Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- In Time and Destiny Series

Summary: Blair gets a peek into the future, into what could be if he cannot accept who he is, and then receives some guidance in the form of an ancient text. Spoilers: based on events in Flight and Warriors.

Third installment of the In Time and Destiny series. And again, any books, talks of shamans, and the like are all from my own imagination and not meant to be factual.

Note: There are many wonderful pieces popping up all over in Sentinel fandom dealing with Blair and his potential shamanistic abilities. I tried very hard to make sure I didn't steal anyone's ideas that I've read. Hopefully, I succeeded. If not, my apologies.

Whispers of Substance
by Becky
February 1998

"No, I'm sorry, Melissa, creative, but essentially incorrect, answers, will not gain you credit," Blair chuckled as he shook his head and put the last red marks on the exam paper before scribbling the final grade on the front page. He tossed the paper onto the stack to his left, smiling. "Finished! Yes!" Leaning back, he stretched and sighed with satisfaction, releasing the tension of his muscles with his exhalation. For a few moments, he sat in the silence of his small, cramped office, hearing beyond his closed door the muffled voices and footsteps of group of students as they made their way to their various early afternoon classes.

Sitting forward again, he pulled over the stack of papers and turned to his computer. Now I just need to post these things and then I'm home free for the rest of the week. Humming softly, he whipped through the papers, typing the grades into the student database. That finished, he straightened the stack of papers and set them in the 'return to student' pile on one corner of his desk. As he did so, his eyes fell on the book he'd been reading somewhat earlier before abandoning it for the relative safety of grading papers.

A Treatise on Shamans.

Blair pulled the book to himself slowly, running his fingers over the top cover, worn with age and dust. He'd only read parts of it now and again, using the excuse of work, both his and Jim's, to keep from reading more. It had been several months since Jim's dream. He laughed once, sharply, shaking his head.

Dream. That's what we still call it. Neither of us want to use the words 'time travel' again. Especially not me. You would think that I would be the one having the easier time with this whole thing. But, no, Jim is.

Shoving the book back again, Blair stood and paced around the office, straightening stuff on the storage shelves and various paper stacks cluttering his office. Absently, he made himself a cup of coffee, then sat on the edge of his desk, back to the book he didn't want to read. He stared down into the hot liquid, seeing his reflection in the dark ripples, watching as it blurred and reformed.

I don't want to do this. I can't be a shaman. I don't know enough. Jim has so much faith in me that I can be a shaman, that I need to be, that I will be, when he needs me to, even if he doesn't understand why yet. All he could tell me was that his spirit guide told him I needed to be a shaman for Jim not to stumble as a Sentinel.

Jim's words from one of the few times Blair had dared to approach the subject echoed in his ears -- 'I don't understand this whole shaman thing anymore than you do, Chief, but whatever you decide to do, I'll back you up 100 percent. Just be careful. And don't rush.'

He snorted and shook his head. Geez, Jim, thanks. Like I can say 'Thanks, but no thanks' after learning that to help you in the future, I have to do this now. There's no choice in this. And if that isn't a major burden, I don't know what is.

Blair made a face and took a few swallows of his coffee, then chuckled softly, murmuring to himself, "Well, at least he's not hovering anymore." He remembered with fond amusement and annoyance the first three weeks after the 'dream' -- Jim hadn't let him go anywhere without him. It had gotten to be a little restrictive. Jim had finally relaxed after awhile, but still had insisted that Blair call him every couple hours to check in. And usually Jim had beaten him to the punch and called first anyway.

However, in the last two weeks, things seemed to be getting back to normal -- or whatever passed as normal for the two of them. At least there hadn't been any visitations from spirits -- good or bad.

Taking a few more swallows of coffee, he turned, looking at the heavy tome on his desk, contemplating reading it. Breathing out heavily, he stood, shaking his head, murmuring, "No, not right now. Soon, but not yet."

