Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Drama
Time No More
The executive leaned back in his chair for the umpteenth time and waited. He hated waiting. He despised waiting, especially when it meant he was depending on someone else. He preferred to be in control of his own destiny. Again, he wished he'd simply gone after Ellison and Sandburg himself. At least that way he'd be doing something -- not just sitting here waiting. He'd already straightened every object on his desk. He'd already made sure his arrows were sharpened and his supply of darts was ready. He'd already made up a fresh preparation for said weapons, just in case his assassins failed and he had to teach them a lesson.
There was nothing left to do but wait.
Bored and on a whim, he opened a side desk drawer, rummaging in it. Something cool and round met his hands. Ah, yes, he thought with a smile. Incacha's -- no, his stone. The engraved stone that had heralded the coming of a new and glorious life for him, the object that had prophesied his rise to power. Although it was his most prized possession, he did not keep it locked up in the special cabinet, but among the mundane office supplies in his desk. Everyone assumed it was some kind of crude paperweight and he'd never worried that it would be stolen. He pulled it out to admire. It had always brought him a sense of reassurance that his future was secure.
He looked down, disbelieving at what he saw.
The eye on the engraving had changed. Part of it was missing. Frantically, he ran his fingers over the rock, confirming what his vision told him.
The eye looked like it was beginning to close.
Anger filled him as he rushed to the weapons cabinet and threw the doors open, seizing one of the smaller crossbows and quiver from his arsenal. He'd take a gun for good measure, too, just in case. Barely controlling his shaking, he dipped the arrows and darts into the liquid one by one, coating them thoroughly.
His assassins had failed.
The younger Blair ducked back into the shadows of his darkened bedroom, wincing at the loud crashes of colliding furniture and dishes in the main part of the loft.
"Jim wants us to get out now!" he hissed to his older counterpart, pushing him toward the small door that led to the fire escape.
"But what about him?" the older Blair asked worriedly, resisting the younger man's urging. "We can't just leave Jim here!"
"He'll be fine! We'll meet him at Rafe's, but we've got to get out of this building before reinforcements show up," answered the anthropologist. "Come on!"
The older Blair hesitated, then nodded and both men crept to the exit.
It took some effort to get the door open after so many years of disuse, but with their combined efforts and some grunting conveniently covered up by the chaos taking place in the kitchen and living area, the two Blairs finally succeeded. The younger man had just stepped onto the tenuously hanging, rusty escape when sirens filled the air, rapidly approaching only a couple blocks from Prospect.
Blair swore under his breath. He barely had enough time to pull himself back into the bedroom before police cars surrounded the building and a dozen officers jumped out, swarming around the building and toward the front door.
"What are we going to do?" he panted as he collapsed against the door, fear filling him. "We'll never get past all those guys!"
The older Blair paused, then lifted a finger. "I have an idea." He reached up, sliding the string of red feathers from his hair. "Keep these for me. I don't want them to get lost."
Mere minutes later, the younger Blair watched from the third floor as an old man in a tattered brown corduroy coat, old fingerless gloves and a raveling knit cap dropped quietly to the ground from the metal walkway. Almost immediately, several officers surrounded the prattling homeless man who randomly swung his old cane in a demented and dangerous fashion as if unintentionally keeping them at bay. The others seemed to be struggling with the ground-level door to the building, unable to get the now-mysteriously secure lock to open.
Despite the deadly seriousness of the situation, the younger man had to stifle a laugh. All those years in an isolated Peruvian jungle apparently haven't dampened my acting abilities, he thought. The older man had successfully distracted all the officers on the end of the building where the fire escape was, leading them away.
Blair shot one last glance through the French doors. The loft was wrecked worse than it had ever been, but it looked like Jim was holding his own and his opponent seemed to be showing signs of tiring. Blair wished there was a way he could cut the lights to the loft to give Jim the advantage, but there was no way he could make it to the breaker box without being noticed, and the police were going to be up here soon. If he was going to escape, he had to act now, while the officers downstairs were still diverted.
Sending a prayer up for his partner's safety, the anthropologist slipped out and down the fire escape. Darting behind a dumpster then around the corner of the building to the back, he scanned the narrow street behind the loft, making sure it was clear. Blair sprinted toward Rafe's BMW at the end of the street, activating the keyless entry to the car as he ran, his breath making white clouds in the night air.
He'd just collapsed in the driver's seat, his breath coming in winded gasps, when he heard several shots ring out. The lights coming from the third floor loft went black and the cacophony of fighting and breaking glass ceased abruptly.
He stopped breathing.
In the next moment, the shouts of many officers broke the short-lived silence as they stormed the building.
Jim! he thought. Blair reached for the door.
