Chosen 7: The Waiting Room by Natalie L

Chosen 7: The Waiting Room - Natalie L

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Note: This story pretty much stands alone, but previous stories in the series can be accessed through Jaguar's Jungle (slash page).

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Blair Sandburg stood at the dining room table carving his third pumpkin in preparation for Major Crime's annual Halloween party. A mass of pumpkin seeds and stringy innards were piled on a newspaper next to where he was working. The sound of a key turning in the lock drew his attention away from his task. Jim Ellison strode inside and stopped, staring at the mess and his disheveled Guide.

Blair reached up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind his ear with a pumpkin-coated finger, and smiled up at the returning Sentinel. "It's about time you got home. I was wondering if I was going to have to do all the work myself."

Tearing his eyes away from the tempting sight of his Guide, Jim glanced around the loft at the decorations strung around. Fake spider webs were stretched across the corners of the doorways and up the sides of the stairs. Plastic bats and fake skeletons festooned the fixtures and the walls. Blair had placed his extensive candle collection around the room, and was now intent on finishing off the decorations with carved pumpkins seated on real bales of straw that had replaced the coffee and end tables around the two couches.

"Halloween's not for three more days, Chief," Jim chided, hanging up his coat. "What's the rush?"

"Since we've invited the Major Crime bullpen here for the Halloween party, we have to get started early," Blair explained. He pointed toward the kitchen as he issued his next order. "Get the cookie sheets out, will you? I've got the oven heating."

Jim obliged, walking toward the cabinets where the baking pans were stored. He retrieved two cookie sheets and brought them over to the table. "What now, oh master of the macabre?"

"We're going to roast the pumpkin seeds," Blair explained. "Coat the cookie sheets lightly with some oil and spread the seeds in a single layer. We'll let them bake about ten minutes before stirring."

"Why go to all the trouble?" Jim asked, rolling up his sleeves before pushing his hands into the pile of gooey seeds.

"Pumpkin seeds are nutritious, man," Blair exclaimed, pausing as he made another delicate cut in the intricate jack-o-lantern. "Besides, they're tasty and we wouldn't want them to go to waste."

"Seems like an awful lot of work to me," Jim grumbled, separating out the seeds to lay on the cookie sheets. "Besides, I've been alone at work all day --" He paused, arching a sidelong glance at his Guide. "After that long of a separation, I feel a strong urge to reassert our bond."

"Help me finish this up, and you can have your way with me for as long as you like." Blair turned to grin at his Sentinel, waggling his expressive eyebrows.

Jim put the cookie sheets full of pumpkin seeds on the counter next to the oven and washed his hands. As Blair continued carving the pumpkin, Jim circled around behind and wrapped his arms around the slender waist, burying his face in the fragrant hair and nibbling at his Guide's neck.

"How about we bond now, finish up the preparations later?" he suggested.

Blair squirmed in the firm embrace, feeling his arousal rise as Jim continued his gentle assault. Finally, he put down his knife and turned to face the Sentinel. "God, Jim, you're such a whore!" The words were spoken with bemused passion as Blair opened his mouth to Jim's kiss. Within minutes, they were upstairs and naked on the bed, each man devouring the other with mouth and hands, trying to get inside each other's skin. The call of the bond had consumed them both.

+++

An hour later, sated and content, Blair crawled out of bed and made his way back downstairs. After a quick shower, he dressed and grabbed his coat and backpack.

Jim ambled down the stairs, dressed only in his robe. "Where do you think you're going? It's getting late," he complained. "Why don't you just come back to bed, and we'll finish this up tomorrow?" He waved a hand in the direction of the clutter still covering the dining room table and kitchen counters.

"I just thought of some great stuff over at Rainier in the Anthropology department that would make great decorations for the party," Blair explained. "I thought I'd run over there while I'm thinking about it and see if I can talk the department head into loaning them to me. I shouldn't be gone more than an hour. Why don't you roast those pumpkin seeds while I'm gone?"

"I can think of something else I'd rather roast," Jim mumbled, making his way across the floor to where his Guide stood near the door. He reached up to rest his hands on Blair's shoulders and looked him directly in the eyes. "You take care out there, all right?"

"I'll be fine, Jim," Blair assured his partner, coming up on his toes to place a quick kiss on the tip of Jim's nose. "Don't be such a worrywart."

"Do you have your cell phone?"

Blair sighed. Jim was obviously in a state of hyper vigilance this evening. "Yes, I have my cell phone. May I go now?"

"Drive carefully." Jim watched as Blair exited the apartment, closing the door behind him as he went. Something didn't set well with the Sentinel; he felt uneasy, restless. Shaking off the odd feeling of foreboding, he headed for the kitchen to take care of the pumpkin seeds.

+++

As the Volvo shook and sputtered down the dark and deserted side street, Blair was beginning to regret having taken the shortcut. His engine finally sputtered and died, and he looked around nervously as another car pulled up behind him and stopped. Four young men sporting gang-colored "do-rags" got out and approached the Volvo, surrounding the car.

"Hey, man. Need some help?" one of the men asked, tapping on the driver's side window.

Blair pointed to his cell phone and shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine, thanks," he said, praying the young men would go away.

The man began jiggling the door latch. "Come on out and let us help."

"I'm okay, really," Blair insisted, quickly dialing 911.

"I said, get out of the car!" the man said, banging his hand against the window and tugging at the locked door.

"Hi, this is Blair Sandburg..." Blair spoke softly and urgently into the phone. "I think there's a 6-0-4 in progress."

"I ain't kidding!" the man continued, his voice turning angry. "Get out of the car! Now! I said, get out!"

Blair tried starting the car, and after several attempts, the engine finally turned over. He roared away from the scene, leaving the four men standing behind. He glanced into his rearview mirror in time to see a gun raised and hear shots fired. One bullet pierced the back windshield and embedded itself in the car's dashboard. "Shots fired at Lincoln and First!" he yelled into his cell phone. "I need help here!"

Another bullet took out his left, rear tire and the Volvo skidded out of control, running through a tall wood fence before coming to a stop. Blair unlocked the door and got out of the car, running as quickly as he could to a nearby abandoned building. He didn't even look back as the carjackers took possession of his only transportation. He ran down the hallway, nearly tripping over a man lying on the floor.

"Oh god, oh my god!" Blair stammered, his heart pounding at the sight of blood pooling under the man's chest. "Oh man. Hang in there, buddy. I'm going to get help."

Outside, sirens sounded and Cascade's finest arrived to take the carjackers into custody. Since the call had come from Blair, the PD had immediately phoned Jim, who arrived only seconds behind the patrol cars. Sentinel senses searched out and found the familiar heartbeat, now pounding with fear and adrenaline. Heading toward the old building, Jim was nearly bowled over as Blair came running out.

"There's a man inside; he's been hurt!" Blair puffed, trying to catch his breath.

"Calm down, Chief," Jim said, gathering Blair into his arms and holding him close until he heard the frantic pounding of Blair's heart begin to slow. "We'll get an ambulance here."

"He's bleeding out!" Blair said, still agitated. "He doesn't have time. Come on!"

Jim followed his Guide back inside to where the man lay on the floor. Bending over, Jim reached out to find a pulse and shook his head. "He's gone."

