Disclaimer: The Sentinel was created by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo. I don't own them, I'm just borrowing them, and am making no money from this. Please don't sue me. I is po' folk and you can't get blood from a turnip.
Rating: PG-13 (Language)
Date: Final Draft (hopefully) re-edited for formatting (got a better program) & a few minor changes - Sept. 26, 2002
Author's Notes: Oh, no, not a missing scene! Sorry, but yes, this is a "missing" scene - several, in
fact - of "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg". This story came from several factors.
Part I came from my dissatisfaction with the too-short, abrupt emotional resolution to the original story (which would have been better as a two-parter anyway). Therefore, please be warned. This part of the story contains lots of emotional h/c, angst and smarm.
Part II came from two things:
1. I used to have a tendency to notice things that other people missed or ignored, and put together small clues to come to a correct conclusion. (This resulted in, among other things, surprising the hell out of a couple of Game Masters.)
2. When learning creative writing, I was taught never to include anything that didn't have a purpose. Especially in visual media with it's severe time constraints. So, for instance, even a Red Herring has a purpose: to be a Red Herring.
So I latched onto a scene in TSbyBS that others seemed to have missed or ignored (at least, I've never read a story that said anything about it). I've included the scene, as well as my interpretation of the reason it's there at all.
Part III came from the realization that everybody was making one assumption about where Blair got his guide abilities, without stopping to consider the other possible source. And since Cindy Combs didn't actually blow me out of the water when I ran the idea by her, I went ahead and wrote it.
And, although this story wasn't originally supposed to be a part of a series, I ended up splitting what was supposed to be one story into two, and called the series “Repercussions.” There may even be a third one, too, as there are a few more situations I have in mind that need telling. And, since these situations set up components of some of the other AU's I have planned/started, you should read these before starting any of my other series (unless otherwise stated).
And, lastly, this story wasn't beta-read. If there are any mistakes, please let me know, so I can correct them. Thanks.
THE GUIDE BY JAMES ELLISON
by De Engi
Cascade General Hospital, The Morning After The Press Conference
Jim was wheeled out into the hospital waiting area, leg treated and bandaged, visits to Simon and Megan done, and expecting to see Blair there, ready to drive him back to the loft. To his surprise, it was Joel, instead, looking grim.
"Joel," Jim said, uncertainly, "what are you doing here? Where's Sandburg?"
"At the loft." Joel told him. "Packing."
"What?" Jim said, startled. "Packing? What for? Because of the news conference thing? But I thought-"
"You thought, huh? When? I must'a missed it, 'cause all I've seen you do lately is bitch and moan about how lousy your life is." Joel snarled, deliberately pulling no punches. There wasn't time, not if he was going to give Jim any chance at all of patching up his relationship with Blair before the younger man was gone for good. Besides, Joel was angry at Jim anyway, and figured it was long past time somebody told this block-head the facts of life, and since Simon was in no shape to do it, Joel decided he would.
"No, damn it! You listen," Joel stated firmly as he settled Jim in his car. "You've got one last chance at this, and if you mess it up, so help me, I'll sure as hell never speak to you again. And probably, neither will anybody else, either." He started the car and pulled quickly out of the parking lot. He had to get Jim back to the loft in time to stop Blair. "Blair told me everything, because we're friends and he trusts me, and he needed somebody to talk to. And cry on. He's given up everything for you. Not just his doctorate and his dreams, but his whole life. He'll be lucky if he can get a job flippin' burgers after this, 'cause nobody's gonna hire an admitted fraud. And you just act like it's nothing. Like it was even expected of him 'cause you're so important. Well, man, I'm here to tell you - you're not. I don't care what kind of super-powers you do or don't have - the whole damn world doesn't revolve around you! Blair's a person, too, you know. And he deserves some respect! All you ever do is use him for your own needs, and blame him when things don't go the way you think it should. Well, he's my friend, and I'm not gonna let you do it anymore. So if you want him to stay, you damn well better beg and plead and do whatever you have to. And if he stays, and if you ever hurt him again, well, I don't care what kind of Special Forces stuff you know, I'll kick your ass!" Joel ran out of steam, then, and rocked, agitated, clenching the wheel, trying to keep enough attention to his driving not to: A. crash into anything, and B. punch his passenger in the nose.
Jim just sat there a moment, stunned. He'd thought that he and Blair had come to an agreement - or, at least, a settlement - of the issues. Now, here was Joel telling him that instead this was the straw that broke the camel's back. He thought - really thought - about what Joel had said. That Jim believed the world revolved around him and that Blair should just ignore his own needs - and, unable to do that any longer, had no choice but to leave.
'Oh, god, buddy,' Jim thought. 'Have I really treated you that badly?'
It sounded uncomfortably like an abusive relationship. The kind that led to the domestic dispute calls he'd gone out on as a uniformed officer.
<<"It's always 'me, me, me'! It's always about your needs, what about my needs?
I have them, too, you know!">>
**"Your needs? Well, to hell with your needs, Bitch! Who makes the money in this household anyway...?!"**
Those situations frequently ended up with someone in the hospital. Sometimes, it was the officers who answered the call.
