Disclaimer: 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.

Graduation

by Shedoc

********************
Jim Ellison looked at Simon Banks incredulously.

"It's a twelve week course, sir," Jim didn't try to disguise his surprise and Banks nodded.

"Sandburg doesn't even like guns. I had to practically break his arm every time to get him to pick one up," Jim continued.

"I know, I know! According to the Instructors he put in a twelve-hour day each day. Read all the theory, and practiced his ass off. Worked so damn hard to get it right that he's qualified in nine," Banks held his hands up to stop the protests, "Seeing as you're due for your refresher this weekend they want you to go on a simulation with your new partner. Before he graduates a full three weeks early. And they're not gonna tell Blair that's why you're there."

"This is nuts – he hates guns. We were both counting on him flunking the first time through."

"Well I guess he's stepped past all that," Simon said unsympathetically, "On the other hand are you going to get him to move out?"

"Nope," Jim leaned back in his chair; "We lived together all through the 'observer only' years. So now we're partners officially it should be no different. I hope."

"You hope, you said it," Banks nodded and the phone rang. He made shooing gestures at Jim who nodded and left. No point in trying to explain to Simon that the concept of territory and personal space was long discarded by Sentinel and Guide. The loft had been a little empty these last weeks – despite the fact that Jim had enjoyed the peace.

The Academy range was on the outskirts of the city. It had its own barracks and all the usual buildings and shooting ranges. It also had a little area called 'Sim Town' – an apartment block fitted for surveillance and stealth missions. SWAT crews rappelled down it regularly, officers hunted each other through it with paint guns for their refresher courses, trainees learnt how to sweep a room or corridor, and how to secure a building.

Jim pulled his car in behind the barracks and pulled his backpack off the seat as he got out. He shut the door and turned around, bumping into the truck as he startled.

"Chief!" he exclaimed, "Dammit, you startled me!"

"Sorry," Blair Sandburg grinned. He was wearing jeans, sneakers and a polo shirt, his hair pulled back in a ponytail.

"I guess you weren't paying attention," he fell into step with Jim, "Where you staying man?"

Jim pulled out a crumpled printout and handed it to Blair who read it and nodded.

"Top floor, end of the corridor on the south side," Blair handed back the printout, "It's a single room – the place will be filling up this weekend."

"Yeah, refresher time for all us cops on the street," Jim agreed and opened the door. Blair stopped and Jim frowned over at him, a little puzzled.

"I've got practice to get to, Jim, so I'll see you at dinner tonight," Blair nodded and turned, jogging off towards the range. Jim shrugged and headed inside to stow his gear.

Twenty minutes later he was out and heading for the range, aiming to get some long range target practice in while the trainees were at PT and the others were still arriving. He didn't want to have to explain the accuracy of his shots to startled observers.

There was only one instructor at the range, and he let Jim check out a weapon and ammunition without fuss. There was someone in the cubicle at the end, firing steadily at a single target in the middle distance. The noise was a little distracting and the earmuffs didn't entirely stop them. Jim checked the sights on his weapon and sent the target way back before centering himself and focusing his vision to accurately place his shots in the center of the man shaped target. To his right the guy shot steadily at the same target, reloading quickly at the end of each clip. Jim reloaded and put another series into the kill zone, using his sight to place each shot carefully. Then he retrieved the tattered target. To the right another clip was emptied and then reloaded. Jim frowned a little and used his sight to look at the other guy's target. The shooter had outlined the man shape at each zone, regularly spacing his bullets. Jim put the gun away and walked over to the end cubicle as the target came whirring back on its little clip.

Blair sighed heavily as he put the gun down and pulled the target from its clip. He pulled a fresh target from underneath the little table, clipped it up and sent it out again without looking around. This one had a man holding a woman hostage – all you could see of the shooter was his head, a shoulder and hand, and a leg. A new magazine went in and Blair steadied himself before firing. Jim used his sight to check the target as each shot went in – shoulder, hand and thigh with pinpoint accuracy. Jim waited until Blair put the gun down and then dropped a hand on Blair's shoulder – enjoying the scare he gave his partner.

