Present day—

"He didn't shit a brick."

Blair chuckled. "No, he didn't. Didn't seem surprised at all."

"Captain, you know."

"That must be it."

Jim tried to bury his face deeper in the mass of hair under his chin as he mumbled, "We've handled it well. Never given Simon a moment of pause nor a minute of worry about our relationship."

"True. He's handled it well,  too."


Blair lifted his head, which solicited a moan from Jim, and studying the man in the semi-dark room, said, frowning, "Jim? What's up, besides us?"

"What makes you think—"

"Don't even try it, Ellison. Just spit it out."

"I guess I need—to share—a few things with you. Some strange things."

Blair pushed himself up and scooting away, he sat down, his back to the end of the bed. Crossing his legs yoga style, he said, "Okay, share."

"Tonight, at the museum, I—"

"Jim, this isn't about Ragab again, is it?"

"No, not at all. I just experienced something odd, that's all."

Blair placed a hand on Jim's thigh and smiled ruefully. "Jim, something odd for you is not 'that's all'. What happened?"

"Well, first, there was this sense of having been there previously and before you say it, wise guy, I *don't* mean the museum. I mean—the

palace. It was very familiar to me, the whole exhibit was. Then—there was a moment when I seemed to be between two worlds. I could smell the

desert, felt the sand beneath my feet—"

"You mean like here, tonight?"

Jim nodded, then said, "Only at the museum, it was more—just—more.  Like there was this curtain between two worlds and all I had to do was step through and I'd be back there - in Egypt."

"That's not all, is it?"

Jim's eyes shifted away as he nodded.

"So? Give me the rest."

"When I shook with Ragab? It was—painful. I was overwhelmed by pain and a sense of loss and God, Chief, it hurt."

Blair frowned, his brows knitting together in thought. Finally he looked up and taking Jim's hand, said, "Tonight, when we were on the floor, in each other's arms, I felt not a division, not two worlds, but one, but one overlaid on top of another—both right. I was here in Cascade and I was—in that other place. I was comfortable. Were you comfortable at the museum?"

"Not really, no. And the only reason I was comfortable tonight, here, was because you were with me."

"What about tomorrow, Jim? Maybe you should stay here? Or neither of us go?"

"That doesn't sound like you, Sandburg. You're curious, don't deny it.  And damn it, so am I. And if you think I'm letting you go alone, you're crazy."

"Jealous son of a bitch."

"Damn possessive too."

They both smiled, but Jim's quickly turned to a thoughtful frown as he said, "Besides, there's a mystery and I want to find out about it."

"Excuse me?"

"Sennedjem. The knife wound in his back. The whole thing is weird and well—"

"And well—you identify with the man."

"Hell,  yeah. And what *was* all that talk about Hatshepsut and Ragab not agreeing with Abib?"

"Do you really want me to go into that *now*? It's late and sleeping was looking pretty good."

"Give me the bullet version, if that's possible for you, Sandburg."

"Ha-ha, Jim." Blair punched Jim in the arm, then said, more seriously, "Okay, here goes. Ragab fancies himself the expert on Hatshepsut, but the archeological community considers Abib the expert. Ragab believes that Hatshepsut was a murderess, that she killed her husband and was evil incarnate. He doesn't believe the tomb they found was Sennedjem's, but rather, was Hapuseneb's."

Jim interrupted then by asking, "Hapuseneb? He was the High Priest, right?"

"Right. Ragab has always maintained that Hatshepsut murdered him as well. And as evil as she was, Ragab believes that's how good Hapuseneb was."

"What do *you* think, my little anthropologist?"

"My, you're just full of it tonight, aren't you?"

"Come on, I know you. You *do* have an opinion, right?"

"I think Hapuseneb worked against Hatshepsut. But something happened, some event history has yet to show us. I'm hoping this tomb will provide some of the answers."

"So you believe Hapuseneb was the evil one?"

"Oh, yeah. Big time. And there has always been a mystery surrounding Sennedjem. He was much beloved by his men and they would never have allowed his body to be taken. And Sennedjem never lost a battle."

"What evidence is there that the tomb *is* Sennedjem's?"

"The engravings on the sarcophagus for one. The types of items found in the tomb, for another. And nothing of Hapuseneb was there, other than the dagger. But Ragab thinks that Hatshepsut hid the tomb deliberately and filled it with the trappings of a soldier to fool the after life and any who might find the tomb.

"And that was not uncommon, Jim. Hell, Senenmut did something similar to hide *his* tomb and it's nearness to Hatshepsut."


"The architect. And supposedly Hatshepsut's lover. They couldn't be buried together, he was not a royal. So he put his tomb on the other side of the mountain, *but* had a tunnel dug to hers."

"So they could be together - in death. Go to each other?"

"Exactly. See, Jim, you have to understand that the court of Hatshepsut was a hot bed of politics. She was something that had never really existed before; a female Pharaoh. She was, by many accounts, including Doctor Abib's, a great leader and a great woman. She furthered the education of her people, strove to build a place where education would come first, improved the living conditions and made great strides in the area of medicine."

"Medicine? How—"

"That's one of the great mysteries. How. The court physicians back then were, for the most part, buffoons who still looked to incantations and potions to heal. But there is no denying that at the time of Tutmose II, medicine began to change. Herbs and plants were used to create potent cures to heal wounds and to soothe pain. By the time Hatshepsut took power, medicine had taken great strides."

"Didn't you say something to Ragab about some amulet?"

Blair nodded excitedly. "Yeah, that was what we were looking at when you joined us. It was very strange too. An amulet signifying a court physician, yet also a slave? Unheard of, Jim."

"But maybe explaining the rise in improved medicine?"

"Possibly. It certainly adds another element to the mix, let me tell you. I'm anxious to see Abib tomorrow, get his feelings on all of this."

Jim watched the light of the scientist go on in his mate's eyes and he felt a small tug of unease.

"Well then, maybe we'd better get to sleep, eh? Saturday mornings come early 'round these here parts."

"Earlier than, say, Monday mornings?" Blair teased.

"Way earlier. Come on, snuggle down here and let's get our forty winks."

"Jim, you just said—snuggle."

"Your point?"

"Nothing, nothing. Just—nothing."

Grinning, Jim grabbed Sandburg's arm and hauled him down, then they both

shifted until they were, in fact, snuggled together. Jim waited until

Blair was just drowsing off, then whispered, "snuggle, snuggle, snuggle,


"You shit."




The man knelt at the altar and lit the fire.

Candles surrounded him and incense burned on a small table next to him.  He wore only a black cloak and nothing else. His skin was oiled and shone bright in the flickering light. From a small clay pot beside the altar bowl that contained the flame of life, he pinched a few oddly shaped granules, raised his arm and dropped them over the fire. The blaze went a deep blood red.

"My Lord Set, you have brought him into my circle, now deliver him unto me. Unite us with your power. Where Amon-Ra deserted me, you came to me and delivered eternal life and a promise. Your brightness outshines Amon-Ra's, you are the one true God, O Mighty Ruler."

Fingers strayed to another small pot and a fine black powder was pinched and again, the arm rose and as the powder hit the flame, it went from red to gold to the brightest yellow.

"Your strength shines great, your power all encompassing. Through the Sands of Time, I have waited and as once promised, you have delivered.  My blood purifies our union."

With those words, the man lifted a knife that had rested on the edge of the altar bowl, ran it through the golden flame until it burned red.  Then he lay the sharp blade against the palm of his hand. As he drew it over tender skin and the blood welled up, he whispered, "I am your servant, Hapuseneb. Take this, my offering, O Lord Set, and deliver my beloved to my arms so that we may do your bidding together."

Blood dripped onto the blaze and as the flames spit, the smoke rose and a face began to take shape—

The bleeding man gazed up and as the countenance wavered, seemed to be about to disappear, two eyes blinked—two blue eyes. The man smiled.

"Jacob, my love—soon."

Fifteen minutes later, the blaze gone, the hand lightly bandaged, the man left the small room, closed and locked the door, walked into his bedroom, removed the cloak and slipped into slacks and a white shirt. In spite of the lateness of the hour, he found that he was drawn to his love, had to be near, if only for a short time.  Tomorrow was too many hours away.




The dream was dark, murky, dangerous. It was filled with hatred and lust. Jim tried to swim up out of it, but it held him fast. So much undone. So much—wrong.

"Jim? Jim!"

Shaking, a voice commanding him back—


"God, wake up, man, wake up!"

"—'m up."

He cracked open an eye and found himself staring at Blair's concerned face about two inches from his own.

"What's wrong?"

"Wrong? You're what's wrong, man. You were in the throes of a terrible nightmare. You were seriously scaring me, you know?"

Blair leaned across Jim's body and turned on the bedside lamp. Taking in his partner's appearance, Blair breathed out a worried, "Aw, Jim."

He quickly climbed out of bed and almost ran downstairs to the bathroom.  Jim listened, puzzled, as the water was turned on, then off, then Blair's footsteps and finally, the man himself. With towels.

Blair got on his knees on the bed and began to wipe Jim down. "We need to change the sheets, Jim, or you'll be miserable all night."

Jim swiped a hand over his face and hair and finally understood what the hell Sandburg was talking about. He was wringing wet and so was the sheet beneath him, as well as his pillow.

As Blair ran the warm cloth tenderly over first Jim's chest, then up his neck, he asked quietly, "Wanna tell me about it?"

"I wish I could, Chief. I wish I could."

"Okay, then can you tell me what you felt."

The cloth was gently swiped over his face, then back over his hair and Jim closed his eyes and let it happen as he tried to marshal his thoughts.

"I—it was—"

Jim paused, took a deep breath, and as Blair dried him off, he tried again. "In the Temple of the Sentinels, the things I saw in the pool, that I don't really remember now, well, what I do remember is what I *felt*, namely pain, fear and the total inability to change squat. I'd never felt as helpless as I did in those damn fucking pools. Until—this nightmare.

"This went beyond the pools, beyond the lack of control or ability to change anything. This was such indescribable loss and a sense of wrongness."


"I can't use any other word, Blair. Wrongness. And maybe—yeah, this sense of incompleteness. And that was the most horrific of all."

"Similar to what you felt with Ragab?"

Jim's eyes shot open at the softly put question. He thought back—

"Sense memory, Jim," Blair suggested easily.

Jim immediately concentrated on his hand, the hand that had touched Ragab's—

Pain, loss, hatred and oh God, the loss. The unfinished—

"Yes, God yes—"




Blair tossed the damp sheets, the two pillow cases and the towels into the hamper, then walked back upstairs to Jim. He was disturbed as he'd not been since - Sierra Verde. And he was scared.

