A missing scene and epilogue from TS by BS
These scenes begin a couple of days after Zeller shot up the precinct. Blair hasn't cleaned out his office at Rainier yet and Simon is still in the hospital. I have no idea if this is how a real police department would or could deal with this situation. Cascade PD is a fictional creation for television and we all know how real what we see on TV is....So, I figure anything plausable will work.This is the best I can do for plausible, my muse buys it anyway.
Jim woke at the feeling of someone sitting heavily on his bed.
"Chief?" He hadn't heard Blair come up the stairs in his stockinged feet. He glanced at the clock, after three am, "You ok?"
"Can't lay on the sofa not sleeping anymore."
Naomi was staying in Blair's room, leaving Blair with the sofa.
Blair sighed, "I keep having these weird dreams."
Jim propped himself up against the railing. "You wanna talk about it?"
"Not really, I don't think they really mean anything. They're just a subconscious reaction to everything that's been going on. If this is as bad as it gets, I'll be doing good."
"Chief, are we ok?"
Blair left his body facing the stairwell, his back to the bed but he turned his head to look at Jim in the darkness. "At the hospital when you said this sentinel thing was my whole life, you were right. It is my whole life, my whole life. The morning Naomi arrived, I had just finished the first draft of the dissertation but when she wanted to see it, I didn't feel right about it. Like it was finished but there was still so much more to be done. I thought it just needed polishing, revising. If I changed all the names it would make it feel right or at least better, but that wasn't it. It wasn't right because what we've been doing the last three years isn't a dissertation. It's only the beginning of a life's work, my life's work. Then, I realized that a little public humiliation and loosing my job was a small price to pay to protect what we have, our friendship and a lifetime's worth of research yet to come. Did I want it to happen this way? No way, but we're ok now and that's what's important, the rest is all side effect. And it's kinda nice to know that when I'm old and gray and finally get around to publishing, I might end up with a Nobel Prize," Blair grinned knowing his sentinel would see it in the darkness.
"Now that's an award worthy of a life's work," Jim sat up and pushed himself over to sit behind his guide. His bandaged left leg stretched out stifly beside him. He grasped Blair by the shoulders and gently began to kneed the stressed muscles in his neck and shoulders. "I know it's been a rough few days, Chief. My fear-based response' to all this didn't help matters either. I was wrong, stupid."
"No, you were scared, afraid that you wouldn't be able to do your job, that you couldn't protect the tribe and judging from the press mob following you around, rightly so. Recognizing what you're doing is the first step toward changing the behavior, you know."
"Yeah, well, we'll see about that. What happens now?" Jim moved further down Blair's t-shirt covered back, still finding knots to work out.
"Now, I have to find a new career, one that will still allow me to be a police observer. We've gotta come up with a new reason for me to hang out with you. I'm still a little lost on that one."
"We'll work it out somehow, Chief. We'll figure it out together."
Blair nodded, "I know, I'm just tired, too tired to think straight. That's probably why these silly dreams are keeping me up."
"Probably." Jim moved back up to his shoulders. "When are you going to go clean out your office?" He asked quietly.
"I have to do that in the next day or two. I should go tomorrow and get it over with."
"You want me to come with you?"
"No, that's something I need to do solo."
"I'll go down and make some room in the storage area in the basement."
"I'll take a couple of days off after Naomi leaves and we'll go fishing or something. I think we could both use some down time to relax without the distractions. We need some time for us to just be together."
"Reconnect the sentinel and the guide? Yeah." Blair chuckled, "though you're doing a pretty good job connecting right now. The fishing sounds great, too," Blair was beginning to sag with the release of his tension.
Jim gave his shoulders a little shake, "And next time, don't wait until you're so full of knots you can't sleep before coming to me."
Blair nodded tiredly, "Ok." He turned to look at Jim in the dim moonlight and found his sentinel with a strange smile on his face. "What?" He could swear that Jim nearly blushed.
Jim shook his head, dismissing the idea, "It's just a sentinel thing, Chief."
"What?" Blair was intrigued.
"For the last week, I have this incredible urge to protect you from all this mess we've gotten ourselves into but I can't protect you from it." Jim pulled back the covers and pushed himself back up to the pillows. "I kept asking myself through this whole thing, what I was going to do if you went away. I couldn't stop you. I can't tell you what to do with your life. So, I pushed you away when I needed you most, when I needed to be protecting you. I was as afraid you were going to leave as I was of what was happening. You did everything right, Sandburg, you just couldn't stop the snowballing. And out of control scares me. "
Jim patted the sheet beside him, "Let me chase away the bad dreams r one night, Chief. I need to protect you, even if it's just for a little while.'
"It's funny, Jim, because I think I need to feel protected."
"Not funny, I'm a sentinel, you're my guide. It's genetic or so you keep telling me."
