Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me.

Special Thanks to my Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. Also God bless my beta Ari, who has the kindness and tenacity to ensure that what you read is worthy. Last, but most certainly not least, for my beautiful friend, Heather, whose incredible command of the English language allows her to provide me with individually needed words at a moment's notice.

Thank you to wolfpup for giving my work a great home.

Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, some violence, and usually a bit of colorful language.

Spoilers: Maybe a little one for TS by BS.


SPIRALING

Sam Mallory


Blair had been gone for exactly one year.

Damn, how it hurt to think about that. Jim was so tired. The zones were happening more frequently now, but on his own, he was able to hide them from Simon.

Jim chuckled darkly as he remembered Simon's reaction to his absolute refusal to accept a new partner. He wasn't willing to risk anybody else with the zone out factor. On occasion, he went out with Megan. She tried real hard, but to be honest, even though she knew about the senses, she was really no help at all.

Simon had only finally agreed when Jim had given his word that if he started zoning excessively he would take himself off the streets.

Jim sighed as he stuffed his promise into an envelope in the form of his resignation and sealed his fate. Hands shaking ever so slightly, he grabbed his keys and jacket and headed toward the door.


Blair inhaled the crisp mountain air and smiled wearily at the beautiful sights surrounding him.

"I can't believe it's been a year since I've seen Jim," he whispered sagely to the air around him.

Inhaling deeply, he grabbed his pack and headed for the small general store 6 miles down the road. It would take all day to make his supply run, but at least it would get his mind off of his Sentinel. He hoped.


Jim took one last look around the near empty bullpen as he closed the door to Simon's office. Dropping off his resignation in the middle of the night insured fewer people would know he had been there.

Memories tugged at him as he remembered afternoons spent in the bullpen doing paperwork with Blair and the guys, secretly entertained by the antics he pretended not to witness.

Scraping his raw beard, he made one last turn around his desk before heading out the door. Catching the elevator, he made his way to the truck in the garage and headed back to the loft.


It was time.

He was so tired and it would be so damn easy just to let it all go.

He had no more illusions of control.

He held no more hopes for Blair to return to him.

He was the mere shadow of a Sentinel without his Guide.

Jim Ellison circled the small room slowly, his eagle eyes taking in every minute detail of the belongings once associated with his under appreciated Guide.

Huffing in self-disgust, Jim couldn't even begin to imagine the astronomical number of times he had taken Blair for granted. Alex, the Ventriss case, the diss. Damn, how could Blair even think to call him friend.

Jim sighed as he picked up the herbal fragrances that he bought to help him call forth visions of his Guide. Scent was always a powerful reminder and with the extra motivation, he was able to picture him so clearly this time.

Smiling at the image, he sank to the floor of his former Guide's room and closed his eyes appreciatively.

The woodsy scents of Blair's shampoo and conditioner.

The sight of auburn curls flowing in the wind.

The sound of Blair's voice droning on informatively.

The whole picture of his Guide played out before him as he felt himself spiraling on a turbulent sea of lost control.

Falling.


"Damnit, Ellison," Simon spat sub vocally as he climbed out from the city issued sedan. "Making me drag my tired ass out here because you can't answer the damned phone. Hell," he cursed trudging up the stairs upon seeing the elevator was out of order. Again.

Simon huffed a sigh of relief as he approached Jim's door and raised his right hand to knock, then started when his fist actually connected with the door.

"Damnit, Ellison. You best not be fuckin' with me," he growled, threatening the unanswering detective while fishing his keys back out of the deep pockets of his overcoat.

The tumblers clicked home and he swung the door forward and made his way inside calling out for Ellison while cursing the man's rudeness at making his Captain do this at all.

"Ellison!" Simon barked sharply, his cigar firmly clenched between his teeth as a fist of cold terror clutched at his heart.

The open French doors were what finally stopped him cold. He had been to Ellison's loft dozens of times since the departure of half of his best team.

Those doors were always closed.

Always.

Apprehension tugged with fear as he slowly treads across the wooden floorboards, his gun appearing in his hand through no conscious will of his own.

Pushing the door open with his shoulder, leading with his gun, his heart almost gave out at what he was witnessing.

Detective James Joseph Ellison collapsed on the floor.

Eyes open, yet unseeing.

Quiet as any corpse he had ever seen.


Time fractured as Simon shook free of the fear gripping his gut and sprung into action. Holstering his gun, he raced across the small room and crouched next to his fallen friend.

"Jim?" he whispered harshly, shaking the zoned Sentinel's shoulder. "Damnit, Jim. Wake up!" Simon bellowed using his most authoritative command.

Pulling his cell phone from his coat pocket, he quickly phoned Megan.

Sixty minutes later, both had been ineffectual in eliminating the zone.

"Well, sir. What now?" Megan questioned, her Aussie ire on fire as she glanced at the cause of this mess.

"We clean up! What do you think, Connor? We can't leave him like this and the hospital would pump him so full of drugs, we'd probably never get him back," Simon finished as he hefted Jim up on Sandburg's old bed.

Simon looked thoughtfully at Megan. "I've got a buddy who owes me a very big favor. Guess it's time to cash in. Stay with him while I make the arrangements.


"Simon, you're putting me in a hell of an awkward position here!" a heavy set man in his early fifties bellowed anxiously.

"I know, but like I said Cal. This is the way it has to be. NO meds. I told you what I know about his condition and specified that if a Blair Sandburg stops to see him, he is to be given full access. I wish I could tell you more. I'll send you a check when I get the money," Simon reasoned.

