Summary: A stranger with a secret asks Blair for help. Rated G.
Disclaimer: Okay, the standard this is Not For Profit and I understand, really, I do, that Jim and Blair belong to Pet Fly and I only get to play with them now and then. I'll gladly return them January 18 to UPN.
Thanks to Danaea for checking up on my Jim and Blair characterizations and her story suggestions, and to peregrin anna for the go for it! and English teacher stuff! Gratias ago, to you both! (And, if you don't recognize peregrin anna's name, that's okay, she doesn't do Senfic. But you're missing a treat if you don't check out her X-Files stories at Gossamer and her Early Edition fan fiction at the GTA archive (http://www.pcez.com/~inkling))
Author's note: This is my own take on the much maligned Sentinel Too season three cliffhanger. The Guppy was wet, not dead, and I've left all the emotional reconciliation scenes in the much more capable hands of more experienced Senfic authors. But, even after Jim and Blair worked it all out and solved things between them, what would happen if....
After five minutes Jim gave up waiting and just opened the door. It only took a second to verify that the man outside was indeed wearing a leather jacket -- a black one. Rats. Jim had guessed brown, trying identify the clothing pacing in the hall outside by sound alone. But he had nailed the Levis and tennis shoes almost without trying. Leaning against the door frame, beer dangling in one hand, Jim stared at the shoes for another second. White Nikes. What do you know? He'd got the brand too, just by sound, even if he'd missed on the jacket's color. Damn, he was good. Seeing through doors was still Superman's area of expertise, but one genetic throwback cop by the name of Jim Ellison was encroaching on that territory, little by little, practice session by practice session. Not that the Sentinel would ever give Blair Sandburg the satisfaction of knowing that, not until sometime Jim could pull it out of the hat, surprise his roommate/Guide *and* still keep control of the situation.
Jim finally looked up and met the eyes to whom the shoes belonged: hazel, beneath a full head of not-quite-black hair. The man was almost as tall as he was, but stockier, less lithe -- obviously less lethal than the ex-Army Ranger he faced in the loft doorway. Mouth open, the stranger locked gazes with Jim briefly before his lips snapped shut and the hand he'd raised to knock on the door just as Jim had opened it quickly found refuge in a coat pocket. Jim tensed, but monitoring heartbeat and respiration, decided the guy was nervous, not dangerous.
Gulping, shoulders hunched inside the jacket, the stranger still didn't say anything. A burst of noise from the TV behind Jim said something had happened in the Jags game, good or bad. Damn! He'd waited all week for this game, and now he was missing it while this guy made up his mind whether or not to talk. Hopefully it wouldn't take him another five minutes. Well, he knew how to speed up the process. Jim wrinkled his brow, let a little concern show in his eyes. That got results, just like it did in the interrogation rooms and out on the streets.
A hand came out, ran through the thick hair, made a couple of swipes at the jeans before disappearing back into the black jacket. Jim frowned just a bit; the guy was fingering something in his pocket now, something... paper. Plain old paper. Still staring at each other, eyes more green than brown shifted first, gave ground to the cool blue ones, looked down the hall at the elevator then came back. More cheering came from the TV. Damn, the Jags were on the road today, that couldn't be good. Jim lifted one eyebrow.
Throat working, the man finally stammered, "Uh, um, you wouldn't, you wouldn't happen to be Blair Sandburg, would you?"
Jim couldn't help it. He snorted, then laughed, looked up to catch the brief flash of anger in those eyes before it was buried.
"No, no, I'm not Blair Sandburg." Jim looked a little closer at the man standing outside the loft. Shadows brushed beneath the man's eyes and on his cheeks, tension fairly sang through the lines of his body, tension strung with weariness. The guy could obviously use a good night's sleep, but just as obviously the stress wound through the fear in those eyes wasn't going to allow it anytime soon. Jim knew the look, he'd seen it a hundred times before, in the bullpen, in the field, in the mirror: A man pushed beyond his strength, but not giving up, dealing with and grappling with things that were too big for him but knowing that it had to be done, had to be dealt with because there was no one else.
"Oh." Now the body sagged with disappointment. "Ah, um... do you know where I might find him?" The man's voice cracked a little on the last word, as if there was a lot riding on the answer. Jim hesitated. This was their first weekend off in weeks, no cases hanging over their head, no papers to grade, no psychos to catch. The Jags game and a steak dinner were the only events in Jim's day, and he wanted to keep it that way. Blair should be on his way home from the store even now with the steaks for their afternoon barbecue.
