The Stockholm Syndrome
Rainier University, Museum of Anthropology, Present Day
Drea's anxious eyes peered up at Blair, and she struggled to take a breath. Oh, god, he was terrified. Get a hold of yourself, man! Do your job, take care of your Sentinel. "Drea, honey, I know you're scared right now, but we have to get things under control. I know it's hard to breathe, but I need you to relax. Just listen to the sound of my voice, focus on me, and then turn the dials down, turn the pain down." He felt her body begin to unwind under his hands, and her shaking eased. "That's it, that's it, stay cool."
He watched her throat move as she swallowed, then she whispered, "Pack... "
Pack? What? Damn! His backpack... if he was caught with it... . He shot a glance at Ellison, who was still dead to the world from the fist Blair had slammed into his face. He surveyed the area, looking for any place he could ditch the pack, and not have the cops find it. Think, Blair, think! You spent enough years here... .steam tunnels!
Yanking off his knit cap, he pressed it to Drea's chest wound, placing her hands over it. "Hold that there, sweetheart. I'll be right back." Getting to his feet, he ran the few yards to the closest tunnel vent. Despite his shaking hands, he'd picked the lock and dropped the pack inside in a matter of seconds. Then, wiping off his black face paint with the bottom of his shirt, he returned to her side in time to watch a couple unmarked police cars and an ambulance pull into the museum's back parking lot. "Over here!" he yelled.
Forced out of the way as the paramedics began treating her, Blair got slowly to his feet, chanting a protection prayer softly, pausing only to answer the EMTs questions. Movement by Ellison caught his eye, and he saw the detective sit up, aided by a couple of the cops, Rafe and Brown it looked like. Another cop car pulled up, and Blair turned his attention to it, seeing the familiar figure of Simon Banks unwind from driver's seat. Aw, fuck, this was gonna be bad.
Captain Banks strode purposefully across the lawn, pausing to look down at the medics working on Drea, but he showed no sign of recognition. His gaze traveled up again, alighting on Blair. He blinked, once, twice, then said, "Blair? Blair Sandburg? It can't be... you're dead."
Forcing himself to breathe, Blair said, "Sorry to disappoint you, Simon."
The captain shook his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was seeing. Then his cop face fell back into place, and he was all business. "What in the hell happened here? Did you call this in, Sandburg?"
"Yes. Ellison shot her."
A new voice entered the conversation. "Sir, that's Alex Barnes." Jim moved between the two men, and Blair unconsciously clenched his fists.
"She was unarmed, man! She didn't do a damn thing to you!" He barely kept a lid on his rage, but he knew his body language was telegraphing volumes.
Ellison swiveled to face the Guide. "You were robbing the museum. She was your accomplice."
"That's bullshit!" Blair spat, getting in Ellison's face. "I found you lying on the sidewalk unconscious. I was trying to help you when you grabbed me, and she told you to let me go. And you shot her! No warning, no nothing, just blam! If she dies... " He didn't finish the threat.
Brown trotted up at that tense moment. "Captain, Rafe and I checked out the museum. There are two unconscious guards in there, and the alarm's been bypassed. Looks like Jim may have interrupted a robbery in progress."
All eyes turned toward Blair. "I'm not saying another word. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going with Drea to the hospital." He started to follow the stretcher across the yard to the ambulance, but he didn't get far. Jim's hand grabbed him around the bicep, and Blair reacted, releasing his pent-up fury in one solid punch to the stomach. The sentinel doubled over, and Blair felt himself being shoved to the ground, Brown and Rafe wrestling the handcuffs on him, then giving him a cursory patdown.
Yanked roughly to his feet, the Guide stood silently between the two detectives as Captain Banks barked out orders. "I'll take him downtown. Brown, get on the horn, get forensics out here, and IA. I want this whole area gone over with a fine-toothed comb. No screw-ups!" He turned his glare on Ellison. "Enough's been screwed up already. You realize what this means, don't you? If you fucked up again, Ellison, it just won't be suspension this time. You'll be out on your ass." He moved in closer to the silent detective, and hissed, "Do I need to make you take a breath-a-lyzer test?" Blair's eyes widened at Banks' comments, but he kept quiet. Obviously things had drastically changed for Jim in the year he had been gone.
"No, sir. I'm clean, sir, have been for three months. You know that." Ellison's jaw muscles were working overtime.
"Fine. You stay here and wait for IA. I know they're gonna want your story first thing. Rafe, give me a hand with Sandburg." They walked him to the car, sticking him in the backseat. Simon climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine.
As soon as he pulled out, Blair started talking to cover up what he was doing. "Simon, man, please. You gotta take me to the hospital. I'll do whatever you ask, behave myself, anything, but you gotta drive me to the hospital." He straightened slightly in the seat, working one of his hidden picks out of the seam of his pants pocket.
Simon glanced at Blair's reflection in the rearview mirror, the neatly trimmed goatee and mustache throwing him slightly. "I can't do that, Blair. You know why. There are still charges pending against you from when you helped Alex smuggle the nerve gas out of the country. Plus whatever we come up with from the museum."
"Damn it, Simon. We returned the freaking gas, and we weren't doing anything at the museum! Jim shot her for no reason. I could lose both Drea and my daughter while you're dicking around with me at the station." He felt one side of the cuffs release and went to work on the other. "Have a heart, man!"
"Alex is pregnant with your daughter?" The shock was plain in the older man's voice.
"Yes, damn it, and getting shot sent her into labor." The other cuff unlocked, and he changed position a little, his gaze intent on the handle of the service weapon he could see poking out of Simon's belt holster between the two front seats.
Banks' attention shifted for a brief second as he looked both ways before proceeding through a stop sign. Leaning forward, Blair smoothly lifted the gun with his right hand as his left arm went around the larger man's throat. The sound of the safety being clicked off echoed in the sudden silence. Pressing the muzzle of the automatic to the captain's temple, Blair said softly, "Drive me to the hospital, Simon."
Banks couldn't believe this was happening. The man holding a gun to his head was not the Blair Sandburg he knew. That man had never been capable of the anger, of the violence that he'd shown tonight, or maybe he'd just never had a good enough reason for them before. "Blair," he began, "think about what you're doing... "
"Damn it, Simon, you are not going to talk me out of this! Either drive me to the hospital, or I will shoot you and drive myself. Is that understood?"
Simon met Blair's eyes in the rearview mirror. The pain he saw there knotted his stomach. This was a man whose entire world was on its way to Cascade General, and nothing else mattered but his being there too. He made a left at the next intersection and headed for the hospital, feeling the Guide's grip on his neck ease slightly. "Thank you," Blair said.
When they had reached the hospital, and Simon had pulled into a parking space and shut off the car, Blair released his hold long enough to give him the handcuffs. "Put the cuff around your left hand, then run it through the handle over the door, and cuff your right hand." The captain did as he was told, cursing the day he'd bought the luxury sedan with the strap just above the doorframe for extra support when getting in or out of the car. With his hands shackled in that position, he couldn't reach anything. Not the door handle, the window controls or the horn.
Blair slid out of the car, reaching over Banks to hit the auto door locks, then he tossed the gun on the floor of the back seat and shut the door. He headed for the emergency room entrance without a backward glance.
Dr. Ramona Twofeathers felt her pager vibrating at her waist, and she glanced down to see she was wanted in ER. A quick phone call confirmed it. A pregnant woman with a gunshot wound to the chest had just been brought in, already in the first stages of labor. The obstetrics resident headed for the elevator.
When she got off at the ground floor, one of the nurses yelled at her "Room 5", and she headed in that direction, noticing as she passed the desk a black-clad man glancing her way. She met his gaze, taking in the lines of worry around his blue eyes, his dark beard and ponytail, and... She let out a startled gasp, then headed behind the curtain, feeling his eyes on her back. Though she had only a small portion of the talent herself, which was why she had gone into the white man's medicine instead of tribal, she could see it in others. The man in the waiting room was a Shaman, a very powerful one.
Shaking off the strange sensation the man had given her, she turned her attention to her patient. "Okay, what have we got?"
Thirty minutes later, the patient, whose name she'd found out was Drea, was stable, and the baby wasn't in too much distress at the moment. Drea had been asking for someone named Blair, and Ramona had the feeling he would turn out to be the man she had seen in the lobby. Exiting the examining room, she asked, "Is there a Blair Sanborn here?"
The Shaman approached her. "I'm Blair Sanborn. How's Drea?"
"I'm Dr. Twofeathers, the obstetrician. I'll be working on her alongside Dr. Manners, our surgeon. What we are looking at right now is... "
Ramona never got to finish her sentence as four large men came barreling through the emergency room doors and made a beeline for Mr. Sanborn. One of them yelled "Sandburg!" just before they jumped him, shoving him to the floor. The Shaman fought like a wildcat, kicking, punching, biting; one of the men, dressed in a designer suit, staggered back, holding his nose, blood running from underneath his cupped hand. After several painful minutes, their sheer weight pinned Blair solidly to the ground, and she watched in shock as they yanked both his arms behind his back and snapped handcuffs on him.
Looking up at them from under the dogpile, his eyes pleading and tearful, he managed to gasp, "Simon, Jim, please. I wasn't hurting anyone. All I want is to see Drea... please, please let me see my wife!"
