New Arrivals

Murder 101, Epilogue
by LindaS

February 2001

Synopsis: Epilogue for Murder 101. Spoilers for Sentinel Too, Parts 1&2 and Murder 101. Rated PG.

Note: Thanks to Becky for her wonderful transcript site. It made writing this story a lot easier. Also, thanks to Nickerbits for the lovely beta job.

Disclaimer: The characters of The Sentinel are owned by UPN and Pet Fly Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.

Jim, while struggling with the driver of the motorboat, took a glance over toward the helicopter. What is Sandburg trying to do?

With his concentration diverted, the driver managed to connect a right cross to Jim's jaw. Turing his full attention to the situation, the detective was able to quickly subdue both the driver and the girl.

Looking again at the helicopter, Jim could see Blair hanging out of the door over the area where Brad was swimming.

Gee, Sandburg, you think you could get the chopper to go any lower. The smile on his face vanished as he watched Blair drop into the lake, his head sinking beneath the water's surface. Oh, god, no!

Heading the boat back to where he last saw Sandburg, Jim was relieved to see his friend treading water with Brad Ventriss in tow. Guiding the boat along side the two men, Jim pulled Brad into the boat and placed him next to the other two prisoners. By the time he turned around, Blair had already climbed into the boat.

"You okay there, Chief?"

"As you know, cold and wet is my world, Jim," Blair nervously chuckled as he removed the tie from his hair and shook the strands free, sending tiny droplets of water flying. Next time you can jump into the water, my friend."

"I saw your exit from the chopper and I wouldn't quite call it a jump, Chief. It was more of a step. How did you ever convince the pilot to come down that low?"

"It's call begging, Jim. And when I'm confronted with my fear of heights, I can be quite convincing. Though for a moment, I thought the pilot was going to kick me off the skid."

Jim grinned. He couldn't believe the audacity of his friend…a friend who was willing to follow him into any situation.

"Looks like the cavalry has arrived," the detective indicated as he turned the boat toward the dock where the emergency vehicles were converging. Taking another look at Blair, the detective had to bite back a gasp. The warm camaraderie he felt moments before was replaced with a feeling of dread. His partner's wet hair clung around his face and his lips were blue from the cold water. Jim closed his eyes and momentarily latched onto his friend's heartbeat. He knew it was silly, but he wanted to be reassured. It wasn't that long ago…the incident at the fountain. The fear of what took place still gnawed at his heart. A light tap on his shoulder brought him out of his musing.

"Are you okay there, Jim?"

"Uh…I'm fine. But we better make sure to get you checked out. Remember what the doctor said about your lungs."

"Cluck, cluck, cluck."

"Knock it off, Sandburg. I am not being a mother hen."

"Sure, Jim. Whatever you say." Blair laughed as he tossed a line to an officer on the dock. Hopping out of the boat, the kid took off into the crowd of police and rescue personnel.

The older man sighed. Don't think you're escaping me, Chief. I'll have one of the medics examine you, even if I have to sit on you.

He lay there on the ground, angelic looking with his hair spread out around his face. Tiny beads of moisture glistened on his skin in the early morning light adding to its unnatural paleness. So peaceful he appeared, as if asleep…but he wasn't asleep. If he had been, Jim could have just shaken him, told him to wake up.

"He's gone Jim…let him go." Simon spoke in a commanding voice.

"I…I can't," Jim stammered, dropping down along his friend's side. Taking a breath, he closed his mouth over the blue-tinged lips and forced the air into the silent lungs. He repeated the process again and again. Each time, he could taste the brackish fountain water that still clung to his friend's skin. He could smell the moldy, dirty dampness that enveloped his friend's clothes.

"Simon, help me," the detective pleaded of his superior.

"I can't, Jim. Give it up. Sandburg died over a month ago. Even a sentinel can't bring him back."

"Nooo!" Jim screamed and attempted to give another life-saving breath. Then all he could taste or smell was the foul, discolored liquid of the fountain. Breaking away, the fetid taste adhered to his tongue; the rank odor turned his stomach. He fought back the burning bile that rose in his throat. "Oh, god no!"

