Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Summary: Jim and Blair's relationship is put to the ultimate test when Blair fingers Jim as a murder suspect.
Part 6 is dedicated to Cheri <email@example.com> with thanks for sharing her wonderful artistic talents with us. Artwork link for Part 6 image -- http://allen111.home.netcom.com/mirror1.jpg
Disclaimer: Canon characters do not belong to me. They are the property of Pet Fly and Paramount. I don't make any money etc. etc. Vision sends Becky a big thank you for all of her work.
In retrospect, he knew it was too good to be true. There he was, Jim Ellison, Sentinel of the Great City, enjoying his second cup of uninterrupted coffee when it happened. Resting his elbows on his desk, Jim closed his eyes and took a tentative sip of the warm liquid. Concentrating on the subtle aroma of the brew, a small smile played on the edge of his lips. The famous "Banks Bellow" jolted him from his reverie. "Ellison! My office. Now!"
A wave of hot coffee flowed over the side of the cup as Jim jerked involuntarily from the outburst. A number of muttered curses later, Jim abandoned the liquid and knocked timidly on Simon's office door. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"Come in and close the door."
Feeling as though he was about to step into a mine field, Jim entered the room. Simon sat in his chair, cigar in hand, perusing an open file that lay on his desk. Weighing his "sit or stand" options, Jim opted for the hands- behind-your-back-stand-near-the-door stance. A stance that made quick exits much easier. Without even an upward glance at his detective, Simon began his interrogation. "Where were you last night, Jim?"
Raising his eyebrows, Jim shrugged his shoulders. "Home. Is there a problem?"
"Was Sandburg with you?" Simon's eyes remained fixed on the file in front of him.
Feeling somewhat at a loss Jim took a step towards Simon's desk. "No. He was at the University. What's going on? Jim tilted his head slightly, trying to get a better view of Simon's eyes. "What's with all the questions?"
Lifting his eyes to meet Jim's inquiring glance, Simon fumbled nervously with the edge of the folder. "Mark Evans is dead. Murdered." Closing the file in front of him, Simon shook his head. "They have a positive I.D. on the attacker."
Visibly confused, Jim rested the palms of his hands on the edge of Simon's desk. "Mark Evans? You mean 'Mr. I'd sell my grandmother for a joint' Evans? I'd say whoever did it did us all a favor. So what's this got to do with me anyway?"
"The witness fingered you as the attacker." Slowly removing his glasses, Simon searched Jim's face for a hint of remorse. An audible silence filled the room as Jim processed the information.
"That's ridiculous. I was home, Simon. Who is this clown anyway? Probably some drugged-up perp with a grudge. You can't be serious." Simon's stone-faced expression never wavered. "You're not kidding, are you? Can you at least tell me who the witness is? Come on, Simon."
Simon's next two words may as well have been coated in arsenic - a quick- acting poison injected straight into his bloodstream. "Blair Sandburg. The witness was Blair Sandburg."
House rules be damned!
Slamming the door to the loft, Jim stalked towards the kitchen. Keys in hand, jacket and shoes remaining intact, every "Ellison" rule pitched aside in the name of fury. Sensing Blair's presence, Jim gripped the side of the counter and tried to steady his raging heart.
Blue met blue, fire met inferno, hurt met agony...
"Get out! Just get out! Get out of my life! Get out of my mind! Get out of my house!"
Blair's whisper soft response made Jim shudder. "I'm sorry, Jim. I am so sorry. I never meant to..."
"Never meant to what? Never meant to hurt me? Why did you lie? I never touched him. What is this? Some kind of crazy 'test' of yours?"
Swallowing hard, Blair crossed the imaginary line between them. "I wish it was. Why did you do it, Jim? Why?"
"You're imagining things, Chief. I was here last night. I wasn't within ten miles of the guy. Why is that so hard for you to believe?"
Casting his eyes towards the ground, Blair shook his head. "I saw you. I pulled you away from him. Please, Jim, don't do this. We'll find a way to deal with this."
Chuckling, Jim yanked his badge from his jacket pocket and thrust his gun on top of it. "Here you go junior. You deal with it." Turning his back to Blair, Jim headed towards the door. "I'm going for a walk. Be gone when I get back"
The door to the loft and the door to their lives slammed in unison.
In his mind he had walked for hours. Although he had never physically moved from the park bench, his mind had wandered to the far recesses of the earth. His body weary from his journey, he felt the initial pangs of exhaustion. Closing his eyes and tilting his head towards the sun, Jim tried to sort out the puzzle pieces that had been dumped at his feet. In one pile were the edges of the puzzle - smooth and tight fitting. In another pile were the inner more intricate pieces -- misshapen and confusing. No matter how hard he tried, the puzzle refused to take shape. Without Blair, he would be left to search for that missing piece alone. He had done it again. Sometimes he truly amazed himself at just how pig-headed he could be. The one person that could help him, the person that truly cared, was now evicted from his life. He hadn't even given him a chance to explain. Now what? Exactly how was he going to deal with this alone.
A faint voice broke into his thoughts. "I believe you."
Opening his eyes, Jim stared into Blair's battle-worn face. "I believe you, Jim. Just trust me on this one. Please. Just do what I say, no questions. Can you do that?"
A broad smile adorned Blair's features. "On what?"
"Are you in trouble, Blair?"
A group of young boys playing tag caught Blair's attention. "Do you see those boys over there? How fast can you run, Jim?"
"With or without you on my back?"
Shifting his feet nervously, Blair avoided Jim's gaze. "With me on your back and your hands cuffed together."
Reaching for Blair's hand, Jim smiled. "Like the wind, Chief. Like the wind."
