Save The Lash Dance For Me

by Caro Dee

Rating: R for bad language

Warning: Horror/Humor. Apparent (not really) character death. Lots of swearing.

Author Notes: Post-Cypher, with a special guest appearance of Gabe from Night Shift. If you haven't seen Cypher yet, this story won't make a lot of sense. Written for the Sentinel Angst list. Grateful thanks to Marion and T.W. for brainstorming. You got me through a major bout of "OMG, what happens next?" And finally, thank you, Pattrose, for the absolutely lovely artwork.

Summary: Blair is all alone and running for his life. His friends don't recognize him and there's a madman in his place. Jim is hunting him for crimes he didn't commit and just might end up killing him. But Lash done messed with *The Hair* and now Blair's pissed!

Blair Sandburg fell asleep in his own bed, in his own room, in Jim Ellison's apartment.

It had been an exhausting day. It started with the early morning press conference with the Chief of Police happily taking credit for the excellence of the police department under his leadership, with Jim standing next to him and gruffly answering the shouted questions and flinching from the flashes. Then the D.A. needed to go over their statements concerning the actions and death of serial killer, David Lash. Then it was Internal Affairs' turn, verifying that all proper procedures had been followed. By the time he and Jim got home, all they had the energy for was ordering a pizza and watching a lame action flick on TV. He couldn't remember the last time he went to bed before 10:00.

When he woke, he was back in the dentist chair again. Back in the dark warehouse with all the candles and the freaky still life. Part of him knew this was just a nightmare, but that didn't make it less frightening. Adrenaline shot through him and he would have yelled in outraged terror except for the gag. Lash was nowhere in sight.

Then he heard Jim shouting something indistinctly from below. Jim! Relief surged through him. He tried screaming through the gag. Jim would hear him. Jim would save him.

It was only as Jim was easing down the stairs, gun held straight out and sweeping the room for lurking serial killers, that Blair thought again, 'Where the hell *is* Lash?'

Evidently Jim was wondering the same thing. "Lash!" he yelled. "Where are you, Lash?"

"I'm right here, Jim," came a quiet voice from the darkness as Lash moved forward towards Jim. Blair yelled through the gag at Jim to be careful.

"Shut up, asshole," Jim snarled, completely ignoring the killer coming up behind him, and pointed the gun directly at Blair's chest, looking for all the world as if he wanted to pull the trigger.

Blair gurgled "Huh? What?" through the gag, but he fell silent at the sheer incomprehensibility of David Lash putting a hand on Jim Ellison's arm and Jim turning to smile at him.

"You okay there, David?" Jim asked gently.

"Yeah," Lash reassured him. "I was lucky and got the drop on him."

Okay, whoa, thought Blair in disbelief. Time out. Hey, Jim, over here. Remember me, your partner and roommate?

Jim eyed the wriggling, trussed-up figure on the dentist chair. "Some luck," he smirked. "Keep this up and we'll make a cop out of you yet."

Lash snorted. "Get real, man. You know my mother would never talk to me again. Naomi hates the pigs."

Jim laughed and shook his head. "Doesn't your mom know the Sixties are over?"

His mom? *His* mom?! Oh God, Lash knew about Naomi. How much research had he done when he chose Blair as his next victim? If that killer so much as looked at her, Blair was gonna... he was gonna... Shit! He began struggling furiously in the chair, flailing from side to side and trying to yell threats past the gag.

"Calm. Down. Now." The chilling voice was accompanied by an icy-cold stare and a gun almost shoved up his nose. Jim had never looked at him like that before and Blair froze in absolute shock. This... this wasn't right. This was crazy.

"C'mon, Jim. You're scaring him." Lash peered over Jim's shoulder. "He doesn't look like much, does he?"

"He's scum, David. He's murdered four people that we *know* of. And he drugged them so they never had a chance. He's a coward and a murderer and one sick asshole. I don't care if he's scared of me."

Blair was watching Lash's face and he was pretty sure that if Jim could see his expression right now, he wouldn't be so casual about turning his back. David Lash didn't much like what Jim had just said.

Then Lash shrugged and smiled. "You need to report in to Simon, don't you, Jim? I'll stay here and watch the prisoner."

For a moment, Blair saw a puzzled frown appear and fade away, then Jim just nodded and turned to go. Oh shit, oh shit! Jim, you can't leave me here with this psycho! Blair began yelling and jerking in the chair again.

Jim paused and chuckled. "Looks like you really put the fear of anthropology in him, Chief." Then he was gone.

Lash stood there, head cocked, listening until Jim was out of the building. Smiling cheerfully, he said, "Alone at last." Blair was still struggling frantically in the chair, trying to get free.

Lash drifted closer, watching his efforts with undisguised amusement. "You think I'm going to kill you, don't you?"

Blair froze, staring up at him. The inconsequential thought crossed his mind that Lash's wig looked a lot better this time around. Almost like it was real. And Lash's clothes were different this time -- they looked exactly like what Blair was wearing, only they fit Lash perfectly. There was even the same worn patterns on the leather jacket. At least the long, bland face was still the same. Oh God, he was going to die and he was thinking about the killer's fashion sense?

"Well, I'm not," Lash reassured him. "I won't have to. Jim's going to be the one to kill you."

Despite his fear, Blair snorted with contempt. Oh right, like Jim would ever hurt him.

"You don't believe me." Lash's smile grew wider. "He thinks I'm his best bud and that you're the deranged killer. He didn't have any trouble killing me the first time and he won't have any the second time either. Bang! Bang! Blair's dead." He laughed, a shrill pitch that made Blair wince. "I can be you and you can be me. Would you like that, Blair? Would you like to be me?"

Blair grimaced in instinctive revulsion, as Lash leaned forward and pushed some of Blair's hair out of his face with mock-tenderness. "It's a do-over, Blair. I'm getting a second chance to do this right. And this time I don't have to pretend to be you. Everything that was yours, everything you've ever done, everyone you ever knew, they all belong to me. And Jim is *my* friend now. I never had a real live friend before, Blair. I think I'm going to like it."

Blair's mind worked furiously. This wasn't possible, but Jim... Jim was acting like Lash was Blair. Jim was acting like he liked Lash -- trusted Lash. His heart froze with fear. Jim wouldn't be on his guard. Lash could kill him at any moment. He suddenly imagined Jim having a headache and a sympathetic, cooing Lash bringing him a cup of herbal tea with chloral hydrate in it. He saw Jim drink it trustingly and slowly slump over, still conscious, aware of everything happening to him, but unable to move to save himself. He saw Lash holding Jim's head underwater.