"It's not about the damn money, Simon and you know it!" Cal huffed angrily. "Look, other than the fact that by all outward appearances, Jim seems fine. It's obvious by the way he's vacated the premises that he's far from it. Catatonia is not the best escape mechanism," Dr. Calvin Devlin whispered sadly.

"I agree with that. I just want you to be the one that treats him and get him a nurse, PT whatever else. His records have all been falsified so his family doesn't try to interfere. Hopefully, I'll have help here soon."

Calvin Devlin shook his head worriedly as he eyed the catatonic man in the wheelchair. "Okay, but Simon, we are completely even."

Simon smiled tightly at the condition. "More than you know, Cal."


Blair was here.

Jim smiled as he took in the wayward anthropologist as he cast his line into the water. A peace had settled in the air and descended over his restlessness.

Much better, he thought as he sighed and recast his line once again.

Jim looked down at the water passing over his calf muscles. With wonder, he shrugged off the sense of foreboding that tried to attack when he realized the water wasn't cold.

"This isn't real," he whispered, his neck craned as he turned toward Blair's startled laughter.

"No it's not, big guy," Blair responded with a chuckle, a sad smile gracing his strong features.

The Sentinel shook his head disbelievingly, and then nodded as if simultaneously accepting the fact.


"Simon, he's been here almost two months," Megan breathed as she adjusted her position within the chair.

"Don't you think I know that," the lumbering Captain hissed at his subordinate. "We've been looking for him. I have six officers dedicating their time to finding him. I even broke down and put an APB out on him!" Simon huffed exasperatingly.

Megan shook her head as she took in the almost pathetic form before her. Jim was lying on his right side, for now, to prevent pressure sores and had several tubes running from what had once been well developed muscles. His eyes wide open, staring at absolutely nothing. A neat beard graced his once strong features. She sighed as she remembered the man that the shadow in the bed once represented.

Simon laid a supportive hand on her shoulder. "I know," he replied beneath his breath, his hope waning not for the first time since finding the detective on the floor of Blair's old room.

The ringing of his cell phone distracted him from the heart wrenching sight before him.

"Banks," he growled, stepping away from the hospital bed. "Great! Hold him until I get there. What do you mean he's not in custody? Go get him, NOW!" Banks shouted as he slammed the cell phone shut and headed out the door with Megan close behind.


"Sorry about this Mister Sandburg," the sheriff apologized as he ushered the younger man into his office. "But we got an A.P.B. on you and had to call it in to a..." the burly sheriff paused as he found the paper. "Captain Banks. Are you in trouble son?"

Blair shook his head, his speech robbed of him by what could only be perceived as a betrayal. Jim had promised him that he wouldn't look for him; a promise that he had kept for nearly 14 months. The fear welled up within him as he realized the implications.

The wizened sheriff placed a steadying hand on the trembling young man. "You can wait in my office," he offered, making his way to the coffee pot for his fifth cup of the day.

"Wait?" Blair croaked confusedly.

The sheriff could only nod as he took in the liquid caffeine. "Banks should be here any minute."

The impulse to run washed over him strongly as the lumbering silhouette shadowed the ribbed window of the sheriff's office.

"This ought to be fun," Blair replied acidic.

The knock on the door and subsequent entrance passed nearly unnoticed as Blair looked up to face his Sentinel for the first time since he had departed hastily regarding Jim with an "I need a little time to process."

Blair could not help but feel dejected at the absence of his friend. Looking at Simon's harried form, he recovered before inquiring.

"It's been a long time, Simon. What do ya want?"


The water was rising.

How odd, Jim thought as he watched it slowly creep up his frame, each molecule seemingly independent of each other especially to his heightened sense of touch.

Invigorated by the peace all around him, he recast his line once again and set his sights upon his Guide standing but a few feet from him.

The rhythmic sound of his Guide's heartbeat washed over him as the droplets of water continued their laborious journey up his strong body, defying gravity.

He sighed as the water caressed his chest and puzzled at the curious lack of sensation he was experiencing.

Ever conscious of the water's defiant approach, Jim rocked slightly with the gentle waves rolling over him and his fishing line. Feeling the tug of his catch, he began to reel it in, not once hesitating in his pursuit of his elusive prize.

Tranquility settled deep within his bones as the water continued its relentless approach before finally engulfing him completely.


"He's coding! Get a crash cart in here stat!"


Blair exhaled forcefully in a vacant attempt to calm himself. "Jim promised not to come after me and you of all people should respect that. So I'll ask again, Simon. What... do... you... want?"

Simon's rage welled up within him. "You son of a bitch!" He spat venomously, uncaring of the lack of professional detachment he was unveiling before the Sheriff of this nameless town. He lunged forward, his hands closing angrily around Sandburg's collar, catching the Sheriff completely off guard.

Unprepared as he was, his shock deepened as he witnessed the wiry red head firmly planted between the irate Captain and the young man he'd come to know as his friend.

"What the hell!" He exclaimed loudly as he made his way around his desk.

Megan's grip held relentlessly as she pushed her Captain away from the erstwhile observer. "He doesn't know," she whispered fervently over and over again, her soft and warm breath capturing the tall man's attention before the anger and understanding in his subordinate's fiery green eyes.

Simon released his crushing hold on the young anthropologist's collar and wiped his forehead as he swiped the glasses sullenly from his dark face.

"I'm sorry, Sandburg. It's been a long couple of months. Is there somewhere we can talk?" Simon asked, surprising the younger man considerably at the sudden change.