"Nice shots, Sandburg," he complimented and Blair frowned at his new target.

"I suppose so," Blair's voice was not happy, "At least they weren't fatal wounds."

Jim left his hand on Blair's shoulder and looked at the grouping again.

"Still not a fan of guns huh?" he commiserated. In a way, asking Blair to do this course was asking him to violate his beliefs.

"Did I ever tell you about Benny?" Blair shrugged Jims hand off, "We were four and we found his brother's illegal hand gun, which he'd hidden under his mattress in the room he shared with his baby brother. Mom was so anti-guns and she would have freaked if she'd known I'd even seen the gun, so we sneaked off into the cornfield next to Benny's house. We were looking into the barrel and going pow! Pow! Benny took it straight through the eye. They found me sitting next to him, holding his hand and crying."

"I didn't know," Jims voice echoed his shock, and Blair looked up without really meeting Jims eyes. Pain marred his posture, but after a moment he straightened up and took a breath.

"It's ok; I know," Blair shrugged and put the empty clips into the tray, took the gun and gear back to the instructor who asked for the targets too.

"Gonna mark my homework, sir?" Blair grinned at him.

"Gonna use you for target practice you mean," the instructor growled in reply, though Jim didn't think he really meant it.

"Dinner's on in ten minutes, Sandburg – you'd better hurry up," the man added, "I'm closing up for the night."

"Yes sir," Blair headed out, with Jim an unaccustomed step behind.

Dinner was noisy – Jim winced more than once as the noise in the communal dining hall reached nearly intolerable levels for his Sentinel hearing. Blair was subdued all through dinner, and was collected by some of his classmates afterwards to study. One of his instructors came over and sat next to Jim.

"It's Detective Ellison, isn't it?" the man asked. He was a tall, well-muscled man in his late forties with short-cropped hair and a nose that had been broken at least twice.

"I'm Carl Webber," he introduced himself and Jim shook hands.

"Pleased to meet you, sir," Jim replied, and Carl grinned.

"Call me Carl," Carl leaned on an elbow, "We haven't said anything to Blair about early graduation – this weekend he has to pass the final simulation."

"And you'd rather I didn't say anything," Jim surmised.

"You got it," Carl agreed.

"I can do that," Jim nodded.

"Good, I'll see you tomorrow at Sim Town," Carl stood and walked away.

Jim stood with eight other people in the decrepit foyer of Sim Town while Carl called the roll and looked around. Blair entered with a female instructor – who was introduced as Emily O'Brien. She proceeded to brief them while Blair helped Carl set up the gear.

"This is the building known as hostage central. It's a multiple story building with plenty of corridors and rooms to get lost in. The simulation you nine will run through today is fairly run of the mill. You have chased an armed perp into this building and must locate and disarm him. To keep it interesting we'll give the perp a paint gun. If he – or she – kills you then you fail the simulation. We'll run you through solo first and then in pairs. Any questions?" Emily asked. There were none.

"Good," Emily smiled, "We'll issue you with your gear and organize the roster. This is Blair Sandburg – one of our trainees here at the moment. He'll be participating today and has volunteered to go first."

"Yep – you just keep saying that," Blair muttered and Emily grinned.

"The building is wired for observation, so you'll be able to watch each other – and so will we," she patted Blair on the back, "Let's begin, shall we?"

Jim stood where he could see the monitors as Blair went in alone. He watched his partner sweep through the corridors, gun pointing at the floor, moving carefully and listening hard. The perp was stalking Blair through the building, leading him to a trap.

"Watch it rookie – he's gonna splat you," one of the cops murmured and Jim nodded in agreement. Part of him wondered if Blair was nervous, knowing that Jim was watching him.

Blair froze on the screen, sensing the trap and faded away from the perp, managing to draw the perp out and chopping the paint gun out of his grip before bailing him up against the wall and slapping the cuffs on.

In the control room the cops gave a round of applause and Blair holstered the gun before undoing the cuffs and handing back the paint gun.

"Of course, you wouldn't do that in real life," Emily said over the p.a. and Blair waved up at the camera with a smile before heading out. The next cop went in. Blair entered the room and went to stand with Emily.