Oblivious to Jim's sudden tension as his hand moved in his coat pocket, the man pulled out a tattered letter and unfolded it. A plain gold band flashed on his left hand as he did so. Married then, that was good, psychos looking for Blair weren't usually married, or at least they didn't flaunt it - and then Jim focused on the envelope itself. That was Blair's handwriting, he realized, amazingly legible even after all these years of frantic note taking. *Hey, man, what's the use of writing stuff down if you can't read it later?* He could hear Blair's derision in his mind over the TV and the other noise that suddenly caught his attention. Focusing on the street below long enough to be sure, Jim tuned back in to the guy in front of him too late to catch the question he was asked.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
The man stared quietly at him for a minute and Jim's face went carefully blank before the questions he could see rising in the man's eyes. Once again the muddy green eyes of his conversationalist in the hall broke away first, looked down at the envelope and then back up at Jim.
"This is 852 Prospect, isn't it? Apartment 307?"
Jim was definitely going to have a talk with Blair about giving out his home address. Kids should know better than to give strangers their address. But, this guy was nothing near as strange as some of the creeps that had found Blair without his home address, so maybe Jim wouldn't bother with the lecture after all. Then again, maybe he would. Sometimes it was just too damn much fun to lecture Blair. Jim looked the guy up and down with his best "friendly" cop look, the one that kept everyone, fellow cops included, on good behavior around him - everyone except a certain long-haired anthropologist, that is. The stranger was hardly a threat, Jim decided, at least not one that couldn't be dealt with.
Eyes still wide, heart pounding, the stranger stood and waited for an answer.
Stepping back, Jim opened the door further and inclined his head inside.
"Yeah. Why don't you come on in. Blair should be back soon." Jim switched the beer to his left hand and held out his right. "Jim Ellison. Blair's my roommate."
Mouth pursed in a silent "oh," the man frowned, looked from Jim to the letter he held in one hand, and back up. Jim smiled encouragingly. The letter disappeared back into the jacket, the man reaching out to shake Jim's hand.
"Kerry, Kerry Teninty." Shrugging his shoulders in his jacket, the man stepped through the door into the Loft. Hesitating just inside, he caught Jim's gaze again. "I don't want to be a bother, if..."
"Nah, I was just watching the game. Can I get you a drink? Beer, water?" Closing the loft door, he gestured toward the fridge.
"Uh, oh, yeah, beer. Beer would be good."
It only took a moment to retrieve the last beer from the fridge, and hand it to the man. Damn, he hoped Blair remembered they were out of beer. Headed for his seat on the couch again, Jim gestured toward the other chair as his guest followed him.
"You follow the Jags?"
"Hunh?" Teninty turned from staring at the view out over the balcony. "The Jags? Oh, yeah, used to, I used to. Haven't had much time the last couple of years."
One foot up on the couch, Jim rested his arm on his upraised elbow, keeping an eye on Mr. Teninty and the Jags game, in that order. Briefly he tuned into the noise he'd heard earlier, and smiled. "Blair should be here any time now."
Perched on the edge of Blair's yellow chair, Teninty nodded, and ran his hand through his hair again. He tentatively sipped at his beer and eyed the game on the tube. The guy was nervous, but not in a criminal way, that much Jim was certain of. There was no slickness here, no gloating. Just nerves. Still...Jim took a small swallow of his beer, enough to make it look like he was drinking it, then set the dark bottle on the coffee table. Best to be prepared. The crowd's roar on the TV caught his attention, and he groaned.
"Aw, man, come on! You just gave that to them! Doesn't anyone know how to play defense anymore?"
Teninty flashed a brief smile.
"Atkinson still coaching them?" At Jim's nod, he shook his head. "He's never been known for his offense, much less his defense."
Jim shared a disgusted glance with his guest. The guy really had followed the Jags then. He kept a wary eye on him anyway as Blair finally made it out of the elevator.
"Jim, if you want these steaks somewhere besides the hall floor, you'd better get the door open."
Jim smiled, rising smoothly to his feet, ignoring his guest's questioning glance. He walked over to the door, and hesitated, waiting.
"Hey, Jim, come on, open the door. I know you know I'm out here. Give me a hand, man!"
Jim chuckled, counted to three, and then opened the door just in time to catch the bag as it tore from Blair's hands.
"Gee whiz, Jim!" Blair staggered through the door and plopped the remaining two bags he held on the island in the kitchen.
"Chief, I thought you were just going to pick up a couple steaks."
"Yeah, once I got there I realized we were out of beer and salad stuff." Retrieving a leafy handful of lettuce and spinach from one brown bag Blair finally saw the stranger standing wide-eyed beside his yellow chair. Jim followed his gaze and chuckled again. People who met the team of Ellison and Sandburg one at a time were rarely prepared for the difference in the two men.
