Summary: Blair has a hard time dealing with the aftermath of a tragic accident. WARNING: Semi-graphic description of an auto accident.
Note: '//' indicates character's thoughts
Jim glanced over at his normally verbose partner wondering at the unusual silence that seemed to pervade the trucks cab. Jim had noticed a slight change in Sandburg over the last few months, and frankly it was beginning to worry him quite a bit. The two of them had worked on some pretty dark cases lately the most recent being a murder case involving the deaths of several young school aged children. More and more Jim had noticed that Blair would almost slip into a quiet stupor. Shutting himself down almost. It totally unnerved Jim when Blair would do this. It was almost as if it reminded him of something, but he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. Jim would practically have to shake Blair out of it, only to be greeted by a slightly confused guide. Blair would hastily apologize; claiming his was just tired, but Jim knew there was more to it than that. Jim knew Blair tended to take these cases to heart. He had problems "checking his feelings at the door" as Jim as admonished him to do on several occasions. With someone with Blair's emotional make up, the darker side of life always proved to be overwhelming in its intensity, proving sometimes to be to much for the individual to take. Jim hoped that wasn't going to be the case with his young friend, but what did he honestly expect? If something didn't change soon Jim feared Blair would begin to slip into a depression.
"Hey buddy, whaddya say we grab some take out on the way home. I don't know about you but I'm too tired to even see straight to try and cook" Jim glanced over at his guide to see if his words had registered at all.
"Yeah, that sounds good to me, even though I gotta say, as a sentinel man, if you're too tired to see straight the world must be coming to an end." Blair quipped.
"Funny Darwin, you're just a regular comedian aren't you." Jim depanned, secretly pleased to see some of the old Blair resurface even if just for a moment.
"Hey man, somebody's gotta be the funny man around here, cause with your sense of humor, all would be lost" Blair countered with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Jim sighed, he wished there was something he could do to help his young friend. But as it was, he was quickly running out of ideas. Maybe he could put in a request for a little time off. It wasn't as if the two of them weren't way overdue for a little R&R anyway. They had been working nonstop for the past three weeks, and it was beginning to wear down on both of them.
"Jim!! JIMM!! Man watch out!" Blair's startled cries immediately snapped the sentinel out of his half zone, jerking him abruptly back to the present. With little time to spare, Jim managed to swiftly guide the truck around the object of Blair's distress. A two-car pile up was sprawled out before them, taking up nearly 3/4ths of the street. Pulling over the truck over, he quickly glanced at his partner "Call it in." was all he said before he was out the truck door and on his feet running back to the scene of the accident.
As he grew closer to the wreckage, his stomach turned as he took in the gruesome sight before him. Apparently one of the cars appeared to have run through a red light crashing into the other vehicle. The stench of blood was almost unbearable and the sentinel had to practically turn his sense of smell all the way down. Turning up his hearing he scanned the wreckage, attempting to ascertain if any lives were left to be saved. A loud voice from directly behind him nearly made him jump out of his skin, quickly he dialed his hearing back down.
"Jim, man, gosh I forgot you'd have your hearing up. I'm so sorry. Just try and turn back the pain dial man." Blair soothed while gently rubbing the larger man's shoulder. "It's okay, I'm alright chief. I was just starting to scan when you came up. Wait a sec--" Jim tilted his head as he picked up the sound of a faint heartbeat. "I am hearing something, over here." Jim quickly moved toward the stationwagon which had landed upside-down a few feet away from the Grand Am. Blair was on his heels as he began to try to pry the back door open. Finally it budged and he saw the child to whom the heartbeat belonged. The sentinel gently ghosted his fingers over the unconscious child's body.
"Blair, hold the door open for me, while I try to get her out of here. From what I can tell she's pretty banged up. Blair--Blair are you listening to me?" Jim turned to look at his partner, concern creasing his brow as he took in Blair's increasingly pale pallor.
