The Guilt Zone

By: Ophelia

This was written with Ronnee in mind as she told me I could never do something like this (and I can't resist a challenge.)

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1. Will the Guilty Party Please Stand

The heart monitor beeped once more keeping up the steady rhythm Blair had become accustomed to listening too. Sitting in the chair he had first used a year ago, he flipped yet another page in Richard Burton's book again silently cursing the explorer for not writing up a follow up book or giving more information in this current book or just something more then what was here! Shifting slightly in his chair, Sandburg ran a hand through his curls closing his eyes for just a moment he heard the door open smelled the cigar smoke and didn't bother to open his eyes.

"Sandburg, you can't be here 24/7. You need to go home and get some rest."

"Simon, we have been over this before it's late... early... whatever..." He mumbled as he moved his hand in a dismissing motion "do we really want to go here again?"

Banks looked over the machines, he wouldn't know what to look for on anyone else, but he had been watching Ellison's statistics register for so long he knew what was now normal or not normal for Jim. He shook his head as he walked towards Blair kneeling down beside the chair that was clearly now warn. "Blair, it's been a year, do you really think you being here every day is making a difference? You have a life."

It wasn't only the words but the tone that set Sandburg on edge. Opening his eyes he looked at the man who hadn't been his Captain in so long and gave him a cold stare. "My life has been being this man's Guide. It will continue to be that even if he is not conscious right now. He is in a zone Simon - a zone that Major Crimes put him in - a zone that each and every one of you is responsible for. I ask you to leave him be while I am gone for one week but you couldn't do it could you? No you had to kept pushing him and this is your result. So to respond to your friendly like statement, yes I have a life - I am living it and yes I do believe I am making a difference. His responses are more frequent his heart rate is stronger. But then again someone who only checks in every two weeks or so wouldn't know that would they." He shot Banks a look that made the Captain feel like the intruder he had become. Somewhere along the line Banks had lost time, lost track of his two friends and most likely he recognized it was his own guilt that had made him take that distance.

"Okay Blair, Okay. I didn't mean anything... I just worry about you being here all the time. When was the last time you were at the loft?"

"Yesterday. I was getting it ready. I am thinking about moving Jim there, this setting isn't conducive to his senses. Everything is foreign and he has no frame of home aside from me. I want him surrounded by smells of home."

"Do you think that is a good idea? What happens if his heart stops again?" Banks was nodding with Blair's logic but Blair wouldn't be able to help Jim if his heart gave out once more.

"I donno... that's why I haven't finished the arrangements." Blair walked over and absently took Jim's hand in his own. "I want what's best for Jim and I don't know what that is anymore."

Banks could see the look of distress and concern on the student's face. He had watched Blair slowly being torn apart this past year, it was a sight he would never forget but it was also something he never thought he would see. "Sandburg, I know you do but that is a lot to take on." He tried to reason wondering if Blair would ever have a chance at his normal life if he took this burden on even more.

"Yeah... well I don't know that I have many more options." Blair never took his eyes off Jim's pale face, closed eyes, sunken in cheeks.

Simon placed a hand on Blair shoulder. "Okay Blair, let me know what you decide and I'll help in any way I can."

The student nodded as he listened to Banks move to the door. He noticed Simon paused in the doorway as if waiting. With the hope he truly felt Blair looked at the tall black man and simply but firmly stated:

"Don't worry man, it will all be alright."

 

2. Silent Vigil

Blair still held Jim’s hand in his own. Simon had left long moments before, left him wondering what he was going to do. Or even what he could do in this situation. Banks had been right, if Blair did take Jim home and Jim had another problem where his heart stopped beating it would be a death sentence. There was no way in the world he could get Jim’s heart pumping once more alone with him in the loft.

But what if Jim didn’t have an attack? What if home was where Jim needed to be in order to get back to himself and come out of that gray void he had gone into? What if pigs suddenly learned how to fly?

So many question and no definite answers all added up to a lot of frustration. Simon wanted him to get his life back, but Jim was his life. This sentinel project was what his life had become, it was what he was destined to do and be. At the same time Jim would probably kill him if he found out Blair had put everything on hold to sit and play nurse mate to him.

Squeezing the limp cold hand once more Blair turned and walked to the windows. He looked out over the city, the city that no longer had its protector or it’s shaman. Silently he wondered if Jim would find it amusing to know that crime had gone up 12% since he had been out of action. Major Crimes was more over worked now then ever and even with the talented detectives there they were having a hard time finding the real elusive killers, the ones that Jim was an expert at locating.

Brown had stopped by the other day and had filled him in on all the latest news and gossip that could be had. Most of it not good and if the way Henry was now looking any indication of the way the rest of Major Crimes was looking it was going downhill real fast for everyone over there.

"Jim, tell me what you want me to do here man. I need something more then a gut feeling on this one." He had been talking to Jim for a long time now, hoping that the sound of his voice would be one of those things that would give his sentinel an anchor to hold onto in order to get back to the real world. So far, it hadn’t done anything more then reassure Blair he could still talk.

The nurse opened the door a smile on her face. "Good evening Blair, you know it’s past visiting hours." She took the chart from the machine and made a few notes.

"Yeah Norma, I suppose you want me to get out now right?" He smiled at the look she gave him.

"Blair, I would never kick you out. But you know the floor supervisor might."

"Yeah I know. You on duty all night?" He asked as a feeling grew in his stomach that he didn’t like.

"Till Five am. You still have my number?"

"Yeah." He nodded as he picked up his book and went to get his jacket.

"Tell you what, call me and check in later. I’ll let you know if something changes." She was perfectly relaxed as she spoke but Blair knew she meant what she said as she had proven it before in the past. "Go home and get some rest, I’ll keep an eye out."

"Thanks Norma, you’re the best!" He gave her a quick hug before walking over to Jim. "Hey man, I am going to head home and get some rest. Norma’s gonna look after you for a little while so behave yourself. I’ll be back in the morning."

"Night Blair."

"See ya, Norma." And with that he left the room and the hospital heading for home and to his bed for some much-needed sleep.

 

3. A Guide’s Choice

Blair was woken by the sound of a large cat’s growl. Sitting straight up in his bed he looked around franticly trying to figure out where it had come from.

His bedroom empty, Sandburg carefully walked out into the loft looking around trying to find the sound of the now whimpering animal. Slowly he followed the sound up to Jim’s room only mildly shocked to see the Black Panther that lay whimpering across the yellow comforter that Blair hadn't had the heart to change.

"Jim?" Was the first thing he could think to say, remembering that this was Jim's animal spirit and thus a part of him in some way.

But the panther only looked up at him with sad blue eyes, there was no morph into a spirit walking Ellison or Sentinel Warrior, as he had hoped would happen. No only the panther remained and after only a moment of silence it made a noise that was almost a growl but more of a whimper startling Blair by the sound of pain that came across loud and clear.

Realizing that the panther was not going to talk to him with words. Blair tried to figure out exactly what to do next in order to get the answers that must be right in front of him. Jim had been gone a year now and this was the first time the spirit guide had come to him - did that mean… "Jim's dying right now and need me?" He looked the big cat right in the eye not sure of how he would get his answer.

The cat raised its large head cocking it to the side as if hearing a sound only it could hear before turning it the other way. In the hopes that this really was a sign Blair released the breath he had been holding as his fear had gripped his heart. At least Jim wasn't dying in the hospital. But that still brought the same question to his mind, why was the cat here?

His feet were cold against the soft carpet of the bedroom as goose bumps covered his skin. The loft was always chilly at night no matter how far you turned the heat up it got cold. But standing out in the open in a tank top and boxers Blair was getting extremely cold, extremely fast. But he stood strong facing the bed trying to think of the next question he would ask as the panther stretched out comfortably on the larger bed. Blair smiled as he recognized the way Jim use to stretch out on a bed in the action of the cat.

