Friendship for Dummies
by Ice Bear
Summary: Someone is trying to come between Sentinel and Guide. This is set after the series ended with Blair is a detective and assumes that the rest of the Major Crimes crew knows that Blair's dissertation was not, in fact, a work of fiction.
Disclaimer: All things Sentinel belong to Pet Fly and Paramount.
“Come on, Ellison,” the younger man taunted, “next thing you know you’re going to be asking that your invisible friend, Harvey, be your ride along. Why’d I have to get stuck with a partner who’s a freak of nature?” The last was muttered under his breath.
The big detective’s face went from stunned to stonewall in the time it took to blink. He executed a perfect about face and exited his Captain’s office without a word. The two men left remained frozen until the ding of the closing elevator broke the spell.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Sandburg?” Simon Banks yelled, his 6’4” frame towering over the younger man.
“Give me a break, Captain. Ellison’s been worse then a mother hen for the last two weeks. All this talk about someone ‘scenting his territory’ is just an excuse for his bad behavior.” His tone and body language screamed defiance.
“Will you listen to yourself? You sound just like I did four years ago when all this Sentinel shit started. You’re the one that convinced me,” Simon paused, looking carefully at his detective, “and more importantly you convinced him, that it was perfectly natural.”
“Jim’s overreacting and so are you!”
“Apparently you’re not hearing me, Detective. The forensics lab found traces of animal urine on your partner’s desk, his locker, the truck, and on the loft door. Your partner is concerned - though why escapes me at the moment - that whoever is ‘scenting his territory’ as you call it, may wish to rid that territory of his guide. Given that fact, I don’t think his behavior has been over the top. In fact, for Ellison, I’d say it was pretty mild.”
“Forensics got any clues?”
“Yeah, they think its’ from a dog. Not that it does us any good.”
“Go find your partner, Detective. Take him home and grovel.” When the blue eyes found his, Simon smiled, “That’s an order.”
Jim was atop a ridge overlooking the city - his city - despite the driving rain that was just this side of sleet. He walked for a while, but stopped when it seemed too much work to get his legs to move, given the jumble of thoughts racing through his brain. He flinched as he heard his partner tell him, again, that it was all in his head; that he was a freak. His head fought with his heart as he knew deep down that Blair didn’t mean it, couldn’t mean it. They’d been through too much together for Jim to believe there’d been any truth behind the words his Guide had uttered.
Blair checked the loft; he checked the beach; the park where they jogged and played basketball; the gym; three local bars…he went back to the office, empty handed.
The Sentinel was soaked to the skin as he stared blindly into the sleeting rain. His mind wondered through all that had happened over the last few weeks. God, how could he have been so clueless? Blair had been out of sorts and was acting as though he were scared, and people who were scared said and did things they didn’t mean. That he knew from personal experience. He needed to find his guide.
As he started back to the truck, he heard something or someone in that direction so he ramped up his hearing. The shriek of a dog whistle brought him to his knees as pain invaded his head. He couldn’t think; he couldn’t move. The sound continued and sent him into oblivion - the only place he could escape the pain.
A figure in an oversized jacket, wearing a ball cap pulled low, approached the unconscious cop and stripped him of his car keys.
An APB, issued when Jim failed to come home that night, turned up the truck late the next afternoon in the parking lot of a long abandon warehouse. Simon led the way to the truck, holding Blair off until forensics had finished dusting for prints. When the big hand on his shoulder was released, the smaller man sprinted for the familiar vehicle. His eyes flashed over the interior. “Someone else drove the truck here – it wasn’t Jim,” he said calmly as he moved to the passenger side and opened the glove compartment. “He couldn’t have possibly fit behind the wheel with the seat this far forward. Even I don’t need it that close to hit the pedals.”
“If Jim didn’t drive it, then how the hell did it get here?” Banks snarled finally, his frustration building.
“This truck has recently been driven on a dirt road, probably not one that gets a lot of traffic,” one of the forensic techs said. “There are pine needles in the tires.”
“Sandburg?” Banks called him away from his continued perusal of the truck. “There are pine needles in the tires.”
“Pine needles? There’s a ridge where he goes to think sometimes, it’s about 15 miles west of the city,” he was talking almost to himself as his mind skipped across all the times he’d gone up there with his partner.
