Friday, November 6

"Show me the meaning of being lonely, So many words for the broken heart, It's hard to see in a crimson love, So hard to breathe."

Mmm. Absent roommate, no classes until Monday, and no assignments due for at least a week. The whole unblemished weekend lay before her. What better way to start it than some Friday evening grooving to the most beautiful guys ever to grace the planet with their presence?

"Walk with me, and maybe, Nights of light so soon become, Wild and free I could feel the sun, Your every wish will be done, They tell me..."

Of course, singing along with the CD wasn't half as wonderful as actually being with them, but that was something for some harmless fantasies.

"Show me the meaning of being lonely, Is this the feeling I need to walk with, Tell me why I can't be there where you are, There's something missing in my heart."

After all, a rich fantasy life could help mental health. If kept in moderation, that is. Like so many things.

"Life goes on as it never ends, Eyes of stone observe the trends, They never say forever gaze, Guilty roads to an endless love, There's no control, Are you with me now, Your every wish will be done, They tell me..."

And unlike her roommate. That girl had a seriously whacked fantasy life. Probably one too many of those Conan rip-offs she read.

"Show me the meaning of being lonely, Is this the feeling I need to walk with, Tell me why I can't be there where you are, There's something missing in my heart."

Reading her journal, while a somewhat intrusive act, had been rather enlightening. Major fantasy quotient. Probably a way to rationalize all the shit that had happened to her.

"There's nowhere to run, I have no place to go, Surrender my heart body and soul, How can it be you're asking me to feel the things you never show, You are missing in my heart, Tell me why I can't be there where you are."

Gargoyles? Mad scientists? It must have been one hell of a breakup with that boyfriend of hers.

"Show me the meaning of being lonely, Is this the feeling I need to walk with."

"Dammit Lizzie, will you turn that sentimental crap down???" a voice at the doorway roared over the booming speakers.

Oh shit. Speaking of said roomie....

"Tell me why I can't be there where you are, There's something missing in my heart."

The song finished, Lizzie Callen shut her sound system off, turning to give her roommate a false, sunny smile. "Jay!" she chirped, trying to hide her nervousness. God only knew why she was in a hissy fit now. Not like Jay Stiles needed a reason. "Thought you had class?"

Jay paused in slinging her bag underneath her bed, giving Lizzie a bemused look. "Uh, hello?" She pointed to the clock: six thirty. "Ended almost twenty minutes ago."

"Oh. Oops?"

Crisis somehow diverted. Jay simply grinned and shook her head. "Hit the repeat button again?"

"Guess so. So how'd today go?"

Jay groaned and belly flopped onto the bed. "God, I hate Fridays. Math sucks, English isn't much better, not gonna touch PE, never did get to dinner, and Ms. Loar is out to kill me."

"You didn't mention Foreign Affairs."

She looked over with a grin. "You trying to play shrink again?"

Lizzie grinned back and shrugged. "That's what you get for rooming with a psych major. So? How was it?"

"Eh. Not that bad. Mr. Kelso is really into what he does. Almost fun. Except it's right before Anthro. That bitch is psycho."

A smothered giggle managed to escape, earning Lizzie an evil look. "Aren't you being a tad unreasonable? From what I hear she's one of the best TA's on campus."

Jay shrugged. "I dunno. Guess we just hit the wrong nerve. Something about her really pisses me off, and lord only knows how many of her buttons I manage to push. Or how."

"By breathing, maybe?"

"Heh. Could be."

"Oh, shit!"

Jay's head snapped up at the unexpected oath. "What?" she demanded.

Lizzie grinned apologetically. "Sudden thought. I need to return a book to Casey." She made a face, her dislike of the talkative freshman as obvious as his infatuation of her. "I meant to sneak it in while he was in class...."

Jay laughed and waved her away. "If you're not back in ten minutes, I'll come rescue you," she grinned.

Fortunately for Liz, Casey also held Jay in particular disgust. For reasons unknown, he refused to even stay in the same room with her. "Thanks! And ten minutes!" she called, grabbing the textbook and hurrying out.

Jay let out a brief sigh as the door slammed shut. Sometimes Lizzie was just too damn energetic. That or you're gettin' old, she thought with a sarcastic grin. She shifted, stretched, then rolled over to stare up at the ceiling with a frown. Something's wrong. I can feel it. Jeeze, and if that isn't comic book cliché moment of the year - "Damn," she muttered, suddenly realizing what she was doing. A gargoyle moment. Get a grip on reality, Stiles. Rainier's one of the safest campuses in the Northwest. Part of the whole "come to our school" spiel, they can't fake those stats, right? Liz is FINE. Still unable to shake the feeling of unease, she checked her watch. Two minutes. She'd be lucky if Liz was even out of the building.

"Ahhh, hell," she grumbled, swinging upright and glaring at the door. I'm not gonna convince myself, am I? Well, at least this means Casey can't torment her too long if I show up. Mind made up, Jay wasted no more time in trailing her roommate.

As she left the building, the vague feeling of wrongness intensified. Jay hurried down the walk, scanning the area around her. The campus felt far too empty, the area abruptly an uncomfortable distance from the already partying Greek row. Where is everyone? Mentally cursing her roommate's preference for the faster, but less populated back paths, her stride lengthened as she got to the trees sheltering the sidewalk that passed between the rear sides of Hargrove and Cranston.

Jay tried to shake off her nervousness, but kept a peery eye on the trees around her, searching for some sort of ambush. She got so distracted by this that it took her precious moments to notice the lump in the middle of the walkway.

"NO!" She rushed forward, throwing caution to denial of what she saw, mind insisting her roommate was not motionless on the ground, sprawled in a boneless pose. A quick search along the throat confirmed her bizarre fears. Lizzie was dead.

God. Oh god. I was right behind her, there's not a mark on her, what the hell happened?!??! The faint scuffle of sneakers on cement snapped her gaze up to see her Anthro teacher stepping into sight. "Call nine one one!" she snapped, turning her eyes back down, wondering if she dared try CPR with only television-induced familiarity with the process. A second, far too long, dragged by without an affirmative answer or the appropriate sound of pounding feet. She looked up again, to find Ms. Loar still sanding nearby, faint smirk combining with a look of... satisfaction?

The woman shook her head. "No. She's beyond mortal reach now." The smirk grew. "I must admit her passing was a great deal sweeter than I expected."

Jay's fight or flight instincts roared to life along with every drop of gargoyle need to protect, scattering any fear to the winds. "You killed her?" It was half accusation, half shocked outrage. She stood, quivering with the desire to bring justice, one way or another.

"Everyone has to eat," the TA drawled sarcastically. "And while I doubt you will be half as tasty, I'm afraid I can't let you go."

My god, a cannibal?? Christ, what sort of sicko is she?

Confident of her ability to defend herself - willfully ignoring the dead form of her roommate as anything other than incentive for justice - Jay assumed a fighting stance and stood her ground as Loar approached her, the killer's left arm raised dramatically and hand curved into a claw. "Don't suppose you'd be willing to give up and surrender to the police, would you?"

The woman ignored her words and moved closer, arm still outstretched and hand clenched. "Show me your mind," she crooned. She rotated her hand, and Jay's mind convulsed. Memories, shockingly vivid, bubbled up at random.

