Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Smarm

The Memory of Angels
Part Three
by Robyn
October 1998

The rays of early morning light had infused their way into the sky enough to turn it a shade of rich blue-purple when Blair shifted, his eyes blinking open sleepily as his mind progressed through the stages of mild disorientation as he awakened. The grad student had never been a quick one to wake up -- especially when he had to sleep in new surroundings and his mind was required to process more than usual to achieve his normal level of alertness.

His senses woke up one by one. First, the sound of Jim's quiet breathing against his neck and back, then the coolness of the morning air and the secure warmness of the hand and arm partially covering him. Next, his surroundings...

Wait! his mind shouted, causing his eyes to open more widely. The firm forest ground covered with pine needles was gone. Soft sand had replaced it, as his fingers confirmed. They were on the beach again.

"Jim!" he whispered loudly, nudging the other man awake as he sat up, turning his head around as he took in the metamorphosed environment. Everything remained incredibly beautiful, but they had awakened in a completely different place than the one in which they had fallen asleep.

"Hmm?" Jim murmured. But quickly his senses also realized things had changed, and the sentinel snapped to a state of alertness, sitting up and brushing the sand off his shirt as he scanned the environment and tried to sort out the details.

The two friends both inhaled as more and more of the splendor of nature assaulted their senses.

The expanse of ocean spreading out before them was no longer recognizable as the mighty northern Pacific. Instead, the sea stood transformed as by the halcyon, a vision of tranquility, a polished crystal of liquid sapphire and amethyst, mysteriously calm and dark in the early dawn.

In the distance, across a stretch of the water, a majestic mountain soared up before them from an island, its wind-swept peak rising above the clouds, calling to them like a siren to Odysseus.

"Incacha was right when he said we'd know where to go," Blair said breathlessly. "We have to climb that mountain next. But how are we going to get there?" he wondered as he surveyed the stretch of water separating them from their destination.

"Lucky for us, looks like we've got transportation already arranged," said Jim, pointing in the other direction on the beach.

A large white horse stood on the beach a few hundred feet down shore. It stamped its hooves and tossed its regal head, its mane fluttering at the sudden movement. Jim whistled and the horse nickered in acknowledgment before galloping through the sand toward the two men. It skidded to a halt as it reached the two men and Jim called out, "Whoa!"

The taller man mounted the saddled horse easily, then reached down to give Blair a hand so the younger man could swing up behind him.

"Ready for a morning ride, Chief?" asked Jim. "Hang on!" He leaned down to whisper into the horse's ear as Blair prepared to hang on by reaching his arms around Jim's waist. The animal whinnied in acknowledgment and broke off into a gallop almost instantly.

From a distance, the two riders and the horse merged into a single, fluid movement as they flew across the shallow purple-blue water, leaving behind a spray of droplets in their path.

*********************

When they reached the other side of the inlet, the horse bounded out of the water and onto the narrow beach surrounding the mountain-island. It slowed to a stop on the wet sand, snorting as it pawed at the sand with a front hoof, standing still just long enough to let Jim reach his arm back to help Blair dismount and then jump down himself.

"Good boy," said Jim as he patted the horse's dignified neck. It whuffled in acknowledgment, then reared on its hind legs once before taking off into the water again, leaving them standing on the beach.

"Wow," said Blair as they watched the horse's retreat. "That was one big noble creature, huh?"

"Yes," agreed the other man. "Smart, too. C'mon, Chief -- let's start climbing." Smiling, he reached out a hand to Blair and closed his own around it.

The two men made their way up the beach, their shirts and hair whipping in the breeze which was stronger here than the places they had spent their time previously. An obvious path wide enough for the two of them to walk side by side led through the forest and ascended up the mountain, and Jim and Blair followed it obediently.

"What do you think we're gonna find at the top, Jim?" asked Blair as he looked at the trees and rocks as they passed by.

"I don't know, Chief. You're the one that usually comes up with hard answers like that," Jim teased.

