Okay, this one is a few days late holiday-wise, but I'm just glad I finally got it written. This is a sequel to my previous crossover, Princes Of The Universe, so you should probably read that one first. Flashbacks are courtesy of that particular story. Also, even though this is a crossover, no known Immies were used in this production, except by implication.
Special thanks to K, my beta, and to Becky and Robyn's Episode Transcripts page for the direct quotes from The Sentinel By Blair Sandburg. There are also spoilers for Sentinel Too, parts 1 and 2, and a brief mention of The Waiting Room.
Hope you enjoy!
(A Sentinel/Highlander Crossover)
Part I - July 1998
The words were said dispassionately, as if the speaker were commenting on something benign like the weather. But the listener knew the passion behind the words, felt the pain as acutely as if it was his own. In a way, maybe it was his own, for in the moment following Death's wake, he had confronted it, embraced it, and would have happily exchanged his own battered existence for its cold comfort-- if he could have been assured that it would have been an exchange and not just some quaint, but futile, deal with the devil. It had been his wariness, his fear that his sacrifice would be in vain, that had given him the impetus to plunge headlong into the supernatural to merge jaguar and wolf, bringing both of them back across the threshold of life.
Jim Ellison nodded, acknowledging the oft repeated words. During the past month since their return from the wilds of Mexico and the bizarre occurrences at the Temple of The Sentinel, the reality of his death occasionally hit Blair out of the blue, and the brief statement would slip from his lips. The first time it had happened, Jim had grown defensive, thinking it was his partner's sick way of getting revenge-- deserved revenge, actually, but nevertheless of the below-the-belt variety. However, the blank look in Blair's eyes, which quickly became remembered horror, convinced him that the slips were involuntary, that Blair was having trouble accepting the concept of having been dead, would maybe always have trouble processing the information and holding on to it. So, since Blair couldn't accept his death, Jim decided it was up to him to accept Blair's unacceptance. When the words came, he calmly acknowledged them, and with it all the blame that was due him.
At times, Jim wished he was better at the game of self-delusion, but apparently when he gave up repression as a form of denial, he lost all ability to hide the truth from himself. Yes, Blair had died-- no, to be brutally honest, Blair had been murdered-- and the murder rested firmly on the shoulders of the man he'd formerly considered as his Blessed Protector. It had been Alex Barnes who had hit the anthropologist on the head, then tossed him into the university fountain to drown, but Jim had engineered the meeting, put the players into place. He'd pushed Blair away, and taunted Alex. He'd ignored his dreams, visions of prophecy, for the sake of his sanity and...and the cost had almost been too high. In fact, the bill was still being paid, but at least this time the statement was being addressed to the right person-- not to the household in general.
"Jim, you don't understand," Blair said, sliding his laptop onto the coffee-table. He had the summer off, his recovery and the trip to Mexico ruining his chance to attend the first session of summer school, and an unpleasant bout of amebiasis, a.k.a. amebic dysentery, keeping him from joining the second session. The disease, caused by an amoeba he'd ingested while doing the dead man's float in the fountain, had become symptomatic two weeks after they'd returned from Mexico and he'd prayed that it was just a simple case of Montezuma's Revenge. Of course, he hadn't been that lucky, and the quick loss of thirty-five pounds had left him weak and prone to every little "bug" in the air. Jim had practically kept him prisoner in the loft, which hadn't been too difficult at first, considering he really didn't want to think of being too far away from a bathroom. Now, he was feeling much better, and had been cruising the internet for uh-- research subjects, when the thought of his death struck him again. But this time, the words revealed a mystery.
"What don't I understand, Chief?" Jim asked, patiently closing his magazine and focusing his entire extraordinary attention onto Blair.
Jumping to his feet, Blair went into the kitchen and returned with a knife. Before Jim could stop him, he sliced open a finger and held it out to his roommate, knowing that Jim could not only see the blood dripping, but smell it, and hear the drops as they splattered against the polished hardwood surface of the floor. "This, Jim. You don't understand this." His blue eyes focused on the ones staring at him, panicked and horrified. "I died, Jim. Why aren't I immortal?"
"Shit," Blair swore softly beside him as he saw Amanda holding the knife over her wrist. What the hell had happened? "Amanda, what are you doing?" he asked in a hushed whisper.
"Making you understand." Squinting her eyes shut, she brought the knife down deeply across her wrist.
"Call 911, Chief!" Jim yelled as he sprinted to Amanda. She stood there, watching the blood stream from her arm and he knew she was in shock. He also knew he had to stop the bleeding as quickly as possible. He reached for a clean dishtowel.
"God, I hate blood," Amanda muttered. *The things I do just because a man likes me.* She looked up to see the panicked men in action. "Hang up the phone, Chief," she ordered softly. By that time, Jim had taken her wrist into his hand and started to wrap the towel around it. Then he stopped.
"Tell the 911 operator you made a mistake, Chief."
Blair frowned. He'd ignored Amanda's order, but this one came from Jim. He apologized and hung up the phone. "Jim, she needs medical attention, man."
"No, she doesn't," Jim said hollowly. He revealed the wrist he still held in his hand. There was only a faint red mark where the laceration used to be.
"What the hell?" Blair looked at Amanda angrily. "You pulling your stupid carnival tricks on us, Amanda? That's sick!"
"It wasn't a trick," Jim said. "I saw it, felt it, healing, Chief." He looked at the wrist one more time, then at the lady it belonged to. "Who are you? What are you?"
"I am an Immortal."
Jim wrapped his hand around Blair's finger, feeling nothing except the blood flow stopping due to the pressure he himself exerted. There was no tingle, no faint electrical shock, nothing that hinted at anything happening beyond usual mortal healing. He gave a faint shake of his head at the question that appeared in Blair's eyes.
