The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Warning: Spoilers for TSbyBS.

Clearing the Air

by Madraf

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Jim Ellison had finally fallen into a restful, relaxing sleep, sheltered in the arms of his friend. Blair Sandburg wasn't quite as comfortable, sitting in the thin gown on the cold tile floor of his hospital room. Tear tracks had dried on his face and as healing as his conversation with Jim had been, he knew they needed to move before anyone came in. Jim, for all the emotional concessions he had made in the past hour, would not be pleased to be found in this vulnerable position. Blair smiled slightly. To think it wouldn't matter would be nice, but he wasn't that naive. He knew outwardly things would change little between the two men. Even now, just minutes after Jim had promised to do whatever it would take to set things right, Blair wondered how long the intention would last. He just couldn't see Jim putting up with the limelight of admitting to being a Sentinel. Blair leaned over to wake Jim but raised his head as the door to the room opened. Megan Conner's face hid none of her expressions at finding the two men on the floor. Blair saw the shock, anger and outright hate flash across. She opened her mouth to speak, but Blair cut her off.

"Megan," he whispered, "give us a few minutes, okay?"

Megan did an impressive imitation of Jim's jaw clenching and turned abruptly to walk out the door. Blair's heart ached, wondering if she would just keep walking, but he turned his attention back to his friend.

"Hey, Ellison," he called softly. "How about we get off this floor? I don't have the temperature controls you do, and this gown's just a little on the thin side."

Jim stirred slightly and Blair tried again, jostling his legs a little to return feeling to them as well as disturb his friend's position. "Jim, man, come on. Let's get you in the bed if you want to sleep. I don't doubt you could use it. I bet you'd find the bed a little more comfortable than the floor."

Jim opened his eyes and looked straight into the gentle blue eyes of his friend. Ellison's breath caught in his throat as he took in the wonderful sight of the man who had given so much, the friend he had almost lost again. Then he registered his position in Blair's lap and his head jerked up. Blair yanked his own head back to avoid a collision as Jim rose swiftly.

"Guess you're awake now," Blair said, smiling to himself at the blush rising in Jim's cheeks.

Jim reached down to pull Blair up from the floor and silently pushed the younger man back onto his hospital bed, drawing the sheets up around the patient before stepping back, still unable to meet his friend's gaze.

"Don't do this, Jim," Blair began when the door opened again and Megan stepped cautiously through. She glanced around the room, glared briefly at Jim and then smiled at Sandburg.

"Hey, Sandy," she said, moving to his other side to sit on the bed. She leaned forward to kiss him lightly and grasped his hand. "I'm sorry I couldn't get down here before now. Simon wouldn't let me take the time off." She shot a short, hard look at Ellison before turning her attention fully back to Blair. "How are you doing? Everyone's been worried about you."

"I'm okay," Blair said. He looked at his two obviously fighting friends and finally settled his gaze on Jim who had stepped back from the bed and was all but hiding in the corner of the room. Jim met his glance and finally spoke.

"How about I go find out when we can spring you from this joint and go home?" Jim asked, backing for the door. "I'll be back soon."

"Thanks, Jim," Blair said as the detective left the room leaving him and Megan in silence. Blair turned his attention back to Megan and was surprised at the shock on her face. She slipped off the bed and stepped back.

"You can't really mean to go back to the loft with him?" she asked, her voice betraying her horror as well as her shock.

"Well, I still haven't reached Naomi so my options are kind of limited at the moment," Blair said.

"You can come to my place," she offered. "If you don't like that option, Henri or Rafe would put you up. You can't go back to his place, Sandy. You can't. I don't care how badly he needs you there. You can't put yourself in that position again."

"It'll be okay," Blair promised. "We're working it out. Everything will be fine."

"Oh, because he apologized?" Sarcasm dripped from her voice. "You're smarter than this, Sandy. You're better than this. Nothing will change with him."

"It'll be okay," Blair repeated.

"No, it won't!" Megan shouted. "Nothing has changed. Nothing will change. Just because he needs you, you don't have to give up your life."

"I'm not giving up my life," Blair assured her, "because he doesn't really need me. He just doesn't know that yet."

"What are you talking about? You haven't seen him during the last few weeks, Sandy. He's falling apart. It's worse than when Alex came to town." She paced away and didn't see him blanche at the reference to the female sentinel.

"He thinks he needs me, but he doesn't. He just needs someone to watch his back. It doesn't have to be anyone in particular."

"What makes you say that?"

"He had these senses as a child," Blair said. "They were as normal to him as ours are to us, but something made him repress those memories and those abilities. Besides, it wouldn't make sense to be so dependent on one individual," Blair explained. "The sentinel protects the tribe. His well-being can't be dependent on only one other person. That would put the tribe, the sentinel and the individual in too much danger.