I'll kill you! You stay away from him! Blair glared with white-hot fury up at Lash, who blinked and pulled back a few inches.

Lash pursed his lips and then said, "You think you can save him? You can't even save yourself. It's all going to happen again and nothing you do can stop it."

They heard the sound of Jim's footsteps returning. "Time for the curtain to rise. Blair Sandburg, welcome to my life." Lash casually snapped his fingers and Blair went out like a light.

* * *

He woke just as suddenly with a gasp. For a moment, he couldn't see, had no idea where he was, only that he wasn't in his bed and that he was freezing and his legs were wet as he crouched in the dark over something that struggled under his hands. Sight and hearing came back slowly, just as the faintly wriggling thing stopped moving. To his shock, he looked down and saw it was a woman lying face down in the pond.

"Oh no, oh God, no!" Blair moaned and flipped her over. It was Susan Fraiser. He pulled her up on shore and began to breathe into her mouth.

"Oh, stop that." David Lash stood there next to him, staring down at the woman in distaste. "She's *supposed* to be dead. You can't change that."

But... but Lash was dead. Jim had shot him. Hadn't he? He remembered dreaming that Lash was still alive. Was he still asleep? Blair moaned, "You psycho! You killed her!"

Lash smiled. "Actually, this time around, I'm afraid that you killed her, Blair."

Blair shook his head, "No, I would never do that." Lash didn't seem to have a weapon on him, so Blair cautiously returned to resuscitating Susan Fraiser.

"Stop. You're spoiling it."

Blair ignored him.

"She needs to go into the bathtub now. How else are Jim and I going to find you, Blair?"

Blair was pretty sure Susan had just taken in a faint breath. She was going to make it!

"You're not allowed to change anything."

A heavy kick to the ribs lifted and shoved him to the side.

"You can't stop what's already happened."

As he crouched there groaning, trying to suppress the nausea from the pain, he heard Lash dragging the woman and muttering to himself, "You didn't tell me I was still going to have to do all the work. No, no, I'm not complaining. Oh right, I forgot about that. Sorry."

The sound of quick footsteps and then a blinding burst of pain in his head.

* * *

He stumbled and caught himself with both hands on the sink. Staring into the mirror, he looked pale and desperate, wild hair going in all directions, eyes confused and filled with memories of pain. He stared at his image for a minute and then slowly, slowly his gaze drifted to the right and downward.

He whirled around and stared at Susan in the bathtub with the yellow scarf around her neck. This time there was absolutely no question that she was dead. A scream of rage and denial burst out before he could stop it and then he was bending over the toilet, vomiting helplessly.

Blair half-expected Lash to show up to taunt him, but the bathroom remained empty. He flushed the toilet and went back to the sink to rinse the taste out of his mouth. Finally, he forced himself to turn and look at Susan again.

"I'm sorry, Susan," he said. "I tried to save you. I'm so sorry I couldn't."

Susan looked exactly the same as she had the first time Blair briefly glimpsed her body in the tub. He wondered how Lash had managed to get both her and him into the apartment unseen. But then Lash hadn't been seen the first time either. It wasn't until the woman screaming and the 911 call that the police had found the body twelve hours later.

A jolt of adrenaline hit Blair as he realized that the screaming had already taken place. Granted it wasn't a woman's voice, but, if pressed, he had to admit it might have been a bit of a girly scream. At this time of night, would anybody know the difference? He strongly suspected that Lash had already made the phone call.

Shit! He grabbed one of the hand towels and began wiping down the sink and toilet. Quick, had he touched anything else? Nooo.... that was it.

Almost hyperventilating, Blair quickly let himself out of the apartment, using the hand towel to turn the door knobs. The apartment building hallways were empty and he hurriedly left through the back entrance and began running once he was outside.

He'd already passed the phone booth at the corner, when he stopped and went back. He dialed Simon's number and jittered while the phone rang.

"Banks." Simon sounded really sleepy and cranky.

Blair took a deep breath. "Simon, it's Blair. I've got to talk to you. Something really strange is going on and I'm worried about Jim."

Silence on the other end of the line and then Simon said, "Who is this?"

Blair's heart sank. "Blair Sandburg. I work for you. Well, I actually sort of work *with* you, or Jim, rather... Simon, you know me."

"I've never heard of you in my life. If this is a crank call, you should know I'm a police captain and I can have you arrested for disturbing my peace!"

Blair stared the phone for a second and hung up. He'd known Jim didn't remember him, but he'd hoped Simon would. Lash couldn't have hypnotized or brainwashed everyone. But after a few calls to personal friends outside Jim's circle, he discovered that none of them knew him. This was beyond freaky. It was as if he'd been erased from the world and Lash put in his place.

And that simply wasn't possible.

A police car cruised by and Blair stood there in the phone booth and stiffly faked talking to someone. He needed a place to hide out. A location floated up in his mind, and he blinked in dismay as he realized that he knew where Lash's various hideouts were. A couple of Lash's childhood memories flashed past him and Blair shuddered. Nothing excused murder, but he felt an unwilling sympathy for Lash. Then the memory of Lash's first murder hit him and Blair slammed that door shut before it could go any further. Otherwise, he was going to throw up again.

But if he had Lash's memories, then Lash probably had his, as well. None of the regular places he would have gone to would work now. Lash could find him any place either Blair or Lash would hang out. He needed someplace new.

He walked around for a while and stopped in front of a cheap hotel. That would have to do for tonight. He gave a false name and paid for a room. It was dingy and depressing, but at least the sheets seemed clean and Blair was too tired to care about more than that. He quickly fell into an exhausted and troubled sleep.

* * *

Blair lifted his head blearily. He was sitting on something really hard that was making his butt sore. This wasn't the hotel room. Blinking furiously didn't seem to make the spots in front of his eyes go away until he realized that there was a veil in front of him. No. It moved when he did. He was wearing a veil? Weird.

He sat up and looked around. He was in a church filled with people. Oh God, the funeral. He was at Susan Frasier's funeral. That must mean... he looked down and quietly cursed. Black dress. Yellow scarf. High heels. *Shaved* legs! Aw man, all the other villains were gonna laugh at him. Blair choked back a laugh that would have turned into a sob. Which would certainly have passed unnoticed at a funeral, but he wasn't entirely sure once he started that he'd be able to stop.

Just then the minister said, "I invite you to approach our dear departed so that she may make her final journey in peace." Blair realized that was his cue to get up and get the hell out of there. Clumsily moving in his high heels, he tottered up to the casket, gave Susan Frasier a quick apologetic glance, and couldn't help himself.

