I want to thank Patt Rose for encouraging me to donate a story to the on-line Moonridge auction this year. This was my first foray into donating a story. She knows I'll agree to almost anything <g>

I want to thank Lyn Townsend for the wonderful beta job, as usual. Without Lyn's influence, my stories would be less coherent.

Finally, I want to thank Lisa Adolf for bidding on my story and coming up with the idea of a Warriors epilogue. And I want to thank her for the friendship and support she's given me. Hope you enjoy this, Lisa!

 

Fear of Responsibility

By Debbie

EMAIL: Debbie

 

Simon looks from Jim to Blair. He knows both men have lost acquaintances, friends over the past few days. He's already checked and discovered CSU are still processing what occurred at the loft.

"Since your vehicle looks totaled, Jim, why don't I give the two of you a ride to the station? By the time you finish with the preliminary reports, the medical examiner should be done at your place."

Simon doesn't miss the twin looks that come across both men's faces -- a combination of sorrow and remembrance. Blair takes off, walking down the street, no set destination to his steps. It seems like he's trying to distance himself from everyone. Jim, on the other hand, stands there, looking upwards towards the greenhouse, the 'forest in the sky'. Somehow, Simon has a hard time believing Jim's earlier assessment of things being one hundred percent.

"Jim?" There is no answer. Simon walks over to his detective, touching him lightly on the arm to get his attention. Jim finally looks over at Simon.

"Why don't you get into my car while I round up Sandburg?" It seems like a reasonable request to Simon.

At the mention of his partner, Jim looks around. Blair is nowhere in sight. He has disappeared like the Chopec. Jim closes his eyes, expanding his hearing. He pinpoints Blair's voice, hearing him mumbling to himself. Jim can't quite make out the words, but he can detect the distress Blair is experiencing. He frowns, opens his eyes and turns back to Simon.

"I'll get Blair, Simon." Jim walks off with no other explanation.

Simon is not a happy person. "Dammit, Ellison! I don't need this from either of you!" Simon thinks about following, but holds back.

Jim ignores Simon, turning down the alleyway, and spotting Blair slumped against the brick wall. Jim walks up and slides down to sit beside Blair. He notices the younger man's eyes are closed and a few tears have escaped.

"Simon is waiting for us and his patience is wearing thin. We have to do this eventually. Just the preliminaries, Chief. To make sure Spalding, Yeagar and the others don't get away with murder."

Blair opens his eyes, turning to face Jim. "It's all been too much, Jim. But I'll help with the reports. After that…"

"Yeah, Chief. After that, we'll talk."

Jim watches as Blair gets to his feet and then he reaches out a hand. Jim takes it gratefully and stands. They walk back to where Simon is waiting.

"Are you okay, Sandburg?" Simon starts to move to Blair's side, but Jim gets in front of Blair, shielding him from the captain.

"Go get into the back seat of Simon's car, Chief." Jim is still looking at Simon, challenging him to come between them. Simon backs off slightly.

Blair moves over to Simon's car, getting into the back seat. He keeps his head down, trying to keep it together a while longer.

"What the hell is going on, Jim?"

"I found him in the alleyway, sitting on the ground, pressed against the wall. He's an emotional wreck, Simon. He's barely holding himself together. The events of the past few days are all crashing down on him. And on me too. I'll do the preliminary reports and Blair can wait for me to finish."

"Jim, you know I'm going to have to have his account on all of this, along with yours. His involvement in this case is as important as yours. I was the one who gave him the responsibility."

"I know that, Simon. He's kept up with all the reports from the investigation. My account of what happened will assure Spalding, Yeagar and the others will be charged and kept in jail until their trial. I just want to give Sandburg a few more days."

Simon sighs. He doesn't like it, but he can live with it. "Okay, Jim. Let's go and make sure the kid is still in the car."

They walk towards Simon's car and Jim thinks about Sandburg, the kid, as Simon likes to call him. Blair is hardly a kid. He's wise beyond his years. An obvious genius, as Jim can attest to him being. Blair's been able to help Jim with his heightened senses. He's mentioned it is luck and guesses, but Jim knows Blair is hardest on himself, questioning his abilities and his worth. Jim suspects it's a matter of self-esteem. Now, Blair has the added mantle of shaman passed to him from Incacha. Jim wonders if Blair has thought about it. He suspects it's muddled up with all the other thoughts going around in his friend's mind.

Jim spots Blair in the back seat, staring out in front of him, not focused on anything or anyone in particular. If Jim didn't know better, he'd say Blair was suffering from his own form of zone out. Maybe the Guide is as susceptible as the Sentinel.

Jim gets into the front passenger side of the car. He turns to look at Blair and the young man blinks, looking straight at Jim. Jim notes the profound sadness he sees in his friend's eyes. Pretty much the same way Jim is feeling. Jim knows it will be a long talk between the two of them.

Simon drives them to the station, unnerved by the silence inside the car. He can barely hear Blair's breathing in the back seat. Whenever he looks in the rearview mirror, Simon notes Blair's lowered head. Simon looks over at Jim, noting the detective's eyes are closed. Simon shakes his head and continues towards the station, wondering just what is going to happen.

~~*~~

Jim turns again to make sure Blair is following behind. Without any words from his normally verbose partner, Jim resorts to visual confirmation of Blair still in his presence. Of course, Jim could use his hearing to pinpoint Blair behind him, but he needs the visual input to keep an eye on his Guide. There is no bounce to the steps as they enter the elevator. Jim presses the button for Major Crime and relaxes against the back of the car.