"Oh, man..." Blair sighed.

"There wasn't anything you could do," Jim assured him, rolling the man onto his side to get a look at the stab wound. "He was too badly hurt."

"Any identification?" Simon asked, walking in ahead of the paramedics.

Jim shook his head. "No, nothing. He was picked clean. Whoever killed him, took his wallet."

"The carjackers?" Simon asked, tipping his head toward the activity out on the street.

"I don't think so," Jim responded. "Those guys were packing heat, not knives, and there wasn't any blood on them."

"How could you tell?" Simon asked, incredulous. "You didn't stay around to capture them. You headed straight in here." Jim tapped the side of his nose, and Simon nodded in sudden understanding. "Well, at least we caught the carjackers. They fit the description of guys who have been boosting rides all over town."

Jim was no longer paying attention to his captain. A noise across the hall had captured his attention. Looking up, he saw movement in the apartment.

"Jim? What is it?" Simon asked, noticing his detective's distraction.

"I thought I saw something in the closet in that apartment across the hall," Jim said, starting for the door. Blair and Simon followed as the Sentinel led the way into what used to be the living room of the abandoned apartment. He stopped, staring through a beaded curtain. "It's just a closet. I know I saw something... someone, move through here."

"Maybe they went out a service door," Simon suggested. Then, speaking into his radio, he asked the officer on duty outside, "This is Banks. I need to know if any civilians have left the building."

"No, Sir," Jim answered him respectfully. "I would have heard if anyone had left."

"No one has exited the building since you went in," a scratchy voice came over the Captain's radio.

Simon sighed. "It's getting late, and you nearly lost your Guide to those hoodlums out there," he said. "Why don't you both just go home and get some rest? I think maybe your eyes were playing tricks on you."

"I'm not tired," Jim insisted. "I saw someone."

"Oh, now you saw someone... a person?" Simon said. "What did they look like?"

"I-I couldn't really see a face," Jim admitted. "Just the vague form of... a woman." He paused, wrapping his arms around him for warmth. "Is it cold in here, or is it just me?"

"It's warmer in here than outside," Blair answered, comfortable despite the late October chill. "Are you all right, Jim?" He reached out to rub Jim's arm, then came close, pressing his body against his Sentinel's.

"Maybe you're coming down with the flu," Simon suggested. "Several of the squad are out with it."

"I'm not sick," Jim insisted.

"Why don't you just go home, get some rest. Take tomorrow off." Simon walked over to the door, pausing before leaving.

"Um, thanks, Simon," said Jim, still distracted by whatever he'd seen. "See you on Thursday."

"Yeah, see ya," the captain muttered, heading back out to where the uniformed cops were finishing up with the carjackers.

"Maybe we should go home," Blair suggested. "This place gives me the creeps."

"Wait a minute," Jim said, walking over to the closet. "Do you smell that?"

"Smell what?" Blair asked, walking over to stand beside Jim. "All I smell is a musty old building."

"Something sweet," Jim said, pausing to sniff the air again. Like honey... but it's old... Don't you smell that?" he repeated.

"I don't smell anything, Jim," Blair said, becoming concerned. "Your senses are acting up, man. I think we should get you out of here."

"There!" Jim said, pointing into the closet. "Did you see that? A soft glow --" He moved the beads aside to get a better look. "...It's gone."

Blair began tugging on Jim's arm. "Let's get out of here. You're right; we should have stayed in bed. Sorry I got you into this."

+++

"Let's go upstairs," Blair suggested when they got home. "I'll clean up the mess in the morning, while you sleep in. Maybe you are coming down with something."

"I'm not tired and I'm not sick," Jim said stubbornly. "I saw something in that building."

"I don't doubt that you did," Blair said, sidling up to the Sentinel's backside and pressing up against him, letting Jim feel the hard column of his erection. "But we can talk about it later, can't we?"

"I'm not sure I want to talk about it at all," Jim growled, grabbing Blair's hand and pulling him up the stairs to their bedroom. "Strip, Guide!" he commanded, in a voice Blair hadn't heard since their first meeting.

Swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat at Jim's order, Blair quickly divested himself of his clothing and climbed onto the bed, kneeling on the mattress and beckoning to his Sentinel. It wasn't often that Jim made demands of him anymore. Since their deep, primal bonding, both men were aware on an unconscious level of each other's needs, so commands weren't necessary. That Jim now felt the need to dominate the bonding made Blair tremble with anticipation. His heavy cock leaked pearls of pre-come, lubricating him for what was to come.

Jim stripped and climbed onto the bed, turning Blair and pushing him face down onto the mattress. Blair felt hands parting his ass cheeks and imagined his Sentinel's feral look at the open, leaking passage into his body. The bond sang between them, preparing the Guide for the Sentinel's entry. Soon, Blair was filled, and felt the pounding as Jim took him hard, in an echo of their original primal bonding. Strong fingers wrapped around his cock and began to pull, tugging Blair to the brink of his orgasm and sending him over with a howl that mimicked his spirit guide, the wolf. Moments later, the scream of a panther blended with Blair's voice and the Guide felt himself filled with the warm, sweet essence of his Sentinel.

Two bodies; one heart, one mind, one soul.

Sentinel and Guide slept, still physically joined.

+++

The next morning, Blair awoke, stiff and sore from the previous night's bonding. Jim was hovering over him, looking worried.

"Ohhhhh..." Blair groaned, rolling over onto his back. "God, I ache... What the hell came over you last night?" He turned his head to look at the hovering Sentinel.

Jim shook his head. "I don't know. I-It was like I was possessed, or something. That business in that old building... spooked me. I needed you, more than I've ever needed you. I'm sorry if I hurt you."

Blair allowed himself a small grin. "It's a good ache," he purred. "You didn't hurt me. Honest. But, Jim, we have to talk about what happened last night."

"Shower first?" Jim suggested, changing the subject.

"A nice, long, hot one?" Blair asked hopefully.

"Whatever you want, Chief. You name it. Alone or together, your choice."

"That's no choice at all," Blair murmured, pushing up on all fours to crawl across the bed toward where Jim stood. "Together, of course."

+++

After the shower, wrapped in warm terry robes, the two men walked into the kitchen. Jim pushed aside the sheets of baked pumpkin seeds and pulled out the coffeemaker.

"I promised to clean that all up this morning," Blair said, elbowing his way past Jim to get to the cupboards for some Tupperware containers.

"It can wait," Jim said, uncharacteristically unconcerned about the mess.

"So, are you ready to talk?" Blair asked, clearing a spot at the table to put his coffee mug.

Jim shook his head, coming to sit next to his Guide. He wiped a hand down his face and sighed. "Simon's probably right. It's just my imagination, or maybe I'm coming down with something after all."

"You're not sick," Blair said, echoing Jim's comment of the night before. "You can't just ignore what happened."

"Why not? I ignore things all the time," Jim insisted. "There's got to be a rational explanation for what I saw... thought I saw. Maybe my senses just got fried."

Blair shook his head. "What if there's not a rational explanation? What if your senses are perfectly fine... which they are, by the way."

"What are you asking here, Chief?" Jim wondered. "Are you trying to get me to admit that I saw a ghost?"