"I had a feeling you were going to say that," Blair groaned, but he grinned good-naturedly. "I know. While I'm thinking, you can tell me another story -- about our adventures," he suggested.

"You mean you didn't get enough last night? Well, all right," the taller man acquiesced, surprising himself at the rather pitiful amount of resistance he'd put up. "At the first physical I had to go to after I'd gotten my senses back, the doctor decided to clean out my ears..."

Blair giggled. "Don't tell me. I went and got you a pair of white noise maker earplugs."

"Yeah. You spoiled the ending, Chief!" Jim teased again. "Then try this one, junior. Just the week before, I'd gone blind after accidentally getting some of a new designer drug in my eyes. We were in the middle of an undercover drug bust and I couldn't see a thing. A bunch of the bad guys ganged up on me, and you saved my life with a --" Jim paused, glancing at Blair for his response.

"Uh... um... I beaned them with a baseball?"

"Nope, that was another time."

"Oh, man! Um, let's see..."

*********************

Laughter preceded the two friends as they slowly climbed the mountain. Although Jim's stories remained full of animation and typical sarcastic humor, after about a half hour of walking Blair noticed that Jim's steps were getting slower, and he went longer between spurts of talking, breathing a little more heavily. The younger man felt concerned at the toll the walk was having on his friend, especially considering the peak physical condition Jim was in, and the fact that Blair himself didn't feel tired yet.

"... and so we had to clean up the loft and repair the damage again," finished Jim.

"Uh, Jim, I'm getting a bit winded. Do you think we could take a little breather here?" asked Blair.

"Whatever you say, Chief," said Jim, but he collapsed on the nearest fallen log with a little thankful sigh as soon as the words were out of his mouth.

"Didn't you get tired of the loft being trashed all the time? Seems kind of ironic for a cop's apartment, don't you think?" Blair joked.

Jim smiled at his partner sitting beside him on the log, his own breathing finally slowing down to a more normal rate. "It was kind of embarrassing. Which is why I looked into getting a real security system after the Chapel case."

"Thank goodness," said Blair. "I was beginning to think our place wasn't safe to go home to," he teased again.

Jim playfully poked him in the ribs with an elbow. "I'm your personal Blessed Protector, remember? What more could you want?"

Blair grinned. "Absolutely nothing."

"To tell you the truth, it wasn't the loft or my possessions I was worried about. The only thing I cared about was whether you were safe." Jim looked at his partner affectionately and smiled. "They could rob me blind, but I'd still be the richest man alive -- as long as I have you, Chief."

"When did you really know?" asked Blair quietly.

Jim shifted his gaze at the mountain, looking up to the top as he considered the question. "I'm not sure, Blair. It was kind of a gradual process -- letting you in, opening up to someone in a way I'd never let anyone before." A gust of wind blew by, tousling Blair's long curls and ruffling their shirts, dying down again before Jim continued. "I guess when I was holding you in the garage of the P.D. when you were dosed out on Golden -- I remember feeling a kind of fear I'd never felt before. I was so afraid I might lose you. In that moment I knew how much you really meant to me."

Jim turned to meet Blair's eyes. The pools of deep blue looked misty.

"Thanks, Jim," Blair said quietly, his voice a little husky. He swallowed, then went on. "I wish I could tell you when I first knew I felt that way about you -- but I still can't remember... I'm sorry --"

"It's okay, Blair," said Jim, putting an arm around his friend's shoulders and squeezing, "because I can still drag it out of you when your memories come back," he teased.

"Yeah, yeah," Blair muttered, a smile spreading across his face. As an afterthought, he gave Jim a playful small jab in the ribs with his elbow, then leaned his head on the taller man's shoulder.

They sat on the log, resting for a few more minutes. Finally Jim broke the silence. "Ready to hit the road again, partner?" he asked cheerily.

"Ready if you are," said Blair.

Both men's eyes twinkled as they exchanged a look before pulling themselves to a stand and proceeding up the trail again.

"So what story are you gonna tell next?..."

*********************

It was only about twenty minutes later that Jim's pace slowed again and he couldn't cover up the breathlessness any longer. Still, it took a significant amount of urging from Blair to get him to agree to another break.

