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Halloween To You Too Mr. Sentinel

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Halloween To You Too, Mr. Sentinel
By Kerensa

 

Jim Ellison sat in his 1969, blue and white truck, Sweetheart, by the entrance to Hargrove Hall for a few minutes before he turned off the engine. The only sound that was left after his engine stopped was the university fountain that was bubbling merrily away. The students, and most of the teachers, had already left for the weekend.

The Sentinel sat in solitary splendor, bored out of this butt. He had come to the university to pick up his friend and Guide, Blair, for their weekend outing.

Ellison snorted at the term outing. "Stupid, empty, pointless, posturing gesture is more like it," he muttered out loud, then arched his eyebrows at hearing posturing coming out of his mouth. "I’ve been spending too much time around Sandburg," he acknowledged to himself. "I’m starting to sound like a talking text book."

The Sentinel glanced over at Hargrove Hall’s main entrance and tapped his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, as he waited for Blair to come out. This weekend promised to be more than a little strange and Jim wanted to get it over with.

Blair had heard from a fellow teacher friend of his that Blackmoor Manor, an old house on the very edge of town, was supposed to be haunted by Thomas Blackmoor. The owner had died over 200 years ago from a fall out of the 3rd story window. Supposedly, his ghost had haunted the place from then on.

Jim had openly scoffed at the anthropologist’s story and unfortunately several other people in Major Crimes had heard him. Henri Brown and Simon Banks had come over to Jim’s desk, in order to find out what was so funny. Ellison had told them Blair’s story, ignoring the blush that had been creeping up Blair’s face, and had opened a Pandora’s Box of hilarity for everybody involved.

‘Everybody but Sandburg,’ Jim admitted to himself. ‘The kid’s face went from red to white so fast that I was worried he was going to pass out. Not that I let that stop me. Oh no, I guess it was more fun to humiliate Blair.’

When it came out that Blair actually believed in ghosts, the anthropologist had been challenged by the guys to spend the Halloween weekend there. From the hurt look on his face, Jim had been able to tell that Blair was upset at all their teasing, but he had accepted the challenge, on one condition, that the challengers join him.

That’s how it came to pass that the five of them—Jim, Simon, H, Rafe and Joel—were going to spend the weekend camping out at a haunted house with Blair. And that’s why Ellison was sitting, staring at the gray stone entryway, bored out of his skull, waiting on Sandburg to appear.

‘If I had just kept my mouth shut, Blair and I could have gone to a game this weekend or maybe even seen a movie,’ he complained to himself. ‘Or better yet, if I had stood up for him…’

Wondering what the hold up was, Jim dialed up his hearing and immediately zeroed in on his good friend’s heartbeat. Blair sounded like he wasn’t too far away from his office, and therefore, either on his way to, or coming away from that edifice. Ellison sincerely hoped it was the latter, otherwise the conscientious observer would most likely be caught out by people wanting favors. He was waiting to hear Blair’s voice when—

"Oh, Mr. Sandburg," Jim heard a female voice call out. "I need to speak to you a moment."

"Yes, ma’am?" Blair sounded tired and despondent.

"There has been a complaint from a student of yours," the woman said. "I think we need to discuss it."

‘She seems to be fair,’ Jim decided. ‘At least she sounds like she’s willing to listen to Sandburg’s point of view.’

Not wanting to intrude on his friend’s privacy, Jim dialed his hearing back down to normal levels. He pushed a cassette into the truck’s tape player and Carlos Santana’s soothing voice filled the cab of the truck. Ellison kept his eye trained on the heavy doors, waiting for them to open and disgorge his friend.

xxxx

"Yes, Dr. Blakely?" Blair turned to look at the woman warily. She was only a few years older than Jim, but she wore her authority like a cloak, one that could cover and smother you at any moment.

"Please follow me," she said with a regal looking smile.

Not having any other choice, Blair reluctantly followed the woman down the hall. However, instead of leading him to her sumptuous office, like he would have supposed, the dark haired woman veered off, into a little used storage room. Blair paused, trying to come up with a plausible excuse not to follow her, when the doctor turned and stared at him. Not wanting to get into even more trouble, Blair stepped in.

Once inside, the woman spun around and shoved Blair against the closed door. The anthropologist landed with an oomph, the doorknob digging a hole into his lower back. Her long, manicured fingernails burrowed into his arms and Blair expected there to be blood any moment.

"I’ve had some complaints about you," she purred, licking her lips in anticipation. Laura Blakely slid one pantyhose covered leg between Blair’s jean clad ones and began to rub herself against Blair. She was basically straddling his leg.

"Christopher Walken has been saying bad things about you," she added with breathless moan. Apparently she was getting a lot more out of the rubbing session than Blair was. Considering he was disgusted by the blatant attack, that wasn’t saying a great deal.

Blair flinched, both at the student’s name and the way that the administrator was leaning against him. He struggled for a moment, which the doctor took as a come on. Blair was simply trying to get the knob out of his back. Blair was able to move over just slightly and save himself from an unintentional appendectomy—from the back.

Walken was a student in one of Blair’s Anthropology 101 classes. He was a rich, spoiled brat who didn’t understand the concept of doing his own work. The student had been bothering Blair since day three of the semester, which was going on several weeks now, and didn’t show any signs of letting up.

Only this morning, Walken had decided to step up his continued harassment of Blair by having a jock friend of his come to the anthropologist’s office and punch on him a while; a good long while. The jock—and Blair didn’t even know his real name, just his nickname, Smitty—wasn’t a very intelligent young man. But he was bright enough to only punch Blair on the upper arms or in the stomach. In other words, places where the attack couldn’t easily be seen.

Blair had tried to lodge a complaint about the harassment, but he had made the monumental mistake of going to Dr. Blakely to do so. Not only had she dismissed Blair’s claims as trivial, she had begun sexually harassing the teacher. This was the first time Laura had actually jumped him though. Before, it had been veiled threats against his job if Blair refused to sleep with her.

"Why don’t you show me what a naughty boy you can be," she said, as she tried to unbutton his jeans. Her long nails were scratching at his crotch as she pawed him and did not arouse Blair at all.

‘I am sooo not into pain,’ he thought with a grimace.

Mentally rolling his eyes at the tacky come on line, Blair pushed her away. "Get off me," he grunted. Before she could grab him again, Blair opened the door and hurried down the hallway.

He heard Laura laughing behind him. Looking back, Blair saw that she was standing in the doorway of the office. "You might as well give up," she said. It was said quietly, but the empty hallway echoed her sentiment better than a recording studio. "I’ll get what I want in the end. After all," she smiled smugly and confidently, "who will believe someone like you?"

Standing at the entrance doorway, Blair watched her smooth down her sensible skirt, from where her gyrations had hiked it up, and saunter down the hallway.

‘She’s right,’ Blair admitted to himself. ‘No one would believe me.’

Stepping outside, Blair saw that Jim was waiting for him in the truck. Blair braced himself for the fallout, if Jim had been listening in, and walked down the steps.

xxxx

Blair didn’t talk much on the way to their weekend retreat. As a matter of fact, he didn’t say more than 10 words, and that was only in answer to Jim’s queries. He didn’t have the energy, and frankly, he didn’t need any more put downs from his supposed friend.

The younger man surreptitiously rubbed his aching stomach. Smitty, Walken’s friend, had certainly done a number on his stomach, back and arms. Blair hadn’t looked yet, but he was fairly certain that he was black and blue from the abuse. Naturally, because the bruises were hidden underneath Blair’s shirt and jacket, Jim didn’t even know they existed.

The grad student didn’t say anything to the Sentinel about his problems, because of the "talking to" Blair had received a few days earlier. He had arrived at the station, on time, and had been immediately summoned into Captain Banks’ office. Once ensconced there, Jim had given Blair a lecture, a very long and very thorough lecture. The Sentinel had explained to Blair that he was there for Jim’s senses and his dissertation; although the diss had been mentioned as an aside. According to Ellison, the detective wasn’t there to solve all of Blair’s personal problems and the observer certainly shouldn’t be causing any new ones for Jim—or anyone else.

Blair had been more than a little stunned at the dressing down and unsure where it had come from. The observer had been completely on his own since he was 16 years old and started living at college. He hadn’t counted on anybody to take care of him since then—and precious little before, with his nomadic mother—and he certainly didn’t want Ellison to manage any more of his life than he already did.

The Sentinel thought that because Blair was living in his spare bedroom it granted him the right to dictate as much of Blair’s life as he could. What with all the House Rules, rules for the station, ways to act at a crime scene/stakeout/takedown, etc., there wasn’t much leeway in his personal life. Blair was told when he could flush the toilet, for pity’s sake.

