This story is told from Blair's POV and takes place after Sentinel Too, Part 2, after leaving Sierra Verde. I guess you can call this an AU, since it contains elements that were never included in the show. It seems Blair and Jim share some things after the merging at the fountain… (is that enough of a teaser?) <g>

There are several bad words used in this story.

My thanks go to Lyn for the beta job and finding all those silly little mistakes I made in this. Any remaining mistakes are mine.

Enjoy!

 

I'm Your Guide, You're My Sentinel

By: Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

 

My mom always told me to put something away for a rainy day. When I asked her what that meant, she told me to make sure I had something to fall back on if things ever went sour. So, ever since I started at Rainier, I kept a small nest egg to help me survive if necessary. I always figured I could find a job somewhere, to get by. After all my years at Rainier, I had almost forgotten about my rainy day fund and had become complacent.

Now, reality has kicked in on the plane ride as we leave Sierra Verde. Jim sits in the rear of the plane, alone. Megan made me sit beside her. She keeps trying to get me to talk - about Alex, Jim, sentinels, heightened senses, even guides. But I don't say a word. Simon sits in the seat across the aisle from us.

The one person I want to talk to hadn't spoken a single word to me since we left the temple of the sentinels. Of course, I didn't initiate any conversation either. I can see the disdainful looks both Simon and Megan give Jim. I look at him in pity.

I cannot initiate the dialogue. I'm too exhausted to try, knowing Jim doesn't want to communicate with me. It is a sad commentary of what has become of our once flourishing friendship and companionship.

On the airplane, it dawns on me I'll have to find a place to live. Hell, I didn't even check before I left to make sure my possessions are still at the motel where I had been staying. I don't even remember how long in advance I paid for the room. It's one of those minute details I've seem to have forgotten since the drowning. It's just little things, nothing substantive, but unsettling just the same. I'm also having trouble remembering what day it is, along with how long since the drowning. I haven't mentioned it to anyone because I'd be back in the hospital in a flash, undergoing neurological tests, scans, memory tests and risk even more attention to myself. That is the last thing Jim wants or needs. He probably just wants me to leave and disappear. I can do that.

I want to go to the back of the plane, sit down beside Jim and ask him, "What do we do now?" The thing is I am tired. Body and soul. I've started to question why I was even brought back to life. Oh, I heard the whispers and the snatches of conversation at the hospital, when they thought I couldn't hear. "He was dead." "The paramedics had given up."

Of course, there was nothing from Jim. Or even Simon or Megan. And I couldn't bring myself to ask outright if I had been *clinically* dead. I see the looks they give me. Even now. Disbelief, worry and even astonishment that I even survived such an ordeal.

I vaguely remember a vision, just before I started spitting up water. Jim mentioned a vision in the hospital. It's all becoming shadows now, as it has faded from my conscious mind. I have a feeling it is really important, but I can't clear it up, no matter how hard I push myself. Another reason for Jim and me to talk, although Jim is never comfortable talking about visions and the mystical side of sentinels and guides. Jim is much more secure with hard evidence and tangible proof. Neither of which I can give him.

I turn in my seat, looking back at Jim, sitting in the farthest seat, ramrod straight, eyes squeezed shut. He's suffering an obvious sensory spike and I sympathize. I can't go to him. I can no longer be his guide. Too much has happened that has eroded trust on both sides. It's too-wide a chasm and an insurmountable mountain. I turn back to face forward, catching Simon looking at me.

"Are you okay, Sandburg?" I hear the concern in his voice.

"I'm fine, captain." I lie, too tired to run down the list of what is wrong. I close my eyes, effectively stopping further communication.

But my ears pick up the sound of Simon getting up from his seat and his footfalls towards the rear of the plane. Even though he whispers, I hear part of what he says to Jim. I wonder about my ability to do that while listening in.

"…about the kid?" Simon is talking about me.

"…do? He's old enough to…" And Jim is putting up his usual arguments. Even in whispers, I hear the strain and tiredness in his voice. I fight the urge to go to the back of the plane to aid Jim. Instead, I steal another glance to the back of the plane. Jim and I lock gazes. I look away first, turning back in my seat. I somehow sense Jim is still looking at me. I wonder if my senses have been heightened as a result of even my brief exposure to the grotto and the temple of the sentinels. I am more attuned to Jim ever since I was resurrected from the drowning in the fountain. Jim and I connected via our spirit animals. When I came to on the ground beside the fountain, I sought Jim out; secure in the knowledge that he and I would be closer. I found out in the hospital that wasn't so.

Undeterred, I followed Jim, and Alex, to Sierra Verde. I was still Jim's guide at that point, naively believing Jim and I could get past our disagreements. I soon discovered that what I thought I knew was woefully inadequate.

If Jim and Alex hadn't been rivals and polar opposites, I think they might have been an unbeatable team. Even now, the thought of that sends a shudder through me. Under different circumstances, Jim and Alex could have joined together, producing genetically enhanced children. I can't even believe I'm thinking such thoughts. It's not anything I hadn't thought of before - several times. The first time was after I met Alex at the PD and realized she had heightened senses. When I started documentation on Alex, comparing her and Jim, I wanted to come up with a way to bring Jim and Alex together, in a controlled setting, to see how they would interact. My studies of ancient sentinels, the references I've been able to find and read, have indicated there would be territorial disputes between ancient watchmen in different tribes. Many times it turned out to be survival of the fittest, whoever was the strongest. So, I knew I was running the risk of trouble and possible disaster in trying to bring Jim and Alex together. I mistakenly thought I was *super-guide*. It was my designation of my role. That was back when I thought I knew it all and had all the answers. Before the drowning.

I thought I could control TWO sentinels. Who in the world did I think I was? Looking back on it now, I wonder what the HELL I was thinking. How na´ve and irresponsible was that line of thought? Sometimes, in quiet contemplation, I wonder what the hell I've been doing all this time and what I thought I was going to accomplish by all of this research and documentation. Jim was right when he asked if I had ever stopped to think what good all this research was doing anyway. I told him that it was helping him and finding out who he was. This was really lame, as I look back on it now. I've known for some time now that I won't be able to share my findings. I won't be able to write my dissertation on sentinels using the research I've conducted on Jim. I cannot assure Jim of keeping his identity a secret. If I didn't care so much… But I do care, so I can't sacrifice Jim's freedom and privacy. I can't even do that to Alex. I care too much for my subjects. Some objective scientist/observer I am.

I close my eyes, also trying to close off my thoughts. I drift off to sleep, hoping to keep the dreams and nightmares at bay.

********

I jerk awake from the hand on my shoulder and a voice close to my ear. I pull away from both as I open my eyes, seeing Simon standing there. I look around, seeing only Simon, grateful Jim and Megan and everyone else had deplaned already and don't witness my reaction.

