Bond Of Life
ACKNOWLEGEMENTS: Many thanks to my sister, Annie and to Lisa and Bast, and other list sibs too numerous to name, for being there for me when things got tough.
SUMMARY: AU first meeting. When Blair Sandburg meets Jim Ellison, Sentinel, little does he realize just what's in store for them both.
Well, this day just gets worse and worse, Blair thought as he attempted to hold down a combative prisoner while a police officer tried to handcuff the struggling man to the gurney and Eric Thomas, a paramedic with the Cascade Fire Department got an IV started.
"Asshole!" The prisoner spat a gobbet of spittle at Blair's face and Blair reared back in disgust.
"Hey!" Blair reached up with a gloved hand and wiped the mess from his cheek, and then was flung backward into the side of the ambulance as a roundhouse swing from the prisoner's cuffed wrist caught him in the temple. Light exploded in Blair's vision, accompanied by a searing flash of agony. He was only vaguely aware of hitting the side of the ambulance hard, and of shouting voices that reverberated in his head.
Disoriented and blinded by the blood coursing down his forehead and into his eyes, he staggered up and stumbled drunkenly forward.
"Don't move, Sandburg!" Simon Banks shouted and Blair stopped immediately, automatically obeying the authority in the captain's voice. He stood, swaying slightly, squinting at the man who stood just a few feet away with a gun held surely in his hands, the barrel aimed squarely at Blair's chest.
Blair shook his head, attempting to clear both his vision and his thoughts. He blinked slowly and brought the man into view. The man was big, bigger even than Simon Banks. He wore orange overalls, the front stained with blood, and a pair of handcuffs swung from one wrist. The whole situation came back to Blair in a rush. He held up his hands, the palms facing outward. "Hey, man," he croaked, locking his knees to prevent the trembling in them from sending him back to the ground. "I'm not armed."
A feral smile came over the prisoner's face, determination squared his jaw and Blair saw his finger slowly tighten on the trigger.
A heavy force hit him, pushing him violently sideways. His head hit the pavement with a resounding crack at the same time as an explosion of gunshots rang out. There was a moment of exquisite agony and a brilliant flash of blue, a lightening quick glimpse of a face, so fleeting his mind dismissed it immediately. A voice came to him, its timbre deep and solemn. "Your true path is now open to you if you choose to accept it."
Then his consciousness fled.
"...hear me, Sandburg?"
Blair groaned and slowly opened his eyes, only to slam them shut as a white glare assaulted his eyeballs.
"Sorry," the voice above him said. "Pupils are equal and reacting. BP's 120 over 70."
Huh? "Wha...?" he managed to croak. His head thundered with pain and he winced as something wet stroked over his forehead, leaving a stinging fire in its path.
There was a soft chuckle from above. "I think you'll live but you're gonna have one hell of a headache for a day or two."
Clarity finally returned and Blair recognized the voice of Eric Thomas. More carefully this time, he opened his eyes and peered blearily up at the other man. "What happened?"
"Andre the Giant tried to take your head off with his handcuffed wrist."
The whole terrifying incident came back then and Blair surged up, gasping, fighting against Eric's restraining hold.
"Take it easy, Blair!" the paramedic ordered. "It's over."
Blair sagged, fighting to get his panic under control and waited until Eric helped him sit up, then hung his head as the world tilted and nausea surged. He concentrated on breathing slowly and relaxing his stomach muscles. "Death by cop," he whispered finally. "I could see it in his eyes."
Eric squeezed Blair's shoulder. "Yeah, and he nearly took you with him. If it hadn't been for Ellison..."
Blair's head shot up. "Detective Ellison? Is he all right?"
Eric shook his head. "Don't know." He indicated to one side and looking over, Blair could see the detective lying on a gurney, his body ominously still. Marty Driscoll, Eric's partner, was bent over Ellison's unconscious form, inserting an IV in his arm.
"Okay," Eric said at a nod from Marty, "we're ready to roll." He grabbed Blair's arm and hoisted him up as Driscoll began to push Ellison's gurney toward the ambulance with a grim-looking Simon Banks striding along at his side. "You can ride up front with me. We'll get you checked out at the ER."
Blair turned around and watched as Marty took another set of vitals on the unconscious detective. "How's he doing?" he asked.
Marty shrugged. "Not good. It's kinda weird actually. I mean, the head wound's not much more than a scratch but he's showing no signs of regaining consciousness. His GCS level's in the gutter."
Blair stared at the pale face of the detective for a long moment then turned back to stare out the front window of the ambulance. You saved my life, he said silently, you have to wake up so I can thank you.
Blair shivered in the chill of the small examination cubicle. The gash on his head had been stitched and he'd been sent for a CT scan of his skull to be on the safe side, but the results had been negative. Mild concussion, the examining doctor had said.
"All right for you to say," Blair muttered, gingerly massaging the tender lump above his eye. His head still pounded abominably and he stared distastefully at the fresh emesis bowl that sat on the rollaway table in front of him. He'd thrown up once already and now he had a foul taste coating his tongue and throat in addition to the headache.
His thoughts though were more on the man in the adjoining room who had pushed him out of the way of a madman's gun and taken the bullet instead. Blair hardly even knew him.
