You Can Run…

By Hawk

EMAIL: Hawk

Summary: For Sarah who wanted: What if Blair turned in his badge at the front desk or to Vera and never went up to major crimes?

~*~*~

Blair looked out of the window, watching the cold rain hit the glass, the individual droplets merging and, finally, running down the window before being picked up by the passing wind and scattered behind the bus. With a sigh, he rested his forehead against the cool glass, remembering just how he got to this point.

~*~*~

A badge. They'd offered him a badge and, right now, it was lying warm and heavy in his hand. Blair glanced down at the glinting metal and sighed softly. Was this what he really wanted? He knew Jim wanted him to accept it, but could he put aside his dreams and convictions and pick up a gun? Could he wield that weapon day after day? Sighing, he shoved the piece of metal into his pocket.

He was late, but then he was always running late lately. His lungs burned as he labored along the sidewalk. His car had been towed to the garage this morning and his pockets were nearly empty so he resorted to taking the bus. The bus stop was six blocks away from the precinct, unless he wanted to go miles out of his way and make two transfers, that is - and, today, he didn't have the time to spend riding around in circles on the city busses.

As he hurried along the sidewalk, Blair hiked his backpack up onto his shoulder and coughed harshly. His throat was sore again and he knew his lungs were still fragile, but he didn't have time to be sick. Jim and Simon were waiting for him.

He was supposed to take his place at Jim's side today - as a member of Major Crimes, a detective. The badge had been given to him, the only concession being that he take a truncated course of study at the police academy. The look on Jim's face when he said he had to think about it was priceless - and might have been funny if it wasn't for the fact that he knew he was treading on the fragile bonds of their friendship. He also knew that his decision could possibly shred the mending fabric of their relationship and that was something he never wanted to do. Jim and their friendship meant the world to him - but could he give up his own beliefs to keep that relationship? Hell, yes. He'd already proven that on more than one occasion.

Blair was muttering under his breath as he stiff-armed his way into the precinct. His hair was windblown and he had his collar pulled up around his neck. He hiked his backpack up again and strode across the small lobby, not paying attention to anything going on around him, too immersed in his thoughts for anything else to penetrate his thoughts.

As he pushed his way past an officer waiting at the front desk with a muttered 'excuse me' as his backpack slapped into the man's back, the officer cursed and turned, leaving his cuffed suspect standing belly-up to the front desk and grabbed the straps of Blair's pack. Blair heard the strap rip as the bag was yanked off his shoulder.

"What the hell-" he said as he was spun around from the force of the pull.

~*~*~

By the time the mistake had been straightened out, Blair was livid. Just because he had long hair he'd been targeted - again, this time by a cop. True, the officer was new and didn't know Blair, but being thrown to the ground and handcuffed in the lobby of the precinct didn't make his day. Nor did the fact that he actually got to booking before anyone thought to stand up to the guy and tell him that he was a cop. Then, to really piss him off, the young cop looked him up and down and laughed. He thought the guys were trying to trick him on his first day at work. It wasn't until Blair had told him to look in his coat pocket that the cop had done so, pulling out the detective's badge and nearly passing out. Blair would have laughed but for the fact that the other cops already were. Apparently picking on Sandburg was something they hadn't gotten enough of.

Once he was uncuffed and his backpack returned to him with a stammered 'sorry, sir', Blair turned away and made his way to personnel. He had some forms to sign before heading up to Major Crimes and his new life.

Vera looked up when he walked in and tsked, pointedly looking at the clock. "You're late, Mr. Sandburg. Not the most auspicious way to start a new job."

That was it - the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Blair walked over to Vera's desk, reached into his pocket, and pulled out the badge, slapping it down in front of her. As she looked up at him with startled eyes, he snarled, "Keep it. The price is too high."

And with that, Blair turned and walked out of the room, closing the door sharply behind him. He walked past the bank of elevators and out through the lobby. Once he hit the street he took a deep breath of the brisk air. Coughing harshly, he turned his collar up, hoisted his pack higher on his shoulder, and started walking.

~*~*~

Jim looked at his watch for the fifteenth time in about four minutes - give or take. Growling softly, he cursed under his breath. Blair was late - again. Not that he wasn't used to his roommate running on his own version of a time schedule but he'd thought he had driven the point home when he and Simon had presented him with the badge and 'explained' the concept of working a real job to him. Apparently he wasn't as smart as he'd led them all to believe if he couldn't even make it to work on time his first day.

