pretty low, looking to pin this on one of your fellow officers just so you can squirm your way free of all this?

He kept his temper anyway.

"Blair said--" he started to explain.

"Blair, what?"

"I know. I told him not to use the cell phone again. But this was important. He found out--"

"Cell phone?" Simon's voice rose angrily. "I searched his bag myself."

"And he outsmarted you," Jim said. "Can I tell you what he figured out, please?"

Simon waved his hand in surrender.

"He thinks the perp struck before, in Spokane and Seattle."

"But the MOs--"

"Don't match. Yeah, that's what I told him. But according to Blair's profile, the perp gets his MO from whomever he's imitating. When he was trying to be me, he used my knife. But if he was looking to somebody else--"

"--then the MO would be different. So how does Sandburg know these attacks are by the same perp?"

"He found another article on a gay-- On a Spokane cop who was getting a lot of press. It was right about the same time that the attacks began. He thinks the two are related."

"And this guy targeted you because of the Sentinel thing?" Taggart asked.

"That's what we think," Jim said. He turned to Simon. "Can we check the personnel records?"

Simon hesitated a moment, but then he nodded. "My office," he said. "I'm the only one with clearance, and we need to keep this under wraps. Those records are private."

The four of them filed into Simon's office. The captain sat down at the computer and accessed the personnel files.

"Can you do a search?" Jim asked. "Cops hired within the last six months who previously worked at the Spokane and Seattle PDs."

"I just have to figure out how to work this thing." Simon frowned at the monitor. "I think this will give us what we want."

He typed the information into the search fields and hit enter. The hard drive ground and spun while the computer executed the search. When it was finished, the list had only one name on it.

"Walters," Jim and Simon said in unison.

"He started just about the same time Blair would have if he'd finished up at the academy," Simon added.

"Probably no coincidence," Jim said.

Simon shook his head. "Probably not. According to this, he left Seattle PD about six months ago. The same time that the whole Sentinel thing went public. There's a break in his employment history after he left Seattle. The reason he gave was that he'd taken off time to care for a sick parent here in Cascade."

"Fucker!" Jim cursed. "He was just biding his time, waiting for a slot to open up in Major Crimes."

Simon nodded. "And using the time to research you and Sandburg."

"Walters, huh?" Brown said, frowning in concentration, as if he was trying to put something together. And then his eyes went wide. "Uh-oh."

"What?" Jim asked.

"Your keys," Brown said.

"What about Jim's keys?" Simon asked.

"The Henderson bust," Brown explained. "Jim, you went tumbling down that embankment after the perp, and all the stuff went flying out of your pockets. You hit your head and dislocated your shoulder."

Jim scowled. "I had to spend the night in the hospital. That sucked."

"After they took you in the ambulance, we picked up the stuff you'd lost," Brown said. "I distinctly remember that Walters had your keys. He said he'd take them right over to you at the hospital."

"But he didn't," Taggart interjected. "I was out on another call. When I found out you'd been hurt and they were keeping you overnight, I came over to the hospital to see you. Remember? I took pity on your having to eat the hospital food. Brought you some lasagna from Tino's and--"

"My keys."

"I ran into Walters on my way out," Taggart explained. "He said he'd recovered your keys at the scene, but he hadn't had time to run them over to you. Asked if I minded doing it. That was several hours after the bust."

"Plenty of time to make copies," Brown noted.

Taggart nodded. "I never put two and two together before now. Sorry, Jim."

"Yeah, man," Brown said. "We should have realized something was off with that guy."

Jim shook his head. "It's not like I suspected him, either. In fact, I always thought--" And then he froze. "Shit! Sandburg. Walters--"

"Is off duty right now," Simon said. "Blair's with Rafe and Megan. They'll protect him."

"We have to let them know it's Walters," Jim said, his voice urgent.

Simon was already dialing. Jim could hear the phone ringing on the other end, but no one picked up. Simon hung up and dialed Megan's cell phone and then Rafe's. There was still no answer.

"Call Sandburg's phone," Jim instructed.

But Blair didn't pick up, either.

"Shit!" Jim cursed loudly.

"I want everyone in vests," Simon said, standing up from behind his desk. "We need uniforms backing us up. Get Benson and Peters in on this, too. Let's roll, people."

"Simon, I want to--" Jim started to beg.

"You're reinstated, Ellison," Simon told him. "Let's go."

Blair hung up the phone with Jim and made a few more notations in his profile. He stretched his arms over his head and popped his vertebrae. Guess it's time to go make nice. He saved the profile and shut down the computer. How am I going to explain to them about calling Jim? he wondered. He slid over to the edge of the bed and stood up. Oh, what the hell? I'm a civilian. What exactly can they do to me?

He opened his bedroom door and went out into the hall. "Hey, Rafe? Megan?"

They didn't answer. In fact, the whole house was still and silent.

"You guys?" he called again, a little more nervously.

He padded cautiously down the hall to the livingroom and peered around the corner. He breathed a deep sigh of relief. Megan and Rafe were there, with the remains of the pizza on the coffee table. They were both sound asleep on the sofa, snoring rather noisily.

"You should have gotten the vegetarian special," he told them. "All that grease from the pepperoni is enough to put anyone into a coma."

But the sound of his voice didn't waken them.

"Guys? Megan?" He walked over to her and gently touched her shoulder. When she didn't open her eyes, he shook her more urgently. "Hey. Wake up."

Then he tried Rafe. "Hey, man. Get up!"

Neither of them awakened.

"They can't hear you," a voice said from behind him.

He whirled around. "What the hell?!"

Detective Walters stood in the middle of the room, holding his gun, pointing it at him. "They're very tired, Chief. We should let them rest."

"What the fuck did you do to them?"

The other man shook his head. "Nothing permanent. I just had to put them out of commission for a little while. They were standing between us. I couldn't have that."