Blair was a grad student in anthropology, currently working on his BA. His initial thesis had been on Sentinels, people who had all five senses enhanced, but after finding many subjects with one or two heightened senses, and not a single one with all five, he'd admitted defeat. On the advice of his mentor and advisor, Eli Stoddard, Blair had put his yearned-for thesis aside and gone with something more mainstream: closed societies.
It was an interesting enough topic but Blair still found himself spending many a night, holed up in the warehouse he rented, huddled into blankets to keep out the cold, re-reading the notes on his first subject of choice.
Finally, realizing time was running out, he took it upon himself to head into Cascade PD and ask Captain Simon Banks, the man in charge of Major Crime, if he could ride-along with a couple of the detectives for a few weeks and observe their interaction with each other, and the team as a whole. Banks' response had not been unexpected. He'd eyed Blair's long hair and earrings, his tattered jeans and colorful vest with a jaundiced eye and told him in no uncertain terms that his police officers had more important things to do than baby-sit a university student.
Blair had thought about arguing, in fact, had a whole `thin blue line' spiel down pat in his head but the stern look on the captain's face said it all and Blair merely thanked him politely and left.
When he'd walked out into the bullpen, he'd thought at first that a prisoner had escaped or something equally as drastic. A tall, well-built man stood in the middle of the room and shouted for attention. All activity stopped and every eye was trained on the formidable character.
"Who's been screwing with my computer?" the man bellowed.
"Come on, Jim," a bald-headed African-American man said, his round face creased with what seemed to be a nervous smile. "You say that every time you come in. No one's been near your computer, bro. We all know better than that."
Jim glared at him for a moment then gave a dissatisfied harrumph and returned to his desk. "Damn screen's still too bright."
Before he knew what he was doing, Blair had approached Jim's desk. "I'm pretty good with computers. You want me to take a look?"
There was a snicker from behind him as Jim raised his eyes to give him a withering glare. "And you would be?"
Blair stuck out his hand. "Blair Sandburg." He dropped his hand to his side when Jim ignored it. "Um, I was just in talking to your captain." He sidled around and stared at the screen. "Looks okay to me," he said. "Do you wear glasses? Maybe you need your prescription checked."
"You ever take a breath, Sando?"
"Burg," Blair corrected automatically. "Sandburg." He grinned. "Breathing's overrated."
"Hmmph." Jim's attention went back to turning down the brightness on his screen until it was almost black.
"Oh hey, you're gonna give yourself eyestrain with it that dark," Blair offered helpfully.
Jim sighed and pushed back his chair. "You said you spoke with Captain Banks? Anything I can help you with? You have a crime to report, a statement to give?"
Blair swallowed nervously, suddenly aware every eye in the place was upon him. "Uh no. Thank you." He gestured toward the door with his thumb. "I've gotta go."
"Right. Thanks for your indispensable advice, Chief."
Both men looked up at the sound of Banks' voice. "You have a problem here?"
Jim shook his head. "No, sir. If people would just stop screwing with my computer and talking so loud..." He glared at the handsome, dark-haired detective seated at the desk opposite him. "And cut back on the aftershave they're wearing to say, half a gallon, I'd be just fine, sir."
Banks rolled his eyes. "Have another bad night?"
Jim seemed to deflate at that question. "Yeah, I bought that loft because the area was so quiet. Now it's like living on Fifth Avenue."
"You still here, Mr. Sandburg?"
Banks' question startled Blair. His sole attention had been focused on Jim. He shook himself mentally. "Just leaving. Thanks for your time."
Blair's next stop had been the Cascade Fire Department and to his relief, the much more gregarious Captain March had been happy to allow Blair to ride along for a couple of weeks with two of his paramedics. Eric, and his partner, Marty were as different as night and day, except in one thing. They were the friendliest guys Blair had met and obviously loved their jobs. They were only too eager to show Blair the ups and downs of their chosen career.
And today had certainly been a down day, Blair thought morosely. A drug-addled teen had thrown up on him; a frightened child had bitten his hand and now he'd almost been shot... He shivered. He was sure it was getting colder in here. He slid off the examination table and tottered on unsteady legs to the door. Opening it a crack, he peered into the waiting area. Captain Banks was pacing the room, checking his watch on every pass of the room where Detective Ellison lay. Blair turned and went back to retrieve his clothes. He dressed slowly, every movement exacerbating the pain in his head. Once he was ready, he grabbed his backpack and headed out into the other room.
Banks stopped and looked him over with a critical eye. "You okay?"
Blair nodded. "Yeah, no major damage." He swallowed and glanced at the door to the other exam room. "Any news on Detective Ellison?"
Banks opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by a doctor exiting the room.
"Captain Banks. Let's take a seat."
Banks nodded and led the way to a row of chairs situated at the rear of the waiting room. Blair followed, feeling like an intruder, but anxious to hear how his savior was.
"I'm afraid there's no change," the doctor began. "I'm at a loss to explain Detective Ellison's catatonic state. His head injury is not serious and his CT scans have shown no abnormalities."
"So he should wake up soon, right?" Banks asked.
"Unfortunately, while there appears to be no serious injury, Detective Ellison's vital signs are deteriorating," the doctor replied gravely. "We're waiting on a neurological consult now."