"I'm okay, Chief, really," panted Jim.

"C'mon, Jim, it's okay -- we don't have to make this any harder on ourselves than necessary," said Blair. "Here's a good place," he decided, his voice firm as he led Jim off the trail.

"Okay, but I'm not that tired..."

*********************

The third time Jim only managed to hike fifteen minutes before becoming obviously winded again, and he offered less resistance to pausing for a rest.

"Sorry, Chief," said Jim, breathing hard as he collapsed on a low boulder right off the trail. "I don't know -- what's -- wrong with me -- too much time -- away from the gym -- maybe," he joked, but Blair picked up on the tiny prick of fear in the other man's voice.

"Are you sure you're okay, Jim?" asked the younger man concernedly.

"Yeah," Jim said automatically, but his breathing still came deep and fast.

It was a few minutes before he could breathe at a normal rate again. "I don't know, Chief. I feel like I don't have as much energy as I used to. My legs -- they feel weaker than usual. This is stupid!" he exclaimed. "This little hike never would have bothered me before. You're not even tired, Sandburg," Jim said, his tone becoming frustrated. "I don't know what's wrong with me!" he repeated.

"Maybe we should stop here for now --" began Blair.

"No," Jim interrupted, his tone final. "We're gonna get to the top of this mountain if I have to crawl there, and we're not stopping until we make it."

"But Jim --"

"Blair, listen to me," Jim said seriously as he looked at his friend. "When you first told me about the virtual reality -- you said we didn't have much time, that we had to get out before it was too late. And there's no way I'm holding you back. We might only have one chance, and we're not going to waste it. Trust me?"

Blair nodded. "We'll make it, Jim. I trust you."

*********************

Jim's endurance dwindled steadily during the next hour, the two men having to stop more often and for longer periods each time in order for Jim to regain enough strength to continue. He also firmly rejected Blair's offers to rest for longer periods, taking only enough time to barely recover before pressing onward. Eventually, the athletic man was unable to walk at all without his breathing sounding like he'd just run a marathon. Realizing Jim's stubborn tenacity and incredible willpower refused to consider the possibility of taking a long break, Blair shifted his words to gentle encouragement, carefully worded in an attempt to keep Jim from feeling embarrassed at his seeming lack of stamina.

"... you're doing good, Jim. Look -- it's the top!" Blair said excitedly, pointing as they rounded a bend in the now narrow trail and feeling a wave of relief at the welcome sight only a few feet above and ahead of them.

A small thump sounded behind the younger man, and he whirled, horror filling him at the sight.

Jim lay crumpled on the ground a few feet behind him, his body heaving with labored respirations.

"Jim!" Blair cried, rushing to the side of his friend. "Jim! Are you okay?" he called, turning his partner toward himself so he could see Jim's face.

"My legs -- they just -- collapsed -- on me," panted the taller man.

"It's okay, Jim, don't move -- we'll just rest right here, okay?" murmured Blair, running his hand in a comforting manner along Jim's face and arm, smiling in an attempt to cover the apprehension in his voice.

"You said -- we're -- close -- to the top?" said Jim.

"Shh. Yeah, just a few more minutes. But let's just rest here for a bit, okay?" Blair soothed, feeling Jim relax upon hearing the words, trying to push aside his own worries.

The younger man helped straighten out the legs of his friend to a more comfortable position, then gently felt along each one for injuries, fortunately finding nothing. "Nothing's broken," he called to Jim, feeling the need to voice the news out loud to reassure himself as much as his partner.

"Blair." The voice was strangely fragile yet calm. Trusting.

Blair scrambled back to Jim's head, where his friend's perspiration-covered face leaned toward him. Jim smiled weakly.

"You're gonna be okay, Jim," Blair said again, managing a smile in return.

Something grasped his arm -- Jim's hand, surprisingly strong despite the man's waning energy levels. "Blair," he said hoarsely, "help me get up."