Blair set the coffee cup aside, he reached over and flipped on his cd player, hitting the 'play' button. The calming sounds of soft jungle drums and flutes filled the air. He stepped to the most open part of the floor, then settled himself down into a lotus position. Right now, I need to find some peace. I'm way too rattled to concentrate on anything, much less something about shamanistic training. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, concentrating on nothing but the music, the beat, the sway, the harmony, the rhythms of the earth.

Another breath. In and out. In and out. In and out.

In and....

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

....out.

The loud squawk of a bird, the hums of crickets, the chittering of other insects impacted onto Blair's ears with a suddenness that nearly sent him into a panic. His eyes flew open and he leapt to his feet, staring around in shock, amazement, and some fear. Surrounding him were tall jungle trees, lush ferns, huge flowering plants. Spinning in a circle, he swallowed hard, heart thudding against his rib cage, mouth dry.

Where am I? Better yet, how did I get here? And why?

"You are here to find the answer to the calling of your soul, young one."

Biting down on a yelp of fright, Blair whirled to find another man, older than himself by many years, in the small clearing, standing in front of some kind of ceremonial altar. With some part of his mind, the academic part, he noted that the man was dressed as a Chopec shaman, face painted, feathers and other decorations in his hair and on his clothes. He also carried a very tall, very pointed, spear. Forcing himself to stand still, hoping that his eyes didn't show too much fear, Blair shook his head. "I don't understand. Why am I here? Who are you? What's going on?"

The other man shook his head, a small smile curling his lips. "You have many questions. That is a good start."

"A good start to what? I don't --" He paused and blinked, then whispered, "Are you . . . are you Jim's spirit guide?"

"You may call me that."

Blair frowned. That wasn't the answer he had been hoping for. He opened his mouth to ask again, but the older man interrupted, taking a step toward him.

"You are at a turning point, young one. A turning point that you are not ready for. You were given time to learn, time that you chose not to use, time that is nearly at an end. You must choose."

"Choose what?"

"Whether to follow the calling of your soul."

"I don't understand."

Subtle annoyance crossed the older man's face. "Did your Sentinel not tell you? Did he not explain?"

"He said that he was told, that you told him, that I had to become a shaman for him to grow in his Sentinel abilities. But I don't know how, I don't know what to do." He hesitated and swallowed. "I'm scared."

"You can no longer be scared, young one. The Sentinel needs you. His tribe needs you."

"His tribe? You mean Cascade?"

"Yes, the Great City. The good are drawn to the Great City because of the Sentinel, drawn to his protection, his caring. The evil are drawn as well, drawn by the threat to their power, drawn to the challenge of defeating one so powerful. By himself, the Sentinel is strong, yes, but with his Shaman by his side to guide him, he is stronger, more powerful than those who would destroy him."

"I'm already his guide. Can I not just remain as I am?"

"No. You cannot."

"Why?"

The shaman waved his spear in the air, then slammed it hard onto the ground, making that ground roll and shake beneath them. Losing his footing, Blair stumbled and fell back, falling to the jungle floor with a thud. He looked up, staring at the man, realizing abruptly that the man was not only a shaman, he was also a very powerful one. The shaman spoke, his voice echoing into the air.

"You would know why, young one. Here is your answer. Behold." He raised the spear and his free hand to the air, calling out loudly in a language the younger man couldn't understand. A flash of too-brilliant light broke out across the sky. Wincing away in pain from the intensity, Blair ducked his head and covered his eyes.

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

When Blair blinked open his eyes again, he found himself in the hallway outside the loft. He stumbled back, leaning against the wall opposite the door, running a hand over his eyes. "Oh, man, what a dream. Or nightmare maybe."

He pushed away from the wall and reached for the door, shocked to find it opening slowly before him. He hesitated, then reached out a hand and nudged the door fully open, stepping inside cautiously. Stopping only two feet inside, he stared, unable to process what he was seeing. Darkness hung in the loft like a funeral drape. Dust motes slid morosely and uncaring in the dim light struggling through the cracks between the curtains covering the balcony windows. Unwashed dishes were piled in the sink, forgotten or ignored.

Shivering in the cold air, Blair wrapped his arms around his torso and forced himself further inside. He whispered, "What happened here?" He wasn't expecting an answer, but he got one.

