EVOLUTION OF FRIENDSHIP PART 9

"Looking Out For A Hero"

by

Annie

DISCLAIMER: We all know the song - not mine, never will be, no money paid, no copyright infringement intended.

Feedback: Annie

Archive: No thank you.

Betaed by Lyn. Thanks again, sis.

NOTES: This is an AU type epilogue to Vow Of Silence. This fic contains references to previous parts of this series so it might be helpful to read those first but it can be read as a stand-alone as it follows canon up to a point. This is also my version of a fic "bottle show" but I've tried to put as much original stuff in here as possible as well. Hopefully, it works <fingers crossed - bg>. Many thanks to Lyn for keeping me more or less sane over the past couple of months, and to the members of the Sentinelangst list for all the wonderful stories, art, poetry and LoC's they've given to me over the past few years. Thanks guys! Oh by the way, I have no idea what tickets to Jags games were made from in 1996, so cut me some artistic license here, okay? I also have no idea when basketball finals are played in the States - so ditto on that, too <bg>. And yes, I did try to find out.

Jim pulled the two stiff pieces of cardboard from his jacket pocket as he jogged up the three flights of stairs to his apartment. He'd been thinking of something to do to get Blair's mind of what had happened at Saint Sebastian's for the past couple of days and had finally come up with the perfect distraction. As he walked into the loft, he called his partner's name, then waited just inside the front door till Blair emerged from his room.

"Hey, Jim," Blair greeted him. "Give me a few minutes to wash up and I'll get dinner ready. You're early, man."

"Yeah, I told Simon I had an errand to run and snuck out," Jim replied, deliberately making a huge show of putting one hand behind his back.

"What you got there?" Blair asked, his curiosity obviously piqued by Jim's ostentatious display.

"A surprise," Jim responded, moving across the room till he was a foot away from Blair. "Try to guess what it is," he added, grinning.

"Jeez, Jim, I don't know. No, no, wait… I got it. You finally won the lottery and that's the winning check behind your back." Blair smiled and went into the bathroom.

Jim waited impatiently as Blair washed and dried his hands.

"No-o-o," he said slowly, making an attempt at patience as his partner emerged from the room and walked into the kitchen. "Something even better than that."

"Better than winning the lottery?" Blair replied sceptically. "I don't know, Jim. I give up. I'm not real good with guessing games, man. I mean, I never knew which kid had the doggie's bone in kindergarten. Just tell me or you'll be waiting a long time for dinner."

Jim pulled his hand from behind his back and flourished the passes under Sandburg's nose. "Tickets!" he announced, grinning broadly. "Tickets to the Jag's semi-final play-off tomorrow and Simon has graciously given me, and by extension, you, the day off."

"Tomorrow?" Blair asked. "Um, that's great, Jim. Why don't you ask Joel or Brown or one of those guys if they want to go?" He turned and began pulling vegetables out of the fridge, placing them on the countertop.

"What?" Jim was stunned. He'd had to almost bribe Santelli from Vice to get these tickets. Hell, he'd all but promised the man his firstborn child and Blair didn't want to go? "You've been talking about this game for weeks, Chief. You said if the Jags made the finals you'd do anything to be there."

"I know," Blair replied casually, pulling out the cutting board and beginning to chop the vegetables. "And if it wasn't on tomorrow, I'd be there with you, big guy. But I have something to do tomorrow, something important. It's cool, man. Just take someone else."

"You sure about this, Chief?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, really. It's fine, Jim. It was nice of you to do it, though. Thanks. Hey! Ask Simon. Think of the points you could make with the boss by taking him to the game." Blair shot a quick smile over his shoulder at the stunned Sentinel then continued chopping the vegetables.

"Okay. As long as you're sure," Jim replied, deliberately focusing his hearing on Blair's heartbeat, trying to tell if Blair was lying about not wanting to go. His guide's pulse remained steady, if a little faster than normal.

"I'm sure. Have a great time, buddy. I'm making those stir-fried noodles with vegetables and chicken you like, okay?"

"Yeah, that's great, Chief. Um, I'm gonna go take a shower," Jim said.

Blair nodded and Jim headed for his room to get his robe, wondering where the real Blair Sandburg, the Jags number one fan, was and where the hell this alien Blair had hidden the pod.

~oOo~

Blair had gone by the time Jim got up the next morning. Jim wondered momentarily when it was that he'd begun unconsciously searching for his guide's presence in the loft as soon as he woke up.