He turned and caught sight of Lash making huge "Over There!" gestures in his direction. Hey, he hadn't been *that* obvious. When Lash saw him looking, he smiled gleefully and pointed to the back. With a sinking feeling, Blair saw Jim burst out of the stairwell. Their eyes met and Blair gasped. He was reminded of a nature documentary where the big cat stared with hot, predator eyes and then began moving with *intent* towards the poor, little antelope who just stood there trembling until it was almost too late before taking off. Blair really, really felt for that antelope right now. Every instinct he had was screaming, "Fuck! *Run!*" No wonder the perps always ran. He didn't blame them one bit.

He kicked off those damned high heels and took off out the door, down the lawn, frantically searching through his purse for the keys to Susan's sports car. Through the baying of the reporters, he could hear when Jim ran out of the church, yelling for people to get out of his way. "Oh God, oh God," he chanted frantically, tossing the non-key contents of the purse left and right. "Oh thank God!" Found it!



He flung open the door, slid in, slammed and locked the door with one hand, started the engine with the other, and peeled out of that parking lot. The rearview mirror showed him that Jim's truck was not far behind him. His chances of beating Jim in a car chase were nil. He was so screwed.

Then the rain began to fall. "Great! Just great," Blair snarled. "Thank you, Universe. A nice case of hydroplaning is just what this chase was missing." Damn! All right. Think, Blair. Lash got away; you can, too.

Grimly, he maneuvered through the streets, just barely keeping ahead of Jim. He had no doubts that other police cars would soon be joining in the chase. Just then, he caught sight of the bridge. Oh no, oh no, no, no. Shit. It was the only way.

He sped up and raced towards the bridge. Traffic was indeed backed up and he was forced to brake hard. He heard Jim's truck squealing to a halt behind him and, without looking back, he flung himself out of the car and towards the side of the bridge.

Jim yelled behind him, "Police! Hold it right there!"

Blair could feel the target on his back as he climbed over the side and stared down at the water far below. "Oh jeez. Oh fuck." He jumped.

It was a long way down, and Blair had time to come up with some truly inventive invective, damning David Lash to many different cultural concepts of Hell. Then he slammed into the water and lost consciousness.

* * *

He was standing in front of the precinct by the main doors. For a moment, his mind yo-yoed desperately between an intense desire to run to Jim to be saved and the daunting knowledge that Jim was hunting him. What was he doing here?

Then someone exited the building and Blair's eyes were drawn to his reflection in the glass of the entrance doors. He frowned and moved closer. A wave of fury crashed over him, which felt better than the despair. Okay, there was only so much a man could take! Lash was going down hard. Blair grabbed a strand of his hair and pulled it into view. The bastard had cut, bleached and straightened it! The texture was like straw! There was absolutely no way to fix this. He'd have to cut it all off and grow it out again.

He took another look at his reflection. A distorted version of Dr. Anthony Bates looked back. It was not a good look for Blair. The hairstyle might have made Lash look like a mild-mannered forensic psychiatrist but it made Blair vaguely resemble one of those thuggish extras in a cheesy Seventies flick. Oh well, at least he didn't look anything like the woman Jim had chased from the funeral.

Taking a determined breath, he pulled the door open and went over to the desk sergeant. "Hi, I have an appointment with Captain Banks. My name is Dr. Anthony Bates, with the F.B.I."

Blair signed in while the sergeant called to confirm. "Go on up, sir," Sergeant Thompson said, handing over a visitor's badge. "He's expecting you."

It was hard facing Simon, who clearly didn't know him and had his "professional courtesy" face on. Some Simon-yelling would actually make Blair feel a whole lot better right about now. They shook hands and Simon gestured for him to take a seat.

"You're a little young to be so knowledgeable on serial killers," Simon observed, frowning as he poured a cup of coffee and handed it over.

Blair took the cup and settled back into his chair, reminding himself that he was an expert doing Simon a favor, not a grad student here on sufferance. "I seem to have a knack for it, Captain, and, frankly, you're the one who asked for help."

Simon grimaced. "Sorry. This case is getting on my nerves." His manner became brisk and professional. "The lead on the case is Detective Ellison, my best man, but he's a little out of his league on this. Any insights you can give us on the killer will be appreciated. I've got you set up in the conference room with the case files. You need anything else, you let me or my secretary, Rhonda, know. Okay?"

Blair stood and nodded. "Let's get to it."

Rhonda escorted him to the conference room and left him there, closing the door behind her at his request.

Blair just sat there for a minute. For the first time since it had all began, he was safe, no dead bodies, no running scared, no Lash, no Jim looking at him with hate. It was just a temporary reprieve -- he knew that -- but it felt good. He leaned forward, putting his head down on his folded arms. Slowly, he began to shake. When the hot prickle of tears came, Blair let them, just concentrating on remaining quiet.

Ten minutes later, he sat up, took a deep breath, and wiped his eyes. Right. Okay. Back to business. He pulled the case files over and skimmed them quickly, checking to see if he'd missed anything the first time around and gingerly matching them up against Lash's memories in his head. It was difficult facing the inner pain and malice of Lash's mind, but, grimly, he kept on until he was done. That taken care of, he turned to the computer that had been set up for him. Time to do some research and figure out what the hell was going on.

Forty-five minutes later, he was staring at the screen as confused as when he started. There were just too many wild possibilities and no clear solutions. Reluctantly, he'd discarded the theory that this was just a nightmare. That had been his favorite option -- a little post-traumatic stress, a little survivor guilt, a little too much pizza before bedtime. Just hang on until the morning alarm goes off. But if this was a dream, then it was the most lucid dream he'd ever had.

The second possibility was revenge. He was darkly amused at the idea that Lash was his own copy cat/evil twin (the Juno brothers made that concept an obvious no-brainer), but that failed to account for the fact that nobody remembered Blair Sandburg. Or the odd jumping through time thing. For a moment, he pondered the possibility of Lash going back in time and switching places as a baby. That explained his having Lash's memories as well as his own, a kind of double-exposure. If Lash had lived Blair's life, then Jim and Simon had never met Blair before. No. Since Blair remembered meeting Jim and Simon, he would have made some attempt to contact them before this. Besides, come on, *time travel*? Not even theoretically possible with today's level of technology. The idea of Lash being an alien from the future just made him snicker.

