"BAD BLOOD"

OK, mirandariane, this one is per your request. The ending is one of those that you may not "get" on your first try. It was one of those things I could see perfectly in my head, but trying to put it into words was hard. It's like trying to tell someone a dream or nightmare you had the next day, just doesn't have the same effect, which is one of the reasons I deleted it. Also, it's a bit off SU2, as I used more of a haunting or ghost rather than a true link. I added some turmoil between Kate and Nick, because I am a firm believer that sometimes you have to go through the bad to get to the heart of some feelings. Anywho, read it, review it if you like. I can take both good and bad critisism. And nope, I don't own special unit 2.

"Morning, Kate." Nick said as he walked behind her on his way to his own desk which faced hers. The way his right arm brushed her back and hair was not an accident. He would have flashed her a smile when she glanced up at him, but his smile was already there.

Kate returned the smile with one of her own. "Must have been one heck of a date, this is four days in a row you've walked in for work happy. Who is she?...and has it been the same girl all this time? If so, you must be proud of yourself, your breaking time records for yourself in the relationship category." Kate toyed with him, this time, she cast him a sly smile which matched his.

Nick chuckled, but only on the outside. Truth was, he hadn't been seeing anyone lately. His affection for his partner had grown from distrust, than on to the strongest of friendships, and finally to so much more...and he knew it. What he searched for in other women and where they all came up up short, was within Kate. His nightlife did not seem to appeal to him anymore. He had found her, now he fought himself on how to tell her. Kate had gone back to the paperwork in front of her. He walked back around his desk, set the cup of coffee he had gotten her down and stood next to her, saying nothing, waiting on her to look up. When she finally did, he leaned down close to her. Kate leaned back a few inches in her chair when he did this and he allowed her that personal space. But with his cockiest smirk, he asked her, "What makes you think it's another woman Kate?" He held her eye contact for a few moments, and when he knew she was baffled and beyond a response, he casually went to his own work.

They continued through the morning without either of them bringing up the words that had transpired earlier, but it was on both their minds. Kate analyzed his words until she wasn't even sure if that's what he said anymore. Nick played over and over the way Kate backed up slightly when he leaned in on her. Both felt an unsettling feeling inside from it, especially Nick.

When they returned from lunch, Capt. Paige ordered them into his office. Nick walked behind Kate and watched her closely. Lately, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. He always found her attractive, extremely attractive in fact. But lately there was so much more to the way he felt when he looked at her. He began to see details on her that, as a man, he took notice of before, but now couldn't prevent his mind from wandering away with them. He found himself wanting to touch her now. Her face, her hair, to put his arms around her waist and pull her close. He often had to stop himself from imagining what it would feel like to call her his, and to be able to kiss her, aside from only in his dreams.

He reflected on the first time he had laid eyes on her. She was still an officer with the C.P.D. Special Unit 2 was only a district that was a mystery to her. She had taken some photos that SU2 didn't want out and those pics had became Nick's priority to make disappear. And he did. But not without the photographer getting his attention first. He followed her for a few days, taking notes, anything the department could use to help protect their secrecy. When word was handed down that the high ranking officials thought she was a wacko, Nick's Captain got him working on something else. He wouldn't see the blond for another six months.

Page's voice brought Nick back to reality. "Detectives, we have a new agent that will be working with us. Meet Brian Syler." The Captain motioned behind Kate and Nick. They turned to see a tall good looking young man in his late twenties. Nick was immediately sceptical. "Syler, this is Detectives Kate Benson and Nick O'Malley." Brian's eyes rested on Kate, his smile broadened. When Kate offered her hand for him to shake, Nick caught them exchange a look of mutual attraction. The man than offered Nick his hand, which Nick refused by simply turning away.

"Captain, I think we can handle our cases on our own, and quite frankly, we don't have the time to train anybody. Can't you give this guy to someone else?" Nick spoke as if the man wasn't standing right there. "Kate and I don't need to wipe noses on trainees."

A stifled laugh came from the man behind Nick, who turned and shot a look of irritation at the man. "O'Malley, Detective Syler has more experience with Links than you and Kate put together. He is the East coasts best man and he's here to teach us a thing or two. You'll be civil O'Malley. Is that understood?"

"What's to know? You see a Link, you kill a Link. Simple, really."

At that time Carl walked in. Nick looked down at him, grinned, and added to his first comment on how to deal with Links. "Or, you can just pick out a real annoying one and spend your life beating him into the ground." Nick laughed at his own joke. Kate sighed and rolled her eyes. Carl's eyes squinted disapprovingly.

"I said, Is that understood, O'Malley!" the Captain barked.

