"Oh, man...late again!" Blair hurried
up the stairs, fumbling for his keys. This hadn't been one of his better days.
Not even close. Started off the morning with a fight that left Jim storming off,
one quick warning about promises made, and now he was late! He paused at the door,
trying to hear through the wood...trying to hear Jim's pacing feet, his tapping
finger...the look of ice that surely awaited him. Maybe it would be less painful
to just...No. He had to go in there.
The keys refused to obey, balking from
the lock three times before he finally gave up and knocked. Great, he was reduced
to knocking. Jim was on the other side of that door, pissed off and one hour late
thanks to Blair, and he's knocking outside because the damn key won't fit!
I'm sorry, man. My key won't work." Come on, Jim...making me wait just makes
us both later. He knocked again. "Jim?" Wonderful. Just great. Jim left
without him, pissed off, and now he was sitting in that truck on stake-out. And
Blair was standing in the hallway knocking. "Okay, think."
door, fire escape...yeah. He'd gotten in that way before, when Jim was at work
and he was too embarrassed to call...Blair hurried out the side door, around the
back of the building, then climbed up the fire escape as quickly as he could.
Once on the balcony, the rest was easy. That spare key Jim told him never to leave
outside was right in this pot over...Damn! It was gone. Blair sighed heavily.
Great, Jim found the key, and put it inside. Again.
Okay, how hard can this
be? He'd seen Jim pick a lock now and again. He glanced around the balcony for
something sharp and thin. Nuts. Nothing. "Okay, think Sandburg." Yes!
He pulled out the ever-present Swiss Army Knife, found the fingernail file, and
started in on the lock. Two fingernails were broken getting in, but it worked.
Okay, change your clothes, grab something from the fridge, and try to find Jim.
Maybe practice a nice speech on the way, to smooth things over? No, Jim could
spot a practiced speech miles away. Better to go with honest and sincere. And
maybe some take-out?
He froze. His dresser...it should be right there, right
where that desk was. And his bed...where was his bed? What the hell...? "Jim?"
Blair took one hesitant step into the room, glancing around in fear of what he'd
see. "Jim?" Oh God, what was this? A joke? Right, had to be a joke.
Maybe Jim's way of getting back at him? Yeah. Sure, Sandburg. Jim removed your
bed, your dresser, pulled the shelves off the wall, tossed out the desk, replaced
it with a couch, some tables, and the computer from Jim's bedroom. Yeah. All in
one hour, and all to punish you for being late. "JIM?!"
out of the room, trying hard not to look at the unfamiliar contents. What he found
in the living room compounded the fear. "Oh man, this is too much."
Blair stopped, one shaking hand ran through his hair. His mind emptied, became
a black hole of confusion and fear.
The couch was wrong. And his chair...The
big yellow chair, where was it? Blair raced through the room to the stairs, taking
them two at a time. Jim's bed, dresser, pictures...all normal. "Okay, Jim.
I give. You win, man." Yeah, it was a joke.
Get a grip, Sandburg! Something
is wrong here! He bounded down the stairs, nearly tripping over a rug he'd never
seen before on his race to the phone. "Okay, calm down. There's a perfectly
good explanation for all of this." Blair took a deep, cleansing breath and
picked up the phone. After all, this was a man who got a horse up an elevator.
Maybe a few of the guys came over, Jim was pissed off, wanted to teach Blair a
lesson. Yeah. Of course. After all, Jim did have one hell of a sense of humor.
YES! "Jim! Man, I'm sorry I was late, but I got
"Who is this?"
No, no no no.... "Jim, it's
me...Blair." Come on, enough is enough. "Blair, Jim. Come on, man. It
was good, I'll give you that." Please!
"I'm sorry, what is this about?"
"Jim, it's...Wait a minute...you aren't on stakeout?"
Who is this? What is this about?"
Oh God... okay, one of us is having
a REALLY bad day. Blair opted for himself. After all, that morning's fight was
his fault. Those were his notebooks Jim tripped over, after having been asked
to put them away three times. "This IS Jim Ellison, of Major Crimes, right?"
A heavy sigh, throat clearing. "This is Ellison. I was in Major Crimes.
