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Replay Reversed

by ljc

1/06


Summary: Jim angst mostly. An upsetting case, an accident and a touch of deja vu.


It's not exactly replayed, or maybe not exactly reversed ... but close enough.


Warnings, Ratings: It'll be a-ok with them at the end ... I promise. Not AU. Not a death story. PG-13 for an upsetting case.


Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.



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Blair hummed to himself. He talked to himself. He gestured while he talked to himself. And he always amused Jim with all that energy spent on self direction, as if he orchestrated his thoughts physically. His absorption in his inner world was daunting to his sentinel, the focus of his academic obsession. Not that Blair wasn't also focused on 'real life'. Switching gears was seemingly effortless, but his immersion in whatever arena he chose was seemingly total.



Jim was an intimidating man in his own right. Tall, and square-jawed and physically powerful. And he worked to keep in shape. As a former Army Ranger, and now a Detective, he knew that appearances counted. Many situations could be resolved by an imposing demeanor, and if strength and quickness were required ... well, he had to be prepared. But after numerous attempts, he'd had to admit that intimidation never worked with Sandburg.



Their first meeting in Blair's 'office' showed him the kid's mettle. Blair had spunk. That's probably what someone would say about a wet-behind-the-ears 'kid', but Blair wasn't a kid. Not at all like the raw recruits in the army or the rookies out of the police academy. It's hard to put a name to exactly. Blair was brave. That was the truth of it. He said he'd stay in the truck. It was B.S. ... Sandburg style.



Call it in,” Jim said in his clipped, cop mode. He could hear Blair already doing just that. Blair'd had too much practice, it had become routine. Jim sought out cover as he moved in on the scene of a domestic disturbance that had grown to 'shots fired'. He could smell blood. He hadn't told Sandburg that. It would have been enough to convince him to tag along immediately. But Jim could hear the wife crying over a child, and begging the 'loving husband' to leave them alone. It wasn't a scene Blair needed to see until it was contained, although it would probably turn into a hostage situation if Jim didn't finish it quickly.



With a child involved, one that was injured, Jim couldn't afford to waste time. He could hear Sandburg's whispers.



Hey, man. Keep your hearing piggybacked to sight. Don't lose your focus, Jim. I'm coming. Don't worry about me. The only perp is in the house. Right? I'll be fine. I'm coming up behind you. Don't jump man, I'm going to be right beside you,” said Blair breathily.



This is staying in the truck, Sandburg?” hissed Jim.



I can help ....”



Just stay behind me,” said Jim.



Can you tell me what's going on in there?” asked Blair as he laid a gentle hand on his friend's back.



Jim stiffened, then shook off the calming hand. The sentinel knew the child was dead. He didn't want that closeness. Not right now. He didn't feel he deserved that comfort. This was a bad situation and would only get worse and he knew he was powerless to change it. He breathed raggedly for a minute, then said gruffly, “Stay put this time. Do you hear me?” His glare actually stopped Blair in his tracks. He hoped it would keep him there long enough.



Jim rushed the building, keeping to cover when needed. He knew where the man was. He knew he didn't have much time to save the woman's life and he was making the best speed he could. Back-up would get here too late.



The young man with the gun was still screaming at the weeping young woman. Jim kicked in the door and braced himself outside the doorframe, “Cascade Police. Drop your weapon!” It was unfortunate, but Jim Ellison, Detective and ex-Army Ranger had predicted the man's reaction and his own necessary action. The man had already killed his own child and he couldn't risk the woman's life, or his own or his observer's or any other innocent bystander.



The aftermath of the shooting was anticlimactic after years on the force. Patrol cars, rescue, ambulances, coroner's vehicles, and Simon's sedan blocked the street. Blair was in nervous attendance as Jim walked the scene, directing procedures until he could turn it all over to the Captain. Jim was walking in sure strides and speaking clipped, precise instructions. Blair was following closely but not speaking at all. Which was fine with Jim.