Remaining on the bench, Jim watched as Blair made his way across the park. Blair's shoulders slumped beneath his jacket, the weight of the world resting on his back. Blair's final words blazing a trail through Jim's mind. Trust had always been the basis of their relationship, the one unique element that made their friendship so special. Never before had Jim felt this way about another human being, a feeling that both pleased and frightened him. Maybe that was the reason he felt so uneasy, the idea of having his entire life exposed to someone else. Tracking Blair with his enhanced vision, Jim watched as Blair swept a tear from his eye. Blair's shaking hands returning to his pockets once again. Jim's hearing detected a faint sob from Blair's mouth. A whispered plea followed thereafter. "Jim? I know you can hear me. Whatever happens please don't hate me."
Shortly after meeting with Blair, Jim found himself heading back to the station. Whatever it was that Blair had stumbled into, Jim was going to make sure that he had the support of all the officers in Major Crimes. No sooner had Jim walked into the bullpen when he was approached by two uniformed officers. A young, fresh-out-of-the-academy cadet blocked his path. "Excuse me. I'm Detective Ellison. If you could just move aside please."
The young policeman stood his ground, arms folded across his chest. "I know who you are. You're wanted in I.A. We're here to escort you there."
Chuckling, Jim attempted to force his way past the young cop. A rough set of hands grabbed him, pinning his right arm behind his back. "We can do this your way, Detective Ellison, or we can do it my way. Which is it gonna be?"
Joel's burly form pushed between Jim and the two officers. "That won't be necessary. Detective Ellison will come along quietly, right Jim?"
"What the hell is going on here? Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on?" Pulling his hand free of the officer's grasp, Jim fixed his eyes on Joel.
Sighing, Joel patted Jim on the shoulder. "Just go with them, Jim. It'll be better for you if you don't ask any questions."
"That's the second time I've heard that today. Fine, let's just do this."
The stark white walls of the room combined with the hard-backed chairs made Jim cringe. A rectangular- shaped table divided the room -- good guys on one side, bad guys on the other. The division between good and evil engraved into the table's splintered wood. Settling himself in one of the chairs, Jim glanced across the battlefield. A young blonde-haired woman scanned his features, her eyes peeling away what little confidence he had left in himself. An older man dressed in a wrinkled blue suit sat next to her. Jim watched as the young woman closed the file in front of her and flashed him a sly grin. "I see that you've decided to turn yourself in, smart move."
Returning the grin, Jim crossed his arms. "Turn myself into what? A criminal? Sorry, you've got the wrong guy."
"Is that so? Where were you this afternoon, detective?"
"I was at a park watching the grass grow. Does that answer your question?"
Rising from her seat, the woman began pacing in front of him. "The officers told me you refused council, is that true?"
"I have nothing to hide."
"Do you have any idea the trouble you're in, Detective Ellison? First the Mark Evans incident and now this."
Shaking his head, Jim shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea what you're talking about. What did I do? Knock off a bank?"
Placing her hands on the table, the woman leaned closer to Jim's face. Locking eyes, she smiled sweetly. "Don't patronize me, Detective. You're in no position to make any enemies. Now, where's your gun?"
Instinctively reaching for his weapon, Jim hesitated as the memory of the earlier scene in the loft drifted back to him. "At home. I left it at home."
"Really? Are you always in the habit of leaving your gun at home?"
"My partner and I had an argument, and I forgot it."
Reaching into her briefcase, the woman held up a clear plastic bag containing a gun. "Is this your gun?"
Staring closely at the weapon, Jim nodded his head. "Yes. How did you get it?"
"There was a shooting at a neighborhood high school this afternoon. The gun was found stuffed in a locker at the school. A young boy was injured."
Jim could feel the color draining from his face, his heart trip-hammering in his chest. "Oh my god. Is he okay?"
"Fortunately yes. I believe you know the young man. It was Captain Banks' son, Daryl."
"Daryl?" The word stuck in his throat like a knife. "This can't be happening. Simon just transferred him here last week. It took him ages to convince his ex-wife. I don't believe this."
Glancing at the man beside her, the woman smiled. "Carl, could you please bring in the VCR. I have something to show our friend."
Exiting the room, Carl returned a few moments later pulling a television cart. As Carl began connecting the power cord, the woman smiled. "The shooting happened during a basketball game. Lucky for us, one of the fathers caught the whole episode on tape."
As the tape began to play, Jim focused his attention on the game. Instantly spotting Daryl, Jim watched in horror as a man strode across the court, removed a gun from a holster and shot Daryl point blank. Freeze- framing the image of the shooter, the woman whispered. "Mirror, mirror on the wall. Whose the fairest one of all?"
Staring at his own image on the screen, Jim's sanity shattered into a million pieces.
Muttering to himself, William Ellison watched intently as the gruesome images flashed across the television screen. "What's the world coming to? Shot at a basketball game, poor kid."
Taking a sip of his drink, he listened intently as the reporter continued his story. "...and this just in. The police now have a positive ID on the gunman. A highly decorated police officer, Detective James Ellison, has been brought in for questioning."
The glass slid from William's hand as he stared blankly at the screen. "Jimmy. Oh my god! This can't be. How could this happen?"
Switching off the television, William buried his face in his hands. So many lies, so much deception. In his heart he knew this day would come -- judgment day. The day William Ellison would atone for his multitude of sins. The day when hell's fury rose up to greet him with open arms. Tears spilled between his fingers as he pictured Jim's face in his mind. Blindly reaching for the phone, his fingers shook as he pressed the buttons. Shakily gripping the receiver, he awaited the connection. A female voice greeted him and he took a moment to compose himself. "Grace, it's William. I think you know why I'm calling. It's happened, Grace. Our greatest fear has come true. It's Keith, he's in Cascade..."