Begrudgingly, Nick forced a "Yes, Captain," but still did not shake the mans hand. He noticed that Brian's eyes were fixed on Kate's when he turned back towards him.

"O.K. what I'd like to do is go over some of the files you two have put together and see what's what."

Nick looked him up and down with distaste. His disdain grew even more when the man put his hand on Kate's back to guide her out of the Captains office.

"No trouble out of you, O'Malley." The Captain warned quietly. Nick nodded and followed the two into a conference room.

"Don't forget to take notes, O'Malley." Carl tossed in with a grin, smugly offering him a pencil. Nick ignored the comment.

A week had gone by and Nick's tolerance for this man was stretching thinner by the hour. Kate liked Brian, which was the main reason for O'Malleys disdain. It seemed to Nick his partner and he were growing apart. And the thought of that put a heavy feeling in his gut. Kate didn't seem to notice, but the two men were battling more and more everyday for her attention in a guy way, a way a woman wouldn't pick up on right away. Especially when that woman was completely ignorant to one of the mans feelings. Nick was well aware of Brian's interest in Kate, and Brian knew of Nick's feelings for her. It was never anything they said, just something they both knew. Kate dismissed there battles as a pissing contest, two men who obviously liked being in control and didn't appreciate having to take direction from the other. When Nick showed up for work that Thursday morning, he was greeted with the Captains bark. "O'Malley, in my office." Nick glanced in the direction of his partner, who was sitting at her desk talking to Brian, who was seated at Nick's desk. Nick felt his chest get hot with anger and took a step towards the man to put him in his place, so to speak.

"Now, O'Malley!"

It could wait, Nick thought. Let him sit there for a minute while I see the Captian, than I'll deal with him.

Nick walked in his bosses office but his mind was elsewhere. He didn't like his partner alone with Brian, not even for a minute. He didn't know why, but there was a definite trust issue there and jealousy ran rampant on Nick's part. The Captain set a folder in front of Nick. "This is your new case. We need it solved fast too, drag it in here, toss it in the hole, kill it, whatever you need to do just get it taken care of detective." The Captain paused, crushing a cigarette out. "I've already talked with Benson on this, you'll be working this case alone. Benson and Syler are going to be finishing up the details on the pending case."

Nicks face fell. "Your putting them on a case alone? Why? Why not put him on this case and Kate and I will wrap up the..."

"It has come to my attention that you and Detective Syler aren't working well with each other and it was per his request that you and he no longer work together. He also requested to work with Benson and I agreed to that. They work well together. So no waves out of you, just do your work and let them do theirs. He has much needed information for this department and I don't want to loose his talents."

Nick was incensed. "And how does Kate feel about this? I've been her partner for almost two years, not to mention we work well together. Now I'm supposed to step aside for this piece of..."

"Careful detective." Captain Paige's tone wasn't amused. And neither was Nick's.

"Captain, put him on something alone, give him another partner to work with, just don't split Kate and I up."

"No can do, O'Malley. I've already made my decision and I'm not going to..."

"Based on his requests?!" Nick interrupted angerly. "So he walks in this place, runs to the boss, tattles because he doesn't like working with me, picks a partner...my partner... and you just go with it? You don't even take into consideration the fact she's been my partner for two years now and hes been here for a week?" Nicks tone grew more tense with every word. "What does Kate have to say about this?"

"Dismissed O'Malley." The Captain shot Nick a look that said the conversation was over.

Nick nodded angerly. "We'll see about this," he said under his breath.

Nick heard enough talking between his partner and the man to know he was asking her to lunch when he reached their desks. He slammed the file the Captain had given him on the desk in front of Brian. He barely noticed Kate jump from the loss of temper. "Move." Nick's voice was firm and cold, his eyes burned into Brian's.

"Nick..." Kate's voice was gentle. Nick didn't let her finish.

"I said move and I'm not telling you twice." Nicks voice grew even colder.

Brian reclined back in his seat, resting his head on his arms which were folded behind him. "You want me to get out of my seat? Where would you like me to go?" The coolness in Brian's voice made Nick almost loose his cool.

"Nick..." Kate stood and again tried to interject but she was cut off from the look on Nicks face. It was than he realized his desk had been moved and replaced with Brian's. He glanced around and four desks away was his. Nick stood straight and his eyes and anger had now fallen on his partner. For the first time, he was at a loss for words. He felt betrayed by the woman who stood in front of him, his friend, his partner, the woman who held his heart but didn't know it. He stared her down for a minute, than picked up his file and began to walk away. Kate stood up and rounded her desk. She tried to talk to him.

"Nick..." she stood directly behind him now.

He turned at the sound of her voice. His eyes no longer brown, but almost black. They bore into Kate. "Don't," Was all he said. It was all he had to say. The tone of his voice and the look in his eyes stopped Kate in her tracks. His eyes said it all.

