Disclaimer: All these characters belong to someone else. I just borrowed them for a while. No money was made… Yadda Yadda Yadda…
Special Thanks: First to Ronnee for her M&M, from which I got the idea and encouragement. To ArmyKU, who doesn't watch TS but puts up with me and helped me with numerous things I say "Guacamole! I'm in used old guacamole!"
Jim found himself wandering around the university. How did I get here? He looked around and saw the building where Blair had his office. I must have been looking for Blair and zoned out. Man, I haven't done that in awhile. Jim was still amazed at how important his Guide was to him. Shaking his head he walked towards the building where he could find his friend.
"Hey Chief, lets go get..." He started as he opened the door, but stopped short when he saw that the office was empty. It wasn't that no one was there. The office was totally empty. No books. No papers. None of Sandburg's artifacts. Nothing. None of it was there. Maybe I got the wrong office, he thought in confusion. He went back out into the hall and found a directory on the wall. Sandburg's name wasn't listed. I couldn't have gotten the wrong building.
Just then a student came around the corner and Jim recognized him as having been one of Blair's. "Have you seen Mr. Sandburg?"
The student was loaded down with papers, books, and a full backpack and looked like he was in a hurry. "Nah man, he left," and hurried on his way.
"Yeah, maybe he's back at the loft," Jim said to himself, a hint of worry creeping into his voice, as the student's backpack disappeared around the corner.
Jim sat at the red light thinking about his friend and Guide. Why do I have this bad feeling that something has happened? Some 'blessed protector' I am. I can't even find him.
Jim's musings were interrupted by a horn blaring behind him. He looked up to see the light change from green to yellow. Jim waved an apology to the car behind him as the truck leapt forward like a Jaguar after its prey. Man, I must have zoned out again. That's twice now. Where's the Chief when I need him? Maybe if I turned on the radio...
Jim turned on the radio and turned up the dial. And immediately brought the truck to a screeching halt as the familiar sound of his Guide's racing heartbeat filled the cab. Jim just sat there and listened. His own heart was racing to match the frantic rhythm. "Simon! You can't think that... Jim's alive! He needs my help! We've got to get him out of there!" Blair's voice was strained as if he was struggling with someone. "Simon! Jim's still in there!" Jim was barely able to turn off the disturbing sounds and start the truck speeding to the loft.
Jim pulled into his parking spot and didn't see Sandburg's Volvo. This was not unusual since it kept breaking down. Blair probably had gotten a ride from someone. Jim sat there a moment and thought about all the times his friend had call and asked to be picked up at some of the strangest places and the weekends spent working on the darn old thing trying to keep it running.
The same thing would happen every time. They would get halfway done with the job and Jim would notice that he was covered in grease and Blair was still squeaky clean. He would ask for a tool and instead of grabbing the offered handle he would 'accidentaly' grab Sandburg's arm and smear him with the dirt and oil from his own car. There would be some grumbling, but he always showed it off as a badge of honor when they were done as proof that he really had done his share. When he and his brother had worked on the car growing up it had been because it was expected of them and the afternoon would be filled with silence and undertones of competition. Now when he worked on the Volvo with Blair it was because a friend needed help and the day was filled with talking and a general enjoyment of being in one another’s company. He couldn't help feel thankful that he had found such a good friend.
As he climbed the stairs to the loft he expected to hear the familiar heartbeat and smell dinner cooking, but he heard and smelled nothing. With each step he moved faster so by the time he reached the top he was running at top speed.
"Chief!" the Sentinel yelled, as he slammed the door open. Silence. He looked around and was confronted by a blank loft. The furniture was there where it was suppose to be, but this was not the warm home that he had expected. The cold blank walls and shelves where Blair's artifacts should have been stared back at him. Blaming him for their emptiness. Where is all of Blair's stuff? Where is Blair? Where is my Guide?
Jim fought down a surge of panic. There had to be some sign somewhere. OK, you're a detective. There has to be a clue somewhere. Sandburg wouldn't just take his stuff and leave. Jim remembered what the student had said 'Nah man, he left." No, he wouldn't leave. He couldn't leave. Not without me knowing. No without telling me.
Jim raced to Blair's room and through open the doors. Empty. Nothing. He closed his eyes not wanting to see the void. This can't be. He walked slowly into the room, eyes still closed not trusting his sight. He took one step, and then another, expecting to hear the crunch of Sandburg's papers underfoot or feel the pain as he walked into his roommate's bed.
The only thing he sensed was the cold emptiness around him. He could almost feel it eating at him, trying to engulf his soul like it had before Blair had come into his life. Some how the long-haired fun loving grad student had taken the military stiff police detective and done what so many others had tried to do. Blair had swept into his life like a storm and blew past all his barriers and defenses. Only instead of bringing destruction he had brought with life him.
Jim thought back to his life before Blair. He wasn't thinking of any specific events or people, but a general feeling of wandering through a dream. Jim had gone through all the motions, but had never really lived. It was as if his life had been one big zone-out and he had been waiting for his Guide to bring him out of it. Only instead of forgetting to breathe, he had forgotten to live.
