Jim cast a worried glance at his partner as Blair startled awake once more. The young man shifted slightly in his seat and looked with some confusion out the airplane window for a brief moment before slumping sideways again, heavy eyelids closing as a sigh escaped his lips. A few minutes later, the episode replayed. Just as Blairís breathing settled finally into the deep rhythm of rest, he tensed once more, moving restlessly in his seat.
"Relax, will you Sandburg?" Jim groused, moving his lanky frame further into his seat and pushing Blair back into his own space. "Youíre gonna have everyone in the plane awake in a minute."
Yawning, Blair scrubbed a shaky hand over his face. "Sorry," he whispered. "Iím still a little wired, is all."
He pulled a magazine from the pouch in front of him and began to flip desultorily through it. Jim watched him a moment, taking note of the pale features, the shadowed eyes and gaunt cheeks.
"You donít look wired, Chief," he finally said. "You look out on your feet."
Blair stared at the page in the magazine for a long moment, then opened his mouth to speak. Before he could, his words were ambushed by a coughing fit and he tensed, bracing his hands against his tender ribs in anticipation of the familiar pain. Jim placed a supporting hand against Blairís back, rubbing softly and when the spasm subsided, pressed a glass of water into the young manís hand. The liquid sloshed over the sides as Blair's hand trembled.
"Thanks." His voice cracked and he leaned back in his seat, his face looking wraith-like in the dimmed cabin lights.
"You all right?"
Blair nodded. "Just a tickle in my throat. From that tube they stuck down there."
Jim didnít refute his words, despite having felt and heard the congestion rattling in the younger manís lungs when he'd coughed. Visions of Blair unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator danced at the periphery of his memory, causing nausea to surge, bile burning the back of his throat. He took a gulp of water from Blairís glass and tried to push the memories down with it. Blair slipped back into a restless slumber.
Hearing a snore, the detective turned slightly in his seat and looked across the aisle where Simon and Megan sat side by side, dozing lightly. He still couldn't believe that Conner had allowed Blair to accompany her down to Mexico. The kid had almost died a few days before, for God's sake! Should probably still be in the hospital.
He looked back at Blair, noting the pale, sweat-damp face and twitching hands, the thick wetness of his labored breathing, and cursed the Australian detective's foolishness silently. This was all Conner's fault. If Blair got worseÖ He stopped that thought before it consumed him, remembering the many times he had given in to the whims of the anthropologist simply because he knew that no matter how often he refused, in the end, Blair would always win out.
The memories of the past few weeks had a surreal hazy quality about them as though they had been dreamed then only half-remembered on waking. The sight of Alex Barnes being carried from the temple, her mind overwhelmed by her rampaging senses, was only too real though.
The week before that the detective could barely remember, knowing only that a pervading sense of doom and danger had enveloped him. He was stunned when he returned to his apartment to pack for the trip to Mexico and discovered the loft bare. He had only vague memories of moving the furniture and packing Blairís things in a frenzy of activity, feeling smothered and claustrophobic.
The guilt that swept over him now more than made up for the lack heíd felt then. It was tempered with his conviction that heíd pushed Blair away to protect him, mistakenly believing that the danger he sensed was to himself. Too late, he had realized that Alex considered him a challenge, a primal conquest and Blair, a mere wrinkle in her otherwise perfect plan.
Leaning back in his seat he closed his eyes and allowed himself to slip back into the memories.
Jim accepted Meganís hand and dragged himself from the shaft at the foundry, then staggered over to where Conner claimed to have left Alex and saw she was gone. Terror replaced his anger. He heard a jungle cat growl mockingly and the wolf heíd shot in his dreams morphed into Blair. Suddenly he knew what his dreams had meant, and that Blair's musings on his territorial imperative behavior were right. Now he knew where the danger lay.
Heart pounding, breath rasping, he fought to get the words out. "We have to find Sandburg."
ĎYou know where to find me.í
And he did. Dragging Conner along with him, he pushed her into the truck, ordering her to call for back up. The inspector hung grimly to the dash as Jim drove with his hand clamped to the horn, veering around inconsiderate drivers who ignored his flashing light and siren.
He slammed on the brakes and was out of the truck, running toward Hargrove Hall without bothering to turn off the motor. Pounding up the stairs, he had an inexplicable urge to turn around. As his feet hit the top step, he knew. "Oh, my God!"