"Huh--uh, yeah, I'm with you. Here let me help." Blair managed to stammer out as he leant down to help Jim unstrap the little girl from the seatbelt. The two men kept her as still as possible as they slowly pulled her lifeless little body from the wreckage.
Blair tried not to look at her parents in the front seat, both who had obviously died upon impact. The front window of the stationwagon was shattered and both bodies had apparently made contact with it. Blair squeezed his eyes shut, swallowing back the bile that threatened to make an untimely appearance. Focusing on the task at hand, he gripped the little girl and slowly slid her down to lay flat on the ground using his jacket as a pillow for her small head, while the sentinel went to check on the passengers of the other vehicle. The little girl began to shudder and spasm as she came violently awake. Her dark brown eyes slowly looked on to Blair's and immediaetly began to tear up.
"Where's my mommy." She whispered the pain she was in evident in her small voice. "What happened, where's my daddy?" She then gasped as her small body was yet again wracked with painful spasms.
"Shh, it's going to be alright. I know you're hurting, but help is coming soon. You just sit here and keep me company while we wait." Blair spoke in a soothing tone, usually reserved for Jim when helping guide his sentinel. Gazing down at the small girl, he took in her features amazed at how beautiful she already was at such a young age. Long curly dark brown hair framed the small round brown face. Her eyes were the most interesting part of her though, Blair thought to himself, they were so dark, and he could easily see him self reflected in them. Slowly her eyes closed, then opened again.
"My name is Blair, tell me your name." He asked hoping to keep the child conscious long enough for the paramedics to be able to check her out.
"Kaylan Jones. I'm--I'm 5yrs. Old." Kaylan gasped out. "I'm very pleased to meet you Kaylan---Kaylan honey, can you hear me , Kaylan open your eyes for me!!" Blair yelled as the little girl eyes slid closed for the last time, her injuries proving to be too severe. Blair tightened his grip on Kaylan's small arm, sobbing softly "NO, not you too, please--- please don't die on me too." Just like the little children in the Archer murder case, this poor little soul had been lost to violence. He swore he could feel the pain and anguish of little Kaylan as her life force ebbed away. The despair threatened to pull him under with her as she died. Gasping Blair somehow managed to jerk free of the feeling. But the hurt seemed to remain. Once again a life had been senselessly snatched away far to young. It was more than Blair could stand. Oblivious to the lights and sound of the approaching sirens signaling the arrival of the police and the ambulance; Blair began to shut down. Unable to stop himself, he entered his own private zone and blocked the rest of the world out.
Jim rubbed his hands over his face as the weariness of the day began to press against him. He would never, ever forget finding his guide seated on the asphalt clinging to the little girl as she had died. Jim had been search through the other wrecked car after finding another faint heartbeat. He had tried to keep the poor woman company as they waited for the ambulance to arrive, but it proved to be in vain. She too succumbed to her injuries, adding to the already high list of fatalities. Jim had then moved away towards Blair and the little girl, only to be shocked at what he found. Blair was sitting there numbly holding on to the girl whom Jim didn't have to scan to know that she had died. What Jim would never forget though, was the look on Blair's face. It was obvious the young man had went deep into shock, for he was so still and pale for a split second Jim had panicked fearing the worst.
Simon's voice snapped Jim out of his thoughts, and back to the brutal reality before him. "Jim, Jim! You're not zoning on me are you!" Simon harshly whispered, glancing around to see if anyone had noticed his best detective standing on the sidewalk staring off into space. Simon had arrived on the scene shortly after hearing that Sandburg had been the one to call it in. Trouble seemed to always follow his detective and police observer, and he had come to the accident site to make sure the two of them were all right. That's when he spotted Jim standing on the sidewalk, appearing to for all intents and purposes to be zoned.
"No, sorry Captain, Just lost in thought--this has been hard Simon. If you would have seen Blair, especially with what all just went down, after the Archer mess." Jim trailed off as he saw a look of understanding cross Simon's face as the older man gazed over at the still figure hunched in the passenger side of Jim's truck.