Jim knew that Simon understood and that he would let him begin to get control of his emotions in his own time. And not to crowd him physically. Jim needed that ... distance. At least for now. He knew Blair was hovering, but even Blair had learned that he couldn't rush this 'process' for Jim. Winding down from the stress. The grief. The failure. It took time, and distance.



Distance. For some reason he couldn't get enough this time. The whole scene felt claustrophobic. And Sandburg dogged his every step. He was too close. Damn, it was too hard this time. Being a sentinel hadn't helped that child. Why have the senses at all if ... if it was going to hurt this much? For heaven's sake, Sandburg would have been better at it. He had all the research. He's the one that solved all his sentinel problems. He'd invented the dials to control the senses and even his physical pain. Why didn't he have a dial for this?



He let his steps lengthen as he headed toward the street. Sandburg followed as best he could, sometimes running trying to keep up with his adrenaline charged partner. Jim was feeling as cold as ice inside. He was nearly running. And he could hear Sandburg's breath beginning to labor and his movements changing into a steady jog. He needed more space, more distance. He moved to cross the street.



Jim! Look out!” was the last thing he heard ... and later ... the first thing he remembered.



<>-<>



Jim woke to a dull morning, gray like any other overcast day in Cascade. Simon was standing with his back turned, staring out the window ... of his hospital room.



Jim broke the silence, “Hey, Simon.”



Simon turned with a grin of relief on his face that he quickly composed, “Jim, it's about time you woke up. How's the head?”



Jim hadn't realized his head hurt until Simon mentioned it, “I'll live. What happened anyway?”



Simon scowled, “Well, the doc said you might not recall the last bit of time because of the injury. Do you remember the domestic disturbance call you got last night? No matter, it was a rough one. You were shook up and not paying attention I presume. We'll talk about that later. I was too far away to stop you, but I saw you. You walked right out into the street. It would have made a great headline, 'One of Cascade's Finest Taken Out by a Garbage Truck'. You were damned lucky detective. If not for that hippie kid I'd be planning your funeral.”



Jim looked thunderstruck. Why did that sound familiar? It was more than a little eery, like deja vu. His confusion showed, but Simon didn't understand.



Simon allowed a small grin, “Yeah, the kid looked half your size, but tackled you like a pro.” Simon's grin faded, “He's upstairs in intensive care. They can't figure out what's wrong with him. The doctor said his vitals were depressed and worsened through the night. There are no apparent injuries but he hasn't woken up.” Simon looked unhappily at his shoes as he admitted, “I told the hospital to do a tox screen on him. He could have been on drugs from the looks of him. I ran his ID and he seems to have a clean record, but his address is some rat warren down by the harbor, and he's been suspended from Rainier University. Hard to believe that he was a teaching fellow, but there must be something to him for him to risk his life like that.”



Jim took all this in while his confusion deepened. “What's the kid's name, Simon?”



Blair Sandburg.”



Deja vu had nothing on this situation. Why did he have such an intense feeling of familiarity ... even for 'Blair Sandburg'?



<>



Jim had been released that afternoon but he was back at the hospital the next morning. The kid's condition had stabilized during the night. Jim watched the kid from the door. His badge and the story he told the nurse about the kid got him in to have a look at Blair Sandburg, whoever he was. He looked half dead. Dark smudges accented his eyes. Cheekbones prominent. Doc said no needle marks, no drugs in his system. Malnourished. Not a 'kid' either, twenty-five or so.



Well, Sandburg had saved his life, he didn't feel right just leaving. He walked through the door not knowing where the impulse came from. What happened to the kid to get him suspended, he wondered? He watched him breathe for a few minutes, then feeling uncomfortable at the impulse, lifted the kid's hand, cradling it carefully with his own. He gently massaged Sandburg's hand with his fingers until he felt a reaction. He was startled at the response as Sandburg's hand curled around his own.



Sandburg. Blair?” Jim questioned gently.



Blair moaned softly, and releasing Jim's hand, raised both his hands to his ears as if in pain. He started to curl up and began a slow rocking motion as the moans became harsh breaths.