She was swimming, holding her breath as long as possible to simply be alone in the distorted, foreign, almost exotic world of the pool............ the bike wavered and slammed into cement, and pain raced through her helpless arm and leg as stone ate away skin. Man, she was NINE. She should be able to ride a stupid bike by now! Why couldn't she do it?!? Tears came, more for shame than pain............ it was a rare quiet moment alone, just her and Tate, with no one around to make jokes or try to get them to do something. They just sat together, snuggling within each other's arms and wings-

Jay snapped back to reality with a gasp. "What the fuck?" she gasped.

"What, indeed." The woman was giving her an appraising look. There was almost admiration in the glance, but the hunger there canceled it out. "You're just full of surprises, aren't you? Tell me more." It was not a request.

"No..." she whispered, faint, useless protest.

She stared across the room in combined amazement and shock. The thing - person? alien?- in the other bed was SO not human. Holy shit. There were other species out there? What was he? Why was he in the hospital? How did he get cancer? Should he be getting cancer? Too weird... too cool............ it was sunset, the roof of some building or another, Demona was gone, and Brooklyn and Tate were about to wake up. Sunset... but something was wrong, Tate's roar was too emotional, too PAINED. "Tate? Are you all right?" He turned, looked her over with an expression shifting from pain to amazement, then he reached forward and kissed her, nearly sending her to the floor in shock and sheer, wonderful tactile overload............ "NO I'M NOT!!" She was human, not a gargoyle, not a monster, not some over-evolved animal. She turned away from him, hands in quivering fists, desperate to keep control. He'd killed a man, no, SLAUGHTERED him, ripping his throat out with his teeth... so animalistic, so inhuman... and god help her if she didn't want to turn around and throw him down onto the bed right now. Human, not animal -

Reality slammed back into place, Jay doubled over and kneeling on the ground before Psyche Loar. She glared up at the TA.

And she laughed. That sadistic, evil bitch actually laughed. "Oh Jay!" she giggled. "Stupid little hum- no, hybrid would be better, wouldn't it?" Loar ignored the look of rage she got in return. "Don't you understand?" She leaned down, grasping Jay's chin with a hand and yanking upwards so Jay looked into her eyes, and instead of the expected hazel, they were twin maelstroms of cloudy reds, oranges, and yellows. "Human, gargoyle, fey...." Her grip tightened, and random memories rippled through Jay, leaving the woman's voice on the edge of reality.

"You're all meat to me."

A panicked scream of protest tried to escape the girl, but it froze in her throat as the TA grabbed her neck. "Though I must admit, it has been a long time since I had a gargoyle. Your clan sounds... tasty."

NO!!! Jay stopped trying to scramble for control, instead diving for a memory whirling by, embracing the terror and exhilaration of her first flight. The familiar almost-pain of transformation shot by on the edge of sensation, the faint sounds of ripping from her clothes accompanying the growth of limbs and rearrangement of inner organs. The dual grip on her chin and throat tightened even as the insane whirlwind of memories slackened in the same moment of surprise.

In that instant, Jay snapped back to reality. She instinctively moved, one hand steadying herself against the ground as the other rose and fell, easily pulling her teacher's throat and voice box away to bare the spine. A frozen second of total clarity, blood and flesh suspended midair like in an obscene photograph. Then the TA collapsed, disintegrating into greasy black dust like a bad special effect.

Even as the woman disappeared, memories raced faster and faster through Jay's mind, literally lifetimes of experiences not her own strobing by in increasingly faster jumbles, blurring together until there was only one continual streak of changing colors, and the only escape was to fall screaming into darkness....

"Oh man, this is weird."

Even without looking, Detective Blair Sandburg could tell his partner was giving him a questioning look for that comment. "Sure you'll be ok, Chief?"

Blair nodded, pushing a mahogany curl back behind his ear. Man, I am THIS close to just cutting it back again. He shot a sideways glance at the taller detective as they hurried down the sidewalk. Though Jim wouldn't take that well. He sighed. So Jim in a pointless Blessed Protector mode, or let it grow out. Yeah right. No contest.

A gentle hand cuffed his shoulder lightly. "You know we don't have to do this. This is something for Homicide anyway." The worry was more than obvious in Jim's voice. He clearly wanted to protect his partner from the potential abuse Rainer's staff would heap upon their prodigal, an admitted fraud.

"Nearest unit," Blair reminded him. "That would be us. And really, I am ok with this." He could see the tilt to his partner's head as the taller man listened, using a genetic gift to detect any possible heartbeat elevation that would indicate a lie. A simple act, but one that always tended to give Blair a minor case of the warm fuzzies lately. This was the reason he'd left Rainier University to become a cop. To protect this man, a combination of roommate, best friend, brother, and occasional father figure, he had sacrificed - or perhaps blown up in a purification ritual from hell - a PhD, riches, fame, things he had once thought were the brass ring. Which of course meant the true brass ring was now in a major attempt to make Blair pop him one for the over-solicitous attitude.

It was downright hilarious, really. Behind the façade of Mr. Macho Cop former Army Ranger Covert Ops control freak hard ass, James Ellison was one big fear-based response marshmallow that made guilt trips a way of life and a hobby.

Great. We get called in to check out a messy homicide, if we get away with just half a dozen catty comments about the dissertation it'll be a freakin' miracle, and he's got that goofy look again. Welcome to the Sandburg Zone. Jim's wayward thoughts were harshly pulled back on track by their arrival at the crime scene, marked by a circle of gawking onlookers, campus security, and yellow tape. With a wave of their badges, the detectives were let inside. They moved on habit into position, Blair questioning the head of security and eventually witnesses while Jim took in the scene itself.

Nasty, was Ellison's first thought. Security had done some cleaning up, but most everything was undisturbed. One body - female, late teens, blonde hair and trendy clothes - lay sprawled on the cement, green eyes wide with the horror etched on her face. Another area was marked out where the other victim was found. She was now being loaded onto a stretcher, about to be taken to the ambulance. Another teen, short brown hair, unconscious, clothes shredded and hands covered with blood that no one could figure the source of.

And that was it. Disturbing in its brevity, but something else raised his hackles. It didn't make sense. He'd seen hundreds of crime scenes, many gorier than this, but this bothered him like few others had. And he couldn't figure out why.

"Hey Jim, you ok?" Blair asked, coming up and resting a centering hand on the older man's shoulder blade.

"Eh." He shrugged, moving away from his partner to pace around the scene.

" 'Eh'?" Blair repeated. "I thought we were onto verbal exchanges by now."

The possibility for the comfort of banter tugged a grin from the senior detective. "Eh," he said again.

"Eh," Sandburg mocked with a grin. "Thought we were past the caveman stuff."

"Are you calling me some sort of caveman?"

A sudden beeping from Jim's belt cut off Blair's reply, probably a good thing considering the former anthropologist's evil smirk. He waited with an impatient bouncing while Jim checked his pager. "Huh."

"First 'eh', now 'huh'. We have got to work on your verbal skills, man."

"Save it for the truck, Chief. Simon wants us at Cascade General."

"What? Why?"

"No idea. We'll find out when we get there."

