Home > Kris Williams > Forest In The Sky

by Kristine Williams

Part 3

The silence was deafening. He went quickly to the stereo and found his loudest tape of jungle percussions and put it in the player, then turned the volume up as loud as he dared, stopping short of irritating the neighbors. He had work to do. After changing out of the shirt he'd been wearing all night, Blair pulled on Jim's old Cascade PD sweatshirt and a clean but slightly threadbare pair of faded jeans. Then went to work.

The bottled water had to be investigated, a task made harder by the incorrect phone number listed on the bottle's label. After going over the exact makeup of the water three times, the woman on the other end of the phone gave up, and hung up. Blair wrote it all down, then started going through the kitchen cabinet by cabinet, writing everything down and marking it with either NEW or OK. Anything new was checked, then rechecked, and phoned on to get a more detailed list of ingredients. One man asked if Blair wanted a "fucking MSDS on a food product for God's sake!" But the other's were a little more helpful.

Next up was the bathroom, where each soap, each bottle of shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste and deodorant had to be checked. Then it was rooms. Blair headed for Jim's room first as the obvious choice to start, flipping the music over on his way. He had a lot of work ahead, lots to do. And it wouldn't be easy, getting Jim to give up being the Sentinel. After all those times Blair had begged, forced, insisted he BE the Sentinel that he was. Getting him to throw it all away for his own sake might not be easy.

But it was necessary. They'd find a way, then Jim would be safe. All that messing around with his senses, all those problems that kept coming up, all would be gone. Then Blair would have to...

The stab of emotion was so strong, Blair nearly collapsed on Jim's stairs. Luckily, he'd turned just in time, and was able to sit down, thus keeping himself from falling all the way back down to the living room floor. It might have been easier to find his soul again, had he gone down there where it fell, but the stairs stopped him just in time.

"What do you fear?"

The voice in his head was so clear, so painfully clear, Blair opened eyes he didn't know were shut and glanced around the loft. He was alone. He used to be alone all the time, but it had never bothered him before. His projects, studies, all the things he surrounded himself with, had all kept him from realizing he was alone.

"Grow up, Sandburg." One hand reached out and clutched the railing, pulling his body up again. He could get used to it. Hell, he had no choice, did he? It was just so ironic, to reach a point where another part of Jim became so clear to him, only to have that particular part be the one that forced them apart.

He made it to Jim's bed, then sat down on the end and began to look around, forcing his mind back on the subject. Even after he left, this information might be needed. If Jim's sensitivity was more a part of him, like regular allergies, then this could come in handy some time. Looking around the room, he began to write down anything he could think of that would affect his friend's environment. Laundry soap on the clean clothes, the Lemon Pledge Jim used to dust with, the floor cleaner, even that room spray he used some mornings.

"And a partridge in a pear tree!" Frustrated, Blair fell back against the mattress, staring up at the ceiling fan. Possibly the one thing in the entire loft he wasn't becoming suspicious of. What was he doing? He wasn't Incacha. He had no business taking on something this complicated, especially when it involved a man's life. Ultimately, many more lives than just one.

Blair tried to shake off these thoughts and get back up, back to his task. But the bed under him was softer than he'd expected it to be, the blanket he was on warm and inviting. When he turned his head to check the time, he had to squint against an orange glow.

"What the...?!" The sun was setting, rapidly, casting a colored shadow throughout the loft. From up in Jim's room, the view was spectacular. "Damn." The view also meant Simon hadn't come back for him as promised, allowing Blair to fall asleep and waste the entire day!

He tried to hurry down the stairs, but his vision was still sleep-blurred and the steps just steep enough to slow him down. The instant his foot hit the living room floor, the phone rang.


"Hey, Chief."

"Jim?! Wha---are you okay? What did the doctor say?" Blair forced his eyes wide, trying to wake up and clear his thoughts. The sound of his partner's voice, clear and normal, did much to ease the shock of having slept through the day.

"I'm okay now, partner. You were right, from what little they can tell it was an allergic reaction. They just don't know to what."

"Oh, man, Jim I am so sorry about that. I knew the water had changed. I never should have let that get by."