"She lied to us?" Blair asked, his voice low and shaky. "We're not pre-immortal?"
"It's a sword, Jim," Blair said as he opened the box with his name on it. "Master Chin sent it. I thought I made it clear I wasn't interested in this sort of thing. I get into enough trouble with my Swiss Army knife..." His voice trailed off as he opened the polished wood case and saw the shiny blade embedded in velvet. "Man, this is beautiful. Must be museum quality. I couldn't accept a gift like this, even if I were interested."
"You have to be interested, Chief," Amanda said softly. "It's a matter of life and death. Literally."
Blair paled. "What are you talking about, Amanda? This guy Duvall will be long gone before I even figure out which end of this thing I'm supposed to hold."
Amanda came to sit beside him on the sofa. "You remember how I told you I can recognize a fellow Immortal when I meet one? Well, there's a similar occurrence when I meet someone who will one day *be* an Immortal. See, you *become* an Immortal after your first death, but the trait is inside you from the day you are born."
Jim perched on the arm of the sofa, violating one of his house rules but not caring. "What are you saying, Amanda?"
She looked at them and tried to find the right words. It shouldn't be that difficult. After all, she had managed to tell them about herself without a huge display. Telling them this should be a snap. But it wasn't. What she had to say could either be considered a gift or a curse, and she wasn't sure what category they would put it into. "If something happened right now, guys-- something devastating-- I wouldn't be the only Immortal in the room."
If it had just been Amanda's word, Jim might have hesitated before answering Blair's question. Amanda was a dear friend, but as he'd stated earlier, he was way past the delusion stage. If necessary, or convenient, Amanda would lie well enough to fool even a Sentinel. Why she would lie about their immortality, was one to ponder-- or would be, if he thought there was a possibility she was lying. But.... "Chin Wu wouldn't lie to us, Chief." The sword master was himself an Immortal and had taken on the role of their teacher. "And Duvall wouldn't have considered us candidates for the prophecy if he hadn't sensed our eventual immortality."
The prophecy: From the city will come two. One will have the wisdom of the ages. The other will possess the gifts of the senses. The two will act as one and will rule, even until the end of the world and beyond. Duvall had interpreted the prophecy and had cast them into the roles of the "two". If the prophecy was true, then it changed the nature of the Game-- the Immortal version of the purpose of life. A lot of Immortals would not appreciate finding out they'd been killing each other for nothing, that the "Prize"-- whatever the hell it was-- was already promised to two guys from Cascade, Washington. Now, if they weren't, in fact, Immortal, then the bright side would be that maybe the real Immortals wouldn't come after them. The dark side, however, was that if some of them did decide to challenge them just on principle alone-- they wouldn't have the ability to sense their Presence. Mortals just weren't equipped to feel "buzzes."
"So, what went wrong?" Blair questioned, looking down at their hands, which were still joined. "Why do I still have a cut?"
"I don't know, Chief. I'll take off tomorrow and we'll go searching for answers, okay?"
"Man, you can't possibly have anymore paid leave coming," Blair commented, mentally counting the number of days Jim had sat around the loft taking care of him.
The older man shrugged. "Your peace of mind is worth a day's wages."
"And what about your peace of mind, Jim?"
There was no reply and Blair fought back an angry retort. This agreeable, subservient, patronizing Jim Ellison was starting to grate on his nerves. No-- correction-- this Jim Ellison was pissing him off. Granted, he'd seen the big guy do the guilt thing before, and he'd, on occasion, gleefully reaped the benefits of a penitent Jim, but this was going on too long. Sure, Jim had fucked up when Alex Barnes came to town, but he wasn't the only one. Alex had been at the top of her game, and he-- well, it was the gallant Blair Sandburg who had approached the bitch in the first place. See? There was enough guilt to spread around. Jim had no business trying to hog it all for himself.
Something tugged at his hand, and Blair looked down to see Jim had smeared the cut with antibiotic and was now wrapping it in a small Band-Aid. Weird. He hadn't noticed the Sentinel leaving the room or cleaning the cut. He must be more tired than he thought. Another lingering reminder of being ill. "What if I don't want you to take off tomorrow?" he asked peevishly.
"You don't want an answer?"
"I don't need you to get it."
Jim smoothed the small plastic bandage, then closed the first aid kit. "Get some sleep, Sandburg. We'll go see Master Chin tomorrow."
"Do you know how often I hate you?" Blair asked softly as he toddled off to his room, fighting exhaustion.
"Join the crowd," Jim murmured, as he put everything away, then wearily climbed the stairs.
"Student Ellison! You are early this week," Chin Wu called as he saw the tall man walk through the door of the ballroom/dojo. The Asian had taken an old, abandoned mansion and turned it into a martial arts school for kids and adults alike. Since Westerners had trouble discerning the age of Asians, he'd been able to run his academy for many years without question. In fact, Jim had attended the school briefly in his teens. But perhaps it was because he knew Jim was pre-Immortal, or it was because he sensed there was something "different" about him, he'd pushed his student more than the boy's father had liked. Jim had been forced to quit his lessons, and Chin had lived with regret until a few months ago when the detective returned to his study of the sword. Although the situation which returned his student to him had been troublesome, working with him had not been. The discipline Jim had learned in the Army held him in good stead.
"Ah, but I see you are not alone. Welcome back, Student Sandburg." Chin looked at the anthropologist standing slightly behind his taller partner, and tried to keep pity out of his eyes. The figure was too thin and pale. In perfect health, he had the ability to be an adequate fighter-- if he ever took the exercises seriously. Chin knew the lackadaisical attitude had more to do with Blair's desire not to learn how to kill, than with disrespect or lack of concentration. The only time Blair truly tried was when he sparred with Jim. His partner demanded his best, and Blair seemed conditioned to obeying Jim when it came to matters of defense. Chin suspected this had something to do with their Sentinel/Guide relationship, but despite being just under one thousand, he'd never run into a Sentinel and Guide before. It was only after he'd been made aware of the prophecy that he'd researched the existence of such a pair.
