New Arrivals
Author-Vision
Titles

Crimson Moon
Part Three
by Vision

See notes and disclaimer on part one.

Blair's own heart was thundering in his chest. He had barely had time to work out the logistics of such a desperate move. His eyes swept the coffee table as he debated whether or not he should snatch up the phone beside him. Removing his hand from Jim's eyes, he slowly moved it to Jim's neck. Focusing his full concentration on Jim's still form, Blair moved his head to rest on Jim's chest. One hand on Jim's wrist, the other entwined on his neck, his head rested on his partner's chest. There was no possible way that he could miss even the slightest change in his partner's condition. Jim's breathing slowed to an almost inaudible whisper, his lungs barely inflating. The strong beat slowed to an occasional blip under the weight of Blair's fingertips.

The men had agreed that for their first attempt, a ten-second interval without a heartbeat would be sufficient time to wait. As Blair mentally catalogued the seconds, he could barely contain his fear. He wondered if this was how Jim had felt, that fated day at the fountain when all had seemed to be lost. They had come so far since then, traveled so many more roads together. Surely the fates would smile upon them now as they conspired to save the lives of those around them.

As the seconds ticked on, Blair found his feelings of fear replaced by those of anger and grief. How was it that one man, just one man was supposed to burden such responsibility alone? The words hovered in Blair's mind as he began the chant that would hopefully bring his partner back to him.

"Okay, Jim. I want you to picture the dial. I need you to turn it up, nice and slow. Just one notch at a time. Ready? One. Come on, buddy. Two. Jim? Three. Just one breath, come on. Four. You're scaring me here. Five."

The body beneath him remained still.

"Don't do this to me."

Frantically Blair pushed Jim down into the couch cushions. Fumbling in his pants pockets, Blair produced a small container of liquid. Tearing open Jim's shirt, Blair allowed a drop of the liquid to fall onto Jim's chest. Closing his eyes, Blair gripped Jim's wrist and resumed his count

"You will hear me Jim. Do you understand? One. Two. Three."

A choked gasp startled Blair and he instinctively tightened the grip on Jim's wrist. Jim's eyes flew open, his lungs gulping in mouthfuls of air. Carefully Blair helped him to a sitting position as he regained his breath.

"W-We did it, Chief."

Blair threw his hands in the air in exasperation as he began pacing the room. "Oh, yeah, we did it, Jim. I managed to talk you to death. You always said I never knew when to shut up. No way. There is no way we are doing that again. You were gone, man. History. I am not going to be a part of this. You can just forget it."

Jim eyed the small bottle still nestled tightly in Blair's hand. "What's that?"

"What's what?"

"In your hand. What have you got in your hand? No, Chief. You didn't. Tell me you didn't get hold of the bottle. How could you do this?"

***************************

"Jim, let me explain..."

Jim was off the couch before Blair could finish his sentence. "Do you have any idea what you've done? You just sentenced a kid to death. Daryl is gonna die because of me. Dammit, Chief."

"Jim, please, just let me finish..."

The ringing of the phone cut off Jim's words. Blair grabbed the phone and for a split second took his eyes off of his Sentinel. In that moment of distraction, Jim slipped out the door. Blair dropped the phone, leaving it hanging by the cord as he ran out into the hallway. He was just in time to see the elevator door closing in front of him.

"Jim! Stop!" Blair pounded on the closed door as he yelled. "You're wrong -- it wasn't the same bottle. Are you listening to me?"

Returning to the loft, Blair glanced at the coat rack as he retrieved the phone. His heart sank as he noticed the gun from Jim's holster missing. "Simon, where's Daryl?"

***************************

Jim turned down his hearing to block out the rantings of his Guide. Fingering the gun in his jacket pocket, he quickly mulled over his options. Kill himself? Kill Daryl? Kill them both? Oh god... The elevator dinged and he moved towards the opening door. Unconsciously he drew in a quick breath as he came face to face with Drake.

"Hey, Jim. Where are you off to at this time of night?"

Jim smiled uneasily and moved towards the exit. "I was coming to see you. Blair and I are done. I thought it would be better if I just crashed at your place tonight. Give him some time to finish packing." The words fell from his mouth without any thought behind them. Before he could process exactly what he had said, he felt Drake's hand on his arm, pulling him towards his car. Jim wanted so much to shrug off the hand, and head back upstairs to his partner. Maybe he hadn't heard Blair right, maybe...