Simon pats my shoulder. "You okay, son?" I hear the concern and a small bit of compassion in his voice.

"Yeah…just a little…" I shake my head, wondering if I should reconsider the neurological testing, just to make sure. "I'm fine." I look up at Simon, giving him my best Sandburg smile, the one I use to put people at ease.

"Are you going to stay on this plane all day?"

"We back in Cascade?" Even I hear the surprise in my voice.

"Yeah. You must have really pushed yourself in the jungle, chasing after Ellison. Do you need a ride somewhere?"

"Nah, Simon. I can get a cab."

"Blair, listen to me. I don't think you should be alone." I hear a twinge of worry in his voice.

It's time to reassure him. "I'm not alone, Simon. I've got to return to Rainier. That is, if I still have a teaching job. It's been days and I need to return. Get back to something normal in my life."

"Blair, you need to rest and regain your strength." He's trying his best to convince me otherwise, using his *command* voice.

"I'm f-fine, Simon." But honestly, I feel like I'm going to drop. I stand up from my seat, grateful for Simon's support on my arm.

I walk off the plane with Simon covering my back. Surprisingly, my legs don't give out. I walk inside the terminal, looking around, still not seeing Jim or Megan. Simon is right by my side again.

"I sent Ellison and Conner away. I figured you didn't need the added pressure from those two."

Gee, now Simon's psychic. "With all due respect, captain, you're not my father or even my guardian. I can take care of myself. And I need to talk to Jim." I try to use my most forceful voice, standing up to Simon.

But Simon has an answer to everything. "Not right now. Both you and Jim need space right now after all that has happened." There is a certain truth to what he's saying.

But I have more arguments. "I've got to find a place to live." I blurt out that little tidbit before I can even think about it. Simon frowns at me and gently leads me from the terminal to the far parking lot, after getting the luggage, which for me, is only a duffel bag and my ever present backpack.

"You can come to my place until you work out things with Jim."

"I'm not sure I can work out things with Jim."

"Sandburg, I know how persuasive you can be. Jim listens to you. He will again."

"I'm not so sure, Simon. I'm tired - body and soul. I don't think I have any fight left to confront Jim and counter his arguments. As I remember, he told me to pursue other studies. Maybe I will."

"You're not serious, are you?" Simon unlocks the doors to his car and I get into the passenger side. We sit there for some time.

I remember Simon's question. "I don't know what to do, Simon." I try not to sound pathetic.

"I'll take you to my place. You can stay as long as you need to, rest up and talk to Jim when you feel up to it."

I listen to Simon, grateful for his generosity. Maybe I do need a guardian.

"So?" Simon brings me out of my contemplation.

"Thank you for the offer. Can you run me by the…ah…motel…" I lose my train of thought. That idea of a neurologist is starting to sound better and better by the minute.

"What motel, Blair?"

"Near…Rainier." I yawn, suddenly feeling very tired. "My stuff is there. After Jim…kicked me out."

"That's where you've been staying?" I hear his concern.

"I think…so." Even I can hear the confusion in my statement. I'm not sure of anything anymore.

Instead of driving me to the motel, we go to his house. I look over at him.

"You need rest. I'm pulling rank on you. You can crash in the spare bedroom. We can go by the motel tomorrow."

I only nod my head, allowing Simon to lead me inside his house and to the spare bedroom.

"Are you okay from here?" he asks as he sets my duffel bag down on the chair there.

I look up at him. "Yeah. Thanks."

He leaves me, closing the door behind him. I sit down on the bed, letting my backpack slide to the floor beside the bed. I wonder why I am so tired. I should call Jim - he'll be worried. But then I think - no, he won't. He doesn't care. I'm going to have to find somewhere else to live, some other dissertation subject, and some other best friend. I slowly get to my feet, shuffle over to the duffel bag, fumbling several times to open it and pull out the pills the doctor gave me after my drowning to fight infection and pneumonia. I struggle to open the bottle, further proof of my need for sleep, rest and healing. I'm able to shake out one pill, and I shuffle out of the bedroom to the bathroom, getting a glass of water to down the pill. I sort of stumble back to the bedroom, removing my shoes and practically falling across the bed in exhaustion. I do manage to get under the covers. Somewhere between all the thoughts running through my mind, I'm able to drift off to sleep.

********

I open my eyes, noting the sunlight streaming in through the curtains covering the window. I rub the sleep from my eyes and lay there, trying to remember. I look around the room, wondering where I am. My mind's a blank. It doesn't look like the loft. Unless Jim did some major remodeling. There's a knock on the door.

"Come in." I look over as the door opens, surprised to see Simon there.

"How are you feeling, Sandburg?"

"I'm still tired. Is Jim here?"

"Are you okay, Sandburg? I haven't spoken to Ellison since we got off the plane."

"No, I'm fine, Simon. Just a little confused about things."

"Why don't you get some more rest? You look like you could use it."

"Thanks, Simon. For everything."

Simon closes the door as he leaves. I sit up, slowly getting to my feet. Even though I'm still tired, I really need to talk to Jim. I need to know that Jim and I are good, that we understand each other. I stand by the window, looking out on the clear, bright day. I leave the bedroom, finding my way to the kitchen, where Simon is sitting at the table.

"At least sit down before you fall down, kid."

I laugh and sit down opposite him. "With all due respect, Simon, I'm not a kid. I'm twenty-nine years old."

"You're a kid to me, Blair. But I realize what you are saying. We all tend to minimize your contributions and relevance to the department and to our lives." Simon gets up to get more coffee, bringing me back a cup also.

"Thanks. Watch it, Simon. You're letting your softer side showing." I take a sip of the coffee, savoring the warmth.

"I know what I'm saying, Blair. And I mean it."

I feel the warmth spread across my face, wondering how red it is. "Well, thanks, Simon. I know there are times when I'm in wa-ay over my head. Both with the cop stuff and the sentinel stuff. I mean, I'm supposed to be an observer, a scientist and I've lost all my objectivity by becoming so close to Jim. I care too much, I suppose. But I felt the need to help him. I feel the need to still help him. I really don't know what to do. I mean, Jim did kick me out and I have been living in that motel. I really need to go back there to make sure my things are there. Jim had boxed up all my things before I got home and when I walked in, he told me he needed me out of the loft by the time he got back and he left. He was serious and didn't want to hear anything from me. Then when Megan and I went back, everything had been moved out of the loft. Jim said there were too many distractions, that it was too cluttered. I know a lot of his reaction was as a result of Alex. I just don't know if he'll listen to me now."

 Simon has let me ramble on and on but I notice he's listened to every word. He gets up to get both of us another cup of coffee.

 "Do you want something to eat?"

 "Nah, thanks anyway. I really need to check on my stuff."