And that was the thought that kicked it all in to place. "You're here because I asked Jim to tell me what to do. He can hear me!" There was an excited wonder in Blair's tone as he watched the cat roll and stand on all fours only to jump down off the bed and brush against Blair's leg as it headed for the stairs.

Hot on the cat's heals Blair followed the animal down the steps until it stopped in the large area where the table use to be. This was where Blair had planned to put Jim's bed; if he in fact did decided to bring the Detective home. He watched silently as the cat who had been whining and sluggish turn once and then again before laying curled up in an almost ball in the very spot where Ellison would lay.

"He wants to come home." Blair said out loud to no one. "You want to come home."

The cat looked up at him then, it's eyes brightening some as Blair spoke it's paws clenching slightly as it's tail began to lash about.

Sandburg watched for a few moments as the panther seemed to react to his words, get stronger and more determined and his mind was made up. Good or bad, right or wrong choice Jim was coming back to the loft. Somehow he would make it work.

 

4. Arrangements

Blair hung his observers badge around his neck as he walked into Major Crimes. God it had been such a long time since he had done either of those acts, it all felt strange and yet familiar but over all it just felt weird. He knew his friends would not have any problem greeting him, but still after such a length of time it felt odd to be in this place without Jim by his side.

"Hey Blair!" Henry was the first one to call out to him, hanging up his phone in order to come over and shake the observer's hand.

"Henry, getting any better?" He smiled as he referenced to the conversation they had been having a week or so before.

"Don't make me say it here Blair, you know the answer." The black man reminded smiling but Blair knew what he didn't want to say: that it would be better once they had Jim back.

"Yeah man I do. That's why I am here actually. Got a place that we can talk together in private? And with Simon if possible?" He wrung his hands together nervously, just like he use too before an important lecture. It didn't really help, but it did keep him from bouncing up and down on his heels.

"Sure… we can find an empty room - or better yet Simon's office. Bad news?" Brown was almost visibly upset at the thought of what Blair might be here to tell them. That Jim was going to die and that it was all Major Crimes' fault.

"No no… nothing bad, just need to get some things straightened out and I was hoping that I could get some help from you guys." He patted the large shoulder of the man as they began to walk towards Banks' office.

"Oh… no problem whatever you need, you know I am here for you." He replied as he knocked and got the okay to come in.

"Sandburg?" Simon looked up, as the door was open and saw the man he didn't think he would ever see in this setting again.

"Hey Simon, got a few minutes?"

"Sure, have a seat. Want some coffee?" The Captain was already pouring a cup even as he offered.

"Yeah thanks." Blair took the cup into his cold hands and just let the mug warm his fingers for a moment before taking a sip. Then clearing his throat he started in on just exactly why he was here. "As I was telling Henry on the way in I am here because I need some help and you guys told me that if I ever needed anything – help – I could count on you."

"That's right. We did and you can." Brown perked up nodding to his Captain. The certainty of his tone erasing any doubts Blair might have had of this man not willing to help him out.

"Brown is right Blair, if you need something you know we will do what we can." Simon walked around the front of his desk then, leaning back on the front trying to make the conversation casual not formal.

"Well, I was thinking about the conversation that we had the other day in Jim’s room?" He paused to watch the Captain nod. "And I kept thinking that maybe you are right, maybe I do need to get back into my life some." He paused to stand up, his nerves getting the better of him at that point. "I am only thinking about doing it, because when Jim wakes up he will kick my ass for having put my school on hold for this long."

Banks watched Sandburg carefully, wondering what Blair hadn’t said just yet, noting though that the kid was still convinced that Jim would wake up. "Blair, I think you are doing the right thing. Do you need me to give you a letter of recommendation or something for a grant?"

"Huh? Oh no, nothing like that, my record is above average and speaks for itself. I called the Dean and they are working on reactivating four of the grants that I held and submitting me for a few new ones."

"Good, sounds like you will have your funding back."

"Yeah and then some." Brown perked up, enjoying the news that Blair might get back to being Blair again. "Still going to work on the closed society thing?"

"Yeah," He tossed a glance at Simon who knew he meant Sentinel thing. "But from an administrative view. Basically I am taking time out to go over my notes, pose some theories and then will work from that point. I will still need my observer status here in case I need to do a ride along, but for now I plan to work from the U."

"Sounds like you have thought about this. So where do we come in?" Simon crossed his arms over his chest and then crossed his legs waiting to hear what this had to do exactly with them, it wasn’t like Blair to beat this much around the bush which meant he wasn’t going to like what he was about to hear.

"Well as I was explaining to Joel…"

"You’ve already talked to Joel about this?" Simon stated. He sounded bothered that he hadn’t been the first person Blair had come to.

"Yeah, I needed to check with his wife to see if she was still available?"

"Available to what?" Brown jumped in.

"Well if you two would give me a minute I would tell you. Cut the interrogation crap okay?"

At the same time the two replied sending a "Sure," and a "Sorry ‘bout that." His way before quieting down.

"Now like I was saying, I talked to Joel and since Mary is still willing, I am going to move Jim back to the loft. Mary will stay with him during the times that I have classes and a nurse from the hospital is willing to cover the few evenings a month that I will have study groups. But there may be a few times here and there where I will need one of you to stay with him. It wont be for a long time, just an hour or so here and there. I need to know if that is something you can help me with?"

Both men sat quietly for a few moments before Henry broke the silence. "I know that I would be willing to help and probably Rafe wouldn’t mind. But Blair, we don’t know anything about how to care for Jim, what if something happened while we were there."

"It wouldn’t be anything that hard. You watch the machine, if there is a change you call 911 and page me. I won’t expect anything more then that."

"And who takes care of him at night Blair?"

"I will. The machines that the doctors and nurse have arranged with the insurance all have alarms and small monitoring screens can be put into my room. Evidently I’m not the first person to want to try and care for someone at home they have lots of programs set up for this type of thing."

"I know you hate me saying this, but I have to ask, what if his heart gives out again?" Banks looked down at his shoes, he hated saying those words at all, but when talking about one of his own men they hurt even more.

"I am working with Norma at the hospital for some basic classes that I need to get certified in. That’s only to ensure that Jim will have proper care aside from her and Mary. Once I have those, I will know how to help Jim in certain areas. But, should his heart stop again, we call 911 and take our chances. That’s the risk here Simon, but I think Jim wants to be at home not there and I don’t think his heart will give out at the loft like it did at the hospital. I need to believe that. But it’s also time I accept that he could die from this decision. I am not kidding myself here, I know the work that it will take to do this, and I understand the risk. So does Jim’s family and they have told me that if I want it this way they will help pay for the move and work in visiting as much as possible. Now I am asking the same from his friends here."

"Well, I’m in." Brown said after a few moments of meaningful consideration. "And I will talk to Rafe and see if I can get his help too."

"Great, thanks Henry." Blair smiled, he knew that Henry wasn’t going to be a problem, he had talked with the man on more then one occasion about the prospect of doing something like this. "Simon?"

Simon heard Blair call his name and worked to remove himself from his own thoughts of guilt and frustration in order to reply. "Well Sandburg, I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but if you need my help I’m there for you."

"Wonderful, well, I need to get out of here I have a few more things to do before we move Jim."

"When do you expect that to happen?" The Captain would at least be sure he was at the loft to help it go smoothly.

"This coming Tuesday. They have certain days they free up ambulances for this sort of thing and we worked in Jim for then."

Flipping his calendar two days ahead Banks nodded. "Fine, Brown and I will meet you at the loft to make sure you get set up and running."

"Great the more the merrier. See you then." And with the Blair left to secure the final things he needed to make Jim comfortable.

