The bark startled him even as he registered Captain Banks rushing toward him from the emergency doors.
"What happened? Where's Ellison?"
Blair would have stood, but his legs were no longer a part of his body. "I don't know, Simon. He was fine one minute, then he collapsed the next. I think it was the water."
"What? What the hell does that mean, you think it was the water?"
Blair raised his arms in a gesture of helplessness, surprised they were still obeying his commands, since his legs had left him hours ago. "I don't know. I think he's had another allergic reaction to something he drank, but I can't be sure. They haven't come back out yet, and I don't know what the hell's going on." Bolstered by his own voice, Blair began to feel his fear and frustration break the fog he'd been engulfed by since first calling 911. "Oh, God, Simon, I have to get in there!"
Blair jumped to his feet with sudden urgency, but slammed into a wall. Or at least, it may as well have been a wall. Simon grabbed Blair's arms and held him easily in place. "Wait a minute, has the doctor come out yet?"
"No, Simon, you don't understand. If this is a reaction to something he drank, we don't know how he might react to what they give him. I've never been able to really test Jim's sensitivity to chemicals, let alone medication!" Blair pushed against the wall, but it held him where he stood.
"Sandburg, you're no doctor. Just stay put until we find out what's going on."
"No, you don't understand." No one understood this!
"I do understand." Simon's grip tightened, forcing Blair back down to the chair. "Just sit here and let me find out what's happening. You rush in there and start spouting off about Sentinel this and that, and they'll be calling security to get you out of here."
Blair sat, he had no option, but the instant the Captain's hands left his arms, he was on his feet again. This time, it was a woman in a lab coat standing in front of him.
"Mr. Sandburg? I'm Doctor Stevens."
"Doctor, I'm Captain Banks. Jim Ellison is one of my detectives." Simon intercepted the doctor's extended hand, but Blair ignored the formality.
"How is he?"
"He's very ill, Mr. Sandburg." Dr. Stevens glanced at Simon, then turned to Blair. "You mentioned something about an allergic reaction to something Mr. Ellison may have drunk?"
"The water. This happened once before, but not like this. He had some imported water and got sick, but nothing like this." Blair tried to see over her shoulder into the exam room, but the doors had swung shut. "Jim's very sensitive to chemicals, and has allergic reactions sometimes."
"Really? I've been going over his chart, and can't find any reference to allergies."
Blair shook his head impatiently. "No, I know that. He doesn't usually go to a doctor about them."
"How do you know he's had an allergic reaction?"
"You don't understand, I--"
"Doctor, is he going to be all right?" Simon interrupted, stepped closer in an effort to gain the doctor's attention.
"I don't know that yet. We're running some tests, and we have him on some general antibiotics right now. Until we can find out exactly what his body is reacting to, we won't know how to treat him. You brought in the water?"
"Yes, yes, I gave it to the nurse. But there's probably nothing strange about it. Jim just has a more sensitive metabolism than most of us. It could be anything." Blair ran a hand through his hair, trying hard to calm down. "Can I see him?"
"In a few minutes. They'll be taking him to a room upstairs. If you'd like to wait in the third floor waiting area, the nurse will let you know when he's in a room." She turned back to Simon. "Meanwhile, I'll send the water to our lab for analysis, and we'll go from there." With a quick excuse, she walked down the hall, leaving the two of them alone.
"All right, you come with me." Simon took Blair by the arm and led him to the bank of elevators. "And tell me, slowly, exactly what happened tonight."
"I fucked up, that's what happened." Blair leaned against the side of the elevator car, closing his eyes against the light of what he had done. "God, Simon, if Jim...This is all my fault!" His shout was punctuated by their arrival on the third floor.
"Would you just calm down! And come with me." Simon again took him by the arm and led him down the corridor, searching for the waiting room. "In here."
They found the room a few doors down, vacant and lined with soft chairs and magazines. Blair was deposited in front of one but he couldn't sit.