Drake opened the passenger's side of the car for Jim and stood waiting for him to enter. Jim smiled broadly, trying his best to divert all of Drake's attention to him. The more secure Drake felt, the better things would be for the rest of them, Daryl included. "Guess it's just you and me, Drake."

After he and Drake were settled in the front seat, Drake started the engine. Turning to face Jim, he reached in his pocket and handed Jim the bottle. As Jim's hands and mind tightened around the small object, a soft sigh escaped his lips. He had been wrong, again. Visions of Alex spilled across his memory. The scene of Blair trying to tell him about the existence of another Sentinel rested heavily in his mind. If he had only listened to Blair then, things never would have gotten so out of hand. And now, as the miles between he and his partner slipped past, Jim could feel the emotional distance between them growing as well...

***************************

Blair awoke with a start. Bleary eyed, he quickly scanned the bullpen for any sign of his partner. The countless all night study sessions that went along with University life had taught him to fall asleep in many bizarre places. Jim's desk was but one of many desks that he had rested his head on over the years. Unfortunately, he had not fallen asleep because of some overdue assignment, or papers that needed grading. He had literally crashed waiting for some news that might indicate Jim's whereabouts. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he smiled as Joel held out a styrofoam cup filled with coffee.

"We'll find him, Blair."

Accepting the cup, Blair nodded. "Any word on Drake yet?"

"Nothing. It's like he disappeared."

Taking a tentative sip of the coffee, Blair shifted in his seat. "What did Simon tell you?"

"He said that Drake was some kind of criminal, that he could be dangerous. I just hope Jim isn't with him. Sounds like this guy's bad news."

Grumbling under his breath, Blair replied. "You and me both."

***************************

Jim cracked open his eyes and stared into the blackness. Even with his Sentinel site, the room remained blanketed in darkness. He wrinkled his nose in displeasure as the damp, musty air filled his nostrils. Bringing his hands up from his sides, he felt what seemed to be the sides of some kind of container, a box maybe. The interior of the box was lined in a smooth material, satin perhaps. The outer edge was made of wood, a rich, polished finish. He let his hands wander along the outside edge of the container as the last remnants of drowsiness drained from his body. A handle?

Jim gasped as the realization of his whereabouts caught up with him. A second later, his feet hit the floor with a thud. His heart raced as he stumbled away from the coffin, his mind unable to process anything but the need to run. Tripping and clawing his way to what he thought was the door, Jim barely remained upright. Just as his hands tightened around the doorknob, Jim felt the knob beneath his grip begin to turn. Releasing the knob, Jim took a faltering step backward...

***************************

Blair sighed as he flipped through the numerous pages of scientific data that he had compiled over the past few hours. He had been working non-stop, trying to make sense of the multitude of graphs, photos and tables that went along with his research. Over the course of the past three hours, Blair had managed to become at least vaguely familiar with the basics regarding lunar eclipses. To the best of his knowledge, the eclipse lasted approximately two hours. The sun, earth and moon had to be in almost perfect alignment for such an occurrence to happen. The moon would be entirely inside the earth's shadow at the time of the eclipse.

As Blair re-read his notes, one thought kept returning to his mind. Picking up a pen, Blair absently drew three circles on a piece of paper. Without thinking, he labeled one circle with the letter "S," another circle with the letter "E," and the last circle with the letter "M."

Sun, Earth, Moon. Sun, Earth, Moon. Sun, Earth, Moon.

The words played over and over in his head like some broken record. All at once his heart leapt. His hands shook as he scrawled the three names inside the circles. Sandburg, Ellison, Miranda...

"Oh my god... It's her."

***************************

Time seemed to stand still as Jim watched the door slit open. The room tilted slightly as he fumbled for his gun. Adrenaline pumped through his veins as he leveled the gun at his presumed attacker. As the man's shadow loomed towards him, he fired - one shot, two, three, four, five. The man gasped as he was propelled backwards by the force of the bullets against his chest. His body jerked violently as he crumpled into a heap on the floor.