"Time. And loss."

Turning, he saw the older shaman standing next to him, grim sadness lining his face. Blair shook his head, disbelieving what he saw. "But how? When?"

"When? This is a possibility. A maybe. It is what could be if you cannot find the strength, the courage, to continue your journey." He pointed at the couch and Blair followed it with his eyes, gasping as he finally saw Jim slouched onto the couch, arms lax at his sides, head leaning into the cushions.

"Jim!" He tried to go forward, but the shaman stopped him, grabbing his arm with an unexpected strength.

"He cannot see or hear us. This is not your time. You cannot help him here. You are no longer here to help him."

Blair tore his eyes away from Jim. "What? What do you mean? Am I . . . dead?"

"Yes."

Blair paled, eyes darting to Jim, then back at the shaman. "How?"

"The Sentinel can only hold back the darkness for a time. Even now, your Sentinel guards you, unknowing of what he is doing. But soon he will grow weary and falter, unable to stand alone in his battle. And then the darkness will defeat him, destroying first what it is, who it is, he protects, and then him."

"I thought Jim was supposed to guard, well, me, I guess."

"Yes. The Sentinel protects and guards, but only long enough for the young shaman-to-be to accept what is given. To begin the process of learning. Then, together, they can push back the darkness, the evil that would destroy. The Sentinel is not meant to carry this burden alone. The Shaman must aid him."

"But how? How do I do that? I haven't even been awake the two times it's happened. It's always been Jim."

"By your belief in the Sentinel, by your acceptance of your gifts, by your knowledge, you may withstand any storm, if you have the courage."

A crackle of low thunder -- inside the room -- jerked Blair's attention back to Jim. A cloud of darkness arose from the empty and dead wood stove and approached Jim. Jim's eyes opened and stared at the cloud, acknowledging it, but not moving. Blair found himself terrified by the lack of warmth, of personhood, of reality, in those eyes. It was as if his soul had been sucked out, taken away, destroyed. Then a single tear rolled down Jim's cheek and he spoke, his voice cracked, low, and eerily calm.

"You've already taken what mattered to me most. Nothing you can do can harm me now. Without my guide, the Sentinel can no longer be. It's all over. Everything is over."

The black cloud moved toward Jim and again, Blair tried to go to him, tried to reach him. "No! Jim!"

The shaman refused to release him. "It's too late, young one."

"It can't be too late. This is Jim we're talking about. He doesn't give up. He never gives up."

"His guide was lost to him even as he tried to save him. His soul died in that instant. He no longer cares."

"I won't accept that. I can't accept that." He jerked away and ran in front of Jim, standing in front of the black could, facing it. "You cannot take him. He is a Sentinel. He has to be here, to stay here. He is needed here."

A low, gravelly, thunderous voice answered him. "You have no place here. And no power to stop us." The black cloud moved straight through him and onto Jim, covering him, absorbing him, even as Blair watched, unable to move, unable to prevent it. He turned tear-filled eyes to the shaman.

"What must I do?"

"Listen to your soul. Listen to the truth. Let that knowledge which has been hidden inside you come forth. And know what must be, must be."

Blair took a breath, and whispered, "The truth." He stared at the now-empty couch, where his friend and Sentinel was no longer. "The calling is answered. And the truth is yes."

The shaman nodded and waved his hand in the air. Light flashed and Blair only closed his eyes, refusing to flinch.

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

Opening his eyes and finding himself once again in the jungle, Blair looked at the shaman, standing only a few feet away. He felt a peace unlike that he'd ever felt before. He asked softly, "And now? Now what?" He paused and laughed nervously. "I mean, it's not like there's a 'You too can be a Shaman' class at the University."

The shaman reached out a hand and laid it on Blair's chest, over his heart. "Listen and let the knowledge already within you guide you. And remember that you are not the first to confront the evil that lurks beyond men's sight." Then he lifted his hand to Blair's head, gently closing Blair's eyes. "Go now, young one. But be warned, the path of knowledge is dangerous. As much as it leads to the light, it can also open the door to darkness if one is not prepared."