Simon, Blair, Joel and Megan spread out and began to search the ridge. Blair found his partner, scrunched into as tiny a ball as a 6 foot frame could make, hands still tightly gripping his head. “Over here! Get me a blanket!”
Four hours later, in the ER waiting room, Blair moved uneasily along the tiles pacing six steps before turning and repeating his motion. His mind was going so fast it almost hurt. The doctors hadn’t found any injuries indicating Jim had been attacked. Maybe he zoned and fell – unlikely as the fall should have pulled him out of the zone. So what the hell happened to leave his partner lying in the sleet and rain for close to 24 hours?
Rafe and H entered the waiting room, and after joining their colleagues in a quiet corner, pulled out two photos. “We went over hours of video from the bull pen and the entrance camera at the loft. This is what we found,” Rafe said handing over the photos.
“Majors?” Blair asked as he looked at the police officer holding a small container that was dribbling liquid over his partner’s desk. “I don’t understand.”
“We had a little ‘talk’ with Officer Majors,” H said with a satisfied smile, “and it seems he was still mad at Ellison for talking to IA after the Sanders case.”
“Jim had no choice!” Blair argued. “He was called on the carpet for it. He didn’t agree with what Sanders did, but he understood why he did it. And that’s what he told IA.”
“Sit down, Sandburg.” Banks ordered. “Why did he think leaving dog urine on Ellison’s desk was payback?”
“We think there’s someone else involved, because he clearly didn’t have a clue why he was doing it. We’re letting him sweat for a while. He was upset we were going to hold him. And more upset when we left him with Connor. We wanted to check on Jim, and now we’ll head back.”
“Majors’ has no reason to think Jim would even know he’d left anything on his desk. It doesn’t make sense.” Blair said; his puzzlement clear.
“Don’t worry, Hairboy, we’ll get to the bottom of this,” H promised before leaving.
In Jim’s room, Blair approached the bed carefully. A warming blanket covered the muscular body, and two IVs sent fluid into the still form. “Hey, Big Guy, I need you to open those baby blues so I can beg forgiveness. Come on, Jim, I know you don’t want to miss my groveling. Hell, you live for it.” His voice was soft, and accompanied by the gentle rubbing of a well muscled arm.
Banks looked at the pale figure of his best friend in the bed, and the dejected figure of said friend’s partner. “Remember when you found Barnes, and Jim went nuts before you told him about her? You said he could sense a threat even though he couldn’t identify it?” Blair shrugged and nodded, clearly not following his Captain. “Maybe that’s what happened here. Jim sensed a threat, but I think you knew something was wrong too, a threat to your sentinel, so you tried to push him away to protect him.”
“I’m not the Sentinel, Simon.” Blair said quietly, his eyes still on the closed face of the man on the bed.
“No, but you are the Guide, and the Guide protects the Sentinel.”
Worried blue eyes looked at the Captain. “I had a dream – Jim was taken away from me, and I couldn’t stop it from happening; no matter what I did.”
“And you told him about it?”
“No…I know, pot calling the kettle, but I thought I was simply overreacting to his Blessed Protector routine. He’ll never forgive me for what I said in your office.”
“You don’t really believe that?”
“I called him a freak! You heard me. All these years I’ve bitched about his father and what do you know, turns out I’m no better then William Ellison.”
“Sandburg, what do you think is wrong?” Simon decided to change the topic for now.
“I’m not sure,” he said running a hand tenderly down the noble face. “There aren’t any bruises, and I don’t think it was a zone – maybe a heavy duty sensory spike – but I don’t know what would set them off way out there. I’d feel better if he’d just wake up.”
“Well, work your magic. Your partner should be able to shed some light on this. I’m going back to the office and see if I can’t help influence Officer Majors.” Banks had a feral look in his eye that would have made his senior detective proud.
The Guide simply stared at the Sentinel for a long time. His emotions were rioting, and he didn’t really know what to say. He knew he’d stepped way over the line with his comments in the Captain’s office. Blair wouldn’t blame him if Jim never talked to him again – not after the freak comment. It was said to do maximum damage, and it had. “I’m so sorry, Jim. I just don’t know what I was thinking. Hell, I wasn’t thinking. I’ve been strung so tight for the last two weeks…we have a lot to talk about, Big Guy, so please come back to me. I need you to help me figure out who’s playing with us.”
