DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Petfly etc. This story was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
SUMMARY: Following on from their last case which had harrowing personal ramifications for Blair, he takes some time out only to discover that the bond between Sentinel and Guide exists for their own good as well as for others.
Pounding his fist on the steering wheel with his good hand, Blair allowed a stream of invectives to spew forth from his bloodied mouth. "Damn it! Shit! Bugger!" That last Australian expletive brought him up short. Obviously, he'd been spending way too much time with Conner.
Sighing, he lay back against the seat and gingerly touched the oozing cut on his head, brushing over the short curls just growing back after his surgery a few weeks before, then checked his fingers. Not too bad, just a scratch really. He had a moment of worry, wondering if he'd just undone the delicate surgery performed to remove the scar tissue from his brain but reassured himself that he felt fine basically. He had a headache the size of Texas and his lower lip felt thick and somewhat numb. His wrist ached but he was pretty sure he'd only wrenched it trying to control the steering wheel when the rear tire had blown and the car had skidded on the slick wet road. No broken bones. All in all, he'd been damn lucky.
Yeah, right. Sandburg luck was like everyone else's in reverse. No matter how bad things got, they could always get worse.
He hadn't even wanted to leave Cascade. It had been difficult enough investigating a cold case where the victim was Blair's childhood friend, Jamie, but matters had gotten worse when Blair discovered memories of his own abuse at the hands of one of Naomi's boyfriends, deeply hidden in a dark corner of his mind. He had then undergone surgery to repair the damage caused by that terrible time so many years before.
The entire episode had been both exhausting and heart wrenching for both Jim and Blair. When Naomi had called, asking him to visit for a few days, still emotionally shattered with her own personal guilt at not knowing how long the abuse had gone on, or the damage caused, Jim had convinced Blair to go see his mother.
"You both need this time together," he'd said. "Get your relationship back to where it was."
Blair knew Jim was right though he hadn't blamed Naomi at all for the whole sordid incident. Once she'd become aware of what was happening, she'd packed Blair up and left, organizing therapy and reassured by her young son's returning bubbly personality. It was just He didn't really want to revisit the whole thing. He'd talked and talked about it until he wished the memories could somehow just evaporate into thin air, and he wasn't sure he could bear to see Naomi's guilt-ridden features or hear her tearful unneeded apologies.
In the end, he'd agreed to go for two or three days, to help Naomi rid herself of the demons haunting her soul. Jim had a free weekend coming up and Blair promised to be back in Cascade by Friday night. They too, needed some downtime - some good times to chase the remaining lurking sorrow away.
Now this. There was no way he was going to phone Jim and ask him to come get him. The day before he left, Jim had made him promise to replace the rear left tire and Blair had solemnly agreed to do so, but with a shortage of cash in his pocket and even less credit, Blair had decided it could wait until he got back from Seattle.
He hadn't been driving fast at least. Well aware the road was slippery, he'd kept his speed to the permissable minimum Of course, that hadn't helped much at all when the tire burst, sending the car sliding all over the road like a wayward rollercoaster, before it slammed up against the trunk of a solid tree, sending Blair sideways against the window, then forward in a numbing face-first collison with the steering wheel.
Certain he was only slightly banged up, Blair opened his door and gingerly climbed out, taking a couple of shaky steps around the vehicle to better see the damage. "Oh, man."
The passenger door was caved in, as was the front side fender. It was going to take more than a new tire to get his beloved classic back on the road. The slamming of a car door and a shout broke into his private pity party and he turned to see a tow truck parked on the side of the road and a heavyset, dark-haired man running toward him.
"You all right, son?" the stranger puffed as he neared Blair.
"I'm okay," Blair assured him, "just a little banged up. Better off than my car, anyway."
The man made his way around to join Blair and took in the wreck with what seemed to be a critical eye. "Fixable," he stated solemnly. He stuck out a meaty fist, enfolding Blair's within it. "Name's Carl Jensen. You're lucky I happened along. I was on my way back home after towing a car to Seattle."
"Blair Sandburg. I'm really happy to meet you. Do you think ?" He gestured at the Volvo.
Carl nodded. "No problem." He glanced back at his tow truck. "Should be able to get the old girl close enough to hook her up." He shook his head and patted Blair's shoulder. "Damn shame. Nice car." He smiled, his ruddy face lighting up. "Still, like I said, she's fixable."
Blair took an immediate liking to the man. "Thanks."
"Looks like you could do with some patching up yourself," Carl said, pointing at the cut on Blair's head. Taking Blair's arm, he steered him toward the truck. "Tell you what, I'll drop you off at the doctor and while you're there, I'll take a look at your car. Business is pretty slow these days."
Blair felt some of the load lift from his shoulders. "I really appreciate your help, Carl."
"That much, huh?" Blair rubbed in aggravation at the bandage on his head, his hopes sinking. His thoughts flitted briefly to Jim; then he pushed the idea away. He owed Jim enough already in back rent. No way was he going to ask him for a loan. "I've got just enough for bus fare the rest of the way to Cascade," he said. "I guess I guess I'll have to leave it here for now. When I get home, I'll try to organize for a tow to my mechanic -"
Carl waved the words away. "Pay when you can."
"I couldn't do that," Blair protested. "It wouldn't be right."
Carl shook his head then indicated a dark-haired, obviously Native American woman who had just appeared from the garage's office area. "My wife, Mary," he said by way of introduction. "She says you have an honest face." He shrugged. "I've learned she's usually right about such things." He wiped his hands on the legs of his overalls. "Gonna take me about two days to get everything done."
Blair's face fell. He promised Jim he'd be home tonight. Even on the bus, he wouldn't make it in time. Looked like he'd be making a phone call to his partner after all. Carl was talking again and Blair forced himself to concentrate on the man's words.