"You need to point that gun where you're looking, rookie," one of the other cops said without looking over, "Some day you'll get splattered."

"In all the simulations we've run, no-one has managed to so much as wing him," Carl didn't bother looking around either, and Blair looked down at the floor. Jim moved over to stand near him, watching the other cops go through the simulation. Whoever was playing the part of the criminal did it differently each time, not giving the cops a chance to gain an edge through their watching.

Jim ran through the simulation at normal speed, not using his senses. Blair gave him a long look but didn't say anything. At twelve o'clock everyone had run through the simulation once and Carl and Emily shut the building down for lunch.

"Lunch ends at one thirty – be back in here by then and we'll draw straws for partners," Emily told everyone.

"What? I thought the idea was to practice with our partners," Blair's antagonist protested and Carl shrugged.

"You work with each other every day," he butted in. Emily smiled and walked out, followed by most of the others.

Blair got teamed with his antagonist, a Detective Walter Riley. Walter was an older man, who wore a sports coat and always chewed on a toothpick. Jim wondered if Walter would swallow the battered splinter in excitement. Emily and Carl volunteered Blair to go first and Walter whined about it until some anonymous wit asked if he wanted someone to guarantee his safety. That shut the older man up and got him moving.

Jim had a chance to admire the way Blair gave way to the experienced cop. He did his job and kept his personality subdued. It came to Jim that Blair had done that on occasion around Jim - especially when Jim was at his angriest.

Blair kept to the left of Walter and two paces behind, moving quickly to keep up with the older man. Walter directed the action as they swept along three corridors.

"They're heading right for him," Carl muttered, "C'mon Sandburg, take charge here."

"Riley won't let that happen," Jim replied and Emily grinned. On the screen Blair cocked his head and pulled Walter back around the corner. The perp's paint dart splattered on the corridor wall and Blair yelled the usual warning as he risked a glance around the corner. The perp fired another round, which Blair avoided and returned fire once. The paint dart splattered on the perp's shoulder and he dropped the gun.

"Ah! I'm hit! Ya got me, copper!" the perp staggered around dramatically and threw himself on the floor.

"Very funny, sir," Blair got up from his crouch and stowed his weapon.

"What's the big idea – grabbing me like that?" Walter growled and the perp sat up.

"C'mon, Riley – he saved your bacon. And let me tell you now, if you'd died here your license would be removed on the spot," the perp got to his feet and pulled off the paint splattered jacket.

"Good shot, Sandburg – you stopped me without killing me, and the warning was loud and clear before you fired."

"Thanks, sir," Blair replied and jumped as Emily's voice sounded over the p.a.

"C'mon guys – we're on a time thing here."

Blair waved and headed out quickly: not waiting to see what Walter would do or say. Jim heard him turn in the equipment, but didn't come in with the others.

"Where's the rookie?" Walter asked as he returned, and Emily frowned over at the beefy cop.

"Target practice," she replied, "He goes this time every day. Has a consistent score of nine."

"That's pretty good," Jim commented.

"For a know-nothing, wet-behind-the-ears punk," Walter mumbled and the other cops glared at him.

"Tell you what – let's get Sandburg back for some drills," Carl picked up the phone, "You all need to run through this twice anyway. He can partner up with someone different."

"I'll work with him," Dave Harris volunteered before Jim could say a word, and Carl nodded.

"Sounds good to me," he agreed, "Joe – that you? Yeah, is Sandburg there yet? No man, he did ok; we want an encore. Huh you got me. Ok, thanks."

Carl hung up the phone and keyed the mike. Jim realised the other pair had run through the scenario and made it out alive.

"Ok guys, let's go," Carl turned, "Ellison and Parker – you're up."

Jim nodded and followed Teresa Parker out.

This time Jim used his Sentinel senses to help out, tuning his hearing to catch the perp's movements and heartbeat.

"How'd you know that guy was hiding behind the corner like that?" Teresa asked as they headed back to the screens. Jim shrugged.

"Good instincts I guess. He hasn't done that yet, and it was only a matter of time before we could start predicting what happened," Jim replied. Teresa made a little grunt of agreement.

