Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Missing Scenes Collection

Burton Awards 2001 NomineeSummary: A missing scene for Sentinel Too, part 2; set when Blair is still in the hospital and Jim and Simon have not left for Mexico.

Spoilers: Major ones for S2.1 and S2.2, plus assorted quoted dialogue (most of which I've done by memory, so excuse any slight variances) and references to a handful of episodes, among them Switchman, Rogue, Flight, Warriors, and Poachers. Also, for literary ease, I'm assuming Sierra Verde (wherever that is -- and even if it's real) has an airport of its own.

I wasn't too sure about doing an epilogue for S2.2 since I did two for S2.1 and I pretty much covered all the emotional bases in those two fics, at least the second one, 'Souls' Crossing', and I know would have a hard time coming up with anything new to say. But upon rewatching and thinking and discussing with Robyn, I found a few places I thought could use some missing scenes written and in this way, also maybe give a bit more closure than we received -- or didn't receive -- in the episode; however, it is not an epilogue, so be warned, I do not address a lot of what went on in the actual episode. In my view, I think something happened between Jim and Blair before they all got to Mexico, as well as Blair doing some serious thinking to explain why he was so calm and why the two of them were more or less back to normal so quickly. In any case, here's my offering to the S2.2 scenes and stories gathering in the TS ficworld....it is much, much longer than I anticipated it being, but when the muse tells me to do something, I try to obey. <g>

A special HUGE thank you to Robyn for helping me fine-tune this story -- which we thought was never gonna get done! She beta's all my stuff and I love her for it. She is so wonderful! I don't know anyone else who can decipher my odd phrasing and strange choices of words and figure out what I meant to say and how to say it better so the readers can understand just what the heck I'm talking about. <g> I should be thanking all along, but I haven't been. ::bad Becky:: Robyn is just the greatest. Any and all remaining mistakes are mine.

The gorgeous artwork is by Laurence.

Journey of One
missing scene for Sentinel Too, Part Two
by Becky
February 1999

<<...."I can't leave you alive."....>>

<<pant-run-pant-run-pant>> <<thwack>> <<whimper>>

<<...."No! He's alive!"....>>

<<....sorry...sorry....sorry....sorry....>>

<<...."I can't leave you alive."....>>

<<run-run-run-run>> <<smack>> <<splash>>

<<...."No! Don't you go!"....>>

<<....white-out....>>

*************************

He looks so young.

The dark-haired man on the bed didn't stir from his deep sleep as his visitor stood above him, next to the bed, just watching him. Didn't do so much as sigh or shift on the bed when one large hand skimmed across his arm for a moment, before withdrawing to grip the bed railing tightly. Didn't react when the hospital room quiet filled only with the soft beeping of hospital monitors and voices drifting down the hallway from the nurses station was overlaid by a soft, regretful whisper.

"Definitely too young to die."

But he did.

Raising his hand, Captain Simon Banks pulled off his glasses and rubbed his fingers across his eyes. Even the knowledge, visible right in front of him, that Blair Sandburg was alive and well, couldn't take away the memory of seeing him unbreathing, unmoving, with no heartbeat, drowned, laying on the grass next to the fountain. He didn't think anything ever would. He hadn't realized until those few terrible moments just how much of a friend Blair was to him, how much he cared for the young man. And when Jim had ... somehow ... brought him back to life again...well, he'd almost lost the battle against his emotions.

Simon slipped his glasses back on and stared again at Blair, wondering just what he should tell the young man, if anything, about Jim's plans to follow Alex down to Mexico. He had the distinct feeling the two men really hadn't discussed anything that had happened earlier. When does Jim talk voluntarily about anything? Blair tossed rudely out of the loft, their friendship in tatters, Jim slowly self-destructing and pushing Blair further away. The whole business with Alex and Blair's involvement with her. The attack on Blair and his drowning. Right now it all felt like a dream. A bad dream.

A nightmare.

Which, Simon realized abruptly, was what Blair was currently having, if the creases forming on his forehead were any indication. Blair's lips pressed together and his head shifted on the pillow, eyes moving rapidly under closed lids. I think after everything's that happened in just the last 24 hours, he's entitled to his share of nightmares. I'll probably be having one or two of my own before this is all over. Without hesitation, Simon touched his hand to Blair's forehead, rested his fingers against the cool skin. At the same time, he wrapped his other hand around the young man's forearm.

"Blair. Wake up. Blair." He kept his voice soft but still urgent as he shook the arm under his hand a little. "C'mon, Sandburg, it's just a dream."

Blair's eyelids flew upwards as he awoke, startling Simon for a moment. Dark blue eyes flitted around his surroundings in disorientation and remembered fear before they finally settled on Simon's face. A tongue crept out to wet dry lips before the young man croaked out, "Simon. Hey."

Straightening, removing his hand from Blair's forehead but retaining his hold on his arm, Simon smiled reassuringly. "Hey yourself. You all right?"

Nodding a little, Blair tried a weak smile of his own. "Uh, yeah, just a ... dream ... or memory, I guess."

He asked softly, "About Alex?" A shiver ran through Blair's frame at the mention of her name, and Simon unconsciously stroked his thumb along Blair's arm in unspoken sympathy.

Blair answered in a subdued voice. "Yeah. Alex. When she came to the office after me. She had a gun..." He trailed off, eyes shuttering closed.

Simon tightened his hand on Blair's arm. Damnit, Jim, why aren't you here instead of trying to fix the loft before we leave? He needs you. "We've got you under guard, Blair; you're safe."

Eyes re-opening, Blair's smile became a little more genuine. "I know. The guys you've got out there, they pop their heads in occasionally, just to see if I'm okay, if I need anything, stuff like that."

"Good, good. I want you to know you're safe." Simon patted Blair's arm.