Now he had to admit that this did remind him of was all the old Mission Impossible reruns he'd watched as a kid where the team set up a scenario to get the villain to reveal vital information. It was just barely within the realm of possibility that the CIA had the resources to create this kind of scenario, knocking him out and moving him from scene to scene and even brainwashing people into forgetting him. Although really, it would be far easier to just brainwash Blair, which meant he was lying somewhere in some lab with electrodes stuck in him and drugs coursing through his system, while somebody hunted the only important secret that Blair knew -- the existence of Sentinels. That might even explain why he had Lash's memories -- they'd been programmed into him. But that seemed awfully elaborate for something that could have been accomplished with a little truth serum and a thumb screw. Hell, a pretty girl probably would have worked just as well. He thought wistfully of Christine for a moment and then forced his mind back to the current business.

The final possibility was the occult explanation. Maybe when Lash had died, his spirit had grabbed on to Blair's and was riding him like some psychic parasite, feeding off his terror and life force. Or Lash was reaching out from the grave to inhabit Blair's dreams. Then again, maybe he'd dragged Blair into some lower astral plane where tormented spirits replayed their obsessions over and over again. Perhaps Lash had used black magic to create his own personal alternate universe or make a deal with the devil. Too many possibilities. At least, there was a good chance that it was just Blair caught in it. Jim was likely going on with his life in the real world, perfectly safe. Blair hoped like hell that was the case.

But for now, his little respite was over. What he could only define as an 'inner pressure' had been increasing for the past twenty minutes. The need to walk in to Simon's office and continue the charade was growing. With a sigh, he got up and grabbed the file.

Jim was in the office with Simon. Willing himself to remain calm, Blair entered and opened his mouth...

"This is a wash. "

Huh. Totally not what he was intending to say. Interesting.

Simon took the file from him. "Thanks. Dr. Bates, I'd like you to meet Detective Jim Ellison. Jim, this is Dr. Anthony Bates."

Blair looked at Jim's closed expression and put on his most friendly, innocent face. Winning Jim's trust was not going to be easy and he didn't have a lot of time. "Tony, please. I read your report."

Jim frowned. "Have we met before? Your voice is kind of familiar."

"You know," said Simon. "I was thinking the same thing."

Much as Blair would have welcomed the idea that their memories were breaking through, he strongly suspected the familiarity came from his little midnight call to Simon and Jim hearing him swear as he jumped off that damn bridge. He smiled brightly, "No. I don't think so. I have done some interviews though. Maybe you've seen me on TV?"

Jim rolled his eyes. His opinion of publicity-seeking experts was not particularly high.

Simon knew his detective well and said sternly. "Dr. Bates is with the F.B.I.'s San Francisco office. He's one of their top forensic psychiatrists. All I ask is that you work with him."

Pouring on the charm, Blair continued, "Your forensic investigation was very thorough, Detective,--" but I think we need to focus on the signature of the killer. "-- I'm quite impressed."

Yes! Blair felt like whooping and indulging in a little victory macarena. He'd successfully gone off script. Who da man? Some of his enthusiasm must have been visible, because Jim blinked and his mouth quirked a fraction of an inch.

"Uh," Jim's eyes glazed a moment. "Maybe we need to focus on the signature of the killer, like the yellow scarves?"

"Forget that." Blair waved his hand dismissively and leaned forward intently, willing Jim to hear him. "All that stuff's good for is evidence at the trial. In order to catch this guy, what we really need is to get inside his mind. Uh... a kind of psychological composite drawing so we know what we're dealing with here. Once we know what his motives are, we'll know how he picks his victims. I'm telling you guys this one is smart and he's dangerous. We need to be really careful."

Simon and Jim exchanged an amused glance. "Oh God, not another one," Simon muttered.

"What? What?" Blair looked back and forth between them.

Jim grinned. "It's just that you remind us of someone."

Blair grinned back at him. This was going well. He'd have them falling for the old Sandburg charm in no time.

The three of them hashed over the details of the case again in a familiar, casual way. It was almost like the way it was supposed to be, only without the ever-present eye-rolling and sarcasm when Blair creatively speculated. Now Jim and Simon would simply frown and ask for his reasoning and then nod reluctantly. Blair hadn't realized how much he'd missed professional respect until now. He'd managed to attain it on a semi-regular basis in his anthropology endeavors, but he was too new to police work to have it here in Major Crime. Some day though.

Finally, Simon brought things to a close. Jim had some unspecified leads to follow up on, which Blair interpreted to mean hunting Don Haas down and getting the earlier videotape of the escaping killer. Blair himself was assigned the task of further analyzing the physical evidence for a profile and meeting back here tomorrow to discuss it.

Reluctantly, Blair took his leave. Despite the fact that he was supposed to be a complete stranger, he really thought he'd connected with both of them. It was a start anyway. Tomorrow, things would heat up again and he wasn't looking forward to it.

Standing once again out on the street, Blair thought, 'Now what?' Flicking through Lash's memories, he was able to remember exactly what Lash had done/was going to do tonight. Dressing up in 'Susan' disguise, finding and making a deal with a transvestite to stalk the museum tomorrow, giving the reporter his anonymous tip on the gender of the killer, then hanging out and bragging with his dummy 'friends'. Blair shuddered at the thought of spending time at the macabre scene of Lash's delusions but steeled himself.

He half-expected to black out and be transported to the next 'event', but as he continued standing there without interruption, he decided that, apparently, so long as Blair was willing to do what was necessary, time would stay on track. Suddenly, it occurred to him that he might be able to slip in a few errands of his own. And if he was especially quick about it, maybe he'd get the chance to shadow Lash at Club Doom and make sure Christine was safe.

With a grim look, Blair turned and headed in the direction of Lash's hideout. God, he was going to have to wear the pantyhose again.

* * *

Things were not going well. Blair's head pounded with frustration and nerves. He'd come in the next day with his profile, dazzled and entertained Jim and Simon and everything was working, until Lash danced in with his "Groovy, man" vibe and his "I've got the answer!" attitude. Blair had beaten him to the punch with the whole identity-switcheroo so Lash's news was no news. Jim had given Lash a proud smile though and Lash had preened. Blair managed to take that in stride until Lash began absentmindedly twirling a lock of his new, curly, long mane. Blair had instinctively reacted to the sly taunting in Lash's manner and now Jim and Simon were both giving him the hairy eyeball. Don't mess with our anthropologist!

Blair reluctantly backed off and Lash moved in, smirking and brown-nosing. God, it was disgusting! Simon was eating it up while pretending not to, but Blair was relieved to see that Jim pretty much ignored it with an air of mild amusement.

And to add insult to injury, Blair was supposed to be *impressed* with the obnoxious, snotty wannabe. Withholding the admiration Lash so obviously felt was his due was causing sharp stabs of pain in his head, which only eased when he fell in line with the established script. Life just really sucked sometimes.

"Exactly. Think of it as a process of psychic ingestion." You parasite.

