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

Summary: Simon probes further into the mystical events surrounding Jim and Blair as the two men describe what happened in their "world" during the warehouse confrontation and what Jim thinks will happen next. Spoilers: based on events in Flight and Warriors, plus one element from Sentinel Too.

Sixth 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.

And the Walls Fell
by Becky
July 1998

"....And that's everything I saw. Every last unbelievable second of it."

Story finished, Simon gulped down the rest of the lukewarm coffee, thinking he should've asked Jim for something stronger before he'd started talking...how long ago? He glanced at his watch and sighed. Two hours. Two hours of talking about something that belongs in a sci-fi novel as the nonstop researcher over there pulled details out of me that I barely remember noticing. Leaning forward, he put his empty mug on the coffee table, then relaxed back against the cushions. He met Jim's amused eyes over the curly-topped head currently bent over a notebook, a pen flying across the lined pages.

<<scratch scratch scratch>>

The pen stopped for a moment as the writer paused to yawn, then it was back to the page, focused on his work. Simon chuckled softly at the intent seriousness and enthusiasm of Jim's partner. He's exhausted and still he keeps going like there's no tomorrow. He looked over at Jim again, raising an eyebrow. "Doesn't he know when to stop?"

Smiling tolerantly, Jim shook his head. "Nope. Have I told you that he sets his alarm to remember to stop studying and go to bed sometimes?"

Simon sighed dramatically. "Ah, youth, I remember those days. Being able to stay up all night and not feel it in the morning."

Jim laughed, then returned his attention to Blair, seated next to him. The younger man finished writing with a flourish, dotting one last letter, then straightened up in his seat, flexing his right hand to relieve the cramping of his fingers. After Blair placed the notebook and pen on the table, bright blue eyes from behind wire-rimmed glasses met Simon's brown eyes. He may be exhausted, but I have a feeling he's not ready to sleep yet. Just my luck.

Blair grinned, shifting on the couch. "This is.... I don't know what to call it, Simon. Cool doesn't seem to fit. It's beyond that. Jim and I experiencing stuff is one thing, but you being able to see it, even without sound....oh, man, I'll be writing about this for days, weeks probably. I wonder if that book has anything to say about it." He made a move to get up, but Jim locked a hand onto his arm and refused to let him off the couch.

"Uh-uh, not tonight, Chief. You're tired. I'm tired. Simon's tired. No more heavy stuff tonight. We're all just gonna sit here and relax for a bit, okay? That isn't gonna happen with that book out here."

"But Jim --"

Jim lifted a finger. "The book's not going anywhere, Sandburg. It can wait until tomorrow."

Blair didn't say anything for a moment, then nodded in agreement. "Okay, okay, tomorrow. But I'm not really that..." he broke off to yawn, then finished sheepishly, "...tired."

Jim released his arm with a pat while Simon rolled his eyes. Jim smiled, reaching up to slap playfully at Blair's cheek. "Sure, Sandburg, whatever you say."

"Okay, maybe I am a little tired." He paused a moment to take off his glasses and lay them on his notebook, then added, "And come to think of it, I think I'm a little hungry as well." His stomach growled audibly in disagreement of that estimation. "Make that a lot hungry."

"There's chili --" Jim motioned toward the kitchen, intending to get up, but Blair had already bounced off the couch and into the kitchen. The two other men exchanged a look, chuckling softly as Jim finished, "-- on the stove. You'll have to warm it up though."

Pulling his eyes away from the live entertainment puttering around in the kitchen, Simon turned his attention back to Jim. He folded his hands in his lap, asking quietly, "So, do I get to hear your and Sandburg's version of events of what happened back there?"

Jim raised an eyebrow. "I wouldn't think you'd want to hear any more about this."

Simon shifted on the couch, looking for the right words. Finding them, he said slowly, "I'll grant at times I still think this is all some crazy, convoluted dream I'm having, but ..." He paused, shrugging. "But it's not. I knew that when I asked you and Blair to tell me what was going on between the two of you." He grinned, then shook his head ruefully. "I can't believe that was only this morning."

"Tell me about it." Jim chuckled. He stretched his arms out behind him, glancing briefly over at Blair in the kitchen when the microwave started up. Blair met his eyes for a second, lifting an eyebrow at the searching look in Jim's eyes. Grinning slightly, Jim looked back at Simon. "I always thought my life was strange enough after my senses came back and I got some oddball anthropology student as a partner. Never thought it could get any weirder than that."

"Hey! I resemble that remark!"

"You sure do, Chief."

