"Younger than you, about 24." He traced the carving with
one hand. "He shouldn't have been on the mission."
Jim turned, and
Blair flinched but held his ground, seeing that famous jaw muscle twitch.
died in my arms, two days after the crash." Jim's voice was even, but still
quiet. "He was like a little brother to me, which is another reason he shouldn't
have been there. The powers that be thought it would boost the kid's moral to
be a part of that mission. And I had no say in the matter."
and Blair stayed quiet, not wanting to say something that would bring back the
silence, or trigger anything again.
"I never realized before how much
you remind me of him." He leaned back against the stone. "Ever since
we crashed, I've been flashing back on him. More vivid than ever before. And there's
something else there too, but it's not a memory so much as a feeling."
swallowed, beginning to feel a little more relaxed now that Jim was talking, but
his feet still resisted the order to move forward. "What kind of feeling?"
He kept his voice quiet and his eyes on Jim's.
"I'm not--not sure exactly."
He shook his head, looking frustrated with himself. "I can't really put a
finger on anything." Jim's hands came up in a gesture of helplessness. "The
only thing I can describe is this sense of -- of losing control." He dropped
his hands and looked at Blair. "I haven't remembered anything new, Chief.
Just the same old memories, a bit more vivid."
Blair nodded slowly, and
was surprised to find himself taking a step or two, but it wasn't really at Jim,
more around in general. "You never told me about Hicks. But that would explain
a few things." He started to let go of his arm, so his hand could push the
hair from his face, but when he moved the fingers, a stab of pain reminded him
the arm was bleeding again.
Jim started, as if seeing the injury for the first
time, and took a step forward, reaching out. Blair's heart jumped, hitting the
roof of his mouth before he could force it back down. He pulled away the instant
Jim moved, and cursed his actions. Jim stopped immediately, and Blair wondered
if Sentinels could detect adrenaline levels.
"We need to get that cleaned
Blair glanced at the arm, fresh blood plainly visible in the moonlight.
"Yeah." He looked up at Jim, wanting to apologize, but the words stuck
in his throat, where so many were still lodged.
"Come on." Jim motioned
towards the dimming fire, then stepped aside, indicating Blair should go ahead.
His feet finally obeyed, and with hardly any hesitation he was able to walk
past Jim and back to camp, hearing his partner follow, but staying several feet
behind. When he reached their camp, Blair went for his pack to retrieve the water
bottle and his shirt to make new strips since he was wearing the last of Jim's.
"I've got it. Go sit by the fire." Jim reached around behind him
to grab the pack and Blair's heart skipped a beat.
He nodded, grateful he hadn't
jumped three feet in the air like he thought he had, and walked to the fire. Get
a grip, Sandburg. He heard Jim tearing strips of cloth as he walked to where he
waited. Blair worked out the knot in his soiled bandages and began to slowly unwrap
the bits of shirt, hissing a little at the sight of freshly irritated tissues.
The bleeding seemed to have stopped, and there was still no sign of infection.
Jim sat in front of him and held out a hand, stopping short of actually reaching
out for Blair's arm. "Let me have a look."
Blair obliged, having
removed the last of the bandaging. He bit down against the burning as Jim poured
water over the laceration, then used a bit of clean shirt to gently wipe away
the dried and fresh blood so he could examine the injury.
die in the crash?" Blair kept his voice quiet, and he hoped the slight shaking
was due to the burning on his arm.
Jim shook his head. "Not right away."
He finished cleaning the edges of the gash and gently turned Blair's arm over
to get a look at the other side. "He was badly injured, died from an infection."
Blair caught sight of Jim's face and the flexing of jaw muscles. "It wasn't
your fault, Jim."
He used another strip of clean cloth to dry Blair's
arm. "I was in command. It might not have been my fault, Chief, but it was
Jim started to wrap the injury again, starting at
Blair's elbow. "But you see, Jim, that explains your sense of losing control.
You had no power over the missile that brought you down, and killed your men.
You had no power to stop the infection that killed Hicks." Jim was listening
quietly, and Blair found his own heart had slowed back down to a normal rhythm.
"And now, being in such a similar situation, it's brought everything back
with more clarity than before." Jim finished the bandaging and tied the end
down. "Jim, it's not your Sentinel senses. They aren't making you lose control."
Jim looked up sharply, searching Blair's eyes for a moment.
know what you thought or felt for those 18 months, but right now you're flashing
back on someone I remind you of, in a situation similar to this one, under circumstances
not too far removed." Blair took courage in the steadiness of his own voice
and the fact that Jim was listening. "You had no control over that pilot's
heart attack. Or the crash. It just all combined to bring back old memories stronger
Jim nodded, sitting back and recapping the water bottle.