"And I do. Really. Thanks." Blair fell silent, looking down at the blanket, plucking at it with the fingers of his other hand. "So, um, how's Jim? I haven't seen him since this morning."

Simon blinked, surprised. This morning? Ah, hell. "He's fine, Blair. He's been a little busy following a few leads on Alex. And I think he's been refurnishing the loft. I'm sure he means to come by just as soon as he can." He'd better!

Blair nodded absently, still picking at the blanket, eyes lowered, nearly closed. Simon was beginning to wonder if he was drifting off to sleep again when the young man spoke up, the question nearly inaudible amidst the noise seeping in from the hallway.

"Simon, can I ask you something?"

Hearing the serious tone in Blair's voice, Simon stepped a little closer, his hand still remaining on Blair's arm. "You can ask me anything, Blair. What is it?"

Gaze fixed on the blanket under his hand, Blair cleared his throat and queried softly, "Do you think I'm being too easy on Jim?"

"What do you mean?" Simon frowned, unsure. Too easy? What is he talking about?

Blair shrugged and sighed. "I don't know exactly. A lot of stuff has happened lately, stuff I think we need to talk about. But then, he saved my life, brought me back from the dead, that should be enough, right? At the same time, I feel like he's avoiding me. He was only here for a while this morning, maybe an hour. I was a little ... out of it, so I can't be sure, but... Maybe he's just too focused on finding Alex, I don't know. I've been doing a lot of thinking about the last week or so, wondering how things got so crazy so fast. It just felt so out-of-control, like there wasn't anything we could do to stop it, like someone else was pulling the strings, like this, my..." he hesitated a brief moment, shifting his gaze from the blanket to the far wall, finishing his words in a strangely calm voice, "...death was inevitable..."

Simon didn't know what to say, feeling a shiver of his own work its way down his spine at the detached way Blair talked about his death. After several silent moments, he moved his hand from Blair's arm up to his shoulder, gripping it warmly, shaking it once to get Blair's attention back from wherever he was drifting. "Sandburg... Blair..."

The younger man blinked a few times, then looked back up at Simon. "What? Oh, sorry, Simon, I guess I just got a tad pre-occupied there. This hasn't exactly been a routine day for me here. Life, being drowned, death, visions of a jungle, black jaguars, wolves, evil Sentinels, coming back from the dead, waking up in a hospital with Jim shouting in the background for attention--" He paused, then shook his head, eyes drifting away from Simon again as he gestured with one hand to punctuate his words. "Well, actually, I guess that last part has happened before. Just not the rest. Being dead is definitely a new experience for me. Not one I care to repeat for, oh, say the next 60-odd years, but still..."

The captain didn't know whether to muzzle the babbling young man or hug him. He settled for something in between, moving his hand to hold Blair's shoulder at the point where it joined his neck, wary of the oxygen tubing. Blair's voice trailed off to a halt and he looked up at Simon with wide, dark eyes.

Simon shook his head slowly, regretfully. "Blair, I don't know what to tell you about all this being inevitable or destiny or fate or whatever -- I never understood those kind of things. And as for you being 'too easy' on Jim -- I think that's something the two of you will have to hash out for yourselves. But I do have one very important thing to say to you."

The young man stared at him, hesitance and worry painted on his face and in his eyes. "What?"

Leaning down just a bit, Simon pitched his voice at a low, confidential tone. "Don't you ever, ever, do that to me again. Your death was not something I ever wanted to see. And if it happens again..." He shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment, his mind immediately throwing memories of the fountain scene at him. Mentally shaking those thoughts away, he opened his eyes, forcing a lighter tone to his voice. "Fortunately for me, you're attached to all these monitors or else I think I would have to haul you up and hug you." He rubbed his fingers over the muscles beneath his hand.

Blair blinked, then his lips curled up in a smile. "Yeah, lucky for you. But, hey, I can always collect later."

Simon snorted softly, then slowly withdrew his hand, pausing to pat Blair's arm. "You do that."

A companionable silence fell between them for a few moments, then Blair waved a hand in the air. "If you're gonna stay and visit, pull up a chair. Get comfortable. Well, as comfortable as you can in those chairs."

Chuckling, Simon stepped away from the bed and moved the chair at the wall over next to the bed. As he got settled, Blair fumbled with the bed control and pushed the button that would raise the head a bit. After a few adjustments, the young man sighed. "Better. Do you know how much longer I have to stay here, Simon?"

"I think the doctors want to keep you here a few days at least," Simon replied. "Besides, Jim doesn't have the loft ready for you yet." He paused a moment, then went on. "You are going back to the loft, right? I mean, he wants you to come back."

Blair nodded. "Yeah, I know. When Jim was here earlier, he teased me about owing him last month's rent. Which is true, unfortunately. I got kinda low on cash last month. Anyway, I know Jim. He wouldn't have mentioned that unless he wanted me back."

"Do you want to go back?"

The question hung in the air between them. Simon waited, wondering if Jim had even thought to ask Blair about his preferences. Blair finally spoke up, repeating the question. "Do I want to go back?" Concentrating on the blankets, he pursed his lips, then nodded again. "Yeah, I do. It's my ... home. I mean, I know it's Jim's loft and all, but I see it as my home. Our home, I guess." He shook his head, glancing over at Simon. "Never mind me, Simon, I'm just still feeling a little ... mixed-up right now."

Simon held up a hand. "Don't apologize. I understand."

"Thanks." Blair threw Simon a quick grin, then rubbed at his eyes with a few fingers, touching the oxygen tube running under his nose in passing. "I really hate this thing. I know, I know," anticipating Simon's explanation of its necessity, "I need it for now. Just to make sure I'm okay and all. I still hate it. Though I guess it's better than the respirator. At least I can still talk."

"And we all know how important that is..."