"I know Jim, I know," The big captain sighed knowing how hard Blair was going to be taking this. "Since you and Blair have already given your statements to the officers in charge, why don't you head home. See if you can get some rest and try to put this day behind you, and take the next few days of. And Jim, I'm going to make an appointment with the department shrink for Blair. I want no arguments on this either Jim, you are not the only one who has noticed the changes in Blair." Simon admonished as Jim turned around looking as if he were about to protest. Noticing the slump of the sentinel's shoulders, Simon placed a reassuring hand on his friend's shoulders. "Jim, I'm worried about him too, but I'm sure once he's had a few sessions with Dr. Kelly, he'll probably began to feel better."
"I hope you're right Simon, I really do." Jim sighed. " Thank you the time off sir, I'm sure we both could use it." With a wave of his hand, Jim started back towards the truck to take his weary guide home.
Blair remained unresponsive to Jim and his questions the entire ride home to the loft. Upon arriving home, the young man unlocked the front door, and immediately headed towards his bedroom shutting the door firmly behind him. Jim sighed deeply to himself, /Well, I guess I ought to be thankful he didn't lock the darn thing/. As if on cue, the sentinel heard the latch on the French doors lock quietly, signally in no uncertain terms that Blair wanted to be left alone. Jim hesitated wondering briefly if he should storm over and kick the doors in and grab his guide shaking some sort of life into him. Instead Jim opted to leave Blair alone right now. Glancing at his watched he noted in was now 10pm, and neither Blair nor him had had any dinner. With another sigh he strode over to the phone and half-heartedly began placing his delivery order to the pleasant voiced woman who answered the phone.
Blair sat on his futon bed slowly rubbing at his temples in a vain attempt to staunch the pain that was beginning to grow. He knew he was getting a migraine, and should probably take something, but right now he just didn't care. Why should he be spared the pain of a stupid headache, when a small girl had suffered then died from a pain far worse than his own. Clenching his jaw, he struggled to once again squelch to flow of emotion that threatened to overcome him. Closing his eyes, he lay down on the bed and once again began to slip to the place where emotions could not hurt him. Over the last few weeks he had taken refuge in his ability to shut himself down and still be able to function. He knew that no matter how gruesome or difficult the cases he helped Jim with became, he had to stick it out. He needed to be tough for Jim's stake, for the sentinel needed his guide, and Blair was not going to let an emotional breakdown keep him from his role. Blair began to take deep calming breaths and allowed himself to float away, unharmed and unscathed by his bruised emotional psyche, soon exhausted beyond belief, he drifted into a deep unnatural sleep.
Jim automatically jerked awake as his internal time clocked awakened him promptly at 6am. Years of work in the Special Forces had trained him to be able to wake himself up at the drop of a hat. Slowly rising from the bed, he trained his senses on the young man in the bedroom below him. He found Blair's heartbeat and honed in on his breathing. Jim immediately relaxed as he soon realized the young man was merely sleeping. As he made his way downstairs, Jim reflected on the events of the previous night. Once the Chinese food had arrived, Jim had paid the young deliveryman and closed the front door. Setting the food down on the kitchen table, he had then walked over to Blair's room and knocked softly on the closed doors. "Chief, I ordered us some food, why don't you come on out for a bit and eat a little." Upon receiving no answer, Jim stretched his senses out over his young guide and realized belatedly that the young man was deep in sleep. Jim had then decided to leave the young man alone, and let him get his much-needed rest. Jim had then eaten his dinner alone, and gone to bed, to tired himself to even give the kitchen his customary quick once over. He had soon fallen into a troubled and uneasy sleep.
