A big thanks to Double R for the fine beta work.
K-Mart was running a blue light special on SenToo fixes and I just had to have one of my own. Spoilers for Sentinel Too Parts One and Two. This fixes everything. Yeah, right!
The taxicab pulled up in front of 852 Prospect Street and Blair Sandburg slowly got out. He was very still and quiet as he stood staring up at the third floor window of the loft until Megan Connor's voice finally broke through his contemplation.
"Sandy? Sandy? Are you okay? For God's sakes, Sandy, answer me." Megan pleaded.
Blair focused and shook his head minutely. He had a terrible headache and his chest felt thick and heavy. He swallowed and tried to take a deep breath, and for his efforts, he was rewarded with another bout of coughing that left him feeling even more exhausted than he had just an hour ago. Blair didn't think it was possible to feel worse, but once again he was reminded that the worst was always possible, especially these days. He rubbed his hand across his forehead and smirked at his gullibility. Hell, why not? He deserved to feel worse. He was really feeling sorry for himself, wasn't he? But damn it, was this the course left in his life? This loneliness?
Blair took a couple of uneven breaths when the coughing eased up. He leaned over and glanced into the taxi at Megan, giving her a warm smile. "I'm okay, Meg. I'll talk to you later."
Blair slammed the door and walked away, heedless to Megan's further inquiries. When he made it to the sidewalk, he turned and gave a friendly wave to Megan, who sat staring intently at him through the window. Megan raised a hand, waving in return. She hesitated for a minute and then tapped the driver on the shoulder. Blair watched as the taxi sped away.
Blair sighed deeply, the smile fading quickly and he stood on the sidewalk for a long while, once again staring up at the loft window. Jim's apartment. Not his. Certainly not theirs. Blair snorted in derision at the last thought. No, never theirs. Because there was no 'theirs'. There was Jim's and Blair's and never the twain shall meet.
Blair walked slowly to the street-level door and pulled it open. Mrs. McDonnell from number 209 was just coming out. She was a kind older lady who often looked out for Blair, clucking over him and his habits of not sleeping enough and running here and there at all hours of the day and night with his police partner. He stepped back and held the door for her.
She smiled at him. "Blair, sweetie, you look tired. Are you sleeping okay? Are you hungry? I've made some vegetable soup."
Blair nodded solemnly. "I'm fine, Mrs. McDonnell. Really. I'm not hungry."
"Nonsense." She stated firmly. "Young men are always hungry. Why do you sound so congested? Have you been sick? Where have you been anyway? I brought you a coffee cake four days ago and your place was locked up tight."
"I had to go out of town on a case with Jim. We were in Sierra Verde for the last week and I've just got back today. Jim should be back tomorrow or the next day. He and the Captain stayed to tie up some loose ends."
Mrs. McDonnell patted Blair's arm. "Then that settles it. I'm going for my beauty appointment over at Sally's, but I'll be home in an hour. I'll expect you for dinner by 5:00."
Blair started to protest, but Mrs. McDonnell would have none of it. "5:00 and not one minute later." She ordered.
Blair nodded. "Sure. Thanks."
The friendly neighbor smiled at Blair and set off on the three-block walk to the beauty parlor. Blair waited until she had turned the corner before he released the door and watched it close silently. Then he turned, shoved his hands in his pockets and started walking down Prospect Street.
Joel Taggart was waiting at Cascade International Airport forty-eight hours later when Jim Ellison and Simon Banks arrived from Sierra Verde. Simon and Jim hardly had time to say hello when their friend interrupted their greetings.
"Something's happened to Blair." Joel blurted out abruptly.
"What?" Jim barked. "What happened?"
Simon echoed Jim's questions in a more calm voice. "What is going on, Joel?"
"Let's walk towards the car while I tell you. I hate to waste any more time. Do you have any luggage to claim?"
Both men shook their heads and Joel turned on his heel, striding towards the parking garage quickly.
Joel said, "Megan called me on Thursday. She said she had dropped Blair off at your place, Jim, about six hours earlier. She said she had this funny feeling and at first she wasn't going to let him go home by himself. But then she said she felt silly about it and just went home. Well, she said that about three hours later, she started calling him. She tried for a couple of hours. At first she figured he was sleeping since he was looking badly."
Jim interrupted. "What do you mean, looking badly?"
Joel nodded. "Megan said he was pale and sweating and coughing quite a bit on the plane and in the taxi."
Jim growled, "Then why in the hell did she let him out of her sight?"
Simon grabbed Jim's arm. "Come on, Jim, Sandburg is a grown man. It's not Connor's job to take care of him. Besides, we don't know that she didn't try. Let's hear what else Joel has to say."
Jim sighed. "Sorry, Joel. I'm a bit tired from this trip. Things did not go well. There were some problems dealing with Alex Barnes. "
Joel waited and when Jim offered no further details, he continued. "Megan said that when Blair didn't answer, she decided she had to see for herself if he was all right. She went over to the loft and let herself in with the key you guys gave her. She said the loft was empty and when she looked around, she didn't think Blair had even been there." Joel stopped talking and walking at the same time.
"Megan questioned the neighbors. The lady who lives on the second floor said she talked to Blair that afternoon when he got home. She invited him for dinner but he never showed. The neighbor said he seemed tired and he sounded sick. She wanted to get some food into him, but when she knocked on the door several times that night, no one ever answered." Joel stopped talking and sighed. He seemed to struggle for the right words.
"Just say it, Joel." Jim said.
"Ah, Megan said the entire loft was empty. No furniture. No food. No stuff in Blair's room. She said she couldn't even find the backpack he had been carrying on the trip."
"Shit." Jim growled.
"Yeah." Joel replied as he resumed walking. "Anyway, we've been looking for him for two days and he's gone. We tried to call you in Sierra Verde, but communication in that country isn't all that great. By the time I tracked you both down, you guys were already heading home."