Jim woke to find his partner by his bedside, and was surprised. Of course, it would help if he could figure out what he was doing in a hospital bed. He flinched, recalling the scene in his Captain’s office, and then he remembered driving up to the ridge so he could think.
“Jim? You with me, Big Guy?” Blair asked quietly, seeing the distant look in the blue eyes.
“Sandburg.” Jim wasn’t sure what kind of reception he was going to receive, so he pulled back behind his walls and kept his eyes on the foot of the bed. “What happened?”
“We were hoping you could tell us, Detective.” Simon said striding into the room. “We found you unconscious up on that ridge. You’d been up there in the sleet and rain for close to 24 hours.”
The blue eyes closed. “I remember driving up there and taking a walk. I was there for a while. It was…there was a noise.”
“What kind of noise, Jim?” Blair asked, causing the blue eyes to open again, but Jim still refused to look at his partner.
“Loud…really loud. It hurt.”
“Have you heard it before?” Banks asked.
“Yeah…Sandburg used it for a test - dog whistle.”
“Hey! I was at the station working to find you. I wouldn’t do that to you! You know that!” The younger man was on his feet, hands flying as he laid out his defense.
“He didn’t suggest you did, Sandburg. Stand down.” Banks said, stepping in as it became clear the conversation was headed downhill. “Officer Phil Majors has confessed to dropping dog urine on your desk among other places.”
“Majors? I know he holds a grudge, but he doesn’t know enough to…He’d have no idea what it would do to me.”
“He had help. Seems someone found out about his grudge over the IA testimony, and paid him to do it.”
“There was someone on the ridge,” Jim said hoarsely. “It was a woman; I could smell the perfume – lilac. She had the whistle.”
“Who paid Majors?” Blair asked.
“Who is she?” Blair asked, seeing the blank look on his partner’s face.
“Don’t know. Connor and Rafe are picking her up now.”
“This could be a problem, Simon. She knows what a dog whistle does to Jim. And she knew enough to know the urine would set him off.”
“Damn,” Banks uttered. “How’re we going to keep this quiet, Sandburg? Majors isn’t a problem. He has no clue what he was doing. Apparently Stanley is a different story.”
“Jim’s been ill. He went up to the ridge and started feeling worse. He collapsed.”
“She’s not going to buy that, Sandburg. She knows.” Jim said gruffly, his eyes fixed on the blanket covering him.
“Her word against yours.”
“Look, Einstein, we don’t need to be dragged through the press again.”
“You got a better idea?” Blair challenged angrily, before he caught the fact that his partner had said ‘we’ not I.
“Yeah. Give me 15 minutes alone with her.”
“That’s highly unorthodox.” Banks said with a slight smile.
“So am I.” Ellison responded with a shrug.
“No way,” Blair said jumping up from his chair. “You’re this close to having pneumonia, man, and you’re not going anywhere until the doctor says so.”
“Not your call, Sandburg,” Jim replied pushing himself into a sitting position and slowly swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
“It is my call. I’m the one that’ll have to pick up the pieces when you fall down.” Jim’s face settled into the mask that Blair hated. He couldn’t read anything when Jim was like this. He reached out a hand to stay the man, only to have the patient flinch away.
Simon sighed as he watched the byplay. “Enough! Much as I hate to admit it, Sandburg, I think we need to leave this one up to your partner. I suggest you go get him some clothes, and let’s get this over with.” Blair flashed his boss a look making it clear he didn’t consider the issue finished, but he turned and left the room.
“Please don’t, Simon.” The noble face came up and weary, sad blue eyes focused on warm, brown ones. “I know that Sandburg and I have some work to do, but right now, we need to put an end to this woman’s little reign of terror.”
“He doesn’t believe you can forgive him for what he said. He compared himself to your father.”
Jim straightened up as he forced himself to stand. “He and my father don’t even belong on the same planet, let alone the same galaxy, Simon, you know that.”
“I do. But your partner could use a reminder.” Blair re-entered the room with a pair of scrubs, stopping any reply.