After showering and shaving, Jim went upstairs and began to dress, pondering over in his mind how he was going to be able to convince Blair to attend the sessions with Dr. Kelly. He knew it would mostly be an uphill battle with the guide, but somehow Jim would convince him how necessary it was. As Jim came back downstairs he began to frown as he realized Blair had not awakened yet. Once again scanning his guide, the sentinel began to realize something was not right. Blair's heart rate and breathing patterns were way to slow for even deep sleep. With his heart practically pounding into his throat, Jim strode over quickly to his friend's bedroom doors. This time, without any hesitation, Jim kicked the doors in and stopped dead in his tracks. Blair was lying down on the bed still wearing the clothes from the day before obviously having been to exhausted to change. But that was the least of Jim's concerns as he took in the extremely pale countenance of his partner. Blair lay deathly still, barely breathing. Blair hadn't even flinched at the sound of the Jim kicking in his doors. Reaching down to his friend, Jim gently shook Blair's shoulder hoping to rouse him from his deep slumber. "Blair, buddy come on time to wake up." Worried when he got no response, he sat on the bed and began to shake the man harder.
"BLAIR, snap out of this now! Wake up!! Buddy come on, wake up for me here!" Blair just continued to lie there, not moving.
Getting unreasonably angry as fear and frustration began to mount within the sentinel, Jim hauled Blair into an upright position and began slapping the young man gently on one side of his face. "Come on Blair, please kid, wake up for me. You know you're scaring about 20 years of my life right now." Jim's pleas continued to fall on deaf ears, as Blair hung limply in his arms. Abruptly with sickening clarity, it dawned on Jim what it was that this situation reminded him of. /A ZONE OUT!!/ Jim thought to himself. /That's what this is, Blair's zoning. I zone when I focus too much on one sense over another. Blair is so sensitive to other's pain, could he be zoning on that? Maybe his empathy is heightened, just as my 5 senses are. That'd make sense, for the guide to balance out his sentinel in this way/ Jerking himself out of his thoughts, Jim gently laid Blair back down on the futon bed. He placed his hand on both sides of the young guide's face, taking a deep calming breath began to speak to Blair in the same soft voice that Blair would use to guide him. Soothingly he continued to speak to his friend, urging him to come out of it, to come back to his sentinel.
After what seemed like hours, but had roughly been only 15 or 20 minutes, Jim began to sense Blair was coming around. Blair's heart rate returned to normal and his respiration also began increasing. A few minutes later, Blair slowly opened his eyes, confusion apparent in them as he tried to ascertain why Jim was in his room holding on to his face. Blinking, he realized as he struggled to lift the heavy fog covering his brain, that Jim appeared to be VERY worried. "Jim man," Blair managed to rasp out /man, why does my throat feel so full of cotton/, "Jim wha's wrong? Som'thin happen??" Blair questioned his voice fading in and out on him.
"Yeah, you could say that." Jim ground out; suddenly feeling very tired as the adrenaline rush from the morning's events began to quickly fade out on him. "How are you feeling buddy?"
"Man, woozy. What happened? Why am I still in my clothes from yesterday?" Blair was beginning to panic as Jim hesitated in answering him. "Jim man, come on what happened."
"Why don't you tell me, Sandburg." Jim snapped. He knew Blair didn't deserve his anger but too many emotions were rolling around in the sentinel's mind and they needed and outlet. "You wouldn't even speak to me after the accident yesterday. You come here into your room and lock the door, shutting me out. Then this morning I come in here and find you practically comatose. Your respiration and heart rate were so low, I could barely register them!" Jim ranted his anger growing with each word he uttered. "You were under so deep, I didn't think I could get you back. Blair?" Jim paused; now sure how Blair would take what he had to tell him next. "Blair you were zoned. I think you had dealt with too much sorrow and death the last few months. I had noticed before how you would seem too fade out on me, losing touch with what was going on around you. You never responded to anything but my voice." Jim stopped realizing Blair hadn't uttered a word since he'd begun his speech. Fearing the worst, that Blair might be zoning again, Jim knelt down in front of his friend and tried catching the young man's eyes.
"Blair, buddy, did you hear anything I just told you?" Jim asked his friend softly.