Jim nodded curtly and strode towards Joel's car. Simon and Joel almost had to run to keep up with him. When they arrived at the loft about thirty minutes later, Jim took the stairs two at a time, not bothering to wait for the elevator. He was already standing in the middle of the vacant apartment when Joel and Simon appeared in the door.
"For God's sakes, Jim, what the hell did you do?" Simon asked angrily as he surveyed the empty space.
Jim turned towards Simon and Joel, hands spread. "Simon, I didn't have time. You know what happened. Blair was in the hospital. We left for Sierra Verde that afternoon. I didn't have time to bring the stuff back up from the basement." Jim's hand went to his forehead. "Oh, God!"
Simon moved to stand in front of Jim. "What?"
"Simon, I didn't even think about this. I completely forgot I had emptied the loft. When I sent him home, it was to rest and to take it easy, but Blair, I know him. I know how he thinks and he thinks I was getting rid of him yet again. He couldn't face this." Jim waved his hand, taking in the empty loft. "He couldn't face the fact that I'd thrown him out. He couldn't face the fact that I tried to fuck the woman who killed him. Simon, I didn't tell him he could come home."
Simon grabbed Jim's arms. "How could you not tell him? God, Jim, the man died for you. How could you not tell him what he means to you?"
Jim's head snapped up and he glared at Simon. "What in the hell is that supposed to mean? Everything was falling apart. My senses were out of control."
Simon glared at his friend. His voice was low and dangerous. "I'm fucking tired of you blaming your bad behavior on your senses. I'm tired of the way you treat Sandburg. And for a man with hyperactive senses, you sure as hell don't have a clue. You are an A number one asshole, Ellison."
Joel stood in the doorway, mouth agape, listening to the exchange. He moved aside when Simon turned and purposefully crossed the room into the hallway, beckoning for Joel to follow.
"Simon!" Jim yelled. "Wait."
Simon stopped in the hallway, standing rigidly, his back to Jim, who moved to stand in front of his Captain.
"Simon, please, you have to help me. I have to find him."
Simon shook his head. "Do you really honestly think you deserve to find him? He's a lot better off without you. You aren't the kind of friend Sandburg deserves." With that, Simon motioned for Joel to follow, "Come on, Taggart, you and I will do what we can ourselves." With that, they left Jim standing in the hallway of 852 Prospect with a bewildered look on his face.
Jim Ellison was very angry. He made his way to his truck, intending to start his search for Blair, when he stopped and finally thought about what Simon had just said. He opened the door to the truck and sat behind the wheel, contemplating the Captain's remarks.
Simon was angry that Jim had not told Blair he was welcome back into Jim's home. Why had Jim done that? Because he figured Blair would just know. But how could Blair just know? Jim derided himself. Blair wasn't psychic. Of all people, Blair needed words. Jim was well aware of that, and he should have told him. He knew that now. But after the church and the beach, and after the temple, Jim felt that Blair was okay with what had happened and had forgiven him. Sure, Jim acted badly, but it was his senses. He just couldn't control his senses.
Jim shook his head. Fuck that, Ellison. You could control your senses. Even with Alex on the beach, you could have controlled them. You know that as well as you know how much you love him. You love Blair? Is that it? That's what you're afraid of admitting, even to yourself? That you let yourself be dragged along by Alex's need to mate rather than face the truth? Because you weren't man enough to even admit to yourself that the one person, the only person in this world you want for a mate is Blair Sandburg? You are a homophobic asshole.
Jim sighed. There, he had said it. He looked around. The sky was still blue. Traffic still flowed. The birds still flew. Jim was still an idiot. Jim's head fell back and his eyes closed. Blair, where are you? I love you! Jim concentrated hard. He sent out the mental message over and over. Then he sat up and shook his head. Think, Ellison. Where would Blair go? Where could he be? Then Jim remembered something else Joel had said at the airport. Megan said Blair was sick. Oh God. What if something had happened to his Guide?
Jim fished around in the glove compartment for his cell phone and dialed Megan's number.
Megan answered. "Hello."
"Connor. It's Ellison. I need to talk to you."
"I'm home." She answered shortly.
"Can I come right over? Blair's missing. I have to find him."
"No shit, Sherlock. What do you think I've been doing for the past two days?"
"God, Connor. I'm sorry. Please. I need you to tell me what happened when you last saw him."
He could hear Megan's sigh at the other end of the line. "Okay, Jim. I'll be waiting."
"Thank you. Fifteen minutes." Jim's mind kicked into overdrive on the trip to Megan's. He called the station. "Joel Taggart, please."
"This is Captain Taggart."
"Joel. Jim. Have you called all the hospitals for Blair?"
Joel answered in a bit of an irritated tone. "Of course I have. I've called every four hours for the past two days. All the morgues. The city lockup. Everything. Jim, I traced his cell. There have been no calls since before he left for Sierra Verde. Same with his credit card. Not a single use. He's gone, vanished."
"Not while I have a breath left in my body, Joel." Jim stated emphatically as he ended the call.
Megan was waiting in the doorway of her apartment when Jim Ellison arrived. He nodded to her.
"Jim," Megan said, "I'm going to conduct myself in the manner in which a police officer of this city is capable. I'm not going to let my personal opinion of you color my investigation or my resolve to find Blair. Do you understand me?"
Jim felt a flash of irritation wash over him. "Connor, what the hell is wrong with you? First Simon and now you."
"Ellison, get a clue. Blair is gone because of you. He's sick because of you. For all I know he may be dying, and it's all because of you."
Jim stood stonily for several seconds before he finally turned and sat heavily on the sofa. "I know." He answered quietly. Jim raised his eyes to meet Megan's cold ones. "I don't know what to do."