Blair began to edge away from the two men. Unsure what was drawing him, he made his way cautiously to the detective's exam room and hesitated. He jumped when the door opened and a nurse hurried out, sparing him only a cursory glance. Blair waited until she disappeared around the corner of the corridor and pushed open the door.
Ellison lay on his back on the exam table. A cervical collar was wrapped around his neck and an oxygen mask was strapped over his face. His features were lax and his eyelids hung at half mast.
Slowly, Blair made his way to the bedside. Reaching out, he let his hand hover over Ellison's for a moment before lowering it to rest over the detective's. Ellison's skin was icy to the touch and Blair unconsciously closed his hand into a fist and squeezed the other man's hand gently. "I'm really sorry, Detective," he said softly. "You shouldn't have jumped in front of me like that." Tears stung his eyes as he wondered whether the man had a family, children, perhaps. "I'm sorry. You have to wake up. I don't know if I can live with this."
He stood and studied the unconscious man again then bent lower as something grabbed his attention. While Ellison appeared to be deeply unconscious, his eyes held an almost focused look as though... Blair felt a shiver down his spine. It was like walking past one of those pictures at the art gallery where the eyes seemed to follow you. Straightening, Blair grabbed the penlight from the table and flicked it on. His hand shook as he gingerly peeled back one of the detective's eyelids, half-expecting Ellison to reach up and grab his wrist at any second. The pupil contracted as he shone the light on it. Strange... Something nagged at the edge of his memory, but before he could complete his examination, he heard the door behind him whoosh open.
"Um, sir, you're not supposed to be in here." The nurse he'd passed on the way in approached him. "Are you family? Because even so -"
"No, no, I'm not." Blair put the penlight back and retrieved his backpack from the floor. "Sorry. It's just... He saved my life today and I just wanted to see how he was doing."
She smiled kindly at him. "I'm sure your friend will be just fine."
"He's not... Aah, thank you." Not bothering with further explanation that Ellison was not his friend, in fact had seemed to take an instant dislike to him on first meeting, Blair gave the unconscious detective a final glance and headed for the door.
Huddled into a blanket for extra warmth, Blair turned the space heater further toward him with his foot and continued reading. A loud snap interrupted him and was followed by a drawn-out squeal then silence. He grimaced. It was another downside to being able to rent half a warehouse for 850 a month. The rats and the cold. He took a sip of his tea, sighing when the warmth seeped into his belly, and went back to his research.
The thing with Ellison had bothered him all the way home. How could the guy be unconscious and still look so focused? He'd remembered some information that Detective Brown, the other cop from the PD, who'd earned some of Ellison's wrath on the day Blair was there, had shared with him. Brown had walked out of the bullpen at the same time as Blair.
"Don't let Ellison get to you," he'd said, sounding sympathetic. "His bark's worse than his bite..." He hesitated a moment. "Except if you're a perp." He grinned, showing even white teeth, then slapped Blair on the back. "He's not good with people. Got stranded down in Peru a few years back. Chopper crash killed his entire team."
Blair nodded slowly. "I remember that. He was on the cover of Time. Got taken in by the Chopec Indians."
Brown nodded. "Yeah, anyway, since he got back and joined the force, he's been a little weird. Had to transfer out of Vice because he couldn't get on with anyone." Henri cleared his throat and looked around guiltily. "I shouldn't even be saying any of this."
Blair held a finger to his lips. "Your secret's safe with me, and I appreciate the explanation." He punched the button for the elevator then said, "So, he's always had a problem with his senses?"
Brown looked puzzled for a moment then he nodded. "You mean about the lights and the smells and stuff?"
"Yeah, like I said, the guy's a little weird."
Blair closed his book now and stared for a moment at his laptop before reaching out and turning it on. He snagged the corner of the blanket and wrapped it more securely about his shoulders while he waited for his computer to boot up, then pulled up a search engine.
Half an hour later he was still sitting, staring at the picture of a grubby, rough-shaven Jim Ellison, dressed in jungle fatigues.
"Holy shit!" he exclaimed. Could it be that after all this time he'd finally found his Holy Grail? His sentinel?
As was often the case when something grabbed his attention, Blair fell asleep on his lumpy couch in the early hours of the morning and woke feeling achy and out of sorts. A headache thudded uncomfortably behind his eyes and his stomach grumbled, setting off a vaguely nauseous sensation.
He made coffee and found a not too stale bagel on the shelf of his tiny refrigerator. Slicing it, he spread it thinly with the last of the homemade strawberry jam his mother, Naomi, had sent him a few weeks before. He found himself drawn back to his research notes on sentinels and the sad picture of a dazed, exhausted-looking Jim Ellison that stared out at him from his computer screen.
An hour later, he glanced at his watch and realized he was close to being late for class. Hurriedly packing up his things, he ran out of the warehouse and climbed into his car, his thoughts on sentinels and Jim Ellison pushed to the back of his mind for now.
By the time he was finished at the university for the day, he knew he had to go back to the hospital. Perhaps he could explain to Jim's doctor or even Simon Banks what he believed the problem to be. Perhaps he could even talk to the unconscious man again; see if there was a way to lead him out from wherever his mind had retreated. He wasn't expected at the fire station today and he knew if he went straight home, he'd only sit and worry the whole puzzle to death.