"Your aim was great," Jim complimented her as a distraction and she gave him an old fashioned look.

"It should be, after all that's my job," she preceded Jim into the control room and he rolled his eyes a little. Megan Conner crossed his mind and Jim considered the theory that high-ranking female cops were all cloned from the same part of the genetic pool.

When Blair came back in he was frowning a little.

"Sir?" he asked Carl and the instructor stood up, leaving Emily to run the simulation.

"Relax - you're not in trouble here. Dave Harris here wants to run through with you, so we thought we'd call you back," Carl didn't really elaborate and Jim was pleased when Blair nodded.

"Practice makes perfect," he agreed.

"Good, then you can run through with me too," Teresa spoke up.

"And me," Jim said before anyone else could. A few other cops put in as well, but Carl stopped anyone else from volunteering.

"He's only one guy and this is hard work," Carl explained, "I seriously doubt anyone would do this more than once a day –if at all that often."

Blair fitted into his usual position as he and Jim entered the building. Jim's senses flared with a rush into full function, and he located the perp on the top floor within seconds. He looked back at Blair and pointed at the ceiling.

"Top floor," he whispered, "We'll take the stairs up and sweep the other floors as we go."

Blair nodded, probably realizing that Jim had his hearing almost to maximum. He held his gun down, finger off the trigger and followed as Jim started up the stairs. Everything was clicking for Jim – he knew he could trust his partner to be exactly in the right place to anticipate his movements. They moved carefully up to the top floor and began to ease through the jumble of furniture that littered the corridor. Blair was walking slightly sideways to keep an eye on their backs as Jim tracked down the perp. Jim moved along smoothly, feeling the rhythm as they moved quickly towards where the heartbeat was located.

There was a flash of movement and Jim called the familiar warning to the perp. The heartbeat went up and Jim took cover as the paint gun fired at them. He returned fire and Emily's voice said,

"Kill!" over the p.a. system. Then Blair knocked Jim down as another gun went off and Jim returned fire as Emily called over the p.a. system twice. Jim pulled Blair up.

"You ok?" Blair asked and Jim nodded.

"Sorry Chief, I was so focused on the guy in front of us that I didn't hear the second one," he apologised, and then something sank in, "They called kill three times."

"I didn't get out of the way quick enough," Blair sighed, "Sorry Jim."

The two perps came up to them.

"Sandburg – you died!" the first man exclaimed.

"I always said I'd kill you sooner or later," the second man crowed and Blair grinned at him.

"Now you've achieved your goal, what will you do?" he asked and the second man pretended consternation. They were walking back down the stairs now and Jim trailed a little behind. The paint mark was squarely in the center of Blair's back. Jim shivered in reaction to the ugly mark.

Blair lived through all the other simulations that afternoon. He accepted the teasing of the other cops in good spirit and they split up for dinner. He found Jim out on the fitness course after dinner. It was dark and he announced his presence by falling over the logs.

"You all right?" Jim asked giving Blair a hand up.

"Just a minor broken leg – we're not all Sentinels here," Blair's voice was light, but tinged with a little pain, "What are you doing out here by yourself? Your senses aren't on overload are they?"

"No, I'm fine," Jim replied, and shifted from one foot to the other.

"Something's bothering you," Blair stated baldly and found Jim's elbow. He gripped it quite firmly to prevent another tumble. It also helped remind Jim that his guide hadn't died, was right there and getting ticked off that Jim wouldn't talk to him.

"How'd you find me?" Jim didn't want to deal with that question yet.

"I asked one of the late evening p.t. classes if they'd seen you and came on out," Blair replied, "So, what is bothering you?"

"It's about today," Jim confessed. Blair snorted. Jim tensed up, not wanting Blair to dismiss the value the Sentinel placed on his Guide's life.

"I've been in shootouts with you before," Blair protested.

"That's the problem. You've always been in danger with me – but I could tell you to back off, or keep you in the car," Jim plunged into the problem, "Today I realised that I can't do that anymore."

"And a good thing too," Blair said wholeheartedly. He knew where this was going and what had sparked it. If he were going to be effective in Major Crimes Jim would have to realize the partnership was fifty-fifty, for better or worse.

