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Meeting Jim was a million to one shot. 

I mean, I'd been studying Sentinels for years — hunted down every article, sought to confirm every legend and obscure rumor.  But, honestly, I don't think I ever truly believed I'd find one.  Not in the remote regions of some undeveloped jungle and certainly not in an urban, industrialized society. 

Humanity had long been eliminating the need for such tribal guardians and a part of me truly believed they'd been bred out of existence. 

But still, I kept looking, kept searching.  I'm not sure why exactly.  It was like some undeniable compulsion — the need to seek one out. 

To say I was skeptical when my nurse friend faxed me the paperwork on a man seeking treatment for out of control senses would be an understatement. 

But that same compulsion drove me to go to the hospital. 

I didn't think I'd find anything important.  Maybe some guy with a couple of enhanced senses.  I'd found hundreds of people like that.  I figured this would just be one more file to add to my already overflowing filing cabinet. 

But then I walked into that examination room and this guy just looked up at me with these intense ice blue eyes that seemed to look into my very soul and I just knew. 

When our eyes met, it was like touching a live wire.  An electric shock ran through me, setting every nerve ending on fire and my skin tingling.  For the briefest of moments, I could have sworn I heard the sound of a large cat roaring, mixed with a howl.  For the longest time, I thought I’d just imagined that last part.  It wasn't until later, much later, that I finally realized what it truly was and what it meant. 

I think Jim felt something similar.  For a split second, I think I saw his eyes narrow and his nostrils flare, like he was scenting the air...or me. 

It didn't last, though.  That mask of hostility and arrogance came over him, hiding his reaction, his emotions.  Hiding him. 

We've never talked about it.  I never had the nerve to bring it up, not even after everything that's happened.  And he's never mentioned it, not that I ever expected he would.

God, I hate that so much.  How closed off he is.  How he hides behind that mask.  Especially now.  After all we've been through, you'd think'd think I would've moved past that. 

For a while, I thought I had.  There were times when he'd allow me inside and I'd see what lay behind that mask of his. 

Not now, though. 

Too much has happened.  Too much hurt and too many hard feelings.  I want to get past it.  I want us to work our way through it.  I know we can't get back what we had.  But maybe we can have something different — something more. 

I'm willing to try, to make the effort.  You'd think that if I'm willing, then he would be, too.  I don't want to sound selfish or petty, but when you compare what each of us has been through over the past few years, it's easy to see which of us has lost the most, which of us has endured the most heartache and pain. 

If I can put all of that behind me, then shouldn't he be able to do the same?  I've been shot, kidnapped, drugged, terrorized and threatened.  I've lost my career and everything I've worked towards for almost half of my life.  I died. 

But it's not enough. 

I know now that it'll never been enough. 

When I first saw Alex that night in the bullpen and heard her talking to Megan, I couldn't believe it.  Everything she was describing, her symptoms… It couldn't be happening.  It couldn't. 

I mean, one Sentinel was, although extremely unlikely, within the farthest realms of possibility.  The possibility of fate even flittered around in the back of my mind, though I rarely gave it any conscious thought and never mentioned it to Jim. 

But two Sentinels?  Both in Cascade?  Both somehow brought to my attention? 

The odds had to be astronomical.  It surprised the hell out of me when Jim mentioned something about it...wondering about the odds of two Sentinels both showing up in Cascade and both meeting me.  It surprised me how much his thoughts mirrored my own. 

But then everything just happened so fast.  It was like a runaway train, speeding out of control, destroying everything in its path. 

Destroying us. 

We never were the same after Alex.  The effects of her appearance seemed to shatter the very foundation of everything Jim and I had built together.  Our friendship…our partnership …all of it obliterated in one destructive wave of mistrust and betrayal—on both of our parts. 

And I had to wonder...if what we had together was so strong, so solid, then how could it have all fallen apart so easily? 

I think that's when the first real doubts surfaced.  Doubts in myself.  Doubts in my relationship with Jim.  Doubts in Jim. 

I began to wonder if we were truly meant to be together, truly meant to be Sentinel and Guide....

Then Naomi came to visit.  The dissertation was leaked.  Zellar coming back.  More mistrust.  More betrayal — or more suspected betrayal.  I never betrayed Jim, though he seemed so willing to believe that I had. 

The media.  Jim's anger and accusations.  Zellar shooting up the bullpen…

It seemed like fate — like the very universe itself — wanted to tear Jim and me apart. 

And who was I to argue with fate? 

So I gave the press conference, wanting to protect my friend...even to the end. 

I sacrificed my life and was given a badge in exchange. 

It's really funny, you know. 

All those years of Jim and the others telling me that I wasn't a cop and now they're tossing me a badge. 

Like it's some… some consolation prize or something. 

I took the badge and I took the job.  And just like that, everything is supposedly forgotten. 