Jim whispered, “Hey, kid. Sssh. Don't move around. Take it easy. I'll get the doc. You're in a hospital kid. The doctor will be glad to see you awake.” Jim found it hard to leave the kid but he had to alert the nurse to the awakening, then stood in the hall hoping to find out Sandburg's prognosis. He owed the kid, after all. That's all that impulse was ... repayment of a debt owed.



Being trained in surveillance, Jim's watch proved fruitful. He could tell the doctor was unhappy with Sandburg's responses. But Sandburg was a stubborn little cuss, even while being polite. He refused anymore pain meds and there was no way Sandburg was staying for tests. Jim figured the kid couldn't afford the bill, but hoped he'd be sensible about it. Didn't figure he would be though. Sensible that is. Sandburg was out of there, AMA, in less than an hour. That had to be a record. It almost beat Jim's best.



Jim waited and followed him downstairs, and watched him pass up the city bus. Jim jogged to his truck and pulled up behind him just as he headed into a park. He parked the truck but stopped short when he spotted him on the first bench. He walked slowly to the opposite end and sat down. He watched Sandburg for a minute, as he fought the bright sun, and shivered in a surprisingly warm day for early spring. He knew that Sandburg knew he was there, but he seemed to be fighting to keep it together. The kid's reactions to his surroundings were exaggerated. Sounds, and now light bothered him. He should be in the hospital not roaming the streets barely able to stand on his feet!



Sandburg.” The kid flinched but didn't react otherwise. Jim kept his voice soft, “Do you know who I am?” At the kid's peek through clenched eyelids and negative shake of the head, Jim continued, “You were there the other night. You saved my life. Do you remember?”



Sandburg was motionless for a moment, then nodded yes, like it was too much effort to speak.



I owe you kid. Let me help.” Jim slowly slipped out his badge for the the kid to see. “By the way, I'm Detective James Ellison. My boss had you checked out so I know you're Blair Sandburg.”



Even through the pain the kid managed to look indignant, “No right to do that. I didn't do anything wrong ....”



Sandburg, you were unconscious. Cops, and doctors, like to know who they're working with. Simon's not a bad guy,” Jim allowed a grin to show. He could show a softer side to animals and 'kids'. “My truck's over there. I'm going to take you home. Make sure you're okay.” Sandburg looked startled, and then defiant, for all of thirty seconds, then wilted in defeat. Jim helped him to the truck, with all the care of handling something of great value.



<>



Sandburg woke up on a futon in a quiet, airy apartment. Jim kept watch through the door as he groggily took in his surroundings, a basic home office/guest room. He must have been feeling better because it didn't take him long to find his shoes.



Sandburg glared as he came out the door. “You said you were going to take me home.”



Jim turned a bit rosy of cheek, “Well, it's 'my' home. Sorry, but I couldn't get you to stay awake long enough to say more than a couple of words. I couldn't leave you alone in that condition. Someone needed to keep an eye on you at least overnight.”



Sandburg looked around. When he saw his coat he headed for it and then the door, where he paused only long enough to say, “Thanks, man. For the lift ... and everything. I feel a lot better this morning but I have to be leaving now.”


Sandburg, I've got breakfast ....” Too late. Jim let him go since he didn't look as pale as last night, and he didn't seem to be in pain. It's isn't like Jim could hold him hostage, although it was a very satisfying idea. Maybe he'd do some more 'investigating' of Mr. Blair Sandburg. After all, he already knew where he lived.



<>



Jim wasn't one to remain idle even though he was still on medical leave and had to wait for IA's investigation of the shooting to be completed. A shooting he couldn't actually remember after his injury. But that left him time to do his own research on Blair Sandburg. The Internet seemed a good place to start. Rainier's library provided the finishing touches. It surprised him how much Sandburg had accomplished in his academic career. The kid had a Masters Degree and had articles in several journals in his field. What had happened to the kid? He had been an up-and-coming academic and now he could barely scrape by. But the most surprising thing to Jim was the kid's topic. It seemed pretty farfetched for a scholarly thesis. A 'sentinel' sounded like it could be the next big comic book character. But Jim was a good detective. From what little he had observed of Sandburg, he had to wonder if the kid was his own research topic.