"The veil between worlds thins this time of year," Blair explained. "It could be that you saw a ghost. With your Sentinel senses, you're more sensitive than the rest of us mere mortals."

"And what am I supposed to do about that?" Jim asked, his frustration beginning to build again. "Do you expect me to start seeing ghosts and apparitions every time I go to a homicide scene?"

"Not every time," Blair said, "but you can't just close the door on this. Spirits that linger here, earth-bound, are here because of unfinished business. Maybe this particular ghost is reaching out to you for help."

Jim rolled his eyes at his Guide's wild ideas. "And how am I supposed to help this ghost? What can I do?"

"We've got the day off," Blair reminded him. "Let's make a run over to Rainier. They have some measuring equipment there that we could use, and then let's visit that building again."

"And just what do you expect we'll find there?"

Blair shrugged. "We won't know until we try, will we?"

+++

An hour later, after a stop at Rainier University, the two men made their way back to the abandoned building. Entering the apartment where Jim had seen the apparition the night before, Blair began to spread out his equipment.

"What all have you got there?" Jim asked, looking at the strange array of gear.

"Well, I've got an infrared camera here; it sees things as heat signatures. It should help us see hot or cold spots in the room," Blair explained. "And this is an EMF detector. It records the electro-magnetic strength in the room. Higher than average readings can indicate the presence of spirit activity..."

"And where are your x-ray specs?" Jim quipped, amused at his Guide's enthusiasm for ghost hunting.

"Oh, they're in here," Blair shot back, grinning.

"Just what do you expect to find here, anyway?" Jim asked.

"Answers. If there's something going down here, I want to document it," Blair replied.

"And what if I just imagined the whole thing?" Jim continued. "There were a lot of lights set up around the crime scene. Maybe something reflected in here and I just thought I saw something?"

"Huh-uh," Blair said, shaking his head. "I don't agree. I think there was something here last night."

"You're entitled to your opinion," Jim said with a shrug. Suddenly, he froze, concentrating on his hearing. Blair noticed and moved next to the Sentinel, grounding him with a touch on the arm.

"What is it?" Blair whispered.

Jim's head jerked around and he stared at the closet. "There! Don't you see it?"

"What? I don't see anything."

"The figure of a woman. Definitely a woman!" Jim began to get excited. "Get your equipment ready, I think we may have something here."

"Okay, sure, man. Whatever you say," Blair said, picking up the infrared camera.

"Do you feel that?" Jim asked. "Cold. Right down to my bones kind of cold."

Blair shook his head, but followed Jim around with the camera rolling. Jim walked around the apartment, going from room to room. He stopped in one with a large mirror hanging over a fireplace.

"Good lord," Jim gasped, looking at the reflection of a beautiful young woman in the mirror. "I knew I wasn't seeing things!"

"Tell me what you're seeing," Blair insisting, pointing the camera at the mirror.

"A young woman."

"What's she doing?"

Mesmerized by the vision in the mirror, Jim watched as the woman reached out to put her hand to the glass. Jim echoed the movement, touching her hand, and the glass shattered. Jim found himself in another time; an earlier time. He watched as Blair bent over the stabbing victim, and saw another man with a knife standing in the background.

"Jim, what's going on? You're scaring me," Blair said nervously.

Jim came out of his trance and shook his head. He looked in the mirror, staring into its depths. "She's gone." He knocked on the glass, assuring himself that it was whole.

"What did you see?" Blair persisted. "You saw more than just the woman, didn't you?"

Jim nodded. "Let's get down to the station. I want to look through some mug shots."

+++

"So, you think that guy you saw in the mirror was the killer?" Blair asked as they went through the books of mug shots.

Jim nodded. "It's worth checking out."

Both men looked up as Simon walked in. "We got a positive I.D. on your murder victim. His name's Peter Willis. He was part-owner of the apartment building where he was found. His partner's name is Daniel Trent."

"All right; we'll look into it," Jim said, still flipping through the mug shots.

Simon grinned as he turned his attention on the Guide. "So, Sandburg, I hear you had a run-in with your ghosts again last night?"

"We sure did," Blair said, looking up and scowling at the captain's obvious amusement. "Jim said he saw the face of a woman this time. She was trying to tell him something."

"Did you have a camera with you, by chance?" Simon asked. "Record some proof for us nonbelievers?"

Blair's scowl deepened. "I had an infrared camera with me, but nothing turned out."

"Hmmm... I thought as much," Simon said, stifling a chuckle.

"Captain, I didn't ask for this," Jim said, jumping into the conversation. "I don't like the idea of seeing ghosts any more than you do, but this one... whatever it -- she -- is... is trying to make contact with me."

"You know, if I heard this from any other detective, I'd put in a request for his immediate transfer. But, considering you're a Sentinel, and Blair is your Guide, I'm going to give you a little leeway on this."

"I don't blame you," Jim said. "I know it sounds crazy. But she was trying to show me a guy that looks remarkably like this one." He held up a police artist's sketch of the man he'd seen in the mirror holding the knife. "I'm trying to match that composite with these people."

"All right," Simon conceded. "Put this picture out on the street.... See if the guy is even real, then get back to me." The captain turned on his heel and left.

"So, does that mean we're going back to the apartment again tonight?" Blair asked.

Jim nodded. "But after we've spoken with Daniel Trent."

+++

Jim and Blair stood with Daniel Trent outside the abandoned apartment complex where his partner, Peter Willis, had been killed.

"Willis... well, we go back about, um, twenty years. We made a bunch of money and we lost a bunch of money. But hell, he was a great guy. I guess his being stubborn is... is what got him killed," Trent told them.

"How do you figure that?" Jim asked.

Trent shrugged. "Every week, like clockwork, he'd leave the office at 7:00 on the nose and walk through two or three buildings.... I mean, the good ones, I understand, but crap like this? You've got druggies, you've got homeless.... But he just had to do his own thing, even with all the threats."

"There were threats?" Jim asked, suddenly more alert.

"Yeah." Trent pulled some papers from his coat pocket and handed them to the Sentinel. "I figured the police would want these for evidence."

Blair snatched a letter from Jim's hand and proceeded to read aloud. "Dear Sir: This letter is to inform you of the grave danger presented by your planned demolition of 335 First Street. It is imperative that you do not destroy this building. There will be dire consequences if you proceed."

"The rest are pretty much the same," Trent said.

"Do you have any idea who may have sent them?" Jim asked, folding the handful of papers and stuffing them into a jacket pocket.

"The city was paying us a lot of money to tear this old building down. We just figured it was someone who didn't get the contract and was trying to spook us." Trent shrugged. "I guess maybe we were wrong."

Jim's cell phone chose that moment to ring. "Excuse me," he said, answering the phone. "Ellison." He listened for a bit, then asked, "Where are you?" Another pause. "Okay, we'll meet you there." He hung up and thanked Trent for his time, then herded Blair toward the truck.

"What's up? Where are we going?" Blair asked as he climbed into the passenger seat.

"Joel's at a homeless shelter called the Outreach Center," Jim explained. "He thinks he may have found our mystery man. The director there says the guy is a part-time resident: Robert Dunlop."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Blair said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation.