As soon as they entered the hospital, the woman manning the Nurses' Station gave them a frightened look until she realized it was both of them. She slumped back in her chair with a faint sigh of relief. The partners shared a look, a nonverbal 'we are here way too often.' After confirming that yes, they were there together and no, neither one was hurt, they were directed to the fifth floor. Despite startled looks from a disturbing amount of hospital staff, they made it to the next desk.

"Ellison! Sandburg!" The familiar bass bellow summoned the pair from the Nurses' Station to the tall, well dressed black man chewing an unlit stogie as he paced before a closed door flanked by two empty chairs. They reached Captain Simon Banks even as their fellow detectives Rafe and Brown hastily slid out the door.

"Captain?" Blair asked with a faint grin.

Simon did his now usual double take, still not used to his newest detective's use of his title instead of the more casual 'Simon' from his observer days. Shaking it off, he switched his unlit cigar to the other side of his mouth. "Heard you two were first to the scene. Bad?"

"Yeah," slipped free from Jim even as Blair shook his head, accompanying "Just creepy" with a face.

Simon and Blair stared at Jim in surprise. "Bad?" Blair repeated. "You thought it was bad? Was this just some feeling, or something I missed, or was it a Sen-"

Jim held up a hand, stopping his partner's protests mid-syllable. "Just a feeling, Chief. Nothing else."

"I for one am glad to hear that. No hocus pocus involved, for once."

Blair took that as a cue to start 'the Sandburg Bounce,' rocking back and forth slightly on his toes even as his hands started windmilling to emphasize important points and words. "Actually Simon, the so called psychic phenomena and -"

It was Banks's turn to stop Blair with an upheld hand. "Not now, Detective. I just finished with Rafe and Brown. They've been assigned to find the girl's killer, or whatever it was that did that."

The partners shared a confused glance before turning their attention back to the tall captain.

"So what's our assignment?" Jim looked expectantly at his captain, wondering just what Simon planned for them if Rafe and Brown were out killer hunting.

The Captain shifted his unlit cigar from one corner of his mouth to the other. "You two are guarding the victim."

"What?!?" he and Blair exclaimed, only a beat apart.

"Oh come on, Sir, you can't do that!" Jim said, trying to fight down the sound suspiciously like a whine in his voice. He wasn't whining, but... this was wrong.

"Come on Simon," Blair added, "we're your best bet and everyone knows it!" he shot a look after the other detectives who had wisely retreated before the explosion they probably had expected. "No offense or anything, but we got the edge."

Simon rolled his eyes. "Which is why you're babysitting. It's a high profile case, and the higher ups want to make sure that kid's protected." He gave them a false, brittle smile. "They want my best team guarding her. And like you said, Sandburg, that would be you."

"This sucks," the smaller detective grumbled.

"I don't make the rules, gentlemen, I just follow orders. Get settled, it's gonna be a long night." With that, he turned and left the two detectives at their post.

"This really sucks, man," Blair repeated.

Jim grunted agreement before folding his frame into one of the chairs situated near the door for their use. Once again his partner was understating the situation. The comment about them being the best hadn't been an empty boast. They had a very big edge on most of humanity, and that edge was Jim.

It began four years ago, when Jim had thought he'd lost his mind, hallucinating noises, sights, smells, even tastes that no one else could detect, and no doctor could find a reason for. He'd nearly been ready to commit himself when a hyper anthropology student that looked like a displaced hippy had obfuscated his way into Jim's examining room with a radical explanation.

Jim was a Sentinel, a genetic throwback to the days when the tribe was protected by one warrior gifted via DNA with enhanced senses. Sentinels also happened to be Blair's area of expertise, leading to an unorthodox partnership to gain control of Jim's then haywire senses - and provide Blair with a subject for his doctoral dissertation. Somewhere along the way, Blair had moved to live with Jim, and the partnership had changed to a deep friendship the loner detective had never even dreamed of. Blair had eventually been dubbed his Guide - by a rogue CIA agent out to kill them - and then shaman - by a dying Peruvian Indian - and regularly helped Jim through the danger of zone outs, waking comas brought on by focusing too much on one sense. Partners in the truest sense of the word, Jim's army trained brawn and Blair's agile brain making it through the various challenges life presented.

They'd survived psychopaths by the dozen, several serial killers, a rogue Sentinel, even Blair's death - It was a rare day Jim didn't thank God for CPR! - to be partners in truth, Cascade's finest set of detectives with the best arrest rate in the state, if not the Northwest.

And now they were babysitting.

"You're right," he sighed. "This does suck."

Oh God. It was the phone call every parent dreaded, the nightmare of them all.... THE phone call. Shaking hands dialed up a number prayed never to be used.


"Jay's been hurt."


"You're damn right, shit!! Why was I informed by normal authorities that my daughter is in the hospital in a coma?"

"We... we were unaware of the situation."

"Un...aware." It was snarled, clearly telling to sniveling idiot on the line that the parental unit was extremely pissed.

"This is a highly irregular situation - "

"We're the fucking Illuminati! Irregular is our norm! If you cannot adapt, you will be replaced. Now. You will fix this. I want to be in Cascade as soon as possible. Drag out a private jet if you have to."

"But-but there's no way to justif-"

"Find a reason. Make it up. You're damage control, so control the freaking damage. Is that clear?"


"Good. Oh, and one more thing. Get me Dominique Destine's cell phone number."

"What?? That's-"

"Don't you dare say impossible. Just get me her phone number. Now."


Troy paused midstep, staring at the suddenly noisy machine.


He glanced around, but no one was nearby. He shrugged and cautiously picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"May I speak to Tate, please?"

"Ah, one moment." He carefully covered the receiver, took a deep breath, then bellowed, "TATE! PHONE!!"

After a few seconds, the younger gargoyle stampeded to a skidding stop next to him. "Who is it?" he asked breathlessly. Troy shrugged, getting a nasty look in return. The green gargoyle snatched the phone away. "Yeah? Oh, hi Mrs. Stiles. What's up?"

Troy stared as his clan brother's eyes widened, complexion faded to lime, and he staggered. "Oh my god," Tate breathed. "What happened?... What do you mean, they don't know?.... Shit.....Hell yes! Uh, that is- Yeah." He chuckled weakly, one hand digging holes in the wall for support. "Sure. Twenty minutes. Bye."

Although the call was done, Tate just stared at the machine for awhile. At last Troy reached out a cautious hand. "Brother? What-"

"Dammit all!" the green gargoyle bellowed, turning to hurl the machine down, the fragile plastic shattering on contact. Troy took a prudent step away, but Tate was frozen, hands clenched in white-knuckled fists, eyes closed, and breaths coming in shaky pants. Finally he let out a weak, bitter attempt at laughter. Opening his eyes, he glared at Troy. "Jay's in the hospital for a coma. Her mother's picking me up on the way to the airport. Tell the Leader I'm going to Cascade."

1:46, Cascade General Hospital

Jim sighed as he sat back down, glaring at the chair beneath him. He couldn't think of any duty more boring than this. Well, aside from the occasional pack of reporters that stopped by for information. Apparently the kid had been an assistant to some big wig business woman, which was why the city officials were being so overprotective of her. And the news was cashing in on the potential kickbacks from what's-her-face. Poor kid. Attacked, in a coma, and now being hounded by the press.