Jim woke with a start and stumbled down the stairs, barely making it into the bathroom in time. The Shrimp Tempura along with the rest of his dinner made a spectacular reappearance. Finishing, he rose on shaky legs and rinsed out his mouth. However, the putrid taste and smell from his dream had yet to fade, reminding him of the nightmarish image of his lifeless friend. He swallowed again, trying to quiet his churning stomach along with his churning thoughts.

Not trusting his senses, Jim made his way over to the French doors of Blair's room. Quietly he watched his partner sleep, almost zoning on the gentle rising of his friend's chest with each breath. Satisfied that Blair was safe, the perplexed man crossed over to the couch and sat down. He shuddered, trying to block the ghostly scene that still remained in his mind. The act of rubbing his temple in hopes of dispersing the images along with his now pounding headache was useless. Picking up the remote, he flicked on the television, realizing there would be no more sleep for him tonight.

Blair awoke to the aromatic smell of coffee. At least there was a cup of piping hot java to look forward to…as for the rest of the day. He had an early morning meeting scheduled with the chancellor. Perhaps given the circumstances and along with a lot of pleading, the witch would reinstate him. Now, now play nice! the young man admonished himself. Remember, honey not vinegar.

Crossing over to the kitchen, he found a note propped up next to the coffee maker.

Blair, Had to go into work early. Good luck with your meeting. Will see you later at the station. Jim

Blair took a sip of the warm brew, reflecting back to the conversation over last night's dinner.

"I'm behind you, Chief," Jim reiterated. "Do what you have to do in regards to your job. Just know that whatever happens, I'll be there for you. We can work any problems out together."

Blair had almost choked on his vegetable sushi. This Jim was a far cry from the one who kicked him out of the loft…the Jim claiming to need space. He momentarily felt a flippant reply rise in his throat, but the sincerity in his friend's eyes squelched the response.

He flashed the detective a warm smile. "Thanks, Jim. Your support means a lot to me."

And it does mean a lot to me. Blair swallowed the rest of his coffee and set his cup in the sink. Now a quick shower and then off to fight the dragon…well, the dragon lady.

Simon studied the pale figure sitting at Jim's desk. Grabbing a cup of coffee, he approached the detective.

"Here, Jim." The captain held the cup out. "It looks like you could use this more than me."

Jim blanched at the aroma. Beads of sweat broke out across his forehead as he tried to control the queasy feeling. The last thing he wanted was a cup of coffee. He hadn't felt well last night when he went to bed; perhaps it was something he ate. Then that dream... or better yet nightmare...had left him feeling shaky. "Uh…no thanks, Captain. I'm fine."

"You don't look fine. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Jim reiterated, emphasizing the word, 'fine'. "Just a bit of a headache." Absently rubbing his temple, he took a deep breath, trying to quell the rising feeling of nausea. He remembered how earlier this morning the smell of coffee had affected him to the extent that he had to make a hasty departure from the loft with only a brief note to Blair. Now here at the office he was being constantly assaulted…Simon's coffee, Megan's perfume, and Joel's jelly donut. He wasn't sure how much more he could take.

"Well, things are light here. If nothing else comes up, as soon as you finish the Ventriss report, you can get out of here."

"Thanks, Simon. I'm waiting for Blair and then I may just take you up on that offer."

Jim was able to maintain his composure until the captain was back in his office. He then stood and swiftly walked to the men's room.

Blair strolled into Major Crimes feeling pretty good. Maybe everything wasn't all right with the world, but it was pretty darn close. He crossed over to Jim's desk as the detective hung up the phone.

"Hey, hey, your face is looking better. How's your head?" Jim remarked.

Blair grinned. "Well, my head realizes that just 'cause you're right, doesn't mean you always get what you want. You can't get mad at anybody. You just got to play the game better than they do. How's that sound, Wally?"

"Well, that's pretty neat, Beav," the detective replied, surprised that Blair was knowledgeable of that old black and white show.


