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The Vessel

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Summary: AU. Jim, Blair, and what's left of the Scoobies fight an old enemy. Portals abound! Jim/Blair, Faith/Willow, Angel/Xander

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Sentinel, The > General(Current Donor)lizFR1817,121352,8289 Jul 049 Jul 04No
Disclaimer: Not mine, I really wish they were though! :)

A/N: This originally started out as a challenge around Halloween last year (I think) on Senad to write a fic with the words 'It was a dark and stormy night' :) The Scoobs don't make much of an appearance in the first bit, and if you don't watch Sentinel you might be a little confused... Oh, and I pretty much killed everyone off, it's *that* kind of end'o'theworld fic... :)

The Vessel

"Sandburg." Jim ran his hand over his mouth. "No way."

"But, Jim." The younger man bounced from foot to foot. "I *promised* Marie that you would."

"*You* missed the opening night of her first play as a director." Jim leaned back into the island counter crossing his arms over his chest. "She's *your* girlfriend and *I'm* doing this. Don't you see a problem here, Junior?"

"Hey, look, man," Blair leaned closer to his sentinel, "you *know* I'd do it for you. Besides, she's *not* my girlfriend. We went on a couple of dates and we're just friends. You know that, Jim."

Jim arched an eyebrow. "My girlfriends," the detective stressed the last word with a smirk, "don't ask me to get my partner to perform practically naked in a play." Jim placed a stilling hand on his guide. "Have we gone too far into the Sandburg zone to see how weird this whole thing is?"

"*Still* not my girlfriend." Blair tried his very best pleading look, the one that got him nearly anything he wanted from his roommate. "C'mon, Jim. It won't be that bad."

Jim, as impervious as a person in love with Blair could be, replied, "Sandburg, I'm not shedding my clothes for an audience, not even for Cascade Kids Relief. So you either come up with incentive, or drop it. Okay?"

"Jim."

"Look, Chief." Jim opened the refrigerator door, pulling out a couple of beers. "Why isn't she asking *you* to do this part?"

Blair looked Jim up and down pointedly, and shrugged. "You've got the bod," Blair took the bottle Jim offered, "and I'm *in* the play already, remember? I'm the one that's being bitten. You'll be wearing boxers; it's not like you'll be completely naked, man. C'mon, the other guys are doing it."

Jim took a sip of his beer. "The other guys aren't running around half dressed for three performances, either. I'm not hearing incentive here, Chief."

"The kids?" Blair smiled hopefully.

"Not quite what I was looking for, try again."

Stalling, Blair sipped on his beer. "Ok, how about Wonderburger for lunch all next week."

Jim's eyes sparkled, now he was hearing the right words, "Wonderburger three times next week, and after the play's opening night we go to Shay's Seafood, *your* treat."

Blair's eyes widened, "Oh, yeah, that's a great choice. They've got a snapper dish that's to die for!" Finishing the last of his beer Blair continued, "You got it, Jim."

Happy that he had his partner's sole attention on a Friday night, Ellison continued as if he hadn't heard Blair, "*and* I get dessert without you harping about how bad it is for my arteries!"

"Ok, ok, Jim. I won't tell you even if you're shaving years off your life." Blair grinned.

"That starts now, Carrotmuncher."

"Oh!" Blair feigned hurt. "That's low!" Blair chuckled. "You know I hate carrots!"

"Yeah, yeah." Jim waved an arm as he walked wearily up the stairs. "G'night, Chief."

"Night, Jim."

Blair double-checked the locks and crawled into bed, knowing an early start was needed if they were going to make rehearsal in time. He couldn't believe Jim had finally agreed to the play after weeks of cajoling. Blair had a feeling Jim was just teasing him about not wanting to do it. That and seeing how far Blair would go to get the older cop to do it.

Well, Blair thought, he was going to be onstage in only his boxers, but Blair knew that the children of Cascade were firmly entrenched in Ellison's heart. Jim just didn't like announcing that he had a soft spot for kids, animals, and wandering Blairs. Blair smiled softly at his thoughts. Yep, he took me right in, and kept me. This play is for a good cause though, Blair nearly convinced himself that he wanted Jim onstage in that particular part for the kids' sake, and not for the eye candy, falling asleep with a smile on his face.

After two weeks of practice, the evening of the play began after a car chase, three foot-chases through the streets of Cascade, and one extremely cold swim in the harbor.

"Is it just me or have all the crooks in Cascade become tri-athletes? I don't remember Brown or Rafe ever complaining when I was an observer." Blair, sitting on the locker room bench in front of his partner, draped a towel around his neck.

Jim shrugged, finished toweling his hair, and reached for his clothes. "That's because we were always out on our own cases, Chief." Jim pulled on his underwear and jeans. "Perps don't generally stay still and polite when you're about to bust 'em."