Is that the department you need?"
"Jim, it's you I need. Listen to
me, it's Blair Sandburg. I'm at the loft and..."
"Jim, I'm home, at the loft. Your loft. I live here, with you." This
is taking a joke too far. "Jim, I..." Click. "Shit!" Blair
hung up, then dialed again. "Come on, come on...."
"I need Jim Ellison."
"Sorry, he just left."
Oh, man! "Thanks." Blair hung up. Okay, you just told someone who doesn't
know you that you're inside his home using his phone. And you're a lunatic. Okay,
not a problem. At least Jim's coming home, right? This stupid dream will be over...the
joke finished. Jim will burst through that door, gun drawn for effect, maybe slam
him into the wall or something, then give him a lecture about punctuality and
make him haul his own furniture back up. No less than Blair deserved anyway.
this is a good thing. A lecture, then Blair's apology, some lugging of furniture
up from....from...from where? Where in the hell could he have moved it all? Getting
a horse into an elevator with a jar of molasses was sounding one hell of a lot
easier than it did before.
But what if...No. No, there was no way. He woke
up this morning, didn't hit his head on the way to the University...No, it was
going to clear up any minute.
spun, then leapt out of his skin when the gun nearly touched his nose.
said freeze!" Jim's eyes were stone. Ice-blue stone that could put any man
off his feet. And they were aimed at him. That jaw muscle twitched violently,
but the hand was steady as a rock.
Blair's hands shot up, then he remembered
the freeze part and briefly thought he should return them to his sides. "Jim,
come on, man...enough is enough." Shit, those eyes could kill! Jim didn't
need a gun. Another minute of that stare and Blair would be a statistic.
are you and how did you get in here?"
The gun lowered just enough to see
more of the face bearing down on him, burning a hole right through his soul. "Jim,
it's Blair. Think. There's something horribly wrong here, something I can't figure
"You've got that right, Chief." Jim stepped farther into
the loft and kicked the door shut, scanning every inch of the living room in one
Chief! "Jim, just let me explain, please." Blair
wanted to lower his arms, wanted to reach out and maybe touch Jim...see if he
was real or just the second pillow in a bed he was really still lying in. But
he couldn't. Fear held him still. His heart was racing. He was afraid! Those eyes
were directed at HIM, and he was afraid! "God, please Jim don't do this to
"You've got a lot of explaining to do. Why don't you start now?"
Jim moved around, putting his back to the living room, then let go of the gun
with one hand and reached out.
"Jim, I..." The hand grabbed his left
shoulder, spinning Blair around so fast his words were stolen from his throat.
He was pressed into the pole, both feet kicked farther apart by one swift hit
from Jim's leg. "Jim, I'm not armed. Come on." This was NOT a joke.
Even Jim didn't take something this far. And those eyes, that couldn't be faked.
"How did you get in?"
"I picked the lock. My keys didn't..."
"Keys? You broke in, for what? Are you a thief?" The hand returned,
spinning Blair back around to face those eyes again.
Okay, one of you is still
sound asleep having a nightmare. Time to find out which one. "Jim, I live
here. With you. I moved in months ago, when my warehouse blew up. Remember?"
"Months ago you were probably in some hospital somewhere, right? Maybe
white, with nice soft walls?" Jim took one step back, and reached for his
"No, but I bet you were." Jim froze. The cell phone fell
back into his pocket. Blue eyes hardened, if that was possible, and the gun shook
once. Back to the beginning, if that's what it takes. "I bet you were in
the hospital for months, only no one could find anything wrong with you."
Blair took a chance. If those eyes didn't kill him, the gun would. But if they
didn't melt soon, he'd be dead from exposure anyway. Nothing to lose, Sandburg
"Who the hell are you?" Jim's voice was piercing. It could have elicited
an answer from any current resident of the morgue.
Blair swallowed. God, could
he go through this again? How could he start over..what if, what if Jim refused
him this time? What if he lost him?! "My name is Blair Sandburg. And I'm
the only one who can help you."
"Help me with what?"
Okay, go with that. "I know about your senses. I know what you've been hiding
all these months." There! The eyes softened...just for an instant they softened.