"If Jim had some kind of allergic reaction, how could it be your fault? And if something like this can happen any time he so much as takes a drink of water, how in the hell is he supposed to get through life?"
"No, Simon, it's not like that."
"Then what's it like? Huh?" Simon took a breath and let it out slowly. "Listen, Sandburg, I'm just trying to understand this. Jim's never had trouble before with things he's eaten or drunk."
Blair shook his head and began to pace the room. Simon had positioned himself surreptitiously in front of the exit, keeping Blair on a back and forth path inside the small room. "As a Sentinel, Jim's body is much more sensitive to his environment. Normally that's not a problem, but on occasion he can react on a much more intense level than any of us would. Like that water he had last month, that gave him those dizzy spells. To us, no big deal. But in Jim, it caused a more severe reaction."
"Yeah, like I said, how's he supposed to go through life like that?" Simon demanded.
"You don't understand."
"You're right, Sandburg, I don't understand. I thought this Sentinel thing just gave Jim an edge, let him do things we can't."
Blair continued to pace, trying to listen to the Captain. He was having a hard time concentrating on anything.
"I mean, how often is this going to happen? Can't you find a way to keep this from happening? If this is all because of his senses, can't you stop it?"
Blair stopped pacing and let himself fall into a chair, leaning forward to hold his head in both hands. "I don't know, Simon." He shouldn't have expected the Captain to understand. This wasn't as simple as teaching Jim to filter out a sound or adjust his eyesight. How could anyone understand this? He didn't understand it all himself. And Jim would be counting on him to understand it. Just like he always did.
Blair looked up and found Simon watching him, expecting him to find a way to fix this. Fix it like all the other problems Jim's Sentinel abilities created. What Blair saw as new avenues and aspects, Simon--and Jim--saw as problems that needed fixing. And they always assumed Blair could fix them. There had been challenges before, but never like this. He'd never expected this. All that time, telling himself it was time to get Jim back into the lab, time to test out some theories he had about Jim's reactions to chemicals and painkillers. All that time, wasted.
And there was no one to blame but himself. He could have insisted, he could have explained the consequences better. Hell, he could have asserted himself just a little! If he'd explained it right, Jim would have agreed and understood, like he usually did. Jim was his responsibility, and he'd let him down.
"Sandburg, are you listening to me?"
Blair blinked, then focused on Simon again. "What?"
"I said we can see Jim now."
He was on his feet in an instant, barely able to let Simon lead the way to a room he hadn't heard the number of. But once there, his legs again took on a mind of their own. Blair stopped as if frozen in place outside the door to room 318. He told his legs to continue, but they refused.
"You comin'?" Simon held the door open, looking back at Blair.
Somehow his head nodded, and that momentum carried his body into the room and halfway to the side of the bed, but it stopped near Jim's feet while Simon's own legs carried him all the way to the chair.
Jim was unconscious, hooked up to no less than three IV's. Monitors beeped and screens glowed a comforting green on the wall above his head. He wasn't on a respirator, but Blair couldn't help noticing the unit standing ready in the corner. He recognized it, though his perspective had been from below last time.
"The doctor said his body is fighting off something, but they still don't know exactly what."
Simon's words seemed distant, echoing something Blair thought he'd heard a woman say just a short while ago. They meant nothing. Jim was unconscious, unresponsive, being closely monitored by all manner of medical equipment and personnel. What did it matter how or why?
"Sandburg, there's no telling how long this could take. The doctors are still running tests. Why don't I take you home?"
The absurdity of that question nearly made Blair laugh out loud. "I can't go home, Simon." What did he think? That the loft was home? That by going back there Blair could sleep, shower, and come back here to find it all better? Home? "I'm staying here." Finally able to control his forward motion again, Blair forced his legs to carry him to the chair at the opposite side of Jim's bed. There he sat, and looked back up at Simon. "I'll call you when he wakes up, Simon."
The Captain hesitated, shook his head and looked at Jim's unconscious form for a moment. Finally, he sighed and moved toward the door. "I'll be back in the morning. And I'll tell the doctor you'll be staying all night. Just don't make any trouble. And Blair, this isn't your fault."