"I guess you're right." Blair snapped his jeans and slipped his sock-clad feet into his shoes.

After both finished dressing, they hurried to the Cascade Community Theater. Neither detective had many lines, so they could spend most of the time watching the others. The play was a series of sketches based on the many various popular horror myths.

Jim could hear his partner's heart beating more rapidly as the start of the play drew closer. Clad in black silk boxers over his briefs, for Jim could *not* see himself flying free for that many people, Jim laid as casually as he could on the couch in front of a flickering light inside a prop television. The sentinel tried desperately to ignore the two guide-approved splotches of red dripping down his neck as they dried slowly.

The sentinel extended his hearing and caught Marie settling herself on the large, ornately carved, black wooden throne, donated especially for the performance by the Cascadian Historical Society. The antique chair was allegedly owned by the first rail baron to build his empire in Cascade. She opened the thick antique-looking book, another donation from another organization, turned a few pages dramatically, and began.

'It was a dark and stormy night.'

The curtain was beginning to lift. Jim closed his eyes and focused on his partner's vitals again.

As the curtain rose, Blair inexplicably seemed to calm, speaking quietly, "Jim, I hope you're listening. Ya gotta dial it all back. The curtain's going up and there's a *lot* of people out there."

Jim had no way of responding to Blair's words without the members of the audience noticing, but he appreciated the warning. Keeping his senses tuned into Blair, Ellison dialed back the rest of the world. It was an ability the older man hadn't shared with his partner yet, preferring to keep the sensory pleasure to himself for a little while longer.

Blair crossed the stage haphazardly unknowingly mimicking himself after 4 shots of tequila, "Jiiim." Blair made a big show of looking around the faux living room. The younger man sat in the middle of the room, clumsily pulling off his shoes. "I saw the most beautiful gral, gril...girrrl. She whazz jus' yer type. I told her I had to come home. Tha' we 'lready had blans, plans."

The younger man crawled dizzily to the side table and clicked on a lamp. Shaking the reclining man's shoulder, "Jimmy! Oh, Jimmy boy?" The younger man sing-songed, "There's a loffy, lovey, loverl, pretty girl waitin'."

The scary background music was cued up as Jim shot up from his repose, and seemingly held Blair up by the throat with one arm, causing the audience to gasp in horror. Thankful that the wires were holding, Jim backed Blair towards the fake living room wall, allowing the audience a good look at his seemingly torn out throat. Many of the audience gasped again, but watched in rapt fascination.

Blair rounded his eyes and started gurgling. He was so convincing that Jim almost faltered in his steps, but the younger man's vitals were strong, soothing the sentinel's fears. Propping his partner against the wall, he stage-breathed, "hello, Blair."

"J-jim?"

"I'm hungry, Blair." Jim purred, "I could use a snack."

Blair palmed the bloodpack and 'fed' it to Jim as he pushed the older man's mouth away. "Jim!"

As the music reached a cresendo, Jim leaned into Blair's neck and bit open the packet. Smearing it along Blair's neck with his lips, the sentinel turned his dripping red face to the audience. Ellison swept his sight over the crowd, a maniacal grin spread across his face, with steely blue eyes gleaming. Inwardly he grinned smugly at the horrified looks on the patron's faces, yet outwardly he buried his face into his partner's neck again. Thinking he'd never get a better opportunity to test the proverbial waters, Jim began licking the red syrup from his partner's neck. Blair twitched.

Ellison smirked into Blair's neck and licked again. Another twitch followed by the sudden feeling of euphoria Jim associated with pheromones caused Ellison's grin to widen into the red gooey syrup. The audience caught Blair's movement and interpreted it as fatalistic. Had either man been paying attention, they would've noticed arms being squeezed and hands covering eyes throughout the theater before the music stopped and the lights went out dramatically.

Jim unhooked Blair from the harness and led them to the side of the stage. Jim was thrilled to notice Blair walking a bit stiffly, but his shirt was untucked so Jim couldn't confirm without using his senses and alerting the rookie detective to the bodily inspection Jim wanted to perform. As they reached the wall separating the stage from the audience, Jim turned, leaning into Blair's back, whispering in the younger man's ear, "You ok, Chief?"

"Peachy, man, just peachy," was all Blair replied, his slightly glazed eyes intent on the stage before them.

The detectives could still see the action, but were out of the way of the crew in their spot against the wall. Ellison watched as the stagehands deftly flipped the sofa, added a couple of large wooden blocks for support, and draped the whole thing with a sheet. 'Voila,' Jim thought, 'instant operating table.'

The Frankenstein sketch was next and Blair had roped Simon into that role. Although he didn't need a lot of prodding, Jim's teasing aside, both detectives had known for weeks that the captain was sweet on Marie.