 

5. Welcome Home

Blair sat on the sofa looking over at the newly placed bed and the man that now rested comfortably, nested in-between it’s sheets. Jim’s face looked calm and relaxed like an innocent child who had not a care in the world. The tiny lines of worry that had developed around Jim's eyes and mouth in the years that Blair had known him had faded to be replaced by smooth skin.

He looks so peaceful Blair decided as he sat and watched, amazed that he had had the nerve to pull all this off at all. Of course they had their share of problems, it's not like anything could go smoothly in the Ellison/Sandburg household. And that is what it had been, for a long time now he realized. The Ellison / Sandburg loft area. The answering machine said it, the bills baring the same address said it, hell even the neighbors said it.

So why did it suddenly feel so out of place for Jim to be here?

Running a hand over his tired face Blair decided to shake that thought off. Problems, that is all they had been facing these days - no make that months, shit change that again to year and months. What was suppose to have been an easy move, you know the kind that they quote "do all the time." Had turned into a major pain in the ass that had kept Jim out in the ambulance for over an hour.

First the medical bed which had arrived promptly at 8am didn't want to fit up the steps. No problem, the elevator should work - NOT. Two hours later had them hoisting it via a pulley system onto the balcony and in through the patio doors. The humorous thing was that none of this even phased the delivery guys who simply smiled while saying; "Mr. Sandburg, this will only be ten minutes." Yeah ten minutes one secured wheel to the brick facade, lots of rope and plenty of arm muscle, but that god it only took ten minutes!

Okay so the bed was now delivered (the hard way). Next came the problem of waiting for the nurse, you know the one who was suppose to set the bed to the right levels and sign for the medical equipment that the man who was currently banging on his door wanted to deliver. Yeah well it seems that she was currently beeping in on the call he was making to Simon to go find her, of course she was broken down and needed help. Easy solution, when in need send a Captain indeed. No really, Simon seemed happy to pick up her up on his way over.

So with the nurse on her way and Simon coming with her, now the next part was to talk the delivery guy into bringing up the boxes and start the installation. Easier said then done, evidently in Cascade there were those that tricked the medical community and this guy evidently had been on the receiving end of it more then once. But after a nice conference call between the nurse, the delivery man/technician and himself, Blair had a man happily installing monitors while chatting away about how people think they are doing the right thing when taking in a crippled love one.

Rolling his eyes and nodding along Blair headed towards the knock that was quickly becoming a pounding on the door. "Hello."

"Yeah, I’m looking for a Mr. Sandburg?" The intern looked at his clipboard as he talked.

"I’m Blair Sandburg."

"Oh hey. I’m suppose to drop off a Mr. Ellison in your care?"

"Drop off?" Blair’s tone was turning angry, suddenly Jim was a freaking package now!

"Well, you know, I have him in the ambulance downstairs?" He checked the damned clipboard one more time. "He is suppose to go to you right?"

Blair took a moment to remind himself to breath, long and deep. Count to ten… he took another look at the driver, better make that twenty before he replied. "Yes Mr. Ellison is suppose to be brought here today, this afternoon in fact."

"Afternoon?"

"Well, I arranged for early to late afternoon in order to make sure everything was set up before he got here." He was annoyed at this man; he was callous and way too young to understand the significance of the situation. He was going to file a HUGE complaint with the Hospital Company tomorrow that was for darn sure.

"Mid-afternoon? But, I got him… here… downstairs…." The man stammered restlessly.

Oh that was just WONDERFUL! "Great. Jim’s in the ambulance downstairs, right now."

"Yeah, Rob’s in the back with him. See I thought this said ten and that you were mad because I was late, I guess this puts you out some?"

"Some?" Blair pinched his nose one more time before lifting up the phone he still had in his hand. "Got a number to your head quarters that makes your arrangements?"

And twenty minutes later Blair had an agreement that Jim could stay in the ambulance for as long as needed and they wouldn’t even charge him extra. After all he was right and it was there mistake and there was no reason he needed to call the head of any police agency, so sorry indeed. The added benefit was that Simon showed up with the nurse who was all smiles and apologies. She came in slightly after Simon explaining that she had stopped to check on Mr. Ellison who seemed to be resting though his vitals were not as strong as they had been in the hospital.

At that moment she did something that endeared her to Blair’s heart forever. Looking over she saw the technician explaining things to Simon and promptly laid the man out to dry for doing it. "Excuse me Simon," She walked over in a huff inserting herself between the two men "but if you want your detective up here this man needs to do his job which is not explaining this equipment to you. Now if you will help me over here we will be able to get Mr. Ellison up here a lot sooner."

"Ah sure." Banks nodded before moving to help. Blair on the other hand headed down towards the ambulance; Jim’s vitals were down? Maybe all this had been a mistake.

One hour and a pep talk to Jim later the technicians were wheeling Jim into the loft. Back home for the first time in over a year and it had to be like this. Standing to one side as they brought the small stretcher in the door Blair felt his heart dip in pain and stay low with the loss of a dream. The dream that the next time he would see Jim come through that door it would be on his own two feet and in perfect health. Instead it was on his back, eyes closed, and strapped to a gurney, oh god the way things could change in the course of minutes that lead to something longer.

"Blair?" Banks called as he noticed the man had grown a deathly pale. "Everything okay?" He walked over to stand in front of him.

"Huh?" Blair looked up as the Captain touched his arm. "Oh yeah Simon, I'm okay. Just… never thought I would ever see him come back through that door like… that." He let his sadness poor out with his words, out of all the plans he had made for this move this of all things had been the one unchecked factor, his own personal feelings.

"Yeah, I know what you mean." They both paused and just watched the medical team do their jobs. And in no time they had Ellison safely onto the new bed. "Never in a million years thought…" He stopped shaking his head.

"Well, this is getting us no where." Sandburg sobered. There was no point in doing this emotional play now. Not in front of Simon, his gut was telling him that for now he had to keep up the strong front around this man. "Lets get something to eat going. The sooner we get things settled and back to normal the sooner this will start helping Jim."

Banks watched as Blair brushed by him heading for the kitchen area, "You really believe that don't you." He called as he moved to help make sandwiches.

Stopping Blair took a moment to look the Captain of Major Crimes dead in the eyes. "Damn right I do." Was all he could say and thinking back on it, it might be the most honest statement he had ever made to the man.

And that is all he did say for the rest of the day was spent learning this machine or that one. Knowing how to turn them on and off. Adjusting and changing tapes, being shown where the panic button was on the heart system that would automatically page 911. Then there was the matter of setting up a new cold storage area for the IV drips and learning just how Jim's catheter was hooked up in order to change it when needed (oh when Jim gets out of this one he's going to love knowing I did that!).

Somewhere along the line Simon had left promising to call in the morning and as Blair sat in the now darkening room he wondered about what that morning would bring. Just how in the hell was he going to pull this off?

"Damn it Jim, why can't you just come out of it." He whispered like he always did when he got that sinking feeling while looking at the restful man. "Where are you right now Jim? Where the hell are you."

Standing he walked over and held the cold hand for a long moment letting some of his own warmth heat Jim's skin. Reaching out for no reason he brushed the back of his fingers over Jim's cheek before turning and heading for his own room.

Sliding into his bed, the sound of monitors began to lull him to sleep. Softly he whispered "'Night Jim."

 

6. A bump in the road

"Simon you agreed to watch Jim today." Blair stated as he rushed around packing his backpack. "I have a class in twenty minutes this is not the time for you to be backing out on me now."

"Blair," Banks began as he stood still wearing his trench coat not at all comfortable "its not that I’m backing out. But what am I suppose to do for four hours when you have no TV."

"Look the cable guy will be here later today, maybe even before I get home to check the connection until then, I donno read a book or something we have shelves full of them!" This was starting to wear thin. He knew it was Simon’s practical side but still the man didn’t have to act like Jim was dead and buried already.

"Oh like I WANT to read about the mating rituals of Peruvian Tribes."