+++

"Hey, Joel," Jim greeted his colleague as he and Blair walked into the shelter. "What have you got for us?"

"This is the director of the Center, Charlie Perkins. He's the man with the answers you need," Joel said, introducing them.

"We haven't seen Robert for a few days," Perkins explained, holding up an old, battered suitcase. "He left this stuff with me for safekeeping. He seemed really paranoid about it, so I made sure it was locked up." He placed the suitcase on a table and opened it for Jim to see.

"That woman I saw in the mirror... she was dressed in clothes very similar to these," Jim said, fingering a soft cotton print dress. "And these clothes have that same scent that permeated the room when she first appeared to me." He turned to Perkins. "What can you tell me about Dunlop?"

Charlie hesitated for just a moment. "Uh... he's pretty typical of the clients we get here. Fifty years ago, he'd have been institutionalized. He's schizophrenic. Trouble is, he refuses to take his medicine."

"Did he ever say why?" Blair asked. Turning to Jim, he whispered in an aside, "A lot of schizophrenics don't like taking their medication because it makes them feel bad."

"Robert claimed it was to stay closer to the spirit world," Perkins explained. "We can't force him to take his meds, you know."

"Did he ever give you any problems?" Jim continued.

"Nah. He mostly kept to himself." Perkins shook his head and waved a hand at an old journal. "He was always writing in that book."

Blair thumbed through the journal, and then looked up at Jim. "It looks like the same handwriting as those letters Trent gave us."

"Any family? Friends?" Jim asked.

"No family that I know of," Perkins said. "And I've only heard him talk about one friend -- someone named Molly. He'd go visit her almost every night. These are her things in this suitcase. Robert said he was taking care of them for her." He fingered some of the items in the suitcase. "It's strange, though. All her stuff is really old."

Blair picked up an old cigar box and opened it to find a number of pictures. He pulled them out and began looking through them.

"That's her. That's Molly," Perkins said. Jim took the pictures from his Guide and looked at them. "Robert was always saying that she was trapped," Charlie continued. "Said he wanted to help her get home."

Jim was staring at the pictures in his hand of a lovely young woman. "Charlie, could I have a minute here just to wrap this up?" he asked, somewhat distracted.

"Yeah, sure." Perkins shrugged and walked away, leaving Jim and Blair alone with the suitcase and the photographs.

Jim pulled a sketch from his pocket and handed it to Blair. "Check this out. I had the police sketch artist do a rendering of the woman I saw in the mirror."

Blair looked from the sketch to the photographs in disbelief. They were a perfect match.

+++

That night, Jim and Blair returned to the haunted apartment. As Blair was setting up his recording equipment, Jim stood in front of the fireplace and the mirror.

"How are you doing going through the journal?" Blair asked, checking out the infrared camera.

Jim shrugged. "Whatever mental problems this guy had, you can't say he wasn't organized."

"Is this the original police report on Molly's murder?" Blair asked, picking up a file Jim had lain on the table.

"Yeah... 1953," said Jim. "You know, the case was never solved."

"That could account for the haunting," Blair said, nodding in understanding. "Unfinished business. It says she was shot right here, in front of the fireplace. Weird, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Jim said, nodding. "And so is this: Dunlop claims he knows the murderer; said he saw a man with stained fingers burying a gun in the park."

"Stained fingers?" Blair said. "I wonder what significance that has?"

Jim shrugged. "He just said that the guy threatened to kill him if he told."

"He was a witness? Why isn't that in the report?"

"He was only eight years old at the time," Jim explained. "He's totally obsessed with Molly. He talks in here about being true to her spirit, protecting her home."

"Maybe he figured that if this place was torn down, she'd be doomed to wander the Earth forever," said Blair.

"That would explain his threatening letters," Jim said. "But how did he end up with all her stuff?"

"Maybe she told him about it."

"Wait a minute," Jim said, turning to his Guide. "You mean to tell me that Dunlop can see her too? That maybe he's a Sentinel?"

"Not a Sentinel, necessarily," Blair explained. "Perhaps just sensitive."

Shaking his head, Jim decided to change the subject. "What's all this stuff?

"Just some things I got from the Psych lab at Rainier." Blair held up the pieces of equipment one-by-one. "Measures the heartbeat, respiration, and, uh..." He picked up a particularly long thermometer, "...body temperature."

"Body temperature, huh?" Jim gave the instrument a skeptical look. "External or... internal?"

+++

It was past midnight, and the Sentinel and Guide had seen no signs of activity so far that night. Blair worked diligently at his computer, headphones in place so he wouldn't disturb Jim, while the Sentinel dozed in a nearby chair. Unseen by both men, a shadowy figure walked across the room and right through the sleeping man. Jim awoke with a start, shivering.

"Chief?" Jim got up and walked over to the mirror. "Blair?" Blair didn't hear and kept on working. Molly was standing there, looking back from the reflection of the mirror. Jim reached up to touch the mirror, and it shattered.

~*~*~*~

Jim found himself standing in the apartment -- from fifty years ago. Molly stood in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of wine. She walked into the family room and over to the window, where she peered out for a few moments. Then, walking over to the fireplace, she toasted herself in the mirror.

"Mrs. Sam Bromly."

A gunshot sounded and Molly jerked as the bullet hit and the mirror cracked behind her. She reached down to place a hand on her stomach, where blood blossomed out, staining her dress. The wine glass slipped from her fingers and hit the floor, shattering into hundreds of sparkling shards. As Molly fell, the scene began to fade.

~*~*~*~

Blair looked up at that point and saw Jim standing in front of the mirror. Pulling off the headphones, he got up, coming over to stand next to his Sentinel.

"Jim. Jim... what's going on? Jim?" He was concerned when Jim didn't respond immediately.

"I-I just saw Molly's murder," Jim said, still in shock over the scene he'd just witnessed.

Blair placed a hand on Jim's shoulder, grounding him. "Did you see who killed her?" he asked.

"It all played out right in front of me, just the way it did with Dunlop," Jim explained. "But I couldn't see who did it."

"You're breathing as hard as if you'd just run a three-minute mile!" Blair observed. "Maybe you'd better sit down." He led Jim over to the chair he'd been dozing in a few minutes earlier.

"She was having a glass of wine," Jim said, describing his vision. "She was toasting herself. There was a shot... the mirror shattered and she fell down. That was it." Jim looked up at his Guide. "But she mentioned a name."

"You mean, she actually spoke to you?" Blair asked, excited by the prospect that Jim had communicated with the spirit world.

"She was facing a mirror just like this one," Jim continued. "She raised her glass, as if in a toast, and said: 'Mrs. Sam Bromly'."

"But her last name was Charles," Blair said. "Maybe Sam Bromly was her fiancÚ?"

"Could be," Jim agreed. "But what was she trying to tell me?"

"I don't know," Blair admitted. "Maybe we'd better pack it up and call it a night. I think you've been through enough. We can do some more research in the morning, after we're rested."

+++

The next morning, Jim sat on the couch going through a stack of papers. Blair stood at the dining room table, doing the same with a stack of his own.

"You know, Jim, if Molly was murdered, that could be why she's still here," Blair said. "If she doesn't know why she died, her spirit may be stuck in a sort of limbo, unable to fully pass on to the next world."

