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Zone's Potential

by ljc

10/06


Summary: It's after TSbBS, but Blair is not a cop yet. They have another problem to resolve.


Warnings, Ratings: So many spoilers. I don't think I used any bad words.


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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Prologue


Jim's dreamscape was of nightmares borne. Yellow swirled, fouling the water. Bright reflections warred with evil's darkness. At every turn, fire then water threatened him, relentless in their pursuit. Water falling, water flowing. Running from explosion, gunfire, flame. Falling into darkness to end in fire. Drowning in a golden spell. Where is the other? Separate, solitary, desolate, forsaken. Lonely wolf. Find him. Protect him. Save him.


<>


Jim awoke to such unspeakable terror that only in unconsciousness could he draw breath to sustain him. When finally he woke to bitter sorrow, his retreat was headlong into a depthless dark. He wandered lost in the terror ... lost and alone.


So it was that Blair found him, lost in a sentinel zone of terror. Lost until the guide's urgently whispered entreaties impinged on the sentinel's senses. Lost until the sentinel's focus shifted outward to his guide once more.


<><><><><><><><><><><>


Blair sat beside Jim, who now slept like the dead. He sat cross-legged on one half of Jim's bed. He continued to maintain gentle contact as his sentinel slept. Actually, he was afraid to let go, unwilling to allow even this little distance to come between them. He worried unceasingly, wondering at the cause of this and the series of devastating nightmares that had torn their sleep to shreds this past month.


The press conference was behind them true, but it seemed that destiny had decided that wasn't enough for them to face. Their partnership had withered in the last six months. It's downward spiral coincided with Alex's appearance and ... his drowning.


The chance to attend the Police Academy had been accepted, but Blair still questioned if this future was their destiny. He hoped for some sign, some portent, that would signal a rightness to it. But that isn't what he felt here and now. He felt empty ... rejected ... he felt loss and longing but couldn't define it exactly. But he couldn't leave Jim. He knew that if he did, all that was wrong would be magnified. And so he stayed.


And still no answer presented itself. It would be so easy to blame any number of mortal reasons, but he feared it was the spiritual that held the answer. If they continued as they were, he feared they might not recognize the answer if they found it. And once found, could they accept it.


<>


Neither of them had eaten well during these past weeks. As Jim showered, Blair fixed as tempting a breakfast as could be cobbled together from their meager supplies. They'd have to make a trip into town to get more soon.


Snippets of an ongoing disagreement that had eventually ended with them isolated in this cabin wandered through his mind.


Jim, I know you're not sleeping. I've tried everything I can think of to help. Can Simon give you a break? One thing we've been really short of is downtime.”


'I've' been short of downtime, you mean. I've tried your nasty little 'potions'. I've tried meditating. Just leave me alone, Sandburg. I need a break alright. Stop trying to 'fix' me. Maybe I'm not broken. Maybe I'm just tired.”


Blair sighed deeply at the rest of the remembered 'conversation'. It had been pretty onesided after that. Since then he'd had this terrible premonition of danger. Blair had helped Jim when he could, which wasn't often since he was no longer an observer. Blair tried to convince himself that maybe it 'was' the lack of sleep and the stress that finally wore Jim down, that had led to the nearly deadly mistake. That made Jim want to give up.


When Blair arrived at the precinct, out of breath and terrified at Simon's urgent plea for his 'assistance', he'd found Henri standing angry but silent, at Rafe's urging.


It was Rafe that had the coolest head that day. “Sandburg, take your partner home. Ellison needs you.”


But Jim didn't want him to talk to him, or listen to him, or touch him. He bristled at every attempt to calm him. He didn't want calm. He wore his guilt for all to witness. It was his punishment and he'd not be deterred.


It was with relief that Blair watched as Jim turned in his gun to Simon. Simon had refused his badge, and ordered a vacation. It was Jim that insisted on a leave of absence.


Much later, Jim admitted that the nightmares had affected his sleep so badly that he had feared his own incompetence might soon present a danger to himself and his fellow officers. He couldn't put others in danger because of his present ... lapses. But he'd waited too long and IA would now investigate what could easily have become 'death by friendly fire'.


<>


As Jim deteriorated, so also did Blair. Simon and Megan had attributed Blair's stress to the press conference and the sacrifice of his career to keep Jim safe. But it went deeper than that, and it didn't help that Jim would watch him with sorrow-filled eyes. Neither seemed able to help the other, which only compounded their problems.


<>


Hey, man. Simon called. He said he'll be here this evening. He offered to make a grocery run. We're getting pretty low on staples. I can make a list. Do you want to call him?”


You do it, Sandburg.”


