adversity.jpg (96187 bytes)

By: Lyn

06gen.jpg (12095 bytes)

BEST EPISODE RELATED GEN STORY

BEST SHORT STORY - GEN

 

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@ozemail.com.au

 

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Petfly and Paramount. This fanfic has been written for my own and others’ enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: Epilogue for TS by BS.

 

"I’m gonna make you a little Blair-skin rug." With those words, Jim reached out and pulled Blair against him, one hand reaching up to fist in Blair’s long curls, the other holding the younger man tightly against him.

Blair felt both stifled and unsteady, his precarious emotional balance knocked askew by the culmination of the past few weeks events. He couldn’t breathe, his chest tightening as though in a vice.

"Come on, man. Knock it off." Blair twisted harder in an effort to escape and Jim seemed to suddenly become aware of his discomfiture, pulling back at the same time as Blair squirmed away. The struggle caused Blair’s hair to become entangled in Jim’s watch band and he yanked his head forcefully back, grimacing at the sharp pain that brought tears to his eyes.

"Shit! Oh, Jesus, Sandburg. I’m sorry. Are you okay?" Jim was holding his arm up and looking with chagrin at the strands of dark hair that dangled from his watch buckle.

Blair had stepped behind the desk now. One hand rubbed absently at his head while the other reached down and fumbled for his backpack. He nodded as he hefted the bag and slung it onto his shoulder. "It’s fine, Jim. It’s just hair. Not like I don’t have plenty." Blair's tone was light but the eyes blazed pain and embarrassment.

Jim smiled, but it looked strained. "Is that a dig at my expense, Sandburg?"

Blair shrugged his shoulders. "You take it any way you want, man." He turned to the suddenly silent group. "Simon, it’s good to see you out of hospital. You, too, Megan."

Picking up the wallet from the desk, he hefted it experimentally in his hand, then flipped it open to the gold shield once more. He stared down at the symbol of what might be his new future then looked over at the captain, to see him studying Blair, a frown on his face. "Can I take some time to think about your offer?"

Simon looked puzzled. "I thought…I thought it was what you wanted, Sandburg. Jim said -"

"Nobody asked me," Blair cut in. He softened his tone. "It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer and I’m not refusing it outright. I need some time to think things over. I just finished cleaning out my office at Rainier. I hadn’t really given any thought to what I do now."

"Blair? I’m sorry." Jim’s voice now, the words soft but the tone faintly accusing. "I probably overstepped the mark here. I just assumed that you wanted to stay on as my partner and Simon couldn’t see any other way to do it."

Blair held up a hand to stem the flow of words as he came around from behind the desk and backed toward the door. "I’m going to get out of here, all right? I’ve got to get my stuff from the U unpacked and…think about things."

"Blair?" Naomi stood up and moved toward him and Blair felt suddenly dizzy. He’d forgotten she was there. "We were going to go out and celebrate." One elegant hand waved to encompass the others.

"Tino’s," Simon put in helpfully.

Blair nodded slowly, then shook his head. "I’ll take a rain check, if you don’t mind. You guys go, celebrate Simon and Megan being okay, getting Zeller."

His mother gathered up her bag. "I’ll give you a ride home, sweetie."

"No!"

Two voices spoke the word in unison and the owner of each rushed to explain.

"I need some time out, mom."

"I’ll give you a ride, Sandburg," Jim said at almost the same time.

"Ms. Sandburg." Simon wheeled himself closer and looked up at Naomi. "I’d be honored to have you join us." A muffled snicker followed the statement and Simon’s icy glare was directed at Henri who had the grace to look abashed.

"I’m heading home anyway," Jim said, turning to Blair. "My leg’s aching a little."

"I can walk or catch the bus."

"Or you could get a ride, seeing we’re both headed in the same direction."

Blair nodded, then leaned forward to kiss his mother’s cheek. He straightened and gazed around at his assembled friends, his family. "Thank you. All of you. Your support means a lot to me."

0~0~0~0~0

The front door shutting behind him sounded as loud as he imagined a cell door would, and Blair leaned his back against it, suddenly exhausted. The energy that had driven him through the earlier events of the day suddenly drained away, leaving him enervated and shaky. The badge that Simon had thrown to him felt heavy in his pocket, weighing him down. He felt the air becoming thick around him and he took a shaky, panic-filled breath. A sharp pain seemed to clutch at his heart. He remembered this pain; he was drowning again. This time, though, there was no water, no murderous Sentinel. A wave of nausea surged suddenly up his throat and he swallowed desperately against the saliva that flooded his mouth. Oh, God, he was going to be sick.

He clamped his jaw and panted harshly through his nose, pushing the sickness back to be dealt with later, along with the guilt, fear and despair. He looked up as Jim's voice impinged on his dark thoughts and he realized the detective was talking to him. "What?"

"I said do you want a beer?" Jim asked, holding an amber bottle out toward him.

Blair felt the nausea surge again at the thought of the bitter liquid and quickly shook his head. "No. Thanks. I'm, uh… I'm good."

"Are you?" Jim asked. He took a sip from the bottle and limped back toward Blair, using the cane he'd been given by the doctor, but managing to make it look like an adornment.

"I don’t know what you mean."

"Sure you do," Jim said amiably, coming closer and offering the bottle again.

Blair shook his head and straightened up against the door. Jim seemed to sense the tension in his partner and perversely, stepped closer. "What are you afraid of, Sandburg?"