"My brother, Jack owns the local motel down the block. It's not much to look at but it's clean and cheap. Mary will take you down there and talk to Jack. We'll add the room cost onto the car repairs."
Blair shook his head. "I can't let you do that," he protested again.
"You shouldn't be traveling by bus when you're feeling unwell," Mary said in a gently admonishing tone. Blair smiled at her. She was a diminutive woman with long dark hair fixed in a bun atop her head. Her black eyes seemed to look into his very soul but he felt no discomfort with that, just a sense of peace. "In two days when your car is fixed, you'll be recovered enough to drive."
It was apparent these two good Samaritans weren't going to take no for an answer. Gratefully but reluctantly, Blair accepted the offer.
Blair walked silently beside Mary as she showed him the way to the motel, lost in his own troubling thoughts but looked over at her when she spoke.
"You have a gift," she said assuredly. "You have helped many but your soul is still troubled by what you have experienced."
Blair hesitated, unsure if she was asking a question or simply stating a fact. Finally, he said, "I try to help people. It doesn't always work."
Mary stopped and faced him, placing a small hand on his chest, over his heart. "My own visions tell me you have two protectors. One who walks with you in this life, one who accompanies you through your dreams. Accept your gifts, allow your guardians to help you heal." She smiled, twin dimples showing in her apple-red cheeks. "Your friend will come for you, of that I'm certain."
Blair was taken aback. He hadn't mentioned Jim to either Carl or his wife. "How do you know that?" he asked.
"I know." She continued walking then, leading the way into the cool interior of the motel office, and leaving a bemused Blair to follow in her wake.
Blair glanced over again at the phone on the bedside table. It was almost four PM. If he didn't call Jim soon, the detective would have an APB out on him. Sighing, he sat up and picked up the receiver then punched in the familiar numbers.
"Jim, hi, it's Blair."
"Sandburg? Everything all right? Is your head okay?" Jim's voice instantly held a note of concern.
"Everything's fine, man," Blair said as cheerfully as he could. "Look, I'm gonna stay with Naomi over the weekend after all."
"Oh." Blair imagined he could hear the disappointment in his partner's voice. "That's fine, Chief. I've got some things at work I can do anyway."
"Are you sure you don't mind? It's just -"
"No problem, Sandburg. I'm glad you're enjoying some time with your mom. How's Naomi anyway? Put her on the phone so I can say hi."
"Umm, she's gone to the store. I'll tell her you said hello."
"Sure, okay." There was a pause. "You sure everything's all right, Blair? Do you need me to come up there?"
Blair stifled a groan. He'd never been able to hide much from Jim. "Everything's fine, man," he assured his friend. "I'll see you on Sunday night."
"See you then. You need anything, you call, you got it, Chief?"
"I will. Bye, Jim."
Blair didn't think he'd managed to sleep at all but apparently, he had, because the next thing he knew after eating a tasty but simple dinner of soup and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, delivered by an insistent Mary, was a knocking at the door. Opening his bleary eyes, he grabbed for his shirt and jeans, pulling them on hastily, wincing as the tugging up of his pants caused his sprained wrist to protest. "Hang on a minute. I'm coming," he called out as the banging continued. Grumbling, he squinted at his watch and realized it was only six AM. He hobbled to the door, still buttoning up his shirt.
He wasn't prepared for the visitor who stood on the other side of the door. "Jim?" he squeaked. He coughed and cleared his throat then stared at his partner while rubbing at one gritty eye as though he was seeing an apparition. "What the - What are you doing here?"
Jim grinned. "Well, that's a nice welcome. You gonna ask me in or are you gonna just stand there with your fly open?"
Blair looked down, blushed, pulled up his zipper then reached for Jim, pulling him into the motel room. Then he stood, dumbfounded. "What are you doing here? How did you know I was here?"
Jim sat down on the bed with an exaggerated sigh and stretched his neck then rotated his shoulder muscles. He tapped at an eye. "I spotted your car in the garage when I stopped to fill up with gas. I was in such a hurry when I left, I forgot to check the tank. The wife of the mechanic - Mary, I think - told me she was expecting me, reassured me you were fine and told me where to find you."
Blair still couldn't seem to put it all together. "But why?" He reddened, remembering his lie to Jim the night before. He dropped his head, studying the floor. "I told you everything was okay."
"You lied to me, Sandburg," Jim said but strangely, he didn't sound angry. Blair looked up to see Jim smiling at him. "I swear one day, I'm going to knock some sense into that thick skull of yours -" He broke off, looking guilty. "I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry."
Blair waved away the apology, still brimming with questions. "I don't understand. How did you know? I know your senses are good and you can tell if someone's lying by listening to their heartbeat but -" His face brightened, a slightly feral gleam coming into his eyes. "You can pick that up over the phone? Oh, man -"
"Settle down, Chief." Jim stayed what both men knew was a litany of experiments passing through Blair's brain, with an upraised hand. "I'm starving here. Why don't we see what kind of country breakfast the roadhouse puts on?"
"Sure, okay." Blair grabbed his jacket off the bed and led the way to the door. He stopped suddenly in the doorway, causing Jim to run into his back. "You phoned Naomi, didn't you? You didn't believe me for a second, did you?"
"I have to admit my suspicions were aroused pretty quickly," Jim conceded. "You seemed eager to get back and spend the weekend at home but no, I didn't call Naomi. I didn't have to and I didn't want to worry her."
Blair wasn't going to let this slide. "Then how?" he asked as Jim brushed by him and strode over to his truck.
Jim turned back to him, rolled his eyes then smiled - a gentle, knowing smile. He tapped his chest, over his heart. "I knew."