Jim didn't like to contemplate the possibility, but he couldn't ignore it. Because he realized that Joel was right. He blamed Blair every time something interfered with his senses, and demanded that the younger man do something about it. He'd gotten angry when he thought Blair was going to accompany Dr. Stoddard on his expedition, and about the intro to his diss, and...a discomforting number of other things, too.
'Damn!' Jim thought, disheartened. This past year, especially, he'd been hard on his partner - even to the point of tossing him out over the Alex Barnes incident. Instead of telling the younger man about his vision - which had been an obvious warning he hadn't heeded - and keeping him close to protect him, Jim had rejected his Guide, like he'd heard as a child that mother birds did to their offspring if they detected human scent on them. He'd detected another Sentinel's scent on Blair, and had rejected him.
And gotten him - almost - killed.
And then had proceeded to make nice with Blair's murderer.
'Well, we didn't understand what was happening.' Jim thought - and immediately realized he was rationalizing. It was true, but that didn't make it right. 'Ok, so how can it be made right?' He asked himself. 'Provided it's not already too late.'
"Drive faster, Joel." Jim told the other man.
Jim barreled into the loft, not even noticing Naomi, who was standing by the kitchen island, wringing her hands. All Jim could focus on was Blair, coming out of his room with an arm full of books to be dumped into the box on the floor just outside his room's door. Jim stopped and gulped. Some part of him hadn't believed that Blair really was leaving. Until now, when the evidence was literally right in front of his eyes. For the first time, he saw how the last few months had taken an obvious toll on the younger man. 'He looks tired and worn down, with the kind of pain in his eyes that you see in street people who'd been kicked around by life too many times.' Jim thought, disheartened. There were dark circles under Blair's eyes, and a shadow of beard.
But it was the pain in his eyes that made Jim look away. Knowing that he had helped put it there.
And Jim finally understood the vision of shooting the wolf. 'It wasn't a physical injury I was inflicting, but a spiritual one. Because I had seen the Wolf, seen it's trust, and hadn't recognized him; hadn't recognized you, buddy, as the soul-companion you'd become. Or maybe just afraid you'd hurt me like everybody else, and I simply tried to "beat you to the punch", before you could choose Alex over me; those damned fear-based responses you kept talking about taking over just when I should have avoided that the most. And maybe that hurt even more. God, how many times did you warn me about this, and I still didn't listen!'
"Joel told me you're leaving." Jim said. "I couldn't believe it, but it's true. You really can't take anymore, can you?"
"No, man. I can't." Blair replied tersely. "I can't live like this anymore."
Jim looked away, his heart sinking. He knew he had to do something - say something - to try to make it right between them, but what?
'You're the one who's good with words, Chief, not me!' Jim thought in despair.
"Is there any way I can make this right?" Jim said. "Just tell me what you want, buddy, and I'll do it."
"Really?" Blair said with unaccustomed bitterness. He stopped what he was doing, walked up to Jim, and got right into the taller man's personal space. "Will you treat me with some respect? Will you trust me as your Guide and Shaman? Will you stop fighting me tooth and nail every time I try to help you and then blame me for everything that goes wrong because of it?" The smaller man turned away in pain and stalked off a few paces, as though needing the space to keep himself from punching the other man. "I thought we were friends, man. I thought I had a home here. I thought you were teaching me what home and friendship was all about, man. I don't like being so wrong about something; so gullible that it's totally humiliating. I've never been called stupid before, but man, I sure was stupid about this, wasn't I?" Blair stopped, more because he'd run down than anything, but it gave Jim an opening.
"Blair, I don't know how to say how sorry I am." Jim began. "I never wanted this to happen. I don't even know how it happened. But I always try to learn from my mistakes. Tell me what you want?" He said again.
"I don't know if I can stand to give you another chance, man. You told me I betrayed you, but you betrayed me, too. How do I trust you again?"
Jim closed his eyes and bowed his head. He felt the sting of tears, and fought it, at first, then decided it wasn't worth the effort. 'Sorry for being so unmanly, dad.' The sarcastic thought came and went in a remote part of his mind. The rest of his mind only felt his soul bleeding. He took a deep breath, though it didn't help, then answered Blair's question.
"I don't know." He said. "I don't know what I can say or do to make things right. I'm sorry, Blair." He managed to blurt, finally. "For...uh...everything that's happened in the past few months. I never wanted it like this. I really am sorry." His voice broke, and he finished in a whisper. Blair was silent for a long moment. Then, sounding more like he was talking to himself, he said,
"Love means never having to say you're sorry..."
Jim thought about that a second, and realized that was wrong.
"No, actually, I think maybe it's the most important reason to say it, Chief." Again, his voice broke. 'God what a coward.' He thought, too ingrained with the "heterosexual-male-in-Western-Society" syndrome that kept him from saying "I love you" to a man when he needs it the most because our society equates love with sex. All Jim could do is hope and pray that Blair truly understood.