Blair laughed softly, echoing Simon's quiet chuckles. When the young man rested his head against the pillows and closed his eyes, the captain shifted in his chair and glanced down at his watch. Maybe I should get out of here; let him get some sleep. I need to get some things packed for the trip to Mexico. Which Sandburg still doesn't know about. Come on, Ellison, you'd better get here and tell the kid about this before we disappear tomorrow morning. Bad enough that we're going without him. The chair creaked under him as he started to rise to his feet.

"No, don't go."

Simon looked up, seeing Blair's eyes latch onto him. Slowly he settled back into his chair. "I thought you'd gone back to sleep. You need to, you know."

"I know. Just not ... yet. Every time I go to sleep, all I see is--"

"--Alex."

Blair nodded, eyes skittering past Simon and back again. "Yeah. Her. Sometimes pieces of this vision that Jim and I shared. But mostly her. And what she did to me."

"Do you want to talk about it? Alex, that is." He reached up and placed his hand on Blair's arm again. "Maybe it would help. To have someone else know."

Blair looked at Simon's dark hand resting on his arm, then back at his face. "Are you asking for my statement, Captain?"

Simon shook his head. "No, Blair, I'm asking as your friend. Whatever you want to tell me can remain strictly between us if that's what you want."

A few moments of strained silence followed Simon's remark, then Blair started his short tale, letting the words go, barely stopping for breath. "She came into my office with a gun. I had spent the night there, trying to figure out how to fix whatever was wrong between Jim and me. I was waiting for him, actually, hoping he'd come. I never thought Alex would show up instead. She told me I had helped her find out what and who she was, that she was grateful to me for that, but she couldn't leave me alive."

He closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "I thought she was just gonna shoot me right there. But...she hesitated, for whatever reason. My cellphone rang; it startled her, caught her hearing unprepared. She gets these headaches... Anyway, I threw something, a book, I think, at her. I don't really remember exactly how, but I got out of my office and ran down the hall. I almost fell down the stairs when I finally got to the outside doors, trying to get away from her. There wasn't anyone around; too early yet. I started to go past the fountain when I heard her behind me. I think she said 'sorry' or something. She hit me on the back of the head, probably with her gun and I fell. I heard a splash, felt myself getting wet. The water..."

Eyes flying open, he stared at the ceiling. "I knew I was drowning. I couldn't move, couldn't roll over, couldn't do ... anything." He pounded the bed with his other hand. "I could feel her standing there, watching me die and not doing a thing. Just watching me." Pausing to swallow again, wiping a hand over his eyes. "Next thing I knew I was in the jungle as a wolf first running away from, then running toward a black jaguar..."

Simon waited a moment, just to be sure Blair was finished, then spoke softly. "Blair?" The young man turned his head to meet his eyes as Simon squeezed his arm.

"Yeah?" The word came out tiredly, his voice shaking a little.

"I'm sorry this happened to you. We all are. You can sleep knowing that you are safe. Dreams of the past or just the past itself can't hurt you, right?" He held Blair's blue eyes with his brown ones, hoping to instill some peace in the younger man.

One side of Blair's mouth tipped up slightly. "I told Jim that once. A long time ago."

Simon grinned. "Well, then, if we've both said it, then it must be true. A police captain and an ABD graduate student who's also the better half of my best detective team can't both be wrong, can they?"

Blair chuckled, his eyes trying to slide shut on him. "Better half, huh? Can I quote you on that?"

"Try it, Sandburg, and I'll tell Brown who always takes the last jelly-filled donut on Tuesday mornings." Simon laughed softly, feeling something inside him relax. Things were progressing toward normal.

Forcing one eye open, Blair glared at him. "Those are for Jim and you know it, man! Blame it on him, not me."

Simon stood and found the control for the bed, lowering the head of the bed slowly. "Go to sleep, Sandburg, before you pass out on me."

"'kay." Two heavy eyelids drooped downwards and Blair finally let sleep claim him.

Simon set the control down at Blair's side and tugged the blankets up to rest higher on Blair's chest, feeling absurdly like the kid's father for a moment. Shaking his head at himself, he paused, resting his hand on Blair's chest. "Sleep well, Blair." And recover quickly. The other half of my best team needs you. He patted the blankets, then turned away, putting the chair back at the wall and walked quietly out of the room.

Ready or not, Ms. Alex Barnes, here we come.

*************************

<<run-pant-run-pant-run-pant-run-pant-run>>

<<flashes of green, of jungle, of blue, of water, of light, of dark>>

<<of joy>>

<<...."It's about friendship."....>>

<<of pain>>

<<...."I just need you gone."....>>

<<of acceptance>>

<<....."He's my new partner."....>>

<<of rejection>>

<<...."I don't need you or anyone else to tell me who I am."....>>

<<of love and laughter>>

<<...."Maybe you should put that tusk in here, Jim." "Maybe I should put you in here."...."

<<of sorrow and loss>>

<<...."When you're ready to talk, you know where to find me."....>>

<<of life>>

<<...."I guess that makes me Shaman of the Great City."....>>

<<of death>>

<<....."I'm sorry, sir." "What do you mean, you're sorry? This isn't over!"....>>

<<of rebirth>>

<<...."I hear a heartbeat!"....>>

<<....white-out....>>

*************************

Jim paused a moment outside the door to Blair's hospital room, nodding politely to the two guards Simon had posted there for Blair's protection. As far as they knew, Alex Barnes was in Mexico and she thought Blair was dead. But they weren't taking any chances, not with her still on the loose. C'mon, Ellison, just get in there. Waiting isn't gonna make this any easier. Taking a deep breath, Jim pushed the door open and stepped inside, knowing already that Blair was awake. The heartbeat had given him away.