Jim went to the locker room upon their arrival at the station to change into his own clothes. Blair followed, taking a seat on the bench a row away. “Jim?” He asked finally, as his partner sat down to put on a pair of socks and shoes. “Jim, how are your senses?”
“Okay.” Jim kept his attention on his sneakers.
“Sandburg, right now I need to focus on Stanley. You can run your tests later.”
“Fine! You don’t need any help do you? Never have, never will. Well go ahead, be the freaking Lone Ranger, but don’t expect Tonto to be around to pick up the pieces!” He finished before realizing he was yelling.
“I’m well aware that I’d be in a padded cell if it wasn’t for you,” Jim said quietly, his eyes finding his partner’s for the first time since the outburst in the Captain’s office.
Blair fell heavily back to the bench. “I don’t understand what’s going on, Jim. I’m so confused,” he whispered.
“Just hold on a little longer, Chief,” Jim said, the use of the familiar nickname bringing his partner’s head back up. “We’ll work it out, together, just like we always do. But right this minute, we need to defuse the bomb ticking in interview room 2.”
Outside the room, Jim placed a hand on his partner’s shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze, before stopping him from opening the door. “I need you to stay out here, Chief.” He finished, stopping the tirade about to erupt from the smaller man. “I need you to feed me info as soon as the file’s brought up, and you can give me ideas if I get stuck.”
Jim pulled himself upright, threw back his shoulders and stalked into the small, dark room. He stopped short of the table, where Stanley sat. A sniff told him the perfume was the same one he’d smelled up on the ridge. He had the urge to reach out and wipe the smug look off her face. As though he could read his partner’s mind, Blair whispered, “Easy, Big Guy. She isn’t worth it. Trust me.” A brief nod of the head told Blair his message had been received.
“Miss Stanley, how do you feel about prison?”
“It’s a good place for criminals.” She replied saucily.
“Glad you think so, since that’s where you’ll be spending the next 5 to 8 years.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said, only slightly taken aback.
“Grand theft auto.” Jim suppressed a smirk as he heard his partner’s excited “Yes!” from behind the glass.
“What?” The confused look on her face made Jim smile.
“Your prints match those found on my truck - a truck which was stolen. It’s your first offense, but considering it’s a felony, 5 to 8 is about right. Might get a year or so off for good behavior.”
“I can’t go to jail!” She yelled, finally losing her smugness.
“Oh yes you can – fingerprints don’t lie. Neither does the DNA match I’m guessing we’ll get off the hair you left in the truck.”
“Blair gave me the keys,” she hissed. “He set you up.”
Blair’s outraged yelp was so loud it almost made the Sentinel flinch. “Oh my God! She was in one of my anthro classes – 201. She flunked. Wouldn’t do the extra credit I suggested, and got mad when I wouldn’t take her up on her offer of sex in exchange for a higher grade. Still doesn’t explain how she knew though.” Blair’s shock was clear to his Sentinel.
“Then how do you explain the fact that you used my set of keys to drive the truck back to the city? The set you took off me up on Ambush Ridge.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Ask her if she has a dog,” Blair whispered as he reviewed the file he’d just been handed.
“Do you have any pets, Ms. Stanley,” Jim asked as he settled his long frame into the small chair.
“No! What does that have to do with anything?”
“Then how do you explain the dog whistle in your purse? Is it how you get your dates?”
“Ouch!” Blair whispered.
“You’re the freak of nature, you figure it out. Isn’t that why they let you continue to be a cop after Blair spilled the beans on you? Isn’t that why he’s still here? I figure he’s going for an entire series – not just one book - although the first certainly was an interesting read.”
Blair flinched at the use of the word “freak.” He couldn’t condemn her for it though, considering he’d used that same phrase. But the broad back of his partner didn’t move. In fact, Jim leaned back and slouched comfortably into the chair.
“So you’re a fan of science fiction, too?”
“We both know it isn’t science fiction. I’ll admit I had my doubts, but the dog whistle test Blair mentioned worked well. Didn’t you think so?”
“Wouldn’t know. I’ve been having ear problems for the last three months – you know dizziness, balance problems, and a ringing that just wouldn’t quit. I can barely hear myself think.”