No more hurt feelings, no more mistrust, no more doubt. 

But real life isn't like that.  It's not that easy, not that forgiving.  It's cold and hard and has a long memory. 

I found that out the first time Jim and I had a high profile case. 

The reporters caught us on our way into the station.  Jim did his usual 'no comment' spiel.  And me...I just ducked behind him...hoping, praying that it wouldn't happen.  But it did. 

A microphone was shoved into my face and the questions began.  Ones about Jim and his senses.  Ones about how I was fitting into the Cascade PD and if there had been any repercussions from my actions against the department. 

I froze. 

Jim just glared at them and shoved me ahead of him.  He kept pushing me until we were inside the station.  I think that's the only thing that kept me moving. 

Then, once we were inside, our eyes met and there was this expression in his…  To my surprise, I saw that some of his anger was directed at me.  It was only for a second, but it was enough. 

I pulled back then.  Pulled back from Jim, from Simon and the others.  I stopped going out for a beer with them after work and went home to a cold, empty loft.  I stopped going to the poker games.  And nobody seemed to notice.  They sure as hell didn't say anything if they did. 

Then one day, I'd gone down to records to return some files.  When I came back, I stopped and stood in the doorway, just watching. 

I watched as they worked together so smoothly, so effortlessly.  Like a machine — all the parts moving together efficiently. 

Without me.

And I knew that I didn't belong. 

I was the clog in the system. 

Disrupting everything. 

Throwing off the natural flow.   

Jim and Megan were sitting together, laughing.  Then Jim's laughter abruptly stopped and he seemed to just stare at nothing.  I started forward, the need to help him overcoming my temporary paralysis. 

But before I could take a step, I saw Megan lay her hand on Jim's arm, just like I'd done so many times in the past.  She leaned close and I saw her lips move as she said something to him.  He jerked and blinked before sluggishly turning to her. 

Jim had zoned.

Megan brought him out of it.

My knees almost collapsed when the realization came.

Without a word, I turned and walked out of the bullpen. 

Surprisingly, it was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. 

Most of my things in the loft were remnants of my old life.  Tribal masks and photographs from expeditions.  Old papers and books. 

None of it meant anything anymore. 

Those old lessons of Naomi’s came back so easily:  Don't be weighed down.  Possessions are meaningless.  Travel light and travel often. 

Everything fit into one duffel bag and my backpack. 

My backpack...  I'd stopped using it when I became a cop.  You don't see too many detectives lugging one around and the first time I brought it to the station…well, Jim didn't seem too pleased.  So I stopped carrying it. 

For the longest time, I just held it, my fingers tracing over the worn material.  I almost became lost in the memories. 

Memories...they're the heaviest.  No suitcase or books or clothes would ever weigh you down as much as memories can.  They're the heaviest burden to bear. 

I'd forgotten how much walking can make your feet hurt.  I used to do a lot of walking before I met Jim.  Usually because my car had broken down.  After Jim…well, I did a whole lot less.  He had always been willing to give me a ride, though he grumbled about it. 

I would have taken the bus or my car, but those things can be traced.  I know that despite everything, Jim will try to find me.  That's just the kind of person he is.  Even after everything that's happened, despite the anger he feels towards me, there's still a part of him that cares. 

Just like I still care. 

But I have to forget all of that now. 

Unburden myself. 

Travel light. 

Just like Naomi taught me. 

But unlike my mother, I didn't leave without saying goodbye.  I wrote some letters and left them at the loft. 

Along with all my Sentinel notes and the only remaining copy of my dissertation. 

Jim will need them.

As will his Guide… Megan, his true Guide. 

I should have realized it the second they met.  Looking back, I could see the connection flare between them, despite the arguing and bickering. 

I think that if I hadn't been there, they would've been together since the beginning. 

Now they can.  Just like they were meant to be. 

And as for me…

East seems like a good place to head, so I go that way. 

Behind me, I can barely make out the distant sound of a howl. 

It fades away with each step that I take...until I'm left with only silence.

There's a pain deep inside of me. 

It's a familiar one.  I felt it before, when I stood in front of a bank of microphones and declared myself a fraud. 

I lost part of myself, lost a part of my soul, that day.

The rest of me, the rest of my soul, died as soon as the wolf fell silent. 

I don't know where I'm going. 

I don't know what I'm going to do. 

The only thing I do know is that as of this moment, Blair Sandburg is gone. 

I'll mourn for him...and for the wolf.

And even though I know it was never meant to be, I'll mourn for what was lost. 

I'll mourn for the Sentinel and Guide who were thrust together by fate only to be cruelly torn asunder by destiny. 

And as I continue on along this new path, I find that the pain is just as hard to bear as the memories. 

But, hopefully, if I go far enough, I can outrun them both. 

The End