"School was good?" Jim was eager to know how things went with the chancellor.

"The principal and I worked things out."

"Hey, that's pretty keen, Beav. Well, Dad called. Said we've got a body down at Miller's Pond." Jim rose from the desk. "We got to go meet up with Eddie and Lumpy." Tapping Blair lightly on the chin with his fist, he reached for his coat.

Blair playfully returned the tap to Jim's chin. "Is it just you and me again, Wally?"

"You betcha." Jim crossed over to the door.

"Where you going?"

"You know our suspect is Gus the fisherman…"

"Fisherman? I thought Gus was a fireman." Blair cheerfully bantered back as he rushed to catch up with Jim. Yes, things were definitely looking up.

"Why didn't you tell me you weren't feeling well?" Blair banged the teakettle on the stove as he hid his concern behind his anger. Anger that stemmed from Jim collapsing at the crime scene...anger that stemmed from the knowledge that Simon was aware that Jim wasn't feeling well earlier in the day and anger that stemmed in the fact that neither one of them confided that information to him.

"Look, Chief, it's probably nothing but the twenty-four hour virus." Jim was lying on the sofa, trying hard not to look as sick as he felt.

"Nothing…nothing," Blair sputtered. "You didn't see yourself puking your guts out."

"It was just the dry heaves." Jim shifted on the couch, resting his hand across his tender stomach muscles. "The combination of this bug along with viewing a body that had been in the pond for about a month was a little hard to take."

Blair eyed his roommate suspiciously. He had to admit that the body after being in the water for so long was difficult for anyone to look at. It was bloated, discolored and who knows what kind of aquatic organisms had taken up residence in it. On top of that, the smell was overpowering. One look and Blair was sure he was going to be sick, until he was distracted by the sight of Jim…Jim who checked his feelings at the door and never let anything get to him…making a mad dash off into the bushes. There was no mistaking the sounds of retching.

It took both him and Simon to get the unsteady detective back to the truck. Simon, who was looking so guilty, finally admitted to Blair that he should have sent Jim home earlier in the day. Blair could only glare at the captain when in reality all he wanted to do was to chastise the man. However, with Jim looking so miserable, curled up in the passenger seat of the truck, he knew that his first priority was to his partner.

With the teakettle whistling, Blair quickly poured the hot water into a cup. Approaching the couch, he sat the tea on the table next to Jim.

"Drink this…all of it," Blair ordered. "I don't need you getting dehydrated on me."

"What is it?" Jim eyed the concoction suspiciously.

"Tea…it'll calm you stomach."

Yeah, right, tea. Jim thought better of trying to use his sense of smell to discern the herbs, and one look at Blair's determined face erased any thoughts of not drinking the mixture. Wanting to appease his guide for his past transgression, Jim took a cautious sip of the dark liquid. He was surprised that it stayed down and it actually did make his stomach feel better.

Jim took another drink. He shuddered, thinking back to the pond. The two of them had arrived as the body was being removed from the water. With his head pounding, Jim was glad that he had at least been successful suppressing the growing feeling of nausea. Unfortunately, his luck didn't last as he moved up to view the body. With the condition the corpse was in, there could be no accurate description except that it was a male Caucasian, between twenty or thirty, long dark hair, dressed in jeans and a tee shirt. There appeared to be an entrance wound on the forehead, probably caused by a gunshot. That was as far as Jim had been able to scan the body before the intense smell of the pond water along with the odor of the body overwhelmed him, causing his mad dash to the bushes. After which, he felt so shaky that he didn't have the energy to fend off Blair's or Simon's help in getting back to the truck.

Jim drained the last of the 'tea'. It felt good to be able to keep something down, perhaps the worst was over. "Thanks, Chief. I guess I needed that after all."

"You're welcome. So, do you want to head up to bed or stay on the couch?"

"Couch, I think. At least I won't have to deal with the stairs tonight…just in case."

"Well, night, Jim. Holler if you need anything." Blair turned off the lights and crossed over to his room.