They moved away from him then, as if they were stunned by his words, and the tall white man with close-cropped dark hair jerked the smaller man to his feet. He stared down at him for a long moment, and the Shaman met his gaze defiantly. Finally the tall man said, his voice oozing disgust, "How could you marry that bitch?"
The younger man rocked back as if he'd been struck. Then he shook his head sadly. "If you can't figure that out, Jim, then you still don't understand what I am, what you and Drea are."
Jim's hands bunched into fists, and the muscles along his jaw tightened. Then shoving Blair in the tall black man's direction and turning his back on him, he stalked out of the ER.
Ellison pushed through the hospital doors, prowling across the parking lot, rage burning inside him. Coming to a stop at his truck, he slammed his fist down on the hood. Damn it! Blair was alive! He should be rejoicing, he should be happy... and all he felt was cheated... betrayed.
Alex still had her claws in him. God, he was married to her! And a child on the way... The unexpected wave of guilt set him to shaking, and he leaned heavily against the side of the Ford. An innocent child could die because of his rash actions. How could he have screwed up so badly, again?
The year since Blair's disappearance had been disastrous for Jim. Looking back on it now, he could see that was when his trouble had all started. He'd managed to lead Banks and Connor out of the jungle after he'd lost his senses; he hadn't needed them for that. Once they'd made it back to what passed for civilization in Sierra Verde, he'd gone looking for answers, but hadn't found any. Sandburg and Barnes had vanished into thin air. Reluctantly, he'd returned to Cascade at his captain's urging, but had continued to search for them, using his contacts in both the military and law enforcement to try and pick up their trail. But Alex had been too clever for him, she had covered their tracks well, and the five million they'd stolen from Arguillo was enough to ensure they remained hidden for a long time.
Jim hadn't given up though, he'd made a couple trips back to Sierra Verde and the surrounding area, showing their photos, asking if anyone had seen them. He'd found out a couple fitting their description had left the country by private plane a few days after he, Simon and Megan had returned to Cascade. From there the trail had grown stone cold. Until the day Simon called him into his office, nearly three months after the pair's disappearance.
The Brazilian government had contacted him after all other channels to locate any relatives of Blair Sandburg had failed. A badly decomposed body had been found in the rainforest outside Rio de Janeiro. Blair's passport had been in the man's pocket. The cause of death had been a gunshot to the head.
The news had hit Jim like a freight train. Only Simon's hand under his arm had kept him from collapsing to the floor. As it was, the older man had driven him home, and stayed with him long enough to reassure himself that Ellison wasn't going to do anything stupid. For a couple hours after Simon had left, Jim tried to convince himself that it was a mistake, that it couldn't have been Blair. But in a sick, perverted way, it made sense. When Blair was no longer an asset to her, Alex had gotten rid of him, as coldly and ruthlessly as she had tried to kill Jim. There was no doubt in his mind that she was capable of killing the kind-hearted anthropologist without a second thought. Blair probably had never known what hit him, or at least that's what Jim hoped.
After he'd come to the logical conclusion that Sandburg had met the "death by misadventure" it had stated on the papers faxed from Brazil, he'd gone to the cabinet, gotten out a bottle of tequila, and proceeded to drink himself into a stupor. And there he had remained, for the better part of six months. Nothing mattered anymore, not his career, not his family, not his friends. All of that had been tied irrevocably to Blair. He'd begun screwing up left and right; nothing was as important as numbing the raw wound inside him, the loss of his soul. He'd built up the walls Blair had so carelessly bulldozed through, shutting even Simon out. The only emotion he allowed to show anymore was rage, and he was indiscriminate in choosing his victims. More often than not, it was a friend he turned on, though he'd vented his wrath on a good number of perps too. And that had gotten him suspended twice, both times for excessive force, and the second time he had been intoxicated while on duty.
He didn't bother to deny he had a drinking problem; he just didn't care. Once again, he'd been called on the carpet by Simon, who had been trying hard to be understanding, to give Jim space, to give him time to deal with Sandburg's death, but Jim's "I don't give a shit" attitude was making it difficult for him to remember the man Jim had once been. Simon had been reading him the riot act, as usual, when Jim had just snapped. He'd stuck his friend, his superior officer, and that had nearly cost him his career. But it had been a wake up call; he'd finally heard the warning bell, and realized he needed to turn his life around.
It had been hard, probably the most difficult thing he'd ever done in his life, because it involved taking a really good look at himself, at figuring out why he did the things he did. It involved therapy, and mandatory AA meetings, both places where he had to expose his inner self to other people, something he had always been uncomfortable with. An Ellison was strong, he didn't show vulnerability, or weakness; if he was hurt, better he should suffer in silence than admit he needed help.
But Jim had thought he'd finally gotten through Blair's death, through the guilt, through the blame he rested on his own shoulders. If only he'd been able to forgive him, if only he'd gone to the university, if only he'd ever let Blair think there would be a chance for forgiveness if he'd ever screwed up about anything. Maybe then he wouldn't have been so easily swayed to Alex's side. None of that mattered now, Blair was dead, and as much as Jim wanted to take the blame, it was simply wasted energy. It wouldn't help Blair, and it would destroy him. So he'd given it up, and forgiven himself, or so he'd thought.
And just when he'd reached that point, when he was sober for more than two days in a row, the dreams had begun. Always he was in the jungle, dressed as the warrior he had been when he lived among the Chopec. He was tracking an animal, a jaguar he had determined from the tracks, but he never could seem to catch up with it.
Until almost three weeks ago. He had gone to bed as usual, and dreamed once again of following the big cat's trail. Only this time, he tracked it to its lair. Ducking his head, he entered the small cave, and suddenly his senses were back. He could see clearly in the darkness, could hear the panther's steady heartbeat and heavy breathing. Rounding a bend in the tunnel, he found the cat, only it wasn't his spirit guide, it wasn't the black jaguar. It was the spotted one, Alex's spirit animal. He expected her to growl, to scream, to leap at him. Instead, the jaguar made a low, soft mewling sound, and rose awkwardly to her feet, her heavy belly nearly scraping the ground. She turned around in the nest of grasses she had made for herself, then settled down again, panting heavily, her blue eyes regarding him with no hint of malice. Drawing back the string of his bow, Jim let the arrow fly, straight toward the spotted jaguar's heart. The dream had ended then, and when he awoke the next morning, his Sentinel senses were back online.
Try as he might, Jim had been unable to interpret the dream. But now, after the events of tonight, it was all too clear. The signs had been there, the warnings, and once more he had failed to heed them. Now Blair's child could pay the price for Jim's mistake.
Letting out a long, shuddering sigh, Jim slid down the side of the truck, coming to rest on his knees on the asphalt. God, he wanted a drink, wanted to lose himself in liquid oblivion, so he wouldn't have to face the consequences of what he had done. If Blair hadn't hated him before, he did now. And Jim's words to him in the ER had only driven them further apart. Nothing he could do, nothing he could say would make things right between them if Alex and his child died.
The Sentinel buried his face in his hands. There was only one thing he could do. Never a very religious man, for the first time in years, Jim Ellison prayed, not for himself, but for the brother whose family he'd harmed with both word and deed.
Blair watched Ellison's retreating back until the doors closed and blocked his view. Shaking his head with a soft sigh, he turned to the woman who had been a silent witness to the outbreak of violence in the ER waiting room. "Dr. Twofeathers, can I please see my wife?"
"Sandburg, in case you don't get it, you're under arrest," Simon growled.
The obstetrician straightened to her full 5'4" and glared at the police captain. "I don't know who in the hell you are, mister, but this man's wife is about to undergo emergency surgery. I need to speak with him about her care, and I would think even people as cold-hearted as the bunch of you would let him see her, just in case... " Her voice trailed off as she realized what she had been about to say.
The silence was broken by the sound of Blair swallowing loudly. "I need to see Drea."
"Of course, right this way, Mr. Sanborn." Ramona put a guiding hand on his shoulder and led the handcuffed man into the examining room.
Blair went immediately to his Sentinel's side, bending to press his lips to her forehead. "How are you doing, honey?"
Drea's hand came up to touch his face, feeling the rapidly darkening bruise on his cheek. "What did they do to you, babe? I tried to come help you but... they wouldn't let me get up." She glared at the medical personnel scattered around the room.
"I'm fine, I'm fine. But Dr. Twofeathers was just going to explain what they need to do to help you." He straightened up, his now free hand reaching for Drea's, the unlocked cuff dangling from his wrist. "Doctor?"
Ramona blinked, then shook her head. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. The instant the Shaman had touched his wife's hand her whole aura had changed, glowing brighter, as if his presence energized her. She had heard of such couples, but had never seen one herself. A Shaman/Warrior pair bond. When this was over, when his wife and child were okay, she would love to have a long talk with Blair Sanborn.
"Dr. Twofeathers? Is Drea going to be all right? Is our daughter going to be okay?"
She shook herself. "Uh, yes, well, as you know, Mrs. Sanborn suffered a gunshot wound to the upper right chest quadrant, resulting in a partially collapsed lung, which we've treated by inserting a chest tube. The bullet is still lodged in her chest, and she will require surgery to remove it and repair the damage. Unfortunately, the trauma of the injury has sent her into labor."
As if to emphasize her point, Drea's hand tightened around Blair's and she let out a little gasp. He leaned over her again, stroking her forehead, speaking to her so softly that Ramona couldn't make out the words. Whatever he had said to her worked, though, she breathed through the pain, and relaxed again as the contraction passed.