He poured himself a cup of coffee from the pot Blair had left heating and washed down a couple of pieces of toast with it. Then he showered and dressed, remembering at the last minute that he had the day off today. He wandered out to the living room, the Jags tickets in his hand. Making up his mind at last about whom to take, he crossed to the phone and began to dial Simon Banks' number. He'd dialed the first three digits when he spied a newspaper clipping half-hidden under the notepad kept next to the phone for messages. Hanging up the phone, he'd pulled it out, read it and suddenly everything clicked into place.

The obituary page. A notice halfway down the page, ringed in red, announced a memorial service for Brother Christopher, "lately of Saint Sebastian's Monastery. All family and friends of the late Brother Christopher are invited to attend a memorial service in remembrance of his life and servitude to God at the chapel of Saint Sebastian's Monastery at 11 AM, Wednesday, November 15th, 1996."

Jim remembered the happy-go-lucky priest who'd said he had written a few detective stories and asked if Jim would look them over, to ensure accuracy. He'd agreed readily at the time, amused by the man's earnestness but Brother Christopher had died in an explosion at the monastery before Jim had really even had time to get to know him.

Knowing for certain now why Blair had refused to go to the game, Jim picked up the phone and redialled his Captain's phone number.

~oOo~

Jim entered the small stone chapel silently, taking a seat in a pew almost at the very back. The service had already begun. He sat down, wrinkling his nose a little at the scent of incense and the burnt wax of the candles placed on the altar.

He could see Blair sitting in the second row from the front, between Brother Marcus and one of the other monks, his head bowed in silent contemplation, his hair keeping his face obscured from Jim's view.

Jim looked around. Apart from the monks, Blair and himself, there was nobody else here. That saddened him a little, that Brother Christopher had cut his ties with the outside world so completely that there was no one from his former life that cared enough to come bid him farewell. Then again, the people who'd been the most important to him were here, Jim realized. Maybe that was all that mattered.

As the prayers droned on, Jim found his mind drifting back over the past year, since he'd met Blair. Fragments of memories flashed before his mind's eye -

The way Blair had helped him find the bomb on the bus -

"Don't look, listen."

Jim looked at his new partner in shock. His senses were still all over the place. How the hell was he supposed to concentrate on one to the exclusion of all the others, without going into one of those zone out things, *and* find the bomb that was about to blow them all to kingdom come?

Sandburg's gaze was steady, his eyes trusting.

*Shit! * Jim thought, *He really believes I can do this. *

Blair's uncertain question after Kincaid had taken over the PD -

"How’d you keep everything so controlled today, even when I wasn’t there? Maybe you don’t really need me after all," Blair asked softly, as if dreading the answer.

And his own sure response -

"Because I had to get you back in one piece, Chief. I need the man who’s teaching me how to do this stuff, and I wanted my friend to be safe. That’s what kept me online."

The first nightmare he'd had about losing Blair and realized just how important Blair was to him, as a friend -

Jim shouted to Blair to get down just as the window shattered from the impact of the bullet. There was a sudden bloom of red on the windscreen and then Blair was falling. Jim raced for the car, unconcerned for his own safety. Pulling open the door, he saw Blair's body sprawled over the seat, his eyes half open and glazed.

Jim reached a trembling hand toward his partner's neck and pushed his hearing out toward him, desperate for any evidence of Blair's survival. But no heartbeat thrummed beneath his fingers and his hearing heard nothing but his own desperate pleas for Blair to be okay.

The time Larry trashed the loft and how they'd laughed over Jim's reaction to what Larry had done, when Blair had finally come home to stay -

"Sandburg! If you want to keep that animal alive you better get him out of here now! Do you know what he's done in my bed?"

"Aah, crap, Larry," Blair muttered.

"That's one word for it, Sandburg. God, the whole place stinks!" Jim yelled back.

Rescuing Blair from Lash -

"It's okay, Chief," Ellison whispered, holding the terrified young man as tightly as he could without injuring him further. Almost without realizing it, he rocked slightly backward and forward as Blair tried to burrow even further into the safety of his embrace.

Jim could hear the rasping sobs from a throat that was dry and strained from screaming defiance at Lash, and from being gagged. Hot moisture trickled down his arm where Blair hid his face and he knew his partner was crying.

The night he and Blair had come to accept their relationship as Sentinel and Guide -

"Jim, I'm proud to be your guide, you know. Pre-ordained or not."