"Night, Chief." The darkness of the loft soon drew him into a restless slumber. Jim found himself once again caught up in the same nightmare at the fountain.

Taking a breath, Jim closed his mouth over the blue-tinged lips and forced the air into Blair's silent lungs. He repeated the process again and again. Each time, he could taste the brackish fountain water that still clung to his friend's skin. He could smell the moldy, dirty dampness that enveloped his friend's clothes.

"Simon, help me," the detective pleaded of his superior. He couldn't lose Blair like this…it wasn't right. This couldn't be happening.

"I can't, Jim. Give it up. Sandburg died over a month ago. Even a sentinel can't bring him back."

"Nooo!" Jim screamed and attempted to give another life-saving breath. He was surprised when he felt Blair's teeth cave in as he closed his lips around the lifeless mouth. Gasping, Jim sat back on his heels looking at his friend's body, which now appeared bloated and showing signs of decomposition. It wasn't a month ago…it couldn't have been a month ago.

"Jim, you can't bring back a corpse," Simon said forcefully.

Simon's statement only tended to fuel Jim's effort. The panic man frantically tried to remove the fallen teeth, but instead ended up pulling out decayed pieces of flesh from the mouth. "Oh, god no!"

Jim bolted from the couch, nearly tripping over the coffee table before making it into the bathroom. As he was leaning over the porcelain bowl, he was glad he had drunk the tea. At least it was better than the dry heaves. Muscles quivering, he sat down on the tiled floor. He didn't realize that Blair was in the room with him until he felt something cold and damp being draped across his neck.

"Here." Blair held out a wet washcloth.

Jim just stared at his friend's face. Even in the darkness of the room, he could see that Blair's face wasn't bloated, that he teeth weren't missing. He took a gulp of air, trying to calm the sickening sensation while reaching out for the cloth.

"Are you ready to get up?"

Jim wiped off his mouth and nodded, causing the towel around his neck to slip off.

"Let's get you back to the couch." Blair hoisted Jim up off the floor. Wrapping an arm around his roommate, he carefully guided him back to the sofa.

In the dark, Blair sat at the dinning room table staring over at the sleeping form of his friend. He was able to get some more fluids into Jim and finally convinced the man to go to sleep. Blair was puzzled by Jim's condition. Running a hand through his hair, the tired young man took a deep breath. "What is going on with you, Jim?" he mumbled to himself. It had to be more than just a virus. True the man was sick. Blair was sure that he was running a slight temperature. Judging by the tense lines on Jim's forehead, Blair could even tell that the man was constantly fighting a headache…but there was more to it. Blair was surprised that Jim had been unaware of his presence in the bathroom until he touched him. And then Jim didn't even acknowledge him, just stared at him dumbstruck…as if he were seeing a ghost or something. Once Blair had gotten Jim to the couch, he still seem confused and needed assurance that Blair was really there.

Blair shook his head not coming to any conclusion. Might as well get some sleep. Tomorrow was a big day…his first day back teaching since being reinstated. No way did he want to aggravate Chancellor Edwards by being late.

Scooting his chair back, he flinched at the scraping noise the legs made against the floor. A quick glance at Jim told him that the sound did not register with his sentinel. Tomorrow…well, actually later today, he would have to figure out what the problem was with his friend.

Jim watched from his perch on the couch as his roommate bounced across the loft.

"I already called Simon and told him that you wouldn't be in today." Blair informed his patient. "You really don't look any better. How did you sleep?"

"Fine," came the terse reply.

"Oh?" Blair found that hard to believe. Jim looked far from being rested. His face was drawn, with a pinched look around his eyes. "Apparently, your definition of 'fine' is different from mine."

Jim ignored Blair's comment, so the young man continued. "Well, take it easy today. I made you some tea and dry toast. If you're not feeling better by the time I get back…you're going to see the doctor." The last part of the remark was delivered forcefully.

"Cluck, cluck, cluck."


"Now who's being the mother hen, Sandburg?"

"Well, can you blame me? It's not often the great and powerful James Joseph Ellison gets sick."

