Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters belong to Pet Fly Productions

If the season finale and the bombshell that was dropped on us by UPN proved anything, it's that it isabout friendship. The explosion of activity and support, not just for the show, but for each other has been truly wonderful to witness. You are all a great goup (and tribe). This is usually where I say my thanks to the people that have helped me along. But you know who you are and hopefully know how much I appreciate it.
What I'd like to do is dedicate this to my cyber sis Shiloh (who never lets me forget that she is always south), Tonya (my own little Blessed Protector at times), Robin (who took a chance and called me friend) and Nancy (who has shown me how strong a person can be). And to Barbara (who gets me thinking about the most interesting things) and Kerstin (whose letters always read like a whirlwind but leave me smiling) This one's about friendship. That hug at the end? That's for all of you.

Like a lot of you, I really liked this episode but thought it fell a little short.


THE RIFT : Added scene for Night Shift



Paula






Somehow managing to balance both cups in one hand, Jim swung open the door to the balcony. The early evening air was light and crisp but comfortable enough with just a light sweater. Automatically checking to see what his guide was wearing, and satisfied that Blair would be warm enough, he set the two cups down on the patio table. He had hoped that the younger man would have looked up, giving him an opening. But he hadn't and the silence seemed to swallow up the noise of the city that surrounded them.

"I made you a cup of coffee, Chief." Lame, Ellison, stating the obvious, but at least it was a start. Or was it? Blair just nodded and continued his never wavering study of the plants that adorned the balcony. Quietly sighing, the detective leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees. This wasn't going to be easy.

He missed Blair. Missed him more than he realized he ever could. But how could you miss someone who had sat across from you at breakfast only that morning? Had spent the entire afternoon not three feet away from you? Someone who, now, sat quietly beside you. But miss him, he did. It would be so easy to lie to himself. He could convince himself that things were fine. After all, wasn't Blair talking to him? They had even traded jokes at lunch. Conversation had been pleasant enough. For the last three days things had been "pleasant" and it was killing him. Physical walls. Emotional walls. It didn't matter. They were walls he couldn't break through. James Ellison rubbed his tired eyes, wondering how he could have been so dense. Blair had been pulling away from him and it hurt.

"Can we talk about it?" Jim tried again. "Tell me what I've done or said?" Although, deep in his heart he knew the answer. If he could get his friend to open up about it, maybe yell or shout at him...maybe things could be fixed.

It had been three days now since all Hell had broken loose. Chaos had reigned free in the form of an alligator and a city shut down by strikes. A dirty lawyer, hired killer and a slain angel had completed the tableau, only adding to the insanity. It had seemed as if his city had become the canvas of a demented painter and the detective had allowed himself to be caught up in the madness.

"Dear God, how do I make this right again?" The words were silently whispered in a prayer as Jim kneaded the back of his neck. But no amount of prayer was going to change the past. Wishing wouldn't erase words said out of hurt and anger. Gabe, tortured soul or angel, had quietly and suddenly appeared behind him, admonishing him to listen to the hearts of others. He had almost scolded the sentinel, asking him what good it was to be able to hear things many miles off when he wouldn't listen to those around him.

So he did listen but what he didn't hear threatened to deafen him. There was no flurry of activity. No pen scribbled madly across the page, trying to record and keep up with a mind that sometimes seemed to work at the speed of light. The soft mutterings and sighs as thoughts came together had been absent for days. The sound that he missed most, though, was the laughter. Not the polite laughter they had shared that afternoon but the laughter that held the true delight and joy shared by friends. Swallowing past the tightness that had claimed his throat, Jim wondered if he had killed that sound forever.

"I thought we were friends," Blair said softly.

The echo of his own words hit him hard. "Of course we're...." Jim started but never finished. The dispirited blue eyes that looked up to meet his own dared him to continue.

"I've had some time to think about what you said, Jim." The anthropologist laughed quietly to himself. "And you said a lot, man, a lot of things that I didn't realize you were feeling."

"Blair, I..."

"No, it's okay. I needed to hear it." He got up from where he sat and moved to stand in the corner farthest from his partner. "I think I needed to know."

"What is it that you think you know, Chief?" Jim could feel his chest tighten as he waited for the answer.

"That in three years we really haven't gotten very far. That after three years you still don't know that I would never do anything to hurt you." He heard Jim start to protest. "Why else would you read it? You didn't trust me enough."

"I trust you, Blair," Ellison's words sounded almost desperate to his own ears. Watching the huddled figure of his guide, he felt another wall go up.

Sandburg just shook his head. "How can you trust someone you think has violated your friendship, your trust? I know that I couldn't. And I know that I would have a hard time calling that person friend." Pulling a leaf from one of the ferns, he slowly traced the pattern of veins that ran through it. The sentinel's eyes followed his guide's soft caress and cringed as the frond was suddenly crumpled into his partner's fist. "Guess I haven't held up my end of things, have I?"

"That's not true." Getting up, Jim closed the distance between them. "Please Blair, don't doubt yourself. It was me. I don't know what I expected to see when I read your dissertation. It just caught me off guard." He let the hand he had reached out fall away. He had seen the younger man tense.

"I never should have submitted it." Sandburg had finally turned to face him. "That was a mistake. Not when I knew you felt betrayed by it. But I wanted to believe you when you said I should hand it in."

Walls be damned. The detective took hold of both of his guide's shoulders. He wouldn't let the younger man turn away from him again. "It wasn't a mistake. I don't feel betrayed." He searched for the words that might heal the rift. "This is your life's work..." He saw Blair's eyes widen and the look of disappointment that filled them took his breath away.