#Rule #13 was, ‘no flushing after 10 pm.’ It was sandwiched in between #12, the ‘no eating in the living room’ rule, and the ‘thou shall place all books and cd’s in alphabetical order’ commandment.

And, to top it all off, the dressing down had happened at the station, in Simon’s glass fronted office. The large captain had sat there, like a judge at sentencing, and looked at Blair like the student had peed in his favorite shoes or something. The observer knew that the rest of the bullpen had been able to tell that he was getting a talking to, even if they weren’t entirely sure of the subject.

Blair had been humiliated and hurt, and certainly unsure of the cause. Since then he had backed as far away from Jim and Simon as he could. And what someone who had been taught by Naomi "detach with love" Sandburg didn’t know about backing away wasn’t worth knowing about.

The challenge, which was just another excuse to laugh at him, had been issued loudly and in front of everybody. Blair had let his pride rule his head, for once, and accepted the dare. Now he just wished he could go back to the loft. Blair knew that this weekend was going to be hellacious and humiliating, but there was no feasible way out of it, not that Blair could see anyway.

He’d just smile and pretend that he wasn’t hurt or upset by the crappy way people treated him, just like Blair had done all of his life. This wasn’t new behavior, but that still didn’t make it any less painful.

xxxx

"How were your classes today, Chief?"

"Fine."

Jim glanced sideways at Blair and frowned. Monosyllabic answers were so unlike the usually gregarious young man and Ellison knew the reason why he was so silent. Ellison could see that Blair was still upset, but hesitated to say anything.

The Sentinel knew that he hurt Blair with his talk the other day and admitted to himself that he had gone overboard. Earlier in the day, Simon had gotten a call from a young woman, who complained that Blair had hit on her. Banks had, in turn, had jumped right in the middle of Jim and demanded that he handle it. All of this had dropped in Jim’s lap on a really bad day and he’d taken it out on Blair.

Thinking over the sequence of events, Jim wondered to himself why Blair was disciplined in the first place. The young man hitting on someone wasn’t a crime, if it was, most of Major Crimes would be in lockup.

Now, if Blair’s making a pass at her had been done inappropriately, such as at a crime scene or something along those lines, then fine, Blair should have been censured. But the young woman hadn’t given any details. In fact, she hadn’t said anything else at all; she hadn’t even given her name. With that tenuous of a complaint, nothing should have been said about the matter.

If Jim had been a little more with it that day, he would have talked it over with Simon and hopefully stopped the jumping before it could even happen. Ellison’s growing attraction to the younger man hadn’t helped things either. The mere thought of Blair with some young co-ed had sent his blood boiling. It had boiled over on Blair, who, for once, hadn’t bounced back.

Jim could see that Blair was depressed. In fact, he had noticed that for the last several weeks, long before the scene in Simon’s office. Something had been bothering the young teacher. Ellison wavered about saying anything though. Offering help to people he cared about had never been his long suit. Apologizing wasn’t either.

William Ellison had taught his little boy well.

{"You never apologize or admit you are wrong, son. Doing so makes you appear weak and indecisive. And real Ellison men aren’t weak."}

Even after all of these years, his father’s words still echoed in Jim’s brain, tainting every action or emotion he’d ever felt.

‘That’s probably why I have an ex-wife, lots of ex-girlfriend, and before Sandburg came along, I only had one friend,’ the detective admitted to himself. ‘And…not a few ex-boyfriends,’ his mind whispered.

Looking over at Blair’s tense profile, Jim was worried about his friend and afraid he had ruined their friendship with his verbal attack. Being a generally repressed person, the Sentinel wasn’t certain how to fix the situation.

The problem with the two of them, was that Blair was the one person he would talk to, when he did talk that is. The anthropologist could help him figure out how to mend the friendship, but since he was the one who was hurt, Ellison didn’t have anyone he could turn to.

‘I will do whatever it takes," he decided. ‘I’m not screwing this partnership up, not if I can help it.’

xxxx

The Sentinel and Guide were the first to arrive at Blackmoor House. Blair was still sitting quietly, his hands folded in his lap, and staring out of the windshield. In a complete turnaround, Jim was forced to do all the talking. Needless to say, it had been a very quiet ride.

"Geez," Jim said, as he looked around at the estate, "no wonder this place has the reputation of being haunted. It just looks like someplace that should be full of nasty creatures. I expect to see Jason come racing out of the house," he added, mentioning the murderer in the Friday the 13th movies.

The house was tucked into the edge of the woods, like it was hiding, crouched there, waiting to spring on some unsuspecting victim. The weathered boards, which had been in desperate need of painting about 50 years ago, and the shutters that were hanging halfway off their hinges, did nothing to improve the first impression.

The cold wind blew forlorn leaves across the pathetic excuse for a lawn, catching and making scritching noises as they rubbed against one another. Overhead, the bare tree limbs swayed in the wind, making their own creaking noises.

On the air, something sickly sweet and unappetizing wafted by, making Jim’s nose curl up in offense. Taking a deeper breath, Ellison recognized it as the faint odor of death. It was subtle, indicating that whatever was dead had been that way for a long time. But still, it wasn’t a pleasant scent.

Jim’s brain recognized and further categorized the faint scent as that of an animal carcass. Human beings smelled differently. Jim wasn’t sure what the difference was, but after so many years worth of exposure, he knew the subtle discrepancies between human decay and animal.

The Sentinel was about to ask Blair if he smelled anything when it dawned on him that Blair had never answered him. Instead, the observer had methodically begun unloading the back of the truck.

With a grimace, Jim dialed his sense of smell back down. ‘A quiet Blair is not good,’ he decided for about the 40th time that week.

"Let me give you a hand there, Chief." Blair nodded his head in acknowledgement of the offer, but still didn’t say anything.

The lack of conversation was irritating the detective more than Blair’s conversation ever could have. Even though he always got on to the other man for talking so much, in reality, the melodic tones of his friend’s voice had soothed the Sentinel’s irritated nerves on more than one occasion.

‘Too bad I never mentioned that to Blair,’ he berated himself.

Ellison grabbed his and Blair’s sleeping bags and followed the curly haired man into the dark and forbidding mansion.

xxxx

The two of them were still moving things into the house when the other police detectives arrived. Each man showed up in their own car, prompting Blair to wonder to himself if any of them had ever heard of carpooling or conserving energy.

‘Probably not,’ Blair decided as he eyed Simon’s gas-guzzler of a car.

The yard was strangely quiet again, after the two large cars—Simon and Joel—one jeep—Henri—and one la-di-da sports car—Rafe, naturally—finally shut off. The cessation of noise from the engines was shocking enough that neither he nor Jim said anything at first. After a few moments, the distant sound of birds and insect life reentered the large yard. But they were very distant. Not even the moths were attracted to the headlights that were just breaching the fast falling night.

‘Hmmm,’ Blair thought. ‘Even the animals avoid the area.’ He filed that information away in his ever-working brain. ‘That’s not good,’ Blair acknowledged to himself in a fatalistic sort of way.

"Soooo, have you seen any ghosties yet, Blair?" Joel asked, breaking the silence once again. Everybody but Jim laughed. Blair just ignored them, not even noticing that this time Jim wasn’t going along with the hilarity.

He thought about flipping them the bird, but decided not to. Considering the fact that he was, by far, the smallest of the men, and the odds were 5-1 against him, the student decided to ignore them.

‘Not that they’ve ever attacked me before,’ Blair admitted. ‘But I’m not going to take any changes. I’d have never thought Jim would act like he did either. He’s never raised a hand to me.’ Blair thought with a sigh.

‘Except for that time in your office with Jim,’ his brain whispered slyly. Blair quickly squashed that thought as unfair.

Leaving the other men to gather up their own supplies, Blair took a box of food that they had brought for the weekend into the pantry. He set it down on a shelf, trying to ignore the dust that puffed up when the box landed. He waved a hand in front of his face and coughed as the particles irritated his throat.

The anthropologist shivered at the atmosphere of the place. Despite what the others thought, he really had seen some ghosts in his time, not to mention other horror creatures, ones that people thought were mere legends. He could feel the malevolence of the place. It had seeped into the very wood of the building over the years.

"Oh man, this was a big mistake," he said quietly.

His voice echoed around the empty room, as if the house were agreeing with him.

xxxx

Later that night, they were all sitting around the fireplace in the living room. The setting was quaint and old-fashioned, making them feel like they really were back a hundred years or so.

The house was very primitive—there was no electricity, no central heat and no water. As a matter of fact, the only heat came from the fireplaces that were scattered around the mansion. There wasn’t even a bathroom, just an outhouse that sat at the far edge of the property, making it about a 100 yard walk to take a leak.

"An outhouse," Joel said with a sigh. "My grandmother had one of those at her place in Florida," he reminisced, thinking of the long-gone woman fondly.