"Jim!" A huge smile lighting up his face, Blair looked up from the solitaire game spread out on the small table pulled over to the bed.

"Hey, Chief. Thought I'd drop by and see if you might want some company." He raised Blair's backpack. "And maybe something to do while you're stuck here with only the TV and daytime soap operas for entertainment." He stopped next to Blair's bed and set the backpack next to Blair's legs. "Oh, and these." Digging around in his jacket pocket, he drew forth Blair's glasses case and set it on the table. "You'll need these to read obviously."

Blair shoved the table aside and dragged the top of the backpack to him, unzipping it and peering inside. "Books! Oh, man, thank you. Including the textbook for my class -- the one I'm missing. I can definitely use this; hopefully I can still catch up. And--" He pulled a large, old book out of the backpack, then looked up at Jim who shifted on his feet nervously. "You brought Burton's book? I thought it was at my office somewhere, off-limits or something."

Jim shrugged, running a hand over his hair. "It was. When I got your glasses, I saw it and sorta snuck it out. I thought maybe you could use it to figure out some of what's going on with me...with us. The vision and all."

Blair smoothed his hand over the cover, tracing the letters with one finger. "Yeah, maybe. Thanks." He chuckled softly. "Though the image of Jim Ellison, by-the-book-Detective, well mostly that is, going across a police line and removing something from a crime scene..." Shaking his head, he grinned up at Jim. "This is like blackmail material or something."

The detective rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything. Instead, he turned and dragged the chair over next to the bed, sinking into its debatable comfort with a sigh. Okay, that's one thing done. It only gets harder from here on out.

One hand resting on the book in his lap, Blair shifted toward Jim, mild concern in his eyes. "Long day?"

Jim nodded. "Yeah. Spent a lot of time putting the loft back together. It was a lot easier to move stuff out, I think, than trying to get it all back in again. Oh, here, I found these for you, too." Pausing a moment, he dug a hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out a jingling set of keys, placing them on the small table softly. "Your keys to the loft, your car, your office, and...whatever else you've got there. I found them on the floor in your office, under the desk."

"Uh, thanks." Blair took the keys after a moment and dropped them into his backpack without another word.

Keeping his eyes turned downward as he played with an imaginary crease on his pants leg, Jim continued. "I, uh, got all your stuff from the hotel you were staying at. Most of it is still in boxes, but it's all there. The furniture, your bed and desk and stuff is all set up, though. I figured those were the important things for when you get out of here."

Only silence answered him and he looked up to find Blair just watching him.

The sentinel swallowed, a sudden thought running through his mind. What if he doesn't want...? He lifted his hand toward Blair, then hesitated, going instead to rest it on the railing, leaning forward. "Chief? You are coming back to the loft, right?"

"Do you want me there?" Blair's voice was deceptively soft.

"Yes. I do want you there. It's your home -- our home." He looked away again. "Maybe I should have said so earlier instead of making that joke about the rent--"

A hand gently touched his, a warm palm coming to rest over the back of his fingers. "Jim, I understood what you meant then. I just needed to hear you wanted me there."

Jim met Blair's eyes slowly, nodding. He turned his hand palm up on the railing, grasping Blair's and holding it, a foolishly happy smile breaking across his solemn face. "Okay." He paused a moment, then said, "It's where--" Then he stopped, suddenly feeling unsure again.

Blair returned the smile and squeezed Jim's hand. "It's where I belong, right?" Patting Jim's hand with his other hand, Blair went on. "I already knew that. Part of the Sentinel package deal." He relaxed back into the pillows, his hands dropping back to his sides on the mattress.

The 'Sentinel package deal', he says. Jim shook his head, the partially amused smile on his face slowly fading as his thoughts continued. Something I'm not too good about following through on sometimes. I mean, I don't listen to him, don't talk to him. I threw him out of the loft! And I let -- I let Alex kill him. Folding his hands together tightly in his lap, he whispered quietly, "I haven't been doing so good with that package deal lately, have I, Chief."

The words fell into the air, echoing slightly in the long pause that followed. Then, slowly, softly, Blair spoke. "Honestly? No, not lately. But in the past, before...before Alex showed up, you were doing great." He gestured with his hands, shifting in the bed to sit forward again. "It's just -- well, I've been thinking about this a lot since it wasn't like I had anything else to do around here besides sleep. Alex's presence in Cascade messed with both of us, messed with whatever ... bond or whatever it is between us, caused us to second guess ourselves, stop trusting each other. And when I started helping her, well," he shrugged, glancing away for a moment, "it only got worse, multiplied a whole lot faster. We're both still a little out-of-balance, but once she's taken care of, I think we'll be fine."

Jim stared at Blair, knowing he looked like a man desperate for a cure to a deadly disease and reaching for the only person he knew could help, hoping they're right. "You're sure about this, Chief?"

"Yeah, pretty sure. It's the only thing that makes sense."

Jim nodded. "Good. I can deal with that. As long as I know what's going on and can control it. This ... compulsion to find Alex is getting to be a bit too much."

Blair frowned. "Compulsion? What are you talking about, Jim?"

Oops. Jim rubbed a hand across his forehead. "I think I'm being pulled toward Alex, drawn toward her for some reason. I don't know why yet. I keep having these weird visions of the running through the jungle. Only I'm the black jaguar. And I'm running toward the spotted jaguar, the one that I guess represents Alex. When we meet, we turn back into our human forms. And--" He broke off. And -- what? 'We start making out, Chief. How 'bout that?' How am I supposed to tell him that? How can I tell him that I start kissing the woman who killed him? Shoving those last few images aside, he forced himself to listen to his partner.

"Maybe...maybe you're still being drawn together for some kind of duel or something," Blair reasoned quietly, eyes watching Jim intently, "like Simon said back at Alex's apartment."