Simon decides to break the silence, which by now is almost overwhelming. "This shouldn't take too long to finish up and I'll give you the next couple of days off, Jim. And I can find out if the ME and the crime scene investigators are finished up at the loft so you can go home."

"Damn! I forgot all about that! I'm going to have to do a lot of clean up. Or have someone else do it." Jim turns to face Blair. "I don't know if we'll be able to go home tonight or not, Chief. I'll pay for a hotel room."

"I can go to the university." The response is said whisper soft. Even Jim has a hard time hearing it.

"I think we need to talk, Blair. I'm sure the university will give you a few days off. Don't they have bereavement leave? You can at least take a couple of days for that. You can call from my desk."

Blair nods, not saying anything more. The elevator reaches the sixth floor and the three men get off, heading towards Major Crime. Simon leaves Jim and Blair alone and head towards his own office. He wants to find out the status of the investigators at the loft and of the men arrested earlier.

Jim and Blair head for Jim's desk. Blair pulls over a chair and sits down, getting out the necessary forms. Jim notices the action and decides not to make a big deal out of it. Maybe Blair does need to document what happened now to start to get past things. Jim goes to the break room to get both of them some coffee. He would like to get something stronger, but he's thinking that maybe later they'll be able to do that.

As Jim walks back carrying two cups of coffee, he notices Blair get to his feet. "Excuse me." Blair walks out of the bullpen.

Jim tracks Blair with his hearing. Blair goes into the bathroom. Jim sets the coffee cups down and looks over what Blair has written on his report. He was just finishing the part about Janet.

"Damn!" Jim swears softly, getting to his feet. He makes his way to the bathroom, pausing outside the door, listening. He hears retching and walks inside, spotting Blair in the first stall, down on his knees, leaning over the toilet. Jim locks the door to the bathroom and walks over to crouch down beside Blair.

"I can't do it, Jim. I'm sorry." Blair tries to move away from Jim, but Jim prevents the movement.

"It's okay, Chief. I totally understand. I told Simon you'd probably need a couple of days. If I get my reports done, it will be enough to keep these guys in jail. I'll finish up as quickly as I can and then we can get out of here."

"Can we go home?" Blair sounds so lost.

"I don't think it's such a good idea tonight. I need to find someone to clean up the place. And with my senses…"

"I understand, Jim. I just can't write out the reports right now. The pain is too fresh."

Jim gets up, walks over to the sink, wets a paper towel and comes back over to Blair. "Here, buddy. This will help."

Blair takes the paper towel, rubbing it over his face. "Thanks, Jim. I'm sorry I let this affect me so much."

"Don't be sorry, Blair. It's affected me, too."

Blair finally gets to his feet and walks over to the sink, splashing water on his face and rinsing out his mouth. He looks up at his reflection in the mirror and Jim standing behind him. Blair shakes his head and closes his eyes. When he opens his eyes again, he's looking directly at Jim.

"You want to go back to the bullpen?"

"Yeah. Look, Jim, I want to apologize. If you want me to leave, I'll understand." Blair lowers his gaze to the floor.

"Leave? Hey, where's that coming from?"

Jim reaches out, gently squeezing Blair's shoulder. Blair pulls out of the touch. Jim frowns, debating about asking Blair more questions. However, the questions can wait until they are alone. Jim leaves the bathroom, hearing Blair behind him.

Once back at his desk, Jim moves Blair's partially finished report to his inbox and sits down to start on his report. Blair sits down beside him, sipping on his coffee, watching Jim. The close scrutiny is unnerving, but he doesn't comment to Blair.

Halfway through writing up his report, Jim is called into Simon's office. He leaves Blair sitting at his desk.

"The ME and crime scene investigators are finished at the loft, Jim. You and Sandburg can return."

"I don't think either of us can return there right now. The events that occurred are still too fresh, too raw and too painful. Besides, there are many things Blair and I need to discuss and we can't do that at the loft. It needs to be a neutral place. I'll let you know where we wind up."

"Take all the time you need, Jim. As much time as you both need. I understand the intensity and difficulty with this case. How it dredged up memories for both you and Sandburg."

"Yeah. That's just some of what we need to discuss." Jim looks out towards the bullpen, watching Blair staring out in front of him. Jim notices something else -- Blair rubbing his left forearm. "I've got to finish up my report, Simon."

"Go, Jim. I don't want to hold you back."

Jim returns to his desk, noticing Blair's eyes focus on him.

"I'll be finished shortly, Chief. Then we'll go to the Cascade Arms."

"I can pay for my own room."

"Don't worry about it, Chief."

Jim finishes his report about a half an hour later. He put the report in Simon's inbox and then goes to get Blair on his feet. The young man looks beat.

"Let's go, Chief. We have the next couple of days to ourselves."

"We need to talk, man." Blair looks over at Jim.

"Yeah, we'll talk, Chief."

They ride down in the elevator together and Blair's gone silent again. It's not until they reach the garage that Jim remembers they have no transportation.

"Damn! I'm going to have to go sign out a car to get us to the hotel. Why don't you wait for me here?"