"Master Chin," Blair replied, bowing slightly.
"I was told that you were ill. I see that this was true."
Blair flushed with embarrassment. He knew that his clothes, which he always wore loose, now bagged and sagged in all the wrong places. "Actually, before I was ill, I was dead," he said, noting that no one was nearby. The other students were busy at their assigned tasks.
"Dead?" Master Chin frowned. "That cannot be. You do not yet have the Presence of a true Immortal."
"Yet, the paramedics called the time of my death. That is why we have come."
Chin motioned to one of his helpers and told him he would be in meditation for a while. Then he gestured for Jim and Blair to follow him. "I do not understand," he began as they settled into his office. "Please, tell me all that happened."
"I got hit over the head and drowned in a fountain," Blair said flatly.
Chin's eyes widened. "But you were resuscitated? Perhaps that means you were not completely dead."
Blair's eyes sought Jim's for a second. "It was more of a...rebirth, than a resuscitation," he said hesitantly.
A helpless glance from his partner had Jim clearing his voice. "My spirit animal sorta recharged his spirit animal," he said, hoping that was enough, since he didn't know how to be any plainer.
Master Chin turned his dark, fathomless eyes on both of them, and saw shadows in the air behind them. He shivered as he brushed against the outer edges of their power. He could only imagine and wonder at what that would become once they came into their Immortality. Or was that if they came into their Immortality? If he concentrated he could feel their feeble Presences. If that didn't mean they were to be Immortal, then what did it mean, and how would it affect the prophecy?
"I have never heard of such a thing-- a pre-immortal not becoming immortal when he died," he hastened to clarify. Of course, spirit animals reviving other spirit animals was kind of a first for him, too. He'd heard of such mystical occurrences, but they always happened to someone else-- like fictional characters. "I'm going to need some help on this one. Joe Dawson, perhaps...."
"He's a Watcher, right?" Blair asked, the name sounding familiar.
Chin smiled. Once Amanda found out a secret, you might as well buy a neon sign. "I know the idea of Watchers irritates some Immortals, but just think about the repository of information stored in the chronicles they keep. If we're lucky, Mr. Dawson will help us out. If he refuses, well, there are other ways to get Watcher information."
Jim frowned. "We're not speaking of anything illegal, are we?"
"What if we are?" Blair questioned out of spite, just to see how far Jim was willing to take this "whatever you say, Chief" attitude of his.
Jim turned to leave. If it took illegal activity to find an answer for Blair, he wouldn't get in the way. But neither could he bear witness to it until he was ready to compromise his own morals.
"Stay," Chin said quickly. "It's just that a friend of mine has inside knowledge of the Watchers. He was once a member of the Society, but although he's left them, he knows his way around a few databases. But first, we'll try Dawson."
Twenty minutes later, Dawson had the complete story and had given his word that he would get right on the problem. "It's good, but rare when mortals and Immortals work together," Chin said, hanging up the phone. "I do not know why there has to be so much enmity between our races. Perhaps this is something the two of you will be able to solve when you reign."
"Don't you mean if?" Blair replied dryly. He really hadn't spent much time considering his eventual immortality, but now that it seemed out of reach, he was...mourning it. You are such a headcase, man.
Chin regarded both of them. "I believe in the prophecy, and I believe you are the pair mentioned in it. Whatever is happening, is happening for a reason, a reason that has to do with furthering the prophecy," he stated firmly.
"How can you be so sure?" Blair asked plaintively, wishing his own conviction was as strong.
The ageless Immortal gave a warm smile. "Because I feel it in here, Blair," he said, placing a hand over his heart, then lowering it to his stomach. "And in here. For nearly a thousand years I have trusted what my heart and gut tell me. Now is not the time for me to doubt."
"A thousand years...." Blair's voice grew hushed. "I cannot imagine what such a long life feels like."
"You will more than imagine it; you will experience it," Chin said assuredly. "Granted that you learn enough to keep your heads. It will understandably take Mr. Dawson some time to track down the information we need. Shall we pass the hours in study? You, of course, have your swords?"
Blair opened his mouth to explain that they had only come to talk, but stopped as Jim told his teacher that he had his sword in the truck. The too-thin anthropologist stared hard at his partner, teetering between shock and anger. Just how long had the Sentinel been keeping a sword handy, and why was his Guide just now finding out about it?
"That is good, Student Ellison. Go retrieve your weapon. And as for you, Student Sandburg, we will start on exercises designed to restore your muscle tone. In your present condition, it would be difficult for you to merely heft your weapon, much less wield it properly."
Blair shrugged. "Does it really matter? I'm not an Immortal. I may never be one."
Chin copied the shrug. "No one has ever been harmed by having too much muscle-- unless it is in his head. Besides, upper body definition is a chick magnet."
Blair's surprised grin matched his teacher's wry one.
"Man, I hurt in places I didn't even know I had," Blair groaned, collapsing onto the loveseat when they returned to the loft.
"It was a long day," Jim agreed. Not to mention unproductive. Joe Dawson hadn't been able to come up with a single instance of a pre-immortal not making the leap to full immortality. But since Immortals usually kept the awareness of pre-immortals to themselves, then maybe such information couldn't be found in the chronicles. So Joe was going to ask the Immortals he was friendly with, as soon as he could track them down. Chin had promised to do the same. Jim, however, doubted either one would ever find an answer.
