Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Drama

Through a Window, Darkly
Part Five
by Robyn
August 1998

Dragging his IV pole with him, Blair walked slowly down the hall to the open area where the second floor balcony looked out onto the hospital lobby. The lobby was built like an atrium to take advantage of any sunlight, and this morning the lobby was brightly lit. He knew Jim would be gone for most of the day, so he didn't have to worry about leaving his room and accidentally meeting up with an unsuspecting and defenseless Ellison. Today the nurse had given him an extra hospital gown to wear backwards over his shoulders, making things a little less drafty and a lot more modest for his stroll through the hospital. Spotting a young boy in a wheelchair parked behind the glass railing of the balcony, Blair shuffled up to stand a few feet to his side.

"Hey, my name's Blair. What's yours?" he said, leaning forward on the railing.

"James," the boy answered. His face and arms were so thin it took Blair by surprise. Then he noticed that the strands of red hair underneath the kid's Jags baseball cap were very sparse.

"Looks like you know the good spots to hang out," continued Blair.

"Yeah, I come here every day when I'm getting my treatments," the boy said solemnly. "I like it 'cause the sun warms me up."

"You're a smart kid, James. I like your hair, too," Blair said. "My mom has red hair just like yours."

The boy nodded shyly.

"I have a friend named James -- he's my best friend, in fact," said Blair.

"Really?" the boy said, his face brightening.

"Yep. Except I usually call him Jim. He's a policeman."

"I want to be a policeman when I grow up," said James.

Blair ached, thinking how badly cancer had ravaged the young boy's body already. "Great! Maybe next time my friend Jim comes, I'll ask him to tell you some police stories. He's got some good ones, you know."

"He would?" James said, his eyes sparkling with excitement. "Cool!"

For a few minutes, the two patients remained silent, soaking up the warm rays of the sun.

"You like The Lion King, James?" said Blair, noting the stuffed Simba the boy clutched in one arm.

"Yeah. You seen it?" James said, looking brightly at Blair.

"Yep, I sure did -- the first time I saw it in a movie theater on a date, and the second time I rented it and somehow convinced Jim to watch it with me," remembered Blair, smiling.

"Did Jim like it, too?"

"He acted mad at first because he thought I was getting Hunt for Red October, but he ended up liking it. He laughed really hard when Timon and Pumba dressed in drag and did the hula," Blair laughed and James joined in. "What's your favorite part of the movie, James?"

"I like the part where Simba fights Scar and wins, and then the rain makes the whole world turn green again," said James. "I think of that every time it rains."

"Yeah, I think that's definitely one of the best parts of the movie," agreed Blair.

"Blair, what's your favorite part of The Lion King?"

"Well, I liked the underlying coming of age theme, which plays so prominently in many world cultures," said Blair.

The unimpressed look on James's face made it obvious it wasn't the correct answer.

"Uh, well, I liked...the baboon."

James laughed with delight, remembering the baboon's amusing antics. "A-san-te-sah-a-squashed-ba-na-na..." he sang.

"A-san-te what?" said Blair, confused. "Squashed banana?"

"Yeah," James laughed, "that's what the baboon is chanting. Honest!"

"No way!" said Blair, but since the kid had probably seen the movie at least twice as many times as he had, he decided to take James's word for it.

"'Course it was yucky when the baboon cracked open the fruit and orange goopy stuff came out," said James. "Gross!"

"Got a point there," allowed Blair. "Shamans do weird things sometimes."

"Shamans?" said James questioningly.

"A shaman -- you know, like a medicine man."

"Ohhh," James said knowingly. "Want to sing my favorite song from the movie with me, Blair?"

"Uh, sure, James. 'Circle of Life'?" he guessed.

"Nope."

"'Can You Feel the Love Tonight?'"

"No! That's way too mushy," James made a face.

"Oh, of course. Uh, I'm running out of choices here, James. Help me out."

"The Wimoweh song, silly. You do the wimoweh part and I'll sing the other words."