"Mr. Teninty, this is my roommate, Blair Sandburg." To Blair he added, "Mr. Teninty would like to speak to you." Blair frowned briefly at Jim then deposited the greens he held in the sink. Wiping his hand on his jeans, he stepped towards the dark-haired man.
"Teninty?" Blair stopped in mid-stride, and Jim could almost hear the wheels turning in his head. He grinned, kept his chuckle to himself as his roommate ran one nervous hand through his hair. That was his roommate. Blair could remember the mating rituals of a hundred prehistoric tribes, but not a name he'd had to write on an envelope sometime in the last few months. Jim started digging in the sacks, one eye on the proceedings in the living room.
Teninty stepped forward, the letter crinkling as he pulled it from his pocket.
"Mr. Sandburg, um, we haven't exactly met, I uh, I wrote to you a month or so ago, about my wife?"
Attempting to give his roommate some privacy, Jim tried to find a home in the refrigerator for the two large cantaloupe he found in the sack he'd caught. Both cantaloupe landed with a thump on the counter beside the fridge however, as Blair's heart rate suddenly spiked and then started pounding. Jim swung around immediately, but all he saw was Blair holding the letter Jim supposed he had written Mr. Teninty. Teninty stood nearby, hand out pleadingly, pointing at the letter. His posture wasn't threatening, but the low intensity of his voice brought Jim out of the kitchen to stand near Blair. He could smell his Guide's fear now. What was going on? Teninty either didn't see him or chose to ignore him, not an easy feat. Jim tensed as, hand still out pleadingly, their guest stepped closer to Blair.
"I did it, I did everything you said, from getting her out of the damned mental hospital and off the drugs to the dials and the white noise things. It's working, it's working, she's there more often than not, and we've made progress, we've made a lot of progress, but she can't get the dials to work all the time, and as fast as we get something under control she loses it somewhere else." Teninty stopped in front of Blair, hand not quite clutching Blair's jacket, a strangely silent Blair who just stood there, staring at the letter in his hand. "My father-in-law came by yesterday, and they're taking me to court, they said I'm endangering her, I'm preventing her from getting the proper treatment, and they're trying to get the state to commit her, to declare her incompetent and take custody of her from me so they can put her away again. It will kill her, I know it will if they--"
Jim frowned. Was this guy talking about another Sentinel? Another *female* Sentinel? He must have made some noise then, because Blair threw a panicked look over his shoulder, and Teninty's gaze followed. Jim didn't know what the man saw, but he visibly paled and took a step backward. Gulping audibly, he squared his shoulders inside his jacket, then, with an uneasy glance at Jim, reached out again to Blair.
"Please, it's not far...If you could just come for a day or two, help me, I know there's something we're not--"
"You, you want me to go with you? To work with -- Oh, man, no way, no, I can't do that!" His voice shrilling at the end, Blair thrust the letter back at Teninty. His Guide barely looked at Jim as he stepped up, beside and little in front of the smaller man. Teninty stared though, not missing the protectiveness in Jim's stance, and was silent for a moment. Looking from the letter in his hand to the two men in front of him, the hopelessness in his eyes was quickly replaced by determination and he took a deep breath and focused again on Blair.
"Please, if you'd just come see her--"
"No." Heart still pounding, Blair shook his head, chopping the air in front of him with a "cut" gesture to emphasize his point. Jim put one hand on Blair's shoulder to anchor himself. If this was about another Sentinel...
Blair knew what Jim wanted, and Jim felt his heart rate slowing, felt the deep breaths his friend took to calm himself, to be ready to anchor his Sentinel as he extended his senses. Unmoving, Teninty was staring at them both, hazel eyes wide at first, then suddenly narrowing as though trying to put his finger on something. Blair began to talk again, to obfuscate as only he could, giving Jim time to check the man out more thoroughly.
"Look, I"m sorry, you, you just caught me at a bad time here. I'm really busy at the University. If you've got a few minutes, I'd be happy to..." His guide's voice faded to a reassuring prattle as Jim extended his senses. Smell, he decided, there wasn't much he couldn't see already, and his hearing had already verified the man's pounding pulse. He mentally relegated all the familiar smells of the loft and himself to the background, then the scents that were his Guide -- and for a brief instant there was a flash of his Guide more than relegated to the background, of Blair lying gray and lifeless on the lawn at the University, after Alex, after the other Sentinel -- Blair's voice suddenly increased in volume, briefly, and Jim mentally shook himself, pulling out from the zone before he really entered it. That was the past, and Blair was beside him, and they would never allow another Sentinel to come between them, they knew that now, Blair knew his mistakes and Jim knew his and...