"Yeah, maybe." Jim stared at his hands. A duel. I don't-- I don't think that's what's happening. Not now. I wish it was. Barnes killed my partner! My best friend! Why does it feel like I'm supposed to, to, to what? Protect her? Be in love with her? In lust? Grimacing, he took a shaky breath, letting it out again in a rush, trying to clear his head of the residual images of he and Alex kissing.

Blair's voice broke into his thoughts. "Jim? Is there something you're not telling me?"

"I..." Jim hesitated, almost deciding to tell Blair about the visions. He looked up, met his partner's concerned and still tired eyes and changed his mind. "...am going to Mexico. Tomorrow morning on the first flight out. With Simon. We have a lead on Alex."

For a moment, Jim thought Blair would just erupt off the hospital bed and demand to go with them, even while knowing Jim would tell him no. But a second later, he just wilted back onto the pillows and closed his eyes, raising a hand to touch his forehead with a few fingers, rubbing at his temple.

"You're going without me. Leaving me here."

Jim winced. The words were quiet, filled with accusation aimed at Jim -- and a sense of failure aimed at himself.

"I guess I can't blame you." Blair slid his hand down to cover his eyes. "I haven't been much help in all this."

"Chief..." Jim leaned forward, grasping the bed railing with both hands, knuckles whitening with the strain. "That isn't true! I don't--" He stopped and took a breath, closing his eyes a moment, calming himself down. It wouldn't do them either any good to have a nurse come in, demanding to know why her patient was upset. Eyes still closed, he whispered, "I don't want to do this without you, Chief. But it can't wait until you're released from the hospital -- if Alex sells that nerve gas, we may never find those canisters." He paused, opening his eyes to stare at his partner. "Or her."

Blair sighed, rubbed at closed eyes with his fingers. "If that's supposed to make me feel better about you going without me, you're doing a rotten job, Ellison."

"Damnit, Sandburg! What do you want me to say?!?" Jim exploded from his chair, releasing the railing and flinging both hands into the air. The chair screeched on the floor behind him, pushed backwards at his sudden movement. Frustration framed his thoughts into tense, spat-out words. "What do you want to hear? She killed you! Remember? You wanna give her another shot at you or something?" The harsh words echoed loudly in the room. Blair cringed and shifted toward the other side of his bed -- away from Jim.

Jim spun away from the bed, stalking toward the door, fists clenched at his sides. At the door, one hand gripping the knob, he stopped, swallowing hard. His body vibrated with angry energy, striking at him from the inside, looking for an outlet. Bowing his head, he panted, remembering all too well what happened the last time he argued with his friend. He winced under the onslaught of memories -- the fight with Alex, the fountain, no breathing, no pulse, nothing.

What are you doing, Ellison? Being dead wasn't his fault. You failed him! Not the other way around. Feeling himself pale slightly, his anger drained away as fast as it had appeared, leaving him empty and hurt -- and feeling like a fool.

Taking a breath, he turned back toward the bed, padding across the floor to stand next to it. Blair didn't move, didn't open his eyes, didn't acknowledge his presence. But Jim knew he was still awake, knew Blair knew he was there. He opened his mouth to say something, then paused. Wanting to be closer to Blair, Jim lowered the railing and settled himself on the bed next to his partner. Grasping Blair's wrist with one hand, he closed his fingers around the narrow-boned arm, pulling it down. The younger man's eyes slid open to watch him with resignation-dulled vision.

Forcing himself not to look away at the emotional pain in Blair's eyes, Jim said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it." Feeling his throat closing up on him, Jim swallowed again, then whispered, "She killed you. I almost lost you for good. I can't go through that again, Blair. I don't want you anywhere near Alex." He lifted his other hand and laid it gently along Blair's face, painfully aware of the oxygen tubing against his palm interfering with his soft touch of the young man's warm skin. "You're my partner, my friend. I just want to protect you."

Blair slowly raised his hand and cradled Jim's hand against his cheek. "I know. But it still hurts that you're leaving me behind."

Stroking his thumb along Blair's cheek just under the oxygen tubing, Jim said, "Trust me, Chief, if you weren't lying in this bed, you'd be right next to me the whole way." He slid his hand from beneath Blair's softly, moving to grip his friend's shoulder instead. "I need you well. And whole. Healed." Alive. Safe. "Which means you need to stay here. Okay?"

Sighing, Blair nodded. "Okay. I still can't say I'm happy about you going without me, but I understand. All of it. The cop reasons. The friend reasons. And the Sentinel reasons. Just please, please be careful. She's smart and fast. And," he hesitated, then plowed on at Jim's encouraging nod, "I hate to say it, Jim, but she seems a lot more comfortable with all this mystical stuff than you are. She could use that against you." He touched Jim's chest lightly. "I don't want to lose you either."

"I don't intend for you to."

Blair drew back his hand to shove a loose strand of hair behind his ear tiredly. "I know. I'm just worried." He sucked in his lower lip, chewing on it a moment. "You'd better not be surprised if I show up down there."

Jim shook his head. "That's assuming you can find anyone who knows where we're gonna be that will tell you."

"Oh, I have my ways." Blair waved a hand in the air.

The detective rolled his eyes, chuckling quietly along with his partner. As things quieted again, he rubbed Blair's shoulder with his thumb. "So, are we okay here?"

"Yeah," the younger man breathed out. "We're okay." He held Jim's eyes for a moment, then started to grin as a mischievous light sparkled in his blue eyes.

Warily, Jim asked, "What is going on in that brain of yours, Chief?"

Blair laughed out loud. "I was thinking that this is the part where we're supposed to kiss and make up or something."

