In answer to the song/story challenge by mab, a depressing story that happens after Sentinel Two if Blair hadn't come back. Angst from both Jim and Blair, though there is more Jim angst. Might need a hankie warning. Thanks to Shar, whose pictures I looked at while I wrote this. They were an inspiration for writing an almost happy ending.
Coming Together Again. By Voracity
Jim walked into the loft, hearing the echoes of the past coming towards him. He knew he couldn't actually see Blair, he was gone, but the memories came running towards him, asking how his day was, telling him about a new experiment, or a bright student. He couldn't see Blair because he was gone. His Guide was gone, he had left him. Blair hadn't even given him a chance to explain about why he had pushed him away.
He had gone to the hospital, tried to see Blair, explain it to him, but the nurses stopped him. Said he had signed an order to keep him out.
Jim sat down at the table, wondering why he even bothered to get out of bed anymore. Two weeks, he had survived the first two weeks, today. Simon had grounded him to the bullpen. Nobody would come near him. It's like they all knew about what had happened. Even Rhonda was avoiding him. Jim laid his head down, and sighed. "Blair, come back, please. Let me explain." If only the words would find their way to his Guide.
Jim got up and threw his jacket across the back of a chair. He headed for the stereo system, and pulled the cd out that Darryl had made him; he said it was 'Songs for the Broken hearted'. He put it in and turned it on. He wanted to go to Blair's room, but it was empty. Simon and Naomi had cleaned it out. So he walked over to stare out across the balcony, listening to the music, watching the day darken into night to suit his mood. He wasn't really listening, but a song caught his attention. He turned around, and listened.
take me back in time maybe I can forget turn a different corner and we never would have met would you care?
Jim walked over and reset the track to start the song over again. //It's so much like him. Us.// He sat down on the couch and listened to the whole song. He didn't know who sang it, but it spoke to him. He hit the repeat button so it could continuously play.
I'd say love was a magical thing I'd say love would keep us from pain had I been there had I bee there I would promise you all of my life but to lose you would cut like a knife so I don't dare no I dont' dare
'cause I've never come close in all my year you are the only one to stop my tear and I'm so scared I'm so scared
take me back in time maybe I can forget turn a different corner and we never would have met would you care?
I don't understand it for you it's a breeze little by little you've brought me to my knees don't you care?
no I've never come close in all of these years you are the only one to stop my tears I'm so scared of this love
and if all that there is is this fear of being used I should be back to being lonely and confused if I could, I would, I swear
//Oh, God, it's so much like us. I just want things to go back to normal, want the magic that was us come back.// Jim let himself fall back onto the couch, not caring that he would sleep there this night. Not caring that he probably wouldn't get up in the morning for work. Not caring about anything since his Guide was gone. "Come back, Blair, please. I need you. I can't live like this anymore." Jim let the tears flow that he had been holding back for weeks; letting them wash him into oblivion.
Simon stood outside of Jim's door, knocking. "Come on, Jim, I know you can hear me," he muttered to himself. "If you can hear a heartbeat a block away, you can hear me out here." Simon reached into his pocket for his keys. "Good thing you gave me a key." He opened the door, not expecting Jim to be laying on the couch. He walked over, slowly so as not to startle the man, and faced him. "Jim." He had noticed the weight loss happening over the last two weeks, but it was much more evident now that he was laying down. His pants hung around the waist, his shirt looked like he was wearing someone else's clothes. "Jim, come on."
Jim didn't move, he didn't want to listen to Simon. //Leave me alone. Just go away. Like everyone else.// He turned his hearing down.
Simon saw the look that said he was concentrating on something. "Don't do that to me Jim. I want to help, but only if you'll let me." When Jim didn't answer, Simon grabbed a shoulder and shook the man. He was scared to shake to hard, Jim felt fragile, breakable. "Listen to me, you selfish bastard. You drove him away, do you blame him for leaving? Nobody else does. Not after the way you treated him that night."
"Go away." Jim closed his eyes. He wanted to go back to his dreams. The ones where Blair stands up to him and refuses to leave. The ones where Blair told him he loved him, that it wasn't one sided; that it was all right to be afraid. "Don't want you here."