"Look, man, I don't know what you want--"

The detective took a step forward. "Don't you, Chief?" he asked. "I think you do."

Blair backed up. "Quit calling me that."

"But you like it when HE says it. I've seen you. Studied you. How your eyes get all wide and bright, and you look up at HIM like he's everything. I need someone to look at me like that. And you'll learn. You'll start seeing my like that after we get to know each other. Everything will be different once you're mine. You'll give me what you gave him, and I'll finally be okay."

"Look, man, why don't we sit down and talk about this, huh? Why don't you tell me what happened, who hurt you. I'm a really good listener. Honestly."

Walters shook his head. "Uh-uh, I don't think so, Chief. I've heard all about you down at the station. Hairboy could talk the devil out of stealing souls. It's not gonna work on me. You have what I need, and I'm going to take it, the hard way or the easy way it's up to you."

Blair swallowed hard, the fear and the bile bitter in his throat. "Easy," he finally said, his voice cracking. "I want it easy."

Walters smiled. "They all said you were smart."

"What do you want me to do?" Blair asked, getting more scared by the minute, trying to posture, to hide his fear.

"Just stand there," Walters told him.


He stopped backing up. Walters approached him. He could feel himself shaking. Walters pressed right up against him and touched his hair.
"That's right. That's good. So sweet. So submissive. You're just what I need, Chief."

Walters tipped his head back and kissed him, forcing his lips open, demanding entry. Blair didn't fight it. He let him into his mouth, let the man stroke their tongues together. He could feel the other man's breath in his mouth. He tried not to gag.

"You taste so good, Chief," Walters murmured into his mouth.

The detective pulled him closer, wrapped an arm around his waist and kissed him more fiercely, half suffocating him. Blair waited until he felt the man's gun hand go slack. Then he bit down hard on his lip, drawing blood.

"Agh!" the man yelled.

While he was off balance, Blair lunged for the gun. He could feel the cool metal beneath his fingers. He curled his hand around it and held on tight, struggling to take it from the deranged man and keep it pointed away from him.

"Fucking bitch!" Walters screamed.

They both battled for the gun with deadly seriousness. Blair tried to knee him in the groin, but Walters twisted away in time. He hit his hip instead, doing no real damage.

"You little whore," Walters cursed him. "I'll show you what you get when you fuck with me." He punctuated the threat with a vicious upper cut that sent Blair staggering backwards.

Walters grabbed him by the neck of his shirt, half choking him, and swung him around. He struck him again across the face, and Blair crumpled to the ground, landing on his back. Walters jumped on top of him. Blair struggled violently, but Walters straddled him, trapping him with his weight. He could feel the man's hard on, hot and straining, pressed against his hip.

"You just had to go and do that, didn't you, Jeffrey? You couldn't leave well enough alone, could you? You couldn't just do what you were told!" he screamed.

"Please," Blair said. "I'm not Jeffrey. I don't even know who Jeffrey is. Please let me go."

But Walters' eyes were wild and unresponsive, as if he hadn't even heard Blair speak.

"You're such a disloyal little slut," the man said, with disgust. "Why did you make me do it? Why couldn't you just have been good, like you were supposed to be?"

"I'll be good now," Blair begged desperately. "I promise."

Walters shook his head, his face red and blotchy with rage. "Too late," he hissed. "Now I have to show you who's boss. I have to make you be good. That'll fix it. It's the only way. The only thing that will make it better."


The last thing Blair saw was Walters raising the hand that held the gun.

Jim floored the accelerator and sped down the street like some kind of deranged grand prix circuit driver. He could hear the sirens of the other cars responding to the call. He just prayed to God they were in time.

He rounded the corner onto Elm and screeched to a halt outside the address Simon had given him. He jumped out of the truck. The front door of the house was standing wide open. His heart started to pound in his chest as he ran up the sidewalk. He heard the cars of the other cops pulling up to the curb, the doors slamming shut as they got out, the heavy fall of their feet as they ran up the lawn behind him.

He raced into the foyer. There were soft groans coming from inside. He dashed down the hall to the livingroom.

"God," Rafe said softly, trying to sit up on the sofa, one hand clutching his head.

Megan lay passed out beside him. There was fresh blood, vivid and copious, staining the pale carpet. His senses told him that it was Blair's blood.

"Rafe!" Jim put a hand on his shoulder. "What the hell happened? Where's Sandburg?"

Rafe looked at him bleary-eyed. "Jim?"

Simon and Brown hurried to Megan's side. Taggart called for an ambulance.

"She's breathing," Simon said.

"Thank God," Henri said.

"What happened here, Rafe?" Jim asked again, more panicked. "Where's Sandburg?"

"Maybe he's in one of the back bedrooms," Simon suggested.

Jim shook his head. "There's nobody here but us. And his blood--"

"We don't know--" Simon started to reassure him.

"Sandburg's gone?" Rafe asked, looking around wildly.

Jim grabbed him urgently by the shoulders. "Come on, man. I need you to tell me what you remember."

"Take it easy, Jim. Give him a chance," Brown said. And then he turned to Rafe. "Hey, partner. What happened here?"

Rafe rubbed his hands over his face and then he frowned in concentration. "Coffee."

"Huh?" Brown said.

"That's the last thing I remember. Walters brought us coffee. Said guard duty could get so boring. It would help us stay awake."

"That fucker," Jim muttered. "Where's the cup?" he asked.

Rafe pointed.

Jim went into the kitchen and found two styrofoam cups sitting on the counter. He sniffed one gingerly.

"What is it?" Simon asked, standing in the doorframe.


"The date rape drug. Figures." Simon shook his head with disgust. "I can't believe this bastard was under our noses the whole time. Hell, he worked some of the scenes. God knows what he concealed or destroyed."

"And now he's got Sandburg," Jim said, painfully.

"We'll find him."

"How? God only knows where Walters took him. Rohypnol induces memory loss. Even if Megan or Rafe did witness something, there isn't a chance in hell they'll remember it."