He was staring down the barrel of a black silencer.
Yeagar pointed the gun at his neck. "Drive," he said.
Night had almost surrendered to early dawn when Prospect finally fell silent. Yards of yellow police tape strung around the light green building hardly fluttered in the breath of the dark autumn morning, beads of water coalescing on the plastic surfaces from the foggy air.
Huddled against the damp wall of the old pizza parlor across the street from the loft, the older Blair stared down the road into the fog, as if still seeing the residual trail of exhaust left by the engines of the squad cars and coroner's vans. Although several minutes had passed since the last vehicle had left the street, the smell of the engines hung in the air like the aftermath of a bad dream.
The scenes of the last few hours replayed over and over in his mind, and he made no effort to stop them.
The sound of gunfire ripping through the air. The vicious storming of the loft. The seemingly never-ending police search of the building and those surrounding it. The officers had quickly lost interest in his antics when the shots had been fired and the downstairs access door had finally capitulated to its aggressors. More gunfire. After that, all he could do was watch.
He'd watched as Rafe's BMW had driven away, Blair at the wheel, and a person who could only be Yeagar in the passenger's seat. The cops had been so busy they'd disregarded the car as an insignificant passer-by.
He'd watched as not one, but two -- he swallowed -- and then a third stretcher, each carrying a black body bag -- had been finally pulled from the loft and shoved into the coroner's vans with calloused detachment. He assumed the first two bags probably contained the bodies of the intruders, but the third...
The thought numbed his mind, making it unable to function past the facts.
No one had been led from the building in handcuffs.
No ambulance had been summoned to the scene, only the coroner.
He'd lost Jim again.
Steps were coming toward him now. Maybe a police officer wanting to take him into custody since he'd been a witness. Putting his face down against his bent knees to avoid being seen by anyone, yet having no energy to move, he simply huddled more closely to the wall...
...when he heard a voice.
He looked up. A figure was making its way across the street, limping, starting to run awkwardly toward him. Blair started to get up, but his cold joints protested. It didn't matter, because Jim was beside him now, arms around him. Blair automatically reached up, wrapping his arms around Jim's neck. "I thought I'd lost you," he murmured, trembling with fatigue and emotion, burying his head against Jim's chest.
"Don't cry," the taller man whispered, rubbing his back. "I'm right here."
They held on to each other for several moments, trying to recover.
Finally, both men spoke at once, breaking the silence.
"Jim -- how did you..."
"You okay, Chief? Where's Sandburg?"
Eventually, both stories poured out. Jim had wounded the other assassin just before the police had broken into the building, and a police officer had been killed while trying to take the wounded assassin into custody. When asked how he'd managed to avoid discovery, hidden for so many hours in the relatively small building, he would only say, "You worry too much. You're talking about a Ranger trained in covert-ops who has to hide inside a building he lived in for years? Piece of cake." The preceding fight had actually done more damage physically. Ellison sported numerous cuts, plus a large bruise to his left leg that caused the limp. "I lost my gun, too, when they cleaned out the loft." Jim admitted. But as usual, he was more worried about the whereabouts of his younger partner.
"We've got to find him before Yeagar..." the older Blair trailed off.
"I know," Jim said grimly. "But we're going to need help."
As soon as Ellison and the older Sandburg pulled up to Rafe's house on their old bikes they'd salvaged from the loft basement, they knew something was wrong. The front door stood open and everything seemed quiet. Too quiet.
"There's a weak heartbeat inside," said Jim as the two men dismounted and he opened his senses, scanning the area. The two men cautiously entered, discovering that their hunches had been correct. The inside of the house was ransacked, papers scattered everywhere. They appeared to be the same papers Jim and Blair had been studying before leaving the detective's house.
"Jim! Over here!" shouted Sandburg from the living room.
The detective arrived at his side, finding Blair kneeling beside an unconscious Rafe, lying on the floor behind one of the couches. He appeared to have suffered head trauma at least, judging from the bleeding cut on his forehead.
"Rafe! Can you hear me?" Jim called as Blair went to phone for help.
After several long moments, the detective moaned and his eyes flickered open. "Yeagar," he rasped upon seeing Ellison.
"I know," answered Jim. "He was here?"
Rafe nodded, wincing at the movement of his neck as he tried to sit up.
"Don't try to move, Rafe," said Jim, putting a hand on the detective's arm.
"He had Blair with him," continued Rafe, groaning as he lay back down on the plush carpet. "Said he'd shoot him if I didn't tell him everything I knew."
"Don't worry," reassured the older Sandburg. "You didn't know about me."
Rafe's forehead wrinkled as he squinted at the older man as if just now realizing Jim wasn't alone. "What's going on? Who are you?"