The doctor cleared her throat, bringing the couple's attention back to her. "As I was saying, Mrs. Sanborn is in the early stages of labor. What we'd like to do is take the baby now, by c-section, and then remove the bullet. Even though she's stable right now, the longer labor goes on, the more risk there is to her and your child."
Blair felt the knot in his stomach rise to his throat. He couldn't lose them. "Doctor, can I have a moment alone with her?"
Nodding, Ramona slipped out of the room, followed by the rest of the technicians. Blair leaned over Drea again. "I'm sorry. I know this wasn't what we planned... " It was too soon; she hadn't been due for another two weeks. That should have been plenty of time for them to complete their task in Cascade, and return to their home in Costa Rica. Their daughter should be born in the safe, comfortable surroundings they'd prepared, not within the harsh, sterile walls of Cascade General.
"It's okay, it's okay, babe," she answered him, sensing his thoughts. "Mica's a lot like me, she's impatient; she wants out now. It'll be fine, Blair, really it will."
"I... they probably won't allow me to be with you... and I have to be there... " He couldn't even to begin to imagine the shock the infant would feel, being ripped from her mother's safe womb and thrust into the bright lights and loud sounds of an operating room. At that moment she would need his talents the most. His thoughts were interrupted by the return of the doctor.
"Have you reached a decision?" she asked.
Blair nodded, as he clasped his partner's hand tightly. "Yes, go ahead with the c-section. Only, I have to be present." At the woman's raised eyebrow, he hastily said, "I know that's not normal procedure, but well, we're not normal. We, uh, our religious beliefs, um... I need to be there, to bless the child, at the moment of birth, so she doesn't go through life with permanently bad karma... " Well, that was a lousy explanation.
Dr. Twofeathers stared at the two of them for a moment, then said, "I don't have a problem with that, Shaman, but you'll have to sign a waiver releasing the hospital from all responsibility if something untoward should happen due to your presence."
"Sure, fine... what did you call me?"
Ramona smiled at him. "What you are. Shaman, bound to a Warrior." She nodded in Drea's direction. "My tribe has legends about your kind, though many years have passed since such a pair has been born. I understand completely your concern for your child. A child of such a union is rare, and even rarer if they possess the best of both parents, which I can see from your expression, you know she does." At his startled look, she added, "Don't worry, your secret's safe with me."
A long sigh of relief escaped his lips. "Thank you, Doctor. Now what do we need to do?"
"Mrs. Sanborn is going to be prepped for surgery, and you need to sign the paperwork, and scrub up." Blair kissed Drea tenderly before following the obstetrician out of the room. They entered the outer area to find Simon, Rafe and Brown impatiently waiting. Rafe had taken the time to get treated; a bandage covered his nose, and he held an ice pack to his darkening eye.
"All right, Sandburg," Simon snapped, "you've seen your wife, now it's time you headed downtown." He glared at him as he noticed the thief was once again free of the handcuffs.
Panic clutched at Blair. He couldn't go now, he couldn't. "Simon, please, I have to be there for Drea, for our daughter. Dr. Twofeathers has agreed to let me be with Drea when Mica is born." He leaned closer to the tall man, lowering his voice so that only he could hear. "She's a sentinel, like her mother. A Guide has to be there, I have to be there," he pleaded fervently. He stepped back, gazing up at Banks, his eyes hopeful.
Simon rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. Damn it, why did these kinds of decisions always fall to him? And Jim was off somewhere sulking... He looked back at the younger man, recognizing in his eyes the thoughts and emotions he'd felt years ago when Daryl was being born. He couldn't really arrest him for the attempted museum robbery until forensics connected Blair to the crime, and the warrant from the theft of the nerve gas, that was federal... And maybe, maybe if he let him have this time, if he allowed him this privilege, Blair would think twice before filing a civil suit against the PD and Jim Ellison. "Fine, Sandburg, you can be with her. But as soon as she's out of surgery, you have an appointment in booking. No funny stuff, understand? We're going to be right outside the OR."
The guide gave him a mock salute, the dangling handcuff nearly hitting him in the eye. "Give me that," Simon growled, using his key to remove it. He watched as Blair followed one of the nurses to get suited up. Turning around, he found his two detectives shaking their heads at him. "I don't want to hear it," he admonished. "Keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't get it into his head to wander off, not that I think he would. She's too important to him."
"Where are you going, sir?" Rafe asked.
"To find Ellison before he does something else he's gonna regret." With those words, he headed out of the ER in search of his friend.
Outside the hospital doors, Simon paused to pull a cigar from his pocket, bit off the end, and lit it. Taking a couple soothing puffs to calm his frazzled nerves, he went looking for Jim. He found him a few minutes later, kneeling next to his pickup, his head bowed. "Jim? You okay?"
He heard the sentinel take a long shaky breath, then he lifted his head to look up at the other man, his eyes glistening. "How is she?" he asked hoarsely.
Banks shrugged. "As well as can be expected, I guess. They're doing a c-section on her now."
"Oh, god," Jim whispered, his head dropping again. "This is my fault... "
Simon squatted next to his friend, his hand going to his shoulder. "Jim, you have to believe she's going to be all right, that the baby's going to be all right."
"That's what I'm praying for... "
"Look, I know you went over this with the officers at the scene, but can you tell me what happened? What in the world were you doing at the museum in the first place?"
Getting to his feet slowly, Jim leaned his back against the truck. "I had a dream. I dreamed I saw the spotted jaguar, Alex's spirit animal, at the museum, so I went there. One of the guards there used to be on the force, and he let me in to look around. That's the last thing I remember until I woke up outside, and Blair was leaning over me. I couldn't believe it was him, Simon. I grabbed his arm, and then I heard her voice. I don't know what I was thinking, I don't even know if I thought it was real, or if I was dreaming. All I knew was she had taken Blair away from me once, and I wasn't going to let her do it again. So I shot her... "
The captain nearly bit through his cigar. "I hope that's not what you told the officers on the scene. God forbid IA should ever hear that story."
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jim hunched his shoulders. "I didn't know what else to tell them, Simon. And once this gets out, even if Blair doesn't sue the department, I don't think I'll be long for this job anyway. I've fucked up way too many times this year. I've used up all my second chances. And you know what really bothers me? It's that because of me, Alex and Blair got caught. If she lives, they may both end up going to prison, and who's going to raise their child then?" He closed his eyes. "Prison will kill Blair... "
"Jim, Blair made the choices that brought him to this point by himself. He didn't have to go with Alex, maybe at first he didn't have a choice, but we both saw what happened in the jungle. That was not a man who was trying to escape a kidnapper. You are not responsible for this."
"Are you sure of that? I was the one who sent him away, told him I didn't need him, didn't want him around. You were there, you asked me if I could do the Sentinel thing all by myself. You were right, I couldn't. But by the time I figured that out, it was too late." He turned to face his superior. "But what if it's the same for Blair? What if he needed a sentinel as much as I needed a guide? What if that's why he helped Alex, why he didn't escape?"
Taking off his glasses, Simon rubbed his temple. He needed an aspirin. "That's just great, Jim. That'll make a really good defense for both of you. Sorry, your honor, I helped her steal that nerve gas because my instincts told me to. Sorry, I shot an unarmed suspect, but it was programmed into my genes." He snorted. "I don't think the world's ready for that idea. I know I'm not."
Jim shook his head. "I know one thing. No matter what happens, Alex, Blair, and I are all screwed."
The other man had no answer to that. He simply smoked his cigar, and kept his friend company while Jim contemplated his fate.
Blair finished changing into surgical scrubs, and followed the nurse who had accompanied him to surgery. He entered the room hesitantly, uncertain of what he would find within. To his relief, he saw Dr. Twofeathers already standing by her patient, another surgeon beside her. Drea was lying on the operating table, her stomach covered in antibacterial wash. Blair tried not to visualize what was about to happen. He really didn't want to watch them cut into his wife, even if it did mean saving their daughter.
"Mr. Sanborn," Ramona said, "why don't you go stand up by your wife's head. We've given her a local anethesthetic, and a pre-surgery sedative, so she's going to be very groggy. Once we get your daughter out, we'll put her completely under, and Dr. Manners here will take over."
Nodding he understood, Blair moved to Drea's side, rubbing her cheek gently, whispering to her softly. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the obstetrician making the incisions, and very quickly she was holding his child in her hands. After her nose and mouth were suctioned out, Mica began to wail. "Hear that, Drea," he said to the sentinel, "that's our baby, our little girl."
Drea's eyes began to slide shut. "Mica... Blair, love you, babe... " she managed to say, before she was completely out.
"Mr. Sanborn, would you like to hold your daughter?"
Turning his attention away from her unconscious mother, he held out his arms, and the small, screaming bundle was handed to him. He held her close to his chest, hoping the steady rhythm of a Guide's heart would calm her. Almost immediately, her crying ceased, and her tiny eyes opened, her wide blue orbs staring into his own as he leaned over her, shielding her from the strong light overhead. "Welcome to the world, Mica," he breathed for her ears alone, then as he looked up, he saw he had slipped into a vision.
The jungle surrounded him as he stood atop the temple of the Sentinel, painted and garbed as a Shaman, his child in his arms, the golden jaguar sprawled in exhaustion on the steps behind him. Lifting the babe to the heavens, he presented her to the universe, asking for blessings from the four elements of earth, wind, fire and water, as well as the sun, moon, and stars. His prayer finished, the Shaman returned to the physical world to find Dr. Twofeathers staring at him, a look of amazement on her face.