He had a suspicion of what might be occurring, but he doubted that Jim, in spite of being able to share with Blair what was happening, was quite ready to hear Blair's explanations. He walked slowly up the steps, worried and puzzled. When he got to the bed, Jim turned to look at him and his eyes held such love and need that Blair found his worries evaporating.

As he crawled in beside the older man, he took him into his arms and knew that whatever was happening, well, they'd handle it together. Blair reached over and turned off the light.

"Don't let go of me, Blair. Don't let go."

"Never, Jim. Never."




The man stood across the street and as a light went out in the apartment that held his love, he smiled. Tonight the tall man could have him, but tomorrow - Jacob was his.


Saturday dawned cold and crisp, with both men sleeping in, which for them was unusual, in spite of the late night. Their morning routine was quietly done as they rose, showered (together), made breakfast, ate and read the paper, then dressed for their appointment to meet Ragab at the museum. They talked little, but rarely moved more than a few feet from each other. They exchanged small touches and smiling glances. At ten thirty, they headed out.

As Jim drove, he didn't miss the growing excitement inside Blair and figured it was a combination of the idea that he'd soon be seeing his old friend, Doctor Ben Abib *and* the chance to see more of the discovery. If he was worried that Abib, like so many others, would turn away from him, well, he didn't show it. Jim figured he could do no less, but the fact was, worry was fast becoming his middle name.

In fact, Jim had so many worries that morning, he found himself wondering how the hell he was even functioning. While half of him dreaded walking inside that museum and feeling anything of what he'd felt the night before, he also found himself eager to learn more of Sennedjem, to understand the mystery. And then, of course, there was the part of him that got prickly at even the thought of Blair being anywhere near Ragab.

Finally, there was the niggling worry of what he would do if he saw *that* look in Blair's eyes—the look that made itself known when other scientists, friends, and students turned their backs on Blair.

Jim spared a glance for his partner as he drove through downtown Cascade and noticed the slight flush of excitement on Blair's face. The museum was in sight, the flags waving brightly in the midmorning breeze, and damn, Blair was bouncing. On the seat.

Pulling in next to the curb, Jim put the truck into park, cut the engine and turned to look at Blair, who gazed back at him, smiling.

"You don't bounce when we're on a case,

Chief," Jim observed quietly.


Blair's grin widened. "I sure as hell hope not. You wouldn't want to be known as the cop with the bouncing partner, would you? And you know, I think I do an admirable job of hiding my bounce when I'm in my macho cop mode."

Jim cocked his head and looked at Blair out of one eye. "Are you telling me that you *would* bounce?"

"Hell, yeah. But Simon has this thing about the Blairbounce, or hadn't you noticed? You think I missed all those, *Ellison, can't you shut him off* remarks?"

"Well, I'll be damned. So I got nothing to worry about, Chief?"

The grin changed and went soft. "No, Jim. You've got nothing to worry about. I love what I do."

"But you miss being a scientist, using your mind and all your knowledge?"

"You know, sometimes you're a real asshole. *My* asshole, but still.  When are you going to realize that I *am* a scientist as a cop. I *do* use my brain and often in the same manner as I did when anthropology was *all* that I did."

Blair then buffed his nails on the lapel of his jacket and said with just a touch of superiority, "Personally, I think that's *why* I'm such a terrific, brilliant, imaginative, intuitive cop. Why, before you know it, *I'll* be Cop of the Year."

Jim hung his head in mock shame as he said, "You're right, Chief. I *am* an asshole." But then he glanced up and narrowed his eyes. "And Cop of the Year? Over me?"

"Oh, yeah."

"Well, bring it on, chump."

They high-fived each other, then Jim glanced over Blair's shoulder at the museum. Following his gaze, Blair asked, "We gonna get out of the truck, man?"

"I'm thinking about it, Chief. I'm thinking about it."

Blair waited patiently, knowing that Jim had something to say—

"Sometimes in my life, I've gotten this—feeling in the pit of my stomach, you know?" At Blair's nod, Jim went on. "It's like this excited churning and almost, well, kind of anticipatory. And it's always been right on. Something usually happened. The something could be good, not always bad. I had it the morning I went to Cascade General almost four years ago—for some tests because I thought I was going crazy. Met up with this scrawny little guy who called himself Dr. McCoy/McCay."

Jim's eyes sparkled with the memory and Blair grinned back, but said nothing as Jim's expression turned serious. "And I had it before the chopper mission in Peru."

Jim peered out the windshield, ducking his head so that he could see the top of the museum as he said quietly, almost ominously, "And I have it now."

Blair watched Jim's face and when the older man looked back at him, asked, "Jim, do you trust us?"

The question was so not what Jim expected, that he was flummoxed. Blair took his hand and repeated it.

"*Do* you trust us?"

Jim thought back over the last three and a half years, thought of all they'd been through and the answer came easily. "I do."

"Then know that it's going to be all right. Whatever's happening, it's going to be all right."

"Okay, so what are we waiting for, uh?"

Blair rolled his eyes.




Ragab met them at the entrance, almost as if he'd been waiting—and watching—for them. His smile dazzled them as he looked down at Sandburg.

"I am so glad you made it. I have been expecting a call all morning that you would not come. Doctor Abib is eager to meet with you again, Blair.  Come, let me take you to our offices."

He held out an arm, indicating that they should proceed into the Hatshepsut wing and Jim almost paused, almost suggested they go another way, for surely there *was* another way to the museum offices? But he didn't. He placed his hand on the small of Sandburg's back, and he knew he was being a prick, but he wanted--*needed*--Ragab to know the lay of the land. To know who belonged to whom. Or was it whom belonged to who?  He shook his head a bit and kept walking. He was flipping out. No doubt about it.

As it turned out, walking through the exhibit again wasn't as bad as he'd feared. He did experience the same sense of déjà vu, but it was more like a gentle zephyr, rippling through his consciousness. There'd also been nothing unusual about Ragab this morning, but then Jim hadn't touched him.

For Blair, the walk through the re-created palace was vastly different from the previous night. He tried to see it through Jim's eyes and as well as testing himself for any sense of familiarity but all he found was an exhibit. He gave himself a wry, inward smile because he was actually disappointed not to be feeling anything akin to what Jim had been experiencing.

Ragab led them through a different set of doors with no locks this time and Jim realized that they were in the administrative offices of the museum. He glanced at his partner and had to admire the guy. Blair Sandburg knew this museum like the back of his hand, and yet, he was deferring to the other scientist.

Ragab turned left and they walked a few more feet before he stopped in front of a door. He opened it and waved them in.

Sandburg had barely crossed the threshold when a booming voice cried out, "BLAIR!"

Before anyone could move, a giant of a man had enfolded him within two huge tree trunks commonly referred to on normal people as arms.


Blair was unable to get anything else out as Ben Abib held him out just enough to kiss him on both cheeks. It didn't escape Jim's notice that Abib had Blair approximately two feet off the ground.

"You look different, Blair," Abib finally said, setting the younger man down and awkwardly straightening his jacket for him.

"Well, I *am* almost ten years older, Ben."

"Ah, but so am I and I've not changed, other than I now have this ridiculous silver in my hair. But you, you have grown even more beautiful."

Sandburg felt the heat rush to his face and knew that he was in for the ribbing of his life. Abib, sensing his friend's discomfort, smiled. "I do not apologize for the observation, Blair. At twenty, you were dazzling, but now - ah, now, you have reached your full potential."

"Um, yeah, well, Ben, I'd like you to meet my partner, Detective Jim Ellison. Jim, this is Doctor Ben Abib."

Jim stepped forward, and having already decided that he truly liked the good doctor, held out his hand and grinned. The two shook as Ben said, "Of course, it is good to meet you. And Ragab tells me that you, Blair, are now a detective. Why am I not surprised?"

Ragab stepped in, literally and conversationally, to say, "Perhaps because as an anthropologist, Blair was always a detective of sorts? As are we, Abib?"

"Ah, good point. And Blair, you always did allow your interests to overlap from cultural to behavioral to physical anthropology. Now you do it all, eh, old friend?"

Blair grinned, glad that Abib understood what so many others, his mother and Jim included, had not. "Yes, Ben, exactly."

Abib led all of them over to the corner and immediately, with Ragab's help, pulled up the necessary extra chairs. "Please, sit and we will catch up. Perhaps some Turkish coffee? Or have you lost the taste for it?"

"I'd love some, Ben." Blair turned to Jim and quirked an eyebrow as he asked, "Jim?"

"Sounds good."

Ben moved to the small counter against the far wall and after setting out four demitasse cups and saucers, began the process of making the rich drink. As he worked, Blair rose and after joining him at the counter, he pointed at the ornate Turkish coffee pot and asked, "Tell me this isn't the same cezve?"

Abib chuckled. "I could tell you that it isn't, but then, I'd be lying."

"All these years it's survived?"

"Naturally. A good cezve is like gold."

Abib measured out the water, one cup per person, then the finely ground coffee with an equal measurement of sugar, and finally he added the cardamom powder and stirred well. The cezve was placed on the small portable burners, the heat turned to low. Just when the froth began to form and moments before it was due to boil over, Abib took the pot, emptied the froth, in equal amounts, into each cup, then returned the cezve to the burner. When the coffee boiled again, it was poured over the froth. He and Blair carried the cups back to Ragab and Jim.

As Jim sipped from the delicious coffee, his nose wrinkled and he tilted his head. "This is different, Chief. What am I smelling?"

Grinning, Blair asked, "You tell me, Jim."

Jim tasted again, then sniffed. After a few moments, with Ben and even Ragab watching in delight, Jim looked up victorious. "Cardamom."

"Excellent, Detective, excellent. Cardamom is used primarily in the southern regions and once I tried it, I've not been able to drink the coffee without." Then with a knowing glance over the rim of his cup at Jim, Abib added, "And of course, I'd expect no less from you, that you should be able to identify it."

Their eyes met and something passed between them, something that explained to Jim *why* Doctor Ben Abib still held Blair Sandburg in such high esteem. He nodded slowly, then glanced at Blair, whose own expression was one of stunned wonder.

Ragab gave a small *harumph* and said, "Yes, well, he *is* a detective, Abib. And cardamom is hardly difficult."

Fortunately for them all, Ragab missed the significance of the looks that passed between Blair, Jim and Abib.

"True, true. So let us finish, do our catching up then onto the labs so that we may show Blair and Detective Ellison our wonderful finds," Abib said excitedly.