Blair shook his head, unable to actually vocalize a word for one of the few times in his life. "Sure, we can go back to my place," he replied warily, then turning to the Sheriff, amended. "That okay with you, Charlie?"

Charlie shook his head confusedly, but noting the steadiness in his young friend's voice was compelled to agree to his suggestion and nodded accordingly. "The order just said you were wanted for questioning so..."

Blair smiled awkwardly. "Thanks, Charlie," he commented as he walked out the door.


Blair ushered the angry Captain and Connor into his cozy cabin. "Have a seat," he intoned as he waved them toward the dilapidated couch in the center of the modest room.

Simon drew in a tremendous breath. "I don't know how else to tell you this, so I'll just come out and say it," the gruff Captain began hoarsely.

Blair closed his eyes. "He's not dead," he stated firmly, tears fighting to be released.

Connor crossed to him quickly and enveloped him in her warm embrace. "Oh, Sandy. No, he's not dead, but it's not good," she comforted and confused.

"Was he shot?" Blair asked pointedly.

Simon's brows folded together with consternation and drawing out a cigar he snapped, "No, now Sandburg, shut up and I'll tell you what's going on." He paused a moment to allow the younger man to settle down. "Two months ago, I found Jim lying on the floor at the loft. There was no sign of a struggle and we found no indications of foul play. He was completely unresponsive, so I assumed that he had zoned."

"Okay," he replied, drawing out the long syllable. "So why come to me now? I mean a zone two months ago?" Blair questioned. "He promised and yet here you are."

"That's pretty damned insensitive, Sandburg. So he fucked up. It was bound to happen. It's not like it was the first time or even the second for that matter. By the way, you look like shit, kid," Simon snarled, his teeth nearly biting clean through the cigar clenched there, taking in the kid's rumpled appearance.

Blair turned away momentarily, stroking his unkempt beard before spinning in nearly uncontrollable rage. "You have no right to come into my home and bring this shit down on me. Do you have any fucking idea how long it took me to piece my fucking life back together? It took me months just to get out of fucking bed, Simon. You know what that's like? I had enough trouble just forcing myself to fucking breathe..." he gasped, the tears held at bay, now freely flowing.

Blair gasped, then continued, "So don't you dare... don't you dare bring me some fucking bull shit about him needing me. He pushed me away, not the other fucking way around," Blair snarled, then turned to try to regain control.

Connor crossed to him and reached out. "Don't," he said softly, flinching from her touch. "I don't like to be touched," he warned.

She withdrew her hand. "Sandy, I know that you're pissed as a rabid dingo and probably feeling more hurt than you have ever felt, but the bottom line is Jim needs you."

"Well I can't come when he needs me and then be pushed away. I can't fucking do it. Why the hell can't you understand that? He can do the work without me, damnit," Blair shouted.

Megan lowered her eyes with tears for a friendship lost. "Not anymore," she said softly, and then looked up to see startled blue eyes staring back at her.


Blair paced the room for fifteen minutes before working up the courage to ask. "Why not?"

Simon's hardened expression softened considerably before responding, "He never came out of the zone."

"He zoned again?" Blair inquired, his eyebrows raised.

Connor shook her head. "No, Sandy. He never came out of the zone two months ago. He's been in a care facility for the past two months," she confessed, unable to look him in the eye.

"What?" Blair exploded at the top of his lungs before collapsing in a heap on the floor. He sighed as his eyes filled with what looked to be ocean water before a storm. Dazed, he started to rock back and forth lost in his despair for the Sentinel he loved.

"No, no, no, no, no..." he cried beneath his breath, his sadness overwhelming him.

Simon approached the young man cautiously, unsure of how much more his friend could take. "Sandburg?" Then he changed it to, "Blair," when no response was forthcoming.

"I... I didn't know. He wouldn't let me know. Oh my god. Damn him. The fucking headaches. I should have fucking known," Blair mumbled, his anger turned inward.

Megan tentatively placed her hand on his shoulder. "What are you talking about, love? How could you have known?"

Blair looked up at her with pain filled eyes as deep as the ocean. "He's trying to sever the bond, but he doesn't know..." he faded out, looking around wildly. "I have to get to him. He doesn't know. Oh god, he doesn't know. We have to go now!"

Blair jumped up, grabbed his travel pack and headed toward the car leaving two very confused police officers in his wake. "Come on!" He yelled, spurring them into action.


"He doesn't know what?" Megan asked once they were well underway and Blair seemed to have calmed marginally.

Blair sighed. "If he succeeds in breaking the Sentinel/Guide bond, he'll probably kill us both. I never thought he'd take it that far. He seemed fine when I left. No zone outs. Seemed to be in control. What the hell went wrong? As long as the bond persevered, there should have been no problem at all with his senses."

Simon scoffed loudly. "Well, how would you know, Blair? You've been gone for over a year. No calls, no letters. What was he supposed to think?" Simon glared at his former observer in the rear view mirror. "Just so you know. He wasn't fine," Simon finished sharply causing the younger man to flinch.

Blair took up his courage, and then asked. "What do you mean, 'He wasn't fine?'"

Glancing at Blair in the mirror, he paused and decided to pull over to the side of the road. He got out of the car and beckoned Blair to do the same. Walking a short distance into the trees, he turned to talk to the young man.

"Since you left, we thought that he'd revert back into the mean son of a bitch he was BS."

"Before Sandburg," Blair said shaking his head with a reminiscent smile.