"Sure." Blair leans against the wall while Jim goes to get a loaner car. While he's organizing the details, Jim thinks they should make a quick stop by the loft to get clothes and other necessities. They can avoid the scene there. Just a quick in and out.

~~0~~

They walk up the stairs to the third floor. Each man is lost in their own thoughts until Jim suddenly hears Blair's heartbeat speeding up as they approach the door to the loft. Jim rests his hand on Blair's shoulder to stop his forward motion.

"Just in and out, Chief. Don't dwell on it."

Blair nods his head. "Right. I can do that."

Jim unlocks the door and the smell of blood immediately assaults Jim's nose. It is Blair's turn to touch Jim.

"Dial it down, Jim. Boy, that's even overwhelming to me." Blair looks in the direction of the couch.

Jim is already halfway up the stairs to his bedroom. "Get your stuff together, Chief. About three days' worth."

"Right, Jim." Blair tears his eyes away from the scene of Incacha's death, it all still fresh in his mind. The implications of Incacha's words just before he died -- they reverberate in Blair's mind. 'The way of the shaman, indeed.' Blair knows nothing of what that entails. And he can't deal with that on top of everything else that has happened during this case. Blair walks to his bedroom, grabbing his duffel bag and backpack. He stops his packing almost as soon as he starts, the memories threatening to overwhelm him. So much senseless death. And so many questions to be answered. Jim told him they would talk. Blair wants so desperately to please Jim, to help Jim, not to let Jim down. Blair doesn't think he can help Jim. He's afraid he'll mess up and let Jim down. Most of all, he questions his right to stay at Jim's side. The thoughts swirl around in Blair's mind, not providing any answers. Jim is waiting for him.

Blair finishes packing, zipping closed the duffel bag and backpack, carrying them out to the main room. The sight there makes Blair pause. Jim is standing in the middle of the room, zoned on the site of Incacha's death. Blair moves quickly to Jim's side, prepared to bring him out of the zone.

"Don't do this now, Jim. Neither of us needs this." Blair is making small circles on Jim's back, using touch and sound to bring him back.

Jim becomes aware of Blair's presence beside him. He lets his senses fill with his guide, replacing the death. Jim turns to Blair, leading them both out of the loft without a word. Blair wonders if it could be that easy. He shakes his head. Nothing can be that easy with him and Jim.

Jim steals glances at his guide as he drives to the hotel. But there is only quiet between them. Neither one wants to break the silence.

Jim asks for a double room and the clerk gives him the key and a look. Jim ignores the look and just smiles. It doesn't matter what other people think. The most important thing is that he and Blair talk about the ramifications of this case. They need to understand each other and know where they stand. Jim wants Blair to be open with him. He wants Blair to stay. His greatest fear is that Blair will bolt and run after all that has happened. Especially with Incacha's passing and his declaration to Blair.

Jim lets Blair go inside the hotel room first. Blair walks to the bedroom, taking the bed nearest the window. He sits down on the bed, looking at the floor. Jim walks in a minute later, noting the closed off posture from Blair.

"Look, I'm sorry about the zone out. I shouldn't have even looked. I called a professional cleaning place to go in to clean up the area."

Blair looks up at Jim and he sees the effects of the past few days crashing down on the younger man. Jim feels a need to get Blair talking now.

"Why don't you tell me about Janet?"

"She's dead. What more is there to say?" Blair barely contains his anger and Jim quickly notices that.

"I know you blame me for Janet's death, but I didn't shoot the arrow. The Chopec didn't even shoot the arrow that killed her."

Blair shakes his head. "I don't blame you, Jim. It was my fault. I involved her in this case. I made it sound like an adventure! Like it was no damn big deal!" Blair gets to his feet, pacing the bedroom. "I got her killed, Jim!" Blair shouts the words.

Jim watches as Blair paces. "If anyone would have known anything, it would have been Janet. She would have the inside information. As it was, she got the information we needed. It wasn't your fault she died, Blair. I'm sure she knew the risks she was taking."

"It doesn't make the pain any less. She was vibrant and alive. We were more than friends." Blair looks at Jim, his meaning clear.

"I know I didn't mention it to you, Chief, but I'm sorry Janet was killed. In everything that happened, I neglected to acknowledge her contribution and I belittled how much she meant to you."

"It's never been so personal before now. I've lost friends who've died before, but no one that I was personally responsible for protecting. Or whom I thought I was personally responsible for protecting. That's my greatest fear, Jim."

Blair moves out to the main area of the hotel room, Jim following close behind him. Blair stands over by the windows, looking out on the approaching night. Jim stands right by his side.

"How about some room service? Anything you want."

Blair doesn't turn from the window, but speaks. "How about shrimp and enough booze that we get shit-faced drunk?"

Jim smiles, but doesn't question Blair's decision. "Sure, buddy. We can do that. I'll place the order."

Jim goes over to the phone, calling in the order and then sits down to wait for Blair to continue. Jim instinctively knows Blair will continue.

He starts out softly. "Janet's three years older than I am. Was older. I was a freshman at Rainier and she was a sophomore. We went to California, chained ourselves to the redwoods in support of the environment and I fell in love. I knew it wasn't anything long-term or even forever, but it was what it was. She graduated and went back to California for graduate school. I was already studying to get my master's degree. Until I saw her the other day, I had no contact with her for several years. It stirred up old memories, happy memories. I had hoped we'd get together to reminisce over old times and to catch up with each other's lives. It didn't happen."