"Tough shit, Ellison. You're coming with me, whether you like it or not." Simon pulled him up carefully, made him stand up by himself. He grabbed Jim's jacket, but he wouldn't put it on. He kept looking at the stereo. "Do you need something from in here before we go?"
Jim walked over and popped the cd out, putting it in it's case in his pocket. He wouldn't look at Simon as he followed him out of the loft, and into the afternoon light. They made it to Simon's car, and Jim crawled in. He popped the cd into the player and reset it to the song.
Simon heard the intro to the song and shook his head. He ignored Jim mumbling the words along with it. He pulled up to his house, beeping the horn to let Darryl know he was home.
Darryl came out of the garage, and opened the door. He made a face at Jim's appearance and smell, but helped his father drag Jim into the house. They pulled him into the closest shower, and threw Jim into it, clothes and all, before turning it on. Darryl left, and Simon stood guard while Jim let the warm water hit him.
Jim looked around him. //Music's stopped. Where did it go? Want it back.// He could feel the water hitting him, but he didn't care. What use was a shower, or clean clothes, when his reason to be happy had left him.// Blair left me, didn't say a word. Just left the hospital. He didn't even say good-bye.// Jim let the water wash away his tears. //Got to stop crying, it's not good for me.// Jim got himself under control, then looked down at himself. He shrugged, then stripped. He threw the clothes out of the shower, hitting Simon unknowingly, and proceeded to do what his newest and oldest best friend wanted. He muttered the lyrics under his breath as he washed, not caring that Simon would hear, not caring because Blair couldn't hear them.
When Jim turned off the water, Simon grabbed a towel for him and handed it over the curtain bar. Jim came out a few minutes later and Simon handed him a robe. Jim put it on and let Simon lead him out of the bathroom, and into a bed.
"Stay here and sleep Jim. I'll be just down the hall." Simon looked at him, hard, then left. He left the door open a crack so he could hear if Jim yelled.
"Son, is it ready?" He walked into the garage, and patted his son on the back.
"Yeah, it's all set up. All we have to do is position it and turn the tape on." Darryl let Simon pick up the camcorder and tripod. They walked back to the room Jim was in.
Simon set the camcorder up, and recorded a few minutes of Jim sleeping, and singing in his sleep, then they went down to the living room. Darryl set the camera at a precise spot in front of the couch before sitting down beside his dad.
"Blair," Simon began, "the man you just saw used to be your best friend. That's the first sleep he gotten in days, I think."
"Blair, buddy, you have to come back. Jim can't take much more of this. He *smelled* when he came in. Looked like he hadn't eaten in days."
"It's true, Blair, his clothes are hanging off of him. And that song you heard, he's been singing it and listening to it since I found him this morning. I went over because he hadn't come to work in three days."
"Blair, you have to come back, just to close this thing between you. Man, Jim's gonna die if you don't."
"He's right Blair, Jim *will* die, and soon, without you here for him. He loves you. I know it, he knows it," he pointed to Darryl, "and so do you in your heart." Simon got up and stopped the tape.
"Do you think it'll work?" Darryl slumped back into the couch cushions.
"I hope so. Naomi said she knew where he was." Simon took the tape out of the camcorder and put it in a case. "Said he would get it within two days of her getting it." He walked over to the desk, and pulled out a shipping envelope. "Want to run this over to the Post Office for me?"
"Sure, you stay here and watch Jim." Darryl took the envelope and some money and left the house.
Simon walked back upstairs to check on Jim. He stood in the doorway, watching his friend sleep. "I hope it works," he whispered.
Naomi handed Blair the package. He didn't want to take it after seeing the return address, but his mother forced it into his hands.
"You have to see this. Simon called me about it the other day. Said you have to watch it. Today." She turned and walked out of the room to give him some privacy.
Blair sat down, turning the envelope over in his hands. He knew what he would find if he opened it. It felt like a videotape. //Probably begging me to go back to Jim. Why can't they understand what he did to me, how much it hurt me?// He started to put it on the end table, but Naomi took it out of his hands and tore it open. She shoved the tape into the VCR, then hit the play button before leaving the room again.
Blair sat there, looking at a person that he didn't know. //It doesn't look like Jim.// He listened while Simon and Darryl made their plea. //Song?// He rewound the tape, focusing on the part with the person in the bed. He heard a song, faintly coming through. //This is *so* not good.// He froze the tape on a close-up of Jim.