"So, you're saying that if we can show her how and why she died, she'd be set free to move on?

"Yeah, I think so," Blair said. "But it's just a theory."

Jim shrugged. "Maybe we should test it."

"Jim, you're talking about a murder that happed forty-five years ago!" Blair exclaimed. "It wasn't even in the police computer database. You had to go to the vault to pull the file. What about evidence? What about witnesses?"

"Cold cases are solved all the time, Chief," Jim argued. "I know it's a long-shot, but you should have seen her eyes... I don't know... If there is a next life, she deserves to find it."

"Yeah, she does," Blair agreed. "All right, so where do we start?

"These papers are no help," Jim said, tossing a handful back onto the stack on the coffee table. His cell phone rang and he answered. "All right, ah... just try and calm him down. We're on our way." He hung up and turned to Blair. "That was the homeless shelter. Dunlop's down there ranting and raving... waving a knife. Says he wants his stuff and Molly's suitcase back."

"I guess we'd better get moving, then," Blair said, quickly stuffing Molly's possessions back into her suitcase and closing it.

+++

When Jim and Blair arrived at the shelter, they were faced with a stand-off. Dunlop had Perkins pinned to his chest, a knife at his throat. A uniformed police officer had his gun pointed at the two men. A crowd had gathered behind the policeman.

Jim held up his badge. "Excuse me folks," he said, pushing through the crowd. "Police!" He gestured to the uniformed officers. "Put your guns down, back off... back off. Uniforms, clear the crowd out of here." Turning his attention to Dunlop, he held out his hands, showing that he wasn't carrying a weapon. "Put down the knife; let him go."

"Who are you?" Dunlop shouted, not lowering his weapon.

"I'm with the police department. My name is James Ellison," Jim replied calmly.

"That's my suitcase," Dunlop said, gesturing to the case in Blair's hand. "Give it to me! It belongs to me!"

"Let Charlie go first," Jim replied.

"Give it to me!" Dunlop insisted, growing more frantic. "Give it to me!"

Jim nodded to Blair. "All right, go on, Chief," he said.

Blair set the suitcase down and Dunlop shoved his captive aside, grabbing the case and running toward the back of the shelter.

"Take care of him!" Jim shouted to the uniformed cops, gesturing toward Charlie as he and Blair began their chase. They followed Dunlop through the back of the shelter. Dunlop slipped into a room and locked the door. Jim wiggled the knob. "We don't want to hurt you, Dunlop. We just want to talk." When he couldn't hear anything on the other side of the door, he kicked it in. The room was empty, and the window open.

"He went out the window," Jim said, "and I have a good idea where he went." He led the way out of the shelter and they got in the truck.

"The apartment?" Blair asked as they peeled out into traffic.

"Where else?"

+++

At the apartment building, Dunlop ran down the hallway and into Molly's apartment. He went into the room with the fireplace and hid some papers inside the flue. "Molly, Molly, where are you? I need to talk to you," he said, his voice frantic and low. "It's important... please. I have a problem and I... I can't..."

Jim walked into the room. Dunlop saw his reflection in the mirror and turned, pulling out his knife. "You don't understand. I'm all she has," Dunlop cried.

"I do understand," Jim said softly. "But she wouldn't want this. I know you want to protect her, but this isn't the way. I can see her too," he admitted. "Let me help you help her."

Dunlop collapsed, and Jim caught him, sinking to the floor. Jim took the knife away and set it aside, concentrating on the broken man beside him.

"It's not me. It's not me. I didn't do it," Dunlop sobbed. "I wasn't the one.... Molly... she's back." His face turned wistful as he looked up toward the mirror.

Jim stood, seeing Molly reflected in the mirror. Molly reached her hand out toward the mirror, and the mirror shattered, once more sending Jim into a vision from the past.

~*~*~*~

Peter Willis was in the apartment hallway, carrying a briefcase. "What the hell are you doing here?" he growled.

"You son of a bitch!" Trent spat, grabbing for the briefcase. He brandished a knife and a struggle ensued.

"No... no! What are you doing?" Willis cried.

As the two men fought, Dunlop snuck up and snatched the briefcase away. Trent stabbed Willis...

~*~*~*~

... and the vision faded.

"Jim? Jim!" Blair gently shook the Sentinel, bringing him back to the present.

Jim looked around, seeing that they were alone. "Where's Dunlop?"

"I don't know," Blair said. "He must have taken off. I came in here and you were all zoned out. You had me worried, man!"

"He didn't kill Willis," Jim said. "Dunlop didn't do it. Let's get back to the station."

+++

"You sure it was Trent's voice that you heard?" Blair asked. "He was out of town at the time of the murders. We checked the airlines."

"What about rental cars?" Jim countered. "Portland's not far. He could have driven up, done the murder, and driven back down."

"But what was his motive?"

"Trent was worried about being ruined," Jim conjectured. "Maybe Willis had something on him. I don't know."

"But if Trent's our guy, why did Molly show you Dunlop first in the mirror?" Blair asked.

Jim shrugged. "Maybe she figured that if I found him, he would lead us to the truth about what happened to her."

Simon stepped out of his office and walked over to the Sentinel and Guide. "Gentlemen! I understand that you lost your suspect."

"Yeah, Captain, but I think I found another one," Jim replied.

Blair chimed in, "Jim doesn't think it's Dunlop anymore."

"Just so that you don't tell me it's your ghost," Simon said with a hint of disgust.

Joel walked up to the group and interrupted. "Excuse me, Simon. Jim asked me to pull up some information about this guy named Sam Bromly."

"You mean you actually found him?" Blair asked, astonished.

"Yeah," Joel replied. "If your guy is eighty years old."

"She could have been with an older man," Jim conjectured.

"Who's 'she'?" Simon asked, suddenly feeling lost in the conversation.

"Molly," Blair said.

"Molly who?" Simon continued. Blair tipped his head toward Jim; the Sentinel shrugged. Simon sighed. "I don't care what you two do on your own time, but I want you to button up this murder case right now, before they take you away for observation!"

"You had to say it," Jim drawled dryly to his Guide.

"Sorry," Blair apologized. "But it's the truth."

"Let's go visit Bromly; see what he has to tell us." Jim picked up his coat and headed toward the elevator.

+++

"May I help you?" A young woman walked over to greet Jim and Blair as they entered the studio.

"I'm Sentinel Detective Ellison. This is my Guide, Blair Sandburg. We're here to see Mr. Bromly."

"Did you have an appointment?" the young woman asked.

"No," Jim replied. "But if it's all right, I'd just like to ask him a few questions."

"Well, if they're about anything other than his current work, he might not be able to answer them. He's been ill," the woman said.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Jim said. "I promise I won't take too much of his time."

"I'll see what I can do," the woman said, walking over to where Bromly sat.

Blair looked around the studio, suddenly realizing where he was and who they were about to speak to. "Do you know who this guy is?" he asked Jim.

"No, I don't."

"I can't believe that I didn't recognize his name right away," Blair said, amazed at himself. "Sam Bromly. He didn't get well-known until about twenty years ago or so, but in the '50s and '60s his sculptures and mirrors were all over Cascade. You never heard of him?"