"Yeah," Blair burrowed under the covers, "Thanks Jim. This has gotta be better than the couch."
The sentinel woke with the sun, one arm still cradling his guide. Blair was sleeping peacefully at last. Jim admitted to himself that he felt better at this moment than he had in days. He was beginning to think that Sandburg was right about this connection they shared. At this moment, this felt like the most natural thing in the world. He hadn't felt this centered and in control in weeks. How could being in physical contact with Sandburg make him feel so right inside? Obviously it worked for Sandburg too. His restless tossing and turning had ceased the moment he collied with Jim's side and he hadn't moved since. The kid was still pale but then, it had been a rough few days on everyone. They had both needed this time. He heard Naomi moving about in the kitchen. He knew he should get up but he was reluctant to release his sleeping friend. Instead, he reached over and clicked the switch, turning off the alarm. No one in Major Crimes would mind him being a little late after all they'd been through. Just a little longer and then he'd get up and face the world again.
Quiet as a church mouse, Naomi Sandburg crept up the stairs. She'd been up and dressed for half an hour and there was still no movement from anywhere else in the loft. Trying desperately to be careful of squeaking the steps she finally made it to the top. She'd been concerned that Blair wasn't on the sofa. Perhaps he'd gotten up early and gone for a walk, but she didn't think so. Her mother's intuition was right again.
There was Blair turned nearly onto his stomach lying in the crook of Jim's arm, head pillowed on his friend's shoulder, arm resting atop his friend's broad chest. Jim's hand even in sleep, rubbing slow, gentle circles on her son's back. The motion had probably lulled both of them to sleep. She stood for a long time watching them sleep and thinking what a pretty picture they'd make like this but they'd both kill her if she came up here with her camera. So she settled for recording every detail of the moment into her memory. She knew they'd be ok, now, the balance was being restored and that was what was most important.
Blair opened his eyes and sighed. He turned his head to find Jim watching him, he knew he would be. "Morning."
"How are you feeling?"
"Safe. I feel safe."
"I've been thinking."
"You told Sid in no uncertain terms to destroy the copy of the dissertation that he had from the very beginning and he didn't, right?"
Blair sat up and faced his sentinel, "Yeah but Jim, we lied about it all, we can't sue Sid."
"No, but we ought to be able to make a wrongful firing stick with the university and you could keep your job. How can they fire you over a dissertation that you had not submitted to your committee? What happened wasn't under your control. You told the press it was a misunderstanding over a work of fiction, You wouldn't have submitted the fiction as your dissertation. We can appeal your firing and get your job back long enough for you to finish your real dissertation on that "thin blue line" crap and get your degree. Then we were going to have to figure out something else anyway but your new dissertation will be so brilliant that the department will have to hire you."
"Sure, every police department needs an anthropologist, doesn't it?" Jim grinned.
"Do I have to go to the Academy?"
"I don't know, depends what Simon works out, you already know a lot of it from on the job experience," Jim shrugged, "I don't know."
"Would I have a badge? Would it be that official?"
"What? You want one to impress girls with?" Jim smiled. "If you complete the academy, you'll have a badge. If not and if you get your doctorate studying the PD, I think Simon could probably sell a consultant position based on the insight you've given us in previous cases that led to arrests. I don't know what job title they'd come up with but we've got a pretty impressive record if you haven't noticed."
"You think Simon will do that for me?"
"I know he will. He'll wait until it all blows over and the press moves on to something else and you get that doctorate. Simon'll give them all copies of your theories into the social inner workings of the PD, the brass loves that stuff you know. They're all a bunch of over-educated politicians anyway and you'll be in, if everything goes as planned."
"That sounds great, man."
"Good, let's go move some boxes in the basement so you can temporarily store your office until we get the ball rolling on plan A."
"What if plan A doesn't work?"
"We go to plan B."
"I haven't been awake long enough to think of that yet. We won't need it. This'll work."
Jim's injured leg kept them at the precinct all morning. Desk duty meant that they were stuck doing not only Jim's backlog paperwork but anything else that came along that could be handled by anyone. Jim and Blair shared his small desk. Jim did the written work while Blair did the typing and data entry. Frequently, Jim would sit up and stretch and hang his hand off the back of Blair's chair for a few minutes while he talked to someone passing by or took a short break. He noticed subtle changes in his guide's behavior when his hand brushed against Blair's back as opposed to when he wasn't in contact with him. Blair was more at ease when Jim was closer to him but Jim noted that he was still pale. He'd have to keep a close eye on his guide, if Sandburg was coming down with something, they'd have to catch it early.
Jim began to test his theory by moving away for periods of time and observing his guide then casually kicking back and hanging his arm off the back of Blair's chair to see the changes in the tiny muscles of his neck and jaw, listening to the minute difference in his heart rate. It was interesting, more interesting than the paperwork.