"We're just going to have to figure it out for ourselves," Simon said. "Think, Jim. What did Sandburg say about this guy?"

"Wait," Jim said. "His lap top. He had it with him. It has his profile on it."

"It's worth a shot."

He and Simon hurried down the hallway to the bedroom where Blair's stuff was lying scattered on the bed. Jim opened the computer and turned it on. He found the document and pulled it up. He quickly scanned the file, while Simon read over his shoulder.

"The more desperate he gets, the more frantic he becomes to be like Jim, to take what's his," Jim read aloud. "He said that to me on the phone," he told Simon.

"We already know that's why he took Blair."

Jim straightened up. "Oh, shit!"


"He saw us the other day, me and Blair, together. Blair said envy was something that really drives this guy."


"The loft. That's where he's taken Blair. He's going to-- in my home, in my bed. And fuck! I left my father there."


But he didn't wait to hear the rest of it. He ran.

Blair's head hurt like it had never hurt before. Walters had hit him with the butt of his gun hard enough to knock him out. As he regained his senses, he realized that he was slumped against the passenger side window of Walters' car. He tried to focus his vision, but his eyes wouldn't clear. The world kept spinning. The sharp metal of the handcuff bit into his wrist. Walters had put it on so tightly that it had broken the skin. He could feel the moist slipperiness of his own blood. Dizzily, he watched the blocks fly past him in a blur. Freedom was so close, just on the other side of the glass. But Walters was no idiot. He'd secured the other handcuff to the door handle. Blair was truly trapped.

After a while, the route Walters was taking started to look familiar. It was the way to the loft.

"Why?" he tried to ask, but the words came out garbled and slurred, not even sounding like language, much less English.

"Don't worry, Chief. It'll just be a few more minutes, and then we can be together."

Walters turned onto Prospect and pulled up in front of the loft, parking in the spot that was usually Jim's. He got out of the car, walked around to the passenger side, opened the door and undid the cuffs.

"Let's go," he ordered, pointing the gun.

Blair slid out of the seat and onto his feet, but his knees buckled under his own weight. His head reeled.

"Don't try anything stupid," Walters warned him. "You attract anyone's attention, I'll kill 'em."

The man grabbed him by the collar and started dragging him, the gun hidden between them, pressed into his ribs. Blair closed his eyes and concentrated on keeping on his feet. Walters pulled something out of his pocket. From the jingling, Blair knew they must be Jim's keys. The man unlocked the door and pulled him inside.

Thankfully, there was no one in the vestibule. The elevator was waiting, and they went inside and up to the loft. Walters wrapped an arm around his waist and guided him to the door. He unlocked it and pushed him inside.

Jim's father was sitting on the sofa. Blair's eyes opened in surprise. William jumped to his feet when he saw them.

"Mis- Ellis-" he tried to say, desperately wanting to warn him.

"Hold it right there," Walters said icily, aiming the gun at Jim's father.

"Let him go," Blair managed to say, his speech slurred but understandable.

"He's a witness."

"Get your hands off him, you degenerate," Mr. Ellison said indignantly, despite the revolver pointed in his direction.

"Shut up!" Walters screamed, his face turning red.

Blair could feel the torsion in the man's body, the flowering of his rage, the tightening of his fingers on the trigger. The cold fear of it was like water thrown in his face. Awareness and clarity slammed back into him.

"Run!" he shouted, throwing his weight into Walters' body, pushing his arm to the side, spoiling his aim.

The gun went off, but thankfully, the bullet hit the wall harmlessly. Blair struggled with Walters to keep him from shooting again. Mr. Ellison hesitated, apparently unwilling to leave him alone with the maniac.

"You have to go!" he yelled at the older man.

Finally, Mr. Ellison ran for the door. Relief poured through him when he heard the door slam closed. But then Walters managed to pull his arm free. He backhanded him across the face.

"Bitch!" He started for the door.

Blair grabbed his arm. "Let him go. Please. You have me. That's what's important, isn't it?" he tried to reason.

"You bitch! You bitch!" Walters hand shook as he pointed the gun at his head.

"It's just us now. Isn't that what you wanted? For us to be alone?" he went on desperately.

The man's face was red and dangerous, but Blair caught the hint of hesitation in it.

"We don't need anyone else here with us, do we?" he said, his voice low and coaxing.

Walters relaxed his grip on the gun. He shook his head. "No. Not now."

Blair breathed out. He figured enough time had gone by for Mr. Ellison to have reached safety. All Blair had to do was stall until the cops came.

Blair backed up a step, toward the couch. "Why don't we sit down?"

Walters grabbed him roughly by the arm. "Where do you think you're going?"

Blair swallowed hard. "Just to the couch. Come on, man. There's no need to be all stressed out. Let's get to know each other better, huh?"

Walters' eyes narrowed. "Why would you want to do that?"

"Uh-- You know, because we're here together. We might as well--"

Walters shook him hard. "Shut up! Just shut up! I don't want to hear any more of your tricks."

"It's not a trick. I really--"

Walters shoved the gun in his face. "When I say shut up, I mean shut up!" He trembled with fury. "You think I'm stupid or something?"

Blair shook his head wildly. "No--"

"You think I don't know what you're trying to do? You want to keep me from getting what I need. You want to make me weak. Want to humiliate me. Make a fucking woman out of me. Don't think I don't know."

"I never--"

"What made you think you could walk out on me? Huh? What made you think I wouldn't find out what a disloyal little slut you were? You thought you could get away with making a laughing stock out of me?"

Walters lashed out at him again, with his fist this time, catching him squarely in the jaw. He stumbled back a step. Walters crowded him, breathing savagely, his face vivid red, his expression stark and demented.

"I'm going to take back what you took from me, you little bitch," Walters said, his voice low and seething.

