Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.
Spoilers: Everything, but especially Sentinel, Too. Much of the dialogue was taken directly from Sentinel Too, Part Two.
A Halloween offering for the year 2000. This is one of those stories that occurred to me, and that I think no one else has written, so I decided I should do it. If anyone else has written this, I've missed it, and I apologize; please let me know where I can read it.
I'm not sure I pulled this off. It was very difficult to decide how to do it, and I changed my style about five times before I decided on what you see here. I welcome criticism, of any nature, and would like to see suggestions as to how I could improve the story posted on list (unless we all get bored with it, of course).
It was hot. Blindingly light, like the sun.
No, it was cold. The chill of space, bitter and darkly alone.
Jim never could decide how it felt.
But when the massive wolf with the huge fangs leaped through the snarling jaguar, and he, Jim Ellison, had brought new life to the body of his murdered Guide, the Sentinel was electrified.
Use the power of your spirit animal, Incacha had said, as Jim keened over the dead Blair Sandburg, his best friend, his chosen brother, salvation of Jim's madness and loneliness.
So Jim reached out, the panther stalked a plane that was not material, a place of jungles and predators and prey, and the big cat found its mark and sprang.
Then Blair Sandburg coughed up water from the fountain outside of Hargrove Hall, and began to breathe again.
No one quite believed what they had seen. But Blair Sandburg, pronounced dead at the scene by the EMT's, walked and talked and tagged along with Jim again. After he got out of hospital.
Jim waited and thought, long and hard, before he ventured into the ICU to see his partner for the first time since he had... died.
James Joseph Ellison was confused, lost and scared. Scared almost to death.
So many people he had loved had left by death. He had dug graves for some by his own hand. This was the first time anyone he loved had died, yet come back to life. Come back to him, Jim Ellison, at his own very special request. Though he had pled with the others, and pled, and pled, and pled, and still in the nighttime pled again, tears soaking the bed linen.
But that Blair Sandburg had come back for him made Jim humble and deeply terrified.
Jim could not think of any reason why Sandburg would return to take more of the kind of treatment Jim had dished out to him lately. The pictures flooded his mind. He couldn't avoid them.
Jim waving a sayonara to his Guide and his captain, taking off on an unannounced vacation, just to get some space away from Cascade and, well, yes, from Blair himself. "What do you know?" he'd said smilingly. "I finally got rid of him."
The desk in the bullpen, Blair bouncing with trepidation, not excitement, a question asked, a drawer pulled open, his Guide crowing Yes!, happy again.
Then the questions. And the answers.
"What's the matter with you?"
"I dunno, maybe I'm feeling a little, how did you say it? Territorially threatened to the point of paranoia and what the hell is that?"
"You read my dissertation. Jim, I don't believe you. I asked you not to do that." His Guide, disappointed in him.
Jim hung his head.
"After I let you stay at my place, I get you a job at the department, I mean, you don't have enough data, you go digging into my ex-wife's life?"
The glare; the shock.
"I call it a violation of friendship and trust."
Jim closed his eyes.
Jim, recuperating from a gunshot wound, acting like an evil step-father, driving Blair away from home to study.
Jim, hearing the spotted leopard roar, greeting Blair at the door to the loft, gun drawn, explaining, "Guess I'm a little jumpy."
Jim set his jaw.
Jim, hearing an explosion, running through the jungle to who knew where, in fatigues and bandanna and armed with bow and arrows; Jim, faced with the stone pyramid and jaguar statue; Jim, seeing the wolf running freely, the lovely wolf with the pretty markings, running up to the panther statue, in the classic canine pose for play, front legs splayed straight out, head coming down; Jim, shooting the wolf with an arrow, interloper, intruder, enemy, the wolfBlair interloper, intruder, enemy, Blair... dead.
Jim hid his face in his hands.
Jim, hunting for Blair, having guessed from the surveillance tape that the thief must be a Sentinel, approaching Blair's office door, seeing the spotted jaguar charge through the etched window.
Jim, cutting and running and leaving Blair in territory marked by her, Blair's office, marked by her.