"You took a bullet for me today," the words burst out of Jim and Blair stood silently for a moment before sighing. This pain wasn't one that he could talk away. But he could distract Jim.

"Jim did you ever stop to consider how hard it was for me to stay behind when you were going into danger? Sure, part of these last few years was about observing you. A lot of it was trying to help someone I respected do the right thing. This is a new start for us – an equal partnership," Blair took a breath and gave a little laugh, "Or as equal it can be with your greater experience and heightened senses."

"I never realised," Jim looked across at Blair who smiled. Time to seal the breach, not to think about drowning in the fountain, committing academic suicide, watching someone he loved like a brother push him away in fear.

"Partners need to know how far they'll go for each other. I've known how far you'll go for me for ages."

"I didn't need you to die for that," Jim growled, and Blair laughed.

"Don't tell me we've wasted all this warrior bonding time," he ducked away from Jim's swat, "And besides, tomorrow is another day and we'll beat them at their own game. Now do me a favor, and lead me back to civilization. I can't see a thing out here."

Jim laughed and used his sight to find the path and avoid the obstacles.
********************
Next morning Carl and Emily decided to run their groups through a fitness course – just as a precaution. They volunteered Blair to go first – he had to chase an armed classmate through the alley of Sim Town, over fences and other typical obstacles, then into the building and onto the roof. Once on the roof Blair would have to catch his quarry before the quarry could ditch important evidence.

Blair shook his head at Emily in resignation and collected his gear. Emily and Carl sort of laughed at each other and set up the cameras to follow the chase.

"We're going to run this a little differently," Carl announced, "Normally you'll only go up against one, but today we're going to throw a surprise at Sandburg. His perp will have a partner."

"Doesn't seem fair," Teresa spoke up. Jim glanced at her in support.

"And what about the day he runs into this exact same situation?" Walter growled at her.

"He'll be prepared," Emily agreed, "The only thing you can count on in this job is that you can't count on anything."

The other cops in the room made agreeing noises and Teresa nodded – not backing down, but recognizing the truth. Carl gestured at the monitors.

"Here we go," he announced and the cops focussed on the screens.

Blair ran full speed after the perp, scrambling over the bins thrown in his way. There was a chain-link fence in the middle of the alley and Blair hit that at a run, halfway up in seconds and over the top in a wild scramble. He followed the perp into the building and ducked a covering shot the perp fired at him. His blood was up now and he yanked his gun before moving carefully along the corridor and risking a glance up the stairs. There was a flash of movement as the perp ran upstairs and Blair followed, keeping to the side and checking the corridors as he passed each landing.

His quarry came to a halt at the edge of the roof and used an air-conditioning tower for cover. Blair found himself pinned in the doorway. He looked around carefully, answering the fire with an occasional shot himself. There was a sound just below and Blair looked down carefully and was almost hit when the second villain shot at him. He threw himself to one side and ducked the double barrage of fire. Blair took another look at the roof and threw himself down the stairs, surprising the second attacker and yelling the warning loud and clear. A barrage of fire narrowly missed him and he fired once, scoring a hit on the perp's leg. Then Blair whirled, ran up the stairs and out the door, rolling to avoid fire and coming up in the right spot to call the warning. When this was ignored again, Blair fired and hit his opponent in the leg.

The cops in the room gave a little cheer.

"All right rookie!" Teresa crowed.

"Not bad," Walter nodded grudgingly. Jim folded his arms, impressed by Blair's new skill. They watched Blair disarm and cuff his suspect, roughing up a quick bandage before running down to secure the second gunner.

"And that is how we do that!" Carl said into the mike and Blair grinned, untying the cuffs he'd faked up from his belt and helping the guy up.

"Thanks Sandburg. Nice shot," the guy said and Blair trooped upstairs to let the other guy go. Walter was next for the pursuit and went to get ready. He was halfway through before Jim realised that Blair hadn't returned.