"Yeah---I'm sorry, I just, I mean, I can't believe this, but you're right. I sense that you are. I've been shutting down on purpose, or at least I thought I was doing it on purpose. You're always telling me I need to check my emotions at the door. So that's what I've been trying to do. To numb my feelings, they were beginning to be to much for me to handle." Blair paused looking into his sentinel's eyes, feeling guilt at the fear he had caused for his friend. Looking back down at the bedroom floor he continued, "I didn't mean to scare you, I swear. It just got easier and easier to slip away. Last night was the last straw. I--I couldn't take it. When that little gi-when Kaylan died, it was almost as if I died with her. It hurt so much man." Blair stopped again, his voice shaking as his emotion fought to rise to the surface. Tears began to fall from the guide's face as he looked once again into his sentinel's eyes.
"I failed Jim." Blair whispered.
"Failed how Blair, what do you think you've done wrong." Jim asked, his heart aching, for having to witness his friend in such a distraught state. "You've failed no one guide."
"You're wrong, I shouldn't have let her die Jim. I'm supposed to be "Shaman of the Great City" aren't I. How could I let her die. I should have done something Jim. Man I actually FELT her go! Do you have any idea how horrible that felt?" Blair was openly sobbing now finally allowing the emotions he had kept pent in for so long to come through.
Jim reached over and grabbed his friend into a bone crushing bearhug. "Blair listen to me. There was nothing you could have done to save that little girl. Nothing. But you did do the one thing that she needed most at that time. You held her and stayed with her. When she died she felt safe and protected, because YOU were with her. Do you hear me Blair, do you understand what I'm trying to tell you." When he felt Blair nod in the affirmative he continued. "But you can't keep bottling things up inside like this Blair. Regardless of what I've told you in the past, you can't check your emotions at the door. You need to talk to if or me not me, Simon or anyone of our friends down at the station. You know we are all here for you don't you." Again Blair nodded, to overcome with his emotions to speak. Slowly pulling Blair back so he could look in the young man's face, he began admonishing him. "And don't ever let me find you zoning like that again! Or going deep in to meditation or what ever you want to call it. What if you had died? What if you'd been alone when you'd done this, huh? Blair you were barely breathing. Please buddy, don't do that again." Jim's own voice began shaking as he ran out of words to express his fear.
"I'm so sorry, Jim I won't I promise!" Blair stated geniually sorry for the worry he had caused his sentinel. "Alright, I believe you. But there is one more thing," Jim paused wondering how to tell his guide that Simon wanted him to see the department shrink. He decided to be straightforward. "Blair, Simon wants you to go see Dr. Kelly. And I have to admit, I think it's a good idea." Ignoring the look of disgust that crossed Blair's face, Jim continued, "Look, I know you might not like the idea, but after what's happened here this morning, and how you've been acting the last few months. I think you need to see her."
Blair pulled away from the sentinel and began pacing the floor of his room. "Why Jim, why do I need to go. Just because I've been a little distracted lately? Man, that's no cause for sending me to Kelly man, no cause at all." Blair complained clearly upset by the whole idea.
"You're kidding me right," Jim couldn't believe his ears, the kid had been comatose one minute, and now had the nerve to claim he didn't need help. "Listen, you need to go. Something is wrong here and you need to get it fixed!"
"I need to get it fixed!" Blair was shouting now, his emotions on a rollercoaster ride. "What, it's okay for you to keep things bottled up inside and push everyone away when it suits you, but let me try and all of a sudden, I need to get my head fixed?!?" Blair couldn't believe the turn of events, on minute Jim was comforting him, next minute telling him he was going loony.
As if reading his mind Jim spoke, his voice hard with surpressed anger. " Look Blair, don't turn this around on me, we are talking about you here. I know your hurting, Simon knows your hurting. Why can't you get it through your thick skull that you have friends who care about you. Do you honestly think I would suggest something like this to merely hurt you?" Jim asked Blair. When his guide refused to look at him, Jim gently lifted the young man's face to see into his eyes. "Do you Blair?"