“Then I should probably stop taking the medication my doctor gave me.” “You let me go or I’ll tell the press that Blair lied, and you really are a freak.”
“Fine. But don’t you think that your position as a convicted felon will hurt your credibility – just a little?”
“Not when I have proof.”
“Proof of what? That I have a medical condition? You should see my medical record. It takes up almost an entire file draw. After all, I spent 18 months in the Peruvian jungle - Army Ranger, black ops. I was exposed to things medical science hasn’t even heard of yet. If you don’t believe me, I’m sure the Army will be happy to fill you in, because that’s who you’ll be talking to if you start making noise. And just as a friendly warning, they tend to get a little sensitive when people start raising questions about covert operations; national security and all.” The detective remained slouched in the chair, the threat clear in his tone.
“Man, and all this time I thought I was the brains of this operation.” Blair said, shaking his head in wonder at his partner.
“So Ms. Stanley let’s review. Grand theft auto; bribing a police officer – didn’t think I would forget your little deal with Officer Majors, did you – attempted blackmail of a police officer and then there are national security concerns, but I’ll leave that to the US Government. Did I forget anything?” Jim rose fluidly from the chair, and headed for the door, head cocked as Blair provided one more piece of information. “Oh yeah, the urine Majors had came from your parents’ dog.”
“I know what you are, and I will make sure the whole world knows.”
“Be my guest. Maybe that will get you put at Conover instead of the state pen. I’ve heard the food is comparable.”
“You’ll be the one at the funny farm once the world finds out about you.”
“Give it your best shot, lady.”
“What exactly is it you want from all this, Lisa?” Blair asked, stepping into the room.
“Oh, come on. Your partner may not be very bright, but I figured you should get it. You flunked me – don’t remember do you?”
“Anthro 201 - two years ago.”
“Yeah. Well, my parents took away my new car and my annual ski trip to Switzerland.”
“I gave you the option of doing extra credit – you declined.”
“I offered to sleep with you. You declined. Apparently, you were more interested in your lab rat then me. Since he’s the only thing you appear to care about, I used your research against you.”
“It wasn’t research, it was science fiction. If you’d read the entire paper, you’d have figured that out…no wonder you flunked my class.”
“I will go public with this. And they’ll take your lab rat away.” She threatened.
“I don’t think so, Ms. Stanley,” Captain Banks strode into the room. “Officer Majors tells me that you asked him to help you drive a wedge between Detective Sandburg and Detective Ellison in an effort to get back at Sandburg for your grades. He claims that you promised sex for his help – which means an added charge of prostitution. But that’ll have to wait until your court appearance for grand theft auto. And if you try to cause trouble for either of my detectives, I’ll add blackmailing a police officer to the charges. The Cascade courts frown on that.”
Twenty minutes later, back in Simon’s office, the two partners joined their Captain at the conference table. “Think she bought it?” Blair asked.
“I think so,” Simon responded. “The Grand Theft Auto charge is very real, and we have her dead to rights.”
“It seems a lot of trouble to go to over a grade,” Jim said.
“I did a quick check at the University. My guess is blackmailing professors is a habit, considering she’s changed majors three times in two years, and has been in four colleges in the last six.”
“Sir, would it be alright if I went home, now?” Jim asked quietly, his eyes focused on his hands on the table.
“You’re truck’s still in impound. Sandburg will take you home.” Blair shot his Captain a very angry glare before rising to follow his partner out of the room.
The ride to the loft was silent. Blair drove with one eye on his partner. The Sentinel had been on high alert for more then two weeks. He’d had a major sensory overload, been left out in the sleet and rain for close to 24 hours, and hadn’t had slept or ate in more then 48. Jim moved wearily out of the car, letting out a soft sigh when the elevator actually opened. He went immediately to the bathroom once inside the loft, and Blair heard the shower start, so he put the kettle on for tea.
He held up a mug as soon as the bathroom door opened, and Jim took it with a silent nod of thanks before settling onto the couch, pulling his robe tightly around him. That movement broke the silence. “I think I’m going to bed now. Can I get you anything before I turn in?” Blair asked.
“We need to talk, Sandburg.” The voice was oddly soft coming from the big man.
“I’m really tired, Jim, and you haven’t been to bed for almost two days.”