Simon laughed, shaking his head, watching Jim's eyes crinkle in amusement even as Blair rolled his own eyes, throwing his hands to the ceiling in mock disgust. The captain could hear the vague murmurs about cops and roommates in general when the student turned back to the microwave. It's good to see them so relaxed after what happened out there. A little surprising, but still good. He noticed that Jim's eyes remained on Blair even when the younger man had his back to them. Watching carefully, Simon saw the amusement fade back, eyes becoming soft with affection and some concern. Jim isn't as carefree as he wants to appear. That much you should've known, Banks. When is Ellison ever not worrying about Sandburg? Especially during this whole thing.

Jim looked back to him, smiling slightly in recognition of Simon's observation. Simon nodded back at him, then cleared his throat, sitting forward to pick up for his empty coffee mug. "I could use some more coffee. You still got some around, Jim? Hot maybe?"

Blair answered before either of them could. "Yeah, there's more, Simon. Here, let me --" He appeared behind Simon, reaching for the mug in Simon's hand.

Jim stood up and grabbed Blair's arm, steering him instead toward the table and shoving him into a chair. "You need to eat."

"But --"

"But nothing. You're about a half-hour away from crashing and I don't want to hear you up at three in the morning raiding the fridge because you didn't get around to eating. Sit!"

Blair sat.

Jim nodded in satisfaction and strode over to the kitchen, gathering up Blair's now-heated bowl of chili, plus utensils. Simon chuckled at the exchange, getting up to refill his own coffee mug, detouring around Jim as he returned to the table. As he poured the coffee into the mug, Simon leaned against the counter, most of his attention on the tall detective and his partner. One concerned and a little pushy, the other frazzled around the edges and a touch rebellious to Jim's 'mothering'. Or maybe I should say 'fathering'? 'Big brother-ing'? Whatever.

Jim leaned down slightly toward Blair, obscuring the other man's face, whispering something too low for Simon to hear. One hand rested on Blair's shoulder, fingers tightening gently. When he pulled back, Blair's eyes had softened with understanding and a small embarrassed smile lit his face. He nodded once, reaching up to touch Jim's hand where it rested on his shoulder, then turned his attention to his food.

Moving away from Blair, Jim turned and found Simon watching them. He lifted an eyebrow and Simon just smiled in response. Like he needs me to say anything to know what I think about that whole scene. What I think is written all over my face. A moment later, Jim grinned and rolled his eyes. Yep.

Simon shoved away from the counter and strolled back to the couch, relaxing back into the cushions he'd so recently left. Sipping at his coffee, he waited until Jim settled himself on the opposite couch before asking the question uppermost in his mind.

"While we wait for Sandburg to eat, I want to ask you something, Jim. You told me earlier that the panther is supposed to be your spirit guide." He paused, looking over at Jim. "What about that wolf howl I heard? Neither of you seemed to expect it. The panther, yes, but not the wolf."

Jim didn't say anything for a long moment, glancing back at Blair who stilled for a moment before continuing to eat, his movements a little slower. Looking at Simon again, Jim shook his head. "We haven't really talked about it yet, other than to clarify what we both heard. Neither of us saw either animal, but they were definitely around. We felt, well, I guess you could call it a presence. Or something like that." He ran both hands over his face, laughing ruefully. "I'm probably not making a whole lot of sense, am I?"

Simon smiled. "For you, it's sense enough."

"I'm not sure how I should take that, Simon." Jim chuckled. "Anyway, I figure if the panther is my spirit guide, then the wolf must be ..." He looked over at Blair again, who stared back at him, eyes wide with wonder and a little fear.

The younger man blinked and his mouth fell open. "Mine? You think it's mine? Oh, man, I don't, oh, man, I should've thought of that. Why didn't I?"

Jim shifted on the couch to face his partner, shaking his head gently. "Because you're exhausted, Chief, that's why. And it's just a guess anyway. I could be wrong, you know."

Simon concentrated on his coffee, trying not to feel like he was intruding on some private Sentinel-Shaman moment. I could leave, but I have a feeling Jim doesn't want me to just yet. And I really do want to know what happened back there. I'm already involved in this; I might as well jump in all the way.

Blair swallowed. "No, no, I don't think you are, Jim. It just feels ... right, somehow. I think, oh, man, I don't know what to think."

"Don't worry about thinking right now. Just eat. We'll figure this all out tomorrow after we're rested. Okay?"

Meeting Jim's calm eyes, Blair relaxed and nodded, smiling a little. "Yeah, okay. Thanks."

Jim returned his smile, then shifted back around again. "That's my theory about the wolf."

Simon nodded. "Sounds reasonable to me." He settled back into the cushions a little more, then gestured with one hand. "Okay, now that I have that question answered, maybe you can tell me some of what happened today. At least from your perspective."

Jim hesitated. "You sure, Simon?"

"No, but if I'm going to be any help to the two of you, I need to know everything. So, tell away, starting with the warehouse."