"I tell ya, Chief, they've never been this vivid before." He shook his
head. "I can recall the smell of the crash, the way the dirt felt. I can
remember every word Hicks said."
"Yeah. Well, part of this could
be my fault, Jim. If I hadn't been talking about it all the way down here, and
pushing you to..."
"No. It wasn't you, Chief." Jim shook his
head. "We've talked about Peru before. It was just bad timing, that's all."
He looked at Blair then, holding his gaze. "After Hicks, it all goes back
to that blur. I can't bring back anything else. Anything you don't already know.
Sorry about that."
Blair laughed shortly, raising both eyebrows. "Jim,
forget it. I shouldn't have pushed it."
"If I ever did remember,
I'd tell you. You know that, don't you, Chief?"
He looked at Jim, meeting
his darker blue eyes, and nodded. "Yeah, I know that, Jim." Blair felt
his face flush a little with guilt at having been afraid of him earlier. "Listen,
about before, I--"
"No, Blair you had every reason to react the way
you did. I lost my head for a minute, thinking about Hicks and finding you gone
again. I scared you, and I hurt you, and I'm sorry."
Blair looked down
at his arm, fussing with the bandaging for minute. There was a lump in his throat
that he couldn't talk around, but it didn't want to go away. When he looked back
up, all he could do was nod.
Jim sighed. "Well, the sun should be up in
an hour. Whaddaya say we get started?"
Blair glanced around, nodding.
When he turned back to Jim, he had just enough time to keep from flinching away
from the hand that gripped his shoulder. His heart only skipped one beat, and
the hand remained, as if to reassure them both. He swallowed hard against the
lump and suddenly found it impossible to meet Jim's eyes. He closed his own for
a second, and the hand gave a gentle squeeze. The familiar, welcome touch conveyed
more than either man could have voiced, and Blair accepted it without question.
Jim gave one more squeeze, then stood and began to kick dirt over the fading
fire. "What did you say that carving was back there?"
Jaguar. He was a ruler in this region over 1200 years ago. Carvings like that
are found all over this area. There's an archeological site just outside Tenosique
where most of the larger carvings can be found." Blair picked up the water
bottle and stuffed it back into his pack. Somehow talking about rock carvings
was pushing that lump farther down his throat where it wasn't getting in the way.
Jim had the fire out, so Blair handed him his pack, then shouldered his own.
I hope we hit town before noon." Jim shouldered his pack then looked out
at the road before turning back to Blair. "One more day in this jungle heat
without a shower, and we won't be welcome anywhere."
Blair made a face.
"Just remember that's we, partner."
Jim laughed, then started towards
the road. They made good time, and Blair kept an almost running conversation about
the area and the time he'd spent studying the carvings found in and around Tenosique.
At times, he wondered if his talking was just another attempt at avoidance, but
every time he paused, Jim asked a pertinent question, proving he was at least
In three hours, they crested a hill and spotted civilization.
Or close to it.
"First things first. We find a phone, then we find a doctor."
Jim wiped sweat from his face as they surveyed the town before them.
about both?" Blair pointed to their left, at a small collection of buildings
that seemed to be the central hub of the tiny town. Signs on the side claimed
everything from the local Post Office, Sheriffs Office, and Doctor, as well as
the only hotel and restaurant this side of Zapata. Jim nodded and led the way
down the dusty street. He'd lied. As soon as they entered the building, he took
Blair straight to the doctor's office at the far side of the building.
found Dr. Sanchez and his nurse heavily involved in a rousing game of chess, and
Jim had no trouble convincing him Blair's arm would provide a better distraction.
"Where will you be?" Blair asked, as Jim picked up both backpacks
and started to leave the exam room.
"I'm gonna go call Simon. Then, get
us someplace to shower and sleep. You stay here, I'll be back when I've got things
He nodded, watching Jim leave. He'd call Simon first,
and Blair didn't exactly want to be there during that conversation. Not that crashing
into the jungle had been anyone's fault. But he was pretty sure he still didn't
want to be there. Then Jim would find them a room in the hotel upstairs, and they'd
probably get cleaned up before taking the local authority out to retrieve the
Just as long as Jim didn't go out there alone. By jeep, a straight
shot on the road, they could probably reach the crash site in under 3 hours. But
being back there just might trigger Jim's memories again. He'd need Blair around,
just in case.
It took the doctor just under an hour to clean Blair's arm, apply
twelve stitches, a clean bandage and administer several injections Blair wasn't
entirely sure he needed. When Jim hadn't returned yet, he decided to go looking.
The nurse seemed unconcerned about payment, and mumbled something in Spanish about
already speaking with the bigger man.