Regaining the ability to form higher cognitive skills, Blair asked, "Have you seen Simon?" Blair glanced up at his partner, "Aw, Jim, that's just gross. Let me find you a towel or something."

Ellison smacked his lips, halting Blair's immediate search for a towel, "Nah, just tastes like liquidy icing." With definite Blair-flavor, Jim continued silently, but said, "Simon's still in make-up. He's bitching because the make up artist won't let him smoke his cigar."

"He probably needs something, Jim. He's been in makeup since four-thirty this afternoon."

"What about Joel? He's been stuck in that werewolf get-up for longer than Simon's been in paint, and you know all that fake fur's gotta itch. Here he comes. C'mere, Chief." Jim reached a hand out to grab Blair from the steamroller that was their captain.

Blair allowed himself to be moved further into his sentinel's side. "Definitely sucks." Blair heard Simon clomping backstage and had to stifle a grin.

Simon, in his huge black platform shoes, took one look at his detectives and scowled. "You boys wanna spend the next three months directing traffic?"

Identical smiles spread across the two detectives' faces as they chorused, "No sir."

"Then I suggest you remove those smiles and yourselves from my way." Simon bit out.

Both men turned towards the offstage area, grinning harder and stifling huge bouts of laughter at their lime green captain. Poor Rhonda, she had to actually be in the same scene with Simon. Rhonda changed her posture and body language to make herself seem even smaller and meeker. The transformation was amazing, but Simon as the monster had to break the poor girl and return her to the Mad Doctor portrayed by William Ellison.

Between Sally and the two younger Ellisons, they'd convinced the senior Ellison to join in the fun. Of course, the actual monetary donations were write-offs and advertisement on the tickets free publicity, but Jim was pleased William had become involved personally. It was another degree in the long thaw between the boys and their father. The partners listened in as the crowd enjoyed the antics of the crazy doctor. The crowd loved the older man's maniacal laughter, and cheered with happiness when the scientist revived Rhonda.

Jim and Blair remained sidestage as Rhonda, Simon, and Jim's father exited the opposite side. Marie had taken the spotlight again distracting the audience from the set up of the next sketch.

'The moon rules the lycanthrope, forcing the change at its fullest.'

Joel and Henri played brothers on a nature hike in the next sketch. The scene opened with Henri looking for Joel in the dark. Jim watched the crowd as a spotlight was directed across the curtain mimicking a full moon as the spooky music was cued higher. Everyone, audience included, knew Joel was about to pounce on Henri when the wolf's baleful howl filled the auditorium, but still managed to be startled when the former bomb squad captain roared, catching Henri's character unaware and taking him down. Henri had to quickly run back over to costuming to change for the next sketch.

The last sketch had the longest set up, but at least the werewolf sketch only had a tent to break down. Marie caught the attention of the audience for the introduction to the Wicked Sorceress Queen. During pre-production, the sketch boasted having a wicked witch, but Blair insisted on the change to stop perpetuating the 'witch as evil' stereotype.

'Once an evil Sorceress vowed to rule the world. She raised an army of evil minions, bringing them across the veil from the depths of the nether realms. Only a shrewd Prince, with his best friend and first knight, could destroy the evil Sorceress.'

Jim and Blair stayed near the folds of the curtain, watching the second ornate throne being carried quickly to the left of the center of the stage. This throne however, along with the antique book being used by Marie, was donated by the Glorificus Foundation. Oddly enough, the members of the Order of Glorificus were the ones that requested the Evil Sorceress Queen sketch. The rugs were tossed, the background dropped, and Megan Connor dressed as the evil queen hurried across the stage with shoes in hand.

Once seated with shoes donned, Rafe and Henri came to stage left. They were to call out their lines from offstage in the beginning. The lights came up and Rafe called out to the usurping Queen. Megan portrayed the evil Usurping Queen beautifully by sitting regally in the throne, exuding over-confidence even to those in the back of the theater.

Jim watched Henri and Rafe stumble to the foot of her throne. The dagger dipped in the Eternal Ruby Spring was the only thing that could save the world as the prince knew it, and he and Henri were shown to have toiled hard for it.

Something caught Jim's attention, but he couldn't quite grasp what he was hearing. "Do you hear that?"

"Hear what, Jim? Can you isolate it? Filter out the other sounds, man." Blair placed his hand on his sentinel's arm.

Jim cocked his head to the side. "It's mumbling."

"Mumbling? Everyone mumbles, Man. We're in a theater full of mumblers. Why did that catch your attention?"