None of which helped Jim's boredom. Even with a stakeout, there was always the option of conversation. This.... Bleh. Sitting and chasing off reporters was not his idea of fun. Well, not unless he got to use a lot more force. Part of the problem was he and Blair had decided to rotate guard duty, so there were no crazy observations of the staff or almost impossible stories about obscure tribes and their medical habits.

The detective wasn't just bored, he was lonely. He stretched out his hearing, increasing a mental dial several notches as he labeled and discarded various sounds until he centered on a familiar lub-dub. He simply sat for a moment and listened, letting his Guide's heartbeat sooth his nerves. All too aware of his duty, he reluctantly pulled back to 'normal,' but stopped as something unusual pricked through his sensory net.

Something had changed. The Sentinel tilted his head to the side, letting his ears trace the sounds back... behind him. He turned and looked at the closed door behind him. Impossible. Nobody could've gotten in. It was impossible. But....

"Jay," a male voice breathed. "Oh god, I'm so sorry."

NOT a good sign! Jim pulled his gun and stood, hearing still extended. Two heartbeats, one the slow rhythm of the unconscious girl, the other... odd. Definitely not normal. He tapped his radio. "Sandburg?"

"Yeah? What's up, man?"

"We got an intruder."

"What?? You must be joking!"

"Nope. Get up here, I'm going in."

A smattering of curses, most in dialects far removed from English, burst forth. Jim grinned faintly. Once he left the usual languages, it was a sure sign Blair was in a hurry. Nice to know his backup would be there soon.

A heavy sigh from the room grabbed his enhanced hearing. "I'll be back. I promise," the strange baritone whispered.

Not soon enough though. Oh well. Wouldn't be the first time he'd broken the rules. "Freeze!" Jim snarled, shoving the door open hard enough to make it slam against the far wall. His eyes adjusted almost instantly to the darkness, providing him with a wonderful view of a green, humanoid thing standing next to the girl's bed. Shock ripped a gasp from the Sentinel, who lowered his gun slightly in confusion. This wasn't normal! Hell, this wasn't near sane, even for him.

The creature's eyes flared, changing from brown to nova white. It snarled and lunged forward, covering the space separating them with speed that was totally unexpected. In the blink of the Sentinel's startled eyes, it had slapped his gun across the room and driven the larger human backwards.

Jim found himself pinned to the wall, the creature's forearm pressed against his throat while another claw fisted in his shirt. "Who are you?" it growled.

Holy. Shit. There was no mistaking that voice, not for Jim. This thing was what -who - was talking to the unconscious girl? He blinked and pulled himself back on the right mental track. So this critter wanted to play hardass? Fine. Jim had been doing that for years. "Detective James Ellison. Cascade PD."

White, pupiless eyes narrowed. "Where's your badge?"

What?? Not only did it talk, but it wanted to see his shield? This was getting way too weird. His resolution to meet attitude with attitude started to waver. "On my belt."

Once again the creature moved with disturbing quickness, the paw clutching Jim's shirt detaching to dart to his belt and neatly pulling the credentials free.

After a few seconds study, the creature turned its gaze from the ID to Jim's face, tossing the case onto the bedside table and paw retuning to clutch his shirt. "Why are you here?"

"Thought that was my line."

It growled. "I'm not the one pinned to the wall. Why are you here?" It leaned forward, increasing pressure on the detective's chest and leaving the distinct impression that in three seconds those sharp claws would pierce skin.

Jim simply turned down his sense of touch. He knew it was dangerous to go down that far beneath normal, but no way was he about to give this guy the satisfaction of seeing him give in to force. "That depends which philosopher you ask." Dammit Sandburg, where are you? I thought you were hauling ass!

The growling increased, as did the light coming from the thing's eyes. "Why is a cop outside of Jay's room? Are you on or off duty, and what is that duty?"

Oh shit. Wonderful. Not only could it understand word games, it could play -and avoid- them too. What the hell is this thing? And how the hell did it know the girl? "On. She's been put under surveillance. Do I need to explain that too?"

For a moment, the grip on Jim's shirt tightened, then the creature let go and stepped back. It closed its eyes, took a deep breath, and when it reopened its eyes, there was only a faint trace of the glow lurking behind brown orbs. "Then you didn't catch whatever... did this?"


"Damn!" Sharp talons clenched into fists as a look he was almost willing to label helpless rage flitted across the long, green face.

"Why are you so interested?"

The creature glanced over at the bed, eyes scanning the unconscious girl. A parade of emotions replaced his rage. Fear, guilt...longing? "I wasn't there for her. I couldn't protect her." It - he - swallowed, eyes closing briefly to hide the suspicious shine that could easily develop into tears. He gave a small, bitter laugh. "I already lost her 'cause I did protect her. Now she could die because I didn't. Irony's a bitch." He turned his gaze to Jim, resolve brightening the glow to his eyes. "Believe me, whatever did this will never do it again."

Why the hell do they put the witness so freaking high in the damn building?!? Blair made a face as he passed another landing, bounding up stairs at a clip that would have made his academy instructors proud. So nobody can just come in off the street to kill 'em, stupid. Hell with it. Simon and I are gonna have a long talk when this is over. Dammit, I shoulda just pulled my badge and commandeered the elevator. He grinned faintly. Or killed that little brat as a matter of public safety. Man, if I ever tried pushing EVERY button on the elevator...ok, so aside from that time in the lumber company HQ. They deserved that. Finally!

He almost skidded out of the stairwell into the main hallway, pausing only a second to gain his bearings and pelt off towards the room. Sandburg paused outside the slightly open door, wondering wearily if his partner had gone in already. Stupid question. "Jim?"

Silence. Oh man. This is not good. Gun drawn, Blair shoved the door open and entered. The lights were off, but moon- and starlight provided enough illumination to outline his partner and someone else near the open window - a someone else with wings. Blair's firing stance melted as he took in the arced feet with three toes and a dew claw, the tail, spurs on elbows and knees, horns from center forehead arcing around and then back in several waves, and the giant, bat-like wings. "Oh my god," he whispered. A gargoyle, his mind filled in for a shock-frozen tongue, an honest to God gargoyle.

"Easy, Chief," Jim said reassuringly, raising an arm to keep him from re-aiming his gun. Not like he was about to, but concentrating on breathing took precedence on brain functions.

The gargoyle took in the scene, then nodded to the Sentinel before turning back to the window. "She'll be safe," Jim declared in an odd tone, not to mention it was a rather un-Jim thing to say. "We'll protect her."

The gargoyle hesitated, then nodded again. "I appreciate that. Just make sure you do." With that, he jumped out the window, spreading those wings to fly off into the night.

Blair slumped back against the wall. "Jim?"

"Yeah?" He was still staring outside, probably following the flight path.

"Tell me what I think was in here was in here."

"And what would that be?"

"A living, breathing, rather pissed gargoyle."

Jim blinked and looked down at him. "Appropriate. How'd you think of that?"

"Naomi told me."

"What?!? Whoa, there, Chief. What's your mom got to do with that thing?" Realizing what he'd said, Jim blinked and shook his head. "Or do I not wanna know?"

Blair chuckled faintly. "Toldja before man, that's my mom. Get your mind out of the gutter. She used to tell me this bedtime story about them. Well, one of them, anyway. She said she met one as a child, and promised to find the gargoyle's home. She never did find it."