"The Blair you've been looking for, all these years," answered Jim.
"I'm alive, man," said Blair. "I came back to make things right."
"Don't try to understand," Jim said, interrupting another confused word from Rafe. "I'm not sure I get it myself, but there are two Blairs and we have to find Yeagar and stop him. Do you know anything that could help us?"
"That's easy," said Rafe. "He's the CEO of Cyclops Oil. He got out on bail and was acquitted on a technicality after you and Sandburg disappeared." The detective shook his head, his hand clenched into a frustrated fist. "I can't believe we didn't figure out it was him! He was on our list, but we never found any evidence beyond our own suspicions. Simon would've kicked himself."
"Don't be too hard on yourself, Rafe," said Jim. "Sandburg and I didn't figure it out either."
The injured detective motioned weakly to the kitchen counter. "Take that small device over there -- it will locate my car's GPS coordinates. That should give you a clue on where to start looking."
"Thanks," said Jim as he retrieved the device and activated it. "The coordinates correspond to the corner of Mountain View and Central in downtown Cascade -- the Cyclops Oil building."
"Take the red Ferrari in the garage," said Rafe. "The keys are on the lamp table."
"You own a Ferrari and a BMW?" gasped Sandburg.
"No, it's Brown's. I'm keeping it for him while he's overseas, but I don't think he'd mind if you... borrowed it," chuckled Rafe.
The sound of approaching sirens drifted through the open front door.
"We'd better get going -- the ambulance is almost here," said the older Blair. He squeezed the injured man's hand. "It was good to see you again, Rafe."
"Likewise. And you, too, Jim," Rafe said as he shook hands with Ellison. "Do me a favor?" he asked as the other two men stood.
"Anything," said Blair.
Rafe smiled. "Next time, don't let me bet too much money on Little Stogie. That horse never wins anymore."
"Whose red feathers are these?" Yeagar said smoothly, seizing the decorative item before roughly shoving the young anthropologist into one of the plush chairs in his darkened office.
"I guess you could say they were mine," said Blair through gritted teeth.
"The leather certainly does make a good pair of makeshift handcuffs," remarked Yeagar as he proceeded to tie his hostage's hands together, then to the chair itself. "It was nice of you to give them to me."
"I'll never give you anything," Sandburg shot back.
"See, that's the beauty of being the person I am," said Yeagar as he sank into his overstuffed, supple leather desk chair and leaned back. "I always try to give people the opportunity to share their things with me. But if they don't -- well, sometimes you just have to take more drastic measures." Selecting a dart from the decorative container, he deliberately examined the tip before loading it into the blowgun. "So where's that sentinel of yours?"
"I don't know," growled Blair. "And if I did, I wouldn't tell you."
Blair flinched to one side as a blow dart flew mere millimeters from his face and impaled itself in the wall behind him.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Yeagar shook his head and waved another dart at Blair reprovingly. "If you're really set on being non-communicative, I can easily accommodate you with a more... permanent form of non-communication."
"You won't do that," the anthropologist responded evenly, fighting to mask the apprehension welling up inside him. "We both know you kidnapped me because you want to know what I know."
<whhhhp!> Another dart barely missed the anthropologist.
"You overestimate your importance to me, Blair Sandburg," said Yeagar coolly. "But let me continue with my interrogation, just for fun. Where's the older version of yourself? The one who's come to change the past and keep his friend Jim Ellison from dying?"
Blair swallowed, his heart racing. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"You can drop the act, Sandburg," Yeagar said scornfully. "I know everything. I'm sure you're wondering how. Quite simple, really. I heard the whole story from a listening device I had planted in the loft when I first heard you were in town. A touching tale, really, but one with a sad ending for you. Happy for me, bad for you."
The anthropologist paused before speaking again. "Sounds like you've got it all figured out, Yeagar. But once again, you underestimated the power of a sentinel and shaman."
"You kidnapped the wrong guy. See, Jim and the older Blair don't really need me to go back and change the past. In fact, I bet they're on their way to doing that right now. If you want me to sit here with you and just let them, that's fine with me."
Yeagar hesitated. "You're bluffing."
"Am I?" said Blair. He nodded toward the object in Yeagar's hand. "Take a look at your stone."
Seconds later, an enraged voice filled the penthouse as the executive lunged violently at his shackled prey.
The polished oak doors to the executive suite trembled, then surrendered with a thunderous crash to the force of a focused warrior in search of his friend. Bursting through the rubble-strewn doorway, no sentinel had ever been more terrifying. Panting for breath from his ascent up the skyscraper's many floors, Ellison scanned the room in an instant, his ears ringing from the shattering. He struggled to push his way past the aftermath still assaulting his hearing.