"Real funny, Chief."

"Yeah? Well, I'm off to the university. Time and Chancellor Edwards wait for no man. I'll be back after my ten o'clock class, but if you need anything don't hesitate to call."

"Sandburg…just go."

"Right…okay…bye, Jim." Grabbing his knapsack, Blair retreated from the loft.

Jim breathed a sigh of relief when Sandburg finally closed the door. He eyed his 'breakfast' sitting on the coffee table. Apparently, being ill meant the house rules about eating in the living room could be broken. He picked up the tea and took a drink. The tea was okay…but there was no way he would be able to eat the dry toast…just the smell of it...

He rose from the couch and stood on unsteady legs. Taking the toast, he disposed of it in the kitchen. Returning to the couch, he sank back into the cushions. He was so tired. He remembered Blair being nearby as he fell back to sleep last night. Then later he woke. Unable to return to sleep, he spent the rest of the night listening to his friend's heartbeat and respiration.

Lying back down, he pulled the light blanket over him. With his eyelids heavy and unable to fight the pull of sleep, Jim turned onto his side and let himself drift into a restless slumber.

What was he doing back at the fountain? This couldn't be happening! This had to be a dream and yet, he could smell the water. Before him, on the ground, was the bloated, decaying body of Blair.

"Nooooo!" Jim shouted as he dropped down next to the grotesque body. "It didn't happen this way!"

There had to be a way to save him. Looking around, he saw Simon.

"Simon, help me," the detective pleaded of his superior. He couldn't lose Blair like this…it wasn't right.

"I can't, Jim. Give it up. Sandburg died over a month ago. Even a sentinel can't bring him back."

"Nooo!" Jim screamed. He ran his hands around Blair's face, wondering what he could do. It couldn't have been a month ago.

"Jim, you can't bring back a corpse," Simon said forcefully.

"He's not a corpse, Simon…he's not!" Jim cried.

There had to be something he could do. It couldn't end like this. He cupped his hands around Blair's face, noticing for the first time a hole on his forehead, like a gunshot wound. Did Alex shoot him? Then he felt movement. Was it possible? Jim reached out to touch the opening. A small white maggot squirmed out of the hole, startling Jim. The realization that Blair was truly dead stunned the man. "Noooo!" The distraught man screamed. "Oh, god no!"

He stumbled to his feet, unaware of his surrounding. Bumping into the table, he fell to the floor. He felt his stomach contract. Unable to make it to the bathroom, he threw up the tea and then curled onto his side, as the vomiting turned into dry heaves. He was gasping and gagging at the same time, unable to control the forceful stomach contractions. Soon the bile being expelled was being mixed with spots of bright red blood. Oh, god, just make it stop.

Blair entered the loft and, glancing over toward the couch, was not surprised to see it empty. That man…when did he ever take it easy? Before he could finish his thought, he heard the sounds. It didn't take sentinel hearing to recognize the retching noise.

Rushing to his friend's side, he paused momentarily at the sight before him. "Jim, man…what happened?"

Jim clasped one hand onto Blair's shirt in desperation. His eyes were tightly closed with tears leaking, his other hand wrapped around his abdomen. "Not dead?"

Blair misunderstood the man's question. "No, you're not dying," Blair said forcefully as if to convince himself. Pulling free, he left the stricken man long enough to dial 911. Returning with a damp towel, he wiped Jim's cold and clammy face. "Take it easy, Jim…help is on its way." He pulled his friend away from the bloody mess on the floor and up onto his lap. "Jim…Jim, stay with me here," Blair shouted as he felt his friend's body relax.

Jim's head rested on Blair's chest. Latching onto the quiet lub-dub of Blair's heart, he felt his stomach contractions lessen. Taking reassurance in his friend's nearness, Jim allowed himself to slip into the comfort of darkness.

Simon stared out at the city's lights from the loft's balcony, dangling an almost empty bottle of beer in his hand. Sighing, he addressed the man standing next to him. "So, do you think it's a sentinel thing?"