"What would you know about a long day, Jim?" Blair asked, cracking open an irritated eye in his roommate's direction. "After a single spar, you spent the rest of the day in meditation."
"Master Chin said my focus was off."
"That's not the only thing that's off about you," Blair mumbled.
Jim opened his mouth to give a caustic comeback, then pinched his lips closed and headed toward the kitchen. "You hungry, Chief?"
Blair couldn't take it anymore. He took one of the pillows from the sofa and tossed it at the back of Jim's head. It bounced off the target with a muffled "umph."
"Why the hell did you do that?" Jim asked angrily, before he could stop himself.
"Because I couldn't find a brick," Blair said flatly.
Jim took a deep breath. "Chief--"
"And don't you 'Chief' me. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing you call me that. I'm Sandburg, your irritating partner, dammit! Just because you fucked up, and I've been sick, doesn't change who we are!"
"Look, Ch-- Sandburg," Jim began patiently.
Blair got up and headed for the closet. "I know I have a baseball bat around here somewhere," he muttered.
"Sandburg, stop it!" Jim yelled, reaching out to grab his wrist, then letting it go when his hand wrapped completely around it. So fragile....
"Fuck you, Jim!" Blair snarled. "I may not be Immortal, but I'm not dead either!"
"But you were," Jim whispered brokenly. His mind was flooded with images of the blue jacket floating atop the murky water, Blair's pale face and unmoving chest....
"The key word is 'were', Jim," Blair said, stepping closer to his partner. "I was dead, and now I'm not-- thanks to you, man. I'm healing. I will regain the weight, and I'm stronger, Jim. Stronger in ways I can't even begin to tell you. But you're making me weak, sapping me of the strength I need to fully recover."
Jim stumbled back until he ran against a chair, and he sat down hard. "Tell me, Chief. Tell me what it is you want me to do, and I swear I'll do it."
Blair ran a hand across his face. Finally, he was reaching Jim, making it through the heavy layer of guilt. "What I want is for us to go back to the way we were, but I know that's impossible. So, my second choice would be for us to get back to normal. That involves you being my friend, not my 'yes man'. Yell if you want to. Give me that ol' Ellison 'I won't stand for that crap' stare. I can take it, Jim. Despite the fact that I look like a kid wearing his older brother's clothes, I won't break." He gave his partner a cheeky grin. "And even if I do, you can put me back together again."
Jim chuckled wearily, wondering again why this man had come back to him, to live with him, to reclaim the friendship. It either had to be love, or insanity. He looked up at the grinning face. Definitely insanity. "Come on, Humpty Dumpty. We'll make sandwiches, clean the kitchen, then go to bed."
"I'm down with the sandwich and the bed parts. But about this cleaning bit--"
"Sandburg," Jim growled menacingly.
Blair rolled his eyes. "House rules, huh? Damn. I should have waited a little longer to have this conversation with you."
Jim slung his arm around the slight, but sturdy shoulders. "Yes, Chief, you should have."
Part II - May 1999
Blair watched Joel amble off down the hall to give blood, then turned his attention back to the bed in the Intensive Care Unit. "No one was expecting this," he told Jim, whose eyes never left his injured captain.
"I should have been. I'm so off my game, Chief, with all this media crap. That bullet was meant for me." He could hear the bullet as it burst through the window, tore into Simon's flesh, then headed for Megan Conner. Another inch and it would have hit his Guide as well.
Blair tried to determine when Cascade had turned to hell and just how big a part had he played in the conversion. How had a dissertation he hadn't even submitted yet be the cause of so much pain? If it hadn't been for the media mobbing Jim, he would have stopped Zeller at the rally, and the man wouldn't have had the chance to come after Jim. Now, two friends were battling for their lives, and his Sentinel.... "Don't...don't block out your senses. This is when you need them most, and I can help you."
"Take a look at that man." His features hardened as he watched Simon struggle for each breath. "That happened because of me." He paused and made a decision. "I don't think it's a good idea to be around me right now. The only chance I got of getting Zeller is if I'm on my own." He turned and walked away.
Blair skidded in beside him just as the elevator doors closed. "What part of 'on my own' don't you get, Sandburg?" he asked dryly.
"Hey, I came with you, man. But I can catch a cab if--"
"I'll drop you by home, then I'll head back to the station," Jim said, too tired to argue. He had meant what he said to Simon earlier, before Zeller's attack. He wanted to go back to working alone. He didn't want to worry about a partner anymore, and he sure as hell didn't want to worry about being a Sentinel. He was tired of it. He wanted out.
"Jim," Blair began.
"No more, Sandburg," Jim said, stopping him. "I can't do this right now, okay?"
Blair nodded, for once understanding Jim perfectly. Because he, too, was close to being overwhelmed by guilt. They exited the elevator and started across the partially full parking deck. Suddenly, Jim froze, then began running toward the truck. Blair automatically copied his movements, heading for his side of the vehicle. He came to an aborted stop when he saw that Jim wasn't getting into the truck. Instead, he was removing the sword from behind his seat. Shit.
"Not now," he murmured as he looked around the deck, trying to see what Jim had seen. The man came from the far corner, and any thoughts of it being a mistake fled Blair's mind when he saw the streak of silver the newcomer held at his side. "Let's get out of here, man," he whispered frantically.
Jim shook his head. "If I thought it would do any good, we'd be halfway to the next state by now. But the paparazzi following me would be a dead giveaway. What do you want?" he called out to the approaching figure.
"Your drawn sword tells me you already know," the stranger replied. "Since you aren't yet immortal, I take it that your Sentinel abilities alerted you to my presence. You would truly make a formidable Immortal. It is good for the Game that we will never know how formidable."