He had spent the rest of the afternoon outside the office. He would have to face Kate and her new sidekick the following morning. And he dreaded that like nothing he had to face before.

That evening he felt anger, a restlessness he'd never felt before. Kate had called several times, each time he let the machine pick up. The only consolation he had was his called ID let him know Kate was calling from her apartment phone, not her cell. She was home, not out with that pretty-boy. By eleven p.m. he was sitting on his couch in the dark, seething, wondering how this could have happened. He played the day over and over in his mind, growing angrier and feeling more and more betrayed.

Kate played with her pen, impatiently waiting for Nick to strut into work. She glanced at her watch, which read only one minute later than the time before she checked it. She let out a sigh and rested her chin on her palm. She glanced over at the desk in front of hers, where Brian was busy typing out his report. She was so used to seeing Nicks face there, so close, and now he seemed unreachable to her. Concentrating on anything but Nick was impossible for her and her heart sank when she saw him finally walk in, not even casting a glance towards her. His face looked different, she couldn't find the word for it. She could always read his expressions well, and this day, she wished she couldn't. What she saw in him was a look she had only seen once before. It was the look Nick gave to the Link that killed Julie, his former partner and lover. When Kate had gotten to work, she left Nick a note on his desk. It was simple. "I'd like to talk to you." Kate watched Nick pick up the note, read it, and crumple it up and toss it in the garbage. He made no attempt to talk to her or acknowledge it. Despite this, Kate knew she had to talk to him. She took the rest of the shift to face him. She waited until Brian had already left. When Nick was shutting down his computer, ready to leave for work, she picked that as her time.

"Howdy, partner." Kate stood to the left of his chair. There was a faint smile on her face that was only there to let Nick know she came in peace and that he wasn't the only one hurting. He didn't return the smile or emotion. He leaned back in his chair, folded his hands over his stomach and started at her blankly. He was making this very hard on her and she knew that was his intent. "Look, I know your hurt and angry by this..." Kate's words were gentle.

"Oh, do you." Nicks words were calm but lacked the same gentleness of Kate's.

"Nick, this is only for a little while ya know. Your still my partner were just working on other stuff for now."

As if considering her words for a moment, Nick nodded his head. "Your wrong about that, Kate." Nick stood up facing her. He grabbed his coat and put it on. Than he made sure he was looking her straight in the eyes when he finished. "Your not my partner. I don't have a partner." He than walked past her, leaving her heart breaking. What she didn't realize at the time, was his words were hurting him far worse.

Nick started for home and was only able to drive two blocks before he pulled his car over to the side. His body was shaking, he was loosing all control. He saw her face in his mind, and heard the words he had said to her. For the first time since he was a child, he felt a tear roll down his face. It was a tear of frustration, jealousy, and mostly, sadness. He was loosing his partner, his best friend, and the woman he loved. An hour had passed as Nick collected his thoughts. He was desperate to see her, talk to her, tell her everything. He brushed the tear which had dried from his cheek, checked the side mirror, and pulled a fast U-turn, driving as fast as he could to Kate's home. He had no clue what he was going to say, or how he would say it at all, he just knew that tonight was the night she would know everything. He loved her and that was all that mattered to him. He didn't know how she would react to it all. If she would let him hold her, or if she would reject him, but tonight was definitely the night. Pride be damned.

When he pulled up to the curb, he jumped out of the car, ran up to the security door of Kate's complex and used his key. He didn't even bother buzzing her. He was glad the two had exchanged keys in case of an emergency, and this was definitely an emergency. He was a man on a mission. Telling Kate she was his heart was the only thing important to him at the moment. His heart raced as he flew up the steps and banged on Kate's door. His frustration and anger were gone now and all he could think of was his true feelings for her. He banged again on the door, calling her name. He felt rushed. "Kate!"

The door opened and Nick looked up. "Kate, I..." Instead of being greeted by Kate, however, he was looking into the face of the enemy, who smirked at Nick. Nick felt every muscle in his body lock as he stared in disbelief. He couldn't think of anything to say, so he just stood there dumbfounded.

"Nope. I'm not Kate. Want me to get her? Of course, she's a little...um...busy at the moment. You should find different times to interrupt two people when they want to be alone ya know, like work hours, buddy. Let me see if she wants to put her clothes back on just to talk to you." Brian's mocking tone and drove Nick over the edge. Had Kate's relationship with him led them to something more than a work relationship, or was Brian's comment just put in there to irritate him? Nick reacted before giving it much thought. In a second Nick had Brian laid out, bleeding from the nose. Kate rounded the corner, fully clothed, from inside and saw Nick standing over Brian, who had just taken in what happened.