"Uh, okay," Blair said, taking a quick look around to make sure no security guards were in sight. Pushing aside the fact the atrium's tiled floor and high ceiling would probably make for awesome acoustics and there were people milling around in the lobby below, Blair decided this kid needed to live in the moment more than anyone else. Besides, nobody knows me here, he rationalized. He started to chant, "O-wi-mo-weh-o-wi-mo-weh-o-wi-mo-weh...."

James chimed in after the proper number of bars. "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight...ah-weeeee-oooo-weeee-ooooo..."

After the two guys finished the song, applause ascended from the lobby below. Blair took James's hand and they took a bow together.

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

"I want Slowinski moved out of Blair Sandburg's room and confined to whatever room you put him in. I also want an armed guard posted outside Sandburg's room!" Jim repeated, impatience creeping into his voice. He clenched the cell phone harder as he listened to the excuses of the Cascade Hospital security director. Rafe and Brown looked questioningly at each other but said nothing. The minute the car had moved within cell phone range, Jim had called Simon and then the hospital.

"I can't discuss the case details with you right now, sir, I can only tell you we have reason to believe Adam Slowinski is a danger to Sandburg and possibly all the patients in your hospital!"

"Uh-huh. Fine, you do that. Good-bye!" Jim punched the hang-up button, his jaw set hard. "They said they couldn't confine Slowinski to a room without a reason, but they said they'd move Blair to a private room and put a security guard at the door," Jim grumbled.

"Uh, Jim, you have to admit a broken Intel sticker isn't a whole lot of evidence," said Brown quietly.

"That's what Simon said, but I know what I saw. It's only a matter of looking through the stuff Forensics hauled in before we find something more concrete. I know it," Jim insisted.

"But we already had the station look up his file on the computer. The guy's totally clean!" said Rafe.

"For all we know, he could be a computer genius. Files can be tampered with, you know," said Jim.

The other two detectives fell silent. They knew until they caught the other suspect, it would be useless to argue with Ellison.

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

"What's your favorite animal, Blair?" asked James after the crowd had dispersed.

"Why?" asked Blair.

"I want to draw you a picture," said the boy.

"Why don't you draw me whatever you like to draw best?" suggested Blair.

"No, I want to know what your favorite animal is," James insisted.

"Well..." Blair thought. "How about a wolf. I like wolves."

"What color?"

"Gray. A gray wolf," Blair decided.

"What's Jim's favorite animal?" continued James.

"Let's see," said Blair. Then he pointed with his hand. "A jaguar. A black jaguar."

"Okay. I'll draw you a picture and bring it to you later, okay?" said James

"That would be great, James. Just great."

"Excuse me, Mr. Sandburg?" Blair and James turned to see a couple security guards standing next to Blair.

"Yes, I'm Blair Sandburg. Can I help you?"

"We've been asked to take you to your new room now. Orders from Detective Jim Ellison, Cascade P.D.. Please come with us, sir," said one of the guards.

"What do you mean 'my new room'?" said Blair suspiciously.

"I'm sorry sir, I don't know anything more. All I know is Detective Ellison asked our Security Chief to move you to a new room immediately and have you stay there until he arrives. He said you could call him if you have any questions."

Blair's jaw jutted out slightly, showing he was perturbed. "All right, fine. James, don't worry, there's nothing wrong. I'll be looking forward to seeing that picture of yours, okay?"

"Okay," said James. "Bye, Blair. See ya later," he called.

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

The minute Blair had been ushered into his new room on unit 2100 and the guards had shut the doors, he grabbed the phone from the night stand and punched in Jim's cell phone number.

"Ellison," the voice answered.

"Jim, what's going on, man? Why am I in a private room now?" Blair demanded.

"Just calm down, Chief. We discovered some new evidence in the Anderson case. It makes your previous roommate look pretty suspicious. I didn't want to take any chances," he explained.

"What kind of evidence?"

Jim told him about the broken computer sticker.

"Oh, come on, Jim! That's it? You can't arrest someone with that! You didn't find anything else?"

"No. Simon didn't want me to question him until we had more proof," Jim admitted. "But we're still looking."