 "Okay, Sandburg. Go get your shoes on and I'll take you by the motel."

 I laugh again, thinking he's treating me just like a kid. It really is okay, though. I feel like I deserve some attention. I always worry about everyone else first, me last. I finish my coffee and then get to my feet, going to the bedroom and putting on my shoes. I grab my duffel bag and my backpack, and then go back out to the kitchen. Simon looks over at me.

 "Didn't you hear me when I said you could stay with me?"

 "I remember. It's just that I can get my own place. I'm grown up, old enough to take care of myself."

 "Blair, I didn't mean to imply…"

 "Its okay, Simon. I NEED to get a place of my own. I've always been self-reliant. Since I started at Rainier. It was me against everyone else. Can we just go to the motel?"

 "Okay. But you're not alone, Blair. And I'm sure once Jim comes to his senses -" We both laugh at the intentional (or unintentional) joke Simon has made.

 "I'll get Jim to talk to me. I'm sure he'll be at least civil towards me."

 "If you want, I can be there with you."

 "Thanks, but no thanks. I can handle Jim on my own."

 Simon takes me to the motel and I find out I'm paid up to the end of the month. And everything is still piled up in boxes inside the room. Simon walks into the room with me. I have a feeling he's Blessed Protector number two. But I won't mention that to him. Or Jim.

 I turn to face Simon. "I'll be okay from here, Simon. Thank you for all of your help, the place to crash, listening to me, and giving your advice. If it doesn't work out with Jim, I may take you up on the spare room a little longer."

 "I knew I was going to regret that offer." I can hear the lightheartedness in his voice and I know he's kidding me.

 "Keep taking your medication. Get something to eat and take care of you, Blair. And if you need help with Jim, let me know."

 "I will, Simon."

 We shake hands and Simon leaves me in peace. I close the door, looking around the temporary space that is mine to the end of the month.

 I walk over to the phone and dial the number to the loft, hoping and praying Jim answers the phone. Also, that he will talk to me.

 "Ellison." Jim sounds tired. I can only imagine what he's gone through.

 "Jim. It's me. I was wondering if I could stop by and talk to you."

 "Of course, Sandburg. Simon told me to give you some *space*. I thought maybe you were behind it."

 "No, it was all Simon. He took me to his place and made me rest. I really needed it. I'll be by in about ten minutes."

 "Fine. You okay to drive, Chief?"

 "I'm fine, Jim. See ya soon." I hang up the phone, guaranteed to piss off Jim to some extent. But he'll get over it. He always does. I find the keys to my car on the bedside table and I pick them up. I have no knowledge of how they ended up there. Some more of my faulty memory.

I leave the motel room, get into my car and drive to the loft. Along the way, I formalize what I will say and how I will respond to Jim. I've rested enough so my mind is somewhat clear. I park on the street in front of the apartment building. Jim will know I'm already here. I walk inside the lobby and take the elevator up to the third floor. The elevator jerks to a halt and I grab onto the side rail to keep myself upright. I walk down the hall to see Jim standing outside the loft, the door open. I look him in the eye, noticing he's giving me the once over. I move to stand in front of him and I'm able to look past Jim to see inside the loft. He hasn't replaced the furnishings.

 "Do I pass inspection?" I let the irritation color my words.

 "Do you want to come inside?" I see the smile coming across his face.

 "Sure." I walk inside the loft and turn to face Jim. "So, I like the remodeling job you've done with the place. What do you call it - early caveman?"

 Jim reaches up to smack me in the back of the head but his hand comes up short. Even the familiar and expected eludes us at this time.

 "Smartass," he growls as he stalks over to stand by the balcony windows, shielding his eyes from the brightness of the day.

 I stand behind Jim, observing. Doing what I do best. I can see the problems he's having with his senses, even though he's trying to keep that information from me. He's always been an open book to me as far as his senses. We are connected - attuned to one another. I don't need to study other sentinels. Jim is my sentinel. I am Jim's guide. Alex was my fault. It's all so clear now. What had been fuzzy and out of reach of my faulty memory is not so murky anymore. I reach up to wipe away the tears in my eyes.

 When I look back up at Jim, he's staring at me, a frown on his face. He takes several steps towards me. "What's wrong, Blair?"

 "We need to talk, Jim. So much has happened over the past week plus. And I think its m-my fau -" My voice cracks as the emotions overcome my resolve. I turn from Jim, trying to regain my composure. This isn't what I wanted to do. Suddenly, I feel Jim's hands gently kneading my shoulders.

 "You're tense, Chief." He continues the massage of my shoulders. "I've been having problems with my senses ever since we left Sierra Verde."

 Jim abruptly stops the shoulder massage and walks towards the stairs leading to his bedroom. He sits down on one of the steps there. For Jim, this is a huge admission. I walk over to the stairs and sit down beside him.

 "Where are the dials, Jim?"

 "I don't deserve you, Blair."

 "That's nonsense, Jim. I've come to a realization. I'm your guide, you are my sentinel. My insatiable curiosity of all things sentinel made me pursue Alex. If I had just left well enough alone, the whole mess could have been avoided. I…"

 "Stop, Blair! It wasn't your entire fault. I *sensed* Alex before you became involved with her. And then I had the vision where I shot the wolf and it morphed into you. I thought you were in danger. I was going to talk to you about it, but I pushed you away instead, thinking if you were away from me that you'd be safe. My senses were already starting to reel out of control and I sensed her on you. Part of my mind thought I could do harm to you, unconsciously, primitively. I thought you had taken up with her."

 I can tell how much this bothers Jim. I place my hand on his arm, feeling our connection. We look into each other's eyes. I take a deep breath, dissolving into a coughing fit. Jim rubs small circles on my back, soothing me.

 "Your lungs are still congested. Are you taking the antibiotics?"

 "Yes, dad." This time, the smack impacts with the back of my head. I smile and let a chuckle escape.

 "You are a smartass." Jim is chuckling too. We've passed the awkward stage. "I thought you had died."

 Oops, that awkwardness has reappeared. But the door is now open. "Was I dead?" I stare deep into Jim's eyes, hoping he doesn't stop the true confessions now. He doesn't break eye contact.

 "You were. We performed CPR on you for what seemed like forever. I didn't give up. I wasn't going to give up. Until I was able, with Incacha's guidance, to bring you back. We merged, well, our spirit animals merged."

 I've never known Jim to be so open and honest. Mr. "I'd-rather-be-evasive" has just admitted to me that: 1) I was dead; 2) he enlisted Incacha's help to bring me back, and 3) the existence of a joining between us. Now, do I have the same courage to acknowledge the exact series of events to him?