"Fuck you, Ellison. You sure as hell know what to do. You know what you should have done. You know what you did."
Jim didn't respond for several minutes. When he did, he nodded. "You're right. I betrayed my best friend. I have to make it right. I don't care how long it takes. I don't care what it takes. I have to find him and tell him."
Megan sat down beside Jim. "Tell him what, Jim? If you do find him, he wouldn't be able to take another, ah, episode like that last one. Don't you have any idea, Jim? Really, don't you?"
Jim clenched his teeth and closed his eyes. He nodded. "He's in love with me." Jim stated.
Megan put a hand on Jim's arm. "And...?"
Jim looked into Megan's face. "And I'm in love with him."
Megan's face lit up with a smile. "Finally!" She threw her hands in the air. "Thank you, God! Finally, the man with the hyperactive senses has a clue!"
Jim actually managed a wan smile before it dropped quickly from his lips. "Megan, it's not too late, is it? How sick was he?"
Megan sighed deeply. "Jim, I have to admit, I feel really guilty about this. I knew something wasn't right when I dropped Sandy off at home. I just knew it, but he blew me off and I was tired so I let him. It's my fault. I should have stayed with him."
Jim slid an arm around Megan's shoulders. "Connor, none of this is your fault. Believe me, the blame is all mine. There is no way for you to have known how Sandburg can be. You just didn't know. Blair can be like that. He can make you think he's okay on the outside, but inside, he's not. He gives you that happy-go-lucky face while his insides are screaming." Jim stopped and closed his eyes. "Shit. He did it to me and I let him. It was easier to go with the flow. Pretend everything was okay."
Megan patted his arm. "Then we have to find him."
"You know what I said to him in the hospital?"
Megan saw the need to talk in Jim's face, the need to let someone know what he had done. The guilt was overwhelming, she knew, so she nodded. "What?"
"I told him I wasn't ready to take that trip with him. That trip. Our lives. What we felt. This Sentinel thing. All of it. I told him I wasn't ready. And then I screwed up big time. I showed him that it was him I wasn't ready for, but Alex was okay. I was ready for Alex. What a fucking liar I am."
Megan stood. "Like I said, Jim, you are a bastard, but enough self-deprecation. It won't help us find Sandy. Let's get to work, Ellison."
Jim and Megan sat at her kitchen table while she outlined the steps she had taken to locate one missing Blair Sandburg.
"I tried finding his mother, but I've had no luck. There wasn't any mail or phone list at your apartment to give me a clue as to where she could be."
Jim nodded. "What about Rainier?"
"I went there myself and talked to everyone. You know his car is still in the parking lot, don't you? Well, I passed out flyers and posted his picture on the campus bulletin board. Everyone knows Blair especially since..." Megan stopped abruptly.
"It's okay, Megan. Since I killed him."
"Come on, Jim. You were cold and mean, but you didn't kill him. Alex did. You saved his life."
"I might as well have left him dead for all the good I've done him."
Megan's eyes narrowed. "Damn it, Ellison, if you feel sorry for yourself once more I'm going to do this on my own. I've had just about enough of your crap for a lifetime."
Jim stared at Megan and suddenly his eyes filled with tears. Jim rose abruptly. Megan rose also and stood behind him, putting her hands on his shoulders. "Jim, we'll find him."
Jim nodded and cleared his throat. "Joel said you guys checked the hospitals and all the usual places."
"Yes. And I talked to everyone at the precinct. I called Jack Kelso and anyone else I could think of. If you have any other ideas, let's hear them. You want coffee?" Megan asked when she went to the kitchen area to pour herself a cup, giving Jim a few minutes to control his emotions.
"Yes, please." Jim responded.
Megan poured two mugs of hot coffee and brought them back to the table.
"Thanks, Connor." Jim said, sipping the hot liquid. He drank quietly for several minutes before he slapped the cup down on the table, sloshing the coffee everywhere. "St. Sebastian's!"
"What?" Megan asked.
"The monastery. St. Sebastian's. It's a couple of hours from here. It's a retreat that Sandburg took me to for some R&R a few years back."
"Let's call them."
"This is a very secluded place. Men only, of course. Blair has a special friend there, Brother Marcus. They did have a telephone when I was there with him so let's find that number."
Megan had fetched the phone book, looking quickly to locate it. "No listing."
"Let's try information." Jim dialed 411, but the service had no listing also. "Simon." Jim thought aloud.
Jim called his Captain. "Simon, I need the number for St. Sebastian's. I think that's where Blair is. Can you run it for me while I wait?" Jim paused. He grabbed a pen and scribbled quickly. "Thank you, Sir. I'll let you know."
Nodding to Megan, Jim dialed the number. "Hello, Brother Jeremy? This is Detective Jim Ellison. I'm looking for my friend, Blair Sandburg. Is he there?" Jim paused for several minutes and Megan watched as his jaw started to twitch. "Thank you, sir." Then he disconnected.
Megan looked expectantly at Jim. He nodded. "He's there."
"Oh, thank God. What did he say?"
"It's not what he said. It's what he didn't say. He said, 'I've been told to tell you that Blair Sandburg is not here'."
"Good heavens, he's a sneaky bugger, isn't he?"
"If Brother Jeremy said something that obvious to me and if he is breaking his promise not to divulge Blair's presence, then something's very wrong. I'm going up there now."
Megan jumped up. "I'm going with you."
Jim rose and put a hand on her shoulder. "Connor, this is a monastery, remember? No women. Besides, I need to do this alone." Jim stopped and bit his lower lip. "He's all I have, Connor."
Megan gave Jim a small smile. "I'll be here when you both get back."
Jim leaned over and gave her a small kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. Please let Joel and Simon know what's happened. I just hope I can do this. I hope I haven't ruined a chance for the best thing that's ever happened to me."