Jim gave a bitter laugh. "Friend, if you'd made this challenge another day, you probably would have stood a decent chance at taking my head. After all, as you pointed out, I'm still a mortal. But I have an assassin to catch, an assassin who has made his work very personal for me. So, that means it's not very convenient for me to die at the moment. Sorry."
"Then, you'll follow me down to the alley? I wouldn't want us to be disturbed," the Immortal said.
Jim shrugged. "Sure." He tossed Blair the keys. "You can take the truck home, or you can wait."
"Or I could call for back up. He can't come after you if he's locked up," Blair argued.
"He can't, but another can. Don't you get it, Chief? All this publicity has drawn a target on my back. Whatever Immortals that didn't believe in the prophecy are rethinking it right now. If I can be a Sentinel, then what's to say the prophecy can't be true, too?"
Blair bit back a scream. Jim was fighting mortals with cameras and Immortals with swords all because his mother-- no, all because he'd written a dissertation that left the Sentinel exposed and vulnerable. Sure, he could blame his mother. He could blame Sid. But that still left him with the fact that those were his words that were destroying Jim's life. President Harry S. Truman had placed a sign on his desk in the Oval Office which had read, "The Buck Stops Here," which meant he accepted full responsibility for whatever the U.S. did. Just as I have to accept full responsibility for my dissertation and the chaos it has caused. "If you don't mind, I'd like to go with you." And watch your back, because even though you don't acknowledge it, that's still my job.
Blair was startled, and he thought Jim's opponent was a little stunned too, when Jim took the offensive. There was no timidity in his assault, just brutal force and a confidence in his blade. The Immortal was brought to his knees and decapitated long before he realized he'd been in a fight.
Blair started toward Jim, but stopped when his partner raised a hand in warning. The last time he'd beheaded an Immortal, Amanda had been nearby and the Quickening had automatically gone to her. But now, without the strength of a full Immortal to draw it, it went to the next best thing-- which was Jim's weak pre-immortal essence. The display was rather puny, and Blair didn't know if that was because the Immortal had been weak, or that the Quickening didn't have much to fight against as Jim absorbed it, curling over on his side in the dirty alley as the strange energy danced around him, then sank beneath his skin.
"Jim? You with me, man?" Blair asked anxiously, as he bent over his friend, searching for a pulse.
Jim groaned and struggled to sit up. "All present and accounted for, Chief," he said, after a final tendril of electricity curled around his chest, then pierced his soul.
"You didn't zone this time."
"It engaged all my senses. Couldn't focus long enough to zone," Jim explained. He wiped his hand across his face, staring at the mixture of dirt and moisture staining his hand. Shit. He could imagine what he looked like-- the tell-tale tracks of tears coursing through the dirt encrusting his face. "Let's get the hell out of here." He took his partner's offered hand and climbed unsteadily to his feet.
"What about--?" Blair angled his head toward the remains of the challenger.
"Don't know. Don't care. Worrying about Zeller is about all I can take right now."
"Right. Besides, we need to treat your injuries. You were nicked a couple of times and we don't want them to get infected," Blair said, falling back on practicality. It seemed the sanest thing to do.
"Not a problem, Chief. That guy's Quickening healed them. I felt the cuts knitting closed."
Blair inspected one of the rents in Jim's shirt, and saw for himself that the flesh beneath was whole. "Neat trick."
Jim shrugged. "I'd be more impressed if it was something that I could use to nail Zeller. Let's go, Chief. Now I have to shower and change before I can go back to the office. Just another fucking delay."
Blair closed his eyes as he took one last look at the "fucking delay". Then he trailed behind Jim, his mind working furiously. This has to end. This has to end now.
They drove to the loft in silence.
Blair sat in front of the balcony, holding his dissertation in his hand. Jim had showered, changed, and left without a word. But, hell, what was left to say?
Naomi looked at the dejected form that was her son. "Will you ever forgive me for making such a mess of things?"
Blair nodded. Things were going to get better. Soon. "That's okay, Mom. We're all going to be fine."
"Do you still love me even with all this?"
Blair put down his life's work and stood. "Oh, Mom. Come on. Don't be silly." He pulled her into a warm embrace.
"Of course I do. Always. I mean, we were all doing what we thought was right. Right? Nothing happens in this universe randomly. It's all for a reason." Maybe just not the reason we expected. Jim snarled at me that I had it all now, the brass ring and everything. He was right. "That's part of what I was writing about. I always wondered if my work would ever amount to anything. If it's taught me one thing, it's taught me that Jim is right. I got it all. I got it all right here. The brass ring. And now I know what to do. Why don't you go call Sid?"
Naomi looked into his eyes, sensing her son had made a decision about all of this. And that he would not tolerate anymore interference from her. "Okay, sweetie."
"Yeah?" He hadn't expected such easy compliance, but he was grateful. Arguing with Naomi would just make things harder.
Blair looked at the dissertation. What had Megan said to him? "Look, Sandy, if you know you're doing what's right, then you can move on with a clear conscience. And so can Jim."
He smiled. Megan was a good friend. A better friend to Jim than he was, actually. She'd found out he was a Sentinel nearly a year ago, and she'd kept his secret. He, on the other hand, had turned the secret into a multimedia sound bite. But he was going to fix it. He was going to do what was right, and yes, his conscience was clear as a bell.
Everything was going to be okay.
It had to be.
Three hours later, Blair stood in the hallway of the hospital, talking to the doctor as Simon was pushed back into his room. As the doctor walked away, he looked up to see Jim approaching.
"Hey. The doc said the surgery went well and the bullet missed major organs on both of them, but, uh, he said they can leave in about a week or two." At least something was going right.
"Thank God," Jim murmured, sending out his senses to check up on his friends.