There is a knock at the door. Jim opens the door, seeing room service has arrived. He signs for it, giving a generous tip. Blair comes over, pours himself a drink, puts several shrimp on a plate and sits down in one of the chairs. He downs half his drink, eats a couple of shrimp, and then continues talking.

"When Incacha showed up, I got excited, thinking I'd be able to learn from him. To be able to talk to him about you."

Blair downs the rest of his Scotch and gets up to get more. Jim pours himself a whiskey and grabs some shrimp. "I was planning on having Incacha talk to you."

"I didn't know you knew Quechua." Blair sits back down.

"It was eighteen months I spent with the tribe. The kids taught me the language. Incacha expected me to understand him."

"He guided you." It's a statement of fact. Blair looks down at the floor.

"I wouldn't say guide -- he showed me. He taught me patience, meditation, and how to hone my abilities. I would hunt game and guard the perimeter of the village. It wasn't hard away from civilization." Jim has a wistful look on his face. Blair figures the memories are pleasant, if not happy.

"I thought you said you didn't remember much from your time in Peru?"

"More of it has come to the forefront since I told you that."

"I can't be a shaman, Jim." Blair gets to his feet, nervousness showing as he admits his shortcomings. "I'm sorry." Blair turns away, reaching up to wipe away the tears that have suddenly appeared. Blair's voice is shaky as he continues. "Do you know what a shaman does, Jim?"

"Well, a shaman is a teacher and a healer, right?"

"And Incacha was a shaman. Not only is a shaman a teacher and a healer, but a shaman is the spiritual leader of the tribe. I'm not cut out to be a shaman."

"Can't you just wing, it like the guide responsibilities?"

There's a sharp intake of air. "Wing it? Are you kidding, Jim? This isn't some inconsequential situation that's going to go away in a few days or a few weeks." Blair doesn't face Jim.

Jim knows he screwed up with that remark. "Sorry about that remark, Chief. I know being a shaman, or a guide, isn't something to take lightly. It's sort of like being a sentinel."

Blair finally turns to face Jim again. "I know how to you feel about your heightened senses. You make your feelings abundantly clear when the senses don't work the way you feel they should. I can't help but wonder, if you had a real guide, a real shaman to lead you, that maybe you would be better off."

"I want you as my guide, Blair. I thought this was a learning experience, with both of us learning along the way. That's the way life is and now you want to bail?"

Blair chuckles. "When did you get to be so insightful?"

Jim smiles. "Well you see, I met this guy a couple of years ago who became my best friend. He taught me a lot about the world around me and of myself. And my place in the world."

Blair snorts and moves over to get another drink. "I can't promise anything, Jim."

"Just tell me you're not going to leave. I can't handle my senses on my own."

"You know, you underestimate yourself. I've seen you use your senses on your own, automatically. It's pretty amazing to me."

"You said it though, Blair, the senses don't always work the way they should. You are the one that makes the difference. I don't want you to leave, Blair."

Blair sits down opposite Jim, staring at the older man. "I'm sorry about Incacha. We both lost friends. I'm not sure I can continue this. I need time."

"Blair, are we friends?" There is a slight trace of wonder in Jim's voice.

"Maybe we shouldn't be." It's said just above a whisper.

"I know you don't believe that."

Blair looks away from Jim, downs the rest of his drink and rises to go into the bedroom. Jim stays seated in the main room. He realizes the hurt Blair is going through. Jim has the same pain. They both lost friends and neither could save them. Jim also has the added concern about his guide. Because no matter what Blair might say, Jim wants the young man as his guide. And his friend. Jim can save his partner. He finishes his drink and focuses his senses on Blair. It is all good. Well, it will be eventually.

~~0~~

Blair lays in the bed, unable to sleep. He thought Jim might follow him, but he didn't. The thoughts are running around in his mind. Jim hasn't helped much with that, considering now he wants to talk. Doesn't Jim realize it's all too painful to talk about now? And that it probably will be for the near future? Blair's biggest worry is that he'll screw up and get Jim hurt or worse. Blair knows he's no guide. And he's certainly no shaman. What the hell was Incacha thinking?

'I didn't guide Jim to his animal spirit. Incacha wanted Jim to be a sentinel again. It was the result of Jim's residual anger over Incacha's death. He was just receptive to my suggestions. Everything I've ever done in regards to Jim's senses has been guesswork, even if I've done some research. That just makes it educated guesswork. I see the fine line Jim walks in regards to his senses. He's apprehensive about being perceived as *different* and about others discovering his secret. He probably thinks I'll expose him. It's hard to gain Jim's trust. The last thing I want to do is hurt Jim in any way.'

It's that thought that Blair carries as he drifts off to sleep.

~~0~~

Jim still sits in the main room, thinking about Blair, Janet and Incacha. But mostly his thoughts are about Blair. All of this has rattled Blair to the core. Jim knows he hasn't helped by questioning *why him* with the senses and being pleased that they had been gone.