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

With a heavy indrawn breath, Blair jerked back to himself, his eyes flying open. He looked around, breathing hard, eyes blinking rapidly. Oh, man! In my office. I'm safe. It's okay, just calm down, Sandburg! The ringing of his cellphone got his attention, making him realize that it had been ringing since he opened his eyes and probably before. Probably Jim. He uncurled himself from off the ground and limped with half-asleep legs over to his desk. He dug into his backpack and yanked out the phone, flipping it open in one move as he slouched down into his desk chair.

"Blair Sandburg."

"Chief! Are you okay? You took way too long to answer."

He raked a hand through his hair. "Oh, hey, Jim, sorry. I was meditating. Fairly deep. Took awhile for the ringing to register. What's up?"

"Are you sure you're all right? You sound ... winded."

Rolling his eyes, he sighed. "Yes, Jim, I'm fine. Really. I was trying to find the phone in a rush, wanting to answer it. I figured it was you and I knew if I didn't answer, you'd send out a SWAT team or something to find me."

"Hmm. Well, considering the kind of trouble you can get into, it's usually a safe bet."

"Whatever. Did you call for a reason? Or just to generally harass me?"

Jim's laughter rang through the phone, a bright and wonderful alternative to the recent disturbing images of Jim imprinted onto Blair's mind. "General harassment might be one reason, but actually, Simon wondered if you could come down to the station and take a look at something for us."

"New case?"

"Not exactly. I'll explain more when you get here. That is, if you can come."

"Yep. Finished the grading and I am free for the rest of the week. I'll be there as soon as I can. Just let me gather my stuff."

"Great. We'll see you in a few, Sandburg."

"Okay, Jim." Blair clicked off the phone and stuffed it back into his backpack. After shutting down his computer, he pulled over the thick book about shamans, rubbed his fingers over the cover again, murmuring to himself, "'Listen and let the knowledge already within you guide you.' Well, my knowledge says I need to read this book. So that is what I'll do." Lifting his backpack onto the desk, he slid the heavy tome inside, then zipped up the pack and settled onto one shoulder with a grunt. "Man, this thing weighs a ton. I sure hope it's worth it."

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

Blair took three steps into the Major Crimes bullpen and then stopped, looking around in confusion. Where is everyone?

"Hey, Chief."

Glancing across the bullpen, he saw Jim gesturing to him from the open doorway of Simon's office. Shifting his heavy backpack, he jogged over to his partner. "Hey, Jim, where's everyone else?"

Jim moved aside to let Blair enter the office. "Lunch. It's a slow day."

Simon stood at the conference table, lighting up a new cigar. "Afternoon, Sandburg."

"Simon. I hear you had something for me to look at."

The captain nodded to the small, flat metal case on the table. "Yeah. Brown found this during one of the sweeps he's been doing for the case he and Rafe are on."

Blair eyed the rusty case, running a finger along the edges of the lid. "The smuggling case?"

"That one. Thought maybe you could tell us more about it before we decide what to do with it."

Nodding in acknowledgment, Blair opened the case, laying the lid back. And then he stopped and stared. His mouth fell open in surprise. "Oh my --" He let his backpack slide from his shoulder without thought.

Moving quickly, Jim caught it just before it hit the floor, hefting it into a chair with a grunt. "What have you got in here, Chief, bricks?"

Either not hearing Jim's playful question or too preoccupied to care, Blair didn't answer, just continued to stare into the flat case on the table before him. His voice was low and reverent as one of his hands hovered in the air. "Do you know what this is? Do you have any idea what you've got here? This, this, oh, man, I can't even begin to...." His words trailed off.

Jim touched Blair's shoulder. "Blair?"

Shaking himself back to reality a little, Blair shot a reassuring half-smile to his partner, then looked up at Simon. "You say Brown found this? Was it inside this thing? Or was it somewhere else?"

Simon glanced at Jim, then answered, "He didn't say, but I assume it was inside this, at least considering the condition of the case itself. Why? It's just a book, isn't it? An old book, but still a book."