Blair complied, maneuvering his arm around Jim's neck and shoulders and helping to prop the taller man up to a sitting position, though he protested in the meantime. "Jim, please -- you need to rest --"

"No," Jim insisted. "We're almost there. I can make it if you help me -- as long as you're with me," he gasped. "Please."

Blair nodded. "I'm with you, Jim, right here."

Slowly, the younger man helped Jim shift his arm across his partner's shoulder, then Blair reached his arm securely around Jim's waist, supporting the weight of the taller man. The two men stood with difficulty, then walked the last few steps together, their arms around each other.

*********************

Laboriously, Jim and Blair finally struggled around the last corner of the trail. At last, they had reached the top. As they stepped from behind the last boulder obscuring their view, a panoramic, breath-taking view spread out before them -- a sweeping expanse of ocean to their left, the lush wilderness stretching to the horizon on the right. The wind was stronger here, blowing the few sparse bushes so that they strained at their roots which were sunk securely into the granite of the mountain.

Gently, Blair lowered his exhausted partner to the ground in a spot where he could lean against one of the rocks. Then the younger man walked around the small, rocky, flat area comprising the pinnacle, looking for any signs that might indicate why they had been called here.

"Now what do we do?" Blair wondered aloud, more to himself and the wind around them.

"Beats me, Chief, but I don't think I can go any farther," panted Jim as he watched the younger man wander the peak.

Something drew Blair closer to the edge of the peak which looked out over the ocean, though his fear of heights fought each hesitant step strongly. His heart pounding, Blair peered over the edge. He inhaled sharply, quickly pulling back at what he saw, his body trembling.

The side of the mountain facing the ocean was a bare cliff, a sheer drop-off down to the water below where waves crashed against the naked wall of granite and scattered rocks jutted out of the surf. The precipice seemed at least a hundred feet above the ocean, but it could have been higher or lower for the terror it evoked in the young man.

Jump.

Jump!

A voice spoke clearly into his mind with a command he knew he couldn't obey.

"Are you crazy?" Blair said aloud, his voice incredulous as he tried vainly to keep himself from freaking, but he felt frozen to the spot.

"Blair? Blair!" Jim called. "What's the matter? Come back."

Jump.

Frantically Blair turned, hurrying back and collapsing beside Jim, shaking as he impulsively grabbed on to Jim's arm, lowering his eyes so he didn't have to look at the edge. "I can't do it," he murmured. "I can't do it!..."

"Do what?" demanded Jim, his eyes full of concern. "Blair, what are you talking about?"

"My mind's playing tricks on me, Jim! I -- I keep hearing this voice --"

"What's it saying?" pressed Jim, but Blair shook his head.

"It -- it -- I can't do it, Jim! I'm telling you -- I could do the other things, but this --"

Suddenly, Jim's expression changed as he comprehended what Blair must be hearing. "It's telling you to jump, isn't it?" he said quietly.

At Jim's words, Blair looked up, his face paled and pleading as he met his friend's eyes. "How'd you know?"

"Because I heard the same voice when I found you sinking in the mud hole. Because it's the only thing it could be, Blair. We passed through the earth, the water. Now we have to pass through the air."

"No! Jim, you know I can't do this -- you know I'm afraid of heights. There's got to be another way," Blair said, averting his gaze again. Any other solution would be preferable to this one.

"Blair, look at me," said Jim quietly.

Slowly, the younger man's head lifted, his eyes looking pleadingly at Jim.

"You're right -- you can't do it. I don't think I could even do it," said Jim. "But we can do it -- if we do it together," he said gently. "We've come through the other elements. We will survive this one, too. You with me?"

"Jim, I don't --"

Jim seized Blair's hand and looked deeply into his eyes. "Blair, you're the strongest person I know. I trust you with my life. You can do this. Trust me?"

Blair paused, searching Jim's face and knowing he told the truth. "Yes. I trust you."

"Good. Now give your old partner a hand, will you?"

Blair managed a smile as he took Jim's arm and helped him to a standing position. Arm over shoulder and arm around waist, the two men made their way to the edge of the cliff.