"Not everyone I come in contact with is some psycho, you know," Blair grumbled.

"Considering your track record...." said Jim.

"Yeah, yeah. Let's not get into that argument again. All I know is I talked to the guy, got to know him a little, and he seemed pretty decent. He was a firefighter, and he's been in the hospital for the past 3 months."

"All I know is I have a bad feeling about this whole thing, and I feel better knowing you're safe," said Jim.

"I know," said Blair. "Oh, by the way, Dr. Ford dropped by this morning. She said the microbiology lab was supposed to have the culture and sensitivity results ready by 5 p.m. Wanna come over and we can hear the news together?"

"I'll be there, Chief -- I promise," said Jim.

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

At exactly 5 p.m. Blair heard a tapping noise on the window. He looked over and saw Jim waving. Blair quickly dialed the cell phone number.

"Hey Jim, I didn't think you were gonna be here this quick. The doctor hasn't come by yet."

"I left the station a little early. Had to make sure you hadn't found yourself another psycho roommate. You probably got used to me at the loft and had to get yourself another one, huh?" Jim teased.

Blair rolled his eyes, but he grinned. "Didja tell Officer Thomas he could go stretch his legs?"

"Yeah, he went to get himself a cup of coffee," Jim replied.

"You guys find any more info on Slowinski?" asked Blair.

"No. And I guess he hasn't caused any trouble here according to hospital security. We're still looking, though." Jim paused. "Maybe you're right about him after all, Chief."

"Good. You need to stop worrying that everyone I know is an axe-murderer," Blair grinned.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Jim muttered. "So did you do anything exciting today?"

"I sang the Wimoweh song from The Lion King for the entire hospital lobby," said Blair.

"You what?"

"Uh, never mind -- long story. I did tell a kid I met who's here for chemo that you'd tell him a cop story or two sometime. He wants to be one when he grows up. Plus his name is James."

"I guess I can't say no to that request, can I, Chief?"

"Nope," said Blair. "Oh yeah, then I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to fend off my very large new nurse. Her name is Helga and she speaks with a thick Svedish accent," Blair said, imitating the woman. "She had this evil gleam in her eye and kept wanting to give me sponge bath. I told her I could do it myself."

Jim laughed, looking down the hall in the direction of the sound of footsteps. "Oh, here comes Dr. Ford."

The blonde woman nodded at Ellison before entering Blair's room.

"Hi, Mr. Sandburg. I just downloaded the results of the sensitivities from the computer. Did you want your friend to hear them too?"

"Yes, ma'am. I'll just keep the phone right here and he'll be able to hear what you say."

"All right. I'm afraid the news isn't what we'd hoped for. The lab report says two kinds of bacteria grew out of your blood. One is sensitive to ampicillin, which is good. The other bacteria is only minimally sensitive to ampicillin and ciprofloxacin, and the only antibiotic it's completely sensitive to is gentamicin. This means you have to keep getting both drugs -- ampicillin and gentamicin -- if we want to be sure you keep getting better."

Blair's heart sank, and he saw the look Jim's face turn very disappointed.

"I'm sorry, Blair. I know this isn't what you wanted to hear."

"How long do I have to keep taking gentamicin?" asked Blair wearily.

"We usually treat for ten days with IV antibiotics, since there's no good pill equivalent for gentamicin."

Blair's spirits sank even further. "I could try one of the other antibiotics. Isn't there a chance that'll work just as well?" he asked.

"No," said Jim on the other end. "I don't want you to risk it."

"Our options are very limited, I'm afraid," said Dr. Ford.

"Well, thanks for coming by to let us know," said Blair.

Dr. Ford nodded. "Let me know if you have any other questions or if I can do anything else for you."

When she was gone, Blair realized Jim stood against the wall opposite Blair's window with his head leaning back against it, his eyes closed and hands shoved in his pants pockets, looking very discouraged.

"Jim," said Blair, shuffling slowly to stand directly behind the room's window. "Jim, come here."

Jim looked up. The light blue eyes that could make the hardest criminal back down looked more dejected than Blair had ever seen them. He didn't speak, but took a few steps to stand right in front of Blair on the other side of the window.