Blair looked up, ready to protest, but the Captain
had enough to worry about. "Thanks, Simon." He didn't need to add more.
After all, he knew whose fault it was. So did Jim.
Jim stood on the hill overlooking the village and wiped sweat from his forehead. The jungle heat was oppressive, even in the middle of the night. A full moon cast a blue light over everything around him, but he had no trouble picking out his friend in the trees.
"It is good you came, Enquiry. But you cannot stay." The old Shaman smiled, stepping out of the jungle brush to stand next to his friend.
"Why am I here?" Jim glanced around, seeing nothing but blue forest. He expected to see his animal spirit, as he usually did at times like this, but the panther was nowhere to be found.
are not here for yourself, Enquiry. You are here for him."
Blair sat, staring at the edge of the bed while the monitor beeped a mesmerizing rhythm behind him. He wanted to lose himself to it, let it numb his mind and hold him until someone came in and said it was all okay. Until Jim said it was okay. But try as he might, the sound never took him. Something kept nagging the back of his mind, demanding attention, but he couldn't even manage that. All he could do was stare at the bed, afraid even to look at Jim, but too afraid to look away.
"I'm sorry, Jim." Speaking gave Blair the courage he needed to bring his gaze up to his friend's face, instinct from so many months of instruction and conversation. Only this time, Jim wasn't looking back. "I should have payed closer attention. I should have known."
Hesitantly, Blair reached out and put a hand on Jim's arm. It didn't stay. He couldn't sit still, but he was too emotionally exhausted to get off the chair. So his hands had to do it all. First running through his hair, then rubbing his knees, only to come back again to his face or hair.
"Dammit, how could I be so stupid?" Blair pulled his legs up into a lotus on the chair and began to rock gently, looking around the room. "How could I let this go? After the problem with the water before, and your reaction to Golden, how could I let this go so long?" He shook his head, looking again at Jim's face. "It won't happen again, man. I won't let it happen again. I'll just have to go over everything in the house---and---I'll go over everything you've eaten and..."
The hopelessness of the situation threatened suddenly to overcome Blair as he sat there, thinking of what could have caused this. This time it was the bottled water, what would it be next time? And why wasn't it happening more often?
A wave of fear washed over and through
him so strongly, he had to close his eyes tight against it, riding the tide until
he regained control. "I am so sorry, Jim." His eyes opened with a new
resolve. "You were right. You were so right. It's just not worth it."
Jim sat facing Incacha, getting comfortable on the moss covered log. "Why am I here?"
The Shaman smiled, glancing around the jungle surrounding them. "The Sentinel exists to help his tribe." His gaze came to rest on Jim. "In becoming the Sentinel, you gave up your Self, that which serves only your purpose."
Jim listened intently. It was like old times, when Incacha was guiding him. The older man would suddenly sit down and begin a story that would enthrall you so completely, you had no knowledge of the passing of time. "You said the Sentinel would always be the Sentinel as long as he chooses to be."
Incacha nodded. "Do you remember what else I taught you, Enquiry?"
A cockatoo called from the tree above Jim's head, harkening his memory back to another time. "You taught me many things. I can't remember a day when you weren't there, helping me."
filled his painted face. "And now another takes my place." He stood,
looking down. One hand reached out, resting affectionately on Jim's shoulder.
"Do not let him go."
Startled, Blair looked up, blinking against the harsh light streaming in through opened curtains. At first he thought the world had ended. How else could there be bright sunlight in the middle of the night? Then he recognized Simon standing in the room, and a nurse.
"Sandburg, come on." The Captain reached out, taking Blair by the arm. "The doctor needs to run more tests, and you need to go home."
"What? No, no, wait." Blair resisted, turning back toward Jim. His friend was still unconscious, but now the nurse was going over his IV's, checking things out. "Simon, I'll stay here."