Nodding, Jim closed his eyes a moment, breathing deeply. Centering himself? Definitely too much exposure to Sandburg. Simon watched him, glancing over at Blair, seeing him watching the detective as well.

Jim murmured, "Keep eating, Sandburg." Blair flushed, rolled his eyes, and did so, still keeping one eye on his partner.

A few moments passed, then Jim opened his eyes, took one more deep breath, and began. "I had just finished giving you an update on the situation and was heading to the back of the building, doing a regular sweep for any stragglers. Then you mentioned 'sea winds'...."

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

Days off? What is Simon talking about? Threading his way through and around other officers and various suspects-in-custody, Jim made his way to the back of the warehouse, half-listening to Simon's voice on the other end of the radio connection:

"Yeah, Blair's been telling me about the great sea winds this time of year. Seems like they add to your enjoyment or something."

Even more confused than before, Jim frowned, muttering under his breath, "Sea winds? What--? Oh. Those." Eyes widening, he stopped walking and replied slowly into the headset, trying to force his senses to work through the fragile connection, wishing they would. "Yeah, those seas winds. I, uh, forgot about them. Sandburg still okay with them?"

Simon's reply came quickly, reassurance in his tone. "Yeah, he's okay with them. I think he just wants you to hurry up and finish in there, so the two of you can leave."

Breathing out a sigh of relief, Jim answered back, "Roger that. I'll see what I can do about that. I --" A sudden, loud noise interrupted him and he looked toward the back of the warehouse, quickening his steps to a run as he did so. "What was that?"

Skidding to a stop to one side of an open doorway, Jim edged carefully toward the doorjamb, gun at the ready, extending his senses. Several sets of heartbeats echoed in his ears and he called out. "Cascade PD. Identify yourselves."

Bullets blasting past him was his only answer and he cringed back against the wall, wincing, dialing down his hearing without too much effort. After radioing for backup, Jim got off a few shots into the room in between rounds of gunfire from the inside, still calling out, telling whoever was inside to lay down their weapons. He heard Simon asking what was going on, but Jim couldn't take the time to answer him. A few moments later, Brown and Rafe, plus another officer, appeared at his side. Silently gesturing where each man should be positioned, Jim counted down from three to one, then they moved in.

It was all over rather quickly, the last few suspects surprised and outgunned. Jim cuffed one man, then reached to adjust his headset to inform Simon what had happened.

~~CREAK!! CRACK!!~~

Jim jerked up, hurriedly looking around at the walls surrounding them. The noise was familiar to him, reminiscent of the noise he heard at the horse races last year. But focusing in at the walls, he saw nothing that would indicate the building was about to collapse. He shook his head. I must be imagining things. Too little sleep and too much worry. Again he reached for the headset.

~~CREAK!! CRACK!!~~

It was louder that time. Shoving his prisoner at Brown without much warning, Jim strode outside the room, scanning the walls and inhaling to talk to Simon over the headset, feeling a need to talk to his guide as well.

~~CREAK!! CRACK!!~~

The sound dragged his attention to the west wall of the warehouse and all thoughts of talking to Blair disappeared from his head as he saw the large cracks running up and across the walls, spitting out dust and fragments. Jim swore and moved back to the doorway of the large side room.

"Everybody out! Now! Move, move, move! The west side wall is collapsing. Move it!" He stood at the doorway and counted men, both officers and suspects, as they poured out of the room past him and headed down the hall. He yelled the same directives into the headset, wanting anyone near the west side of the building away from it for safety's sake. Still shouting for people to move and move faster, he started to follow the last man leaving the side room just as the walls began cracking in earnest

<<Sentinel!>>

The familiar voice and shout stopped him in his place. He whirled around, staring at the wall beyond the dust and debris in the air. Brown's voice floated back to him from down the hallway, wondering why he had stopped and urging him to hurry up.

<<Sentinel! Your time has come!>>

He gasped. The voice changed, no longer a voice he welcomed, but one that had threatened his guide and him time and time again. And you've left yourself open by standing here like a fool. Move, Ellison!

But he couldn't move. He could only stand frozen in the spot, mouth hanging open, staring at the dark dust cloud heading his way. Beyond that, the wall fully collapsed, sending fragments shooting out into the air, collapsing nearby walls as well. A rush of heavy wind from the newly opened walls swept past him, sending his unresponsive body stumbling back a few steps. The wind smelled of salt and the sea. And of evil, darkness, and death.

Sea winds. Jim swallowed, forcing out a low whisper. "Oh my --"

A chunk of something roared toward him and at the last second he regained control over his body and dropped to the ground, rolling away toward the furthest wall, raising his arms to cover his head as debris rained around him. Something struck him hard before he could complete the movement. Darkness swirled around him and yanked him in.

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

"And that, as the saying goes, was all she wrote." Jim rubbed his face. "Well, at least for the real world."