Jim, boxing up all Blair's belongings, "I just can't have anybody here right now"; "I just need you out of here by the time I get back."
Jim, asking, "What the hell did you do? What the hell did you do?" in a tone that damned by its very moderation, for of course Blair had been used by her, the one he had left him to.
Jim pronouncing judgement, "To me it was a real breach of trust and that really struck deep with me. I gotta have a partner I can trust."
"You know where I am."
Her territory. Hers.
"This isn't happening."
"This isn't over. C'mon Simon..."
"C'mon, buddy. Don't you go! He's alive."
"O, God. O, God, no!"
Then the... the... the thing that Jim did. Incacha told him how: "Use the power of your animal spirit."
And Jim cradled Blair's face in his hands, saw the blue light that marked his translation into the other plane, where the pretty grey wolf with the lovely markings was looking at him, and then, running, running away.
Jim pulled back for a split second and reached out with his animal spirit, the panther on the prowl, and the wolf, the muscled, fanged wolf (so big, as big as the cat, so dangerous, as dangerous as the cat) ran toward the panther and they merged.
Blair coughed up water. There were tears on many faces. The EMT's were astonished and went back to work on the man whom they had pronounced dead at the scene. They took Blair to Cascade General.
No one asked if Jim needed treatment.
Now it was time to open the door to Blair's hospital room, and Jim didn't know why he felt terrified.
Blair would forgive him for everything, he knew. It would come at the price of analysing every scintilla of time they spent together and apart, but Blair would forgive him.
Blair loved him.
[Didn't he? Yes, of course he did.]
He came back, Jim thought.
[Of course he loved him.]
Jim took a deep breath, feeling much better, much warmer, and opened the door to the hospital room.
Blair looked... different. It was the hair, Jim decided. Bedhead. He must have seen Blair with that kind of bedhead a million times before. The nurse was leaving. It was time to say something.
Jim slipped in quietly, talking quietly. "You want to meet nurses, there are easier ways." Light, Jim thought, that's the ticket; keep the most important thing that ever happened to you light and airy. Protect yourself.
"That's great, man, that's great. Now you tell me." Blair's smile was as fake as the light and airy tone.
Then he turned the conversation on its ear. "Thank you."
Ball in Ellison's court. "I couldn't let you die. You owe last month's rent." Back to fake.
"That's right, sorry about that."
Blair smiled again and for an instant, Jim thought he'd gotten away with it.
Then, "I saw it. The whole out-of-body experience. I mean, it wasn't like the classic light at the end of the tunnel thing; it was just the jungle and I was this wolf and I was running towards a black jaguar and it collided and there was this big burst of light. The next thing I knew I was spitting up water.
"The doctors are tying to tell me it's some type of endorphin rush..."
Jim missed the rest of the words. He was rapt in his own vision. "The same image. I saw the same image!"
"You had the same vision?" Blair was excited.
"Yeah, it was Incacha who guided me, how to bring you back."
"I can't believe this..."
Again Jim missed the rest of what Blair was saying, but Blair noticed and didn't let him get away with it again.
"We are definitely there, my brother."
Jim wasn't sure where 'there' was, but he was riveted nonetheless.
"Come on in, man; the water's nice."
[Why was his Guide's invitation soaked with insinuation, dripping hidden menace?]
Dear God, Jim didn't want to go there.
Afloat in a sea of emotions, spiritually adrift, Jim said the only thing he could. "Chief, I don't know if I'm ready to take that trip with you."
Then he cut and ran. Alex had to be brought down. If he had to endure visions of strange things and places from psychometrizing bits of rubble in her bombed out apartment, that was better, better than staying with Blair and entering the 'nice water'.
But Simon was difficult to persuade. Jim brought the full force of his personality to the fore. "Like with Sandburg. He's alive because I trusted a vision."
[I trusted Incacha.]
Simon let himself be persuaded, and the two made their plans on the fly. They reached Sierra Verde, rendezvoused with the local lawman, and saw the body of Alex's cheating ex-partner. Jim knew who to blame. He left Simon behind, and continued to their room at the local hotel.