Jim broke every speed limit on the trip to St. Sebastian's. He had to park the truck about a half-mile from the monastery because the chain on the gate was locked. He almost grumbled about it to himself when he thought about his attitude. He was getting damned tired of being angry and sullen all the time. He was fed up with his empty life and lonely existence. It was all his fault and he intended to do something about it. Now he needed to do the right thing. And the right thing was to do what was best for his Guide and his best friend. Time to start thinking about someone else's life other than his own for a change. Time to take care of business.
The lights of St. Sebastian's peeked from the trees in just a few minutes as Jim's long stride covered the distance quickly. Jim opened his senses while he crossed the lawn and located his Guide immediately. A sudden overwhelming feeling of depression and sickness slammed into him. He could hear Blair's lungs struggling to breathe. He could feel the fever wreaking havoc on Blair's body. He could smell the sickness wafting from Blair's anguished frame. Jim stopped abruptly when his senses overloaded. He wrapped one arm around his stomach and crashed to his knees, leaning forward and retching violently at the onslaught on his mind and body. After several spasms passed, Jim sat back on his heels, eyes closed, and tried to steady his breathing
A soft hand on his shoulder brought him back to reality. "Brother Jim, are you all right?"
Jim opened his eyes and looked into the face of Brother Jeremy. Jim nodded, "Yeah, I'll be okay. Just give me a minute. Please, Brother, how is Blair?" Jim settled his breathing doing the exercises that Blair had taught him while he turned down the dials to control his overloaded senses.
"Things don't look very good for Brother Blair right now. I've broken a promise by allowing you to come here, but I'm afraid for his life. I didn't know what else to do. Come, I'll take you to him. Do you think you can walk?"
Jim steeled his resolve and rose. He nodded. "Tell me what's wrong." Jim asked as he followed Brother Jeremy.
"I called the doctor over Brother Blair's objections. When he came two nights ago, he was very sick, but he insisted that we all leave him alone to fast and meditate. He refused to let me contact a physician. I reluctantly agreed, but I was very concerned. When I checked on him about four hours later, he had collapsed and nothing I nor Brother Marcus did for him would rouse him."
Brother Jeremy led Jim down one, then another corridor, talking as they went. "I called our private physician and explained Brother Blair's condition. I told him about the drowning and the trek through the jungle." Brother Jeremy nodded at Jim's surprised expression. "When Brother Blair asked for asylum, he gave me a few sketchy details about what had happened to him in the last few weeks."
Brother Jeremy finally stopped in front of one of the small cells the brothers were assigned for their private use. He put a hand on Jim's arm. "The doctor is checking in on him every twelve hours. He has treated Blair's lung infection by providing antibiotics and an intravenous line for fluids and a tank for oxygen. Physically, he has been treated but he is just not responding well at all. Mentally and spiritually, he is very ill."
Jim started to push the door open to Blair's cell, but Brother Jeremy's fingers dug into his arm. "Brother Jim, if you do anything to further aggravate his condition, I will personally see that you are removed from these premises. My vow of peace will not extend to you if you hurt him." Brother Jeremy's voice was soft and gentle, belying his determined words. "Do we understand each other, Brother?"
Jim looked into directly into Brother Jeremy's eyes. "If I do anything that hurts Blair in any way, then you have my permission, no, let's make it my demand, to remove me from his presence. I'm here to do anything I can to explain to him how important he is to me and to try and correct my many mistakes. All I want is for Blair to be happy. Do you believe me?"
Brother Jeremy glared at Jim for a long minute before he nodded minutely. "Go ahead. Remember, I'll be watching you."
Jim nodded and opened the door. A large form immediately blocked Jim's access to his Guide. Brother Marcus stood in front of the Sentinel, a formidable obstacle.
"Brother Jim." Brother Marcus said. "Brother Blair's sleeping right now. You may come in, but please be quiet. He's not had much rest in the last few days. The poor man has had a rough time of it."
Jim spoke softly. "I understand. I just want to be with him. Please."
Brother Marcus nodded. "I'll be back shortly," he said as he left the room. Jim huffed out his breath and when he looked at his partner, his eyes immediately filled with tears and his throat tightened. He crossed the small space quickly and sat on the chair next to the bed.
"Oh, God, Chief." Jim whispered hoarsely as he focused on Blair. His partner's breathing was rough and wet as his lungs strained for air. His face was hot under Jim's hand when Jim laid it on his forehead and his skin was cold and clammy. His hair was matted with sweat and he looked like he had lost at least ten pounds since Jim had last seen him. The drip of the IV sounded like the pounding of a hammer to Jim's ears. He could hear the gentle hiss of the oxygen that traveled through the plastic tube into his nostrils, and he watched a drop of solution hover for a split second before it joined the liquid pooled at the top of the line leading into Blair's arm. But Blair's face... Jim forced himself to focus on Blair's face, forced himself to look at what he had done to his Guide. God, he was so pale and thin and the dark circles under his eyes...
Jim's stomach rebelled again when the sights and smells overwhelmed him. He rose abruptly, ignoring the sickening feeling, and in just seconds, he was on the small bed beside Blair, gathering Blair into his arms carefully. He slid an arm very gently under his shoulders and settled Blair's head against his chest, wrapping his arm around the too-thin shoulders after making sure the oxygen line was clear. Jim placed Blair's hand in his and he curled his fingers gently around the hot skin. He buried his face in the top of Blair's head and closed his eyes, tuning into Blair's slow heartbeat. He concentrated intently; setting the dial so that he could monitor Blair's labored breathing while still listening to the steady beating of his heart.
Jim held his partner close, murmuring soft words of comfort and love. He prayed that Blair somehow knew he was there and that he knew he loved him. Blair never moved and Jim could sense the exhaustion in his body even in sleep. It was not the healing sleep of recovery, but the sleep of overwhelming fatigue and depression.