This time he approached the nurse's station and tried to look casual as he strolled past, his eyes scanning the patient board on the wall for the detective's name.
There! James Ellison - Room 235 - NO VISITORS WITHOUT DOCTOR'S PERMISSION.
Blair slumped in disappointment. On the drive over, he'd carefully researched his speech, only to quickly realize how fanciful and far-fetched it seemed. Chances were, he'd end up in a rubber room somewhere on the top floor of the hospital, wearing the latest design in straitjackets. His heart wouldn't allow him not to try though. Something about the surly, sarcastic cop had attracted Blair, and for reasons he couldn't begin to fathom, he found himself quickly headed toward Ellison's room. He passed by a small break room along the corridor and, in an impetuous move, grabbed a white coat that hung from a hook outside the door. Hastily putting it on, he paused a moment outside Ellison's room and took a deep breath before pushing open the door.
Blair was relieved to find that Ellison was the sole occupant of the room. Approaching the bed, he saw that there had been no change overnight. The big detective lay as unresponsive as when Blair had left.
Lowering himself into the chair at the bedside, Blair reached out and touched the back of Jim's nearest hand. "You're cold, man," he whispered. "If you don't come out of this soon, your body's going to start shutting down." Cupping both hands now around Jim's, Blair rubbed at the sallow flesh briskly, attempting to instill some warmth and provide a sensory stimulus.
Ten minutes later, he was already beginning to feel defeated. Standing, he settled himself on the edge of the bed and stared at Jim for a moment then reached out and framed Jim's face in his hands. "I hope I'm on the right track here... Jim. Listen to my voice. I'll keep talking and you can follow it back."
Had he imagined it or had there been the merest sign of a blink? Blair leaned forward but before he could check more closely, the door swung open and he jumped.
"Sandburg?" Simon Banks' voice boomed. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Blair slid off the bed and turned. Banks stood in the doorway with another man. The second man shushed Simon and Banks shot him a glare. "I asked you a question," he said to Blair, more quietly this time. "What are you doing here?"
Blair shrugged. "Just wanted to check up on him."
Banks approached the bed and looked down at the comatose man. "Didn't you see the sign saying no visitors?" He turned and looked Blair up and down. "And why are you wearing a doctor's coat?"
Blair sighed and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Because I saw the sign." He fixed the captain with a desperate look. "I can't help feeling this is my fault and... and I think I know what's wrong with him."
Simon raised an eyebrow. "You do? The doctors here haven't been able to figure it out but you have. And when did you get your medical degree, Doctor Sandburg?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "It was part of my original thesis. I studied people with heightened senses. I think Jim had a sensory spike either from the pain of the gunshot wound or the sound of the gun being fired. He zoned and now he needs someone to guide him back."
Banks' stare of astonishment turned into a glare. "And that someone would be you? Where did you find that crap, Sandburg? Heightened senses?" Simon dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand and turned his attention back to Jim.
"Why don't we hear him out, Simon?" the second man suggested. He smiled at Blair and held out a beefy hand. "I'm Joel Taggart, Captain of the Bomb Squad, and a friend of Simon and Jim."
Blair shook Joel's hand. "Blair Sandburg." He looked hopefully at the big cop. "It's not as crazy as it sounds. Lots of people have one or two heightened senses. They're employed as tasters for coffee companies and some use their enhanced sense of smell to work for perfume companies."
Joel nodded slowly. "Doesn't sound too crazy to me, but all senses? And why Jim?"
"It's a long story." Blair glanced at Simon and realized he had both men's attention, at least for now. He hurried on. "Heightened senses are a pre-destined genetic ability. Thousands of years ago, they were probably pretty common. In native tribes, sentinels were watchmen who protected the tribe because they could hear the enemy approaching from miles away. They helped to find food because they could track game."
Joel was nodding slowly. "And Jim?" he pressed.
"The way our society is now, there's no need for sentinels, except perhaps in remote tribes who haven't yet been affected by civilization. I think Jim's senses lay dormant until they were needed and then in order to ensure his survival, they - " He cast about for the right word. "- came online."
"Peru. He was stranded there for eighteen months. He was rescued by some local tribe," Joel supplied.
"The Chopec," Blair added. He nodded, feeling more confident. "And he became their sentinel."
Simon folded his arms across his chest. "And how do you propose to bring him out of this..." He waved a hand in the air. "...this zone."
"By talking to him, and through touch." Blair reached out and squeezed Jim's lax hand. "When you came in, I'm sure I saw him blink." He shook his head. "If that doesn't work, I can try his stimulating his other senses - strong smells maybe."
"Simon." Joel indicated the far corner of the room and Simon followed him over. The two men conferred quietly for a moment, Banks shook his head a couple of times then sighed and nodded. Turning, he came back to the bedside.
"I need to go talk to the doctor," he said. "I'll let the nurses know it's okay for you to be in here... for now!" He held up a silencing finger before continuing, "If the doctor doesn't agree with your diagnosis, I want you to leave it to the experts. Is that clear?"
Blair nodded and smiled gratefully at both men. "Absolutely! But I'm sure I can do this." He turned his attention back to Jim, dismissing the other men and searching Jim's face for some sign of returning awareness. He didn't hear the others leave.