Jim hugged him back then released him and held his friend, his *guide* away from him, looking deeply into his eyes. "No prouder than I am to have you, Chief," he said.

Being there for Blair after Maya -

Blair didn't look up as Jim sat down next to him, but the quiet sobs stopped. "She said she loves me, but she hates me too," he whispered. "How is that possible?"

"I don't know, Blair," Jim responded, equally quiet.

Blair lifted his hand and swiped away the evidence of his loss of control. "I am such a wuss, Jim. I don't know why you put up with me," he said, laughing shakily.

"You're my friend, Chief," Jim said. Then he reached out and placed an arm around Blair's shoulders and pulled him close against his side, holding him there as they watched the sun come up over the Cascade skyline.

Jim's guilt over hitting Blair for kissing him as a joke after the Laura debacle -

Jim stood in front of his partner and gently touched Blair's cut lip. "No. I'll pay. No matter the reason, I shouldn't have hit you, Chief. I *am* sorry about that."

and the way they'd laughed for hours after, over Blair thinking Jim really would tell anyone else what had happened -

"You know," Jim remarked conversationally, turning to face his partner, "I wouldn't have told anyone about you kissing me. I mean, it's no good for my reputation either. You know how those nasty rumors spread, even if I *was* the wronged party." He shook his head ruefully then allowed a low, evil laugh to escape his lips. "I'm simply going to spread the word that I have it on very good authority that you're a lousy kisser, Chief!" He quickly yanked the door shut behind him and sped down the stairs, hearing Blair's plaintive wail follow him to the truck.

"Ellison! Jim! You get back here, man! Hey, Ellison, don't forget, I know where you live! Jiiiim!"

And then, just a few days ago, here at the monastery -

Blair fighting against Jim's restraining arms when he'd thought Brother Marcus was dead, the sheer anguish in his voice as he'd tried to go after the man he thought had killed him and the disbelieving joy on Blair's face when Brother Marcus had 'come back to life.'

Jim blinked himself out of his reverie as he heard the hushed chatter down the front and realized the service was over.

He stood up and saw Blair look up. He raised a hand in recognition and Blair smiled gently back as he hugged Brother Marcus.

Then Blair was walking up the aisle toward him, his eyes damp and serious.

"Jim? What are you doing here? What happened to the game?"

Jim leaned forward and pulled Blair into a heart-felt embrace then held him at arms-length, casting a sensory net around his Guide and measuring the responses he received. Satisfied that Blair was all right, he released him. "I gave the tickets to Simon. He took Daryl. I hope you don't mind me coming. I saw the notice next to the phone…"

"Of course I don't mind, Jim. I'm glad you're here. You should have come down front and sat with us," Blair replied, a pleased smile lighting his face, almost erasing the sadness in his eyes.

Jim shook his head. "Nah, you know… the incense and stuff…"

"Oh right, right." Blair shook his head as if berating himself for forgetting the obvious. "I'm really glad you came though. Brother Christopher would be too. He thought you were so cool. You know, the real live personification of his detective stories."

"He was a nice guy. I'm sorry I didn't have time to get to know him better."

"Yeah, me too." Blair's face became solemn as he looked around at the monks still gathered together around the altar rail, their heads bowed as if in prayer. "They're all heroes, man, every one of them, not just Brother Christopher, but the rest too," he went on. "I mean, the way they were all prepared to die for Brother Marcus. I can still see each of them stepping forward and saying, 'I am Jackie Kacszinski.' That kind of unselfishness just blows me away, you know?" Blair said earnestly, his voice tinged with more than a little awe. "They're heroes," he repeated.

Jim nodded and smiled. He wanted to say, "It takes one to know one, Chief." But he didn't. He just pulled Blair in for another quick hug and said, "How about I spring for pizza? Give Brother Christopher a decent send-off?"

"Really?" Blair pulled back and grinned up at him. "The guys too?" he asked, indicating the monks behind him.

"Sure, if they want to. Hey, they've got a bus, right? Yeah, I think we should do that, Chief," Jim replied, his smile matching Blair's.

"Okay, I'll go ask them. We might have to take them to the loft, though. They might not be comfortable in a pizza restaurant," Blair said confidentially.

"Whatever," Jim responded easily. He watched as Blair trotted back to the group of brown-robed men, chuckling as Blair made the offer, complete with enthusiastic hand gestures and saw the monks smile up at him, nodding their heads. Then, he turned and left the chapel, shaking his head. The neighbors were gonna love this!

The End

May 3rd 2005