The nurse gently took Mica from his arms and carried her off to be thoroughly checked over then sent to the nursery. The surgical team had surrounded Drea, and was preparing to go to work. Dr. Twofeathers gently grasped his arm and guided him out of the operating room. "Go up to the surgery waiting area and I'll come up to talk to you as soon as I finish here."
Nodding numbly, Blair watched her re-enter the OR, then turned to find Simon standing behind him. "Congratulations, Sandburg, you're a father." He felt the other man grasping his hand and shaking it firmly.
"Thanks, Simon," he finally managed, trying to keep his knees from buckling under him.
"Come on, kid, I'll take you out front." Seeing Blair's distress, Simon grabbed him by the elbow and led him to the waiting room, stopping long enough for him to discard the scrubs in a hamper.
Rafe and Brown were already in the room when the guide and the police captain entered. Frowning, Simon glanced around for Ellison. He raised an eyebrow at Brown who responded with "He's off somewhere pacing."
Leading Blair to a couch and pushing him into it, Simon asked, "You want anything to eat, drink, coffee, tea?"
Blair leaned his head against the back of the sofa, feeling exhaustion beginning to over take him. "Some tea, maybe."
Simon snapped his fingers, and Brown headed off in search of the requested item. "Anything else you need?"
Shaking his head, he replied, "No, just some quiet." Drawing his legs up onto the cushion, he sat cross-legged; closing his eyes and concentrating on his breathing, he sent himself into a light trance, needing the peace and solace to renew his strength.
As he settled into his meditation, Blair could feel the connection with his Sentinel. It was a bond that had begun to form the moment Alex had discovered she couldn't kill him at the fountain. It had grown over the week they had been on the run, finally being solidly forged by the joining ceremony at the temple in Sierra Verde. In the year that had passed since then, it had only become deeper, and broader, encompassing everything he was, everything she was, and the discovery of the child growing within her, had only been an added bonus. He liked to think of their bond like a tapestry, which began as individual threads on a loom, then through the passage of time and the talent of skilled weavers had turned into a beautiful, strong piece of cloth. And the wonderful thing was, it was continuing to evolve and change with every day.
A smile crossed his lips as he remembered the first frantic days after their journey to the temple. They had headed into the jungle after leaving the nerve gas in the hands of the sleeping Cascade PD officers. Surviving on what they could scrounge, they finally made it out, having crossed the border into a neighboring country. From there they had hired a plane to take them to Brazil, simply because it was Carnival time, and neither of them had been to it before. The money they'd taken from Carl had been transferred into several offshore accounts, and they had spent a couple weeks just enjoying Rio de Janeiro, getting to know each other, and planning their future together.
It had felt right to stay in Central America, and the choice of Costa Rica as their new home had been an easy one. The small country was known for its political stability, excellent health care and education systems, and boasted a large number of national parks and protected areas, as well as both Pacific and Atlantic coast beaches. All in all, a country in which a Sentinel and Guide could thrive and feel comfortable raising a family.
They bought a beautiful villa on the Pacific coast, in a small town an hour or so from the country's capital, and had settled down in their new identities of Blair and Drea Sanborn, an anthropological researcher and his artist wife. It had been Blair's idea to get married; he knew she needed the commitment from him to that part of their lives, and there was the added benefit that if their past ever caught up to them, neither could be forced to testify against the other. The ceremony had taken place on the beach in front of their home, as the sun was beginning to set over the water, and had been performed by the Shaman of the local tribe. Instead of rings, they had exchanged pendants made by Drea. They were silver and turquoise, and when joined together, formed the eye of god symbol from the temple.
The next six weeks had been spent exploring their new world, and each other. But, he had to admit, both their quick, inquisitive minds were beginning to stagnate in the quiet, lazy village, and when Drea called him to the front door one afternoon, he had welcomed the thought of visitors. What Blair hadn't expected was a native tribal chieftain, accompanied by four warriors, a shaman, and a translator, all dressed in ceremonial finery. After introductions had been made, and their guests made comfortable, they discovered they had come seeking the help of the Sentinel and the Guide.
Ten years ago, an archaeological expedition had come to the region of the jungle where the tribe was from, and excavated an ancient burial site. One of the items taken had been the burial urn of an ancient and powerful shamaness, whose bones were said to bestow fertility on her tribe. The urn had gone to museum in the US, and in the years since it had been gone, no children had been born in the small village, and the natives were in danger of dying out. One night, the village shaman had a vision of the Sentinel and Guide and knew they were the answer to the natives' prayers. The small party had followed his vision to Blair and Drea's doorstep.
After hearing their story, Blair and Drea spent the next day finding out all they could about the urn. The tribe had tried having the government petition the museum to return the bones, but their request had been languishing in the bureaucrats' hands for the past five years. Blair hadn't been quite sure how they were going to help their new friends, but Drea had known. They would steal the urn and return it to its rightful owners.
Once they had seriously begun researching the job, they discovered it would be fairly easy. The urn containing the shamaness' bones was moldering in storage at the museum. It had simply been a matter of breaking into the museum, and labeling the crate holding the artifact with the proper address. They'd then moved it to join a large shipment of relics going out the next day, and changed the computer manifest to reflect the extra item.
Thus had begun their life as antiquities thieves. After their first success, other tribes had come forward, asking for their help. Blair had been uncertain at first, as to whether or not he would be any good at it, but under Drea's expert tutelage he had learned just about everything there was to know about breaking and entering. And their Sentinel/Guide abilities had made them an unbeatable team. They had successfully completed four jobs, and the theft at Rainier was to have been their last, at least until after Mica had been born.
With a sigh, Blair came out of his trance, opening his eyes to find both Dr. Twofeathers and Dr. Manners entering the waiting room. Getting quickly to his feet, he crossed the small space toward them. "How is she? Is Drea going to be all right?"
"Well," Dr. Twofeathers began, "she came through the c-section just fine. Your daughter is also very healthy. We have her up in the nursery right now, and will keep her there until your wife is able to see her."
Dr. Manners picked up where the obstetrician had left off. "Mr. Sanborn, your wife was a very lucky woman. As you know, the bullet nicked the top of her lung, but amazingly, that's pretty much all the serious damage it did. We've repaired the tissue damage, and baring any complications, she should be out of here in a week or so."
Blair let out the breath he'd been holding, relief making him giddy. "When can I see her?"
"She's in recovery right now, and will probably be there for a couple hours. Once she's moved to a private room, you're welcome to see her."
Grasping Dr. Manners' hand, Blair shook it heartily. "Thank you, thank you so much!" The man nodded, then headed out of the room. "And thank you, Dr. Twofeathers. I know you bent the rules to allow me to be there when my daughter was born. And speaking of Mica, there're a couple things I need to tell you."
Blair glanced over his shoulder at Captain Banks. "Simon, you wanna come with us? Keep me in custody, so to speak?"
The tall man nodded, then followed the Native American physician and the Guide up to maternity, listening to Blair instruct the doctor on the care and feeding of a baby sentinel. They got off the elevator, and headed toward the nursery, as Blair was cautioning the doctor to be on the lookout for allergic reactions to just about everything, if the list he was rattling off was any indication.
Simon stood outside the nursery window as Blair was taken inside and helped into a smock, then given a seat in a rocking chair, and a nurse handed his daughter to him. The young man's face lit up as he cradled her in the crook of his arm, bending down to plant a gentle kiss on her forehead, whispering softly to her. Once again Banks was reminded of his love for his own child. Pulling out a handkerchief, he removed his glasses and began cleaning them.
Feeling a presence at his shoulder, Simon turned to find Jim Ellison standing there, his gaze fixed on the guide and his daughter. "Thought you were going to go file your report."
Ellison shrugged. "I couldn't go. I had to know if I... if they were all right."
The taller man laid a hand on his friend's shoulder. "They're both going to be fine according to the doctors."
Letting out a sight of relief, Jim said, "I'm glad. I don't know if I could live with myself, knowing my mistake had cost them their lives." His jaw clenched, then released. "Though now I know they're okay, I'm left with a lot of questions. Like why in the hell Blair and Alex came back to Cascade in the first place. And what were they doing at the museum if not robbing it?"
"I don't know, Jim, but I promise I will find out." Simon turned a determined gaze on Sandburg, watching as the man's head lifted for a second, his eyes widening slightly as he caught sight through the glass of the Sentinel standing beside him.
Blair cuddled Mica for a long moment, then passed her to the waiting nurse and rose from his seat. Stripping off the scrubs, he exited the nursery and crossed to the two police officers, his expression dark. His hand came up and he jabbed a forefinger at Ellison. "Stay the hell way from my wife and daughter!"
Stepping between the two men, Banks said, "That's enough, Sandburg. It's time for that little trip downtown. Think you can manage to behave yourself that long?"
The smaller man continued to glare at Jim for a few heartbeats, then nodded. He didn't resist when Simon put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle push toward the elevator.
Blair drummed his fingertips on the table impatiently. It had taken only 30 minutes in booking, but since then, he'd been cooling his heels in one of the interrogation rooms waiting on Simon. He glanced at his reflection in the two-way mirror again, taking in the tired, bloodshot eyes, dark beard stubble, and lines of exhaustion on his face. He rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, then raked his fingers through his tangled hair. He needed a shower, some food, and about a week's worth of sleep, not necessarily in that order.