"Okay, Jim, let's give this another shot." Sitting once more in the chair by the bed, Blair clasped Jim's hand and began to talk. He started by cajoling Jim to follow his voice, to find the path back, eventually resorting to merely speaking about anything and everything that popped into his head, in the hope that just the sound of his voice would permeate the detective's zone.
"... So, you can imagine my mother's reaction when I told her I was going to ask Captain Banks if I could get a ride-along with a couple of his men." Blair paused and cleared his throat. He poured a tumbler of water from the pitcher on the bedside table and was searching through his memory for where he'd left off when he saw two weary, blood-shot eyes staring at him. Blair smiled. "Hey, welcome back."
The door opened just at that moment and Simon walked in with the doctor. Blair beamed. "He woke up."
Both men hurried forward and Blair slipped out of his chair and stood back to allow the doctor access to his patient.
"Detective?" the doctor called. He tapped Jim's cheek. "Can you hear me?"
Jim's attention, however, seemed to be focused entirely on Blair. His right hand twitched then a finger beckoned to Blair.
Moving closer, Blair touched Jim's hand. "Hey, man," he said, talking around the lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. "Welcome back."
Jim's hand shifted and then closed around Blair's, though the grip was weak. His eyes closed again. "Talk," he whispered.
The doctor completed his examination then straightened. "He seems to be in a more natural sleep now." He fixed Blair with a curious stare. "I'm not at all sure about this mumbo-jumbo you've been spouting to Captain Banks but it seems Detective Ellison would like you to stay. I'll allow that for two hours then you're to leave and allow my patient to rest."
Blair nodded enthusiastically. "No problem." He turned to Simon. "He's sleeping pretty deeply. I just don't want him to slip back into the zone."
Simon waved away the words as though they were entirely too much information. "Two hours, Sandburg," he warned.
Blair checked his watch. His two hours were almost up. His throat felt sore from talking for so long and he'd finally come to a point where he'd exhausted his store of anecdotes. Jim slept on; his hand still gripped in Blair's. Despite his exhaustion, Blair was reluctant to leave. He wanted to stay, at least until Jim woke up again and Blair could check there had been no real damage caused by the sentinel's extended zone.
Sentinel. Blair had to smile at that. My sentinel.
God, he was tired though. Shifting forward, Blair disengaged his hand from Jim's, startled by the muttered protest from the sleeping man. He leaned forward, laying his folded arms on the bed then reached again for Jim's hand. Resting his head on his arms, he stared at Jim's face, waiting for a sign that the other man was waking. The inactivity and lack of response from Jim had Blair slowly drifting toward sleep. He blinked slowly several times before his eyes closed and he, too, slept.
He recognized the jungle, having been there a time or two in his travels. The blue vegetation was different though. Nice, soothing. A flash of movement in the dense undergrowth caught his eye and he glimpsed two yellow eyes that seemed to bore through him. Distantly, he heard the howl of a wolf, echoed a moment later by the rumbling growl of a large cat.
"You have not completed the bond," a deep voice said.
Blair turned and found an Indian warrior standing behind him. His face was painted in the earth colors favored by South American tribes and in his hand, he held a spear adorned with feathers. The warrior waved a hand. "This is your destiny and his. Soon the path will be lost to you unless you do what must be done."
"Mr. Sandburg, can you hear me?"
Blair dragged open heavy eyelids and stared muzzily up at the doctor who stood over him. This close, Blair could see his nametag - Joseph Darcy. He straightened in the chair, sparing a quick glance at Jim, who still slept. He rubbed his eyes and gave into a deep yawn. "Sorry," he whispered, "must have drifted off. Weird dream."
The doctor stepped back and reached out to lift Jim's arm, checking his pulse. He nodded, seemingly satisfied at what he found. "Vitals are much steadier. I think he's just sleeping now." He glanced at Blair. "I allowed you two and a half hours since the nurse said you were sleeping when she last checked Detective Ellison. You looked like you needed the rest."
Blair stood and grabbed his backpack off the floor. "Didn't get much sleep last night. So," he looked at Jim, "he's going to be okay?"
As if in reply, Jim's eyes slowly opened and focused again on Blair. Blair was taken aback. He'd never seen such beautiful blue eyes before. That thought startled him even more. Beautiful? He'd never felt an attraction to a man before, and this man in particular had made him shake in his boots the first time he'd met him. Still he couldn't seem to stop himself from smiling down at the dazed-looking detective. "Hey, good to see you awake. How are you feeling?"
Jim lifted a hand and rubbed it over his face. His fingers explored the small gauze square taped to his forehead. "Confused. What happened?"
"The doctor can explain it probably better than I can," Blair said. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I've been kicked out. Gotta go."
"No!" Jim's hand shot out unexpectedly, grasping Blair's arm in a surprisingly strong grip, dragging him toward the bed and pulling him almost on top of the detective. "Mine!" he asserted firmly, though his voice was muffled by Blair's hair. "My guide!"
"Aah, Detective? You want to let go?" Blait struggled against the confining hold.
"Mr. Ellison, please..." The doctor got in on the act, attempting to drag Jim's arms from around Blair's body. "I'll call for a sedative," he said to the air above Blair.
"No!" As abruptly as he'd grabbed Blair, Jim now released him. "Sorry."