Opening his hearing again, just a bit, re-anchoring himself to Blair's voice as he offered to write out some more suggestions for the man, Jim quickly sorted through the stranger's various masculine smells of aftershave and leather and cloth and soap... there it was, the scent of the Other...the Other enhanced one this man sought to help....Jim breathed deeply. It was a woman, he knew that, but she held only the odors of medicine and sickness and despair. Another scent was identified as the gentle fragrance of soap, similar to Blair's herbal blend, but nothing else. No danger, no threat, nothing like the scent of Alex that had come in every day with his guide for those horrible weeks, nothing at all...
Jim dialed his sense of smell down slowly, coming back to hear Teninty's pleading. Shoulders slumped, hands out in front of him like a suppliant before a king, the man refused to accept Blair's rebuff. Jim's eyes widened as he suddenly realized the strange voice had that same velvet quality as Blair's when he was in full "Guide Mode."
"... not just Rachel, it's not just my wife, yester- yesterday my daughter, she's five, she was standing on the porch and I asked her what she was doing and she said "Listening to Grandaddy's car" and it wasn't until after he'd come and gone I realized she said listening "to" and not "for"... He didn't get there for another fifteen minutes after she said that, there's no way she could have heard..." Voice fading to a whisper, he looked from Jim to Blair and back again. "Please. Please, I... I have no one else -- You're the first one who's even understood--"
Blair winced, and Jim knew how it must be hurting him not to be able to help this man, this family, but they had a deal, Sentinel and Guide -- suddenly it all became clear to Jim.
"If you'll excuse us for a minute please?"
Teninty stared at Jim, then nodded. Jim grasped Blair by the shoulders and propelled him out onto the balcony. Their guest watched them go, then flung the letter he'd been holding out as if it was some sort of talisman on the coffee table in front of him. He dropped to the couch, his head falling into his hands.
As the balcony door closed behind Jim he turned Blair around to face him. Throat working, his Guide was looking down, out over the railing, up at the sky, everywhere but at his roommate.
Finally his Guide faced him. Hands in his pockets, shoulders hunched, Blair took one deep breath and launched into his explanation. Still holding his Guide's shoulders, Jim let him have his say.
"Oh, man, Jim, if I'd even had a clue this guy would show up -- Man, I would never have written him, never have responded to him, you gotta know that, you gotta believe me!"
"Blair, we'll both go."
"Jim, I mean, he wrote me last month, he was desperate, he knows someone in the library at Rainier, they told him about my research for my Master's thesis, and his wife has been in and out of mental institutions for the last two-- What did you say?" Blair's gaze was sharp, the hand that reached up nervously to run through his hair suddenly still.
Jim waited a second, making sure he had Blair's full attention. Ice blue eyes met dark blue ones, the ice warming now with reassurance and acceptance.
"I said we'll both go." Blair opened his mouth, but Jim shook him gently by the shoulders, silencing his roommate briefly. "I don't think she's another Sentinel. I can't smell anything like that on him, not like I could smell Alex..." Jim faltered, didn't say the rest of the sentence, but they both knew what the next two words would have been. *On you*. Blair flinched, and looked away, out over the balcony. Jim shook him again, waited until Blair looked back at him.
"Even if she *is* another Sentinel," Jim said, smiling slightly, allowing a little humor to creep into his voice, "I *don't* think Teninty in there is going to want anyone else to be her Guide, and the fact she's a married woman with a family says she's probably not a criminal. I think we're okay on this one, Chief." Shrugging, he let go of Blair's shoulders, waited to see what his Guide would say.
Blair smiled then, and shook his head.
"She's a concert pianist." Glancing through the window behind them, Blair amended his statement: "Was a concert pianist." His eyes sought Jim's, pleading for understanding. "I'm sorry, I didn't think, he just, he just needed help and I was the first person who seemed to understand what was going on with his wife and I, well, I..."
"You did what you always do, Kid, what you did with me at the beginning. You helped someone in need, and you tried to teach him what he needed to know to help his wife. It's more than what you do, it's who you are. You're a teacher, Blair, you never stop teaching -- or lecturing. Just ask the rest of the guys in Major Crimes." Blair smiled too, a small smile, and nodded his head briefly, before frowning.
"Jim, I don't want... I don't want to make that mistake ever again, I--"
Jim shook his head. Time to share the understanding that had come to him.
"That's why I said we'd both go."