"No, no, not mumbling. It's almost musical," Jim listened a few moments more and continued, "rhythmic. I can't believe you don't hear that, they're practically right in our laps. Chanting! It's chanting." Jim pulled Blair a few more feet away from the edge of the curtain. "Do you hear the chanting now, Chief?"

"I still don't hear it." Blair shook his head. "What I do hear is Marie reading off the narrator's lines for the Sorceress Queen."

Jim tugged on Blair's sleeve. "I swear, Blair. There's chanting."

At the serious look Blair received, he capitulated, "Ok, ok, Jim. There's chanting. Can you filter out the other voices and just listen to the strongest voice?"

Jim lifted the hair from the back of Blair's neck and dug his fingers into the curls, vaguely massaging Blair's scalp. "Yeah, ok, give me a sec."

Blair thought Jim was being spectacularly more touchy-feely tonight than before and knew they were going to talk about it eventually, but figured he could go with it for now if it helped Jim to avoid a zone out.

"Sounds like another language but I thought I heard something about opening a portal." Swaying, Jim wrapped his free arm around Blair's waist to steady himself. "I don't feel so good."

Noticing the sudden pallor, and the unbalanced state of his partner, Blair agreed. "You don't look so good either, Jim." Spotting the chair with Jim's clothing further backstage, Blair helped Jim towards it. "Here, sit in this chair. Try to get dressed and I'll let the others know we're leaving."

Settling into the chair with his eyes closed and his head propped against the pale slate painted cinderblock wall, Jim mumbled, "Thanks, Mina."

Blair looked worriedly at his roommate, but said with a touch of humor, "Mina!? Don't you mean Jonathon?"

Jim smiled lazily, "Don't 'member Vlad biting Jonathon, thought it was the three minion chicks." Jim fumbled with his pants and shirt, haphazardly slipping his feet into his socks and shoes.

Minion chicks? Jim has never used the word 'chicks' in front of me, let alone 'minion'. Something is seriously wrong here, Blair thought, but spoke aloud, "Yeah, well. Why don't we stick with Blair or Chief, ok, Jim?"

"'k, Babe," Jim slurred grabbing Blair around the waist again, this time with both arms, "Chief it is."

Babe? Is he nuts? Man, we have to get out of here now! "You know Jim, with this licking thing and the babe thing, we really need to talk."

"Yeah, m'kay." Jim nuzzled into his guide's cloth covered belly.

Jim really sounds drunk, or maybe a new weird half-zone, Blair tried to speculate on Jim's condition. Blair pulled an arm loose and grabbed Megan's sleeve as she returned from her theatrical vanquishing, "Megan, Jim's not feeling too hot." Blair motioned to the unresponsive detective, "I'm gonna take him home."

Megan didn't even blink at Jim wrapping himself around the younger detective. "Alright, Sandy." In an uncharacteristic move, Megan kissed Jim's cheek, hugging him briefly. "Take care of him, Mate, and watch your back. It's already after sundown."

Blair smiled tightly at her show of affection towards Jim, but wasn't bothered nearly as much when she repeated both gestures on him. While helping his partner towards the nearest exit, he mulled over Megan's behavior. It was as if she was afraid she possibly wouldn't see them again. Blair could barely hear Marie performing the closing lines. It was as if she was at the other end of a tunnel.

'Be careful when it's dark and dreary. You never know who, or what you might meet. Thank you, and good night.'

Sound suddenly fading back in, the audience rose, their clapping nearly startling Jim partially out of his strange fugue state. Blair leaned into Jim, a whispered 'reset your dials, man' took care of the crease between the sentinel's eyes.

The door flew out of Blair's hands when he nudged the metal bar. The wind and rain had picked up considerably from the steady shower it had been earlier, completely drowning out the sound of the audience. Blair glanced back into the theater; only a few people remained, the audience seemingly vanished into the woodwork. Stepping through the doorway with Jim, lightning flashed across the sky, as the theater door slammed shut behind them.

"Was it supposed to thunderstorm tonight, Jim?"

"Nope, just plain rain. Plain rain. Plain rain," Jim mumbled dazedly.

"Jesus, its raining like all Cascade's on fire, man." Blair propped Jim against the cinderblock wall with the most cover. "I'll bring the truck around. Wait here, ok, Jim?"

Jim leaned his head back, allowing the rain to drizzle down his face. "'k, I'll be right here."

From the shadows of the alley between the theater and surrounding buildings, a young woman approached the waiting sentinel. "Excuse me, sir." She took a good look at the sentinel, more especially at the growling black jaguar at his feet baring its teeth and bit off the rest of what she had been thinking of saying. "Um, never mind, uh, I, uh..." She turned and ran back the way she came, quickly melting into the shadows.

Jim, only semi-aware of his surroundings, felt Jaguar rubbing his legs. "Nice kitty." Jim scratched behind the rumbling cat's ears, causing it to purr louder.