Simon nodded and leaned back against one of the room’s many couches. Hot dogs and other easily heated foods had been consumed. They were all sitting on the floor around the fireplace because it just didn’t feel proper to be eating a wiener on a Louis the 17th chase lounge.

Jim had been agog at the lack of complaint from Blair over the greasy, fat saturated foods that they were eating. Blair, for his part, couldn’t have cared less. He ate healthy whenever possible, and tried to get his friends to do likewise so they would be around as long as possible. At this moment, Blair didn’t think he had very many friends, not after the way he had been, and still was being, treated.

Blair sat at the edge of the group. He watched them talk and listened, but didn’t comment or ask questions as was his want. The stories they were telling were about their days as cops, something he had no reference to, and he felt left out, pushed away.

Normally he would have interjected some stories of his own. But ever since the dressing down he’d gotten from Jim, Blair felt a little leery of making his presence felt.

"Excuse me." Blair’s quiet statement stopped Simon’s reminiscing. They all watched as Blair picked up the heavy-duty flashlight he’d brought and went out the French doors at the far end of the room. It was obvious what his destination was.

Blair heard their chattering start up again as soon as he was on the other side of the door. Flicking on the flashlight, Blair was rewarded when a bright beam cut through the dark night. Glancing up, the anthropologist peered at the inky black sky.

"Looks like it might rain," he commented to himself. "There aren’t any stars out tonight and I can’t find the moon."

At that moment, the clouds parted and a bright, full, yellow moon was slowly revealed. The extra light only made the woods, just past the back yard, look even more forbidding and desolate.

After using the primitive facilities, Blair started his lonely trek back across the yard. He heard a rustling to one side. Blair paused, his body tense, and aimed the flashlight in that direction, but didn’t see anything suspicious. The young man shrugged and started walking again, only this time he was moving faster.

There was another, more deliberate, rustling sound again—this time a little closer. The wind had died down earlier, leaving the air still and dead feeling, so it wasn’t a current of air moving the leaves around. Something was definitely stirring in among the leaves. Something that was following him.

Again, Blair turned around and looked. This time, he saw something, or rather two something’s. A pair of glowing yellow eyes was watching him from the shrubbery at the edge of the yard.

Blair took off running before his mind even had a chance to catch up and tell him to. He could hear whatever it was coming up behind him. For a moment, Blair didn’t think he was going to make it to the relative safety of the house and he wondered if it would be more prudent to turn around and fight. His flashlight was very large and extremely heavy. It had been chosen for just those features. Even as he was trying to decide, Blair reached the house and shoved the French doors open.

His abrupt entry into the room startled the talking detectives.

"Chief, are you alright?" Ellison was up and across the room before the others had time to stand.

"Yeah." Blair bolted the door behind him, not that glass doors would be much of a deterrent for whatever had been chasing him. The anthropologist moved the ratty, crumbling curtains to one side and looked out the windows.

"There was something out there though," he warned them.

"Someone’s outside?" Brown had his gun out and was ready to look for whoever was trespassing.

"No, not someone, something," Blair clarified. He moved further into the room, wanting at least a fighting chance if whatever broke through.

"What was it?" Rafe asked, his own gun in his hand. In his mind, he was thinking of all the wild animals that probably lived in the woods behind the house.

"I-I’m not sure." Blair hesitated and gave the tense men a searching look. He wanted to tell them the truth, that what he’d seen certainly wasn’t human, or even an average animal—not with that color of eyes—but he didn’t think it was a true animal either. He knew they wouldn’t believe him and if they went looking, somebody wouldn’t come back.

"If it was an animal, then we can’t do much about it," Joel said, already dismissing the possible threat.

"No," Blair agreed. "Just be careful when you go to the outhouse. Nobody’s lived here in years and the wild animals are probably used to doing whatever they want."

Simon rolled his eyes. "Don’t be so damned dramatic, Sandburg. You probably just saw a cat," he scoffed.

"Only if the cat’s three feet tall," Blair snapped back a sharp retort. He glared at the surprised captain and then around the room. Naturally, no one was taking him serious anymore, not even Jim. After the first sign of concern, the Sentinel had reverted back to his behavior of late and was all but ignoring him.

Simon waved him off, like an annoying gnat buzzing around his head. "You’re just not used to going outside to the bathroom, not a pampered city boy like you."

"Oh yeah," Blair said with a sarcastic roll of his eyes. "Because expeditions to Outer Mongolia and Zimbabwe always have those deluxe toilet and shower sets ups inside their huts."

This time the sarcasm wasn’t lost on the captain. Jim saw it. Rafe, Henri, and Joel saw it. Blair also noticed the glare he was getting, but for once he didn’t care. The observer looked Banks right in the eye, neither one backing down.

Jim realized he needed to break the tension or Blair was going to end up out on his butt, at least from the station. Simon was about to blow and so was Blair. So, Jim changed the subject completely.

"Well, at least with a place this big we all get our own rooms."

Blair frowned and shook his head. He looked over at the Sentinel. "We need to stay together, it’s safer that way."

Jim was about to agree with his friend, if for no other reason than to show Blair that he was on his side, when Taggart spoke up first.

"Oh come on, Blair," the large man said with a good natured smile. "There’s nothing really here. Nothing to worry about."

Blair looked at Jim as the others agreed, dismissing what Blair was saying once again. Ellison looked like he wanted to say something, but didn’t, because ultimately he agreed with them.

"I see." Blair nodded his head. "It must be wonderful to be so all knowing." He picked up his sleeping bag and slung the strap of his ever present backpack over one shoulder. "I used to believe that the boogieman was make believe and things going bump in the night were cats and raccoons."

"And what changed your mind?" Banks asked aggressively. He was ticked off that Blair was flouting his authority.

Blair paused at the doorway to the great room. "I met him. The boogieman," Blair clarified. "In Sunnydale," he whispered, getting a far away look on his face. "Funny," Blair said quietly, "he looked like a friend too."

At that moment, the French doors leading to the back courtyard flew open and a wind blew through the room, making the sheets protecting the furniture flap crazily. The fire blazed up as air flew up the chimney. Several cabinet doors popped open and flopped back and forth a few times, making the old and fragile glass in their doors rattle dangerously.

Simon and Joel hurried across the room and began to try and push the doors shut. Seeing them struggle, H and Brian joined in on the effort, but to no avail. Jim was about to join the party when Blair surprised them all by yelling out to the middle of the room.

"Hey! Cut it out!"

The wind abruptly died down, leaving the four men to fall heavily against the glass doors when the resistance was suddenly gone. They stayed where they were, panting with the effort.

"Oh ter-rific," Blair drawled. "Now we have a poltergeist to contend with. No, there’s definitely nothing here to be worried about," he said with a sneer, deliberately looking each man in the eye. Blair rolled his eyes when they still didn’t say anything. He threw his hands up in the air and stormed out of the room.

His companions, the visible ones at least, looked around in shock. The room was now a shambles and all of them were debating the wisdom of splitting up for the night.

xxxx

"I think Sandburg rigged that little scene somehow," Banks groused to himself. "There’s no damn way it was a poltergeist."

The captain snorted at the ludicrous idea. He dropped his jacket on the back of a chair, not noticing when it slid off and fell onto the floor. Simon spread his sleeping bag out on the bed, on top of the old covers. Like the curtains downstairs, the material was faded and dusty and falling apart.

"No telling how long it’s been since this dump was cleaned," he commented snidely.

Simon’s jacket rose up into the air from where it was lying on the floor. Slowly, and one at a time, several slashes appeared on the back of it. The cuts went from collar to cuff, leaving the once expensive piece of clothing little more than jagged strips.

Once the decimation was done, the jacket was neatly folded by unseen hands and laid across the arm of the chair. Simon wouldn’t notice the damage until he went to put it on.

xxxx

Rafe was startled when H pushed the door open. The detective had noticed the other door, but hadn’t really thought about someone being on the other side of it.

Rust fell from the old hinges in large flakes and settled onto the hardwood floor in a fluffy pile. It was almost pretty, like orange-ish snow.

"Hey, Bri. Look at this. We have connecting rooms," Brown said, eyeing Rafe’s room and mentally comparing it to his own.

"That’s great!" the other man enthused. Brian blushed when he heard how anxious he sounded. "Uh, this place is eerie."

"Yeah, babe. It is," Brown admitted. "I have to say, I’m not sorry to have somebody nearby."

Brian smiled. "Me too."

"Superstitious nonsense, though." Henri waved his hand around dismissively.

"I don’t know about that," Rafe mused. "I was visiting some friends in California a few years back and I heard some pretty weird stories. And, I, uh," he hesitated, seemingly embarrassed at the admission. "I saw some odd things, too."

H glanced around uneasily for a moment, Rafe’s words and the feel of the house getting to him. "Well, hell, if seeing odd things is the criteria, then hanging around Ellison and Sandburg should qualify us."