But there was something wrong, and he paused at the door, listening with his Sentinel ears that could hear for a thousand miles. It wasn't right, what was in the room. Jim drew his gun and booted the door open.
Blair was stretched out at the foot of the bed, his legs over the edge, Megan unpacking tidily next to him.
Blair sat up, hands up, the second time he had faced Jim's gun in Jim's hand. "Jim, don't shoot man, it's only us!"
[Why hadn't he known that?]
The disconcert between the leadings of his heart and the evidence of his eyes almost pushed Jim into a blackout.
Instead, he had a visionthis time of two pools, side by side in the temple, Alex emerging from one, morphing into Jim himself.
[What did it mean? What did any of it mean?]
Jim didn't have the time or the willpower to explore questions he knew were perilous. He also knew he needed to tell Blair about his visions, all of them, but the words wouldn't, couldn't come out.
"We gotta meet someone at a cafe" Jim heard himself say at some point.
"Well, we'll just stay here," Blair offered.
[What was up with that?]
Blair hanging back? Was he sick? Jim pinpointed all his senses on his Guide and drew the amazing conclusion that Blair was one hundred percent healthy. Drowning hadn't hurt him at all, except for killing him.
"Come on," Jim ordered. "You're not getting off that easy."
The meet at the cafe was a trap, and the four from Cascade barely escaped. They took refuge for the night in a local church.
While Simon and Megan slept, Blair started pushing at Jim, not letting him sleep, complaining about the hard pews. "We could have just stayed at the hotel, under an alias."
Jim kept fending him off. "I don't think anything's gonna happen in a place where they worship."
As soon as he heard the words fall from his lips, Jim knew how stupid they were. He and Blair had lived through mob hits at a monastery and a raft of church bombings and cases involving violence against practising Buddhists and Santerians and others. He waited for Blair to shoot back, to shoot down the stupidity.
[Why couldn't he think?]
But Blair didn't shoot him down with apt zingers about the cases they had shared which proved Jim wrong. Instead, he started pestering about who could have set them up at the cafe.
Jim said he didn't know and he didn't know, then, "All I know is we can only trust ourselves outside these walls."
They made a few more conversational passes, and his Guide spoke of his own death wryly, such a wicked sense of humour. Then Blair bade Jim sleep, because his visions were their edge against Alex, and settled down himself.
Immediately, Jim found himself in an erotic vision with Alex Barnes, Sentinel to Sentinel, mating foreplay, and he was drawn helplessly to the beach, was there, physically, on the beach, with Alex, kissing and petting. Evil and Good, getting it on together.
Blair followed to the beach and watched, open-mouthed.
"Jim? What's going on?" he cried.
Alex and Jim turned toward him. It was Alex who answered.
"We'll stay together. We're being drawn to it." Then she lifted Jim's gun from its holster and pointed it at Blair.
Jim observed, as if he were only the backdrop, not really involved. As if Blair were part of the scenery, not really involved. The man he had brought back from death, about to be killed again by the same woman, and Jim was detached at the sight.
[How much could they trust themselves outside the walls of the church?]
Blair raised his hands in supplication to Jim, his partner, his best friend, the man who loved him best in the world, and finally, finally, Jim made a choice.
"No," he said to Alex, palming the gun from her grip.
Alex left, jogging off, bewildered.
"Jim, stop her!" Blair begged.
But Jim stood and stared and then let his gun tumble to the sand.
[Was he more likely to shoot his Guide than the enemy?]
Jim hated himself at that moment.
The two walked the beach, Blair babbling about rituals, the Temple of the Jaguar, the Grotto of Light with its pools, and mating. Mating.
"I'm being controlled by some force?" Jim asked.
"You gotta help me!"
Blair had nothing to offer.
Jim was incredulous. Blair was his Guide, his Shaman (not Incacha, not Incacha), and Blair always had something to offer.
But there it was. "Goes beyond my field of research."