Blair lifted his cup and as he and Abib touched them together, he said,

"Here's to tombs and old friends"




"You can see the drawings depicted are that of battles, victorious battles, of warriors and representations of the accouterments of battle.  But this," Ben Abib's finger traced lightly over one figure that stood out in relief, "this is what tells me that we are looking at the sarcophagus of Sennedjem. This is the man. See how he stands taller than all but one? And look at the profile, the shoulders, broader than any other but one."

Blair was bent at the waist and peering down at the sarcophagus lid. He pointed at the figure that stood just behind the soldier Abib was referring to and asked, "Then who is this man supposed to be? And a Nubian no less?"

"That is, must be, Tahemet. Sennedjem's second in command and good friend. Tahemet was rumored to stand over seventy-seven inches tall. A truly imposing figure, yet Sennedjem was even more imposing as you can tell."

Blair gazed at the figure that represented Sennedjem and found himself tracing the man with his own finger. The profile, so aristocratic, the bearing so protective and fierce and the body, as depicted on the lid, so like Jim. Sennedjem looked for all the world like a predator. A sleek, quiet, deadly cat, as in—jaguar.

Abib glanced over his shoulder and found that Jim had Ragab deep in conversation, so dropping his voice, he said, "I have read more than one supposition that Sennedjem was—gifted. In a manner you would appreciate, Blair."

At Blair's sudden look of interest and suspicion, since Ben could be quite bawdy at times, especially when discussing the Egyptian male's attributes, Abib said even more quietly, "He seemed to know things, Blair. To *sense* them before any of his men."

Blair didn't miss the emphasis on the word *sense* and his head jerked back to the lid, then to Abib, who nodded.

Was it possible? Blair slowly looked back at Jim, who continued his quest to keep Ragab from Blair's side. Suddenly Blair's suspicions regarding Jim's experiences of the last several hours took on greater weight.

Abib took Blair's arm and led him to the long table that held the rest of the items found in the tomb. He waved his arm over them and said, "All of these things would be items a soldier would have with him, in battle and in camp, yet, none are personal. That is what gives Ragab his edge in proving that the tomb is *not* Sennedjem's. You know as well as I that *all* personal belongings were buried with the dead."

"Yes, I do and combined with the lack of a cartouche on the lid, you do seem to have quite a puzzle."

A puzzle that had now thoroughly captured Blair's attention and imagination. Slowly he studied the items, walked the length of the table, then back to the sarcophagus lid. His gaze was drawn this time, not to Sennedjem, but to Tahemet.

Tahemet. A good friend of Sennedjem's. His second in command. Why would he desire to hide the fact that this was Sennedjem's tomb, while at the same time appearing to be proclaiming it so? Blair glanced back at the table, then the lid. His mind raced as he brought forth every scrap of knowledge he possessed about Ancient Egypt—

Scandal. Disgrace. Or—a secret. All would be reasons for Tahemet to tease and withhold all the truth. Words came to Blair--*hide in plain sight*--

A truth that had to be hidden in Hatshepsut's time, perhaps to protect her, but a truth that Tahemet would want to come to light in the future—or in the afterlife?

Blair looked at his watch and did some quick figuring—one o'clock here—so ten in Cairo. Dr. Kendricks would be up, certainly. But hadn't Ragab said that he was still at the dig?

"Ben, is Kendricks at the dig or in Cairo now?"

"The dig. Why?"

"Cell phone?"

"You are joking, yes?"

"We need to call him. Now."

Ben found himself getting excited. The gleam in Blair's eyes - oh, yes, he was onto something. And wasn't it very true that a new set of eyes could see the forest where all others could barely see the tree? He reached for the phone on the wall and quickly dialed.


"Steven? It is I, Ben. I am certain I did not wake you?"

<<Wake, no. Disturb, yes. You have something for me? Something that

makes this call worthwhile?>>

"I believe I do. Hang on a moment."

He raised an eyebrow and Blair said, "Ask him if he's looked for secret compartments. *Small* hidden drawers and such."

For a moment, Ben frowned. While secret compartments were hardly unheard of, they were not common in Hatshepsut's time. But somehow, yes, he trusted Blair's intuition—

"Look for hidden drawers, Steven. And don't argue, just do it."

"Especially look to drawings of Tehemet on the walls," Blair added, suddenly inspired.

"Did you hear my young friend, Steven?"

<<Yes, and I'm assuming that it's Blair?>>

"It is."

<<Then I'm hanging up now, I have some drawers to look for—I'll get back to you>>

The connection was broken and Ben hung up the phone. Taking Blair's arm, he led him to a stool and sitting him down, said, "Now, explain."

Jim was fucking miserable. And he didn't think he could handle much more of Ragab or the man's nearness. But damn it, keeping him away from Blair while at the same time allowing Blair and Abib to have some privacy—well, okay, maybe it was worth it. Or not.

And fuck this being a sentinel shit. Here he was seated next to Ragab, listening to him drone on about how evil Hatshepsut had to be while at the same time, listening in on Blair and Abib and their conversation, which, by the way, was *way* more interesting. *And* to add insult to injury, Jim had to keep interjecting little tidbits about Blair in order to keep Ragab from interrupting Abib and Sandburg.

God, he'd give his right arm to be with them instead of seated here with Ragab. At that moment, Jim noticed Abib pick up the phone so he shifted in his seat in order to block Ragab's view and immediately launched into a new Sandburg story to keep Ragab in the dark. When this day was over—Jim would have to put Sandburg in the shower to cleanse him of the shameful way Jim had been forced to use him in order to protect him.

As the phone conversation ended, Jim had let Ragab go back to discussions of Hatshepsut, to his mortification, and now Ragab's voice was rudely interrupting Jim's thoughts of Blair in the shower—

"—please let me show you what I mean. You will see clearly that I'm correct."

Brought back to the present conversation, Jim figured why the hell not?  It would give Sandburg and Abib that much more time alone. Putting on a brave face and forcing his expression into one of feigned interest, he said brightly, "I'd be very interested in trying to understand your point of view on this. Hey, I'm just an ignorant Cascade detective. I'd *love* to have enough ammunition to prove Sandburg wrong about something. Lead on, McDuff."

Like being with Ragab in the palace was what he really wanted to do?  Five hours in a dentist's chair would be more comfortable. But for Sandburg—anything.

Ragab motioned Jim to follow and as Jim stood, he caught Blair's eye and received a thankful smile as he allowed Ragab to guide him out.




"Now see here? The paintings on the wall of her chamber? Amon-Ra. She truly believed that she was a God herself."

Jim scanned the re-creations of the paintings and had to admit—the wall *was* full of depictions of the god. But no Hatshepsut in sight, just Amon-Ra alone, doing good deeds for his people. Jim wisely refrained from pointing that out.

"She took on the worst characteristics of a God and Amon-Ra at that." Ragab made a kind of *pfsst* sound, then added, "A nothing. And to think he was once thought of as the one true God."

"But he wasn't?" Jim asked, not really caring in the least.

"Of course not. Set was—" Ragab stopped, realizing that he'd been about to divulge too much. Instead, he took Jim's arm and tried to lead him away.

The moment Ragab's hand touched him, Jim felt his world tilt. The pain burned so deeply, he believed, in that instant, that he was surely dying. His legs would not, *could* not, hold him and he sank to his knees, head bowed.

Never in his life had he experienced such pain. And the loss—dear God—the loss. His vision blurred and sweat ran into his eyes—

He no longer knew that Ragab had left his side and that he was alone.

Ahead of him, just out of touch, the curtain billowed softly, shimmering in the warm desert heat. Through the pain, Jim somehow understood that

if he could just reach it—he would understand everything—but he could not. So he huddled into himself, arms around his waist. As he rocked, he

murmured over and over again—"let me see him, let me see him, just once more—please—"




"So you're saying that Tahemet was hiding something? Protecting who, Sennedjem? His Pharaoh? Or both?" Ben asked.

"Both, undoubtedly. *If* I'm right anyway." But before they could discuss it any further, the door burst open and Ragab stood at the threshold.

"Come quickly, it is Detective Ellison!"

Blair was up immediately and running toward the door. As he rushed out, he demanded, "WHERE?"

"The palace, Hatshepsut's chambers."




The heat of the pain was dragging him down and he could do nothing—

Except—there it was. The voice. Bringing him back, once again anchoring him to his world.


"I'm here, Jim. Look at me, look at my face. Come on, man."

Jim blinked, felt the hand on his arm, the hand that could undo all the damage—and he squinted, raised his head and thank God he could see him.  But even as he tried to smile, as he tried to focus in on the beloved face, it changed—or at least seemed to. It narrowed and the nose, the pug nose, appeared, somehow, sharper? What the fuck—

"Jim? Don't do this, man. Listen to me. I'd hate to have to beat the shit out of you, you know?"

Blair, worried at seeing Jim's eyes focus, then as suddenly go unfocused again, gave the older man's arm a quick shake and to his immense relief, noted the color returning and the blue eyes once again aware.

"Can you stand?"

"—you gonna help me?" A small smile began to make itself known around Jim's mouth.

"Hell, yeah. Like I wouldn't?" Blair slipped his arm around Jim's waist and with Abib helping out on the other side, they managed to get Jim up and walking. Neither of them noticed Ragab standing off to the side—his face a dark cloud.

As the security guards kept the museum-goers or aka *gawkers*, back, Blair and Abib led Jim to the office, Ragab finally bringing up the rear.

Watching Blair and Abib get Jim settled in Ben's more comfortable chair, Ragab knew that he was running out of time.




While Sandburg got a few paper towels and wet them, Ben reached into his drawer and drew out a silver flask. Twisting off the top, which immediately became a glass, he poured, then taking Jim's hand, he pressed the glass into it.

"Drink this, Jim. You need it."

Jim opened his eyes, fully aware that what he was being offered was a very fine whiskey. He drank it down in one gulp. Oh, yeah, that helped—big time.

Blair came up beside him and began to wipe down his face, much as he had the night before. As he worked, their eyes met and they silently agreed to get the hell out of there—pronto.

When Blair finished, he tossed the towels into the trash and was about to say the words that would get them home, when the phone rang.


<<Gee, did I wake you?>>

"It has only been two hours, Steven."

<<You know, you have no sense of humor, Ben>>

"I do, just not *your* type, which I believe it is called juvenile humor."

<<Do you want to know what I found, or not?>>

Ben rose and with barely restrained excitement, asked, "What, what?"

<<What kind of humor do I have, Ben?>>

"You are the King of Comedy, old friend."

<<Very good. Is our Blair still there?>>

"He is and waiting with bated breath."

<<You can tell him he was right>>

Ben cupped his hand over the phone and nodding at Blair, said, "You were right, Blair, Steven has found it!"