"Hmm..." Jim pretended to ponder the idea, then shook his head, a smile on his face. "No, don't think so." He hesitated, then queried softly, "But would a hug do instead?" He opened his arms slowly, still feeling a little unsure, wondering if Blair would allow--

"I thought you'd never ask." Blair moved forward into his arms, resting his cheek against Jim's chest, wrapping both arms around his waist.

Journey of One hospital hug by LaurenceStunned only for a moment, Jim closed his arms around the younger, smaller man, automatically tugging the hospital gown closed at Blair's back so he wouldn't lose any of his precious body heat. A sense of tranquility settled around Jim like a cloak, quieting his soul and all the upset feelings and thoughts arguing for attention in his mind. He felt eminently blessed with such a giving, understanding, caring friend -- and very, very grateful that he had been given a second chance.

He felt whole again.

Well, almost. After he found the woman responsible for this rift in their friendship and dealt with her, and the continual tug to go south was gone, maybe ... maybe ... his life could settle back into some semblance of normality again. He and Blair still had some talking to do, some healing left to them, but at least they were communicating with each other again, talking.

A hint of a jaguar growl rolled around him. Instinctively knowing it wasn't his jaguar, Jim tucked Blair a little closer to his body and focused his senses on his partner, blocking out the unwanted intrusion. Blair rubbed his back with one hand, calming him, centering him, giving him a soothing sort of peace.

Time lost substance and meaning and importance. For a while.

However, Jim's internal clock wouldn't let him forget that he had a schedule to keep. Shifting his arm slightly, he glanced down at his watch over Blair's shoulder. He still wasn't packed for tomorrow's early morning flight. And he needed to call a few friends, make some arrangements about getting a few "extras" for their little trip into Mexico. If he didn't leave soon, he wasn't gonna have the time he needed.

Reluctantly he tilted his head down toward his partner. "Blair?" He kept his voice quiet, matching the mood of the room.

"You have to go, don't you?" The younger man didn't move, just whispered the words into his chest.

Jim ran his hand down Blair's backbone in a long stroke. "Yeah. I'm sorry."

Blair pushed himself up to look at Jim, blue eyes calm and accepting. "It's okay. I understand. Just promise me you'll be careful."

Nodding, Jim grasped both of Blair's shoulders. "I'll be careful. You promise me you'll get better."

"Yes, sir."

Jim chuckled and rested his hand on Blair's cheek briefly, then stood up, bringing the railing back into position. "Get some rest, Chief. And call Brown or Conner or whomever when you're ready to go home. They all know you're here and are under orders to keep an eye on you for me."

"Yeah, yeah." Blair waved a hand toward the door. "Go on, get out already. I don't need Simon griping to me later about you not being ready to leave on time."

Laughing, Jim shook his head and squeezed Blair's hand once more before turning to walk toward the door, waving a quick goodbye as he stepped into the hallway. He pulled the door shut quietly and stood for a moment, ignoring the officers on either side of him, watching him curiously. From inside the room, he heard Blair whisper, "Be safe, Jim."

I will, Blair, I promise.

Straightening his shoulders, he walked down the hallway toward the elevators, his mouth settling into a firm line as he prepared himself for the upcoming hunt. A hunt he planned to win.

*************************

<<Why do you remain apart from him?>>

<<Incacha! What? Where....?>>

<<Why do you remain separate?>>

<<I-->>

<<You must reclaim your place at his side.>>

<<He doesn't want me there. He doesn't want me in the way. In his way. In her way.>>

<<He is wrong. Although he must face this trial alone, he must not walk the path alone.>>

<<What trial?>>

<<He must learn to face his fear, to look for the light, to listen to his soul, to not be afraid to walk in the darkness.>>

<<And why can't he do this alone? He's a Sentinel!>>

<<He is also a man.>>

<<...fade to black....>>

<<Wait! I don't understand!>>

<<You also must learn to listen. And understand. Follow your guide into the light.>>

<<....white-out....>>

*************************

With hurried steps, Megan made her way down the short hallway of the hospital, heading for the room of one Blair Sandburg. Upon reaching it, she halted, hearing beyond the door the muted voices of both Blair and the doctor who was treating him. She focused her attention on the two uniformed officers in position at the door.

"What's going on? You said something about Sandy deciding to leave?"

The first officer nodded briskly. "Yes, Inspector. He told the nurse he was planning to leave. Said something like he needed to go after his partner. That he had to be with him."

Megan frowned. "Captain Banks and Detective Ellison have already left." She lifted her arm to look at her watch. "A half-hour ago. Surely he knows that. Didn't Ellison stop by to tell him?"

"Yes, he did." The second officer pitched in quietly. "He came by last night. We were told he left Sandburg in good spirits, that Sandburg seemed fine with Ellison's decision to go to Mexico."

"Hmm... From the sounds of things in there," she motioned at the closed door, "it appears that he's changed his mind." Megan tapped a hand on her leg, then stepped toward the door. "I'll see what I can do. I can't imagine Ellison would be too thrilled to see Sandy pop up in Mexico when he's still not truly well." Taking a breath, she pushed open the door and stepped inside.

Blair sat on the edge of the bed, an open plaid robe worn over his short, pale green hospital gown, hands minus any IV's or monitors hook-ups, gripping the mattress for support. The oxygen tube lay discarded on the pillow next to him. His legs hung off the side of the bed, both feet covered in white socks, one of which sagged around his ankle. Sandy owns white socks? I thought only Jimbo wore those. Shaking away the idle and unimportant details of Blair's current state of dress, she cleared her throat softly, interrupting the doctor who was currently trying to convince his patient to stay put.

"Pardon me, I--" Megan didn't get to finish.

"Megan! What are you doing here?" Blair's eyes widened and a smile lit his face even as he tried to resituate his robe and short gown to cover more of his bare legs.

