DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and its characters do not belong to me. They are owned by Pet Fly and Paramount. No copyright infringement was intended by the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This story is an alternate ending to Kikkimax's "The Long Goodbye," and is written with her permission. The crime, its resolution and several of the original characters belong to Kikki. You really need to read her story first, to appreciate this one. Treat this as a missing scene, or alternate scene. It is not a stand-alone story. You can find Kikki's story here: http://www.zirask.org/long1.htm
ACKNOWLEGMENTS: To Dylan Thomas for the title of this story. To my wonderful betas: Kimberly and Elaine. And, most importantly, to Kikkimax, for giving me her blessing to play within her universe.
WARNINGS: AU -- In this version of the story, Jim was unable to stop the impending execution of his new guide. NOT a death story.
SUMMARY: Jim is a prison guard on death row. Blair is a convicted serial killer known as the Manifesto Murderer. The night before his execution, Blair makes a final request. Will Jim be able to honor it?
Comments welcome and appreciated!
Blair Sandburg sat in the small visitation room, nervously tapping his foot to an internal rhythm. His head jerked up as the door to the room opened, and Jim Ellison stepped inside.
"Thanks, man. I thought you might not come." Blair looked across the table at his friend. He picked at the chains that shackled his hands and feet together--a nervous gesture that told Jim the young man had something important on his mind.
Jim smiled sadly, and shook his head. "What makes you think that? God, Blair! They're executing you tomorrow, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it!"
"I - I was afraid you might want to avoid talking with me." Blair glanced down at his hands, then back up at the Sentinel. "You know, the whole good-bye thing and all." Jim opened his mouth to speak, but Blair rushed on. "That's not why I asked you here. I have a request--a need, really."
Jim reached across the table and blanketed the nervously picking hands with his larger ones. "You know I'll do anything in my power. Hell, I've done everything that you, and the law, will let me do." His head dropped, and he fixed his eyes on their joined hands.
"You've done more than I could have ever expected, Jim," Blair assured him. "I didn't really think that turning over the original Manifesto document would do anything for my case. The only thing you could possibly do at this point would be to prove to the world that sentinels exist." Jim lifted his head sharply, and stared into the serious blue eyes across from him. "But I'd never ask you to do that. What I wanted to ask . . . what I need you to do, is be there. Watch the execution."
"No!" Reflexively, Jim pulled his hands away, pushed back his chair and stood. He edged toward the door to the small room. "You can't ask that of me. I couldn't possibly watch you die! You know that. Why would you ask such a thing?"
Blair's head dropped to his chest. Very softly, so that the Sentinel had to dial up his hearing to make out the words, the condemned man spoke. "Because if you don't, I might just lose it--have a panic attack. I don't want to go that way, Jim. It would be the final humiliation. I want to go out with as much dignity as I can muster."
"And how will my being there help?" Jim turned, and made his way back to the chair, settling himself across from the distraught man. "You won't be able to see who's there through the one-way mirror."
"I'll sense you." Blair spoke with confidence. "We're Sentinel and Guide now. I'll know."
Jim studied the intense blue eyes, and saw the truth of that statement mirrored there. If Blair believed this so strongly, he couldn't possibly refuse. He nodded slowly, then pushed back his chair to stand once more. He walked around the table, and pulled Blair to his feet. Despite the awkward shackles, Jim embraced the smaller man. "God, Chief. I just can't believe this is it."
Unable to hug Jim back, Blair rested his head against the broad shoulder. "Just remember what I taught you," he whispered. Lifting his head to catch Jim's eyes, he continued. "You're my sole heir. After my death, my attorney has been instructed to turn over the key to my safe deposit box. In it, you'll find all the sentinel research I've done to date. Maybe something in all that will be a help to you. I just wish we'd had a little more time. . . ."
"You and me, both," Jim murmured, pulling Blair's head back to his shoulder.
There was a brief knock on the door before it opened and Purvis stuck in his head. "Sorry, guys. Time's up." He looked genuinely contrite for having to be the bearer of the bad news.