There was a pause, then Jim shook his head. "Sandburg, that's weird even for you. If it wasn't just in here I'd call it one big fairy tale."

"So says the Sentinel in the room." Reminded of his status as a mythical protector of the tribe, Jim coughed and shifted self consciously. "So, uh, what now?"

The Sentinel shrugged. "Our job. Make sure nothing happens to the kid."

"Jim, we just talked with a mythological creature that has obvious connections to our unconscious witness, and you're saying we just go back to guard duty?!?"

"You wanna go after him for questioning?"

Taking in the panoramic view and long drop down, Blair sighed and pushed away from the wall. "I hate it when you make sense."

"Part of the job description, Chief." Jim couldn't resist a grin to Blair as he led the way out of the room. When he turned back, he stumbled to a quick halt, stopping just short of running over a small woman. She glared up at him, brushed a silvered auburn strand of hair into place, and half growled, "Who're you?"

In any other circumstances, it would have been funny. "The police. And you are?"

"Tess Stiles. That's my daughter in there that you are supposed to be protecting."

Oh yeah. Fun. "We need to see some ID, ma'm." After a security check rigorous enough to satisfy any paranoid mother, Blair accompanied the woman into the room. So Jim was alone when he was accosted by one of the most stunning redheads he'd ever seen.

She came striding down the corridor like she owned it, an almost six foot Amazon in a rose business suit, flaming mane of hair restrained in a decorous ponytail and deep brown eyes daring any foolish mortal to impede her progress. When it was clear she was heading for the witness, Jim volunteered for the position.

He moved into the middle of the doorway, clearly blocking the closed door. The woman turned the full force of her glare on him, which he returned with a cold, challenging look of his own. "Out of my way, fool," she snarled.

Jim allowed himself a small, mocking grin. "Ah, no."

The Amazon came to a sharp halt. "What?!" She obviously wasn't expecting resistance.

"Only authorized medical personnel and family gets in, ma'm."

Her chin rose into an authoritative sneer. "Jay is clan, which is family. I am going to visit her."

She tried to brush past, but Jim caught her arm and swung her around. A voice at the back of his mind remarked on the oddity of touch, that her Armani suit felt remarkably like old suede, but the Sentinel was more concerned with doing his duty. "Only authorized medical personnel and family," he growled again. "And you aren't either, Red. So back off."

The woman snarled wordlessly at him, her hands clenching like she was preparing to rip his eyes out. Instead she jerked away, casually breaking his hold. "You will pay for that," she hissed.

Jim smiled insincerely back. "If you wanna send flowers, you can't miss with roses."

She snarled again, baring teeth Jim privately considered should've been more fangy. "Who the hell do you think you are? Do you have any idea who I am?"

"Detective James Ellison. I don't know who you are, lady, and I don't care so long as it isn't authorized medical personnel or family."

"A detective," she drawled, emphasizing each syllable. "Why am I not surprised. I will remember this." With that last vaguely threatening comment, she turned on one stiletto heel and stormed off.

He watched her progress down the hall, attention fully on her until she reached the corner and there was the faint creak of the door opening behind him.

"Hey, man, I - oh wow! Another one??"

Jim chuckled. "Yeah, the kid's surprisingly popular."

Blair shook his head in amazement. "Yeah, but two gargoyles in one night? That's just incredible!"

The taller detective blinked and turned to him. "Come again, Chief? What other gargoyle?"

Huh? "You know, the thing with blue wings and a tail that just took a left?" Blair shoved away the sense of disturbing déjà vu. It was usually Jim asking him if he sensed something, not the other way around. "Didn't you see that?" He's a Sentinel, for God's sake, of course he saw it! Right? Jim's questioning Look indicated that he hadn't.

"There were some nurses and a red head harpy, but no gargoyles. Think you're obsessing, Darwin."

What? But...but... I KNOW I saw a gargoyle heading around the corner. Wasn't more'n a glimpse but.... "You didn't see that."


"Huh." Tonight just gets weirder. Not as bad as that croc running around the station, but almost. "Mrs. Stiles is almost done," he reported absently, mind working on the problem of the vanishing gargoyle. "Gave her some time alone, then I'm gonna go and catch some more sleep."

"Emphasis on the sleep," Jim said with a grin. "You go and get some rest. I'll handle things here."

"Ok. I'll be in the lounge," Blair replied, trotting off after who/whatever it was he'd spotted. Catching sight of a tail flickering into the closing door of the elevator, he put out a burst of speed, managing to squeeze into the elevator seconds before it closed. He turned to look at the other occupant and nearly lost his jaw. Wow, his stunned mind managed. It was a gargoyle, but it was also one hundred and ten percent woman. Powder-blue skin well revealed in a halter/loincloth get up, contrasting nicely with a mane of wild fire engine red hair. Well defined muscles rippled in every limb including the batlike wings cloaked over her shoulders. She even had some jewelry, a golden tiara over her horns, an armband, and matching anklet.

"Wow," he managed to say.

She sneered, showing off some fangs. "I beg your pardon?"

Wow. The voice matched the rest of her, dark, sultry, and enough to make Blair's knees almost melt. Somehow, he managed to reconnect his brain. "Oh, uh, right, sorry." Way to go, Sandburg! Do not piss off the gargoyle! Epically if she's a babe. "Um, hi." He held out a hand, which she glared at as if it were a rotting skunk. "I'm Blair Sandburg."

"Pleasure," she snarled, oozing sarcasm, before turning away to concentrate on the ceiling. Her intensity clearly indicated that he had been dismissed.

Blair, however, happily ignored that. More important questions had brought his inner anthropologist to the fore. "So anyway, I was wondering just how is it that one of your kind can wander around without any comments."

Her eyes flickered over to give him the evil glare from hell. " 'One of your kind?' You think businesspeople can't visit hospitals?"

Ooops. At least this wasn't as bad as his first meeting with Jim. "Actually I meant gargoyles, not that you can't visit it's just that- urk!"

She'd lunged forward, grabbing him by the shoulders to slam him against the wall. One of them hit the emergency stop button, pausing the elevator mid-floor. "What do you mean," the female hissed, her eyes glowing bloody red, "a gargoyle?"

Shitshitshit! Ok, so it was just as bad. She just hadn't called him a neo-hippy witchdoctor punk and threatened to search him for drugs. "Hey, chill. I didn't mean anything by it, I was just curious."

"As am I. How can you see? The illusion is perfect, I've used it hundreds of times! How can you see through it?"

"Illusion? Look lady, all I know is some gargoyle chick was wandering around the hospital, ok? Now back off or I'll haul you in for assaulting a cop!"

She pulled back slightly. "Another one? Are you here for Jay?"

Ohkay, this gets weirder and weirder. "I'm here to protect a witness, yes."

"Hmmm." She finally let go, backing off to look thoughtful and tap idly on her fangs with a talon. Blair took a deep breath and restarted the elevator's progress. When it dinged a moment later, the gargoyle slid out the opening doors. "We'll talk again," she promised, then disappeared into the lobby.

Demona paced around her hotel room, talons scraping away carpet in her agitation. It had been a hell of - She glanced at the clock. Dragon, only seven hours? All starting with that damn phone call. She'd known it was a bad idea to start carrying a cell phone in the first place, business or no, but to have Jay's mother suddenly call... well, it had immediately soured her to the experience. What a way to christen the thing.