The clanging of the cell door reverberated in his skull. Dropping to sit on the cot, Jim stared at the shadow of the bars on the ground. Two days ago he and Sandburg had been planning a fishing trip, and now here he was, floundering like some landed trout caught in a fisherman's net. Someone had baited the hook, and he had taken it -- hook, line, and sinker. Whoever had tossed in the line, knew exactly what bait to use -- Sandburg.
Swinging his legs onto the cot, Jim laid his head on the pillow. Staring up at the ceiling he rewound the video in his head for the hundredth time. How could this be? How could someone look so much like him? Mentally running through a list of possible suspects, Jim shook his head. There was more to this then a simple act of revenge, much more. Ideas swirled through his head with tornado-driven force. Nothing seemed to make sense. Who would go to all of this trouble to see him fall?
Rolling on his side, Jim closed his eyes and fell into a restless sleep. Tomorrow would come soon enough, and with it, a chance to escape.
Blair stood on the balcony gazing out into the moonless night. The darkness enveloped him, gripping him in a vice-like hold. He couldn't bear the thought of sleeping in his own safe bed, while Jim slept among the cannibals of the night. Blair's thoughts drifted to his partner as he allowed the cold night air to penetrate his clothing. The cold felt good to him now, an act of penance for the day's evil doings. There was no turning back, no change of heart. Blair was but a pawn in this sadistic game, a playing piece shifted at will. He wondered what Jim thought of him now, what possible feelings he could still have for the man that had betrayed him. Startled by the ringing of the phone, Blair tried to move towards the offending noise, but his feet were seemingly rooted to the ground. With slow, stiff movements he made his way over to the coffee table. Retrieving a small cassette player from the table, he flicked on the record button before reaching for the phone His hand hovering just above the phone, he took a deep, shuddering breath. With a mechanical motion, he picked up the receiver and pressed it against his ear. "Sandburg."
A gruff male voice recited a list of orders in his ear. "Meet me at the docks, tomorrow at noon. Come alone, and don't be late."
Sweeping a hand across his face, Blair tried to convey an heir of mock confidence in his voice. "How do I know she's still alive?"
The abrupt disconnection of the line made him wince. With shaking fingers, he pressed the stop button on the recorder and laid it back on the table beside the open notebook. If Jim did find a way out of this mess, at least he would know that Blair hadn't failed him...
"Tell me it isn't true."
Sliding himself into the seat opposite his father, Steven motioned for the waitress to approach the table. After taking a long drink from his coffee, William pressed his hands tightly around the mug. Drawing warmth from the liquid, he managed to lift his eyes to meet those of his youngest son. "Steven. There's something I have to tell you. You have to promise me it won't leave this room."
Laughing, Steven gestured to the half-empty coffee shop full of patrons. "If this is such a big secret, why did you want to meet in a place like this? Unless..."
"Unless I was afraid of your reaction."
"Exactly. So, Dad, what is it this time? How are you involved in all this?"
A young waitress approached the table and Steven ordered a black coffee -- a large black coffee. In the back of Steven's mind, he knew it was going to be a long night.
William handed Steven a manila folder and motioned him to open it. Glancing at the contents of the folder, Steven's eyes widened in surprise. "Why are there three birth certificates here? Who's Keith?"
Shifting nervously in his seat, William swallowed hard. "He's your brother, Steven. He's Jim's twin brother."
Artwork link for Part 6 image -- http://allen111.home.netcom.com/mirror1.jpg
Staring into the mirror, Jim lost himself in its reflection. Raising a hand to his face, he began tracing the delicate outline of his ears with his fingertips. A barrage of sounds filtered into his memory. Sounds of happiness, and pain, joy and sorrow, life...and death. The erratic heartbeats of the wicked; the jubilant pounding of the good. Above all, the steady, rhythmic beat of Blair's heart as he drifted off to sleep.
His finger absently wandered towards his lips. The glossy finish of the mirror accenting their sullen expression. The world had been a culinary delight to his senses -- a bittersweet mixture of the salt of the earth and the salt of his own tears. He had tasted fine wines from heaven's vineyard and putrid bile from hell's cauldron.
Inhaling and exhaling deeply, the warm air tickled the edge of his finger. Heartwarming scents whisked across his memory, the smell of Blair's shampoo, his mother's whimsical perfume, Simon's cigar-tinged shirts. To his dismay, the aromas faded and the repulsive stench of blood and sweat pierced his nostrils. A wave of nausea encircled him as his hand slowly moved towards his eye.
Brushing his finger along his eyelid, he blinked as his fingernail gently caressed his lashes. He had seen so many things, internalized so much grief and so much happiness. Smiling faces of friends and family, of grand sculptures and vast breathtaking landscapes. Visions of corpses, and blood, of Satan's gallows and hell's dungeons.
His hand meandered to the glass, his fingers chasing themselves along its smooth surface. He had touched life itself, and fondled lifelessness as well His hands were but an extension of his soul, caressing good and evil as if they were actual solid objects that could be gripped or tossed away at will.
His hand trembled as it reached the edge of the mirror. Slowly lifting the gun from the countertop, he pressed the barrel firmly against his temple. Sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell colliding as he pulled the trigger...
The sound of the gunshot punctured Blair's mind. Running towards the hallway, Blair found himself trapped in some sort of time/space continuum. Every step he took seemed to repeat itself over and over again. The lights in the loft flickered ominously and the colors around him faded into shades of grey. Fighting against his subconscious, Blair skidded to a halt in front of the closed bathroom door. "Jim! Jim!" Blair's voice shook with fear as he kicked in the locked door. The sight before him welded his feet to the ground. Jim's limp body lay face-down on the floor. The detective's head slightly turned to one side, revealing a singular, circular shaped hole in his skull. Blood oozed from the open wound bathing the tiled floor in a pool of crimson red. Blair fell to his knees beside Jim's lifeless body and gently gathered him in his arms. Jim's unseeing eyes shimmered with unshed tears. Blair's hand absently swept the tears from Jim's eyes as his own tears trickled down the sides of his cheek.