 "That was our shared vision at the fountain. Incacha guided you?" Jim only nods his head. "Makes sense. I wasn't exactly available to assist you. All I remember before the merging is being in limbo, waiting for something. It was a jungle setting. It's not real clear. When Alex…" I pause, not sure I can continue. But I feel Jim's hand still on my back, supporting me. "When Alex appeared in my office, I was so sure you would be coming. To stop her. Even after all of our differences. I didn't think she would kill me. She said she couldn't leave witnesses behind. That's when I knew there was trouble. I only tried to help her. I really didn't know…"

 "She was a criminal, through and through. She tried to eliminate me too. The evil inside her outweighed any good she could have ever done."

 I think about what Jim is saying. And I have to find out everything.

 "So why were you practically jumping her bones on the beach?" My voice is deceptively calm. All I really want to do is yell and scream and demand an answer. Jim doesn't need that, though. His senses are still out of whack and I need to help him with that.

 "It was like you said, Blair. It was a primitive urge. I was acting like the caveman you called me that first day. There were no excuses."

 "I should have known it would happen. All of my research into ancient sentinels and watchmen indicated it was survival of the fittest. Of course, I had never been able to find out anything about male and female sentinels. I was sincere when I told you I didn't know on the beach. That's why I was trying to bring you and Alex together." I look over at Jim, seeing the pained expression on his face. "I am sorry. I should have had an answer for you. I'm supposed to be the expert on all things sentinel." I don't mention to Jim that I am questioning my expertise and my abilities.

 "Blair, we both pushed the boundaries of trust. The question is: have we gone too far to try to repair the damage?"

 "You basically said you couldn't trust me, Jim. And then you made out with her on the beach and allowed her to aim your gun at me." My calm is starting to erode. I hear my heartbeat pounding frantically. This is bothering me more than it should.

 "Calm down, Blair. I don't know what to say. With my senses on edge and me able to sense unknown danger about to happen… I know it's no excuse, Blair, but I was coping as best as I could without my guide, whom I had pushed away and thought may have joined the enemy. It's lame, I know, but believe me when I say I need you, Blair."

 It does sound lame, but I understand. I pat Jim on the arm again. "It makes perfect sense to me, Jim. It was beyond our control. But if we accept that you're my sentinel and I'm your guide, together we are unbeatable. It also means we need to communicate more openly to each other. On everything, including visions, dreams, feelings and misunderstandings. And, to start with, I need to know where your dials are at."

 Jim rolls his eyes at me and I think he's going to balk at this. A moment later, he answers. "They're wildly fluctuating, all between six and nine. It has become more bearable since you arrived."

 I smile at his words. "Of course they're more bearable. I'm your guide, you're my sentinel. I think that's what Incacha would have explained to us if he had lived. As it was, we had to learn the hard way. It sucked big time, especially for me."

 "You're my guide and I'm your sentinel. That has a certain ring to it, you know."

 Jim smiles at me and I smile back. I've lost track of my train of thought. Oh yeah, Jim and his dials.

 "Okay, Jim. You know the routine. Picture the dials in your mind and lower them one by one. Start with touch."

 "I think both touch and smell are almost normal. Well, normal for me. Just since you arrived. We have a connection."

 I can't stop the chuckle from escaping. Jim frowns at me.

 "Did I say something humorous?"

 I chuckle again. "Did you turn down the other dials?"

 "Yes, my guide." Jim can't keep the humor out of his voice.

 I've missed this between us. The connection we had. Oh, yeah. That's what I was going to mention to Jim. Our connection.

 "I think a couple of my senses are heightened. Well…maybe just my sense of hearing. On the trip back to Cascade, I heard snatches of you and Simon talking in the back of the plane."

 All of a sudden, Jim bursts out laughing. I don't find it funny in the least.

 "It's not funny, Jim!" I'm hurt he would even laugh.

 "I was just thinking about how turnabout is fair play."

 "What do you mean, Jim?"

 "You can be the sentinel and I will be the guide. Tests, Blair. You still have all your notebooks with the tests you ran, right?"

 I groan and I get up from the step. I walk over to the balcony windows, looking out on the day. I look down to the floor, seeing the minute details of dust there. Oh, God!! Now it's my eyesight! I know it's not on the same degree as Jim's eyesight, though.

 "Yeah, I'm going to have to clean. The dust is accumulating." Jim is enjoying this way too much.

 I turn to look at Jim. "Aren't you even curious about how this happened?"

 "Sure, I'm curious. But I'm positive you'll give me the information."

 "Oh? Are you? Maybe I won't."

 "Sure you will. You can barely contain yourself from blurting it out."

 "Damn! Are you psychic, too?"

 "No, I just know my guide. Or should I say sentinel?"

 "Ple-ease, Jim. I'm in no way, shape, or form a sentinel. I think it happened when our spirit animals merged. Part of you became me and part of me became you. So far, I only have sight and hearing, but my abilities are no way as strong as yours. You can be my guide." I let a small laugh escape. I turn back towards the windows.

 "So what did I get from you? I can think of some things I'd just as soon NOT have."

 "Well, since we're talking and being open with each other, maybe you got that from me. The ability to be open and talk about things. That's not a bad thing."

 "No, it's not a bad thing. Oh, and the guide gig? It's the least I can do, Blair. To guide you. What about your other senses?"

 "I'm not sure, Jim. But if I were to take an educated guess, I would say that it's a gradual thing. One sense at a time. And guide gig? C'mon, Jim! I've never called it that."

 "That's what all the other sentinels call it." I hear Jim walking towards me. And he stands beside me.

 "Other sentinels, huh? Are you keeping things from me?"

 "No, I was just joking. So, how far can you see?" He asks the question quietly.

 I recognize the tactic and the question. One of the first questions I asked Jim. I look out the window intently. A small smile comes over my face.

 "I can see the bird's nest in that tree to the left." I turn to look at Jim and see the smile coming across his face. He remains silent and the suspense is almost unbearable.

 "Well?" I'm anxious to know.

 "Well what?"

 I smack Jim on the arm.

 "The distance?"

 I nod yes, practically bouncing beside him.

 "It's just over 100 yards."

 "Oh." I'm disappointed and let it reflect in my voice.

 "It's above average, Blair. And you'll probably be able to ditch your glasses. You said yourself that your eyesight wasn't as strong as mine. It just brings us closer. We should do tests on your visual field."

 "You did pick that up from me. I'm as bad as you were when we first hooked up. You wanted so badly for a way to get rid of your heightened senses and I want mine to be like yours. We're both disappointed. We are so much alike. How could we have drifted so far apart?"

 "Lack of communication and my stubbornness. And a certain level of stubbornness on your part."

 I wonder what to do now. Jim hasn't mentioned anything about staying at the loft or moving back in. And I don't know when the rest of my senses may become heightened.

 Suddenly, Jim places his arm around my shoulders. "Have you had anything to eat?"