Blair turned and looked at Jim, and there were tears in his eyes as he replied,
"Then I guess I should say I'm sorry - about everything - too." His voice broke at the end. Jim went to him, took his face in hands as gentle as if handling glass. Blair sensed that the gentleness was fear; Jim was afraid he'd reject the contact in disgust and anger.
"Please stay?" Jim knew he didn't have any right to ask that, but he knew he couldn't live without Blair: partner, friend, little brother, Guide. He knew that he couldn't go on without the younger man.
Blair saw despair in the other man's eyes.
'God, how do I convince him?' Jim prayed, with his entire soul.
And was answered.
Jim looked up, startled. He was no longer standing in the loft. Instead, he was kneeling on the ground in the jungle, eyes adjusting immediately to the blue light that bathed everything. There was a soft, furry weight in his arms, and he looked down.
And saw, with gut-wrenching shock, the Wolf, an arrow protruding from it's side. Jim's arrow, fired in ignorance all those months ago.
He could feel the life slipping away, and realized that Blair's soul was dying from Jim's actions.
"No." Jim whispered, the fear and pain in his own soul so intense that it doubled him over the limp form, tears coming to his eyes. "No, please." He begged, as the tears streamed unheeded down his face. All at once, Jim grabbed the arrow-shaft, and yanked it out of the pain-racked body. Not that it mattered. He could hear the labored breathing; the slowing heartbeat. He realized he was too late.
Suddenly, the Panther sat before him, on the other side of the dying Wolf. The once-proud animal was in bad shape: It's once glossy fur now dull, it's bright eyes glassy and dead-looking, and it had a huge hole in it's chest which was bleeding profusely. And beyond the Panther, unnoticed by the distraught ex-ranger, Blair - in his human form, dressed in colorful garb - standing there, watching.
And Jim spoke to the still form in his arms; spoke as one can only speak to an animal - or a gravesite.
"Please don't go." He whispered brokenly. "I can't live without you. You're my friend and partner and little brother. You're my Guide. I can't do this without you. I don't even want to try." Jim buried his face in the neglected, coursened fur, sobbing. The Wolf's heartbeat and breathing continued to slow and falter, rattling ominously in it's chest. Finally, he knew what he had to do. "Please, if you go, please take me with you. It's only right I die for hurting you. It was wrong to hurt you. I would give you my soul in re-payment, if it was worth anything. But it's pretty weary, and there are dark places and scars you haven't healed yet, but if you think it's worth anything, it's yours. It's yours, take it, please." And then, finally, in the depths of his despair, Jim was able to say the words. "I love you, Blair."
Unnoticed by Jim, who was still hugging the Wolf to him, the individual strands of it's fur rough against his face, the wound in the wolf's body began to bleed golden light.
The wound in the Panther's chest also bled light. And the Panther, dying, pulled the Wolf from Jim's arms. The Panther laid down, covering the Wolf with it's own body. The light from the Panther flowed and mingled with the Wolf's. And then the Panther's head drooped, and fell. It's eyes closed. It stilled. Jim laid down, also, giving himself up to the darkness. He felt himself start to drift, darkness closing in.
"No." Blair, stunned, spoke for the first time. Finally, he saw what Jim really felt. His despair and guilt. And saw that the knowledge that the younger man was leaving really was killing him. He wouldn't survive without Blair, not just because his senses would overload, or that he'd zone out and die, but because he didn't want to be alone.
It really was about friendship, after all.
And then...the Wolf twitched. Then it raised it's head. It crawled slowly out from underneath the unmoving panther.
The Wolf realized something was wrong. It nudged the Panther with it's nose. Shocked, Blair realized that the Panther was dead. Jim had really given Blair - or rather, the Wolf - his soul. Which was why the Wolf now lived. And this was not just the momentary touch that had brought Blair back at the fountain, but a total and permanent giving of Jim's very being to bring the Wolf back.
"No!" Blair cried. "No, this isn't right." Blair had, in a remote corner of his mind, wanted to lash out at Jim for the hurts he'd caused - even Blair was only human - but he'd never wanted this.
And the Wolf realized it, too. It moved at the same time Blair did, the Wolf moving to the Panther, while Blair went to Jim. Blair pulled Jim up into his arms. The Wolf lay on the ground, facing the Panther.
"No, this isn't what I wanted." Blair told Jim's body. "I was just angry at how you'd hurt me, but I never wanted this! Come back, Jim, please! I don't just want your soul, I want our souls to be one, together. Alive together. I love you, Jim, please come back!" And Blair bowed his head, weeping.
Therefore, he didn't see the Wolf open it's mouth. Didn't see the light that streamed from it and into the Panther's death-slackened jaw. Didn't see how the Panther trembled, and moved, and opened it's eyes - and fed light back into the Wolf's open eyes. The light moved freely back and forth between them, feeding and sustaining each other, joining them as one.
Blair was startled as a hand touched his face. He opened his eyes - and looked right into Jim's open eyes.
"Jim?" Blair breathed, afraid to believe what he was seeing.
"Here, Chief." Jim told him. He moved his other hand up to cradle Blair's face in both his hands.