Brother Marcus returned several hours later to find Jim still cradling Blair. He nodded to Jim when he entered the room. Jim nodded in return, but did not budge. Brother Marcus checked the IV line and changed the almost empty bag for a fresh one. He took a syringe from the tray on the bedside table and injected the medicine into the line. Then the attentive brother checked the dial on the oxygen regulator, verifying that there was an adequate supply for the next few hours.
"Brother Jim, would you like me to show you to your room so you can get some rest?"
Jim shook his head. "No, thanks. I'm staying here. Why don't you go to bed? No use you staying awake, too. I'll stay with him."
Brother Marcus placed the digital thermometer in Blair's ear. It beeped in seconds and he shook his head. "Still 102. I was hoping it would have dropped by now." He made a note on the pad on the small table. "I have vespers in an hour. I'll bring you a bite to eat afterwards."
"Thanks, but I'm good. I'm not hungry." Jim replied.
Brother Marcus looked at Jim solemnly. "I don't remember asking you if you were hungry. I'll bring food. You will eat. Very simple." With that, Brother Marcus tenderly ran his hand across Blair's head. "Get well, Brother Blair. I'm praying for you."
Jim watched Brother Marcus leave. He sighed deeply. "Blair, if you can hear me, I want you to know that I love you. I want you to get well. Please, Blair, fight for me. You will get better. I need you."
The minutes ticked by and the hours passed. When Brother Marcus brought a tray with food, Jim, who had been leaning back against the wall with Blair still in his arms, had finally drifted into a light sleep. He started slightly when the door opened and he touched a hand to Blair's forehead.
"Brother Marcus, he seems to be a degree cooler. Please check."
Brother Marcus looked at the Sentinel. "Ah, yes, those sensory abilities of yours. Brother Blair told me about them."
Jim looked surprised. "He did?"
"Well, yes, of course. It's quite interesting and somewhat useful I understand." Brother Marcus tested Blair's temperature once again. He smiled. "You're correct, Brother Jim. 101. Good. I'm happy for any drop in his temperature. Come. Eat your food."
Jim knew better than argue so he lay Blair's sleeping form back against the pillows, settling him comfortably. The sudden loss of his Guide's closeness caused Jim's senses to spike for a second before he forced them back under control. Jim was tired and hungry and he was starting to have trouble controlling the dials, so he didn't argue. He sat at the small table and ate the food quickly, not tasting a thing and never taking his eyes off of Blair.
Jim rose. "Brother, I'm going to use the restroom. I'll be right back."
When Jim returned a few minutes later, a monk whom he didn't recognize was sitting beside Blair's bed, fingering his rosary beads. His eyes acknowledged Jim's presence, but kept praying silently. Since the monk was silent, Jim knew that he must have taken a vow. He did not disturb the monk's praying, but pulled up the second chair close to Blair's bed and sat with his hand on Blair's leg. Even that slight connection brought some calm to his senses.
The minutes and hours passed by slowly. The brother rose and left, nodding to Jim before he silently closed the door behind him. Jim moved to sit on the edge of the narrow bed, running his hands over Blair's face and body just above the surface of his skin. Once again, to Jim's sensitive touch, his temperature seemed to have dropped just a fraction. Minute changes alerted Jim's senses to Blair's body rhythms while he transitioned from sleep to lethargic wakefulness. His eyelids fluttered, and he licked his dry lips and sighed. The small sorrowful sound made Jim wince. Jim held his hand and spoke to him.
"Hey, Chief. I'm here. Open your eyes." Jim gently stroked the side of Blair's face with the back of his fingers. "Come on, Blair. I love you."
Blair sighed again and forced his heavy eyelids open. Jim smiled at him and said, "Hello, Blair" When Blair's eyes focused, he just stared at Jim, licking his parched lips again. Jim sensed Blair's thirst and he poured a glass of water, dipping his finger into the liquid, brushing Blair's lips lightly. Blair lapped the water from his skin thirstily. Jim put the cup to his mouth, dripping a few drops at a time onto Blair's lips. He licked the water and finally opened his mouth enough for Jim to slide a few more drops in. Jim held his head up and coaxed him into drinking more of the liquid. Even that small effort exhausted him. When Jim lay his head back down, Blair closed his eyes and breathed heavily. Jim could hear the rasp when the air sacks struggled to fill. The rasping sound caused him to cringe.
Blair opened his eyes and once again stared at Jim. His eyes were bright with fever but dull with the absence of the usual Sandburg enthusiasm for life. "Why?" He whispered hoarsely.
When Jim ran a hand over his face, Blair pulled back just a fraction. Jim noticed and sighed. "Why am I here?"
Blair nodded. Jim said, "I had to find you, Chief. I can't live without you."
Blair closed his eyes and turned his face away slightly. "Right." He said in a flat, lifeless voice.
"Blair, will you listen to me, please? There are some things I need to tell you. Then if you want me to, I'll leave."
Jim bit his lower lip. "Yes, Blair, I promise. I'll do whatever you want. I just want to tell you how I feel. It's not to make me feel better or relieve my conscience. It's just that you deserve to know the truth about me."
Blair turned fever-bright eyes on Jim. "Sure." He said noncommittally.
Jim spoke slowly and quietly. "I want to apologize for treating you so badly. When I told you to leave I knew how painful that was for you. I know, Chief."
Jim watched Blair's face but there was no reaction whatsoever at Jim's statement. Jim shook his head. "I want you to know that in Sierra Verde, I lied to you. When I told you I didn't know if I could control my senses and my body around Alex, I was lying. I lied to you on the beach when I told you that you had to help me control myself. I was perfectly capable of controlling my feelings, but I chose not to."