Unable to get his feet under him, Jim crawled the distance from himself to the tangled mass of limbs. The single word that escaped his lips came from deep within him. The very bellows of his heart screamed in protest

"No!"

The sightless eyes of one Blair Sandburg locked onto his own...

***************************

Blair threw his hands in the air as he paced back and forth in the small area. between the door and the window. Simon did his best to follow the erratic movements without losing his temper. The kid didn't need him flying off the handle on top of everything else he was dealing with. Still, this story of his was starting to sound more and more like some late night horror flick. He was a captain, for god's sake, not some teenager looking for a cheap thrill on a Saturday night.

Simon watched as Blair's movements became even more animated. He watched with abiding tolerance as Blair relayed his latest findings. He couldn't help but notice the tiny hairs on his arms standing on end. If someone had asked him five years ago if one of his officers had heightened senses, he would have had them committed. Blair had managed to make him believe in Sentinels, so why was this so different?

"We were wrong, Simon. All along we thought Drake was the key to this whole thing, but he's not. Miranda -- she's Jim's Guide. I can't believe I didn't see this before. Drake's just a player; he has no idea what he's in for. I'm telling you, Simon, we got to find Jim. To think I trusted this girl. I told her everything. What an idiot I am."

"Look, Sandburg, all I care about right now is keeping my son safe and finding Jim. The rest of this story can keep as far as I'm concerned. Joel just took Daryl out for lunch and to a movie. I don't want him spooked, do you understand? You keep this theory of yours under your hat, do you hear me?"

Blair's rebuttal was quickly hushed by an icy glare. Biting on his lower lip, Blair moved towards the door.

"And Sandburg?"

"Yes, sir?"

"We'll find him."

Blair nodded in Simon's direction and quickly exited the office.

***************************

"Hey, Jim, time to wake up."

Jim sat up quickly, frantically searching the room for any sign of his partner. Drake smiled at him from the doorway of the tiny bedroom.

"It's after noon. Let's get a move on. We have work to do. Oh, you better put these on."

Drake tossed a pair of sunglasses in Jim's direction and shut the door. Collapsing back onto the pillows, Jim tried to make sense of the events of the evening before. It was just a dream. It was just a dream.

Wiping a sheen of sweat from his forehead, he took a deep cleansing breath. Turning his head to the side, he saw his clothes neatly arranged on a chair at the end of the bed. With shaking hands, he made his way to the foot of the bed and reached for his jacket. He felt the dead weight of his gun still nestled in his jacket pocket. Parting the material that enclosed the pocket, Jim slid his hand into its depths. Closing his eyes, he carefully removed the weapon and eased open the chamber.

What if the bullets were missing? What if he had killed Blair? His eyelashes danced in front of his slowly opening eyes. The chamber was full...

***************************

Daryl shifted in the movie seat and took another fistful of popcorn.

"I don't believe you. What's really going on? My dad is keeping something from me, I just know it."

Gesturing towards the screen, Joel took another slurp of his drink. "He asked me to take you out to a movie. What's so strange about that?"

Shaking his head, Daryl slid down lower in the seat, resting his knees on the chair in front of him. "I'm not some stupid kid, you know. You can tell me."

"Nothing to tell. They're dimming the lights. Let's just sit and enjoy the movie."

As the flickering light from the projector danced across the screen, two shadowed figures entered the theatre and took up positions in the aisle behind them.

***************************

Daryl took a long sip from his soda and carefully cushioned it between the folded seat beside him.

Giving Jim a quick nod, Drake motioned towards the cup. Jim eased himself forward, being careful not to alert the men in front of him. His right hand smoothed its way along the top edge of the seat in slow, painstaking movements. His breath caught in his throat as he gripped the cool edge of the cup. His fingers curled around the lip of the beverage, gently easing the lid away from the base. With the same slow motion movements, Jim brought his hand back to accept the tiny bottle from Drake's outstretched hand. Using his enhanced vision, Jim focused in on the liquid and cautiously allowed the last drop of life saving liquid to disappear into the depths of Daryl's drink.

Daryl fidgeted nervously at an unexpected frame in the movie, causing Jim to jerk away from his task. Daryl stole a quick glance to his right, but seeing nothing, returned his attention back to the film. Just as Jim was considering another attempt at fastening the lid more securely on the soda, Daryl reached beside him. Their hands came within inches of connecting, as Daryl fumbled with the loose fitting top,

"Damn. I just about dumped the whole thing. I wish they'd learn to fasten these lids on. I just bought these jeans."

