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Echoes of a Gunshot

by ljc

7/05



Summary: Angst for both. Concerns an event during TSbBS. Major spoilers.



Warnings: a few words.



Rating: PG.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.



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Jim stood at the railing, watching the steel gray surf maul the beach. He stared for a long time, hands in pockets, mind working at something he couldn't shake loose from his memory. Something bothered him on a very deep, intense level and he couldn't identify, or quantify it. He shook his head in frustration, reaching up with one hand to wipe the rain from his face. His favorite Jags basketball cap wasn't much good against wind blown spray and the rain that had started a gentle, steady downfall. He slowly, and distractedly turned for Prospect St.



<>



Jim's entrance into the loft was slow, subdued. He was soaked and an air of distraction hovered over him, almost brooding.



Blair watched Jim's arrival with trepidation. He knew something was wrong, that Jim was not himself. Jim would never have been called a bouncy kind of person, but this was so unlike him. Since they'd offered the badge to Blair that day in Major Crimes, Jim had seemed too introspective. He was a physical kind of guy, not given to self-absorption.



“Hey Jim, dinner's going to be ready in about a half hour. Why don't you take a hot shower. You look soaked through,” Blair said as he gave an involuntary shiver just at the thought of being that cold and wet.



Jim looked penetratingly at his friend and roommate for a moment. Then turned for the stairs. He came down with a clean set of warm sweats and disappeared into the bathroom, never saying a word. Just watching Blair oddly as he passed through the living area again.



Blair shivered again, not understanding. But he was afraid there was going to be more fallout from the revelation of his diss. He bit his lip in despair. He didn't know what else to do. He'd abandoned his own career, screwed his credibility, trashed his future ... except, Jim and Simon had fought for him. They'd done their best to get him back. He blinked away the wetness. He'd decided that he could make a go of it. It would be tough for a few years, but the last few hadn't been easy either. He was a lot tougher than he looked, and he was a lot tougher having been Jim's 'partner' and his guide for those years. He'd manage.



But what about Jim? He looked at the bathroom like Jim had looked at him. Was he unsure about Blair still? Was trust still the issue? Did he think Blair would leave? What if he thought Blair should leave? Maybe all the problems that could crop up had finally swamped him. Maybe it didn't seem so do-able as before. Maybe the doubts overwhelmed the relief.



Blair finished setting the table and sank into one of the chairs. He resolutely turned from the bathroom door to stare into the rain and the dark, feeling it was less painful to stare into the gloom.



Dinner was silent. So silent, Blair could hardly choke down a few bites. He'd made a few forays into small talk that went nowhere. Jim must really be upset to so totally tune him out.



He picked up his plate before he was done and started cleanup. Jim sat stolidly behind him, eating mechanically. Blair's breathing became more and more shallow as fear took over his body. His hands shook and he finally dropped the plate he was holding. The noise of it was like a gunshot going off in the silence.



“Sorry, Jim,” he whispered. He grabbed the broom and shakily swept up the remains. He watched Jim out of the corner of his eye, watching him. When Blair was done, Jim slowly went back to his meal. What was wrong? Jim could be cold and uncommunicative, but this was verging on 'Twilight Zone' strangeness. When Blair finished, he sat at the table. Just waiting. The silence had to break, and he was sure Jim would have do it.



Jim finally finished and just pushed his plate to the side. He rested his arms on the table and gave Blair a strained grin. Blair felt a momentary relief. Maybe this was fixable after all if Jim still had a sense of humor about it. At least Jim seemed to finally realize there was a problem.



“Blair, I'm sorry about before. I know that I was acting a little oddly.” He shook his head and stared briefly into the rain. “I've had something nagging at me. Some memory. I guess it's a memory. I just can't seem to get a hold of it. But I get the feeling it involves you. I just can't ... get a handle on it.”



This, to Blair, seemed familiar territory. He leaned into the table with hands clasped before him. He began tentatively, “Well, you know we've used techniques to aid recall. You know I'd be willing to help ... don't you?”



Jim looked up at that, “I'm not sure Blair.”



Blair sat back quickly. Pain blossomed on his face as he turned to hide his reactions from Jim. To keep the pain from exploding into anger.



Jim realized his mistake, “Blair wait. It's not that, really. It's just this ... God, this is something about the shooting of Simon and Megan. The hitman Zeller. I know this would be painful for you. It is for me. I don't know if I want to relive that horror again. But something keeps pulling me to remember. When I think I've finally given up on it, it's back. You tried to teach me not to ignore my instincts, Chief. I've been trying like hell to ignore this one. I think maybe ... if you could ... that maybe we should investigate this. It must be important. Right? Chief?”