Jim shook his head. "I don't really get modern art. Maybe you do, but this just looks like a big white square to me," he said, indicating a canvas sitting off to one side.

"It is a big, white square, Jim. It's a blank canvas."

The woman returned and gestured toward the center of the studio. "This way, please."

"Thank you," Jim said, following her to where Bromly sat in front of a partially painted canvas. "You said he was ill. What's wrong?"

"Alzheimer's," she answered. "But as far as his memory goes, sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not." She turned to Bromly. "Sam, this is Sentinel Ellison and Guide Sandburg." She paused, and when she got no response, she turned to Jim and Blair. "I'm sorry. He was here a minute ago," she apologized.

Jim held out a picture of Molly. "Mr. Bromly... do you know this woman?"

"My... Venus..." Bromly replied slowly.

"Her name is Molly," Blair corrected gently.

"Could I see the picture?" the woman asked, taking the snapshot from Bromly's fingers.

"Has he ever mentioned Molly to you?" Jim asked.

"Occasionally," the woman replied. "He called her his angel. Said she could light up a room with her smile. He never said anything more than that. It always seemed like her memory evoked a certain sadness in him, so I never pressed it."

Jim nodded. "Thank you." He turned and guided Blair back out of the studio. They climbed into the truck and headed back to the loft.

+++

Blair grabbed a book off the shelf in his home office. "I knew those modern art classes I took would eventually pay off. Take a look at this."

"The Art of Cascade," Jim said, reading the title.

"Take a look at page 52. Is that our Venus, or what?" He pointed to a picture of a sculpture of a woman.

"It looks just like Molly," Jim said, surprised.

"In the flesh. Well, almost," Blair said. "The real interesting thing about it is, it's in a park right across the street from Molly's building. Except, I don't remember seeing a statue there..."

The phone rang, and Jim reached over to answer it. "Yeah... No, it's all right... Slow down a second, would you, please? Just take it easy. Just... hello?" He hung up and turned to Blair. "That was Dunlop. He wants to meet us in half an hour to turn himself in."

+++

It was dark when they arrived at the apartment building. As they got out of the truck, Blair looked across at the park. "You know, the statue would have been right over there," he said, pointing.

"Dunlop said half an hour," said Jim. "We still have some time. Let's go and check it out."

They walked over to where the statue had once stood and found an empty pedestal. Jim turned his flashlight on a plaque at the base. "What do we have here?"

"March 15, 1953," Blair read. "That's what... two days after Molly died?"

"Yeah. I'd definitely say there was a connection," Jim said. "What an indignity to suffer, huh? I mean, first she has her life taken away, and then this statue disappears. It was as if she never existed." He looked up to see Dunlop entering the building. "He's here."

They headed across the street to the building. As they walked inside, the sound of a gunshot rang out.

"Where are they? Where are those papers?" Trent was saying as Jim and Blair approached. "I'm going to give you exactly three seconds." Dunlop held his injured arm as blood seeped from the bullet wound.

"Put your weapon down, Trent," Jim said as he came around the corner to confront the two men.

"Detective Ellison! I'm glad you're here," Trent said, lowering his weapon as ordered.

Jim's face twisted in disgust. "Save it. We know you killed your partner," he told Trent. "Now, move away him."

"No!" Trent grabbed Dunlop, using him as a shield as he raised his gun and began firing.

"Get back!" Jim pushed Blair back around the corner, out of danger.

Seeing his opening, Trent made a run for it, leaving Dunlop behind in the apartment.

"Call for backup, Chief," Jim ordered. "And get an ambulance here," he said as he took off after Trent.

"Jim... be careful," Blair cautioned as he dialed his cell phone.

Trent tried a locked door, but found his escape in that direction foiled. Temporarily perplexed, he stood in front of the closet with the beaded curtain. Strands of beads lifted and wrapped around his wrist, tangling Trent in their web.

"Give it up, Trent," said Jim. "There's nowhere to run."

Desperate, Trent lifted his arm and fired his gun, but his aim was thwarted by the beaded curtain. Jim's return shot found its mark, and Trent went down. Jim went over to check on Trent, as Blair came into the room.

"Jim... oh my god... are you okay?" Blair's heart rate was up and his breathing heavy.

"I'm fine, Blair," Jim said softly. "No need to worry."

"The ambulance is on its way," Blair said, his gaze shifting to the man on the floor.

"He's not going to need it," said Jim, standing and coming over to wrap an arm around Blair. "It's over."

+++

"Molly? Molly? You're safe now," Dunlop said as he stood in front of the mirror. Bending over, he pulled the papers out of the fireplace flue and then sank to the floor, holding his injured arm.

"Relax," Jim said, going over to Dunlop and giving his injury a cursory exam. "We've got an ambulance on the way."

"He was stealing money," Dunlop said, pointing to the papers that lay on the floor beside him. "It's all there in the documents."

"City redevelopment money," Jim said, taking off his coat and putting it around Dunlop's shoulders.

"His partner, Willis, found out," Dunlop explained. "That's why he killed him."

"There was another murder here... a long time ago," Jim said softly, watching the shifting emotions on Dunlop's face.

"A long time... yeah," Dunlop murmured. "She was dead. The man said not to tell, or 'I'll come back for you'."

"The man with the stained fingers?" Jim asked, gently probing for details.

"I was scared. I was just a kid," Dunlop said, beginning to shake.

"You followed this man into the park, and you saw him bury a gun," Jim continued. "Where in the park?"

"I-I promised never to tell," Dunlop said, his voice reverting to that of a small child.

Something made Jim look up. Molly had appeared in the mirror, which shattered, once more showing Jim a scene from the past.

~*~*~*~

Molly looked out the window to the park across the street. There was a group surrounding the new statue, a statue of Venus, modeled by her that was scheduled to be unveiled later that day. Sam Bromly had told her not to attend, since his wife would be there. But Molly knew in her heart that Sam would leave his current wife to marry her. He loved her.... She could wait.

~*~*~*~

"The statue," Jim said, standing and taking Blair by the arm to guide him out of the apartment. "The gun is buried there, somewhere." The Sentinel and Guide walked across the street to the park, and Jim knelt near the empty pedestal where the statue once stood.

"Are you sure about this?" Blair asked, watching Jim as he began to dig around the base of the pedestal.

"Pretty sure," Jim said. "Molly showed it to me. It may take a while, but it's here." He began using the butt of his gun to tap against the concrete of the pedestal's base. He listened carefully, as Blair reached out to ground him while he used his senses. The sound changed slightly, and Jim began to tap harder, until the mortar around one corner cracked and fell away, revealing a weapon. "It's a gun. Looks like a .38," Jim said, smiling in satisfaction.

+++

The following day, Halloween, saw Jim and Blair back at the apartment building. Simon stood alongside them as Joel wheeled Sam Bromly into the room. His nurse stood behind him, hovering protectively.

"Thank you for coming, Mr. Bromly," Jim said to their guest. Bromly sat, apparently oblivious to his surroundings.

"What's this all about?" Simon asked his detective.

Jim, speaking to Bromly's nurse, replied, "I spoke to several psychiatrists who told me that certain Alzheimer's patients -- given specific stimuli -- would respond by recalling events from their past."