The two men separated slowly. Jim reached up to brush the wild strands of hair away from Blair's damp cheeks. "Be strong, kid. I'll be there. I promise." He leaned in and brushed a kiss across the full lips, before he was ushered from the room. Blair reached up with trembling fingertips to touch his mouth, staring at the now-closed door.
A few minutes later, Randy Wolfe appeared with a pair of guards to escort the prisoner back to his cell. "How's it going, Blair?" he asked sympathetically.
"Oh, you know," Blair replied, recovering his composure as he shuffled between the two guards down the hallway, "'bout like you'd expect for a guy with less than eighteen hours to live."
Randy sighed. He, and most of the prison staff, had been rooting for Sandburg; praying for a last-minute stay of the impending execution. Turning to the prisoner, he tried to smile. "What would you like to order for your last meal? Anything you want, you've got."
Blair looked at the lanky man, nearly his own age, and returned the weak smile. "I really don't feel much like eating anything right now, Randy," he admitted. "Besides, I hear the drugs take affect faster on an empty stomach."
"Don't do this, Blair," Randy pleaded. "Don't make this harder on yourself or us."
"Not trying to, man. I'm just ready to have it over and done with, you know?"
During the short walk back to the Death Watch cell, they passed the execution room. Blair shivered and tried to hurry past, his face averted. Stepping into his new cell, the young man stood passively as the senior guard unlocked the shackles and removed them from wrists and ankles.
"Thanks, Randy," Blair said with a sigh of relief. He rubbed his chaffed wrists with his hands. "I really hate those things."
Randy reached up to ruffle the halo of curls on top of Blair's head. "Just one more time, Kiddo, and you won't have to worry about them anymore." He looked at his prisoner with sad eyes. "You need anything, anything at all, just yell. Okay?"
Blair nodded, and Randy stepped out of the cell, closing the door with a resounding clang.
Jim hurried out of the prison and fired up the engine on the F150. Peeling out of the parking lot, he headed for Interstate 5 South. The two-and-a-half hour drive to Olympia was the least of his worries. Convincing the Governor of his Guide's innocence was going to be the difficulty.
He arrived at the state capitol at a quarter past five, only to find the doors to the building locked tight. Heaving a sigh of frustration, he headed for the local police department. Marching in and muscling his way to the front desk, he addressed the clerk. "I need to know the address of the Governor's mansion."
"May I ask why?" the clerk inquired.
Jim flashed his badge. "James Ellison, Cascade PD Major Crime. I need to speak with the Governor. A man's life depends on it!"
"May I help you, sir?" Jim turned to see a distinguished-looking black man addressing him. "I'm Captain Markson, Olympia Major Crimes."
"Sir, I need to speak to the Governor. There's an innocent man on death row, set to be executed tomorrow." Jim's distress showed in the nervous twitch of his jaw. "I've got irrefutable evidence of his innocence."
Captain Markson sighed. "I'm afraid the Governor is out of town for the next three days. He's attending a special Mayoral Conference in Cascade."
Jim bit back the expletive that threatened to escape, and turned on his heel. "Thank you, Captain." He tossed the words over his shoulder as he pushed through the glass doors, running for the truck parked out front.
Warden Burgess entered the cell, followed by a state chaplain. "Hello, Blair. This is Chaplain Hurley. We'll be staying with you from now, until your execution."
Blair looked up from his bunk, laying his book on his lap and removing his glasses to look up at his visitors. "That's not necessary. I'd really rather be alone."
"I'm sorry, but that's not an option," Burgess explained. "You're on death watch for the last twelve hours. We're required by law to be here."
"Well, then. Make yourselves comfortable." Blair waved at the chairs set at the far end of the small enclosure. Picking up his book, he settled his glasses back on his nose and began to read, ignoring the two men.
The chaplain came to sit on the bunk next to the condemned prisoner. "Is there anything you'd like to get off your chest, young man?" he said gently.
Blair looked up slowly, weariness and acceptance reflected in his eyes. "I've made my peace, Chaplain. Thank you." He bent back to his reading.
"Is there anything you'd like, Blair?" the warden asked. "You're allowed snacks, soft drinks. . . ."
"I'd like to be able to read in peace," he said with a soft sigh.
Jim barreled into the conference room, slamming the manuscript, interviews and trial transcripts down on the table in front of the Governor.