Blair had gotten as far as the sofa. His back was to Jim and his back was stiff until that last 'Chief'. He knew he'd give in, but the thought of remembering ... God he could still see Megan, hear her harsh breathing, feel the blood ... “Alright Jim. If it's what you need. Okay. We'll do this. Tonight? Right now?” And he turned to look at his friend with grief and fear on his expressive face.



Jim said, “I'd like to do it right now, but Blair, if you need to ease into the idea I'll understand. It's just been ... distracting. I know this is going to be upsetting for both of us, so let's wait a bit. Let's clean up and just relax, put on some soft music. Get out your candles and turn the lights down. That's all stuff you do to 'set the scene'. It's relaxing.”



Blair shook his head, “Who are you and what have you done with Jim Ellison? I guess you did learn a few things from me about relaxation techniques after all. Okay ... a little later.” Blair did feel better. Jim could read him, after all he was a sentinel. He just wasn't someone that went in for touchy-feely stuff. He felt gratified that his friend made the effort.



<>



Jim made tea while Blair handled the ambiance. Then with the 'scene set' they sat comfortably on the sofa with Blair speaking in soft tones, easing Jim slowly into a meditative state. Slowly he took him back to that day.



Blair questioned softly, “Jim. You said you were troubled about something. Can you pinpoint the time? Was it something that occurred before you arrived at the station?”



Jim wrinkled his brow, “No, later I think.”



Blair continued, “Was it something about the station? About someone there? Was it close, in time, to the shooting?”



Jim stilled and responded no to the first two questions. “It was close. Simon and I were in his office. I was waiting for him to finish a call. He was upset. IA was going to be called in. His boss raked him over the coals for withholding information about the sentinel thing.” Jim fidgeted uncomfortably.



“What is it Jim? Is this the thing you can't remember?” coaxed Blair.



“I'm sorry, Chief. I'm sorry. I ... no it's something ... I had gone to speak to Simon. I, I wanted to end the partnership ... the ridealong,” stammered Jim.



Blair froze, the hurt plain on his face if Jim's eyes had been open, “Go on Jim.”



Jim settled, “Simon ... he said maybe it was for the best.”



Blair's stony countenance, was hardly reflected in his tone. He was back in control. This was one conversation he wished he'd never heard, even second hand. “If this isn't the remembrance, then we need to go further, Jim. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Slow release. Back to that moment. What happened next?”



Jim clenched his hands till his knuckles were white. “It should have been me. Zeller went after his pursuers. It should have been me. I'd been standing, but Simon showed me some media shots. I just leaned down, Chief. That's all it took. Zeller missed me and got Simon and Megan. I remember ... Simon's grunt ... Megan's gasp. Both of them hitting the floor ... the blood. So much. I could smell Megan's and the feel of Simon's ... Si ...”



Blair gulped and tried to keep what little dinner he'd eaten to stay down. “Jim, stay with me. You're here. That's in the past. You can let it go man. Stay with me. Bring your focus to me, Jim. You're here. Home. In the loft. The rain is falling. The sky is dark. The lights are dim and it's warm and cozy here man. The past is ... past.”



Jim leaned forward suddenly to place his face in his hands. He rocked slightly. Blair was too wrapped up in his own remembrances and the hurtful words of the repeated conversation to be able to react to comfort Jim, at first. Finally, he leaned forward to rub his back lightly.



Little was said then or later. Both trying to deal with their pain alone.



<>



“Jim ... is something wrong?” Joel asked, concern radiating from his friendly face.



Jim was jerked from his reverie by the gentle question, “Uh, just lost in thought, Joel. Sorry, where were we?”



<>



Jim came into the loft that night, tossing his keys into the basket both he and Blair used. He hung his jacket without comment to Blair.



Blair had spent another day doing nothing of consequence. Blair was waiting. He didn't do that well. He paced. He took long walks several times a day. He read, and surfed the net and the television. Today he'd also fought his anger, and mostly won.



Blair had started cooking in the afternoon and had put up enough meals to take Jim through a month of Blair's Academy classes that would begin soon. Blair watched as Jim took a beer and went to stand by the balcony doors. He was staring like he had the night before. Blair sighed and put the teakettle on and gave a small grin as he started reconstructing the 'scene'. Jim seemed oblivious to everything until the lights went down. He turned a sheepish smile on Blair.



Jim shook his head as he put the empty bottle away, “Are you sure you're not psychic? You're always at least one step ahead of me.” He came to sit, like the night before, beside Blair on the sofa. He seemed more relaxed tonight so Blair immediately began the soft tonal chant he used for these occasions. He saw Jim slip quickly into the meditation. “We know where we're going Jim. Just slip down into the peace and let it wash over you. When you're ready .... This time let's try for a general feeling of the situation. The lighting. The smell. The voices. What's out of place here Jim?”



