What You Own by Juliet Benson

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What You Own

by Juliet Benson


Disclaimer: Pet Fly and Paramount own 'em but should they ever decide to get rid of them - I'll gladly adopt....
Rating: PG
Summary: Blair suspects he's being stalked.


"You know, this isn’t so bad," Blair said around a mouthful of hot pizza. "There’s a certain charm being at Pizza Hut so late."

"Are you referring to the deadly looks the employees are giving us, or the lack of heat?" Jim replied sarcastically, taking a bite of his own slice.

"I thought cold didn’t bother you," Sandburg retorted, wiping his mouth.

"It doesn’t, but your whining about it does."

"I don’t whine, I state," Sandburg replied indignantly.

"Right," there was a comfortable silence as they finished consuming their order, much to the relief of the staff. On their way to pay, however, Blair broke the quiet.

"You know, that makes me think of a couple tests we could try, w-" Jim groaned.

"Please Sandburg, we’ve just returned from a long, hard day and I don’t want to even *think* about work, and that includes tests, all right?"

"Sure man," Blair held up his hands in surrender. "I won’t bring it up till tomorrow." By now they were in the parking lot heading for the truck. Blair felt that all-too familiar feeling pricking between his shoulder blades. He looked over his shoulder, but saw nothing. He spun around in a circle, and saw nothing.

"Taking ballet, Chief?" Jim teased.

"Har har. Do you feel anything?"

"Like what?" They reached the truck and Jim pulled out his keys.

"I have this feeling that I’m being watched. I got it when Lash followed me home." That made Jim pause in his action of unlocking the door and have his own look around. Only his was more complete and in-depth. After a moment he turned back to his partner.

"Sorry Chief, I don’t see anything unusual." Blair shrugged, the feeling not departing.

"Probably my imagination. Let’s go."

***

Jim woke up grumpy. He had slept lightly and with his senses turned up, keeping an extra eye out in case Sandburg’s feeling from earlier was right. ‘Not *that* much earlier,’ he grumbled to himself, rolling out of bed. By the time they had gotten back to the loft, cleaned up and settled down, it was past midnight. Plus, Jim kept being wakened by small things that usually wouldn’t bother him when his dials were normal. Grumpy, oh yes. He stumbled down the steps, shooting a deadly look at Sandburg, who was cooking eggs and hashbrowns and looking traitorously awake. The next thing he was really aware of was cold water in his face. Shivering, he turned up the heat as his mind reluctantly woke up.

Later, he stepped from the bathroom feeling more civil. He even graced Sandburg with a "Morning" on his way up to dress. Breakfast was done and on the table when he returned, fully clothed.

"What’s on your agenda for the day?" Sandburg asked, scooping up some hashbrowns.

"I have to finish up the paperwork on the Commerk case. You coming in?" Jim salted his eggs.

"This afternoon. I have stuff to do at the University all morning. Don’t feel the need to wait on the paperwork." He grinned cheekily.

"Have I recently told you what a riot you are, Sandburg?"

"Not in so many words." Jim shook his head and inhaled the rest of his food.

"I’ve got to run, I’m pushing it as it is. If you do the dishes this morning, I’ll do them tonight."

"Sure," Blair watched Jim rinse off his dishes and set them in the sink. "See you in a few hours."

"Bye," Jim grabbed his coat and was out the door. Blair finished eating at a more luxurious pace and started doing the dishes. Singing under his breath, he did a little jig from the sink to the table and started wiping it off. The prickling feeling returned unexpectedly and caught Blair by surprise. Looking around, he took note that the door and the windows were all securely shut and locked.

"Nothing to worry about," he told himself. A shadow passed over the skylight and Sandburg felt suddenly sick with deja vu. He forced himself to look up and saw a few birds fly by. He laughed nervously. "Get a hold of yourself." He hastily finished cleaning up the kitchen and gathered up his bag and coat. Venturing into the hall, Sandburg shut the door behind him and looked around. No one in sight. He made it to his car and then to the University without any incidents. However, he continued to be jumpy, much to the amusement of his students. By the time he arrived at the station, he had had his fill of being the butt of jokes by more than one class clown.

"Hey Jim," he collapsed gratefully into the chair next to Ellison before continuing without preamble. "You know that feeling I had last night? I’ve had it all morning, like someone was there, watching me. I kept looking around but didn’t see anyone. I was extra careful, man." Jim’s jaw tightened in concern.

"I’m sure you were, Chief, but I want you close to me, alright?" Blair nodded.

"Sure Jim, but…" he hesitated. "Do you think it’s all in my mind? I mean, I didn’t see anyone suspicious all day, and you couldn’t pick up anything last night…"

"If it is, Sandburg, better safe than sorry."