Shoving his chair back, he got to his feet, prowling the small room like a caged animal. He knew exactly what they were doing, leaving him alone like this, wanting him to worry, wanting him to sweat. Well, he would give them a show. He crossed the room again, feeling his lip curl back in a snarl. This wasn't his home anymore, and the cops were no longer his friends. Especially Jim. He stared at the mirror again, knowing the Sentinel was behind it, feeling his eyes on him.
Damn you, Jim! Why in the hell did you have to get involved in this? It was supposed to be a simple job, easy enough for Blair to handle alone, and he would have, if Jim hadn't interfered. The mask would have been theirs, and they would have been on the next flight out of Cascade. Now he didn't know if he would ever get to take Drea and Mica home... .God, the thought of Drea having to go back to jail terrified him. The strain of trying to control her senses without him in that kind of environment would break her, could drive her insane.
He sank back into the hard wooden chair, laying his arms on the table and leaning his forehead against them. They were screwed... unless... his mind began to race back over the case the PD had created against Alex over a year ago. They really hadn't had much to go on other than the fact the tape from the security company break in had showed the thief reacting like a sentinel to the alarm. No evidence had been left at any of the scenes, they'd never found the gun she'd shot the guard with, and the hair found on the fire escape could have been left at any time. They couldn't prove the nerve gas had ever been in their hands either. About the only thing they had to worry about was Hettinger's death, and that had occurred in Sierra Verde, and had been an accident.
Blair felt a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth and gave into it. He'd had nightmares for weeks about that whole incident, and each time he'd woken drenched in sweat and shaking, uncertain of where he was and whether or not he was still dreaming, Drea had been there, her arms wrapped around him, reassuring him that it had been an accident, that Carl's death hadn't been his fault. Hot tears stung his eyes, and he blinked them back, glad his face was hidden in his arms. He knew they would try to use any sign of weakness on his part against him. If they thought he was just going to cave in and confess, they had another thing coming. He was going to get them out of this; they were going to go home and raise their child together.
At the sound of the door opening, Blair lifted his head to see Simon entering the room. The captain took a seat across from the Guide and slid a bottle of water over to him. He unscrewed the cap, taking a long drink before setting it back down. "When can I get out of here, Simon? You don't have anything to hold me with."
Banks sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Try assault on a police officer, Sandburg."
Blair's eyes darted to the two-way mirror. "He shot my wife! How the hell was I supposed to know he wasn't going to do it again if I didn't stop him?"
Blair snorted. "Like a jury isn't going to sympathize with the traumatized husband and father."
"Obviously you're no longer intimidated by me."
The smaller man flicked a grin at him. "Obviously. You wanna ask me questions, go right ahead. I reserve the right not to answer them if I don't want to." His smile broadened. "But I'm not a cruel man, I know there's some things you're dying to ask me. Off the record, since we're alone in here, with the exception of Ellison behind the glass there, and the absence of a tape recorder. So go ahead, ask."
Shaking his head, Banks said, "You're not the same person you were a year ago."
"Of course not. I've been through a hell of a lot; I've grown up. I have a family to look after, to think about." Blair folded his hands in front of him, his gaze still fixed on the mirror. Are you getting all this Jim? Will you understand if I spell it out for you?
"That's what I don't understand, Sandburg. How could you just take off with Barnes like that? You knew she'd done time, that she was a criminal."
Blair chewed the inside of his lip, considering his answer. Finally he said, "She needed me, and I needed her. She was a Sentinel without a Guide, and I was a Guide without a Sentinel. It was the only thing that made sense in all that madness. I'm not saying I didn't seriously think about what I was doing, but I made the only choice I could. This Guide thing, it's genetic too, just as much as the Sentinel thing is. I spent most of my life searching for a Sentinel, thinking it was to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, when in reality it was a search for my purpose, my reason for being."
"So what was that whole thing in Sierra Verde then? Shooting at Jim and holing up in the temple for two days?" Simon leaned forward in his chair.
"That was... " Blair searched for the right words. "The shooting thing, that was me protecting my partner. And the temple? That was the most profound, enlightening experience of my life. It changed me completely, both inside and out. It really brought home to me the fact there is another world out there, a spiritual plane. I know things now about being a Guide, being a Shaman, that I never would have figured out on my own. Like you said, I'm not the same person any more. After what I've been through, there's no way I could be."
Simon's head was pounding, but he continued. "One last question, what were you doing at the museum last night?"
"Taking a walk. The weather was nice; we felt like some exercise. We just happened to pick the campus; safer than the parks, you know." Blair took another drink of water. "Are we through now? I need to get back to the hospital. Unless you're planning on charging me with something?"
Shaking his head, Simon got to his feet. "No, not at this time, Sandburg. Just don't get any crazy ideas about leaving town."
Blair stood up and headed for the exit. "Really, Simon, what kind of a husband do you think I am?" Twisting the handle and opening the door, he left the room.
Ellison stood in the small cubicle off the interrogation room, facing the two-way mirror, his arms folded across his chest, his jaw clenched, watching his former partner pacing like a pissed off wolf. Every so often, he would turn and face the mirror, staring right at the spot where Jim stood, as if he knew he was being watched. This time as he turned, his hair flying, his lip curled back in what Jim could only call a snarl. For an instant, the image of a huge, angry wolf overlaid the features of the Guide. Startled, the sentinel took a step back.
Just as quickly as the wolf had appeared, it was gone. Shaking his head, Jim turned his attention back to Blair, watching as he pulled out the chair and sat down at the table, laying his head on his folded arms. Stretching out with his hearing, Jim could pickup up Blair's quick, shallow breaths, and his slightly elevated heartrate. The sentinel wasn't surprised at the physical signs of stress after what the younger man had been through that night. Without warning, Blair's heartrate shot through the roof. Ellison started for the door, but then Captain Banks entered the interrogation room, and Blair raised his head from his arms.
The change in him was immediate. He went from seemingly vulnerable to cynical in a split second. Jim listened to the conversation for a few seconds, thinking back over the case, or lack there of, against Sandburg. Damn it! If only he could remember what happened at the museum, then they might have something to hold him with. The assault charges wouldn't stand up in court; Blair was acting in response to a perceived threat to his family. His family... Jim suppressed a shudder. It was very hard for him to picture Blair and Alex, or Drea, or whatever the hell her name was, together, married even. Somehow he had never envisioned Blair as being the marrying kind; he'd always seemed to be having too much fun playing the field to settle down with one woman. And since when had cold-blooded killers been his type anyway?
Simon must have been reading Jim's mind. He asked Sandburg why he ran off with the female sentinel. Blair's answer rocked the detective to the core. "She needed me, and I needed her. She was a Sentinel without a Guide, and I was a Guide without a Sentinel... " The rest of his reply was lost as memories of that fateful night in the bullpen played back in Jim's mind, his words taking on a new significance.
Blair had been trying to apologize, he knew that now.
The anthropologist cornered the detective as he was putting on his jacket. "Look, Jim, I just wanted you to know that I realize I was wrong for not telling you about Alex." The next words were difficult for him, and he kept his eyes to the side, to the floor, anywhere but on Jim's face. "I was only thinking about myself, about my work, and somewhere along the line I lost track of my friend."
For once Ellison opened up, laying his feelings on the line, not realizing how deeply his words would wound the other man. "Chief, I don't know what you want me to say. I don't know if I can get past this. To me, it was a real breach of trust. And that struck really deep with me."
Blair's next words were almost angry. "Give me a break here. How was I supposed to know she was a criminal?"
Jim tried to be patient. "Chief, this isn't about her being a criminal. I gotta have a partner I can trust. Have you ever stopped to think about what good all this research is doing any way?"
Again Blair was on the defensive. "Yeah, Jim, I think about it every day." His tone softened slightly. "I mean, for one thing, it's helped you find out who you are... "
Ellison cut him off irritatedly. Did he have to spell it out for him? "Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa. I know who I am, okay? I don't need you or anyone else to help me define that. Is that clear?" The pain in Blair's eyes was too much, and he glanced to the right, determined to finish what he had to say. "Maybe it's just better if you finish your diss or doctorate writing about somebody else." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the anthropologist's look of stunned disbelief.
Recovering quickly, Blair blurted out, "That's crazy. I know I made a mistake, but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get past this." Sensing there was nothing he could do to sway the sentinel, he continued quietly, "But if, if you've got to hang on to it... " He left the next move in Jim's hands. "You know where to find me."
Jim couldn't meet his eyes, staring at the floor as Blair turned and walked away. Finally, he lifted his head, his gaze following the smaller man's slumped shoulders as he walked out the door.
With his inaction, his stubborn refusal to go after Blair and make things right, Jim had sealed both their fates. Blair was wrong when he said he'd made the only choice he could. Jim had taken that choice away from him.
And now the man who had been his best friend was lying to his captain to protect the woman Jim had shoved him toward. Oh, his heart beat at a normal pace, and his words and mannerisms were calm and matter of fact, but Jim knew he'd been inside that museum, that he was no stranger to breaking and entering. Everything Blair was now, Jim had made him. He hung his head, his eyes closed, regretting now more than ever the words he had spoken over a year ago. He had been wrong then. He did need Blair, had always needed him, not just to help him with his senses, but to help him save his soul. So lost was he in his own painful regret, he never noticed when Blair rose and left the room.