"Oh come on Simon, Jim’s got plenty of books more your speed on those shelves over there or just go upstairs to his room there is some on the night table I think. Or you can sit and talk to him." He was reaching for his coat when he heard the bellow from behind him.

"Talk to WHO Blair, there is going to be no one here but ME!"

"What! Simon Banks that man over there is here, not fully here but he’s here damn it and I will NOT have you talking like that in this loft! He’s your FRIEND for god sake!"

"Blair THAT isn’t my friend!" He pointed, as he shouted not able to catch himself in time. "That is only the shell of the man I once called friend." He calmed himself slightly moving towards the shocked student. "Jim isn’t in there – he’s gone – you have to accept that sooner or later. I’m sorry Blair, but he is gone." The Captain looked straight into Blair’s eyes and what he saw in them made him step back.

"You son of a bitch, how dare you. How fucking dare you." He seethed as if he were talking to some low life scum off the streets that had just been caught dealing H to elementary kids. "You come in this house, OUR house and have the balls to tell me he’s dead and that I should move on. Well take another look Captain, he’s off the respirator and two life support systems, it’s not much but it’s progress. More progress then your nice safe hospital could give him."

"Blair I…" Simon tried to back peddle, it’s not that he didn’t care it was that he cared to much and this subject just hurt so deep.

"You just what? Don’t want to face it that Jim might come back and you will have to look at him again. That you will have to explain to him exactly what it was that has taken a year plus of his life away from him! Remember Simon, if he’s dead then you pulled the trigger not me! So the next time you want to let out some of your hurt do it somewhere else, I don’t have any sympathy left to give. Not to you or anybody else." He was shaking with anger, in his head he knew that one-day he would regret saying those words but for now it felt good to have all the emotions out on the table. Simon had his say and now Simon had listened to him. One day they might actually be able to talk like friends again.

"Okay Blair. You’re right I was out of line, I didn’t know he improved at all. I’ll sit here and keep an eye out. Just go to your class, I’m sorry." He finished lamely sitting down shaking his head.

Blair dropped his coat and walked over the man his anger fading with each step. "It’s okay Simon, you’re not the first to do this just you took me by surprise on what’s been a bad morning. I shouldn’t have lashed out like that, I know you didn’t mean anything…"

"Yeah… I guess this is odd for all of us." Banks looked into Blair’s big blue eyes. "You really believe you are going to bring him out of it."

"Yeah I believe it, it’s hard to sometimes but he’s in their Simon, I feel it. I know it. He’s just healing from god knows what and I haven’t be able to reach him. Or maybe I have and it’s just taking him this long to come back from some far away place." Blair was watching Jim now settled on his own blue sheets under the bright yellow comforter.

"I’ll stay with him, go to your class Blair." Simon laid a now gentle hand on Blair’s shoulder.

"You’re sure?"

"Yeah go ahead, I’ll sit with Jim."

"Okay, but I’ll cut my hours short so you wont be here that long. If I can’t then I’ll give Henry a call okay?"

"No need, I’m better now I guess just my frustration and guilt got the better of me."

"Yeah same here man, same here. Happens to the best of us."

"Yeah even the best of us." Banks replied looking at Ellison the whole time.

He didn’t even hear Blair close the door behind him.

 

7. Memories

It had been about and hour since Blair had left and still the Captain sat watching Jim’s chest rise and fall. It was hypnotic in it’s own way. If you let yourself listen to the sounds of the machines mixed with that breathing it almost made a symphony of some kind. A lulling music you could poor your heart out to. Blair really believed Jim could hear what was going on around him, the kid put so much faith in that it was hard not for that faith to catch on.

And suddenly Banks found himself sitting next to Jim reaching out to touch the cool hand that was always laying in the same spot. He knew that Carolyn had been to visit Jim a few months back, she had ended up at a restaurant crying into coffee over what her X had become. Funny you never really know how much you love someone till they are not the same anymore. You never realize all the things you wanted to say to them till you can’t say them anymore.

"I’m sorry Jim. God if you only knew how damn sorry I am for calling you onto that scene. Blair’s right, oh I know he wasn’t lashing back to hurt me but the truth hurts and that’s what Sandburg was throwing in my face. Nothing but the cold hard truth. This is my fault." Banks paused as the memory washed over him for what must have been the ten thousandth time.

Major Crimes had been called out to investigate a multiple homicide, only it wasn’t your normal multiple not this one was bad, this one-horror movies had been written off of. Simon himself had gone into that house from hell walking into the living area only it was hard to tell it was a living area with the bodies laying over all over the floor and furniture. The blood, my god there had been so much blood. It coated practically every surface and what was left over that just sat soaking into the rug just waiting for it’s chance to seep into the basement through the floor boards. And if that hadn’t been enough to make you lose your lunch and have nightmares for the next few months, almost every room of the house looked to be the same exact thing. Teenagers cut open with knifes, scratched faces and arms eyes – not where they were supposed to be. It got to the point where a trash can was kept out side the door for the cops who would reach their breaking point while trying to look for survivors. One went out to puke another one came in to take their place.

"I only called you because we had no clues, nothing to tell us who the hell did it and why. God I knew you were having problems with you senses but Jim we had counted thirty kids dead when I dialed your number and we still had three rooms to go!"

By the time Jim had gotten to the house blood was dripping from the ceilings from the rooms above, rooms that no one wanted to catalog. A sweep had been done; there was no one alive up there. Jim had walked in and Banks had watch him put on that stone face, the one that said all business nothing personal was getting through the one thing he had said had made Banks nod in agreement. "Thank god Blair isn’t here for this."

"But that was where you were wrong Jim, Blair should have been there. Looking back I should have known you would need Blair with you to look for clues who in the hell was I to think I could do it alone?"

Jim had been looking around touching things very sparingly trying to see what he could find it was then that Simon began to notice the cop swaying slightly. He had gone to his side and tried to make like a guide saying all the things Blair normally would have but it wasn’t working and before he knew it Jim was down on his knees. His face red and swollen his eyes red and watery his pants now covered in countless others blood "Get Blair…" was all that Jim had told him and all Simon could do was scream for the ambulance.

"God Jim, I didn’t know. How the hell could I have known? If I had thought you would have been in any danger I wouldn’t have let you in. But that sentinel stuff, I just didn’t understand that a little goes a long way. Even after that opium thing countless cases back where just a pinch was enough to put you in the hospital I didn’t think. Then again how was I to know that the drug the bastard used was all over the furniture? This is my entire fault Jim; you are my friend how could I of all people do this too you? For what it’s worth you’ll never know how truly sorry I am."

That night when Simon got home a message for Blair was waiting for him an apology for things said in hate it made him smile there were times when they both thought a like Blair would have found his note by now saying the same exact thing.

 

8. Motherly love

The early knock at the door startled Blair as he went to answer it. Yesterday had been a late night for him and Jim. Feeling that he needed to talk to the older man until the early hours of the morning, trying to make him understand that Simon really didn’t feel the way he had said. It was just that so many died that day and had happened to Jim well that was enough to make him almost resign.

And he was going to as well until Rafe and Henry had talked him out of it. Blair had also put in his vote of confidence once he had found out what was going down at the station. The knock became more persistent as he cracked it open just a touch.

"Mom?"

"Blair honey I would have called but I came right over from the station. Can I come in?"

"Ah yeah sure, lemme just get this chain off." Blair closed the door removing the door chain before he reopened it to get an arm full of his mom.

"Oh honey, Simon told me about Jim and how he was now in a coma. How awful for you both!"

"Ah mom…" But he was too late, she had already turned around and saw Jim’s set up.

"Oh this is serious. He’s here?" She was wide eyed and slightly off kilter.

"Yes he’s here, he wasn’t getting better at the hospital so I had them move him here." He moved over to the kitchen area and started the coffee.