"Earth to Jim, what are you looking at me like that for?"
"Nothing. Just good to have you here."
"Right, good to have me to do all your paperwork. You've been breaking long enough, detective." Blair pointed to the unfinished report in front of Jim.
At lunch they split up, Blair took the truck to the University to move his office into temporary storage and Jim hitched a ride with a squad to the hospital to talk to Simon about plan A.
Blair arrived back at the station to find he'd beat Jim back. Little surprise there, he was keeping Simon occupied and he was supposed to be taking it easy himself. The hospital was probably the best place for him. Blair blew his nose cursing the dust he'd stirred up boxing up his office as he opened the bottom drawer where he kept a few things and debated if he should go ahead and clean it out just in case Plan A fell though. Blair didn't think he could stand to come back and get the stuff later. It was hard enough cleaning out his office even when he kept telling himself he was only moving it temporarily that wasn't a sure thing. Blair wandered around Major Crimes suddenly needed to engrave the moment into his memory for future keeping. He found himself in Simon's office, so lost to his own depressing thoughts that he didn't hear Joel come into the room.....
....Blair sat down at Jim's desk, suddenly very tired. So much had happened in such a short time, he wasn't sure what to think of it all. He wished he'd gotten a better look at that badge before Simon whisked it away and put it in his office until it was "time." Simon, it seemed, was all in favor of Plan A and felt that he could make a good case, if Blair could finish the "thin blue line" paper but he'd had to promise to find something else to call it. Blair chuckled to himself, after three years in the Cascade PD he realized how ridiculous it sounded himself. Jim said he'd already gotten the balls rolling at the university. Blair wondered what he meant by that? Jim and Simon must have been placing more than a few phone calls before they let Simon out of the hospital this afternoon. Blair picked up the next report and glanced over it not noticing as his mother approached his partner, speaking in whispered tones.
"Jim, I have to go now. My plane flies out in a couple of hours. I called the university and spoke with the president and those two other regents that you wanted me to talk to. I told them everything that happened and apologized for being such a meddling mother."
"No, it's true. I really put my foot in it this time. I deserve some of the blame. I need to learn to stop helping so much. But it's hard. Keep me posted on how things are progressing and let me know if there's anything else I can do."
"Oh, one more thing, keep an eye on Blair, I think he's coming down with a cold or something. He has that aura, a mother knows."
"I will. I'll take good care of him."
"I know you will," they hugged and Jim kissed her on the cheek.
"Come back when you can."
"I will, I have to come see my baby finally get that PhD and the hugs aren't bad either."
Blair stood as she swung by the desk, "Mom, let me get out of this program and I'll take you to the airport."
"Not necessary. Joel is going to drop me off on his way home. You take care of yourself, you don't look well."
"I'm fine and I will, mom."
"And take care of Jim."
"You know I will, mom."
They hugged and kissed their farewells and Naomi turned to go but she paused as she rounded Jim's desk.
"Yes mom?" He cringed at her hesitation. What else had she done?
"I know you said I couldn't read it before but you've already let me read the first part of it. Can I...Could I ...read it now?"
Blair closed his eyes and counted slowly to ten in his head.
"I didn't read it before and I won't now unless you say it's ok?"
"Do you have it with you?"
"No, no, you have the only copies."
"I'll send you an attachment."
"Thank you, Blair. I'll read it and delete it, I promise. I know it's going to be wonderful," and she was gone.
Blair sat down in his chair and closed his tired eyes. He blew his nose yet again. He opened his eyes to see the empty desk next to Jim's. The one that he used occasionally when no one else was using it. He wondered why he hadn't used it this morning? It had been so nice working closely with Jim, they hadn't been doing much of that. Maybe he subconsciously didn't want to move away? He didn't have time to pursue the thought.
"Are you sure that was wise, Sandburg?"
"Giving your mother a copy of your "work of fiction," Jim eased himself down into the chair beside Blair.
"Oh. She's not going to do anything with it. After she reads it maybe she'll really understand. Are you ok with it? I can email her and tell her you weren't comfortable with--"
"Sandburg, easy. It's ok with me. Naomi may not understand it all yet but she doesn't want to mess things up for us any more than she already has. She'll do what she says." Jim gestured to the paperwork still piled on his desk, "Well, I suppose we really ought to actually get some of this completed, huh?"
They worked diligently for about half an hour as Jim completed the really important time stamped items and began shoving the can't wait stuff into a large folder to take home. Blair half heartedly imputted a few forms between sniffles.
At 5:30 Blair leaned over slightly and laid his head on the side of his sentinel's shoulder, "Can we go home, Wally? I'm tired and my head hurts."
Jim chuckled, "Sure, Beav. I think it's time to take that nose of your's home and give it some of your root stuff."
"I got into too much dust packing up my office."
"Nah, I think Naomi's right, I think you've caught a cold."