Jim's senses did him proud all through the simulation. There was only one perp and Jim had him cornered before the guy could do more than think about firing. Trouble set in as Jim headed down to hand in the paint gun. His hearing flared up to painful intensity and then took his sight with it, sending him wincing out into the corridor. By blinking rapidly, Jim managed to get his sight down to almost normal and handed in the gun.

"Where's Sandburg?" he asked Carl and winced when Carl told him in a normal voice that was way too loud for sensitive ears.

"You alright?" Carl asked, putting a hand on Jim's arm and Jim winced again.

"Migraine," he lied, "I'll just go get some air."

He headed out in a hurry. Blair found him curled up painfully in his room, trying too hard to combat the hypersensitivity. Blair sat beside the ball of Sentinel and put a hand on his shoulder, talking in a bare whisper to get Jim to calm down and focus. Blair's tones was serene and warm - the mixture that Jim always responded to, couldn't block out no matter what else was happening to them. Eventually Jim managed to sit up and Blair put him into a meditation trance. After an hour things were back to normal, though Jim was a little hesitant in looking around. His guide sat close by - a comforting point of reality.

"Better?" Blair asked quietly and Jim nodded.

"Wow, that hasn't happened before," Jim muttered, rubbing his hands over his face, "What caused that?"

"Could be allergies," Blair replied, thinking aloud, "I noticed you wincing a bit in the dining hall on Friday night, and you haven't been using your senses consistently in the simulations."

"What could I be allergic to? All the plants and so on are common everyday things. There's no imported water, no exotic ingredients," Jim protested. He hated not being able to control his senses.

"Illness then, you could be coming down with something," Blair suggested, concern written on his face. Jim denied illness with a shake of his head and got up to pace.

"If you get worked up your senses could overload again, so just calm down," Blair held his hands up as he watched Jim pace.

"I hate it when I can't control this," Jim growled, and Blair nodded in sympathy with the oft-aired complaint.

"It's not much fun from my end of the deal either," he commented and Jim hit him with a glare that could peel paint. There was a knock on the door and Jim opened it angrily. Emily backed up a step and held out a bottle of aspirin.

"I thought you might need these," she offered and Jim thanked her sheepishly.

"Sorry, I tend to get cranky when my head's splitting," he offered the excuse that had worked before when he had to cover for his senses, "Must be something around setting off an allergy."

"Is Blair in there with you? We missed him at lunch," Emily peered over Jim's shoulder and Blair stood up from the floor to fill the gap at Jim's shoulder.

"What have I done now?" he asked in a light tone and Emily grinned.

"Just had to tell you that we've got you down for a late night exercise, so come down to Sim Town after dinner. And Boles has moved his written exam up. It's on in ten minutes," she stood aside as Blair made a startled noise and pushed past Jim.

"That's just great!" floated back down the corridor and Jim chuckled.

"This is the final Sim. Providing he passes Boles and this, he'll graduate," Emily told Jim as they also walked down the corridor, "You want to watch?"

"Is that allowed?" Jim asked.

"Everyone else on refresher is going to be there," Emily shrugged, "Riley especially. Are you going to be able to work this afternoon?"

"Yeah, I'm ok," Jim nodded, "A little meditation works wonders."

"You know, you're the last guy I imagined would be into natural healing," Emily said as they stepped out into the sunlight. Jim shrugged.

"You kidding? I've been into this for years," he replied and mentally apologised to Blair for all the complaining he did whenever his guide tried to get Jim to do anything new.

Blair walked carefully down the corridor he had been directed to. It was late and he'd been told to go to a certain place and deal with anything he came across.

He stuck his head around the corner cautiously and froze. A white man was holding a gun on a black woman, glaring at Blair and grinding the muzzle of the gun into her neck. She was crying and moaning and he was cursing in her ear.

"You a pig?" the man snarled and Blair nodded carefully.

"Blair Sandburg – Cascade PD," he identified himself in a still voice, "And you are?"

"Trey McCoy," the perp replied and Blair nodded. He was standing partially shielded at the corner of the corridor, so he knew he was safe enough. The corridor was dimly lit and full of a weird jumble of furniture and boxes.

"So, what's going on Mr. McCoy?" Blair asked softly and McCoy sneered at him.

"Think you care?"