That couldn't be. Blair's field of research was all about myth and legend and rituals and everything that pertained to Sentinels (and Guides, and Guides) and the afterlife as it was experienced around the world. Shoot, he'd dragged his favourite book, the one he had memorised, "The Sentinels of Paraguay," along with him. There had to be something in there about what Jim was going through.
[Why had he dragged along the book?]
This had to be within Blair's field of research.
[It just had to be.]
Trickery and Sentinel spying got them Aguilar's plan to meet with Alex and off her while they took the nerve gas she was selling them, for only the cost of ammunition.
They lined up along a fallen tree trunk, Megan and Simon and Blair and Jim. But when push came to shove, Jim ran amok.
"It's a trap!"
Then he pushed Blair down as Alex shot her way out of the trap, nerve gas in hand, and a three way bullet battle ensued.
When the smoke had cleared, Alex was up and away in a damaged 'copter, Aguilar withdrawn into the jungle, and Blair was asking, "What is wrong with you?"
Why didn't Blair know what was wrong with him? Jim wondered.
[Well, why didn't he?]
Maybe it's a zone, Jim said to himself. I'm zoning on Alex. A sexual zone.
Why couldn't Blair pull him out of this sexual zone?
[Well, why couldn't he?]
Jim didn't even bother to float the idea to Blair. The separation between them had grown to an abyss.
Well, of course, Simon and Megan ought to have arrested Jim, but he was the only chance to track Alex and Blair said Jim was back on track, going to get the gas and the girl.
Simon did not look convinced. He handed over a transponder to Blair, so that locating them would be easier, and went for help. Blair and Megan were left to follow Jim. Jim was long gone, after the woman he had kissed on the beach. The psychotic enemy Sentinel.
What did it say about the Sentinel of Cascade?
Jim had almost stopped thinking altogether by this time. Everything was being decided by instinct.
He left Blair and Megan behind, Megan pressing for an explanation Blair did not have to give her. He went forward, and was struck again by a vision, shared with Alex: the Temple of Light, the Jaguar Statue, the Eye of God. When the others caught up to him, Jim fobbed off their questions and said to keep moving.
So they did.
Alex found the temple and the grotto of the twin pools. The three following in her wake camped for the night.
Thinking Megan asleep, Jim told Blair that Alex had found the temple. And that he had seen it in a vision. Blair was predictably excited, but then, predictably, asked how Jim felt about Alex.
"I know I need to stop her. But I also feel I have to protect her, somehow."
"Which one's stronger?" Blair wouldn't raise his eyes to Jim's.
Jim wasn't looking at him. "I don't know."
"You need something that you can focus on, something you can control, because what happened at the riverbank today cannot happen again, Jim."
Megan's eyes flew open. She was not as asleep as the Sentinel and Guide thought she was.
[Why didn't Jim know she was awake? Why didn't her breathing rhythm shout out to him, I'm awake?]
[Well, why didn't it?]
Jim slept, and dreamed, the dream-Jim dressed casually, himself, as he was.
"Finally you have come."
"How am I seeing you?"
"My body is dead but my spirit lives on within you. Your journey has been long, but now you must face your most difficult trial."
"It's as if I had no power to control my feelings."
"Power can lead to truth or corruption. You must choose your path, but you must go alone. The danger is not to be shared by your friends."
"How do I know the right path?"
"You already do."
With that, the dream ended and Jim was up and after Alex, off to the Temple and his trial there. Leaving Blair and Megan behind. Leaving Megan to confront Blair with her deduction about Jim being a Sentinel, plucked from the book he had dragged along.
[Why had he dragged it along?]
Jim found the Temple of Light, as full of the dread divine as his visions had foretold him. He was captured by its ancient meaning. He was hit by Alex's blowdart too.
He came to in one of the pools, limbs frozen by the dart's poison.
Alex told him everything. How the ancients discovered that long isolation in the pools heightened the senses, especially when accompanied by a drink made of local herbs. A two thousand year old language, she told him, yet she could read it in the carvings of the temple.