He knelt on the ground next to Blairís limp form with no memory of how heíd gotten there. Simon was shouting at him, asking if he could hear a heartbeat, but he'd known when he'd seen Blair's lifeless body floating facedown in the water. His senses had cast themselves out toward his guide and been greeted with silence.
The next few minutes were a blur of activity and sound as Simon's large, capable hands pressed down rhythmically on Blair's still chest and Jim tried to push air into Blair's blue-tinged mouth, alternately pleading and demanding that he take a breath.
The EMT's had arrived and taken over, pumping oxygen through a mask and injecting medication through an IV line in Blair's arm. Finally, one looked up and shook his head.
"I'm sorry, guys."
Jim gaped at them in shock as they began to pack up their gear. "What do you mean, 'Sorry?í You can't give up!" Jim shook his head angrily. "This isn't over. He's not dead." Breaking away from Simon's grip, he flung himself back down at Blair's side and began the compressions again. "Come on, Sandburg."
He ignored Simon's hand on his shoulder as he leaned in to open Blair's mouth and blow into it again. They could all give up on Sandburg if they wanted. Jim knew him better, knew himself better. "Come on, buddy," he urged. 'Prove to them you're stronger than this.'
"Jim, let him go. He's gone." Simon's arm became forceful now, dragging him back away from Blair. "He's gone."
Jim slumped. "Oh, God, no." In that moment, torn between hope and grief, he saw the wolf superimposed over Blair's lifeless features. The sight gave him new hope. It wasn't over yet. He looked up to see Incacha standing in front of him.
The long-dead shaman smiled gently and raised a painted hand. "Use the power of your animal spirit."
Jim dropped back to his knees and cupped Blair's face in his hands. His partner's skin was icy, the flesh sallow and blue-tinged. Gently, Jim stroked a thumb over the still lips and waited, focusing all his strength inward, believing.
He saw the wolf leap toward him, saw it merge with the panther, then over the sound of Megan's quiet sobbing, his hearing picked up the sweetest sound of all. "Simon, I can hear a heartbeat."
He tuned out Simon's frantic summons to the EMT's and Henri gasp of shock as he urged Blair back to consciousness. "Come on, Chief, come on, come on. Come on, buddy. Come on."
He felt Blair's once limp body convulsing beneath his hands and then Sandburg was spewing up water, coughing and choking, drawing in wheezing gasps of air as Jim turned him gently to his side.
"We'll take it from here, detective. Thanks."
This time Jim didn't fight as Simon pulled him up from the ground and embraced him briefly, his own eyes swimming with tears. Together, the team watched as an oxygen mask was strapped to their friend's face, a cervical collar snapped around his neck and he was moved rapidly to the waiting ambulance.
Jim walked with them, with one hand now gripping Blair's tightly. Blair's eyes slowly opened, but there was no awareness in them, and fear clutched Jim's heart. Had he brought him this far only to fail anyway? A hurried conversation between the paramedics and Simon had them backing down when they realized there was no way Jim was being separated from his partner.
Satisfied, he climbed into the back of the ambulance and lowered himself wearily to the narrow bench beside Blair. Reaching over, he freed a strand of hair caught in the elastic strap of the oxygen mask. Blair's eyes were closed again, his breathing labored. "Hang in there, Chief," he whispered. "I'm here."
He tried to blot out the aggravating howl of the siren and focus on his partner's sporadic heartbeat, willing it to continue when it appeared to falter. Blair's limp body rolled slightly toward him as the ambulance rounded a corner at high speed and Jim reached out to grasp Blair's hand, shocked at the icy feel of it. The blinding glare of the hospital lights highlighted Blair's white features and blue lips as he was rushed from the ambulance into the trauma room.
Blair was in intensive care. He had been intubated and placed on a ventilator. The doctor assured Jim that it was simply a precaution to allow Blair to rest completely. Of more concern was the ominous specter of lung infections from the dirty fountain water.
"Weíre doing all we can," the doctor said. "The induced coma will allow him to recover his strength and we have him on broad-spectrum antibiotics to fight off any potential infections. The rest is up to Blair." He paused a moment. "He was without oxygen for an extended period, DetectiveÖ"
"Brain damage?" Jim shook his head firmly. "Heíll be fine."
Simon touched his arm. "Itís best to be prepared, Jim."
"Heíll be fine, Simon. Excuse us for a minute, would you, doctor?"