"So, I heard you guys probably got Zeller," Blair said casually.
Jim shook his head uncertainly. "I don't know. Somebody probably got him. We still got Bartley to contend with. I don't know which one's worse." He tried to smile, but his lips wouldn't cooperate. Get it over with, Ellison. "I saw your press conference."
Blair was startled. He had just assumed Jim had been out working the case during the whole pitiful affair. He'd stood before camera and man and declared his thesis to be a fraud, just a really good piece of fiction. "Oh, yeah, you saw it? It's just a book."
"It was your life," Jim stated softly, knowing how much of himself Blair had thrown into his work.
Blair shrugged, unable to meet Jim's gaze. "Yeah, it was. You know, you were right. I mean, uh, I don't know what I was expecting to do with it, and, uh...I mean, where do I get off following you around for three years pretending I was a cop, right?"
Jim looked at him solemnly. "This self-deprecation doesn't suit you, you know. You might have been just an observer, but you were the best cop I've ever met, and the best partner I could have ever asked for. You've been a great friend, and you've pulled me through some pretty weird stuff."
Blair finally raised his eyes, and he saw the truth in Jim's, that his friend wasn't merely grateful for what he'd done, but that he truly meant everything he said. "Thanks."
Jim angled his head toward the elevator. "You ready to get busy?"
"What about the other thing, man? In the alley?" he asked uneasily, as the elevator sank.
"Nothing's come through the station. Maybe the Watchers clean up afterwards if they can."
"The Quickening you absorbed? Have you had any problems?"
"Not really. Just an odd tingling every now and again. It's very similar to what I sense in Immortals."
"Is that how you knew that guy was in the parking garage?"
Jim nodded. "I wasn't really sure, but I'd noticed the sensation while working with Master Chin, and there was always something-- charged in the air when Amanda was about. I thought it was just her, you know?"
"It was," Blair said, smiling in remembrance of the vivacious Immortal.
"And the guy's name was Anthony Hall."
"He introduced himself?"
"Postmortem." Blair grimaced. "Just a couple of stray thoughts looking for a home, Chief," Jim explained. "Maybe it's different for a full Immortal."
"I hope you don't take this the wrong way, Jim, but I'm glad this is happening to you and not me. I just don't see me taking it all so well," Blair admitted.
Jim laughed. "After what you just did, Chief. I think you can handle anything." He clasped the younger man on the shoulder, steering him toward the truck.
Blair sighed. The familiar gesture felt so good. "You think so, huh?" he asked, slipping into his seat. He'd had his mother drop him off after the press conference and the crap with the chancellor. He hadn't been calm enough to be behind the wheel.
"I know so, partner. Now, let's go kick some bad guys' butts, okay?"
Former grad student Blair Sandburg grinned. "Okay!"
Two weeks later, Blair was sitting on the sofa reviewing the changes in his life. How to go from Blair Sandburg, Professor of Anthropology to Blair Sandburg, Cop, in three easy steps, he thought to himself. What a roller coaster ride. Definitely not for the faint of heart. But the more he looked at it, studied it, dissected every part of what happened, he knew it was for the best. He could be a good cop. He no longer panicked in high pressure situations, and he'd learned to run toward-- and not from-- danger. Or maybe he'd learned to run toward Jim-- which was the same thing. He hadn't thought twice about following Jim up to the roof when the detective was chasing Zeller. Hadn't even thought twice about helping Jim go after Zeller even though Jim had been shot. When did a gunshot wound to the leg become a minor injury to me? Yeah, Sandburg, you are definitely cop material now, man.
He frowned as he heard a groan from overhead. Was Jim's leg hurting him? It was almost completely healed, but he knew from experience that sometimes the days right before healing was complete could be the most painful. "Jim, you doing okay up there?" he called up to the loft. No answer.
Worried, he approached the bottom of the stairs. He could hear his friend shifting about...and pained moans. Shit. A nightmare probably. To be expected after the events of the past few weeks. He started up the stairs, intending to wake Jim, but by the time he reached the top, Jim was already awake. He was sitting up, his naked chest shining with sweat and heaving as the Sentinel sought to catch his breath.
"A bad one, huh?" he questioned sympathetically.
"I saw Simon and Conner getting shot," Jim said, burying his face in his hands.
"I know. I was there, remember?"
Jim took a deep breath, then leaned back against the metal headboard. "No, you don't understand. I saw Simon and Conner getting shot...before it happened."
Blair plopped down on the end of the bed. "What are you saying, Jim? You had a vision? When? Where?"
"At the Temple."
"The Tem.... Jim, that was a year ago!"
"I know. It was when Alex had me drugged out in that pool. Oh, God. I could have stopped this, Chief. I could have--" He looked at Blair, confusion and pain warring in his eyes. "Why the hell didn't I remember this! I thought I had learned my lesson about ignoring the Sentinel in me. I opened myself up to him, Blair. I didn't hold back during the whole ghost thing, and while Simon gets some kind of relief out of thinking that it was an hallucination due to your cold remedy, I know the truth. I accept it. So, why didn't I remember this in time? Why did Simon and Megan have to nearly die?"
"You're a Sentinel, Jim, but that doesn't mean you're perfect," Blair said gently. "We're often given warnings we don't heed. Look at me. Alex was a warning. She just took my tapes and found out everything about you. I should have learned from that. I should have wiped your name from everything as soon as Alex was dealt with. Did I? No. In my arrogance, I thought that I had time, that I could eventually get around to it. Your mind didn't want to deal with the visions, Jim, so it put them away until a later time. Unfortunately, that time was too late. I was too late, too. We screwed up again, my friend, and we probably always will, off and on through our remaining years."