"And I know you've just broken and entered, probably found nothing to
steal, and made the dumbest mistake of your life. Now you're trying hard to snow
your way out that door."
"Jim, I didn't break and...well, I did.
But only because my keys didn't work!"
"You don't have keys, mister.
And I'm real tired of this little game."
"Wait!" Blair held
up a hand to forestall another spinning around. "Just listen, just one minute.
You've been seeing things you shouldn't see, right? Hearing things too quiet for
anyone to hear? You can feel more than you should, am I right?" Jim's eyes
darted down and to the left, then shot right back to Blair's. "Am I right?
Jim, I know about your senses, I know about
Peru, and the stakeout when you
were looking for the bomber, the Switchman."
Jim's gun shot back up, taking
a steady bead on Blair's left ventricle. "Is that why you're here? Trying
to finish what she started?"
Shit! Blair's head was spinning. This was
a dream, right? It was some stupid Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart! "No,
no, man, Listen, I'm an anthropologist. What's been happening to you is my thesis.
This is all wrong!" Forgetting the gun, the ice-blue lasers, even the size
of the man in front of him, Blair moved away, shaking his head. There had to be
Hands wrapped around his neck, completely engulfing him. Jim pulled
him back and spun him around with one quick, gut-wrenching motion. Before he could
speak, the hands clutched his shirt. Months of practice and an instinct that would
have made Jim proud brought both of Blair's arms up. Heedless of the man who could
kill him with a look, Blair shoved forward, using the wall behind his back as
a brace. Jim went down hard.
Blair watched, stunned at his own strength. Then
panic-stricken when Jim didn't get up. "Jim...Jim!"
Jim shot straight up, his heart pounding in his chest, beads of sweat trickling
off his chest.
"Jim, what the hell was that all about?" Blair was
standing over him--over his bed--blue eyes searching his own.
Jim sighed heavily and shook his head. God, what a dream!
Enough to bring Blair racing upstairs? Man, what had he done? "I'm okay,
Chief. Just a nightmare."
"No kidding." Blair released the grip
he'd had on Jim's shoulders as if he only then realized he was doing it and stood
up. "You were shouting, I could hear you from downstairs."
"What was I shouting?" What the hell was on that pizza?
about keys...and having been insane for months. I'm not sure." Blair pushed
the hair from his face. "You wanna talk about it?"
Jim sighed, reaching
up to wipe sweat from his face. He took inventory and shook his head. "Not
"Jim, come on man, I've NEVER heard you have a nightmare
before. This had to be bad." Blair stood there, looking at him with those
damn blue eyes of his. Eyes that bored little holes into your inner core, exposing
the soft parts you didn't want to touch.
"Sandburg, I..." He sighed.
It was no use. He could talk about it, and take whatever ribbing Blair wanted
to dish out, or push it aside and wait for the next surprise attack in the middle
of the night. He wasn't uncomfortable talking about these things, but what if...what
if this was the one to backfire? "Okay, just don't try and analyze this one,
Chief." Jim slid over on the bed, propped a pillow against the railing, and
leaned back for a moment to regain some composure.
"Jim, sometimes a dream
doesn't need to be analyzed, just exposed." Blair hesitated a moment, then
Jim patted the bed and he climbed on, getting into the lotus position facing him.
Great, exposed. Seemed to be Blair's job, exposing Jim to parts of himself
he didn't know were there before. At least when Blair exposed something, he stuck
around to help you work with it. And never made you sorry you'd shared. "Okay,
just let me get this out and we can both get back to sleep, okay?"
Of course you are. "I had a stakeout, and you were supposed
to meet me here after class, but you were late as usual. Your key didn't work,
so you broke into the back door."
Blair shrugged. "Okay so far, that's
why I put the key in the plant."
Jim glared at him, having put that key
back inside where it belonged for the third time this month. "I know. But
I was dreaming I was you, and this time you found no key." He paused. It
was just that morning he'd found that key and put it away again. "So you
broke in, but it wasn't your room."
Blair nodded, fully into listening
mode, watching every move Jim made. It was as if he was lip-reading while he listened,
making sure nothing went unheard. Sometimes Jim considered saying something off
the wall, just to test that theory. Nothing in the loft was the same. It was as
if you'd never existed."