"Oh, my. Blair did you know this would happen to him?" Naomi put a hand on his shoulder. "He doesn't even look like Jim. Those hollowed out cheeks, the slackness in the body. Honey, you have to go back, even if it is just for closure." She patted the arm, and handed him a ticket.
"But, Naomi, he did this. He pushed me away, told me he didn't want me there. Why should I go back to someone who doesn't want me?" His voice was still rough from the drowning. "He didn't want me." Blair ran to his room, slamming the door.
"This won't work." She let him have a few minutes, watching the tape for herself. She heard Simon's, and his son's, words begging her son to come back. She turned off the machines, and went to Blair's door. She knocked lightly. "Blair, honey. Let's talk, Sweetie."
"Go away! You don't understand!" He threw something soft at the door.
"Of course I do. I could see your bond the last time I was there. I know you two were close, and that you were both too stubborn to admit that you love each other. Now open this door! Now!" She hit it hard once, then stood there waiting for Blair to open it.
When it did open, she didn't hug Blair because he looked like he needed it, or because he had been crying, but because she knew he felt guilty. They stood there in the doorway for a while, Naomi letting Blair take some of her strength for the battle coming up.
"You have to go back. Just to get it over with."
Blair nodded, and let go, going in to pack some things he would need.
"Jim, you have to eat something." Simon stood at the foot of the bed holding a tray. "You need to eat, need the strength." He laid the tray on the nightstand, just out of reach. He had learned that lesson earlier in the day when Jim had thrown a bowl of soup across the room.
"Go'way." Jim rolled over and hugged a pillow. "Don't wan' any." He tried to pull the covers over him, but Simon grabbed them and held on.
"No, Jim. Blair'll be here shortly, probably tomorrow, and you'll need your strength."
"No he won't. He left me. He's gone." He turned over to face Simon and yelled, "He's gone! Why can't you see that! I drove him away, and now he's gone!" Jim pulled the blanket out of Simon's hands, ripping it, and buried himself underneath.
"Fine, whatever, Jim, it's beside you if you want to eat."
"Go away. Don't want to eat. Don't want to talk, want to sleep. Turn off the light, please."
Simon patted the lump of blanket where Jim's shoulder should be. "No. You don't need to sleep. And if you don't eat something today, we're going to have to take you to the hospital."
"They'll strap you down and force feed you. You know what happens when people decide to go on a hunger strike."
"Don't care." Jim shifted to get more comfortable. Simon sighed and left him alone.
Simon met Blair at the door, letting the smaller man in. "You don't look so good either."
"I'm fine." He pushed past Simon and headed upstairs. "I'm going to talk to him, get some closure."
Blair knew which room he was in. He had stayed there himself one night. He knocked and entered without waiting for an answer. "Jim?" He tried to turn on the light, but found the cover hanging out of the wall, dangling on the wires. He left the door open and walked further into the room. "Jim, man, are you up?"
"No. You're just another illusion. Go away," Jim whispered and Blair heard him turn over.
Blair walked over to the bed, and kneeled beside of it. "No, I'm real, Jim. You can hear me here with you." He leaned closer, but was grabbed by Simon.
"You shouldn't do that. He grabbed Darryl yesterday when he brought in food. He would have hurt him if he had the strength." He pulled Blair up to look at him. "You need to make it better, even if it is just to bring a close to it. He can't stay this way." Simon walked out, closing the door behind him to give them privacy.
Blair started to pace beside the bed, trying to see Jim in the dim light. He went over and pulled the curtains open, letting in a streetlight. When he found a lamp, he turned it on, getting his first good view of his former partner.
Jim was curled up on his side around a pillow. He had lost a lot of weight, you could tell by the way the bones were starting to stick out. Blair ran a hand along Jim's normally strong arm. The muscles were still there, but they were softer, less dense.
"Jim, man, come on talk to me." Blair sat on the bed behind Jim. "I'm here now, and we can talk."
Jim scooted his body away from his Guide. "Not here. Gone. Never come back."
"No, Jim, I'm here. Feel me, feel my body beside your back." He moved closer, until he was touching Jim's skin. "See, you can feel my clothes, my heat, me. I'm real, and so are you."