The man looked up, startled. "Who are you? What do you want?" he demanded. "And how did you get in here past all the security?"
"My getting in here is the least of your worries, Governor," Jim growled. "I'm not leaving until you listen to me." He patted the documents on the table. "Here is the original manuscript, written by David Temco, the real Manifesto Murderer. Sir, you're about to allow the execution of an innocent man!"
The Governor looked up at the guards who had just entered the room. "Remove this man," he ordered.
The guards stepped in behind Ellison, trapping his arms, and dragging him through the door out into the hallway. "Just read the evidence!" Jim shouted back, twisting out of the arm lock the guards had used to hold him.
Sandburg sighed, and looked up. "Okay. All right, already! If you two are just going to sit there and watch me, I might as well get something out of it."
"What is it you want?" Burgess asked, eager to grant any last requests by this man of whom he'd grown quite fond.
"I want to know what to expect in there. Exactly," Blair said, removing his glasses and fixing the warden with hard, blue eyes. "What drugs, what doses, how are they administered, and what are their effects?"
"Oh, Blair," Burgess sighed. "You don't really want to know that. Isn't it enough to know it'll kill you?"
Blair blinked slowly and shook his head. "You just don't get it, do you? It's fear of the unknown, not fear of death itself, that causes my panic attacks. Do you want me freaking out on the way to the execution room?"
The warden shook his head. "All right. I suppose you have the right to know. I've just never known anyone who wanted to before." He looked down at his hands, picking at a stubborn hangnail before continuing. "You'll be ushered into the room and strapped down to the gurney. Two intravenous lines will be introduced. One is the main line, the other a backup. A saline solution will be started through the lines. At 11:00 A.M., I'll give the execution order, and the drugs will be administered. The first drug, roughly five grams of Pentothal, will be introduced. Pentothal is a barbiturate used in general anesthesia, but at that dosage, is lethal by itself. It will put you into a deep sleep. The lines will then be flushed with saline before the next drug is administered." He stopped to look up at the prisoner. Blair had gone white, but stared back with defiant interest. "We use Pavulon next, which is a muscle relaxant. A dose of fifty cc's will paralyze your lungs and diaphragm, stopping your breathing." Blair shuddered, but listened without remarking. "Finally," Burgess continued, "after flushing the lines a final time, fifty cc's of potassium chloride is injected, inducing cardiac arrest. Within a minute or two of the final drug being administered, the physician on duty will declare your time of death. After that, your body will be available to be claimed by family."
"What if I don't have any family?" Blair's voice was soft.
"The state will see to your burial," Burgess said as gently as possible. Looking at the shaken man, he asked, "Would you like a little something to help you sleep tonight?"
"No, sir. I don't believe I'll be sleeping," Blair stated, his voice firming up. "There will be more than enough time for sleep when I'm dead." With that, he once more picked up his book.
It had been a long and tiring day. Governor Lockhart entered his motel room, dumping the stack of reports on the table. As they slid into a disorganized heap, one bound manuscript caught his eye. Sitting down, he picked up the document, and began to thumb through it. Grisly descriptions of five murders were contained within its pages. Rage and fear over senses gone wildly out of control were described in vivid detail. Fascinated, Lockhart began to read.
"I know how he felt." The voice came out of the shadows behind the draperies.
The Governor glanced up, startled by the unexpected intrusion. "Who? What?" he sputtered.
"David Temco, the Manifesto Murderer. I know what he was feeling, and why he was feeling it. Blair Sandburg wasn't lying when he tried to explain to the police about Temco's heightened senses. The man was a sentinel, driven insane by uncontrollable responses. In the end, he committed suicide." Jim stepped out from behind the drapes where he had been hiding.
"You're the man who broke into my conference this evening," the Governor stated, recognizing his uninvited guest. "What, exactly, is it that you want?"
"A stay of execution and a complete pardon for Blair Sandburg." Jim shifted slightly, leaning forward until he was inside the Governor's personal space. "He didn't commit those murders. David Temco did. Sandburg was convicted on some pretty damn shaky circumstantial evidence."