"Of course. I have other patients to attend to. The nurse will let you know when you can see Mr. Sandburg, but please one of you only and just for a few minutes. If you donít mind my saying, Detective, you look like you could use a bed yourself."
Jim turned to face the captain and led him a short distance away from the doctor. "Iíve been trying to figure all this out while weíve been waiting and I donít have all the answers yet, though I bet Sandburg does. I canít tell you how I know, Simon and I donít know if youíd believe me anyway but Sandburgís going to be all right."
"Jim, he was without oxygen for several minutes after we got there. Who knows how longÖhow long heíd been in there before we arrived."
"I know. All I can tell you is that something happened out there that allowed me to bring Sandburg back, and I know thereís no way I would have been able to do that if he was going to be brain damaged. It would serve no purpose."
"Youíre starting to sound like Sandburg," Simon grumbled. "Itís a sentinel thing, isnít it?"
Simon sighed and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Then I donít want to know. I just hope youíre right." He looked away as a nurse approached them. "Go see your partner. Iíll wait for you. Henriís bringing your truck here."
Jim stepped up to the bed and closed his eyes, reveling in the heartbeat that pounded steadily in his ears. It swelled and echoed and Jim was tempted to let it take him into oblivion. He touched a finger gently to Blair's now warm cheek and opened his eyes when he encountered wetness. Bringing his fingers to his lips, he tasted the salt of tears. "Blair?" He leaned in closer and scrutinized the unresponsive man carefully. "Are you with me, Chief?"
The nurse noticed the tears on Blair's cheek and blotted them gently with a tissue. "It happens sometimes," she said kindly. "It's an autonomic response."
Jim knew better. "I'm sorry," he whispered, anguish twisting his features as he fought to hold himself together, his own moist eyes taking in the dark bruise high on Blair's temple, allowing the sight of it to fuel his anger and shame.
After sitting with Simon in the waiting room for another four hours, then being told he wouldn't be allowed to see Sandburg until the following morning, Simon convinced Jim to leave.
Sitting in his truck, staring up at the dim light coming from Blair's room, Jim whispered a vow of vengeance to his guide. Making himself as comfortable as he could within the confines of his cab, Jim cast out his hearing and anchored it to Blair's heartbeat, then sat sentry through the long dark night.
Any time he may have needed to think about his bizarre behavior in the weeks before Alex's appearance in Cascade, and Blair's revelation that he had shared Jim's dream of their spirit guides, was cut short two days later by the sighting of Alex in Mexico. Jim had hurriedly packed an overnight bag and joined Simon on the next available flight. His mind had been focused solely on catching Alex and exacting his retribution. Blair was in hospital in good hands, or so he thought.
The following day Blair and Megan had followed them down -- Blair looking fragile and pale but insisting that he was all right. He had traipsed resolutely through the jungle at Jimís heels, forcing the detective to split his attention between Alex's trail and his ailing partner, his focus and control over his senses and his protective instincts wavering as they neared the other sentinel and the temple.
Alex had been apprehended, the nerve gas recovered, and they had returned to Sierra Verde. Blair looked spent and ill and Jim felt emotionally fried.
Theyíd spent a night in Sierra Verde, resting and recuperating after their trek through the jungle. Blair had remained in his room until it was time to leave for the airport. Conner and Simon had both tried to entice the young man to join them for dinner but heíd begged off, citing exhaustion.
That part certainly hadnít been exaggerated. Jim could see the tiredness that tugged at his friendís body, hunching his shoulders and angling his body into a caricature of an old man. And old Blair was, Jim thought, well before his time. The anthropologist had seen and experienced manís inhumanity to man far too often in the past three years of his life and his sorrowful eyes reflected it.
Further movement from Blair brought Jimís mind back from his reverie and he sighed as he watched the anthropologist sit forward once more and reach again for the well-thumbed magazine.
"Whatís going on, Chief?" His hand reached out to rest lightly on Blairís forearm.
Blair turned red-rimmed eyes toward him, his look feigning nonchalance, but Jim wasnít buying it.
"You havenít been sleeping sinceÖ since this shit started." Jimís eyes widened in sudden understanding. "The other night in the church. You kept talking. You wouldnít shut up. I was getting ready to deck you. You were trying to keep yourself awake, werenít you?"