"Alright Blair Jacob Sandburg you tell me exactly what’s going on here. Why is it that every time I leave you by yourself you go and do something outrageous.

"Mom, caring for Jim isn’t outrageous and it’s not that hard honestly. I had the certification we have some wonderful nurses that help out and I do believe that Jim is getting better."

"I’m not here to fight sweetie, I’m just stunned. When I had left you were riding along with Jim working on your paper. What happened to that?"

"Nothing mom." Leave it to Naomi to jump right in and start the ball rolling. "I am still working on taping it. This just delayed it longer. But I’m at school full time teaching again and finishing up my last credits. I even got two grants renewed for another two years."

"Well that’s wonderful sweetheart." She hugged him briefly before doing what she did best, take over the situation.

Blair watched her begin to cook as he quickly went and cleaned up. Coming back out he started his normal check of Jim while he asked. "So tell me all that you have been doing all this time. I tried to contact you."

"Oh I know honey but I was in deep meditation in Tibet. Then it was off for a spiritual reawaking in China and then…."

And so it started Naomi’s first day at the loft. She had promised only to stay a week visiting friends in the area and attending a seminar at Rainer of all places. For Blair the week went rather fast on the next to the last day he knew he was in trouble when she decided they needed to sit down and talk.

"Blair honey, we have always been honest and up front with each other haven’t we?"

"Yeah mom. What do you want to say?" He said it already giving himself his own answer in his mind. It was going to be the same thing that so many people had said after staying for awhile or watching Jim on a regular bases. It didn’t bother him, it was just people’s way of trying to help, but still it hurt a little more each time he had to go through it.

"I hate to see you like this."

"Like what?"

"Giving up your life to play nurse mate to a cop honey. They have places that work with people like Jim who will make sure he is comfortable. You are young and I know he would not want to see you giving up your life like this."

"But Mom, I’m not giving up my life here, honestly. I have gotten my life back now and I am working towards my goals. You have to believe me this is what I want to do. Please don’t fight me on this one. You know detach with love?" He smiled hoping she would understand.

And to his surprise and great pleasure she did understand, nodding to what he was saying she even helped him change the sheets on Jim’s bed. The last day of her stay seemed bittersweet, he missed the energy that Naomi always brought with her and he missed having someone around that he could talk to for more then a few hours. Still she had to go it was Naomi’s way after all.

And after all, he still had Jim.

 

9. Dissertation Deferred

Blair sat at his desk, the room slightly darkened to create a shadow over everything but his laptop. It was well past the time he should have done this but still the finality of it was bothering him. What happens after this? What will I do if I'm not a student anymore? I guess I will teach, but what if Rainer doesn't want me or can't afford a new salary? These were the questions that haunted him as he picked up his headset and pushed play on his personal recorder.

The Sentinel: Genetics, Mythology, and Ontology of our Tribal Protectors by Blair Sandburg, tape one he began to type as his own voice told him what to put on the paper.

Humanity has long dug into its past in the hope that it will shed light on its future. Perhaps what this reveals is that it is the best of ourselves that will survive and lead us through the next millennium. Watching our every step will be our tribal protectors -- the sentinels -- and their insight will further illuminate the spiritual connection of all things.

It was a start and that is what pushed him on. When he had partnered with Jim at the very beginning this is what it was all for, his thesis his Doctorate a few letters after his name. But now, now it had become so much more to him, now, it was about telling the story of a nameless sentinel of telling the world all about what this man could do and what the ultimate fate that these sentinels were facing. It was his new hope that people would appreciate them more, cherish them like the gifts of humanity that they were and not abuse the talents that each sentinel had.

The days passed by, each day the thesis growing longer more in-depth then he ever thought of taking it. Somewhere along the way he had realized that this was his tribute to Jim, the memorial the soldier would never have. It became about him telling the story of Jim's life from birth to … now and not about proving Burton's theories correct. And it was with that passion he wrote every word, made sure every comma was in place that every fact correct. He left in the ugly truths that any other researcher would have sugar coated for their own means, showing the life of a sentinel as being one of pain and hardship and not just joy and sunshine because that is what Jim had shown him it was. There was more to the life of a sentinel. Always seeing more, hearing more, tasting more, smelling more… feeling more it was a hundred lifetimes in one brain the overload of information that one would have and that had to be told. People had to understand the beauty and the curse.

Prerecorded tapes seemed to drop like flies as Blair focused more and more of his time on the paper. It was a bright spot in a life of nothing new, no news to report, sorry he's still the same. This was remembering old times, of laughing out loud to a joke remembered by typing in the events of that day. It was easy to talk to Jim now lying in that bed because now he could remember the old times with his friend and even if Jim didn't laugh with him that was alright because in his mind Ellison was smiling and laughing along.

The days ran into months as the tapes were finished off one by one and then one day it was over and Blair decided to finish his paper the way it had began, with one slight change.

Humanity has long dug into its past in the hope that it will shed light on its future. Perhaps what this reveals is that it is the best of ourselves that will survive and lead us through the next millennium. Watching our every step will be our tribal protectors -- the sentinels -- and their insight will further illuminate the spiritual connection of all things. And each of their lights if for only a small moment will light the world with their wisdom, strength and courage.

They should be honored for the life they freely give to the world.

The end.

It didn't take long for the editing to be done, the convenience of "find word" and "replace with" coming in handy for things like replacing Jim with "sentinel" or "the sentinel". Once done it was just a matter of reading over it one last time for flow and punctuation. However that read over was done at night after dinner with Jim hopefully listening, after all a promise was a promise, Jim would get to read it over before it was turned in.

The day was bright and warm as Blair walked into his adviser and placed his thesis down on the desk. It should have been a proud moment of his life. A turning point with only one last step to go before he obtained these two little letters. The taste of victory and vindication was in his grasp. But instead of tasting victory all it tasted like was bittersweet chocolate.

Jim should have been here with me.

 

10. Only Defense

"Mr. Sandburg, the committee has read over your thesis and to say that it's incredible would be an understatement." The professor started after calling the meeting to order.

"Thank you. I worked hard to well document the life of Sentinels."

"Yes and that hard work certainly comes across. As you have stated your point of view very well, that I am aware of this committee only has a few questions for you."

"Yes sir." Blair was numb. This was his dream his life and suddenly it all seemed so very black and white instead of the full Technicolor version he had thought it would be.

"First, can we meet your subject? I noticed that their name has been carefully omitted."

"Yes, to follow the wishes of my subject I removed their name. Although those of us in this room I'm sure find sentinels an exciting now documented chance of nature that should be amazed at the tendencies that they seem to exhibit. There are some who would also look at them as freaks of nature and this is what my subject wishes to avoid."

"Mr. Sandburg, how far are you willing to take that statement. What if we refuse this document based on the fact that it could be a figment of your imagination we have no name or proof that you in fact were studying a sentinel."

Blair turned to the man and turned cold eyes onto them. "If you are saying I need too produce a name for your enjoyment in order for this to be accepted I will with drawl the document and myself from Rainer. Lots of research subjects go unnamed it's not unusual nor would it be fair not to grant it to them when they ask."

"Understood. But if this gets published people will go looking." An older man looked at Blair sympathetically.

"Let them look Professor Barnes, they wont find him." His tone was so quite the old man had to strain to hear.

"So I take it you stand behind what your final conclusion is of these extraordinary people?"

"Yes, Sentinels are doomed to a fate of burn out. Destined to become vegetables before their time or die in the process. I assure you gentlemen I am the last one to want to admit it, but I have seen it happen and there is only that conclusion. All sentinels will fall into the ultimate zone that will take their life, it's just a matter of time."

"Not a very happy ending then."

"No," Blair whispered as he stood knowing the meeting was now over. "Not for all the give its not."