Joel grinned at the young man and turned back to the film.

***************************

The change was almost immediate...

As he and Drake exited the theatre, Jim felt his world slide out from under him. He could hear Daryl pressing the straw to his lips, almost feel the cool liquid sliding down his throat. His mind seemed to go blank for a moment, his senses somehow lost in a make believe storm. The sunlight burned his eyes, stinging them with the harsh reality of his fate. Drake quickly ushered him to the car, pressing the sunglasses into his hands. Drake swung open the rear door of the car and quickly encouraged Jim to lie down in the back seat.

"It's okay, Jim. I got you. This blanket will protect you until we get home. Just take it easy."

The fire seared Jim's torso, inside and out. His body was engulfed by flames, mercilessly licking at his heart and mind. Something befitting a strangled cry passed from his lips. His spirit begged for mercy, begged to be delivered from this agonizing journey. As the blanket was draped over him, Jim reached for the only thing that could free him...

"It's not there Jim. I took it out of your jacket while you were working on Daryl's drink."

The car door slammed as Jim closed his eyes to the impending darkness.

***************************

I'm here, Jim. Wherever you are, just hold on. Blair stared into the depths of the fountain, watching the ripples move towards the outer edge of the pool. A gentle spray of water tingled his skin, sending a slight tremor along his spine. He couldn't help but look away as the memories of his own death lapped against his mind. As he turned back to the icy waters, a face appeared in its depths. Incacha's face slowly came into focus as Blair shook his head in disbelief. A low rumbling voice echoed above the hiss of the pump.

"What do you fear?"

Blair blinked quickly and swallowed hard. "I-I fear being a Shaman."

"There is but one true Guide. He has made his choice, but you to must choose. The flame of a candle can easily be dimmed, but the sun shines eternal."

As quickly as the vision had come, it disappeared without a trace.

***************************

"Sandburg, Sandburg. Snap out of it."

Blair's unfocussed eyes blinked in response. "Um... Sorry, Simon. I was just thinking."

"What the hell are we doing here anyway?" The gruffness in Simon's voice brought a smile to Blair's face.

"They need Jim and I to complete this transformation, right?"

Crossing his arms, Simon nodded, "So you tell me. Why here? Why not the loft? Or the precinct? Why did you insist on coming here? This isn't exactly my place of choice, and I'm quite sure it isn't yours, not to mention a certain detective that I know."

The sky was growing darker now, the last remnants of a breathtaking sunset coloring the evening sky. A swirl of shades and dancing light playing hide and seek amidst the clouds. Blair caught sight of the sun as it quickly disappeared behind a large cloud.

"You said that this sounded like some kind of turf war between Drake and I, and maybe you were right. We tried something last night, something that we've never done before. I talked Jim into a zone -- I got him to turn down the dials as far as he possibly could. He trusted me, and you know what? I almost killed him. Do you know how that feels? Do you have any idea the kind of power I have? I'm scared -- I'm scared out of my mind. I don't want this; I don't want to be scared all the time. Jim didn't come with any freaking manual; half the time I'm running on instinct."

Simon's expression softened, his usual towering "I'm the boss" façade draining from his stance. Gripping Blair's shoulder, Simon gave it a small squeeze. "And what is that instinct of yours telling you now?"

"Before I met Miranda last night, I came here. It was like I was being drawn here. I filled a small bottle with some of the water from the fountain. When I couldn't bring Jim back from the zone, I used the water to revive him. It worked, Simon, it brought him back."

"Correction, Sandburg, you brought him back."

It wasn't so much Simon's words that made the tension in Blair's body ease, it was the even undertone of his voice that made Blair smile. Simon had never been one for anything that deviated from the norm. The Captain's by the book approach to life was legendary. And yet, as they stood reaffirming their own sometimes shaky relationship, Blair couldn't help but feel that maybe he had made some headway with his narrow minded friend.

"So, what do we do now?"

"We wait."