"Naomi told you that?"
"Uh huh, she saw it in your aura." Jim handed Blair his coat.
"And you believe her?"
"I believe your color's been off for a couple of days now and that you've been blowing your nose all afternoon and you're running a fever. I could tell when you laid your head against my arm. You've been under a lot of stress, it doesn't surprise me that your immune system's been compromised. Let's get out of here, Chief."
After a quick supper of cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, Jim sat down on the sofa, propped his leg up on the coffee table and set a throw pillow in his lap. He patted the cushion beside him, indicating with his hand gestures that Blair should lay down, "Come on, Chief, I feel the need for some more Sentinel-Guide bonding."
"Jim, I'm fine--" Blair looked slightly embarassed at the attention.
The sentinel snagged his arm and pulled his guide down onto the sofa. One hand holding his forehead on the pillow preventing him from getting up.
Jim stuck a thermometer between his lips, "Put this under your tongue, Chief."
Jim lightly held Blair's chin, preventing him from speaking. "It doesn't work unless you keep your mouth closed. You don't feel up to a fight now, do you?"
Blair surrendered with his hands and closed his eyes while Jim stroked the curls from his forehead.
After a couple of minutes, Jim removed the thermometer and held the tiny digital screen to the light.
"Well, what's the verdict?"
"100.1 not bad."
"I don't feel that bad, just a few sniffles and my head hurts a little. I am kinda achy though," Blair conceded."
"Uh huh, sounds like a cold to me," Jim reached back and pulled the afgan over his somewhat ailing friend, "though it might garner some sympathy in your favor if you appear before the review committee all weak and pale and sniffling."
"Yeah, they'll tell me to get out before I start a campus wide epidemic," Blair rolled to his side to see the TV, head still in Jim's lap.
The sentinel absently rubbed his guide's arm. Blair practially purred. Jim smiled as an idea formed. He reached for the pad under the lamp and began writing.
During the commercial break Blair commented, "You think the Beaver's gonna accept that award when his dad wrote the poem for him? Jim?" Blair sat up to see that Jim had precariously balanced the small pad they used for phone messages on the arm of the sofa and was intently scribbling on it. "What are you writing?"
"Uh huh. Notes for my section of our multi volume set on this whole Sentinel thing."
"Yeah, on the proper care and feeding of Guides."
Jim smiled, "If we're going to study this, we might as well do a thorough job. You study Sentinel behavior and I study Guide behavior."
A slow smile spread across Blair's face, "You're serious."
Jim nodded, "Well, my section will be less serious than yours but somebody's going to have to lighten up this thick book with a little humor."
"That is so cool, man," Blair lay back down as the program came back on, "Hey were you studying me this morning at the precinct?"
"I was observing, Sandburg."
Blair shifted nervously on the sofa, "Feels kinda weird, are you planning on observing a lot?"
Jim chuckled, "Welcome to the land of the lab rats, Chief. Now, let's see what sorts of tests I can dream up for you...."
A couple of days later.
"Simon, how are you?"
"I'm doing pretty well, Jim. The doc says I can start partial days the middle of next week if I take it easy. How's your leg?"
"Still keeping me at a desk and they won't let me drive yet."
"Yeah. Listen, Simon, Can I borrow Daryl for a couple of hours this afternoon?"
"Daryl? What for?"
Sandburg's at the University appearing before the committee appealing his firing and we think he'll be gone most of the day. I'm taking off this afternoon and tomorrow. We're going fishing but we need some extra supplies."
Simon chuckled, "And you need a chauffer."
"Right, think Daryl would be willing?"
"Are you kidding, you're going to the sporting goods store. He'd love it. Besides, he's driving me crazy, fussing over me here. It'll be good to get him out of the house for a couple of hours. When will you be here?"
"I'll have Brown drop me off on his lunch. Thanks, Simon."
"Just have Blair call me so I know what's going on with his situation before you go."
"He won't have a verdict today, it may be a couple of weeks before we get a final decision."
"The next session at the Academy starts in a week. I'll have them hold Blair a spot. He can get started and if the committee doesn't rule his way then he'll already be headed where we need him to go and if he's reinstated at Rainier then he can make the decision which way he wants to go at that time. He can always drop out of the academy later. The fire arm's training certainly won't hurt, I'll tell them to put him through that first. Either way I'll see what we can start pushing through in the way of a paid position, just in case. Creating new jobs takes time, it'd be nice to have the paperwork for that through by the time the kid completes that doctorate."
"Sounds like we have all the bases covered, sir."
"I hope so, Jim. I don't like the thought of leaving the two of you without a safety net either way Blair decides to go."
"Thank you, Simon. We appreciate that."
"Next time, take me fishing, too."
"Sure thing, Simon, as soon as we get all this straightened out, it's a plan."
