We don't own any of these guys. Rysher, Pet Fly, UPN and a bunch of other people who make a lot more money than we do get to claim them. Please don't pick on us, it's all in good fun.

Attention: This is an ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSE. In reality, or as close to reality as Zen&nancy can get, Jim would never act this way. We love Jim!!!

This is a crossover. We're not sure where it came from, nancy doesn't even like crossovers. Zen kept pushing this outline for a Blair/Duncan piece and this monster of an ongoing work in progress is what happened. It doesn't seem to have an end in site. At first we weren't even going to post it, but now Zen really wants to share. We'd really appreciate some feedback here, so by all means, do tell us what you think. However, we really need you to read this one with the words 'alternate universe' firmly fixed in your mind. We don't think we've committed any character assassination (except that Jim isn't really a bigot), but if you do, let us know. We're tougher than we look.

That said, this story takes place somewhere roughly around the beginning of the yet to be fourth season of the Sentinel, and the never to happen seventh season of Highlander. BTW, Zen&nancy are in complete denial of the Archangel stuff and, so far, the entire sixth (crappy) season. So, none of that really matters here. :)

Story title and lyrics borrowed without permission from Bob Marley (r.i.p.)


Three Little Birds

Part 12

By Zen&nancy


Jim Ellison sat on his couch, one hand held his throbbing head, the other clutched a cup of coffee. He thought he might be getting used to the hangovers, although the vertigo sucked. He was staring at the phone, the real enemy. He had to call Sandburg today, he didn't have any choice. If he didn't, Simon was going to make this 'temporary' thing permanent, and there would be no going back from that.

Of course, there was always the last option. Simon had taken the Glock, and his spare clips and ammo, but he hadn't thought to ask for the holdout SigP230 that Jim wore in an ankle holster at work. At the loft, he left it under his pillow, loaded but with the safety on. It was a habit he'd taken with him out of the jungle, sleeping with his weapon right above his head.

Jim's wavering vision wandered across the coffee table, from the black blur of the cordless to the clear whiskey bottle with it's black label. There was about an inch of amber liquid left in the bottle.

Blair had called last night, when he was about half way through the bottle. He'd been sitting on the floor in Blair's old room, humming the melody of a song he remembered Blair playing over and over again after Incacha died. The feel of Blair was gone from the bare room, nothing here reminded him of his Guide, but he drank here anyway, seeking comfort.

At first he'd avoided the room completely. The anger that carried him through the first few weeks after Blair left kept him from even checking to see if Sandburg had taken all of his stuff, or if he'd left anything behind. The first four weeks had been occupied with a series of cases that demanded all his time and attention. He'd spent more time in the truck on stake outs than at the loft. When the zone outs started he'd started to think that maybe Sandburg really wasn't going to just come home, and he'd started sleeping on the floor in Blair's room. He told himself it was because it was safer than dealing with the flight of stairs with his senses going haywire, and it was closer to the bathroom.

Hearing his Guide's voice in the loft again was almost too much for him. He'd stayed on the floor, tuning in his hearing until he could hear Blair swallow, and the accelerated beat of his heart. Blair was talking to him urgently in his 'Guide voice', telling him that he wouldn't go away until Jim picked up the phone. The need to have Blair here with him, that very minute, was overpowering. He was so fucked up, and so miserable. Jim wanted to pick up the phone and beg Blair to help him, to tell him the truth. Anger intervened, coming to his ego's rescue and pushing him a step farther down the path of self destruction.

He'd stumbled into the living room, picked up the phone and told Blair to leave him the fuck alone. It was the right thing to do, Jim's intoxicated defense mechanism said, the only way to avoid the kind of pain that could only be turned off with a bullet in the brain.

The silence that followed was the loudest he had ever heard. It assaulted his ears, painful and deafening, until he couldn't imagine ever hearing anything again. He couldn't hear anything, not the water in the pipes or the refrigerator's hum or the traffic outside.

He spent the remainder of the night sucking on the whiskey bottle, wandering aimlessly around the loft and staring blankly out the windows. His distorted vision threw his reflection back at him in the glass, like a funhouse mirror at a carnival, and Jim turned away, afraid to face the ugly truth.