Brian laughed and pulled out the clothes he wanted to sleep in, a white t-shirt and a warm pair of gray sweat pants. Henri retreated to his own room to get ready for bed as well. He donned his own bedclothes, a red t-shirt and a pair of black sweat pants.

"I wonder if anything’s going to happen," H asked, not sounding quite as cocky as he had earlier. Actually, he sounded more like a frightened child than a grown man who had been a detective for many years.

Neither man commented on the fact that Henri had left the door between their rooms open. The knowledge that someone was just a few feet—a few, unimpeded feet—away made all the difference in the world.

Crawling under the covers, in their separate but open rooms, Rafe and H snuggled deeper into their respective covers and wondered why it had gotten so cold, so fast. Neither man would admit that they were frightened.

By the door, the unnoticed pile of reddish brown flakes swirled around for a moment before coalescing into a small, but solid looking ball. It hesitated in the doorway, jerking back and forth between the two men’s bedrooms, undecided of which way to go, and gaining momentum with each change in direction.

From outside the room, a faint cry could be heard. The miniature weapon disintegrated, falling to the ground harmlessly.

xxxx

Joel lay down on his bed and tried to get comfortable. He had used his common sense and brought a blanket in addition to a sleeping bag. He knew that the average camping equipment would be too confining for someone his size. The opened and spread out sleeping bag made a nice mattress cover.

Rolling onto his side, Joel gasped and sat straight up in bed. In a moment he had his gun out, the weapon cocked, and was racing over to the window. He’d seen a pair of glowing yellow eyes at the aperture, in the junction between the partially separated curtain halves.

The former bomb captain leaned closer to the window and looked down, way down. Then he craned his neck, looking around the edges of the window. There wasn’t a balcony, or even a ledge, for the person with the eyes to be perched on.

"I’m on the second floor," he realized. "There’s no way someone could have been outside my window."

Taggart backed away slowly and sat back down on the edge of his bed. "I must have been half asleep," he rationalized. "I dreamed seeing what I saw, because of what Blair told us all earlier. Yeah, that’s it."

Joel snorted at his own gullibility and lay back down to sleep. But he kept the gun by his side, tucked under the edge of his sleeping bag—just in case.

xxxx

Jim stalked the corners of his room like a caged lion. The Sentinel didn’t like the feel of the house, it felt evil to him. He knew that rationally that didn’t make any sense, but that’s still the way he felt.

On top of his rampaging emotions, Jim could hear things happening in the rest of the mansion. He knew that his friends weren’t staying in their own bedrooms, but rather were going from room to room. All except Blair, that is.

If Ellison had his druthers, he would have gone to Blair’s room, gathered up his young guide, and brought him to the one room where he could have watched over and protected the other man. As it was, there was no way he could do that. After the big deal he made about them all getting their own rooms, and not defending Blair against the rest of the guys’ ridicule, again, he would be making a fool out of himself if he were to try and protect Sandburg now.

So, Jim continued to pace. The feeling in the middle of his back, like someone was watching him, continued to plague him all night long. Even after the others finally settled down for the night, the Sentinel continued his lonely vigil.

xxxx

It watched the strange one walking about. The tense one seemed to realize it was being watched, but couldn’t find out who or where.

It wasn’t surprised. After all, how was his prey supposed to find someone who wasn’t really there?

It grinned and a double row of tiny, sharp teeth glistened in the half light.

xxxx

Simon sat in front of the fireplace and tried to coax the fire to burn. He’d been at it for the past 30 minutes and wasn’t having much luck. The older man was grumpy, hungry and tired. He’d given up completely on sleeping fairly early the night before. Banks had lain in bed and listened to the wind make the branches scratch against his borrowed bedroom window.

Jim walked into the room and watched his captain struggling with the recalcitrant flames for a few moments before speaking. "You want me to give it a try?"

Banks sighed and reluctantly gave up his position. "Yeah, I guess so. I’m not getting anywhere."

Ellison grunted and expertly stacked the kindling and smaller sticks on to the small flicker of flame that was bravely trying to survive. In a short order he got the wood to catch fire, added more, slightly larger sticks, and quickly had a small fire blazing. Simon watched him with a disgruntled look.

"I did live in the jungle for 18 months, Simon," Jim reminded the other man. "I can build a fire with a couple of rocks and some damp, green wood."

The captain nodded his agreement and smiled at his friend, feeling some of his bad mood lifting. "I know, I know," he said good naturedly. "I’m just in a crappy mood. I didn’t get much sleep last night," he admitted ruefully.

"Me either," the Sentinel agreed.

Jim had never even tried to sleep and had worn himself out with his worried pacing. About the time the sun had risen, the detective had finally given in, sat down in the room’s chair and fallen into an uneasy sleep. As a result, Ellison was also tired and now he had a stiff neck as well.

"Oh heavens, tell me about it." They turned to see Joel staggering through the doorway. "Please tell me that there’s coffee." He sat down on one of the shrouded chairs and winced at the amount of dust that his motion brought up.

"We’re working on it."

Jim measured out the instant coffee and then added it to the cups lined up on the floor in front of him. Simon, in the meantime, had added some of their bottled water to the coffeepot that Blair had remembered to bring and they were waiting for the water to come to a boil.

Time passed as the water finally heated enough to make coffee. The three men ate some of the leftovers from the night before, but none of them were really satisfied by the mid-morning repast.

Hearing a slight rustling sound, at the far edge of his capabilities, Jim stilled and glanced towards the hallway. Without Blair there to ground him, the Sentinel was too afraid to dial that one sense up any higher. He didn’t want to risk a zone out. The detective was concentrating so hard on the sound that he was actually startled when Rafe and H walked into the room.

"Morning everyone," Henri said with a slight wave.

"Yeah, morning," Rafe mumbled. From his less than coiffed hair and blinking eyes, it was apparent that the young detective hadn’t been up very long.

"Afternoon is more like it." Joel smiled at the two men.

"Huh?" Brian raised one arm and looked at his wristwatch. He rubbed his eyes like a sleepy child for a few seconds and then looked again. "It’s 1:30 in the afternoon?" he asked incredulously.

"Well it’s not 1:30 in the morning," Jim said with a wave of his hand at the obvious daytime outside the windows.

"Are you sure about that?" Brown quipped. He pulled one of the curtains to the side and peered out into the murky day. "It’s almost dark enough to be nighttime."

The day had indeed turned cloudy and rainy. The wind from the day before had swept in a storm that was bringing down bucketfuls of rain that were tapping quietly at the glass, like someone seeking permission to come in.

"I’ll be back in a minute." Rafe sighed and quickly opened the French doors. He raced out, heading to the outhouse, just pausing long enough to pull the doors closed behind him.

Henri watched until he saw the other man reach the small building before he turned back to the rest of the men. "Is there any coffee left?" he asked with a jaw cracking yawn.

Simon pointed to the coffeepot in response. Henri picked it up and swished the contents around a little bit. The faint sloshing sound indicated that there wasn’t much hot water left. H peered inside the pot and decided to make a new pot for Brian and himself.

"So, are we the last ones up?" he asked curiously. The detective picked up a couple of clean cups and measured out the coffee crystals.

"No, Sandburg’s still sleeping too," Taggart commented.

"I’m not surprised. Not with the killer schedule he usually keeps. I don’t see how he keeps going as it is." Brown leaned against the wall beside the fireplace and surreptitiously kept an eye on the French doors.

"He still manages to date," Banks said with a roll of his eyes.

"So?"

Simon looked startled at H’s question. "He’s supposed to be so damned busy, but he certainly manages to keep an eye on the ladies." Banks crossed his arms and looked disgusted. His mind was still occupied with the young woman who had cried on the phone to him.

"Again, so?" Brown crossed his own arms and frowned at the captain. They had all heard Blair being yelled at, but no one was certain what had happened. "If he can manage a few dates, what does it matter to you?"

Banks lifted an eyebrow imperiously. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me." Henri raised his eyebrows at the commanding look he was given. "We’re not at the station now, so I can speak my mind if I want to." The detective looked down at the still seated man. When Simon didn’t comment, Brown continued. "What business of ours is it if Blair goes out on dates? None that I can see."

"It’s my business when I get complaints about it," Simon stated with an assurance that came from his position at the station.

"Somebody complained because he was dating?" Joel asked incredulously. "Who? A jealous boyfriend?"

"Yes, that’s what I’d like to know."

Ellison’s head snapped over to where his friend was standing in the doorway. The Sentinel was stunned to realize that he hadn’t heard Blair coming into the room at all. Wondering briefly if his senses were on the fritz, Ellison began to test his senses, one by one. Everything seemed fine, except—that odd smell was back again.

