Author's Notes:

This story is an apology gift to all of you who have written me and have received no response. I truly try to respond to your letters and I usually get off to a good start. Then I'll get to working on another story and all my good intentions go out the window as I bury myself into whatever world Jim and Blair have taken me to. I assure you my mother taught me better than this, and she would be appalled to find out how rude I've been. So we'll just keep this our secret, right?

I have six stories started, a Family and an AR are included, so that answers a lot of your questions. When? I honestly have no idea. Sometimes, I get sidetracked with stories like this one. I *know* it's been close to a year since the last Nikita crossover. Please, if anyone has seen the crossover muse, send him/her in my direction. Still looking for the names of bad guys killed by the good guys in the episodes. I thank all of you who have responded.

Okay. On to the story. It's not really a story, basically a Sandburgian ramble-- a stream of consciousness-like thingy that probably makes little sense, is woefully punctuated, and tenses are jumbled (thoughts rarely run in straight forward time). But remember, it's a gift...and it's the thought that counts. <g>

Oh. Names of characters from the episodes Vendetta and Love Kills are used. There are also references to other episodes. Nothing major though.

Hope you enjoy!



D.L. Witherspoon

(Posted 04-09-99)

I know how he feels.

I've said that many times in the past. "I know how you feel, Jim," I say sympathetically, when something goes wrong. Or a quick, "I know what you're feeling, man," when I want to cajole him into a test, or out of a confrontation. It's part of my job as Guide to know this, right? But just like with the rest of the Guide crap, I was winging this too. Lying to him, and even worse, lying to myself. I truly thought after all the years we'd been together, that I did know how he felt. I know that he knows how I feel. He likes to act exasperated and confused when he enters the "Sandburg Zone". But I know it's only an act because when it really counts, when I really need him, he can anticipate my every thought, my every desire. When I need him to hover over me, he hovers. When I need him to pull back...well, he still hovers on occasion, but he hovers from a distance, if that makes any sense. When I screw up, he covers for me. When I lose my temper, he becomes the reasonable one. When I just want to crawl back to the loft and lick whatever wounds the day has left, he sits there quietly, sending out vibes of serenity that tells me I'm home and everything will be okay. Is this because he's a Sentinel? No. Sentinels merely protect. Jim comforts.

This is what I'm learning as I stand here with his blood drying on my hands, and the paramedics are bending over him, working frantically to keep him alive. I can see the world from Jim's point of view now. I had written something dumb about fear-based responses in the introduction of my dissertation. I didn't know what fear was then. But I do now. I know Jim's fear, and hell, if I had any Sentinel abilities hanging around to call on to help me deal with it, I too would use them.

However, what I hadn't accounted for in my brilliant paper, is the rage that accompanies this fear. See, that's the part that I missed, why I couldn't know how he felt. The two, fear and rage, live hand in hand in Jim. I've seen his anger, even had the audacity to tell him he needed to control it. Hah. Road rage is nothing compared to what he carries. If I had known then what I know now, I would have kept my mouth shut. I would have let him beat the shit out of Dan Freeman, would have applauded the action. The release would have been good for him. I know it made me feel a hell of a lot better.

Simon's hand is still flat against my chest, holding me back as Rafe and Brown take the shooter into the building. They may have to take him to the emergency room after everything calms down. I don't care. The only thing that bothers me was that in my anger, I hadn't noticed the slim metal pipe a city worker had carelessly left on the ground. If I had seen it earlier, they could have taken the perp to the morgue.

"Sandburg, you know better!" Simon shouts at me.

"I know that fucker shot Jim!" I shout back. "Blood for blood!"

Poor Simon. I'm confusing him, you see. He doesn't know that I know. He knows a little of it himself, the part that every cop knows. But since up to this point I hadn't known even that little bit, it's sort of startling to see me react like this. I was the one always mouthing off about police brutality, and you're better than they are, and don't sink to their level.... I grin. Sinking feels sort of nice.

