This story was written as a Sentinel Angst list themefic for DawnC. She asked for stories that showed Blair's dark side. I think this qualifies.

I'd call this slightly AU
.
Spoilers for TSbyBS and SenToo.
Death of a canon character (not Jim or Blair)

At What Price

By CarolROI

Dr. Blair Sandburg leaned back in his desk chair, tapping his red pen against his teeth as he read through his Anthro 201 class' midterms. The shrill ring of the phone cut through the silence in his office.

"Hello."

"Hey, Chief, it's me. Just checking to see how late you're going to be."

Blair smiled at sound of his friend's voice. "Pretty late, I'm afraid. It's taking longer than I thought to get these graded. Remind me at finals time not to make the exam all essay questions."

Jim Ellison's low chuckle carried clearly over the wire. "You got it. Simon's asked me out to dinner. You have time to take a break and come along?"

"No, I'd better not. I'm looking at an all-nighter as it is. But thanks for thinking of me."

"All right then, I'll see you in the morning."

Blair hung up the phone and went back to reading. Time passed, and the shadows thrown by the setting sun across the carpet lengthened. Completely engrossed, he never noticed the other presence in his office until a new shadow fell over his desk and a low, husky voice said, "Hello, Blair."

His blood froze in his veins. He knew that voice. It had been the last thing he'd heard before she'd pushed his head under the water.

Leaping to his feet, he stumbled back against the bookcase, tests fluttering to the floor. His gaze focused first on the gun she held casually in her left hand, then traveled up to meet her ice blue eyes. He felt the same gut-wrenching fear he'd experienced all those months before. "Alex...." he whispered.

"Surprised to see me?" Her question was soft, sincere, no trace of sarcasm or bitterness in her tone.

Which made it all the more terrifying for Blair. He pressed against the bookcase, the spines of the oversized books digging into his back. Swallowing hard, he managed, "Yes. I didn't know you were free."

She laughed, a sharp, bitter bark. "Free. I haven't been free in almost two years. But you're going to help me be free, Blair. We're going to finish what we started."

Blair's heart was pounding so hard he thought it was going to explode. He couldn't go through that again. He couldn't die again. And this time he knew there would be no Jim, no jaguar to save him. "No...." he replied, his voice cracking on the single syllable.

Her eyes widened, and he knew she could smell his terror. But instead of playing on it, instead of forcing him out the door and across the street to the fountain, she said, "You think this is going to be a repeat of the last time I was here." She shook her head. "I'm sorry I gave you that impression. Please, sit down." She gestured with her automatic at his chair. Slowly, carefully, Blair took a seat. "I'm sorry about last time. Killing you was wrong, I know that now. You were the only person who tried to help me, the only person who knew how to help me, and I killed you. I'm sorry. If I could undo it, I would."

Blair chewed the inside of his lip and regarded her curiously. She actually sounded like she meant it. "Why are you here, Alex?" he ventured.

The slim woman sat down in the chair opposite his desk. She reached forward, running her fingertips over the nameplate on his desktop. "Dr. Blair Sandburg. You finally got your Ph.D. Only your dissertation wasn't on Jim, was it? It was on me."

Eighteen Months Earlier

Blair shuffled his note cards nervously, then moved to the podium. " Hi. Thank you all for coming. I just have a short speech prepared here. Um... In our media-informed culture, a scientist receives validation by having his or her work published and after years of research there is great personal satisfaction when that goal is reached. However, I have not reached that goal at this time. I am still in the process of fine tuning my doctoral thesis on Sentinels, and I expect to turn it in to my review board within the next several months."

There were murmurs from the audience, several reporters shouting questions, but Blair continued to read from his cards. "The document that has been excerpted in the press is the first draft of a novel, a fictional outgrowth of my interest in the Sentinel legend and my own research on people with heightened senses. While my novel does quote ancient source material, and explores the possibilities of a modern day Sentinel, the main character should not be confused with the real James Ellison. Detective Ellison, who while being an extraordinarily gifted police officer, does not possess hyper senses. I apologize for any confusion this misunderstanding between myself and Mr. Graham has caused. Thank you."

Stepping down from the platform, Blair attempted to leave the room, but the reporter from Channel 4 cornered him. "Mr. Sandburg! What about Alex Barnes? Is she a real Sentinel? Is that what your dissertation is about?"

Swallowing nervously, Blair pasted a smile on his face. "My dissertation is about the role of a Sentinel in tribal culture, and the possibilities of one surviving in our modern world. From what I've seen, it would be very difficult for one to deal with the intense stimulation our world bombards us with daily."

"If James Ellison is just an ordinary cop, can you tell us why you chose to name the main character, the Sentinel, in your book after him?"

"Of course. To me, Detective Ellison is the epitome of a hero, the perfect choice on which to base my fictional Sentinel character, unlike Ms. Barnes, who is a convicted criminal."