Blair put down the phone, still holding Jim's gaze in his own. "Jim, I know you can hear me. We're gonna get through this together." Instinctively he pressed his left hand against the window.

And slowly, Jim pressed his right hand to the window. He could feel the warmth of Blair's hand and the vibrations of his partner's quiet voice. The invisible moisture from Blair's breath made small clouds on the glass only he could see.

Slowly and deliberately, Blair closed his eyes, and Jim let his eyes shut also.

"We can do this together," Blair whispered again, pouring all his emotions into the one thought.

"Together...." Jim murmured.

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

"....is what you shall be," said a familiar voice.

Jim and Blair's eyes flew open.

The glass had disappeared. Their hands actually touched, the skin of their palms pressing together.

"You have passed the test, sentinel and young shaman," intoned the familiar painted shaman. "You now know nothing can separate you as long as you remain committed to each other -- as sentinel and guide -- as friends -- as brothers." The shaman gestured with his spear, and the jaguar and wolf leaped down off the altar to stand on either side of Jim and Blair. "You will not fail as long as you remember this."

"But why was it so hard?" asked Blair, the first to recover from the shock.

"You were limited by your fears. You did not fully trust each other," replied the shaman. "You have also been given two other gifts."

"Two other gifts?" echoed Jim.

"Yes," declared the shaman. Each of you has been given the heart of a hero and the soul of a brother. Few have been given the gift of sentinel and shaman, and fewer have been given these things also. Fewer still can make the right choice when the gifts conflict. You have been judged worthy."

Blair turned to Jim, looking meaningfully into his eyes. "We did it, Jim," he said, his eyes sparkling brightly.

Jim pulled Blair into a tight hug, rubbing his friend's back and burying his face into Blair's hair to hide his own wet eyes. "Together. We did it together," he murmured.

They hugged a long time.

When they opened their eyes again, Jim and Blair still stood on either side of the window.

Somehow, they didn't feel separated any more.

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

"Is your breakfast decent, Chief?" Jim asked, talking to Blair on the cell phone and watching amusedly through the window as his partner peeked under the container lids and made a face. Blair's fourth day in the hospital had arrived and Jim had come early to watch him eat breakfast.

"Only if you're into clumpy oatmeal and a fried egg cooked to oblivion," Blair said disgustedly.

"Yuk. So what would you do right now for some decent food -- say a stack of pancakes and some scrambled eggs?" asked Jim.

"Did you bring me some real food, Jim? Did you?" Blair asked excitedly, bouncing slightly on the hospital bed.

Jim laughed. "The nurse said she'd put it on a tray and bring it right in, Chief."

"Cool!" Blair said, rubbing his hands together and licking his lips.

Suddenly the scream of a woman pierced the air loudly enough that Blair heard it through his closed doors.

"Fire! There's a fire in the storage room!" she screamed. Judging from her uniform, the woman was part of the housekeeping staff. "Somebody help! Call 911!" the woman continued to scream.

"Jim, what's going on out there?"

Jim smelled the air. "She's right, Chief. There's smoke coming from the room down there."

"Somebody's in there," the woman screamed. "Somebody please help!"

"Go, Jim!" urged Blair. "I'm okay in here. Go, help her!"

Jim nodded and ran down the hall to the smoking room. Holding his breath, he ran inside and helped a nurse to her feet and out of the room, closing the door behind them.

"Are you okay, ma'am?" Jim asked. The nurse was coughing hard, but she nodded. Spotting a fire alarm on the wall, Jim pulled it.

"Help! Somebody help!" A man in a nurse's uniform ran down the hallway. "There's a fire in the children's ward! We need help to get all the kids out!"

Jim's jaw clenched. He knew it was a matter of minutes before the entire second floor of the hospital panicked. Sending his sentinel hearing down the hall, he listened for Blair's heartbeat. Normal speed and even. Blair was okay. He could already smell the smoke coming from the children's unit down the hall. In a quick decision, the detective ran toward the unit.