The shrill ring of Simon's phone interrupted their conversation.. Blair leaned in closer to Simon, hoping to hear part of the caller's words. "Banks... Are they okay?... Thank god... They got away?... Fine, keep me posted." Snapping closed the phone, Simon shook his head. "Someone spotted Drake's car outside the movie theatre but by the time they got there they were gone."

Sighing, Blair moved away from his Captain. The campus was all but deserted now, just a few stragglers mingling near the corner of a nearby building. Jim had somehow unmarked Daryl, Blair could feel it. Turning his back to Simon, Blair reached in his pocket and fingered the gun....

***************************

Jim settled himself in a fetal position on the bed, rhythmically rocking back and forth trying without success to make the pain go away. The dial shimmered in his mind's eye, but the haze of pain kept it just beyond his reach.

Drake pulled a chair closer to the bed, keeping a watchful eye on his Sentinel. Just a few short hours until midnight, and it would all be over. Taking a quick look at his watch, he smiled to himself. Miranda would be here soon, full of anticipation and excitement. Blair Sandburg was conveniently out of the picture. Life was good...

Jim shifted uneasily on the bed, and Drake caught hold of one of his flailing arms. "It's okay, Jim. As soon as Miranda gets here, you'll feel much better. Have I told you what it's like? What it's like to feel their bodies going limp in your arms? To smell their fear? I can't imagine what it will be like for you. I envy you, you know?"

"Make it s-stop." The voice was dull, toneless.

The sound of high-heeled shoes against wood floor made Drake turn towards the doorway. Miranda's eyes danced with mirth as she smiled at the scene before her. "I'll make it stop, Jim. It's time to go, love."

Jim levered himself off the bed and moved towards her. The pain all but disappeared as he slipped his hand into hers. Their eyes met, and Jim felt light-headed, almost euphoric. A smile quirked at the edge of his mouth as he drank in her beauty. There was a connection, a primal urge that he felt helpless to resist. Releasing his hand she snaked her arm about his waist.

Resting her head against his chest, Miranda wagged a finger in Drake's direction. "Thank you so much for delivering him to me, Drake. I really do owe you one. Sorry it had to be this way. I really do appreciate your efforts. The fact is, Jim is my Sentinel." Placing her hand over her gaping mouth, Miranda inhaled sharply. "Oh dear, have I shocked you? So sorry. You should have been paying closer attention, I guess. Do send my regards to the other side, won't you?"

Drake struggled against the unseen bonds that suddenly held him to the chair. The more he struggled, the tighter the invisible restraints constricted around his limbs. "Miranda, please. I had no idea. Give me a chance. Think of what we can do together, the three of us. You can't do this."

Moving away from Jim, Miranda casually sauntered over to where Drake sat. Her hair brushed his cheek as she leaned in close to him and gently placed a kiss on his forehead. Her voice low and sultry, she whispered. "Be brave, love, screaming is so undignified."

Waving a small bottle in front of his face, she slowly poured its contents into his lap. His body jerked, almost convulsing as the liquid seeped through his clothing and made contact with his skin. His lungs heaved as he tried to fight for air, his eyes bulging in terror.

Jim tried to shake himself from the fog. His legs would not obey him, his mouth robbed of his voice, his arms welded to his sides. He had never felt such power, such control. His spirit screamed Blair's name, but his mind shut down to the images before him. He felt her pleasure, her excitement at watching Drake's life slip away. He could not tear his eyes from the scene. He focused in on her heartbeat, allowing the rush of blood to fill his senses, take over his very being.

Drake's head lolled to the side as Miranda pulled away from his neck. A tiny dot of blood still glistened on her lips. Moving towards Jim, Miranda kissed him passionately, and then pulled away. Staring deeply into his eyes, she smiled fondly. "You're listening to my heart, aren't you? And they say that vampires have no heart. What do they know. Let's go, love, we still have one more little job to do."

***************************

Blair sat on the steps, clutching his coat closer around him. The night had suddenly turned cool, causing his already shaking hands to quiver uncontrollably. After much coaxing, Blair had finally convinced Simon to relinquish his post and get them both a hot cup of coffee. In all honesty, Blair hoped to avoid Simon's involvement in the entire proceedings. The less Simon was involved, the better.