To fill in some personal info he made inquiries about Sandburg around the Rainier campus. The receptionist at Hargrove Hall suggested the library. It had been a good idea. Sandburg had charmed all the librarians, from the lanky blonde to the gray haired near-retiree. The ladies all remembered the kid and were eager to talk when Jim identified himself as a detective, and admitted to being concerned about the kid being injured. The ladies were all worried about Sandburg and gave Jim a quick background on Sandburg's academic career and it's quick demise.



It had been a fruitful morning. Jim was in good spirits as he used some of his new found information to pick up some food at the kid's favorite Thai restaurant, then dropped by for a visit.



He knocked several times but the knock was ignored. Jim was getting impatient. He hoped the kid hadn't gone out. He was in no shape to be wandering around. He was just going to leave when he spotted the little Corvair he knew the kid owned parked near the door. He used some of his less advertised skills to give the warehouse door a little surreptitious 'help', to get it open.



Sandburg? It's Detective Ellison.”



He headed up the stairs cautiously. They were dark and rickety. Unfortunately, they were exactly what he'd expected from the condition of the building.



Sandburg? I'm coming up.”



Jim quickly dropped the bag of takeout as he knelt at Sandburg's side. The kid was staring sightlessly into the dark depths of his 'apartment'. Lost in some neverland that Jim hoped wasn't drug induced. He gently shook Sandburg's shoulders and the kid immediately slumped forward, dragging in a deep breath and coughing convulsively.



That's it! You're going back to the hospital.”



No, no. I'm okay. I'm alright. Just give me a minute. I'll be fine,” gasped Sandburg.



Look kid, you're NOT fine.”



Hey man, please. They can't help me. Believe me, I've tried doctors. I've tried everything. Meditation. Hypnosis. The shaman couldn't help me either,” Sandburg rushed to explain. Then as a lost expression appeared he whispered, “One sentinel ... one guide. Couldn't find my guide. I tried.”



You need a guide?” asked Jim curiously. “Like in your thesis?”



Blair was stunned, “You know? How?”



I've been doing a little reading. Cops and anthropologists seem to have a lot in common. We get to do research too, kid. After all, you saved my life. You looked like you needed help so I started with the basics, and ended up getting your life story from that lady librarian, Ethel,” smirked Jim.



Hey, Ethel's a peach. She's always watched out for me, ever since I started at Rainier,” Blair said with a wistful smile.



I agree, Ethel's a peach. She only told me about you so I'd keep her updated. And if I understand Ethel correctly, I'd better stay on my toes. But I think you'd better tell me about this 'guide' business. Maybe with help we can get somewhere on it.”



<>



Blair Sandburg, Sentinel. Jim had his doubts even after reading the thesis and observing Blair's problems in the hospital, and his 'zone' when Jim found him in his apartment. He questioned Blair about the zone but he didn't know if the kid was being evasive or not, and that worried him.



Jim, the zones are caused by focusing too closely on one sense. I've tried to find techniques to help, but the more I try the faster I seem to zone. See, a guide is supposed to watch my back, like your partner does for you,” said Blair.



To which Jim muttered, “If I had a partner.”



Blair looked shocked, “You don't have a partner! Isn't that, like, illegal or something?”



Jim grinned, “No it's not 'illegal', but it isn't encouraged either. I don't want a partner. My boss is ... understanding ... about it.”



Riiight.”



Well, you need a partner worse than I do, so no comments. Okay?”



Blair looked bleakly back at Jim, “I don't know where else to look, Jim. I'm ... well, I'm running out of options, man.”



Jim considered what he was going to say for a moment. He wasn't sure how the kid would take this. “I understand that the guy that owns the warehouse wants you out of here ... that you, uh, lost your job.”



For a moment, Blair's eyes looked anywhere but at Jim. He finally pulled himself together to admit, “Oh, Rainier was nice about my 'disability' at first, but I kept zoning out. I was afraid to tell them about being a sentinel. You're not exactly supposed to study yourself, although I've searched for other sentinels since I read about them when I was thirteen. Anyway, it got so bad that I didn't dare to drive anymore. I missed too much work. Messed up too many times, man. The only option I had left was to try to find my mother and tag along with her for a while. I'd been hoping the senses would settle down, that I'd get control of them eventually, but it hasn't happened yet.”