And that she had already tried it. "I saw inside myself, my true being." Alex was entranced with her new self.
Jim tried to reason with her. "Alex, you're moving way too fast. This knowledge has to come from understanding, not some kind of drink."
But Alex had only stars in her eyes. She kissed Jim, and poured the drug into him and left him to experience what she had experienced.
Jim sawdifferently. A collage of his words and of others' opened his journey of self-discovery, all of them speaking of his obligation to help others, his commitment to his duty, his great gifts of Sentinel heritage, and the final question: Are you ready to take such a journey?
Jim screamed in horror.
All of his visions his friends, for Megan and Simon, an unbroken stream of images of disaster. He cried out for Incacha, for a Guide to find his path on this journey.
Incacha appeared. "Why do you call me?"
"I'm losing my mind!"
"Do not be afraid to walk through your dreams. You must allow your spirit to speak."
"All I see is death in my dream."
"If there is darkness then you must face it. The darkness will flee from the light, but the light must shine from within. I cannot bring it to you. What do you see?"
Blair's face appeared, smiling that great beaming smile that could light up the sun.
"What do you fear?"
Then the vision continued as before, with more death and destruction and darkness, all involving Blair's pain, Blair's hurt, Blair's mortality.
Jim could take it no longer. "THIS IS NOT ME!" he defied the heavens, and his eyes lost the yellow cast of cowardice and took on the blue hue of truth once more.
As Jim rose from his paralysis, he realised his dream was all but coming true before his eyes.
Aguilar had captured Blair and Megan, and followed Alex's trail to the Temple. It took hardly more than minutes for Jim to defeat the druglord and his minions, but as he began to free Blair from his bonds, Alex rose from her second bath in the other pool.
All eyes were riveted upon her.
"I am home," she breathed. "I can sense the vibrations of the earth itself, the clouds moving in the sky, the molecules in a drop of water."
She glowed at Jim. "You need to see as I see." And she went for the canister of nerve gas, with which she intended to cleanse the earth. Jim tried to talk her down. She wasn't able to hear him.
"When you've left your flesh behind, maybe then you'll understand," she said.
"This isn't the Way of the Sentinel! Look at me. We watch over and protect people. This isn't you. Look within."
But again, Alex couldn't hear him. She was about to carry out her plan for wiping out all existence, when Jim finally found the key. "You want to unite our vision! Give me your hand!"
This time, Alex heard what he said. She put out her hand. The Sentinels melted toward each other and in the blending of their kiss there was the life-giving water of Jim's vision, and the fires of hell in Alex's.
She screamed piercingly. "My hand's on fire! My ears, my eyes! We were one!"
"Alex! Alex!" Jim cried, still trying to save the doomed woman.
But she had fallen prey to her delusions. There was no salvation for Alex Barnes.
Simon caught up with them, with local backup.
Blair tried to explain about Alex and her psychotic break with reality. "The second time she went into the grotto, it must have been too much for her..."
"... and she fried her circuits, put her Sentinel senses on overload," Megan finished.
Blair vacated the place with a simple, "Basically, yes."
He forsook the shaken man and woman from Cascade, and approached Jim, seated, silent, close against a temple wall.
"Hey, man. You okay?"
"You know, when I got out of that grotto, I realised I had it all laid out in front of me, all the answers to it all. It went away. I just wanted to go back in there so bad."
"But you didn't."
"That's the difference between you two. She lost her way."
Jim gazed into the jungle. If he had been any other man, it would have ended there. But he was Jim Ellison, Sentinel of Cascade and he knew Blair Sandburg, his Guide and Shaman, to the beat of his pulse and the number of hairs on his head.
Jim stood and pulled away, beckoning to the man with which he had been communing. They drew well away from the others, into the jungle, hidden from view.
And Jim faced the other and demanded, "Alex may have lost her way, but so did you. Who the hell are you?"
"What? Man, are you loony or something? I'm me." His hands were working hard, patting the wide chest, turning circles in the air. "You still feeling the drug, Jim?"