"Jim, what's all this? A new tent? Hey, bigger, that's nice. We'll be able to stand up in this one, well, I will. And a blow up mattress, wow. All the comforts of home."
"I figured with this leg, a little more maneuvering room would be a plus."
"Oh yeah, how'd you get it all up here? How'd you get it at all? You didn't drive--"
"Easy, Chief, I let Daryl chauffer me around. He hauled all this up here for us, you get to haul it all back down to the truck. If you're still feeling up to this. You're still sniffling. Are you sure you wouldn't rather stay here and rent some movies, hang out on the couch?"
"No. Jim, I want to go fishing. You promised me fishing. I feel fine."
"You've been resting for two days, of course, you feel fine."
"I'm ok and we're going fishing."
"Alright we'll go, speaking of going, how'd it go today?" Jim had resisted asking from the moment Blair had opened the door.
The grad student shrugged and moved over to the table where Jim was sitting with his leg propped on a chair. "Hard to tell. They asked questions. I answered."
"Questions about?" Jim prompted.
Blair grinned, "Everything, the dissertation, both the Sentinel 'fiction' and the 'thin blue line'. My 'research' at the department, Sid, we talked a whole lot about Sid and my never giving him permission. I never even gave the thing to him. You were right about that. My department head smoothed it all over. I think he knows the Sentinel thesis was real. He is head of my committee and we've been consulting on it for ages. He went right along with the cover up and acted like he knew all about the police subcultures stuff. I didn't have to lie too much."
"I thought it was obfuscation."
"No, man, this was definitely lying."
"But you feel good about today?"
"Yeah, I think they are going to be fair about it."
"She's not on the appeal committee," Blair's grin broadened, "Too involved."
Blair was silent for a moment, "You know if it had just been my dissertation committee, I could have maybe submitted the Sentinel thesis. I could have explained about the need for confidentiality for my subjects and they could have kept it all under wraps, but even then, I don't know if we could have kept the genie in the bottle. There are always leaks and I'm finding out that with Rainer they are more like waterfalls. It's too big a risk. We're safer with the thin blue line. It's just the dissertation, a means to an end."
Jim's eyes stared a hole right through his guide. "That's all? You're Ok with that?"
"No obfuscations here," Blair held up his hands in surrender. "I think we'd have ended up here either way. I just figured it out faster this way. We're not giving up on it. The Sentinel thesis is now the outline for the multi-volume set. Is that what you needed to hear?
Jim smiled, "Yeah, thanks, Chief. Did you sniffle in front of them like I told you to get their sympathy?"
"Yeah, they handed me a box of klenexes."
"No extra sympathy?"
"You should have given them your puppy dog eyes."
"Jim..." Blair blushed.
"What? They work on me."
Blair sighed and turned the map that Jim had laid out on the table towards himself.
"What's this? Rainier National Park?"
"We've camped over by Crystal Lake before but that's pretty out of the way and the camping is primitive. With this leg we probably need to keep to more populated areas."
Blair nodded, "I don't think I could carry you very far."
"That goes both ways, Sandburg." Jim pointed to an icon on the map, "I was thinking about White River."
"Flush toilets, cool. Looks like we'll have a great view of the mountain, too."
"The visitor's station is probably not open yet but we can get our camping permits at the Ranger station in Sunrise."
Blair chuckled, "And let them know where we'll be so they can send in the helicopter later."
"Sandburg, let's be positive about this. No medivac choppers."
"Ok, no choppers. We'll be real careful."
"Right, you'll need to load some wood from our stash in the basement. We can't take any from the park."
"I suppose the fishing's strictly catch and release, too, huh?"
"Probably." Jim began meticulously folding the map. "If we get on the road in the next hour, we can be there tonight."
"I'm already packed, just have to grab my bag."
"We can stop by Wonderburger on the way out of town."
"Jim, I'm not well enough for that."
"Wonderburger, Sandburg. I'm in the mood."
"I thought you saved Wonderburger torture for Carolyn, nevermind, we'll negociate in the truck. Maybe Wonderburger for you and the soup and salad place for me."
"Sandburg! You get all the food shifted to the cab?"
"Yes sir!" Blair stuck his head into the tent where Jim was sitting on a camp stool, slowly pumping up the queen size air mattress with a foot bellows, "No bears will have any reason to come hanging around here."
"That's good cause this time of year the bears will be hungry."
"I spoke with the people from the other two tents and they've not seen any bears in the area all week. So, I think we're ok there. I've covered everything else in the truck with a tarp in case of rain." Blair dropped his load of bedding, zipped the door shut and began to take off his boots to keep from tracking dirt too far into the tent. "It looks like rain, going to be a cold night. Yes, it's a long john's, flannel shirt, down coat kinda weekend."