"Isn't it true she's in a hospital for the criminally insane?"

Blair realized he'd opened up a whole other line of questioning for the reporter. "I'm sorry. That's all I'm going to say on the subject. If you're that interested in my thesis, you can read it when everyone else does, when it's published. Good day." Ducking under the reporter's microphone, he fled the building.

Present Day

Blair ran a hand nervously through his hair. "Yes. I based most of my thesis on you."

Alex sprang to her feet, grabbing the nameplate and throwing it across the room. "You bastard! Do you know what you did? You told them right where to find me!"

He shrank back in his chair, fighting the urge to cover his head with his arms as she flung the contents of his desktop into the air. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

Rounding the desk, she grasped his shirtfront, lifting him out of his seat. "You protected him! Why couldn't you protect me? Why didn't you even change my fucking name? Make some attempt to hide me!" She shoved him into the shelving.

Shaking, Blair brought his hands up in a gesture of surrender. "Alex, please. I don't know what you're talking about."

"You owe me." She leaned in close, her breath hot against his cheek. "We're going to finish what we started all those months ago."

The anthropologist's legs went out from under him then, and he slid down the bookcase to the floor. "No, I can't go through that again. I can't die again!"

Her hand tangled in his hair, tilting his face up so he met her eyes. "No, no. You're going to help me. Because of you and your damn dissertation, I've spent the last year and a half as a guinea pig. But I'm free now, and you're going to help me stay that way." Grasping Blair under his arm, she hauled him to his feet.

"How am I going to do that?" he asked.

Alex brushed him off, then pushed him gently back into his chair. "You're going to finish what you started. You're going to teach me how to control my senses. You're going to be my guide."

Blair shook his head. "I can't do that, Alex. That's what got me in trouble the first time. I'm Jim's guide, not yours."

She seemed hurt by his words, her expression clouding over. If he hadn't known this was Alex, that she was a cold-blooded killer, he would have sworn there were tears in her eyes. "You have to help me, Blair. The guide helps the Sentinel."

"Alex, I can't. Helping you almost cost me my friendship with Jim the last time. I don't care what you do to me, but I won't betray his trust, not again." His voice was calm, determined, and he wondered where the sudden strength had come from.

"You betrayed my trust. You left me in that hospital to rot, then you told them where to find me--"

Blair interrupted her. "Them. You keep talking about them. Who are they?"

She laughed sadly. "I don't know. They took me from the hospital, and tested me over and over and over again. When I didn't perform to their expectations, they drugged me, made me a prisoner in my own head." Squatting in front of him, Alex pushed up her right sleeve slowly. Her arm was covered in needle tracks, some just days old, others Blair could tell had been there for weeks if not months.

"Oh God," he whispered, his hand going to his mouth.

"The other arm's the same way," she told him softly. "I was so drugged up I didn't know who I was anymore; I didn't have control of my own actions, and they used me. Made me do things for them. Horrible, terrible things that I would never have done on my own. Now the drugs are gone and I can think for myself again. But I need your help, Blair. I need to know how to control my abilities, to stop the pain."

Automatically thinking like a guide, Blair asked, "You're still having sensory spikes?"

She nodded. "It's like a stabbing pain in my head. You were starting to teach me what to do, how to make them go away. That's all I want. I want to be able to live a normal life. Please, Blair. You promised to help me."

Swallowing hard, Blair took a long look at her before he answered. Besides the needle marks, there were other signs Alex had been sorely abused. She was thin, almost gaunt, and her red-rimmed eyes were underlined by dark circles. She was a murderer, he reminded himself. She killed you. She nearly killed Jim. And he would most certainly kill his friendship with Jim if he aided her. "I'm sorry, Alex. I can't help you."

Rising, Alex glanced away from him for a moment. When she turned to face him again, her cheeks were wet with tears. "Please, Blair. If they find me....I can't go back there. I can't. Please, if you won't help me, just tell me what to do. Tell me someone else to see, somewhere to go, some place to hide. Please, Blair, you're my only hope."

He was going to be strong this time. He wasn't going to let her words sway him. Whatever had happened to her wasn't his fault. There was no proof whoever had taken Alex had found out about her abilities through his thesis. He wasn't responsible for her. He wasn't responsible for every Sentinel that couldn't handle their senses. Blair got to his feet. If she was going to kill him again, he was going to die standing up. "No, Alex. I won't help you."

She looked at him for what seemed like an eternity, then headed toward the door.

"You're not going to kill me?"

Alex turned back to him. "No. I told you I was sorry, that I made a mistake in killing you before. I try to learn something from my mistakes."

Blair didn't believe her. "Then why the gun?"

She looked at the automatic in her hand as if suddenly remembering it was there. "The gun isn't for you. I brought the gun for me."

Her words registered too late. "No! Alex, no!" Blair screamed.

Putting the gun to her head, Alex Barnes pulled the trigger.

~finis~
Immortal Cascade
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