"He just attacked me!" Brian said covering up his nose, in a nasally voice. He scrambled to get to his feet. Kate rushed over to help him.

"Nick, are you insane? What's wrong with you?!" Kate shook her head and asked Brian if he was o.k. He nodded but winced in pain.

"He just attacked me." Brain repeated. "I didn't do or say anything to him. This guys a lunatic! He shouldn't wear a badge, I'm going to talk to Captain Paige about this in the morning. He's a menace!" Brian walked to the bathroom for a tissue for his nose.

Nick watched him over Kate's shoulder walk to the bathroom. He than looked down at Kate, who crossed her arms and waited to see how he could spin this one off, she waited for an explanation that didn't come. Gently but lifelessly, he spoke. "He won't need to. I'm handing in my resignation in the morning."

Kate's face fell. Nick turned and walked from her sight back to his car. From inside the bathroom, Brian overheard this, and smiled ear to ear.

Nick placed his resignation on the Captain's desk. "Consider it effective immediatly." Nick's tone was flat. The Captain slid the papers across his desk and back to Nick. "I can't accept this and you know it, detective. You'll suck it up and go on with your work. I'll have a talk with Detective Syler and get him to overlook any charges and grievences he may wish to file against you. Until than"
"No." Nick said, same flat tone. "I'm leaving Special Unit 2 and that's the end of it. I'll have Alice clean out my desk." Nick laid his badge, police I.D., and service weapon on top of the papers he had set on the desk, than turned and despite the Captain calling after him, he headed up the stairs and out the door. He had become very good at ignoring people wanting to speak to him. He was relieved Kate had not been in headquarters when this happend.

On the other side of the Captain's office wall, in the adjoining room, stood Carl, who overheard the conversation between the two men. The little gnome wondered to himself what his life would be like without his friend. Now, this has never been confirmed, and I am sure if you asked him about it, he would flatly deny it, but it's been told that a single tear rolled down his face, which is why he never said goodbye to Nick.

Nick reached the parking garage and unlocked his drivers side door when he felt a tap on his left shoulder. He turned and saw Syler. "I heard." The tone sounded sincere, too sincere for O'Malley to belive. "I hear they are hiring parking meter readers. If your interested, I could probley pull some strings, get you a postition, ya know, since were such good pals and all." Syler smiled innocently. "Let me know what you decide on and I'll make that call," he said over his shoulder, walking away.

Nick fumed. "Whatever your intentions are with her, don't count on them ever panning out for you."

Brian turned back towards him, giving him a confident look, than waited for Nick to finish.

"Eventually, she will see what I see, and she's going to run. Bank on that one."

Syler checked his watch. "It's ten to four. The unemployment office closes at four thirty, buddy. Might want to get there sooner rather than later," he said, winking. Nick's lip curled. He fought the urge to kick his ass, again. "Oh, and ah, Nicky-Boy..." taking the bait, Nick looked up. "I assure you, when it comes to Kate, my intentions are strickly sexual." Syler laughed, again mocking Nick.

Nick tossed his mail and keys on the little table next to his front door. He threw his jacket on the hook by the door, but he missed, watching it fall to the floor. He mumbled something and walked over it, not picking it up. He ran his fingers through his hair and flipped on the sterio. Tonic, "When she says she loves me," was playing. Nick rubbed his eyes as if he was tired and stood staring into the kitchen for a minute. He felt heavy. Dead. He couldn't smile right now if his life depended on it. And his thoughts went straight to Kate. Pushing them out of his mind was useless, he knew, and he didn't have the strength to fight it anyways. He turned to lay down on his bed which was in the center of his studio apartment when his eyes must have betrayed him. It was Kate. She was sitting on his bed, her coat thrown over her lap. One look at her and Nick could feel her sadness. It was so deep in her eyes. He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out. He had to remind himself to breathe. She took that moment to stand up, carefully laying her coat over his bed. She walked up to him, her eyes planted firmly on the ground in front of her. When she was inches from him, in a shy way, she looked at him. Neither of them spoke for a few moments.

"I miss you, Nick." Her voice was hushed and Nick thought it cracked when she said his name. A wave of relief washed over his body. He lowered his face and eyes so he could look into hers.

"Kate." He said her name more to himself, as it wasn't even a whisper. He said nothing else as he took her into his arms and held her close. He felt her melt against his chest, and he could feel her body move as she began to sob. He ran his hands down her long hair, closing his eyes as he brought her even closer to him, burying his face in the side of her neck. They held that embrace, their first embrace, for a long time, until Kate broke it only enough to move her cheek to the side of his chest, so he could hear every word she was about to say without any misundertandings.