Jim sighed. Simon was going to be so pissed. He really couldn't believe how irresponsible Sandburg could be.

~*~*~

Blair walked into the wind, the bitter cold stealing his breath and making him cough. A few blocks away from the police station he looked up and saw that he was standing in front of a branch of his bank. On an impulse he went inside, drawing a deep breath of the warm air and then coughing once again. He filled out the appropriate forms, showed his ID and then closed out his accounts. It wasn't like he was rich, but the weight of the money in his pockets weighed him down nonetheless.

Once back outside on the street, he hailed a passing cab and settled back into the seat. It wouldn't be a long ride, but he was so weary. A rest would be more than welcome.

~*~*~

And that was how he got to where he currently was, having taken the cab to the nearest bus station and bought a ticket on the first bus out of town. An impulse buy to be sure, but one that made him realize just how fed up with things he'd become. Leaving town with nothing more than the clothes on his back and his backpack -- good thing Naomi had taught him to always be prepared. He could live for at least a week out of his pack and he might just have to do that.

~*~*~

By the time Blair was two hours late for work, Jim was beginning to get the feeling that the niggling sense of something not right that he'd had all morning wasn't just a passing fancy, but something more serious, especially since the feeling was getting stronger with each passing minute.

"Simon?" Jim said as he stepped into his Captain's office. He waited when Simon lifted a hand, talking earnestly into the phone. Jim turned his attention away from his boss, silently opening his senses and searching for his partner, only to be disappointed again. Blair wasn't in the building or the surrounding area and Jim was afraid to open his senses too far without his Guide by his side.

Simon put the phone down with a muffled curse and Jim turned to look at him, one eyebrow raised in question. "Something wrong, sir?"

Simon sighed loudly. "Yes, something is wrong. Where the hell is Blair?" he asked, looking past Jim, obviously expecting Blair to be standing right beside him.

"Not here, sir," Jim said softly.

"What do you mean 'not here'?" Simon growled. "I thought we explained-"

"We did," Jim interjected, cutting Simon off, before running a hand over his head. "At first I thought it was just Blair being late - but this is something else. I can feel it, Simon."

"Feel it?" Simon asked skeptically. "Feel it, as in it's a Sentinel thing?"

Jim nodded, looking away from Simon. "Yeah - I think it's a Sentinel thing, Captain. I - " He took a breath. "I need to go look for him."

Simon leaned back in his chair and looked up at Jim, his obvious displeasure written all over his face. "This really isn't a good time, Jim. Do you know who that was on the phone?"

Jim shook his head. "No, sir."

Simon sighed. "Well damn. All right - go. Find Blair and chew him a new one for me, would ya?"

Jim flashed Simon a quick grin. "Will do, sir. Thank you." Spinning on his heels, he strode out of Simon's office and out of the bullpen, not noticing the anxious looks he was receiving from the other cops in the room.

Later he couldn't say what had made him turn left when he got off the elevator instead of right, but suddenly he was opening the door to the personnel office and stepping inside.

"Detective Ellison?" Vera said as he looked around the room.

"Him Vera," Jim said distractedly.

"Are you looking for this?" she asked, drawing his attention.

When Jim turned to look at her, she was holding out something gold and he knew immediately that it was Blair's badge. Blair was turning down their offer of a job. Blindly, Jim reached out and took the badge, folding it in his hand and walking away with a mumbled thanks.

As Jim turned the badge over in his hands he wondered: was this the source of his feeling of foreboding? And, if it was - why was his sense of impending doom getting stronger and not weaker? No, something else was wrong.

~*~*~

3 months later

Blair looked up with a sad smile as he heard a young couple arguing softly on the other side of the campfire. They had been married a month prior in a traditional ceremony, the tribal Shaman officiating. He had watched, a lump of longing filling his throat, as the two were pledged to each other in the joining ceremony.

It was strange being back but, when things had gone so wrong, this was the one place he knew he would fit in and be welcome - Peru. Incacha might be gone, but Blair was welcomed with open arms and he settled into life in the village quickly. Now, three months later, he was finally beginning to put his heartache behind him, but the sight of the young couple arguing only served to open old wounds. He still ached to be held in the middle of the night and his chest felt empty where his Sentinel used to reside, but he was moving on. It was either that or throw himself off the nearest cliff - and the tribal chief had forbidden any harm come to him, even from his own hand.