"No I'm not. Not real. Nothing is." Jim got up and laid down in a corner, taking the pillow with him. "Go away. I don't need more nightmares coming for me." He curled up into a ball, and laid there rocking himself.
Blair was getting up to follow Jim, bring him back, but the pounding outside the door stopped him. He walked over to the door, and pulled it open. Simon and Darryl were putting up a gate, a locked door on the outside of the bedroom door.
"What's going on? Simon, what are you doing ?"
"We're making sure that you two work it out." Simon pounded another bolt into the door frame.
"We got the idea from a movie, isn't it cool?" Darryl put a few tools through an opening. "I know it's a cell door from a jail, but it'll work." They finished hammering in the bolts, and then shoved some things through the opening. "Here, a survival kit. We'll bring food later." Simon grabbed the bedroom door through the bars and closed it on a protesting Blair.
Blair looked at the things in his hands, then yelled, "Simon Banks, I ought to tell Internal Affairs about you holding us hostage!" Blair could hear the two men laugh as they walked down the hall. Blair piled the things on the dresser and headed back to Jim. "Come on man, we have to get you back to bed." Jim fought, but he was weak enough for Blair to handle him. He pulled Jim back onto the bed, laying him on his back, and sat beside him. "You have to come back to me now, Jim. I can't do this alone, and they won't let me out unless we talk."
Jim was looking around the room, everywhere but the fake Blair. "Why is it so bright, I fixed the lights."
"I turned on a light and opened the curtains." Blair settled himself comfortably on the bed, knowing this was going to take a long time. "Why, is the light bothering you?"
"No, lights not good." Jim tried to roll over, but Blair's hand on his shoulder stopped him. "Stop it, want to hug him."
"Jim, why are the lights not good?" Blair handed Jim the pillow he'd been hugging, but still didn't let him roll over.
"Because dreams don't come in the light, and that's all I have left." Jim hugged the pillow to his chest. "Want more, but he left me."
"No, Jim, I'm right here." Blair started to rub the closest arm, but Jim pulled away.
"No, not real, just a figment." He pulled away from Blair, and rolled away from him.
"Jim, are you having hallucinations? Are you seeing things?"
"Yes, dreams of love. Blair."
Blair got up and opened the door. He shouted down the hall, "Simon, I need to talk to you." Simon came running. "How long has he been hallucinating?"
"I don't know. I'm assuming since before he got here four days ago. I called my doctor, who said it was probably a side effect of the dehydration, so I've been making him drink, but it isn't getting any better." He looked over at Blair like he was sizing him up. "Frankly, kid, if you hadn't gotten here by tomorrow, I would've put him in the hospital tomorrow night." Simon reached along the wall and then handed Blair some bottles of Gatoraide through the bars. "That's what the doctor said to make him drink. He needs to take it slow, but he needs to drink a lot. Soon." Simon left.
Blair walked to the bed, and sat beside of Jim's stomach. "Jim, would you like a drink?" He opened a plastic sports bottle and held it out beside Jim's face.
"No." Jim tried to push it away, but Blair moved it and let some dribble across Jim's lips.
"Come on, Big Guy, you have to drink. The doctor said so." Jim relented, and opened his mouth, so Blair could pour some in.
When Jim was done with the bottle, Blair wiped his mouth with a sleeve, and then laid beside Jim.
Jim looked at him, then made room on the bed for him. They laid there looking at each other for a while, neither saying anything. Finally Blair, tried to move the pillow.
"No, leave Blair alone." Jim clutched it tighter, protecting it from the man beside him.
"Jim. Look at me." Blair forced Jim's head up so they would be looking in each other's eyes. "That's not Blair, I am."
Jim laid there, studying the man next to him, tears running down his face. "Why do you want to take Blair away from me? I already pushed him away once, and now you want to take him away too? Why can't I just leave Blair alone, make him stay?"
"Shh, Jim, I came back. It's as much my fault that I left as yours. I let you push me away without asking you why. I was a bad Guide, and I left you alone. Shhh." Blair eased the pillow out of his arms and laid in them instead. "See, I'm here, and real, and in your arms."
Jim just let him lay there for a minute before grabbing him tight. "Don't go. Please. I was wrong. Don't go, Blair." Jim held him tightly, not willing to let him go this time.