Blair sighed. "I canít go to sleep." His voice still sounded strained from coughing. "Every time I start to drift off, Iím back in that damn fountain and sheís there. I can see her above me, her footís in my back holding me down, and no matter how hard I fight, I canít get away."
His voice slowly got louder and the words more rushed. Jim gently squeezed the arm under his hand. "Is that what happened? What you remember happening?" he asked, dreading the answer.
Blair shook his head, then lay it back to rest against the seat. "I donít remember any of it. Iím not sure if itís just a dream or what really happened. Like the dream we both had about the jungle."
Jim nodded. "You need to get some rest or youíre going to collapse."
"Youíre not telling me anything I donít know, Jim."
"I have an idea," Jim said. "Lie back and close your eyes."
Blair sat up slightly and stared at him. Jim reached over and pushed him back into the seat.
"Okay, you comfortable?"
Jim lowered his voice to what he hoped approximated his guideís timbre. "All right, I want you to picture a dial."
"Jim!" Blair sat up, wincing as the sudden movement pulled at his bruised ribs. Then he saw the mischievous grin on his partnerís face. Snorting, he punched the detective lightly on the chest. "Jerk," he said, shifting back again.
"Punk," Jim countered. "Iím sorry. Just yanking your chain, Sandburg. Itís good to see you smile again though." He paused a moment and rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. "Letís try this anyway. Canít hurt. Now picture some place restful and warm. Try to relax your muscles one at a time, starting with your toes and working up."
Jim continued to talk, stroking his hand in a rhythmic caress up and down Blairís arm whenever he startled from his slumber. He allowed his voice to drone on, not caring that his throat was becoming dry and sore. He knew the sense of security he felt when he came out of a zone-out anchored by Blairís calming voice and hoped that Blair could experience the same thing.
The steward stopped, offering refreshments. Jim ordered juice for himself and more water for Blair. He murmured his thanks as the young woman held out a blanket. He pulled it over Blair, allowing his hands to linger for a moment on Blairís slowly rising and falling chest.
Blair slept the rest of the way to Cascade, waking only when Jim roused him as they taxied over the tarmac toward the airport building. The anthropologist sat up and stretched carefully, smiling his thanks as Simon handed him his duffel bag.
People stood and retrieved bags from overhead lockers, then began the slow trek toward the exit. The atmosphere seemed suddenly oppressive now they were on the ground and the plane's air supply was off. In the midst of the passengers crowding the aisle, a baby cried fretfully.
Blair stifled another coughing fit as they waited for a break in the line. Finally they were moving, Jim ushering Blair out in front of him. Suddenly Sandburg appeared to stumble and sink toward the floor. Jim caught him quickly by an arm and supported him for a moment against his side. "You all right?"
Pulling himself up shakily, Blair nodded before starting forward again, holding onto the backs of seats as he went. "Iím fine," he assured the others. "My legs have gone to sleep, thatís all."
Jim watched for a moment, then let him go. He looked back as Simon laid a hand on his shoulder. "How's Sandburg?"
"Not good, sir," Jim said. "Heís exhausted but heís having some trouble sleeping."
"So I noticed. I wish weíd had you around when Daryl was keeping us up nights."
Jim blushed slightly at the comment. "Itís no more than he does for me every time I have a zone-out or need to dial down pain."
"Iím not criticizing." Spotting Megan and Blair waiting just up ahead, Simon grasped Jimís arm for a moment then shifted around to face him. "Iím just relieved to see things getting back to normal between you two, thatís all."
Jim looked at him, his own weariness beginning to weigh him down. "I donít know if things will ever be normal again, but Iím going to do my best to make up for what he had to go through."
"You're not responsible for what Barnes did. The kid's tough. He'll bounce back. Look how fast he was on that plane to Mexico. Look, we'll tie up the loose ends tomorrow. I'm going home to see my son and sleep in my own bed. Tell Sandburg not to rush into coming back to the station with you."
Jimís face fell at the comment, making Simon scowl. "What now?"
"I havenít asked SandburgÖ I mean, I donít knowÖ" He leaned in closer. "I kicked him out, Simon! I don't know if he's coming back to the loft."
Simon began walking toward the exit. "Of course heís going back to the loft. I mean, everythingís been sorted out. Besides, where else has he got to go?"
By the time they caught up to Blair and Megan, the others had found their remaining luggage and Megan was searching in her purse for cab fare. "We were in such a rush to catch up with you two," she said, aiming a glance at Blair, "that I didnít have time to get extra cash out."