Fear. There should be fear... and pain. But for some reason, there wasn't. Only a warm, pleasantly fuzzy feeling, like the buzz from a couple glasses of wine. But she couldn't remember drinking any wine, not in a long time. Automatically, she stretched out her senses as he had taught her, and the immediate antiseptic smell identified her surroundings as a hospital. That would explain the fuzziness, she must be on some kind of drugs. Hearing confirmed the hospital setting, and alerted her to his presence, his familiar heartbeat encouraging her to open her eyes, to gaze upon that beautiful face.
Drea forced her eyes open slowly, waiting for the painful light that never came. The room was in shadow, the blinds at the window closed against the sun, and the overhead light off. A smile crossed her face; he was always thinking of her. Looking to the side, she located him, seated in a chair to her left, leaning forward so that his arms rested on the edge of the bed. His head was pillowed on his hands, his loose hair obscuring his face. She moved her hand to rest lightly on the back of his head, the silky curls sliding between her fingers. Blair slept on, undisturbed.
Out of all the things that had happened to her in her life, nothing amazed her more than this, than waking up to find him beside her. She knew she had done nothing to deserve this, to deserve his care, his friendship, his love, at least at first. Her worst nightmare, the one that woke her screaming in the middle of the night, always came back to that moment at the fountain. Each time she shoved him into the water, holding his head under until he ceased to struggle and his thundering heartbeat faded away, leaving her alone in the dark with the knowledge of what she had done. But he was always there when she clawed her way out of the dream, his arms around her, cradling her head against his chest so the first thing she heard was the strong, constant beating of his heart, letting her know it wasn't real, that he was alive, and he would never leave her.
It was then she noticed the absence of the second heart, the one she knew as well as his. It frightened her for a moment, until she ranged out further with her senses and found it a couple rooms away, tiny, but steady. Mica. Their daughter was okay. Overcome with an immediate need to hold her, to see her face for the first time, Drea tugged at one of Blair's curls.
"Hmm, what? I'm awake, I'm awake!" He raised his head, bloodshot blue eyes set in an exhausted face gazing at her. "Oh, you're awake." He rose slowly, wincing as his cramped muscles protested. Leaning over her, he kissed her forehead tenderly, then at her small pout, he pressed his lips to hers, the intimate caress reaffirming their bond. Finally pulling away, Blair carefully took a seat on the edge of the bed, his hand immediately covering hers, feeling her fingers grip his.
"I want to see Mica; I need to see Mica," she told him.
"Okay, I'll go get her in a second. First, how are you feeling? You in any pain? Thirsty?"
Drea shook her head. "Babe, I'm fine, or I will be, once I see our daughter."
A broad grin split Blair's face. "Okay, okay, I'm going."
He returned a few minutes later, a blanket wrapped bundle in his arms and a bottle in his hand. Placing the bottle on the bedside table, he sat down on the side of the bed again, carefully laying Mica against the uninjured side of Drea's chest, and she wrapped her good arm around her. Blair moved the corner of the blanket aside, and his wife got her first look at their child.
"Oh, my," she finally whispered. "She's beautiful." She glanced up at him, her radiant smile undimmed by the tears in her eyes. "She has your eyes, and your curls."
Blair grinned back at her, one long finger running over the dark cap of hair on Mica's head. "That's funny, I thought she had your eyes."
Drea shook her head, and despite the twinge of pain that shot through her chest, she raised her right hand to stroke her husband's cheek. "She's going to be her father's daughter, in more ways than just her looks. She's a Guide."
His eyes widening in surprise, Blair said, "You can tell that?" Drea nodded. "That's really... weird. When I held her last night, and just now, I could swear she was a Sentinel... " His musings were interrupted by a whimper that turned into a wail. "Oops! They were just going to feed her when I went to get her." Picking up the bottle, he held it for his daughter, who began to drink eagerly.
Drea watched their little miracle for a few moments, then realized there were some things she didn't know about what had happened the night before. "Babe, after they took me to surgery, what happened to you? Did they let you stay here?"
Nodding, he answered, "Yeah, until you were out of danger. Then Simon took me down to the station, booked and questioned me." At her worried expression, he said, "It's okay. He didn't have anything to hold me with, and they don't have enough evidence to make a case against you for last night, or last year. As soon as you are well enough to travel, we are out of here." He leaned over, surprising her with a passionate kiss. When they came up for air, he looked down at Mica. "Which reminds me, I need to see about getting her a passport... "
"There'll be plenty of time for that, Blair. What I want you to do after Mica's finished eating is to go get some rest."
"I feel like I should stay here with you... "
"Babe, I'm fine; Mica's fine. You are almost asleep on your feet, probably haven't eaten anything since dinner yesterday, and, you could do with a shower, too." She wrinkled her nose at him.
"Okay, but if Simon or anyone from the station comes around, you aren't answering any questions without myself or a lawyer present." Blair waved a stern finger at her.
"Got it. Now could you... ?" She nodded towards Mica. "I'm really starting to hurt."
Blair took her from Drea. "I'll go see if they can give you anything for the pain, and take her back to the nursery. You'll be okay, right?"
"I told you, I'm fine. Just a little achy, that's all."
Giving her a kiss on the cheek, Blair took their child and left the room, unaware that Sentinel ears had been listening to their entire conversation.
It took him two days to work up the courage to see her. Even then he got off the elevator on the maternity floor and found a dozen excuses to dawdle. He used the payphone to check his voice mail, checked in at the station, got a cup of bitter coffee from the vending machine. He wandered down to the nursery, gazing through the glass at the babies in their bassinets, wondering not for the first time what it would be like to have a child of his own. He focused his attention on Blair's daughter, taking in the wide blue eyes that regarded their surroundings calmly. They met his briefly, and the intelligence peering back at him startled Jim, a chill running down his spine.
Turning away, he bumped into Dr. Twofeathers. "Quite an amazing child, isn't she?"
Jim stared down at the small woman, wondering where he had seen her before, and then he remembered her from the emergency room. "You're the doctor that delivered her, right?"
"That's right. Jim, isn't it?" At his nod, she continued, "I'm not so sure Mr. Sanborn would approve of your presence here, seeing as you are responsible for his wife's condition."
"I... uh... it was an accident. I never meant to hurt her." That wasn't the exact truth, at the moment he'd pulled the trigger, he'd wanted nothing more than to blast Alex out of existence. But seeing what his actions had done to Blair, he regretted even having had the thought, let alone acting on it.
The obstetrician gave him a suspicious look. "Just don't cause any trouble for my patient, okay? She's not in any shape to go tooth and nail with you now."
Jim nodded, and the doctor left, leaving him to wonder what she knew about territoriality among Sentinels.
Finally he could find no other excuses to avoid what he'd come to the hospital to do. Still, he hesitated outside the door of her room, and would have turned away if she had not said for his ears only, "Took you long enough to get here, Ellison."
Flushing slightly, he moved into the doorway to Drea's room, finding her propped up in bed, her complexion still a little pale, her gesture for him to enter accompanied by a slight grimace. He came to stand beside the bed, meeting her eyes for a brief second, then looking at the floor. "I..um... I came to apologize, for what happened the other night, for shooting you. I never meant to put your child in any danger... if I had known... "
"It's all right, Jim, I forgive you. You couldn't have known, you couldn't have known any of it." She smiled at him. "Have a seat."
Pulling the chair a little closer to the bed, he sat down stiffly. "Couldn't have known what? That you were pregnant? That doesn't excuse what I did."
Drea shook her head. "You couldn't have known I wasn't the same person who tried to kill you a year ago. You couldn't have known he changed me. Hell, sometimes I can't believe it myself, but I know it's true. Alex, and all her anger, was left behind in the temple, when... " Her voice trailed off at the stricken look on Jim's face. "I'm sorry. Me talking about that must be very painful for you."
Shaking his head, Jim looked out the window. "It's just been a really bad year for me. Starting with you running off with Blair, then thinking you'd killed him, to the other night."
"What? What do you mean you thought I'd killed Blair? How could you even consider such a thing? The Sentinel can't harm the Guide; that's the most basic rule, Ellison. Blair's my life, my world... "
He turned his eyes back to her. "Alex... Drea, calm down. A decomposed body was found in the Brazilian jungle with Blair's passport on it. Whoever this person was, he'd been killed execution style by a bullet to the head. I didn't know what else to think at the time, but now I'm starting to wonder if the two of you didn't plan it that way."
"Blair's passport was stolen when we were in Rio... " She suddenly realized what he was hinting at, and her hand came up to her mouth in shock. "Are you accusing us of killing some innocent person to make you think Blair was dead? Didn't you hear what I just said? I'm not that person any longer. I haven't been since the day Blair chose to go with me, to be my Guide. And Blair would never kill anyone!"
Jim folded his arms across his chest. "Just like he didn't kill Carl Hettinger?" he said softly.
Drea closed her eyes for a moment, trying to compose herself, but when she opened them again, Jim could clearly see her agony. "It was an accident," she said hoarsely. "Carl shot me; Blair was trying to stop him from killing us both. They fell down the stairs... it was an accident!" Her fingers clenched at the blanket. "Blair still has nightmares about it. He feels guilty enough as it is; he doesn't need you to add to it by accusing him of murder."