"Right, right, right," Lash said his line with a fair amount of gruesome relish, "Like Aztec warriors used to eat the heart of their enemies because they would believe it would enhance their prowess in war." Simon made a disgusted face. "It's true."

Blair sneered. "What we may be facing here is a similar psychological belief. Only our killer is hardly a warrior. I believe that he's an abject loner. From a broken home. History of severe neglect possibly child abuse... Or maybe he's just a total nutbar."

Lash paled with anger. "Oh, is that your *professional" opinion, Dr. Bates?"

"Why, yes," Blair grinned. "It most certainly is."

"And what fine institution of learning spit you out?"

"Amateurs shouldn't play with the big boys."

"That's enough!" Simon said, sharply. "I don't know what's up with you two, but you will work with each other in a professional manner, am I clear? Lash, when I agreed to your ride-along I did not agree to tolerate this kind of behavior. Dr. Bates, Lash is a member of my team and I insist that you treat him with the same respect. Do we have an understanding, gentlemen?"

"Yes, sir," both men muttered sullenly and glared at each other.

Jim cleared his throat in the silence. "That's all theory. Nothing but theory. I need some suspects."

The phone rang just then and, at Simon's nod, Jim reached over to pick it up.

Lash sidled over to Blair. "Can I talk to you a minute... Tony? Excuse us, guys."

Blair stepped out of the office and waited for Lash to close the door behind him. "What do you want, Lash?" Blair said, impatiently.

Lash leaned forward and said, in a low, quasi-intimate tone, ""I have to say, Blair, that you really missed out on something special with the china doll the other night. I got the flashback of poor Susan too, but, you know, that really didn't upset me all that much and, well, I didn't see any reason to put on the brakes, if you know what I mean. I just have to say... niiiiiice."

Blair just stared at him until he figured out what Lash was saying. Then his fists clenched and it was all he could do not to haul off and belt him. The excited glitter in Lash's eyes told him that Lash was expecting it, maybe even hoping for it. "Hurt her and I'll kill you," Blair threatened quietly.

Lash smiled. "She's exquisite but she's not... interesting like you. I'd never want to be her. Not while you're still around."

Blair swallowed hard. This wasn't quite the same as being shackled in the chair and knowing he was going to die because this psycho was fixated on him, but it was oddly uncomfortable meeting Lash's eyes and seeing the hunger. He took a step back and then another.

Lash stood there, with a strange little smile, and watched him back away. "Run away, little Blair. Run as fast as you can. I'll always find you."

Just then, Jim popped his head out of the office to say, "Sorry to interrupt you lovebirds, but we have ourselves another prowler. This time at the Maritime Museum. It's a female. She fits the description of our killer."

Lash snapped to attention. "Let's go."

Jim turned to Blair, who shook his head. "You don't need to baby-sit me while you're trying to catch this killer. Go get 'er."

Let Jim chase the red herring; there was no particular reason to worry with all the cops on the scene. But he couldn't help feeling just a little abandoned as he watched Jim stride off with Lash happily bouncing along after him. Just before they got on the elevator, Lash turned around and gave him a cheerful, little finger wave.


* * *

While waiting for Jim to get back from catching and processing the decoy, Blair sacked out on the floor in his conference room/office. He needed all the sleep he could get.

Two hours later, Rhonda came by to wake him up and direct him to the meeting going on in Simon's office. Still rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he took his seat and grabbed a file.

Jim nodded to him and continued. "Wayne Underwood, career junkie. He's been up a dozen times or so for using. Claims he was paid to stalk that museum worker by some plain-looking lady."

Blair yawned. "Well, that was our killer, and he's obviously taunting you."

"So, there's no chance that this guy is our killer?" asked Simon.

Jim shook his head. "None. Underwood was in a detox tank the night that Susan Frasier died. Take a look at these, Simon." With an air of repressed excitement, he slid a file down to Simon. "Forensics pulled them from Susan Frasier's Jaguar and we've got a match."

Lash jumped in. "Yeah, severe head case. Escaped a California mental institution three months ago. His name's..." Lash shot Blair a sly, pleased look. "...Blair Sandburg."

"Where have I heard that name before?" Simon wondered.

Blair grit his teeth and forced out his line. "Three months?"

"Now that's the same time Adam Walker was killed," Simon pointed out.

Jim nodded. "I've subpoenaed the patient's file from Watsonville."

"Well, good," Simon said with satisfaction. "This may finally be the break that we've been looking for."

Blair snarled as he realized his next line. All three men turned to look at him. With an effort, Blair smiled. "Nice work, Detective. You too, David. Very impressive fieldwork." But his eyes said, 'Eat shit and die, asshole!'

Lash smiled sweetly back. "Thanks. Same to you."

It wouldn't be long now.

An hour later, Blair was coming back from the break room, when Jim passed him in the hall.

"Dr. Bates, we just got a call. Sandburg's patient file is just coming through on the modem."

Blair nodded and fumbled with the juice bottle, pretending to almost drop it to cover the sound of his racing heartbeat. "Whoops! Clumsy me. That's great, Jim."

Jim said, with predatory anticipation, "Maybe this time we'll get ahead of him."

Blair smiled half-heartedly. Next time Jim saw him, Blair would be the enemy. "Maybe. I'll meet you in the Captain's office."

"Okay." Jim headed off briskly towards Major Crime.

Blair looked wistfully after him for a second and then ducked into the restroom. Quickly splashing cold water on his face and grabbing some paper towels to dry off, he stared pensively at the lipstick writing on the mirror, 'Who Am I Now?' Oh, Lash was good. If he didn't know better, Blair would have sworn it was his own handwriting.

He tossed the damp towels in the trash. He had about two minutes to get out of Dodge before all hell broke loose.

* * *

Blair stood there in the shadows at the side of the anthro building, watching as Lash argued with Christine before putting her in the taxi. The wig was really uncomfortable and he reached up underneath it to scratch vigorously. At least Christine was okay, even if she had lousy taste in boyfriends.

Lash slammed the door shut and smiled at the car window. Blair's eyes met his. Hastily, Blair pulled back into the deeper shadows before Lash could turn around.

"Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me."

Blair jumped at the unexpected voice right beside him. He turned to stare in shock at the stranger standing there. "W-what?"

The man smiled. "You're not alone, Blair. No matter how hard it gets, endure faithfully and you will eventually triumph."

"Uh, thanks," Blair said politely. He examined the blond, bearded man in the scruffy clothes. Homeless guy, for sure. "Do I know you?"

"Not yet, but you will. My name is Gabe and I'm an angel sent to comfort you."