Then to the phone, he asked, "I *am* right, aren't I? You *did* find it, yes?"

<<Yes. I found one hidden drawer behind a block on which was painted a likeness of Tahemet. I have taken pictures of the block but of course,

it is what we found *inside* that you are most interested in, correct?>>

"Steven—" Ben said, humorous warning in his voice.

<<Yes, well. Scrolls. We found scrolls. We are scanning them now and in less time than it will take to say Tutenkamen, you will be able to

access them. But I tell you now, the language is not one that you will easily crack, my friend>>

"What do you mean?"

<<It appears that hiding the scrolls was not enough for Tahemet. He decided a code was required as well. It looks as though it is a

combination of—are you sitting down?>>

Ben sat back down. "Yes."

<<Egyptian and a form of—Hebrew>>




Jim waved away Blair's hand, saying, "I'm fine now. This can wait. Is it coming through yet?"

Abib glanced up and nodded happily. "It comes now."

"Jim, we need to get you home," Blair persisted.  "Yeah, yeah, but first—" then at a look from Blair, he added, "Hey, I'm just as interested in this as you, remember? A mystery is a mystery."

Blair shook his head and poured a coffee, then handed it to his partner.

Ragab sat at his desk, eyes oblique, hands clasped. At that moment, he hated Abib, Ellison and—Tahemet. If he could have cursed the soldier to oblivion, he would have.

"Here we go, gentlemen." Abib printed out the scanned images and a few seconds later, had five pages held triumphantly in his hand.  Jim got Blair's attention and asked, "So what now, Chief?"

"Now Ben works his magic and translates the writings."

"Um, how long can something like this take?"

Ben, head bent over the papers, said, "From the looks of this, quite some time. Maybe by tomorrow, I may have the gist of it." Then, amazement in his voice, he added, "This is incredible. A true code, but one that with effort, Tahement *knew* could be broken!"

"You are so certain it *is* Tahemet, my friend? It could be written by a servant of Hapuseneb."

Ben frowned as he looked up, his brown eyes meeting Ragab's nearly black ones. "A servant of Hauseneb would use symbols like these, Sayyed? This *is* a form of Hebrew."

"It is as likely as a common soldier, a Nubian no less. *He* should know Hebrew in any form?

The priests of Amon-Ra, the servants of Hapuseneb were learned, Ben. But a soldier?"

Smiling wryly, Abib shrugged eloquently. "We shall soon know, shan't we?"

Blair gazed from one man to the other, then down to Jim. They both nodded knowingly.

"Ben, I'm going to get Jim home, all right? You'll keep me—" at a tug from Jim, Blair quickly amended, "*us* posted?"

"How can you think otherwise? I will call as soon as I have enough to tell. Go, take Jim, make him well. We will talk later."

Blair helped Jim stand and with a nod to Ragab, both men left.




Jim never even paused as Blair slid behind the wheel of the truck. They drove home in silence, Jim resting his head back against the seat, eyes closed. When they finally arrived home, Blair hurried around to the passenger side and again helped Jim out and into their home.  Once inside 307, Jim gratefully sank down on the couch and immediately put his legs up on the coffee table. And as quickly had to remove them as Blair perched on the same table.

"Okay, spill. And no guff. Just give it to me plain and simple."

Jim scrubbed at his face, knuckled his eyes and with a sigh, started in.

"I was fine when we entered her chambers. I listened to the man go on and on about Amon-Ra and Hatshepsut, about how she fancied herself God

and how pathetic it was that she picked Amon-Ra to pattern herself after—"

"Excuse me? Who else *should* she have—"

Blair stopped himself as Jim grinned. Blair held up a hand and said, "Okay, okay, go on, you big jerk."

"You are so easy. And according to Ragab, the one true God was Set. And believe me, he didn't like the fact that he let that slip out. Come to

think of it, that's when all the trouble started—"

"What do you mean? And I'll get to this *Set* thing later."

"He grabbed my arm, tried to lead me away but the moment his hand touched me, it began. Only far worse than before, worse than the dream."

Blair moved easily over to the couch and drew Jim down so that his head rested in Blair's lap.

"The same pain?"

Jim shook his head. "No—worse. Physical, deeply so. I honestly believed that I was dying, Chief. And—" He closed his eyes, his face screwing up in pain. His mouth was drawn down, lips going grey....

Blair smoothed a hand back over Jim's forehead, then dropped a soft kiss on Jim's temple. "It's okay, you don't have to say anything more, Jim.  Just rest. We'll talk later."

Jim nodded and keeping his eyes closed, he turned his face into Blair and drew in the scent of the man, letting it calm him. After a few

minutes, he whispered sleepily, "I wanted to go through the curtain, Blair—but I couldn't move—"

"Ssh, I know. Sleep—"




Sandburg sat in the corner of the couch, Jim's head in his lap, for over three hours. The sun started its descent and an autumn breeze picked up.  Blair never moved—other than to run his hand up and down over Jim's arm, or his brow.




Across the city, Ragab had left Abib and headed home. He was confused and his doubts were clouding his mind. He needed to speak with his God, he needed reassurances.

Letting himself in to his apartment, he hurried to the extra room, unlocked it and stepped inside. He walked to the bathroom, stripped, and slipped into the shower. After washing the day from him, he climbed out, dried off, then oiled his body from the ancient jar. He reached for the black linen robe and draped it over himself.

He moved back into the small, dark room with walls painted black. He lit the candles, then the altar bowl. He knelt, bowed his head and repeating the ceremony of the night before, he waited until the blaze went bright yellow before calling out to his God. He prayed, he entreated, he offered all that he had—and finally—the answer came to him.




Jim shifted in his sleep but remained calm. Blair gazed down at him and smiled as he thought of how different this all was from anything he'd ever imagined for himself. Here, at the loft, with Jim's head in his lap, or wearing a gun, or knowing that later he would climb the stairs with Jim. So different, yet so absolutely fucking right. All of it.

Blair tried to reconcile the Jim that lay, head pillowed in Blair's lap, with the Jim of almost four years ago, or hell, even the Jim of a year ago. Can't be done, he thought with a smile. And God forbid anything or anyone should try to take Jim Ellison from Blair Sandburg.

"You have *the* most comfortable lap, Chief."

"Ah, my sleeping beauty awakes. How ya feeling?"

Jim turned over but didn't stray from the comfortable pillow that was his partner's body and after yawning, said, "Fit as a fiddle, Chief."

"Cool. So I can try your strings?"

"Please do."

Blair bent and kissed Jim, who brought his arm up and slid it around Blair's neck. Thick hair veiled them and surrounded Jim like a caress.  He felt the stubble on Blair's face and grinned into the kiss.

Contradictions. Wonderful, lusty contradictions.

When they eased up, Jim whispered, "Could eat a horse."

Blair licked at Jim's lower lip and chuckled. "Nope, but got a chicken.

Plucked and everything, man."

"Could settle."

"Good, cause we're *having* chicken." He nipped at Jim's neck, then started shoving the bigger man until Jim reluctantly sat up. "I swear, Chief, the romance is gone."

"You know it. Especially when *your* stomach growls in my face. How 'bout I turn that chicken into some of that country French lasagna you like so well?"

"I'll love you forever."


Two pairs of blue eyes met, acknowledged the truth of the statement, then Jim and Blair stood and headed for the kitchen.




Blair pulled the bubbling concoction out of the oven and carried it to the table. Jim set down the salad and the bread, along with a relish tray. A bottle of chardonnay was added and both men took their seats.  Jim dished up for Blair, then himself. The odor swirled about him and without thinking, Jim said, "You know, if I just take this lasagna of yours everywhere I go, I'd never have to worry about curtains to the past. This would keep me firmly grounded in the here and now."

Blair had been about to slip a mouthful of lasagna in his mouth when at Jim's words, the fork dropped from his fingers. Looking up, eyes wide, Jim said, "What? What?"

"I—" But Blair couldn't finish. He shook his head helplessly.

"Well, it's not like we don't both know what's happening, right? A past life thing?"

Blair stared up at the ceiling and shook his head again. "Man, you are something else."

"I'm not wrong, am I? That *is* what's happening?"

"Yeah, I've been thinking so, man. But it wouldn't have been so long ago when even the idea that you were experiencing something like that would have sent you running for the hills. And shutting down. Like a clam."

Jim shoved a forkful of the chicken, lasagna noodles and vegetables drowning in a béchamel sauce, into his mouth, chewed, and when he could finally speak, said, while still chewing, "Hey, that was the old Jim Ellison. I've been around you too long now, I'm housebroken."

"You know, correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't it supposed to work the other way around? *You* were supposed to housebreak *me*?"

"Never gonna happen, Chief. Lost cause. So—" Jim shrugged happily, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, I always say."

"For a guy who thought he was dying a few hours ago, you're pretty damn chipper now."

"Yeah, ain't it grand?"

"You gonna explain?"

"Hey, it's simple. I have you."

"Hurry up and eat. I've *got* to get you to bed. Now."




The phone woke Jim and he rolled over, leaned across his dead-to-the-world partner and picked up.


<<Jim? We've got a murder—at the Museum of Natural History. Need you and Sandburg to get over there. Conner and Taggert are on their way and I'll meet you there>>

Icy fingers gripped his heart and he broke out in a cold sweat.

"Victim?" He managed to rasp out.

<<Doctor Benjamin Abib, Jim. He's working on a major discovery-->>

"I know, Simon, I know. We're on our way."

Jim replaced the receiver and gazed down at his still sleeping partner.

Dear God.

Once again, Jim and Blair found themselves making a quiet journey across town. The streets weren't empty, but nearly so, as they should be on an early Sunday morning. A light fog hovered close to the ground, most visible when passing a school yard or empty lot. Early churchgoers were already seated in pews with the later worshippers just moving about kitchens and getting Sunday breakfasts ready. A few joggers dotted the landscape and the two coffee houses that Jim drove past were both full.

Blair sat quietly, head turned away from Jim. He'd been quiet since Jim had been forced to awaken him with the news that his friend, a man that Jim already counted among his own friends, Ben Abib—was dead. Murdered.  And Blair's reaction? A hand swiped over a sleepy, beard-stubbled face, blue eyes blinking painfully back at him, the widening of those eyes as the truth hit him, the expression of *why, Jim?* tearing at the older man's heart, and then the mask of the professional had been dropped into place and Blair had risen, ready to do his job.

But Jim Ellison wasn't fooled for one second.

For the third time in only two days, Jim parked in front of the museum and both men got out and climbed up the steps. Of course, this time, there was one big difference; the museum was surrounded by black and whites; a coroner's van was parked in the loading driveway; and an ambulance was just preparing to leave.