"Your my best friend, Nick. And I love you." She half whispered, half spoke the words, but Nick heard every one of them loud and clear. His heart skipped a beat. He pulled only his face away from her and she looked up.

He knew there were things in his life he messed up before, chances he should have taken but didn't. Words he should have said, but thought better of than saying. Times he closed his heart off to her when he should have opened it wide. Not this time. He put his hands on her face and stopped her from looking down again. He wanted to be looking at eachother when he said what he was going to say. After brushing the tears from her face, he spoke. "I have never loved anyone like I love you, Kate. Not in all my life. And I don't want to be afraid of it anymore. I love you. Oh, God, do I love you. I've loved you for so long." Once again Kate fell into him, crying again. The only thing that stopped Nick from crying himself was the kiss that followed. Long. Deep. Something noone could describe.

Nick made love to Kate that night, and afterwards, he held her tight. The last thing he heard that night was the quiet sound of her breathing against his chest. The last thing she heard that night was the sound of his heart beating.

Nick was already awake when his phone rang at five a.m. the next morning. Kate was still asleep by his side. He was quick to answer it, as not to wake her.

"O'Malley, I need you down at headquarters immediatly. We have a situation and I need my best men on it. You'll get down here as soon as possible." The Captain hesitated and lowered his voice. "And O'Malley, bring Benson with you."

"Yes, sir." Nick would have put more thought on how the Captain knew Kate was with him that early in the morning, but tossed it aside when he felt her stirring. He placed the phone back on the reciever and snuggled in next to her. "The Captain wants us there now," he whispered.

A groan came from Kate. "I take it your resignation is over than," she smiled.

"Captain begged me to come back, as I knew he would." Nick joked. "By the way, he knew you were here," Nick said as he turned to get out of bed. He waited for Kate to react.

"How did he know? What did he say? What do we say? Did he sound displeased?" Kate cringed at the thought.

"Well, we could go into details about how good it was, giving him details, but I didn't think you for that kinda girl, Kate."

Kate just shot him a look. "Be serious, your goofing around as you always do but this could be bad. What do we do?"

Buttoning the last button of his shirt, Nick wrapped his arms around Kate. "We jump off that bridge when we come to it." He added lovingly, "Together."

When Nick and Kate walked into headquarters, the Captain was waiting for them. "Jonathan, start the briefing."

Jonathan shoved his pencil behind his ear and a smile spread over his face, knowing he had everyones full attention. He stood up, taking in a deep breath...

"And make it quick." The Captain sneered.

Jonathan's shoulders wilted slightly and his smile faded, but only momentarily. "O.K., we've all heard twisted love stories before where death, torture, pain, and agony all played a part, right? I mean we have Romeo and Juliet, the Phantom and the Opera..."

"Jonathan!"

"Yes, sir." Jonathan shifted his weight nervously from his left to his right. He than clicked his computer to show an illustration of an open field covered in a sea of barb wire, and a man staring down into it, bleeding. It's ah the least graphic one we could find. The man you see was the son of a wealthy merchant. He fell in love with the daughter of the merchants business partner, and they were set to be married. That is until the war broke out. Being the young strong man that he was, he was to be sent off to fight in battle. Only problem was, he didn't have much of a heart for battle. He instead ran away from the war with his bride to be, really making both families outraged. The man's father was killed at battle, along with his three brothers. The young bride to be's father however came back from battle and due to the shame of his soon to be son in law, rejected his marriage to his lovely daughter. He sent his men out looking for the couple, and they were soon found and brought back to the plantation to face the father and his wrath. Dispite the daughters plea for mercy, the father ordered the boy to his death which was to be carried out the following day. Talk about a mean father in law hey?"

A deep breath from the Captian put Jonathan back on the story.

"So anyway, to make a long story short..."

"Too late." Nick and Kate said in unisom.

"Right." Jonathan lost his concentration for a moment. "So anyway...after the constant begging from his daughter, the father came up with a solution. He would spare the boy's life if he could show strength and courage by completing a task, proving courage. He and the couple rode out to an area that had been a battlefield in which the father had fought. It had also became an area which was designated as a dumping ground, the army was hauling all of the wire and left over stuff there from the war." Jonathan cleared his throat. "The boy was ordered to climb over or through the wire and if he came out alive on the other side, he would be allowed his daughter's hand in marriage with the fathers blessing. The man dove in and halfway into it, unexpectedly, so did the daughter, not willing to leave her lovers side. Torn to shreds, they both made it almost to the end, but the girl bled to death, as legend has it, mere feet from freedom and the boy could not untangle his lovers body from the wire. Legend also has it he refused to leave his lovers side, dying a week later from exposure and starvation, others say a broken heart, and that he returns from the grave to test lovers and their commitment to eachother, playing kind of the devils advocate." Jonathan turned away from the image on the screen. "He feels that if he was tested, why shouldn't others be, we think that's his motive, anyway. Some say he's a curse if he shows up to test you, others say he's a blessing. Some claim that if you pass his test, no harm shall ever fall upon your lives or your love after."