She blamed the shock of actually getting phoned on her response. After all, there was no other logical reason for her to grab the nearest plane and go from her office in San Francisco to Cascade. Well, at least she could pass it off as business, checking up on her newest holding, some sort of oil company.

Business. Right.


The soft cough in what should have been an empty room spun the immortal around, glaring suspiciously for the invader. Demona relaxed upon recognizing the gargoyle present, a young, brick red female with equally red hair. "Mother," Sadie greeted her with a small nod and smile.

"It's good to see you again," Demona admitted. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Business, I'm afraid." The ghost seemed to age - or perhaps she really did, it was hard to concentrate through her worry, not that some human actually had her worried or anything - and pulled an old, leather-bound book and ancient looking scroll out of thin air. "Clan business, actually."

Demona raised an eye ridge. "Why does this concern me?"

"Because you are a true sorceress. Meg - the only one with true magic - is highly inexperienced, and all told not that powerful. You have talent, skill, and power enough. The clan needs your help, mother."

"I...." She trailed off, uncertain of what to say or even why she would be close to turning down a clan-her clan's need. "How soon?" she sputtered, delaying for time to sort out her feelings and responsibilities. "I have business here- "

"That's the other reason I'm asking ye. Tis Jay that's in trouble, and I don't know how I could get Meg here in time."

Jay? She wants me to help Jay? Why by the dragon didn't she say so in the first place?!? "What do I need to do?"

"Two things. Follow instructions on this scroll, using the spells in the book. There's some unrelated stuff in there as well you might enjoy after this task."

Bonus points! "And second?"

Sadie hesitated, aging visibly this time. "Jay must be saved before six tonight. If she's unconscious more than twenty four hours after her attack, even if by a minute, then you must kill her."

I am seriously fucked. Tate sighed and glanced around the scene again, searching for something, anything the cops could've missed. Of course, it was picked clean. He settled back on his haunches and absently gnawed on his lower lip. It was impossible, really. This was so not his turf, and any tracks would've been obliterated by the searching police. Hell, he didn't even know what had attacked Jay.

Damn. Jay is seriously fucked. And wasn't that the problem? He had let her go, and now it looked like it could be for a very, very long time. Tate growled helplessly and slammed a fist down, taking his frustration out on the pavement. Murphy's law kicked in, and a cloud of dust poofed up. The surprised gargoyle inhaled, setting off a coughing fit and a disturbing sense of déjà vu that exploded into a full blown flash back.

The prey just knelt there, waiting for the final death blow, the sweet trickle of memories that were shockingly tasty. Then she changed, morphing into the gargoyle of her memories. Surprise loosened the death grip for a single, vital instant, letting the prey lash out, ripping away flesh. Falling, memories dribbling away like blood, body disintegrating without the precious remembrances.... darkness....oblivion.

Tate shook his head, frantically scrabbling away from the whatever-it-was that caused the hallucination. What the HELL was THAT?!?!? My god, that - shit, that was Jay! He collapsed in the grass, shock and confusion taking over. Well, he'd found something. Now what?

"What??!?!" Demona screeched, unwilling to believe her ears. "Kill her? I thought you wanted me to save her!"

"Do I look like I'm enjoying this?" the ghost shot back. "Tisn't my decision. It's necessary. The thing that attacked her is like a disease, spreading from one victim to another. In... what, under twenty hours, Jay will die. The thing that rises from that bed will look, sound, and otherwise appear to be her. But it will be a monster, one even ye've managed to avoid. If it gets free, all the world becomes its meal. If it realizes it's the last, it might breed, and we'll be hip deep in those damn things! I've not hung around Life this long to see my clan die to those abominations! Don't make me posses ye!"

"You wouldn't dare!"

"What makes ye so god damned sure?"

Demona froze, disturbed by the chill in the dead gargoyle's tone. She does mean it, she realized. She would have me kill Jay. "I...I don't think-"

"Now there's the whole of it. Believe me, I hate this as much as you do. But it will be far better for Jay to have a friend, a clan member, end it before she takes anyone with her. This is an instance of the good of the many coming before the good of the one."


"Please, mother. For Jay's sake."


5:51 am


Tate moved first, vaulting over the hotel bed to snatch up the phone receiver. "Hello?" Please God, let it be Jay woke up. Please!

"I need to speak with Tess Stiles," an unfamiliar female voice demanded.

He reluctantly obeyed, handing the phone over to the human. He shifted nervously, wishing desperately there was some way to listen in or at least get more of the conversation other than the terse "Uh huh"s and "alright"s. When Jay's mother finally hung up, he tried to stick with just a puppy dog look instead of shaking the answers out of her. Tess took a deep breath, then said, "Demona might know how to help Jay."

Thank you!!!!

"But she needs to see her. I'll handle the details if you babysit."

"I... thought you didn't have problems with Demona."

"I don't. But she'll probably need help."

"So what're we waiting for? Let's do it!"

The ride to the hospital was a whirlwind five minutes, the elevator ride agonizingly long, particularly considering his level of concentration needed to stay human. This close to sunrise, it was a lot less painful than it could've been, but it was still a literal pain. Tate suffered it gladly, seeing it as penance for letting Jay getting injured. He had a nervous moment at the checkpoint in front of Jay's room when the curly haired cop stopped them for identification. With Tess handling him with surprising deftness, the human stayed ignorant of his earlier encounter with Tate. At last, the gargoyle-turned-human slipped into the room, gratefully taking his place beside Jay and settling in to wait.

"Hey Jim, you mind coming up for awhile? That last cup of coffee just decided-"

"Whoa whoa whoa, Chief," the Sentinel chuckled into his radio, "no details, please."

"Yeah, well just hurry man, okay?"

Shaking his head in amusement, Jim trotted up the stairs. He almost did a quick retreat upon spotting the short mother from earlier, but Blair's anxious subtle dance pulled him from safety.

"The uh, brother's in there," Blair called, already hurrying for the men's room as Jim approached. The taller detective waved acknowledgement and took up an 'at ease' position before the door. Almost absently, he stretched out his hearing for the brother.

"Please, all you have to do is wake up. I mean, come on, it's the only way you'll get rid of me, love. Can't get a better reason than that, right?"

Holy shit! The voice was disturbingly familiar. Jim knocked and pushed the door open, coming face to face with a startled guy.

Oooh no. He blinked and shook his head, senses telling him quite clearly something he'd thought impossible. Hell, he hadn't even thought of it before! "I don't believe this."

"What?" the human asked with false bravado, his heart doing double time. "Guy can't even visit his sister now?"

"I didn't see the resemblance. No wings, for one."

He visibly twitched, heart spiking. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Come on, sport, you're the gargoyle from earlier. Now look, I don't mind this little visitation thing, I just wanna know why."

The guy's stance eased somewhat. He nervously licked his lips and ran a hand through his hair. "Jay and I... we were friends."


"Yeah, well, I goofed up big time, the relationship got shot to hell, and she ran away to here and got hurt." Ahhh, guilt trip central. That explained it. "Anyway, we think we could cure her. And... look Detective, I'll do anything it takes. Please. Let me stay with her."