"Why would I go, Jim. You need me." Blair let Jim hold him, but tried to wiggle gently for more breathing room, unsuccessfully. "Jim, could you hold me a little looser so I can breathe please?"
Jim loosened his death-grip, and rocked his Guide back and forth, cooing to him like Blair was a child. "I won't let you go. You're safe here with me, I'll protect you. Shh, baby, you're safe and loved."
Blair listened to the litany, repeated over and over. He relaxed into Jim's arms letting Jim feel safe too.
Blair woke up to the sound of the bedroom door opening and food being passed inside. He let the door close before getting out of Jim's arms. When he brought back the thermoses and the sandwiches, Jim was staring at him.
"Hungry, Jim?" Jim shook his head. "But you have to eat."
Blair laid the food on what was becoming his side of the bed. "We'll eat in a few minutes, how's that?" Jim growled at him, and turned his back to Blair. "Growling won't get you better."
"Of course you're not. That's why you've lost close to twenty pounds in under three weeks." Blair let a little sarcasm through, knowing that Jim hated it and would respond.
"Don't talk to me like that."
"Like what? A mother taking care of a child?"
"No, sarcastic. Better yet, don't talk to me."
"Not a chance. Simon won't let us out until we've talked."
"Don't care. Not leaving." Jim tried to hide in the blankets, but Blair pulled them off the bed. Jim rolled over and growled at him. Blair sat down next to Jim, and petted his head. "Stop it!" Jim got up and started to pace.
"No. Now come back here and eat. You need to, you've been dehydrated." Blair pulled out a sandwich and started on it. "Grilled cheese." He waved the food at Jim.
"No. Go away. You left me, you can't come back."
"Jim, I left because you wanted me to; and I didn't fight it." Blair settled himself on the bed. "I came back because Simon sent me a tape of you looking like this." He waved his hand at Jim, "He begged me to come back and talk to you at least."
"I. Don't. Want. To. Talk. To. You." Jim opened the door, and ran into the gate. He shook it, trying to loosen it, but it didn't budge. "What did he do?"
"Darryl said he got the idea from a movie. They said we can't get out until we've talked." Blair watched Jim walk into the bathroom and slam the door. "While you're in there, take a shower," he yelled to Jim. After he finished his sandwich, he got up and closed the bedroom door. He walked over and knocked on the bathroom door. "Jim. Are you all right in there?"
"Yes," was growled through the door. "Go away."
"I can't do that. I need the bathroom." Jim opened the door, and let Blair have it. When Blair came out, he didn't let Jim back in. "Unless you're going to use it for it's intended purpose, you can't have it back."
"Get out of the way." Jim tried to move Blair, but he was still weak.
"No, it won't do either of us any good if you hide in there." Blair pushed him back towards the bed. "Now sit and eat before I decide to force feed you." Blair sat down and handed Jim a thermos marked 'soup'. He watched Jim sniff it, then pour some into the lid. "How long has it been since you've eaten, anyways?"
"Don't know." Jim took a gulp of soup. "Don't care, doesn't matter." Jim finished off the cup of soup and puts the lid on before setting it aside. "There, happy now?"
"No, but it'll do for now." Blair walked back to the bathroom and came out with a wet cloth. "Here, you need to wipe your face." He handed it to Jim before sitting down and eating another sandwich.
Jim wiped his face aggressively then threw the cloth into a corner. "There, happy now?" He fidgeted with his pajama top before laying down again.
"No, but it'll do until I can get you into a shower and get more food into you." He handed over another sports bottle. "Drink."
Jim took the bottle and threw it over with the washcloth. Blair got up to retrieve the bottle and Jim headed for the bathroom again. Blair could hear Jim trying to lock the door, letting him do it. He shook his head, and opened the door, handing in the bottle.
"Drink it and then take a shower." He closed the door, letting Jim have his privacy. He heard a tap on the door, so went over to open it. "Hi, Simon, what's up?"
"How's he doing?"
"He ate some soup, I handed him another drink, he's closed himself in the bathroom. The usual." Blair shrugged, knowing the levity wasn't wanted but it was needed.
Simon grunted. "Well, as long as he eats." He started to turn to leave.
"Simon, wait. Are there any spare sets of pj's. I want him to take a shower."