Her eyes were flashing as she finished, and Jim had the feeling that if she hadn't been recovering from surgery, she would have had him shoved up against the wall, Sentinel protecting the Guide. "I'm sorry, Drea. I didn't mean to upset you. It's just that on the surface that's what it looked like."
Shaking her head, she said, "You still don't get it, do you? No, of course you don't or you wouldn't have pushed him away in the first place." She sat up a little further. "Over there in the closet, can you get my purse?"
Rising, Jim crossed the room and retrieved the bag. Handing it to her, he sat back down, watching as she dug through the contents, finally unzipping an inside pocket and withdrawing a worn and creased envelope. "Here." She handed it to him, and he could see his name and address on the outside, along with a stamp. "Blair wrote this letter on the way to Sierra Verde. He was going to mail it to you when we stopped to refuel, but he... he decided it would probably hurt more than it would help. He threw it away and I fished it out of the trash. I've hung on to it ever since. I have to admit I read it and it... well, it made me realize how much he gave up to help me. I spend every day trying to make sure he doesn't regret that decision... ." She wiped at her eyes. "I think you should go now. Blair should be back soon, and he'll go through the roof if he finds you in here. He can be pretty overprotective."
Jim got to his feet, shoving the letter in his pocket. "Drea... " he started.
"I know, but I'm glad you came by. I wanted to let you know I don't blame you for what happened, that I forgive you. It may take some time, but I'm sure Blair will forgive you too. Mica's fine, I'll be fine, and he'll see it for what it was, an accident." She gave him a small smile.
"I... um... you take care of yourself, and Blair, okay?" He had to force the words past the lump in his throat.
"I will, Jim, I promise."
Giving her a nod, Jim turned and left the room. Hearing Blair's voice in the hallway, he reversed directions, and took the stairs. He didn't read the letter until he returned to the loft.
"Hey, baby," Blair said in way of greeting as he bounced into the room. "How are you doing?"
He gave her a lingering kiss before he dropped into the chair next to the bed. He waved a sheaf of paper at her. "I got it." Giving her a grin, he handed her the papers.
She flipped through them, nodding her approval. "These are the steam tunnels, right?"
"Uh huh." The guide then rose from the chair to sit on the bed next to her. "I was right. I can get into the museum without ever being above ground. It'll take a little longer, since I'll want to enter the tunnels pretty far away, in case anyone spots me. But once I'm in, I'll pick up my pack from where I left it, get in, get the mask and get out. We'll be home free, and I can concentrate on you and Mica." He leaned closer to his wife, nuzzling her neck. "I also stuck Mica's passport application in the mail. If they rush it back like I asked, we should have it in a couple weeks, and we can go home."
"Mmm... " Drea laid her head on Blair's shoulder. "That sounds really nice. I'm looking forward to lying on the beach and just enjoying our daughter."
"Me, too." He leaned against the pillows, and she moved gingerly into the curve of his arm. "How's the pain?"
"Fine. I've been able to keep it dialed down, so they're cutting back on my painkillers. That stuff just knocks me out."
Picking up the photocopies, Blair began to talk through the plan with her, letting her guide him in visualizing each step. When they'd gone through it enough times that she was satisfied he wouldn't make any mistakes, she set the papers aside and curled up next to him, sliding her arm around his waist. They rested in comfortable silence for a few minutes, then Drea said, "Jim came to see me today." She felt Blair tense, and she began to rub his stomach.
"What in the hell did he want?" he growled.
Her hand moved up to rest on his chest. "He wanted to apologize. He really regrets what happened."
Blair snorted. "I'll bet. And what did you tell him?"
She kissed his cheek gently. "I told him I forgave him."
He turned his head to stare at her. Her blue eyes gazed back, a tentative smile on her lips. "You are... amazing," he finally said. "Every time I think I finally know you, you do something like this and surprise the hell out of me." He pressed a kiss on the top of her head.
She settled down next to him again, her arm tightening around him in a hug. "You taught me everything I know about forgiveness, babe. The least I could do was pass a little of that on to him."
"I hope you're not thinking I'm going to follow in your footsteps, Drea. I don't think I'm ready to forgive him yet. You could have died; Mica could have died. And there's a lot of other unresolved stuff between Jim and me, stuff that has nothing to do with what happened the other night."
"I know that, and so does he. I just want you to keep an open mind, okay? He was your friend once, your best friend, and if there's a chance of getting any of that back, then you should do whatever it takes."
Blair stared at her, not believing the words coming out of her mouth. "How can you say that? Aren't you afraid? Afraid that if I try to make things right with Jim that I'll leave you behind?"
Drea blinked at him as if the idea had never crossed her mind. "No, I'm not afraid. You're my Guide, my lover, my husband. I have nothing to fear from Jim, or from you. You won't hurt me, you can't hurt me."
Blair hugged her closer, letting her confidence, her belief, strengthen him. Maybe she was right. Maybe there was some way he could get past his anger and talk to Jim, at least explain the way things were to him. And maybe, just maybe he could help Jim find a Guide of his own. But not now. The wound, the hurt was still too fresh. He pressed his cheek against his wife's silky hair. "I'll think about it, Drea, but I can't make you any promises."
"That's all I ask," she replied. "Now isn't it about time for Mica to be fed?"
Giving her a grin, Blair rose to go get her.
Entering the loft, Jim dropped his keys in the basket and taking the envelope out of his pocket; he laid it on the kitchen table. Going to the fridge, he grabbed a beer, twisted the cap off, and took a long drink. Turning around, he leaned against the counter, his gaze going immediately to the wrinkled envelope. After a few minutes of staring, he crossed to the table, and pulling out a chair, sat down.
He continued to regard the envelope while finishing the beer, his heightened vision taking in the minute variances in the letters of his name on the outside, as if the writer's hand had been shaking. With a long sigh, he set the beer bottle down, and picked up the envelope, opening the loose flap and sliding the folded sheets of paper out. He unfolded them carefully, smoothing the creases out, taking in the familiar handwriting of his former partner without really seeing the words.
He read through it slowly, his finger underlining the sentences. The first half was a summary of Alex's life, written, he suspected, to point out to Jim the similarities between the two Sentinels, so that he would feel a connection to her. And he had to admit it was moving, not so much the matter of fact way Blair had put it down, but what was written between the lines. He could clearly see the two of them in some hotel room, Blair gently coaxing the painful story out of her, encouraging her when it became too difficult, consoling her when she cried. A couple lines further down, he felt his heart stop.
But as she told me, "It was kind of comforting, because that's where I came from, that's what I understood. I didn't do too well in those families that talked about love. I mean, what's there to love about me?" I started bawling then, just listening to her talk about herself that way. I'm trying to help her, I really am, but I think it might take a lifetime to make her see that she really is worth loving.
It had happened that quickly. Three days was all it had taken for him to connect with her. It had taken three years for Jim to begin to feel comfortable talking about himself to Sandburg. And even then he hadn't been able to trust him with the kind of deep, intimate feelings Alex seemed to have shared with him. Rising, he went to get another beer before he continued to read.
After downing half of it, Jim realized he was well on his way to losing himself in that comfortable liquid haze. No... he'd worked too long and too hard over the past three months to do that. He poured the rest of it down the sink, and sat back down at the table, quickly finding where he had left off.
He read through the rest of it, Blair's theory that Guides were genetically connected to Sentinels making him stop and think, the other man's refusal to put any of the blame for what had happened between them on Jim made his heart ache. He could clearly read the fear his friend had felt about facing down Carl and Arguillo, about running blindly from the only life he knew into the uncertain future of a fugitive from the law. But nowhere in Blair's words did he find regret, or the wish that he could change things back to the way they had been. As scared as he must have been, he had still made the choice to go with her, to help her, to be what Jim had never really allowed him to be, a true Guide to his Sentinel.
Jim reread the letter several more times, then rising, he grabbed his jacket from the hook by the door and his keys from the basket. Leaving the loft behind, he went in search of Blair Sandburg.
Leaning over Drea, Blair gave her a last kiss, then grabbed his backpack off the floor. "See you in a couple hours," he told her.
"You sure you're up to doing this by yourself?" she asked, shifting Mica slightly in her arms.
"Yep. I was trained by the best. Besides, the exhibition ends tomorrow and the artifacts go back to their private collection. If I don't do this now, we'll lose our chance, and the Chinitez people will have to suffer through another year of drought." He brushed his fingers lightly over his daughter's cheek, then kissed the top of her head.
Drea caught at his hand as he turned away. "You know I'll be right there with you, babe."
"I'm counting on it." He gave her a grin. "I love you."
"Love you, too. Hurry back." Kissing her one more time, Blair left the room.
Jim pulled the truck to a stop in the hospital parking lot in time to see Blair getting into a Jeep Cherokee. That was kind of strange. Visiting hours weren't over, and he knew the Guide normally stayed with his wife until the hospital staff kicked him out. He was putting the pickup into drive and dropping in behind the Jeep before he was consciously aware of what he was doing.
Blair drove like a man with a purpose, either unaware he was being followed, or just not caring. "Of course," Jim thought, "he could just be going to pick up dinner." That theory was disproved when the Shaman turned onto Rainier University campus, driving to the basketball arena and parking in the lot. Glancing at the marquee, Jim noted RU was playing the Huskies that night. A good game, sure, but certainly not enough to drag Blair from his wife's side. Growing more suspicious by the moment, Jim parked a couple rows away from the SUV and waited a few minutes before following Blair to the arena gate.