The sudden ringing of the phone was near deafening as it echoed in the empty room. Jim ran to pick it up on the second ring. "Blair! Where are you?"
"No Jim, its Simon." The voice was familiar but not the one he desperately wanted to hear.
"Simon, where is Sandburg? I can't find him. He can't have left. I have to find him." Jim only barely realized that Simon was trying to tell him something as he rambled on. "I keep zoning out. I need him. I can't focus. I have to find him. I'll call you when I find him." Jim hung up the phone and ran out of the loft. He had to find his Guide. He had to find his friend. I can't go back to that empty life, not now.
Back in the truck, Jim searched every place he could think of. He checked back at the university. He checked their favorite restaurants and delis. At each place Jim tried to use all his senses to find a trace of his closest friend, but with out his Guide to help him focus it was hopeless. With each dead end he had to fight down his rising panic. The station! Someone at the station will have seen him. I can get everyone to help me look for him. Simon can be my guide and help me find my Guide.
Jim arrived at the station and didn't even see the empty parking garage or hear the quite that engulfed the building as he ran up the stairs.
"I need an APB put out on Sandburg's car. Someone call the airport and bus terminal to see if he has left town." Jim didn't notice that he was talking to an empty room as he made a beeline for his captain's office. "Simon I need..."
Empty. Another empty office stared back at the Sentinel. He slowly turned around to see the Major Crimes room devoid of human life. No! This can't be. First my Guide and now my friends. I... I can't handle this alone. I don't know what to do. What would Blair tell me to do? Breath. Remember to breath.
He could almost hear his Guide's voice, "breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out. Now tell me what you hear. Just let your ears roam. Let them tell you what they hear."
"I hear just a bunch of noises."
"Concentrate, focus. Sort out the sounds. Concentrate on each one and tell me what they are."
"I hear beeping... something dripping... a small motor... a couple heartbeats."
"Now filter each sound out until you hear my heartbeat. Concentrate on my heartbeat. Focus on it. Allow it to ground you. Now open your eyes and tell me what you see."
Jim opened his eyes and saw Simon and Dr. Adamson standing over him. He looked around expecting to see his Guide, but other than his voice there was no sign of him. "Where's Blair?"
The relief in Simon's eyes was obvious as he reached over Jim's head and turned off a small tape player. "He's down the hall in another room. He has a concussion and still hasn't woken up from the emergency surgery, but he's alive."
Jim wasn't sure whether to believe his ears or not. "I want to see him. I...I need to see him." I need to confirm with all my senses that my Guide hasn't left me.
Jim saw the understanding in his Captain's eyes as he said, "I know. He needs you too."
"I don't think that would be wise right now. Detective Ellison needs his to rest." At the doctor's words, the beeping of Jim's monitors starting to race and Jim tried to get out of bed.
"I need to..."
Simon gently held his friend down. "I know. Let me take care of it."
The Sentinel lay back as his friend and the doctor left the room. He could hear their conversation but wasn't paying attention. He found the faint heartbeat of his Guide, trying to reassure himself that he really was hearing it this time.
"Don't zone out on me now Jim please." Simon had come back into the room and was looking at him with concern.
"I'll be fine just as soon as I see Blair."
In response the doctor and a nurse came in with a wheel chair. They unhooked the monitors and helped Jim out of the bed. They wheeled him down the hall and into a room similar to the one they had just left. Joel Taggart was holding the door and saying something to him, but he didn't hear it. The only thing that registered was his Guide.
Blair was facing away from the door and he was crying. Jim pulled himself up to stand by his friend's bedside and gently wiped away the tears.
"Hey, Chief. How about opening your eyes?" Jim said softly. "Please? Wake up for me, Sandburg."
He watched as the younger man turned towards him. Sad and pleading eyes met his gaze. Then his friend sprang up to embrace him. The raw voice making him flinch, "You're alive!"
The Sentinel gently wrapped his arms around his Guide and whispered, "Whoa! Easy, Chief. I'm alive and so are you buddy."
"But you were dead... I saw the memorial and the loft was empty and..." Jim didn't need to be a Sentinel to hear the confusion in his friend's voice. "I was all alone."
"I know, Blair." He could feel himself close to tear and could barely speak above a whisper. Blair looked up at him, confusion still evident. "I dreamed too."
"But it was so real...and you weren't there." Jim wondered what it was that Blair had dreamt and gave his friend a light squeeze.
"It was a nightmare caused by your concussion and a reaction to the medication from the emergency surgery." He simply held on to his shaking guide. This one had been too close, for both of them. He rocked a slow gentle movement that soothed both of them. "I'm right here. We're both going to be all right."
They sat like this for several long minutes. The Sentinel, using all of his senses to help him believe that Blair really was there. He could hear his Guide's heartbeat, taste the air around him, smell his sweat and tears, feel his warmth, and see his face. His Guide was still here. His Guide hadn't left him.
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