"Jim, you can't, you've already missed so much time at work because of me and--"
Jim shook his head again, crossed his arms and stood like the immovable object he'd been accused of being on more than one occasion.
"Blair, we do this together, or not at all." He shifted, held one hand out to his partner, much as Teninty had just a few minutes before. "Look, what happened when Alex was here? I didn't talk to you, you didn't talk to me. Our mistake was in not dealing with her together, that's why she got between us, that's the only reason why she even got close to taking me out and damn near succeeded in killing you. We weren't *together.*"
Blair was silent and still for an impossible minute, looking down at the silver boards beneath his feet. Then his gaze came up to meet Jim's.
"Together." It was more sigh than word.
Blair grinned then, the full wattage Sandburg smile that had the co-ed's on campus swooning.
"Okay, then, we''ll need to get directions to where he's staying, and you should probably make a list of the cleaning products we use, and your toiletries --"
"My toiletries? I thought it was the wife who was hypersensitive."
Blair rolled his eyes as he reached for the door.
"They're married, Jim. Think about it."
Jim raised his hands in surrender.
"You don't have to draw me a picture, Chief. And you're making the list, while *I* get directions."
"Hey, I can do directions."
"Yeah, but I want to get there. I only have two days off, you know."
Jim ignored Blair's indignant cry, opening the door and shooing Sandburg into the loft in front of him, letting Sandburg bounce on over to Teninty, still sitting on the couch, head in his hands. Delivering the good news, Blair chattered away, now digging through his backpack looking for paper as Teninty stood wearily, turning to face Jim. Hazel eyes once again met ice blue, only this time the hazel ones didn't look away, didn't flinch. There was nothing weary about that gaze now, and suddenly Jim knew what he wanted, understood the question the dark-haired man was asking.
Damn. He'd betrayed himself with his own good mood, not exactly being subtle about his senses. Maybe it would have been okay with someone who had no idea what was going on, but Teninty lived with a woman who had at least a couple of hyperactive senses. This time Jim looked away from that intense gaze, focusing instead of the large numeral Four on the wall beside the door, unwilling to share with a stranger the remembrance of his life when his senses first came back on line, keeping to himself the memory of his desperation, the madness he had been certain was his fate. But Fate had been kind to him, had sent him Sandburg, the Guide who had somehow, when Jim wasn't looking, become the other half of his soul, Jonathon to his David, Patroclus to Jim's Achilles.
Fate had not been so kind to Teninty's wife. She had lived -- no, *was* living the madness Jim had only faced briefly. If Jim's instincts were wrong, if she was a full fledged Sentinel her Guide was standing before him. But Teninty wasn't trained, he hadn't known how to prevent the madness, couldn't help her control the sensory input so she could still function. There but for the grace of God and one Blair Sandburg, hyperactive grad student, neo-hippy witch doctor punk, went Jim Ellison.
And Jim knew the man in front of him deserved to know his secret, needed the hope that Jim could give him, more even than the instruction Blair was promising, still chattering away in the background. Slowly Jim looked back, met the hazel eyes still locked on his face, and nodded. The relief that broke over Teninty was obvious as his shoulders sagged and he slumped back down onto the couch, nervously running a hand through his hair before burying his face in his hands again.
Blair's chatter came to a halt finally as he turned back to the living room and caught sight of the tableau in front of him. Jim nodded his answer to Blair's silent question, and Blair moved swiftly over to the couch, touched Teninty on the shoulder. Teninty's face when he finally responded was wet with tears. Blair smiled, and as he spoke Jim marveled again at the compassion that could flow from the dynamo that was his roommate/friend/Guide.
"She'll be all right. There's a lot yet I can teach you, you and her both."
Teninty's gaze swiveled over to Jim. The bigger man spoke, answering the hope there before Blair could say anything.
"And there's a few tricks I can show her that he doesn't know yet."
Jim smiled serenely as Blair stared at him in shock. He'd pay for that comment in the truck on the way over to Teninty's place, the Sentinel knew that, but it was worth the look on Blair's face right now. Shrugging past his roommate, he held out the paper and pencil he'd just confiscated from that same partner.
"If you'll just write down directions to your place?" He smiled reassuringly at Teninty, and the man took a deep breath, nodded, then sat down and started writing. Over at the kitchen table now, Blair had found another pen and was headed for the bathroom with paper in hand. Jim smiled to himself, then tuned out Blair's muttered threats about new and unpleasant tests for a certain recalcitrant Sentinel, threats that only Jim could hear anyway. He turned all his attention to Teninty as he began to explain the directions to his place on Whidby Island. It wouldn't do to get lost on the way -- the Sentinel had a reputation to maintain, after all.