Jim stared down coolly, blue eyes looking into blue. "I am just fine, thank you. In fact, I'm more myself than I have ever been before. The dip in the poolI learned a whole lot about me, and about my Guide and Shaman, too."
"Well, hey," the bundle of nerves responded, obviously heading down the road of obfuscation.
"You, however," Jim cut him off, "are not my Guide or my Shaman. Blair Sandburg is."
"Yo, man, check it out. Hair, eyes, voice, clothes. All me, all Blair Sandburg. Guide and Shaman. That's the package." A note of self-satisfaction rang false in the primal setting. Something not natural. Not natural at all.
"You know," Jim said conversationally, laying hold to the other's arm, pulling him down to sit on a fallen log, taking him into strict custody, "I've spent the whole time since you came back from the dead blaming myself for everything that seemed to be going wrong since you got out of hospital."
"Well, you know, if the shoe..."
"I'm not finished. I thought that if you seemedstrange to me, it was because I was scared. The whole coming-back-to-life thing, you know."
The man struggled hard to escape Jim and Jim's recital. Jim just held tighter.
"When you told me about the out-of-body stuff and I realised I saw the same thing, or thought I had, I was scared stiff at the thought of sharing mystical experiences with you, 'my brother'good instincts, I figure."
The struggling became outright fighting, striking out with feet and hands, teeth bared for biting. The ex-Ranger avoided all his untaught capture's blind attempts to escape.
"There were a whole lot more things that didn't feel right, didn't fitnot with Blair's personality, not with his knowledge, not with what he is to me and me to him. I was really thrown, especially since everything with Alex had me crazy, and I was questioning everything."
The captive was panting, looking around desperately, seeking a source of escape.
"Then in the pool, I actually had a sudden insight, a moment when it all did fit, and I knew who and what I am. I am not alone in this whole fiasco with Alex. You bear a big portion of the blame."
"Well, sure, I mean, I guess I'm your Guide..."
"You're not my Guide," Jim repeated. "You never were. You're not Blair Sandburg, you never heard of the term 'Sentinel' until you read Blair's book as a crash course in Sentinels, you can't Guide me out of a zone, you are not my Shaman, and I've been relying on Incacha instead of my own Guide and Shaman, instead of Blair, because I knew I couldn't trust you."
Stark terror crossed the handsome features. Then the face turned nasty. "You can't prove anything. I've got Blair Sandburg's body and his fingerprints. To the whole wide world, I'm Blair Sandburg."
"Not to me, you're not. And I'm the only one who counts."
Jim turned the man's body in his arms, so that he didn't have to see the other's ugliness on Blair's face.
"What, like you're gonna change the whole world's opinion?"
Jim missed seeing the sneer, but he certainly heard it.
"No, like I'm gonna remove you from the world." Now it was Jim who sounded well satisfied. He had moved to hold 'Blair' against him, bodybuilder's arm round the neck, opposite hand on the top of the head. One quick turn and whoever was in Blair Sandburg's body would be evicted.
"I can be Blair!"
Aha! Success! Confession and identity in one!
"No, you can't. You couldn't before and you can't now. He's beautiful, inside and out. You're not."
"I want to be Blair more than he does!"
"You're lying." But a niggling doubt crept into Jim's soul.
"That's why he didn't come back! Why I did! I wanna be your Guide, your Shaman. He didn't!"
The doubt grew slightly. Failing any other strategy, Jim let the man talk.
"He was running away from you. It was easy to push him out of line!"
Oh, thank God!
"Then he did mean to come back to me! You stopped him, you pushed him out of line!"
The pretender to Blair's body sagged, knowing he had made a fatal mistake.
Jim's grip tightened.
"What? What are you doing?"
"I'm killing you."
"Killing me? They'll find you, execute you! You'll be dead!"
"I don't care. I'm still killing you."
"Killing Blair! You're killing Blair too!"
"Killing you. Blair's already dead, and you don't deserve his body."
"No, stop! Stop!"
"Not till you're gone. You're keeping Blair from his chance at life. What happens to a life-stealer afterwards?"