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

By the time Simon and the rest of the Cascade P.D. arrived at the scene, several fire trucks were already pulled up in front of the Cascade Hospital. On-lookers, health care workers, and patients crowded the large lawn. Simon spotted Jim carrying two children across the lawn to where nurses were collecting the pediatric patients. In one arm, a girl about age 3 with short brown hair alternated between sucking on her thumb and wrapping both pudgy arms around Jim's neck and burying her face in his shoulder. The red-headed boy about age 7 in Jim's other arm clutched a yellow stuffed lion, watching the whole commotion with wide eyes.

"Simon!" panted Jim, setting the boy down and prying the toddler's arms from his neck. "Have you seen Sandburg?"

"No, I just got here. Is he still in there?"

"I've gotta go find out." Jim wiped a sleeve across his sweaty face, breathing heavily from the exertion.

Simon grabbed the exhausted man's arm before he could move. "Wait. How many trips have you taken already?"

"I don't know. Three, five, twenty, what does it matter? I've gotta find Sandburg." He pulled away.

"Let one of the firemen find him, Jim, they're trained for that!"

"They're already all in there helping to clear everyone out. I've gotta go check." Jim took off running toward the building, his long strides taking him rapidly out of Simon's reach.

"Jim!" Simon yelled.

Not surprisingly, the detective didn't stop.

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

Blair craned his neck, trying to see through the window and around the corner where Jim had gone, but it wasn't working very well. He could hear the voices of people shouting and nurses going from room to room. Then he saw patients filing into the hallways.

Suddenly a nurse burst through the door of his room. "We're evacuating this floor, Mr. Sandburg. There's no need to panic, but don't waste time. Follow the rest of the patients to the emergency exit."

"Yes, ma'am," said Blair. The air coming in from the hall felt very cold compared to his warmly heated room. Grabbing Jim's gray robe from the chair by the door, he pulled it on. The sleeves were too long and the hem barely cleared the floor, but it was warm. Quickly concluding his IV pole would be too hard to keep track of among the mass of people now filling the hallways, he deftly disconnected one of the lure locks from the plastic tubing and pole and shoved both to the side.

Flinging the door open and seeing patients, nurses, doctors, housekeeping employees, and visitors shouting and pushing their way down the hallway and smoke beginning to cloud the air, Blair felt like he was going to jump into roaring river rapids without a life jacket. Sure wish Jim was here, he thought, but his tall friend was nowhere to be seen.

Mentally pinching his nose for the dive, Blair took a deep breath and stepped out into the hallway. Instantly the crowd began to sweep him along.

Bumped constantly by other people, Blair struggled to stay upright. It seemed everyone was moving so fast; yet it was taking an eternity to reach the emergency exit.

Suddenly someone grabbed his arm and pulled him aside into one of the side hallways. Blair heaved a sigh of relief at being rescued from the horde as he looked down at the hand on his arm.

The grasp was not one he knew.

"Adam?"

"Yeah, it's me, Sandburg. C'mon, I know a quicker way outta here," he said, pulling on Blair's arm.

"Where do you think you're going? The emergency exit is that way, not this way," Blair pointed. He also noticed Slowinski was dressed in a nurse's scrub uniform.

"You don't think I've been here for three months and not learned anything, do you?" said Slowinski, his voice turning impatient.

"Then why are you wearing an ID tag with someone else's picture and dragging that IV pole?" Blair insisted. The bag hanging from it looked very familiar.

"Had to make sure you didn't go without your medicine, Sandburg. Now shut up!"

Blair felt the hard barrel of a gun against his rib cage.

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

The tall detective found it very slow-going as he fought his way against traffic to get back to unit 2100. Ignoring the shoves and epithets flying in his direction, he searched the crowd for Blair, but did not see him anywhere. Maybe he's still stuck in the room, thought Jim. Or maybe he's made it outside.

After what seemed like an eternity, Jim slid the last few feet along the wall to Blair's door and pushed it open.

The room was empty.

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

"What do you think you're doing!?!" Blair repeated as Slowinski dragged him through the back hallway.

"I said, shut up!"