"Jim, I love you." Blair told him, momentarily unafraid to say the words. He noticed the light, then, and looked towards the Panther and the Wolf, still feeding each other the light. And Blair could feel the connection growing between him and his Sentinel, like a faint thread that tied him to Jim. And somehow, Blair knew what this connection could do: enabling him to gauge the older man's well-being, and allowing Jim to locate his Guide anywhere, among other things.
By the look of surprise on Jim's face, Blair realized that Jim could feel the connection, too and also knew what it meant.
They both looked back at the Wolf and the Panther. Both their wounds were closed now, if not totally healed. But that, Blair realized, would take only time.
"They are one, Jim. Our souls are one, now." Jim smiled, content.
"Sounds good to me, Chief."
Jim opened his eyes. He hadn't even realized he'd closed them.
Looking around, he saw they were back in the loft. Startled, he then realized they were on the floor, Naomi at Blair's side. Jim looked up and saw Joel on the phone; heard the big man requesting an ambulance.
"Uh, hey, guys." Blair said, sitting up. Both Naomi and Joel responded by going stock-still in astonishment.
"Blair!" Naomi whispered in relieved astonishment. Joel grinned, said, "Never mind!" Absently into the phone and hung it up without looking while hurrying over to kneel at Jim's side.
"What the hell happened?" Joel demanded, now that the first flush of relief had worn off. Jim held Blair's gaze while moving to a sitting position in front of the younger man.
"You saw it?" Jim asked, knowing better now than to deny the vision - any vision. Blair nodded. "I meant it all." The larger man continued. "My soul is yours, if you want it. I can't lose you. Please stay."
Blair took a deep breath.
"Actually, no matter what I want, I'm beginning to think that decision is already made." Blair said. Jim thought by "decision" Blair meant when the older man threw his Guide out of the loft during the incident with the female sentinel, and his heart sank. Before he could say anything more, however, the younger man went on, "Did you ever wonder why I didn't fight you at all when you threw me out during the Alex Barnes thing?" Jim felt his face flush at the memories that provoked, but managed to answer the question.
"I figured you were mad at me." Jim said.
"Well, I was, but I realize now that was only part of it. The real reason was that I had a decision to make."
"Whether to be my Guide, or Alex's."
"Well, yeah, but not just that, man. I also had to decide whether to be an anthropologist or a Guide."
"What?" Jim said, surprised. Blair just nodded his head. "It's like that time in Peru, man, when you had to choose whether to be a Sentinel, or an ordinary cop."
Jim thought about it for a moment. He didn't realize a Guide got to choose, too, although he guessed he should have. A Guide has free will too, just like a Sentinel. Another thought came to mind, then.
"So, when did you decide to be my Guide?"
"Same time I decided to be a Guide. When Alex came for me in my office at the University. She stood there, and I just... knew. I knew I could never follow her. But that I'd follow you to hell, and back. That's why she tried to kill me. Because I chose you over her." Blair was silent a moment, then said, softly, "And then you decided to be my Sentinel, man. At the fountain, you decided to be my Sentinel and came to bring me back to life. That was so cool, man. That's why the decision for me to stay is already made, even though neither one of us realized it at the time."
Jim thought about it a minute. "Wow."
"Yeah, man. So it looks like I'm here to stay.” Then Blair’s expression hardened. “But that doesn't mean you can treat me like dirt." Jim nodded emphatically.
"I...of course, you're right." Jim said, putting all his heart into the statement, and Blair could see that he meant it.
"Guess that means we're gonna have to work on those interpersonal relationship skills a little more, huh?" Blair said, with a grin that lit up the night. Jim's answering smile was just a brilliant.
'Maybe it isn't completely ok between us, yet,' Blair thought, 'but we are definitely getting there, finally.'
Flashback: Loft, A Couple of Days Previously:
Blair sat at a table in the loft, typing the end of his dissertation into his laptop:
"Humanity has long dug into its past in the hope that it will shed light on its future. Perhaps what this reveals is that it is the best of ourselves that will survive and lead us through the next millennium. Watching our every step will be our tribal protectors -- the sentinels -- and their insight will further illuminate the spiritual connection of all things. The End."
Naomi came up behind him, hugging him and startling him.
Hi, mom. What are you doing here?
Oh, I'm visiting my favorite son.
Your favorite son?
I'm your only son, right?
Naomi (Without Conviction)
Loft, Afternoon, the Day After the Press Conference:
After Joel had finally left, Naomi sat down nervously on the sofa. She looked at Jim and Blair, and smiled.
"You're staying, sweetie?" She asked. Blair went to the sofa and sat beside her.
"Of course, Mom. You've read the diss, now, so you know I'm Jim's Guide. I can't leave him."
"Good." She nodded, satisfied. But then her smile faltered. Naomi looked down at her hands clenched in her lap. She took a deep breath before looking up.
"Well, now that you've confessed about the whole dissertation charade, I have a confession, too. And I don't know if you're ever going to be able to forgive me for this. Sit down, both of you, and let me tell you a little story.