 In answer, my stomach growls, loud enough for both of us to hear it. "Ah, that would be a no, Jim. I had Simon take me to the motel where I was staying to make sure my things were still there."

 "Well, how about we go out to get something to eat? I guess you'd call it brunch, since it's almost 10:00 AM."

 "Really?" I'm surprised so much time has passed. "Sure. Can I ask another question, Jim?"

 "A sentinel question?"

 "No, Jim. Not a sentinel question. It's a question about the loft."

 I see Jim tense up at the mention of the loft. Maybe now is not the time to bring this up.

 "I'm sorry I kicked you out, Chief. Do you want to come back?"

 "To an empty loft? I don't think so, Jim."

 "I just didn't have the patience or the energy to bring everything up from the basement. And the fact was, I was thinking about all that happened and what I had done to you. After we have brunch, you can help me move things back upstairs."

 "I'm not sure about that, Jim. After all, you said my lungs were still congested. Maybe I shouldn't push it."

 "Oh, God! You're right, Blair. What the heck was I thinking about? Okay, how about if I get you a hotel room for a couple days until I can get things moved back?"

 "No, Jim. I already have a motel room, which is paid for until the end of the month. I can stay there until you move things back. Are you sure you want me to come back?"

 "What kind of silly question is that, Chief? Of course I want you to come back. I want to be able to right the wrongs."

 I want to be able to tell Jim yes and I want to be able to come back to the loft. Well, at least brunch is a start. And if I do have trouble with my heightened senses, Jim has said he will guide me. That's another step in the right direction. It still hurts that Jim jumped Alex's bones. It's not like she'll ever come between Jim and I ever again. Unless someone can bring her out of her zone. But, as I've said before, I'm *super-guide*, my designation. I suspect only I could bring her out of her deep zone. Frankly, I didn't give a damn about Alex. Jim is my sentinel and I'm his guide. Only one sentinel per guide.

 "Let's go to brunch. Your treat? I'm sort of tapped out."

 Jim hugs me close by his side. "Sure. My treat. So, no sensory spikes?"

 "Not yet, Jim. I explained that my senses aren't like yours. So, where are we going to eat?"

 "I was thinking IHOP. I'm hungry for waffles. And maybe we can test the rest of your senses. Especially smell and taste."

 I can only shake my head, thinking it might have been a mistake to tell Jim about my heightened senses. Well, two of my senses so far. I really can't complain though. I'm the one who said open communication on everything. Jim would find out if I didn't tell him. He's a keen observer himself.

 We leave the loft and I get into the passenger side of Jim's truck. I fall into a routine that is both familiar and comfortable. I look over at Jim, seeing that his previous discomfort is gone.

 Jim looks at me. "You've had the answers. Any time I had problems with my senses. You've helped me, even when I didn't know I needed help. You've anticipated troubles and problems before they were troubles and problems. I've never told you that before."

 Jim pauses and I start to respond, but he continues before I can say anything. "I've had time to think about what I did. I should have talked to you instead of pushing you away. I've taken you for granted and I can only hope you can forgive me."

 I don't say anything for a couple of minutes, making sure Jim doesn't want to say more. He has gotten the gift of talking openly from me. This is the most I've heard Jim say since I've known him.

 "We'll work on things, Jim. I have a lot of issues I have to deal with too."

 We reach IHOP and I get out of the truck. We walk inside, getting a booth near the windows. I decide to get waffles and then my mind drifts to other things I have to take care of. Number one, big time, is my return to Rainier. I have to find out if I still have a teaching job. And I have to make my peace with the fountain and what happened.

 "…Blair? You with me?"

 I am brought back to the present by Jim's voice. I turn to look at him, seeing concern etched on his face.

 "What?" I close my eyes. Don't tell me I zoned?

 "You seemed deep in thought. Something you want to discuss?"

 "I have to return to Rainier, see if I still have a job. Plus having to face the fountain."

 "Maybe you can have them remove it?"

 "I don't have that kind of pull."

 I look at Jim and wonder how it is that I deserve him. The thoughts are warring around in my mind.

The waitress brings our waffles and I start to eat. I didn't realize how hungry I am. I close my eyes, savoring the taste of the food. I open my eyes, noticing Jim looking at me, a smile on his face.

 "Taste?" he asks.

 I nod my head. "I don't remember cinnamon in the waffles."

 "It's a subtle taste. Definitely an added bonus for people with above-average taste buds. By the way, I find sour and tangy tastes to be especially troublesome."

 "Yeah, I remember that from the tests I did."

 "Just your guide being helpful."

 I smile, thinking Jim is really going the extra mile to make things up to me. The niggling remnants of mistrust are still there, however, Jim is trying to rebuild things. The least I can do is meet him halfway.

 "I've come to a conclusion, Jim." I leave it out there like that.

 When I don't say anything else, Jim speaks. "A conclusion about what, Blair?"

 I look him straight in the eye. "I can't do my dissertation on Sentinels." There, I've gotten it out.

 Jim frowns at me. "Why not?"

 "Oh, c'mon, Jim! Look at the mess this all is right now. I've known for a long time that it would be hard to keep your identity anonymous. I mean I've hung around with you for three years. I write about Sentinels now and everyone with half a brain will figure out who I'm talking about. I don't even know if I'm still affiliated with Rainier."

 "There were extenuating circumstances, Chief. Rainier has to give you a break. As far as your dissertation, I'll support you in whatever you want to do."

 "Okay, who are you and what did you do with the real Jim Ellison?"

 "I'm just being honest, Blair. Seriously though, if you don't write your dissertation on Sentinels, what will you write it on?"

 "Jim, I've been part of the PD for over three years. It's given me a great insight into closed societies, which I have studied before. I'm sure I can come up with some kind of angle. Maybe even use the line I gave Simon that first day in his office. I would need to get clearances from the Chief of police and various others and have it approved by my committee, but I've always been able to tap dance for those at Rainier. After all, I've been one of their star pupils for years."

 "What about coming back to the loft?"

 "Let me think about it, okay? I just need a little time."

 Jim allows me to go off alone once we get back to the loft. I thank him for brunch and for the talk. There's just a part of me who can't quite return to Jim's side just yet. This is warring with the part of me who says he's my sentinel and I'm his guide. Maybe I just need to give him grief a little longer. Additional payback for his antics with Alex.

 As soon as I unlock the door to my motel room, the smell assaults my nose. Damn! Well, that's four. The smell wasn't there earlier and I can't quite identify it now. If I were to describe it, I'd say it was moldy, old, decay, possibly even death. I close the door behind me and stalk around the room, looking for the source of the smell. I quickly find it in a bag that Megan picked up from the hospital when she came to get me. I open the bag and the memory of it all comes back to me -- Alex walking into my office, pointing the gun at me, telling me she can't leave any witnesses. And me pleading for her not to kill me in my office, so as not to leave behind a mess for the maintenance crew. She agreed with my request and asked me if I would be her guide. I had forgotten about that part until now. I told her no, that I am Jim's guide, that Jim is my sentinel. She laughed then and told me there was no other sentinel. The words hit me like a punch in the gut and all the fight left me as I realized I was alone. She got me to my feet, led me outside into the pre-dawn day. And I knew I'd be joining my sentinel.