'Blair doesn't understand what I encounter every day with these *heightened senses*. He only sees the glamour and the payoff of his doctorate. No, I shouldn't say that. Blair has helped me since that first day. He saved me from that garbage truck. That's when I knew Blair Sandburg had what it takes. That's also when I knew my first impressions of him were all wrong. I thought he was a know-it-all academic who had no idea what I was going through. Blair did know, though. He is honest and truthful with me and has been since the beginning. I understood his concern when he pleaded that he wished I had my senses back. He pushed me up to the roof so I would be a sentinel again. So he could stay with me. His ideas worked. Blair's ideas always work, even if he's guessing or dreaming up the answers. There's no one else I'd rather have for my guide than Blair. Incacha saw what I see in Blair. He knew Blair is the one to help me. Now all we need to do is talk this entire thing out. We still have several days to accomplish that.'

A short time later, Jim goes to sleep, focused on his guide.

~~0~~

Jim wakes up first the next morning. He calls room service for coffee. He decides to let Blair sleep after yesterday. As soon as the coffee arrives, Blair stumbles out of the bedroom. He doesn't have his glasses on and squints in Jim's general direction.

"Hey, sunshine! How are you feeling?" Jim sounds too chipper so early in the morning. He pours them both coffee.

Blair shuffles over to the table and sits down. He takes a sip of coffee. "I'm fine. Did you get any sleep last night?"

"I came to bed a couple hours after you. Look, Blair…"

"I know, Jim. I shouldn't question your choices. It's your life and who am I to try to tell you how to live it? I've been very presumptuous about pushing when I should leave well enough alone."

There are a few moments of silence. Jim catches Blair's eye. "Are you finished?"

Blair nods. "Yeah. In more ways than one." It's said softly.

"I've been unfair to you, Chief. I take my frustrations out on you because of my senses. I want them to work the same way all of the time. I think I expect too much. That's why I need you, Blair. You keep me grounded in more ways than one."

"We are quite a pair, aren't we?" Blair smiles at Jim, who returns the smile.

"Yeah we are, partner. You know I didn't mean to belittle your contributions. You have helped me more than I can ever thank you for."

"I just worry I'll do something wrong."

Jim knows this is the crux of Blair's attempt at pushing away. "Why don't we go down to the hotel restaurant and get breakfast. Neither of us has had anything substantial for a while."

"Okay. I'll take the first shower." Blair gets to his feet, going into the bathroom.

~~0~~

Over breakfast, they discuss what to do. Jim notices Blair actually eats his breakfast, but that it only consists of oatmeal and toast. Jim, on the other hand, has an omelet, bacon and toast. They finish breakfast at the same time.

"So, you want to make a stop at Rainier?" Jim remarks as he signs for breakfast. He looks back at Blair. "I thought you got time off?"

"I did. I just want to get something out of my office."

"Okay, Chief. But I'm going in with you. So we can get to the park before dark."

"Ha! Very funny, Jim. There's something there I want to show you."

Jim drives them to Rainier and they walk side by side to Blair's office inside Hargrove Hall. Blair unlocks the door and they walk inside. Jim stands just inside the door while Blair walks over to the shelves behind his desk, grabbing a picture frame there. He brings it over to show Jim.

It's a picture of a younger Blair Sandburg and Janet Myers, both with smiles on their faces. Jim smiles at the picture.

"How old were you in this picture?"

"Um…probably nineteen. I went to see her and her family in Eureka, California. We spent a week at her parent's place and then went off together for a week. That was actually the last time our paths crossed. I was devoted to getting my degree, as was she. It was the first time…" Blair looks down at the floor.

Jim pats him on the shoulder. "I understand, buddy. You look like you're happy, though."

"We were. She was twenty-two, and experienced. It was really special, although we both realized we'd never be together forever."

"I'm glad you showed me this, Chief. You about ready to take that walk in the park we were talking about?"

"Yeah, I'm ready to go, Jim."

~~0~~

Jim decides to tell Blair what he remembers about the Chopec.

"I was afraid when I came to and saw these Indians over me. They didn't do anything threatening and they had treated my wounds. I kept asking about my men. I didn't remember that I had watched the last two, Carter and DeJesus, die before my eyes, without me being able to do a thing for them. I know what you were talking about when you said you felt responsible to protect someone. I felt that way about my men. They were my responsibility and I let them down."

"But you were injured yourself, Jim. You could only do so much."

"It still doesn't make the pain any less. I hadn't remembered initially what had happened. Later, my memory came back and I cried when I realized I had lost them all and had to bury them so the wild animals wouldn't get their remains. Incacha was the one that told me that my men's spirits were in my heart and soul and would be forever. There was so much that he taught me. He knew I was special and helped with the noises I thought I was imagining and the not-so-dark shadows in the night."

They walk a little further before Jim continues. "I was even trying to get Incacha to help me get rid of my sentinel abilities. It brought back certain instances from my childhood when I remembered something in conjunction with either hearing or smell. Most of those memories from childhood were not pleasant memories. I started having dreams and nightmares. Incacha told me it was healthy and natural to remember the past, but I didn't want to. One night, I left the village, vowing to find my own way back to civilization."

They continue walking, but Jim remains silent. After about five minutes, Blair speaks.

"So what happened when you left?"

"Well… I don't know if I should say."

"Oh, c'mon, Jim. You've been forthcoming so far. Don't stop now."

"Well, I still wasn't 100% as far as my health went. I got dizzy and passed out about a half a mile from the camp. Incacha found me shortly after I collapsed and brought me back to camp. Read me the riot act for not listening to my body and not knowing that I was too weak to travel. I stayed put after that. And Incacha taught me how to interpret my dreams and nightmares and to learn from my childhood memories. Of course, a lot of that I forgot by the time I was rescued and debriefed. I didn't tell any of that stuff to the ones who debriefed me. They would have thought me crazy for sure. I pushed it all into my subconscious and went on with my life."