"Okaaay." Blair started to sidle away. "Thanks for the advice and the... comfort, Gabe. I'll, uh, keep it in mind." He turned and walked off. This was just... more data to put into the mix. No more credibility than any of the other theories. And... and he didn't have time for this. He had a serial killer to stop and a sentinel to save.

He glanced back once just before he turned the corner and saw the man still standing there, gazing after him in sorrow. Suppressing a shiver, Blair forced himself to concentrate on more important matters.

* * *

Blair stood in the hallway outside Apartment 307. On the other side of the door, he knew Lash already knew he was there. He rubbed his sweating palms on his jeans and took a firm grip on the baseball bat. He remembered how surprisingly strong Lash had been and knew he needed an equalizer if he was going to capture the serial killer.

'You can do this,' he told himself sternly. 'You have to do this. Jim is depending on you.' He took a deep breath and kicked the door in.

Lash was standing in the middle of the living room waiting for him as Blair rushed forward. Lash ducked around the sofa and Blair jerked to a halt. They circled the sofa warily.

Lash laughed. "You're looking properly demented tonight, Blair. Getting into the part?"

"Takes one to know one. Right, Lash?"

"Love the baseball bat. Are you planning on kneecapping me? Doesn't seem your style."

"Whatever it takes," Blair said, jumping up onto the sofa and going over the back, bat swinging and clipping Lash on his shoulder.

"OW! Damn it! That hurt!" Lash yelled and backpedaled fast.

"Sorry," said Blair, unrepentant, going for another swing and missing.

"And I'm sorry about... this!" Lash ran over to the wall, threw Blair's tribal mask on the floor and ground it under his heel. "Oops. Maybe you can get another one from N'gutunde? Oh wait, you can't -- he's dead."

Blair stared at the broken mask. It was just a thing, not important in the grand scheme where people were getting killed, but it had real sentimental value. Precisely why Lash had chosen it. He looked up at Lash, who stared back with bared teeth and a deeply malicious satisfaction all over his face.

"Scary Blairy," whispered Lash. "You'll have to try harder."

Okay. Right. He could do that. Blair chased Lash around the loft, refusing to wince as Lash reached out and pulled stuff down as he ran past. The loft *had* been trashed and Jim had been good about it afterwards, just saying he was grateful Blair was okay and quietly cleaning up the mess. But this time, Jim would think Blair had done the damage.

Finally, Lash stopped in the middle of the living room, panting and laughing. Blair had gotten a few glancing hits in, but Lash had thrown a lamp that hit him on the forehead and the gash was still bleeding.

"Gosh, I'm having fun!" beamed Lash. "This is even more fun than I thought it would be. How about you, Blair. Are you having fun?"

"Are you kidding? I'm being hunted down for murders I didn't commit by my own best friend. What's fun about that?"

"Blair, Blair," Lash's voice took on the tone of a wise elder lecturing a young student. "You're the villain of the piece. That means you can do any damn thing you want to. Things you may have wanted but never had the guts to do before. See a pretty girl? Take her. Somebody annoy you? Kill him. You're an academic -- you must know a dozen pompous old farts who don't deserve tenure. Get rid of them. Now *that* sounds like fun!"

When Blair just shook his head, Lash pointed out, "You're still trying to be the good guy, but it's not working. You're still going to die. So why not live a little? What good are your ethics now?"

"You have no concept of human decency, do you?"

"Nope," Lash admitted cheerfully, eyes glittering like a snake's. "And you're running out of time."


Lash was right; he was wasting precious time. Blair could feel the pressure in his head to move on, to get to the warehouse, before Jim got back. "You're right. Let's go." He lowered the bat and walked out of the apartment. He was not at all surprised when Lash simply followed him. If Lash thought Blair was meekly heading for the slaughter...

Outside the building, Blair headed for his car. Snapping his fingers at Lash, he said, "Keys! I'm driving."

Lash pouted, but dug in his pocket, pulled out the keys and tossed them to Blair. Blair got in the car, started the engine and waited. After a minute, Lash walked around to the passenger side and got in. "You're not even trying," he said accusingly. "I knocked you out, tied and gagged you, and dragged your sorry ass to the car. Don't I deserve the same respect?"

Blair pulled out a pair of handcuffs and threw them onto Lash's lap. "Put them on."

Lash didn't move.

Blair turned the engine off. "Get out."

Lash stared at him defiantly. Blair met his gaze and sat unmoving. Slowly, Lash put the handcuffs on. "Satisfied?"

Blair reached over and verified the cuffs were locked. Then he started the car again and drove off. Lash sulked for a few minutes and then, looking out the window, said, "This isn't the way to the warehouse."

"We're not going to the warehouse," Blair said. Ha, you've fallen for my clever plan, you dumbass villain. If he wasn't so tired and scared, he'd feel pretty smug right about now. "We're heading to the Interstate. How does L.A. sound to you?"

Lash's eyes narrowed. "You can't do that."

"Watch me. I'm getting you as far away from Jim and everyone as I can."

"No. I mean you can't do that. But I do understand you have to try."

"No shit!" Blair growled. "I will do whatever it takes to stop you. Count on it!"

Lash perked up. "Really? In that case, the fine print in my contract requires me to offer you a meeting with my Benefactor. What do you say, Blair? He can make your dreams come true."

Blair's heart sank. Worst case scenario. Unless... Lash just wanted him to think that. "Not interested."

"Cheap at the price," coaxed Lash.

"In your case, I don't doubt it. But I happen to still be using my soul."

Lash shrugged. "Your loss. I'm glad though, because I'm not done with you yet, Wary Blairy."

Blair was staring wide-eyed as they drove past a homeless man that he immediately recognized as Gabe, the self-proclaimed 'angel'. Gabe waved at him from the curb and held up a battered cardboard sign that read, in barely legible magic marker, "God loves you". He watched in the rearview mirror as the figure receded in the distance.

"Who was that?" asked Lash suspiciously.

"No one," Blair said curtly, as he brought his attention back to the road and realized he'd almost missed the turn off to the highway. He cut across traffic and barely made it. Then Lash was yelling and Blair frantically hit the brakes, coming to a screeching halt. "Oh God, oh God!"

The car behind them honked indignantly and swerved around them. The driver saw what was ahead and for a moment he met Blair's eyes and the hopeless despair just before he went hurtling over the edge was something that Blair knew would haunt his nightmares for years.

Shaken, both men stared out the window at the vast chasm that appeared before them. Try as he might, Blair couldn't see an end to it. The malevolent darkness seemed to go on forever. The thought that he might have driven off into it and fallen through all eternity made him tremble.