 I close up the bag quickly, take it outside and throw it in the trash bin. It's not like I'll ever wear any of those items ever again. I don't need additional reminders of that day.

 It is a sense memory. I realize that now. All of our memories are tied into our senses. Examples of sense memories are the smell of fresh-baked cookies that we associate with growing up and our mothers. Or, as in the case of Jim, when Jack Pendergrast, his former partner, went missing and I was able to help Jim to remember hearing the message from Jack that he left on Jim's answering machine. It was just a matter of going back and reconnecting the sensations from that night. Now I have my own sense memory. Lucky me.

 I walk back into the motel room and realize, at least in my mind, that the smell has permeated the whole room. I can't stay here. As I pack up my clothes and other personal items, I weigh my options. Without another thought, I call Jim. I ask him to come to the motel. That I need to talk to him. He says he'll be right there.

I hear Jim's truck approach, surprised he's not using lights and the siren. I open the door before he knocks, a smile on my face. He shakes his head and smiles back. Then, the smile disappears.

 "What's that smell?"

 "Thank god you can smell it. When I left the hospital, Megan picked me up. The hospital personnel gave her a bag containing what I had been wearing. When I got back here, the smell assaulted my nose. I didn't notice it before."

 "Heightened sense of smell. Well, that's four. Anything on touch?"

 "Not yet. I can't stay here, Jim."

 "We could work on your dials…"

 "No, Jim. Not now. Please. I have other issues to deal with. Can I come back to the loft?" I try not to sound too needy, too anxious. "It would only be temporary…"

 "Like maybe a week?" Despite the implication of the words, Jim is smiling. "I'll load the boxes in the back of my truck. How'd you get them all out of the loft to begin with?"

 My mind goes back to that evening, when I walked inside the loft, to the scene of Jim boxing up my possessions and telling me he needed me gone by the time he got back. I watched in total disbelief as Jim left the loft without listening to a word I uttered. I saw the look in his eyes and was worried about what he would do if I wasn't out by the time he got back.

"I called a few of my students who had trucks and could haul the boxes. I boxed up the rest of my things as quick as I could, not conscious of what I was putting in what box. I wasn't sure how long you'd be gone. When I left, I wasn't sure where I was going to go. One of the students even offered me his dorm room." I close my eyes, the memory still too fresh, too raw.

 Jim pats me on the arm and I open my eyes.

 "Blair, you can stay as long as you want or need to. As we both have said, we are connected. I think we've weathered a storm, passed a test, made a new commitment. I'm not that good at this, Chief. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here."

 "Yeah, I understand. I think it might have been a test. In the grand scheme of the world, there are no coincidences."

 "Why don't you wait outside while I load up the boxes?"

 "I can help…"

 "I can do it. You're still weak…"

 "I can help. I'm not that weak."

 "Okay. Don't overdo things and ah… can you smell my aftershave?"

 "Yeah." I wonder what Jim is up to.

 "Okay, then. Concentrate on my aftershave. Let it replace the other smell. Can you do that?"

 I smile at Jim, realizing what he's doing. "Yeah, I can do that. Thanks, Jim." I walk over to Jim and inhale deeply. Jim only shakes his head and chuckles.

 We start to load up Jim's truck. Jim's coping mechanism works and I realize I should have thought of it myself. After all, I'm *super-guide*. I've taught Jim well.

 As we load the last of the boxes into the bed of Jim's truck, he turns to me. "What did you do with the bag?"

 "I threw it in the trash. I don't need any of those things."

 "Good. We don't need them stinking up the loft. You ready to head home?"

 I contemplate Jim's question. The fact remains that the loft is as bare as it had been.

 "I've done some remodeling. No more early-caveman. We at least have somewhere to sit and to sleep."

 "You are psychic!"

 "No, I keep telling you, it's our connection. Let's go, partner."

 "I'll follow you. I have to turn in the key and see if I can get a refund. I was paid up to the end of the month."

 "Don't take too long, Chief."

 "I won't." I watch as Jim drives off. I lock the motel room and take the key to the clerk's office, telling him I'm leaving and asking if I can have a refund for the unused days. He gives me the refund and I have a small amount of money, along with my nest egg, which now it appears as if I won't have to spend. We shall see.

 Instead of heading towards the loft, I head towards Rainier. I feel a pull towards there. I park by the fountain - the scene of the crime. The sight of the fountain brings back with crystal clarity the rest of that morning.

 Alex led me towards the fountain. I saw the water shimmering in the sunlight beginning the day. I was thinking how beautiful it all was and what a terrible day it was to die. I paused, wanting to turn around and plead with Alex to let me live. But she poked the barrel of the gun into my back and I stumbled forward. I tripped over my own feet, falling towards the fountain. I braced with my arms, preventing my fall into the water. But Alex was right behind me, lifting me effortlessly by the collar of my jacket. We were right by the fountain now. I wanted to fight, but all the fight was gone from me. The butt end of the gun connected with the back of my head and I was dazed. Then the water surrounded me and I let go.

 I shake my head from the sense memory, amazed that it has all come clear when it had been fuzzy and unfocused. I get out of my car, drawn towards the fountain. It's as lovely as it was that morning. I walk towards the fountain and the smell comes to my nose. That same smell. It draws me closer and I'm mesmerized. I can't break its pull on me.

 ********

 It's the voice that I'm aware of first. Soft, tantalizing and authoritative. Not to be ignored.

 "…c'mon, Blair. I don't have experience in this. Work with me here, Chief. Please."

 I also feel the light touch on my back as small rhythmic circles are made there. Finally, the smell comes to my nose. Jim's aftershave. All of a sudden, the fog clears and I blink several times. I turn to face Jim.

 "What hap - pened?" I still feel…numb, not all here.

 "I think you zoned. I was concerned when you didn't come home. I figured you came here to confront the fountain. When I arrived, I couldn't get through to you. I stood in front of you and you didn't see me. I called to you and you didn't answer. It took me better than ten minutes to get you to respond."

 "But…how? My senses aren't like yours." I don't understand.

 "What were you focused on, Chief?"

 "I came here to confront the fountain. You were right about that. I sat in my car, looking at the thing and the memories of what happened that morning came back to me with crystal clarity. Up to the moment the water surrounded me and I let go, thinking I was joining you. It's a sense memory, like when I helped you to remember the message Jack had left for you. It's the second one I've had. I got out of my car and the fountain drew me closer. And the smell is here. It might have been a combination of sight and smell, which overwhelmed me."