Lockhart sifted through the transcripts accompanying the manuscript, and shook his head. "This is so far-fetched. Without proof of the existence of these so-called 'sentinels', I don't see how I could possibly issue a stay. The evidence looks pretty damning to me."
"You want evidence of the existence of sentinels?" Jim asked. "I can help you with that."
At 10:30 A.M., Warden Burgess rose to shake Blair awake. The young man had dozed off, despite his vow to stay awake, and the warden hadn't had the heart to disturb him. "Blair?" The condemned man stirred, and opened bleary blue eyes.
"Huh? Wha. . . ?"
"It's time to get ready, son," the warden said softly. "We've got a change of clothes for you, and there's time to take a shower, if you like."
"Sounds good," Blair said, standing and taking the new pair of jeans and blue work shirt from the warden. The door to the cell was unlocked, and Randy Wolfe stood ready to escort the prisoner to the shower.
After spending a stressful twenty-four hours in the death watch cell, the hot spray of water felt good on his skin. Blair scrubbed the sweat and grime from his body and hair, then dressed in the crisp new clothes the warden had given him.
Returning to his cell, he was met by Burgess and the chaplain. The warden spoke. "Do you have any last statement for the records, Blair?"
"No, sir," the young man answered, holding out his wrists so the shackles could be secured.
Burgess shook his head. "We're not shackling you this time. You've never given us any trouble, and I think that at the end, we owe you this one concession. You'll go to your death with at least some dignity intact." Blair nodded his acceptance and offered the warden a small smile. "It's time."
Flanked by Warden Burgess and Guard Randall Wolfe, and followed by the chaplain, Blair made his way toward the execution room.
Jim made his way through the rows of seats, to take one in the front row, center. The Governor had been impressed by his little display the night before, but had still wanted to review the pile of documents Jim had presented him. Now, it was down to the wire. He listened intently for the ringing of the phone that would signal the stay. Reaching out, he placed a hand on the sill of the one-way mirror, and stared at the empty execution gurney.
He was the first to arrive. He watched as the room slowly filled with local dignitaries and anxious media personnel. The long-awaited execution of the infamous Manifesto Murderer was finally about to take place.
As the hour neared, a guard stepped into the small room and walked over to the mirror, pulling a curtain across it, so the men and women assembled to view the execution could no longer see in. A short while later, Jim could hear the rustling of feet as a group entered the soundproofed room. Dialing up his hearing, he could catch the quick, staccato beat of his Guide's heart, hammering in terror. There was a sharp cry of fear, followed by the precious heart rate slowing to a more normal pattern. Jim could only imagine what must be going through Blair's mind in these last few moments before his death. Did he sense Jim's presence on the other side of the mirror? Jim prayed that he did.
Using deep breathing techniques that his mother had taught him, Blair managed to stay relatively calm as he was walked to the execution room. But once the door opened, and he saw the gurney, his heart rate soared, his head swam, and his vision grayed around the edges. He was half-walked, half-dragged over to the bed where he was lifted bodily by the guards and placed on the gurney. As they began to strap him down, laid out in a crucifixion pose, his already rapid pulse skyrocketed. Leads to a cardiac monitor were attached to his chest. Then, as the doctor set the first needle into his arm, he couldn't help the small cry of fear that escaped his lips.
"Calm down, Blair," the doctor told him, smiling slightly. "We're just setting up. Nothing is going to happen for a few more minutes. I'd like to let you know how we're going to work this. First, we'll start a saline flow, and then the first drug will be administered."
"I'm aware of the procedure, Doctor," Blair said, cutting him short.
Slightly flustered, the physician continued, "I can assure you, you'll feel no pain."
"Thanks. That's very reassuring," Blair replied, an edge of sarcasm lacing his tone. He craned his neck to get a look at the closed one-way mirror. His Sentinel sat on the other side of that barrier. Of this, he was certain. Taking a deep breath, he willed his heart rate to return to normal.
The curtain was pulled open, and Jim got his first look at his Guide, strapped and helpless, awaiting the execution order. "Come on, come on. . . ." he muttered under his breath, waiting for the ringing of the phone reserved for the Governor. He watched as Blair turned his head and looked right at him. He knew the young man couldn't see him through the mirror, but he was buoyed by the small thumb's up Blair gave him.