Simon lifted an eyebrow. "And the rest? Do you remember the rest?"

Jim nodded. "Yes, I do." He glanced back at Blair for a moment. "So does Sandburg. For the first time, we both remember everything."

"Is that important?"

Shoving the empty bowl away from him, Blair turned in the chair to face the couches more fully, then answered Simon's question. "Yes, it is, Simon. Very important. You could call it a milestone event, if you want. Jim and I, well, we've never both been aware of what was going on in this 'dreamworld' at the same time. Usually it's just one of us who really remembers or is even awake. For Jim and I both to have participated and remembered," he paused, looking over at Jim, "well, it's a momentous thing. A step in the right direction."

"Direction to where though? What is this all leading to?" Simon leaned forward on the couch, setting his coffee mug on the table. "What is the point of all these ... confrontations, I guess you've been calling them?" He watched the other two men, noting the way they stared at each other, again communicating without words, without the need for words.

The silence continued for another long minute. Simon fiddled with his mug, staring at the remnants of liquid at the bottom, waiting for them to decide something. To decide what they should tell me, what they need to tell me. He shook his head in rueful amusement, glancing over at them just as Jim turned back to look at him.

"I think once we tell you what happened today you'll get the answer to that question, or at least part of it."

Simon grimaced. "Somehow that statement fails to make me feel better." He sat back again, waving his hand in the air. "Whenever you're ready, gentlemen." I just hope I'm ready.

After exchanging another quick look at Blair, still seated at the table, Jim took a breath and began the next part of the story.

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

A whisper of movement tickled Jim's face. Reached up lazily to swat it away, his fingers grasped onto a thin, slick surface. Two seconds later, his mind identified the substance as a leaf. A rather large leaf. Nothing like he had in the loft at all and certainly not something he kept in his bedroom. With a sigh, he opened his eyes, intending to call Blair and ask what a new plant was doing upstairs and why it was in his face.

Dark green forest growth met his eyes and he sat up with a start, levering himself to his feet as soon as his head stopped spinning. Jungle everywhere. Dim sunlight streaming in through the trees. Hard-packed earth beneath his feet. The air hung heavy with moisture, only a slight breeze blowing past him. He looked down at himself, abruptly noticing that parts of him felt less clothed than normal. What Blair had referred to more than once as his "jungle wear" greeted him, complete with a long knife and a blowdart gun on his belt.

<<Sentinel.>> The word floated on the air, long and drawn out.

Jim frowned, then cleared his throat, looking around in suspicion. "Where are you? What do you want?"

<<To begin the reckoning. To end your time.>> The words hissed passed him, the breeze slowly growing into a wind. <<Without him, you cannot defeat me. Without him, I will win.>>

"Without who?"

"Me."

The voice came from behind him. Jim spun and found himself looking at Blair. Or at least someone who looked amazingly like Blair wearing clothes he had never seen the younger man have any interest in. Red paint adorned his face and upper arms. His hair was pulled back from his face, held in a ponytail by a short leather tie, the loose ends trailing down his neck. A rough but simple sleeveless tunic covered his chest, with a pair of long loose pants below that led to bare feet. Around his waist hung a thick, heavy-looking belt, a short hunting knife on one side, a medicine pouch on the other.

Jim blinked, mouth hanging open. Finally he remembered how to speak. "Chief?"

Blair smiled, padding over to him through the jungle growth. He grasped Jim's arm, curling his fingers around it warmly. "Yeah, it's me, Jim. Are you all right?"

"What? Me? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. Blair, is that ...? Is that stuff what I think it is?"

Grinning, Blair nodded. "Shaman stuff? Oh, yeah, that it is, paint and all. Cool, isn't it? Just like you're dressed as a Sentinel, well, except for the paint." He reached up and touched Jim's face a moment, tracing a finger across his bare cheek. "We need to fix that." Stretching up his other hand, he copied the same movement on Jim's other cheek.

Jim's eyes widened slightly when he felt the black camouflage paint appearing on his face under Blair's fingers as he traced over his cheeks and forehead. Then Blair's hands traced gently down to his shoulders, touching Jim's upper arms before finally pulling back. Looking down, Jim noted the black paint rings that now circled his arms as well. A few moments passed, then Blair nodded once in approval. "There. Perfect." He paused a moment, then frowned. "Actually, no, it isn't quite perfect yet. You need one more thing to make it right."

Jim watched as his guide -- no, shaman -- reached to one side and picked up a crossbow and quiver of arrows that the Sentinel could have sworn hadn't been there when he'd first woken up. Numbly, Jim let Blair slide the quiver of arrows over his head and settle it on his shoulders, then accepted the crossbow in one hand, noting absently how right it felt.

Staring down at the crossbow, Jim shook his head, then smiled hesitantly, eyeing his friend. "Do I want to know how you did all this?"