 "Well, I have to say, it scared me. I didn't think I'd get through to you. But I remembered when I've come out of a zone; I'd be able to latch onto your voice and your smell."

"You did well, Jim. I'll let you read my notes on zone outs and give you pointers. Soon, you'll be the second-best guide in Cascade."

 "Let's go home, Chief."

 "Okay, I think I've made my peace with the fountain. And the memories are clear now. I even got a refund from the motel clerk. I have some money."

 Jim turns me from the fountain and gently pushes me towards my car. I get in my car, looking one last time before Jim honks the truck's horn. I drive away from Rainier and Jim follows me home.

 I follow Jim up to the loft. We both carry boxes up. When Jim unlocks the door, I see that he has restored some of the furniture.

 "So, who did you get to help you?"

 "Joe and Pete from the second floor. They saw me moving things and offered to help. We only got a few things moved. We can move more after we get the boxes brought up. If you feel up to it."

 "Speaking of which, I need to take another antibiotic. I'm a little behind on my schedule."

 "I have bottled water in the fridge. Go ahead - take your pill. I'll go down and bring up more boxes."

 I watch as Jim walks over to the door and then he turns to face me. "I'm really glad you came back, Chief." And he's out the door.

 I'm left with his declaration. I can only shake my head in wonder at Jim's openness and honesty. I walk over to the refrigerator and get out a bottle of water. I open my duffel bag, getting out a pill and taking it. About that time, Jim comes up with three more boxes. I leave, going down to get boxes. I can't let Jim do all the work. I'm not an invalid.

 When I get back upstairs, Jim is looking through one of the boxes. He looks over at me.

"You should rest. I hear a distinct wheeze in your breathing. You've pushed yourself -- have a seat and I'll bring up the rest of the boxes."

 "You know -- Simon would probably be willing to help you move the rest of your things up from the basement. And H and Brian, Joel. Probably even Megan would be willing to help."

 "You're probably right. Maybe I'll call them tomorrow."

 "I'll sit while you bring up the rest of the boxes. I am feeling tired."

 I drink the rest of the water and sit down on the couch, which at the moment is facing towards the balcony windows. Soon, I drift off to sleep.

 ********

 I wake up later, noticing it's evening already. Jim is sitting in the chair beside me, watching me. I sit up, looking over at Jim.

 "You should have woken me, Jim. How long have I been asleep?"

 "About eight hours. I didn't want to disturb you. You looked peaceful and I figured you needed the rest." There's a slight pause and then, "I didn't mean for you to follow me through the jungles of Sierra Verde."

 "Jim, I chose to follow you. Even though I was still confused about where we stood with each other, I wanted to continue to try to help you."

 "I wanted to talk to you, but I had already pushed you away. I knew you'd be pissed off at me. I was drawn to…her and I couldn't fight it." Jim has a faraway look on his face. He's no longer looking at me.

 I lean over and pat Jim on the leg. He looks back at me. I smile at him.

 "I understand, Jim. We both screwed this up. And we still have things to work out and work through. Right now, thought, I need to know if you have anything to eat."

Jim chuckles. "I'm going to have to go shopping. But I can order takeout."

 "Pizza sounds good. Extra meat."

 "Pizza? Are you sure?"

 "Yep. Take advantage of this, Jim. It may not last very long."

 "Okay, okay, Chief. Pizza it is. Extra meat. Afterwards, I'll go shopping to restock the fridge and the cabinets."

 Jim gets to his feet and walks over to the phone, calling in the pizza order. I walk over to join, him, seeing most of my boxes still piled up outside my room. I wonder if I'll ever empty them all.

 "…zoning on me again?"

 I look up to see Jim by my side, his jaw set, and worry in his eyes.

 "Um…no, I'm not zoning, Jim. Just thinking about my future. Our future. You know, on that plane ride back to Cascade, I was ready to cut my losses and walk away."

 "What made you change your mind?"

 "You. I saw how much distress you were having with your senses. I just couldn't leave you alone and adrift."

 "I was right before, Blair. I don't deserve you."

 "Just stop, Jim. We're destined to be together. You've got to accept that."

 "I'm trying to. But it's hard to change a lifetime of conditioned responses."

"Well, I have been trying to get you to change. I'm going to stick around, so we can work on it more. That is, if you want to?"

 I watch as Jim contemplates my offer. I definitely don't want to pressure him into something he doesn't want to do. Still, I hope he will take me up on my offer.

"Sure, I'll work on it with you. I'm not going to guarantee that it will all be smooth sailing."

"We're both human, Jim. And it's human nature to disagree with others, even if it is in our best interest to agree. Everyone wants to be right and in that pursuit, sometimes we hang onto beliefs just because. We all have our own hang-ups and conditioned responses. Everyone can change. If they want to."

"I have missed you, Chief."

"I've missed you, too, Jim."

 Before we get too mushy, there's a knock on the door.

"Pizza's here."

"Good. I'm hungry."

Jim answers the door, paying for the pizza, while I walk over to the kitchen island, where the only chairs are. I go around the island, getting plates out of the cabinet and water out of the refrigerator. Jim places the pizza box on the island and we both sit down to eat. As I eat the pizza, I'm thinking taste is probably one of my stronger senses now. I can differentiate between tastes and everything seems more acute.

It's understandable that taste would be strong. Many of the people I studied with one, two, even three heightened senses have had taste as one of those heightened senses. Smell is also one of my dominant senses. I suppose I should let Jim run tests on me. And I need to reread my early notebooks when I was first documenting Jim's senses. It probably wouldn't be a bad idea to look over the other case studies I have done in order to pick up any pointers I haven't thought of yet.

Between Jim and me, we finish up the pizza in almost record time. Jim cleans up the mess and the dishes while I continue to sit and finish my water.

"Any indication of touch being heightened?"

"Not yet. Maybe it won't happen."

"I bet it does happen, Chief. You want to place a wager on it?"

"No, I don't want to lose my money. So, do you think we should tell Simon about this development?"

"It's your call, Chief. It'll probably freak him out."

I laugh as Jim uses the same words I used that day on the roof of the PD after he came clean to Simon about his heightened senses. Maybe I'll do it.

I get to my feet, throwing my water bottle into the recycling container and turning to see Jim locking up for the night.

"I think I'm going to take a shower and go to bed. I should feel like helping you move things back up tomorrow."

"Don't worry about it, Blair. I can get Simon and the others to help me. Or maybe even Joe and Pete can help me. If nothing else, I can probably move the rest of the stuff back up by myself."

"You know, I'm thinking about letting you run tests on my senses. Just so we can have a baseline of how far they are heightened. Of course, I want to wait until I find out my status at Rainier."