"Yeah. Well he didn't turn mean. He was just depressed. He tried to hide it from me. Hell, as far as I can tell he was zoning a few times per shift on damn near everything."

Blair's eyes widened with fear as he realized the dangerous implications of that single statement.

"Shit!"

"You got it. Well, the zones started getting really bad about three months ago, but Jim refused a partner as he had all along."

"You let him go out on the streets without backup?" Blair's interruption demanded, his eyes blazing, every muscle in his body prepped to fight.

"You were gone. Hell, he didn't even come clean on that until you'd been gone awhile. It's not like you actually told any of us you were leaving. So you can save the sanctimonious bullshit for someone else," Simon snapped. "Two months ago, I went into work late to do some work. Couldn't sleep. Anyway. There was an envelope on my desk. Jim resigned," Simon stated with guarded emotion.

"No fucking way. He loves that job!" Blair denied emphatically.

"Not anymore," Connor replied truthfully, startling Blair with her sudden presence. "Blair, you were his partner. When you walked away, Jim wasn't the same. I'm not saying that to make you feel guilty, love. You have every right to find your own way. I know Jim believes that too or he would have broken his promise to you."

Blair sighed and took a few deep, calming breaths. "There's more you aren't telling me, isn't there? You've got to tell me everything so I can help him," the young former anthropologist begged.

"I found him on the floor of your old room with your candles and several botanical hygiene products surrounding him on the floor. He was staring into nothing," he recalled, looking at Blair, who had flinched at this pronouncement.

Simon continued, "I called in some very old very, very big favors to get him in this facility with no meds and a private nurse and PT, but like I said, he's been there for two months with no improvement. We decided we needed to call in an expert and since you're the only one I know, well..." Simon faltered hoping that his young friend would not resent his assumption.

Blair clapped him on the shoulder. "You did the right thing, Simon." He then settled back into the seat and closed his eyes, mapping out a strategy for helping his Sentinel.


"This kid can help? Come on, Simon. He barely looks like he can help himself. How can I expect him to help Joe?" Dr. Devlin hissed, warily taking in the bedraggled kid in front of his office windows.

Simon stepped forward just as Blair stated coldly, "Look, I am the only person on this earth that can reach him right now, so just tell me where he is!"

Dr. Calvin Devlin turned toward the angry kid in his office after Simon nodded his agreement with Blair's statement. "Very well," he spoke resigned, "follow me."


"Oh... my... god," Blair gasped, tears threatening to pour from him. Blair looked at the diminished figure in the bed. His Sentinel was about 50 pounds lighter than he remembered, a look that did not suit him at all. His eyes were sunken and surrounded by dark, heavy circles. Blair could not contain his tears as he reached out and stroked the face belonging to the man with vacant eyes. "How did he lose so much ground? He's only been here two months," Blair demanded, his anger at the carelessness of the facility mounting.

Dr. Devlin turned toward the young man and flipping through the chart he responded, "he's lost 12 pounds since he's been here, but that's not that unusual for someone who's subsiding on IV nutrition only. He receives PT daily to keep his muscle tone from deteriorating further and he was only placed on the respirator yesterday when he crashed at 11:42 AM," the doctor finished.

Blair looked from Dr. Devlin to Simon and back again. "May we have a few minutes, please?" He asked in a tone that told the doctor what the answer was to be.

"Sure, I'll be back later to check on Joe. Take whatever time you need," Dr. Devlin responded respectfully as he let himself out of the room.

Blair's anguished expression made Simon distinctly uncomfortable. "Blair?"

Blair reacted instantaneously. "Simon, how? Never mind... just keep everyone away. I'll bring him back. I have to."

Simon and Conner left him to his work as they set up positions to guard their Sentinel and Guide.


Blair crossed to the bed and tenderly touched the backs of his fingers to his Sentinel's peaceful face.

"Jim," he whispered, his voice strained with emotion. "What have you done to yourself?"

Looking at his friend, his brother, he swallowed the lump in his throat, grabbed some paper from the stand next to the bed and starting making a list of all that he would need to bring his Sentinel back to him.


Blair finished lighting the mildly scented candles placed on a tray next to the bed.

Stroking his fingers lightly over Jim's face, he began to speak in the dulcet tones to which his Sentinel generally responded. "Jim, come back to me now. It's important. Come on, Jim. I really need you."

After an hour of solid one-sided conversation, Blair decided to try something else to get his partner's attention.

Placing a single drop of diluted peppermint oil just below Jim's nose, he continued his relentless dialogue. "Come on, Jim. I know this would work a hell of a lot better in your mouth, but can't get around the respirator and you need it, big guy. Gotta give me something," Blair nearly whined somewhere between fear and consternation.

Engrossed in his efforts, Blair was unaware of Simon's presence. "Blair," he interrupted quietly. "Blair," he intoned again when it was obvious the man had not heard him. Touching him on the arm, he gained the man's attention.

Blair's glazed eyes focused after a moment. "Captain?" he rasped, his throat coarse sandpaper.

"Time for a break, kid," the Captain ordered. He raised his hand at Blair's protest. "No arguments. That's an order. You've been at it for nearly four hours. He's not going anywhere, Blair. Now, come on," he pushed as he forced the weary man out the door as Megan took his place, knowing Blair wouldn't leave his Sentinel unprotected this time.


Blair exhaled in Jim's face, then placed a drop of diluted mentholated jelly just below Jim's nose. "Come on, Jim. I need you. I need you... need you," he faded out as his exhaustion started to overtake him.