Jim leaned back as he thought about Blair's situation. He didn't even know where his mother was? “Sandburg, you've seen my guestroom. Think you could stand living there for a while?”



<>



Jim was surprised that he and Blair got along so well. The kid had seemed to settle in quickly, house rules and all. He began to open up about the sense problems he was having and Jim was surprised by what the kid could accomplish with them, especially when Sandburg said they worked better when Jim was with him.



Jim,” Blair had started nervously the night before, “You know about the companion, the guide. And you know that everything works better lately ... with you, right?”



Jim thought he knew where the kid was headed with this. He wasn't sure what he thought about it. Could he be a guide to a sentinel? He really didn't know what he was doing that helped Sandburg. But he had been astounded at the information Blair could pick up, thinking he could be a human crime lab if he was a cop. But that was an unlikely vocation for an academic. Maybe he could be a consultant. He'd like to see what Blair could do at a crime scene. He didn't know what Simon would say, but he'd face that later. After explaining his thoughts he finally asked Blair, “What if you became a police observer? You'd get a ninety day ridealong. You could see what cops and the forensics techs do. But best of all, I could work with you on the senses. Maybe get you settled in with them so you can make some decisions on what you want to do.”



Blair's enthusiasm showed and he promised to give the matter some serious consideration.



<>



A few days later, they were returning from a pizza run when Jim's radio crackled to an incoming message about a domestic disturbance. Jim ground his teeth in exasperation. They were right on top of the address but Jim was still on paid administrative leave until IA signed off on the shooting that had taken place a week ago. That had been a domestic disturbance too, and if anything went wrong tonight it could cost him his career, or worse. But this had already escalated to armed violence. And he had Blair with him. He pulled to the curb and switched off the ignition.



Jim? Hey, you okay, man?” asked Blair when Jim just sat gripping the wheel.



The radio crackled again, informing dispatch that a patrol car was more than ten minutes away. Too far.



Jim turned to Blair, “Stay in the truck, Sandburg. This is police business. It's no place for you. Understand?”



Blair winced as a distracted look appeared on his face, “There's a child involved, Jim. The guy has a son ... and his girlfriend. The boy's crying! Oh God! Jim?”



Stay here,” Jim said and quickly exited the truck. He disappeared around the building on the corner.



Blair was left to watch from the darkened truck. He jerked at the sound of a gunshot. Tears ran down his face at the scream that followed. He didn't hesitate, but ran after Jim.



Jim! The boy was shot! Jim!”



Jim was crouched at the side of the building, trying to get an idea of what was happening inside the residence. Blair's arrival was a shock. He heard his shouted warning about the boy, but couldn't do a damn thing about it. The situation was beyond his control and he knew it. It was about to get worse.



Jim, the boy is badly hurt. We've got to do something!” hissed Blair.



I don't have a weapon Sandburg. We've got to wait for backup.”



The boy's going to die, Jim,” Blair choked out.



I can't save him! Nothing I do can save him, Sandburg. Don't you think I would if I could?” and Jim's frustration was loud and clear.



Blair's face showed the strain of hearing the situation in the house.



I'm sorry. I have to try, Jim,” and Blair tried to slip away. He pushed at Jim as he desperately reached to stop him. To evade Jim, he fled the cover the building afforded in his desperate bid to end this horrible situation.



Hey, in there! What's going on? Is there trouble, man? Maybe I can help. Come on out! We can talk ...,” Blair yelled, hoping against hope to stop this before it was too late. But then he heard it, a child's heartbeat slowing to a stop. He followed the sound, trying to hear it's faltering beat. But it faded to a stark quiet, and Blair followed its ebbing into a zone.