Blair paused, rolling his beer bottle between his two hands. "I don't know…maybe." He turned his back on the cityscape and stared into the loft toward the couch where his friend was sleeping. "The doc tended to think it was just a virus, along with exhaustion and dehydration. And you know Jim, after the IV and the shot of Compazine, he was ready to come home. Said if he's not feeling better soon, he'll go back for additional tests…but..."

"But you think perhaps it's more." Simon finished the statement.

"Yeah…yeah, I do." Blair turned to face his superior. "This thing hit him pretty hard and fast. I think it's more than a virus, but you know Jim."

"Stoic to the end." Simon drained the last of his beer. The two men remained silent reflecting on the day's events. Simon had arrived at the hospital shortly after the ambulance, expecting the worst. After a few hours of keeping Blair company while waiting for information, he was surprised by the doctor's diagnosis. Of course, the doctor would have preferred to keep the patient overnight for observation and more tests, but Jim would have none of it. As cantankerous as he was in the exam room, once they got Jim home, he crashed on the sofa, sleeping ever since.

Simon snagged Blair's bottle and moved toward the door. "Well, it looks like you have things well in hand. Guess I'll be heading home."

"Thanks for the assist today and for the ride home."

"No problem. By the way, Sandburg…what's that smell? Did something die out here?"

Blair glanced down sheepishly and gave a little kick to the pair of shoes sitting by the door. "Naw, it's just my sneaks from the other day. They were still wet when we got back from the lake. Set them out here to dry and I guess I forgot about them. They do smell pretty bad, don't they?" Blair wrinkled his nose. "I'm surprised Jim hadn't said anything."

"If you know what's good for you, you'll leave them out here until you're ready to clean them. Jim will have your hide if you stank up the loft with these shoes."

Blair chuckled as he followed Simon inside. "Yeah, I know. And to justify it, he would point to House Rule 510: thou shall not bring into said home any objects, natural or otherwise that offend owner's sense of smell."

Blair halted his statement, startled to see Jim standing nearby. "Hey, Jim…you're awake!"

Anything else Blair might have said was cut off as Jim launched himself at Blair, knocking him to the floor. As the man attempted to press down on Blair's chest, Simon grabbed him from behind. Jim pulled free, his hands sliding, pressing down on the floor next to Blair. Staring at his hands, Jim began a low cry.

A musty odor tickled Jim's nose and dragged him from his dreamless sleep into an altered reality.

The sun was shining brightly as Jim strolled up the steps to Hargrove Hall. He was supposed to be meeting someone here, wasn't he? Confused, he hesitated, glancing around the campus. His eyes alit on a familiar piece of fabric floating in the fountain. Puzzled, he moved toward the water. Recognizing the body, he sped up his action, crossing to the fountain. There, rising up from the water stood the body. Jim staggered backward as the smell of death and decay was overpowering. Half of the victim's face was blown away…but he knew, knew without a doubt, who it was.

"Help me, " Jim called out to no one in particular. Rushing forward, he tackled his guide, bringing him to the ground. Kneeling beside, he started chest compressions. On the first thrust, there was a sickening crunch as his palms went through the chest cavity.

Lifting his hands out, Jim stared at the dark foul liquid congealing to them. He lifted his hands…his unclean hands skyward. A low moan escaped his lips, increasing in volume as he rose from the body.

Panicking, he spun around unsure as what to do. Then he saw his guide, standing in the fountain, smiling. "Come on in, man. The water's nice."

Before, he had refused to listen. Before, he had failed his guide...but not now. In front of him was the water. He could see his reflection. Now it was clear to him. There was where he should be...he should be with his guide. He began to run toward his reflection with only that one thought in his mind.

Simon and Blair were stunned. Jim had risen off of Blair and his keening sound had grown louder. As Blair approached the distraught man, his eyes latched onto Jim's, following their direction toward the balcony doors. Realization struck Blair at the same moment the sentinel dashed toward the glass.

"Simon, stop him!"