This morning he could hear again, but his sense of taste and touch were gone completely. It made him feel very strange, to wrap his hand firmly around the coffee mug and lift it to his lips without feeling it at all. He'd already broken one, the pieces of blue ceramic mug were scattered across the counter and the kitchen floor. It felt almost as if he was already dead, and someone had forgotten to tell his vital organs. All automatic functions went on unperturbed, but life had stopped, and now he was wandering around, lost in hell.

In the jungle, after the crash, he'd relied on the company of the animals, eating and drinking when they did, and did his best to keep track of the seasons and the cycles of the moon. Here there were no natural forces to help Guide him when he could no longer trust his senses, or when they left him entirely. Here there was only the artificial company of the television, and the respite from confusion to be gained with Jack Daniels. Drunk, it didn't really matter if his reflection in the bathroom mirror had a big black circle in the middle of it, or if he couldn't feel or taste the whiskey as it slid down his throat.

He'd been drunk since he'd gotten back from Seacouver. Simon had come, and yelled and demanded and pleaded until finally, enraged by Jim's indifference, he'd informed Jim of his temporary suspension, took his gun and his badge, and left. It had been the breaking point for him, the point where he'd crossed the line, and stopped even considering the possibility that he was going to be able to make it on his own. Now he just hoped for the worst, without actually pursuing it beyond getting blind drunk and staying that way. His wish was that drunk and anesthetized, he would fade off on one of his flickering senses, and this time the zone would just put him out of his misery.

It didn't happen, the phone kept interrupting him. First Simon, and then Blair, pulling him back from the painless nothingness. He'd fallen asleep on the floor in Blair's room, and dreamt about his Guide. It had been a very strange dream. He was back in the jungle, but everything there had changed, the animals were all gone, everything was silent.

He'd trudged through the silent jungle and come to a clearing, where he found the dead carcass of a panther, his stomach ripped open by the vultures and the coyotes. Jim had tried to dig a hole to bury the animal. He didn't want its eyes plucked out by the birds and its bones left to whiten in the air.

When he'd tried to dig in the dirt with his hands, Blair had appeared at his side, telling him that if he wanted to bury the panther he had to dig his own hole first... and then he was gone and Jim was in a cold, dark room with metal walls and no windows, like some kind of strange prison cell. There was something wrapped around his eyes, and his ears and mouth and nostrils were full of mud.

That was all he could remember, although he knew that there was more. Something about the dream stayed with him, he turned it around and around in his head, trying to understand. He had tried to dig in the dirt, but the soil was like concrete, he couldn't even make a scratch in the black dirt, which looked soft and loamy, covered with long grasses.

He'd woken up freaked out as all hell, sweating and shivering. He'd almost called Blair back. His Guide had always been fascinated by his dreams, especially the ones in which the big black cat Blair called his spirit Guide appeared. Fear stopped him. He knew what Blair would say about the hole, and that scared the shit out of him. As for the blindfold, well, he didn't need any new age dream interpretation to figure that one out, either. In any case, he intended to avoid discussing his feelings with Blair at all costs.

Jim shook his head, gulping the rest of the tasteless coffee. Setting the cup down very carefully, Jim got up, making his way slowly to the sliding glass door. His vision was unreliable, everything's edges were fuzzy, and if he turned his head he would get distracted by the trails of light. Losing his sense of touch was the strangest though, it made him feel as though he was lost inside his own body.

Jim went out onto the balcony, but the afternoon sunshine didn't change anything. He couldn't feel the fresh air or the warmth of the sun on his skin, he couldn't smell the water or feel the wind that came in off the sound. He stayed out there anyway, sitting down with his legs stretched out in front of him, his back against the wall. He had always loved it here, the view had always calmed him, put his day back in perspective. He and Blair often came out here when they first got home from the station, to have a beer and to talk. They had an unspoken agreement that this was a no-fighting zone, where they could talk about things that weren't easy to say. Especially about the bad cases, and things they didn't like to think about.

Jim's lips curved painfully into a smile, remembering Blair standing on the balcony laughing, his hair blowing in the wind. He'd told him a dirty joke, he couldn't remember it now, only his friends blushing face, and his laughter. Life with Blair had been so easy, almost ideal. Jim had thought about that a great deal over the last few weeks, and he was starting to realize just how hard Blair had worked at making it easy, making him happy.