"No, that pair was all Darryl could find. Some of his clothes are in the dresser." Simon pointed. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, a screwdriver to fix the light switch, please." He moved so Simon could examine it through the door. "Jim 'fixed' it."
"Great. Okay, anything else?"
"Yeah, how about some juice for him. He hates sports drinks."
"Got it already. We're going to be sending some up later."
"Thanks, man, for doing this for him."
"Blair, it's for both of you. Trust me on this, you both need to deal with this." Simon patted Blair's arm through the gate, then left. Blair left the door open to let in some fresh air, and looked at the stuff Darryl had given him yesterday.
"Sheets, towels, toothbrush, lotion, lube? Why would he include lube?" Blair shook his head. He didn't hear Jim come up behind him. "Wishful thinking I guess. Baby wipes, extra pillow. Looks like he thought of everything for a few days." He turned around and ran into Jim's chest. "Hi, are you done hiding?"
"What's that?" He pointed to the bundle.
"Darryl said it was a survival kit. Towels, sheets, and stuff. Should we change the sheets now or wait until later?"
"Why are you here?" He gave Blair a hard look, waiting.
"Because Simon sent a tape of you looking pitiful."
"That didn't answer my question, and you know it."
"Yes, it does." Blair folded his arms across his chest and tried to move around Jim.
"NO, it doesn't." He grabbed Blair's arms. "And you will talk to me."
"Let go, Jim," Blair said softly.
Jim looked at him, then the door, "Well, at least you can't run away this time."
"I didn't run away last time!" Blair shouted, and pushed Jim, making him let go. "YOU told me to leave, and I did. YOU said you didn't want me there anymore, that I wasn't needed or wanted. So I did what you asked me to, I left you alone." Blair walked around Jim and went into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.
Jim stood there, stunned. //I never thought about what he was feeling about this. I didn't know I hurt him that bad.// He took the stuff Simon gave him, without thinking, and closed the door on him. He laid it with the other stuff on the dresser, and laid back down on the bed. //Why did I hurt him like that. Then and just now again. All I do is hurt him. He doesn't need me to do that, wouldn't want it.// "I'm sorry, Blair," he whispered before turning on his side, facing away from the door. //Don't want to hurt him anymore.// He focused on the lamp, letting himself zone.
Blair stood against the door before letting himself slide to the floor. //Why can't he stop that. Why does he have to hurt me? Why me? I can't take this, can't take the pain, the hurt, the anger. God, did I want to hit him just now?// He looked down at his hands, watching them for more unusual movements. //I can't hurt Jim like that. Even if I do want to slug him right now.// Blair got up, ran some water, and washed his face.
When he walked out of the bathroom, Jim was curled up on his side, looking at the lamp. "Bastard." He flipped Jim onto his back, felt for a pulse, then started talking to the out of it man. "Come on, Jim. You can't do this to me. I won't let you." He gently shook Jim. "I need you to come back here, come on, come back to me." He straddled Jim's prone form. Jim wasn't responding, so Blair shook him harder, until he was shaking Jim with every word. "Come on Jim, you have to come back now, I can't do this without you. Come on. Now. Open yourself back to the here and now, to me." Blair let him go, dropping him back onto the mattress. Blair leaned down and kissed his cheek, letting his tears flow onto Jim's face. "Oh, God, what did I do? I let him get like this. Oh, God." Blair rolled off the top of his best friend and laid down beside him, curling up to him. "Please don't let this happen to him. Please God, he doesn't deserve this. He's a good guy, one of the few left." He let himself relax into Jim's side. //I can't leave him. He can't do this without me.// Blair felt himself slip into a meditative state, not stopping it, not caring.
Jim stood in a gray place. All gray, all around him. He could hear nothing, see nothing, feel nothing, but the gray. He sat down to wait.
After a while, he could hear his Guide's heart beat. It was coming closer, getting louder. //Is he near me?// He listened to the familiar rhythm, letting it wash over him. //Why is he afraid?// Jim listened to the beat as it got slower, hearing the fear take it over, changing the beat. Jim stood up, looking around, letting his senses loose. //Have to find Blair, comfort him. He's afraid of something, very afraid. He needs me.//
"Of course he does, Sentinel." Incacha stood beside him, without Jim seeing him approach. "Your Guide fears for you."