Given the indisputable evidence of an empty parking lot, Blair was completely floored at the sudden departure of everyone: theater-goers, performers, and even the stage hands. Blair came around with the truck, his eyes widening at the tableau before him. Jim was petting a huge black jaguar, and said jaguar wasn't trying to take a limb. Must be his spirit animal, Blair thought, but I usually can't see it too. Shaking his head at the incongruity of the night, he pulled Jim into the truck. Both of them completely soaked, Blair promised Jim silently that he'd have the truck cleaned tomorrow.

Traffic, other than the two cars a few blocks from the theater, was non-existent. It was as if all of Cascade decided to stay home that night. Visibility, with the harsh rain however, was next to nothing. Reaching the loft at a snail's pace, Blair had to help Jim from the truck to the building. Thanking the elevator gods profusely, he didn't at least have to half-carry Jim up the stairs. Even with the elevator working, Blair was still sweating with exertion by the time they entered the loft.

Glad that he no longer had to worry about textbooks--university, academy, or otherwise--Blair kicked the door shut with his foot and half-carried Jim across the living room. Not bothering with a light, Blair helped Jim straight up the stairs to his loft bedroom. 'Geez, its taking forever to get Jim to his bed tonight.' Blair thought fleetingly. Sitting Jim down easy, Blair let go of the older man's shoulders to remove Jim's shoes.

Feeling the whoosh of air and hearing Jim flop backwards on the bed, Blair abandoned his attack on Jim's socks and reached for the dimmer switch on the lamp. Turning it up incrementally until it was just bright enough for Blair to see, Blair had to grin at the older man's expression. Jim looked like he'd just been served a dozen Wonderburgers with the works.

"What is it Jim?"

"Smell you."

"Um, yeeaah." Blair, noticing with odd detachment that the bed was unmade, looked at the still blissed out sentinel incredulously. "I'm right here, of course you smell me, Jim."

Jim, rubbing his face deeper into the rumpled sheets, began removing his clothing in front of Blair. "Smell you. Smell me." The sentinel emphasized as if it made perfect sense.

Blair looked at his sentinel in astonishment, "Um, ok, Jim, looks like you got it from here." Blair said, backing away from Jim slowly. He all but ran out of the room when he caught a glimpse of Jim rubbing his bare body on the sheets like a big cat.

Blair stopped just inside the French doors to his room. Leaning heavily against the jamb, Blair took a deep breath and toed off his shoes. Glad for the dimmer switches they'd installed over the last Memorial Day weekend, Blair turned the lights up. The sight that greeted him robbed him of all speech and coherent thought.

He didn't have a bed. He didn't have a dresser. He didn't have clothing everywhere. No books, no papers, no artifacts. Not even a window in sight. He was looking at exercise equipment. A universal gym, some free weights, mats on the floor, various weaponry along one wall, primarily swords, and a flat map of each of the continents along the other side.

He knew his vitals were off the chart. Everything was weird. Blair half expected to see a naked Sentinel come charging into the room with his gun drawn, but Blair could not stop looking at the room, his room. Or, apparently, his newly renovated, massively enlarged ex-room. Wondering where the hell he was going to sleep, Blair went through the loft adjusting the lights to their dimmest setting.

Eventually Blair knew he'd disturb his roommate, but the overriding need to see everything took priority. The living room looked the same, except that it was bigger, as in nearly twice the size bigger. The kitchen was larger, the bathroom was larger, the place that used to be the Anderson's down the hall, was now a huge library with a connecting study. The study had more electronics than Blair had seen in one place outside a computer store.

Blair rubbed his eyes, blearily, sentinel troubles momentarily forgotten. Ok, he thought, we used my keys to get in, so this is still our place, or at least, we still have keys to this place. Crossing the living room, Blair, ridiculously glad for its familiarity, sat on the old couch. Glancing at the walls, he was relieved that most of his artifacts and masks were still hanging, but more weaponry adorned the walls as well. Ok, we're obviously either very well armed, or Jim's taken up collecting sharp objects.

Blair's leg bounced impatiently, giving in somewhat to his need to pace, Blair re-entered the kitchen. Opening the cabinets and refrigerator, he was surprised at amount of food. Every cabinet was filled, and they owned several deep freezers that were filled as well. Blair noticed a new pasta maker, and a bread maker. Decidedly unsettled, Blair returned to the living area and flipped on the television, hoping for the news. The detective was in luck, for the newest reporter at KDCE flashed on the screen.

'The Red Twilight still reigns over most of the nation, including Cascade, spreading outwards from our area in all directions, although not completely worldwide as of yet. Scientists are still puzzled at the long-standing red skies, but are confident a solution can be found. The death toll is in the millions across the nation. Martial Law is still in effect, please stay indoors after curfew unless it's an emergency.'