Getting to his feet, Blair made his excuses to the chief and the shaman, in turn, and turned away from the nightly gathering. He would spend this evening in his hut. It would do him good to get some writing done in his journal.

~*~*~

Three months. Actually, it was three months, twelve days and six hours, but who was counting? Three months without his Guide. Three months without his lifeline. Three months since he'd shut down his senses and become Mr. Normal. Three months since he'd been living in hell.

It had taken him a mere twelve hours to figure out that Blair wasn't coming home, a day to find out that he'd withdrawn all of his money from the bank, and a week to figure out that he'd taken a bus out of town. It wasn't easy tracking a man who was paying cash wherever he went. Thank God for long hair, earrings and a talkative Guide. People tended to remember him.

Jim had been able to follow his trail only so far, having found out from the lady who sold Blair his ticket which direction he was traveling in - East. He'd gotten an itinerary for the bus and followed it in his truck. At each stop, he asked about Blair. He'd lost track of him in Denver and thought it was all over - until he'd stumbled upon a homeless man wearing Blair's coat. The man said a young man with long curly hair had given it to him and Jim believed him. The man also told him that Blair had said he was heading south. He'd seen Blair get into a big rig heading out of town.

So Jim turned south, keeping to the major highways, stopping at the bigger truck stops, and flashing Blair's picture around. And now he was at the Mexican border, waiting for Simon to overnight his passport so he could leave the country.

He had found someone at the border who remembered Blair. Apparently, he'd regaled the border guards with tales of aboriginal tribes as he was checked through. They remembered his stories - and one guard, Brian, said he had sad eyes.

Blair had been on foot as he crossed into Mexico, but that didn't mean he was going to stay on foot. No, Blair could charm a nun out of her rosary if he put his mind to it. Jim was sure that Blair had hitched a ride as soon as he crossed the border. Where he was now was anyone's guess.

Jim sighed as he tossed his duffle on the hotel room bed. His passport wasn't due to arrive until tomorrow so there was nothing to do now but wait. Waiting had never been his strong suit but, when forced, he supposed he could at least get some rest. He'd also spend the time trying to figure out where Blair would be heading.

Blair had spent an extensive amount of time in South America, working within the boundaries of a number of aboriginal tribes, living with them for months at a time. So where would he go? What was he doing? Why had he left?

Jim sighed as he lay back on the bed, his head on three pillows, staring up at the ceiling. Why had Blair left? Was he running away from him or just running away? As Jim closed his eyes, he had it. He suddenly knew without a doubt just where Blair went - where he ran to. Trouble was, Jim wasn't sure he could go there - not now, not after watching Incacha die. It wasn't a place he wanted to return to, but he really had no choice. Blair was there and so he would follow.

~*~*~

Jim was waiting in the lobby, having already checked out of the hotel, when the package was delivered. He signed for it, turned and walked out the door, tearing open the package as he went and tossing the envelope in the trash can just outside the door. He flipped open his passport and then stuck it into his breast pocket as he slipped behind the wheel of his truck. Time was wasting.

Pulling out into the mid-morning traffic, Jim headed toward the border crossing, driving almost on autopilot as he maneuvered around the slower cars and trucks. Soon he saw the crossing in front of him and he pulled into a short line of vehicles waiting to cross the border. The security checkpoint was no trouble and soon he was in Mexico. Easy as pie. He just hoped getting to Peru was equally as easy.

~*~*~

Blair tagged along on a hunting trip, more out of a suddenly urgent need to get out of the village than any real desire to hunt. The hunters had agreed to take him and to keep him safe from harm - that last a requirement set forth by the Shaman of the village. His edict was steeped in ceremony and solemnly delivered to the hunters as they cleansed themselves in preparation of the hunt. Once the cleansing was complete, the Shaman had placed guarding spells on Blair and given him a talisman on a leather cord to wear around his neck. The Shaman had told Blair to close his eyes before he tied the cord around his neck, so Blair hadn't seen the symbol, only being able to touch it. When asked why he wasn't allowed to look at it, the medicine man had merely smiled and told him that his protector would make sure he was safe. Blair huffed a frustrated sigh and turned away, an ebon jaguar nestled at the base of his throat.