"Why should he fear for me? I mean he left. He left me alone. He promised that he wouldn't leave and he did it anyway." Jim started to fall back down, but the Shaman caught him. "Leave me alone. Please."
"I can no more do that then you two could ever be alone now." Incacha pulled him to his feet. "You need to go to him, Sentinel. He needs you as much as you need him."
The scene changed. Jim was back at the top of the cliff, looking down into a mist covered valley. He looked around, but he was alone. The jungle behind him was impenetrable, closing in on the sides. Jim knew what it meant, but did he really want to leave here. He heard a sound coming towards him, letting the familiar heartbeat calm him. //Blair's here. He doesn't usually come here with me, so why now?//
"Because, Sentinel, either you chose, or you both die." The voice came out of the brush, from all directions, pounding the message into him.
"But, I ... that's not just my decision to make. Blair has to decide, too."
"No, Sentinel, he follows you even now." The voice stopped, and Jim knew he was alone. He had to make the choice, he had to decide for both of them. //But what is the choice? To go on, or go back? To stay or leave? To tell him what I feel, or to let him go again? To let him find someone more worthy of him, or make him stay with me?// "What choice am I making?"
"Bring it to the lowest level, the most common denominator, Jim," Blair's voice came out of the woods. "What do they all have in common?"
"Us?" He sat at the edge of the cliff, making himself take the time to make the right decision. //Why won't he decide for himself. I can't decide for him, it's not my place.// He thought about the choice he knew, had thought before. He let his mind factor it down, let it strip away all the externals. //Blair and I, together or not. I can't decided that for him.//
"But you already did once," Blair's voice reminded him.
Jim stood up, and looked around. He didn't see anyone around, but he knew he was watched, his decision witnessed. He stepped off the cliff, waiting to hit bottom.
Blair stood in a forest, looking around him. He was in a clearing, the forest standing around him was too thick to get through. He waited for something to happen. When he got tired, he sat, letting his body flow naturally into a lotus position.
//Why am I here? Is there some purpose to this?//
"Yes, young Shaman, there is." Blair looked over at the tall man standing at the edge of the clearing. "You know why you are here." The man walked closer, letting Blair study him. It was the not-Jim that Jim said showed up in his visions. He was dressed in black pants, a black tank top, and a black bandanna. When he was right before Blair, the not-Jim stopped, looking down on him. He held out a hand. "Come."
Blair stood and took the hand. The scene changed, now he was looking at Jim, standing at the edge of the cliff. "Why are we here?"
"Because he must decide, as you must. You must help him, or choose to follow what he decides." The not-Jim disappeared. He could hear Jim talking to the jungle.
"But, I ... that's not just my decision to make. Blair has to decide, too," Jim said to the voices that only he could hear.
//Do I follow him, trust him with both of our lives, let him decide? Can I trust him that much, trust him enough to make the right decision.// If Blair concentrated, he could hear Jim's thoughts, the questions he was asking himself. //He needs my help to make the decision. I can't tell him what to do, I only know what I would choose, he has to make his own decision, whether or not it hurts me. But I can help him.// Blair lowered his voice into what Jim called the Guide tone. "Bring it to the lowest level, the most common denominator, Jim. What do they all have in common?"
He stood waiting, hidden by the woods, while Jim sat there and thought about what he had said. He could still hear Jim thinking, trying to figure it out.
**Blair and I, together or not. I can't decided that for him**
//No, you can't. Both of us have to decide that.//
"No, young Shaman, only he can make that decision. He made the decision that led you to this point, even if you went along with it. He has to make this one also, to decide if you both go on."
"But, I didn't question him. Our parting was as much my fault as his. I ran away instead of talking to him. I let him make the decision without questioning it. It's my fault he's alone now."
"True, you did make a decision by your inaction's, but it is his decision to make whether or not you both go on. He must make it by himself."
Blair was overtaken by the images in his head. The fight was replayed in vivid detail. Blair could see things he didn't notice before, he could look at Jim's reactions. He saw what Jim felt when he left the loft. //But was it Jim's decision, really? I mean, I played a part too.//
"Yes, young Shaman, but it was his decision to make. Only a Sentinel can push away a Guide. A Guide can never truly leave a Sentinel."