Blair followed all his rules, took more shit from him than anyone had ever put up with before, and did his best to give Jim his privacy and make his life easy. He cooked, his did the grocery shopping, he took out the garbage, he remembered things like buying light bulbs and baking soda for the refrigerator so that Jim didn't have to, and he did it all without making a big deal out of it. Of course, Jim had paid all the bills, but he'd been doing that before Blair moved in, and Sandburg bought the groceries, so it wasn't really like it was costing Jim anything to let him live there.

Jim thought about the apartment he'd broken into in Cascade. It was small, and dark, and it hadn't felt like Blair at all. He wasn't even sure he'd found the right window to crawl through until he looked at the junk mail on the counter top in the kitchen. Almost all of Blair's things were still packed in boxes, stacked against the wall in the dining room, and another two that had been opened in the living room near the windows.

His hopes had soared when he first saw the place, if Sandburg hadn't even unpacked, then he couldn't be as happy or as deeply rooted there as he'd insisted he was. His hopes had been shot down when MacLeod had strolled in right behind SanDburg, his hand going to Blair's shoulder at the first sight of Jim.

Blair had looked different, although he couldn't say exactly how. More confident, more sure of himself. Blair had never really been comfortable at the station, in spite of making friends with almost everyone they worked with. He was always very conscious of his status as 'hippie tagalong', as he was sure the other cops saw their partnership. The reality was that when Blair was on a case with him, he worked just as hard as Jim did, and backed him up in every way, with the exception of carrying a gun.

Not having Blair around had proved to be annoying, and then difficult, and then almost impossible. The longer he was separated from his Guide, the worse his senses got, until he couldn't get through the day without zoning or coming dangerously close. Simon had caught him more than once. The last time, he'd lost it at a crime scene, and it had taken almost twenty minutes for Simon to bring him back. Simon had chained him to his desk after that, and after a week of having him around, demanded that he go to Seacouver and talk to Blair.

If he'd had any idea at all what was waiting for him, he never would have gone. Seeing Blair with that asshole had been really hard to take. All his instincts told him to just pick his Guide up, throw him in the truck and take him back, before the relationship got any more serious. Jim sighed, he supposed he was a little late. Who the hell did MacLeod think he was? Just the thought of him made Jim angry enough to want to break something. But what was the point? Blair wasn't going to care, it wasn't going to matter to him if he trashed the loft or not. Blair thought he was repressed and anal and hung up and controlling and an asshole... and he was probably right on all counts.

Jim sighed. Okay, Blair, so I'm an asshole. Why the hell did I hit you, partner? God, I wish I could take it back... You're the last person on the planet I want to hurt, Blair. I miss you so much, Chief. I miss everything about life before you left. If you knew, that you were right about everything, would you come back? Jim shook his head disparagingly. He wasn't at all sure he would be okay with that idea, but he supposed it didn't matter. Blair had MacLeod, and it wasn't going to make any difference to him to know he was right. Jim decided he was fucked any way he looked at it.

What was their relationship like, Jim wondered. From what he had seen, Duncan made Blair really happy. Then again, he also acted like Blair was his personal property. Jim realized that was exactly what he'd done for four years. Had Blair been happy living with him? Jim had thought he was. Then again, he'd also been sure that Blair would be more than willing to come home with him.

Why had he been so hard? Such a hard ass, always keeping Blair at arm's length, never letting him in. He always shut people out, kept himself closed up inside. He'd done it with Caroline, and in every relationship he'd ever had. Jim thought bitterly that maybe he was following in his father's footsteps after all, although all his life he'd been determined not to. Blair was a little more important than a failed marriage, though, Blair was his Guide. Jim had learned exactly how unlivable life for a Sentinel without a Guide was. It was hell. Every minute he spent alone in the loft grated on his nerves, and every day got harder to face.

It didn't feel good to compare Blair to Caroline, it was something that he was trying not to have to think about. Jim knew, even if he didn't want to admit it to himself, that Blair's throwing himself on him that night shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. Somewhere in his head, he'd been aware of the way Blair looked at him, the way he smiled at him. It was something that pleased him, but not something that he let himself actually think about. It had been suggested to him by more than one person that Blair had a crush on him, or at least a serious case of hero worship. It fed his ego, made him feel secure in the relationship that was most important to him, but still he laughed it off, and didn't let himself really think about it.