The room appeared deserted.
Signs of a struggle filled the office -- overturned chairs, broken lamps, vertical blinds ripped, framed pictures smashed. Drops of blood stained the walls, an upholstered chair, and the floor. One of the window panels behind the destroyed desk was completely shattered, with the sparkling glass fragments covering the dark carpet warmed by the morning sun. An orchid plant lay on the floor, its clay pot shattered among the dirt and broken petals.
Jim whirled at the sound, his heart pausing for a moment. The room was not empty after all.
One arm wrapped tightly around Blair's upper chest and the other pointing a small crossbow at his neck, Yeagar appeared from behind an open cabinet door, dragging the bound anthropologist with him to stand in front of the north wall of windows, behind the large desk. The cabinet doors had hidden the two men from Jim's sight. Immediately, the detective noted the bruises and cuts on his partner's face and arms. Blair's shirt was partially torn, and the area around his right eye had started to swell. His hands were tied in front of him with the leather straps, the feathers still dangling from their loose ends.
"Lose something, Ellison?" Yeagar said in a low, taunting voice. He shoved the arrow's tip more closely against the younger man's neck.
Blair winced and inhaled sharply, his eyes meeting that of his friend's. "Jim," he whispered, his gaze moving to the detective's empty hands and noting that Jim's gun was gone.
"Quiet!" Yeagar hissed, "or I will use this."
Every muscle in Jim's body tensed as he looked into Blair's eyes. He saw fear in them, and his heart skipped a beat. Slowly, he took a few steps forward.
"Don't come any closer!" Yeagar warned, tightening his hold on the anthropologist.
Jim froze where he was, raising his hands slowly. "What do you want, Yeagar?" he said evenly.
"I want you dead," Yeagar answered without hesitation. "I want you and Sandburg dead -- a detail which should be accomplished more easily than I thought," he said, noting his opponent's lack of a weapon. "Where's the other Sandburg?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Yeagar," Jim answered sharply.
"Is that so?" said Yeagar. "Maybe this will help you remember." Transferring the crossbow to the other hand, he reached into his coat pocket with his free hand and withdrew a small stone, holding it up at arm's length.
The stone began to glow.
The sentinel fell to his knees, gasping in pain. Jim tried desperately to inch forward, reaching out for anything he could use to defend himself, but his body and senses rendered his efforts useless.
"NO!" Blair cried out.
In a burst of adrenaline driven by a man's innate sense of duty to protect his friend, Blair Sandburg threw the weight of his body backwards against Yeagar, and the two men fell out through the shattered window's jagged opening.
"BLAIR!" Jim yelled as his partner disappeared from view in an instant. Struggling to a stand, Ellison flew to the window.
It was all he could do to overcome the fear preventing him from looking.
The older Blair sat in the driver's seat of Henri's Ferrari, nervously fingering the car keys.
"Stay in the car, Blair," he remembered Jim saying after they had pulled up across the street from the Cyclops Oil building and parked 50 feet away from the front entrance to the Sentinel Museum. "Be ready to drive us away as soon as I come out with the other you." Blair smiled to himself as he remembered Jim's last words of advice. "And please -- don't let us get towed."
The elderly man had nodded as the taller man handed him the keys. I must have looked worried, Blair thought to himself, because something had made Jim pause and lay a reassuring hand on his arm before he turned to leave. "Don't worry, Blair. I'll -- we'll be okay," he had said. Blair had watched as his friend left the car, dodging traffic as he crossed the street and entered Yeagar's building.
Jim's words had comforted and reassured him. The command to stay in the car had even felt welcome this time, not only because Blair knew his aging body would have only slowed Jim down from getting to the top, but because they brought back good memories. So many times when he was younger, he had felt annoyed by, even patronized by those words. Now he realized that they were said in concern for his safety.
Horrifically loud crashing and splintering startled him, breaking through his thoughts. Forgetting everything else, Blair burst from the car and looked up in the direction of the noise. His eyes widened in terror as he, along with other onlookers, watched the life-or-death drama unfolding hundreds of feet above his head.
Glass was cascading from the top of the Cyclops Oil skyscraper, following two figures plunging from an open window on the highest story. About five stories down, they landed in a heap on a window-washing platform. The impact of their combined weight caused the platform to sway and pitch, and within seconds it started to plummet to the ground. The two figures appeared to be struggling with each other, as if reaching for something, rolling precariously close to the platform's edge at times.
The time stone! Yeagar and Sandburg.