"Then, it's a good thing we aren't Immortals, you think?" Jim asked, his eyes wet, but holding more peace than before.
In the year since Alex had killed him, no one had come up with a reason for him not being immortal, so they all assumed that he never would be. Jim included himself in the "never would be" category, but Blair had his doubts; Jim had processed Hall's Quickening so well. But he understood Jim's reluctance-- the idea that he would be Immortal without his Guide had to be frightening, so he played along. "Yeah, man. There's this song I remember from when I was little. It was called In the Year 2525. Just think of the trouble we could get into by then."
"Five hundred and twenty-six years.... And they think the Y2K problem is going to be bad," Jim joked, grabbing a tissue and blowing his nose.
"Get some sleep," Blair ordered, standing up to leave. "And, Jim, whether we have one year or five-hundred and twenty-six years...you know I'll always be there for you. If my thesis was good for anything, well, it led you to me, or vice-versa. I wouldn't change that for the world."
"I'll hold you to that, Sandburg, when it's your time to go for the doughnuts," Jim said, settling beneath the covers.
"Cops and doughnuts," Blair muttered as he went back down the stairs. "Thought that was a stereotype until I started hanging around with you. Guess I was wrong."
"Yeah, about that and a lot of other things," Jim called, having heard him clearly. "But not about us, Chief. We'll make it. Hell or high water. Believe it."
"I do, Jim. I truly do."
Part III - December 1999
"You got him?"
Blair looked up from where he was clasping handcuffs around one of the suspects he and his partner had collared. "Yeah, man! Go!" The suspect's cohort had taken off toward one of the dockside warehouses which was masquerading as a drug lab/storehouse. The place was huge, but it wouldn't take Jim long to "sense out" his quarry, and thankfully neither of the suspects was armed.
"We'll take him, Detective Sandburg," one of the arriving officers called, and Blair watched the man dragged off to the squad car. He and Jim had expected to be arresting drunks on New Year's Eve, not drug manufacturers.
"Where's your partner, Sandburg?" Simon Banks asked, unlit cigar dangling from his long fingers.
"Getting the other guy. He ran into the warehouse, and Jim went after him. It's pitch-black in there. The guy's probably going to trip over something and knock himself out."
"Jim have a flashlight?"
Blair rolled his eyes. "Jim doesn't need a flashlight, remember? Don't worry, Captain. They should be on their way out just about--"
The sky exploded. No, not the sky, but the building he was just pointing out. Fire and debris spewed up into the air from the remains of the roof. Flames shot out of each window, followed by roiling smoke. He could hear the sizzle as burning embers and boards hit the water and sputtered out. Then he was falling, hugging the ground as a hot wind blew across the back of his head.
He scrambled to his knees, idly patting out a spark that drifted onto his jacket. His hand burned, but he didn't care. "Jim," he called softly, stepping toward the inferno.
Only to be halted by a strong grip. "No, Sandburg. You can't," Simon said gently.
"But I have to," he rejoined, trying to disengage the hand holding onto his shoulder.
"It's too late, son."
Blair shook his head. It couldn't be too late. Not after all they had been through. The Alex crap. The Zeller crap. Hell, the police academy. No! He'd learned to ignore the veiled innuendoes about his past, about him being a liar and a fraud. He'd learned to use a gun, carry it, discharge it when necessary. He'd arrested children and old ladies, testified in court, and the cashiers at the doughnut place knew him by name. Some of it had been funny, some of it irritating, and a lot of it sad. But he'd gotten through it because Jim said he could, because Jim said that they would make it-- together, and Jim never lied.
"Don't lie to me now, Jim," he whispered.
"We need to get back, Blair," Simon said, tugging him away from the conflagration. "The firemen say it's not safe."
"He'd want you to be safe, Sandburg. That's all he's ever wanted."
Blair nodded. Stay back, Chief. Stay in the truck. Stay behind me. The arm that came out to protect him in car chases. The body that covered his when an explosion was imminent. Keeping the Guide safe. Keeping his friend safe. If that's so important, why are you leaving me alone now, Jim? I'm only truly safe when I'm with you. You *know* that, man.
He dropped to his knees, too drained to move any further.
"Sandburg!" Simon knelt beside him. "Should I get the paramedics?"
"No. I just need a few minutes alone." He raised his eyes to meet his captain's. "Please, Simon?"
"Yeah, sure," Simon replied, wishing that he, too, could get a few minutes by himself to just-- process the loss of his detective and friend. But that was going to have to wait. He was the captain. That came first. That always came first.
Blair stared into the flames, looking for...anything. Jim wouldn't leave him completely alone. Surely if Jim couldn't be with him, the jaguar would be, right? Jim's furred spirit? The distilled essence of his Sentinel? Where are you, Jim?
The air stilled for just a second, then he felt it thicken around him. Jim? He searched for an aura, but was instead jolted by a mild electrical shock. He gasped, wondering if he was having a heart attack. Tiny flashes of light distracted him and he looked down to watch the burn on his hand crackle with minuscule lightning...and heal. He laughed aloud, then started crying with relief. That damned abstract prophecy, and bad translations. It wasn't that "the two will act as one". It was that "the two will become one." And for that to happen, both would have to die...and be reborn as a dual Immortal entity. He was now an Immortal, because Jim had died and revived... somewhere....
Oh, man. We need to stop doing this in public forums, you know. I don't mind having to leave Cascade, but I think there are still things we need to do here. And we need time to figure this all out. So, tell me where you are, and we'll try to come up with a decent cover story. Of course, if all the clothes have burned off your body, we're in deep shit. But that's okay. I'll just say there are too many memories in Cascade, pack my bag, and meet you somewhere down the road. We can handle it, man.