Jim waited for some reaction from his partner, but Blair remained silent. If not for the fact that his eyes were open and his breathing was labored, Jim would have thought he had fallen back to sleep. He watched Jim with a face devoid of expression.
Jim continued. "I told you that story because I knew exactly what was going on. I wanted you, Blair. I wanted to hold you and kiss you and make love to you. I was terrified. I hated myself for wanting you. I hated myself for needing you. I didn't want to love you. I told myself it was not... normal. What a crock that is! I am so full of shit sometimes. Normal. Like loving you isn't normal." Jim snorted derisively.
"So I tried to fuck Alex and I hated myself every second I touched her. I hated her smell. I hated her touch. All I wanted was you, but I refused to let myself become involved with a man. I was tired of being a freak. But in the grotto, in the visions, Blair, all I saw was you. I wanted to protect you. The visions showed me only you, not Alex. When I kissed her that final time, my senses were screaming at me. I almost threw up right then and there." Jim stopped for a second before he spoke again. "Please, Blair, you have to believe me. I love you. I want us to be together."
Blair drew in a wheezing breath and coughed several times. Jim rose quickly but Blair held up a hand, warding him away. "No. You don't get to choose... don't get forgiveness... don't... get... me."
Before Jim could respond to this soul-wrenching news, the door to the small cell swung open. Brother Jeremy entered, followed by a kindly-looking older gentleman. The brother beckoned to Jim. "Come along, Brother Jim. The doctor needs to check on Brother Blair."
Jim woodenly followed. He glanced quickly at Blair's face. Jim hated himself badly the second when he saw the defeated countenance of his friend. This was entirely his fault and by God, he was going to do something about it. Jim squared his shoulders and followed Brother Jeremy.
Brother Jeremy closed the door. "Come with me, Brother Jim. There are some things you want to tell me."
Brother Jeremy led Jim out into the midmorning sunshine. It was a beautiful summer day in Washington. "Ah, Brother Jim, the Lord has given us a glorious day to honor His name."
"It's my fault. Everything." Jim said dejectedly.
Brother Jeremy laughed. Jim looked at him strangely. "All your fault, Brother Jim? Everything in this universe is all your fault? I think not. You do think rather highly of yourself, don't you?"
Jim started to respond but clamped his teeth together. When he spoke, he was respectful. "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to elicit sympathy. I was trying to explain about my actions."
Brother Jeremy glanced sideways at Jim. "Oh, you think explaining to me will help your case?"
"No. I just...." Jim sighed. "What should I do?"
"Hmm. What should you do? A very deep and difficult question. Why don't you sit here on this nice old bench under this wonderful apple tree and think about that, Brother Jim?" Brother Jeremy turned and left a surprised Jim Ellison with his own thoughts.
Jim Ellison knocked softly on the door of Brother Jeremy's office. The brother looked up, nodding. "Come in, Brother Jim."
"Thank you." Jim crossed the room to stand in front of Brother Jeremy's desk. At his invitation, Jim took a seat. "I'll just be a minute. I want to get back to Blair, but do you think I could please use your phone? I need to call my Captain and tell him where I am and how Blair is."
"Of course. You picked a good time. The line is operating today. It's iffy, you know. One can never tell with these modern inventions when they will work and when they won't." Brother Jeremy was smiling slightly at Jim as he pushed the phone closer to his reach.
Jim gave the brother a small smile. "You do enjoy taunting me, don't you, Brother Jeremy?"
"It's just to remind you, Brother Jim, that although I live a sheltered life, I do not live a cloistered one. I am a man, same as you. I have needs, wishes, dreams and desires, just like you."
Jim smiled softly. "Thank you for reminding me. And thank you for taking care of Blair."
Brother Jeremy rose. "Of course, Brother Blair is very important to us here. I am happy I could help." He left the room, giving Jim some privacy for the phone call.
"Simon? Jim. He's here, but he's pretty sick. The doctor says he's doing everything he can... No, I don't need anything...Actually, yes I do. Can you do me a huge favor? Ask Megan to help. I'll pay for everything and also for her time and yours... Hire all the help you need... No, I insist... I'll let you know... He hasn't agreed yet but I don't care, I have to try... Listen, this is what I need you to do..."
Jim stopped by the bathroom and used the toilet. He washed his face and rinsed his mouth, wishing he had a toothbrush. He hadn't even stopped long enough to bring the bag he had taken to Sierra Verde, and it sat in the middle of the living room in the empty loft. He made his way back to Blair's room and when he entered, one of the monks was just starting to give Blair a sponge bath.
"Please let me." Jim asked. The brother looked at Blair, who nodded slightly. The monk patted Blair's arm and left silently. Jim was quiet when he went to the side of the bed and pulled back the sheet covering his partner's body. He wrung the washrag and started at his face, cleaning him gently. Blair closed his eyes and said, "You're still here."
Jim nodded and said in a very low voice. "Staying here until you make me leave." Blair didn't offer any further comments so Jim fell silent. When he finished with Blair's front, he gently turned him to his side and washed his back. The skin still felt hot to Jim, but he was pleased that Blair's temperature seemed to have dropped another degree.
Blair's hair was a mess, but there wasn't much Jim could do with it at the moment. He rubbed the strands between a clean washcloth, and he pulled them back into a ponytail to get them away from Blair's face. Jim noticed that a clean set of bed linens and clean underwear had been set on the table. He was unsure of what to do with the boxers and after picking them up, he stood silently looking down at them in his hand.
Blair's voice broke through his reverie. "It's okay."
Jim shook his head and focused. "What?"
"Change them. These feel grungy." Blair patted the boxers he was wearing.
"Okay." Jim tugged down the boxers and rung out the washcloth, intending on handing it to Blair. "Here, you'll feel better if you're clean all over."