Sure, this isn't the first time Jim has been injured in my presence, but it is the first time someone just walked up to us and fired. I mean, where was the small talk, the threats, the negotiating...? Something that would have given me time to prepare, time for my adrenalin levels to rise, time to get my mind firmly wrapped around the worst-case scenario before it happened? But this hits me cold. One second, Jim is laughing at a joke someone sent me on the internet and the next, his intestines are threatening to have a coming out party. Forget that slow motion crap you see on TV; this was hard and fast, easily missed in the blink of an eye. That, I think, more than anything else, is the core of the rage I feel. The quickness, the unexpectedness.... I wonder if the helicopter crash is the core of Jim's rage? Had it been born in that split second when the missile hit the helo? Or had it already been there, conceived during some other instant instance of violence in his life?

Simon's fingers dig into me to get my attention and I pry myself away from the speculations. Jim may not even remember the hows and wherefores of his rage, and I have no intention of forcing him to investigate it. It's just not worth the pain.

"Take care of your partner," the captain orders, as scared for me as he is for Jim. No, that's not right. Simon is petrified that Jim's not going to make it. He and Jim are close on levels that I will never achieve. But I'm not jealous. There are levels of closeness, of oneness that I have with Jim which no one, ever, will share with him. He is mine; no one can ever take that away.

My Jim. Okay, so I learn something else. That the fear and the rage take a backseat to the well-being of my partner. Just one look at the pale face, the way he struggles to breath, the amount of blood that is left behind as the gurney rolls toward the waiting ambulance, all of this completely overshadows the rest of my urges. My Sentinel needs me, so I take his hand and I climb in beside the paramedic, and the scum-sucking bastard who did this to him doesn't matter, and the fear that he's going to leave me doesn't matter. All that counts is that he is alive. I can work with that.

This is not to say the fear and rage are gone. They come back to eat at my soul off and on as I wait for Jim to come out of surgery. He's been in there for nine hours. Why? Because the son of a bitch who shot him used one of those bullets that explode inside the body. Pieces of metal had to be fished out, ragged holes sewn together, bleeders carefully clamped. When I heard this, the image of the American flag flying over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812 flashed into my mind. You know the image I mean, the torn and battered thing that Francis Scott Key saw as he wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Jim's insides look like that flag. So yeah, the fear and rage hang around.

Jim's surgeon finally appears in the waiting room and she looks grim. She says he's alive but-- I interrupt and tell her that I don't need to know anything else. Jim's dad is there and he says he wants to hear everything. I tell him that Jim's alive and that's all that matters. If he needs odds, he can go do to the local sports bar and find a bookie.

"What if there's something permanently wrong with him?" William asks, still not understanding that it is best if he just goes along with the program I've planned.

"He's alive," I reiterate calmly. That is the only permanent condition I care about. "And if you think there's something else that matters, then he doesn't need you here."

"You can't--" the older man begins.

"I can," I say softly. I feel the wolf stir to life in my body. "I'm Jim's legal next of kin. I can do anything I want." I'm tempted to howl, but I realize I'm in a hospital, so I allow my spirit to do so in its own realm. When a weak, but perfectly recognizable, feline roar answers the wolf, I feel blessed and powerful. "I'll have Jim call you when he's feeling better," I tell the elder Ellison, dismissing him regally.

"Sandburg," Simon begins, but I stop him with a look. He takes a step back. "I know it's been a long day, Blair," he says wearily.

I nod. A long, terrible day. It started out ordinarily enough. A couple of hours at the university, then lunch with Jim. A new deli had opened just a few blocks from the station. We decided to walk. It was a beautiful day and well, we figured a traipse outside would be like a nooner with Mother Nature. I'm a Shaman. He's a Sentinel. Our intercourse with nature is like a necessity. We need the contact, the bond to sustain our souls. So, as I said, we catch a little "afternoon delight", then head back to the office.

He appears out of nowhere. I know Jim is going to feel guilty because he didn't "sense" the evil intent, but sometimes shit happens without any warning. The man pulls the gun and shoots him point-blank. I catch him as he falls, because even without a warning, Jim has automatically pushed me behind him, shielding me with his body. You don't shoot someone in front of the police department and think you're going to get away with it, so I don't pay any attention to the scuffling sounds I hear around me. Instead, I'm pressing my hands against Jim, trying to stop his insides from spilling to the street. The fear and the rage haven't surfaced yet, only the knowledge that I have to be strong. The Sentinel and Guide are one. When he needs strength, I am the one to provide it. When his faith falters, I become the bedrock of his belief. When his spirit lags, I am the wind beneath his wings, keeping him aloft until he's able to soar on his own. When he is dying, I am his anchor to this world. He can't die if I hold on. And believe me, I am not about to let go.

