Forest In The Sky
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
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?"
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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
"I know. Simon got called out on a case, he couldn't
"I didn't mean to sleep so late, I just..."
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."
that's great. I um...yeah, I can be there in a few minutes."
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.
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.
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.
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
"Blair, I'm all right."
"You were lucky,
"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,
"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..."
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?"
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.
Chief, do me a favor tonight," Jim called to Blair as he reached the door.
"Yeah, what is it?"
"Stop worrying about everything, just
Blair nodded, then left the room, closing the door quietly
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.
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.
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?"
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
"Thank you." Jim watched the man hurry down the street
to his car, then turned to Blair. "I hope it's nothing serious."
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."
"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
"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?"
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."
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
Blair had already flipped on the burner, and set the pot down with
a nod. "Sure, Jim. What do you want to talk about?"
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,
"Jim, it is my fault. After that bottled water the last time,
I should have realized the potential and done more studies."
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."
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?"
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
"Jim, you suppressed your Sentinel senses when you
"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."
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.
"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."