"Well Dr. Sandburg, I have a feeling that a few publishers will be calling you very soon over this fine work you have presented to us. Be sure you can back your sources young man and I will see you in my office on Monday to start your contract negotiations."

"That's it?" Blair looked up confused.

"Blair, this is over 500 pages of evidence supporting you, it's not something you have to fight for, you proved it about a hounded times in these pages. We just had a few bases to cover."

"Oh I see. Thank you."

"No, thank you young man. This is an extraordinary find one that will change lives."

Blair walked out of the meeting with only one thought. It can't change the one life it needs to change.

 

11. An open letter to Mr. Sandburg

Well after everything else Blair had gone through these past two years wasn’t enough to harden a man to just about anything he didn’t know what was. But still here he stood doing something he had never even thought about until on his last visit Mr. Ellison had thought it would be a good idea.

Leaning back against the bed Blair remembered the small smile that was on the mans face has he simply reasoned; "Blair when he comes out of this he’s not going to fit into any of those cloths anyway. It’s best to get them out of here now, don’t want to remind him of what he once was. Then when he is back in shape we’ll just buy him new ones."

Stephen had been there and also supported the idea of going through Jim’s cloths and getting rid of the ones that he would no longer need. "After all Blair," He had said, " we can give them to charity help a few people down on their luck. Winter is coming and Jim has all those warm sweaters that will just sit and rot."

And deep down he knew they were right. Which is why he was sitting here surrounded by Jim’s cloths, each one holding a faint scent of what Jim use to smell like before the hospital. The scent he found oddly comforting like a ray of hope where clouds had just been.

Standing he shifted the piles slightly to get to the closet. The dresser and shelves had been taken care off; last thing was the closet and then bags to put the different piles in. After that it would just be a call to Stephen and then they would be gone all the cloths Jim had worn so well would be off to help the needy. It’s not that the thought of helping others was bothering him, it was more along the lines of giving Jim’s things away without his permission.

The wardrobes hinges moaning their protest of being used after such a long time as Blair open them to revile Ellison’s dress shirts and pants all neatly hung some of the better pairs still covered in plastic from being cleaned. One by one Blair pulled them out laying them across the bed saving only a few of each as he had done with the flannel shirts, sweaters, undershirts, underwear and everyday wear. Some of the clothing held special meaning to Jim that Blair knew and he wasn’t about to give that away.

The last thing he came upon was something he forgot Jim had. It was Ellison’s uniforms. One was from his army days the other his full dress blues for the PD. Taking them out he draped them over his arm, feeling the plastic stick to slightly sweaty skin he traced a gold medal with a finger feeling it’s coolness through the clear bag. He had seen Jim in this full outfit only one time, at Danny’s funeral it was on that day Blair had realized that Jim really hated death. Not that he didn’t accept it or understand that it was a part of life he just hated it. Hated the loss he felt but wouldn’t share, hated the things that came along with death and especially hated it when it came to those he loved and had let inside, those hurt him more then Blair could ever understand because Jim wasn’t a man who grieved openly.

Sitting down on bed Blair held the uniform close to his chest, it was the one reminder he had of the man that Jim had once been and for the first time in over a year Blair let the tears he felt fighting their way to the surface come. Alone that’s what he felt, so damn alone. No one understood what the loss of Jim had done to him and he couldn’t tell them. Couldn’t explain the pain of not guiding of watching what felt like a part of you die slowly and being helpless to stop it. Hating every breath you take because it doesn’t smell or taste like normal. The hate that he felt waking up everyday slowly understanding that it wasn’t going to be any different from the day before but not able to bring himself to just NOT hope and to just NOT try.

His life was one big circle of nothing. School was a breeze after being on the streets of Cascade being next to the man who taught him how to think on a whole different level he noticed the difference in his own work. Maybe he had grown up but for some reason he thought of things deeper then just a tribe here or there he thought of why the tribe did these things, how they effected other tribes around them what the culture and code of honor had been for each. One of his professors had even commented to him that it was an amazing transformation Blair had made from just knowing and teaching the information to accepting, digesting and passing on the information. And he owed that to Jim, owed so much to Jim and now when Jim needed him the most all he could do was sit and cry over the past over things that had been and would probably never be again.

It wasn’t fair. Life just wasn’t fair. Maybe that’s why Naomi never gets attached, it hurts too much.

He wasn’t sure how long he just sat there crying, but one thing was for sure tears equal headaches. BIG headaches. Getting himself together Blair hung the uniforms back up and reached for a tissue. Blowing his nose several times he figured he might as well finish up before washing his face, with emotions strung this high chances were those wouldn’t be the only tears to fall.

Several bags of cloths later Sandburg decided he should clean off the shelf that went with the cloths. Maybe Jim had some little things he would no longer need for awhile, tie tacks cufflinks something like that. Bulling out a small wooden box Blair sat himself on the now clean bed and opened up his find.

It was exactly what he had thought, just Jim’s "jewelry" so to speak. But along with it was a long white envelope. Turning it over in his hand he saw his name written in Jim’s handwriting. He hands began to shake as he took out the slightly warn paper a small photo of the two of them along with it. He wasn’t sure how Jim had gotten the picture taken at all; it was of the two of them on their first fishing trip together. One of the best times in his life had been on this trip. He had told Jim that later when they had gotten home how much the trip had meant to him and when Jim had asked him why, there was no real specific reason he could think of, just the trip being there with Jim laughing and relaxing. Looking back he now knew it was because this was the first time Jim had really let down his walls. It wasn’t Detective Ellison and ride along Blair Sandburg on that trip for the first time it had been Jim and Blair to friends hanging out.

Slowly Blair opened the letter not sure if he wanted to read it at all but knowing he didn’t really have a choice.

Blair,

If you are reading this it is my assumption that there are only two reasons. One, you are going through my things and if that is the case, put this back where you found it and get your nose out of my things. Remember I can TELL where you have been, it’s good being a sentinel that way. The other reason would be because I am not around anymore and if that is the case I can see my father or brother asking you to go through my things. They don’t have the heart for that kind of stuff, not like you, I saw it when my grandmother died it’s just not something either of them can accept or understand. They don’t know how to keep something that they love close as I write this they are trying but I can’t see them completing that emotional trip anytime soon. Do me a favor and save something nice for each of them. If they want a reminder of me they will have it, if not it will make you look good in their eyes for trying. Next I hope I died well, what that means is that I didn’t beg for mercy I faced my death as I face life head on ready to take the punches that go along the way. If not, please remember me like I did, I must have had a weak moment. If for some reason this is related to a Sentinel thing, you need to promise me Chief you will not blame yourself. I know in my heart you have done all you can do I have faith that you would have tried to take care of me no matter what I said or did you were always there right by me. The ever trusting helpful guide. I guess that is why I am writing this to you now because I can’t see anytime in the near future me saying these things to you. You’re a good man Blair; you stuck by me no matter what I said or did or how many times I tried to push you away. We have pushed each other I know, I could tell when you were pushing back but for the first time in my life I didn’t mind giving. I knew there was something special in you but once we were working together I knew that it wasn’t just directed at this sentinel project but at the world in general your views and understandings your mountains of information that can be accessed at just the right time. You amaze me Sandburg we are two vastly different people and yet somehow we blend together just right and get results. That’s what I liked about us, if you were to look up the word team in the dictionary it would have a picture of you and I beside it because that is what we are a team, we took the word reinvented it, molded it and now it fits us.

Now comes the part of this letter I hate to have to write, simply because I hate putting you in this position. If I am still alive and on some sort of machine locked away in a room promise me Blair as a friend you will know when to stop. I don’t want to live forever; I’m not a superman I’m a sentinel, which means I am more human, then most and more susceptible to danger. Don’t let me linger if you can help it, I know you will know what to do when needed, I trust your judgement because I trust you like I have no one else.