"Iíll give you a ride home," Simon offered. "Here comes Henri now." He waved at the approaching detective then turned to the others. "Iíll see you tomorrow, Jim. Sandburg, I donít want to see you back at the station until youíre fully recovered, understand?"
"Iím fine, Captain, really," Blair insisted.
"Understand?" Simon repeated, glaring at the anthropologist.
Blair sighed and nodded. Simon grinned and pulled a cigar from his pocket, sniffing it appreciatively. The five exchanged good-byes and Simon, Megan and Henri headed for the exit.
Jim took Blairís bag from him and hoisted it over his shoulder. "Letís get going, Chief. Iím looking forward to some real food and about twelve hoursí sleep."
He headed toward the exit, then stopped and turned back as he realized that Blair was not with him. "Sandburg?"
"Iíll catch a cab back to the motel," Blair said, holding his hand out for his bag. "Doug Saunders said I could move in with him just beforeÖ" He motioned ineffectually with one hand. "Before all this shit happened."
Dread and anger mingled at the words. "I thought you were coming home. I thought you said we were okay."
Blair looked up sharply at the words. "Okay? Weíre okay, though itís a relative term here. I screwed up. You screwed up. Iím past that. But you kicked me out of the apartment and I had to find somewhere else to live. Do you really think that I am that destitute? Even three years ago I wasnít, you know? I asked you for somewhere to stay for a week because I knew I wouldnít find a place to rent while I had Larry. After a week, it just seemed like," he shrugged, "you didnít ask me to move out and I didnít want to. It felt like my home."
"It is your home," Jim said forcefully.
"I just need us to be clear on this, Jim," Blair continued. "I didnít stay and put up with any crap you wanted to throw my way because I had nowhere else to go. If I wanted to, I have plenty of options, plenty of friends."
"You might have somewhere else you can go, but itís not home. The loft is home." Jim looked away unsure how the other man might take the next piece of information, nervous that perhaps he'd overstepped his bounds. "I already organized for your stuff to be picked up from the motel. Rafe used his considerable persuasion with the manager to let him take your things back to the loft. If you want to move out, Iíll help you shift it all tomorrow."
"I donít want to move out." Blair gave a small smile and Jim felt his shoulders slump in relief as they took another small step in rebuilding their friendship.
"Good. Letís go home and get some sleep."
Blair reached out to take his duffel bag from Jimís shoulder and cursed as the strap slipped through his fingers. Jim caught it before it hit the floor and swung it back onto his shoulder. "I got it, Chief."
Blair stood for a moment, flexing the fingers of both hands, then nodding, followed the detective out to the exit.
They made the trip home in exhausted silence. Blair sat slouched in his seat, his eyes closed, his body limp and boneless.
"Do you know when you're going back to school?" Jim hoped to fuel some enthusiasm in his partner.
Blair shook his head tiredly and continued to gaze out the passenger window. "I haven't had time to think about it. What with being in the hospital and then going down to Mexico."
His eyes flickered to Jim and the detective could swear he saw a flash of guilt cross Blair's expressive features.
"I thought you'd been eager to get back to the university," Jim ventured, hoping to uncover the reason for Blair's lack of interest.
"I am. It's justÖ"
Jim hazarded a guess, based on his own experiences in the past couple of weeks. "Bad memories?"
"Well, you said Steve could cover you for another week." At Blair's silent nod, he went on. "Okay, why don't you take advantage of the situation and get some rest. You've been to hell and back this last couple of weeks, Chief. Cut yourself some slack."
He glanced over at Blair's troubled face. "Hey, if you think you'll be that bored, I'll bring home some paperwork for you to type up."
"I'm gonna be bored, Jim, not desperate," his partner replied dryly. "Besides, do you realize how much more information I now have to research and write up for my thesis? This is probably the most important chapter of all."
The detective smiled when Blair perked up as he talked about his dissertation but frowned as a troubling thought struck him. "How much of this thing between me and Alex are you going to put in there?"
Blair sighed and shifted so that he sat curled on the seat, facing Jim. "All of it, but you already know it wonít be you and Alex. Youíve got to trust me on this."
It was Jimís turn to sigh. "I trust you, Chief. Really. Iím just nervous."
"I know. Remember youíll get to read it first."