Seconds later, the window-washing apparatus wrenched to a halt several feet above the pavement, throwing its occupants to the platform's floor. Yeagar stood up in an instant, pocketing the stone and yanking the bound anthropologist with him from the platform to the sidewalk. The villain searched frantically for a car, trying several doors, but was unsuccessful at gaining entry, and none of the cars were occupied and available to hijack. Recklessly, Yeagar pulled his hostage across the street, heading quickly for the Sentinel Museum.
Only five car lengths away, the older Blair watched as Yeagar and the younger Sandburg surged through the museum's front doors. Disregarding the security guards, Yeagar rushed in, first breaking a plastic display box and seizing the keys within it, then shoving Blair into the vehicle in the museum's front display case -- the 1997 blue Ford Expedition. The engine revved to life, and the older Blair shielded his eyes as the vehicle burst through the museum's glass front and onto the street, speeding away as onlookers screamed and shouted.
More shouting caused him to turn back toward the Cyclops Oil building.
Someone was repelling down the building.
Blair squinted, straining to see who was descending from hundreds of feet above him.
He knew that person.
It was Jim.
Dropping the last ten feet to the ground, Ellison tore across the street again, waving for Blair to get back in the car while he removed a large crossbow from its position slung across his back. His elderly partner scrambled into the passenger seat, barely closing the door before Jim had tossed him the crossbow and the car squealed away from the curb.
"We've got to get to them before the police do," Jim said tightly, his senses focused on avoiding oncoming traffic and pedestrians while tracking Yeagar's trail through the city. "I can hear the cops -- they're still miles behind us."
"What happened in there?" Blair asked, hanging on to the Ferrari's overhead hand grips as they careened down the streets of downtown Cascade.
"Yeagar used that stone on me again. Sandburg pushed him through the window to stop him," Jim answered, clearly upset. "If Sandburg hadn't stopped him -- if Yeagar hurts him again..." he trailed off, biting back the rest of his words.
"Where'd you find that?" asked Blair quietly, motioning to the crossbow he held in his lap.
"Yeagar's office -- he had an entire collection of them," Jim answered bitterly. Automatically, his right arm reached protectively to the side as they careened to the left, heading for the outer campus of Rainier University. "Hold on, Chief," he said.
His partner looked back at him and smiled slightly. "Don't worry, Jim. I remember how you drive." He watched the roadside speeding beside him. "We're going back to that same road. The road where I -- where you crashed," he murmured.
Jim nodded. "I know."
The older Blair remained silent for a few moments before speaking again. "Can you hear him?" he said quietly.
Jim paused before answering, visibly disturbed by what he was hearing. "Yes," he said finally. "He's trying to pull Yeagar off the road, but he can't do much with his hands tied." He swallowed hard. "If we don't get there soon, I don't know --"
"Jim!" the older Blair said, putting a steadying hand on his friend's arm. "We're going to beat him. "I know we are. Trust me."
The taller man briefly glanced at his friend, then nodded.
"Take the next turn," said Blair. "I know another way. We'll be able to cut them off."
The sentinel complied without hesitation.
Minutes later, the Ferrari screeched to a halt, turning sideways and blocking both lanes of the narrow forest road.
"They're coming," said Jim.
Gripping the loaded crossbow with both hands, Ellison stood in the middle of the abandoned road in front of the sports car, watching as the Expedition bore down on his location. He could see Yeagar and Sandburg in the front seat, still struggling, but Blair appeared to be weakening in his efforts.
"Jim! I know you can hear me. Shoot the Expedition! Shoot it now!" The younger Blair's voice echoed in his ears as clearly as if he had been standing next to him. Still 200 feet away, their eyes met. Blair was pleading with him.
"Quiet!" Yeagar yelled. "I know he can hear you, remember?"
The sentinel raised the bow and took aim, but his usual steady hands were shaking. He couldn't pull the trigger.
"You've got to, Jim! It's the only way!" the older Blair was saying. "Don't you see? Time is repeating itself. You took Yeagar down last time, and you can do it again. SHOOT!" he cried.
"SHUT UP!" Yeagar shouted in the background. "If you shoot us, Ellison, Sandburg's a dead man!"
Jim shook his head. "I can't," he said. "There's no glass store front to break their crash this time -- only trees. They'll crash, and Blair will d--"
"You're running out of time! Please, Jim! SHOOT NOW!" the younger Blair yelled. The Expedition was less than 100 feet away and closing.
"I know he's saying the same thing I am!" urged the older Blair. "Do it!"
"Do it! Do it for me..."
The sentinel fired.
Released at last, the arrow traveled instantly to its target. The SUV's front driver's side tire exploded, sending the vehicle onto the driver's side, sparks flying from the contact between its metal frame and the asphalt road, skidding out of control off the road to its right.
Still on its side, the Expedition hurled itself into the stand of trees just off the road.