"Nobody knows exactly why," the nurse said, "but sometimes, when reminded of a major event from the past, memory rises to the surface and you'll find them speaking about things that happened five years ago, as if it happened just now."

"I would like to use Mr. Bromly for a second," Jim said, walking over to the wheelchair where the non-responsive man sat. "Mr. Dunlop, please. Please..." He had to step over to where a frightened Dunlop stood, to guide the man over to Bromly. "I want you to take a good look at this man. Look at him real good. Can you tell me if this was the man you saw in the park; the man who threatened you where you were a little boy?"

"I don't know," Dunlop said. "It was a long time ago. I was just a little boy...."

"I want you to look at his hands," Jim instructed.

Dunlop looked at the stained fingers of the painter. "It could be him... I can't be sure. It was so long ago."

"Andrew, please..." Jim said, addressing a uniformed officer standing in the background. Andrew walked over and handed Jim a bagged .38 revolver -- the gun Jim had dug up from the park. Jim took the gun out of the protective evidence bag and placed it in Bromly's hand.

"Now, think back to that day," Jim instructed Dunlop. "Think real hard. When that man threatened you -- I want you to remember exactly what he said. You tell me exactly what he said."

Dunlop began reciting the words, burned into his memory as a young boy. "You tell anyone about me, and I'll come back here and bury you, too."

"Say it again," Jim urged, keeping an eye on Bromly as Dunlop spoke.

"Tell anyone about me, and I'll come back here and bury you, too," Dunlop repeated.

"Say it the same way he said it," Jim instructed, trying to spark Bromly's damaged memory.

"Tell anyone about me, and..." Dunlop began, using the same threatening tone he'd heard years ago.

"...I'll come back here and bury you, too," Bromly finished, brandishing the gun. "This is Molly's place," he added.

"You remember it?" Jim asked, surprised.

"Oh, yes," Bromly said, his voice wistful.

"Why did you do it?" Blair asked. "Why kill Molly? I thought you loved her."

"The art world isn't kind to beginners," Bromly explained. "I have only one patron -- my wife. If she finds out about the affair, she'll cut me off without a cent. I told Molly I'd get a divorce, but..."

"But you didn't have the guts to tell her you changed your mind," Jim said, suddenly disgusted with the man in front of him.

"She was planning to come to the dedication of my Venus," Bromly continued. "I knew I couldn't keep her away."

"So you killed her?" Blair's tone reflected his Sentinel's disgust.

"And I'll never love anyone ever again," Bromly said sadly.

"All right," Simon said. "That's it. A full confession in front of witnesses. Joel, take him downtown," he ordered.

"Why are you going to do that?" Blair asked. "The man's eighty-five years old with Alzheimer's. He's already in jail. Just look at him." He gestured toward Bromly, who was once again lost in his memories.

"It's not our call, Chief," Jim said gently.

"It's procedure," Simon explained to the Guide. "The D.A. will make the decision whether or not to bring charges. Go on, Joel." Joel pushed the wheelchair out of the room, followed closely by Bromly's nurse.

Dunlop looked around and smiled. "Molly... she's gone... for good. You did it." Satisfied that his work was done, Dunlop followed Andrew out of the building, allowing the officer to take him back to the hospital.

Simon turned to his lead Sentinel and Guide. "Would one of you boys like to tell me what that was all about?"

"Jim and Dunlop were the only ones who could see Molly," Blair explained.

Jim nodded. "I think he was right. I can't explain it, but something's changed. It's just... different somehow."

Simon shook his head. "I know there's got to be a rational explanation," he said. "Dunlop had mental problems, so that explains him seeing apparitions. I don't know what your excuse is," he said to Jim, "but I never purported to understand Sentinels. See you tonight at the Halloween party?"

"Yes, Sir. We're looking forward to having you over," Jim said, patting his captain on the shoulder as Simon turned to walk out of the room.

Jim stood in front of the mirror, feeling slightly down at the loss of something that was... special. A shadowy figure passed through him, and he shivered. Ever vigilant where his Sentinel was concerned, Blair piped up. "What is it? Do you see her?"

Looking into the mirror, Jim saw Molly standing there, just has he'd seen her the first time. "You came back."

"Just to thank you," Molly said, speaking aloud for the first time. She reached up to touch the mirror, and Jim reflected the gesture. This time their hands met and their fingers interlocked. Molly moved forward, through the mirror, and kissed Jim on the cheek, then turned and walked away, fading into nothingness.

"Now she's gone," Jim said, resting a hand on Blair's shoulder. "She's really gone."

+++

Strains of "Monster Mash" were playing in the stereo as the guests mingled in the loft's great room. Candles were lit, being the only lighting in the room, and cast long, eerie shadows on the walls. A buffet was spread out on the dining room table, and was a popular gathering spot for the guests and hosts alike. Simon, dressed as the grim reaper, was filling a plate with a sandwich and chips.

"Good party," he commented. "Someone put in a lot of work carving the pumpkins."

"That was Blair's doing," Jim said. "He's responsible for the decorations, and..." he turned to where Blair was refilling the punch bowl, "he's responsible for cleaning it all up."

"Hey, it's not a party without the decorations!" Blair protested. "Admit it, you're enjoying yourself." He grinned at the Sentinel, who had chosen to dress in camouflage gear from his Army days.

"Not as much as I'm going to enjoy it later," Jim said, sidling up to the Big, Bad Wolf. He tweaked one of Blair's furry fake ears.

"Hey, not the ears, man!" Blair protested, pulling away.

"So, what are they supposed to be?" Simon asked, gesturing to the unusual jack-o-lanterns.

Blair smiled. "They're reproductions of totems carved by the Tlingit Indians of Alaska," he explained proudly.

Simon smiled and shook his head. "Only you, Sandburg," he said with obvious affection for the Guide.

Little Bo-Peep walked over to the buffet and tugged Blair out from behind the table. "C'mon, Sandy," Megan said, "it's time you get out here and start enjoying yourself." She pulled Blair to the center of the room and started dancing to the music. Grinning, Blair joined in.

The room, mostly populated with the male detectives of Major Crime, began to pair up to dance to the lively music. Joel, who had taken the bold step to come as a cross-dresser, wearing a cotton print dress and pink bows in his hair, danced with Rafe, who had come as Dracula. H, who wore a gorilla costume, stood in a corner, doing "the monkey," while Johnson, dressed in overalls and a straw hat watched and laughed.

The party was in full swing as Jim walked across the room to claim his Guide from Bo-Peep. As they walked past a grouping of four candles on their way to the stereo, the flames blew out, darkening that corner of the room.

"That was weird," Blair said, pulling some matches out of a pocket in his costume to relight the candles. "Is there a draft in here?"

"Not that I know about," Jim said. "And I don't think I was moving fast enough to blow them out."

Blair shrugged. "Well, it is Halloween," he said. "Anything can happen."

"Did you feel that?" Jim asked, rubbing his arms and shivering. "I just felt a cold draft."

"I didn't feel anything," Blair said, becoming concerned. He placed a hand on Jim's arm to ground him. "Are you feeling all right? Maybe you're coming down with something."