Jim and Blair flashed their badges at the entrances and the uniformed nodded and let them in. They walked unerringly to the offices—to Ben's office—where they were met by Conner and Taggert.

"Hey, Jim, Blair. Great way to start a Sunday, eh?"

"Yeah, Joel, yeah." Jim looked at his partner, then back to Joel to ask, "What have we got?"

"Doctor Benjamin Abib—"

"Joel, save the background. We know Be—we know—knew—Doctor Abib. What happened?"

Joel glanced from Jim to Blair and back again. Megan stepped forward and realizing that the victim had to be a scientist friend of Blair's, said, "I'm so sorry, Sandy. So very sorry."

Speaking for Sandburg, Jim nodded, saying, "Thanks Megan. Now what do we have?"

Joel cleared his throat and looking at his notes, said, "Doctor Abib was found this morning at seven by a guard named Jack Washington. He'd been

checking on the doctor all night. Evidently Doctor Abib was working on a—"

"We know, Joel. Go on."

"Right, Jim. Sorry. Anyway, when he checked back at seven, the doctor didn't answer so the man entered and found—he found him slumped over his desk, a knife in his back."

No one missed Blair's wince at the description of how Ben Abib had been found.

"When had been the last time—" Jim didn't have to finish his question, Joel immediately answered with, "Five, Jim. And no, the guard said that no one entered the museum and the other six men corroborate that."

Megan, with a concerned glance at Blair, said, "The Coroner has been waiting for you. The bod—Doctor Abib is still, you know—"

"Thank you." Jim turned to Blair and said, "I'll handle it, Sandburg.

Why don't you—"

"No. Let's go."

Jim was about to argue, but one look at his partner's face told him to shut up. He nodded and as Joel and Megan stepped aside, he and Blair pulled on gloves and entered the office of Ben Abib and Sayyed Ragab.

And nothing was different. Except—

Jim walked to the body and let his senses run over every square inch of the area around Ben.

Blair walked to the other side and stared down at the white demitasse cup—

"Chief? There's something here."

Tearing his eyes from the cup, Blair glanced up. "What?"

"See this? A fine powder—"

"No, Jim, I *don't* see it. *No one* sees it but you," Blair said softly.

"Oh, yeah, right." Jim grabbed a baggie from his pocket and quickly scraped the powder from Ben's shirt, his arm and the area near his hand.  By the time he was finished, Blair *could* see the evidence in the clear baggie. Reaching out his hand, he said, "Let me see that."

Jim handed it over and Blair opened it, sniffed, then closed it up.

"Don't tell me you know what it is?"

"Well, I think I do. When I was on the dig with—Ben—" Blair paused, swallowed, then went on. "We found an urn in one of the tombs belonging to a priest. They buried him with his, you know—" Blair waved his hand in the air, "his *tools* so to speak. In the urn was a powder very much like this. It's an ancient flash powder mixture, but very potent."

"You mean something used to dazzle the court? Make fire grow, flash, that kind of thing?"

"Exactly. And this one, well, it smells the same, so similar components?  We tried the stuff and it was still quite alive. It turned the fire blood red."

Jim shivered slightly, then took back the baggie. "So our murderer dabbles in the what? Black arts?"

"Or he—or she—still practices as the Ancient Egyptians did—"


They both looked at the dagger then and Jim gasped. It was the knife from Hapuseneb's temple to Amon-Ra.

"You recognize it too, I take it?"

Jim nodded, unable to keep his eyes from the thing that protruded from the body--*Ben's* body.

Blair walked to the door and got Joel's attention. "Hey, man, could you have one of the guards check the exhibit in room A? We need to know if anything is missing."

"They already did a check, Blair. The minute he was found—"


"Nothing missing."

Jim came up behind Blair and said, "Check the temple. They have a duplicate dagger that looks like the one—just check the temple room, okay?"

Joel nodded and he and Megan hurried off. As Jim turned back to the room, Blair snapped his fingers. "God damn it, how could we have forgotten? The papers, Jim, the papers. The translation."

"Shit, you're right. Where are they?"

Both men rushed back to the desk, searched and other than a half empty yellow legal pad, found nothing of the papers they'd seen so few hours ago.

"Who would want to take them? This makes no sense, Chief."

But Blair was staring at the tablet—

"Um, Jim?"

"What, what?"

Blair gave him his patented *you're the sentinel—duh* look as he motioned at the yellow pad. Understanding dawned and Jim picked it up, then ran his fingers over the paper. He frowned, closed his eyes—


"There had to be more than one completed page—all these words are scrambled together—" With an apologetic look, Jim shrugged.

"Okay, so we take home and later, we'll work on it."

"Blair, the reason for Ben's death isn't likely to be here, in the translations. The original scrolls are in Egypt, with Doctor Kendricks.  They can be translated at any time."

"I think the reason *is* tied into the translations. And more."

Before he could say anything else, the Coroner poked his head around the door and at Jim's nod, stepped in with his crew. Jim took Blair's arm and guided him out. As they stepped into the hall, he was about to say something when he noticed Simon, who was not alone.

As Simon approached his two detectives, he said, "Jim, Blair. This is


But Blair stopped further words by moving forward, hand extended. The grey-haired man next to Simon stepped ahead of the larger man and took Blair's hand warmly in his own.

"Blair, it's good to see you again. I just wish—"

"I know, Doctor Reynolds. Has Steven been informed?"

"Sadly, yes. He's on his way back here now."

Simon scratched his head and said, "I guess you two know each other."

"Yes, Captain Banks, we do. I've known this young man for over ten years. I'm very glad that he's working on this."

Then Doctor Matthew Reynolds, Director of the Museum of Natural History said, "Although, I know this will be hard on you—on us all. Who could have done this? Who would *want* to hurt him?"

No one had an answer. Jim, seeing the puzzled expression on Simon's face, took his arm and led him further down the hall, his intent to bring his boss up to speed. This left the two men alone.

"Blair, I hope—I mean, they *will* allow you to work on this, won't they? In spite of your closeness to Ben?"

"I'm sure they will, Doctor."

"Please, after all these years? Matt."

Blair favored the man with a small smile.

"I understand that you were instrumental in the newest discovery at the tomb? Once an anthropologist, eh?"

"I guess so. And you should know, Doc—Matt. You should know that the translation work that Ben was doing—is missing. Could he have given it to Doctor Ragab? And where is he?"

"I don't know and that's the answer to *both* questions, Blair. I tried to call the man myself and there's been no answer. But I suspect that Ben would *not* have given the pages to Sayyed."

"No, I'm pretty sure you're right—which means they're missing.

Definitely missing."

"And this is significant?"

"I don't know yet, but they're gone and Ben is—" Blair couldn't finish and Matt Reynolds gave him an awkward pat on the shoulder.

"I know you and your partner will find the one who did this, Blair. I know it. I'm going to excuse myself now, I must try some fancy footwork with the press and my board of directors. I'll see you later?"

Blair nodded and watched as his one-time professor walked slowly away, head down. For all of their words, Blair knew that Reynolds was hurting.  He and Ben had been friends for over twenty years. The entire scientific community would be hurting at this loss—

He felt a hot moisture burning behind his eyes and quickly blinked hard.

He and Jim *would* find the man who'd done this—




"I don't like this, Chief."

"No kidding."

Jim pushed the doorbell again, this time letting his finger remain for a good five seconds. And again, no answer.

"Okay, where could Ragab be?"

"You're certain he's not in there?"

"No heartbeat, Chief. Nothing out of the ordinary except even from out here I can smell the incense."

"Recently burned?"

"Not really."

"Damn. Should we put out an APB?"

"Gee, what do you think, Darwin?"

"I think we do."

Turning away from the apartment door, Jim said, "All right, lets get out of here."

As they drove to the station, Jim asked, "What are we both thinking?"

"Well, we're both turning over two possibilities. One; that Ragab is our killer and two; that he's not but also dead."

"And we're leaning toward which?"

"Now if I told you that—"

Jim reached over and smacked his partner lightly on the back of the head. They shared a grin, Jim relieved to see some life coming back to his partner.

Besides, he knew *exactly* what they both thought.




"So maybe the key to this lies in these translations Doctor Abib was doing?"

Jim leaned forward in his chair and shook his head. "No, not necessarily the key, but both Sandburg and I believe the missing translations are a part of it, yeah."

Simon nodded and stared down at the pictures of the crime scene that rested on his desk. As his eyes traveled the different angles, he said almost offhandedly, "So how is Sandburg?"

Jim smiled at his captain and friend. Like how see-through could the man be? "He's holding up, sir."

"I wish I'd known before I sent you two out. I'm sorry."

"Not your fault, sir. But this is one of those cases where Blair's

expertise is going to come in handy—"

"Jim, I'd have put you two on the case even if I *had* known. And partly for that very reason."


"And because you two are the best team I have."

"Oh, that."

Simon rolled his eyes.

"So tell me more about this Tahemet? He sounds like my kind of guy."




Jim turned off Blair's computer, picked up the man's jacket and held it out.

"Come on, Chief, let's go home. We have some papers to look at and a little of our Sunday left."

Blair sighed and rising, said, "I'm sorry, Jim."

"God damn it, Sandburg, there's nothing to be sorry about. *I* wouldn't have been able to go down to the morgue if our positions were reversed.  Get over it."

"I should have been able to go with you. You know it and I know it."

"Sandburg, sometimes you drive me to drink."

"Speaking of—I could use a good stiff one right now."

"Yeah, so I'll get you home and put the kettle on for a nice hot cup of tea."

Blair snorted as he followed his sentinel out the doors of Major Crime.




"Look, let's do it this way—you just give me the words and I'll write them down, okay?"

"Well, that's a start. Okay, here we go."

Blair picked up the pen and as Jim ran his fingers over the paper they'd lifted from Ben's office, he repeated the words—

"Cartouche—tunnel—sand—blood—river—amulet—God, Chief, his writing is hard to decipher. What did I just say?"

With a disgusted sigh, Blair said,

"Cartouche—tunnel—sand—blood—river—amulet—God, Chief, his writing is hard to decipher. What did I just say?"

"Very funny, Sandburg. Very funny. So, six words. Mean anything yet?"

"Oh sure. There's a cartouche, a tunnel, some sand and blood, the river and an amulet."

"Progress is great, isn't it?"

Blair took his pad and bopped Jim on the back of the head.

"I love it when you get all affectionate."

'Yeah, yeah, just keep deciphering."

"Slave driver."