The sentinel sent out his hearing, frantically searching for his friend's life signs.
"Blair!" Jim cried out.
The older Blair looked on as Ellison anxiously wrestled open the Expedition's passenger side door. His partner lay motionless, unrestrained by a seatbelt, leaning toward the middle of the car. Yeagar was not moving either, shoved against the driver's side door.
"Blair! Blair, can you hear me?" Jim called, leaning into the cab, putting his hand gently on Blair's chest. His friend had a heartbeat he could both hear and feel, but it was weak.
The anthropologist stirred, his eyes flickering open slowly. "Jim," he whispered. "Is he...?"
"Shhh," Jim soothed. He cocked his head, listening briefly. "No heartbeat. He's dead." Gently, Jim began untying the leather shackles that bound his friend's wrists together.
Jim looked down. The stone was at Blair's feet, probably dropped by Yeagar. Jim was mere inches away from it, yet he felt none of the effects. Picking it up, he held it up so Blair could see. The stone was smooth; its eye engraving was not only closed; the engraving had disappeared altogether, leaving a perfectly smooth, ordinary rock.
Taking the stone from Jim, the older Blair examined the object. "It's lost its power," he said.
"I -- I can't --" the younger Blair struggled to form words.
"Shhh. Is it okay if I lift you, Chief?" asked Jim.
Blair nodded weakly.
Carefully, Ellison reached in, placing his arms behind Blair's back and knees. As the taller man lifted his friend's body, moving him toward the cab's open door, he noticed something embedded in the left side of Blair's shirt.
Blair winced and closed his eyes.
Quickly, Jim removed the arrow, throwing it out of the cab. Only then did Jim notice the small blood stain on his partner's shirt where the arrow had been. He paused, using one hand to move the shirt aside.
A seemingly minor wound was located at the same position on Blair's chest.
Jim swiftly pulled his friend out of the Expedition and laid him on the ground. The older Blair joined them. "What happened?" asked Jim.
"The arrow... is poisoned..." the young Blair managed. "Went off... while we were... crashing..."
"Don't worry, Chief," Jim said, his voice trembling slightly. "You'll be okay. We'll get you to a doctor."
The younger Blair seized his arm. "No," he whispered, his breaths becoming more labored. "Yeagar told... me... fatal... in minutes..."
"No!" Jim cried. Jerking his gaze back to the older Blair, he pleaded, "Can't you take all of us back?"
The older Blair shook his head sadly. "I could try, but I don't know if it would work."
"Try!" shouted Jim.
The older man nodded. Taking Jim's and the younger Blair's hands so they were joined in a circle, the shaman's eyes fell closed. He sighed, appearing to fall into a form of deep meditation. In a few moments, the air seemed to waver around them. Noises slowed, then blurred. Tree branches waved more and more slowly.
The other two men held their breaths, waiting, hoping...
Suddenly, sound and vision coalesced to normal clarity and speed again. The older Blair's eyes flew open. Slowly, he shook his head.
They hadn't moved.
Police sirens filled the air, rapidly getting closer.
"Jim... listen... to me," the younger Blair said, looking his friend in the eyes. "You... must... go... back..." he paused, "...change the past."
"No! I'm not leaving you, Blair," Jim said, his voice breaking.
"Please... go... back..." begged Blair. "Keep this... from... happening..."
"It's the only way you can save him," the older Blair said softly.
Using his last bit of strength, the younger Blair seized Jim's hand. "Don't... make me... live... without... you..." Taking Jim's hand, he placed it awkwardly on the older Blair's, then squeezed it weakly.
Jim's eyes shone with wetness. "Don't worry, Chief. I'll do whatever it takes," he whispered. Leaning forward, he stroked Blair's face, smoothing back his hair with one hand.
The sirens were almost upon them now. "We have to go now," said the older Blair.
The younger Blair nodded, attempting a weak smile and closing his eyes. His breathing and heartbeat were getting slower and slower.
Spotting the arrow that had wounded Blair, Jim picked it up. After a moment's hesitation, he grimly loaded it into the crossbow. Brushing the wetness from his eyes, Jim looked up and nodded at the older Blair.
"Letting go of you is the hardest thing I've ever had to do," whispered Jim.
The older Blair held his gaze, then grasped the sentinel's hand. "I know," he said. "Don't be... afraid."
Seconds later, four patrol cars converged on the scene, sirens wailing. The officers jumped out of their vehicles -- just in time to see an elderly man placing an object -- it looked like a stone -- in the hand of another person resembling Blair Sandburg, who lay motionless on the ground in the field before them. Then the elderly man joined hands with Jim Ellison. They watched as the air wavered around the two men.