A presence behind him forced Blair to glance over his shoulder. Incacha stood before him, arms folded across his chest. Shaking his head, Blair carefully eased Jim to the ground. "Why? Why did this happen? You can't do this. I won't let you do this."
"As Sentinel must trust his Guide, so must Guide trust his Sentinel."
Rising from the ground, Blair's voice cracked with emotion. "I do trust him. I trust him with my life."
"You must trust him with your soul. As you have died and been reborn, so must he."
Closing his eyes, Blair's voice became that of a whisper. "No. Please don't let him die. Take me instead."
"Search your heart, young Shaman. The mirror may shatter, but the reflection remains the same."
Blair's eyes bolted open, the images from the dream still swirling in his head. Wiping a hand across his face, Blair uncoiled himself from the mass of strewn blankets. Heart pounding wildly, Blair tried to steady his breathing. Exhaling deeply, he sat up on the couch and rested his head on the back of the cushions. "Oh god, Jim. What am I gonna do? I'm so sorry."
Gasping, Jim awoke with a start. A feeling of numbness paralyzed his body. Muted voices droned along his eardrum. His seemingly frostbitten fingers fumbled with the course blanket. Tasteless saliva ran blandly along his tastebuds. The poignant smell of sweat no longer invaded his nostrils. Blurred images assaulted his vision. Slowly rising from the cot, Jim's body swayed dangerously. Returning to a sitting position, Jim buried his head in his hands. "Oh god, Blair. What am I gonna do? I'm so sorry."
He had never meant for this to happen. Staring at his son through the bars, William clutched the bag in his hands more tightly. He had never seen Jim look so lost before, so wounded.
Turning his head towards his father, Jim began to speak "What are you doing here?"
Startled by the ferocity of Jim's words, William took a step backwards. "We need to talk, Jim. There's something I need to tell you. Please..."
His eyes fixed on the ground, Jim murmured. "So talk."
"I made bail, Jim. They'll be coming to get you in a few minutes."
Snickering, Jim shook his head. "Now why doesn't that surprise me? Can't have the good old 'Ellison' name tarnished in the business world, now can we? So how'd you do it? There hasn't even been a bail hearing yet?"
Gripping the bars with one hand, a hint of anger seethed into William's voice. "That's not important."
The words stabbed their way into Jim's mind. So much of Jim's relationship with his father had seemed to be based on those three words. It wasn't important that Jim be his own person. It wasn't important for his father to be a loving parent. It wasn't important that he had a son who was...different. What was important was the façade, the 'Ellison' image that must be upheld at all cost.
"You're right, Dad. I guess it's not important."
William's eyes drifted to the metal bars between them. Even without the bars to separate them, there was still an invisible barrier between their souls. He knew that whatever relationship he may have had with his son would be forever locked away in the fortress of his lies. William's next words would carry with them the lethal injection that would destroy his son forever...
Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Blair stared out over the open water. How he wished he could escape into the beckoning waves. Strip himself of all of his misery, and dive into the cleansing waters. His mind was stained with deception, permanently tarnished by his own mistrust. If only he could wash away his sins and be baptized by Jim's forgiving hands.
The sound of approaching footsteps jolted him back to reality. Staring at the intruder, Blair inhaled sharply. He had only seen Keith twice since that fated day, both times within the shroud of darkness. Now, standing next to him in the light of day, Blair found himself captivated by his physical appearance. There were so many similarities -- short cropped hair, muscular frame, clenched jaw, an almost perfect replica of James Ellison. To an untrained eye, there would be no differences, but to Blair the differences appeared as contrasting as black and white. Jim's eyes danced with promise while Keith's eyes smoldered with burning rage. Jim's heart swelled with goodness, while Keith's heart seemed engulfed by evil.
"Well, well, if it isn't Mr. Sandburg. How are we today? I trust you slept well?"
"Where is she?"
A broad grin appeared on Keith's face. "She's resting. I'll take you to her. You should know by now I'm a man of my word."
Shaking his head, Blair smiled. "Your word? Your word couldn't hold up a feather. I know all about you, Keith Ellison."
Blair fell to the ground as Keith's fist connected with his jaw. "You know nothing about me!"
"You kidnapped my mother. You framed your own brother. I don't need to know anything else."
Tossing his head back, Keith chuckled, "Correction, Mr. Sandburg, 'we' framed my brother. I could never have done it without you."
"You used me. You'll never get away with this."
"You really do care for him, don't you? That's too bad. Did you honestly think I'd come back to Cascade for some kind of family reunion? You don't get it, do you? We're twins, Mr. Sandburg, we're connected, and there's not a thing you can do about it. Face it, you're history."
Shifting to a standing position, Blair held up his hands in defeat. "If that's what you want to believe. You're wrong, Keith. It's Jim and I that have the connection. You're just a glitch in the system. He won't rest until he finds you, you know that, don't you?"
Grabbing Blair roughly by the arms, Keith hissed. "I'm counting on it."
There were no real words to describe his pain...
Staring deeply into his father's eyes, Jim tried to process the man's last statement. A brother? A twin brother? The room seemed to narrow as Jim lost himself in the words. Oblivious to any outside thoughts, Jim was unaware of the hand that gently touched his shoulder.