Seeing the strain on Jim's face, Blair stood and dropped the pad on the couch. "You need a break, man."

"Um, Sandburg? We've only been at it for five minutes—hello?"

"Yeah, well, it's hard for you to try to do this. And," he turned away,

"you shouldn't *need* to. This is my idea and you don't believe for a minute that it has anything to do with Ben's—"

"You're wrong, Blair, you're wrong. I do."

"It doesn't matter, Jim. Look, do you mind if I go out for a while? Just take a walk?"

"Whoa, wait a minute here. One second we're happily translating and the next—where's this coming from, Chief?"

"I guess today is catching up. Look, I'll be back in a few. Just need to clear my head, you know?"

"Let me go with you then?"

"No, you stay here, rest. I—kind of need—to be alone right now." Blair hated having to say that to Jim, but it was the truth.

"Okay, Blair. I'll be right here when you get back."

Smiling, Blair picked up his jacket and as he opened the door, he said, "I know, Jim. I know."



Out on the street, Blair glanced to his left—maybe the park? Then to his right and the harbor. He chose the harbor. He didn't see the man separate himself from the shadows—




Ragab watched Jacob walk away, then he gazed up at the windows—

This time, he would make sure he did not make the same mistake as he had previously, this time, the lover of his Jacob would perish first and thus, be no obstacle to his plan. Ragab walked to the rental car.  Getting back into the museum would be no problem.




Jim checked his watch. It had been over forty minutes. He wasn't officially worried, but damn close. He got up and started to pace and just as he was heading to the balcony, to see if he could spot his errant partner, the phone rang.

"Ellison and this better be you, Chief."

<<It is. Meet me at the museum, Jim. I think I'm onto something>>

"Shit, you sound just like Nancy Drew. And tell me you're not there alone, right now?"

<<Jim, just get here>>

"Okay, okay, on my way—" Before he could say anything else, Blair had hug up. In his ear.

"Well, damn."

Jim dialed Simon.




Blair watched the lights on the bay twinkle in the cold air and thought maybe it was time to go home. He'd accomplished nothing by taking this stupid walk. Turning, he started back the way he'd come when a searing pain drove him to his knees—

"Jim—" he managed to gasp out. He shook his head and slowly the wet grass turned to warm sand and his hand was in blood and it wasn't his—

With all the strength he could muster, he rose and started running. When he arrived at 852, he didn't bother going upstairs. Jim wasn't there.  He'd known that even before he'd spotted the missing truck. He felt his jacket pocket and smiled. His keys. He jumped into the Volvo and peeled away from his parking spot. Driving like a bat out of hell, he headed for the museum.




Simon felt—uneasy. Jim's call, letting him know that Sandburg was on to something had set the alarms off in his head and even knowing that if anything went wrong, or looked suspicious, Jim would call for back-up, didn't ease the dread.

With a sense of deja vu, Simon left the comfort of his home and headed out into the night and the museum.





A museum guard had let him in, saying that no, he hadn't seen Detective Sandburg, but then, he'd just come on duty and that Officer Washington had just left. And yes, he was pretty certain someone was in the palace—

Now Jim stood in the replicated hall of the Pharaoh and overwhelmed by the smell of incense he called out again.

"Sandburg? Where the hell are you? I'm dying here!"

He was just about to try his hearing when a voice so close to him that it made him whirl around, said, "I'm right here, Jim."

The voice, but *not* the heartbeat—

"Who—" but he got no farther as a jagged pain on the side of his head sent him crashing to the floor.

Ragab looked down at the unconscious man and grinned. So easy.

He bent at the waist, grabbed a hold of Jim's shirt and started lugging him out of the Great Hall and toward the temple.




Where the fuck had this Sunday night traffic come from, anyway? Blair gritted his teeth, grabbed his light from under the seat and reaching out the window, placed it on the roof and hit the newly installed siren.  Guess there was a first time for everything.

He punched the accelerator.

He *had* to get to Jim—to the museum.

Jim's head had to be falling off—nothing could hurt this bad otherwise.  And his eyes were glued shut with a nice dollop of Elmer's. He tried to move and found that he could, in a way, but definitely not his arms.  What the hell?

"Uncomfortable, Detective Ellison? So sorry."

Jim didn't want to do what he had to do next, but damn, he *had* to clear his mind—he shook his head.

Damn, that hurt. He tried to at least crack one eye open and this time succeeded.

"Can you see me, Detective?"

Fuck, yeah, he could see Ragab. He thought briefly of closing the one eye again, but opted for taking another stab at opening his left. It worked, damn it and now he could see a great deal more than he wanted.

He was in the make-shift Temple of Amon-Ra, on his knees, hands tied behind his back, his head resting on the altar. He tested the bonds and found them not only tight, but extremely painful.

"Leather, Detective. *Wet* leather. It's drying even now. Do you know what leather does when it dries? Not that it will matter. You'll be dead soon."

Jim knew exactly what wet leather did when it dried and since he had no intention of dying at Ragab's hands, he sincerely hoped that he'd experience a flash of genius and figure a way out of this. Or, at the very least, Sandburg would ride in with all the King's horses and all the King's men. Simon wouldn't be bad either.

"My mistake last time, Detective, was to leave Sennedjem alone. My anger blinded me to the danger he presented. But this time—this time the person who stands between me and Jacob will be eliminated *first*. Then I will have eternity with my beloved."

Okay, who the fuck was this Jacob? And headache or no, Jim was pretty sure Ragab had gone over the hill into la-la land.

A face wavered in front of his eyes and Jim blinked because while the face was Ragab's the name that came to mind, the name said silently to himself was—Hapuseneb.

Just don't let him touch me, Jim thought crazily. He couldn't afford to have that split in time nor the crippling pain—

"I could have killed you after striking you down, but I wanted to see your face when you died. I was denied that before."

Ragab's expression took on a dreamy quality and Jim found himself shivering.

"I wish you could have seen Jacob's face when I put my dagger into him.  How his eyes widened in pain and surprise. He was so certain that I could not—would not—harm him. It never occurred to him that I would take his life rather than allow Sennedjem to have him."

Okay, Sennedjem and a man named Jacob. He got that. And Hapuseneb had wanted this Jacob, check. And—and—oh, dear God, no. The crazy man in front of him believed that Blair—had to believe that Blair was this Jacob?

"I could feel his warm blood run down my hand, his breath on my face,

and as I pulled out the dagger—"

Jim felt a gut-wrenching pain in his abdomen and winced, almost crying out. The cold stone under his cheek evaporated and the faint light surrounding him diminished as a warm breeze fluttered about him—


*) <><><> *) <><><> *)  >>>>


Blair almost ran the Volvo up onto the curb in his effort to stop the vehicle in front of the museum. As he bolted out, he ran around to the trunk, opened it, and grabbed what he needed. He took a few precious minutes to prepare himself. His fingers shook, but he did his job. When completed, he started across the sidewalk.

Flashing lights behind him forced him to glance over his shoulder as he charged up the steps of the museum—


Blair continued up and once at the door, pounded until the guard opened.  He flashed his badge and pushed his way past. He could hear Simon's huffing and puffing as he ran up the same steps, but Blair had no time to wait—he had to get to the temple.

He turned to his left and shouldered his way through the doors leading into Hatshepsut's wing, then he burst into a run.

As Blair ran, his stride seemed to lengthen and glancing down, he found himself staring at bare feet as they pounded the sand beneath. He gazed at his arms, longer, olive-skinned and well-muscled. And his hands, slightly larger than his own, with long, tapered fingers—

He would be in time—this time.


*) <><><> *) <><><> *)  >>>>


Ragab lifted the dagger—the real dagger—and placed it in the blaze. He turned it over and over—

"The heat and the power of the blaze will sear strength into the knife and ensure more than your death, Detective. There will be no afterlife for you, no future lives either. This Set has promised me. In a moment, there will be nothing between me and Jacob. We will be together through the ages."

Jim blinked as small embers flew up and nearly blinded him. They were dangerously close to his hair. He closed his eyes and willed the pain in his gut and wrists to dim. He tuned into Blair's voice, tried to picture the dials—

He didn't have much time. His world was greying, melding with another time and place, the curtain finally parting—

A hand on his head, fingers grappling with his short bristles, jerking him back, exposing his neck—

Not knowing *who* he was at that moment, Jim thrust back with all his strength and he and Ragab tumbled backwards down the altar steps—

Jim heard the clatter of metal and cursed, knowing that it was his gun skittering across the floor. He heard Ragab move away, then back and he struggled up, tried to rise to his feet, to use his legs to subdue Ragab, but the man grabbed his arm, fingers digging in and the world spun again, the crippling pain in his gut burned, his vision blurred and he cried out a single name.

Ragab had tripped back, but had managed to keep his body from falling.  As he caught his balance, he saw Ellison's gun fly from the man's holster and slide over the floor. He ignored it and charged back up the steps, plucked the knife from the flames, never felt the pain as hot metal burned into his flesh, then spun about and ran to the detective's side. He reached out, grabbed a flailing arm and forced the man back down again.

Just as he was about to bring the knife to Jim's throat, the man cried in a voice not heard in centuries—


Ragab's hand faltered—


*) <><><> *) <><><> *)  >>>>


Blair burst through the door into the Temple just as a voice cried out to him, "Senned-jem!"

He saw Ragab standing at Jim's side, Jim on his knees, in pain, head held back by the scientist, the knife at Jim's throat—


Ragab jerked his head up at the yell and found himself staring into the startled blue eyes of—Jacob. His fingers tightened on the dagger and Blair saw a small line of blood appear on Jim's exposed neck. His mind screamed out his horror even as he straightened to a height he didn't possess. Time froze, yet, melded.

Blair took two steps forward and in a voice that was both his and not, said, "No. You are killing Jacob again, Hapuseneb. It is *his* neck that you rest the dagger against. His blood you are once again spilling."

Dark eyes blinked in confusion, the fingers twitching around the handle of the knife.

"I speak the truth, Hapuseneb. *I* am Sennedjem. You buried your blade in my back, remember? And still I bested you."

As Blair spoke, he walked steadily, resolutely forward, his eyes never leaving Ragab's.

"I took your scrawny neck between my hands and even as my life's blood flowed, I twisted and like an animal, you died."

The hand holding the knife faltered, moved away from the flesh Blair held dear and Jim slumped forward.

"I dropped your body to the ground and spit on it, Hapuseneb. Then I held Jacob in my arms and together, we moved on. But now, now, you try again. But what you do not understand is that *this* is their time. This is *the* time. You cannot win."

At the word *win*, Ragab's eyes blazed and his arm rose, the dagger catching the brilliance of the firelight.