"Gracias." Blair nodded, then
walked out of the office and glanced around, wondering if Jim was upstairs at
the hotel, across the street where the banks of phones were, or still out looking
for the local law. He decided on the hotel, mostly because he was tired, and beginning
to realize there was a distinct smell about him that, while in the doctor's office,
had become very noticeable. Blair walked up the stairs, finding the hotel to be
the only door available, and went inside. He was struck immediately by the unexpected
and welcome chill of an air conditioner, and quickly shut the door against the
sweltering afternoon heat.
Blair stood for a long time, reveling in the relief.
A man behind the counter watched him for a few minutes, then reached down behind
the counter for a key.
" Es usted Sr. Sandburg?" he asked.
stepped forward. "Sí. I'm Mr. Sandburg"
"Sr. Ellison pidió que
contara usted, cuarto cinco, y él estará de vuelta antes de de esta noche."
Blair stared at the man for a minute, not sure if he'd heard correctly. "He
went to the crash site? I mean, El salió allí? Al choque?" Surely Jim wouldn't
have driven out there without him?
"Sí, con el Alguacil." He was
holding out the key to room #5, waiting patiently for Blair to accept it.
He took the key but stood there, unsure if he should try and find a ride out to
the crash, and catch up to Jim and this sheriff he went with, or just wait. Dammit,
why did he leave without me?! Blair realized the clerk was staring at him, so
he smiled and moved down the hallway, looking for room #5. Maybe there was a note
He found the room at the end of the short hall, and inside found both
his and Jim's packs, a clean shirt and a short, to the point note.
is in Mexico City. He's driving out tomorrow to pick us up. I'll be back before
dark. Get some rest, and take a shower!"
Blair shook his head in frustration,
letting the note fall back to the small table as he sat down on one of the beds.
Had he left Blair behind on purpose? What if he got out there and...No, he probably
wouldn't have another association, not with the local Sheriff out to retrieve
a body...surely. But what if..?
"Take a shower." He wondered if Jim
had. That Sentinel nose might be able to tune out some smells, but he couldn't
have been immune to his own hygiene. Somewhat reluctantly, Blair got up off the
bed and pushed his tired body in the general direction of the bathroom. Fatigue
and stress were finally catching up, as was at least one of the shots the doctor
had given him. He found some damp towels piled, rather neatly, on the floor and
had one question answered.
Blair turned on the tap and splashed cool water
over his face, enough to revive him so he could strip off sweaty clothes and stand
in the shower without falling asleep. After he'd scrubbed off the worst of the
sweat and dirt, all the while trying hard to keep his bandaged arm from getting
too wet, he stepped out of the shower, drying almost instantly in the afternoon
heat that even an air conditioner couldn't ward off completely. He stumbled to
the bed, pulled on the clean t-shirt and his jeans, expecting to go outside and
find out how long ago Jim had left, and when he could be expected back.
body had other ideas. Blair sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his shoes, and
never even remembered his head hitting the pillow.
It hadn't taken long at all to drive back out to the crash site by jeep. The
road they had taken paralleled their jungle path almost perfectly, right up to
within a half mile of the wreck. Figures, Jim thought. The way his luck had been
holding out these past few days, he'd almost expected to come out of the jungle
right into some vacation resort or something.
Retrieving the pilot's body was
easy enough once Jim and the sheriff located the plane. They placed the man in
a body bag, and drove quickly back to town. He'd been surprised when he called
Simon, only to be redirected to a hotel in Mexico City, where the Captain had
flown immediately upon hearing Jim and Blair had failed to arrive as scheduled.
When Simon insisted they stay put until he came for them tomorrow, Jim had agreed
They pulled into town just before dusk. After helping deposit the
deceased pilot with the doctor, Jim retreated to the hotel. He had expected to
find Blair waiting for him outside. Actually, he'd almost thought the kid would
have found a way to follow him back out to the crash. The clerk nodded to him
as he passed and Jim went straight down the hall, opening the door quietly when
he recognized the sounds of a sleeper inside.
Blair was sprawled out on top
of one of the beds in his jeans and the clean shirt Jim had procured for him.
His arm was neatly bandaged, and the assortment of cuts and scrapes on his face
and chest were clean. In fact, he was clean. Jim walked quietly to the bathroom,
picking up bits and pieces of Blair's trailings along the way. He realized, if
you looked at the mess from the bathroom angle, his partner must have just made
it to the bed before falling asleep. Jim stacked the used towels in a corner,
washed the road dust from his face and hands, then returned to the other bed.