The raw emotion in the kid's voice would've been more than enough to convince a colder man to give in. After four years of the Sandburg conditioning, Jim didn't stand a chance. "We need her awake soon as possible," he muttered, trying to save at least some face. "If you can do something...." He backed out, trying not to look like the softy he just knew he was coming across as. If the crew at the bullpen caught wind of this, never mind the gargoyle bits, he'd never hear the end of it.

Just to top things off, he turned back to the hall to find the knock out of a harpy standing before him, arms crossed and evil gleam in her eyes. "Come on, lady," he sighed, "I told you before-"

"She's with me. Us, rather," the mother interrupted.

Jim sighed. Wonderful. The night just kept getting better. "I'm afraid I can't do that. If we let just anyone in, then we wouldn't really be protecting her, now could we?"

The redhead flourished an official looking paper at him. "Signed by Judge Kline an hour ago. I get in."

The Sentinel reluctantly took the paper and looked it over. Damn. She was legit. He pasted on a false smile, hiding his irritation at the woman and relief that his partner was back. Of course, the younger man seemed more fascinated with the redhead than the situation. Enough. Blair can handle her, he thought resentfully. "Hey Chief. Mind escorting her majesty?"

Blair shot a surprised look at him, mirroring the narrow eyed glare from the woman in question. "Uh, sure man. No problem." He offered her the charming Sandburg smile, which she brushed by in her hurry to get inside.

Whoever it is next time, I am NOT babysitting. Nothing is worth this aggravation. Jim sighed and wondered if he could zone voluntarily, and if it would be worth it.

Tate involuntarily tensed as the door creaked open again. His posture eased upon recognizing the second cop, only to stiffen again as Demona in human form entered. No matter what Jay said, he didn't trust the immortal.

He forced himself to relax, trying to ignore her. Since the cop was staring at him, he stared back. So when the human blinked and nearly collapsed, Tate quickly lunged forward to catch him. "Whoa, there! You ok?"

"Yeah, fine. Just got a bit dizzy." The human looked up, squinting at him with a strange expression. "You're one too, aren't you? You're the gargoyle from earlier."

Tate's brows rose in surprise, and he accidentally shared a look with Demona. "Is there anyone left that doesn't know about us?"

She smirked. "The idiot outside."

Tate snickered. "Actually, he spotted me."

"Then I'm guessing no," the cop interrupted before holding out his hand. "Hey. I'm Blair Sandburg."

Tate nodded and shook the human's hand. "Tate Knight. That's - uh, which name are you going under now?"

The other gargoyle sniffed disdainfully. "Demona will do."

"Demona, huh?" Blair was practically bouncing on his toes. "Cool." 'Cool.' Eyeah. Just wait till she tries to rip off your face. "So what's going on?"

Tate shrugged and looked at Demona. The immortal pulled an ancient book from a small satchel. "There's a spell in here, it should tell us what happened to her."

"Magic?" Blair asked. Tate winced, waiting for the usual spew of 'but it's not real!' Instead, the human surprised him again. "Alright! Very cool!"

Not your usual human here. Or cop.

Waving the males away, Demona stood beside the bed, hands outstretched over Jay's head and heart. Eyes half-closed, she began chanting in some strange, guttural language, the syllables resonating through the room. The hair on both males' arms rose with the sound, until the last rumbling echo died along with the lights.

As silence descended, broken only by the beeps of the heart and IV monitors, light sprang up over the room. Demona was surrounded with a sky blue aura. Tate himself shed a pure, colorless glow that pulsed in time with his heartbeat. Blair had a vibrant backlight of aquamarine, along with an earthy green wolf that lay panting at his side.

Jay, however, put off a sickly light, swirling in a psychedelic mix of muddied red, orange, and yellow that moved in patterns that hurt the eye and upset the stomach.

"Wow," Blair and Tate breathed. "So, uh, what's this mean?" the human continued.

Demona flipped through the book. "Blue is for the ability to use magic, sign of sorcery." She glanced at Tate. "Apparently light without color is sign of a being inherently magical." Tate blinked and shrugged at her questioning look. "Green is earth magic. That blue green, though, isn't recorded."

"And Jay?" the other gargoyle prodded.

The immortal hesitated, skimming the text. Apparently finding something, she peered closer, only to snarl a barrage of curses.

"That doesn't sound good," Blair observed.

"It is the worst possible option, actually," Demona growled. "She was attacked by a vampyre." She glared at them. "No, not that. The original monster. It feeds off memories rather than blood, and is much more dangerous."

"What's the survival rate?"

The immortal hesitated, not looking at Tate. "There isn't," she whispered. "Jay's as good a dead."

Dead? Jay, dead? No. Nonononono. No. "No." He was trembling, ready to collapse to the floor and fly into a screaming rage all at once. "There's got to be an alternative."

"I... no one's ever survived without being turned into one. They breed this way, leaving victims alive, only to become one."

"You said no one survived. That doesn't mean it can't be done!" He had to believe it. That had to be it, she couldn't die! Not when he could do something! He'd been helpless one too damn many times before, not this time! Not again! Never again!

Demona hesitated again, a moment too long. "You know something. Tell me!"

"It's.... a fable. Never worked. And it would be impossible for us anyway." She looked away, concentrating on the book.

"Do I look like I fucking care?!? It's Jay's only chance so start talking!"

A moment more passed before she began talking softly. "It's a complicated, untested ritual. It requires three participants, a magician, a shaman, and... it translates as 'one close to the victim's heart'. Then they... 'merge souls in day's light'? It's rather vague, but.... Highly dangerous."

"But it can be done?" Tate asked desperately.

"If we get the spell to work, if we could find a shaman, and I know of absolutely none!"

"Uh, actually, I sorta fit that." The gargoyles turned and stared at Blair, who gave them a small grin. "I do the Guide thing more than the Shaman thing, but I am considered one."

"Yes!" Tate yelped. "There you go! Shaman, check, I'll do the last one, and then you-"

"No!" The startled trio turned to see Jim looming in the doorway, the tall man's attention entirely on Blair. "No, Chief," he said quietly, though the desperation remained from his outburst. "You heard her, no one survived this. Don't do it."

"But there's a chance," he replied.

"Not much of one. It's too much of a risk."

"So you just want to kill her?"

The detective remained silent, jaw clenching hard enough to make muscles in his face visibly throb.

"Please," Tate added in, making himself target for a blue laser gaze. Ellison glared at him for an icy moment before tuning back to his partner.

"What if it fails, huh? What then? You're just gonna die on me? I need you, dammit! The whole Sentinel thing, I thought that meant something."

"Jim, it does, but this is a life we're talking about!"

"It's your life to, not to mention mine!" The man was clearly furious and visibly disturbed. "You said it before, it's about friendship, it's about us! What if you die, you think Guides just come along out of nowhere?"

The shorter cop spared a second to glare at the gargoyles before growling "Outside," and nearly dragging his partner from the room.

Tate turned to Demona. "So what now?"

She looked at the door, then him. "We cannot force his help," she said softly. "Without a shaman...." She brushed a gentle knuckle over Jay's brow before going over to open the window. She leapt out, her words floating back with deceptive softness. "Without a shaman, we can only say our goodbyes."

Blair slammed the door and practically shoved Jim up against the wall. "What is with you, man? I've seen some really messed up fear based responses from you, but this one is way off even for the Ellison scale!"