Rubbing furiously at his eyes to refresh himself, he glanced up at the clock. Twenty-two hours. Where the hell had Jim gone?

Promising himself he would only close his eyes for a minute, Blair lay down his head on his Sentinel's arm and within moments was sound asleep.


There was nothing.

No jungle.

No temple.

No water.

Yet, he was unbearably cold. His journey had ended. He remembered being consumed by the water. He imagined that Blair must have felt that way when he had drowned, although he was pretty sure that Blair at least tried to stave off the water filling his lungs.

He had not.

Tried, that is. He hadn't tried to prevent it at all. A peace had settled over him as he felt that he would finally be coming home. However, he was not home. Home was warm and safe. At least, it had been before Blair had left.

This place was cold. Not the cold that numbs your fingers and toes when you go outside, but the kind of cold that seems to start with your heart until it engulfs your soul as well.

Oddly, there was only a slight sense of warmth anywhere in this place.

His right forearm. The only warmth that existed in his world. Strange.

Turning in the nothingness, he contented himself with the slight warmth and wished for an end to the limitless feeling of emptiness that threatened to saturate his very soul.


Blair jolted awake with a gasp.

Why was he so damn cold?

"Wait," he puzzled. "Simon, get in here," he yelled out, knowing with certainty that his Captain was near.

Simon plowed through the door, gun drawn, followed closely by Connor.

"Sorry, Simon. I just need you to help me with something. Lay your hand on Jim's arm. What do you feel?" Blair asked, his brain working overtime.

Simon did as instructed, but his face twisted up with confusion at the question. "I don't understand the question. What do you mean, what do I feel? I feel his arm."

"Not helping, Simon. Does he feel cold to you?" Blair asked, waiting with bated breath.

"Not at all. Why?" Simon asked becoming more confused by the second.

Blair shook his head and held out his hands to the confused Captain. "What about my hands? Do they feel cold or warm to you?"

"Not really. They feel normal," he replied, and then watched the younger man break into a hesitant smile. "You're on to something, aren't you?"

"Yeah, think so. Thanks. Simon. Could you please bring me three or four heated blankets?" Blair rallied as he realized he'd been at this for three days now and had finally come to a tiny breakthrough.

Simon looked over at Connor, "You heard the man," he ordered.

Upon Megan's return, Blair buried his Sentinel in the heated blankets, before beginning to stroke his face thoughtfully. "Come on, big guy. I know you're in there. I also know that you tried to sever the bond and got your ass lost somewhere. You have to come back. I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere. I'm here, Jim. I'm here," Blair whispered compassionately.

"Time to get your senses back online," Blair demanded gently.


"Calvin, I swear to you that this is the best thing for your patient. I know I'm asking for the world here, but..." Simon implored his long time friend.

Calvin huffed angrily. "I haven't even been allowed to monitor him. I at least need to check on my patient, Simon. This isn't working. I have no problem giving Mr. Sandburg full access at your recommendation, but I have to be able to check his progress on something other than the monitors at the nurse's station. I will be checking on Mr. Jacobs in exactly twenty minutes. See ya then," Cal finished as he shoved his speechless friend out the door.

Twenty minutes later found him pushing through the door to Joseph Jacob's room. Mr. Sandburg was speaking softly in his ear and wiping some substance under his nose. "What are you doing, Mr. Sandburg?"

Blair barely registered the outsider's presence. "My job," he answered curtly.

Taking out his stethoscope, Dr. Devlin began his checks on his patient. "Everything checks out normal. Have you noticed any effort at spontaneous breathing?"

Blair shook his head. "No, but would it be possible to check his breathing? See if he might be ready to come off the respirator."

"I don't like to do that unless there's some indication that he's been attempting to fight the respirator. It causes a lot of unnecessary stress to both the patient and the family."

"Very well, if I notice anything, I'll call you," Blair assured the doctor.

Doctor Calvin Devlin crossed to the other side of the bed to check Jim's reflexes. Satisfied that his patient had not deteriorated, he nodded and left the room.


Blair shook his head to clear it and stretched out the muscles in his back. Four Days, he thought glumly. He'd been here four days and had yet to make an impact on his Sentinel. Simon was freaking out and if he were completely honest with himself so was he.

He looked up as Connor entered the room.

"What?" He asked bluntly.

She smiled warily. "Simon ordered me to take you away from..."

"NO! Get out!" Blair commanded, his voice riddled with fear and pain. Perhaps, even a hint of defeat.

Megan shook her head sadly and approached the bed with compassion. Tentatively reaching out a slightly trembling hand, she touched the side of Jim's face. She turned away and squatted down in front of Blair's chair to garner his full attention. "Sandy," she said with a start. "Maybe, you just need to gain a little perspective on this and take a fresh start at it. You've been goin' since you got here, love. Just a few hours... please," she quietly pleaded.

Blair looked up at the tears floating in the beautiful eyes before him. "Maybe," his voice cracked.


Megan escorted him to the hotel room that he had yet to see. She smiled shyly and handed him a candle and a lighter. "I thought... maybe... you might... want... to... um... meditate?" She approached the subject as a handler with a rattlesnake.

Blair smiled at the effort. "Thanks, Megan. That may just be the answer I'm looking for," he replied tiredly.

Taking the objects from her nimble fingers, he began a rite that had been foreign to him for the better part of the last year. Meditation had been hard achieved since he had parted ways with his Sentinel.