Blair looked at Jim through half-closed lids. "You do it. Too tired." He murmured. Jim just nodded and wiped Blair's genital area carefully before slipping the clean shorts on.
"Lift up." Jim instructed, sliding the boxers up the rest of the way. "Better?"
"Yes." Blair answered.
"Good. Clean sheets, next." Jim deftly stripped the bed rolling Blair gently to each side to pull off the sweaty sheets; then slipped the clean ones on. He changed the pillowcases and plumped them up, raising Blair's shoulders and head carefully before lowering him back. "There. All clean."
Blair smiled just a bit. "Feels good."
Jim took the pile of laundry out into the hallway, intent on finding its proper place, when Brother Marcus appeared with a tray of food.
"Here, Brother Jim, give me those. There's food for you and for Brother Blair. Why don't you try to see if you can get him to eat something? It's been too many days since he's eaten."
"Thank you. I'll try."
Jim took the tray and set it on the table. "Come on, Chief, please try and drink some of this broth."
"Brother Marcus went to a lot of trouble to fix this himself. He told me so. He'll be really disappointed if you don't eat it." Jim silently prayed for forgiveness for his small obfuscation.
"Okay." Blair finally agreed.
"Good." Jim hitched a hip on the side of the bed and placed a napkin under Blair's chin. He spooned the warm broth little by little into his partner's mouth. It took a while but the bowl was finally empty.
Jim smiled. "There. That was good, wasn't it?"
Blair nodded sleepily and said, "Uhumm," before he drifted off.
Jim scanned Blair's body carefully, listening to each breath he took and to each thump of his heart. His lungs were still congested, but Jim could hear the minute improvement in his breathing, and he was grateful that Blair's heart wasn't working quite so hard now that his breathing was somewhat improved. Jim's fingers skimmed the surface of his body, testing. About 100 now, Jim thought, better, as he lightly pushed a stray strand of hair away from Blair's face.
He sat for the longest time watching Blair sleep. He fought the urge to gather up the sick man into his arms and hold him close. He settled for laying a hand on Blair's chest and another on his arm while he slid to the floor, kneeling beside the bed. He laid his forehead down on the mattress, praying aloud.
"Please let Blair be all right. Not for me, I know I don't deserve to ask for favors, but he's a good man. He deserves to have a good life. Please make him better. I haven't done this before so I hope I did it right. Thanks for listening." Jim raised his head and held his breath. He hadn't even noticed that Blair had woken up. Blair's blue eyes bore into his and their gazes locked for what seemed to be forever to Jim. Blair's eyes were unreadable and Jim finally broke the connection, resting his head on the side of the bed while the tears slid down his cheek.
"God, Blair, I'm so sorry." He gasped between silent sobs. After a long while, he finally composed himself and rose, looking at his best friend. Blair watched Jim silently, his face still blank. Jim took Blair's silence for 'the answer' and that answer was 'no'." He nodded slightly. "It's okay." He said as he wiped his face on the back of his hand. "Thanks for everything. The help with the Sentinel thing and all. I really mean that." Jim turned to stumble from the room, fumbling with the door handle that refused to open under his shaking hand. He cursed under his breath, trying to escape.
"Jim." Came the soft voice.
Jim froze and stood rigidly, "Yes?"
"Jim, look at me, please." Jim turned and looked into his beloved's eyes. "Don't go." Blair whispered. Jim's mouth fell open in astonishment and he launched himself towards the bed, falling to his knees once again. He threw an arm around Blair's waist and buried his face in his stomach. This time his sobs were not silent and Blair's hand caressed the back of Jim's head. With each caress, Jim wept even more until Blair started to worry.
"Come on, Jim, that's enough. Please. You're making me upset." Blair said in a small voice.
Jim raised his head quickly, wiping his face with both hands. "Oh, God, please, Blair, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. I'm really sorry."
Blair gave Jim a small smile. "Jim, if you apologize once more I'm going to have you removed from the premises."
"Sor... okay. I... okay. Chief, I love you so much." Jim blurted out.
"Jim, I'm really tired. Can we talk more later?" Blair asked softly, his eyes closing even as he spoke.
"Sure, Blair, later is good. I'll be here later. I'm staying right here. I'm not going anywhere. Here is good."
Blair opened one sleepy eye. "You're rambling, Jim."
Jim grinned. "Yeah, right, okay. Shutting up now." The goofy grin stayed plastered to Jim's face long after his partner had fallen into a quiet slumber. Finally, he seemed to be sleeping the sleep of healing. Finally. Jim stood and leaned over his mate, kissing his forehead gently, before settling into the chair next to Blair's bed to wait.
"Man, what is going on with you?" Blair asked in a mildly irritated tone. "You've been acting weird since we started on the drive home."
Jim glanced over at his soon-to-be (he hoped!) lover. "Me, Chief? I've been relaxed and cool the whole trip."
"Oh, my God, Jim! You've been a bunch of hyperactive wires since we left St. Sebastian's. You'd better tell me what's up before I really get worried." Blair ordered.
"Please, Blair. It's a surprise."
"Oh, goodie." Blair quipped.
"Smart mouth. It's a good surprise." Jim answered. "At least I hope it is." He mumbled.
"I heard that!" Blair grinned.
"Blair, you'll see. We'll be home in ten minutes. You'll see. Are you feeling okay?"
Blair nodded, his clean hair shining in the afternoon sun. "I feel great. That was the best two weeks I've spent in a long time. I feel rested and I'm really happy."
Jim reached over and patted his knee. "Good, Blair, that's so good."
When Jim opened the door to 852 Prospect, he stood aside and bid Blair to enter, Blair poked his head into the room tentatively before walking through the doorway. "Ah, Jim, everything looks normal."
Jim nodded. "Yeah." He said enthusiastically.