Blair blinked. "Uh, well, I'm not really sure how I did it." He stared at his hands, turning them over a few times. "I just ... knew." Swallowing hard, he looked back up at Jim, eyes suddenly wide and unsure.

Jim grasped his shoulder. "Hey, hey, it's okay. Maybe you're just, what did my spirit guide say ... 'using the knowledge already within you'."

Smiling a little, Blair blew out a heavy breath. "Yeah, maybe that's it." His smile grew a little wider. "And don't worry. I won't hurt you, no matter what I do."

"I know. I trust you."

Meeting his Sentinel's eyes, the Shaman laid a hand on Jim's arm, tightening his fingers around the hard muscles. "Just as I trust you."

"How touching. A few last words."

Jim turned quickly at the familiar yet unwelcome voice, instincts telling him to keep Blair behind him. He had the crossbow loaded and pointed at the other man before he realized what was happening. "You are not welcome here."

The other figure, face mostly shrouded in the darkness of the hood of the long cloak he wore, held out his hands. "This is my world, Sentinel. You are the intruders here."

A heavy wind struck, sending branches, leaves, and dirt flying into the air. Jim winced away, ducking his head. Behind him, he felt Blair press closer to his back, one hand curled around Jim's belt to keep his lighter frame anchored next to Jim. The dim sunlight became dimmer, the darkness pressing in around them. Jim forced his head up and stared across from them at the other man.

The long cloak flapped violently in the wind, opening to reveal the costume that Jim would identify with a shaman and a warrior combined. Long knives and medicine pouches on his belt. Thick heavy shoes and simple clothes. A necklace of sharp teeth. Red and black paint encircling his upper arms.

Jim moved his eyes up to the face, but somehow the hood remained on his head, hiding the face of that darkness from him. Jim called out, "Who are you? Show yourself. Or are you too afraid to face us as equals?"

The voice echoed out in sarcastic low tones. "You are not equal to me. I am one. You are two. I am strong. You are weak."

Holding a hand in front of his face to guard against the wind, Blair stepped out from behind Jim, standing next to him. "You are the one who is weak. You are alone. You have no strength to rely upon."

"I have no need of any strength but my own. Dependence is a weakness, little shaman."

Before Jim could stop him, Blair moved away from him, edging closer to the cloaked dark figure. "You will only face us when we are apart or injured. You didn't expect me to be here. You didn't expect us to be here together."

A hand swept through the windy air in a negating arc. "It is of no matter whether you are together or apart. You will die."

Blair stepped closer still. "But you wanted us separate. You are afraid of us."

Lightning streaked across the sky above them. Thunder roared and screamed its anger. Bolts of lightning struck down to touch the jungle floor around Blair. The younger man flinched, paling a little, but stood his ground, whispering again, this time in confirmation. "You are afraid."

The enemy lifted both hands, snapping them out at the young shaman. Jim realized a moment too late what was happening and called out, "Sandburg!"

Energy flew from the outstretched hands, striking Blair in the chest, throwing him hard into a tree across the small clearing. Jim watched in horror as Blair slid down the trunk in a heap. The crossbow dangled from Jim's hand and he took one instinctual step toward his fallen partner, his free hand reaching out to him.

Their foe cackled, but Jim couldn't bring himself to care. He finally managed to tear his eyes away from Blair just as the younger man began to pull himself up, using the tree for balance, the other hand gripping his head.

Jim locked his eyes back onto the dark one and raised the crossbow, pulling back the arrow to prime it, steadying his slightly wavering hands. A growl rose from somewhere in the back of his throat and he let it out. "You harmed my partner, my guide, my shaman. I am his Sentinel and I will not allow that to happen again." Slowly he began to walk toward their enemy, forcing him back.

The enemy seemed suddenly uncertain and he moved back a few steps, letting Jim near Blair who walked carefully over to stand next to Jim. A soft glow of brightness followed him, enveloping Jim in its glow as Blair touched his arm. But then their foe stopped, cloak still whipping in the wind as the brightness spread out from the Sentinel and Shaman, touching the shadows covering the other's face. The darkness receded a bit, letting them see the lower half of his face.

He sneered, lips curling up into a snarl. "You cannot defeat me, even together you are weaker than I alone. Mere mortal weapons will not kill me. You should know that."

Jim tightened his grip on the crossbow, unwilling to let any doubt enter his mind. Blair shot back in a defiant tone, his voice rising over the fury of the unnatural storm, "We are not mere mortals. We are a Sentinel and Shaman."

"You are two, divided in purpose and destiny."

Blair shook his head. Jim smiled. They shared a quick look, then turned their attention back to the enemy. Blair whispered as they took a step together toward him, Blair shifting a little to stand in front of Jim. "We have but one destiny between us." Together they took another step, forcing the enemy back again with the surety of their movements. "We are united."