"So this tester, does he toss couples into a mass of razor sharp wire everytime?" Nick asked.

"We don't know."

"Do we know if he has any ability's to change his appearance?" Kate was the second to ask.

Jonathan looked to the floor for the answer. "No."

"So in other words, as usual, we have nothing to go on." Nick's eyebrows raised when Jonathan jumped.

"We do know something. The man is in search of a love that will not faulter when tested, but only become stronger. It is said that when he finds it, he can be rejoined with his lost love, no longer making him a threat to anyone."

"Ah, tough love in other words. Nice." Kate rolled her eyes. "How romantic."

"How do we kill him?" Nick smiled and Kate sighed.

"You can't, he can only be satisfied with a strong love."

"Not even a snickers bar would do the trick?" Nick scoffed.

"Nick." Kate scolded.

"Snickers really satisfies." The only one who laughed was Nick, and of course Carl, who was just trying to brownnose in case evidence of one of his recent robberies fell into the detectives hands.

"Now that...is going to be a hard thing to find in this day and age let me tell ya, belive me, I know better than anyone. In any day and age really." Everyone turned to see the man that spoke besides Nick. He didn't have to. Brian walked to the other side of Kate and smiled at her. The corners of Kate's mouth turned up slightly, but when the Captain ordered everyone to get back to work, she followed Nick. Brian walked into the Captain's office. Although he pretended not to, Nick was watching every move he made. Being two steps ahead of Syler was exactly what Nick wanted. He wasn't at all suprised when the Captain yelled "Benson, in my office," but failed to include Nick's name. The two exchanged a look before Kate followed orders. With the Captain's door closed, listening in on the conversation was useless. Kate returned moments later.

"I've got to go." Kate flashed Nick a folder before putting on her jacket. "This just has to be wrapped up before we can close the case out." She didn't look happy. "Want to grab some lunch later on?"

Nick glanced over her shoulder and saw Syler waiting for her, like a vulture. He didn't give him the satisfaction of seeing he wasn't thrilled about Kate going off with him, so he nodded his head and agreed to lunch. He sent her a wink before she left. Nick felt uneasy sitting there. It wasn't what happend last night that made his stomach turn, and it wasn't really the thought of Kate alone with Syler, he trusted her like no other. It was what Syler said that came to mind. ""Now that...is going to be a hard thing to find in this day and age let me tell ya, belive me, I know better than anyone. In any day and age really.""

"O'Malley." Nick turned to see Carl standing by his desk. The little gnome was running his hand through his beard, a signature mark that told the detective he was really pondering something.

"What is it, Carl?"

"It's good your back." With that, Carl placed his hand on his friends shoulder and turned and walked away. Nick watched him walk a few desks down, than saw him trip and fall over the Link they kept in the floor. Nick's eyes smiled as the gnome grumbled, picked himself back up, and dusted off his shirt. Nick went back to his paperwork.

By the time three p.m. rolled around, and no word from Kate, Nick began to grow concerned. He called her cell, no answer. It wasn't like her not to answer.

"Captain, has Kate or Syler checked in yet with you?"

"Negative, O'Malley."

"Don't you think that's a little strange? Kate always checks in."

"Kate checks in with you, O'Malley. She, nor you for that matter, ever check in with me."

By five p.m. Nick was convinced something was wrong. He decided to drive out to her apartment. He knew she wouldn't be there, but he was restless and something told him he should be doing something more than waiting for her to call. When Nick reached his car which was parked on the street, his cell rang.

"About time." He muttered to himself. "Kate," Nick spoke before the caller did. "Where have you..."

"There is a place that haunts you to this day. It's a place of loss for you, anger, a place that has made you question even yourself for the last three years of your life. It's the place you never want to lay your eyes on again. It's the place that has the potential to leave yet another scar on you forever, if you don't hurry. And yes, she is alive, for now. Where are we?"

The phone clicked, indicating the call was over. Nick however did not lower the phone. He was frozen. His mind raced. He knew the voice on the other end, and it was not Kate's. He knew the place that was spoken of, yet his mind reeled. He kept the phone to his ear for a minute before reality hit him and he reacted without much thought. He threw the car in drive and drove to the house his former partner and lover was murdered three years earlier. He drove to where Kate was.

Nick gripped the steering wheel as he sped through downtown traffic, avoiding several accidents along the way. He barely saw them, his mind was only on Kate and what Syler may be doing to her at the time. His mouth was dry and his stomach was turning sour with each passing second. He could feel his hands begin to sweat as he clenched the wheel even harder.