"I'm fine," Jim insisted, slightly irritated. "I'm not coming down with anything, and I'm not imagining what I felt."

"Maybe you're feeling another ghost?" Blair said softly, for only the Sentinel to hear.

"God, I hope not!" Jim sighed.

"What's going on over here?" Joel asked, walking up to his hosts. "You look like you saw a ghost, Jim!"

Blair nodded. "I think maybe he did."

"It's nothing." Jim shook his head. He turned to the stereo to put on a new CD. "I guess I'm just feeling some residual effects from our last case."

"Did you really see a ghost?" Joel asked.

Jim shrugged. "Yeah. I think so. It sure seemed real, anyway."

"I've got family down in New Orleans," Joel explained. "They believe in voodoo curses, witches, ghosts, all that stuff. I never knew what to believe. I figure there's got to be something out there beyond what our senses can normally detect... but ghosts?"

"I don't know," Jim said. "But whatever you want to call it, I saw something in that apartment, and it helped me solve the case."

"Well, whatever it was, I'm just glad it's over!" Blair said. "I have enough to deal with concerning Jim's senses as it is. I don't need more to worry about!"

"If you guys ever need anything, you know where to come," Joel said, patting Blair's shoulder as he turned to rejoin the party.

+++

If was after midnight by the time the party broke up and everyone had gone home. Tired, but content with the knowledge that they'd thrown a killer party, Blair wrapped up the leftovers, while Jim picked up the trash littered around the great room of the loft.

"That's good enough for tonight," Jim said, stuffing cups and paper plates into a large garbage bag. "We can finish the clean-up tomorrow."

"You sure, man?" Blair said, feeling a bit of relief that Jim wasn't going to insist that the loft be spotless before they could retire.

"You've done enough for one day," said Jim. "Let's get to bed while we still have a little energy left."

"Speak for yourself," Blair said, yawning broadly and stretching. "What little I have left will be used up by the time I reach the top of the stairs."

"Then maybe I should help you conserve that energy," Jim said, scooping Blair up in his arms.

"Cut that out!" Blair protested, struggling until Jim was forced to put him down.

"Seems to me that you're still doing just fine," Jim said, his eyes twinkling. "Meet you upstairs." He headed for the staircase and was halfway up when a shadow passed through him, making him shiver.

"What the hell was that?" Blair asked, coming up behind the Sentinel. "I saw... something."

Jim continued up the stairs and sank down onto the edge of the bed. "What was it you saw?" he asked, trying to get his shivering under control.

Blair shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't get a clear look, but it seemed as though a shadow passed right through you."

"It felt like something icy sliced through me," Jim agreed. "And now I can't get warm. D-Do you think it's another spirit? Why me?"

"I don't know," Blair said, coming to sit next to his partner. "But Halloween is over now, so maybe this will all just fade away."

"And what if it doesn't?"

"Then we'll deal with it," Blair said with confidence. "You're a Sentinel, which means your five senses are heightened beyond that of normal humans.... Maybe your sixth sense is heightened too."

"My sixth sense?" Jim asked, incredulous. "Do you really believe in that mumbo-jumbo?"

Blair shrugged again. "I try to keep my options open. When I find evidence that supports a theory, I think it bears looking into."

"So you think I can see -- sense -- ghosts?"

"I don't know," Blair admitted, "but you have to admit, it's strange." He rubbed at Jim's arm, trying to help warm up the Sentinel. "Feeling any better now?" Jim nodded. "Then let me help finish warming you up," Blair suggested. He tugged on Jim's sleeve, urging him to undress. Soon, they were lying naked in bed, their bodies tangled together.

"God, I love you!" Jim said fervently, burying his face in the long, fragrant hair. "Just being near you makes everything all right."

"I love you, too," Blair said. "That's what makes our bond so special. It's rich, and it's deep, because we share more than the superficial needs of most Sentinel-Guide pairs. It's why I married you."

"It's why I asked," Jim responded, moving so that his mouth covered that of his Guide's. After the long, smothering kiss ended, Jim smiled. "It's gone. I can't feel it anymore."

"What's gone?" Blair asked, perplexed. His body had heated up in response to the pheromones pouring off Jim. His cock was hard and ready, and he ached to be touched. Gone were all thoughts of anything other than the sex that was to come.

"The ghost," Jim answered. "Or whatever it was. I don't feel it anymore."

"Good," Blair said, "because I want you all to myself. I need you all to myself." He groaned loudly as Jim's fingers wrapped around his cock, quickly milking his orgasm from him.

"I'm yours," Jim growled. "And you're mine."

"Oh God, yes!" Blair agreed, as Jim rolled him onto his side with his back to the Sentinel. Long fingers brushed over his nipples, causing Blair to shudder with arousal. But his body was spent from his climax, and his cock remained soft. He moaned with pleasure as Jim entered him.

+++

Gently, Jim made love to his Guide, to Blair. Too often, their sex was about bonding, reestablishing the link between them. But tonight, tonight was about thanks... and love. He wanted nothing more than to show Blair how much he was cherished. Fingers traced the contours of his lover's body before a hand caressed the smooth, hairless skin of chest and abdomen. His hand closed around the spent cock, stroking it slowly, carefully, until it began to stir to life once more.

Blair's groans of pleasure spurred him on. Rhythmic thrusts into his Guide's body were angled to brush Blair's prostate. Soon, his lover was sobbing for him to finish, to complete the cycle that deepened their bond. With a rush, Jim's climax claimed them both, and Sentinel and Guide sank into a deep sleep, joined together; body, heart, and soul.

+++

The next morning, Blair rolled over and wrapped his arms around Jim, kissing him awake. "Good morning, lover," he purred.

Jim opened his eyes and reached up to rub them. "I never thought I'd be so happy to see the morning sun." He leaned over to give Blair a kiss. "It's over?"

"Uh-huh," Blair confirmed. "As best I can tell. Nothing before us but blue November skies and cold, cold weather."

"All the better for staying in bed and snuggling," Jim suggested, pulling Blair close and reveling in the touch of naked skin against naked skin. His cock began to fill, pressing against his Guide's thigh.

"That's a little more than snuggling," Blair said with a laugh, his own cock responding in kind. "You're an insatiable whore.... Did I ever tell you that?"

Jim returned the laugh. "I think I heard that somewhere before," he agreed. "But admit it, you love it. You love me."

"God help me, but I do!" Blair sighed, giving in to the emotions roiling just beneath the surface. "The day you chose me, my life began. Little did I know it would bring me this far in such a short time."

"The trip's not over yet," Jim promised, claiming his Guide with a kiss.

THE END

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Acknowledgments: I must give credit for the bulk of the "episode" part of this story to Harold Apter, who wrote "The Waiting Room," and to the team of PetFly and Paramount who own the copyright to the script. I have lifted much of the story and dialogue intact, although a number of things had to be changed in order to suit this AU. Mr. Apter deserves the credit for these scenes, despite my mangling of them. [g] Also, sincere thanks to Becky, whose transcripts I relied heavily upon to write this story. A nod of appreciation to Lisa Adolf, for Joel's costume at the Halloween party. [g] And, of course, this section would not be complete without thanks to my betas, Mary and Bobbie, for their help and support.