"Come on, man," Blair said desperately. "We can find another way to--"

"Shut up! I don't want to hear any more from you. Now get upstairs. And get your clothes off."

He didn't move. He couldn't breathe.

"Do it!"

Walters screamed so loudly the loft seemed to shake. Blair stayed frozen. He knew the last thing he should do was go upstairs with the man.

Walters wound a rough hand into his hair and yanked him forward. He pressed the gun hard against his temple. The cold metal of the gun bit into his skin. Blair closed his eyes and tried not to move, tried not to do anything that might make the man pull the trigger.

"I could shoot you right here," the man said, his voice shaking. "Is that what you want? You want to make me do it again? Like the last time? Is that it? 'Cause that was all your fault, no matter what anyone ever tries to say. ALL YOUR FAULT. You fucking little whore!"

Blair stared at him in horror. He realized that whoever Jeffrey was he must be dead. That's why Walters had gone out looking for surrogates.

"Don't. Please," Blair relented, afraid for his own life. "I'll go upstairs."

Walters watched him closely, as if trying to decide if his surrender was genuine or not. After a moment or two, he relaxed and pulled the gun away.

"That's more like it. Now go," he barked.

Blair's legs felt numb. He headed slowly for the stairs, his movements jerky and awkward. Walters poked him in the back with the gun.

"Go!" he ordered.

Blair mounted the steps and climbed up to Jim's bedroom. He tried not to think about the last time he had been there. He wanted to be able to hold onto the memory of his first time making love with Jim, even after all this was over. So he needed to keep it pristinely separate from what was about to happen to him.

At the top of the stairs, Walters said, "Strip."

Blair's stomach hurt. It was finally hitting him, just what Walters was going to do to him. He just hoped to God he could draw the whole thing out long enough for Jim to show up.

"Quit stalling," Walters said impatiently. "Take your fucking clothes off."

He started with the least intimate apparel first, his shoes and socks. He balanced with one hand on the chest as he took them off.

"Get on with it," Walters commanded.

He kept his eyes glued to the floor, a wave of shame burning over his skin, as he slowly, shakily unbuttoned his shirt.

"Quit stalling," Walters said, impatiently.

He slid the flannel down down his arms and let it fall to the floor.

"The other one, too."

He pulled his undershirt up over his head. There was a draft, and he shivered. Walters eyes went wide and bright with lust and madness as they moved over his naked upper body. The leering made his skin crawl. He crossed his arms akwardly over his chest.

"Now the pants," the man demanded.

He unzipped his fly with half numb fingers, his throat closed up with fear. His whole body trembled as he pulled his pants down and stepped out of them.

"The rest of it, too." Walters' voice was stony, uncompromising.

The gun was still aimed at his head.

He slid his underwear down his legs and pulled his briefs off. When he straightened up, he kept his hands in front of his body, trying to shield himself.

But Walters knocked them away. "Nice," he said, staring lewdly at his body.

Blair felt distinctly like throwing up.

Walters circled around him, touching and stroking--along his arm, across his back, down his side to his hip. Blair shook and fought the nausea, trying to keep his mind on what was important, stalling, looking for any opening, any way to get out of this.

Walters came back full circle to stand in front of him. "Just gorgeous," he said, appreciatively.

He fondled Blair's genitals, lightly at first, explorationally, but then more urgently, with a firmer touch, obviously trying to arouse him. But Blair stayed soft. Every touch of the rapist's hand felt like cold water poured along the fibers of his senses.

"That's okay," Walters said as he pulled his hand away. "You're just nervous. It will be different when I'm inside you. When we're one. Finally." He motioned with his head toward the bed. "Go lie down. On your belly."

Blair balked. "No. No. Please. Don't--"

Walters struck him across the cheek, hard, right on the bone, so that his eye feel like it was going to pop out of its socket.

"On the bed. Now!" Walters gritted his teeth.

It was hard to make his legs work, to make his muscles and his sinews and his will carry him the few steps to Jim's bed. He sat down on the edge of the mattress, but he wouldn't, couldn't, go any further.

"On your stomach. Ass in the air."

Blair's gut cramped with fear. He moved slowly and tried not to pay attention to the rapists' harsh, excited breathing. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about how different it had been the last time he was in this bed. He couldn't tolerate the possibility that the two memories might somehow get mixed together, that the best thing that had ever happened to him and the worst might become entangled in his mind later on.

He knelt on the bed and lowered his elbows awkwardly. It wasn't surprising, really, that Walters would want him in the most demeaning, the most submissive, hell, the most pornographic position possible.

"Stretch your arms above your head," Walters ordered.

He didn't even have time to wonder why before he felt the cold metal bite of the handcuffs on his wrists again as Walters fastened him to the railing at the head of Jim's bed. He jerked his hands, to test how tightly he was bound. He could move a little, but there was no way to get free.

"Son of a--" he swore under his breath.

"Spread your thighs."

"Bite me," he spat back at the man insolently.

Walters was on him in an instant. He reached beneath his body, grabbed his balls and squeezed roughly. His eyes watered, but he wouldn't let himself cry out.

"I said to spread your legs," Walters repeated threateningly. "Or do you want me to tear them off?"

He began to squeeze and pull at the same time.

Blair tried to scream, but the pain knocked the wind out of him. His body shook as he hurriedly opened his thighs and exposed himself, anything to make the agony between his legs stop.

"That's better," Walters said, his voice smug with satisfaction.

He released him, and Blair struggled to breathe again.

"Now it's time to call," Walters said.

He sat down beside him on the edge of the bed. Blair tried not to cringe, afraid what the retribution might be if he shrank away. His balls hurt so badly already.

Walters dialed a number on his cell phone. When the person on the other end of the line answered, he said, "Guess what I have?" He ran his hand proprietarily down Blair's back, making Blair cringe. "Guess what I'm doing?" Walters squeezed and pinched his ass cheek, and then brushed his fingers along his cleft.