"Blair?" Lash seemed as terrified as Blair. "I'm all for experimentation, man, but I don't think we should try this again."

The two men looked at each other. Things were pretty bad when he found himself agreeing with Lash. "Right," said Blair, and carefully, carefully, put the car in reverse and backed away from the edge.

So leaving Cascade was out. Maybe lying low until the time limit for the original scenario had run out? Blair ran through possible locations. Really, any place that wasn't in the industrial warehouse area or near a duck pond would do. Jim would have already put out an APB on Blair's car. He'd hide the car in the crowded parking lot of the mall. Looking over at the subdued serial killer next to him, Blair snickered to himself. Maybe they'd catch a slasher double feature at the Multiplex. Lash could pick up some pointers.

Ten minutes later Blair was feeling pretty pissed in an is-it-time-to-panic-*now* way. Well, that *would* have been a good idea if he wasn't sitting here looking up at the warehouse where the mall was supposed to be. Damn it. Lash just sat there giggling, as Blair drove off in the opposite direction and ten minutes later was right back at the warehouse.

Blair parked and leaned his forehead against the steering wheel. The pounding pressure in his skull urged him towards the warehouse and the confrontation with Jim. Just let Jim kill him and get it over with. He was startled to feel a clumsy double-handed pat on his shoulder and lifted his head to look over at Lash.

"Come on, Blair." Lash said quietly. "It's time. Jim will be here soon."

Okay, looks like Captain Kirk was ending up at the O.K. Corral no matter what. Where's Spock and his Vulcan mind-meld when you need him? With a heavy sigh, Blair got out of the car and trudged into the warehouse, Lash at his heels.

It was dark inside but Blair had hung out here the past couple days and easily found his way over to the stairs. When he reached the top floor, he turned to the right and down another half-flight of stairs.

Behind him, Lash said, "Careful of the step, man..."

Blair added his voice and they spoke in unison. "That's for party-crashers."

Lash giggled. They both in turn stepped over the booby-trapped stair and walked over to the dentist chair in the middle of the room. Blair stood there quietly waiting and Lash hesitated, then hopped onto the chair with a cheerful, "Best seat in the house."

Blair picked up one of the shackles, quickly unlocked the handcuffs and buckled Lash's right wrist. Then he pulled up Lash's left arm and did the same thing. The ankles were last. Lash's eyes were on him the whole time.

"Hey, Blair, I forgot to tell you. I got the news this morning that Susan just signed on with the firm."

"What the hell does that mean?" Blair asked impatiently as he kneeled, concentrating on getting the last buckle tight.

"Incentive program. All I have to do is inspire someone to sign up and I get another do-over. Pretty cool, huh? Sure you're not interested?"

All Blair wanted was to save Jim and, hopefully, himself. Now it looked like he was going to have to do it twice. He hadn't even realized he should have been worrying about Susan as well. That meant everyone was at risk. Suddenly, he felt very tired.

Blair finished making sure Lash was well-secured in the dentist chair and then picked up a yellow scarf. Lash eyed it with distaste, then looked up at Blair solemnly. "Blair, I just want to say that it's been a privilege being you."

Great. The serial killer wanted a *moment*. Blair kept his eyes on his hands as they lifted the scarf around Lash's head. "Gee, thanks, David. That means so much to me."

Lash broke into a grin. "I can't wait to see you di---mmm-mmph!"

Blair pulled the gag really tight and with a certain savage satisfaction that he might take the time to feel mildly ashamed of afterwards. But right now... he gazed down speculatively at the thoroughly trussed and helpless killer and wondered just how far he was willing to go to save Jim. Lash's eyes widened and he shook his head frantically, yelling through the gag, pulling at the restraints on his arms. Hey, look at that. Finally, Lash was scared of him. Wasn't that something.

All it would take would be one hard blow with the bat and all this would be over. Lash's 'contract' would be over and they'd be left in peace. For one long moment, Blair really, really wanted to do it. Make Lash's terrified squealing go away. Make Lash just... go away. Karmic justice.

Blair stumbled backwards, bent over and threw up on the floor. Oh man, he'd almost done it. He'd been this close to handing his soul over for free. Shaking at his narrow escape, Blair straightened up and wiped his mouth. Ignoring the suddenly silent figure in the chair, he slowly began to move around the room, lighting the candles, turning on the white noise machine he'd picked up yesterday, making those last-minute, last-ditch preparations. To face Jim.

It was nerve-wracking, sitting there leaning against the table surrounded by his weapons and waiting for Jim to get there. Lash was amusing himself by humming "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor and wiggling his toes to the beat. Blair would have told him to shut up but he didn't think he'd hear Jim arriving anyway. And Lash's noise would bring Jim here faster.

One moment they were waiting and the next Jim was there at the top of the stairs, gun aimed unerringly at Blair, yelling "Police! Freeze!"

Blair held very still, hand on the portable searchlight, as Jim came down the steps. Just as Jim was about to step on the sabotaged stair, Blair brought up the searchlight, aimed it at Jim's face and switched it on. Jim's eyes slammed shut as he uttered a cry of pain and came down hard on the step which collapsed under him. Jim fell, his gun flying out of his hand. Blair ran forward, baseball bat in hand, and kicked the gun further out of reach.

"Don't you move!" he told the huddled figure. Jim's face was a mask of pain, eyes blinking and straining to see him. Blair felt incredibly guilty, but there was no way he could fight Jim on a level playing field and he knew it.

Time to prove a point. "Take a deep breath, Jim. Let it out slow and easy. Picture those dials and bring sight down now until it doesn't hurt anymore. That's it. Good." He could tell it was working as Jim lifted his head up and looked directly at Blair, confusion underneath the anger and wariness. "I'm sorry I had to do that, Jim. But I didn't think you were going to give me the chance to talk before you arrested me."

"So talk, Sandburg."

"Your sight's doing better now, isn't it? Why is that, Jim? How is it that I know about your senses and I know the training to handle them? You know why? Because I taught you."

Jim shook his head.

"Yes. I'm the one who found you at the hospital and told you what you were. If it wasn't for me, you'd be in a rubber room right now. I know you don't remember me, but can you please just entertain the possibility that something strange is going on here?"

"David found me."

"Dr. McKay. Neo-hippie witch doctor. Joe Friday. Throwback to pre-civilized man. Frisbee. Garbage Truck. Spoiled milk. Barbary ape. Just one week. Any of this ring a bell?"

Jim's eyes narrowed. "David knows all that too."

"But why do *I* know it? We've got each other's memories. This is all happening for the second time. Only the first time around, I was your friend and roommate, helping you with your senses, and Lash was the psycho killer stalking me. You killed him the first time and... he made a deal with the devil to get a second chance."