Jim didn't think of himself as a bigot, as far as homosexuals were concerned. He'd always thought that whatever they wanted to do was fine with him, as long as they weren't trying to hit on him. But, having a live and let live attitude was one thing, and having your best friend stick his tongue down your throat was another thing completely. Blair had shocked the hell out of him, he didn't even know where all that anger had come from. All he could remember was being totally freaked out that Blair had kissed him. Jim never would have thought himself capable of hitting Blair, but he had.

Twice now. What'd happened in Seacouver, now that was just insanity. Jim didn't even want to think about it. He knew that he'd fucked up, and that it was extremely unlikely that he was going to get his old life back. He also realized that Blair was his only hope for keeping his sanity. Jim never questioned it. Blair always seemed to know instinctively what to do with the Sentinel thing, he Guided him without even trying. Just his voice, telling him to relax, to concentrate, was enough to help him tune everything else out and focus on the sense he needed to control. Blair's presence balanced him, and gave him the security to use his senses on the job. He could do his thing, and know with absolute certainty that if he screwed up, and zoned, Blair would bring him back. It was so much more than just that, though, he needed Blair in ways he couldn't even explain to himself. Somehow, Blair bridged the gap between the man who had survived in the jungle and the Sentinel of the great city he tried to be.

He was going to have to call him, there was no getting around it. The longer he waited the more difficult it seemed. He didn't know what the hell to say. Jim got to his feet, going back inside. The lack of his sense of touch made him stumble. Unable to feel the floor beneath his feet he was overwhelmed by dizziness. He hurtled himself into his chair, picking up the phone and laying it in his lap.

He only had another hour before Blair would be gone for the day. Assuming his class schedule hadn't changed since last week, it was very likely that he was sitting at his desk grading papers right now.

"Ah, shit," Jim murmured softly, pressing the button on the cordless to turn it on.

He didn't know what he was going to say, he wouldn't be surprised if Blair hung up on him. God knew he had enough reasons to.

"Blair Sandburg."

He'd picked it up after the first ring. Jim made himself say something, afraid that Blair would hang up if he didn't.

"Chief... It's me. Can we talk?"

"That'd be good Jim. Are you okay?"

Okay? Was he nuts? Blair sounded so worried...

"Yeah, sure, whatever. Look, Blair, I wanna apologize..."

Jim swallowed hard, trying to find the words for how bad he felt for hitting his Guide.

"Whatever? 'Whatever' is not an answer, Jim. Are you okay?"

Jim covered his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. He didn't know what to say. Of course he wasn't okay, it was a ridiculous question, but he had no idea where to start. He decided honesty was the best thing. If Sandburg really wanted to hear about he'd drag it out of him anyway, that was for sure.

"No."

"Okay, just relax, I want you to tell me everything that's happened with your senses since I left, in chronological order if you can."

His Guide's familiar voice seemed to penetrate the fog his senses had him spinning in. Jim realized that his sense of touch had returned, he could feel the phone he was holding now. What he was asking for was a very long list. What did his Guide want, a computer print out of his brain activity for the last three months? Blair always seemed to think that he could just spit this stuff out. Jim tried to remember the first zone out, but he couldn't. His senses had been so messed up since the fight with Duncan in Blair's apartment that he couldn't even remember what it was like to have them working right anymore, but he was afraid to tell Blair that.

"Look, Blair, that could take all day. I haven't really been keeping track..."

"Can you tell me the last time you remember everything working without any problems was?"

Jim shut his eyes tight, pressing his fingers over the lids. Well, that was why he was the Guide. Blair could take him apart with a few carefully worded questions. He knew exactly how to read him, listening for what Jim didn't say, and zeroing in on the slightest nuance. Sometimes Jim just thought he was psychic, plain and simple. Maybe it was just a Guide thing, because Blair understood better than anyone else ever had.

Jim gave in, admitting the truth unhappily. "No, I don't remember. Look, Chief, about what happened when I was down there, I want to say I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I never should've hit you. I don't know what happened, I just reacted..." Jim realized what he was saying and snapped his mouth shut.

"Yeah, well, I think I kinda asked for it. Jim, we really do need to talk, not just about your senses... We need to talk about us, and why you reacted the way you did."