"Move it!" He yelled at the cars that were not getting out of his way fast enough. The Chrysler ripped through downtown and to the more run down side of town. Dusk was begining to fall across Chicago as Nick's eyes adjusted. He knew exactly where he was going, though he had only been to this location once before, and it seemed like an eternity since he was last there. His mind tried to shut out what he had seen in the upstairs level of the house three years ago, but it came anyhow. The blood, so much blood. Unrecognizable as remains of a human. The metalic smell so strong he could taste it in his mouth. And the anger, the pain. Why would Syler want him to return to that place? Why would he take Kate there? Had Syler done the same to her?

The tires grabbed at the street as Nick pulled in front of the large, white abandon house. Most of the windows were long since broken out, and in this lighting, with the sun rapidly going down, it looked even less inviting. Nothing could have made Nick go back into that place, nothing. Well nothing besides Kate. He ran up the five steps to the front door. He yanked it open hard enough to make the rotton wood come off it's hinge on the top.

"Kate!" "Syler!" Nick withdrew his service weapon and carefully entered the breezeway, than the kitchen. The years of Illinois weather definatly showed it's wear on the old house. He was loosing light fast as he entered the living room. "Kate! Kate! Say something Kate! Syler, you son of a bitch, Syler, where are you?" Nick's palms and forehead now were sweating bad. He found it hard to keep his weapon steady in front of him as his hands shook. His whole body shook for that matter.

"Shh, no need to yell. Besides, you'll wake her."

Nick whipped around to see Syler standing over Kate, who was unconcious and laying on the dusty floor on her side, facing away from Nick. He couldn't tell if she was injured or not. Nick pointed the weapon straight for Syler's head, but his eyes continued to glance back to the lady on the floor. "Is she hurt?" Nick's voice was strong but fear could be heard in it. "What did you do to her? Get away from her."

"Did I hurt her?" Syler laughed. "I'm not the one that's going to hurt her, Nick. You are." Syler looked at Nick with a coolness that frightend Nick.

"I said get away from her, or I'll blow you to peices." Nick's face was stone.

Syler's arms went outward at each side, indicating he didn't want a problem. "As you wish. She's all yours." There was a tone in his voice and a way in his body language that told Nick it wasn't going to be that easy. But Nick took what he could get. Keeping his weapon aimed on Syler, Nick steadily approached Kate, kneeling down by her.

"Don't move."

"I'm not movin'." Syler chuckled.

Nick carefully pulled the hair away from Kate's face. Aside from some bruising on her wrists and one on her cheekbone, he could see no injuries on her. But she wasn't moving. He checked for a pulse. He felt it on her neck. "What's wrong with her. What did you do to her." Nick repeated as he again stood up, aiming his gun at Syler with more dedication now.

Brian pointed at her. "What you see is what you get, almost."

"And that's supposed to mean?" Nick's voice grew angrier.

"Well, there was a bit of a struggle getting her here, but she should recover fast from that. If given the chance by you."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean." Nick's tremble grew as he knew Syler had the upper hand.

Brian smiled ear to ear. "Time for your test, of course. You passed the first one, barely, I might add, so I have little doubt you'll pass this one. However, I believe in giving the benifit of the doubt, so I'll give you a shot."

"Your The Tester." Nick lowered his weapon a few inches, knowing it wouldn't do much good anyway.

"And you only have one chance at this." Syler leaned comfortably up against the wall. He put his finger up to his lips to signal Nick to be quiet. Than he pointed down the hall that was behind him. "Watch."

Nick wasn't sure if it was a trick or not, but he soon caught sight of himself, and Julie. It was like a movie playing out before him, their actions that day when they entered the house chasing the Link that killed her. He could hear them talking, agreeing to split up. He heard himself send her upstairs, as he continued down the hallway out of sight. He watched Julie make her way carefully up the stairs. "Julie, don't!"

Brian laughed. "She can't hear you..."

"You bastard." Nick again raised his gun out of anger, even though he knew it would do no good.

"But there is a way to stop it. You can save her."

Nick stopped breathing for a second. His eyes lost sight of Julie as she continued up the staircase.

"But you have to hurry. She's going to die in a minute or two. All you have to do is go after her." Syler smiled at Nick, but his eyes fell on Kate, who was lying still at Nick's feet.

"And Kate?" Nick's eyes went from Syler, to Kate, to the stairs, and back to Brian.

Syler formed his mouth to a tight "O" and took a whistle in. "Leave her now, and you'll never see her again. She becomes mine than, like all the others who failed. An endless sleep which only I can wake her from. But you'll have Julie. It's your choice, and you have to make it soon, time's a waistin'."