***

Three uneventful days followed. Jim started working on a new case; a chain of upper class house robberies. Blair spent as little time alone at the University as possible, making sure he always had one or two other people with him. Nothing happened, no bad guys stepped forward and both Jim and Blair were getting irritable from walking on eggshells.

"Maybe my subconscious picked up on something that made me think of Lash," Sandburg suggested finally over dinner, "and really nothing’s there." Jim sighed and leaned back in his chair.

"I don’t know, Chief. I don’t want to ignore this, but I don’t want to continue on like we are, either."

"Well, tomorrow I’ll be at the station with you the whole time, so that will take care of one day." Blair smiled wearily. Jim stood up and began clearing off the table.

"Hey, man, let me do that. Go read a book or something." Jim gave him a look before nodding.

"Thanks, Chief," he said, moving off. Blair took over the task, seeing Jim heading up to his room from the corner of his eye. He was feeling lousy about this whole thing, and wanted to give Jim a break from him. After he had finished, he slid on his glasses and picked up some tests to grade. Halfway through, he frowned and glanced up, uneasy. What had happened to Jim? Setting down his pen and the stack of papers, he bounded up the stairs.

"Hey, Ji-" he stopped short when he saw what actually had become of Jim. He was sprawled out diagonally on the bed, feet dangling off the side, and was now fast asleep. His face was relaxed and his mouth half-open. An affectionate smile lit up Blair’s face. Walking silently over, he hesitated. Would it wake Jim up if he moved him slightly? He reached out and lightly touched Jim’s ankle. He slept on. Gently maneuvering his legs, he got Jim positioned so he was completely on the bed. Apparently Jim knew who his Guide was even in sleep, for he didn’t stir once. Next, Blair pulled the comforter around Jim’s shoulders and tucked him in. Blair let his hand linger on his shoulder for a moment more before going back downstairs to finish his papers.

***

Jim woke up with a bad taste in his mouth. Squinting, he glanced at the clock and swallowed a few times. Five in the morning. He frowned and scooted to the edge of the bed where he discovered he was still wearing his clothes from last night. ‘Must have fallen asleep,’ he thought groggily, shuffling to the stairs. After he showered and dressed, he felt much better. Down right chipper, actually. ‘Must be all that sleep I got,’ he thought. This time it was Blair stumbling out of his room while Jim made waffles.

"Morning, Chief," he grinned as Sandburg gave him a dazed, baffled look as though he didn’t where he was.

"Hey," Blair dropped into his seat. "Waffles?"

"With strawberries," Jim replied, setting a plate down in front of him. Blair perked up noticeably.

"Man, this is great! Defiantly worth waking up for!" Jim grinned at Blair’s enthusiasm and carried his own plate to his seat.

"You’re in a good mood," Sandburg observed after a while of conversation. Jim nodded.

"Frightening, isn’t it?" he joked. Blair laughed and bounced up.

"I need to take my shower. Do you want me to do the dishes before or after?" Jim stood up and waved him off.

"Go shower, Chief, I’ll do the dishes." Blair gave him a wide-eyed, pleased look.

"Thanks, man!" he said as he disappeared into the bathroom. Jim chuckled and started rinsing off the syrup-coated plates. Soon they were in Jim’s truck, chatting about the recent action flick they had both seen.

"And I really wanted to see the new movie with Val Kilmer in it, but never got a chance because my life *sucks*."

"It sucks?" Jim asked.

"Royally!" Blair was adamant. "Hey, Jim, turn this up, I love this song," He interrupted himself, reaching over and cranking up "Old Time Rock and Roll" by Bob Seger.

"You’re too young for old time rock and roll," Jim scoffed.

"Jim, I was listening to Bob Seger before you knew how to *spell* Bob Seger."

"First off, that’s impossible. Secondly… Well, there is no secondly." Blair smirked at him.

"Very convincing argument, Jim," he teased. Jim pulled into the police garage.

"Just remember that," he replied, turning off the engine.

"Remember what?" Blair asked, opening his door. Jim didn’t reply, but switched the subject.

"I want to camping. It will give us a chance to get away from job stress and this feeling thing. How’s this weekend sound?" Blair blinked at the abrupt switch of gears. Looking closely at Jim, he saw that he was serious.

"That sounds good, actually. I have only one class, and I have a friend who owes me a favor." By this time they had exited the elevator and were heading for Jim’s desk. Jim leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head. "Do you have any place in mind?" Before Jim could respond, Simon opened his door and bellowed:

"Ellison, Sandburg, my office!" The two exchanged looks of mock horror.

"What’s up, Captain?" Jim asked, making himself comfortable on the conference table. Blair planted himself next to Jim. Simon glared at them.