Only the fear of dying kept Blair from clamping his knees closed.

"We're waiting for you," Walters said into the phone. "You must know where we are by now. Come alone, or he dies." And then he started laughing.

It occurred to Blair that if insanity had a voice this was it.

Jim set his jaw grimly as the line went dead in his ear. Rage clenched his body. The whole time Walters had been taunting him he could hear Blair's labored, terrified breathing in the background. He steered precariously with one hand as he quickly dialed Simon on his cell phone.


"I just heard from him. He's got Blair at the loft. He wants me to come alone."

"He called?" Simon asked incredulously. "For what? Just to taunt you?"

"I-- I think--"


"I think he wants-- to do it in front of me."

There was silence on the other end of the line, and then Simon said, "I don't want you going in there alone. It's out of the question."

"He's going to kill Blair if I don't."

"He may kill you both if you do."

"I have to do this, Simon. I can't leave Blair in there alone with that maniac."


"If you order me not to, I'll just quit. It's my home. He's my partner. I am going in."

Simon sighed heavily. "Can you at least wait until the snipers get there? When you get inside, you can try to maneuver him in front of a window. Then we'll take him out."

"He's a cop, Simon. What makes you think he'll fall for something like that?"

"Because he's coming unglued. He's bound to start making mistakes. I just want to make sure those mistakes work in our favor, instead of getting you and Sandburg killed."

Jim frowned. Logically, he knew Simon had a point, but in his heart, all he wanted to do was storm the loft and get Blair to safety. He took a deep breath and forced himself to rein in his emotions.

"I guess I can wait for the snipers," he reluctantly agreed.

"Good. I'll see you in a few. We'll get Blair out of there, Jim. I swear," Simon said.

"God, I hope you're right," Jim muttered to himself as he hung up.

He floored the accelerated and raced the rest of the way to the loft, the siren blaring. He screeched to a stop and jumped out of the truck. He eyed the building, and for a moment, he seriously considered going back on his promise. Blair was in there, and God only knew what was happening to him. He took several more deep breaths to keep himself in check and settled for scanning the building with his senses. He focused on the loft window, piggybacked his hearing on his sight and zeroed in on the voices in the loft.

When HE gets here, we're really gonna start having fun. Then you'll see, Chief. I'm gonna make you mine, and there's not a damned thing HE can do about it. Does that make you hot, Chief? The idea of HIM watching while I fuck you? 'Cause it makes me hot. Really, really hot. You're so sweet. So pretty. God, I can't wait.

Jim could feel the blood pounding in his ears. He finally understood why people said they saw red when they became truly furious. Raw animal rage thrummed through his veins, and the world did appear darker, ruddier, more dangerous.

Get the fuck off me! He heard Blair yell, sounding both furious and scared.

He took a step toward the building.

Shut up! the lunatic screamed at his partner.

Then there was a loud, hollow noise, the sound of an open hand coming down hard against a cheek bone. The asshole was hitting Blair. God only knew what he'd already done to him. Jim took another step forward. He tried to dial up his hearing a little further.

What do you want from us? he heard Blair ask the man.

The perp laughed, and it gave Jim chills all the way down his spine.

Everything, the man said, still cackling.

Police sirens drowned out the perp's voice and the sound of Blair's heart beat as Simon and the others turned onto the block.

"Fuck!" Jim cursed and quickly dialed back his hearing, his head throbbing painfully.

The other cops pulled up, and Simon hurried to him. "What's the status?" he asked.

"He's got Blair up there. I could hear part of what he was saying. He's threatening to-- to hurt him."

Simon turned to the leader of the Tactical Assault Team. "Get into position," he ordered. "Radio when you're ready."

Jim watched the black-clad officers with their high-powered, scoped rifles quickly deploy. They headed out to take positions on nearby roof tops, to wait for a clear shot of the perp. Of course, there was nothing to say that Walters would be stupid enough to give them one.

Jim couldn't stand still. "I need to get in there," he insisted to Simon.

"We're almost there. Wait for my signal."

Jim shook his head. "I can't."

He made a break for the building.

"Ellison! Get back here!"

He half expected someone to tackle him or try to physically bar the way, but no one did. Maybe they understood his situation too well, a cop trying to save his partner. Or maybe they simply knew better than to get in his way where Sandburg was concerned. In any event, he made it safely inside. He pushed the button for the elevator and dialed Walters' cell phone number.

"You better not be calling with excuses," Walters answered.

"I'm in," he informed the man coldly. "I'm alone, and I'm coming up."

"I've got a gun to your partner's head. Come up in the elevator and leave your weapon outside the apartment in the hallway. The door's open. Come inside and announce your presence. Keep your hands up. When I give you the okay, come upstairs to the bedroom. Do everything nice and slow. If you do anything I'm not expecting, I'll blow his brains out."

"Nice and slow. However you want it. Just-- Don't hurt him. Please."

"You've got two minutes to get your ass up here."

The phone went dead in his ear. He hurried onto the elevator and rode up to his floor. He stepped out of the car and laid his gun down on the floor by the door. He went inside.

"I'm here," he called out.

"You alone?" Walters' voice floated down to him from the loft.

"Like I promised."

"Good. Get up here."

Jim kept his hands up, in plain sight, so Walters wouldn't get spooked and do something stupid. He slowly made his way up the stairs, every step deliberate, the way Walters had instructed.

When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw Blair. He sucked in his breath sharply, a sick feeling in his stomach. It was, at once, the most heart-breaking and the most enraging sight he'd ever witnessed, his lover naked and cuffed to the bed, forced to assume a degrading sexual position.

Blair twisted his head around. Jim could read his fear, but he also caught the telltale spark in his eyes. Blair might be scared, but he was also pissed as hell.

"I'm here, Walters. Let Blair go, and we'll settle this between us."

Walters smiled. He sat on the bed beside Blair, carefully keeping the gun trained on him, so Jim wouldn't make a move.