Hiding a smile at the modesty of the young man, Megan moved forward, coming to stand next to the bed. She touched Blair's shoulder gently. "The officers outside called the station when you informed the nurse of your decision to leave. Brown, Rafe, Joel, myself -- we're all a little...concerned about you leaving just yet."

Blair shook his head, muscles tensing under Megan's hand. "I have to go after Jim. I can't explain it other than he's my partner. I need to be with him."

The doctor broke in again. "Mr. Sandburg, I cannot approve your release. You need to remain for at least another day or two."

Turning swiftly back to the doctor, Blair spoke slowly, enunciating his words in terse phrases. "I do not have a day or two. Jim may not have a day or two. It has to be now. I don't expect you to understand, Doc. But that's the way it is. Either give me the AMA papers to sign or I'll just walk out of here anyway. Your choice."

A long silent pause followed his statement, then the doctor inclined his head. "Very well, Mr. Sandburg. If you'll wait here, I'll get the paperwork." Two seconds later, the door clicked shut behind him, leaving Megan and Blair alone in the room.

Megan leaned against the bed, watching Blair bring a hand up to his face and rub his eyes. "Sandy? Are you sure about this?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah. I'm sure." He turned his head to look at her. "Megan, Jim is my partner. My friend. Last night, when he was here, I was okay with him and Simon going after Alex. But now..." he shook his head a little, staring at the wall, "Now I'm not so sure. It feels....wrong. Something just tells me I have to go. I have to be there. I can't just sit here waiting and not knowing. Jim needs me."

"Do you even know where they went?"

"I--" He blinked, then sighed. "No, I don't. Jim didn't tell me. And I'm sure that was purposeful on his part. But I'm sure I can find out. If I ask the right people." He glanced at Megan again. "Like maybe you?"

Megan met his eyes steadily for several moments. "And what makes you think I know?"

"Hmm....a feeling?" He smiled. "Because I know you well enough to know you don't like being left behind on this any more than I do? Come on, Megan, please...?"