Jim shook his head slowly side to side as if sensing again that day's events, “Nothing.”



Blair thought a moment, “Search again. Is something or someone missing?”



Jim shook his head faster, “No, no ... I can't ... something is wrong. A danger. I couldn't save Simon or Megan. Zeller? I can ... I can hear it. It's there. It's not safe. Can't be there. No ...”



Blair sat back as Jim leaped to his feet.



“This isn't working Sandburg. I can't keep doing this. You don't know. I keep ... not zoning ... but drifting. Especially when I'm at the station. Joel just spoke to me today, and startled me out of it. But it's happened again and again. It happened more, not less, today,” he said as he ran his hand over his short cropped hair.



Blair was truly worried. Not a zone, but drifting, was still not good. Not good at all. He thought for a minute, “Jim, there won't be many people in the bullpen this late tonight, will there? Could we, maybe, walk through the area? See if that brings something back to you? I, uh, could go with you and make sure you don't zone. What do you say?”



Jim looked a little less harried, and he smiled at Blair gratefully, “Let's wait till after dinner, there'll even be less people later.” He actually grinned as he added, “After all, you've been cooking today. I've been smelling the lasagna and bread since I got out of the truck. Later Chief.”



<>



Jim and Blair had parked in the PD garage and taken the elevator up to get a copy of the ballistics report. As Jim perused the report Blair began his soft words, knowing Jim was already more stressed just since their arrival. They'd decided on a run-through of the events just before, during and shortly after the shootings. Blair and Jim were fairly sure that this series of events was indeed the problem.



They were lucky, everyone had headed home for the night. The lights had already been dimmed. They walked slowly through the darkened area.



Blair spoke gently, “Jim, you came into the bullpen and went directly to Simon's office?”



Jim headed slowly into Simon's office with Blair trailing close behind, his hand on the small of Jim's back. Jim spoke softly, surprising Blair by his almost trancelike tone here at the PD, “Simon was at the desk ... on the phone. I was here.”



Jim glanced down at the ballistics report. He turned to the window and stared across the street. “Zeller was there. Why didn't I hear? I should have Chief.”



Jim's grief and guilt were obvious to his friend, “I'd come to tell Simon I wanted to go back to the way things were. He asked if I'd talked to you, but I wasn't listening. I was so angry about the diss, the reporters and missing Zeller that I wasn't listening, and I should have been.”



Jim turned to stare at the table and back to Zeller's position. “Simon came over and pointed out a picture that one of the photographers took at the rally. It showed Zeller ... right there ... I was so close. And I became so furious. I didn't need to lean in to see the pictures. I could have seen them easily from a block away.”



He turned anguished eyes to Blair, “Do you understand? I'd already tried to turn them down, turn them off. And because I didn't see, didn't hear ... I leaned out of the line of fire.”



Blair understood. He'd almost lost Jim that day. He forced his thoughts from that possibility to listen to Jim again.



Jim seemed totally focused on those moments, “Then ... the window shattered. The heat, the sound of the bullet ... passed so close to me, just over my back. I 'knew' then, too late, that Simon was in it's path. Not Megan though. Not until I heard it tear her flesh too.” Jim grabbed his head and screamed, startling Blair till he reached out for him, to ease the spike.



“Jim, come on man. Dial it down. Listen to my voice. Listen to me. Jim ...” whispered Blair franticly.



Jim's eyes again locked on Zeller's position, then he whipped around and stormed through the bullpen to the newly patched and painted doorframe. “Right here. It hit right here,” he said in a trembling, shaken voice. “That's where I heard it. So close. Too, too close.”



Turning to Blair, his eyes flicked to an empty space by the door. His voice shook, “The heartbeat.” He gently took Blair's arms and maneuvered him into the empty space, “was here. Oh, thank God it was 'here'.” Tears welled from Jim's eyes. Unable to shield his friend then, he embraced him now.



Blair felt his heartbeat spike as the truth became clear and he felt Jim's arms tighten in response. There'd been so much confusion, and then fear for his friends, that Blair hadn't truly known the danger he'd been in himself.



Jim's shudders revealed how deeply disturbing this 'sentinel sense' remembrance had been to him. Blair was overwhelmed by his own release. The hurt, the pain, the anger, all diminished when faced with the devastating pain the thought of his loss had on Jim. Now it was Blair's turn to tighten his embrace. “Jim, man. I'm here. I'm safe. I'm right here partner. Stay with me man. We're going to be alright now,” he whispered. It was going to be alright now. They were going to be alright.



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finis