Move on Blair, you tend to linger on things trying to figure out how to fix them. This can’t be fixed, get your doctorate become the man I know you are grab the brass ring that has been waiting for you. If anyone in the world deserves it you do, I’m just privileged that I had a change to be a part of your life.

The picture is something I want you to have, I was never able to say this but it was one of the best times in my life as well. We had lots of other trips that were just as nice, but this was the first. The first time I let anyone inside and just relaxed since I was a kid. Only with you Blair, you’re the only one I could every truly trust.

So in closing my friend, live your life, I have lived mine. I hope that I helped you in some way even if its only a fraction of an amount it’s something that would make me happy to know where ever I am right now. We’re a team Sandburg, I believed in you and you I think believed in me. Don’t let that change.

Your friend – roommate, your sentinel,

Jim Ellison

 

12. Disaster Strikes

Dr. Sandburg Blair still couldn’t believe that was on his door now. And his office that was so much bigger then a storage room had ever been and things were nice of major high quality and for the first time in his life Blair was wondering if he had made it. But if he had made it, he had made it without Jim and that still hadn’t felt right.

Sitting down in the chair that the university had provided him Blair took out the letter he had found once more he had read it so many times now the pages were starting to wear. This is what Jim had wanted him to do to keep going when he could not. Well he had, he kept going and here he was, about to teach his first class as Dr. Blair Sandburg but it still didn’t feel the way he thought it should have. When he had started this sentinel thing with Jim it was to prove he was right that he wasn’t someone who believed in the existence of something that didn’t exists.

But now he had done that, and now he knew the price of that knowledge and the price that all sentinels must pay and somewhere along the line he almost wished that he didn’t know because knowing hurt and his dream was so much better.

The day had been a long draining one. His first class had been a breeze but the party his fellow colleges had given him along the way that had been a surprise and a bit awkward. But now, now he was sitting back in his new office and looking at Jim’s letter once more. The last communication he had from his friend. His friend the one who was so sure Blair would know the right thing to do when the time came.

And as the night fell around him Blair wondered to himself if he did know the right thing to do, if he would ever know the right thing to do.

The ringing of his phone brought him out of the deep thoughts he was having. His stomach fell as he looked at the phone just knowing something was wrong.

"Blair Sandburg." He called in a week voice.

"Blair, its Norma. Um something’s going on with Jim." She took a deep depressing breath that made Blair close his own eyes in pain.

"Blair," Her voice cracked "you need to come home now."

 

13. To shed a tear of regret

"Blair, I have been through a lot of family’s who have been right where you are right now. I just want to tell you a few things okay?"

"Yeah Norma." His words were hushed as he looked at the yellowness of Jim’s skin the color that was known as the ‘death hue’.

"Just think about this okay? You did all you could, you fought for him so many times and had him brought back believing he would come through when everyone else had chalked him up as a goner. You did what you could Blair, no one can say you didn’t not even yourself. And maybe, well maybe this is what’s best right now… that he goes to a peace that’s not a limbo between this world and the next. He needs to move on and so do you, Blair. Remember him, mourn him do what ever you have to do but let him go with a clear conscience."

"Thank you, I’ll keep that in mind later." He nodded turning them both towards the door to see her out.

"I can stay if you want. Be someone to hold your hand or make the phone calls when needed? I am certified to be a support for the well just as much as the sick."

"I know Norma, and thanks for the offer. If I need you, I can call?" Blair’s eyes were full of sadness and disbelief his world was dying and he couldn’t save it.

Norma took him into a long hug as her own tears started to fall. "I’m sorry Blair, I wanted so bad for you to be right and to get your wish. I’m sorry… so very sorry."

Blair hugged her back just as badly letting out a small cry of grief on her shoulder trying to hold back the tears that wanted to do nothing but fall forever. "I know you did Norma. Thank you for believing in us." He didn’t recognize his own voice he could feel a cold hand wrap around his heart and soul then begin to tighten.

Pulling back she knew he wanted to be alone with his friend. "Alright Blair, you call me in the morning either way understand? I’ve grown too fond of you to walk out of here and never hear from you again." She smiled slightly.

"I’ll call." He promised not sure if he even remembered her number right now.

Closing the door, Blair turned off the lights that she had put on. He wasn’t going to need them. Putting on the CD that had Jim’s favorite Peruvian music that he had bought it while Incacha had been staying with them Blair moved to sit beside his friend.

"So this is it?" he began not knowing where he was going just talking. "This is what it will all come down too and there isn’t a damn thing I can do to stop it." He ran a hand through his hair and paused just looking around the loft. "It’s not fair Jim, it’s not fucking fair do you hear me!" He was panting as his anger welled up inside. "I believed in you, I trusted you. I fought for you damn it. I told everyone that you would get better and you go and do this! How could you? How fucking could you?" He sobbed this time realizing he was yelling at the friend he was about to loose. He sobered at that thought, even as Blair held Jim’s hand tightly he knew something was going to change and given their track record these past few years it wasn’t going to be good.

The heart monitor went down another notch and slowly Blair let reality take a hold of him. Jim was truly going to leave him alone. "Please Jim, if you can hear me, don’t leave me. Don’t leave me alone." He whispered as tears began to fall from his eyes unchecked. He looked at the sunken face that had once been so full of life. The lips now chapped and pealing that had always looked so soft and gently and the thinning hear that was always sticking straight up from bed head in the morning now even thinner and combed into place. So much had changed, so very much that maybe all of their friends had been right. Each and every one of them had said it at one time or another. Maybe James Ellison was better off dying. The recovery time he was looking at now was at best a year with not promise Jim would be able to stay a cop.

And if Jim wasn’t a cop what would he be?

Letting his grief take over Blair held Jim’s hand even tighter as he laid his head on the bed next to them. Closing his eyes he followed his heart and assured himself this was the right thing.

"Something I’m not sure you ever understood Jim." He said from his place on the bed. "A guide needs the sentinel just as much as the sentinel needs the guide. Without you… I don’t know what I am." He sniffed then feeling the sheets growing ever damp by his tears. The heart monitor changed once more and the tears and sobs came faster now, letting himself pour out the grief he had kept bottled up for so long his worst nightmare come true. Knowing that he couldn’t do anything he just held Jim’s hand tight and closed his eyes, in the morning he would call 911. In the morning he would make the calls he had prayed to so many deities he would never have to make. The first would be to Jim’s father to let him know his son had died during the night. Closing his eyes Blair tried to relax enough to sleep, he would have this last time with Jim these last few moments of their extraordinary life and partnership coming to this.

"My only wish is that you could take me with you where ever you are going." He whispered before drifting off into the darkness of night, sleep and grief.

 

14. To Live Again

The sunlight was streaming into the loft through the patio doors whose curtains had never been closed the night before. It was a warm feeling on his face that stirred Blair awake opening his eyes slightly seeing the sunlight and groaning low in his throat.

He would wake up to a sunny day. Life really wasn’t fair.

His hand was still covering Jim’s and the previous night came crashing back to him with a crystal clarity that shocked him. He didn’t want to lift his head; he didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to find Jim’s dead body. Not now, not ever, not at least for the next few moments.

Moments that he could pretend that Ellison would sit up and laugh at him for crying so hard the night before. Moments in which he could remember the good times of walking and talking over a case or a problem together. Moments in which he could just remember his friend.

If he got up now, he would have to make phone calls. Phone calls he didn’t know how to make. How do you call someone up and tell him or her that their son is dead? How do you tell a friend that another has passed? How do you stop your heart from dying every time you do it?

It was then that he felt a finger move slightly. So slight he thought he had imagined it as he just sat their looking his back sending pain waves through his body in protest but still he sat a small glimmer of hope praying he hadn’t been wrong.

But then it happened again. This time he not only felt the finger but also saw it as well twitching slightly. On the heels of this discovery he heard something a soft "aiiirrr?" Slowly he lifted his head, scarred of what he may find when looking at Jim or maybe of what he might not find.