"You're really worried about the university, aren't you?"

"It's just that I don't know how I'll be able to fit back in after all that has happened. Will people point at me and say, 'There goes Blair Sandburg, who drowned in the fountain.'? I just don't know what to expect."

"If they say that to you, say, 'No, I didn't drown. I'm still alive and kicking.' You have to take charge of the situation."

"Maybe that is the best way to do things. Thanks, Jim." I yawn at that time and Jim notices it.

"Go take your shower and get to bed. You can still use more rest."

"Yes, dad."

"Smartass." He's laughing though as he shakes his head.

I walk into my bedroom, noticing Jim has placed the boxes with my clothes in here. I look around the room, noticing the lack of personal items. But that will change over the next several days. I'm thinking of staying, at least for a little while. I need someone to help me with my heightened senses and Jim has offered.

I look in one of the boxes and find a pair of sweats, a pair of boxers, a pair of socks and a t-shirt. I pull them out and walk into the bathroom. That's when I realize I don't have my shampoo, or my soap, or even any shaving supplies. I walk back out of the bathroom and see Jim sitting on the couch.

I clear my throat. "Um…Jim? Can I use your soap and shampoo? I'm not sure where mine are?"

"No problems, Chief. At least we know their sentinel-friendly. Feel free to use anything of mine you need to."

"Thanks, man." I stand there a few minutes, amazed that Jim and I would come to the brink of destroying our friendship and partnership and then be able to acknowledge our mistakes and to talk about what we have to do to repair the broken bits. I turn back towards the bathroom, walking inside, still thinking about Jim and I.

I turn on the shower to the heat level I usually use and prepare to step inside the shower. I walk inside the shower and immediately yelp as the water assaults my skin. I jump out of the shower, leaning back in to shut off the water.

Suddenly, there's a frantic knock on the door. "Sandburg? Are you okay? Chief?"

"Its okay, Jim. Just number five. Touch. The water was too hot. It used to be my normal temperature, but now it's too hot."

"Yeah, hot and cold extremes are a little tricky. We'll have to make sure you stay warm when it gets cold. Is there anything I can do?"

"No, thanks anyway, Jim. I'll just cool the water down some and finish taking my shower. This is all going to take a little getting used to. Even if I don't have the range of your senses."

"We'll work together on it, Chief. You better get in the shower before you get a chill." Jim is laughing softly.

"How did you…? Never mind. I'm going. Sorry to yell out like that."

"It's totally understandable, Chief."

I turn on the water again, this time a little cooler and I'm able to take my shower without any troubles. I like the feel of Jim's soap and shampoo and I'm thinking maybe I'll have to look for something for me that has the same ingredients for myself. I might as well spoil myself, since I spoil Jim already. I need to do something for me. After all, I'm a junior sentinel. I laugh at the title. Well, I'm definitely not a full-fledged sentinel. And Jim can be my junior guide. He'll get a kick out of that. My laughs get a little harder and louder and I'm thinking Jim will be banging down the door in no time, thinking I've totally lost it.

I finish up my shower and dry myself off, wrapping my hair in one of the towels. I get dressed in my sweats and my thick, warm socks and come out of the bathroom. Jim is still sitting on the couch and he looks over at me.

"It sounded like you were enjoying yourself just a little too much in the shower there, buddy. Something else you discovered that was enhanced?"

"God, Jim! What a dirty mind you have! If you really need to know, I was thinking I'm a junior sentinel and you're my junior guide. Since neither one of us is the full thing."

"Only you, Sandburg. I have missed you, Blair."

I can tell Jim is sincere. Just like he was earlier when he told me the same thing. We hurt each other and now, we've been given the opportunity to get things right. I want this, us, to succeed. And I'm sure Jim wants it to succeed also.

"Well, I'm going to bed. I'm really tired. Tomorrow, we can work on this some more. And I've missed you, Jim."

I walk into my bedroom, seeing that Jim has returned my bed and my night table. There are even sheets on the bed and a blanket. Along with my two pillows. I sit down on the edge of the bed and reflect over the past few days. Has it only been two days since we came back from Sierra Verde? It seems to be to be another lifetime. I've been reborn and been given the chance to return to my sentinel's side as his guide. It's a job I will not take lightly in the future. It is a solemn responsibility and something that we both need to concentrate and work on so that we get it right this time.

I finally lay down in the bed, covering up with the blanket. I look around the bare room, mute testimony of all that has happened. Somehow, I know that sleep won't come easily tonight.

Now, I remember everything that happened when Alex came to kill me. I think she was going to kill me from the beginning. She knew that I knew she was a thief and a criminal. She couldn't leave behind any witnesses. And plus the fact that I knew her secret. She couldn't have known I wouldn't spill the word about her heightened senses. She couldn't have known I was an honorable man, a man of my word. She only saw me as a means to an end. Someone to help her to cope, to get control so she could continue to do her misdeeds.

Looking back on it now, I can't believe I didn't insist on getting through to Jim and to telling him about Alex in Cascade. If I would have… Oh well, would haves and could haves. We can't change what is in the past. We can only live in the present the best we can and hope in the future we don't screw up and make the same mistakes as we did in the past. I think Jim and I are okay as far as that goes. At least I hope so.

I still have issues to work through. I haven't even begun the thought processes around the fact that I was dead and was brought back to life. The implications are so enormous that I'm not so sure I want to explore it in much depth. I'm afraid of what other thoughts and possible memories it might evoke. Maybe I'll make an appointment to talk with someone to explore my feelings and thoughts. Something else to look forward to in the future.

First on my list of things to do, is to make sure I still have my position at Rainier. Both as a student and as a teacher. I need to have both still intact in order to feel whole again. I'll do whatever they want me to do to get back into something normal at the university. And hope people don't dwell on the drowning and my *death*.

I also want to be able to return to the PD and help Jim, and Major Crime, with their work. I find it fulfilling and the idea of doing my dissertation on closed societies within the police department seems to hold more appeal to me now because of my work with these people.

I also need to explore my heightened senses and see if I can find any other references to sentinels and guides in the past that experienced such a thing. But the reference material on guides is woefully inadequate. Maybe I should document both Jim and I and write another paper on us as a sentinel and guide pair. Maybe there would be a way to keep our identities anonymous and still document everything. Or maybe I'll just write it for our own purposes. I'll talk to Jim about it. No doubt, he'll want to go ahead with everything. He's gung-ho about exploring everything all of a sudden. I suppose I should look upon that as a good thing. And for the most part, it is. But if he gets too involved in the tests, I may have to back off a little.

I smile as I close my eyes, finally feeling sleep starting to encroach upon me. It will all be okay. I have to believe that. Jim and I have passed some type of test, which we had to endure without Incacha's input. Hopefully any future problems we'll be able to handle also.

END