He got up and began wandering the perimeter of the burning building, trying to sense where Jim was. There was supposed to be a "buzz", right? A sensation that let you know an Immortal was nearby. But would he feel Jim's, since they were halves of a single Immortal?
He turned to find Simon loping up behind him worriedly. "I'm just trying to find Jim, Captain," he explained with an easy smile.
Simon shook his head sadly. He knew the kid wasn't going to be able to handle this. He just hoped he wouldn't have to be sedated for his own protection. "Blair, you have some injuries that need to be treated. Just come with me to see the paramedics."
"I'm not--" Blair stopped, and stepped closer to Simon before continuing in a much lower voice. "I'm not injured, Simon. See?" He held up his palm.
Simon gaped at the sight. He'd seen the burn earlier when he'd dragged the kid away from the fire. "Blair?"
"I'm an Immortal now, Simon."
Despite his dark skin, Blair could see the blood drain from the captain's face. "But...but don't you have to die before that happens?"
"Alex killed me."
He reached out to steady the captain as the larger man swayed dangerously. "You've been immortal all this time?" At least it explained the miracle at the fountain.
"No. I just became immortal." Simon stared at him. "I came into my immortality at the same time Jim did."
"Jim died in the explosion, Simon. When he revived, we both became Immortals. That's a kick in the pants, ain't it?" Blair remarked, his eyes dancing merrily. One lifetime, ten lifetimes. Didn't matter. It was just good to be alive. "But now I need to find him, and see if we can't come up with a good reason why he isn't dead." Another blank stare. It really wasn't a good look for the captain. "If Jim dies publicly in Cascade, we'll have to leave. Do you understand? That's why I need to find him."
Simon nodded because that's what he guessed he was supposed to do. He figured he'd guess right when Blair nodded back and ambled away. Vacation, he thought as his teeth sank into the cigar he'd jammed into his mouth. He needed a vacation from those two. It would be a new year tomorrow, and he was a captain. By hook or by crook, he'd wrangle some vacation time for the two of them-- maybe list it under medical and psychological concerns, depending on the story they came up with to cover Jim's death. Yeah, a few days around the office without having to worry about what his best detectives were up to would be his ticket to heaven. And, no, he really didn't want to think about their immortal status and all the trouble they could get into with that, thank you very much....
Blithely unaware of Simon's befuddlement, Blair searched the growing darkness for his partner. He was trying to decide just how "open" you had to be to feel a buzz, when suddenly he didn't have to wonder anymore. It was a disturbing sensation, a hum that crawled along his spine, and pooled at the base of his neck. He whipped his head around and saw a dark figure at the end of a pier. Jim.
The man was on his knees, bowed over, his hands protectively covering his ears. Shit. If the buzz was disturbing to him, it had to be making Jim crazy. "Dial it back, Jim. It's just me, which means you're going to get used to it-- very used to it." He placed his hand on the wet back, grounding his Sentinel. Jim must have been blown out of the building and into the bay. Good. They could work with that-- water softening the impact, Jim holding on to a spar until he could pull himself out....
Jim lowered his hands and looked at his partner. "We're both--?"
Blair nodded. "Yes, Mr. Late Bloomer. If you'd just managed to get yourself killed earlier--" He couldn't continue, so he just grinned. "Gee, Jim, 'From the city will come two. One will have the wisdom of the ages. The other will possess the gifts of the senses. The two will act as one and will rule... even until the end of world and beyond.' What do you have to say about that, Prophecy Boy?"
"I think I have the 'senses' part down, but one of us needs to work on the 'wisdom' thing," Jim replied with a smirk, adjusting rapidly to the constant noise in his head.
"Everybody's a critic," Blair said, too hyped to be properly insulted.
Jim flinched, his hands flying back up to his ears. Before Blair could ask, he heard the whine of a missile, then the boom as the first firework of the night exploded in the air. Blair giggled and leaned forward to whisper next to Jim's covered ear. "Happy 2000, man."
Epilogue - January 2000
"This is nice! We have the whole island to ourselves?" Blair asked, staring at the small piece of land they were approaching as Jim steered the motorboat.
"Yeah. It's belonged to one of Amanda's friends for quite some time. I think she said something about it being an Indian settlement at one point. It was their Holy Ground."
"Cool. I wonder if the owner has any literature on the tribe."
"He probably lived with the tribe, Sandburg."
Blair grinned. "This is going to take some getting used to-- knowing people who just don't know history, but have lived it. The inaccuracies they can correct, the true feel for community and lifestyle they can share. Hell, who needs an anthropology degree when I got this!"
Jim gave an exaggerated sniff. "And here I was thinking that I was your brass ring. But now I know-- you'll dump me for someone who's much older and willing to share a few tales."
"Well, you know what they say about variety, man," Blair teased.
"You know you're going to pay for that remark, don't you?"
"And how will I be able to tell when I'm paying, Jim? You have two weeks of torture scheduled for me anyway."
"Not torture-- training. By the time you step foot off this island, you will be able to wield a sword competently."
"Just as I said-- torture." Blair smiled to soften the words. "I know this is important, Jim. I'll never be as good as you, and quite frankly I don't want to be. But I need to know how to protect myself, to protect you. It's like gun training, and you got me through that, didn't you?"
"Ten boxes of ammo later...." Jim said, his eyes twinkling. "As my drill sergeant said, 'You're going to hate me now, but thank me later.'"
"Did you thank him later?"
"Well, he wasn't a very nice man...."
"Trust me, Sandburg."
"'Trust me', the man says? Why? Is there a waterfall nearby you want me to jump off of? An airplane to jump out of? A doughnut you want me to take from Simon...."
Jim laughed. Blair laughed. They didn't need a prophecy to give them hope.
They had each other.