"Before we go, Jim --" Blair's eyes met Jim's one more time.

In an instant, their arms enveloped each other, Jim's hugging Blair tightly around the waist, Blair's encircling Jim's neck.

After a long embrace, they finally released each other.

"Okay, I'm ready," Blair said, his voice quavering.

"Okay," said Jim, holding tightly to Blair's hand. "I won't let go."

Then, they jumped.

*********************

An especially strong gust of wind blew behind them, pushing them out of the way of the wall. Blair shut his eyes tightly, the out-of-control feeling in his stomach overwhelming, not wanting to see the rocks below them approaching at a speed too fast to comprehend. He could feel the heavier weight of his partner pulling him down as Jim fell faster toward the earth, but he didn't let go.

Falling....

Falling....

Down....

Down....

He didn't remember hitting the water before everything mercifully went dark.

*********************

Waves of heat, not water, rolled over the two friends, penetrating their wet clothing and drying it. The warmth hitting his face woke Blair, and he squinted as his eyes adjusted to the brightness of the flames against the night sky.

"You have been found worthy by earth, water, and air to stand the last test," spoke the voice, somewhat startling the anthropologist as he struggled to sit up. The flames cast strange dancing shadows on the painted face and body of the shaman as he stood motionless, gazing upon the two men.

"We made it," Blair whispered to himself as the reality sank in. "We made it, Jim! Jim?"

The other man had not moved from the ground.

"Jim!" Blair shouted, shaking the other man by the shoulders, but there was no response. Instinctively, he pressed his ear to his friend's chest, listening...

Thump.

Thump-thump.

A heartbeat! It was weak, but there. Relief washed over the younger man as he ran his hands over Jim's face and chest, shaking him gently again, but Jim didn't awaken.

"He is very weak," said Incacha as he watched the guide and sentinel. "His time is running out."

"Tell me what to do," pleaded Blair.

"You must pass through the fire," answered the shaman. With a wave of his hand, the small campfire flared into a great wall of fire before them, its heat increasing exponentially in intensity. Blair felt his skin grow hot immediately, and he leaned back to avoid the brutal flames which tried to reach out and singe him, even though the wall of fire burned several feet away from where he and Jim remained.

"This is the ultimate test of your bond, your commitment. The fire will decide whether the connection is strong enough, pure enough, worthy enough to endure the destiny that lies ahead of the sentinel and guide," declared the shaman.

Blair swallowed as he looked at the flames before him. This fire was real -- he could feel the power of its flames as they leapt and sparked into the black sky above. Again, he turned his attention to his partner.

Blair pulled Jim into his lap, raising his head up with one arm around his friend. "Jim," he called, bending over to whisper in his ear. "Jim. Come back to me. Please -- one last time," he said, stroking his sentinel's forehead and face, grasping his hand and squeezing it. "Jim, I'm here. Come back," he repeated over and over. "You can't leave me yet," he murmured, touching his friend gently.

After what seemed like forever, Jim's eyes fluttered and opened. "Blair," he whispered, attempting a weak smile.

"Jim." Blair spoke the name tenderly as he smiled. "We only have one more test. We can do it, Jim."

Jim turned his head toward the flames, immediately comprehending what the last test would be. His eyes looked sadly at the younger man, not wanting to let him go, but knowing he didn't have enough strength left to stand. Jim shook his head. "I can't, Chief," he whispered. "I'm sorry."

"No!" Blair said resolutely. "Jim, we're so close to the end. We can't give up now."

But Jim simply shook his head again. "I can't, Blair. I'm too weak. You can go without me..."

"No way, man. I'm not leaving you here, Jim Ellison. Remember? This isn't about me or you. It's about whether we can stay together no matter what."

Before Jim could answer again, Incacha spoke. "There is another way."

The two men looked up at the old shaman.

"You may give up your duties as sentinel and shaman-guide. You will not have to pass through the fire. You may remain here, in this perfect world. Your strength and memories will be restored. Your needs will be provided for.