"Had I?" Blair asked.
shocked by the memory. By the pain of it. "No. Not for me, no."
about your Sentinel senses?" Always the researcher!
Jim shook his head.
"No, this wasn't about me, Chief. It was about you. You called me at the
station, only I didn't know who you were. I came rushing over here, ready to bust
your ass, and you couldn't convince me why I shouldn't." Jim exhaled sharply
through his nose, this wasn't right. Something about this dream wasn't right.
"But you still had your senses, right?" Blair's voice was quiet.
Yet it rang clear every time. It was as if it originated inside Jim's head.
did, yeah. But I'd never met you. I had no idea who you were, and you were trying
to convince me, trying to tell me about my senses and why I--why I knew you. Why
I should know you."
"But you didn't know me?"
had no idea who you were, or how you'd gotten in. I was ready to kill you."
Blair nodded, pursing his lips in thought. It was a trick, a ploy he used to
make Jim think he was just coming up with the solution right then, on his feet,
when in fact he'd known all along...somehow.
"You would have killed me
if I was just some jerk off the street, standing in your apartment?"
this getting twisted? When did Jim loose control of this story? "I was---you
kept hounding me about my senses. I had them, yeah, but..."
I wasn't there? So all this time you'd been alone with them, right?"
I thought I was telling this story?"
"Jim, I'm just trying to get
"You're trying to get inside, Chief." Jim
pointed a finger at him, a finger that shook. Oh God. Plain as the finger shaking
before him, it hit. That's what was missing. "I--I had them, and I had no
control. I had--I'd had them since the stakeout, but no one--I didn't catch the
Switchman." There, admitted, exposed, bare and open. Jim had a need...a deep
need. "I had no control." He wanted to get up, to pace around the room,
maybe kick a wall or two, but Blair was in the way. If he launched off the bed,
his partner would go flying.
"But Jim, you HAVE control. You did catch
"No. No, Sandburg, I don't have control." Just
admit it, tell him what he already...No, tell him what YOU already know. "I
don't have control, Chief." Jim felt his voice soften, his eyes search out
Blair's despite the difficulty in holding them. "I don't have control, I
It was Blair's gaze that faltered. His face that flushed. "Jim...I..of
course you have me, man."
"No, I didn't in this dream. I didn't have
you. I had nothing. No control, no stability. I was a time bomb." Ready to
go off and kill anyone in its path. "Sandburg, if I'd never met you...hell,
I'd be dead. There's no easy way around it." Jim shook his head. "I've
always had control, I need to be in control. But with these senses, I'm walking
the edge." The edge between life, and nightmare. "With you, I'm balanced.
I can stand out there and walk on that line and know that I won't fall down, either
way. But if you hadn't come along...if you weren't here all the time, that line
would disappear and I'd crash. I can't do this without you, even with what you've
taught me, Chief. Even with your tests and your exercises. This isn't something
you can master."
"Hey, Jim, I've never claimed to know it all, man.
You've blown the curve right out of every idea I had about Sentinels." Blair
examined the blankets for a moment. "And friends, too, man."
was this? A deep confession from the king of obfuscations? Blair Sandburg, the
emotional Artful Dodger, showing his own underbelly? "Hey, don't sell yourself
"No, Jim, I'm not. I've had friends before, man. But this--
whatever this is--it's way beyond what I expected. That's not selling myself short,
Jim. You're just way more than anyone I've ever let myself know."
watched him for a minute, watched his eyebrows rise in an attempt to soften the
seriousness of the moment. "It's more than we both bargained for, Chief.
More than we each deserve, maybe." But he'd be damned if he was going to
let it go. "Listen, about this nightmare...you were right, it analyzed itself
pretty well." Now, to clarify it, secure it, and kill it for good. "I
was afraid. Hell, terrified. I was terrified when you met me, Sandburg. Terrified
of what I was becoming. Terrified of losing control. Some days, I think about
what would have happened if I had left that office of yours and never looked back."
Blair smiled, "I would have hunted you down, Jim."
you would." But would you have survived? "Sometimes I can't help but
think about what I'll do when you leave. After this paper of yours is done, am
I going to come home one night and find you all packed up?"