"I don’t know what you mean."

"Sure you do," Jim repeated, amiably enough. "Are you afraid you can’t cut it as a cop? Because you and I both know you’re already three-quarters of the way there. I wasn’t bullshitting at the hospital when I told you you’re the best cop I’ve ever known. I know it’s not because you don’t want to cut your hair. I never bought that crap from day one. You’re too dedicated, too focused to allow something as inconsequential as that to stop you from getting what you want. So, what’s holding you back? What *do* you want, Sandburg?"

He was looming over Blair now; his face so close that Blair could smell the beer on his breath. Blair pushed back but there was nowhere to go. "I don’t know what I want," Blair whispered.

"I think you do. Tell me what you want."

Blair’s hands came up to push ineffectually at Jim’s chest. "Will you get out of my face? I said I don’t know."

Jim rested his hands on Blair’s shoulders, his fingers digging in, his gaze boring into Blair’s eyes, demanding truth. "What do you want?"

"I want… I want to be your Guide." Blair’s reply was a strangled half-sob, but he rushed on, the words tumbling from his mouth. "But what if I screw it up? I’ve done everything wrong –"

"You did everything right… for me." Jim’s voice was as forceful as Blair’s own was uncertain.

"Simon said I could have a couple of weeks to think things over," Blair whispered, not surprised that he could scarcely croak out the words.

"That was Simon, not me." Jim shifted back abruptly and Blair almost sagged to the ground at the sudden loss of support. He felt cold sweat snake between his shoulder blades, making him shiver. "What do you want?"

"I don’t know that I’ll make it as a cop," Blair suddenly blurted out, "but if I don't accept the offer, I can't be your partner. They'll make me leave."

"Do you want to be my partner?" Jim's eyes narrowed, the blue irises glittering with fiery ice.

"*Yes*." Blair put as much conviction as he could into that one word. "I do want to be your partner but more than that, I want to remain your Guide, but -"

Jim shook his head and pressed a finger to Blair’s lips, halting the rush of words. "No matter what choice you make, you will always be my Guide." A small smile curved his lips, only accentuating the sadness in his eyes that Blair knew was mirrored in his own gaze. "A Guide will always be a Guide, unless he chooses not to be."

Blair shook his head. "That’s you, man. A Sentinel!" He poked Jim in the chest, emphasizing his point.

"We shared the vision," Jim reminded him. "Created a bond. Sentinel and Guide. You only have to choose."

With those words, the weight of all that had occurred, the fear and failure, indecision and pain, the loss of his career and, worst of all, the wall of mistrust created by the whole mess, tumbled down, fracturing Blair’s composure. His heart pounded loudly in his ears, drowning out the ragged gasping of his breath. His knees buckled and he felt himself sliding down the door to the floor. Jim knelt in front of him, still grasping his shoulders. And then, to his mortification, Blair was crying, huge heaving silent sobs with tears that streamed in rivers down his cheeks to drip off his chin and snake down the length of his neck.

He felt Jim grasp his forearms and haul him forward and he allowed himself to flop bonelessly, his fatigued body folding in on itself. He dropped his head down to burrow into the juncture of Jim’s neck and shoulder. Jim's arm wrapped around his shaking shoulders and the detective's other hand reached up to cup his head, pulling Blair into the shelter of his embrace. Jim's strong fingers massaged through his damp curls, the hypnotic, soothing sensation a balm to his aching soul.

Jim spoke, the words Sentinel-soft, barely stirring the air as they were breathed against his ear. "We'll work it out. It's going to be all right."

~o0o~

After long minutes, Blair dredged up the last of his strength, finally managing to compose himself somewhat and pushed away slightly from Jim’s support.

"I’ve lost too much already," he said, aware of the trembling in his voice. "If I screw this up, there’ll be no other chances for me to stay on as your partner. I – I have to be sure I’m making the right choice. I – we have to be realistic about this. What if the fraud admission bites us in the ass further down the track, on the witness stand or something? Remember Tommy Juno," he said, referring back to one of their first cases, when Jim’s evidence had been thrown out of court because he couldn’t admit to his Sentinel abilities.

He wiped at his face, brushing away the remnants of his tears, feeling his resolve strengthen, needing Jim to see the whole picture. "All my life, I was searching for one thing." He gave Jim a wan smile. "My Holy Grail. Now that’s gone –" He held up a hand when Jim opened his mouth in obvious protest. "I need to make a living somehow. It can’t just be about what I *want* anymore." His next words were full of uncertainty. "I feel like I’m standing at the edge of a precipice and if I take one wrong step, I’ll fall."

Jim nodded. "I’ve been there. In Peru, when Incacha told me I had to choose whether to be a Sentinel or not." He shifted back, giving Blair the space he needed. "So where do we go from here?"

"I need to think."

"A Sentinel needs his Guide," Jim said solemnly. "I’ll back up any decision you make. You’ve lost too much already… so that I could keep my life." He reached out and squeezed Blair’s shoulders. "Whatever it takes, I’ll fix it," he promised. "I’ll fix it."

~o0o~

He was peripherally aware of Jim’s presence as he stood above a yawning chasm, feeling the glacier-like gusts of air buffeting him, rocking him back and forth on his feet, pushing him inexorably closer to the edge.

"Choose," Incacha’s voice commanded in his head.

Blair opened his eyes and stared past the glow of the meditation candles, into the concerned gaze of his Sentinel. "I’m ready."

FIN