"Oh, we will settle this, Ellison," Walters said. "That's where your sweet little Chief comes in."

"Don't call him that," Jim said, through gritted teeth.

"Don't like it, huh?" Walters taunted, his eyes bright and insane. "Well, get used to it. After today, he's going to be my Chief. He's going to be my ticket to everything you have."

Jim shook his head. "You're even crazier than I thought."

Walters' face turned dark and red. "Shut up!" he hissed.

"Blair's a pretty amazing guy. There's no doubt about that. God knows he's turned my life around. But no matter how much of a miracle worker he is, there's no way he could ever make a man out of you. Nobody could do that. Because you're the most pathetic coward I've ever seen."

"Shut up! Shut up!" Walters screamed.

"You want me to shut up? Then make me. You want to prove you're a man? Bring it on. Show me what you're made of."

Walters slid off the bed and took a step toward him, pointing the gun at him. "Shut your face, or I'll shut it for you," he threatened.

"Come on, big stuff. Let's see who's the real man here."

"Jim, be careful! Don't push him too far," he heard Blair whisper to him at Sentinel volume.

He knew it was good advice, but he could see no other way to keep the guy distracted and away from Blair.

"You want to take him away from me," he told Walters. "Just try it. A spineless coward like you." Jim laughed. "You couldn't possibly ever deserve someone like Blair."

"I do, too," Walters insisted, sounding like a child throwing a tantrum. "I do deserve him."

"That's easy to say," Jim goaded him. "How about you prove it."

Walters' face twisted with rage. "Fine. I will."

He took another step forward. Jim braced himself and watched for an opportunity to rush him and take the gun. Walters kept the revolver leveled at his chest, aimed at his heart, but Jim could see that his trigger finger was relaxed. He wasn't planning to shoot him, not just yet anyway. Instead, the man slipped his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled something out. He raised the object to his mouth. Jim realized that it was a whistle just before the super high-pitched sound erupted, drilling pain into every corner of his skull.

He fell to the floor, covered his ears and screamed in agony.

"Jim!" Blair cried out, desperately pulling at the handcuffs, trying to get loose.

Walters stopped blowing the whistle, but the percussive pain in Jim's head didn't abate.

"I always knew that Sentinel thing was true," Walters said. "That's what made you Super Cop. Guess it's got a downside too, huh?" He laughed. "Now I'm going to fuck your partner and take away your magic, take what makes you special. And if you try to stop me, I'll give you another dose of the dog whistle. And if that's not enough to keep you in line, then think about this. You mess with me and I'll put a bullet in your pretty boyfriend's brain. Got it?"

He nodded, still huddled on the floor.

"Good then. Now sit up." When Jim didn't immediately comply, he screamed, "Do it! Get the fuck up!"

Jim pulled himself into a sitting position, his hearing going crazy, his vision blurred, his head pounding violently.

"You will watch this," Walters said. "I finally figured out that's what was missing. I can't just fuck him. You have to see it, or it won't work. It won't fix anything, won't keep me safe. And I will be safe. So I want you watching. And if I don't get what I want, then I will kill him."

"Don't. Please," Jim managed to say.

Walters smiled wolfishly. "It's all mine now. Everything that's yours. Starting with pretty Blair here."

The man turned back to the bed, the whistle still in hand. He unzipped his fly and took out his hard cock. He knelt on the bed and stroked his hand down Blair's bare back.

"So sweet," he said, moving his hand down to Blair's ass, fondling his cheeks.

Jim quickly took the white noise generators he'd brought with him out of his pocket and slipped them into his ears. He struggled to his feet and lurched unsteadily toward the bed. He knocked his leg against the chest of drawers, and Walters whipped his head around at the sound.

"You just don't know when to give up, do you?" The man shook his head. "So I guess it's another dose of the dog whistle for you."

"Shit! No! I can't take it. I can't take all that white noise," he said, making himself sound desperate.

He caught Blair's eye, just for a second. He hoped he understood.

"You should have thought about that before you tried to come between me and what I need," Walters said, his voice cold and determined.

He put the silver whistle up to his lips and blew into it hard. Jim put his hands over his ears, closed his eyes, screwed his expression into a picture of agony. Walters continued to blow. He dropped down to the floor and crouched there until the noise stopped.

"Now, on to more important things," Walters said, turning back to Blair.

Jim sprang up from the floor.

"What the fuck--" Walters yelled as Jim plowed into him.

"Get away from my partner, you sick bastard!" Jim screamed.

Walters regained his balance and started to pummel Jim's body. He kicked at his legs and tried to knock him down. But Jim held his own. He punched back viciously, the explosive mix of fear and anger reinforcing his strength.

"Nobody touches Blair!" he shouted. "Nobody hurts him!"

He landed a brutal right to Walters' nose, breaking it. The blood gushed freely.

"You fucker!" Walters screeched.

The man lunged and shoved him so hard he stumbled back several steps. His foot slipped on the top stair, and he tumbled backwards down the steps.

"Jim!" he heard Blair scream.

It took him a moment to shake off the fall and get back on his feet.

When he reached the top of the steps again, he saw Walters reaching for the gun in the tangled blankets on the bed.

"The windows, Chief! The windows!"

Blair stared at him as if he didn't understand. Walters withdrew his hand from the bedclothes, a firm grip on the gun's handle. Jim's heart lurched, terrified Walters would carry out his promise and kill Blair. Instead, though, the man turned the gun on him.

"Forget making you watch. It's too much trouble. I'm just going to kill you."

Jim swallowed hard. God, Chief. I'm so sorry we didn't have more time. I'm so sorry we wasted all these years when we could have been together. Really together.

"Good-bye, Detective Ellison," Walters said, smiling dementedly.