"Who are you? What did I ever do to you, man?" Blair continued, ignoring Slowinski's threat.

Slowinski didn't answer. They emerged in Unit 2300, already deserted because it was the farthest away from an emergency exit. He yanked Blair across to room 9. Shoving Blair inside, he slammed the door behind them.

"Get over there!" Slowinski ordered, gesturing with the gun to the far corner of the room next to the window. "And keep your hands where I can see them!" he growled.

Slowly, Blair obeyed.

"And this is to make sure you stay there," yelled Slowinski, pointing the gun at Blair. Deliberately, he cocked the gun and a shot rang out.

Slowinski looked satisfactorily at the heap. "Now all we have to do is wait for your friend Ellison."

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

Jim's head jerked at the muffled sound of gunfire. It sounded like it was coming from far at the other end of the floor.

"Blair!" he screamed.

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

"Why?" said Blair through gritted teeth as he looked down at his lower leg. The bullet had gone straight through, probably shattering the bone above the ankle.

"You want to know why?" Slowinski looked at Blair scornfully. "Because you and Ellison killed my brother, that's why. Andy Slowinski. At least that's what my parents named him. Somewhere he decided Anderson sounded better for his criminal record. So I changed it for him." His words were coldly logical.

"You don't have to make the same mistakes your brother did," said Blair, wincing as he shifted his weight.

"Oh, but I already have!" Slowinski said.

"You're a firefighter. You save lives, remember?" said Blair.

"Aangh!" He made a buzzing noise. "Wrong again! That was just my day job -- made a good cover. I got injured in a freak accident involving explosives. I was Andy's right-hand man for constructing digital timing devices. Jack worked under me -- 'course he had to take over when I got hurt...."

"Where did you get all this stuff? You've been here for months now -- where'd you hide it, under the bed?"

"Come now, Blair," he said in a patronizing voice. "You don't think Jack and I haven't been in touch, do you, hmmm?"

<Slam!>

Slowinski whirled as the door to the room flew open and he saw Ellison with his gun drawn. Quickly, Slowinski grabbed the bag of gent from the IV pole where it had been waiting so patiently, ripping part of the plastic so it began to drip. He laughed as Ellison involuntarily lowered his gun, his face contorting as he experienced the horrible assault on his hearing and balance once again.

Grabbing Ellison's arm, he yanked him inside and shoved him towards Blair. The taller man stumbled, dropping his gun and clutching his ears. Blair reached up to break his friend's fall as Jim crumpled to the ground next to him.

"Well, well," said Slowinski. "That plan worked entirely too well. It pays to have ears that listen in on other people's conversations now, doesn't it?" he laughed

Blair swallowed hard as Slowinski approached him and his partner, all the while ripping the bag of gentamicin open even more.

Somehow maintaining his composure, Blair looked the psychotic man straight in the eye and spoke through clenched teeth. "Bringing us together was your biggest mistake!"

In a swift movement, Blair grabbed Jim's gun and fired, hitting the man in the shoulder.

Slowinski crumpled to the ground, knocking his head on the metal bed frame. He didn't move.

Tossing the gun aside, Blair turned his attention to his partner. Jim hardly moved now. His expression seemed blank, as if his senses had shut off all reception of environmental stimuli in a defensive reaction to the overload.

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

"Jim!" Blair yelled.

No response.

"I've gotta get rid of that stuff," he muttered to himself. Painfully, he inched two feet across the floor and seized the leaking, malevolent bag, flinging it into the small bathroom adjoining the room. Then he maneuvered himself over to one of the beds and reached up, grabbing a towel to mop up the spilt liquid on the floor. He tossed the towel into the bathroom too, shoving the door closed with one hand while still on the floor.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Disoriented, Jim's eyes squinted open. He lay on the ground, the jungle around him oppressively dark, the wind whipping through the trees and bushes, biting at his face, tearing at his clothes. He could feel the wrathful elements screaming at him, though he could hear nothing. The sentinel tried to rise, but the violent gusts beat him down to the ground again. He covered his ears defensively, trying to protect himself from the deafening silence. Blair -- where are you? he cried out.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Jim," Blair called, moving back to his partner and shaking him again. Jim remained motionless. Gently, the guide gathered his sentinel's upper body in his lap, not noticing the coldness of the floor against his bare legs sticking out from the thin, worn hospital gown. Blair cradled him and stroked his forehead with one hand. His other arm supported Jim's head, his hand resting on Jim's chest and moving in small circles. Leaning down so his hair and the too-long sleeves of the gray robe brushed lightly against Jim's face, he whispered closely into his friend's ear. "Jim, can you hear me?"