By the time they reached the loft, Blair had dozed off again and it took Jim several nudges before the other man woke. Blair yawned and stretched stiffly then climbed out of the truck, stumbling a little as his feet hit the ground, but refusing a supporting hand from his partner.
The anthropologist staggered through the front door of the loft as soon as Jim had the door open, not bothering to wait until the lights were turned on. He still looked totally drained and his legs were shaky. He cursed as he banged into something unyielding and stopped, reaching out his hands to feel for the culprit.
"You all right, Sandburg?"
"Yeah. I just banged into something."
"Give me a minute to get the light."
Blair stood still as Jim strode over to the light switch. He scrunched his eyes up a little at the sudden brightness, as though in pain. Jim was beside him now, bending a little to find the injury to his leg.
"Itís okay, just a bump," Blair assured him. "Iím really wiped, man. Can we wait till tomorrow to debrief?"
Jim grinned. "Debrief? Youíre really starting to talk the lingo, Chief."
Blair grimaced. "Guess Iíve been hanging out with cops for too long." He waved a tired hand at his partner. "Later, man. Much later."
He turned and headed toward his room, but stopped suddenly at the doorway and Jim remembered. The bedroom was bare Ė no bed, no dresser, noÖ Blair.
"I got the stuff just about all moved back up from the basement," Jim rushed to explain. "Then the call came about Alex. I didnít get time to put it all in its place." He shook himself. "Itíll only take a minute. Why donít you sit over on the couchÖ" He tried again. "Why donít you wait over in the kitchen while I get your things into your room."
Blair smiled at him. "If we both do it, we can crash that much sooner."
Jim grinned back, relief flooding through him. "All right, but if you start feeling tired, you stop. Deal?"
Blair nodded. "Deal."
By the time they had shifted the futon and dresser back into the spare bedroom, Blair was shaking with fatigue. Jim looked at him worriedly as he headed over to the hall closet to find clean sheets and bedding.
"Why donít you go have a shower and let me finish up here?" he suggested.
Blair shook his head and yawned. "If I do that, Iíll probably fall asleep in the shower. Tell you what, you have a shower first. Iíll order us a pizza and get these sheets on the bed. Then I can go to bed straight after we eat."
"I'll take you up on the shower but I'll order the pizzas before I go in and the bed will wait until I come out. I mean it, Sandburg."
Jim took his time in the shower, relishing the feel of the hot water sluicing off the grime and sweat from the dayís traveling. He kept his hearing turned up to check on Blair, relieved that the young manís heart rate stayed slow, his breathing punctuated only occasionally by a coughing spasm.
Exiting the bathroom, Jim was a little startled to still hear Blairís heartbeat and breathing, but not detect any signs of movement from the other man. Taking a quick look into the living room, he could see no sign of his partner. Turning toward Blairís bedroom, he stopped in the doorway. Blair lay across the futon, one sheet already tucked over the mattress, and another still clutched in his arms. He was deeply asleep, a soft snore issuing from his slightly open mouth.
Jim smiled at the sight, pleased to have Blair home again, where he belonged. He made his way quietly to his partnerís side and bent to pull his shoes off. Blair stirred slightly as he did so and he decided against removing the rest of Blairís clothes.
He pushed the lax body until Blair lay fully on the bed and waited again as he yawned and shifted onto his side. Then he grabbed the pile of blankets from the desk chair and draped them over the sleeping man. He rested his hand for a moment on Blairís forehead, detecting only a slight fever, then stroked his fingers down the whiskered cheek.
As he turned to leave, he spotted two pharmacy bottles atop the dresser and picked them up. Dialing up his senses, he turned the bottles in his hand, a frown appearing on his face as he read the labels. One was for an antibiotic, and the other for an anti-inflammatory.
Studying Blairís face a moment, Jim debated whether to wake him to check if he needed to take the pills. He reached once again to smooth the tension from his friendís forehead as Blair muttered unintelligibly and slumped onto his back, rewarded as the young man relaxed and gathered the bedclothes more closely around him. Deciding that Blairís rest was paramount, Jim left the room, pulling the doors shut softly behind him.
He was more tired than he was hungry himself he realized, so he spent a relaxing half-hour on the couch with a beer in his hand and the late news droning on the TV, then closed everything up and went upstairs to bed. He felt a shiver go through him as he automatically reached out with his senses to anchor himself to his guide sleeping below, the reassuring sound of Blairís presence reminding him painfully of what he had almost lost.
To Chapter Two