He turned at the sound of approaching footsteps. The silhouette of a man walking towards him made his body tense. Steam rose from the fountain as the warm water and cooler air mixed together, giving an even more eery appearance to the figure. Blair stood on shaky legs as the man stopped about fifteen feet away. Retrieving a flashlight from his pocket, Blair clicked on the beam.

The light played along the man's shoes, traveling up his pant leg, to the bottom of his coat. The light hesitated at the hands, held limply at the man's sides, and worked its way up to the intruder's chest. Again the light waited, almost froze as it slowly crept to the man's lips, nose, and then his eyes.

The man did not turn away, did not even blink as the light danced before the blue depths of his eyes. Blair purposely kept the light as steady as he could, hoping that by some miracle one of the man's hands would come up to block out the intrusive beam.

What has she done to you, Jim?

The man smiled, his pasty complexion accentuating the grin that now adorned his face.

"Hey, Chief. I've been looking for you. You're a hard man to tack down."

Blair nodded. "I could say the same for you."

All at once, Jim threw his hands in front of his face, shielding his eyes from the onslaught of sensory overload. The spike hit him with such force that his legs gave way beneath him. Falling to his knees, Jim clutched his hands to his face and moaned.

The flashlight clanged to the ground as Blair rushed towards his partner and dropped to his knees beside him "It's okay, Jim. You can do this, man. I know you're fighting. Just don't give up on me. Dial it down; find the dial."

The lines of pain around Jim's eyes slowly eased, and the tightly clasped hands moved away from his face.

"Impressive, Mr. Sandburg, very impressive." Miranda moved towards the pair, applauding dramatically.

Blair wrapped an arm around his partner, hoping to somehow shield him from any further torment. "Miranda, I know who you are, and I'm telling you right now, this isn't going to work. It stops here. I will not help you."

"We'll see about that." Tossing back her head, Miranda whispered Sentinel-soft to the wind.

Jim struggled to his feet and walked unsteadily towards her, stopping midway between Blair and Miranda. Extending her hand towards Jim, Miranda coaxed him forward. Jim held his ground, fighting against the demons that whispered false truths in his ear. Noticing Jim's indecision, Blair too extended his hand in invitation. Jim's head swivelled from Blair to Miranda, and back again. His conflicting emotions ravaged his heart.

"Well, well, a stand off. How very intriguing."

Blair took a hesitant step forward. "Don't listen to her, Jim. Take my hand."

Jim's muddled brain tried to make sense of what was happening. He felt torn, almost disconnected from his body. A low rumbling sound filled his ears and he watched as the cement between his feet began to crack.

"Earthquake!"

A moment later, Blair could feel the tremors under his own feet. The horrific sound of squealing tires, shattering glass, and screams of terror punctured the night. Jim straddled a huge crack in the pavement, balancing precariously on wobbly legs. The gaping hole widened and it looked to Blair as if Mother Earth would swallow Jim whole Pushing off with one foot, Jim twisted his body and lunged towards Miranda, landing hard against the pavement. Scrambling to his feet, Jim stole a glance back at his partner. The pleading look in Jim's eyes spoke more than words. James Ellison had made his choice...

Blair snatched the gun from his pocket and aimed it at Jim's chest. "If I can't have him, then no one can." Blair's mouth barely moved as he started the count down. "Find the dial, Jim. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three..."

Miranda flung herself at Jim, trying to protect him from the onslaught of bullets. In a desperate attempt, Jim sidestepped away from her and threw himself into the barrage of bullets. He went down hard on his stomach, mentally counting off the last two numbers.

Two.... One...

Miranda shrieked in horror as she dropped beside Jim's body. Her hands fumbled at his neck, searching for a heartbeat.

"You killed him! I'll kill you for this!"

Blair swallowed back his fear and threw the gun into the gap. The gun clattered as it fell between the rocks. "Come and get me. What are you afraid of?"

Miranda's face contorted in rage as she hurled herself across the large opening. Blair swivelled on his feet and broke into a run. Just as he was about to throw himself into the fountain, Miranda grabbed hold of one of his legs. Kicking wildly, Blair tried to free himself from her grasp. Her nails dug into his skin sending red hot pokers of fire up his leg. Blair strained to reach his hand into the water. The tip of one of his fingers touched the cool liquid and he quickly reached behind him and allowed the single drop to fall onto Miranda's hand.