That was the sum total of his answer, but Blair didn't argue, there was no sense in it. He just did as he was told. At least they wouldn't have to face people. It was getting hard to ignore the stares. They knew they looked haunted. They only had to look at each other to know that much.


<>


Simon's reaction to them confirmed their suppositions. He'd looked shocked, so much so, that he didn't even try to hide it. They'd never seen him look so worried. At least Blair hadn't.


Jim had seen Simon when Blair drowned. He remembered everything about that day. A lot of things would stay with him about that day and others.


He knew where his nightmares came from. It was Lash's yellow that he saw. It was the reflections on water from the fountain. Guns wielded by Sarris, Kincaid, Quinn ... A bomb in a warehouse that exploded in flame. An elevator that fell into darkness. A drug that hazed his sight and his friend's mind. And that same friend, his guide, that fell farther and farther away with each day. And he knew that it was his choice, his duty, his need to find him, protect him, save him. That was the nightmare's message. He had to .... But how? That eluded him.


<>


The next day with Simon was planned for fishing. They were all in need of peace, quiet contemplation, and easy companionship. If only that peace could be found in sleep. But Simon was treated to the latest round of the apparently inevitable night terrors, and it left even his strength shaken.


Blair had taken his 'now normal' position, staying in gentle contact after the night terrors, after calling Jim back from the zone.


Simon just looked tired. “I'll make some tea. What kind would you like, Blair?”


Blair bit his lip, and hung his head. The emotions that had ruined his own sleep for so long were finally out of control. How long had it been since he'd heard such a considerate question? Small strangled sobs, and minute rockings drove Simon to his side. Blair's breakdown was intense, if short. But Jim was asleep, or unconscious, through it all.


Blair brushed his hair back then resumed the contact. “Simon, after he's out of the zone, it's like I'm not even here. Before this started, if I so much as stubbed my toe, Jim would be right beside me just to make sure I was all right. What happened? What went so wrong?”


Simon had no answer either, which was no surprise at all, thought Blair.


<>


Sunday dawned warm and cloud free. Blair said his goodbyes before his planned hike. Jim held himself apart, forcing himself to let his friend go. This had been part of their problem. Jim feared that he wouldn't find him, protect him, save him. So he couldn't let him go. They'd argued at breakfast.


Sandburg, you're not listening. My senses are screwed up. If something happens out there ... what help would I be. Just stay close to the cabin. There's just as much 'scenery' here as several miles up the trail.”


Blair marshaled his argument, “I need this, Jim. It's just for a few hours, and I won't leave the trail. I promise.” Blair felt he needed to go alone, to feel unburdened if only for a little while before he meditated. This time he meant to delve as deeply, or deeper, than he'd ever gone before. He felt it necessary, and urgent.


Of course, it didn't stop there. The argument escalated to ugly words spoken with vitriol, until Blair simply said, “Enough! I'm going, and I'm going alone. I have every intention of coming back in one piece. Deal with it!”


Blair took his light pack and his walking stick and took off up the path making good time. He wanted to reach the spot where he had often meditated in calmer times.


Simon held one of Jim's arms in a firm grip. “Jim, maybe Blair needs a little break. Come on. Let's go fishing. Maybe we can catch enough for supper.”


<>


Simon watched Jim surreptitiously most of the morning. When Jim's headache started it didn't take much coaxing to get him back to the shore to lie in the shade out of the heat and glare of the sun. They walked through the shallows, placed their gear on the shore and laid on the grass in the slight, cool breeze.


Simon took out a book when it seemed that Jim slept. He was relieved and was very careful not to wake him, but eventually even the peace and quiet wore out their welcome. He sighed as he tucked his book away. He hated to wake Jim but it was past noon and his stomach was rumbling. By the looks of him, Jim, and Blair too, could use a good meal or three.


But Jim wouldn't wake. It didn't take long for Simon to panic. Blair wasn't here and he was Blair's backup, as Blair was Jim's. Jim had zoned and Blair's teachings weren't working. Simon couldn't leave him alone. What if he stopped breathing!? Blair would never forgive him. He'd never forgive himself. As far as he knew, Blair would be back in a few hours. All he had to do ... could do ... was keep watch.


<>


It was a lovely spot, but it felt so far from Jim. The thought sent a shiver down his spine. He had to wonder if this was something close to what Jim was feeling when Blair had left for his hike.


The rift between them seemed almost physically painful. At times it felt insurmountable, but he had a plan to find an answer. It was important to them both that it work, and work soon. He settled into position.