"You heard what she said, it never worked before, so why should it now?"

"This Blessed Protector stuff is all well and good, but come on! Give it a rest now and then! I mean, you're practically asking me to put a gun to her head and pull the trigger!"

Jim winced, their recent trip to Rainier a harsh reminder of just what his partner had given up to get that gun. "Better than your head," he countered. "Look, Blair, I-I just don't - if you die... again.... I couldn't stop it last time 'cause I was too damn stupid, but I'm not gonna let that kid be another Alex!"

The former anthropologist paused. "You think she's a Sentinel? You been having any visions?"

"No, and it-it doesn't feel like that, but I'm not about to get you killed over some kid in a weird hoodoo Russian roulette. Not to mention this whole 'magic' thing." He shook his head, mute disbelief of the woman's - gargoyle's! - claims.

"Jim," Blair growled in exasperation. "We both know there's the whole mystic side to the Sentinel thing, is this that different?"

"Yes." Oh, hell yeah! Knowing that pointing out they knew absolutely nothing about the gargoyle, the Amazon, or the unconscious girl would only set Blair off in the wrong direction, he switched tactics. "But remember Chief, last time those happened, you died. I just don't want to have that happen again."

Blair signed and gnawed on his lower lip for a second, then looked back at Jim. "Ok, you got a point there. I promise you, man, I'm not gonna die on you." He grinned faintly. "Believe me, that's not a trip I'm eager to take again."

Thank you, the Sentinel mentally breathed to whatever kind god was watching. Normally Blair didn't have this much sense. "Great," he tried to say, but it dissolved into a jaw popping yawn.

His partner laughed. "Go on and finish your nap, Jim. Promise not to interrupt for guests again."

"You sure?"

"Go on. Sleep. I know what I'm doing."

"Alright. Wake me if anything happens."

It was awhile before Tate could get over his shock enough to move, and even longer before he trusted himself not to release his frustration in the destruction of whatever should be in his path. For things to just end like this.... God, it just couldn't!

His decision was made with barely a thought, sending him to the door before he realized it.

Demona needed a shaman? Fine. He'd get her a shaman. Everyone had their price, all it took was finding it.

Whatever it took.

Blair sighed softly as Jim disappeared around the corner. Sometimes, he really got sick of the whole Blessed Protector thing. Sure, it was great to know Jim would be there watching his back, but on occasion he could be a bit too smothering. Don't complain, he reminded himself, mother hen mode is better than 'push him away for his own good so he doesn't get hurt.' Ok, I can handle this. The door behind him opened, and the gargoyle - though he still looked human - came out. The young male looked at him, a hint of desperation clouding the panicked worry in his eyes.

They didn't have to exchange words. It was clear what the gargoyle wanted so badly to ask, beg, whatever, and Blair sensed that his own intentions were equally clear.

"I promised Jim I wouldn't be dieing on him, so this better work."

Tate managed a faint grin. "Sounds like a plan. I know where Demona is."

"Let me make a phone call, then let's go."

Dammit, she really had to stop this pacing thing. Demona took a deep breath and froze in her tracks, trying to calm down. Finding that Jay had been attacked by a vampyre had been enough to rattle her. She could recall a few vague tales of the monsters, but she'd thought they had died off long before even her time. The thought of the death they provided actually managed what very little did: it frightened her silly. She was used to her immortality. Well, admittedly after a thousand years, one could get used to most anything. But she wasn't quite sure how an attack from such a creature would affect her. Would she simply come back to life afterwards? Would she arise as one of them instead, hunting every living thing for the rest of eternity?

She shuddered. It wasn't really something she enjoyed pondering. Admit it. You're happy the shaman refused.

A knock on her hotel room door startled her into a spin. Who-? Letting curiosity override caution, she opened the door. Tate and the shaman looked at her expectantly.

Oh damn.

"What do we have to do to save Jay?" the halfbreed asked softly.

"I...." She frantically searched her mind for some delay, guiltily putting off what could very well be her death. "I'm still missing some components. We need something of the monster's."

Tate frowned, then pulled a small baggie from his pocket. He held it up, displaying greasy black ashes. "I think this IS it. Will that do?"

"Um, yes."

The shaman raised his eyebrows. "So how about we get this party started?"

Jim shifted and rolled over on the cot. Damn, couldn't they make anything in this place comfortable? He shifted again, then gave up. No way he was getting any sleep tonight. With a faint sigh, he hauled himself up and padded over to the coffee maker. Ah, good. It was at least reasonably fresh. On a whim he filled another cup and headed out of the break room. Caffeine wouldn't hurt Sandburg either.

His walk to the room started as a leisurely stroll, but something subliminal soon had him moving with quick purpose. Something was wrong. Wouldn't Sandburg love that? 'Hey Jim, is your spider sense tingling?' Riiight.

He turned the last corner, froze, and stared at the cop seated before the door. It wasn't his partner. He vaguely recognized the man as Murphy, one of the uniforms Blair had befriended during his brief, required stint as a beat cop.

"Hey Jim," he called. "What's up?"

You aren't my Guide. My Guide is missing, and I need to know where he is! "Where's Blair?"

The cop shrugged, trying to hide a sudden spurt of fear. Everyone in the department knew how the two could get when it came to their partner. "He said he had some business to take care of, asked me to come in, and left with this kid. Late teens, longish hair, college maybe."

Shit. Shitshitshit. Jim thanked the man and dismissed him, moving inside the room when he was finally alone. The Sentinel glared at the unconscious girl haloed in the first light of the day creeping through the windows. He knew what his Guide had done. Damn, too caring fool.... Come back to me, Chief. Please, I don't want to lose you. Jim sat down, preparing a vigil for the girl who could so easily kill the man who was combination best friend, partner, and brother.

Bizzare note: I actually started and mostly finished this before I came here to college. In a moment of uninspired need, I named the vamp/villian Loar in a pun of "lore". What can I say, I'm horrible with names. Anyway, it was quite a shock when I finally poked around campus and saw that one of the buildings was called Loar Hall.... and my first roommate (who has since kicked me out and thus given me two new, happily insane nifty people!) happened to be blonde, and she liked Backstreet....

Even more groveling to the amazing individuals who helped me get this done:
Denis, the spawner of creativity daemons
M.C. You are aware you (and your fic, grommit!!!) rock, right?
Datafage. Thank you. You keep me and my spelling (and plots, and characters, and... ;) in line and make sure I know when I'm doing stuff right.
Tyrethali. You won't see it in this section, but I did listen to yer advice. };)
And of course, the Repeat Offenders, who are just plain spiffy!

Wait, who was that? The Characters.

Back up, I wanna try this again. Part 1, Mind

Well? What happens?? Part 3, Soul!

I want to read more! To get back to the fic archive

Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home

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Gargoyles, Demona, Nightstone Unlimited, this version of the Illuminati, and any other related material belongs to Disney, used without permission or profit, no infringement intended, so please don't sue. The Connecticut clan, Jay, Tate, Sadie, Troy, Lizzie, and Loar are my own (don't steal!). Pretty much everything else belongs to Pet Fly Productions and therefore Paramount, again the whole rant about no infringement, payment, and sueing. Music belongs to Backstreet Boys.