Blair pulled himself upright and tugged his shirt back down, embarrassed to realize that he had an erection. He picked up his backpack again and held it against his body, hoping to cover the evidence. What the fuck was that about, anyway?
Jim's face was red and he stared at the ceiling above him. "Sorry, I don't know what that was about."
Blair waved the apology away. "No biggie. You're probably still a little confused. You've been zoned for a full day."
Jim frowned. "Zoned? What's that?"
"Mr. Sandburg here seems to think you have enhanced senses, Detective." The doctor's tone indicated he thought it a load of bull. "And zoned out on either the sound of the gunshot or the pain of your wound. Personally I'm inclined to think you hit your head a second time when you went down from your assailant's bullet and suffered a more severe concussion than we originally thought."
Jim stared at Blair thoughtfully. "Yeah, you're probably right, Doc. Don't know anything about enhanced senses." He rolled onto his side, facing Blair. "I'm a little tired, so if you don't mind..."
"Oh, hey, like I said, I was just leaving." Blair turned and walked to the door, then turned back. "I just wanted to thank you... for saving my life."
"Like you said, no biggie, Chief. Part of the job description." Jim's eyes were closed.
"Bigger than you think," Blair replied earnestly. "You know there's this Chinese proverb that says if you save someone's life, you become their Blessed Protector for the rest of your life."
A soft snore was his only reply.
Blair felt strangely reluctant to leave, even though it was apparent Ellison was well on his way to recovery. Probably just the excitement of it all, Blair thought as he watched the big man sleep. Still, there was something about Detective Jim Ellison that seemed to be drawing Blair in, making him want to get to know the man better, and Blair wasn't entirely sure it was just because Ellison was a sentinel. There was something indefinable tugging at Blair, urging him to watch over this man, to be with him and ordinarily that something would have made Blair a little uncomfortable, but right now it just made it harder to leave. Finally, he managed to tear his gaze away and turned to go.
Blair's migraine was back in full force by the time he got home. He only just made it to his divided off living space before the nausea hit him. With his hand held over his mouth, Blair barreled into the bathroom and heaved repeatedly until he was sure he'd bring up his stomach lining. Sinking onto the floor and wrapping an arm around the base of the toilet, Blair rested his sweaty face against the cool porcelain. With his free hand, he rubbed at his stomach. Great, it felt like he had torn abdominal muscles to add to the headache. Probably the flu, he decided.
He levered himself up off the floor and washed his face then rinsed out his mouth. That done, and feeling exhausted, he tottered out of the bathroom on unsteady legs and dropped into bed, falling asleep almost immediately.
He lay in bed, semi-delirious for the rest of the day and night, only able to rouse himself when the nausea surged over and over. He knew he was getting dehydrated but was unable to keep even the smallest amount of fluid down. By the time morning dawned, he felt weak and feverish. In one of his more lucid moments, he phoned Eric and let him know he wouldn't be in for a few days, reassuring the paramedic that he'd see a doctor, should he get any worse. Truth was, he doubted he could afford the bill. He was still waiting on payment for an article he'd had published, and the remaining cash he had saved had gone on paying the rent. Still, he decided, it was only a virus and was bound to run its course in a day or two. At least the vomiting seemed to have abated, and with a soft groan of relief, he closed his eyes once more.
A persistent buzzing woke him and he sat up, clutching at his still sore stomach muscles. Gazing around blearily, he checked the clock on the floor by his bed. Great, he'd managed all of an hour's sleep. The buzzing started up again and he realized finally that it was his intercom. He dragged himself up with a pained groan and stumbled to the couch. Lowering himself carefully, he grabbed the afghan that adorned the seats, hiding the worst of the stains, and thumbed on the intercom. "Yeah?"
"It's Jim Ellison. I was wondering if I could talk to you."
Blair's brow furrowed with thought before the image of a tall, well-built man insinuated itself in his mind's eye. Not today. "'M sick."
"I kind of figured you might be." There was a long pause and then, "Look, I think I know what's wrong with you. It's important we talk."
Blair's eyebrow rose. "You a doctor as well now?" When there was no reply, he added, "I've got stomach flu. Come back in a few days."
"I don't think it's stomach flu, Chief. Why don't you let me in? I used to be a medic in the army. I might be able to help you out."
Blair sighed. The man was persistent, he'd give him that. Thumbing the button for the electronic door lock, he said, "Come on in, man, but don't blame me if you catch this."
He rested his head against the back of the couch and pulled the blanket up around his neck. Ellison probably just wanted to give him a lecture about getting in the way of a crazy man's gun. He had to admit though, that he was kind of pleased the detective was here. He could make sure that he really was okay after his zone-out, and maybe, just maybe, Blair could talk him into a couple of tests, just to see what kind of range he had, how many senses were actually enhanced, whether -
Footsteps crunched over the dusty concrete floor toward him and Blair made a move to stand then abandoned it as the room swam in front of his eyes. Nausea surged again, and he groaned, hurtling off the couch in the general direction of the bathroom.
This attack was the worst of all. By the time he'd finished, his eyes were watering and his throat burned. He became gradually aware of a large, warm hand stroking his back.
"You done, Chief?"