The clock ticked, and the minute hand moved to the twelve: Eleven o'clock. Jim held his breath, sending up a final prayer to a God he wasn't even sure existed. Please don't let this happen. He heard Warden Burgess give the order, and gasped as the precious heartbeat began to slow with the administration of the Pentothal. Slower and slower. Blair's eyes were closed, and the lines of stress, so present in the past few days, smoothed out.
Jim felt as though he, himself, was suffocating. He struggled to draw air into reluctant lungs as he watched the life slowly draining from the man who had so quickly become his dearest friend. Who am I kidding? he thought. I love him. . . .
The phone rang. Time stretched out.
Warden Burgess answered the phone, nodded and quickly ordered the execution to be stopped. The Governor had come through. But had he called too late?
The doctor quickly entered the room, accompanied by a guard. The curtain was drawn so that the witnesses could not see what was going on, while the doctor removed the needles and began the process of trying to revive his patient.
Burgess stepped forward to address the gathered witnesses. "Ladies and Gentlemen. I have just received a call from the Governor granting Blair Sandburg a full pardon. The real Manifesto Murderer, David Temco, died by his own hand nearly four years ago."
Jim immediately stood and spoke up. "What about Blair? They started the drugs before the call came in."
"He's being taken to the infirmary now, and a medevac helicopter has been called to deliver him to Cascade General. His condition is guarded, but he's still alive."
The room erupted in a feeding frenzy, as the reporters clamored for more information. In the resulting melee, Jim slipped out and headed for his truck. He intended to be at the hospital when Blair arrived.
Jim paced anxiously outside the room where Blair had been settled. Finally, a doctor appeared, and Jim snagged his arm. "How is he?"
"His condition is stable, but critical. His heart stopped once during the transport, but he was revived," the doctor told him. "He has an extremely high level of Pentothal in his system but, fortunately, he didn't get the full dose. We'll have to watch him carefully over the next several days, as the drug works its way out of his system. If he survives the next twenty-four hours, his chances are very good for a full recovery."
"May I see him now?"
The doctor evaluated the man standing in front of him, and slowly shook his head. "Are you family?"
"I'm the closest thing to next-of-kin Blair has for now," Jim answered evasively.
"He's deeply asleep at the moment. I'm afraid he won't even be aware of your presence."
"That's okay," Jim hurried to assure the doctor. "I'd just like to sit with him."
"I think that would be all right," the doctor conceded. "Just stay out the way of the medical personnel attending him, and I don't see a problem."
The doctor moved off, and Jim immediately slipped into the room. Sitting in a chair next to the bed, he lifted a cool, limp hand, cradling it between both of his own. "Hey, Chief. You made it, kid. Now just hang in there a little longer, and we can go home." Watching the placid face, relaxed in deep sleep, Jim listened to the regular breathing and to the rhythm of the slowly beating heart. He was taken by surprise when another voice sounded over his shoulder.
"It was a close call. I'm glad he made it."
Jim turned to see Governor Lockhart standing behind him, gazing at the figure in the bed. "He's not out of the woods yet," he informed the Governor. "The next twenty-four hours are going to be a little touch-and-go. What happened, anyway? I'd given up on the warden receiving your call."
"You gave me a lot of information to digest," the Governor admitted, moving to stand next to the bed. "I had to make certain I was making the right decision. It wouldn't do to release a guilty man."
"But I thought you said all I had to do was present proof that sentinels exist." Jim's voice was questioning as he looked up at Washington's head-of-state.
"Your--talents--were very impressive," Lockhart admitted, "but I also needed to review all the evidence you presented to me. I finished the review with time to spare. . . ."
"So why was the call late?" Jim interrupted. "You nearly cost Blair his life! You could still be the cause of him dying."
The Governor dropped his gaze. "I realize that. Just as I was ready to make the call, I received an urgent message from one of our state senators. By the time I was able to free the lines, it was already eleven o'clock. I truly regret the delay. I realize that it may still cost this man his life. I can only pray that he's a fighter, and will pull through."
"If you mean what you say," Jim challenged, "come back tomorrow and apologize to Blair when he's awake."