Taking a step back, Sandburg ran his hands through his hair. "What's it going to take? I mean, really, when do you start to believe that I'm here for more than the dissertation?" There was no anger in the question, only resignation. "It's not my life's work. You are. Yeah, sure, you gave me a place to live and got me the position at the station. You really helped me out. But I'd like to think that I've given some back. Is that how you see this? Just some convenient situation that's all give and take?" He took another step back. "Is that how you see me?"

The cold reality that he might not be able to repair the damage he had done started to seep into the sentinel's stomach. Before he had a chance to answer his friend's question, Blair was already through the patio doors and heading for his room. Ellison waited to hear the angry slam of the glass doors. Another wall he wouldn't be able to pass through. The slam never came and within minutes he saw Sandburg head into the living room carrying a large box.

Depositing the carton onto the coffee table with a loud thump, Blair turned towards the balcony. Anger had robbed his face of any colour and he stood with his hands on his hips. "Here, these are yours." He reached down and grabbed a notebook. "Every damn one of them." The words shook with controlled fury as he thrust the book in the detective's direction.

Jim stepped through the doorway and back into the loft. Even from where he stood he knew that the box contained all of his partner's work. "These aren't mine, Chief," Ellison spoke as he took the journal. He ran a hand over the cover, feeling the many indentations made from the strong strokes of a pen. "These are yours," he said softly. "Your notes, your research."

"Maybe they were, in the beginning. But not anymore. They're just words on a page," Blair sighed. He took the book from his roommate and tossed it back into the box. "You can read them, burn them. Do whatever you want with them, Jim. They'll never be worth the price."

"The price?"

"Friendship. I meant it, I would rather that we were just friends."

"Chief, I..."

"No, look, I..ah..I really need to get out of here for a while. Take a walk or something." Blair went to his room and grabbed a jacket. "I'll see you later."


Two hours later, Jim still sat on the couch, the contents of the box spilling out across the small table. The lives of two men had been spread out before him. The subject they studied was secondary to what was written there. Blair Sandburg, student, anthropologist, scientist wrote with cold detachment. Tests and observations had been meticulously recorded and documented. Floppy disks were neatly attached to each book. He had found nothing damning there. Stacking the books once again, Ellison returned them to the box.

It was the second set of journals that had drawn his attention. Here was the Blair Sandburg he knew. Guide, partner, friend. The detective's heart ached as he turned each page. There was no mention of test results or facts to be tabulated to be found on these pages. Each entry was almost as if meant for a diary. Here were the writings of a guide, struggling to understand and keep safe his sentinel. As he read on Jim saw the great pains Blair had taken. Everything that Ellison ate, wore, came into contact with, had been carefully scrutinized. Nothing that could present a problem went unnoticed. But what he also found was the responsibility and guilt his friend heaped upon himself. Each time Blair had seen himself to fail it had been written down as if to drive the guilt a little deeper. These were the writings of the man he had questioned and doubted?

"And this is a surprise to you, Ellison?" How many times had he seen Blair agonize over a problem or apologize for something that had been beyond his control? Jim leaned back into the cushions of the couch and slowly massaged his chest with the heel of his hand. The tight ball of emotion that had lodged there was growing with each recriminating thought. "The kid puts everything into helping you and you throw it back at him."

His eyes fell upon the word "Golden" and he stopped to read the entire entry.

How could I have not seen this coming? Over the counter drugs send his senses into a tailspin, a designer drug like Golden could have killed him. I should have warned Jim, told him not to take this investigation. I could have talked to Simon. He wouldn't have let one of his men walk into a dangerous situation like that. But I did. I wasn't thinking. Thank God the blindness was only temporary. If it hadn't been, I don't think I could have lived with knowing it was my fault. But how do I test for something like this without endangering Jim in the process? There is so much I don't know. Would Jim put as much faith in me if he knew that it was mostly guesswork? One day that trust is going to get him killed. What am I doing here?

Glancing at the date of the entry, the detective realized that Blair must have written it not long after getting out of the hospital. The kid had come so close to dying. If not from an overdose of the drug then from some trigger happy cop who thought he was John Wayne. Memories of listening to the younger man's heart and breathing slow to an alarming rate, after he had collapsed into Jim's arms, flooded back. Their partnership and friendship had been in its early stages but even then the fear of losing Blair had almost paralyzed him. Sandburg had only started to become an important part of his life. Now...to lose Blair now would be agony.

After returning the second set of books to the carton, Ellison carried it back to Blair's room. The weight of what he held in his hands threatened to stagger him. There was no way that his friend would throw away everything he had worked for. The dissertation would be written. Those three letters would be added to his partner's name and no one would be as proud to stand and watch Blair Sandburg receive them. Now all that needed to be done was to tell Blair this. If he was still willing to listen. It didn't matter, he would make the kid listen. Grabbing his jacket and keys, Ellison bolted from the loft.


Jogging across the park, Jim spotted his partner sitting on the grass. Sandburg had been easy to track down. When Blair said he needed a walk this is where he went. Normal eyesight would never have been able to distinguish the form that leaned against the tree from the blackness of the night. Sentinel vision created a soft glow, a halo of white that reflected off of his partner's jacket. Or maybe that was just Blair, the detective mused.

"C'mon kid," Jim reached down a hand. "Simon called. There's a break in the Baxter case. I need you on this one."

Blair said nothing, staring at Ellison's hand. But the next words he heard made him look up into his friend's face. Even though he couldn't see the features in the darkenss there was no mistaking the warmth in that voice.

"Please Blair, I can't do this alone. I don't ever want to do this alone."

Sandburg reached up and took the hand offered him. "You'll never have to, Jim." He felt himself crushed against the bigger man's chest. "Not as long as I'm here."

Jim Ellison felt his friend's arms reach around him to return the embrace and thought his heart would burst. The walls that had separated him from Blair came down with a resounding crash and he could finally breathe again. He could never have asked or hoped for a better guide or brother.


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