Blair managed a nod and closed his eyes in relief as a cool, damp cloth was gently wiped over his face. "Thanks," he managed to croak then grimaced as the smell of his vomiting hit him full force. "That's disgusting," he said, "dial down your nose, man."
"Dial down?" Jim reached down and grabbed Blair's arm, pulling him gently to his feet. "Come and sit down. I'll get you a glass of water."
Blair didn't have the strength to protest as he was led carefully out to the couch and pushed gently down onto it. He closed his eyes. "You'd better go," he advised. "This is one nasty bug."
"I'll be fine."
Blair heard Jim's footsteps recede and then the sound of water running. A moment later, a glass was pushed into his hand. "Just sip at it," Jim said.
Blair did as he was told. The cool liquid was soothing on his raw throat. Sitting up, he placed the tumbler on the packing crate that served as his coffee table. "Thanks."
He studied the man standing in front of him. Ellison looked pretty good for a guy who'd been imitating a doorstop just the day before. A little pale, maybe, and there were dark circles under his eyes as though he hadn't slept much.
Seating himself on the old armchair opposite Blair, he fixed the younger man with a stern look. "We need to talk."
"About your senses?" Blair asked hopefully.
"About what you did," Jim replied.
"Look, man, I couldn't see. I didn't know the guy had a gun trained on me." He shuddered at the awful image his words engendered. "I'm sorry you got hurt."
Jim shook his head. "How did you know I was zoned?"
Realization dawned and Blair felt a pang of excitement. Forgetting his earlier discomfort, he launched into his explanation. "I'm a grad student in Anthropology. Initially, my thesis was going to be on people with enhanced senses, but after a year or so, I'd only found people with one or two - like coffee tasters, perfume testers -"
Jim waved him on impatiently.
"Right. Anyway, my advisor suggested I try something more mainstream, so I settled for studying closed societies. That's why I was seeing your captain that day but he wasn't happy with the idea, so I went and saw the captain of the Cascade Fire Department -"
Jim held up a hand in a halting motion. "How. Did. You. Know. About. Zone-outs?" he asked slowly as though speaking to a particularly slow-witted child.
"I'm getting to that," Blair began then backed off at the glacial glare Jim threw his way. "Right. While I was researching these other people, I came across a book by an explorer called Sir Richard Burton..." He chuckled at the doubtful look on Jim's face. "Really. Anyway, the book is called The Sentinels of Paraguay, and as soon as I read it, I knew I had to find one."
Jim closed his eyes briefly then opened them. "Find what?"
"A sentinel!" Blair pointed at Jim. "That's what you are, man."
"The doctor said -"
Blair rolled his eyes. "I know what the doctor said, but you and I..." He leaned forward, his knees touching Jim's. "You and I know different."
Jim sighed. "You know what you've done, don't you?"
"What did I do?"
Jim rubbed his temples with his fingers then stared at Blair. "You initiated the bond."
"The bond between sentinel and guide." At Blair's blank look, Jim went on, "Come on, Chief, if you read so much about sentinels, you must know about the bond."
"G... guide?" Blair managed to stammer. "There was something mentioned by Burton about the sentinel having someone to watch his back..."
Jim nodded and pointed at Blair. "The guide."
Blair staggered to his feet, not sure he liked where this was heading. "And this bond?"
"The bond exists between sentinel and guide so that the guide can help the sentinel hone his senses to their best ability. Any of this ringing a bell, Chief?"
Blair shook his head and Jim motioned to the couch. "Sit down before you fall down, Chief, and drink a little more of that water. You're dehydrated."
Stunned, Blair obeyed.
Jim leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees. "I'm gonna tell you a story. Five years ago, I was a member of a team assigned to chopper into Peru. The chopper crashed and all my men were killed -"
"I read about you in Time," Blair interjected but subsided when Ellison glared at him.
"Anyway, I was badly injured and was taken in by a tribe of Peruvian Indians called the Chopec. They had a Shaman whose name was Incacha. He recognized my special... abilities. Anyway..."
Blair stared at Jim in shock. "No way, man, you can't mean that me and you... That you and I..." Blair was certain his eyes were bulging out of his head. "But I've never... I mean I'm not..."
"Are you denying you feel an attraction for me?" Jim asked.
"No!" Blair shook his head. "Yes! I was just curious to see how you were doing. I felt guilty..."
"Are you feeling better now?"
Blair stopped to consider the question. He was, actually, feeling better than he had in some time. "Twelve hour virus," he said weakly.
Jim shook his head. "It's the bond. When you were at the hospital, you dreamed of a blue jungle."
Blair thought hard about that. He hadn't - Wait! A voice came to him, its tone melodic and deep. "You have chosen the right path." He swallowed. "So when I tried to wake you up..."
"You entered my dream vision and initiated the bond."
"What if I don't want to complete this... bond."
"You'll get sick again."
"What about you?"
Jim shrugged. "I'll probably have another zone-out eventually and die."
How can you be so casual about this?" Blair asked incredulously.
"I've had a while to get used to it," Jim said wryly. "Anyway, these damned senses are more of a hindrance than a help most of the time. I'd be just as happy to find a way to turn them off."
"Are you kidding? You're a one-man crime lab. The perps don't stand a chance with you on the street -"
"Not much good to me without control, and you're the only one who can provide that."