"I will do that," Lockhart promised.
Jim watched the man leave, then turned back to Blair. Letting his fingers trail down the stubbled cheek, he watched the man he had grown to love sleep. Exhausted himself, he finally decided to heed the siren call. "Holler if you need me, kid," he whispered. "I'm going to catch a few Z's." Resting his arms on the railing of the bed, Jim lowered his head and closed his eyes.
The sound of monitors blaring, and people rushing about, woke Jim a few hours later. As he was roughly pushed aside, he realized that the precious heartbeat which had lulled him to rest, no longer sounded from the bed. He watched in terrified fascination as the doctors and nurses brought in the crash cart and put the electric paddles on Blair's chest. "Three - two - one - clear!" Everyone stepped back as the machine delivered a massive shock to Blair's heart. His frail body lifted from the mattress as the electricity passed through him. "Again!" Jim wanted to shout, wanted to make them stop hurting Blair, but he stood frozen as another shock was delivered and the doctor anxiously watched the monitor.
Jim was aware of the return of Blair's pulse a fraction of a second before the monitors recorded it. "Thank God," one of the nurses breathed, as the equipment was removed and set in the hall just outside the room.
"Is he going to be all right?" Jim asked nervously, as the nurse fussed over her patient.
"I think so," she answered guardedly. "He has an extreme overdose of Pentothal in his system. It's working its way out, slowly, but it does tend to depress the breathing and heart functions. We'll be monitoring him very closely."
The nurse patted Jim's shoulder. "You're welcome. He's very lucky to have someone as loyal as you. Not many visitors would have stayed this long."
"I'm not leaving until he does," Jim declared.
The nurse smiled and nodded. "Good. There's a menu by the phone. Feel free to place an order with the cafeteria. They'll deliver anything you like."
"You're welcome. I'll be by to check on Blair again in a little while." With that, the nurse turned and walked out of the room.
Jim picked up Blair's hand once more, and was rewarded by the slightest curling of his fingers. The squeeze wouldn't have been noticeable to anyone except a sentinel. For once, Jim was pleased to be cursed with hyperactive senses.
The quiet voice from the bed startled the Sentinel from his reflective state. "Hey, Blair! How're you feeling?"
The young man glanced around the room, then focused on Jim. "I know this is a stupid question, but where am I?"
"Cascade General Hospital."
"How'd I wind up here?"
"You were executed thirty hours ago," Jim stated matter-of-factly. "How much do you remember?"
"Not a lot." Blair gave Jim a lopsided grin. "If I'm dead, why do I feel so lousy?"
"Because, Einstein, they shot you full of Pentothal. The Governor called in a stay of execution, but he was about thirty seconds too late. The warden had already given the order, and the drugs had been started. Lucky for you, the Governor got through in time."
"I feel all achy, and my chest hurts," Blair said, rubbing a hand across his front.
"That would probably be because your heart stopped two separate times, and they had to revive you with cardiac shock," Jim explained. He took hold of the restless hand, rubbing his thumb across the knuckles. "What matters is, you survived it, and you're going to be all right."
"Jim, why did the Governor call in a stay of execution?" Blair fixed his friend with curious blue eyes.
"Because you're an innocent man," came a voice from the doorway. The man smiled, and walked over to the bed, extending his hand, which Blair shook. "I'm Garrett Lockhart, Governor of the State of Washington. Mr. Ellison, here, convinced me of your innocence."
Blair looked back and forth between the two men, hoping for a bit more information. When none appeared to be forthcoming, he spoke again. "Um, I was told the only information that could free me would be validation of my theory on primitive sentinels. What changed your mind?"
"Your friend here," Lockhart said with a smile, "and his special--talents."
"His 'talents'?" Blair looked at Jim, who blushed and nodded. "Oh, Jim. You didn't! Do you know what the ramifications of coming out are?"
"Perfectly, Chief. You live." The Sentinel smiled at the bewildered man.