Laughing at himself, he thought harshly. You can't even say it, coward. You deserted your Sentinel. You couldn't bear to be invisible to him any longer. You couldn't bear to be invisible to yourself any longer.

"Wow, this honest with yourself thing really sucks," he mumbled as he continued his meditation rite.

Megan looked up from her reading, "What was that, Sandy?"

"Nothing," he replied, somewhat embarrassed that he'd vocalized that particular thought.

"What were you being honest with yourself about?" She asked after a brief moment of consideration.

Blair turned away. "Come on, Sandy. I've sensed you've needed someone to talk to for a long time. You probably didn't talk to much of anyone while you were gone, did you?"

"Megan," he warned in hushed tones.

"Sandy, you are one of the most wonderful people I've ever met. Not to mention a stubborn bastard. I can't imagine living with Jim for more than a day or two and that's only because of stakeouts and undercover assignments, yet you managed to live with him for over three years," she comforted.

"Wasn't bad until..." he began, before biting down on his next words.

She smiled gently. "Until what, Sandy?"

Looking into her appraising eyes, he sighed deeply. "It wasn't bad until... Alex," he finished, half amazed he'd said that name again in conjunction with the woman who had taken so much from him.

"Didn't you guys ever talk about... never mind. I just answered my own question," she interjected a little sadly.

Taking his hand, she encouraged him to continue.

Blair smiled back. A genuine smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.

"I always thought that when I found my Sentinel, my life would be all sweetness and light, you know? I mean the living embodiment of my lifetime dream. That's a hell of a rush. And," he paused.

"And?" She beckoned gently.

"And, it was for awhile, but then Alex happened and it wasn't enough anymore. I needed him and he pushed me away. Far away. Then the mess with the diss and his accusations and there was just so much anger there, you know?"

He continued at her affirmative nod. "After awhile, I just felt invisible. Kinda like I wasn't on the same plane of existence as everyone else. It was like a damned episode of the Twilight Zone, only I was stuck and I just couldn't get out."

"Then the offer to become a detective and I knew I just couldn't do it. I pissed away my dreams and I wanted to stay Jim's partner and as much as I wanted that, I knew deep down that I couldn't take that step. That somehow, that would be the loss of the final piece that was Blair Sandburg," he choked out, his tears building.

Megan looked at him thoughtfully, an understanding smile playing at her lips. "So you chose to walk away, rather than lose yourself," she said. "You wouldn't be the first, you know. How do you think I ended up here? I mean, I pissed away a fiance to chase bad guys, Sandy. Sometimes, we have so much fear to give away any more of ourselves. Being a cop, hell, even just being in this bloody business is so all consuming that giving away any more... well, sometimes it just seems damned unfair."

Blair head shot up at this statement from someone he had considered friends for quite awhile. "I never knew you felt that way," he responded quietly.

She quirked a lip and muttered affectionately, "You never asked."

Blair shook his head thoughtfully. "He's hiding from me. The botanicals. He used me. He used my scents and my candles to get himself into the zone. He knew what he was doing, Megan. How do I get him out of something he put himself into with purpose. As his friend, how could I have let it go this far?"

"You weren't here, Sandy. We all missed you, but Jim. It was a like he was missing a part of himself," she informed.

Blair's eyes lit up. "That's it!" He cried out. "We have to get back to the hospital, right now!"


Throwing the door open before the car had come to a stop, Blair leaped from the passenger side and started running for Jim's room. "Got it, got it, got it..." he repeated over and over again.

Blair banged through the door to Jim's room causing Simon to spill his coffee and curse creatively.

"Where's the fire, Sandburg?" The Captain growled, cleaning up the mess with a thin white towel.

Simon stopped when he noticed the triumphant look on Blair's face and inquired, "What do you want me to do?"

"Tell Megan to watch the outside. No one comes in until we come out. No one," he commanded, getting his candles ready.

Turning back to his partner, determination in his eyes, he promised, "I'm coming, Jim. Just hold on a little bit longer."


Warmth.

He felt warm, again.

In the nothing.

Cold was the nothing.

But he was warm.

Finally, warm.

Blair.


Blair finished tucking three heated blankets around his Sentinel, and then turned to face his former Captain.

"Simon," he started unsurely, "I'm going to get Jim, but I need your help. He's lost in the nothing." Looking at Simon's confused countenance, he shook his head. "I can't explain now. There's no time. He's been there too long. I need you to grab onto my arm. Do not let go or we'll both be lost. Understand? Do not let go," Blair commanded.

Simon shuddered, then shaking slightly, asked "What do you mean both be lost?"

Blair shook his head, his arms moving explosively. "We've got no time. I'll explain it later," he charged as he climbed up onto the bed, straddling Jim's stomach. "Simon, look. I'm a Shaman and I know what to do, but you have to trust me. I lost my way for a little while, but I know what I must do. Please, please help me," Blair implored, knowing that without Simon's help, he wouldn't make it back, but he was going anyway. His Sentinel would no longer be alone.

"This isn't now or never, Simon. I'm going whether you help me or not. I can't leave him alone any longer," Blair reiterated his thoughts, then removed his over shirt and pulled a vial and syringe from his pocket. He filled it deftly.

Simon grabbed his hand aborting his attempt to inject. "What the hell is that, Sandburg?" He growled his mind racing.

"It's a strong muscle relaxant. I'm going pretty deep to get him, Simon and I'll need the extra help. I would prefer to do this with herbs and damnit if I had the time I would, but don't you see, Simon? He gave up the day before I got here. We've got to get to him. He's not in some happy fucking place; he's in the nothing. It's cold and vacant and the solidification of every fear a man ever has. I must go now," Blair admonished.