Blair reached inside the case and picked up the book, roughly the size of a regular hardback. He shook his head as he placed the book on the table top. "It's an ancient book, Simon. A very ancient book. And it's not just a book, either. It's a book of learning, of knowledge."

Jim stepped closer, looking down at the cover, squinting at the faded cover. "How do you know that? There's nothing written on the front, like a title or something."

Blair stroked down the cover, running a finger over a large symbol. "This. It's an ancient glyph for a book of knowledge. I just came across it recently when I was doing some research for my thesis."

Jim frowned, but didn't say anything. Simon did, however, pulling his cigar out to clarify. "Your thesis work? You mean about Sentinels."

Blair nodded absently. "Yeah. I found it mentioned in a book I'm reading. Actually, that book is in my pack." He turned and snagged his pack, dragging the book out and dropping it with a heavy thud on the table.

Simon's eyes widened as he read the title. "You're reading that? A Treatise on Shamans? What does that have to do with Sentinels?"

Blair hesitated and exchanged a look with Jim before answering. "More than you'd think, Simon."

Simon looked back and forth at the two of them, then raised a hand. "Never mind, somehow I get the feeling I don't want to know. What can you tell me about this book?"

Blair flipped through pages of his book rapidly before coming to a drawing of the symbol on the ancient text. "Here. I was right."

Simon nodded. "Fine. And what does this book teach? Can you tell?"

Cautiously, Blair opened the cover of the ancient book. Beside him, he heard Jim choke slightly as the scent of mildew wafted up from yellowed, crackling pages. He glanced up at Jim, concerned, but Jim waved him off. "No, I got it under control, I'm fine. Go on." With a nod, Blair turned back to the book and let his eyes skim the pages of nearly illegible text.

He heard Simon mutter. "Looks like so much garbage to me. Not any kind of language I've ever seen."

Jim's reply echoed in his ears. "Same here."

Blair blinked and stared at the text, then swallowed hard. I can read this! His heart skipped a beat. Why? I've never even seen this kind of writing before. Is this . . . is this maybe the knowledge Jim's spirit guide was talking about? Feeling giddy with this sudden ability to read ancient glyphs, he leaned forward, resting his weight against the table, inadvertently flattening the palm of his hand on the page of text.

A flash of light, then of dark, exploded in front of him. Oh, man, now what? Again he heard Jim and Simon's voices, coming from so far away it seemed.

"Blair!"

"What the hell . . . ?!?"

What's happening? I feel so tired, so weak. He struggled to keep his eyes open, feeling lethargy creeping up his limbs. Oh, no, the book, I should have realized . . .

<<The path of knowledge is dangerous. As much as it leads to the light, it can also open the door to darkness if one is not prepared.>>

Blair vaguely realized that Jim was holding him tightly to his side. A low thundering noise along with an equally low feline growl caught his attention. And then he heard Jim's fierce whispers against the side of his head.

"No, not again. No, you can't have him."

The old shaman's voice rang in his memory. <<The Sentinel can only hold back the darkness for a time. Even now, your Sentinel guards you, unknowing of what he is doing. But soon he will grow weary and falter, unable to stand alone in his battle. And then the darkness will defeat him, destroying first what it is, who it is, he protects, and then him.>>

NO!! I won't let that happen. Blair fought against the stupor that held him in its greedy hands. Come on, wake up, Sandburg! Jim needs you! Wake up!

The last thing he heard was Simon shouting to Jim and then he fell, Jim falling with him, down, down, down....

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

Jerking awake and forcing his eyes wide, Blair found himself in the jungle again. But this time it was dark and eerily silent. Way too silent for my tastes. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he spotted Jim's figure some distance ahead of him. And beyond Jim, he saw . . . No, it can't be, not here. I thought this was safe here. This is where the spirit guide always talks to us. He glanced around, wondering where the spirit guide was. Wait, wait, wait, where's the altar? This isn't the same place. It's almost like a, a negative. And then he heard something that told him that he and Jim were not alone.