"A young woman called my office and complained about you hitting on her," Simon said, refusing to show how Blair’s sudden entrance had startled him as well.

"I see," Blair said quietly.

"Hey, Blair. I see you’re up." Rafe shut the door behind himself and dripped onto the wooden floor. The dapper detective didn’t look all that great at the moment. His hair was tamped down by the rain and his clothes were sodden. Even with all that, Brian still managed to look happy.

"Yeah," Blair acknowledged the obvious fact of his rising. "You look half drowned though."

"I am," Brian said cheerfully.

Shaking his head, Henri went over to the other man. "Come on. I’ll round up some towels and help you dry off."

Jim watched the two men leaving the room and narrowed his eyes speculatively. Henri had a supportive hand on Brian’s back and the soaked man was grinning happily over at his partner. They were a lot closer than they usually were.

Ellison took a deep breath and gave a little smirk. Unless his nose was playing tricks on him, Henri and Rafe had comforted each other in a very specific way the night before—one that was guaranteed to have kept them warm.

‘Good for them,’ his mind whispered.

Glancing around carefully, Jim saw Blair watching the retreating pair. A look between Sentinel and Guide showed that they were both on the same page. Fortunately, neither Banks nor Taggart seemed to notice what was going on.

By the time Blair looked back over at Simon, the captain was quietly talking with Joel. Jim could see the anthropologist thinking for a moment before apparently deciding to drop the previous conversation. Jim knew it would come up again sooner or later. He and Simon had both reacted badly and Blair was tenacious enough to keep at the problem until it was fixed.

"I’m going to go lay down for a while," Blair stated quietly.

"Uh, okay, Chief." Jim was stunned. He’d never known his partner to take a daytime nap, not in all the time he’d known him. Blair’s behavior was especially alarming, considering that he had just gotten up.

Ellison watched as his good friend walked back down the darkened hallway. Something was up with the other man and Jim realized he was going to have to approach the young Guide if he wanted to find out what.

xxxx

"Blair?" Jim knocked on the door and called out quietly. The grad student had been taking a nap for over four hours now. While Ellison could understand his Guide being tired, this went beyond that and had him worried. The Sentinel was about to knock again, but decided to dial up his hearing first, just in case the younger man was busy taking care of something personal.

Ellison actually felt himself blush at the thought of catching Blair pleasuring himself. He’d had a crush on the curly haired man since the first time, well, make that the second time, he’d seen him.

Listening at the door, Jim didn’t hear anything. He quickly realized that Blair wasn’t in his room. Frowning, Ellison started back downstairs.

"Where did he get to then?"

Jim rubbed his nose and absently noticed that odd smell again. Just as he started down the stairs, the bedroom door swung open.

xxxx

"What the hell?" Jim yanked the doors open hurriedly.

Henri was racing across the backyard. Simon opened his mouth to ask why the detective was running like the hounds of hell were chasing him when he noticed something. There was a large hound chasing him. It probably wasn’t from hell, but its appearance was giving that description a good run for its money.

"Move!" H yelled.

Both men moved to either side of the door. Brown dove through the door, literally. He slid across the floor on his stomach, like a baseball player sliding into home plate, and slammed head first into the couch, stunning himself.

Jim and Simon slammed the doors shut, but were almost knocked off of their feet when the animal rammed into the glass. They shoved back and nearly had the door locked, when it was hit again. This time they were knocked down.

The large animal growled and snarled as it stepped in through the now open door. It stalked towards Henri’s prone body, its animal mind fixated on its previous prey, totally ignoring those closer to it. The furry creature’s massive jaws snapped as it opened and closed its mouth in anticipation.

A shot rang out and the animal roared out its anger as it turned to look at Joel. Taggart had shot the animal in the side with his service revolver. Even hurt, the large grayish beast seemed more mad than injured, and knocked the large captain onto his back with a single swipe of one paw. The mouth opened wide and Joel was about to be mauled…when Blair appeared.

The grad student knocked the animal away from Joel and onto the ground with a backhand across its jaw. Before it could recover, Blair lifted the silver candelabra that he swiped from one of the tables and slammed the candle side into the beast’s chest.

The gray animal screamed in pain and scrabbled backwards out of the room. Once in the yard the bleeding attacker pulled itself to its feet and raced off into the woods.

Blair shut and double locked the French doors. He turned back to the other men who were watching him in amazement.

"What the hell was that?" Simon shouted breathlessly.

The observer shrugged. "A werewolf."

"A what?!" Banks shrieked.

"You heard me," Blair replied calmly. Unlike the others, he wasn’t out of breath at all. "I know you won’t believe me, but it’s true."

Blair reached out and took hold of Joel’s shaking hand and helped the other man to his feet. "Woah, you’re stronger than you look," Taggart commented in surprise. Blair raised his eyebrows and grinned.

"B-but there are no such things as werewolves," Henri stuttered out. Brian was kneeling beside him, hastily checking the hip cop out for injuries.

"How do you explain that then?" Blair gestured to the doors.

"I, uh, I don’t know," Brown admitted.

"How did you know what to do?" Rafe asked Blair, as he helped H to his feet.

Blair smiled at the stylish man’s apparent acceptance of what Blair was saying. Having someone trust his word, without every little detail having to be explained, was a novelty.

"I lived in Sunnydale for a couple of years." Blair walked over to a tall cabinet on the next wall. "You wanna give me a hand with this?" He gestured to the imposing wood furniture. With the help of the other men, they managed to shift it over in front of the glass fronted doors.

With that means of entry blocked, Blair continued. "Sunnydale has an impressive amount of evil."

"E-evil." Joel glanced around uneasily. "What do you mean?"

"Oh, you know," Blair waved negligently, "demons, ghouls, things like that."

"Chief?" Ellison chided. "You aren’t serious?" Blair turned and stared at his friend, unblinkingly, for the longest time. "You are serious."

"Yes, I am. And whether you believe me or not, we need to get the area secured a little better, if we plan on surviving the night."

"Like hell." Simon had obviously gotten over his shock. "I don’t for a minute believe that that," he waved at the covered door, "was a werewolf. But whatever it was, it constitutes a threat, so let’s get the hell out of here."

There was a general murmuring of approval. Blair nodded. "Okay. Who wants to be first then?"

"First?" Ellison walked closer to the object of his desires.

"Right. The first one to make a break for their vehicle."

At that moment, the werewolf let out a piercing howl. Henri shivered at the sound and Simon, who had still been standing by the door, hastily stepped away.

"If we all ran at once, some of us might make it," Blair said speculatively. He had one hand on his hip and his head tilted to the side, as if calculating their odds. "Almost certainly at least one or two of us. The others though." Blair grimaced and shuddered. The others could imagine the carnage that would ensue.

"So, what are you suggesting?" Taggart asked. He was standing by Brian and H. Simon eased over to them and Jim wasn’t far behind. Blair was the only one who seemed to be unworried about their desperate situation.

"I think we should go, as a group, and gather all our supplies together. Then we barricade this room and hold out until morning. By then, the moon will have set and Mr. Fuzzy will be human again."

Simon opened his mouth to protest how Blair was taking command, but he never got the chance. Brian, who had a tight hold of Henri’s arm, answered for them.

"I’m all for that."

"Me too, Hairboy," H agreed. He was still shaking from the fright he’d experienced, not to mention the adrenalin that was still zinging through his body.

"Okay, Chief."

Banks reluctantly nodded his consent and they all trouped out of the living room, walking along in a large huddle. Blair led the way upstairs and, one by one, the men went into their respective bedrooms and gathered up sleeping bags and any other supplies they thought might be needed.

Once back in the living room, Blair closed and barred the doors going into the rest of the house. Simon, who still had his doubts about the situation, was eyeing Blair.

"I still think Sandburg had something to do with this," he muttered quietly, momentarily forgetting that a Sentinel with extra sharp hearing was in the room. Surprisingly, it was Blair who heard the comment though.

"What the hell does that mean, Simon?" They all turned to look at the embarrassed captain. He hadn't really meant to say that out loud. "Uhm."

"You seriously think that I orchestrated all this," Blair waved a hand around at the mansion, indicating everything that had happened so far, "just to get my own back at the lot of you?" The smaller man sounded incredulous. "Man, do you have an ego or what?" He started to pace in front of the doors to the room. "Like I have the time, or inclination, to worry that much about you all."

Henri looked at Banks in amazement. "How would anybody have faked what we saw?"

"It's called makeup, Brown."

"So, let me get this straight," Blair said with a sarcastic laugh. "Not only did I find somebody to pretend to be a werewolf, but I got them dressed up in the very elaborate makeup and costume, had him chase H, let this person get shot by Joel, stabbed him in the chest myself, and then, after all the wonderful acting this presumably good friend has done, I let him run out into the night, bleeding all over the place, and didn't try to help him." Blair stood with his hands on his hips, waiting for Simon to say something.