Blair shoved the syringe home and tossed it on the table before beginning his breathing exercises and placing his right hand strongly over his Sentinel's heart. With his left hand, he guided Jim's left hand to grip his right wrist at the pulse point. He hoped it would be enough.

"Okay, Simon, put the bars up on the bed. I don't want us falling out of here. Then put a chair under the door, just in case.

Simon actually scurried to obey the Shaman's wishes, and then returned to the far side of the bed on which his once best detective and best friend lay.

"Time to choose, Simon. I go now," Blair told the older hesitant man.

Gripping the bar of the bed with his left hand, he pressed down with his right hand over Jim's heart. He smiled when he felt the Captain's tentative grip on his left forearm. "Hold on with both hands and don't let go no matter what."

Allowing the medicine to course through his body and relax him, Blair took another deep breath before settling his mind.

Simon watched as the young man relaxed, then breathed, his breaths deep at first, becoming more shallow with time. Suddenly, Blair fell forward on his Sentinel, whispering Jim's name repeatedly.

"I don't get paid enough for this shit," he hissed, looking down at his friends.


Blair looked at the water before him.

"I have to do this to save Jim," he rallied, before stepping into the water.

He was surprised when the water wasn't cold. Taking a deep breath, he felt the water swirl around him.

"Let's go," he whispered, tipping his head back, he gave in.

The water climbed up his frame as he repeated, "Jim" over and over again.

Standing very still, his head tipped toward the sun, the water rose to encompass his body, mind and passed up over his head engulfing him entirely.


"Jim?" Blair questioned when he returned to himself.

"Jim is gone," a voice replied.

Blair chilled to the bone as he heard the words spoken to him by his Sentinel.

"NO! I will not believe that. Jim, it's me. It's Blair," he tried, his tone desperate.

"Blair is gone," Jim's disembodied voice sang out into the darkness.

"I am not gone, Jim. I am here now," Blair called out.

"Yes, but you still are not real," Jim sang out, his voice taunting. Blair followed the slight echo of Jim's voice to see the man standing, his face oddly animate.

"My Guide is gone. He told me so himself. He told me that he was not real. Then I came here," Jim intoned, his voice haunting.

"That may be true, big guy, but I am real. I would not lie to you," Blair promised.

Jim looked at him appraisingly. "Yes, but you would leave me," he accused without anger, only sadness.

"Not anymore, Jim. I get it now. I was so lost, but I didn't know you could help to find me. I need you, big guy. Please," Blair begged without shame.

Jim cocked his head. "NO," he shouted. "You do not need me and I no longer need you," he responded sadly.

Blair stopped cold, "Jim, you can't stay here. You will die if you stay here."

"I know," Jim replied sadly, "but you will be free."

"NO," Blair shouted in turn. "You don't have my permission to give up, Sentinel. I will not be free because I am here with you. If you leave me, I will let go of all hold on the real world and remain with you in the nothing," Blair promised with tears in his eyes and fear in his heart. He had no idea his Sentinel was so far gone.

Jim balked and pushed him away. "You must go," he commanded in his most authoritative voice.

"I will not," Blair choked out, the tears flowing freely now.

Before his Sentinel could react, Blair grabbed the stubborn Sentinel's arm and locked his grip around it. "Where you go, Sentinel, the Guide must follow."

Jim looked down at his Guide, his blue eyes misting in the darkness. "You will not go?"

Blair held on tighter and shook his head defiantly holding his breath.

Jim looked down at his determined Guide and asked, "You are real?" Blair blinked back his tears. "Yes, Jim. I am real."

Jim smiled slightly, studied his Guide, and then nodded affirmatively. "We must leave this place."

"Right with ya, big guy," Blair heaved, grateful for the compliance.

"So how do we do that?" Jim inquired, his face a mask of amusement at returning to their old banter.

"You need to turn your senses back up. From what I can tell, you dialed everything down to zero," Blair announced, his voice scolding.

Jim had the grace to look guilty before nodding affirmatively. "You always did know me better than anyone. I didn't realize I was doing it, then it was too late and I saw no reason to go back," he admitted to his Guide.

"You have one now so get it done, Jim," Blair ordered, leaving no room for argument.

Jim cocked his head to the side and began working the dials.


Simon nearly had a heart attack when both men suddenly gasped and convulsed on the bed.

Looking down into the only face he could see for all the hair, he saw steel blue eyes staring back at him. Jim moaned in recognition, beginning to fight the respirator, just as Blair began stirring.

"Jim," he shouted excitedly. "You did it, Blair! You did it!"

Blair shook with the effort of movement only to find that he was incapable.

"Simon," Blair gasped exhaustedly. "Help... me... move."

Shaking his head, Simon helped to roll the younger man from the bed and placed him in the recliner next to the head of the bed.

Not once during the transition did Sentinel and Guide lose contact with each other.

"Simon," Blair began "call Dr. Devlin and get him in here, please. He needs to come off the respirator," Blair's head dropped to the back of the chair and he could hardly keep his eyes open.

Pushing the call button, the Captain informed the nurse's station that their patient was awake.


Dr. Devlin pushed into the room that he'd been denied access to by the crazy cop at the door.

"Simon, how dare you deny me access to my patient, damnit? I told you that would not be acceptable. That crazy woman," he said pointing at Connor, "told me she would shoot me if I even attempted to enter."

