Ellison handed Blair the gun. "Watch her," he growled then headed for the back of the bus, listening for the bomb.
Blair found himself face to face with Veronica Serris, his shaking hand holding the automatic between them. He'd never held a gun before. What if he had to use it? Wasn't there some kind of lock on it that had to be released for it to work? The safety, that was it. God, he couldn't shoot anyone. Physical force was so not his style. He couldn't remember ever hitting anyone, at least not after grade school.
A sound from behind him diverted his attention for a moment, but that was all Serris needed. A sharp kick to the hand holding the gun sent it flying from Blair's grasp. They both dove for it, but she was quicker. Blair found himself once again on the receiving end of the weapon. His hands went up in surrender. She wouldn't shoot him, would she? He wasn't resisting. "Veronica--"
"Shut up!" she snapped, peering around him to see what Ellison was up to.
Come on, Blair, talk to her, use that Sandburg charm. "You really don't want to do this, Veronica. You don't want to hurt me, to hurt all these people. Put the gun down, and we can all get off this bus."
"I said, shut up!"
Her attention was still on Detective Ellison. Blair could hit her, could grab the gun out of her hand. But that meant harming another human being, something he had sworn years ago never to do. "Veronica--"
Fire exploded in his chest. Blair tumbled backwards, landing heavily on the floor, hearing people scream, hearing himself scream. Who knew getting shot would hurt so much? His pain was short lived as the bomb blast ripped through the bus, igniting the gas tank, turning the vehicle into a huge ball of flame--
"Aaaaaugh!" Blair sat up with a yell, his heart slamming against his chest in a rapid tattoo. It was a dream, it was a dream, he reassured himself. He ran a shaking hand through his hair, as the sound of feet pounding down the stairs registered in his brain.
"Chief! You okay?" Jim didn't bother pausing at the doorway. He strode into the room to stare down at Blair.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm all right. Just a nightmare. Par for the course." He grinned up at his friend.
Jim sat down next to Blair. "Didn't sound like *just* a nightmare. Was it Lash?" Blair shook his head. "Brackett? Kincaid? Quinn? Alex?"
"Veronica Serris, man. The Switchman."
Jim's face reflected his surprise. "She wouldn't be the one I would pick to haunt your dreams. Why her?"
Blair scrubbed at his face with his hand, then replied, "Because if I hadn't stepped outside of the box there, Jim, we would both be dead." Seeing his partner's confusion, he tried to explain. "I was always the peacemaker growing up. I negotiated, I compromised, I talked problems out. Physical force was not something I would ever consider as an answer to a situation."
"You were a pacifist," Jim stated.
"Basically, yeah. Non-violent protest, that was me. Sit-ins, chaining myself to a tree, carrying a placard, those were my accepted forms of confrontation. But for whatever reason, when Serris knocked that gun out of my hand, I went after her physically, and we both know how that turned out."
"But in my dreams I try to talk to her, to reason with her, and she shoots me." He shivered at the memory, his hand unconsciously rubbing his chest. "Then the bus blows up, and everyone dies."
"It isn't real, Blair. It didn't happen that way," Jim reassured him.
Blair gave him a smile. "Yeah, I know. I think the dream is just to remind me of my role, of what a guide is supposed to be."
"And that is?"
"A Sentinel is a throwback to another more dangerous time, when warriors were needed to defend the tribe. A Sentinel by definition is a warrior--as is his guide."
Jim's eyes regarded him intently. "And you're okay with that?"
"Yeah, I'm okay with that. I think I'll still reach for my mouth first when choosing a weapon, but I know when to use the physical side of my arsenal."
"And a mighty arsenal it is," Jim laughed, punching Blair's bicep lightly. Then he turned serious. "Thanks, Blair, for being there that first day, and all the days since then."
Blair's grin was electric. "Wouldn't have missed a minute of it, man. This is where I'm supposed to be."
As Jim rose and headed back upstairs, Blair settled down for the rest of the night, sure the split-second decision he'd made three years ago had been the right one.
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