Blair finally gazed into his sentinel's eyes reading the honesty and compassion in the older man's expression. Looking away he finally replied "No, I don't think you ask me to do this to hurt me. I just----man I just hate shrinks. I went to enough of them as a kid. But if you feel this strongly about it, I'll go. Just don't ask me to like it."
Jim smiled a little at his partner's slight attempt at humor. "I'm sure you'll manage. Now, why don't you go shower and get changed. I'll have breakfast ready in a few minutes." Noticing how pale Blair still appeared he paused, "Are you sure you're feeling better, maybe I ought to take you in to the hospital to get checked out." He was quickly interrupted by a vehement reply.
"No way man, I agreed to see Dr. Kelly, but you aren't getting me anywhere near a hospital. Besides why can't you just check my vitals? I'm sure you can sense how I'm doing." Blair retorted in huff.
"I know I can sense how your doing, why do you think I'm considering taking you in?" Jim countered.
Blair, feeling thoroughly chastised acquiesced, "I'm sorry, your right. I'm still feeling a little off. But please, I'm not up to sitting around the ER for 3 hours just to be told to take it easy and rest. Please Jim, all I want to do is eat and then crash okay?" Blair pleaded with his friend, not above using Blair patented puppy dog eyes to get his way.
"Fine", Jim growled, giving into Blair as always. "Breakfast ready in ten."
Getting out of the truck, Jim paused to breathe in the freshness of the spring air. Man, he loved this time of the year. Everything was fresh and new. It was a bright sunny day, and the air was warm and soothing as a gentle breeze lightly caressed his shoulders. The sky was clear and a beautiful azure blue. He truly felt at peace, as he strolled up the footpath in front of Rainer University in search of his guide.
He finally picked up on his guides' heartbeat, and used it as a beacon to locate his friend. He spotted Blair sitting next to a young blonde TA, laughing at something the attractive young woman had said. Jim smiled /Table leg, chief, gotta watch that table leg/, he thought to himself as he watched Blair do a fair job of flirting with the beauty. He was happy to see his friend acting more like his old self. It had been to long since he'd noticed Blair just kick back and relax. Blair was finally starting to come around.
It had been a month since Jim had discovered Blair could zone on the emotions of the people around him, not to mention his own. Blair had kept true to his promise and had gone to see Dr. Kelly several times. The sessions had slowly helped the young man to deal with his depression regarding the death of Kaylan, and the other young children. It wasn't easy though, as Blair suffered from many nightmares, and occasionally would start to withdraw again, threatening to zone. But Jim was patient with him, and helped Blair through the worst of it all, standing by him and supporting him as he said he would.
Blair had been nervous to learn about his zoning abilities. Jim had relaxed his guide by joking that now HE could come up with a few tests for Blair for a change. Blair of course had jumped on that with great zeal, thinking up ways they could test his ability. Jim had merely shaken his head in mock agitation, secretly happy to see his guide bouncing on his feet again.
A voice lulled him away from his thoughts. "Jim man, hey Jim come on back to me big guy, you're starting to draw attention to yourself!"
Jim jumped at his guide's voice and gazed down at his friend. "I'm alright, just thinking."
"Wow man, if it takes that much effort for you to think, maybe you'd best leave that job alone." Blair quipped, dodging the swat that was aimed for the back of his head. Laughing he looked towards his friend. "Seriously, everything okay?"
Jim smiled, feeling for the first time in ages, that everything WAS fine. "Yeah, I'm fine, just enjoying the day. Came by to see if you wanted to head out to lunch. My treat of course."
Blair's eyes grew round at the unexpected offer of free food. "Sounds good to me man I know this new place off 1st and Vine that serves this really good goat?"
"Ugggh," Jim interrupted, "Spare me the details chief, I was think more along the lines of Wonderburger."
"Oh why don't you just inject the lard into your midsection, and save it the trouble of trying to be ingested." Blair grumbled as they head towards Jim's truck.
"Hey, that'd take all the fun out of it." Jim grinned mischievously.
The sound of laughter could be heard as the sentinel and guide headed on their way.