With a roar of anger, the enemy raised his hands, both hands glowing and pulsing with a dark heavy glow. Jim paused, shaking his head, the crossbow sinking. Blair stared at the dark light, oddly entranced, both attracted and repelled by it. He felt Jim's confusion behind him as the older man stepped back, moving out of his space. The coldness of the separation hit him like a bucket of water and he stopped, shaking his head, trying to clear it, trying to refocus his mind on what he needed to do. If he could just...

Jim's presence reappeared at his back, a strong silent force of protection and support. Blair straightened and raised a hand toward the enemy, palm facing outward, mentally reciting in his head what he was doing, then discarding all memory of the book and its teaching, instead relying on instinct. Jim's hand rested on his shoulder, tightening briefly.

Taking a deep fortifying breath, Blair murmured, "Darkness be gone."

Bright white spilled forth from his palm, radiating outward, pushing back the dark glow coming at them. He heard Jim inhale sharply, then reaffirm his stance behind Blair, his hand never moving from its grip on his shoulder.

Gusts of wind and opposite light and darkness swirled around all three men, buffeting them. But all three held firm. Lines of strain appeared on Blair's face and his hand began to shake with the effort of keeping the firm stance. He bit his lip, concentrating harder, only a small whimper of pain emitting from his throat. But Jim heard and his hand tightened on Blair's shoulder, then he moved closer, more fully supporting the young shaman's body, sheltering him from some of the greater winds. Mentally thanking his friend, Blair took another deep breath and straightened slightly, his lips firming in a line. He thrust his hand out harder, with more energy, sending the winds higher, making the light brighter.

The enemy shrunk back with a cry of terror, hands turning inward, protecting himself from the light and wind. His own dark glow vanished and the light grew.

Blair whispered, knowing that their foe would hear him, even over the wind and storm. "Go back. You are not wanted here." Jim echoed his words in his strong voice.

The roar of the panther joined their voices, echoing across the landscape. A moment later, a wolf howled loud and long in the distance. Blair's eyes widened and he felt Jim's fingers tighten in reaction and knew he wondered as well what a wolf had to do with Peru.

Just as white brightness was about to totally envelope him, their enemy screamed his anger to the heavens. "This isn't over! I will not be defeated! I will have what is rightfully mine!"

Darkness swirled at the center of the light even as that light intensified further and further, until ... everything whited out in a flash of brightness.

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

"Then ... then I woke up leaning against your car, Simon." Blair finished the story, still seated at the table, fiddling with his coffee mug, turning it around in circles on the table.

"And I woke up to find the paramedics strapping me on the blasted gurney, refusing to listen to me tell them I was okay," Jim muttered, shaking his head in disgust.

Simon rolled his eyes. "Jim, you'd just nearly had a half a building fall on you. You were unconscious. What did you expect them to do? Throw a blanket over you and tell you to have a nice nap? They were just doing their job."

Jim waved a hand. "Yeah, I know, I know. I just don't like ..."

"... hospitals, yes, Jim, I know that. We all know that." Simon looked at Blair, who grinned in agreement with the captain's statement as he stood up from the table to take his dishes in the sink. Simon turned his attention back to Jim, leaning forward slightly. "So, to answer my question, where is this all going, Jim? What are we facing here?"

Jim looked at him, blinking. "We, sir?"

Simon nodded. "Yes, we. What? Do you actually think I'm gonna let you and Sandburg head into this mess by yourselves? Sentinel and Shaman stuff notwithstanding? Setting aside the fact that I'm your captain, I'm also your friend, Jim. Sandburg's too, even if we do argue a lot of the time."

Raising both hands in defeat, Jim chuckled. "Okay, okay. We it is. What are we facing? You would ask the hard questions. Simply put, I think it's all gonna come down to one huge confrontation, one final showdown between us and him, no holds barred, all the cards on the table, last man standing wins."

Simon breathed out in a rush. "You've been watching too many westerns again, Jim. That sounds like the OK Corral or something."

Jim inclined his head silently.

"Damn. I was afraid of that." Simon paused, then said, "At the end, you said something about him wanting something, something he claimed was rightfully his. What was he referring to?"

Opening his mouth to respond, Jim started to gesture toward Blair's room. Before he could say anything, a thunk on the kitchen table interrupted him. Both men looked back and saw Blair standing next to the table, one hand on a massive tome. It took a second, but then Simon recognized it as the ancient book of learning he'd given into Blair's hands a several weeks earlier.

Simon's eyebrows rose to meet his hairline. "That? He wants that?" I should've known that book was trouble from the moment Brown gave it to me.