He found it hard to relax at first. His thoughts were in 'hyperdrive', flitting everywhere, not allowing him to settle. He started a simple mantra ... 'Jimmm' ... 'Jimmm' ... It was a naming, a calling out soul-to-soul. Breath-soft to call the spirit, not the mortal.


Peace was hard work, but it came eventually.


In his meditation, Blair sought a deeper level of quietude than he'd ever experienced before. Since Incacha's death he'd been a frequent traveler on this otherworldly plane of existence. The wolf paced him for a time, silent companion. Then Incacha kept silent place at his side, accompanying but not intruding.


Blair's questions remained unvoiced. He wanted no riddles this time. In truth, he'd come to believe that 'he' held at least part of the answer, and so he asked no questions of his companions. He believed he would find the answer here. The guide's intensity was only matched by his sentinel's, when he focused his gift.


Images flowed like water. Colors bled from one to the other. Faces and scenes both staid and nightmarish formed and then fled. Sarris and Quinn. Gun flash then pain. Golden fire in halo. Ashes, ashes, they all fall down. Down the slippery slide ... down and down and down again ... to end in a flash of fire. Fire and water at every turn. Nightmare revealed in the brightness of morning. Beautiful evil, merchant of death. Bathed in the light, enfolded in warmth. He fought and won his solitary battle. Sought the strength of his brother of the spirit. He touched the other, so dear. He touched ... the answer.


<>


Jim was not as insensate as he appeared. He'd not searched out this place. He never had. It seemed to him a pitiless place, and he fought it. Was he set on this plane to fight again? To kill again? Nightmare images flashed before him.


{Don't look. Listen,}* said a voice and his senses sharpened in response.


{That's not going to work here, Jim,}** the hazed mind explained so abjectly.


Desperately he forced his focus deeper, nearly rending the shroud that obscured his goal.


{You know where to find me, man,}*** hurt and bereft, the voice yielded his place beside him.


Find him, protect him, save him. The exhortation flayed him to action. One sense, two, were not enough. Three senses, four, failed the test. Let go of the here, the now, and the grounding sense was torn free. Five senses roamed, sought, fought ... found, protected, saved. Interlinked, the senses multiplied to focus beyond the veil, to bind them, one to the other. There before him was the luminance of the other. He touched the warmth held so dear. He touched ... the answer.


<>


When Jim awoke he was at peace and Simon could only watch in wonder, so obvious was his friend's transformation. As Jim rose to leave he told Simon that Blair was waiting for him.


Jim only smiled as Simon muttered, “It must be a sentinel thing,” for he was only half right.


<>


Jim walked purposefully toward his goal ... his bonded guide.


<><><><><>


How could I have missed it! It's so obvious.”


Chief, neither of us knew. I've been ... to that other plane ... too. And you 'know' how much I hate to talk about that. But I didn't get it either, and I was the one that was actually 'in the zone'.”


In - the - zone!” Blair glared at his joke.


Jim just shrugged apologetically.


Jim, it was all my fault. I thought a zone would hurt you, and all the time it was a defense mechanism meant to form a connection between us. It was supposed to help keep both of us safe.”


And how were you supposed to know that? I tended to zone in dangerous situations, at least at first. You haven't forgotten the 'Frisbee Incident'?”


But this past month, you've had all these zones in the middle of the night ... ”


Chief, we did what we thought was best.”


Yeah, but I kept us from bonding. You must have felt, at least unconsciously, that I was rejecting you, because to be honest, I felt that you were rejecting me.”


Well, Chief, thankfully we're past that now. We can both feel the connection. We're not ... alone any more.”


You can't like ... read my mind can you?”


Now THAT would be scary. Chief, ease up on yourself.”


But to find out after four years that you needed to zone deeper so that we could bond! How dense was that?”


Jim flicked the back of Blair's head with his fingertips, and took a listening pose.


Ow. What was that for?”


Oh, I'd say that head has to be pretty dense by the sound of it.”


You're going to be so sorry for that ....”


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The downward spiral had almost destroyed them. Almost. The guide ... left ... his sentinel, traveling farther than he'd ever gone before in that other world. It was the sentinel's duty to find him, protect him, save him. For while the guide stands as the beacon, the sentinel must forge the connection. The sentinel had finally followed the zone to it's ultimate focus and their bond was sealed. They could finally 'take that walk' ... together.


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finis



* from The Switchman


** from Blind Man's Bluff


*** from Sentinel Too, Part 1


I hate having to explain a 'joke' (at least I hope it's funny) but just in case someone isn't familiar with the phrase 'in the zone' here is a short explanation from Answers. com:

idiom: in the zone: Informal. In a state of focused attention or energy so that one's performance is enhanced: a goalie who was in the zone throughout the playoffs.