Sighing heavily, she stood and walked to the phone next to the bed. "I hope I don't regret this later." She could feel Blair's eyes on her as she first dialed for an outside line, then rang the airlines she'd chosen to fly on. "Yes. This is Inspector Megan Conner of the Cascade PD. I need to make an alteration to my flight. There will be two of us, instead of just myself. .... Flight Number 983, leaving at 10:47 this morning. .... Yes, that's correct. Two for Sierra Verde, Mexico...."

~~~~~~

Twenty-five minutes later, Megan stood just inside the loft front door, listening with half an ear as Blair dug through the boxes in his room, first to change clothes and then to stuff a duffle bag with a few basic necessities for travel to Mexico. The rest of her attention was on the shambles in front of her. She'd stopped by the loft once before everything with Alex had happened. She'd seen how it had looked before. And this...

It looks like Ellison tried to rebuild what he'd torn apart and only got it partly finished before he gave up.

Half-unpacked boxes stood stacked against walls. The cushions of the two couches were haphazardly thrown into place, rough corners peeking out amidst several throw pillows and a unfolded red afghan draped over the back of one. The TV sat on the floor in front of the balcony windows. Stacks of CD's lay next to the sound system and the racks. An abandoned mug sat on the eating table in front of a chair half-pulled out from beneath the table. From this morning perhaps?

She was torn from her musings when Blair shot out of his room, the duffle bag hanging over one arm, a coat draped over the straps. "Okay. I think I've got all I'll need. Well, almost." He reached for his backpack from where he'd dropped it on the table. Frowning at the sight of the mug, he paused a moment, detouring to take it into the kitchen and place it in the sink, muttering under his breath about Jim and his house rules.

House rules? She withheld a smile. Ellison would have house rules...

Returning to the table, Blair yanked a couple books from his backpack and dropped them on the table. Then, pausing a moment, he stuffed one of them back in before rezipping the pack. He slung the pack over his shoulder, then walked toward her, stopping to catch his breath. Megan narrowed her eyes at the weariness already evident in Blair's face and stance, but didn't think asking him to reconsider this trip would do any good. Instead, she said, "Nice shirt."

He glanced down at the touristy, flowered shirt and shrugged, a grin breaking out over his face. "First thing I laid my hands on. It's gonna be warm down there during the day this time of year, especially in the airport. And I figured I might as well fit in. You ready?"

"Are you?"

Taking a breath, Blair nodded, moving the backpack strap a little with one hand. "As I'll ever be. Let's go."

*************************

<<....I can't hear a heartbeat....>>

<<....need you gone....>>

<<....breathe....>>

<<....what did you do....>>

<<....sorry, sir....what do you mean....this isn't over....>>

<<....need a partner I can trust....>>

<<....he's gone....let him go....>>

<<....don't need you....>>

<<....no, he's alive....>>

<<....you know where to find me....>>

<<....no, don't you go.....>>

<<....welcome to the jungle....>>

<<....white-out....>>

*************************

Maybe this wasn't such a bright idea, after all.

Curled to one side, backpack held to his chest, Blair stared out the window of the small plane, watching idly as clouds rolled underneath them, disappearing upwards as they descended toward land again, heading for the airstrip.

Maybe Jim doesn't want--no, doesn't need me there.

His whole body ached from being stuck in cramped little seats for hours. On top of that, his ribs still hurt from the CPR, and a headache was beginning to throb at the back of his skull where a knot marked Alex's brief intersection with his life.

I mean, he has Simon with him. And it's not like I really know what's going on with him and Alex. Especially since I know he isn't telling me everything...

The long hours in the plane had given him plenty of time -- too much time -- to think about his decision, to wonder about and pull apart the dream, the vision, the ... whatever it was I had in the hospital. What a way to wake up in the morning. 'Yes, doctor, I need to leave because Jim's shaman, well, former shaman, you know, Incacha, he told me to. Oh, did I mention he died last fall?' Sighing, he tried to shift in his seat, but didn't do more than wiggle. Next to him, he heard Megan begin to wake up from the semi-drowse she'd fallen into about the third hour into the flight.

At least one of us will be more or less alert.

Sleep had pretty much escaped him -- as it had been doing for the past week or so anyway, but more on the last day or so. Trying to sleep in a hospital was hard enough for him, but after the fountain... Jumbled and mixed-up memories of Alex, of his death, of Jim's rejection, of just how wrong everything had gone filled his dreams, spilling over into his waking moments at unexpected times. In sleep, images and words and sounds tumbled over each other until he woke up, heart beating too fast, emotions ranging from sadness to anger to hurt to loneliness, all threatening to push him over the edge.

And then there were the visions...

Reclaim my place at his side. Yet he has to do this alone. He moved a hand from holding his backpack to rub at his forehead. The headache was making its way forward slowly. Just what is that supposed to mean? Learn to listen? I know how to listen. I just don't have anyone to listen to. "Damnit, Jim, how am I supposed to know what to do, to know how to help you if you don't talk to me?" The words were growled out under his breath. No, that isn't fair. The momentary anger vanished. He talked to me before he left. As much as he could. Time was against us -- it has been from the beginning of this whole mess. But we talked. We ... reconnected.

He bit his lower lip, holding back both the short burst of hysterical laughter that wanted to appear at such a "new age" word and the sob that he knew would follow it. With such little sleep and being so far away from his partner and Alex still on the loose, it was all he could do sometimes to hold himself together. Just stay focused. When we're back home again, in the loft, just the two of us, we'll figure out the rest.

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, reaching the calm he knew would need to get through the next few days. His ribs protested and he winced a little, but succeeded in pushing away the pain little by little. The headache receded, banished for the moment as he found his center.

"Sandy? You okay?" A gentle hand touched his shoulder.

Opening his eyes, he glanced over his shoulder and found Megan's concerned eyes fixed on him. He turned in his seat, sitting back against the uncomfortable, mostly hard padding. "Yeah, I'm okay."

Megan frowned at him, her hand still on his shoulder. "You didn't sleep, did you." A statement rather than a question.

He shrugged. "A little. Not much. Too stressed." He didn't think she needed to know about the nightmarish scenes that painted themselves too often and too readily on the inside of his eyelids. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine."

An unsatisfied look on her face, Megan waited until the announcement of their imminent landing went by, then moved closer to Blair, tilting her head down. "Sandy, considering everything that's happened in the last few days, I would have to be a fool not to worry about you. No matter what you told me back at the hospital, I still don't think you should be traipsing all over Mexico looking for a murderer and stolen nerve gas canisters."

"Attempted."

"What?" Megan looked confused.

"I'm not dead. Shouldn't it be an 'attempted' murderer? Or does that make any sense?" Blair paused, then shook his head. "Oh, wait, the guard. I forgot about him. Never mind."

Megan laid a hand on his arm. "I wasn't thinking of the guard, Sandy. She killed you. I don't know how Jim did it -- and frankly, I don't care -- but he brought you back when the paramedics had given up. That makes Alex Barnes a murderer in my book."

Blair stared at her, speechless for long moments. Then, finally, he swallowed and looked away, fixing his eyes on the ground below them and the mountains in the distance. "I-- Yeah. I guess she did kill me, didn't she? It just really hasn't sunken in yet. I mean, Simon's said it, Jim's said it, even I've said it. But--" He broke off again. I'm too tired to be thinking about this kind of stuff. What am I now? Post-dead or something? What does that make me? Who am I?

Words and memories of words floated to him from the past, answering his question and pointing him to the right path.

<<...."Every Sentinel had someone to watch his back."....>>

<<...."He's my new partner."....>>

<<...."He is your Guide, so to speak."....>>

<<...."He passes on the Way of the Shaman to you."....>>

<<...."I guess that makes me the Shaman of the Great City."....>>

"¡Bienvenidos a Sierra Verde!"

The loud words and the slight bouncing as the plane's wheels touched down on the pavement of the runway shook Blair back to himself. Startled, he tightened his arms around his backpack with one hand, holding on to the arm of the seat with the other. He stared out the window with wide eyes, watching blankly as trees flew by in a blur of colors.

Shaman. I'm not the Shaman of the Great City. I'm Jim's shaman!

The realization doused over him, shaking him just as the plane shook him at the moment. The responsibility that had come with being a cop's partner faded, overtaken by being a shaman, a spiritual guide, the partner to Cascade's Sentinel.

For a moment, he felt the weight of the burden press down on him, on his shoulders, on his soul. It threatened to pull him down further. He could feel every pain and ache in his body. Sense exactly how tired he was. Realize just how much more tired he would be after this was all over.

No, never a burden. He shook the self-doubt away, sending it scattered in the darkness from which it had crept. An honor. A privilege. But never, ever a burden.

New energy tingled along his nerves, pushing back the weariness a bit. He wasn't sure how long it would last, but he had a feeling it would be there for him until Alex was dealt with. I can sleep on the way back, when Jim's sitting next to me. When I'm sitting next to him. Where I'm supposed to be. Where he's supposed to be.

A few doubts and questions still assailed him. Doubts about what Jim would do when he showed up, Megan in tow. Questions about why Jim was being drawn to Alex so firmly. Doubts about this trial Jim had to face. Questions why Jim had to walk it alone. Doubts about just what would happen if Alex found the Temple of the Sentinels before Jim did. Questions about his role in all this.

Doubts that he would still be awake when they found Jim and Simon's hotel. Questions about whether or not he'd have time for a quick nap.

But in the end, Blair knew one thing for sure.

You may have to face this trial alone, Jim, but you won't walk to it or back from it that way. That journey belongs to both of us -- together.

- The End -