Approaching them both was the cloud of darkness, of evil, writhing, twisting. Only Jim stood between that cloud and Blair. A pool of light formed around Jim, showing Blair that he was dressed in camouflage clothing, war paint streaks across his face and arms, and that he was carrying a crossbow primed and aimed at the approaching danger. He appeared much as he did during the time they rescued Simon and Daryl in Peru.

He's a Sentinel. Is this how he sees himself in that terminology? Or is it how I see him? Or maybe a little of both? And me, how do I see myself?

Blair looked down at himself. He still appeared like he did when he got dressed this morning. Jeans, T-shirt, plaid overshirt, tennis shoes. Well, this is certainly a letdown.

Jim's voice rang out loudly. "You cannot have him. He is my Guide."

The rolling ball of oily darkness didn't stop, just continued to come. Low, evil laughter arose, echoing. "You cannot hold us back forever, Sentinel. The shaman is not ready, is not prepared. He is ours. You cannot stop us. You will be defeated. And then we will have you both."

More words floated back to him. <<By himself, the Sentinel is strong, yes, but with his Shaman by his side to guide him, he is stronger, more powerful than those who would destroy him.>>

Taking a deep breath, Blair stepped forward, standing next to Jim. He laid a hand on Jim's shoulder and stared into the evil. "No. You will have neither of us. We are together in this."

"You have no power, shaman, you are young and unknowledged. How can you think to stop us?"

"I have accepted my gifts and I do have knowledge. And I believe in Jim, my Sentinel."

The darkness halted several feet away, straining to move forward, sending tendrils out, only to be snatched back upon reaching some kind of barrier guarding he and Jim. Blair swallowed hard, hoping that his fear wasn't evident on his face. He gripped Jim's shoulder tighter, both drawing and giving strength in the touch. Jim shifted his grip on the crossbow slightly, not letting the sight of the crossbow drop. He raised one hand to briefly rest on Blair's, confirming that Blair should stand next to him.

Blair felt a ripple across his body and he looked down -- and found himself dressed as he believed a Chopec shaman would be. Ceremonial paint, feathers, and all. He smiled and straightened.

Jim called out, "Go back."

Blair echoed that call. "Go back."

A third voice, the challenging roar of a panther, joined them in sending the evil away. The angry yell of the darkness deafened the two men as it vanished. "This is not over!"

And with a boom of thunder and crash of lightening, the world faded from view.

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

"Blair! Blair! Come on, buddy, open your eyes for me, please?"

Trying and failing to do so, Blair moaned out, "Trying. Can't. Jim?"

A hand touched his forehead, pushing away his bangs. "Yeah, it's me. Are you okay?"

Another voice intruded before he could answer, Simon, and not sounding terribly pleased. "Just what in hell was that? What is going on?"

Jim replied, "In a minute, Simon, let me make sure Sandburg's okay first."

Blair finally managed to open his eyes and found himself looking up at the far corner of Simon's office, well, at least part of it. The other part of his vision was taken up by Jim's shoulder since he was currently half-cradled in Jim's lap. Haven't I done this before sometime? He took quick stock of his body and discovered, much to his amazement, that nothing seemed to be hurting, aside of a slight headache. Jim's face came back into view, his light blue eyes wide and concerned.

"Blair, are you okay?"

He nodded. "Yeah, yeah, I think so. Help me up."

"I don't think --"

"Just to a chair, please, Jim. This isn't the most dignified position from which to explain things to Simon."

Jim chuckled and got to his feet, pulling Blair up along with him. "No, I guess not."

Blair fell gratefully into a chair, head still spinning a little from everything he'd seen and done today. Man, talk about your full days. I think I had enough happen today to cover a week, maybe more. He shoved loose hair back from his face. "Could I maybe get some ..."

A mug slid across the table to him. He smiled at Simon. "... coffee. Thanks, Simon."

Simon grunted. "Don't be too thankful, that's from the machine down the hall. But you're welcome anyway. You sure you're okay, Sandburg?" Blair nodded, taking several large swallows of the thankfully hot, wonderfully caffeinated beverage. Simon shifted his gaze to Jim. "And you? Are you okay, Jim?"