"But it won't happen again, Jim. I've got it all figured out."


"I'm pretty sure this will work, but just in case it doesn't there's a back up available."

"Chief! Slow down. Did you get any sleep?"

Blair paused, realizing he should inhale now. "Um, yeah. I didn't mean to, but I did stop for a break. Simon was supposed to come and pick me up, but he never showed, which is why I didn't wake up or I would have just driven over myself." Again he had to inhale. That so often proved to be such a hindrance to conversation.

"I know. Simon got called out on a case, he couldn't stop by."

"I didn't mean to sleep so late, I just..."

"Blair, you needed the rest. What are you doing for the next few hours? I could use some company. They're gonna let me go home in the morning."

"Oh, yeah, that's great. I um...yeah, I can be there in a few minutes."

"Okay, I'll be here."

"Right." Blair hung up, then hurried to fill the coffee pot and make a strong batch, enough to wake him up the rest of the way, then hurried into the bathroom to wash his face. What he had to do wasn't going to be easy for him. Maybe the hospital wasn't the right place to bring this up? No, it should be done here, with Jim at home and comfortable.

With Sentinel vision, if the view out Jim's hospital window had been toward the city instead of away, he could have watched Blair drive the last five blocks down from the loft. Unless he took the scenic route and came out onto the main road one block down. Instead, Jim had a view of three brick buildings and a hint of the bay beyond. But the sunset was clear, and brilliant. The deep orange gave way slowly to crimson, then darkened to purple before fading into the black of night.

Blair had sounded upset when he confessed to having slept so long, but Jim had waited three more hours than he was going to before calling him, just to make sure the kid had all the chance he could to rest up. Simon and the nurses told him how Blair had been right there all night, pacing or talking to himself the entire time. Only for the last half hour of his vigil did anyone see him actually sleep, and that he had done in the chair, leaning sideways so his head rested on the bed.

And, knowing Blair was like a dog with a bone when it came to a mystery, Jim knew he wouldn't have gone home and gotten any rest right away. No, he'd work on this problem non-stop until it was solved. And solve it he must have, from the tone of his voice. A voice Jim could hear even as he was coming up the elevator, urging the car to move faster. He only hoped Blair was alone, and not talking out loud like this in public. The heartbeat he picked up when the doors opened was racing just slightly, but it couldn't be from the elevator. Blair hadn't had any trouble in elevators for months now.

Jim listened intently, eyes closed, almost projecting himself down the hallway with Sentinel hearing to listen to his partner's every move down the long corridor. There must have been a pretty nurse there, he paused and even turned halfway, his tennis shoes squeaking on the newly waxed floor. Yep, just bumped into someone. Say you're sorry, Blair. Almost to the door, his heart began to beat more quickly again. Then, not more than a few feet from the door to Jim's room, the footsteps stopped. Blair's heart rate and breathing were normal, if not a bit fast from the rush down the hall. Why wasn't he coming in?

He resisted the urge to call out. Sometimes using his Sentinel senses on Blair freaked the kid out just a little, though why, Jim wasn't sure. Finally, after nearly three minutes of standing in the hall, there was a slight knock on the door, and Blair came inside.

"Hey, Chief. You didn't waste any time getting here."

"Jim, how are you doing? What did the doctor say?" Blair crossed the room almost on tiptoe, walking quietly until he reached the chair next to Jim's bed.

"They're not sure. An allergic reaction is what it looks like, but to what exactly they don't know." Jim shrugged and turned a little on the bed to face his friend. "Some of the tests are still out."

"I doubt they'll find anything. That's the problem: no one could have predicted your reaction to the bottled water that time."

"Blair, I'm all right."

"You were lucky, Jim."

"Okay, I was lucky. But it's over, Chief." Jim lowered his voice, trying to reassure his friend, who was obviously still lacking the sleep he needed.

"Yeah, this time." Blair shook his head, then rubbed his eyes. "I called the company that puts out that water, got a list of the contents. But it could have been anything. Something you ate any time during the day that took longer to affect you. Something you ate the day before that was fueled by something you ate or drank yesterday. The possibilities are endless, Jim."