The sun made its final farewell, so he flipped on a lamp and sat down on the soft
Jim considered taking a nap himself, but he was hungry. Well, Blair
had probably been asleep for a couple of hours. He'd give him one more, then see
if he wanted to go get some real food. Jack's book was still in his pack, so Jim
retrieved it and got comfortable against the headboard, flipping open the book
to find his last chapter. Once located, Jim set the book in his lap and glanced
at Blair. He'd never really thought about how much his partner reminded him of
Hicks before now. Physically, they weren't very similar, aside from dark hair
and blue eyes. But in other respects, they were.
Blair stirred, then caught
sight of Jim and sat up.
"Jim, how long have you been back?" He ran
a hand through his hair, then continued before Jim could reply. "And why
the hell didn't you come get me?! Don't you realize what could have happened out
Jim chuckled slightly as he closed the book and shook his head.
"Relax, Chief. Nothing happened." He got off the bed and tossed the
book down. "I knew it wouldn't as long as you stayed here." When he
turned to look at Blair, he nearly laughed at the pained expression there. "Come
on, I'm hungry." He reached down and gently cuffed his friend on the back
of the head. "I'll explain it downstairs."
Blair got up almost reluctantly
and followed Jim out the door. "You got the body, I presume?"
we got it." Jim locked the door, then put a hand on Blair's back as they
walked down the hall. "Only took a few hours by jeep."
Jim could hear the rejection in his friend's voice, so he gave
his shoulder a quick squeeze before letting go. They walked downstairs and crossed
the dusty street to the only restaurant in the small town. Surprisingly, it was
very clean and popular. After finding a nice, quiet booth and ordering some dinner,
Jim couldn't take Blair's unnatural silence any longer.
"Sandburg, I went
out there alone because I found the sheriff, and if we didn't leave right away,
it would be too dark to find the wreck again." He took a drink of his beer
and watched Blair shake his head.
"I should have been there, Jim. What
if you had..." He stopped, glancing quickly around then lowering his voice
slightly. "What if you had zoned out again? Or forgot who you were talking
to like...I should have been there, Jim."
"No, Chief. I realized
it was you being there that was making me -- remember -- like that. Leaving you
here was the only way I could be sure it wouldn't happen again."
in Blair's eyes was obvious. "Jim, I.."
He held up a hand. Their
waitress came with the food and he had to wait a moment. "Blair, I'm not
saying it was your fault. It was a combination of things, but having you there,
and reminding me of Hicks, it was just...just too strong."
flashing on Hicks could happen any time. You've remembered your men before, and
them having died. You could have been out there with that sheriff and had the
"No, it wasn't Hicks. It was you."
stopped short of saying more and looked puzzled.
Jim sighed. "It was you,
Blair. I kept seeing you in Hicks' place. Having you out there, hurt, in danger,
in nearly the same situation that killed Hicks...well it was more than I could
handle, that's all." He took a drink, watching his partner digest all he
was hearing. "Listen, this morning when I---mistook you---I'm sorry."
Blair's eyebrows rose and he sat back for a moment, not meeting Jim's eyes.
"Yeah. It's okay."
"No, it's not okay, Chief. I hurt you, and
Blair laughed shortly, fidgeting with the edge of the table.
"Scared the shit out of me."
Jim's chest tightened with the memory
of the fear and betrayal he'd seen reflected back in the pale moonlight. The physical
pain of grabbing an injured arm was nothing compared to the hurt in those eyes.
God, standing there, holding his arm and fighting back the pain and fear, Blair
had looked so small, so terrified! And it was Jim he was afraid of. For the second
time in their partnership, it was Jim he feared. When Blair flinched away, he
may as well have lashed out, the pain was as real. "I know. I'm sorry."
It was all he could say. Short of traveling back in time and taking it all away,
it was all he could do.
Blair finally looked up,
and Jim tried to hold his gaze. He still looked small, and maybe just a little
unsure. So much like Hicks. He wanted to reach out and touch that shoulder, reassure
himself that Blair wasn't going to flinch again, but the table was in the way.
Jim took comfort in the fact that earlier, back at their camp, he'd been able
to touch Blair and feel the tension ease. He'd rather be shot in the gut than
experience that look again.
They finished eating and, Jim explained Simon's
reaction when he'd gotten hold of the Captain at his hotel in Mexico City. Banks
would be out in the morning to retrieve them. And luckily, Martinez had been transported
to Cascade yesterday, so all they had left to do was go home. After dinner, Jim
grabbed a couple more bottles of beer, and they crossed the street back to the
hotel. The air conditioner was turned off at 9pm, hotel policy, but the Mexican
heat didn't shut down till sometime around midnight. They both took the beers
out to the balcony overlooking the small town, and got comfortable on the deck,
lacking any chairs.