"We have an agreement," the Governor added. "I keep his secret, in exchange for the use of these special abilities, when needed." Blair nodded his understanding, a smile growing slowly across his face. "I'm having Jim reassigned back to Cascade PD's Major Crime Division as a detective. I understand, though, that your presence is required in order for him to use his special talents to their full capacity." Blair's head jerked to the side, pinning Jim with his gaze. "So," Lockhart continued, "I've made arrangements to have you assigned as his civilian ride-along partner. You won't be required to take Academy training, but you should consider taking the firearms course."
"Nah," Blair said, shaking his head. "I don't much like guns. After four years on death row, killing people doesn't seem too appealing to me."
The Governor chuckled. "I can see your point. But the idea is for you to be able to protect yourself--and Jim. Anyway, you can discuss it all with your new captain once you're feeling better and on the job." Lockhart began to slowly move away from the bed. "It's been very nice meeting you, Blair. Take care."
"Thanks," Blair replied. "I will."
Once the Governor was gone, Blair turned his attention back to his new partner. "You told him?"
"It was the only way." Jim shrugged. "Besides, he promised to keep the secret, and if you can't trust the Governor. . . ." Both men chuckled.
"So, when do I get sprung from here?" Blair wondered.
"Another day or two, I suspect," Jim answered. "The doctors want to make good and sure that you're not going to crash on them again."
"And where do I go when I get out?"
"I don't have a home. The prison has been my home for the past four years," Blair reminded him.
"My home. Our home. You'll be coming home with me," Jim stated in no uncertain terms.
"Wow, this is your place?" Blair asked, stepping through the door of Jim's loft apartment.
"Do you like it?" Jim asked, a little anxiously. "There's a little room beneath the stairs that I figured we could clean out for your bedroom." He led the way, pushing back the curtain that covered the entrance. "We can fix that, too," he said. "I was thinking maybe French doors?"
Blair peered over Jim's shoulder at the small room. It wasn't much larger than his cell had been, but had the potential for being much more homey and comfortable. Not to mention the added advantage of being able to lock and unlock his own doors. He grinned. "It'll be perfect. Thanks, man."
"You ain't seen nothing yet," Jim teased, guiding the young man out of the room and across the wide floor to the glass balcony doors. Pulling them open, he stepped outside, followed closely by Blair.
"Oh, wow! I could live out here!" Blair exclaimed, awe coloring his voice. "Do you have any idea how long it's been since I've seen a view like this?" He walked over to the railing and looked down. A shiver ran up his spine, and he backed off a step.
"Afraid of heights?" Jim teased from behind him.
"Nah, it's not really the heights," Blair explained. "It's gravity I have a problem with. Falling isn't so bad, it's that big splat at the end that bothers me."
Jim chuckled. "Well, at least you get to worry about it again."
"That's one way to look at it," Blair agreed, smiling. He turned to find Jim standing so close to him, he could feel the heat radiating from the other man's body. Reaching out, he wrapped his arms around the taller man. Finding the embrace returned, he tilted his head back, offering his mouth. Jim swooped down, taking the gift, tasting the heady flavor of his Guide.
Pulling away with reluctance, Jim ushered the younger man back into the living area. "Why don't you make yourself comfortable, and I'll fix us some dinner?" he suggested. "The doc said you ought to continue to take it easy for a few days. I figure we can watch some TV tonight, then tackle that new room of yours tomorrow."
"Sounds like a plan," Blair said. "But how about me helping with dinner? I used to love to cook." He wandered over to the kitchen. "What did you have in mind?"
"Something quick. Maybe a stir-fry. I've got some leftover chicken in the fridge, a variety of veggies and some lo-mein noodles." He went to rummage in the refrigerator, pulling out the items as he spoke. Blair grabbed them as Jim handed them out, placing them on the counter.
"I can start chopping the vegetables while you get the wok ready," Blair suggested. He proceeded to poke around the kitchen until he spotted the holder with the chopping knives.
Jim poured a bit of oil into the wok and began to whisk the chicken in it, browning the strips slightly. Blair brought over the bowl of cut up vegetables, dumping them in on top of the meat. Lastly, the fresh noodles were added and the whole meal was stirred a couple minutes longer.
Jim handed Blair the large spoon he had been using to stir the mixture. "Keep this from burning while I set the table." Blair whisked the food around in the wok, keeping a close eye on Jim, so that he could begin to learn where everything was kept.