"STOP!" one of the officers shouted, his weapon trained on the two figures, but it was too late.
They were gone.
Jim seized the steering wheel of his truck just in time to swerve around a corner. Silently, he swore. "Should've known we would end up back in the truck," he gasped, trying to steady his shaky hands.
"The turnout's right up there to the right," the older Blair said as he automatically gripped the seat and dash with both hands.
Careening off the road onto the gravel shoulder and into the grass-covered field, the truck skidded to a halt. Jim seized the crossbow as he and Blair leaped from the cab. Quickly, Blair rounded the back of the truck, coming to stand beside his partner. About 20 feet away, Yeagar was already getting out of the black Z-28, gun drawn and aimed at Jim.
"Drop your weapon!" Jim shouted, pointing the crossbow at Yeagar.
The felon paused, as if taken by surprise. "Forget your gun at home, Ellison?" he taunted. "Or did we decide to go primitive because you wanted more of a challenge?" he laughed.
"I wouldn't know, Yeagar," Jim answered, slowly approaching the other man. "It's your crossbow. But that's about to change."
Yeagar paused, squinting at the weapon in Jim's hand, recognizing it as the one he owned. "Where did you get that?" he demanded.
"I know about the stone, Yeagar," another voice said.
Yeagar quickly redirected his weapon to the right as the older Blair stepped out from behind Jim. "Who are you?!"
"That stone will cause your downfall, Yeagar," continued Blair. "I've seen the future."
"So have I," said Jim. "As of today, you no longer have one."
"We'll see about that," Yeagar said angrily, pulling the trigger to his gun.
In a swift, graceful movement, Jim kicked Yeagar's gun out of his hand, and it landed with a thud in the grass several feet away, out of reach. Instantly, Yeagar reciprocated with a well-placed kick of his own, knocking the crossbow out of Jim's hands, then landing a punch against Jim's shoulder. Fists flew as Ellison fought back, but his swings missed his opponent. Yeagar was backing away.
Reaching into his coat pocket as he retreated, the thief pulled the stone out of his pocket, holding it up in front of him.
It began to glow.
Reflexively, Jim began to raise his arm and turn away, anticipating the sensory torture he'd previously experienced. He held his breath, waiting.
Instead, Yeagar began to cry out, clutching at his chest and dropping to his knees. The stone continued to glow, with a stream of light traveling from him to Ellison.
Mystified, the sentinel lowered his arm. Turning, he saw Blair seated on the ground where he'd dropped when Yeagar had begun to fight Jim. The older man meditated calmly, his eyes closed.
He's reversing the time transfer, realized Jim.
Moments later, the stone ceased radiating.
Still on his knees, Yeagar felt the now-smooth, powerless rock. "NO!" he screamed, and lunged viciously at the elderly Blair, tackling him. Despite both men's weakness, they fought fiercely, rolling around on the ground as they wrestled.
Suddenly, Yeagar twitched, as if feeling the impact from something, and stopped struggling. An arrow had embedded itself in his back, penetrating into his chest.
Jim lowered the crossbow as Blair rolled away from his opponent.
Yeagar was dead.
"Jim," the voice said weakly.
Immediately, Jim was at his friend's side, cradling the older man in his arms. "We did it!" he said to Blair.
Blair nodded. Holding out one of his hands, his extremity flickered, turning transparent for several moments.
Jim's expression immediately became alarmed, and he searched his friend's face.
"Don't be afraid, Jim," Blair said hoarsely, attempting to smile. "This means time has been made right."
Jim nodded his head, fighting back the tears threatening to form. "Then why does this feel so wrong?" he asked, his voice cracking. "There's so much to say... I don't know where to start."
Pulling one of Jim's hands to his chest, Blair squeezed it encouragingly. "Tell me the next time you see me. We've got all the time we need."
Jim held on as tightly as he could, but in seconds Blair had disappeared from his arms.
The coolness of fall's predawn air encircled the sentinel where he sat alone, unmoving, in the large empty clearing. Early morning fog swirled around him, encircling him.
Nothing was changing. Both Blairs were gone.
How could this be making things right? he asked. He could hardly stand the pain he felt in his heart.
Then he heard something.
Looking up, Jim's vision cut easily through the fog, though he didn't have to go very far. Someone was walking -- no, running -- toward him.
Before Jim could do anything, arms were around him.
"Blair!" he said, choking back his tears, then letting them fall freely.
Holding his friend close to him, Jim breathed in his essence, never wanting to let go.
"But how -- ?" Jim whispered, turning so he could see Blair's face. It looked young and healthy.