"This high up and this early in spring, I wouldn't expect it to be any other way. Sandburg, did you have to bring 'that' hat?" Jim nodded to the furry cap with earflaps on his buddy's head.
"Yes, I did, my ears get cold."
"Well, your tongue never does, it moves too fast to freeze."
"Blair," the man addressed himself as he moved the supplies around in the tent in order to make the bed, "I think the man has just insulted you."
"I know he has," Jim replied dryly.
"Ok, I know I talk a lot, I'll concede that."
"A lot? On the way down here, you acquainted me with the last 1,000 years of Mount Rainier's history."
"It's not a mountain, Jim. It's a--"
"Volcano, I know. I listened to most of the lecture, professor."
"Can I help it if I'm passionate about my subjects?"
"Your passion is what your students love about you, Chief, and it makes you a good teacher." Jim shifted over to the now made bed and began pulling his own boots off, "It's just that your students only have to put up with your passion for an hour, three days a week. I've been locked up in the truck with you and no place to escape. It's ok, Chief, I don't mind it anymore and after this last week, I'm really glad to hear the enthusiasim. I was afraid it might have been subdued by all the mess."
"Thanks, Jim." Blair slid an extra pillow under the covers for his sentinel to prop his leg up on for the night. "Do we really need all these extra blankets and pillows?"
"Yes, we do, just in case."
"Just in case we get like totally snowed in? This is overkill, Jim."
"Like a good boy scout, I'm being prepared."
Jim slid out of his jeans and shirt, leaving him in his long underwear and leaned back into the pillow adjusting it under his head. "The question is, Chief, can you settle down to go to sleep now?"
Blair thought a moment as he likewise divested himself of his outer layers, "Yeah, I think my spring's winding down."
"Good, I didn't want to have to come over there and break your spring. You know this mattress was a good idea of Daryl's. I'll have to remember to thank him. This is not bad at all. All the comforts of home."
"It's not thirty degrees and threatening to rain at home."
"I brought extra blankets."
"You brought every blanket in the loft."
"Nope, I left the blanket on your bed."
"It's got your cold germs all over it. We'll wash it when we get home."
Blair gave up and rolled over. "Night, Jim."
The next morning Jim rolled over to the pitter patter of rain on the tent. He could feel the north wind through the thin canvas and burrowed deeper into the blankets. He sighed at the warmth he found there.
The zipper was pulled letting in an icy blast and one chilled guide. "Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man, it is cold out here."
"You wait until you have to make the dash to the bathrooms with your cane and you'll see." Blair sat down and pulled off his hiking boots before diving back under the covers clothes and all.
"Hey, keep your cold feet on your side of the bed."
"I'm fine. That frigid wind is making my nose run is all."
Jim stuck his hand out from it's warm haven aimed for Blair's forehead. blair swatted it away.
"I"m fine it's too cold to be running a temperature, "Blair shivered and curled into a ball.
"You'll warm up in a minute."
"I thought we were going to go fishing?"
"It's raining, good sleeping weather, Chief. I don't think getting soaked would be good for your cold, either."
"No, no, sleeping's good. My kinda vacation," Blair agreed wholeheartedly.
By lunch time Blair's sneezing had turned into a hacking cough. His cold had been steadily improving at home. Now, it seemed to be taking a turn for the worse. It was time to take steps with ot without his guide's cooperation. Jim sat up and stuffed an extra blanket or two under Blair's pillow to prop him up. "I think we should have stayed home."
"You weren't coughing yesterday." Jim slipped on his coat and picked up his cane. "I'm going to take a walk and see what I can find us for lunch while the rain's let up. I need to stretch my legs."
Blair sat up, "I'll help."
"I can handle it, you stay there and keep warm. I've got some cough medicine in the truck," Jim offered knowing the response he was going to get.
"No thanks, you think how I feel about that stuff. I'd rather cough."
"Suit yourself, Chief. I'll humor you for now."
Jim came back in with 2 sandwiches, a bag of chips, a couple of apples and several bottles of water. He handed a bottle to Blair.
"Rather have tea."
"I know, but it's raining again if you haven't noticed, too wet for a fire. You need to stay hydrated, so drink," Jim handed him a sandwich, "and eat."
During lunch the clouds had gotten obviously darker and a downpour began. Jim offered his buddy the bag of chips in the dim light of the tent.
"No thanks, too much grease'll clog your arteries. It's too dark to read, I'm going to take a nap."
Jim picked up his book, "Yeah, it's really coming down out there. Glad we set up on the high ground last night."
Blair woke himself coughing. He sat up trying to stop it. Jim laid his book in his lap and rubbed Blair's back, easing his friends shudders. "Easy there, Chief, slow and easy."
Blair blew his nose glad Jim had thought to pack the klenexes, "We're a pair, huh? Three in the afternoon and we're still in bed."
"It's warmer this way and it's dry. What else are we going to do without getting drenched." Jim handed him a bottle of water.