"I'm asking," Blair replied, "I never ask questions I don't want to know the answer to."

"They lay me off my job and the landlady here is telling me to get out 'cause I can't pay the rent."

"Difficult," Blair nodded, "But you don't need to hold the gun on her, you know. Funnily enough she's just doing her job too."

Despite the fact that he had a clear shot of the gunman, Blair didn't take it. He could shoot the guy in the leg and hope the landlady got clear, but it was simply a part of his nature that said it was better to solve the problem than just shoot his way out. It never even crossed his mind to aim at McCoy – a sense that McCoy would take the easy way out and just start shooting.

"Can you do that Mr. McCoy? Can you just take the gun out of her neck? She's terrified that you'll kill her for doing her job."

The gun eased away a little.

"I can see you good, cop. If you try to shoot at me I will kill her."

"I'm not a big fan of guns, man," Blair replied without thinking, "Seems to me they cause more problems than they solve."

"You a pacifist?" McCoy spat the words in contempt, "Man, spineless weaklings like you are pulling this country down."

"So how come you're the one holding a gun on a woman trying to avoid getting kicked out of her job?" Blair's voice was sharp; that remark hit his button. McCoy looked at the woman still crying in his arms.

"What am I doing? You guys are just gonna shoot me no matter what I do," McCoy said softly.

"Not if you put the gun down right this second and let me walk you out of here," Blair retorted, keeping his voice positive. The gun lowered and then fell to the floor. McCoy walked forward and stepped out of the apartment door to truly stand in front of Blair. If Blair had shot at what he'd seen, he'd have shot at a mirror. The grip relaxed and the landlady was free, sliding to the floor and crawling towards Blair.

"Stay still, ma'am. I'll be there in a moment. Turn around and put your hands on your head, Mr. McCoy. I got to put the cuffs on and read you your rights so we're all legal."

Blair edged out and gently arrested the man. Then he leant down to check on the woman and she smiled at him.

"Way to go, rookie. You did it perfectly," she said and accepted his hand up off the floor. He smiled and took a couple of deep breaths.

"Thanks," he tried to quell the heaving of his stomach and unlocked the cuffs. McCoy turned around and put a hand on Blair's arm.

"That was the gentlest ending to this scenario that I've ever been in," he congratulated the trembling rookie, "Just take it easy. Adrenaline takes a while to clear out of the system."

"I'm ok," Blair told them, "I'll go for a quick run around the block and be back to normal."

Jim found him at the logs again. To his Sentinel eyesight it looked as if the guide had been crying, but his voice was normal when Jim greeted him.

"I figured out that reaction. Teresa is wearing a perfume that you react to – one of the nastier reactions we've had in a while," Blair moved over to let Jim sit next to him and the sentinel was happy to let their shoulders touch.

"It's gonna be different," Jim said without preamble, "I learnt that I can get along without you - in fact Joel was great these last nine weeks. But I also learnt that you do more than follow me around telling me what to do. You provide me with a unique gift."

"Jim," Blair's voice trailed away, and Jim reached for the hand that moved restlessly on the guide's knee.

"You gift me with a sense of belonging and family that I don't think I've ever had. You're patient with the thousands of bad moods I have every day. You get up in my face and tell me off - keep me in line though I yell at you for it. You've sacrificed everything to keep my abilities secret. No one has ever done that. I don't think anyone has ever given themselves so freely for such an ungrateful pain in the ass."

"Next you'll be recommending me for sainthood. Jim, we're better than family - we're Sentinel and Guide. And even though you'll have lots of other Guides in years to come, I'll always be here. Inside where it counts," Blair tapped Jim's chest above the heart and squeezed the fingers that gripped his hand. Jim nodded.

"Now that I'm through with the adrenaline reaction let's get back to the barracks. I've still got classes tomorrow and you've got to get back to work," the guide knew when his sentinel had gone as far as he was able. A lot farther today than had been possible only a few years ago.

And who knew how far they'd go in the years to come. Because tonight they'd rediscovered a simple law of nature, one they'd forgotten in the pain of recent trauma.

The Sentinel and the Guide stay together. No matter what.

End

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