"What about Incacha?"
"He told me he was like an `interim' guide until my true guide came along."
Blair stared at Jim for a long moment. Could he abandon this man to a life of coma - a living death? Did he want to find himself wasting away, a day at a time. Could he...? Jim was watching him. Jim's eyes were bluer than he'd ever seen them. Blair thought you could drown in them...
Blair looked down and realized he was clasping Jim's hand. He felt his face heat. "I have no idea why, but I think I've been attracted to you from the first day I met you at the police station," he confessed.
"Why didn't you say something then?"
Jim snorted. "I could just see your reaction. And it was the last thing I wanted. To be tied to someone else, dependent upon them for my existence, but once you connected, there was no going back. Look, Chief, I know this probably sounds pretty crazy to you -"
Blair shook his head. "No crazier than me telling my mentor that I was going to find a sentinel one day." He smiled. "I feel like I've been looking for you my whole life. But it's not just the sentinel thing. It's like... it's like this is where I should have been all along. Like a chapter closing and a new one beginning."
Jim gave him a small smile back. "Very poetic, Sandburg. I want to tell you something. I'm not here just because of the bond. I felt something for you the minute I saw you walk out of Simon's office. An attraction. I thought you were the most beautiful man I'd ever seen." He gave a small shrug. "In case that's not plain enough for you, I'm gay. You're obviously not, so I guess that makes it easier on me."
Blair tightened his fingers around Jim's. "No, I've never... I mean..."
"You've never been with a man? Not so much different to making love to a woman." Jim stood and pulled Blair up to face him. "All you have to do is say so and I'll walk out the door. I'll go back to Peru if I have to, talk to Incacha, see if there's a way around this. I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do."
Blair reached out tentatively and touched Jim's cheek with his hand, stroking lightly over the soft skin, feeling the drag of bristle beneath his fingers. "That's the craziest thing of all," he said. "I do want this... want you. More than I've wanted anything in my life."
Jim lowered his head and touched his lips to Blair's. Blair moaned at the tenderness of the gesture and opened his mouth, allowing Jim's tongue to explore, to taste. He felt Jim's hands fist in his hair, carding through the thick curls and slowly, he relaxed against Jim's chest, wrapping his arms around his sentinel, stroking down the broad back until he could cup Jim's ass and pull him closer.
Jim's erection pushed against his thigh, firing Blair's blood; flames of desire licked through his belly and stole his breath and he couldn't stop the wanton cry of need that was torn from his throat. Blair gasped, pressing his own groin against Jim's body, undulating until he felt his orgasm take hold and send him tumbling over the precipice, hearing Jim's cry of release echo his own.
The blue jungle was back. The Chopec warrior, Incacha, nodded solemnly at Blair. "You have found your path, young Shaman."
"I know," Blair whispered. He shifted onto his side and felt Jim's hands tug him back, to rest within the circle of his arms, safe within his sentinel's embrace.
Moist heat surrounded his cock, teasing and tantalizing, arousing him at the same time as his mind emerged from dreamless slumber. Sure fingers caressed his balls and an inarticulate moan bubbled from his throat as his thighs were pushed further apart. He gave in willingly, the sensual stroke over his perineum then back to his hole, starting a fire burning his belly. "Jim..." he breathed.
"Shh," his lover soothed, raising his head briefly to press a kiss against Blair's stomach before his mouth descended once more onto Blair's needy cock, one hand pumping the shaft while the other stroked maddening circles above. The licks turned to sucking, Jim's mouth entirely sheathing Blair's cock in heat and wetness and then Jim swapped hands so that he could shift his ministrations back to Blair's ass. Jim pressed a finger just inside the tight ring at the same time as he deep-throated Blair's cock. Blair came with a groan, his hips arching up, driving himself into Jim's willing mouth. Fireworks exploded behind his eyes, his spine sizzled with electricity, his toes curled. Finally he slumped, sated, back to the bed, reaching down to pull his smiling lover up to lay beside him.
"Well, that was one heck of a wake-up call," he whispered, idly stroking a hand along Jim's hip. He glanced around the unfamiliar room, confused for a moment, settling when he remembered last night. Coming back to Jim's apartment, eating left over pizza and drinking a bottle of red wine. Kissing and making out on the sofa until Jim led him upstairs to his bed. He looked at the clock on the bedside table. "At five in the morning?"
Jim shrugged. "Couldn't sleep," he whispered, sounding drowsy. "And when I opened my eyes and saw you lying beside me..."
Blair chuckled. "Hey, I'm not complaining." He let his hand stray lower, massaging Jim's ass cheek. "You want me to help you go back to sleep?"
Jim leaned up and grinned at him. "I thought you'd never ask." He pressed a quick kiss to Blair's lips then rolled onto his back, sprawling bonelessly on the bed.
Blair sat up and stroked a finger down Jim's chest, pausing to circle first one nipple, then the other, feeling them peak beneath his touch. Leaning down, he touched his lips to Jim's in a chaste kiss then deepened it to one of passion and desire. "Love you, Jim Ellison," he whispered.
"Ditto, Chief," Jim replied as he pulled him down and devoured his mouth.
Both men felt the bond sing in their veins as they succumbed to their desires. They were home.