His chest constricted until a harsh laugh forced it's way out of him. Blair would never bullshit him, he would zone in on the truth, and drag Jim through it until he was sure he had all the available information. Jim had always thought it was about the dissertation, and Blair's endless notes, but now here he was, forcing the truth out him, when Jim had fucked it all up so badly that it didn't even matter any more.

"Chief, do me a favor? Don't tell me I'm repressed again, okay? I don't think I can handle hearing it from you. I've got that much figured out by now."

It was the hardest thing he'd ever said, but he couldn't deny it, and he didn't want to talk about it.

"Ah, Jim, man, this is like, so hard... I don't even know where to start. Simon said..."

"Simon can fuck off." He bit the inside of his cheek, forcing himself to reign in his anger. None of this was Blair's fault.

"He took your gun?"

Jim smiled, even though it hurt, "Sandburg, you're not supposed to be able to read my mind from two hundred miles away."

"He called... He told me..." Blair's voice was small.

"What did he tell you?"

The last thing he needed was Simon going behind his back to Blair. He didn't like the idea of Sandburg hearing about how messed up he was, it hurt his pride, and it made it even harder to ask Blair for his help.

"He told me that you've been drinking a lot, and that you've been zoning so much that he had to relieve you of active duty. Jim, that is like, so dangerous. You've got to get some help."

No shit, Sherlock. What the hell did Blair think he was trying to do when he went all the way down to Seacouver to talk to him? If it hadn't been for Duncan MacLeod, it might have worked. Blair telling him that he needed to get some help was a joke. What the hell was he supposed to do, go to the Guide guild and apply for a new one?

"What the hell do you think I'm trying to do, Sandburg? Except your boyfriend tried to take me out with his bare hands. What is he, ex-marine?"

"He was trying to protect me."

Rage exploded inside him. Protect him? MacLeod had gone a little farther than defending Blair. Jim knew a man who was enjoying a fight when he saw one. That bastard had made getting back to Cascade a six hour nightmare. He'd also taken his Guide away from him. Jim was sure that if it weren't for Duncan MacLeod, Blair would have been willing to come back home with him.

"Next time I'll kill him, I swear to God."

"Jim! Rage is not going to solve anything. Duncan is the least of your problems, okay? Could we try to focus on something positive here?"

Yelling at Blair was not the point of this phone call. Jim tried to get a handle on his emotions, but they were almost as out of control as his senses.

"Blair, please, come home."

He blurted the words out before he could stop himself, his hand curling around the receiver until his knuckles turned white.

"I can't do that Jim, I'm sorry."

"I need your help, Blair. I need you. You're the only one who can help me," Jim held his breath, praying for redemption.

"I'm sorry, Jim, I can't. This is home, this is where I have to be. I want to help you, Big Guy, but you're going to have to be willing to help yourself."

He didn't want to help himself, he wanted his Guide back.

"Blair, please. If you'll come back, I'll do anything, whatever you want, whatever he gives you, I can. I need you, Chief, I'm not making it here."

He'd told Blair the truth, probably for the first time. The words spilled out of him without any kind of warning, he just knew that he needed his Guide, desperately, and that he would do anything to get him back.

"Oh God, Jim, please, don't do this to me. You can't even accept the fact that I'm gay, you kicked me out. You can't give me what Duncan does, you can't love me..."

"Yes, I can! I do... I always have, Chief. I just didn't want to see it for what it was." Oh God, he'd said it. Jim felt his stomach turn over, sick with fear. "God, Blair, please come home. It's so damn quiet here, it's driving me crazy."

"I can't come back, Jim, but I can try to help you. Will you let me?"

When he'd woken up this morning he'd been sure that life couldn't get any worse, but he'd been wrong. Was this what it felt like, to have the one thing you needed to live held in front of your eyes, and then taken away again? Jim felt a sob trying to build in his chest, which expanded into a state of panic, determined to contain it. He bit his lip, and took a deep, shakey breath. Even if he had just begged Blair, and made more of a fool of himself than he ever had before in his life, he wasn't going to let him hear how bad it hurt. Jim took another deep breath, and pushed the pain down as hard as he could, picturing it sinking safely to the center of his body.