Blair's eyes widened and his mouth dropped. Shaking his head in horror, Blair backed himself into the sofa cushions as far as possible. The only thing he could think was, 'Jim.' Shooting up, Blair sprinted upstairs to the naked sleeping sentinel. Flipping on the lamp, Blair was reassured at the sight of the blankets pulled around Jim's lower body, not that he would've minded the view. Blair shook his partner's shoulder insistently, "Jim! Jim, man, you gotta wake up!" Blair glanced towards the far night stand and was surprised to see his glasses and a book on 'Societal Norms for Lower Beings in the Police State' as well as something called 'The Codex'.

"Shit!" Knowing Jim was still in a semi-zone, Blair began rubbing Jim's upper arm and began speaking insistently, "Jim, c'mon man, you gotta come back now. I don't know where you are, but you have to come back. Focus on my touch and the sound of my voice. I know you can hear me. Please, Jim?"

Jim blearily rolled over, giving Blair a wonderful view of his abs. "What is it, Chief?"

"Man, everything's so fucked up."

Shaking himself from his cloudy thoughts, Jim motioned Blair to sit down. "What's fucked up?"

Ignoring Jim's offer, Blair began to pace. "The whole world! It's insane! Everyone's gone! The skies are red! Red, Jim, red! I saw your spirit guide and have you looked around the loft tonight? Apparently we've had it renovated while we were at the play."

"Whoa." Jim pulled Blair down beside him heavily. "What do you mean everyone's gone? The sky is red? You've seen my spirit guide before. Renovated?" Jim glanced about the room. Jim spoke slowly, "My room is bigger. Your stuff is over there, and Blair?" Jim's ears blushed pink. "We've had sex in this bed."

"Yeah, ha-ha." Blair pushed at Jim's shoulder, "The whole world's gone to hell and you're cracking jokes. Very funny."

"Um, I'm serious, Blair." Jim closed his eyes. "I can smell us."

"Oh. Shit. That's what you meant earlier." Blair leaned back onto his hands. "Dammit, Jim. We haven't had sex! You know that! What is going on here?!" Blair stood suddenly, grabbing Jim's boxers and pants, shoving them towards the sentinel. "Here. Put these on. Come downstairs when you're done."

Blair went back to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door grabbing an unlabeled beer bottle. It looked the right color, so he grabbed another one for Jim. Upon pulling out the second bottle, he could see several packets of blood. Unwilling to process the existence of blood in their refrigerator, Blair returned to the living room with both bottles.

Jim came down the steps slowly, looking about the place with sentinel sight. "Chief?"

"Yeah, I know, Jim, this isn't our place." Blair took a deep breath. "There's blood in our fridge."

"It is our place." Jim insisted taking the beer Blair offered. "I can smell us all over it. I smell other people too. Blood in our fridge?"

"Yeah." Blair took a sip of his beer, side-stepping the real question. "Can you isolate them?"

"There's two females and one male, and one other smell I can't identify."

"Ok, filter out the other three and focus on the other smell, anything specific you can say?"

Twisting the cap off, Jim said, "It smells almost like decay, something dead, but not like a DB, it's just a little off."

"This is getting weirder by the minute." Focusing his attention back towards the television, Blair was surprised to see the rainbow off the air pattern, glancing at his watch, he confirmed that it was only 8:30pm.

"Ok, start from the beginning." Jim took a sip of his beer, surprised at the spicy flavor. "This is homemade."

"It tastes like the recipe Megan used for that Christmas beer last year." Blair toyed with the bottle swishing the dark ale around before beginning his explanation. "Ok, at the theater you were acting funny, almost like you'd had too much to drink, you kept hearing chanting. Everything was fuzzy for you, Megan comes out, she's acting like she'll never see us again. The audience is clapping, I opened the side door, everyone disappears, including all the cars, and this huge thunderstorm comes up out of nowhere. I see you petting your spirit guide and we come home to this." Blair waved his hand expansively.

"That doesn't explain the blood, Sandburg, and you said something about red skies earlier?"

Blair nodded towards the television. "Before KDCE went off the air I heard a news report. They're calling it the 'Red Twilight' on the news. The skies are red, they don't know why, but its expanding outward from Cascade. Millions of people have died, but the reporter didn't say how or why. We're under a curfew and apparently under Martial Law."

Jim's face was blank, but Blair knew Ellison was extending his senses outward and calculating their options. "The basement is a generator complex. The building is mostly empty. The three people I smelled earlier are on the floor below us. They're arguing about who's wearing the most Relarian goo and who should get the shower first. Someone is pointing out the fact that they have more than one shower in their place, and that they should be worrying about the second portal that was opened. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator, and the freezers, as well as the electronics coming from that direction." Jim gestured towards the study. "There's no one above us. You know what a Relarian is, Chief?"