"I understand why you chose to push it into your subconscious and not remember it. I've done the same thing."

Jim decides to let that last line go by. It would be interesting to explore just what Blair could possibly have to forget and suppress in his past, but now is not the time for that.

They walk further through the park, stopping near the pond and sitting down on a bench there.

"I've wanted to tell you about my time in Peru for some time, but I didn't know what good it would have done."

"It helps to talk to other people. Especially to those that have a vested interest in your well-being, both present and in the future."

"I want to say I mean this as a compliment, Blair. That sounded like something Incacha would have said."

Blair looks away from Jim, but looks back when Jim touches him on the arm. Blair reaches up and rubs his left forearm again. Jim notices the movement.

"I'm sorry about this, Jim. I'm too emotional about all of this."

"Don't apologize for being yourself, Chief. The way you are makes you unique and special."

Blair is silent for several minutes as he thinks about what Jim has said. Another memory comes to mind and he lets a small smile appear.

Jim sees the smile. He wants Blair to share with him. "What's with the smile?"

"Oh, it's just something I remember Janet said about me. Along those same lines."

"Can you share it with me?"

Blair nods and continues. "It was the last day I was with her in Eureka. I was saying goodbye… Well, I was trying to say goodbye. Janet kissed me, hugged me close, and told me, 'Stay true to yourself and you'll change the world'. I've tried to heed her advice."

"I think you've done an admirable job. You stuck with your studies at the university and you're well on your way to getting your doctorate. You don't take no for an answer and you think quickly on your feet."

Jim looks over at Blair, noticing the blush spreading up from Blair's neck. Jim thinks it is rather cute actually. Any other time, they would be laughing about this.

"Gee, Jim! I'm not used to you giving me compliments. What's up with that?"

"Hey, can't a guy give a compliment to another guy?"

"Not when you're the guy giving the compliment, Jim. You're not big into giving compliments."

"Maybe we both need to change our ways. It appears as if we are going to be together for a while, right?"

Blair doesn't answer Jim.

"Blair? You're not thinking of leaving, are you?"

"Maybe I should. After all, I misled you about my dissertation."

"What? That you have enough data to write ten dissertations and you've been stalling? It doesn't matter, Blair. This isn't about you doing your dissertation on sentinels or anything else. I need you to guide me. Incacha told me that I would meet someone who would show me the truth of my abilities. Since he passed the way of the shaman onto you, I assume he believed you were the one."

Blair gets to his feet, walking several feet away. "Don't put that pressure on me, Jim! I told you, I don't have a clue of how to be a shaman. Or even a guide. It has been a guess all of this time!"

Blair stomps off and Jim lets him go. He thinks that maybe he has pushed Blair too far this time. That maybe Blair will leave.

Blair doesn't look back at Jim. He never asked for this. Blair realizes he has become too involved with his test subject. He shakes his head. He wonders how Jim would react being referred to as a test subject. Blair wishes everything could just slow down. This last case has shown him that he is in control of nothing. He doesn't want to abandon Jim, yet now Jim thinks they are destined to spend their lives together. A part of Blair wants this to happen, but another part of him is scared to death of the implications.

Blair turns around and walks back towards Jim. Jim starts to speak, but Blair raises his hand.

"We have to take this slow, Jim. I know I've told you that your gifts are special and that I implied that I was the one to help you with them, and I will, but it's going to take me a while to determine how being a shaman can help you. I can't be Incacha. Hell, I can never be Incacha. I sure wish I had the opportunity to speak to him while he was still alive. Maybe sometime I can go to the spirit world myself and have a talk with him." Blair pauses and shakes his head. "Can we go back to the hotel?"

"I thought maybe we'd go out for dinner, if you want?"

"Sure, Jim. Might as well."

Jim notes Blair's lack of enthusiasm, but at least some of his spark is back.

~~0~~

Jim decides to approach another subject over dinner. He waits until they both have their entrees before bringing it up.

"I didn't ask you, Chief, but do you want to go to Eureka?"

Blair drops his fork and looks up at Jim. "Um… no. I don't think I'd be welcome there. I called after Janet died and talked to her dad. It wasn't a pleasant conversation."

"I'm sorry about that, Blair. About earlier, in the park… I didn't mean to put pressure on you. You've been the one that was so gung-ho about this sentinel stuff and I just thought that now, you'd want to do more research."

"Yeah, at this rate, I'll be in college until I'm into my 50's." Blair let out a derisive laugh.

"As long as you don't leave."

"What's the big deal about me leaving, Jim? You could have anyone to guide you."

"I don't want just anyone, Chief. I want you."

"Keep the sentinel happy," mumbles Blair into his napkin.

"Hey, I heard that!"

"Good. Your hearing is working then."

~~0~~

"So, how many days did Simon give you off?" asks Blair as he stretches out on the bed.

"He said for me to take as many days as we needed. Why, are you getting tired of being my constant companion?"

"Why no, Jim. Why would you think that? I have to go back to Rainier on Monday. They only gave me two personal days."

"Did you tell them there was a death of a friend involved?"

"No. I just asked for a couple of personal days. I need to get back to the university and try to get some semblance of normalcy back into my life."