Finally, when he was sure he could talk, he said "Yes," because he knew it was what his Guide wanted to hear. The very last thing he wanted to do was cause Blair any more pain.

"Jim, I'm so sorry..."

"Don't," Jim ground out, wrapping his arms around himself, his head bent to press the phone tightly to his shoulder. He didn't want Blair to know he was falling apart, but he was afraid of the moment he knew was coming... when Blair would say goodbye, when he would be alone with the truth. He wanted to put it off as long as possible, no matter how painful it was.

"Blair, why is he so important?"

Blair's answer came immediately, "I love him, Jim."

"Why?" He just had to know. He knew it wouldn't make any difference, wouldn't bring Blair back, but he had to know anyway.

"I don't know, because he's good to me, he makes me feel wanted, he loves me back... He's what I've always wanted, someone who really understands me."

Blair hadn't known, all these years, how much Jim needed him? That he was wanted? Well, of course he hadn't, he was such a God damn hard ass he never said the things that were really important, which basically just meant he was a coward... Jim knew that it was true. He'd never made the effort to get to know Blair the way Blair knew him. He'd always told himself that it was who Blair was, an anthropologist, that was what he did. Pick apart people's lives and draw conclusions, and besides, he was the subject, and Blair was the scientist... But in the end he knew that it was really selfishness, and a fear of getting too close, that had kept him from making the effort to know his Guide as well as Blair knew him. Now he was going to pay for it, for the rest of his life.

"There's no way I'm going to get you back, is there?"

"No, I'm sorry. But Jim, that doesn't mean I don't want to help you, or that I don't want to be your friend, I do, but you have to meet me halfway here buddy."

Meet him halfway. Wasn't that all Blair had ever asked of him? How many times had he refused, and forced his Guide to come all the way across to his side of whatever they were at odds about? How many times had he refused this offer? He'd never had the courage before. It was the only way he could feel safe, to know that it was always 'his way or the highway' and that Blair would accept that unconditionally. It made him feel like he was in control of the situation, which he'd needed, desperately, if he was going to put his life into someone else's hands. Now that his pride and his lack of trust had caused him to lose everything, and it didn't matter anymore. Jim vowed that he would never refuse to meet Blair halfway again. He would do anything Blair asked of him, for as long as he survived. He didn't think it would be very long, so it was an easy vow to make. Now that it didn't matter anymore, he could tell Blair the truth, and not care about the consequences.

"I can do that. Blair, you have no idea how sorry I was that I told you to leave that night... I was sorry as soon as you left. I wanted to tell you to come back, I watched you drive away. I was an asshole. Can you forgive me?"

He was asking for forgiveness for everything, not just for that one night when he'd gotten scared and pissed and screwed up everything. He was asking forgiveness for four years of not giving Blair the credit and the thanks he deserved. For not having the guts to put his Guide and their bond first. Instead he worried about what other people would think and what it would make him, to admit that he loved another man. If he couldn't hope for redemption, he wanted forgiveness. He wanted Blair to know, at least, how sorry he was.

"Yeah, of course I can, man. I love you, I always will. You're my Blessed Protector."

It was comforting, to know that Blair forgave him, it made the inevitably of death easier to face. Jim knew he didn't deserve a Guide, didn't deserve to be saved from the things his own actions had forced into being. It was a good thing though, to know that Blair would always remember him. The only thing he didn't want to lose was Blair's respect, everything else could go to hell. He wasn't fit to be a Blessed Protector, but at least he would know that Blair would remember him that way.

"Am I?" he asked softly, letting Blair know that he didn't believe him. He'd hurt his Guide, an unforgivable thing, he'd threatened his life... and it had taken Duncan MacLeod to save him from doing something he never would have been able to live with. "I though MacLeod had taken over that duty."

Blair's next words stabbed straight through his heart, "No, Jim, he's my mate, and I love him more than I ever have anyone on this planet, but you'll always be my Blessed Protector."

"I guess that's good," Jim whispered, not trusting himself to say anything more. If Blair remembered him only as his Blessed Protector, and not all the things he'd done to hurt him, that was the best he could hope for.

"Listen, this is what I want you to do. Stop drinking. Get eight hours sleep. Record everything that happens for twenty-four hours, use a tape recorder if your vision is too messed up to write. I need to know what's going on in your head when your senses act up, and how you react emotionally before and after each episode."