"Sandburg, you're just in the way right now." Simon tugged harder and got Blair moving toward the door, then stopped just inside the hallway. "Blair, listen to me."
Reluctance gave way to the door swinging shut, blocking his view of the room and his partner inside, so Blair turned to Simon.
"They're going to examine him and they need you out of there for a while."
Blair nodded and pulled his arm out of the Captain's grasp. "Fine. I'll wait out here, Simon."
"Sandburg, there's nothing you can do. You should go home and get some rest."
"I said no!" Blair backed away two steps in order to prevent being manhandled again. "I'm waiting right here until Jim tells me to go!" Simon glanced around the hall quickly, then flashed a stern look at Blair, obviously holding off his reprimand while two nurses pushed a cart down the hall. He could just picture a cigar being crushed between those teeth, and had they been allowed inside a hospital, the Captain no doubt would be punishing one right now. God, he hated those cigars! How drunk had he been that night Simon and his cigar smoking cronies talked him into trying one? All Blair could remember was a headache and a foul taste on his lips that lasted the entire day. Even now, he could picture the smoke that normally curled around the man. Smoke that would crawl thickly through the air until it saturated the room it was in, curling around the Captain's head like a thick, white veil. How he got away with smoking in a city building, Blair didn't understand.
The nurses passed the two men and Simon turned back to Blair. "Sandburg, you haven't slept all night. What good are you doing Jim by staying here?"
"What good would I be doing him anyplace else?" What didn't this man understand? Why was it so hard for him to understand? Blair had no home to go to.
Before Simon could reply, the nurse came back out of the room. "Mr. Sandburg? Mr. Ellison is awake."
If she said anything more, Blair never heard it. He couldn't even remember entering the room, let alone crossing to Jim's side. All he could remember was the color of the two eyes finally open and looking into his.
The relief was overwhelming. "Jim, thank God."
"Hey, Chief." Jim's voice was quiet, but not shaking or terribly weak. "I had the strangest dream just now."
Blair was leaning over the bed, hands resting on the mattress, afraid if he touched Jim, he'd suddenly wake up himself in that damn chair listening to the monitors. He also knew if he let go of the bed, someone would be picking him up off the floor, since his knees hadn't yet made it into the room. At least, they had to be somewhere, since they weren't right there.
"Ellison, you gave us quite a scare."
Simon was on the other side of the bed and Jim turned to look at him, but Blair didn't bother to. He knew what the Captain looked like, he wasn't taking a chance of this being a dream.
"Simon. What happened?"
"Sandburg here thinks you had an allergic reaction or something."
Blair closed his eyes for just a moment, fighting the urge to dismiss the Captain with a wave of his hand. He and Jim needed to talk, alone. There was too much to discuss now, too much to work out.
Jim sighed, turning to Blair. "You think it was that water, Chief?"
"I don't know, Jim." Blair swallowed, shooting one quick glance at Simon. "I think so, maybe."
"I knew I should have had a beer instead."
Something in what Jim said sounded too absurd to consider, and would have made Blair laugh out loud if the doctor hadn't stepped into the room right then.
"All right, gentlemen. Mr. Ellison and I have some doctor and patient things to attend to now that he's recovering. If you two will excuse us?"
Blair shot her a look he'd intended for Simon, but softened it considerably when he connected with her face. Turning back to Jim, he shrugged. "I guess you two want to be alone, huh? I'll be down the hall."
"No you won't." Simon commanded, looking from Blair to Jim. "He's been here all night, Jim. I'm going to take him home."
"Blair, go home." Jim reached out and placed his hand on Blair's arm. "Get some sleep and a shower." Blair hesitated. "I won't leave without telling you, okay?"
No, it wasn't okay. But it would be soon. "Yeah, okay, Jim." Bolstered by his own resolve, Blair let go of the mattress. He felt as if he had just let go of something he could never touch again.
That feeling carried him all the way back to the loft, where he had to convince Simon he would stay until that afternoon, unless the hospital called him beforehand. After assuring the Captain of his intentions, Blair was finally left alone.
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