Shifting in Jim's arms, Blair opened his palm. "When I woke up, I was lying right over there, holding his stone. He -- he must have left it with me." Together, they traced the eye engraving, remembering the journey it represented.
The taller man enveloped Blair again. "I thought I'd lost you," he murmured.
"Shhh," Blair answered, stroking Jim's back. "Don't cry. I'm right here."
As dawn's first rays pierced through the last vestiges of night, dissipating the fog and warming the two figures huddled together on the ground, autumn's morning sun knew it wasn't needed.
They would always have each other.
A draft of cool air rolled down from the loft's sliding glass doors, washing over the young man standing before them. Blair looked out on thousands of sparkling city lights, then up into the darkness of Cascade's night sky full of stars.
Not looking down, he fingered the smooth stone in the palm of his hand, passing his thumb over its engraved surface. It warmed more quickly than he expected, as if it still emanated part of the soul of his older self. It reminded him of the paradoxical events of the past few days, the power of his friendship with Jim, the untapped potential within himself, and how little he truly understood about eternity and his place in it.
The stone he held centered his soul while at the same time throwing it up to the vastness of the stars above and leaving him breathless. His older self had been right and wrong at the same time. Blair had begun to understand, but he was far from understanding all.
He felt someone coming to stand beside him. An arm reached around him and gave his shoulder a squeeze as Jim followed Blair's gaze, looking out on the city. "You okay?" he said softly.
"Yes," Blair answered, leaning against his taller friend. "Just thinking about everything that happened."
"Me, too," said Jim.
"I keep wondering what it was like for him -- when he first realized everything was going to be okay. That he was really going to be able to bring you back."
Jim sighed. "He seemed so sure -- as if he knew things were going to turn out okay."
A beep echoed from the kitchen, indicating the lasagna was done. Jim's hand lingered on Blair's shoulder before he turned to go back to the kitchen.
Pausing before he joined Jim, Blair looked out into the night sky once more. After several moments, he turned and carefully set the stone on a side table next to the red feathers. "You were right," he whispered.
Sitting in front of a small fire on the ground, the elderly man raised undimmed blue eyes to the jungle's night sky as he had done every night for the past twenty-five years, asking once again whether he was ready -- whether tonight would be the night. So many years had passed since he'd lost Jim, it seemed like his preparation time would last forever. Yet, another part of him knew he was running out of time. If he didn't act soon, he might never see his friend again. He let his eyes fall closed as he began his meditation.
He watched from the bushes at its edge. He was motionless.
Jim was kneeling on the ground, his arms extended but empty. The sentinel was alone, fog swirling around him. He seemed to ache with loneliness.
Then someone else appeared out of the fog, running toward Jim. The younger man was kneeling beside Jim, embracing him. Tears fell as they held each other.
Within the nearby bushes, a gentle breeze ruffled his silver fur. The wolf watched, contented as the person he loved best embraced the one he was always meant to be with...
With a gasp, blue eyes fluttered wide open, causing the small fire's flame to flicker slightly in the blackness of the moonless jungle night. All at once, Blair wondered whether he had really seen -- no, whether he had really been there.
The cool breeze against his skin.
How close Jim had been.
He ached. It was an ache he hadn't felt so acutely since the day he'd lost him.
Brushing a few graying locks of wavy hair behind his ear, he lifted his eyes heavenward, following the sparks as they ascended to the night sky and became stars, asking the universe whether it had truly yielded its temporal secrets to him for a moment.
Whether it would allow him to bend them again, just one more time, so he could make things right.
A hand brushed his shoulder.
He didn't move, nor was he startled.
"You are ready, Blair Sandburg," Incacha's voice whispered next to his ear. Gently, old hands fastened red feathers to the younger shaman's hair, murmuring a blessing.
When time is no more and your eyes are opened, you will find your sentinel again.
All at once, he understood. Time was no more. It had been rendered powerless. It was no longer a barrier between him and his best friend. It would never keep Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison apart again.
They would be reunited, just as he had seen.
"Yes," Blair answered softly. Everything was going to be all right. He looked down at the stone in his hand, then upward once again. "Time is no more."
~ The End ~
A million stars light
This beautiful night
This is not a night to die
Let me sing and dance
Beneath the sky
I have such love to give
I want a chance to live
Though this world tears us apart
We're still together in my heart
I want the world to hear my cry
And even if I have to die
Love will not die
Love will change the world
For the one I love
As no one has loved
Asking nothing in return
~ excerpted from the song "Live," written by Richard Cocciante, Luc Plamondon, Will Jennings; performed by Celine Dion ~
Spoilers: Although this story contains death scenes for both major characters, don't worry; Jim and Blair are both alive and well at the end of the story. In other words, you have to read to the end of the story to see everything turn out all right.