"Just hang on a minute, let me get this out."
Jim, you don't understand." Blair held up both hands and Jim stopped, looking
him in the eyes. "Jim, the paper...Tt isn't about the paper anymore."
Blair's hands fell back down and he picked up a bit of the blanket. Fingers began
to pick at a fluff-ball. "Jim, that paper isn't why I'm here. It was at first,
maybe...but, hell, Jim, that paper could have been published months ago."
The jaw slid sideways, eyes searching for a second fluff-ball.
Jim tried to look down and pull those blue eyes back up by connecting them with
his own. "What is it, then? Why do you stay? Is it my cooking?"
chuckled, then looked up during that weak moment. He had him. Once those eyes
met his, he could hold them steady for at least another sentence. "Listen,
Chief, I think it's time I admit something. Paper or not, the only way you're
moving out of here is over my dead body."
Blair laughed again lightly
and shook his head.
"No, I'm serious, Chief. If you go, it's over for
me. I've accepted these senses, and all that comes with them. But that's you.
You're what comes with them, buddy. Without you, without the control, what good
are they?" The eyes still held his, still searching his own. "You think
you've been teaching me control all this time, but you're wrong. YOU...You're
the control, Chief. I've put that on your shoulders, and I listen to you when
I need it to work. I can't carry it all. I tried, but it's just too big. So, you
have to hold onto that. You have to be my control."
Blair faltered, his eyes failed to stay focused and he frantically searched for
another fluff-ball. Failing that, he looked up again. "I don't know what
to say, Jim."
You wouldn't. "Say that I don't have anything to worry
about. Tell me I won't come home one day and find myself alone. Promise me I won't
have to end this nightmare in some back alley in order to keep from losing the
only thing that matters to me." Control. You. "Just tell me that and
I can get some sleep."
"God, Jim!" In a burst of motion, Blair
flung himself forward, awkwardly slamming into Jim as both arms wrapped around
him in a clumsy embrace.
Jim's arms reached around his friend's back easily,
pulling him close. Blair never was good at this, always pulling away too quickly,
trying to end the feeling just as it began.
"You'll have to throw me out,
Jim." The words were muttered against Jim's chest as he pressed his face
Never. Jim tightened his grip, feeling the hands clutching his back in
a desperate attempt to speak for him. Now it was all out, hanging in the open
with no more question or doubt. He needed Blair. Admitting that to himself was
nearly as hard as allowing someone else to know it. Trusting someone else with
his sanity, the knowledge that Jim Ellison, alone, was no longer in control. At
least it was someone he could trust. Someone he trusted with his life, his future.
At least it was Blair.
"Oh, man, sorry, Jim." Blair released his
grip and pulled back, pushing moisture from both eyes with the back of one hand.
"I guess you want to get back to sleep, huh?" He shuffled off the bed
and stood, pushing dark curls from his face.
"Yeah, I guess so."
Jim watched him standing there, wondering if the kid would ever find courage.
Maybe he should rent the Wizard of Oz?
"Well, good night." Blair
turned to leave, then turned back, looking somewhat lost. "Um...Jim.."
Jim sighed. He'd just confessed his life to the kid, giving him the equivalent
of emotional overload. He supposed making him ask could wait. "Come on."
Patting the bed was all it took. That and scrunching over some more so Blair could
fit in beside him. He moved quickly, as if delay would remove the offer extended.
Jim pushed one of the pillows over, then got himself situated and waited for Blair
to do the same.
Once Blair was happy, Jim adjust his own position, lying on
his back. "Good night, Chief."
"Good night, Jim."
settled in to a quiet rhythm, Jim's nightmare having been completely replaced
now with a warm, secure feeling. A few minutes later his arm was uncomfortable,
so he pulled it out from between them and put it over Blair's head. Already half
asleep, Blair moved a bit, then snuggled closer, pressing his hands against Jim's
side. Thanks, Chief. Jim watched him sleep, listening to the slow, steady pattern
of Blair's breathing as he did every night, allowing the threads of sleep to overtake
him only when he knew his Guide was safe.