Nothing happened for a few seconds. Then, slowly, a larger hand reached up and found Blair's own, grasping it tightly. Blair responded. Their connection ignited with an eloquently desperate intensity.

Suddenly Blair saw the hospital room around him dissolve into the dark blue landscape of the jungle. Jim still remained in his lap, but Blair now felt the raging winds and dense darkness pressing down on them, quickly comprehending the mystical symbolism of Jim's sensory overload. The two partners held on to each other even more tightly, Blair still whispering encouragement. "Jim, I'm here. I'm right here, buddy."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sentinel knew he wasn't alone anymore. He could feel his guide's presence and touch, could feel their bond slowly cutting through the jumble of sensory stimuli bombarding his mind.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair gently squeezed Jim's hand, relying on the sentinel's tactile sense. He gently guided Jim's palm to his chest so the sentinel could feel the vibrations of his guide's voice. "Jim," he said softly. "We can overcome this. We can do it -- together."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blearily, Jim tried to focus on Blair, feeling the chest under his palm vibrate, knowing his guide was trying to speak to him. But the roar of silence remained, defeating his attempts to hear. Switching to sight, he opened his eyes more widely, blinking several times at the blurriness. Images swam back and forth with a psychedelic quality.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Jim, your senses are overloaded," Blair continued, hoping Jim could block out the tumultuous environment enough to feel and understand his words. He rubbed his thumb over the back of Jim's hand, shifting to lean further over his half-aware partner. Blair carefully shifted his other hand from beneath Jim's head and placed it on Jim's forehead instead, continuing to try to communicate by touch since sound had been lost to his sentinel.

Light blue eyes met his, and Blair responded to the plea he found written in them.

"I know you can't hear me, Jim, but I can help you." He wet his lips and spoke again, framing his words with care, making each one count. "I'm here and I won't let go. Remember our gifts. Trust me."

Jim held Blair's gaze, squeezing his younger friend's hand more tightly, his eyes and touch conveying the strength of his emotions. He spoke with effort, in slow, halting words. "My... shaman.... I... trust... you." Then he closed his eyes, his face relaxing.

A fiery light began to emanate from their linked hands, slowly enveloping them and moving outward, illuminating the jungle. The flame of their connection warmed them, lighting the way out of the dark, silent chaos holding them captive. The flame gave them power. It promised deliverance.

Their surroundings continued to get brighter and brighter, the winds calmer and calmer, until everything finally flashed. The hospital room appeared around them once again.

The sentinel and guide had regained control.

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

Simon was talking to the Hospital security chief when people started yelling and pointing toward the hospital's front doors. His eyes widened as he saw two men emerge from the building -- it was Ellison carrying Sandburg in his arms.

As he ran across the lawn to the front steps, the captain watched Jim gently lower Blair to the ground, then collapse beside him. Blair cradled Jim's head and shoulders in his arms, touching his face and whispering to him, while the paramedics and other personnel descended upon the two men.

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

The next day....

Simon shifted in his chair, watching the clock on the 3rd floor of the Cascade Hospital. He glanced over at the detective sitting beside him. "Jim, you're fidgeting." The other man didn't respond. "JIM!" Simon said more loudly, elbowing Ellison's arm.

"Huh?" Jim said loudly, jerking at Simon's unsubtle nudge. Then Jim grinned a childish, innocent grin, like a little boy waiting for his birthday present to arrive. "Only five more minutes, captain," he said happily.