The captain lunged at Jim, bringing him down short of the doors. It took both Blair and Simon to hold the struggling man down as he shouted to be let go.

"I need to go to him…don't you see? I should be with him." Jim continued to mumble.

"What's he talking about?" The captain asked as he decided to sit on his detective's legs.

"Me…I think he's talking about me." Blair restrained Jim's head between his hands. "I'm here, Jim. Look at me…I'm here."

Jim continued to fight the two men. "No…no, Blair's dead. He died at the fountain. Can't you smell it? The fountain…it's here, I need to go to it."

"Shit!" Blair exclaimed.

"What! What!" The captain saw a look of realization cross the kid's face.

"Smell…it has to be the sneakers. Can you hold him down, Simon?"

The captain nodded and repositioned himself as Blair relinquished his grip. He watched as Blair opened the door to the balcony and without a second thought, tossed the foul-smelling sneakers over the edge. As the sneakers vanished over the railing, Jim left out one long yell.

Crossing back to Jim, Blair sat down, pulling his sentinel's head toward his chest. "I'm here, Jim. All you have to do is listen." Blair continued to mumble soft words of reassurance and soon the restless man quieted down.

Jim was confused that his run to the fountain had been stopped. He had made up his mind to join his guide and now something was holding him back…keeping him from his goal. Something grabbed his face, but he refused to look. The fountain…he had to get to the fountain. It was so close...and then it began to move away. Further and further away until it was gone. "Noooo!" he wailed. He was too late, too late to join his guide in the water. And then he felt a feather-light touch stroking his face.

"I'm here, Jim. All you have to do is listen."

He should know that voice, but maybe it was a trick. Then he heard the familiar beat and felt the rhythmic pulsing. All at once his senses were surrounded by the presence of his guide. Opening up his eyes, he stared into the face he knew so well. "Chief…Blair?"

Jim sat propped up on the couch, watching Blair bustle around the kitchen. He reached out with his senses to take in the scent of his guide. This was real, not a dream.

"Stop checking up on me, Jim."

"Sorry," the man mumbled, averting his eyes.

"You certainly gave Simon a workout tonight. You tore his favorite jacket. He said that the next time he's over here, he's going to wear his gym clothes." Blair crossed over to the couch, setting two cups on the table. Jim moved his legs, making room for Blair to sit next to him.

"So, Jim." Blair looked, searching his sentinel's face. "How are you doing?"

"Better, I guess. Not so nauseous." Taking a sip of the tea, he ran a shaky hand across his face. "What…what do you think caused this?"

"I imagine several things." Blair responded. "I think it was the virus combined with memories."

"But why, why now?"

"Maybe it was my leap into the lake that started it, but smell played an important part. Smell can be a powerful trigger. Lilacs can remind you of your mother. Cinnamon and apples can bring you back to the kitchen with Sally. I know you can't smell sage without thinking of my mom. Probably my musty sneakers kept reminding you of the water from the fountain."

"None too pleasant, I might add."

"No, I guess not." Blair sat quietly next to Jim, wondering how to express his next thought. "Jim, in your dream, you were willing to follow me into the fountain."

"As I recall, Chief, you invited me to join you." Jim interrupted trying to lighten the mood.

"Jim, I'm serious here. If anything happens to me, I want to know that you'll be all right."

The older man looked away. How could he tell Blair that he didn't think it was possible? "Chief, I don't know if I can tell you what you want to hear. I wish I could…so I could ease your mind." Looking at Blair, he placed his hand on his guide's shoulder. "But I can tell you that you're more important to me than anyone I know. Not only as my guide…but as my friend."

Blair smiled at Jim's honesty. Jim was wrong. He told him exactly what he needed to hear. They sat in silence. As Jim began to nod off, Blair reached over for his friend's cup.

Carrying both cups to the kitchen, he rinsed them out and then turned off the kitchen lights. Looking at his slumbering friend, he whispered, "Ditto for me, too, Jim."

Crossing to his room, Blair didn't see the slight smile that passed over Jim's face.

~ The End ~