The sentinel reached over the side of the bed and produced a zip lock bag with several pill bottles, a bottle of purple liquid and a thermometer.
"Jim, I'm fine." Blair said as he watched Jim fish out the thermometer.
Jim smiled, "Sandburg, stop obfuscating. I could feel the hear of your fever through the shirt on your back. You can't fool me and you should know that by now. It's not high but we need to check it. You haven't quite shaken off this cold yet, that's all." Jim soothed.
Blair allowed him to place the thermometer in his mouth. He laid back down only to sit up again at the sight of Jim unscrewing the top of a Senquil bottle. Blair shook his head and talked around the thermometer, "No man, no way, not that."
"Sandburg, this stuff's only lethal to me. It's a fresh bottle. Daryl and I bought it this afternoon. Grape flavor, it'll help you."
Blair stubbornly shook his head and warned his sentinel, "Don't let it touch your skin, Jim."
Jim lowered his voice as he carefully poured the dose, "Chief, let's concentrate on getting you well, so we can go fishing tomorrow. This stuff will help you." He could see Blair waffling, "There's no place for you to run, Chief and you're going to take this. You wouldn't want to spill it on me while I was forcing it down your throat, would you?" Jim took the thermometer when it beeped and handed Blair the little cup. "Please, Chief? Pretty please, for me?" Blair stared at the cup in his hand. Jim continued, "The question is, if you're going to do this the easy way by yourself or if I'm going to do it for you." Jim reached for the cup.
"I'll do it," Blair answered grumpily holding the cup away from Jim. Jim continued to watch him, not taking his eyes off his stubborn guide. "Oh alright!" Blair held his nose and downed the whole cup in one gulp, "Oh man, that tastes terrible!"
Jim handed him the bottle of water again, "That's how you know it's good for you, Chief. You can't tell me your herbs for this condition taste any better. At least this is grape flavor."
"Yuck," Blair was unimpressed, "how's my fever?"
"Right about one hundred, that stuff I just gave you will knock it. Why don't you try and rest, Chief."
"I don't have a choice, that's not the non drowsy formula." Blair rolled onto his side. When the coughing started again a little later, Jim lightly rubbed his back and his guide was able to settle down. The sentinel wished he could do more for his friend. He left his hand resting between Blair's shoulder blades or up on his shoulder and finally he slept. Jim watched the steady rise and fall as Blair inhaled and exhaled. He could swear that his friend's breathing was deeper while he remained in contact with him. Jim was again struck by the way their connection seemed to flow both ways between them. He wondered just how far the link went. How to test it? Jim let himself doze while he pondered the question.
By suppertime it had stopped raining and the clouds had lightened considerably but it was still too wet for a fire. They had another cold meal and Blair made another dash to the facilities. Jim noted that his color was much improved in the dim light outdoors when he returned.
"I think all this rest has done you good, Sandburg, you look better."
"I feel better," Blair climbed back into their warm nest. "You mind if we keep the light on for awhile?"
"Sure, go ahead." Jim adjusted the pillow under his leg and lay back, "I think it's done me some good too, staying off this leg today."
"Told you, you were trying to do too much."
"We didn't get much fishing done but this has been a nice lazy day. It's ok to take a day off once in awhile and I think we both earned it."
Blair had pulled a blank notepad out of his backpack. Jim watched unobtrusively as he filled page after page of it. "What are you doing, Chief?"
"Working on notes for my new dissertation"Blair replied with a grin. "The intro I submitted awhile back can still be partially useful. I just have to make it lead into a study of the social structure of the department and since you are still the cop who is my primary focus, your place in the social hierarchy."
"Do I wanna know this?"
"You're not going to get personal with this one, are you?"
"Is this a fear based response?" the graduate student asked.
"Remember last week, Sandburg?"
"I'll take that as a big yes," Blair chuckled. "I think this dissertation will be broader than just your little hang ups."
"Yeah, I'll talk about everybody's fear based responses....Simon's, Joels, definitely Joel's."
"Kidding, I'm just kidding. I've gotta work with these people when I'm through."
"Well you better be careful what you say about Simon. He's the one hose going to parlay this dissertation into a paying job for you."
"Oh yeah, make a note, only nice things about the boss."
The next morning brought sun shine and blue sky. Blair was up first and had the fire going in the pit next to the big stone table. He was seated backwards on the picnic table bench soaking up the warmth of the fire.
Jim unzipped the tent and climbed out. He stood a moment to appraise the situation, "This looks much more promising."
"Yep," Blair retrieved the plate of scrambled eggs that he'd been keeping warm by the fire and sat it on the table as Jim hobbled over.
Jim paused beside Blair and gently scratched at the back of his coat, "How are you feeling today, Chief?"
"I feel great. How's the leg?"
"Ready for some fishing."