Jim almost said that it didn't matter, he wouldn't be here tomorrow, but he couldn't even think of doing that to his Guide. It was bad enough that Blair would have to deal with it afterwards... His vision was almost completely black now, just a narrow rim of light and shapes around the black circle that made the world look like it had a big whole in the middle of it. Jim thought that if he could hear Blair laugh one more time, he could let go without caring.

"Jesus, Sandburg, why don't you just cut me open and map my brain."

Blair laughed, and Jim smiled in his darkness, cradling the phone close to his cheek.

"Don't offer, man, it'd be fascinating. Seriously, Jim, I need you to do this."

Jim felt a twinge of guilt, but forced himself to answer, telling himself that the best thing he could do was to make this as easy on Blair as possible.

"Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah, okay, I'll do my best." If only his best would be good enough, but it wasn't, so it didn't matter.

"That's really good, Jim. Don't worry, we're going to find a way to get you back online, I promise. Call me tomorrow night, okay? Around eight. Oh, wait, let me give you Duncan's number."

Jim concentrated on Blair's voice, wanting to keep it in his head for as long as possible. The words didn't mean anything, but he wanted to keep his Guide's voice with him.

"You're not going to be home?"

"Um, no, actually, that is home. As of today."

So MacLeod would be with him, when he found out... Jim didn't really want to think about it, but he supposed that was good. Blair shouldn't be alone...

"Oh."

"Jim..."

"Blair, be happy."

"I am." Jim tuned in to Blair's familiar heartbeat hungrily, knowing it was the last time he would hear it. He didn't bother to try to write down or remember the numbers Blair was giving him, he wouldn't be calling them. Blair's heartbeat filled his head, soothing and steady.

Then Blair said goodbye, and Jim sat motionless for a long time in the chair, remembering Blair's voice. He let his mind drift, remembering all the important moments in their four years together as Sentinel and Guide. The night Blair had come to the loft to stay, all the important cases they busted together, all the times Blair had saved his life, and the times he'd saved Blair's. He remembered Naomi in the loft, and how interesting it had been to watch Blair around his Mom.

He remembered the moment of intense relief and thankfulness when he'd pulled Blair off that car and into his arms, holding him safe until the ambulance came, and sitting next to his bed in the hospital, waiting anxiously for the Golden to wear off. It was only two minutes, at the most, that he had squatted on the pavement, holding his Guide tightly to his chest. The whole world had been going crazy around them, but it had felt so damn good, just to hold him, and know he was safe. He thought about coming home to the loft after that undercover work at the prison, and how seeing Blair in the kitchen cooking dinner had erased a week's worth of hell instantly.

He remembered little things, too, pulling back random memories hungrily, wanting to remember every minute with Blair individually before he accepted the unacceptable. He remembered going to the Monastery, and playing basketball with Blair. How his Guide had grinned at him across the court, communicating with his eyes what he wanted Jim to do with the ball. He remembered Blair sitting on the arm of the couch, lecturing him about the difference between a drawl and a twang, and his Guide's fear for him when he went undercover that time. He'd been so relieved when it was all over and he and Jim finally finished the paperwork and went home... He should have seen it then.

Then Jim remembered a night when the Jags game had gone into overtime. Blair, exhausted from one of his typical days of frantically splitting his time between responsibilities at school and at the station with Jim, had fallen asleep next to him on the couch, his head gradually dropping to Jim's shoulder. Jim had sat very still, enjoying the peacefulness of relaxing at home after a long day. The warmth of Blair's sleeping body next to him was a comfort he was so used too that when Blair's head fell to his shoulder he put his arm around his Guide's shoulders to make the weight of his head more comfortable, rather than just waking him up to go to bed.

Jim remembered, vividly, what it had felt like for those few minutes, to sit on the couch with Blair sleeping on his shoulder, no one there to see how happy it made him. Blair had snuggled closer against him when he'd put his arm around his shoulders, and Jim had smiled, thinking that the kid could sleep anywhere. It had felt so right that he'd been sorry when Blair woke up when the game ended, pulling quickly away from the older man. He'd apologized, and stumbled off to bed, muttering about an early class and papers he should have graded.