Jim nodded as well, most of his attention still on Blair. "Yes, sir."

Simon sat down in a chair, folding his hands in front of him. "Good. Then maybe one of you can tell me what the hell just happened."

Jim and Blair exchanged looks, then Blair asked, "First, um, can either of you tell me what physically happened here? I was, uh, a little out of it, I guess."

Simon snorted. "Out of it. Sandburg, you had me thinking you were falling into a coma again."

Jim threw Simon a look, then turned back to Blair. "You were looking at the book one moment, and falling to the ground the next. I thought maybe you were tired or dizzy or something. But then the lights flickered and went out for a few seconds. Then there was this thunderclap and you totally collapsed. And then I, well, then I fuzzed out as well."

Simon took up the tale. "Jim started muttering something about someone couldn't have you. Then you started saying 'no'. The lights flickered off and on again, just in my office, mind you. And my coffee pot shattered. Moments later, Jim woke up, then you started coming around a little while later."

Blair nodded, sipping at the coffee. No matter it was from the machine. He needed the caffeine. Especially if we're gonna tell Simon what's going on. But I think we'll skip the time travel. And maybe the panther too. He already thinks we're too out there. No need to get him more freaked.

Setting the mug aside, Blair gestured to the ancient book in the middle of the table. "You were asking about the book. You said neither of you could understand anything in it. Correct?"

As both men nodded, Blair reached for it, drawing it closer to him again. Jim protested, moving his longer arm out to shove the book away. "Chief . . ."

Blair touched Jim's arm, a smile on his face. "No, Jim, it's okay. It can't hurt me anymore. I know what it is now."

Interrupting, Simon asked impatiently. "And what would that be?"

Blair smoothed the front page. "It's a book of training for shamans. One of the oldest and last ever written in more primitive cultures. Most shamanistic training was passed down by word of mouth, most of it still is. But occasionally, there will be a tribe that leans more toward the educational side of things and writes things down, most times in a code that only their tribe understands, sometimes in a code endemic only to the shamans of that tribe."

Simon frowned. "So you're saying this book is a training manual?"

"Of sorts. If this was picked up in a smuggling raid, then someone in Cascade is trying to become a shaman. I don't know how they got their hands on this book, but if they got it this far, they are very determined. This isn't just any 'training manual', it's one for the only the most powerful of shaman. And depending on what kind of person was trying to get this book, it could be either good or bad. This book is about gaining knowledge and power in shamanistic abilities. But it doesn't define what that power is to be used for. Not something to be trifled with or go after just to put in a collection on some dusty shelf somewhere."

The police captain nodded. "Okay, and how does this relate to what just happened here?"

Blair looked at Jim, who nodded and spoke. "Incacha was the Chopec shaman; he was also the man who guided me, who helped me during the time I was the Sentinel for their tribe in Peru. He did then much of what Blair does now. When Incacha died, he passed on the way of the shaman to Blair. Blair has always been my guide, but now he is to be a shaman as well."

At first, silence was their only response. Silence and Simon's inscrutable poker face. Finally, he spoke. "And? There's more. There's always more with you two. Spill it."

Jim shifted in his chair once. Blair could almost see him mentally sorting through what he should tell Simon and how he should tell it. He said slowly, "There are ... forces out there that would like for Blair to fail in his destiny of becoming a shaman. Forces that realize that without him, my Sentinel abilities aren't worth squat. I can't keep control of my senses as they grow stronger without his help, his knowledge. I've, we've, been told that unless Blair goes forward and becomes a shaman, then I'll lose my abilities anyway."

Blair withheld a shudder as the image of Jim, lost and giving up everything, came back to him full force. Never! It will never come to that! Jim went on, thankfully oblivious of Blair's reaction. "And what you just saw was a, uh, confrontation between us and those forces. They've happened before. This whole thing started when Blair fell into that coma a few months back. Something about my being a Sentinel protects Blair. I don't understand it much, but I've accepted it."