His finger tightened on the trigger, and Jim steeled himself. But instead of the percussive noise and white hot pain, there was a flash of movement, Blair's legs kicking out, catching Walters squarely in the hip. And then Walters was flying across the room. The gun went off, and Jim dove for the bed to cover Blair. Thankfully, the bullet hit the wall harmlessly. Walters landed hard, near the windows.

"Fuckers! Now you're both going to die." He shrieked as he picked himself up from the floor. "And I'm still going to fuck him. And you're still going to watch. The last thing you'll ever see is me reaming your partner's ass while the life drains out of him."

He aimed the gun at them.

Jim could feel Blair's body trembling beneath his. "Chief. Chief. I--" There was so much he wanted to tell him, and no time left.

A shot rang out, and Jim reacted instinctively, curling even more protectively around Blair. But there was no pain and no second shot. He lifted his head. Walters lay sprawled on the floor, face down, the back of his head gone, torn away by the sniper's well-placed bullet.

He rolled off Blair. "It's okay, Chief," he said. "We're okay."

He fumbled in the night stand drawer for his spare handcuff key.

"Jim?" Blair sounded disoriented.

"I'm right here," he said, as he quickly turned the key in the lock and pulled the cuffs from Blair's bloodied wrists.

From below, he could hear Simon and the other cops thudding up the stairs toward the loft.

"My legs are asleep," Blair said, as he struggled to sit up. "And fuck!" He clutched his head.

Jim pulled him into his arms and stroked his hair. "Are you okay?" he asked, worried. "Did he hurt you?"

Blair shook his head. "Not too much."

"Did he--" Jim swallowed hard. He couldn't say it.

But Blair understood. He held onto him more tightly. "You got here in time," he said.

The door to the loft banged open, and then the footfalls thundered up the stairs to the bedroom. Simon and four other cops appeared at the top of the stairs.

"Jim, are you all right--" Simon broke off, staring.

Jim quickly yanked the comforter up from the bottom of the bed and pulled it around his naked partner. "Get them out of here!" he yelled.

"But, Jim, we need to get to the body. And Sandburg should go to the hospital."

Blair shook his head wildly. "No! No hospital."

"But, Blair," Simon said. "Your head--"

"I don't want to go!"

"And Jim, you don't look too good either," Simon pointed out. "Let us get the paramedics in here to take a look at you both."

"No! I'm not letting anyone take Sandburg," he said fiercely.

He realized in the dim recesses of his mind that he was acting like a territorial nut case, but he didn't really care. No one was prying Blair out of his arms. He pitied anyone who tried.

"Ellison," Simon said in his most authoritative voice. "You will let us give you and Sandburg the medical attention you need. You will let us secure the scene, so we can close this investigation. That is an order. Understood?"

"With all due respect, fuck you, sir," he said.

Simon's face darkened. "Ellison--"

"Captain, why don't we give them a minute, huh?" his father interrupted, pushing through the crowd of cops to join Simon at the top of the stairs.

Simon sighed heavily. "Mr. Ellison, we need to--"

"I understand perfectly," his father said. "And Jim understands, too. But they need a moment. That's not too much to ask, is it?"

"Well," Simon said, hesitantly. He sighed again. "I suppose not."

"Good. Okay, then. Let's all wait downstairs." He shooed the other cops back down the stairs, and then turned to Jim. "When you're ready, you let us know."

Jim nodded. His father tugged on Simon's sleeve, and they both went back downstairs to the living room.

When they were gone, Blair said, "I'm okay." His voice was shaky, but oddly defiant-- determined, as always, not to let some psycho get the better of him.

"I know you are," Jim assured him.

"But I was scared."

"Me too."

"He killed his lover. Someone named Jeffrey."

"That must be why he went after surrogates, huh?" Jim said.

Blair nodded. "He was seriously crazy. He was really going to hurt me." His voice cracked.

Jim's throat closed up. "But we stopped him. At least, we stopped him."

"Yes. Yes, we did. And now he can't ever hurt anybody else."

Jim clutched Blair to him. "No. No, he can't."

Blair was quiet a moment, and then he said, "I probably should go to the hospital like Simon said."

Jim smoothed back the hair from his wound and inspected it. "I think you're going to need stitches."

Blair lightly touched the gash on his head and winced. "I think you're right. And you need to get checked out, too."

"I'm fine, Chief."

Blair shook his head. "I heard how hard you went down those stairs, Jim. You need to see a doctor."

Jim sighed. "Okay. But only because you want me to."

Blair smiled. "Good then." But then his smile disappeared. "I guess we'd better let them come back up."

"Only when you're ready."

"I just need to put something on."

Jim nodded. "I'll get you some clothes."

He stood up reluctantly, not wanting to let go of him. He opened the chest drawers and pulled out underwear, a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. Blair put on the clothes and got up from the bed. He was still a little wobbly from the head injury, and Jim held onto his shoulder until he was steady on his feet.

"You ready, Chief?" he asked.

Blair nodded. But then he grabbed Jim's arm to stop him.

Jim searched his face. "What is it?"

Blair leaned in and kissed him. "I just want you to know how much I love you."

He kissed him back tenderly. "I love you, too, Chief."

Simon looked up from his paperwork at the sound of their voices out in the bullpen. It was Jim and Blair's first day back down at the station after the whole mess with Walters, and all the other detectives were welcoming them back.

The DA had dropped all the charges against Jim. Internal Affairs had cleared his record. Nobody had offered much of an apology or even thanks for catching the actual criminal. But then, Jim hadn't really seemed to expect it. From what Simon could tell, he appeared to be handling the situation pretty well. His big concern, as usual, had been Sandburg. Happily, Blair's injuries had not been terribly serious. He was already on the mend.

Simon wished he could say the same thing about his relationship with Jim. Oh, sure, Jim had said that he forgave him, that he understood he had only been doing his job. Simon just wasn't quite so sure he believed it. He suspected they still had a long road ahead of them if they wanted to reestablish their old rapport on the job and shore up their friendship.