Jim lurched to his feet. He heard Blair's impassioned plea, then saw him become very still. He knew that Blair was zoning on something. He watched in horror as it played out before him. Saw the armed man at the door. Saw him aim. Saw him fire. Saw his friend fall to the pavement. When the man ducked back inside, he heard the woman scream. Jim ran to Blair and dragged him to cover, refusing to believe he was dead.



Police and rescue soon arrived and finally Simon approached them. “Jim, how bad is the kid hurt? Ellison!”



Jim raised shocked eyes to Simon, “He's dead Simon. He's dead. All he tried to do was help. I couldn't stop him. He said the guy shot the child and he had to try ....”



Simon was grim but determined to help his friend, “Come on Jim. Let the others do their jobs. You come with me. Stay close to me Jim. There's nothing more you can do here.”



Jim struggled to his feet, staring with disbelief at the bright young man that had been his friend for so short a time. The grief that assailed him all but paralyzed him. Blair was gone. Dead. He shook in reaction as he stumbled back from the horrible scene. The kid had only tried to help. But he was an academic! What was Jim thinking, bringing him to a crime scene? It was a bad situation. One he wasn't prepared for.



If only it had been Jim that had heard the shot. Simon had told him that the child had died. He believed that Blair's zone had probably been caused by the child's death. Jim was his guide. This was all his fault. Blair had needed a real partner, not someone that didn't know what he was doing.



He began to walk, unsteadily at first and not really caring which direction. Just away. He needed distance. He needed space. He fled streetward. He couldn't stay and watch them put Blair's lifeless body in a bodybag. He knew he'd be sick if he didn't get away. Put some distance between himself and this scene. Lots of distance. He walked out into the street ....



<>



<<Jim! Look out!>>



NO! Jim woke, gasping with dread and grief. He grasped the bed linen with a shaking fist then threw his blanket aside. He leaned dangerously as he pushed himself out of bed. “Sandburg!” he whispered brokenly, as he slipped, unconscious, to the floor.



That one word startled Simon from the reading that had occupied him while waiting for Jim to wake. His paper and coffee slid to the floor unnoticed as he reached to break Jim's fall



<>



Jim woke slowly and with a pounding headache this time. He slowly turned his head. Simon watched him out of sleepless, reddened eyes, but a grin slowly grew. “Well, Ellison. You're awake again. It's about time. Your partner would have skinned me alive if I came back with another report of your continued unconsciousness. As soon as you're really awake I'll take an updated report to Sandburg. His doctor won't be happy if he tries one more escape attempt to reach you.”



Sandburg! But he's dead,” gasped Jim in his grief.



WHAT! How hard did you get hit on the head anyway? Don't bother to answer that. The Doc said it was a pretty good knock. Jim, Sandburg is right down the hall. He's bruised and concussed, and hopefully sleeping through all this. Check him out for yourself. You know, use those 'senses' of yours. You're the sentinel. It's your hocus pocus to manage. With Blair's help of course. Wouldn't want the kid to get his nose out of joint about that. You'd better not let that slip if you know what's good for you. Captain's can hold a grudge.”



A remembered sound of gunfire and Blair's lifeless body flashed through Jim's memory. Jim hearing the child die. Blair hearing the child die. Jim approaching the shooter and killing him. Blair approaching and being killed. Memories of his domestic disturbance case ... cases ... case? But Simon wouldn't lie to him. He demanded shakily, “Sandburg's not dead? Simon?”



Simon sighed deeply, then said, “Sandburg saved your life. Damned kid nearly took ten years off my life. Pushed you down under that truck. Bravest thing I've witnessed in a while, and I've seen some brave damn fools on the force.”



Jim wasn't sure what was going on but his mind finally grasped one line Simon had spoken, 'Sandburg is right down the hall'. Then the senses kicked in and he proved to himself that the kid was alive. He 'could' hear him, sleeping peacefully. That was a very good thing indeed. He'd get Blair to help straighten out the rest.



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finis



Note: It finally occurred to me that a sentinel didn't HAVE to be big, tall, and buff. It could be the guide that was big, tall, and buff. <g> After all, the guide protects the sentinel. Right? Especially if the sentinel is a trouble magnet. What do you think?