"You may choose all this, or you may enter the fire. It will determine whether you are worthy to return to the tribe," the shaman said solemnly.

"And if we are not?" asked Jim quietly.

"You will be consumed." The words were final.

"I -- I don't think I'm worthy," said Jim.

"Neither am I," said Blair, looking at his partner. "You're right, Jim. Neither one of us are worthy. If you or I try to do this alone, we'll never survive. We do it together or not at all."

"Blair, you don't remember what it's like where we came from," said Jim. "We were in danger almost all the time -- it's what brought us here in the first place. If we go back, you -- you might die. I -- I don't know if I could live with that. We'd be safe here, you know," he said, taking Blair's hand in his own.

Blair mustered a smile as he looked down at his friend. "Jim, I might not remember everything, but I do remember what you told me about who we are, who we were. Being the sentinel and the shaman-guide, protecting and saving people -- it's your destiny, it's my destiny. It's our destiny. This whole thing isn't supposed to take us away from that. It will make us stronger. This is only part of the journey, not the end of it. Every test we've been through is about facing our fears and knowing that we can overcome them together. This one is no different. Isn't that right, Incacha?"

The old shaman smiled and inclined his head in agreement. "You have spoken well, young shaman."

"See, Jim? I choose to go back with you, not by myself. I'll help you, and we'll get through this just like we did the other tests. You've gotta have faith in us."

Jim looked at the younger man, tender feelings washing over him, overwhelmed by the strength and faith of his partner. In becoming a sentinel, he had received not one gift, but two -- his senses and his guide. He still felt unworthy, but he knew Blair was right. "How can I argue with that, Chief?" he said finally. "We do it together."

One last time, Blair helped Jim pull to a stand. The taller man wobbled more than ever, and he was forced to lean heavily on Blair, hanging on to him in order to remain upright. Incacha watched as the two men pulled together for one more hug, giving each other courage, clinging tightly to each other in an intense embrace, a few tears even exchanged while Blair pressed his face against Jim's chest and Jim buried his in the top of Blair's hair.

"I love you," Jim whispered, giving Blair a very weak squeeze with the little strength he had left.

"I love you, too," Blair murmured, rubbing Jim's back and holding him tightly so he wouldn't fall.

Slowly, they turned towards the fire and stepped towards it, the flames getting hotter and hotter...

Instinctively Blair raised a hand to shield his face from the overwhelming heat and light, his heart pounding, sweat pouring off his face as he anticipated the fire to envelop them.

brighter...

hotter...

brighter...

Then the flames engulfed them.

*********************

The cold sensation of the thin, vinyl-covered pad on the gurney was the first thing he remembered feeling when Blair awoke -- that, and the feeling of someone's hand holding his own. Pulling off the visor and gloves he wore, he sat up, his eyes blinking as they adjusted to the harshly glowing flourescent lights hanging from the ceiling above. The room was empty, except for...

Jim!

Climbing awkwardly off the gurney, Blair stumbled as he stood up, fighting the lightheaded feeling and moving a step over to where Jim lay, grabbing at the metal railing to keep himself from falling as his legs wobbled and threatened to give out from weakness. Hands trembling, he reached out and gently pulled the visor and gloves off, tossing them aside.

"Jim," he called, almost throwing himself across the taller man's chest, reaching up to touch his face with one hand while grasping Jim's cool, limp hand with the other. "Jim... Jim..."

Slowly, light blue eyes flickered open. The whisper was barely audible. "Blair..."

That was all he could say, but it was enough.

Blair's eyes filled with tears as he grasped Jim's hands more tightly.

They were both alive.

Just before he passed out again, the sentinel heard vague noises in the distance of men pounding down the long hallway. Simon. He had found them. They would be rescued...

*********************

Megan paused, her ball-point pen tapping absently on her lips as she contemplated the case and wondered how she could possibly sum it up. She still had a feeling -- no, she knew -- the two guys hadn't told her, or anyone for that matter, the whole story. Even Simon's repeated interrogations of the partners in their hospital room had turned up very little, or so he said. If the captain knew more, he didn't let on, finally telling the inspector to write up the final report on the case with the sparse information they had been able to collect.