"No clue, Man." Blair shrugged. "But I can go online and see if there's something on the net. Have you looked in my room yet?"

Jim focused his sight on Blair's room. "Ok, we have a home gym, a nice touch, but we also seem to be ready to slice and dice on a whim. Either that or we've decided to start collecting antique weaponry. A panel in your room against the back wall that looks like it'll move. Did you open it?" Blair shook his head. Jim pulled them both from the couch and crossed the living room. "Let's check it out, Chief. It might have some answers."

Although he knew what to expect, Jim was still floored by a closer look at the changes to Blair's room. Crossing the room, Jim went to the back wall, looking for the release mechanism. Not finding it, he swept the room with sentinel vision. The only thing out of place was a white pin where Cascade was on the map when all the other pins were in red, blue, aqua or brown. Jim nudged Blair until his back was against the opposite wall from the panel.

"What is it, Jim? Did you see something?"

"The pin for Cascade. It's the only white one. I'm gonna go pull it." Jim caressed Blair's hair. "Maybe you should go into the living room."

"No way, Jim." Blair shook his head vehemently. "We're in whatever this is together!"

"Ok, but stay over here." Jim thought for a moment. "Why don't you sit on the floor over there next to the door?"

"Okaaaay." Blair sat cross-legged next to the door. He was no longer dead center to the panel. Jim, now standing in front of the map, pulled the white pin. Feeling that familiar slow down of time, Ellison heard the clicking of a mechanism directly behind him. Diving towards Blair, Jim barely missed being skewered by a wicked looking dagger. It was planted directly where his heart would've been if Jim had stayed still.

"Holy Shit!"

"You said it, Chief." Walking back to the map, Ellison replaced the pin into the map. Hearing the clicking of another mechanism, Jim dove back towards his partner, plastering the younger man to the floor. When nothing beyond the sliding of the panel happened, Jim lifted his head from Blair's. Quickly scanning the room, Jim didn't see anything amiss, unless you counted the armory previously hidden behind the panel wall.

"Jmpth."

"You ok, Blair?"

"Gmpt amff mffth ssmshmmphtl."

"Blair?" Jim leaned back so his partner could lift his head.

"Jim, I know we're close and all, but could you get off me, Man?"

Jim finally realized their respective positions and blushed. "Sorry."

Blair reached up and patted Jim on the shoulder. "'S ok, Jim." Blair looked towards the open panel. "Uh, Jim."

"Yes?"

"Jim, we're loaded for bear, and lions, and tigers, and the Sunrise Patriots a few times over."

"Yeah, that about sums it up."

"Not in Kansas anymore, huh?"

"Nope."

"Pretty dangerous if we have a stash like that, huh Jim?"

"More than likely."

"So, um, you gonna get off me any time soon?"

"Nah."

"Ok. So what do you think is going on?"

"Well, including the stuff from the walls, which all looks like its used regularly I might add, and the newscast you mentioned, I'd say we're involved in whatever fight is going on with the Red Sky thing."

"Red Twilight." Blair absently corrected Jim. "Yeah, I guess so. Can you tell how old the smells are in here? You said we both lived here, right? So, if we live here, where are we? I mean, the us that live here."

Jim blinked down at Blair a moment. "Good question." The sentinel cocked his head, concentrating. "I don't know where they are, but it's been a few days since they've been here."

"What about the people downstairs?"

"They haven't been here in a few days either."

"Ok, Jim this is getting beyond weird. Get up, ok?"

Reluctantly Jim complied with Blair's request. After fingering the weaponry a few moments, Ellison said, "I'm gonna call Simon. Why don't you fire up the computer?"

"Right." Glad for something to do, crossed into the study. Blair turned on the monitors and hit the web browser, knowing it would automatically connect to their regular ISP. After a moment of not hearing any dialing, he noticed the computers were connected to a network. Jim returned as the home page loaded. "Jim?" Blair glanced up at his frowning partner. "You reach Simon?"

"No," Jim replied grimly. "I tried Taggert, Brown, Rafe, even Connor. All their lines just keep ringing."

"Jesus, we just saw Connor a few hours ago."

"Yeah." Placing a hand on his partner's shoulder, Jim said softly, "Tried my dad and Stevie too."

"Aw, man." Blair patted Jim's hand. "I'm sure they're ok."

After glancing at the monitor over Blair's shoulder, Jim tightened his grip. "Blair, you ever heard of Angel Investigations?"

Looking back to the screen before him, Blair replied, "Um, no. It says they're originally from LA, but moved to Cascade last year."