His eyes flutter open weakly and for once I am without words. I know he's waiting for me to guide him. But instead of telling him to dial down the pain or focus this or that, I merely whisper one word, "Live."

"Hold on, Blair," Simon is telling me, and I blink, remembering that I'm at the hospital, not back on the sidewalk.

But.... "I'm holding on, Simon. Never letting go."

I vaguely recall a nurse coming for me and leading me to the recovery room, and that's basically all I remember because after that I'm totally focused on Jim. With my hand firmly wrapped around his wrist, over or under whichever wires and tubes they've connected him to, my respiration slowly phases into sync with his, my heartbeat matches that on the monitor. He is moved to the intensive care ward, and I am with him every step. Eventually, the doctors and nurses get tired of moving me out of the way and they learn to work around me. Knew those hard-earned degrees of theirs were worth more than the paper they were written on. Simon shows up to press something in my hand every so often, coffee accompanied by a donut or sandwich. Sometimes, I take his hand and put it on Jim's wrist, making him keep watch while I take care of certain necessities. He doesn't protest, just sits there until I'm ready to take over again.

"Who did this?" I finally ask the fourth or fifth time we go through this ritual.

"His name is Jerome Hobson."

"An ex-con?"

"No. Lila Hobson's brother."

Lila. One of the many mistakes in Jim's past. I attract psychos; he reels in fatal attractions. No wonder there is so much crime in Cascade. "And he shot Jim because?"

"He blames him for Lila's death."

I close my eyes, would fist my hands if one of them wasn't continuing contact with Jim. "Sure. Why not blame Jim? Jim does. That she was a hired assassin, a professional hit woman, has nothing to do with it whatsoever, right? You know, it's hard enough to keep him," I brush my thumb across the back of his hand, " from feeling guilty for every sin ever committed, but when the rest of the world wants to go along with his warped sense of responsibility, the Guide has to draw the line, Simon. I'm tired of people taking his soul and stomping on it. Old girlfriends, old Army buddies, other cops, other sentinels, his childhood friends, a father too stupid to know his son is special, not flawed.... He's gone through a lot these past years, and lot more before that than either of us knows, man. It has to stop."

"He's a grown man, Sandburg. There's only so much we can do."

I shake my head. Jim has taught me a thing or two about protecting grown men. "I can run the people through the system as soon as they make contact with him."

Simon glares at me. "That would be a misuse of the system. I have the authority, no, the duty to stop you."

"But you won't," I say confidently. "Because you love him too."

His eyes flick to Jim, then back to me. "Shit, kid. I'm getting out of here before you have me making him chicken soup and knitting him a sweater."

"Make sure you cut all the fat off the chicken, and you better run the contents of the yarn by me before you make a final purchase." I laugh as he exits the room in an expeditious manner. God, what a good friend.

They keep Jim under for three days, afraid if he wakens, he'll move and undo all their handiwork. Actually, they want to keep him under longer, but the amount of sedatives it takes to keep him unconscious a few days is already more than the recommended dosage. I tell them it's okay; if they tell Jim not to move, he won't move. He obeys orders really well, an Army thing, I guess. And a Jim thing too-- the tight control he keeps himself under. It goes back to the fear/rage combination he lives with. His strict, seemingly unrelenting, control is what makes his living possible. I understand that now, and I'll be less strident when I tell him he needs to relax.

I'll still force him into trysting with Mother Nature when he's running on low energy, and I'll still tease him into a laugh, or a smile. But when I get frustrated because he's closed himself off, or he's pressed that stubborn back of his against a wall and refuses to give an inch, I'll remember how he feels and I'll step back, give him some breathing room, time to fight his way out of the darkness and gradually reach for the light I hold out to him. He carries a heavy burden and now that I've experienced it, I realize how carefully it must be handled.

I feel his hand twitch and I'm startled to see the crystal eyes watching me. They ask questions and I answer them in the order of importance to him: I'm fine, no one else was hit, the shooter is in custody, you're going to be fine. His eyes start to close again and then they open, filled with words he wouldn't say even if he didn't have a tube stuck down his throat. He loves me. He's sorry I was scared. He would never voluntarily leave me.

I just smile at him and increase the pressure on his wrist. "I know, Jim," I say softly. "I know how you feel."

And this time, I do.


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