"Sandburg, can we talk about this tomorrow?" The kid looked more like a patient right now than a visitor. "You'll figure this out soon enough, and the doctor's said whatever this was, it seems to be over now. So let's just relax for now, okay?"

Reluctantly, Blair nodded.

Jim reached out and touched Blair's chin, turning his face toward the bed. "Is this a new look, Chief, or did you forget to shave?"

"I guess I didn't think about it. I didn't mean to fall asleep, I guess I just..."

"I guess you were tired. Sandburg, cut yourself some slack, okay?" Jim sighed and shook his head. "You're not a doctor, or a chemist, or a psychic. So stop beating yourself up over something you couldn't have known or predicted."

"But that's just it, Jim. It's my job to know or predict these things." Blair was trying to work up more enthusiasm for his argument, but the fatigue behind his eyes was evident. "Incacha entrusted me with the responsibility of guiding you, and if I fail--"

Jim held up a hand, stopping Blair mid-sentence. "Hang on right there, Chief. First of all, I trusted you to look after me long before Incacha came along and gave his blessing. Second, we're about to make the same mistake we both made in the truck that night." Blair looked puzzled, but at least he'd stopped talking long enough to listen. "Can this wait until we get home tomorrow, so we can talk about this calmly and rationally?"

Blair nodded, pushing the hair out of his face with a sigh. "Yeah, sure. You should get some rest anyway."

Eyeing the stubble on his partner's chin and cheeks, Jim wagered he'd had more sleep lately than Blair had. "Listen, did you see Mrs. Reichmann at all today?" Perhaps a change in subject would lighten the young man's mood.

"Um, no. I saw her working the bakery the other morning, when we went in for breakfast."

"I know. She looked awful. Like she was wasting away or something."

They continued discussing the health of the bakery owner's wife, then moved on to the case they'd just finished and made plans to go back to Saint Sebastian's some time soon. After a bit, Blair seemed to return to his normal, animated self. Before long, the nurse came in and insisted visiting hours were up. Jim assured Blair he was getting out in the morning, and arranged a time with the nurse for his friend to return and take him home.

"Hey, Chief, do me a favor tonight," Jim called to Blair as he reached the door.

"Yeah, what is it?"

"Stop worrying about everything, just for tonight."

Blair nodded, then left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

Normally, the kid looked on situations like these as a challenge. Why this one was hitting him so hard, Jim didn't know. But then, everyone was entitled to an over-reactive day, he supposed.

By the next morning, when the doctor finally released Jim with orders for him to see an allergist sometime soon, Blair seemed back to his normal, inquisitive self. He had several questions for the staff, many of which they had no answers for. After signing some release forms and ushering his partner out the door, Jim finally found his way home.

When they got out of the car back at the loft, the smell of freshly baked doughnuts permeated the air around them. Jim climbed out of Blair's car and inhaled deeply.

"Just what the doctor ordered."


"Fresh doughnuts, Chief. Can't you smell them?" Jim glanced at Blair, wincing slightly at the look he found. Sometimes he forgot the things he could smell weren't as detectable by his partner. It was a simple mistake, when Blair knew more about these sensory talents than Jim did. "Mrs. Reichmann must have just taken a batch out."

"I don't think that's a good idea, Jim. We need to figure this out first, find out what you can and can't eat." Blair walked around the car and tried to pull Jim toward the door of their building.

"Hang on. I think one thing we can count on are the doughnuts I've been eating for years with no problem. Come on." Jim took hold of the arm trying to herd him inside, and instead pulled Blair down the block to the bakery. The scent of dough, sugar, frosting, and all the ingredients that went into creating the pastries Jim had enjoyed for years grew stronger with each step. Until they entered the bakery itself, Jim could enjoy all the smells at their fullest. Once inside, they became overwhelming, and he had to tone it all down just a bit.

"Ah, Mr. Ellison, it's been a few days." Mr. Reichmann met them at the door, hurrying out with a small box in his hands.

"Yeah, the kid tries to keep me away." Jim nodded inside. "How's Mrs. Reichmann doing? I haven't seen her in here for a while."

"Yes, she's been ill. Female things, she says. I'm taking her something to perk up her spirits." Mr. Reichmann hefted his small box. "Every morning she makes the almond cookies and eats the first three. Can't let that go just because she's not here today to bake them, now, can I?"