"I can read, Blair." Jim squeezed Blair's shoulder again. "Do they have anything for the Red Sky thing?"

"Twilight." Blair corrected again. "On the front page it just repeats what the news said. But there's a place to log in." Blair pointed to the screen. "I'm gonna try it."

"Ok, Chief." Jim turned back to the doorway. "I'm gonna go check out what's for dinner. Let me know if you find anything."

"Sure." Blair typed in his first name as the username, and typed several words for his password, including Sandburg, Jacob, Joseph, Ellison, jaguar, wolf, sentinel, guide, but finally hit on shaman. The computer howled at him, and the words 'Access Granted' popped up in a new window. The main window was loading a new menu as Jim came running through the doorway.

"What the hell was that, Sandburg?"

"That's just the sound it made when I logged in-" was as far as Blair got before something, or rather someone, blurred into the room and flung both men against the wall with a flick of her hand.

"Who the hell are you?" The redhead demanded. Her eyes an inky blackness as she kept them pinned against the wall.

"Detective James Ellison, Cascade PD." Jim replied shortly, furious at not being able to more than wriggle a finger. "This is my partner, Detective Blair Sandburg."

"They're dead." She tightened the hold she had on the two men. "Try again."

"Look, um, whatever your name is, I know we're not the people that lived here, but Jim's not lying."

Her eyes flashed red. "Reveal!"

"Detective James Ellison, and Detective Blair Sandburg. Cascade PD, Washington State, US of A." Jim replied again.

"Shit!" She let them down hard, and collapsed into the chair. "You must be from an alternate universe, like vampMe." She rubbed a few tears from her eyes. "Shit." She repeated.

"Look, whoever you are!" Blair pulled at Jim's shoulder, causing the sentinel to take a good look at the girl sitting in the chair. She couldn't be much more than twenty-five, and was obviously upset by something. Well, the whole world has gone to hell supposedly, that's enough to upset Incacha. Jim softened his voice as he approached her, "Look, we really just want to know what's going on. A little bit ago we were in a play, and we came home to this. Can you tell us anything?"

"Better save it until we get downstairs, the others will be looking for me in a minute." Willow looked up at the two men, they reminded her so much of the Jim and Blair she knew, but having seen vampWillow, it wasn't quite as hard.

**********

"Shempa, baby." The disembodied voice purred, "C'mon, tell me something good."

"It worked, my mistress."

"So you have my vessel?"

"Um, no, not exactly, your Magnificence."

"What do you mean, not exactly?!!" A bolt flew from the open portal, hitting the Shemparnak demon in the middle of his chest.

"He is in Cascade, in this dimension. The spell worked, but he didn't stay at the portal's opening." The demon ran a scaly hand across the scorch mark. "We just don't know exactly where he is right now," the demon rushed on hurriedly to avoid another zap, "but I have all my brethren out looking for him as we speak. We will find him and you will rule this dimension at the new moon in three days time."

"That's better." She continued in a bored tone, really wishing her powers would work beyond line of sight in the Shemparnak's dimension, "Keep me informed, I wanna know the minute you have your hands on the Sentinel."

"Done, my beautiful, all powerful Glorificus."

**********

Willow spoke to the two detectives, stopping them at the door, "You might want to let me go first."

Jim nodded as Blair spoke, "Sure."

Willow opened the door to her roommates, "Guys? I'm back. It was a false alarm, sort of. Don't hurt them, okay?"

Three young people walked into the room at Willow's voice. The two men had dark hair and dark eyes, however one had a slight tan, where the other was rather pale. The girl had long dark hair tied back into a knot at the nape of her neck. She wore jeans and a tank top, and if Blair hadn't been in love with his partner for years, he'd have considered any of the four in the room for a pleasant diversion, or two, or twelve. Jim glared at his partner; Blair cleared his throat. "Um, hi?"

"Willow?"

"It's really them, sort of, remember Vamp me?" They were still staring at the two new arrivals, but nodded. She continued. "Well, I think that's what happened here. Jim, Blair, this is Xander, Faith, and Angel."

"How can you be sure, Willow?" The man introduced as Angel asked.

"Yeah, Red, what if it's a trick from that Hell Bitch?" Faith came closer to the redhead's side, nearly touching her arm.

"C'mon Wills, we watched them die." The tanned young man introduced as Xander flopped onto the couch.

At that point, Blair's heart rate skyrocketed. Jim placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "We'll figure this out, Chief," the sentinel whispered.

"It's them." Angel spoke quietly.

"What makes you so suddenly sure, Deadboy?"

Angel glared at Xander. "You know anyone else in this god-forsaken hell that calls someone 'Chief'?"

The End?

You have reached the end of "The Vessel" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 9 Jul 04.

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