"Win? *I* cannot win? You are wrong, Sennedjem. I cannot lose."

Blair sensed the man's intent and he moved at the same time. He spun around, one suddenly long leg lashing out, catching the hand as it descended toward Jim and the knife sailed through the air. Blair turned in the other direction. his arm punching out, fist crunching into Ragab's face.

Ragab windmilled backwards, stumbling until he fell. He rolled, felt his own blood from his nose and cursed. His hand went to the ground, to push himself back up and closed around metal—

Blair bounced on the balls of his feet, moved forward, ready should Ragab stand and dare him again. He spared a glance for Jim, who was shaking his head like a bull in the ring. When he glanced back at Ragab, the man was up and Blair saw the blackness of the gun pointed at Jim's head.

With a quickness he would have doubted he possessed, he threw himself in front of Jim as Ragab pulled the trigger.


*) <><><> *) <><><> *) >>>>


Simon was lost. He could hear voices, but they echoed within the fake palace. He drew his gun and for a moment—stood in place. He closed his eyes and took in several breaths. The air grew warm and scented—

Simon turned to his left and walked steadily toward the Temple of Amon-Ra. As he drew closer, he heard Blair's voice and as he listened, he frowned—and a name came to him—


So familiar. A body in the sand, a sand darkened by blood and that body wrapped around another—

Sennedjem and Jacob. And several feet away—Hapuseneb.

Simon stepped into the temple, gun arm stretched out in front of him and spotted Jim on the ground, shaking his head. Dark eyes traveled up and he could see Blair and another man—and the gun. He watched, helpless, as time slowed and Blair dove in front of Jim.

Simon heard the retort of the weapon, saw Blair's body buck back, then land with a horrible thud on the hard floor.

Simon yelled, "NO! NOT AGAIN!"

And he fired.

One clean shot to the heart.

Ragab fell, dead before his body hit the floor.




Jim's vision cleared and he shook his head again even as he strained against the leather. Several feet in front of him—Ragab—with Jim's gun. At that moment, Jim knew he was facing his death. He lifted his head proudly and as Ragab's finger pressed—

A flash of darkness, a body leaping in front of him, the sound of a single shot and Blair—flying backwards—then hitting the ground.

Even as a voice rang out, as the yell of, "NO, NOT AGAIN!" rang in his ears, Jim found the strength inside of himself to break the leather bindings. He fell forward, onto his hands and knees and began to crawl to his partner—




Simon ran to the fallen scientist, pressed two fingers to the carotid and nodded in satisfaction. Dead. He holstered his gun and turned with dread toward Jim and Blair. He didn't want to see what he knew would greet his eyes—

Jim reached Blair's body and he put out a hand and gently moved hair aside so that he could see the pale face. He somehow rose up enough to pull at Blair's jacket, to move it away so that he could check the wound and he found—nothing.

A moan from Blair and Jim let his fingers pat down Blair's chest and suddenly he was laughing.

Simon, hearing the crazy sound, dropped to his knees beside his detective, placed both hands on the man's shoulders and started to shake him, afraid that he'd lost him to insanity.

"No, no, Simon—look."

And Simon looked—and laughed—richly, deeply and with great abandon.

Blair moaned again and his hand came up to his chest. As he opened his eyes, he found Jim and Simon, by his side, laughing.

"Well, shit. this is *so* not fair. and does anyone but me think that getting shot is preferable to getting shot while wearing kevlar?"

Jim and Simon looked at each other and said in unison, "NO!"



EPILOGUE - three days later


"Stop fiddling with the bandage."

"I was just going to say the same to you, Jim."

"I'm not fiddling. I'm *picking*."

"Well, *stop* picking."

Jim scrunched up his face and whined, "But it itches, Chief."

Blair took his middle finger and rubbed it against his thumb, then said, "The sympathy is rolling off of me, Ellison."

"Hey, I'm a wounded man here."

"Yeah, yeah. Which of us can barely move, huh?"

Jim held up his bandaged wrists and asked, "Which of us can't pee by himself, uh?"

"That would be you, Jim. And the thrill I get, holding your dick while you let loose? Oh, yeah, definitely the juice that gets me going."

"Like you don't hold my dick at other times? Not to mention all the other things you *do* with my dick, you dick."

The doorbell rang at that moment and as Blair got stiffly to his feet, he mused loudly, "You seem to have a dick fixation, Jim. We need to explore that later."

"Thank you *so* much, Doctor Freud. Can't wait. Dick and oral fixations.

We *are* a pair."

Blair gave a loud snort before opening the door to who he knew would be on the other side. He wasn't disappointed.

"Hey, Simon, come on in."

Stepping back, he allowed his boss to enter and as the larger man removed his coat, Blair asked, "Coffee? Or something stronger?"

"Something stronger, Sandburg, and I'll get it. You go, sit, take a load off."

"Thanks Simon, you talked me into it. You know where everything is, knock yourself out."

Simon made a rather rude sound and listening to it, Jim thought how amazing it was that Simon's snort was a dead ringer for Blair's. Jim stuck his nose into his coffee mug to keep from laughing. As his partner sat back down, Jim called out, "You doing okay, Simon?"

"Oh, sure, and why not? I should be bothered by a little fun in a museum, experiencing a past life, and killing a man who was once the High   Priest of Amon-Ra?"

Jim nodded at Blair, who grinned and whispered, "Yeah, he's fine all right."

Simon finished in the kitchen and joined the two men, drink in hand. A stiff drink. Which both his detectives noted with a worried glance.

"So, you've got the translations from Doctor Kendricks? That's why I'm here, right?"

"Oh, yeah, sure, Simon. He emailed them this morning and I printed them out."

Banks had the glass to his lips, but at Blair's words and the offhanded way he said them, he paused to stare at the younger man over the rim of his drink.


"And—I'm, well, are you sure you want to, you know, like, hear it?"

"I'm here, aren't I?"

Jim sat forward and placing his mug rather clumsily on the coffee table,

said, "Simon, you're certainly here, but you're having a scotch and

water in order to *be* here. Maybe—"

"No maybes. I'm ready." He paused, then with a wicked glance at Sandburg, said, "Okay, it took some processing, but after all the time with you two, I'm almost into weird. And yes, it's the *almost* part that explains this—" he lifted his glass and saluted the two men.

"Right, okay then," Blair said, still a bit uncertain. On the table in front of him sat a manila folder and he picked it up, flipped it open and took out the sheets. He sat back but before he could start, Simon asked, "Sandburg, you okay? The funeral and all?"

"I'm—okay. It's only fitting that Ben be buried in Egypt. Steven and I had a long phone conversation and that helped. Talking with him, remembering Ben through Steven's eyes, that was good. Steven and Ben were very," he coughed a bit before adding, "close—once."

"I sensed that, Sandburg. I only met Doctor Abib briefly, but I liked him. Does anything in that," he indicated the papers in Blair's hand, "explain why Ragab killed him?"

Blair stared down at the words on the page and struggled with explaining Ragab to Simon. Fortunately, he didn't have to—Jim did it for him.  "It had nothing to do with past lives, Simon. It was Ragab the jealous and envious scientist that killed Ben Abib, *not* Hapuseneb, High Priest of Amon-Ra. Ragab simply didn't want the translations to come from Abib.

And destroying them after killing Ben had the added benefit of slowing

everything down so that he could do what—"

Jim's voice trailed off and Blair placed a comforting hand on his thigh.  Simon nodded, not needing Jim to go any further. He took a swallow of his drink, then nodded at Sandburg.

"Go ahead. Read it."

Blair glanced sideways at Jim, who smiled wanly but nodded.

"Okay, then. Um, first, let me provide some background. The scrolls were

written by Tahemet—"

"Sennedjem's second in command, right?"

"Right, Simon. But they were written with help from Jacob's mother—" Blair paused, looked down, closed his eyes, then breathed out, "Naomi.  Jacob was the Pharaoh's healer, Simon and a slave. Between the two of them, they managed the code, which was simply an odd mixture of Egyptian and Hebrew."

"So that amulet you mentioned, that was Jacob's," Simon guessed.

Blair shot a sideways glance at his partner as he said, "Yes. That's why it's a combination of two symbols; physician and slave."

"A Hebrew slave *and* court physician?"

"Exactly. *And* in love with Sennedjem. But Hapuseneb wanted him to join the priesthood because he desired him and because of the power he wielded. Jacob, in spite of being a slave, was valuable to Hatshepsut and a true friend. He had influence over Tutmose and Steven thinks that if Jacob had lived, we'd have a different history and Hatshepsut would have realized her true immortality. She might have become the greatest Pharaoh ever known."

Simon put down the glass, his interest so thoroughly captured that the alcohol was no longer needed. "Go on."

"Well, let me read this now—I've given you the background, so here goes...."

He put on his glasses, as handed to him by Jim, and after clearing his throat, began....

"I am Tahemet, once of Nubia. I set down before you the truth of Hatshepsut, Jacob the Healer, Hapuseneb and my Captain and true friend, Sennedjem. I do not tell this tale alone. I sit in my friend's home and beside me, the slave woman Naomi, the Healer's mother. Together we have conspired to ensure that Sennedjem and Jacob rest in each other's arms for all time and to know in our hearts that someday, the evil that is Hapuseneb will be known.

"Today, we muddy the waters of truth, we allow the speculation and we bury those we love. I must say farewell to a great warrior and good friend and Naomi must bury a beloved son. As we conclude the true happenings of the deaths of Sennedjem and Jacob at the hand of Hapuseneb, we add the true whereabouts of their final resting place."

Blair glanced up, saying, "I won't read the next part as it covers what I have already shared."

He took the next two pages and placed them face down on the cushion beside him, then took up another page and once again began to read.  "From the moment he left my side to meet Jacob, a dread made itself known and it was that unease that churned within me that finally drove me to seek out my friend that night. I left our camp and walked to their meeting place, in a grove of palms by the river...."


*)      *)       *)


Tahemet could not enjoy the air nor the breeze that moved over him. A burning sensation inside, thundering in his head, drove him on. He did not know what he expected to see or interrupt, but what he found sent him to his knees.

Clouds sifting across the sky unleashed the moon's brightness and there, on the bank, two men lay. Tahemet knew, as he brought his head up to look once again, that he was seeing death.

These were not two men in the throes of passion. No, what Tahemet gazed upon were two lovers in their final embrace and a few feet away; the man who had destroyed them.

Somehow he managed to drag himself up and move to his captain's side.  The dagger, buried to the hilt in Sennedjem's back, gleamed in the moonlight and the darkness that pooled about the two bodies brought bile to Tahemet's throat.