The hunting trip turned out to be quite lucrative for the village and the hunters returned with meat enough to keep the women busy curing it for many days. They also returned with stories - stories of eerie howls in the night and the soft pad of footsteps that followed them wherever they went, leaving light footprints in the dew but never being spotted.

Blair turned from the group as soon as they reached the village, heading toward his hut and the solitude he craved. Being with the hunters and listening to their seemingly unending chatter (except for when they were actively hunting, that is) had made him tense. Blair, who had been accused of being 'chatty' himself, on occasion. Now, all he wanted was peace and quiet, but it seemed he wasn't even to be allowed that. He'd seen the footprints in the dew but he wasn't surprised by them at all because he dreamed about the beast that followed on their trail every night. The panther stalked the group like a silent hunter, never being seen by anyone but Blair, but being heard by all. The wolf paced the edges of their group, whining in his throat, also invisible to the hunters but not to Blair.

He was being stalked - by the panther - by Jim. That meant he had to leave because facing Jim, seeing the crushing disappointment in his eyes and hearing the accusation in his voice was not something he could do - not now, maybe not ever. Better to leave while he could and get a head start on him.

He waited, staying in his hut through the evening meal. Claiming exhaustion, he begged off going to the evening gathering as well. For the briefest of moments he thought he saw something flicker in the Chief's eyes - a look of speculation maybe - but then it was gone and he was left to himself with the admonition to 'be well'. He turned his back, rolling his eyes. To be well meant leaving. Already he could feel the itch in the center of his chest where his Sentinel used to reside, but he couldn't let him in again. It hurt too much when everything fell apart.

~*~*~

Jim hiked his pack higher on his back as he stopped to survey his immediate surroundings. He'd been on foot for four weeks now, living off the land and getting ever closer to where his Guide was hiding. It had started as an itch and grew into a maddening burn in the back of his mind, getting bigger each day as he moved closer to his goal. The place in his head that held the essence of his Guide - of Blair - the place that had been mostly numb for the past three months was finally waking up to the presence of his Guide again. He closed his eyes, automatically extending his senses - and coming up empty. They were still on hiatus and he growled in frustration. An answering snarl from the surrounding jungle made him grin. Things were definitely looking up if his spirit animal was back.

Turning around in a small circle, Jim lifted his nose and inhaled. The scents of the jungle all mingled together. With a sigh he set off, moving toward the last known location of the Chopec tribe. Thing was, the tribe was seasonally nomadic and he'd already stumbled across two deserted campsites. All he could do was hope that his informant was correct. At least he could be sure that satellite pictures didn't lie. Unless something had happened, the Chopec should be a day or two away from his current position.

He glanced at the compass in his hand one more time before pocketing it and starting to walk again. The day he could throw the damned thing away for good couldn't come soon enough. That day would come when he found his Guide again.

~*~*~

Blair had been on his own for a week. One week in which he determined he hadn't fully prepared to go out on his own. One week in which he steadfastly refused to go crawling back to the village. Naomi hadn't raised a weak-willed boy. He was slowly becoming self-sufficient having made great strides in gathering food, hunting, and setting up completely portable shelter for the night time and overcoming the lack in preparation. His campfires were put out each morning as he packed up his belongings and prepared to move deeper into the vast forest.

The first morning he woke to find a small rodent in his trap, he nearly wept with joy. He gutted it, skinned it, and roasted it over the fire. Breakfast was very satisfying that morning. He had also dined on berries, greens, and snake meat - having been woken one morning by a large specimen slithering over his legs as he lay curled up in the tidy nest he'd made the night before. And he didn't squeal as he jumped to his feet, flailing about with his machete. When he calmed down, shaking off the last of his tremors, caused more by the nightmare he'd woken from than the one he'd woken into, he had freshly killed snake. Doing what any explorer would do - he roasted it.

As Blair moved through the forest, he unconsciously scratched at the itch in the center of his chest, not noticing the shallow ragged wounds he was creating. He walked throughout the day, hunkering down during the worst of the daily deluges and slogging along through the lighter rainfall. Blair foraged, ate, and at night he bedded down on a best of whatever vegetation he could find. As he walked, he listened for the sounds of his companions - the wolf and the panther. Sometimes he could see them out of the corner of his eyes but, when he turned to look, they faded into the jungle - ever elusive.