Jim nodded gravely, throwing a glare at his partner for bringing the book out when he wasn't supposed to. Blair shrugged once, smiling in apology, then plopped down in the chair again. Leaning over the book, he ignored Jim's glare and blithely opened the book to flip through pages, squinting slightly. Jim rolled eyes and sighed in defeat before leaning forward to snatch Blair's glasses. Then stretching toward the table, he held out the lenses to his partner.

"Here. If you're gonna insist on reading that thing, at least do it properly. Only thing I need is for you to go blind on me."

Smiling, Blair took the glasses and slipped them on. "Thanks, Jim."

Jim grunted, shaking his head. "Just don't complain to me if you fall asleep reading and find yourself sleeping on those pages."

Blair paused, then shuddered slightly. "That is not gonna happen, Jim. Trust me. Falling asleep on this book is not something I want to do. Last time I fell asleep reading a book like this...." He shook his head, glancing momentarily at Jim. "Well, we know what happened then, don't we?"

Simon and Jim exchanged startled stares, then looked at Blair and nodded in unison. The captain said quietly, "We remember all too well. I don't think that's something any of us want a repeat performance of." Ever.

Staring at his hands, Jim added in a whisper, "No, definitely not."

Silence ruled the loft for several minutes, broken only the soft sound of brittle pages turning and the shifting of body weight on couches. Simon watched Jim watch Blair read, quietly observing the play of emotion shining out of the those light blue eyes.

Three years ago, I would have told anyone who asked that Ellison could never have this much genuine caring for any one person, not even his wife. Actually, not even really for himself. And now.... His eyes shifted over to Blair, seeing the younger man's intelligent eyes scanning the pages of the book, his lower lip sucked in between his teeth to worry at while he read. Two years ago, I could never have seen myself as caring about what happened to one particular graduate anthropology student either. Or even admitting to being his friend.

Simon mentally chuckled. How times have changed. How we've all changed. He glanced over to the balcony windows to the windless and quiet night, such a contrast to earlier in the day at the warehouse. Especially in the last few months. I wonder how much further things will change before this is all over. I wonder what else fate will put these two men through, what else she has in store for them, before she moves on to her next victims.

Clearing his throat, Simon said into the quiet, "It's too bad you couldn't really see his face. Or at least something to identify him by."

Jim settled back against the couch, turning his attention back to Simon. "You're assuming he's a real person."

"You two are. And he wants that book, which is also very real."

Nodding, Jim pursed his lips. "Point taken. He's probably the one who paid to have the book smuggled into the country."

"Probably."

Jim ran his hand over the couch cushion, eyes lost in thought. "So, that dark cloak he was wearing was more than just part of a costume or 'dreamworld' persona. It was also a disguise, something to keep himself hidden from us. Maybe he has a very recognizable face -- scars or a big nose or something."

Simon laughed a little. "A big nose. That's a good way to describe a suspect, Jim."

Smiling, Jim defended himself. "Hey, I was just thinking out loud. I don't know. Maybe he's bald except for a mohawk. Gimme a break here."

Again, Simon laughed, shaking his head.

A soft, sharp gasp interrupted their joking and both of them turned, smiles dropping from their faces as Blair looked up from the book. His face was pale and his lips quivered slightly, tongue slipping out to wet them.

Jim frowned, shifting forward to stand up and go to his partner's side. "What is it, Chief? You hurt or something?"

Simon moved as well, concerned, forehead furrowed, instantly on alert.

"I saw him, Jim. I saw his face. At the end." Blair swallowed, his wide dark eyes moving behind his glasses to stare at his hand where it lay on the open book. "He ... he looked ...."

A loud, angry roar of wind battered the balcony windows, tearing at the simple lock on the doors. Jim jerked to his feet, hand going for the nonexistent gun at his back. Simon stood quickly as well, reaching out a hand to Jim, calming words on his lips. Before he could say anything, the doors flew open, bouncing off the windows on either side. The stormy gale blew into the loft, knocking books and trinkets off shelves and tables to land on the floor with thuds and crashes. Potted plants fell over, leaves ripped from stems to dance in the air.

Holding one arm in front of him to fight the strong wind, Jim started toward the doors, intending to close them. Simon glanced at Blair and found the young man staring in shock at the balcony doors, swallowing rapidly. The book lay forgotten in front of him, pages flipping madly in the wind.

The low roar grew suddenly into an audible howl, then into screams of terror and fear. Blair jumped out of the chair, knocking it aside, ignoring the crash as it fell. He backed away, bumping into the kitchen counter, then curled the fingers of both hands tightly around the edge of the counter behind him.

Simon called out, stretching to grab Jim's arm. "Jim!"

Jim turned, looked at him briefly, then locked eyes on his frightened partner. With swift and strong movement, he strode toward Blair. His fingertips grazed Blair's shoulder, inching up for fuller contact, his mouth opening to say something.