Simon thought over what Blair had said. Having it all laid out that way showed how ridiculous the scenario really was. He glanced over at the trail of blood that followed the path the retreating animal had left. There wasn't much doubt that the blood was real and someone bleeding that profusely had to have been seriously injured.

Banks sighed. "No, of course not." He sank down onto one of the shrouded couches and sighed. "I'm sorry, Sandburg. I know you wouldn't have played a hoax like that."

Blair's face reflected his surprise. "I accept your apology." He didn't know what else to say. It wasn't in the captain's nature to apologize to anybody, let alone one of his sort-of subordinates.

"Are we safe in here?" Rafe asked, both to change the subject and to reassure himself that they weren’t going to die horribly.

"Relatively." Blair shrugged at their distressed looks. "Sorry, but the back doors are made of glass," he pointed out. "If the werewolf decides to attack again, he could conceivably get through.

"Should we stack more stuff against the door?" Henri eyed the heavy wooden furniture that was the house’s decor.

"It couldn't hurt," Blair agreed.

"What works against werewolves?" Joel asked. "I know silver bullets hurt them, at least that's what all the movies say that I've ever seen."

"It doesn't have to be a bullet. Silver of any kind can kill a werewolf." Brian grabbed up a pair of candlesticks, one for himself and one for his partner. "Other things can hurt him, but they won't kill him; not in their wolf incarnation anyway."

"Okay. So, we have to, what, hold up until daylight?" Jim asked, being as supportive as he could be.

Blair smiled in appreciation. "Yes, as soon as there is no moon, we can leave. However--"

None of them liked that pause. "However?" Jim prompted.

"This is All Hallow's Eve and we are in the most haunted house in the state--"

"It is?" Simon interrupted.

"Yes, it is."

Blair waited to see if anyone else was going to interrupt him. It was a trick he'd learned early on in his teaching career. Silence and patience can stop the most persistent interrupter. It worked this time as well.

"Blackmoor House has had more reported sightings of ghosts, ghouls, etc. than Amityville."

"No shit!"

"Crap!"

"What's that smell?" Joel's question had the others pausing, in mid-expletive.

They stopped talking and took a deep breath, trying to smell what Taggart had gotten a whiff of. Almost immediately, everyone began to gag from the overwhelming stench. The Sentinel was so inundated that he started to choke and dropped to his knees with his eyes watering.

Blair was the only one to remain unfazed. He whirled around, just in time to see the wall of bookshelves open up. A small shaft of black appeared to one side of the stacks, indicating that there was—cliché of all clichés—a hidden room or passageway.

The detectives waited breathlessly, literally. Actually, they were trying not to breathe in at all. They weren't disappointed with what finally appeared in the opening.

A half rotted, dirt and mold covered corpse walked into the room. Through the crushed side of the head its shriveled brain could be seen, still lying in its bony coffin. A few ribs and one collar bone peeked out of the tattered remains of what had once been a good black suit. The style of the clothing, and the amount of decay on the corpse, indicated that the person had been dead for a great many years.

Even Simon couldn't doubt the realism of this thing. There was no way it could have been someone in a costume. That level of special effects could only come from something computer generated.

"Well, yuck!" Blair made his feelings known.

He strode forward, ignoring everyone else, and went right up to the walking remains. The creature raised up its skeletal hands and made a sort of moaning sound deep in its chest. Behind one of the exposed ribs you could see the collapsed lungs fluttering with the movement.

"Man, that is soooooo disgusting. Get a grave," he suggested. Blair then raised one hand, palm extended, and slammed it into the nose—or what was left of its nose—of the thing. The results were instantaneous.

The corpse returned to being that, just a corpse. It dropped to the ground and immediately fell apart. More odors burst out of the ruined body, making them all gag again.

"What in heaven's name was that?!" Brown asked with a shriek. It was a manly shriek, naturally, but a high pitched shriek nonetheless.

"A ghoul?" Simon's half statement-half question was made as the larger man was angling his neck for a better look. He didn't try to get any closer though.

"No, a zombie," Blair corrected as he scooped up the largest of the remains in several white plastic grocery bags that they'd brought their food in.

"What's the difference, Chief?"

Blair launched into a long and detailed description of both zombies and ghouls and the differences between them. By the time he was through they all had a much better understanding of the disgusting creatures. They were also nauseated from hearing about their feeding habits.

They were certainly all believers now. It was amusing really to see all five of the big, buff, macho detectives standing around the much smaller, not nearly as buff—and infinitely more sensitive than macho—Blair.

"How can we protect ourselves?" someone asked.

"Well," Blair looked around the room. He had to do some interesting gyrations to see around his audience who were all blocking his view like the guards on a basketball team. "We ought to check the walls and see if there are any more hidden panels. I really wouldn't want to have more surprise visitors."

The men quickly dispersed and began tapping on the walls, looking for more hidden passages. Blair, who was left in solitary splendor in the middle of the room, watched them in amusement. It was funny to see his colleagues feeling up the walls.

"In the meantime, I'll make other arrangements." Blair went over to his backpack and began pulling things out.

Simon stopped his endeavors, as he'd finished his wall anyway—being the tallest had certain advantages—and turned to watch their resident supernatural expert. He wasn't the only one to do so. One by one, as they finished their section of the room, the other men drifted back to stand by Blair. They waited in breathless anticipation to see what magical protection he would come up with.

Blair's laptop was set to one side, as was a large sheaf of ungraded papers. A couple of books raised some interest, but they turned out to be text books and were quickly forgotten. Finally, at long last, Blair pulled out—a box of salt.

"Salt, Hairboy?" Henri asked incredulously.

"Hmmm?"

Sandburg glanced up from where he was kneeling on the floor. Not being hidden behind a pair of glasses, his unprotected blue eyes shone. Pinned by those bright eyes, H faltered for a moment, temporarily forgetting what he was about to say.

"What did you say?" Blair's voice snapped Brown out of his mini-trance.

"Uh, I was asking if you're really going to use salt. I saw that in a movie a couple of years ago, but I thought it was just for show."

Blair smiled and stood up, after placing his personal items back in the pack. "Hocus Pocus," Blair named the movie with a smile. "Yes, I saw that too. But no, they were accurate. Salt repels a lot of supernatural creatures."

"Alright, so how do we use it?"

"I'm glad you asked," Blair told Simon with a wide grin.

xxxx

"Crap, this has been one lousy weekend," Brown summed things up nicely for them all.

Several hours later found the detectives sitting on their sleeping bags by the fire, surrounded by a neat, white, unbroken circle of salt. Blair had explained that they must not break the circle or the magic wouldn't work. Likewise, anyone stepping out, and presumably over the line, would be unprotected. Blair walked the edges of the room. The smaller man was playing sentry and guard for the men who were so used to taking care of themselves.

They felt like idiots.

"How much longer until dawn?" H asked. The werewolf chose that moment to howl its displeasure of the early evening’s activities.

Simon looked at his watch nervously. "Less than an hour."

"Good," Rafe stated emphatically. "I'll be glad to get out of this place," he admitted.

"Me too."

"And me."

"Oh yeah."

"I promise never to doubt you again, son." Joel's statement set off a bob of heads as the rest of the men agreed.

Blair smiled and gave an amused laugh. "Yes, this is certainly the last time you'll doubt my word."

Jim winced at the sarcastic tone of voice coming from the observer. It was obvious that he was still upset with them all.

'Of course,' Ellison thought to himself, 'we only believe him now, because we've seen these things with our own eyes. Otherwise, we'd still be ridiculing him. It's not that we trusted his word at all.'

Upset by the look into his own soul, Jim didn't realize that the room was getting brighter until it was really lit up. Ellison glanced at his watch. "What the hell? It's too early for dawn yet."

"Stay inside the circle," Blair ordered them.

He had his box of salt open and was standing ready. The familiar blue and white box looked so incongruous and innocent being held in his hand like that. If earlier events hadn't made Jim more than a little leery, he would have been amused by the sight. As it was, he was scared for his friend and the man he would love to love.

On closer look, Jim decided that Blair didn't look even the slightest bit farcical, despite the not very predisposing weapon. The younger man's strong jaw was determinedly clenched. His long, dark auburn curls feathered along said jaw, softening it and caressing it. Ellison longed to be those strands, to have the right to touch that beautiful and determined face.

The woman appeared between Blair and the men he was guarding, popping into existence between one breath and the other. She was a very pretty woman, with long reddish-gold hair and sun touched skin. Her topaz colored eyes were a bit of a shock, because they were so striking. The knee length dress she had on was black, but it hugged her well endowed form so tightly that she might just as well have been unclothed.