Simon grunted, shaking his head. "I don't know whether to believe you or send you both away on a long vacation. A very long vacation." He paused and looked back at his broken coffeepot, the hot liquid still dripping onto the floor. Turning back to the two partners, he continued. "However, in light of what just happened, what I've seen, I think I'll have to believe you. This is a little wild, even for you two, but somehow it doesn't surprise me as much as it probably should. I've come to expect the unexpected from you two."

Blair sighed out in relief, his face lighting up with a smile even as his eyes kept straying to the ancient text in front of him. Jim smiled as well, nodding at Simon. "Thank you, sir."

"Don't thank me, just buy me a new coffee pot. You don't want to see me having to drink this machine stuff for very long. It's not a pretty sight."

Jim chuckled. "No, sir, that is not something I want to see. A new one will be on your desk by tomorrow morning."

"Good. Just so we're clear about that." He eyed Blair who was flipping through the yellowed pages of the book carefully, making faces at things he understood. To Jim, he asked, "And what do we do about him? And the book? I have a feeling he's not gonna want to part with it."

Frowning, Jim agreed. "I know. Something was different about this time. Usually I remember what happened during these little confrontations. But not this time. I mean, I remember images, sounds, but not in any order. I think, I think he was more in control this time. And I think he knows what happened. Something's changed." He fell silent, joining Simon as they continued to stare at Blair as he scanned text neither one of them could read.

After a full minute, Blair looked up and bit down on a yelp as he caught Jim and Simon watching him very intently. Blinking, he smiled. "Um, hi, sorry about that. Got distracted. It's actually a very interesting book, what I can understand of it, that is. I, uh, suppose you'd like your office back, Simon, er, Captain."

Grinning, Simon nodded. "That I would. Lunch is almost over and the others should be drifting in soon."

Blair took a breath and stood, gathering up his own book and shoving it into his pack. With one last longing look at the ancient text, he closed the cover, pushing it toward Simon. "Here, you'll need to put this somewhere safe."

Simon chewed on his cigar for a few moments, then pushed the book back at Blair. "I can think of no safer place than with someone who knows what the book is about. Just please be careful with it."

The younger man stared at him, surprise written liberally across his features. Jim laughed with Simon as they both stood up. Jim went about safely tucking the book back into its protective metal case before handing it to Blair. Blair took it gently. "I, I, I don't, you shouldn't, I...."

Simon laughed harder. "Sandburg lost for words. Where's my calendar?"

Blair breathed out in a rush, his eyes twinkling and his cheeks reddening in pleased embarrassment. "Thank you, Simon. I will be very careful with it, I promise." He hurried out of the office, heading for Jim's desk.

The two older men watched him go, then Simon turned to Jim, placing a hand on Jim's shoulder. "You both be careful. I don't want to lose either one of you."

Jim met Simon's eyes and nodded. "We will be, Simon. Thank you." Simon nodded, then retreated back into his office. Jim strolled across the bullpen casually, smiling in greeting as the other detectives arrived back from lunch. Most stopped to say hello to Blair as they passed Jim's desk. Blair answered in kind, usually exchanging more than hellos, asking how their day had been, or sometimes things more specific to each detective.

Waiting until he and Blair were alone by the desk, Jim finally turned to Blair, who had taken over the desk chair quite happily. Blair looked up at him, an eyebrow raised. "Something wrong, Jim?"

Jim settled onto the edge of the desk, his back to the rest of the bullpen, as he answered softly. "No, not exactly. I was just curious what changed your mind about this whole shaman thing. You seem a lot more at ease now than you did this morning. Something happened, didn't it?"

Blair nodded, his eyes unfocusing for a moment as he stared across the bullpen. "Yeah." Blinking, he refocused and smiled up at Jim. "But I don't think we want to be discussing it here."

"No. I think not. I have a feeling that Simon's had enough of our 'wildness' for awhile. But later, preferably tonight...."

"Yeah."

Jim paused, then reached out to grasp Blair's shoulder, gripping it warmly for a moment, dropping his voice another notch. "But everything's all right, correct?"

Blair laid his hand on Jim's, letting his eyes and his smile speak more than his words ever could. "Yeah, Jim. Everything's all right."

- The End -

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