The body blanched. Jim knew victory. He had the soul inside Blair's body on the run at last. He waited him out.
"I'll go" came the capitulation at last. Then a last volley of contempt tried to spoil Jim's triumph. "But this doesn't mean Blair will come back! I mean, why should he?"
All Jim's bitterest memories of the last few weeks came back to haunt him. But he was resolute. "That's for Blair to decide. Not you. He is welcome, and more than welcome, in my life, and I will give my life for his if it keeps you from stealing his body, his second chance at life."
"Then you better work fast," David Lash spat, and the long-extinct dire wolf that was the psychotic's animal guide jumped into the jungle to face outcast status once more.
Blair's body lay limp in Jim Ellison's arms. He turned it, precious in his arms, and gently settled his partner back against the log, kneeling beside him.
Big hands cradled the lax face, and Jim spoke in a whisper that could be heard a thousand miles. "Blair? Please come back to me. Please!"
And not knowing what else to do, Jim set his lips against Blair's and blew new life into his lungs, praying that he was doing the right thing for them both.
He waited a long, long minute. The light turned blue, the other-jungle appeared, and there was the lovely grey wolf with the pretty markings, his tongue lolling out, legs spread and head dipping in the invitation to play, and suddenly he was running toward Jim, toward the panther Jim had sent without knowing it, and this time, when the two merged, it was with warmth and joy and peace and at-homeness. The light was blinding, but they did not need to see each other, for they were in each other's heart, and the heart sees farther than a thousand miles when lit by love.
Then Blair gasped, and the jungle was green around them. Blair started coughing and Jim gathered him up, patting him on the back, helping the lungs clear, and when he looked back at Blair, there were smears in his vision.
Roughed up, hair askew where Jim's big hand had grasped it, all wet from the humidity, Blair never looked so good.
"Jim?" Blair was touching his best friend here and there, re-orienting to the material world, making sure that it was his own much loved Sentinel he was seeing. "Jim. Jim. Jim." The name was his touchstone, his reason for leaving the jungle paradise behind. "I'm home. Found the way home. Jim. Where the heck are we?"
"Oh, God, I thought I'd lost you. Thank God, thank you, thank you, thank you. You're back, oh, Blair, you're back, Chief, you're back with me. Wait, how do I know it's you?" Jim pinned the other man with a blue laser gaze.
Blair stared at him, nonplussed. "Well, who else would it be?"
Jim stopped to think, and started to laugh. Blair joined him. He toppled against his best friend, who leaned back against him, and they fell into a hug, each fisting the other's shirt, each rubbing his face against the other's shoulder, wiping away the tears, finally holding tight, forehead to forehead, laughing and laughing and laughing from joy that could not be contained.
It was the cackling like loons that brought the others, who demanded explanations they did not get. But the smiles were contagious, and Simon and Megan began to laugh with them, hardly knowing why, but certain that the cause was holy and blessed. Even the backup officers, who could only look on in puzzlement at first, ended in glee.
Jim had fought the good fight, for himself, for Blair, for his Tribe and his City and the entire earth and his reward was rich indeed, and there was no denying the delight, so bright beneath the canopy of leaves that left them in merely mortal darkness. This was a moment of divinity come to bless all there. No one could turn from its gladsome poignancy.
When they could breathe again and talk again and walk again, the Sentinel of Cascade and his real Guide and Shaman started out of the jungle, finally together on their journey through Self. James Joseph Ellison and Blair Sandburg: the eternals in tandem.
~ End ~
Author's Additional Notes:
Depending on what research articles you read, the Dire Wolf (Canis Dirus), which is very much extinct, is either much larger than or only as large as the grey or timber wolf of today.
The grey or timber wolf is said in different publications to max out at 110 pounds, or start at 175 pounds.
Go figure. I went with the concept that the dire wolf was much larger, because it let me title the story with a spooky name of a long-extinct animal, and sets up the hint as to what really happened when Blair came back from the dead. Mwahahahahahaha!
P.S. Any canis dirus you see tonight is a ghost. Iz
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