"About a year after you were born, sweetie, I met and fell in love with a man named Michael Westerman. Michael was...well, he was what they called a rebel back then. He was even more anti-establishment then I was, if you can believe it. Where I just protested, he rallied, working people into a frenzy. And while I didn't condone the violence he encouraged, I did like his wildness. It was...a turn-on." And she smiled at Blair's disgusted grimace. He was obviously still suffering that old malady "My parents have.... sex!? EEWWW!!" Just as obviously, Jim wasn't the only person Blair didn't want to think of his mother even thinking of having sex with. And Jim had figured it was just because Blair thought of him like an older brother. Jim stifled an amused snigger.
"Problem was, he was also possessive." Naomi continued. "Especially of me. And insanely jealous. He'd...oh...yell at me for just talking to another man, even for the most innocent of reasons. And he demanded any money I made under any circumstances, so that I was dependent only on him for everything." Naomi lowered her gaze to her hands, which were clenched and white in her lap. When she finally looked up, there were tears in her eyes.
"And he...he...beat me."
"Oh, god, Mom!" Blair said, sickened. Naomi took a deep breath.
"Sweetheart, I was very young, and it escalated slowly, so that I really didn't see what was happening, at first. But after about three months, I realized that Michael was...not a good person. He certainly wasn't good for me, and I was terrified that he would hurt you. So one day, after he beat me and then left to buy more pot, I...I packed up the little we had, grabbed you and Michael's extra stash of cash, and ran." Naomi stood up, and paced to the kitchen island, and Jim began to wonder if there wasn't something more to this. Of course, he'd known that Naomi and Blair had lived unusual and varied lives, and he wasn't surprised to find out that at least one of the many men in Naomi's life had been an abuser. So he wondered exactly what part of this Blair might not be able to forgive. After all, Naomi had finally seen the danger and left.
Finally, Naomi took a deep breath.
"About two months after I left Michael, I realized...I realized I was...pregnant."
Blair and Jim both sat straight up. Their jaws dropped. Naomi would have laughed if the situation hadn't been so serious.
"What?" Blair whispered as the shock began to wear off.
"Yes, honey. I was pregnant. I realized it had to be Michael's child. I also realized he was certainly not the kind of person anybody would want raising a child, so I absolutely refused to tell him. Unfortunately," Naomi continued with a sigh, "I also knew there was no way I was going to be able to raise two small children on my own."
"Abortion?" Jim asked quietly, but Naomi shook her head emphatically.
"Absolutely not!" She replied. "My goodness, even if I believed in it, which I don't, after all, a fetus is a living human being, too, you know! Anyway, even if I'd been inclined to, I would have had a problem, since I had no money to speak of. I might have been able to afford some back-alley abortionist, but I wouldn't have gone anywhere near one of those butchers anyway. No, I realized I'd have to put the baby up for adoption."
"Adoption." Blair breathed, still stunned. "So, I...Mom I have a half-brother or sister out there somewhere?"
"Yes, honey. A half-brother."
"Who, Mom, where? And why didn't you ever tell me before this?" Blair was finally getting over the surprise, and starting to become angry at what he saw as a betrayal of trust. Jim wasn't exactly happy, either. How can she never have told her own son that he had a brother somewhere?
Naomi took a deep breath and blew it out. She knew Blair was angry, and that he had every right to be. But she needed to talk about this. Needed to tell him about-
"Sweetie, about two years after he was born, I heard that he and his adopted family had been killed in a house fire. It wasn't until just a few months ago that I found out he wasn't dead. That he'd survived the fire and had been adopted by another family. And I only found out because...because he found me."
"Oh, god." Blair said, not sure he could take much more. Jim saw it, and moved to put his hand on the younger man's shoulder. After taking a moment to recover, Blair gestured for his mother to continue the tale.
"About two months ago, I found out my son was searching for me in Portland. There was no name mentioned, but at first, of course, I thought you and Jim were there for some reason, and that you needed me. So I went. But then this stranger shows up at my motel, claiming to be my son, Kevin Ensor. At first, I figured he was trying to pull some sort of con on me, even though he had documents to prove what he was saying. He had a birth certificate, and two sets of adoption papers, one from the Hartley's - that was the first family, the one killed in the fire - and one set from a family named Ensor."
"Ensor would be the family that adopted him after the fire." Jim stated.
"Yes." Naomi replied, nodding. "But, like I said, I thought it might be a scam of some kind, so I demanded DNA testing."
"Which takes about three weeks." Blair said, almost more to himself than to anyone else.
"Yes, sweetie, and in the meantime, I decided not to tell you, because of the possibility that this young man wasn't my son. I also wanted to find out more about him. I mean, after all these years, why was he looking for me now? So I...well, I contacted some friends of friends and got a background check done on him." Naomi glanced at Jim, then. "I'd have asked you to do it, but I didn't want you to have to keep the secret from Blair. That's not right." Jim nodded in understanding. "Anyway, it's a good thing I did, because I found out some...not very nice things about the young man."
"Like the fact that he spent a good portion of his childhood in Juvie. And after that in and out of jail. In fact, he was out on bail for murder when he came to see me, and went to trial and was convicted in the time it took for the DNA test to come back."