The detective watched as Sandburg bought a ticket and went inside, using the time the man spent in line to extend his senses and lock onto his heartbeat. Purchasing a ticket himself, Ellison followed him through the door and into the crowd. He tracked him through the hallways of the stadium, patting himself on the back for being able to focus on that one sound without zoning, or becoming confused by the herd of basketball fans. It was at just that moment Blair's heartbeat disappeared.
"Damn it!" Jim swore under his breath, then began using his vision to try and locate the errant anthropologist. When that failed, he switched to scent, but couldn't filter out the thousands of other smells. It took him nearly twenty minutes to realize Blair had deliberately given him the slip. Who better to know how to lose a sentinel than a guide?
Frustrated, Jim headed back to the parking lot, only to find the Cherokee where Blair had parked it. Something was going on, but damned if he could figure it out at the moment.
Blair wound his way through the press of basketball fans, heading for the lower level of the arena and the entrance to the steam tunnels he knew was just off the electrical room. Sliding a hand into the front pocket of his backpack, he flipped on the white noise generator, and became instantly invisible to Sentinel ears. Reaching his destination, he checked to make sure no one was watching, then picked the lock on the door and slipped inside. Taking out a flashlight, he flipped it on, and began walking.
It took him nearly thirty minutes to traverse the maze of tunnels to the museum. He found his pack from the first theft attempt right where he'd left it. A quick check showed nothing missing, thank god. If the replica of the mask Drea had worked on for weeks had been gone, all their planning and sacrifice would have been for nothing. Swapping the pack with his tools for the one he'd brought, he headed for the tunnel entrance into the museum.
He made short work of the lock, easily bypassing the alarm there, and entered the basement of the museum to find himself in an artifact storage area. Blair crossed the darkened area silently, coming to a stop at the floor to ceiling chain-link fence enclosing the space. A padlocked gate stood between him and the rest of the building. "Shit," he swore under his breath. Setting his backpack down, he took out his picks again, and maneuvered his fingers through the gaps in the wire to grasp the lock. Turning the glow from his flashlight on it, he groaned audibly. It was a top of the line BestLock, a model he had never successfully opened, no matter how many times Drea had coached him.
Breathe, man, breathe. Let everything else go. Closing his eyes, he worked on the lock using touch alone, but each time he felt like he almost had it, the pick slipped. Nervous sweat trickled down his back. Damn it, this was taking too much time. Ellison wasn't stupid; he was bound to figure out where Blair had gone before too long. Once again he tried to calm himself. This time when he took hold of the lock, he could feel Drea's hands over his, guiding him as she had when she'd first begun to teach him the skill. The pick caught, he twisted, and the lock fell open. "Thank you, honey," he whispered as he opened the gate and eased through, pulling the ski mask over his head.
Climbing the stairs to the main level of the museum, he slid out the door, keeping to the shadows as he hit the button on the small remote he pulled from his pocket. This was where it got tricky. Without Drea in the control center of their van to confirm it, he could only hope the program overriding the video surveillance system had kicked in. Just to be on the safe side, Blair worked his way to the exhibition room slowly, listening intently for the guards, careful to stay in the cameras' blind spots.
Making sure the room was clear, the thief traversed the perimeter of the room, coming to a halt behind the display case holding the mask of the rain god. A few minutes later he had jumpered the alarm on the case, and was working on the simple lock. Once he had the case open, he quickly exchanged the copy for the real mask, tucked it in his pack, relocked the case, and reset the alarm.
He had just stepped into the hall when the overhead lights came on in the room he had just vacated. Voices drifted toward him as he squeezed himself into the space between a large case and the wall. "I'm telling you, Ellison, it's been dead here all evening. No funny stuff, not like the other night."
Blair felt a smile spreading across his face. He'd known not to underestimate the Sentinel. It would be interesting to see if Jim could pick up any clue he'd been there. The white noise generator was still running, so his heartbeat was masked, but the detective still had four other senses to go on. Too bad he couldn't afford to stick around to watch.
Ducking into the shadows, he trotted quickly back to the basement, clicked off the camera override, and left the way he'd come in. Gathering up all his stuff from the tunnel, Blair made his way to the exit inside the student union building. Before leaving the passageway, he pulled the gold and turquoise mask from his bag, and wrapped it securely in bubblewrap, then packaged it in the prepaid and addressed FedEx box he'd brought in the backpack he'd carried from the hospital. The bag now being empty, he rolled it up and stuffed it in the one containing his tools, then exited the tunnels.
Strolling nonchalantly through the student union, he stopped outside the bookstore to drop his package in the FedEx bin, then left the building, heaving a long sigh of relief. He stopped on the stairs, breathing in the cool night air, and gazing up at the stars. "It's done, baby," he whispered to the sky, "now we can go home."
Tearing his eyes away from the heavens, he looked down to find himself in the blue-tinged darkness of the jungle. The underbrush rustled and parted, the spotted jaguar slinking toward him. She paused a few feet from him, morphing gracefully into his partner, his Sentinel. Drea stood before him, dressed in the leathers and paint of a warrior, a bow and quiver of arrows hanging from her back. Taking a step forward, she pulled him into an embrace, pressing her cheek to his. Finally she moved back, her eyes meeting his questioning gaze.
"Drea, what's going on? Why am I here? Why now?" Blair's voice was frightened.
Cupping his face in her hands, she kissed him tenderly, whispering 'I love you's' against his lips. He returned her caress and her words. Pulling away, she said, "Blair, I will always be with you, looking out for you, protecting you, loving you."
"I will always be here for you. Drea, I love you... " He watched her back away from him silently, then changing into the jaguar she disappeared into the night. He started to go after her, but the wolf was suddenly before him, a tiny spotted cub hanging by the scruff of her neck from his jaws. Before he could figure out the meaning of his vision, something vibrated at his waist.
Looking down at his pager, Blair was no longer in the jungle, but standing on the steps outside Rainier's student union. Shaking off the eerie, creepy feeling that had come over him, Blair pressed the button on top of the beeper, the number for the hospital coming up in the small screen.
And he knew. No... no... no... He dug frantically for his cell phone, punching in the number with shaking fingers, stuttering his name when the line was picked up. A sad, kind voice in his ear was saying something about an embolism and massive stroke, very quick, no pain, she didn't suffer, they were very sorry... With a scream, he threw the phone away from him, tears spilling down his face, violent sobs threatening to tear him apart.
He staggered the rest of the way down the stairs, nearly falling as he reached the street, his shattered mind not registering the blinding light or the squealing tires.
Ellison drove aimlessly through the campus, trying to figure out what was going on. He knew now that Blair had deliberately given him the slip at the arena, but he was damned if he could figure out why. At first he thought Blair was making another attempt at the museum, but his inspection had turned up nothing amiss. If Sandburg had been there, he had left everything untouched.
Jim had just turned down the street in front of the student union, when someone stumbled out of the shadows into the path of the truck. Standing on the brakes and yanking the wheel hard to the left, Jim still felt and heard the sickening thump as the bumper made contact. Slamming the Ford into park, he leapt from the cab, running around the front of the truck to find a black-clad man using the hood to slowly pull himself to his feet. The man's head lifted, the curtain of hair parting, and Jim found himself staring into the haunted eyes of Blair Sandburg. "Oh, god! Blair, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Are you okay?"
With an agonized cry, the Guide sagged forward into the Sentinel's arms, sobbing hysterically, calling out his wife's name. Jim went to the ground with him, kneeling in the brilliant light of the headlights, simultaneously trying to find out if Blair was okay, and decipher his disjointed words. Something had happened to Drea, he finally figured out, and the only thing he could think of that would have Blair this upset would be... "No, oh, no! She can't be! I just saw her this afternoon... oh, god... " Guilt slid through him like a knife.
Jim felt Blair's hands on either side of his face, lifting his head, forcing him to look at the Guide. He fought him, afraid to meet his eyes, afraid of what he would find there. But when blue eyes finally met blue, he saw only pain, and yes, anger, but not directed at him. It was anger at the cruel world that would bring Blair's love back from the brink of death three days ago, only to snatch her away from him the moment true happiness and freedom were within their grasp.
Wrenching himself out his despair, Jim heard Blair saying something, repeating it over and over, as if the words could bring her back. "I forgive you, Jim, I forgive you... " Tears burned their way down his face, and he pulled the smaller man into his embrace, giving him something solid to hold on to, rocking him as he cried.
Epilogue: Costa Rica, three weeks later
Blair stood barefoot on the beach in front of his home, only peripherally aware of the water lapping at his feet. Mica was cradled against his chest with one hand, and he held a small enamel box in the other. As the setting sun began to turn the sky to flame, he flipped the lid of the box open awkwardly, scattering all that remained of his wife, his love, his Sentinel, upon the waves. The prayer for the dead fell from his tongue, sending her spirit to its final resting place.
The simple ceremony finished, the Guide hugged his daughter closer, watching the pink sun dip into the ocean and disappear, symbolically closing the door on that part of his life. Letting out a long sigh, he felt a strong hand come to rest on his shoulder, and the trace of a smile played across his lips.
"You gonna be okay?"
Blair turned to face the speaker. "Yeah, Jim, with your help, I think we're gonna be fine." He gripped the other man's arm for a long moment, meeting and holding his steady gaze. "Just fine." Together they walked back up the beach to the house.