Okay, Blair had to admit that sounded believable... Not. Clearly Jim agreed as he shook his head and laughed. Suddenly, he was lunging forward. Blair was expecting it and had just enough time to press the personal alarm system he held in his other hand. The shrill, loud blast dropped Jim like a stone.

It took longer to get him settled this time, since he couldn't hear Blair's voice. Cautiously, Blair tapped him on the leg with the bat and moved back out of reach. When Jim was able to look at Blair, Blair mouthed the 'dial it down' spiel, until he stopped shuddering and looked okay again.

"I'm really sorry I had to do that." Seeing Jim like this was painful and knowing Blair was the one doing it to him made it worse.

Jim gave him a long, hard look and nodded. "Give me a better story, Sandburg. Look, I can tell that *you* think you're telling the truth but the records say you're criminally insane so that doesn't count for much."

"Lash is the one who's criminally insane," Blair pointed out. "You must have noticed him acting a little out of character the last couple of days. Saying odd things, doing things differently..."

Face completely non-committal, Jim nodded.

Okay, this was going better than expected. Jim was at least listening. That was a good sign, right? "That's because he's imitating me and he can't maintain it over long periods of time. His impulsive, psychopathic nature is showing through. I know you like him, Jim, but charm is a psychopath's first weapon."

Blair looked Jim straight in the eyes and willed him to break through the illusion and see the real Blair. "Jim, can't you feel the connection between us? Somewhere inside you, you have to remember me. Even just a little bit. We're good friends; we work well together. Man, we were finding new things about this sentinel business every day. Please, *please*, try to remember."

Jim met Blair's gaze with his own intense scrutiny. He blinked suddenly and said, "Blair?"

Yes! Thank God. "Jim?"

Jim was smiling. "Blair!"

Blair bit his lip to keep from crying with relief and closed his eyes for a moment. Just a moment. But that was all Jim needed. He shoved Blair aside, ripping the alarm from his hand, and dove for the gun. Blair barely had time to stand, bat in hand, when Jim rolled over, holding the gun, and yelled, "Don't move! Drop your weapon!'

Blair just stood there, realizing that Jim had been playing him, hadn't believed him for a second.

"Drop the bat! And get down on the floor, face down!"

It was all for nothing. He'd done his best and it hadn't been good enough. He hadn't managed to save anyone.

"Drop the bat! Do it now!"

What? The bat? Blair turned to look at the bat in his hand, bringing it up a few inches into view. He had just enough time to think, *'Idiot!'*, before Jim shot him.

The impact from the bullets sent him flying across the room. His first thought was, 'I can't fucking believe you actually shot me, you jerk!' His second was that he couldn't feel his body anymore. He stared up unblinking at the ceiling as Jim knelt to check his pulse, then moved away to untie Lash. Despite his knowledge that Jim had been manipulated, he couldn't help feeling saddened and betrayed that Jim hadn't been able to fight it off. That he'd killed him so easily.

"My condolences on your untimely demise."

Feeling a complete lack of surprise, Blair managed to move his eyes to the right. A man stood there, smoking a cigarette with casual sophistication. He was well-dressed but oddly blurry and Blair's gaze kept sliding away from his face. He thought that was probably a good thing.

"Now is the time to make that all-important decision that will affect the rest of your afterlife. To go with the winning team. To make something of yourself. You're a young man -- I'm sure there are many, many things left undone in your life that, if only you could go back, you'd do differently." The man nodded over at Jim and Lash. "Well, now you can." The tone was light and pleasant, but Blair had the impression of a bottomless well of boredom, a salesman doing a rote patter that had long ago ceased to be personally meaningful.

With difficulty, Blair managed to sit up against the suction pull of his physical body and stagger upright. The man flicked his cigarette and watched him with vague amusement as Blair gazed down thoughtfully at his own dead body with the bloody bullet holes in his chest. When Blair looked up at him again, the man smiled and pulled out a pen. "So can I count you in?"

Blair shook his head, attention now glued to the chair where Jim was untying Lash and checking for injuries. "Get lost, Hahgwehdaetgan," he said, using the Iroquois name for the Evil Twin.

"Ahhhhh," said the man with delight. Blair glanced over and saw the man's body language had gone from disinterest to a predator's focus. "We have a scholar. What fun. I'll need to do more research." And the next instant, he was gone.

"Don't even try bribing me with Helen of Troy, dude. I've read Faust so I know how that one turns out," muttered Blair.

Jim had just finished undoing Lash's hands and was rubbing his wrists gently. Blair watched with narrowed eyes as Lash traded an affectionate smile with Jim, grabbed Jim's shoulder for balance and quickly brought his other hand up with something sharp and shiny in it. A syringe.


* * *

Blair screamed and woke up, heart pounding like crazy. Sunlight was coming through the window and he was in his own bedroom. He gasped and ran his hand through his long, curly, well-moisturized hair. Thank God, it was just a nightmare. Lash was dead and it had all just been a bad, bad dream.

"Chief, hurry up! We'll be late for our meeting." Jim yelled from the kitchen. He sounded so normal -- so alive! -- that Blair's breathing and heartbeat quickly leveled out.

"Sure, Jim. Gimme ten," he yelled back, grabbing his robe and ducking into the bathroom for a shower.

After a quick breakfast, Jim drove them both to the precinct. Blair chattered happily, his spirits so high that even the grey overcast skies couldn't dampen them. It was good to be alive. Jim muttered more than once about cutting down on his caffeine intake, but he laughed at all Blair's jokes.

Blair was just shoving his backpack under Jim's desk when he heard, "Ellison, Sandburg! My office!"

At the familiar voice, Blair froze and slowly turned to stare at David Lash standing in the doorway of Simon's office and frowning irritably. He was wearing a stylish suit, short hair and glasses exactly like Simon's.

"Coming, Captain," Jim said, as he scooped up a file and headed over, with a reluctant Blair in tow. "I think that bastard got careless on his last murder."

"Good to hear, Jim," said Lash, smiling at his subordinate. "I've got a few ideas myself on how to track down Banks."

Blair leaned numbly against the edge of the table and watched as Lash nodded at everything Jim said and looked him over with an odd expression. Blair had just identified it as a covetous gleam -- like a man eyeing a suit to see if it will fit him -- when Lash looked up to meet Blair's gaze and winked.

Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no....

* * *

Blair screamed and woke up.

Disclaimer: The Sentinel is owned etc. by Pet Fly, Inc. These pages and the stories on them are not meant to infringe on, nor are they endorsed by, Pet Fly, Inc. and Paramount.


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