He was a soldier, had seen death in all its guises, but this, this was—an abomination.

Tahemet was not only a soldier, but a great tactician. His gift was figuring out the enemy by studying past battles, putting the pieces together and discovering their strengths and weaknesses, thus assisting his captain in the ability to wage successful war. He used all of that skill as he viewed the scene before him.

Hapuseneb lay on his back, the angle of his head telling Tahemet that the man's neck was broken. The large Nubian walked several feet away, spotted the area where Hapuseneb must have hidden from Sennedjem—

Tahemet moved back to the two men, studied Jacob, the drying blood, the terrible wound in his abdomen—and the full picture crystallized.

Jacob, remaining behind after Sennedjem took his leave, had been confronted by Hapuseneb who must have finally learned of Jacob and Sennedjem. In his jealous anger, he'd murdered Jacob.

Tahemet could so easily picture what must have happened next—

Sennedjem returning, for a reason known only to him, had come upon his love's body.

Tahemet could see the very spot where his friend had knelt, could follow the blood, could see in his mind's eye how Hapuseneb could steal up on the grief-stricken Sennedjem, that same grief blinding him to the danger.

Tahemet could visualize the knife that had torn into Jacob, rising up as held in Hapuseneb's hand, then down to plunge into Sennedjem's unprotected back. But that would not have brought the warrior down. No, he rose like a vengeful spirit and took Hapuseneb's life before crawling back to his love, curling his body around that of Jacob's and with his face buried in Jacob's hair, and finally letting go.

Tahemet lay a hand on his friend's head and lowered his own. He had not understood the depth of love Sennedjem knew for Jacob, but seeing them now, together like this—he could see all too well. He blinked back the hot tears and stood again. Tahemet walked to Hapuseneb and seeing a bulge in the robe that barely covered the man's body, he searched and pulled out Jacob's amulet.

As he stood among the dead, holding the necklace high, staring at the jewel glittering in the silvery light, a plan began to form. He walked back to his captain and knelt again.

"I promise you, Sennedjem, you and Jacob shall rest together. This I

swear. But for this to happen, I must—"

He paused, closed his eyes against the sudden flood of emotion—he couldn't do this. He. Could. Not. Do. This.

Tahemet opened his eyes, praying that truth or the rightness of his plan would somehow be delivered to him—and his gaze fell upon Sennedjem's hand and ring finger. He reached out and touched the band, knowing that it was his friend's vow of eternal love to Jacob. Slowly he removed the ring and placed it on Jacob's finger.

"Sennedjem, I must, for a short period of time, separate you from Jacob, but I swear by all the Gods, by *his* God, that you *will* soon rest in his arms once again and he within the circle of yours."

And Tahemet set the plan into motion.

With aid from Sennedjem's most trusted soldiers, Tahemet removed his friend's body along with the dagger. All signs of what truly happened were obliterated. After Sennedjem was carried away, with great care and love, Tahemet remained behind. He'd sent Radir ahead to inform the woman who was Jacob's mother and Tahemet would speak with her later, but for now—

Once again he knelt in the sand but this time he carefully and tenderly took Jacob's body into his arms. As his hands touched skin, he almost believed that he sensed warmth beneath his fingers, but knew that could not be. He stared at the face of the man his friend had loved, a face that even in death was hauntingly beautiful and he prayed for the right words—

"I know your end was painful and without hope and now I take from you the one thing in this world you cared about—Sennedjem. But your parting will be brief, Jacob, I promise you that.

"No one will know the real events as they transpired, they will be confused and we will allow that confusion to cloud the truth. I can no longer protect our Pharaoh or our time, but I shall protect you and Sennedjem. On this, you have my word. I pray that one day—you find rest."

With that, he gently returned Jacob to the sand and stood. Leaving the young man's body alone in the night, with only the evil Hapuseneb to keep him company in death, nearly changed Tahemet's mind. But he took comfort in the ring that rested in its proper place—on Jacob's finger.  For now, what must be done, *had* to be done....

Tahemet walked away.


*)      *)        *)


When word reached the camp the next morning, it came in a form that was expected and hoped for by Tahemet.

Murder by unknown assailants. Jacob the Healer lay dead and Hapuseneb, their High Priest also a victim. Rumors flew, the most prevalent being that Hapuseneb had come upon Jacob's assassins and in trying to stop his murder, had perished as well.

Hapuseneb was entombed and if any of the usual pomp and circumstance was missing, no one noticed. But a strange thing happened before Jacob the Healer could be buried in the manner of his people—his body disappeared.

For many nights thereafter, under the cloak of darkness and secrecy, the soldiers of Captain Sennedjem toiled and eventually the tomb that would hold all was completed.


*)      *)      *)


Tahemet and Naomi stood in the flickering light of the torches and gazed down at the two men, finally together and at peace in one another's arms. Tears tracked a dirty and dusty path down Naomi's face and slowly she reached out to touch her son—

"They are safe now, Naomi. And walk together in whatever world truly awaits us all."

"I pray you are right, but that does not bring me comfort, nor my son.  He is lost and for that I am to blame. I accepted our lot because I benefited greatly and now he is dead. I would give my own life for him, give my soul to have it be me instead."

"Do not be selfish now of all times. I am a stranger to you, I know this, but I believe their end was fated. Sennedjem himself knew that his time with Jacob would be brief, that another life or lives awaited them.  He truly believed that a day would come—a time—where his gifts and his love for Jacob would flourish. They need our belief and support and we must give it."

Nodding, the woman bent and allowed her lips to brush across her son's.  Straightening, she rested a finger on the lips she'd just kissed and whispered, "Go with God, my son. We shall meet again."

With a nod from Tahemet, two of his soldiers picked up the heavy lid and set it in place. All four walked out through the hidden door and into a larger tomb. There another sarcophagus sat and inside, a man whose body had been found in the street, a knife wound in his back.

As Naomi was escorted out by the two soldiers, Tahemet gave one last look around. Satisfied at his deception and ultimate misdirection, he too left and the tomb was sealed—




Cascade, Washington - the present

"I pray I have done the correct thing, that which will serve my captain and friend. The palace is not the same, our Pharaoh walks with a slowness that tears at all who love her and already the evils that are greed and power work to destroy. Naomi leaves tonight and I go with her.  Perhaps together we will find some semblance of peace. But even with my future in doubt, I ask myself; can love transcend all? Will my friend and his other half truly find a world in which they can exist? Find the protection they need? I have my doubts but I keep them to myself."

Blair's hand shook as he finished. He glanced up and met Simon's gaze.

"That's it," he said quietly.

Simon stirred for the first time since Blair had begun to read. He reached for his now watered down drink and finished it in one swallow.  Jim placed a strong hand over the still shaking one of his partner and said, "Tell him the rest, Chief."

Blair searched Simon's face and nodding to himself, said, "They found the other tomb."

Simon exhaled.




"They found the other tomb?"

Blair nodded. "Steven called a bit before you arrived. Naturally after completing the translation, they immediately used the information Tahemet provided and found the secret tunnel. They followed it and at the end, another tomb. The real one."

"And inside," Simon's voice held awe, "they found Sennedjem and Jacob, together, didn't they?"


Simon swallowed the lump that had just taken up residence in his throat and closed his eyes.

Jim, whose fingers still weren't working well, thanks to the leather that had dried enough to do damage, although not permanent, squeezed Blair's hand. He was grateful that he could feel the returned pressure.  Both remained silent, allowing Simon to *process*.

After a few moments, Simon asked, eyes still closed, "Explain to me why

Blair didn't feel any of what you did, Jim. You were the one who—"

"It's remarkably simple," Blair answered, at Jim's nod of encouragement.  "Sennedjem died at peace. He was with Jacob and he'd destroyed Hapuseneb. But Jacob knew no peace. No closure."

Brown eyes flew open and Simon stared at Blair. "But—"

"Think about it, Simon," Blair suggested.

Their friend rose, walked to the windows and stood with his back to them. After almost five minutes, he turned around. "But Sennedjem managed to show up when needed, didn't he?" Simon asked with a smile that said he'd thought about it.

Jim grinned and said, "Yep. He wasn't about to allow Jacob to die at Hapuseneb's hand again."

Simon's grin grew and he actually bounced up on the balls of his feet as he said, "You know, this really explains a great deal about you both, doesn't it?"

"Jim's inclinations toward being a medic in the Army—" Blair offered.

"Blair's ability to understand and help me so intuitively—" Jim posited.

"Your love for each other—no matter what," Simon added quietly.

The three men smiled at one another and Jim finally added, "And your acceptance of us, Simon. Of the whole Sentinel thing and of *us*. Your friendship."

Simon's dark brown eyes warmed as they rested on his two best friends and he nodded easily. Then he held up one hand and said, "But I'd like to think that you'd have had that understanding and support no matter what, gentlemen."

"Of that," Blair said, "I have no doubt."

"Thank you, Sandb—Blair."

"You're welcome, Simon."

Blair's smile faded as he said more to himself than to Jim or Simon, "I only wish Ben could have known about all of this. It would have thrilled him."

Chuckling, Jim asked, "What, after all this you don't think Ben *knows*, Chief?"

Nodding in agreement, Simon interjected, "He knows, Blair. He knows."

Blair glanced back at the dining room table where Ben's Turkish coffee maker sat, gleaming under the light. It seemed to wink at him and he smiled. Ben knew.




The loft was locked up tight and Jim and Blair lay in each other's arms, drifting comfortably, not yet ready to succumb to sleep. Both men were content to simply be.

As the moon drifted behind a cloud, Jim had a thought that brought his eyes from their half-mast state.



"Does this mean that when I make love to you, I'm making love to myself?"

Chuckling, Blair answered, "Now I *know* you've been around me too long.

That was definitely a Sandburg question."

"Exactly, Chief. Exactly."

"Go to sleep, Jim."

"Only if you promise me two things, Blair."


"That you'll always find me and that you'll love me until death."

Blair moved out of Jim's arms and sensing the need behind the lightly said words, he draped himself over Jim. With his face only inches from his partner's, he said, "We will always find each other, Jim. And apparently, we will love one another unto death—and beyond."

"I can live with that, Chief."

Smiling, Blair said, "Just don't accidentally call me Jim."

"Deal. And you can't accidentally call me Hairboy."

Ruffling the short bristles on the top of Jim's head, Blair chuckled and said, "Not much chance of that mistake, Jimbo."

"Good point."

Blair rested his head over Jim's heart and sighed contentedly. As his partner's hand came up and was buried in his hair, Blair whispered, "Love you, man."

The End