"Only," he continued, "I somehow didn't get that message across to Jim. I made him dependent on me. I just have to teach him he can rely on others."

"Who?" Megan asked.

"You, maybe?"

She shook her head. "I'm leaving in two months. I didn't ask to stay."

"Oh. Well, then Joel or Rafe or Brown. Anyone of those guys can back him up as long as they understand what to look

for."

"They won't, Sandy."

"What do you mean? Of course they will. They're his friends."

"And they've seen how he treats his friends," Megan said. She looked down, unable to meet his eyes. "They know that story about your dis actually being a novel and being released inadvertently isn't true. They figured out about Jim and his senses." Megan raised her eyes and took her seat on the side of his bed again. "They can't believe he'd do this to his best friend."

"He didn't do anything," Blair insisted. "He didn't ask me to hold that press conference."

"He didn't stop it. He didn't tell the truth."

Blair put a gentle hand on hers. "Megan, I never gave him the chance."

"Because you knew he wouldn't do it. You knew he'd let you throw your life away to keep his privacy."

This time, Blair looked away. "Maybe," he admitted. "He wasn't talking options. And I admit to being pretty pissed at him. But, Megan, I'm not innocent in this. As much as I thought I was when I left, I know I'm not."

"What did you do in four years to deserve treatment like you've gotten?" Megan's question was honest and heartfelt. She watched his face and looked deep in his eyes for an answer.

"I forgot how hard it can be to trust," he said. He settled back onto the raised head of the bed and held her hand in his. "And I didn't push. I used to push him. I used to fight with him. Then just a few months before Alex and a short while before you came to town, Jim suddenly got a bug up his ass and decided he needed some time alone. He probably did. I mean he'd been living on his own for a long time and all of a sudden here I was in his personal space. He'd worked alone a lot longer and all of a sudden there was someone else to think about and worry about. Anyway, Simon and I followed him and it didn't go well. But I think that's when it started. All of a sudden I wasn't as sure of where I stood with him so when he packed up my stuff and kicked me out, I didn't dig, didn't fight. I didn't try to find out what was really wrong. When he told me he didn't know if he could trust me that morning, I let it go. I let him make the next move.

"He can't do that, Megan. He doesn't know how. All his life, people have betrayed him. His mother left and never contacted him again. His father--I don't know what the hell his father did, but it was enough to make him deny himself, to suppress his abilities. His mission failed because it was a set-up. He wasn't supposed to survive either. His partner disappeared. His marriage failed. You've probably heard about his girlfriends."

"You never did any of those things," Megan pointed out.

"But I did," Blair insisted. "When we first met, I kept going on about movie deals and book deals and being famous. I thought he understood it was all a joke, that I would never do anything like that, but when it all came out, he had no reason to think I was any different."

"You're his friend."

"Enemies don't betray you," Blair reminded her. "Friends betray you." That sat in silence for a while. Megan considering his words but unwilling to give up her anger at Jim so easily.

"Why didn't you just say it was a book that was inadvertently released as your dissertation? Why call it a fraud?"

"Jim needed the pressure off," Blair explained. "Just saying it was a work of fiction would still have left too much room for speculation. No one would expect me to call it fraudulent."

"What other options are there?"

"Well, it was never officially turned in to the committee. There might be a way to work around that."

"Would you turn it in?"

"No," Blair laughed. "Not this one. Maybe I can pull some research together on another topic. There's a ton of information in my notes that doesn't deal with Jim's senses. A friend has offered to set me up teaching in an inner city private high school." Silence settled between them.

"So you won't stay with him long?"

"I don't know. We're supposed to talk about options. I'm not walking into this blind, Megan," Blair promised. "There are some serious issues Jim and I have to get through. But most importantly, I have to get him to understand he can do this on his own." He sighed. "And I'll have to find some way of getting his friends to help him." He looked at her. "Can I get a little help on that?"

"I'll think about it," Megan whispered. She leaned forward to kiss him. "You think about this: if you need another option, you can always come see me."

"And what would I do there?"

She shrugged. "You could always be a kept man." She smiled at him and turned to go.

Blair returned the smile and leaned back wearily as she left the room. Megan paused just outside the door, amazed at the forgiveness she found in Sandburg. She just wanted some time alone now to think about what he'd said. She knew a little about Jim's past--gossip at the station as well as what she'd witnessed. She shook herself from heavy thoughts, stepped away from the door, and headed for the park next to the hospital for some fresh air and thinking space.

She saw Jim sitting on a bench outside the hospital's main entrance. She stopped, watching his slumped shoulders as he stared at the ground. She started to turn away but feared he had zoned on something. Leaving him like that might be the one thing Sandy wouldn't forgive. Megan walked slowly toward the man.

The End.

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Madraf.