Jim sits on his bed, facing Blair. "You know, it's not healthy to hold things inside."

"I don't know how to release my feelings. I want to yell at the heavens and shout how unfair this all was."

"We could do that."

"What do you mean, Jim?" Blair sits up, mirroring Jim on his bed.

"Well, we could leave here and go camping. You can yell at the heavens and maybe someone would hear."

Blair sits there, contemplating the idea. He nods his head, looking Jim in the eye.

"Get your things together and we'll leave in the morning. Do you think you can take a couple more days off from the university?" Jim asks, hoping Blair will say yes.

"I can call a fellow TA and see if they can take my classes. But only until the middle of the week."

"That should be enough time. It will give us four days."

"But what about camping equipment and food?"

"We can pick that up when we leave here. You call your fellow TA and I'll call Simon and let him know about our change of plans. I'll go out into the main room."

Jim leaves the bedroom, pleased to see Blair agreeing to this. He calls Simon and can overhear Blair on the phone in the bedroom.

~~0~~

Before leaving for their camping trip, Jim stops off at a car dealership to test-drive a new vehicle, telling Blair to return the car to the police department and that he'll pick him up as soon as he decides on a vehicle. Jim looks over the trucks, deciding on a Ford pickup, the latest model. He hopes he will get some compensation so he can afford it. It drives great and he goes to the station to pick up Blair. Blair is waiting just outside the station parking entrance. He gets into the passenger side.

"Nice ride, Jim. Are you going to get it?"

"I'm not sure. The dealer is letting me have it for a week. I'm hoping I can get some compensation to help defray the cost."

"I like the interior. And the seats are really comfortable. And it's almost like a tank! It's nearly indestructible."

"I'm glad you approve, Chief. Let's stop by the loft to get the camping equipment." Jim hears Blair's heartbeat increasing. He pats Blair on the arm. "It's all in the basement, Chief. We don't have to go up to the apartment."

Blair calms down, and looks out the passenger side window. He has to do better with all of this and maybe this camping trip will be just what he needs.

They load the camping gear into the truck and hit the road a short time later. They stop at the same little convenience store on the way to their favorite camping spot. Jim decides to break the silence.

"Do you know why I love camping, Chief?"

Blair looks over at Jim, unconsciously rubbing his left forearm again. He sees Jim frown. "Are you okay, Jim?"

"I'm fine, Chief. Is something wrong with your arm? I notice you rubbing it every once in a while."

"No. I wasn't even aware I was rubbing my arm. Maybe it's just an unconscious gesture I've picked up."

Blair notices Jim doesn't say anything else. They continue towards their camping spot.

Blair helps set up the camp and then offers to make lunch, since it's mid-afternoon. Jim suggests sandwiches that they can take to river nearby when they go fishing. Blair makes the sandwiches and they walk side by side towards the river. As they walk, Blair goes back to their earlier conversation.

"So, why do you love camping, Jim?"

"Oh. I guess I never told you. I love camping because it reminds me of the time I spent in Peru. The whole getting back to nature and fending for yourself atmosphere. It always seems so much more peaceful and serene than the city."

"See? That's because of your senses. They function better with fewer stimuli bombarding them constantly. As a sentinel, you're better able to focus on abnormalities and changes around you."

Blair sees Jim smiling at him.

"What are you smiling at?"

"This just all comes naturally to you. Can't you see that? You said that with such confidence that I would immediately agree with you."

Blair starts blushing again. "I guess you're right, but sometimes it scares me."

"That's why we're in this together, Chief."

They catch several fish for their dinner and Jim cleans them while Blair explores the surrounding area.

"Don't go far, Chief. We don't need you getting lost."

Blair laughs, happy to have some of the familiar banter back between them. This is what they both need.

~~0~~

They sit around a campfire, both of them full from the meal of fish and the potatoes Blair roasted over the fire.

"So, are you going to yell to the heavens tonight or wait a while?" Jim can see Blair clearly with his sight up a few notches.

"I don't want to pierce the serenity and calm of this place. In addition, it wouldn't look good for a guide to a sentinel to intentionally overload one of his senses."

"I can turn the dial down until you're finished."

"Not tonight, Jim. I just want to enjoy this. This is what I've needed for some time. I think as much as a sentinel needs to get away from civilization, it applies to the guide also."

Jim nods. "I can see your point, Chief. I know you've had to endure a lot lately. That's why you shouldn't keep it inside."

"Oh, this coming from Mr. Repression?"

"Hey, you've helped me loosen up over the past several years. I'm doing better at letting things go and relaxing and dealing with things right away."

"Yeah, I guess that Mr. Repression remark was a little harsh. You know, I was trying to meditate before Incacha arrived at the loft…" Blair pauses, but goes on. "It wasn't working. I was so angry with so many people, myself included, that I couldn't even clear my mind in order to find even any calm in my world. So, I've been wound up for some time."

"Well, someone once told me it was helpful to talk to other people. Especially to those that have a vested interest in your well-being, both present and in the future."

"Yeah, yeah."

"Can I ask a question, Blair?"

"Uh-oh, you called me Blair. Is this something serious?"

"I don't know. You said that you had done the same thing when you said you understood why I chose not to remember. What did you mean by that?"

"My life hasn't always been happy times. My mom and I lived in places I choose to try to forget, although it's hard to do. There have been times when I wish that I would have had a normal upbringing with a permanent place to live."