Simon tightened his grasp and spoke in a low, reassuring voice. "Come on, Jim. Let's not do this. I'm not exactly a good replacement for the kid. I need you to snap out of it, okay?" Eliciting no response from the detective, Simon glared at William. "I've never seen him this bad before. Dammit, I can't find Sandburg anywhere. We've got a hell of a situation here, and I have no idea how to fix it."
William's silence only managed to infuriate Simon even more.
"Mr. Ellison, do you have any idea..."
Jim's eyes flickered for a moment, and a shaking hand came to rest on top of Simon's. "Simon?"
"Hey, Jim. You scared the hell out of me. How you doing?"
Removing his hand, Jim lowered his head between his knees. "Dizzy. I'll be okay in a minute."
Kneeling beside his detective, Simon flashed William another warning gaze. "When's the last time you ate something, Jim?"
"I don't know. I didn't do it, Simon. I didn't do it."
Slightly raising his head, Jim brushed a hand across his face.
"The thought never entered my mind, Jim. I knew there had to a logical explanation for all of this. Come on, let's get you out of here."
Jim leaned heavily into Simon's arms as they brushed past William's slouched form. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. If there's anything I can do."
Pausing in midstep, Simon's voice took on a flat, mocking tone. "I think you've done enough, don't you?"
Tightening his grip on Simon's arm, Jim closed his eyes. "We got to find, Blair. He's in trouble, Simon. I can't explain it. My senses are gone. It's like the Sentinel thing is...dead."
"It's not dead, Jim...trust me."
Locking eyes with his captain, Jim felt a tiny tremor of hope pass through his body. "I do, Simon, now more than ever."
Listening in on Simon's end of the phone conversation, Jim felt a small twinge of jealousy seep into his heart. A father and son so devoted to one another, so accepting of one another's faults and abilities. Simon and Daryl had had their bad times, their "oil and water" moments, but beneath it all there was this wonderful proximity, the need to be a part of one another's lives.
Shifting in his chair Jim tried to figure out what it was that had gone wrong in his own relationship with his father. The Sentinel thing had always been an issue, a burning vat of unresolved pain. Glancing at Simon's worried expression, Jim found the one word that seemed to sum up his own innermost turmoil. The word stripped him of all of his interior walls. The canons of his defenses misfired at the mere mention of its name.
There was no "acceptance" in Jim's life. No feeling of being loved for who he was deep inside.
Instead, there was this fortress built to house his own abilities and fears, patrolled by heavy artillery that could be called to war at a moment's notice. His mother had never accepted him, and his father had made it quite clear that his acceptance could only be gained by hiding his abilities and instincts and assuming a false identity. He and Steven had never really been given the chance to get to know one another. Sibling rivalry had ruled their lives almost from birth.
Simon leaned his head closer to the phone and smiled. Jim felt a smile creeping on to his own face as well. Despite his turbulent home life, Jim had found in Blair and Simon his own "chosen family." Even though Jim had done his darndest to push his friends away, they both stood by him. They accepted him for who he was, no matter how pigheaded he tried to be. A part of Jim cried out in fear every time one of them came too close. It had been so easy to hide behind his army background and fall in step with the other robotic soldiers. Without emotion, there could be no pain.
Now, as Jim watched Simon hang up the phone, he understood what it was that had been plaguing his mind for so many years. Simon and Blair had always made him feel that he was good, that he was deserving of love and respect. So many times he had risked his life for strangers, throwing himself into the fire without a second thought. Why? Because he needed to be reassured that he was a good person. Maybe he was...good. Maybe he wasn't the freak after all. Maybe, just maybe, Simon and Blair were...right.
Tapping gently at the door, Rhonda ducked her head inside the office. "Jim, this package came for you a little while ago. I'm glad you're back."
Taking the package from Rhonda's hand, Jim smiled. "Thanks, Rhonda, I'm glad to be back."
The door closed quietly as Jim dumped the contents of the envelope on the desk. Picking up the audio tape, Jim turned it over in his hand. "What do we have here?"
Simon opened the notebook and turned it to face Jim. "Looks like we may have found that missing puzzle piece you were looking for."
"That's Blair's handwriting."
Tightening the ropes binding Blair's hands, Keith grinned. "Well now, isn't this just cozy? Just the three of us waiting for the cavalry to show up. I never said my brother was a stupid man. You know, Mr. Sandburg I couldn't have asked for a more willing participant. You played right into my hands. You and your sweet little notebook and your pitiful audio tape. Do you take me for a fool?"
Blair fought the urge to scream -- he knew deep inside that his own safety, and that of many others, depended on him keeping his wits about him. "No, Keith."
"No? That's it? No lecture about human behavior or my sadistic tendencies? You shock me, Mr. Sandburg. I was hoping for more from you. Oh well, I'm sure my brother will have plenty of things to say to me." Glancing at his watch, Keith continued his speech. "Jim should be heading for the docks now."
Blair turned his head towards the motionless body a few feet away. Naomi lay unconscious in the bottom of the boat, slightly hidden from view. "What did you give her?"
"A bit of this, a bit of that. Nothing too exciting."
The boat heaved unmercifully as a wave struck the bow. Blair's stomach rolled with the sudden lurching of the boat. The wet spray stung his face with needle-like fingers. His tossled hair lay damp against his shoulders, the cool breeze pressing stray curls against his already frostbitten face. The unpredictable April weather had taken a sudden change for the worse. Wasn't it just yesterday that he and Jim had met in the warmth of the park? Had it only been a mere blink of an eye since Keith Ellison had entered his life? His mind strayed to the fated night when the name "Ellison" took on a new meaning...
"Yeah, this is Blair Sandburg. Who's this?"