Once they had settled down to eat, silence reigned, until Blair could stand it no longer. "Look, um, out on the balcony--"
"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim quickly interrupted. "I took advantage. Won't happen again." He dropped his head and concentrated on his food.
Blair reached across the table, covering Jim's hand with his own. "No. It was nice." Jim looked up to see a radiant smile beaming back at him. "I felt that spark right away. I just didn't know if you did."
Jim nodded. "Yeah. I felt it, too. I don't think I recognized it at first, though. I began understanding my feelings better when the visitations started. All I wanted to do was hold you, devour you, and all you wanted to do was talk." He grinned to take the sting from his words.
"I didn't think I had much time left, man," Blair explained. "The sentinel stuff was important. Besides, it didn't pay to start something we'd never be able to consummate."
"We have all the time in the world, now," Jim reminded him.
Blair blushed, and turned his attention back to his food. Once he had managed to clean his plate, he pushed back his chair and patted his stomach with both hands. "That was great, but boy, am I stuffed!"
"Good," Jim replied with a grin. "We need to get a little meat back on those bones of yours."
"My bones are perfectly fine just the way they are," Blair retorted, standing and carrying his dishes into the kitchen. He rinsed them off, and began loading the dishwasher. "So, what's on the tube tonight?" he asked, trying for a casual tone, yet knowing the Sentinel who sat only a few feet away could hear the hammering of his heart.
"Whatever your heart desires," Jim answered magnanimously. "I'll bet it's been a while since you had much selection of what to watch."
There was a definite bounce to his step as Blair made his way over to the couch. "Have you got the Discovery Channel? Or the History Channel?" he asked.
"Those, and a couple hundred more." Jim chuckled. "I just had one of those mini-dishes installed about a month ago."
"Cool!" Blair settled on the couch, and began flipping through the channels. It wasn't too long, however, before the stressful day began to catch up with the young man. He'd only been released from the hospital earlier that evening. The excitement of coming home, home, what a wonderful concept, the large meal and the residual effects of the Pentothal all conspired against him, and he soon found his eyes drooping shut.
Jim turned off the TV, plucked the remote control from senseless fingers, and went to find an extra pillow and blanket. He would have preferred offering to share his bed, but his new roommate had taken that decision from him by falling asleep on the couch. He removed Blair's shoes, then carefully stripped him down to his underwear. Placing a pillow beneath Blair's head, and covering him with a brightly woven Peruvian blanket, Jim tucked him in. "Sweet dreams, Chief." Turning out the lights, he made his way up the stairs to sleep alone.
Some time in the middle of the night, a quiet mewling noise woke Jim. He listened intently to the soft sounds as they began to escalate. By the time a fearful cry rent the quiet of the loft, Jim was already halfway down the stairs. He knelt next to the huddled figure on the couch and gently shook Blair awake. "C'mon, kid, wake up," he coaxed.
Heavy lids blinked sluggishly over clear blue eyes. Then, suddenly, Blair bolted up, shedding the blanket and sitting on the back of the couch, fully awake. "Gods!" He panted, trying to catch his breath.
Jim reached out and took Blair's hands, pulling him off his precarious perch, and sitting next to him on the cushions. "It was just a nightmare," he soothed. "After what you've been through, I think you're entitled."
Blair worked to get his breathing back under control. His sudden burst of adrenaline began to dissipate quickly. His head became too heavy to hold up, and he found himself resting against the solid strength of the Sentinel. "Would you mind," he asked shyly, "staying with me for a while? I don't think I'm quite ready to be left alone."
"I have a better idea," Jim said with a grin. "How about we move this party upstairs?" He stood, bringing Blair with him. Wrapping an arm firmly around the younger man's waist, Jim guided him up the stairs and helped him into bed. Crawling in beside him, he gathered Blair into his arms. "How's this?" he asked, before blanketing Blair's mouth with a kiss.
When he finally came up for air, Blair looked at Jim with heavy-lidded eyes and a satisfied grin. "Heaven," he answered, curling into the broad chest and strong arms.
The golden light of dawn bathed the Sentinel and Guide with a warm glow. It was a new day--the first day of the rest of their lives.