And then the wind died away just as quickly as it appeared, whooshing in intricate swirls out of the loft, through the balcony doors, yanking them shut with a clatter.

<<Soon. Soon. Soon.>>

A nearly silent echo of laughter drifted past in the wake of the malicious whisper of sound, then all was quiet. Leaves of destroyed plants drifted through the air and pattered onto various surfaces. Pages of books, including the large tome on the table, rested and settled from their windblown state.

A shiver of dread still crawling down his spine, Simon stood frozen for a moment in front of the couch, trying to assimilate all he had just seen and heard. Finally, shaking himself into action, he padded quickly over to the balcony doors, locking them, amazed the glass was still in one piece on the doors and windows. He turned back to the main room again, looking at Jim and Blair, still frozen in their moment of contact.

Now what?

He took a step forward, softly clearing his throat. Jim stiffened and whirled around to face him, hands up and ready to fight. Simon lifted both hands. "Hey, whoa there, Jim. Friend, remember?" Behind Jim, he could see Blair shudder -- hard -- and start to sink toward the floor. "Jim!" He pointed behind him, striding forward at the same time.

Jim blinked and whipped back to catch Blair before he hit the ground, then half-carried him to the table. Simon righted the tipped-over chair and held it steady while Jim balanced his woozy partner on it. With one very cautious hand, Simon shoved the open book away. Blair rested his head on the table.

"Oh, man."

Simon silently shook his head, pulling out another chair to sit down. Some evil wind tears through his home, threatens him, scares him half to death and all he can say is 'oh, man'. I have a lot of other words I could use instead, but I won't, considering they're not really for use in polite company.

Jim kept one hand on his partner's back, rubbing it as he pulled out a chair as well, bringing it close to Blair's side. He leaned toward Blair, saying softly, "You okay, buddy?"

Blair lifted his head wearily, nodding. "Yeah, yeah, I'll be okay. Just ... just give me a minute here." He took off his glasses, which had somehow stayed on his face, then rubbed his eyes. "That was ... intense. Way too intense. I never thought he'd react that way."

Simon frowned. "What are you talking about, Sandburg? Who would react?"

"Our friendly little enemy shaman or warrior or whatever he is. I told you." He opened his eyes and stared at Jim. "I saw him. I know what he looks like. And now he knows as well."

Jim nodded. "I gathered that much. So, what does he look like?"

Blair reached out and dragged the book back toward him, pointing at a drawing on the page. "That. That is what he looks like."

The other two men leaned in toward the book and stared at the rough drawing of two men -- one clearly dressed as a shaman, the other dressed as a warrior -- facing another man -- drawn in heavy, dark strokes, surrounded by shadows. While the faces of the first two men were undefined, only a few sketched lines, the face of the third man was detailed and precisely drawn -- not something one would expect from an ancient text.

Blair went on after a few seconds, reading the indecipherable (to Jim and Simon) text on the page under the drawing. "Terror stalked the land. Darkness fell. Light driven back. The sea winds blew and the walls fell. At the last, only two stood against the evil. Two stood in the precipice between light and dark. And so the battle was fought and light triumphed, banishing the darkness." He paused, then finished in a whisper.

"But only for a time. For the darkness is destined to return. And it will be the duty of those that guard, of those that protect, to banish it once again to the outer realms. The strong and the steadfast shall prevail."

Jim slid his arm from Blair's back and laid his hand, palm up, on the table. "Strong and steadfast."

Blair met his eyes, nodding sharply in agreement as he placed his hand in Jim's, fingers curling around his partner's hand. "Strong and steadfast."

"And we shall prevail." Jim squeezed Blair's hand, making it a solid oath of promised triumph.

"And we shall prevail," Blair echoed softly.

Settled back in his chair, Simon watched them, feeling as if he was truly seeing them for the first time. Partners, roommates, Sentinel and his Guide and Shaman. I wonder just where I fit in amidst all this mystical stuff. And do I truly want to? A second later, he smiled. I think ... I think I do.

"You with us, Simon?" Jim's voice was curious, maybe a little concerned.

Simon smiled wider, straightening in his chair. "Yeah." Answering both the simple query of his attention and the deeper decision he had just made.

"Good." Jim reached over to him and tugged at one of his hands where it lay on the table. Blair's hand joined it.

Pulled from his thoughts, Simon let them direct his hand to lay on theirs before covering it with theirs. He stared at them, then looked down at his hand, buried beneath both sets of theirs. They want ... His eyes moved back to meet theirs, seeing both the confidence and the entreaty.

Finally, softy, he repeated Jim's words into the quiet. "Strong and steadfast." He put his other hand on the top of the rest, sealing the vow with finality. "And we shall prevail."

- The End -

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Go to On the Threshold...