"No, I guess not. Give her my best, would you?"

"Yes, yes I will." The old baker stepped out the door and turned back to face them. "Be sure and try the buttermilk. They're fresh this morning, I made them myself."

"Thank you." Jim watched the man hurry down the street to his car, then turned to Blair. "I hope it's nothing serious."

"Yeah, those two have been in business together for 20 years." Blair followed Jim inside. "She gave me a great recipe for pumpkin muffins last month."

"Last month?"

"I know, I know. I haven't had time to try it out yet."

Jim shook his head, then bought a half dozen of the buttermilk. The smell of the fresh pastries accompanied them up the elevator and into the loft.

"I suppose you're going to eat those instead of getting some rest?"

Jim laughed shortly at Blair's mothering attitude. "Actually, I was going to get comfortable on the couch and relax a bit. What about you?"

Blair shook his head and reached out for Jim's coat. "You should go upstairs and get some sleep, Jim." He hung up both their coats and went into the kitchen. "I can make some tea to help you sleep if you want."

Sighing, Jim walked to the couch and sat down, turning to face his friend. Blair still looked as if he hadn't slept in days, and there was a note of uncertainty in his voice. Maybe they needed to have that talk now? Incacha's words came back, still begging answers. "Okay, make some tea, Chief. But I don't want to sleep, I want to talk."

Blair had already flipped on the burner, and set the pot down with a nod. "Sure, Jim. What do you want to talk about?"

"I wanna talk about what has you so upset." Jim shifted on the couch, bringing his feet up after he kicked off his shoes. "I know whatever this was, it was unexpected and scared you. Hell, it scared both of us. But it isn't your fault, Chief."

"Jim, it is my fault. After that bottled water the last time, I should have realized the potential and done more studies."

"Sandburg, there is no way anyone could predict everything I might eat and what it might do. Look how long I've gone already without any problems."

"But that's just it, Jim." Blair crossed the room and sat down on the arm of the couch. "We might have been lucky so far, or all the times you thought you had the flu or a cold, or anything else, they might have been reactions to chemicals you either inhaled or ingested." He shook his head. "The possibilities are just too many. I wasn't prepared for this." Blair's gaze dropped to the couch.

"And you think I was?"

"Incacha was."

Jim took a deep breath, then moved his feet and patted the couch. When Blair reluctantly sat down, he continued. "Listen to me, Blair. You're not Incacha. You could no more be him than he could have been you." Blair opened his mouth and Jim held up a hand to stop him. "That's a compliment, Chief. Incacha was there when I needed him. I didn't realize I needed him, but he did. He saw in me something I didn't know was there, and he knew how to use it to help me help his people." He paused, making sure Blair was listening. "When I left Peru, I didn't need him anymore."

"Jim, you suppressed your Sentinel senses when you left Peru."

"But they came back, didn't they? And you were there when I needed you. And I still need you."

"No, Jim, what you need is your life back." Blair stood and began pacing the living room. "I've pushed you time and again to keep them, but I think I was wrong."

"What are you talking about, Chief?" Jim resisted the urge to get off the couch and stop his friend's pacing. Whatever he was working out had to be purged, but he wasn't about to let this get out of hand.

"Jim, I've been thinking about this since yesterday. That time you shot the security guard, you said the Sentinel thing wasn't worth anything if you made one fatal mistake." Blair's pacing took him to the glass doors, where he turned and started back. "At the time, I didn't agree with that, not really. But I understand it better now. And you're right."

Damn kid's manufacturing mountains again. "Blair..."

"No, hear me out, Jim." He held up a hand, then resumed his walk. "You've been willing to drop this whole thing since day one. It's always been me pushing you to keep it. Well, maybe I was wrong." Blair stopped pacing and sat down on the coffee table, trying hard to meet Jim's eyes. "Jim, if the Sentinel thing is this dangerous to you, then it's not going to do Cascade any good, either. And if it can be this harmful, then...it's just not worth your life, man. I think the best thing to do is to have you give this all up. It's for your own good, Jim, and I think we can make it happen."


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