Blair thought back to what Jim was thinking. He decided to answer Jim. "But you already did once," he told the still man. "Make the decision again, Big Guy, I'll follow you," he whispered to himself.
He watched as Jim got up, looked around, then stepped off the cliff. Blair closed his eyes and everything changed.
Jim heard the heartbeat beside him. It was speeding up, coming awake. He rolled onto his side, letting his body curl around Blair's. "Blair, come on, wake up." He kissed Blair on the top of his hair. "Come back to me."
"Funny, I just said that to you." Blair tried to move, but Jim's arms came around him, holding him close. "Let go, Jim."
"No, never again."
"Jim, we need to talk."
"Yes, we do." He squeezed Blair, then let him retreat a little.
Blair let Jim hug him, but when he was allowed to go free, he broke the hold and sat up. "We have to talk a lot before I'll let you do that." He looked down at Jim, making sure he got the message.
Jim sat up, then they shifted so Jim was against the headboard and Blair at the foot of the bed. They sat there, looking at each other, letting the other see their hurt.
"You don't look so good, Blair, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. But you shouldn't talk."
Jim looked down at himself, seeing the weight loss, the dirty pajamas, smelling the body odor. "I know. I couldn't go on after you left." He played with his hands, letting them shift in his lap.
"I know. Simon sent me a tape that showed me how bad off you were. That's why I came back."
"To finish it?"
"Originally, yes, to get closure." Blair looked at the sheet.
"I don't know." Blair felt Jim lean over and tip his face up to look at the older man. "Jim, I'm...I'm sorry I didn't fight you over this. I mean, if I had done a better job, then I wouldn't have let you push me away without questioning why you did it."
"Blair, look at me." He waited until Blair's eyes met his. "I pushed you away because I was scared. I was scared of what happened in my dreams, and I was scared of how I felt about you."
"You told me about the dreams. Came true, didn't it. A self fulfilling prophecy." Blair gave Jim a small smile, but when it wasn't returned, he went back to looking at the sheet.
"Yeah, buddy, it was that." Jim moved closer until they were sitting next to each other, knees touching. "I didn't want it to come true, but it did, and I'm sorry for it."
"Jim, why are you sorry? Because of what Alex did?" At the look that came over Jim's face, he hugged him. "Don't be. You couldn't have known what she was going to do. I didn't, you didn't, I don't even know if she did until the last minute." Blair let him go, leaning away from him, but Jim caught him.
Jim grabbed Blair when he let go. "Don't let go yet, please. I need you."
"I know that now. I won't go."
"You said that before." Jim buried his face in Blair's hair.
"I know. And I meant it then, even if events made me leave you. I mean it now, but now I know what'll happen to you if I leave. So I guess you're stuck with me."
Jim leaned far enough back to see Blair's face. "You're sure? You won't leave me again, no matter how stupid I act?"
"I won't Jim. I'll never leave you again."
"You aren't going to promise?"
"I did that last time, and look what happened. So, this time, I'll give you a stronger reason, I love you and I won't leave you again."
"You love me?" Jim searched Blair's eyes for the truth behind his words. "You do don't you. I love you too."
"I know." Blair pulled him in for a hug. "You told me yesterday while you were hallucinating. Speaking of which," Blair pushed him away, "you need to eat some more soup, and drink some more fluids."
"Yes, sir." Jim got up and grabbed the food off the beside table. He handed Blair the sandwiches, then poured himself more soup. They ate in silence, glancing at each other occasionally. When they were done, Blair put the stuff outside the cell door, then went back to lay on the bed.
"Come sleep beside me, Jim." He patted the sheet next to him.
"You're sure?" Jim laid down, a little farther away than Blair had indicated.
"Yes, Jim, I'm sure." Blair snuggled himself up next to Jim's warmth. "And when we're through with our nap, we'll shower and eat again before we talk some more."
Jim rolled slightly so he could hold Blair, letting him settle himself comfortably first. He knew that they still had a lot to work out, a lot more talking to do, maybe even some fighting, before everything was fully back to normal between them. But, they would do it, they had to; the they would move on, together. "Okay, Chief, whatever you say. From now on." Blair kissed the shoulder his head was on sleepily. Jim laid there, watching his love, his Guide, his best friend sleep.