The two friends grabbed their poles as soon as the breakfast dishes were cleaned up and put away. They took their time making their way down the path to the nearby river, enjoying the spring flowers that had opened to the morning sun.
Blair took up position on the bank while Jim headed a bit farther down stream where he could sit on a downed tree and keep the weight off his injured leg. They were still close enough that they could talk.
"Chief, that hat'll scare the fish."
"Jim, what is it with you and this hat?"
"It's ok, Sandburg, you'll just scare them right on down here to me."
"Yeah, you wanna put your money where your mouth is?"
"I wouldn't want to take advantage of the unemployed. Guy who catches the biggest fish doesn't have to make or clean up dinner tonight."
"Man, I am tired. How many fish did we catch total today?"
"You can't count that one you caught twice."
"I can too. I released him and he came back. Simon is not going to believe that I caught the same fish twice."
"He'll just say we took two pictures the first time you caught him." Jim rose from the table and stretched, "That was a terrific dinner Chief."
"Make sure you put the debris in a trash can far away from anybody's camp."
"I know, I know, bears. You sniff any bears today?"
"No but I don't wanna have to rescue anybody from the one I didn't smell either."
"I think I'm going to go take a walk, Chief."
"Don't go too far on that leg, remember I can't carry you."
"I don't wanna have to rescue you from the bears either."
"Hey, I don't have any food on me. I'm safe."
Jim found a nice spot near the cliff and eased himself down against a tree. The valley below him was serenely beautiful. He found the lush, green, jungle-like vegetation comforting. The sentinel dialed up his hearing and listened to his guide scrubbing the frying pan. He checked his watch, noting the time. As the second hand reached the top, the Sentinel mentally opened his mind and despite the idyllic setting, began filling it with images, images of his worst nightmare come to pass.
He ran up the stone steps of Hargrove Hall but something made him stop and turn. The fountain. His heart stopped then suddenly began pounding in his ears. Pounding so loudly he could hear nothing else....
The guide put down the pot he'd been scrubbing and looked towards the woods.
The water was cold but Sandburg was colder. He was hard to lift. The weight of the water weighing him down. He was motionless, a limp ragdoll. This couldn't be happening. The Sentinel closed his eyes, a single tear escaped down his cheek.
The guide headed into the woods. The Sentinel noted the time.
He tried to breath life into his guide, his brother, but the passage was blocked, too much water. So cold, so cold, had to keep trying. Simon's arm pulled him away.
The guide turned east down the path and stopped. Then he turned west and left the path heading directly through the woods. The Sentinel nodded his approval.
His guide's face was blue. The light was gone. Simon and Brown held him. Helpless. He struggled, no, this couldn't end this way , this was wrong...no...Blair can't leave me. He shivered with the memory.
"Jim?" Blair hesitantly approched, "You ok?"
The Sentinel checked his watch, his smile broadened, "I'm fine. Join me?" He patted the ground beside him.
Blair crossed his legs and sat down facing Jim, not bothering to notice the view, an inquisitive expression on his face.
Jim sat and looked at his guide. His fear of the student completing his doctorate and leaving him behind as another stepping stone to somewhere else was gone. Jim knew he needed Blair but now he also knew that Blair needed him just as much. They each had their 'duties' to the Great City and to each other. Incacha had understood. Their relationship was symbiotic, Jim knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. He couldn't explain it to himself let alone his other half but perhaps someday Sandburg would be able to explain it to him. He was good at explaining things but he doubted that even Blair knew what had just happened between them. He thought Blair suspected they had a connection of some sort. It was part of that genetic encoding stuff he was always talking about when they got down to the nitty gritty of how his senses worked. But this was different, when had this happened anyway? Was he born connected this other person? Was he destined to meet this guide or was this something that was forged along the way in the last three years? Is this what Incacha did when he passed the way of the shaman to Blair? So many questions, so much time to find the answers now.
"Let me ask you something, Chief. Why did you come out here?"
Suddenly suspicious, Blair asked, "Was this a test?"
"Answer my question first."
The Guide considered, "Something didn't feel right. I...I thought you might need me."
"How did you know where to find me?"
"I saw what path you took when you left."
"Uh huh, but this little spot's a good ways off the path. Yet you came straight here. You only left camp four minutes ago. What were you following to find me?"
Blair was silent and still a long moment, then suddenly burst into life, "Jim, we've got to run tests on this. We can--"
The Sentinel placed his fingers against his guide's lips, "Let's enjoy this sunset first," he replied quietly.
"But, Jim, we've--"
"Calm down, Sandburg, We've got the rest of our lives to figure it out." But you're probably not going to let me get any sleep tonight. The Sentinel grinned and pulled his friend closer, turning him towards the sun set painting the clouds pink and purple and the mist gathering in the bottom of the valley below.
Written 23 June 2000
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