Cradling the phone against his shoulder, Blair continued to stir the spaghetti sauce. The rhythmic pattern of his stirring soon began to slow and then eventually stopped. "Jim's brother? Jim only has one brother - - Steven. Is this some kind of joke? Rafe, is that you? I know it's April 1st, but don't you think you're a little old for this kind of thing?"
In the minutes that followed, Blair found himself abandoning the meal and pacing nervously about the loft. Scrawling a name and address in a notebook on the table, Blair slowly returned the phone to its original place. His eyes shifted to the notebook, seeing and yet somehow not seeing what was etched on its pages. Could this be true? Could Jim have another brother?
Fumbling with the questions that leapt through his mind, Blair tried to come up with a logical answer to the question uppermost in his mind. Should I tell Jim?
Another wave crashed into the side of boat, jerking Blair out of his trance. He watched as Keith shifted his weight to compensate for the sudden change in balance. Standing with his feet anchored to the bottom of the boat, Blair saw Keith pull his coat closer around him. A tiny smile covered Blair's lips as he whispered to the wind. "You may look like him, but you're no Sentinel, Keith Ellison, and I can prove it."
"Jim, just calm down. We'll find him."
Shrugging off the hand on his shoulder, Jim felt the anger inside him rising to new heights. The sound of Blair's anxious voice on the audio tape had fueled the already smoldering fire. The realization that Naomi had somehow been dragged into this horrific nightmare caused the flames to singe his already charred heart. Uniformed officers bustled around him checking the area for any signs of the kidnapper or the victims. Normally, Jim would have been right in there with them, his head buried in some trash can trying to decipher a scent, or scanning the area for anything that may have seemed out of place.
But now, stripped of his senses, he found himself unusually vulnerable, incapable of feeling anything but anger and fear. His mind wandered to another time, to another place when he had felt the same vulnerability. A time when anger had overridden his own ability to act in a rational manner.
But this was different...
Blair had been there to guide Jim after Incacha's death, he had found a way to help Jim break through the haze and reach into the depths of his being to retrieve what had been lost. He couldn't do it alone. Only his Guide could open Pandora's box and release the treasures held within.
"Detective Ellison?" A young officer hesitantly approached him. "There's a guy over there that says he rented a boat to a man fitting your description last night. He said they headed out just over an hour ago. There was a man fitting Mr. Sandburg's description and a woman with him as well."
"Did he know where they were headed?"
Taking a moment to jog his memory, the officer shrugged. "He said something like 'Open Water Cove'."
The sensory spike caught him totally off guard. Falling to his knees, Jim pressed his hands tightly against his head. Bullets of light shot through his skull. Simon's frantic voice boomed in time with his thundering heart. The hands that kept him from hitting the ground felt like daggers to his flesh. The breeze became a noxious gas, burning his lungs with every breath. The bile rising in his throat assaulted what little control he had left. A vision of two young boys on a boat flashed through his mind. Their angry voices escalating with every beat of his heart. The boat lurched to the left tossing the youngsters overboard...
Jim's eyes snapped open as he choked on the cool air. Simon slowly released his hold on Jim's shoulders and allowed him to regain his breath. Motioning to the young officer that everything was under control, Simon turned his attention back to Jim. "Jim! What the hell just happened?"
With Simon's help, Jim managed to struggle his way to a standing position. "A spike. Some kind of sensory spike. Like the one I had with the dagger, only worse."
"A spike? From what?"
Swiping a hand across his face, Jim shook his head. "I don't know. I feel like I've heard that name before -- I just can't figure out where. I've never told you this before, Simon, but I have this thing about open water."
"What? You're just telling me this now? This is great. That's it, Jim -- it's over. Get in the car."
The words fell from Jim's mouth in a fit of sheer panic. "No! He wants me, Simon. This has always been about me. He'll kill them, if he hasn't already. Let me go. I have to do this. Whatever it is that caused the spike is not gonna go away, not until I face it. It has to do with him, with us. I know it." Softening his voice, Jim continued. "Please, Simon."
"I'm an idiot, you know that, Ellison? How do you want to play it?"
"You, me and a boat."
Slapping Jim on the back, Simon smiled. "Under one condition."
Yelling over the roar of the motor, Simon darted a quick glance at Jim. "See anything yet?"
Lowering the binoculars for a split second, Jim shook his head. "Nothing. I sure wish I had my senses back. This is like looking for a needle in a haystack."
"Let me call in the Coast Guard."
"Not yet. Who knows what he'll do if he feels threatened."
Biting down on his cigar, Simon motioned to the map beside Jim. "We've got to be getting close. You know, Jim, that 'spike' thing might have been a good sign."
"It means they aren't gone, right?"
Grinning, Jim pointed to a spot to his left. "You've been hanging around Sandburg too long, sir. Let's try over that way."
"There's nothing over there, just..."
"Open water, I know, Simon."
"You gonna be okay?"
Gripping the side of the boat, Jim took a deep breath. "I'm gonna have to be."
Blair stared in the direction of the approaching boat, his eyes falling upon the hunched figure beside the driver. The figure straightened himself and met Blair's concerned blue eyes. In the seconds that followed, the world seemed to stop. Their eyes forming a bridge between their souls. A wave of hope lapped against Blair's heart as he watched Jim swipe a tear from his eye. Everything would be alright, it just had to be...
Rough arms forced Blair to a standing position and pushed him towards the side of the boat. Simon cut the motor just shy of Keith's boat and moved to stand beside Jim. Encircling Blair's throat with his free hand, Keith pressed the barrel of a gun firmly against Blair's temple.
"Hey bro! It's about time you showed up. Where you been all my life?"