Jim shook his head, amazed at his own stupidity. How had he missed Blair's feelings for him? Well, that was easy, he'd been afraid to see it for what it was. The kind of bond they'd had... It was more than anything he'd ever had before, and he'd blown it off and taken it for granted and denied it until finally Blair had lost it, and jumped him, and he'd thrown it all away. Why? Was kissing Blair really that disgusting an idea? No, it wasn't, not at all. It was something he'd thought would never, ever, happen, and when it did, he'd been so surprised... Surprised and angry, his conscious reminded him, refusing to let him sugar coat what had happened.

So why had he been so angry? Was it because he was afraid Blair was going to try to do more than kiss him, or was it because he was afraid he'd like it? Jim sighed, leaning forward to curl up over himself. It was stupid to lie to himself, he knew the answer. He'd been afraid that he would like it, and what that would make him. So he hadn't let himself feel it, he'd gone with his instincts, ingrained from years of living in the company of men who would threaten your life if you suggested that they were anything but straight. He'd shoved Blair away from him violently, then grabbed two handfuls of his shirt, yelling in his face and letting the anger cover up his embarrassment.

So it was really cowardice, that had made him react that way... Jim closed his eyes, blocking out the distraction of light, and forced himself to feel the self hatred that welled up inside him. He thought about his life, all the time he had spent alone, in the army, in the jungle, the five years he'd spent trying to learn how to live like a civilian again. Even a cop had to pay lip service and play games and take orders, and that had been hard to learn to live with again after living for so long answering only to his own judgment. The civilized world was full of lies, and people who wasted their lives on nothing more than greed.

He didn't know if he'd done more good than bad in his life, but he hoped he had. It sure as hell hadn't turned out anything like he'd thought it would. He opened his eyes, but he couldn't see anything, just the rim of light around the edges of what should have been his peripheral vision. It made him dizzy, and it was frightening, not being able to see. So much more so than it had been when he'd had Blair here to Guide him. Jim thought about what it would really be like, to spend the rest of his life this way, and knew he didn't even want to try.

Jim decided he didn't to have to think about it anymore, he just wanted to get it over with. He almost laughed at himself, even contemplating the end of his own life, he preferred action to emotion. He though bitterly that whatever had gone wrong with him must have happened a long, long time ago, because it had taken Blair Sandburg to make him see that there was anything wrong at all.

Jim rose from the chair, the forgotten cell phone falling from his lap to the floor. Jim muttered a curse, and bent down to grope for it. His head bumped the coffee table hard as his fingers grasped the antenna of the phone. Straightening up, Jim made his way slowly to the stairs. He couldn't see, but he knew his way around the loft well enough. He went slowly up the stairs, one hand grazing the wall. He was grateful that his sense of touch had come back, otherwise, he wouldn't even be able to do this.

Falling onto the bed, the cell phone tossed beside him and forgotten, Jim groped under the pillow for his gun. He felt a twinge of fear as his hand closed over the grip. He sighed softly, telling himself that this was the best way. He held the gun in his left palm, the fingertips of his other hand moving slowly over the barrel, reading the letters and numbers stamped there, Sigarms P230. He'd had this gun a long time. Jack had been with him when he bought it, right after the back pay from the Army had finally come through. That seemed like a different life entirely. That was someone else.

It was a good gun, extremely reliable. He shot it rarely, except at the range once a month, but it had never jammed on him, not once in ten years. He was glad, now, that he had let Jack talk him into the .380 automatic, a .22 was a far less certain thing under these circumstances. Jim raised the gun slowly to his throat, pressing the muzzle up under his chin. This was a good angle, he'd sever the brainstem instantly, if he had any luck at all. He lowered the gun again, wishing he could see the weapon. He wanted to look at the thing that was going to end his life.

Wrapping his left hand around the grip, Jim cocked the gun, his thumb sliding back along the barrel to ease the safety back. The tiny, familiar click echoed in his ears, as he raised the gun slowly to his mouth. Not under the chin, he didn't want to take the chance of his hand shaking, or screwing this up. Blind, it could happen, he could miss and blow half his face off.

"Please forgive me, God," he whispered softly, and added 'please, forgive me Blair' in his mind.

Jim opened his mouth, tasting metal and cordite and he pushed the short barrel of the compact against the roof of his mouth. He opened his eyes, but saw nothing.


End Part 12

Part 13


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