"Ah," her soft voice was like a gentle sigh on the wind. "I knew there were some pretty boys here."

She reached for Simon first and the captain didn't seem to mind. In fact, he seemed to be welcoming the attention. Her hand was stopped less than a foot from his face. The woman frowned and pushed again. Her soft and lovely face was instantly transformed into a snarling, spitting visage.

"What is this?!" she shrieked, and it was a much higher shriek than H's had been.

"A protective circle," Blair informed her.

The witch extended both hands and determinedly pushed against the barrier, but it was too strong and repelled her. She spun to face her opponent. "How dare you, you insolent little insect!"

The nasty sneer on her face twisted its shape into something very unattractive. From the look on his face, Simon was having a tough time seeing what he'd first found attractive about her. Jim looked closer at the young woman and revised his opinion on the young part. The longer she talked to Blair, the older she looked. Her hair now had several iron gray streaks running down and they were spreading out like a fast growing fungus.

Jim frowned and glanced over at the others. Obviously they were seeing the same thing he was. Either she was rapidly aging, right before their very eyes, or she had been pretending and wasn't able to hold the fantasy while she was arguing.

Ellison started forward. There was no way that he was going to let his Guide, who had never been taught hand to hand combat, face this harridan all alone. Jim got one step over the salt enclosure before Blair shoved him back; actually only one foot had made it over. The Sentinel fell down on his butt in amazement. Blair, who had just moved him like he was a small child, didn't pay any attention.

"I'll dispose of you and then wait them out." Her voice was scratchy and irritated the ear. "They can't stay in there forever and I don't disappear at sunrise."

Despite the threat, Blair smiled and stepped closer to the now haggy looking person. "Is that the best you can do?" Blair shook his head. His long curls slid back and forth on the collar of his shirt.

The witch smiled as well and stepped closer. "No, little man, that is not the best I can do." Then she moved a little closer and the smile fell off of her face, like a mudslide down a hill, and she started to take a step back.

"What a coincidence," Blair said. "That's not the best I can do either."

He grabbed hold of her forearm, preventing the witch from stepping back, and instead yanked her forward. Something in Blair's determined face scared the sorceress, who began tugging on her arm, trying to escape.

"Bye bye," Blair said cheerfully, and then he threw a handful of salt into the old looking face.

The witch screamed, a horrible, soul shattering screech, which had even Blair putting his hands over his ears. "Dial it down, Jim," he reminded the Sentinel. Ellison was glad of the prompt and immediately turned down the volume on his hearing to a level he could stand.

The screaming woman had finally been allowed to back away from Blair. He had let go of her arm as soon as he'd thrown the salt. She was stumbling around the room, obviously blinded by the damage that the chemical had done to her eyes. But even as they watched, her pain seemed to be lessening and she was trying to speak.

"Ne-neb ich isht lo-loma," she managed to stutter out.

Blair upended the box of salt over his open palm and poured out a substantial amount of the substance. The next time she stumbled by he tossed the white crystals up in the air and they rained down on the unsuspecting witch's head.

She screamed again. This time the sound was muffled. Apparently she had breathed in at the same time as Blair had thrown the salt and now had some of the poison inside of her.

Jim watched in amazement as she got smaller. The witch, who had been taller than Blair, was shrinking in on herself. After a few long, and very disgusting, moments, all that was left of the spell caster was a pile of liquidy goo on the floor. That dried up, even as Jim watched.

No one said anything. No one seemed to even be breathing in the silence that followed the dying calls of the witch. Finally, Blair looked up and broke the spell that her presence had cast over the room.

"See, I told you salt was bad for you." Blair tucked his hair behind an ear with the edge of his thumb and grinned at them.

Simon fainted.

xxxx

By the time they revived Simon, who insisted that he'd just been too close to the fire and gotten overheated, it was getting on towards daylight.

"She melted," Brian repeated, for about the fifth time. "I can't believe she melted, just like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz." Rafe shook his head in amazement.

Blair, still outside the circle, but sitting down on one of the armchairs now, just shrugged. "Sometimes the movies get it right. Most often they don't, but you know what they say, even a blind man will hit the target sometimes."

"Why were you even carrying a box of salt in the first place?" Taggart asked curiously.

The grad student looked at the captain in surprise. "I knew we were coming to a haunted house and I knew the threat was possibly real, so I came prepared."

"Oh. Of course." Joel looked chagrinned that he hadn’t thought of that before. "Sorry." The apology was for more than the unintended slight, it was for the teasing and ridiculing that the other man had gone along with.

Blair gave his friend a long look and then nodded cautiously. "No problem," Blair forgave him.

"Thank you," Joel whispered. Only Blair and the Sentinel heard him.

Blair glanced over at the French doors. Around the edges of the barricade they had created the night before, the first pink rays of sunlight were beginning to encroach into the room.

"And the danger’s over," Blair announced. "You can leave the circle now."

No one wanted to be the first to leave, so they all ended up standing there staring at one another. Even Jim seemed unable to take that first step. With a determined tilt of his chin, Banks stepped out and walked over to the fortified doors.

"Looks like it’s a fine morning."

The others quickly followed, like sheep following their shepherd. It didn’t take them long to gather their things, especially considering that most everything was in the main room.

The detectives were laughing and slapping each other on the back, both congratulating themselves on surviving the night and trying to deny that it ever happened.

The Sentinel didn’t follow his friends. He kept looking around the room, still tense and alert, waiting for more danger to leap out at them.

Blair knew that the other men would quickly forget what they had seen the previous night. They would convince themselves that it had been a bad dream or bad beer or whatever; their minds wouldn’t be able to stand anything else.

The Guide snorted in amusement. Simon and Joel were going upstairs to get the rest of their things. Rafe and H were right behind them. Even if they wanted to pretend nothing had happened, they were still going in pairs.

"Like a monster couldn’t attack them in pairs."

Jim nodded at Blair’s quiet comment, but seemed too shocked still to make any comment on his own.

xxxx

Simon, Joel, H, and Rafe left as quickly as they could. Simon had been bitterly complaining about a jacket of his that had been ruined. No one paid that much attention to the captain, they were too intent on making their escape while they still could.

Jim and Blair were left behind to gather up the remaining supplies.

Jim waited until he couldn’t hear the sound of the multiple car engines anymore before he turned back to Blair with an apologetic, half-smile on his face. The observer was straightening the sheets on one of the couches.

"Chief, I owe you an apology."

"Oh?" Blair’s tone was mild, like Ellison wasn’t talking about him at all.

"Yes, I didn’t believe you when you talked about spirits and werewolves and things. I, uh," he scrubbed the back of his head with one hand. "I let the other guys tease you and I shouldn’t have."

"You picked on me as well," Blair said mildly, but the tight smile on his face spoke of stronger emotions.

"I know," Ellison admitted. "It just seemed so far fetched."

Blair nodded, his intense eyes never leaving Jim’s face. "Yes," he agreed. "So unlike Sentinels, spirit guides and shamans."

Jim opened his mouth to protest, but stopped himself in time and actually thought about what Blair had said. "Good point. There really isn’t any difference is there?"

The observer shook his head no and tilted his head to one side as he waited for Jim to continue. The Sentinel realized that his friend wasn’t going to make it any easier on him.

‘And why should he?’ Jim berated himself. ‘The five of us have been making the last several weeks miserable for him.’

"I’m really sorry," Ellison repeated. "I’m going to talk to the guys about the way we acted."

"Alright." Blair smiled congenially. "I accept your apology."

The Sentinel clapped his Guide on the shoulder and absently noticed how chilled he seemed. It was then that Jim realized that Blair wasn’t wearing his usual several layers of clothes. The perpetually cold anthropologist only had one shirt on, without even a jacket to top it.

"Here’s your coat, Chief." Ellison grabbed up and tossed the coat that he’d given Blair for Christmas over to the younger man. Blair caught it easily, one handed.

"Thanks," Blair said quietly.

Jim turned around to roll up his sleeping bag and completely missed Blair dropping the coat back down onto one of the chairs. He also missed the smiling, sad look on Blair’s face.

"Well, at least nobody was hurt," Ellison said with a sigh. "No one human that is." Jim shuddered as he thought of all the "pretend" creatures that had come at them this weekend.

"Really? You think so?"

Jim turned from his squatted position on the floor. "Yes?" Blair just looked at him. "Are you saying someone was hurt?" Ellison glanced over the younger man, looking for any sign of trauma, but didn’t find any.

"Chief?"

Blair smiled and strolled over to the fireplace with a loose, easy, graceful rhythm in his walk. The younger man’s normally frenetic, pent up, energetic, dancing around, tamed down for once.

"You know, it’s funny. I always thought I’d die in a gunfight or after being taken hostage, or something like that." The observer turned around and leaned against the wall nonchalantly. "Considering your job and how I follow you around like a lost puppy looking for a handout, it seemed inevitable."