Jim and Blair had both spent a few days in the hospital after being missing and presumed dead for six long days. Just before the remaining unstable shell of the building was to be demolished and bulldozed, Simon had managed to convince the authorities to allow him to lead a team once more through the wreckage in a final desperate attempt to look for clues. They had found the underground tunnel. Had the detective and anthropologist not been hooked up to bags of fluid, neither would have survived that long. Fortunately, both men were young and healthy, and though extremely weak from the days of starvation, they'd survived the capture and experimentation -- though she couldn't understand why they had been singled out for research.

The case was full of unanswered questions and seemingly unexplainable evidence, that issue being only one of them. Analysis of the computer data from the confiscated VR apparatus had revealed that Ellison had been sent into virtual reality almost immediately after the capture and remained there for three days before Sandburg had entered himself. No trace of the other suspects had been found in the underground facility, nor could Jim or Blair remember what they looked like, so the department currently had no leads. The young man who had supposedly freed Blair and helped to connect him to VR had also vanished before the Simon and the others had found them. Strangely, the computers' last record of external adjustment to the program was only four hours after Blair had entered VR. Perhaps the kid freaked out and fled the scene shortly afterwards, Megan reasoned.

In addition, sometime before the rescue, the computers had stopped recording life signs from either man, though the computers had continued to send out sets of stimuli. Technically, they had "died," though the forensics computer specialist had hastened to add that it was obviously computer malfunction. Megan remembered being in their hospital room when Simon had told them of the findings. The men had exchanged looks that neither the Captain nor she could quite interpret, but the partners hadn't volunteered an explanation and Simon had let it slip by.

I suppose no one will ever know what really happened, thought the woman as she returned her attention back to the report form.

*********************

~ Three weeks later ~

The setting sun cast purple-pink shades of coloring on the evening sky as Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg laughed together on a beach in Washington's Olympia National Forest. Strangely familiar large black monoliths stood in the surf, the waves crashing against them. The wet sand felt cool beneath their bare feet as they walked, leaving two pairs of footprints behind them.

While they had convalesced at the hospital, Jim and Blair had both decided to visit the beach, and the two men rented a beach condo for the first few days of their vacation after being discharged from the hospital.

Jim patted Blair on the cheeks as he teased him for the thousandth time about having amnesia. "I think every single one of those travel stories came back to you, Chief. I was afraid that would happen," he chuckled.

"Hey!" Blair protested. "I almost think you'd rather I not rattle on about my adventures with obscure tribes," he said suspiciously, but broke into a grin almost immediately.

Both men paused in their steps, turning to face the surf.

Jim took a deep breath. "It's good to be alive, Chief."

"Yeah," Blair grinned, bouncing on his toes. Impulsively, he grabbed Jim around the waist and hugged him as Jim laughed and returned the squeeze, kissing him on the top of the head, reliving the intense wonderfulness of their previous reunion. As they felt each other's presence and touch, Jim and Blair prolonged their embrace, soaking in the sensations which felt even better in the real world.

"It's getting chilly out here, Chief. What do you say we go back to the condo, start up a fire and make ourselves hot chocolate and popcorn?"

"Sounds good to me. I don't care what anyone says -- virtual food is nowhere near as good as the real stuff."

"I don't know about that, Chief, considering some of the things you eat..."

The two men laughed again as they turned to retrace their steps up the beach.

The elements looked down approvingly at the two men.

The sentinel and shaman-guide had reaffirmed their friendship, accepted their destiny.

They had been given the memory of angels.

~ The End ~

Those fools of little faith will never know
Those higher places ~ two hearts can go
Where time is standing still
And love will burn until
The heaven and the earth
Have come and gone

This fire inside for you
Is constant as the Northern Star
And you will be
Forever in my heart
As long as there's a river
Searching for an endless sea
I will always love you ~ faithfully

~ excerpted from the song Faithfully by Jones and Rose, sung by Peter Cetera ~