Nick heard a door slam upstairs. Seconds left. Nick swallowed the sickness that came up to the top of his throat. He leaned down by Kate, picking her up. "Wake her up, now!" Nick ordered.

"Is she your choice?" Syler's smile went away and his face was serious for the first time since Nick met him. "If I wake her, you say goodbye to your life with Julie forever. Is that what you want?"

"Give her back to me." Nick stretched his arms which held Kate's lifeless body out to Syler. Brian studied Nick for a moment. He than walked past Nick and Kate, and out of the house. Nick fell with Kate to the floor. He held her close. In his mind, he knew he had lost Kate, and Julie. The sounds from upstairs never continued, they stopped with the slam of the door. Nick was grateful for that.

Nick held Kate in his arms in the corner for most of the night. Darkness had fallen on the house and he could see very little. He knew she was gone, from any form of concious living, but he held her anyway. He couldn't cry anymore, as there were no more tears left inside him. Reluctantly, he forced himself to get up, and take Kate back to headquarters. The lab team he knew could do nothing for her, but accepting he'd lost her was something he was unable to do. He gently picked her up and carried her to his car.

The mood around the station was very dim, noone knew what to say. The medical team cleared out with the Captain, who laid his hand on Nick's shoulder. "You know you did everything you could do for her. I know that. We will take care of things from here on out, Nick. I am so sorry for your loss." Nick was left almost alone with her. Only Carl stayed.

Neither man nor gnome said nothing.

"Nick?"

Nick raised his head from where it rested on Kate's hand.

"Nick, um, I think you need to come and take a look at something." Jonathan stood half in and half out of the doorway.

"Leave me alone with her." Nick put his head back down.

"No, Nick, you REALLY need to come look at this, now."

Nick could hear a smile on Jonathan's face when he spoke, and anger built up in him.

"Thing's may not be as they appear. Follow me."

Something in Nick followed Jonathan, though he felt as lifeless as Kate.

"I was going over some files and stuff, when I looked up and saw this." Jonathan clicked on the image of the field again. Nick stared in disbelief.

The field was as before. The wire, still in place. Only instead of a man looking down into it, hopelessly, he stood with his back to it, a woman in white at his side. The image of the couple lasted only seconds, than it vanished, leaving only the picture of an open field. Long enough for O'Malley to realize what it meant. He rushed from the office area and back to Kate. Within moments she was holding Nick's hand back, slowly coming out of her sleep.

Carl pushed the lab team out. Even the gnome knew it was a moment they should share between just the two of them. He retreated back to the Captain's office. In silence, both reflecting on the events which were now behind them, they smoked a cigar, curtosy of Page.

"I think it's safe to say a vacation is probley what we all need, detective." Captain Page sat further in his chair. "Any idea where the two of you will be going?"

O'Malley thought for a minute. "Just away for awhile, sir. We'll let you know next week when we get back where we ended up."

The Captain nodded his head and studied his cigar. "I don't know if I should tell you this, or if I would even want to know or not if I was you, but there was nothing you could have done to save Julie. Best he could have done for you is killed you. If that's what you believe, than in death you would have been reunited with her. But that's all. Take it for what it's worth, detective. You made the right choice."

O'Malley turned to look out the office window down to the desk where Kate was making the necesarry preparations before they both left for the week. Nick smiled to himself. He had healed a very old wound. He had finally overcome the anger, and jumped right into acceptance. And in the same case, he had opened up his heart for the second and last time in his life. He loved Kate and knew he would spend his life with her. "I know I did, Captain."

"Um, Nick, got a second?" Jonathan as usual stampered with his words.

"I'll meet you down in the car." Kate gave Nick a loving look and left Jonathan with Nick.

"What is it?"

"Just for my notes, and my own curiosity, was it a curse or a blessing?" Jonathan waited for Nick to think.

After a minute, Nick looked Jonathan in the eyes and simply smiled, walking away.

He wasn't sure how to answer it. Not at that time, anyway. In time, Nick would come to realize that if it were not for Brian Syler, Nick just may have let this love slip through his fingers.

When Nick got in the drivers seat, headed to a place unknown, Kate asked him a question of her own. "So, any regrets?"

Nick looked over at her before putting the car into drive. "Just one."

Kate's eyebrows raised. "Oh yeah? What's that?"

Nick sighed. "I didn't get to kill any Links."

Kate rolled her eyes and nestled in next to him for the long ride.

Twenty minutes into their trip, they would realize they were not as alone as they thought. A four foot tall Link lay in the trunk of their car, sipping coffee, reading the paper. But hey, at least Nick could compensate for not killing anything this time by pounding on the gnome, right?

The End