Blair remembered. "Oh, right, everything is back. Good, this place looked a bit creepy without your stuff in it." Then Blair started looking around, noticing the details. His collection of Zuni fetishes was now on the shelf next to Jim's CD collection. He walked over. Wait, his CDs were mixed in with Jim's. He noticed that some of his books were also commingled with Jim's and the Indian blanket he bought on a trip to New Mexico was draped over the sofa back. The sand paintings from that same trip were framed and hung on the walls behind the fireplace. His collection of pots and artifacts from various field excursions were carefully placed randomly among Jim's things.
Blair turned several times and saw more of his stuff placed here and there, also mingled with Jim's. It was impossible to tell where Jim's territory ended and his began. "Jim?" Blair held out his hands wide in question, but when he looked at his partner, Jim just pointed to Blair's room.
Blair crossed the space quickly and pushed open the French doors. He walked into the center of the room and stood, open-mouthed, looking around. His bed was gone. His battered desk was gone. The door to the closet had been removed and remodeled into bookshelves on which his many books and papers were now neatly arranged. A brand-new computer desk and hutch occupied one side of the room and more bookshelves covered the wall on the other side. All of Blair's things were neatly arranged. His computer was set up and everything looked wonderful.
Jim stood in the doorway, watching his partner's surprised expression. "You want to look upstairs?"
"Crap, Jim, there's more? Hey, wait, where's my bed and all my clothes?" Blair said in a confused voice.
"Chief." Jim pointed a finger up the stairs.
Blair gave Jim a dazzling smile. "Really?"
Jim nodded, returning his lover's smile with one of his own. Blair started to cross in front of Jim but Jim's hands on his shoulders stopped him; a sudden wave of anxiety crossed Jim's face. "Chief, listen, your stuff is upstairs with mine. If this is not what you want please let me know. I don't mean to pressure you. I should have asked first, but I was so excited when you said you'd come home."
Blair smiled Jim. "Oh, no, man, it's cool. Let's go and see how it looks." Jim nodded and released his shoulders, following on Blair's heels. Jim watched Blair's ass in the jeans. They weren't as tight as they used to be but to Jim it was a beautiful sight. A few good meals and Jim would have the meat back on his bones in no time.
Once up the stairs, Blair trotted around inspecting the changes in the bedroom. A new dresser with all of Blair's clothes had been put on one side of the room next to Jim's. All of his pictures and favorite items were placed neatly on the top. The closet held his clothes next to Jim's.
"Jim, this is really happening, isn't it?" Blair looked frightened for a heartbeat, afraid he was dreaming and all of it would disappear, and he would be back at St. Sebastian's, sick and so alone. "I'm awake, aren't I? I'm not hallucinating?" He asked breathlessly.
Jim winced at the hopeful tone of his lover's voice. This should have happened long ago. Blair shouldn't have to have felt so lost, so forlorn. All that was changed now, Jim reminded himself adamantly while he crossed the room, itching to reach out and hold his lover. He settled for rubbing his hands up and down Blair's arms, afraid to overstep his bounds uninvited.
"Yes, Chief, this is really happening. You and me are really happening. I hope this is okay with you."
"It's more than okay, Jim. It's overwhelming. It's wonderful. Thank you." Blair looked around once again, smiling almost shyly. Jim sighed with relief at Blair's admission of acceptance. "Jim? Jim, please..." Blair's voice was tentative.
"What is it? Please tell me what you want, Blair? Anything." Jim asked hoarsely.
"Hold me, please."
Jim pulled his lover into his arms, crushing him tightly to his chest and burying his face in Blair's hair. He suddenly remembered Blair was still not fully recovered, and tried to pull back, but Blair held on even tighter.
"No!" Blair gasped. "No. Hold me. Tighter, Jim, please."
Jim held him close, stroking his hair and rubbing the back of his neck. Blair pressed his face into Jim's chest and when Jim felt Blair's body tremble, he practically peeled Blair away from him.
"Chief? You're shaking. What's wrong?" Jim ordered.
Blair's eyes were bright with unshed tears. He shook his head violently. "Nothing. It's all good. All good. Please, Jim, please kiss me. I've waited so long. Please."
"Blair, you never have to beg. Never." Jim put his hands on either side of Blair's face and slowly pulled their faces together, brushing their lips lightly at first, both men relishing the soft sensation of that touch. Then they both leaned into the kiss, deepening its heat and desire. Jim felt Blair's chest rise and fall quickly and he moaned slightly, leaning into the kiss even more. Blair slid a hand behind Jim's head and encouraged him to explore. Their lips brushed back and forth several times, savoring the touch of skin against skin. Then Blair opened his mouth, and Jim's tongue slid in. He almost zoned at the heat emanating from Blair's body when their tongues entwined and he deeply explored the enticing mouth. Jim felt Blair's body quaking and his knees trembling. He abruptly ended the kiss and in one swift motion, before Blair could protest, he scooped him up and laid him on their bed.
Jim's voice was husky with desire. "You sure about this? I want you. This will seal our bond. I will be yours. You will be mine. Be sure, Blair, because after I make love with you, there will be no going back."
Blair's eyes blazed with love. "Yes, Jim. I'm very sure. No going back; not ever. No lovers but you, and only you. Make love to me, Sentinel."
Jim's eyes drank in the love he saw there. It filled his soul with a fullness he never dreamed possible. He returned the look of love to his mate with equal passion. He slowly stripped the clothes from his lover's body and rained kisses on every part, murmuring, "Only you, Guide, now and forever. Only you."
End Saving Blair OR Standing On The Edge by LilyK: Chakbalam@netscape.net
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Disclaimer: The Sentinel is owned etc. by Pet Fly, Inc. These pages and the stories on them are not meant to infringe on, nor are they endorsed by, Pet Fly, Inc. and Paramount.