Captain Banks looked at Inspector Connor who was the portrait of all that was innocent.

"Well, she was under orders that no one was to enter for any reason and to use any means necessary, but I'm fairly sure she wouldn't have shot to kill if that makes you feel better," Simon explained to his old friend, feeling giddy from the experiences of the day and the return of both of his friends.

Simon gestured to the bed, "he's awake, Cal."

"That's what the nurses told me. I have to admit I'm not sure how," Dr. Devlin admitted.

"Need to know, man, but you can check him out now to your heart's content," Simon promised, then placed a blanket over the sleeping former anthropologist.


Three days later...

Dr. Devlin looked at his old friend before him. "They signed off on Joe's records so I can tell you about his case."

Simon nodded for him to continue.

"He's had quite a trauma and I suspect it will be quite awhile before he can come back to work. He'll be working with a therapist on range of motion and strengthening exercises when he's a bit stronger. From what I can tell, there's no permanent brain damage although he seems to have suffered from mild cerebral hypoxia, his brain was deprived of oxygen for a short time when he went into cardiac arrest," he paused catching Simon's shocked expression. "He'll be okay. He'll just have trouble concentrating and poor motor coordination for a little while," Cal comforted his friend.

"That's why he stutters right now?" Simon asked.

"Yes, that should decrease with time and eventually go away all together," Dr. Devlin reassured the worried Captain.

Simon sighed with relief and held out his hand, then pulled his old friend into a bear hug. "Calvin, we are more than even. In fact, I owe you. You need anything, anything at all, you call me and I'll see what I can do," Simon thanked him profusely.

Calvin smiled. "You always did get a bit carried away. I was just doing my job, Simon. They seem like very good men."

Simon shook his head, his eyes glistening. "The best, my man, the best."


"C-c-can w-we go h-home n-n-now?" Jim asked, clearly frustrated with his level of progress.

Blair looked at his Sentinel disbelievingly. "You've only been back with us for five days, man. I'm pretty sure that you bring that up with Doc Devlin and he'll laugh us right out of here. He's letting me stay here with you and you're starting PT tomorrow," Blair reassured him gently then turned to use the facilities.

"Jim, I promise man, I'm not going anywhere," he soothed his Sentinel, then looking him straight in the eyes; he reiterated yet again, his eyes sobered. "I promise on my life as your Shaman that I am your Guide and will never leave you, ever."

Once extracting this promise, Jim hesitantly let go of his Guide and watched him as he went into the next room.


Two weeks later...

"I'm not entirely sure this is a good idea, Mr. Sandburg," Dr. Devlin hesitated as he finished his final checkup on the man he only knew as Joe Jacobs.

"I'll... be... f-fine," Jim answered defiantly. "I'm... much... b-better."

"Yes, you are, Joe, but I'm still not sure you're ready to go back," he restated, his brow furrowed with concern for his patient.

"My... n-name... is... Jim," he said, his blue eyes bright causing Blair to smile. "'Sides, I have Ch-chief," he beamed proudly.

Blair's smile widened at that. "Yes, you do, big guy. Always."


Three months later...

"What do you think, Chief?" Jim asked, his eyes sparkling with hope.

"I think you're both nuts," Blair said bitingly, softening it with a smile.

Simon chuckled darkly. "You'd be good at it. Besides that, we really need you."

Blair looked at him suspiciously. "Will I still be Jim's partner?"

"Of course, Sandburg. That's why I jumped through all these hoops. You'd be attached to Major Crime. You may get loaned out, quite a bit actually, but you'll still be Jim's partner. Besides, you're the only one who can keep Jim in line," Simon joked.

"Cute, Simon," Jim responded in kind. "You'll pay for that later. Christmas off ought to do it!"

Blair shook his head in disbelief, for the first time in 18 months believing that he may have a choice that would make his life complete. "The chief okayed it?"

Jim smirked, "That's what we're waiting to find out, Chief?"

Blair rolled his eyes. "I meant the Chief of Police, Jim?"

"Oh, yeah him too," Jim replied laughing fully this time.

Simon chuckled at their antics, grateful that he once again had the opportunity to do so. "Yes, Sandburg, I have this authorized through the department all legal like. You will have the backing of the department, but there are a few things you will have to do."

"I'll need to pick up some classes at UW in criminology and a few more psych classes. I was only about nine credits short of a Psych degree anyway," he informed them sheepishly. "I like it," he blushed.

Jim and Simon smiled accordingly. "We know."

Jim put his arm around the man who had brought him back from what was for all intents and purposes hell. "That's why it's perfect. You'll be the best, Chief," Jim gushed supportively.

Blair smiled at the intention, his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Naturally," he shrugged and turned toward his room to get some paper to write everything down he needed to do.

"Slow down, Chief," Jim hollered from the table.

He smiled when he overheard his roommate, best friend and Guide mumble in a flourish of all the things he had to do. "I've gotta get my records together, apply at the university, find a way to get there reliably. It's in Seattle, you know. There'll be commuting. I have to get an undergrad catalog..."

Jim laughed wholeheartedly while Simon looked at him like he was losing his mind.

"Don't worry, Simon. I'm not losing my mind again. Blair is pacing around his room, muttering to himself about undergrad catalogs and Seattle and records and he hasn't stopped since he went in there," Jim related to the older Captain, who was now smiling as well.

"Some things never change, huh, Jim?" The Captain asked appreciatively.

"Some things never should," Jim responded, tuned in to the excited heartbeat of his Guide.

The End