And then one day he realized the panther and wolf were keeping pace with him, not running at the edges of his vision any longer but staying right alongside him. Once, when he looked over, the jaguar met his gaze calmly, staring into Blair's eyes until he had to turn away.

Two days after that he woke to someone sitting beside his campfire.

Sitting up and pushing his tousled curls off his face, Blair yawned. "Jim," he said softly when he'd rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. "What are you doing here?"

Jim turned then and Blair gasped softly. He was haggard, his beard growing in scraggly and uneven. His clothes were dirty and his eyes were - old.

"Jim?"

Jim stared, his nostrils flaring slight as he breathed in and Blair could see the knowledge in his eyes that Jim was scenting him. He stifled a snort as he realized he was pretty ripe so it shouldn't be too difficult.

"Are you okay, man?" he asked softly as he got to his feet, brushing leaves from his hair and clothes.

Jim growled at him and he stilled, holding his hands out at waist height. He watched warily as Jim lumbered to his feet and his hand went to his chest, rubbing lightly at the deep scratches there. Jim watched him.

"You're hurt," he said after a minute, his voice gravelly from not being used.

Blair looked down then, lifting his hand and really looking at the wounds on his chest for the first time. "Damn," he murmured. The long scratches were slightly raised and warm under his questing fingers.

Jim sniffed again, lifting his nose to the breeze. "They're infected."

Blair shook his head as he lifted his gaze to Jim's. "No - not - not yet."

Jim nodded. "Yes, but just. You're going to be in trouble in a day or two - if we don't take care of that."

Blair shook his head. "I can't-" he said, backing away.

Jim stepped forward, keeping pace with Blair's retreat. His next words stopped Blair in his tracks. "Why, Chief?"

Blair stared. "What?"

"Why'd you leave - me? Why'd you run away?" Jim wiped a grimy hand across his face, catching and spreading the welling moisture in his eyes over his face, leaving streaks of dirt behind.

"Jim," Blair breathed softly. "I - " He faltered, at a temporary loss for words. "I -" He sighed softly as he looked at Jim. "I panicked, I guess. I realized I can't pretend to be something I'm not. The cop - th-the one who cuffed me that last morning just pounded the truth home." He looked away, searching for the words to express how he felt. "I'm sorry, Jim. But I can't do it any more."

"The lies? Or being with me?"

Blair looked up again, seeing a burning need in Jim's eyes. His heart began to pound. "Jim?"

"Blair - damn it, I love you. I can't live without you."

"What happened?" Blair asked, backing up and sitting on a stump.

Jim sighed and looked up at the branches overhead. "I looked everywhere, Blair. After I found someone who remembered you getting on that bus -" He hesitated. "I took a leave of absence and followed the bus route - then tracked the truck you hitched a ride in. I followed you from bus stop to bus stop - from truck stop to truck stop - and, finally, to the border. As I lay in the dark, waiting for Simon to send my passport, I finally figured out where you were heading. Peru made so much sense - going back to the beginning, so to speak." He ran a hand through his hair. "I've been hiking for a month, following the migration of the village - from one site to another."

Blair smiled faintly. "We had trouble - with loggers and then drug runners."

Jim growled softly. "They didn't--?"

"Everyone is fine. We moved on, keeping the villagers safe."

Jim nodded and fisted his hands at his side.

"So what now?" Blair asked, fully aware that he finally felt complete after so long. He had been empty for so long that it was a bit overwhelming now - but he still wasn't ready to toss this freedom aside and go back to Cascade with Jim. And he wasn't sure he'd eer be ready.

"I quit," Jim said suddenly.

Blair's gaze snapped to Jim. "What?"

"My job," Jim said. "I quit my job."

"Jim?"

Jim lifted his hand. "Blair, I can't do this alone. I totally shut down without you. I was bereft - alone. I couldn't cope." He sighed. "I'm saying this all wrong. I love you Blair Sandburg - and I want to spend the rest of my life proving that to you."

"You quit?"

Jim nodded.

Blair smiled faintly. "So what now?"

Jim grinned. "I was hoping that the Chopec would welcome a Sentinel and Guide."

Blair held his breath.

"So what do you think?" Jim asked after a minute.

Blair smiled. "I think they've been waiting for us."

~*~*~