"Only three weeks?" Jim said, frowning. "Must have been an open and shut case." Naomi nodded.
"It was." She told him. "He was convicted of killing the Ensors. As soon as the verdict was read, he was taken into custody and jailed pending the sentencing, but never made it that far. The same day that the DNA test came back positive that he really was my son, I found out he was killed trying to escape. That was just a few days ago. I felt like I just had to see you, so I came right here. And then there was this whole dissertation mess, and I decided there really wasn't any point in telling you any of this." She fell silent, then, waiting for a reaction. Blair sat silently, too, his head bowed so that his long hair covered his face. Jim put his hand back on Blair's shoulder, but also remained silent. It was Blair's place to make the next move. So they sat quietly for a moment. Then Blair took a deep breath and looked up.
"So why are you telling me this now?" He asked bitterly. "Just because confession is good for the soul?"
"Oh, no, honey." Naomi insisted. "I'm telling you this because I have to. You see, this morning, just before your press conference, I got two phone calls. One was from the Portland Police Department. They called to tell me the body they had from the jail...wasn't Kevin, but a security guard from the prison. Apparently, he..he killed the guard and took his uniform to escape."
"So he's a fugitive, then." Jim said. Naomi nodded.
"You said you got two phone calls. What was the other one?" Blair asked. Naomi sighed nervously.
"The other one was from him. From your brother...my son and he said...he was...angry. Angry at me because I'd given him away. Because he didn't know who his father was. Oh, because...well he just seems to blame me for everything that's ever gone wrong in his life."
"He figures you abandoned him? What does that have to do with him murdering and stealing and whatever else he's done?" Blair asked in disbelief. "Oh, man he sounds like he's so in denial!"
"Yep." Jim responded. "Won't take responsibility for his own actions, so he blames somebody else. In this case, the mother who rejected him." Naomi nodded.
"Something like that, I guess. The problem is, he knows about you. About my 'favored' son. The one I love and didn't reject. And he seems to hate you. He said you have everything he should have had. This was before the press conference, and he was rambling on about fame and fortune, about a Nobel Prize and everything."
"Oh, man!" Blair ran his hand through his hair and got up to pace. 'This is too much, this can't be happening, I can't take this on top of everything else, it's too much...'
"Chief?" Jim said, concerned at the younger man's increasingly frantic pacing. "Blair!" But his Guide paid no attention, so Jim got up and went to him. Jim grabbed Blair by the shoulders. "Just calm down and take a deep breath, Buddy."
"It's too much, Jim, I can't take all this."
"It's ok, Chief." Jim replied, trying to mimic the low, soothing voice Blair
used on him. "Just try to take things one at a time. Just deal with the most urgent
issue first - having a brother you didn't know about.""Yeah, man, ok." Blair said.
"I think I need to be alone right now, ok?" And he retreated to his room without
Naomi looked worriedly at the door. Then she turned to Jim.
"Well, I think I've done enough damage here today." She said lightly, but her attempt at humor fell flat. So she gathered up her purse. "I'd better get back to my motel room. I'll call tomorr....well, I'll call." She finished uncertainly. Jim merely grunted agreement, and escorted her to the door. Before she could reach it, however, Jim heard a tearing noise, and then saw the strap to the woman's purse break. Before he could say anything, however, the purse fell to the floor, spilling it's contents.
"Oh!" Naomi gasped, then bent to pick up the various items spread across the floor. Jim, with an effort due to his injured leg, knelt to help her, handing her a compact, a brush, and a roll of film. The next item he picked up was a letter that looked very old and often-read.
"What's this?" He asked without knowing why he did so. The red-head glanced at it. A fond look crossed her face.
"Oh, that." She chuckled. "I'd almost forgotten about that." She moved to sit there on the floor and took the letter from him. Idly, she opened it, although she didn't read it. "This is the last letter of a man I lived with for a time before he went to Vietnam. He was killed over there, but I kept the letter because it was so strange. I've been trying to figure out the meaning ever since." Jim raised an eyebrow. He liked mysteries, as long as it wasn't the kind people died from.
"May I?" He asked, moving to sit beside her, ignoring the pain in his leg.
"Well....alright." Naomi said, handing the letter back to him. "Trevor Howard - that's who wrote the letter - well, I met him just before Kevin was born, and Blair and I lived with him until he went overseas. That was about a month after I gave Kevin up. Trev helped me get through the loss." Naomi smiled sadly at the memories. "Trev was very protective of Blair and me." She looked speculatively up at Jim. "You know, now that I think about it, you remind me a lot of him. I think maybe that's why I liked you so much right away." Jim merely grunted, and began to read the letter. Almost immediately, he stiffened up. Then yelled urgently,
"Sandburg, get out here right now! Sandburg!"
The urgency finally penetrated Blair's meditation, and brought him out of his room at a run.
"What is it, man? What's the emergency?"
"Have you - Naomi, has Blair ever seen this letter?" She thought a second, then replied, puzzled,
"Well, no, I never thought to show it to him."