It seemed the same was true with Blair, too. Usually it was pretty hard to get on Sandburg's bad side. The one thing that did tick him off was someone screwing around with Ellison. Simon wasn't certain how he was going to get back into Blair's good graces after arresting Jim. He sighed heavily. He hoped his plan would be a step in the right direction, a way to make amends.

"Ellison! Sandburg! My office," he called to them.

They appeared in the doorway.

"You bellowed?" Sandburg said wryly.

Simon pretended to scowl at him. "Come in," he said. "Sit down."

They filed into the office and took seats. Simon studied their faces. He'd expected jubilance, or at least relief. Instead, Blair slumped in his chair, eyes downcast, as if there were something really interesting about his shoes. Jim stared straight ahead, his face like granite, his eyes sparkling angrily, the muscle in his jaw twitching, always a bad sign.

Simon sighed again. This was going to be harder than he thought.

"I just want to say again how sorry I am about what happened--" he started to say.

But Blair shook his head. "It's okay, Simon. We both thought about it and talked it over. And we realize that you only did what you had to do. You gave us more help and more breaks than anyone else would have in your position. We know it didn't exactly make your day to have to arrest Jim. So we're cool. Really."

Jim nodded. "That goes for me, too."

"Oh, okay," Simon said, perplexed. "Well, that's good."

"Yeah," Blair said dejectedly.

Jim went silent, his expression taciturn.

"So if it's not that, then what is it? You guys look miserable."

Blair's eyes shifted nervously to the side. "It's--" He swallowed. "It's nothing, Simon."

Jim snorted. "Nothing, my ass."

"What, Ellison?" Simon asked.

But Jim turned back into a block of stone and wouldn't comment any further.

After several uncomfortable seconds of silence, Blair finally sighed. "It's just that things aren't really any different now."

Simon frowned. "I don't understand. Seems to me that things are completely different."

"See?" Jim said to Blair. "He thinks so, too."

"We've already talked about this," Blair answered tiredly.

"But it's not right," Jim said, with real vehemence.

"What isn't?" Simon asked.

"Blair-- He won't--" Jim sputtered angrily.

"I moved back to my apartment," Blair said.

Simon stared at them. "But I thought--"

Jim crossed his arms over his chest and threw a meaningful glance in Blair's direction. "So did I. Guess I was wrong."

"You know that's not it. You know why I had to do it," Blair said.

"I don't care what anyone thinks," Jim said.

"Well, I do. That's how this whole fucked-up mess got started in the first place," Blair said.

"No, it's not. It started because Walters was a screwed-up fuck who killed his boyfriend when the guy tried to walk out on him and then somehow convinced himself that he'd lost his power- - whatever the hell that means-- because of it. That's how this all started. Period. End of story. It had absolutely nothing to do with you or me or Sentinels or anything else."

"He picked you to fixate on because of the things I wrote in my dissertation. That's why he almost got you sent to Starkville for the rest of your life. That's why we both nearly ended up dead. I can't have that happen again. I won't allow it."

"So what then? You leave me? Turn your back on us?"

"I wish you didn't see it that way."

"What other way is there? I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together, and I got three damned days. That's it. Then you make this big announcement, and you're gone. What am I not understanding here?"

"Jim, you know it's not--"

"Hey, guys. Guys," Simon said.

They both looked startled, as if they'd completely forgotten he was still there.

"I think I might have an answer," he told them.

"What?" they asked at the same time.

"I was pondering the question of how we could get Blair back in here as an observer, and I came up with something."

He laid out his plan for them. They stared at him disbelievingly.

"That's really-- imaginative," Blair finally said.

Simon smiled, feeling pleased for the first time since his best team had split up. He relaxed back in his chair and puffed contentedly on his cigar. "I'm glad you admire it."

"It's full of holes, of course," Blair went on.

"That's putting it mildly," Jim said.

"And what about the other people who would have to go along with it?" Blair asked.

"I've already talked to them. The plan makes them look good. It cleans up any lingering doubts about the whole Sentinel thing. It also provides a way for the brass to whitewash the fact that they falsely accused the best cop on the force of a crime he didn't commit. So it's really win-win as far as everyone's concerned."

"You already talked it over with the brass?" Blair asked, surprised.

"I didn't want to offer something I might not be able to deliver," he explained. "I didn't want to get your hopes up over nothing."

"What about the problems with the story?" Jim asked.

Simon shrugged. "We'll deal with them. You were in Covert Ops. Sandburg's a born obfuscator. Surely, we can come up with something if push comes to shove. Besides, it's the heroic kind of police drama that people are eager to believe. I'm not so sure anyone's going to be hunting for the holes."

"I can't believe you thought this up," Blair said.

Jim shook his head. "Me, either."

Simon smiled widely. "What can I say? Five years of hanging out with the two of you was bound to rub off on me at some point."

"There's just one thing, though," Blair said, his face set in concentration, an expression Simon had come to regard with great caution.

"What?" he asked.

"It needs a name."

"A what?"

"A catch-phrase, a tagline, a title. It's gotta grab people's attention, stick with them."

Simon rolled his eyes. "Leave it to you, Sandburg."

"Preventive policing," Blair said, testing it out.

"They already use that one, Chief," Jim said.

Blair snapped his fingers. "I've got it. Anticipatory policing."

Blair looked to Simon. Simon looked to Jim.

Jim tilted his head and practiced saying it, "Anticipatory policing, huh?" He shrugged. "I think it's at least as good as the rest of the plan."

"Very funny, Ellison," Simon said.

Blair smiled enthusiastically. "I like it," he said.

He sounded like the old Sandburg, and Simon tried to hide his smile. It wouldn't do to let Blair know just how much he had missed that.

"So anticipatory policing it is, gentlemen," Simon pronounced, pleased with the term and the plan and the prospect of having his best team back together and on the job again.

Familiar Stranger concluded in Part Seven.

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