"Jim?" He whispered, knowing he was just stalling for time to find the inevitable.

But then it happened, happened just when Blair had been convinced it never would have happened again. Jim opened his eyes and looked at him. Really LOOKED right at him as a small smile tugged at the side of his lips.

"JIM! Oh my GOD JIM!!!!" Blair yelled standing up so fast he knocked over the chair that he has just been sleeping in. "Oh please say something MOVE something just to SOMETHING!" The joy in his voice was one of a man looking at a miracle the light in his eyes that of welcoming friendship home from a long separation.

Jim struggled moaning as he closed his fingers loosely around the hand that still held his. He swallowed with a noisy click in his throat trying to light his dry lips with and even dryer tongue. Once again he tried to talk only to find that words could no longer be said and he turned confused eyes onto the partner who just stood there with a stupid smile taking it all in.

"It’s okay Jim, I know you can’t talk, don’t waist your energy trying. I need to make a call to someone who will come and help okay? Blink if you understand me."

And at Jim’s slow blink Blair dashed over to the phone grabbing it and the phone book all at the same time. He took a moment to hold Jim’s hand feeling the slow warmth that was returning to semi-cold flesh as he pushed a speed dial button.

"Norma?" He called as the sleeping voice that whispered hello.

"Blair? Blair what’s going on? Did he?" She woke up immediately at the tone of the exasperated man knowing that this call was going to come sometime this morning.

"No NOOO! Norma I need you over here now, Jim… well Jim… he’s… he’s awake Norma and I don’t know what to do we didn’t cover this part." He was nervous and excited and worried all at once not to mention he really did need to pee, but there was no way he was leaving Jim alone right now.

"WHAT!" The nurse called into the phone, disbelief came across clear as can be. "Okay, I need you to go to the monitors Blair, this might be a calm before the end, it can happen okay."

"Norma…" Blair’s tone was one of warning.

"Blair, you and I know each other pretty damn well and I am not going to lie to you here okay. Just keep in mind that for right now Jim isn’t out of the woods. Now go to the monitors and read me off the numbers."

Sandburg did as he was told Jim’s questioning gaze watching him along the way. Waiting as Norma did some calculations on her end he tipped the phone away from his mouth as he said; "It’s your nurse, she needs to make sure I’m not crazy and that you are awake and doing okay."

"Cute Blair. Okay, listen I am going to head on over, I want you to call Dr. Smith at the hospital if he’s not there you need to tell the nurse to page him alright? When you get a hold of him tell him, I’m on my way be he needs to come over there as well understand."

"Yeah I understand, listen can I give him some water?"

"NO!! You don’t do anything aside from what I told you to do and your normal morning routine. I’ll be there in less then twenty minutes with a change of cloths. I can shower at your place right?"

"Yeah of course but why?"

"No time to explain I’m walking out my door, call the doctor." With that she hung up.

"Sorry Jim, no water for that dry mouth just hang in their she’s on her way. She’s nice, you’ll like her." All the while he was dialing the phone. "Yes Dr. Smith please. Blair Sandburg it’s an emergency. Yeah, I’ll hold."

"Mr. Sandburg, I understand Jim is dead at this point then?" the Dr. came on the line rather mournful.

"Actually no Dr. Jim is awake and looking at me right now. Norma told me to call and ask you to come over here now."

"But Norma informed me last night that Mr. Ellison was expected to die."

"Well, that’s what we thought but I got two blue eyes on me right now, a hand that is moving slightly and someone trying to light dry lips that says we were wrong."

"I see, tell Norma I’ll be over after I finish with this patient, in total about thirty minutes."

"Sounds good."

When Norma let herself in she was a bundle of energy tossing her bag onto the chair she headed over to Jim’s area of the loft. She stopped as Jim looked at her questioningly. "Well I’ll be damned. Mr. Ellison I’m Norma one of your nurses that has helped Blair take care of you. I’m going to need to do some small tests right now are you okay with that?"

Jim could only grunt his approval as he watched the woman look at his chart and machines.

"Well, I hope that was a yes." She replied as she lifted his hand and moved it a bit.

"Norma, I’m gonna go get cleaned up promise me you wont let Jim out of your sight?"

"Yeah sure Blair, go do what you need to." She mumbled as she tested another area.

When Blair came out of the bathroom fully dressed and ready to start his day the Dr. was there and Norma was explaining to him what was going on with Jim just looking stupidly between the two of them.

"Dr. Smith." He called extending his hand.

"Well Blair," He took the hand shaking it warmly. "I think I am going to call you a miracle worker son, I don’t know how you did it but he seems to be coming out of it just fine."

"Yeah I know, but what does that mean. Why can’t I give him water his mouth is so dry and…"

"Blair," Norma interrupted him, as she knew he was about to go on a tirade. "Jim’s been gone a long time and his muscles have atrophy."

"Yeah I know…"

She held up a hand to stop him again. "But what we don’t know is how much he remembers. That doesn’t just mean talking it means swallowing, going to the bathroom day to day things that we all do but it’s our subconscious doing it."

"So what…"

"It means that the nurse and I need to do some tests on Jim. Then you and I need to talk about moving him back to the hospital for therapy, speech and physical, then we need to make sure he can get around on his own once more before we release him back to the loft."

Blair looked at Jim who had been watching him the entire time. "How long will he be gone again?"

"Well, not foreseeing any relapse I’d say six to eight months. We will double check for brain damage but I think Jim here will come along just fine. He might be able to go back to work as soon as next year." The Dr. was openly optimistic.

"Can I call some people over here?"

"Yeah give them a call while we work with Jim some. Blair he’s going to moan some, I’ve sent for some pain killers but right now he’s going to feel his muscles."

"Yeah I gotcha, at least I can hear him. You got that Jim? They are going to work with you see how much we can do for you right now, I’m going to call some people and let them know you’re awake and see if they want to come over. If you understand and agree blink twice." He smiled as Jim blinked twice and tried to smile back.

Blair made the first call to Jim’s dad who started thanking god the moment he said the word awake. Mr. Ellison had agreed to come over right away, he also said he would contact Stephen so that Blair could make a few other calls. The next call was to Simon who actually wanted to talk to the Dr. for a moment before saying he would be right there. Then came H and Rafe and Joel each of them promising to call someone else and before long all Blair had to do was wait for the people to start showing up.

And show up they did with flowers, balloons and more then enough food to feed half of Cascade. By the time the first of them had gotten there, it was decided to try and give Jim some water. Norma holding Jim’s throat making sure he was swallowing fully and deeply dropping water into Jim’s mouth via a straw. All the while Blair just sat by Jim’s side holding the man’s hand loving the fact that Jim was holding it slightly back this time.

Blair was explaining to Jim what had happened and just how long he had been gone when Simon walked in the door stopping as he saw Jim’s eyes upon him. It was the oddest moment of his life. It was a dream come true. "Jim, you beat the devil once more."

He said out loud joining the others surrounding the bed all of them looking on just loving the view of Jim’s eyes moving and his mouth moving slight.

Ellison smiled from his bed, moaning at the pain he was feeling at the action of turning his head back and forth but he did have time to send one small jester to his Captain and friend. Slowly he curled back the fingers of his hand to expose his middle finger. Then catching Blair’s eyes with his own he looked down knowing that Sandburg would do the same.

"Hey Simon, looks like Jim is giving you the bird here." His smile was in his voice as he passed the message onto the Captain and the whole room erupted in laughter at the act. All of them glad to see their friend back with the living even if it was going to take an even longer time to get him back to his whole life.

And with the simple action of the laughter that filled the loft the guilt zone was over, recovery would come and life would once again move on for the members of Major Crimes, all slightly older defiantly wiser and stronger then ever.

The End.