"We got a call from the Kulhwick’s. They live in Forest Avenue." Forest Avenue was the suburban neighborhood that was being hit by robberies that Jim was investigating. "Apparently the maid feels like she’s being watched and told her employer. He called us. I want you two to stake it out tonight." He snapped open a file and peered at them suspiciously over it, as though waiting for a protest. Jim tore a piece of paper off a small legal pad and balled it up.

"That’s fine, Simon," he said, throwing his pellet at Sandburg and smacking him on the side of the head. Blair glared at him, then raised his hand.

"Captain Banks, I don’t like sitting next to second graders," he said indignantly. Simon looked at them, slightly baffled.

"Get out of here," he finally said, making hand motions towards the door. After they had gone he allowed a grin to work his way onto his face and shook his head.

***

"Jim, I swear, if you pull on my hair one more time, I’ll pop you one, I really will." Blair scowled at Jim, but couldn’t hide his twinkling eyes.

"Pull your hair?" Jim frowned, perplexed. "I didn’t pull your hair, Chief."

"Sure you didn’t," Blair grumbled good-naturedly, sinking lower into his seat and huddling deeper into his coat. Jim grinned at him until Blair looked at him, when he turned away. Sandburg’s gaze returned to the house, and Jim’s to him, smiling. Blair snapped his head around, but Jim was solemnly staring out the windshield.

"Jim, stop it," he said, laughing. "Man, what has gotten into you today?" Jim was about to respond when his face lost all traces of playfulness and his head snapped around.

"Someone’s around back," he was silent, listening. "It’s them. Call for backup and wait here." Opening his door, he slipped out into the dark, every inch the grave, stoic cop he normally was. Blair juggled the phone that had been tossed at him. After completing his call, he bounced impatiently on the edge of the seat, trying to slice through the blackness with his eyes.

Jim held his gun in both hands, edging around the side of the house. It was large and white, with expensive-looking landscaping and an underground pool in the back. Large trees surrounding the house provided shade and security from prying eyes. He listened carefully and was able to pick up two heartbeats, one beating fast, the other steady. There was no conversation between them, they worked like a machine, in total accordance with each other. He was at the edge of the house, now. He tensed, then spun around the corner.

"FREEZE! Cascade PD, put your hands in the air!" he bellowed, instantly spotting the two thieves in the dark. They were both women, one with shoulder-length blonde hair and an athletic body, the other’s hair was under a black ski cap. She looked about 210 pounds and was holding a glass cutter which she raised up with both hands. Jim wasn’t sure if she planned to through it at him or charge at him. They were about fifteen feet away.

"Put the cutter down, ma’am, and get your hands in the air, now!" Red and blue suddenly danced off the white sides of the house and sirens screamed through the air. Jim saw Blondie lunging toward a sack on the ground, probably for another weapon.

"Hold it right there!" Jim yelled, turning his gun toward her. The sound of slamming doors and guns being cocked snapped filled the night. The two exchanged desperate looks, as through searching for one last plan. Blondie gave in first, her partner soon followed.

"That was relatively easy," Jim said to Rafe as the two were led away. "Where’s Sandburg?"

"He’s not with you?" surprise flickered across the young man’s face. "I didn’t see him in the truck, and assumed he was backing you up." Jim felt like a gallon of ice water had been poured over him, and prickles ran down his skin. Without a word, he turned and ran toward the Ford. The only thing left in Blair’s spot were his gloves and scarf, which he would never go voluntarily without.

***

"Calm down, Jim," Simon barked at the pacing man, wishing he could follow that order himself. The captain felt slightly sick. "We’ll find him soon."

"That’s not soon enough, Simon," Jim was frantic in the only way he knew how to be. He shut himself down. Now he was allowing a bit of what he felt inside to peer out. "We’ve been vigilant for three days- *three days*- and in one careless second, he’s gone." He spun around on his heel and strode the length of the office once more. Simon sighed, wilting slightly forward on his desk.

"Jim, go home and get some rest. Or survey the loft and see if you can find anything there."

"Simon, I *can’t* leave, not when Blair’s out there somewhere at the will of some maniac." Jim stopped and faced Simon, spreading his hands face-up. "He told me the last time he had a feeling like this, it was with that whole Lash thing." Simon straightened at that.

"Feeling like what?" he demanded suspiciously. "Why didn’t I hear about this?" Jim sighed and resumed his walking.

"Because I was stupid and reckless and I thought I… we could handle this on our own. Besides, there was nothing to go on, just this feeling Sandburg had of being watched. I kept a close eye out, but never saw anything suspicious." Simon sighed heavily and lit his cigar.

"We’ll find him, Jim," he promised quietly.