Jim can tell it's hard for Blair to talk about this. "If you don't want to discuss this, we don't have to. I didn't mean to dredge up bad memories."

"You didn't dredge them up, Jim. They've been just below the surface all of my life. That's why I've been in therapy for years. So, I've at least tried to deal with them in the past. I am not the confident person you think you see. That's all just a fašade. If anything, I'm a good actor if I pull it off."

"I think you underestimate yourself, Blair. You sound very confident when you talk about anthropology and almost any subject anyone brings up. You just need someone to bolster your ego once in a while."

"You do surprise me at times, Jim Ellison. Just when I think I've figured you out, you go and pull out your caring side."

"I DO care about you, Blair Sandburg! You can see right through my act also when I try to act like I don't care."

"Oh, was that an act? I didn't realize that." Jim hears Blair's laugh as the sound rings through the trees.

"No act for you, Chief. With you, I find myself surprisingly honest and forthcoming."

Jim sees the smile leave Blair's face. "Well, I think that's enough honesty for one night. We should get some sleep."

"Yeah, I think you're right. You can do your primal scream another night."

~~0~~

It is their last night at the campsite. Blair builds up the fire and turns to Jim.

"Okay, this is what I want you to do. Dial down your sense of hearing to zero."

"I thought you told me never to do that."

"You didn't let me finish, Jim. You dial down your sense of hearing to zero and up all your other senses to about a six or seven. To keep you grounded, I'm going to give you my pillow. There are a few of my hairs on it, along with my scent. That will take care of touch and smell. That should keep you grounded until I'm done."

"Sounds like a plan, Chief. Just don't get lost in the woods."

"I'm going down to the river's edge. I won't get lost. I have a flashlight."

"Better leave a trail of breadcrumbs." Jim chuckles at his own joke, but notices Blair doesn't even crack a smile.

"I won't be gone long, Jim." Blair starts walking off, and then turns around. "Dial down that hearing, Jim."

Jim obeys Blair automatically because he is the guide.

Blair walks along the path, shining the flashlight on the trail. He starts talking and rubbing his left arm. He knows why he's rubbing it.

"It still doesn't make any sense to me. Why Janet? She was only trying to help, to expose the corruption and put away the guilty people. She shouldn't have to have to die because of that. I know I was partially to blame for her involvement in all of this. If I had not mentioned anything to her, told her to keep a look out for inconsistencies, then she might still be alive now. And I would be attending her wedding."

Blair keeps walking, finally reaching the riverbank. He sits down in the grass, looking out on the peaceful water. He closes his eyes, able to clear his mind. Then Incacha is standing there in front of him. Blair rubs his arm, and then looks up at Incacha.

"What do you fear?"

"I fear hurting the people I love."

"What do you fear?"

"I fear letting my sentinel down."

"You are his guide, you can't let him down."

"But I don't know what I'm doing."

"You know in your heart and soul, young guide."

"I can't be a shaman."

"Being a shaman is just an extension of being a guide. What you need to know is already inside of you. I saw it when we met."

"You knew it before we met."

Blair opens his eyes and a sense of calm has descended around him. He gets to his feet, making his way back to camp, hoping Jim isn't worried about him. Jim looks up as he walks back into camp.

"Can I dial up my hearing again?" asks Jim as he looks for any change in his friend.

Blair nods his head yes and waits a bit. "Did you turn down your other senses to normal?"

"Yeah. Did you yell to the heavens?"

"Nah, I didn't have to. I was able to meditate and I saw Incacha's spirit. We had a talk."

"You okay with that, Chief?"

"Yeah, I think it helped. And I didn't even have to yell."

~~0~~

They arrive back at the loft, carry in the camping equipment, and then make their way upstairs. Jim is pleased to note Blair's heart rate stays within a normal range as he unlocks the loft door and they walk inside.

Both of them immediately look in the direction of the couch where Incacha died. Jim walks over to the area, using his sentinel abilities to inspect it. Blair lags behind, lost in his own memories and keeping a light touch on Jim's back to keep him grounded. The inspection takes several minutes. Jim finally turns to Blair.

"I can't detect anything. They did a perfect job. I have an idea. Why don't we change the furniture around and give the room a different feel? It would help both of us."

Jim and Blair spend the next two hours arguing over where to put what. It is a friendly argument, a familiar argument, with both of them knowing what is happening.

When they finally finish and collapse onto the couch, Jim looks over at Blair and notes Blair hasn't rubbed his arm since being home. Jim wonders if it has to do with that little talk Blair had with Incacha. Maybe they both have let go of some of their guilt.

"I want to apologize for that dog remark. It was uncalled for. But sometimes you just make it so easy, Chief."

"Yeah, that's it, Jim. Pick on the gullible one."

"Oh, Sandburg, you are a lot of things, but gullible isn't one of them. You know exactly what is going on. In fact, you may be the only one who does."

"Gee, another compliment. How long is this good mood going to last?"

"At least for a couple more days. Can I ask another question, Chief?"

Blair gives Jim a questionable look. "Is this going to be another question that's going to dredge up more painful memories?"

"I hope not."

"Fire away then."

"How did I get so lucky to find you?"

He smiles, a genuine Blair Sandburg smile. The first one Jim has seen for a while. "I don't think it was luck, Jim. I think it was fate."

Jim smiles back, wholeheartedly agreeing with his guide.

END