"You aren’t—"

Sandburg interrupted. "Yes, I was. That’s how you all act; like I’m a mutt, a useful mutt, to be sure, but still just something to be used whenever needed."

"I never felt that way," Ellison said quietly.

Blair waved a hand at Jim’s second attempt to explain. "Anyway. I figured that I’d die at some criminal’s hands." He paused for a moment. "Not because you insisted we have separate bedrooms that first night."

Jim stood up to protest that Blair wasn’t dead, but he never got the chance. In the blink of an eye, Blair raced across the room and grabbed him by the neck. The Sentinel couldn’t breathe. He clutched at Blair’s wrist, trying to make the smaller man let go of his hold. Blair lifted Jim up in the air and flipped him onto the sheet covered sofa. Blair landed on top of the detective, like a cat on its prey. Only then did he let go of Jim’s neck.

Ellison coughed and gagged, trying to force a little air into his lungs. When he could breathe again, Jim looked up at Blair incredulously. Blair was sitting on his friend’s stomach, using one hand to keep Jim’s chest firmly ensconced on the sofa.

"Chief?" he croaked out.

Blair smiled and Jim was horrified to see a set of extremely sharp fangs hanging down from Blair’s teeth. Ellison would have thought they were joke teeth, to go along with the joke Blair was playing on him, if the much smaller man hadn’t just tossed him around like he was a loaf of bread.

"How do you think I stopped all those creatures?" he asked with a frightening grin. "I met the owner of the house." Blair laughed. "He’s been here a loooooong time," the young man drawled. "I tried to scream for help, but you didn’t hear me." The Guide gave a fake pout and leaned down, so that his elbow was resting in the middle of Jim’s chest. "Thomas Blackmoor and I got to know each other very well."

Blair reached out his free hand and flicked another sheet off the other couch, the same one he’d been fiddling with earlier. Underneath was a desiccated corpse, one that looked like it had been buried for about 200 years. Jim realized that the body was what he caught a whiff of earlier. In fact, that’s what he first smelled when they arrived at the mansion.

"Blair, please—" Again, Jim was interrupted before he could plead anymore.

"Shhhh," Blair said, as he placed one finger on Jim’s lips. It was a very cold finger, and the Sentinel realized Blair wasn’t cold anymore, he was a vampire. "Begging doesn’t work. Trust me, I tried that for the hours that he," the vampire angled his head, indicating his former sire, "hurt me, before he turned me."

Ellison felt tears welling up in his eyes. Not for himself, but for his young friend. ‘If only I’d listened to him,’ Jim thought to himself resignedly, ‘then none of this would be happening. If only I’d gone to him like my instincts were screaming at me to.’

"We’re going to have fun," Blair promised with a whisper that was Sentinel, and vampire, soft. "Forever."

With that, Blair leaned forward and sank his teeth deep into Jim’s neck. Jim cried out and tried to push his friend off of him, but couldn’t budge him. In a matter of moments, a wave of euphoria rolled over the Sentinel, making him gasp. He writhed in Blair’s loving, deadly grip, in ecstasy as he lay dying.

Blair eventually sat back up and smiled. He licked the bright red blood off of his lips. Jim just watched him, wishing that he had the energy to relieve some of the pressure in his groin. Apparently death by vampire was very erotic. Blair patted his cheek, soothing him.

"Don’t worry, Big Guy. I’ll take care of you, just like I always do."

A sharp fingernail sliced open Blair’s wrist. The vampire offered the bleeding wrist to his victim. Of his own volition, Jim took the offering and felt the blood trickling down the back of his throat. He couldn’t believe how wonderful it tasted, or how good it felt for Blair to be sitting on him, and oh my, rotating his hips like that. Even the lack of a heartbeat, that he had just noticed, didn’t stop Jim from enjoying the last few moments of his mortal life.

"It’s okay, Jim." Blair’s smile was the last thing he saw. "I’ll be here when you wake up."

xxxx

Blair listened carefully, and when the last faint heartbeat faded away and wasn’t replaced, he stood up. He patted Jim’s warm cheek and tilted his head consideringly, eyeing the fading erection that the dead man was sporting.

"Now we’ll finally be lovers. That’s what I’ve stuck around for all this time, because I love you and want to be with you." Blair sighed and looked over at the couch. "I’ll be your sire now, but have no fear, I won’t hurt you like he did me." Blair gestured at the withered body.

"He tried to rape me—again—to cement his sire’s claim. In the hours before I was finally allowed to die, he did take my virginity; several times in fact. But I was so scared when I first rose that I killed him. It was an accident, but I’m glad it happened. Now you and I can be together, just like it should be."

The vampire picked up the body of his sire and carried it over to the fireplace. The corpse crumbled as he put it inside. "Makes it easier that way," Blair muttered. He tossed a match onto the remains and watched them blaze for a moment.

"Now, what to do, what to do?"

Blair sat down on the recently vacated couch and waited for the sun to set and his new lover to rise. "First things first, I need to take care of a few people."

He raised his hand and extended his index finger. "There’s Dr. Blakely, she definitely has to go." Another finger went up. "And rich little Chris and his Neanderthal friend." One more finger. "Not to mention finding out who that bitch was that got me in trouble with Simon."

Blair lowered his hand, realizing he was running out of fingers. "Come to think of it, I’m not too happy with the way Simon’s treated me." He grinned malevolently and another person was added to his and Jim’s hit list.

Hearing a noise from the other couch, Blair looked up and was startled to see that the sun coming in through the still covered door wasn’t as intense. It was late afternoon. Several hours had been passed in happy contemplation and now, his childe was about to rise. They would have several hours to play and cement their bond before it was dark enough to get something to eat.

"And now, I have a rich childe." Blair sat down on the side of the couch and waited. "At least, you will be after your father dies. Steven too, of course." The vampire laughed malevolently.

"Come on and wake up now, Big Guy. Wake up—"

xxxx

"Wake up, Big Guy."

Ellison sat up with a smothered gasp. He jerked back when Blair reached out for him. The momentary hurt look in Blair’s eyes was enough to snap Jim back to reality.

"I’m sorry, Chief." He sat up on the couch, where he’d been napping, and pulled his friend over to sit beside him. "I had a nightmare," he admitted.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No!" Jim said emphatically. At the worried look on Blair’s face, he added, "Don’t worry, it wasn’t anything Sentinel related. Just a really scary dream."

"Okay, Jim." Blair leaned into Ellison’s embrace and nuzzled the side of his neck. "Too much Halloween candy?"

"Probably," the Sentinel admitted with a laugh.

He scooted back with a puzzled frown on his face. The detective was used to hugs from Blair, but nuzzling was definitely a new aspect to their friendship.

"Happy Halloween, Jim."

"Happy Halloween, Blair."

Jim stood up and stretched. He could feel several vertebrae, all up and down his spine, crack and pop as a result.

"I’m going to take a shower, Chief."

"Uhmmm, okay."

Was that a purr? Jim paused in the doorway of the bathroom and gave his friend a brief, but significant look. Blair just smiled back at him. Ellison decided his mind was playing tricks on him.

xxxx

Jim stood under the shower and let the warm water pour over him. He rubbed his forehead with the palm of one hand. Something wasn’t right, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. And that damned dream kept intruding into his mind.

Just then, the plastic shower curtain pulled back. Ellison jumped and whirled around. His feet slid on the slick floor and he would have fallen if Blair hadn’t caught him by the elbow.

‘Of course, it’s all Blair’s fault I almost fell in the first place,’ the Sentinel thought.

"Chief, what the hell do you think you’re doing?" he asked angrily.

Then he blinked his eyes, clearing the water out of them, and noticed that Blair was stark naked. He tried not to stare—or drool—at the sight. Blair, however, wasn’t censoring himself. The anthropologist was looking over every inch of Jim’s body.

"C-chief?"

"So, what was your nightmare? Hmmmm?" Blair stepped into the shower. "Did you dream that I was a vampire?"

Ellison jerked back and hissed when the side of his head connected with the showerhead. Blair laughed and moved closer. There was nowhere else for Jim to go.

"And that I turned you into one too?"

With that, he grinned, and there was the extra-long, super-sharp, set of teeth that Jim had been dreading seeing. He swallowed hard pushed back, afraid of his sire.

"What do you think, you’re Bobby Ewing+ or something? It’s all a dream." Blair grabbed hold of Jim’s waist in a bruising grip. "This is reality, man, and we’re going to have fun."
The End.

 

What? I told you this was an AU.
****This is a death fic, sort of.
+ The Dallas reference was my mom’s idea.
And yes, I know I have Blair mention the Buffy/Angel universe and that the vampires turn into dust when they die…however, I will explain that in the sequel.