“This is some weird kind of role reversal, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with it, but we need to talk – now.” Blair unwilling took a seat in the chair, the jiggling of his left leg signaling his nervousness.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably am the primitive throwback you accused me of being years ago. Everything I’ve learned – we’ve learned - about this Sentinel thing has been through trial and error – emphasis on the error part.” The sight of the trademark Ellison crooked grin surprised the guide. “Since there is no guide book for Sentinels – not even one of those ‘Sentinels for Dummies’ books, we’ve both had to make this up as we go.
But I can tell you what little I do know. The Sentinel’s job is to protect the tribe. The Sentinel can’t do that without the Guide. So rule number one is protect the Guide. And past experience has taught me that the Sentinel has to go with his instinct. Ignoring instinct ensures something bad will happen – usually to said Guide. And every trip to the mental jungle is important, even if we can’t figure out why.”
“Simon told you!” Blair yelled, coming out of the chair. “I can’t believe he told you!”
“Told me what, Chief?” Jim’s perplexed look brought Blair back to his chair.
“I had a vision. We’re in the jungle and someone or something is taking you away and no matter how fast I run or how hard I try, I can’t reach you.”
“Blair…Blair, look at me.” The shaggy head finally came up. “Please. Talk to me.”
“I was afraid something bad was going to happen, and if you weren’t with me, you wouldn’t be hurt.” Sentinel hearing was the only reason Jim heard the last part of the sentence.
“Fear based response, Chief. Been there, done that.” Jim’s smile was soft and warm, invoking an answering one from his partner.
“Maybe it’s catchy?” Blair asked with a brief grin. “I don’t know what was wrong with me, Jim. I just…I was so scared I was going to lose you that I pushed.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You were in full Blessed Protector mode, man, and I figured if I told you what I thought was going to happen you would – I don’t know – spontaneously combust or something. You know there isn’t a ‘Guides for Dummies’ either. If there was, it would be pretty short, since Protect the Sentinel is the only rule.” The two men looked at each other for several minutes in silence. “Why didn’t you just tell me? I would have helped you, Blair.” The hurt was clear in the voice.
“I’m so sorry, man. It was totally stupid. You ended up getting hurt – and I’m the one who hurt you. I don’t expect you to forgive me for what I said yesterday. I can’t forgive myself for it.”
Warm hands on his shoulders brought his eyes open to stare into sky blue ones. “I won’t lie and tell you it didn’t hurt, but,” he held up a hand to stop the response, “it was a tough time for both of us. I could smell someone in my territory – and you’ve always told me that a Sentinel is very territorial,” another quick grin on the handsome face. “And I was sure something bad was going to happen. Since it usually happens to you – hey, history has a tendency to repeat itself – I guess maybe I went a little overboard. But only because I couldn’t live with myself if I let something bad happen to you. I couldn’t Blair. You’re not only my roommate, my partner, my best friend and my Guide, you are my family. And nobody hurts my family, nobody.”
“I think that’s the most I’ve ever heard you say,” Blair said softly, his eyes shining with emotion. “You…you blow me away every single day, Jim. This Sentinel stuff keeps sideswiping you and you simply roll with it; you have a job that is dangerous and exposes you to the ugliest side of human nature yet you show up everyday ready to work; and you live with me.”
“That’s the important part right there, Chief. I live with you. Best thing that ever happened to me. And despite all the crazy stuff, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
“Really?” Blair’s eyes were wide with wonder.
“Not a thing, Chief.” A huge yawn overtook the Sentinel. “Maybe bed isn’t such a bad idea.”
“Get up there and sleep, Big Guy. We can wait til tomorrow to start on the book.” The wicked gleam in the Guide’s eye caused the Sentinel to pause.
“Sentinels and Guides for Dummies. I figure it’ll be a New York Times best seller in no time and hey, maybe it’ll even get us on Oprah. That would really be cool. Me and Oprah.”
A pillow hit Blair in the stomach, breaking his ranting. The partners shared a look, and a laugh before Jim continued moving up the stairs to his bed. “Good night, Chief.”
“Maybe she’d come here, and we could do the interview in the loft! And Rachel Ray could cook in our kitchen!”
“Bed! Now, Chief!”