"Read this!" Jim demanded, shoving the old piece of paper at the younger man. Just as puzzled as his mother, Blair sat down on the floor and took the letter carefully. His reaction was the same as Jim's - he stiffened up almost immediately.
"Oh, my god." Blair breathed. "Who wrote this?" He demanded.
"Well, like I told Jim, I lived with Trevor Howard shortly before Kevin was born, and left soon after I gave him up when Trev went off to war. Trev was killed not long after he wrote the letter, but I kept it because I was hoping someday to figure out what it meant." She was still looking confused. "What's going on, sweetie?"
But instead of answering her, Blair read the letter aloud,
"My dear Naomi,
I had a very strange dream last night. I have no idea what it means, but I figured I better get this down on paper before I forget it. Maybe you can figure out what it means. I'm afraid my thinking processes haven't been up to snuff lately. It's not just the cold weather or the bad food or the killing, although that last is enough to rattle anybody, that's for sure. The real problem is that I'm having trouble again like I was before you came. You know, sounds are too loud, sunlight is so bright it hurts. I can hardly eat or drink anything because it all tastes so strange. And these uniforms - I swear they're washed in starch because they're so scratchy.
"Anyway, here's my dream:
"I'm in the jungle, in blue twilight that makes me wonder if the strange taste in my food is some kind of drug - LSD or something. Anyway, I'm a Heron floating along a river. On one bank of the river is a female Crocodile. Close to her on her right is a Gray Wolf. On her left, unnoticed and farther away, with it's back turned, is a Weasel. Suddenly, a Black Panther comes out of the trees, and the Wolf runs over to it. The Crocodile tries to stop the Wolf, but fails, and the Panther licks the Wolf affectionately, then sits down protectively beside it. The Crocodile stops and lays back down. Behind her, and without her knowing, the Weasel sees an angry Hare chained to a tree. It runs to the Hare, and bites through the chain, setting it free. The two run off, unnoticed by the others.
"All of a sudden, I, the Heron, see a man rise up out of the underbrush. Before I can move, the man fires. Then I wake up.
"Naomi, I don't know what most of the dream means, but I think the Heron getting shot by the man means I'm gonna buy the farm soon. Maybe it's just as well. I don't think I can stand the bright lights and loud noises anymore. I figure the dream is just another sign that I'm going crazy, and I'd rather die than go crazy. My Uncle Craig had the same problem, and he died in an insane asylum. I can't go through that. I'm sorry Naomi. Please don't hate me. You and little Blair are the only good things that ever happened to me. I wish - oh well, never mind. It doesn't matter. Just please forgive me.
Be well, Naomi, and Blair, too.
Blair, Jim, and Naomi were silent for a moment after Blair had finished reading the letter.
'I don't know why I didn't see it sooner.' Jim thought. ' The evidence was there. Well, maybe not all of it. But enough. And even though I didn't see her very often...Hey, let's face it, Darwin’s lucky to see her once a year, and he's her son (not that this pot is calling the kettle black, mind you. It was how many decades since I'd seen my father or my brother?), well, anyway, if Blair didn't see it, I guess I shouldn't be surprised I didn't either. Guess that explains that weird energy I feel coming from her. Blair's got it, too, but I figured it was a family thing. But maybe it's a Guide thing, instead.'
"You're a Guide." Jim blurted, astonished. Something - a memory - was niggling in the back of his mind, something about the energy he felt from Blair and Naomi, but he was too surprised to think about it at the moment.
"What?" Naomi asked, startled and confused.
"He's right, you're a Guide, Mom." Blair stated, just as surprised.
"Um, what are you two talking about?"
"Mom, we know exactly what this letter means."
"You do? What?"
Blair bounced up off the floor and started to pace rapidly around the room.
"It's like this, Mom. The animals are all Spirit Guides. They represent us."
"Yes, Naomi." Jim confirmed. "The Black Panther and the Wolf. We've seen them before. The Panther is mine, and the Wolf is Blair's Spirit Animal."
"Oh!" The light dawned. Obviously, somewhere in her travels, Naomi had picked up information about Spirit Guides. She just hadn't realized that's what the letter was referring to. "Well, my goodness, then who are the others?"
"The Crocodile is you, Mom." Blair told her. "Symbolic of Maternal protection, connection to the earth mother, access to ancient knowledge and other stuff. Evidently the Weasel is Kevin, stealth, cunning, ingenuity, and revenge. I don't know who the Hare is, but it's symbolism is guile, living by one's own wits, and quick-thinking, among other things."
"You think the Hare may be Kevin's Sentinel?" Jim said quietly. Blair stopped his pacing and stared at him a moment.
"Oh, man, I hope not. That's all we need is a deviant Guide who happens to be my brother with another deviant Sentinel like Alex Barnes running around! That would be so not cool!"
"But what did you mean when you said I'm a Guide?" Naomi glanced from one man to the other, still confused. Blair looked at Jim. Then he looked at Naomi; came back and sat down beside her.