"Dead or alive?" Jim whispered, so low that Simon didn’t hear him.

"What?"

"I said, how much longer?" Jim stopped in front of him. "I have *nothing* to go on, Simon. No notes, no calls, no suspects, no motives, nothing. I searched the truck, but didn’t see any prints, or smell anything. Whoever took him must have stood outside in the wind. Who would *want* to take him? He hasn’t been on any cases lately, no one with a vendetta has been released from prison, no one from school has been threatening him. Life was oddly peaceful." His mouth twisted in a poor imitation of a smile.

"Jim," Simon said quietly, rubbing his forehead with one hand, the other propped up on his desk, holding his cigar. "Go home. It’s three a.m. Get some rest, search through Blair’s stuff, see if you can find *anything*. Come in tomorrow rested and ready to find this guy. That’s an order." Jim stared at him stonily before turning and storming out his door, shutting it harder than necessary in his wake. Simon sighed and inhaled deep from his cigar.

***

Blair frowned at the pounding. It wasn’t like Jim to be so inconsiderate.

"Jim," he called, but it came out muffled, and found that his tongue didn’t move well. It was like a dried-out, moldy sock had been shoved in his mouth. His brow furrowed, and he rotated his jaw, only to discover that he was gagged. He also realized that the banging was inside his head. His eyes flew open in panic. They roved around the room. It was dim, but had pink carpet and green and pink floral wall-paper. The only furniture in the room was the cot on which he was bound. His ankles were tied with rope, as were his thighs. His wrists were painfully secured behind his back, and the rope twined around his chest and upper arms. There was someone sitting at his feet. He looked down and his heart leapt to his throat.

"Hey, Mr. Sandburg," Brad Ventriss said with a sneer and a smile. "Miss me? I’ve thought about you a lot." Blair could do nothing but simply stare at him, heart pounding. "Aw, can’t talk? Here." He reached down and pulled the gag out of Blair’s mouth.

"How…?" Was the first word croaked out of his mouth, before he winced and swallowed several times.

"Money," Brad replied simply, leaning back on the heels of his hands. He didn’t have to say anymore.

"What about Suzanne? And your parents?" It still came out rough, even though he’d tried to wet his throat. His heart was racing.

"What about them?" Brad said flippantly. He abruptly sat up and pushed himself to the edge of the cot. "Enough about me. Let’s talk about you, and what’s going to happen to you." He leaned over Blair, glaring at him. "To be honest, I don’t have many plans right now. All I know for certain is that you’re going to die, and it’s going to be long and painful." They stared at each other a moment before Brad re-secured the gag and stuck a needle into Blair’s arm. He was unconscious before Ventriss reached the door.

***

Jim woke up. He was surprised that he did; he hadn’t expected to get to sleep. Sitting up, he pushed himself to the side and stayed still for a moment, feet on the floor. He felt… dull. Shaking his head, he got up and showered. It was all mechanical. He dressed and poured himself some cereal. Adding milk, he sat down at his spot and stuck the spoon in it. He stirred it around, then lifted up a spoonful. It made it over the top of the bowl before he dropped it back in. He absently repeated this action over and over. Was it only twenty-four ago he and Blair were eating waffles and joking? Jim stood up and emptied the contents of his bowl in the sink. He wasn’t really hungry, anyway. Besides, he had work to do.

"You Decorated My Life" blared out of the stereo the second he started up the car. He switched the station. A mellow classical piece twined its way around the interior of the truck. Jim flipped his turn signal. Much better.

The coffee tasted too cold and too bitter. He poured it down the sink in the break room.

"Jim," he looked up, bleary-eyed, from his full desk to a grave-faced Simon. "In here, pronto." He got up and moved toward Simon’s office. Ignoring, as he had been all day, the sympathetic, worried looks everyone shot his way.

"What’s up, Simon?" he asked, then paused. "Have you found Blair?" Simon shook his head. ‘Well,’ Jim thought, elated and crushed at the same time. ‘At least they haven’t found a body.’

"No, but we do have a suspect." Jim’s eyes hardened.

"Who?" Simon crossed his arms over his chest, his own face cold.

"Someone we both know too well. Brad Ventriss." Jim blinked, jaw moving.

"Ventriss? That kid that was pestering Blair? I thought he was happily stowed away in jail."

"Got out. We believe he bribed a guard, Jacob Demele. Demele was found dead in his apartment this morning, seventy-five thousand dollars suddenly transferred to his bank account and a ticket to Cancun on his dresser. Recently after discovering him we received word that Ventriss was gone." Jim straightened from his position against the door frame.

"I want a look around his apartment." Simon nodded and grabbed his coat.

"I’m coming with you."

*** to be continued…


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