The shock was almost unbearable. Jim shifted his eyes from Keith to Blair and back again. It was as if he were dreaming, as if he were trapped in some drug induced haze, unable to struggle back to consciousness. This man, this crazed man, was his brother. Jim's voice quavered as he tried to respond. "Let him go! It's me you want."
"You want him?"
Tightening his hold on Blair's neck, Keith pulled him closer to the edge, dangling his head just above the raging water. Blair felt his lungs burning, tiny dots playing along his vision. Jim held his hands up in surrender. "You win, man. What do you want from me?"
"I want you to suffer! I want you to feel like I felt." Hauling Blair to his feet, Keith slammed him back into the boat seat. Blair coughed and wheezed as he tried to regain his breath. With the stealth of a predator, Keith lifted Naomi from the bottom of the boat and balanced her unconscious body on the side rail. Motioning to Simon, Keith hissed. "Throw your weapon overboard, and show me your cuffs."
Hesitantly, Simon threw his weapon into the water and held up his handcuffs.
"You too, bro. There's no way you came out here without a piece, let's see it."
Reluctantly, Jim reached behind him and retrieved the gun from his holster and tossed it into the waves.
"Now, Captain Banks, would you do me the honor of cuffing Detective Ellison's hands together please."
Jim held out his wrists as Simon slowly moved towards him. "Jim, I don't like this."
Jim smiled weakly, trying to convey an air of mock confidence. "I'm okay. Just keep an eye on Blair. Whatever happens, Simon, just take care of him, okay?"
As Simon secured the cuffs on Jim's hands, he took a moment to give his hands a reassuring squeeze. "Can't do that, Jim. That's your job. Reel him in, Detective. I'll mount that sucker for you."
Jim held up his hands to show Keith. In one quick movement, Naomi was dumped into the frigid water. Jim's heart froze in his chest as he watched her descend into its depths. Blair screamed in horror. "Mom!!"
Without a second thought for his own safety, Jim plunged into the watery grave. Keith's voice halted Simon's advances. "Just stay right where you are, Captain."
"He'll drown! They'll both drown! Is that what you want?"
Jim thrashed wildly beneath the water, catching sight of Naomi he eased his arms underneath her body and cradled her limp body. The weight of his jacket and shoes combined with her body weight quickly forcing the air from his lungs. The pressure in his head pounded relentlessly. Kicking his legs with every ounce of strength he possessed, his head finally broke the surface. Gulping mouthfuls of air, he steered Naomi towards Simon's waiting arms. Tugging at her clothing Simon hoisted her into the boat. Reaching for Jim's hand, Simon flinched as a bullet pinged off the side of his boat.
"Don't touch him, Captain. He can tred water just fine, right, Jimmy?"
A sob caught in Blair's throat as he watched Jim trying to keep his head above the water. "Hold on, Jim. Don't you go. damn you. Don't you die."
Sputtering and coughing, Jim flailed helplessly. "Trying, Chief. I'm trying."
Smiling, Keith watched with unsuppressed joy as Jim thrashed among the waves. "Want to hear a bedtime story, Jimmy? Once upon a time there were two little boys. Two special little boys. One day when they were three, they went on a boat trip with their Dad. The boys got into an argument, and the one little boy tried to drown the other little boy."
Jim threw his head back in an attempt to stay afloat. His legs weakening with every movement, the cold water numbing his body.
"I'm not done yet, Jimmy. It's not polite to die until I'm done. Anyway, the boy was saved by his Dad, and the other little boy was sent away to a special place to live. They never saw the little boy again. Isn't that a sad story? Problem is, those little boys grew up."
Jim's voice shook as he spoke. "I...don't...remember..."
"You're special, Jimmy. Just like me. We were destined to be together. Think what we can do, just the two of us. Two sentinels, we could have it all."
Blair watched as Jim tried to process the new information. He could see the uncertainty in Jim's eyes, the confusion and pain battling for his attention. "He's lying, Jim. Think about it. Think about Alex. You never felt his presence. There were no dreams, no animal spirits. You would have known, Jim. I'm the one who had the dream, not you. He's lying."
Whirling around to face Blair, Keith knocked him to the bottom of the boat with the butt of the gun. "Shut up! Just shut up! I should have killed you when I had the chance." Turning his attention back to Jim, Keith smiled. "Make a choice, bro. Live or die."
The last words Jim head as the water closed over his head was a whispered plea from his Guide. "Trust me, Jim. Please trust me."
Blair slowly shifted to a sitting position in the bottom of the boat. Quickly scanning his surroundings, Blair's eyes fell upon the gas can under the motor. Being careful not to draw attention to himself, Blair made his way over to the motor. Tugging at the fuel line, he dumped the oily gas mixture onto his wrists. The slimy liquid felt like acid on his raw hands, and he swallowed hard to control the pain. Suppressing a gasp, Blair quickly slid the ropes from his hands.
Keith eyes remained transfixed on the water. Jim's lifeless form now bobbing lazily just below the surface. "Too bad, bro. You should have listened to me. You'd think you'd have learned something after all these years."
Simon caught sight of Blair's movements and did his best to distract Keith from the figure looming behind him. "What the hell did he ever do to you? He was three years old"
Waving the gun in Simon's direction, Keith yelled, "Special. That's all I ever heard. ‘The kid is special.' Yeah, well, you weren't so special after that little episode on the boat now were you, Jimmy. Dad made you hide your talents after that day, didn't he. Bet he was afraid some other kid might hurt you or call you a freak or something. See where your gifts have gotten you?"
Keith's body fell forward as the paddle connected with his head. The gun slid from his hand as he crumpled against the side of the boat. Grasping the unconscious man by the back of his shirt, Blair dropped him to the boat bottom.