Simon rolled his eyes. "This hard-of-hearing thing is quite a change," he muttered. "And I'm not sure I like it."

In five more minutes, it would be a full 24 hours since the doctors had stopped the gentamicin -- enough time according to the hospital pharmacologist for most of the drug to be eliminated from Blair's body. Simon and the rest of Major Crimes were not surprised when the hospital information systems department discovered a breach in hospital security and traced it to an incriminating interface on Slowinski's lap top. Apparently the diabolical computer expert had engineered everything from Blair's transfer from the ICU to his own room to communicating with Jackson about acquiring the explosives -- all from the comfort of his own bed.

Rafe and Brown had immediately suspected that the lab report on Blair's cultures had been altered. The bacteria were actually amply sensitive to both ampicillin and amoxicillin, which meant that Blair didn't have to take gentamicin any more. Even better, he would be able to go home on five more days of pills instead of having to stay in the hospital.

Not that Jim would have cared about the pills. He only knew he and Blair wouldn't be separated by a window anymore.

To top it off, the Anderson case truly was over now. Slowinski had been arrested in the hospital room where Blair had taken him down, and would be well enough to stand trial soon, having sustained only a concussion and the shoulder wound. Rafe and Brown had caught Jackson later that day trying to leave the country from the Cascade International Airport. The hospital had sustained minimal damage since all the "fires" had simply been smoke bombs. Blair's marksmanship had prevented Slowinski from setting off the one real bomb intended to eliminate Jim and Blair.

And it looked like Jim would recover from the prolonged exposure to the drug. In only 24 hours his hearing had recovered from complete deafness to someone who acted like they needed a hearing aid. In a matter of days he'd have his sentinel hearing back, Blair had said. Maybe it had something to do with Blair helping Jim turn his senses down so low. Probably made him less susceptible to the toxic effects, Simon speculated.

The wall clock's minute hand finally ticked to the 12 o'clock position, and the door to the hospital room opened. Blair hobbled out on crutches, one leg in a cast, grinning widely. In the next second, Jim enveloped his partner in an enormous hug, both men laughing as Blair's crutches crashed to the ground.

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

The faint scent of grilled lake trout and Blair's secret herbs floated about the loft. Simon and Daryl had already left for the evening after enjoying the gourmet meal cooked by the two occupants of the apartment.

"More popcorn?" asked Jim, offering the large bowl to the red-headed boy sitting on the loft's living room couch next to Blair. James took a handful, but didn't take his eyes off the TV where The Lion King played. In the current scene, the shamanistic baboon was doing his little chant. Softly, Blair and James chanted along with it. "A-san-te-sa-a-squashed-ba-na-na..."

"Come to think of it, the monkey does remind me of you, Chief," Jim said, plopping down on the couch next to his partner. He leaned forward to set the bowl down next to a rather well-drawn picture of a gray wolf and black jaguar on the coffee table.

Blair laughed before he realized what Jim had said. "Hey! Is this in a good way or a bad way?" he said suspiciously.

"Do you really want to know?" asked Jim.

"Never mind," decided Blair.

An hour later, the final bars of music from the movie were playing. After pressing rewind on the remote and turning the TV off, Blair gently lowered the sleeping James down onto the couch. It was almost 8 p.m. and the boy's mother would be arriving any minute to pick him up.

Jim stood in front of the balcony glass windows, watching the raindrops slide down the panes.

"Whatcha thinking about, Jim?" asked Blair, limping over to join his friend.

"How good it is to be home..." said Jim, "...together."

"Here, here," agreed Blair, raising an imaginary glass to the air. He felt Jim's arm close warmly around his shoulders. Naturally, Blair's arm wrapped around Jim's waist.

"Heart of a hero," whispered Blair, looking up at his friend. He raised his right hand, palm facing Jim.

Jim lifted his left hand to press against Blair's. "Soul of a brother," he finished.

- The End -


Additional Disclaimer: The Lion King belongs to Disney. Also, the antibiotics in this story are real, as are the "ototoxic" side effects of gentamicin. I thought it would be interesting to speculate how Jim's senses would react if he actually came in contact with it.