She let go almost immediately. Blair struggled to a standing position and watched wide-eyed as Miranda writhed on the ground in agony. Her hair fell in clumpfuls to the ground; smoke rose from her body as if she were on fire. Blair caught sight of her eyes, burning like smoldering coals in her head. He looked away quickly, not wanting to remember the eyes of the woman that had caused he and his partner such pain. Her body burst into flames and then vanished, leaving behind a small pile of ashes. Blair scooped up handfuls of water and threw them atop the ashes.

Struggling for breath, Blair stared across the gap at Jim's motionless body.

"Jim!"

Blair took a few steps backwards preparing to throw caution to the wind and leap across the hole that separated the two men. He stopped in mid-step as the earth again began to rumble. The crack shifted and creaked as the gap between them all but disappeared.

Blair ran to Jim's side and gently eased him onto his back. Pressing his head to his chest, Blair listened for a heartbeat.

"Come on, Jim. Find the dial. Come back to me. It's over, man. The good guys won."

Blair shifted positions and slid his hands under Jim's arms and began dragging him towards the fountain. He heaved with all of his might, his muscles staining from the exertion. Gently easing Jim to the ground, Blair plunged his hands into the water. With one finger, Blair traced over Jim's eyelids. Another water covered finger was wiped across Jim's ears. The third finger traced the bridge of Jim's nose. The fourth finger moistened his lips. The last finger dropped water into Jim's hands. Blair's other hand rested atop Jim's heart.

Jim's eyes flew open as he choked on the air burning his lungs. Blair rolled him on his side speaking soft words of encouragement. "It's okay, Jim. You're gonna be fine. She's gone. Just take it easy."

Jim nodded weakly, gripping Blair's wrist with his hand. Blair nearly missed the Sentinel-soft words that came from Jim's mouth. "Found you."

"I know. I found me, too."

Jim smiled weakly as his eyes drifted closed.

***************************

As the last residual haze of sleep lifted, Jim cracked open one eye and stared at the pillow beneath his head. The clean crisp sheets made him smile. Blair had insisted on pitching anything that might remind them of the events of the past few days. New sheets had been number one on Blair's list of priorities. Jim shifted on the bed to fully appreciate the warmth on his face. The sun shone brightly through his window and the cheerful chirping of a nearby bird added to his already happy disposition. He could hear Blair fussing about in the kitchen, trying desperately to keep the pots and pans from clanging around. The smell of fresh orange juice, coffee, and bacon and eggs tickled his nostrils.

Jim inhaled deeply, a slight cough tainting his perfect images. The cough was a gentle reminder of how close he and his partner had come to death. He had spent the last twenty-four hours recuperating from some mild injuries in his least favorite place -- the Cascade Hospital. Jim had all but demanded to be sent home, but his ever-patient partner had sat at his bedside droaning on about the necessity of Sentinels listening to their Guides.

My Guide.

The sound of Blair's sock clad feet on the stairs, shook Jim from his reverie. Jim detected a slight limp to Blair's gait and was again reminded of how close they had come to losing it all.

Blair smiled at him from the top of the stairs. "Well, sleeping beauty. It's about time."

"Very funny. You okay?"

Shrugging his shoulders, Blair smiled warmly. "Never better. You?"

Jim adjusted the pillows behind his back and sat up. Gesturing to the gift-wrapped box in Blair's hands, he smiled. "What's that?"

"Oh this. Just a little something I hope we never need."

Handing over the box, Blair plunked down on the edge of Jim's bed. Carefully unwrapping the item, Jim stared at the box that had housed the unmaking liquid. Neatly engraved under the word "Seeker" was the word "Found." Jim grinned up at his partner as he lifted the lid of the box. Inside the small bottle was reverently placed in its original spot. The bottle was again filled with liquid and securely fastened with the top.

"Water from the fountain?"

Blair nodded and touched his hand to Jim's arm.

"Thanks, Jim."

"I should be thanking you. I'm the one who got us into this mess."

Blair smiled fondly, locking eyes with his best friend. "This Guide thing, it can be kind of overwhelming sometimes."

"So can this Sentinel thing. Any regrets?"

"Not a one, Jim. Not a one.".

-The End-