Without hesitation, Simon dove into the frigid water. Within moments he was at Jim's side, gently easing him over onto his back. A splash beside him signaled Blair's arrival. Together the twosome struggled their way back to Simon's boat. With great difficulty they managed to haul the lifeless Sentinel onto the boat. Blair's hands shook as he checked for vital signs. "He's not breathing, Simon. There's no heartbeat."
Tilting Jim's head back slightly, Blair sealed his mouth around Jim's. Simon's voice counted off the time between the chest compressions and the respirations.
For what seemed an eternity, the two men worked in unison. Blair's lips trembled with every breath, his own heart thumping erratically. A gentle hand found Blair 's shoulder and gave it a small squeeze. Blair looked up into the eyes of Jim's captain. "He's gone, Blair."
Blair's voice caught in his throat. "No, you're wrong. This can't be happening. This can't be happening. He's alive."
Blair pulled Jim into his arms and cradled his head against his chest. "I trust you, Jim. I trust you with my soul." Carefully, Blair eased Jim back down and moved towards the edge of the boat.
"Sandburg, what are you doing?
"I think I know how to save him, Simon. Just stay with him."
Swinging his legs over the side of the boat, Blair jumped into the water. The waves crashed over his head as he took one last breath of air...
The vision sparkled in Jim's mind. The panther turned and darted away from the wolf. The wolf charged after him, his paws thundering in time with the cat. The panther stopped at the edge of a waterfall, the wolf joining him at his side. The two animals leapt from the ledge, plunging headfirst into the water below.
He should be afraid...
A feeling of tranquility washed over him. All of his fears and doubts rippling away with the tide. They had traveled to this place once before, bathed in the waters of the mystical, splashed in the pool of the unknown. Their animal spirits had collided in mid-air, binding their destiny forever. And now, as their spirits delved further into the twilight of the unknown, a new bond melded their souls one unto the other...
Blair's mind reached for Jim's hand, gently coaxing his spirit back from the darkness. His lungs burned with the need for air, and yet a strange feeling of serenity lightened his heart. With strong even strokes, he made his way to the surface, cradling Jim's life in the palm of his hand.
As Blair's head broke through the water, Jim's body jerked in Simon's arms. Quickly rolling Jim on his side, Simon raised his voice in triumph. "Sandburg! He's breathing!"
Naomi stirred beside them as her eyes fluttered open "Simon? Is that Jim? Where's Blair?"
As if on cue, Blair's head appeared at the side of the boat. "Mom. Jim. Oh god."
Climbing into the boat, Blair gave his Mom a quick hug and began untying the ropes still binding her hands.
"If this is Jim, where's Keith?"
"Don't worry, Mom. Everything has been taken care of."
Naomi's hand gently caressed the bruise on Blair's cheek. "I'm so glad you're okay, sweetie. And Jim, is he okay?"
Rejoining Simon at Jim's side, Blair eased his legs under Jim's upper body and pulled him into a warm embrace. Jim's ragged breaths eased as Blair placed his own hand over Jim's heart. "It's okay, Jim. Everything gonna be okay, trust me."
Blair stared at the motionless figure on the hospital bed. It had been almost an hour since they had wheeled Jim into the ER, and Blair was at his wits end. If only Jim would open his eyes. If only there was some sign that Blair's steady stream of words had reached his Sentinel. Sighing, Blair continued the gentle litany of words. "I know you can hear me, Jim. Please, I'm really starting to get worried here. Doc says your vitals are pretty good considering what you've been through."
A weak hand smoothed its way across the sheets and found Blair's wrist. "Jim?"
A soft moan escaped Jim's lips as his eyes slit open. "Chief?"
Leaning closer to Jim's face, Blair smiled. "Right here. How you doing?"
Chuckling, Blair tightened his grip on Jim's hand. "The guy dies, and he asks me if I'm okay. Definitely know permanent damage done here."
"You saved me, didn't you?"
"We saved each other."
Shifting the chair closer to the bed, Blair soothed. "They're fine. Everybody is just fine."
Staring into Jim's clouded blue eyes, Blair saw the hurt that now eclipsed their brightness. "I'm sorry, Jim. I..."
"Don't be. You were just trying to protect me. I know that."
"They've taken Keith back to the hospital."
Forcing a smile, Jim nodded. "It's for the best. Chief?"
"You saw it, didn't you? The waterfall. You came after me. We dove off the edge together."
The image replayed in Blair's mind. "Yes, Jim. I saw it."
"You're welcome. Listen, I better let that fan club of yours know you're awake. Your dad's here, Jim."
Turning his head away from Blair, Jim let out a heartfelt sigh. "I guess I owe him an apology. Chief, do you think Keith ever had any real abilities?"
Shrugging his shoulders, Blair mused. "Like I told you on the boat. He's no Sentinel, Jim."
"Then why did he give me a choice to join him as a team?"
Locking eyes with his partner, Blair smiled. "I think in some strange way he loves you, Jim."
"Right -- enough to kill me."
"When they took him into custody, there was a note in his pocket. He was ready to kill himself if his plan to have you join him didn't work."
Smiling, Jim released Blair's hand. "You better go. Tell Dad to come in, okay? Is Steven here?"
Rising from the chair, Blair made his way to the door. "He was the first one here."
Opening the door, Blair whispered to himself. "I love you, Jim."
Jim's quick response stunned Blair. "I know."
Flashing a glance at his partner, Blair smiled. "Your senses. I thought they were..."
Jim returned the smile. "They came back. Do you remember what you said at the hospital after you drowned in the fountain?"
Giving Jim a puzzled look, Blair shook his head. "What did I say?"
Smirking, Jim replied. "You said to come on in, the water is nice."
"The water is cold, Sandburg. Let's wait until summer before we try any more unexpected dips."