"Mom, the things Trevor said in his letter, about thinking he's going crazy because lights are too bright, and sounds too loud, those are things Jim was experiencing. He thought he was going crazy, too, and it's what led him to me. Somehow, I can help Jim control and focus his senses. I don't know how; maybe it's something psychic, because a Guide is supposed to be a Shaman, too. All I know is, it seems to work. Jim hasn't zoned out in months, and he's got pretty good control of his senses. I figured it was just practice, but Jim seems to think there's something else going on."
"There is. I don't know what it is, either," Jim said with a shrug. "I just know it works. And Trevor must have been a Sentinel, too." Jim went on. "In his letter, he stated that things were better when he was with you."
"I think you were supposed to be his Guide, Mom." Naomi shook her head.
"But you were there with him, too, sweetie, even though you were really too young to remember. And you're a Guide. You're Jim's Guide."
"Well, yes," Blair said. "That's true, but I was so young I doubt I could have been able to do any good. And think of this, Mom. Why do you wander around so much? I mean, I was all over the world for most of my life, but then I settled in Cascade. Right where Jim was. So I think maybe Guides unconsciously search for their Sentinels. And settle when they find them."
"But I never settled." Naomi murmured, more to herself than anyone. "Oh, god, when I lived in Missoula, Montana with Trevor, it was one of the best times of my life. I remember feeling at the time that I could have settled down there for the rest of my life. But after Trevor was gone, I didn't feel at home there anymore." She looked at Blair, tears in her eyes for the first time in Blair's memory. "I've never felt at home anywhere since."
"Because your Sentinel was gone, so you had no home." Blair breathed.
"And you've wandered ever since," Jim continued almost more to himself than to the others, "unconsciously searching for a Sentinel you didn't realize was gone."
"Oh, god." Naomi whispered. She bowed her head, and for the first time in Blair's life, she cried - for what could have been. Blair was disconcerted at the sight, but he glanced at Jim. And the older man saw understanding in his Guide's eyes. Jim realized that Blair could too easily imagine what it would have felt like if Jim hadn't been willing to go to such extremes to resolve their problems and Blair had really left. Blair might - no would - have ended up worse than Naomi, because at least Naomi hadn't known what she didn't have.
Except that now she did know. Blair reached out and took his mother into his arms and let her cry. Jim laid one hand on Blair's shoulder in support, and the other on Naomi's in sympathy. The three of them stayed like that for a long time.
Loft, The Next Morning:
"So what am I supposed to do now?" Naomi asked, as they sat at the dinner table sipping tea. "All these years I've been wandering from place to place, and now I find out it's because I've been searching for something I can never have. And now that I know that, I'm...well, now I'm not sure what to do."
"Mom, I've been thinking about that." Blair said speculatively. "And I have an idea. What if you kept going from place to place. Only instead of looking for a Sentinel who's already gone, what if you look for new Sentinels and Guides who don't know what's going on."
"What?" Naomi asked, not understanding.
"See, the only reason Jim and I know what we're doing is because I've studied Sentinels. And my studies were almost a fluke. Or maybe it's fate. I don't know, but what if there are other Sentinels and Guides around who don't know what they are?" Blair became more animated as he thought the ideas through. "There could be Sentinels in asylums and Guides who are wandering like you were, just because they don't know what's happening. So maybe you could teach them."
"But, honey, you're the teacher. You're the one with the dissertation-"
"Yeah," Blair said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice, and failing. "The diss I don't dare publish now. Heck, considering what any publicity seems to do, I think the only safe way to get information out about modern-day Sentinels and Guides might be if somebody goes and teaches people secretly."
"Like the way wiccans handed down their traditions during the Burning Times, or African Americans learned reading and writing while they were still slaves?" Naomi wondered.
"Exactly!" Blair said, showing a little enthusiasm for the first time. "I can't do it, because my place is here, with Jim. And even if that weren't the case, if I tried it anyway, it would still lead back to Jim. Our only hope now is to lay low and not do anything unusual."
"But sweetie, this was your dream. You were the one who was supposed to be credited with this. You've worked so long for it, and now, to not be able to..." Naomi trailed off at the brightness of tears in her son's eyes.
"I know, Mom." Blair said, voice husky with emotion. "But that's just not possible now. In fact, it never was, but I was too damned obsessed to realize it. I should've changed my diss as soon as I started getting involved with this Guide thing, and I didn't, and I'm really sorry about that. But now I realize what's going on, and I don't dare put any of us in danger by exposing this in any way."
"Oh, sweetie, I'm so sorry!" Naomi told him, and now it was she that took him in her arms as he wept for what could have been.
"I'm sorry, too, Chief." Jim whispered around a lump in his own throat. He felt the sting of tears at his Guide's pain, and put an arm around the younger man's shoulders.
They sat that way for some time.
Naomi left two days later. She'd pretty well made her peace with both Blair and Jim over her exposure of the dissertation and the revelation about Kevin. She also had, with Blair's help, bought a laptop computer on which now resided scanned, encrypted and password-protected copies of Burton's relevant works and all of Blair's notes.
Naomi, Wanderer-without-a-Sentinel, would now become a teacher of modern Sentinels and Guides.
'I think it's gonna be alright.' Jim thought as he heard her leave his range of hearing. 'Finally.'