Notes: To four of my shining stars in the world of TSFF - Mega, Wolfshy, Heidi, and Lory. Thanks for your encouragement and friendship.
The ebony canopy was pierced with a billion tiny pinpricks of light. The fall breeze stirred long mahogany curls, blowing them into the face of their owner, but he never bothered brushing them away.
He stood alone, one solitary figure high above the city, gazing into the night sky with eyes shadowed by sadness. Night had descended hours before, and a definite chill was in the air, but for once, he had not noticed. His thoughts lay elsewhere.
Now, he felt the presence of the other behind him, but he did not turn to acknowledge him. He only sighed sadly, and then he lowered his head, the tousled curls falling to obscure his face.
"Chief?" A concerned voice broke the silence. "It's late, buddy. What are you doing out here?"
The answer was a long time coming. "Just thinking, I guess. Watching the stars and thinking." An uncontrollable shiver shook his body.
"You're cold." Long, strong arms came around his shoulders, gently drawing him back to rest against a warm, broad chest.
This time when he shivered, it was not from the cold.
"Blair?" Jim's voice in his ear held more than a trace of concern. Something was definitely wrong with his partner, and by definition, that meant all was not well with Jim either. "Can I help? Please, talk to me kiddo."
Blair's hands came up to grasp the forearms wrapped around his chest. He held on tightly, as if Jim had become his only lifeline in a storm. "Don't leave me, man."
The answer took his partner by surprise. Automatically, Jim tightened his arms around Blair, seeking to reassure him of his presence. "I'm right here, Chief. For as long as you need me."
The curly head resting against his head shook slowly in denial. "I wish..." he said wistfully. "Not just tonight, Jim. I know you'll stay with me tonight for however long I need you. I mean... Please don't leave me... ever."
Jim Ellison's heart tightened painfully at that desperate plea. Slowly, he guided his friend around to face him. Gently, he held Blair's chin, tilting the young face up to meet his eyes. There were tear tracks, already dried, running down Sandburg's cheeks, and his deep blue eyes were swimming in tears yet unshed. Jim's hand moved to brush soft curls away from his face, carefully tucking the hair on either side behind his ears. His other hand remained around Blair's shoulder, holding him near.
Blair moved with trembling fingers to touch the white bandage covering the left side of Jim's head. Ellison reached up, covering the slender fingers with his warm hand, trapping it against the side of his own face and leaning into his friend's palm as he held it there.
"It wasn't that serious, Chief. The bullet stunned me when it grazed my head, and I got a concussion when I went down on the concrete, but I'm okay. You know that. So, what's wrong, huh? What's bothering you tonight?" His warm blue eyes, reflecting the affection mixed with concern which filled his heart, held Blair's and waited.
Sandburg dropped his head, resting it against his friend's chest, and Jim released his hand to clutch the front of his sweater. Slowly, the big detective began to stroke the soft curls, his other arm wrapped around Blair, enveloping him in a circle of warmth and comfort. He whispered into the curl covered ear, "Tell me, Blair. Let me help."
Only a Sentinel's ears could have heard the quiet words, nearly muffled against his chest. "Don't die, Jim. Please. Promise me you won't leave me."
Jim breathed deeply, pulling the cool October air into his lungs, vaguely aware of the variety of scents wafting on the breeze. He stared up into the night sky, wishing he could see the answer his friend needed emblazoned there on a chalkboard of blackness. But, the words he needed did not appear. "You know I can't promise that, Chief."
"Then promise me you'll let me go with you. That I won't have to stay here. Alone."
A small ripple of fear descended Ellison's spine. "Blair..." He fought to keep his voice calm and nonthreatening, even though the image of his Guide following him into death shook him to his very core. "What's going on with you tonight? Let me into that head of yours, Chief. Please?"
Reluctantly, the younger man pulled away slightly, so that he could see his partner's eyes. "It all kinda came down on me at once, man. Y'know, the shooting... seeing you lying there unconscious... all that blood." At Jim's automatic move to protest, he waved one hand, cutting the Sentinel off before he could begin. "I know, I know. It wasn't all that serious. Thank God. It just got me thinking..."
"Thinking about what, Chief?" Jim gently prodded.
"About how alone I really am." He lifted his head to gaze skyward. "It suddenly hit me as I was looking... out there. How vast it all is. How immense. How small, how inconsequential and insignificant I really am. How alone." He shivered again, and his voice faltered. "I mean, I know I've got Naomi and you. But, Naomi's... Well, she's Naomi, right? She's just not here when I need her, when I get hurt, or I'm scared, or I just need a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with. Naomi's just not here, and she never will be, not like..." His voice trailed off, and he swiped away a tear.
Jim's gentle voice finished his thought. "Like I am?"
Sandburg nodded briefly. "Yeah, right. Like you are." His frightened eyes turned back to Jim, his voice desperate. "What if I lose you, man? What would I do? You're... everything to me, Jim."
With the soft pads of his thumbs, Jim brushed the tears from the tender hollows beneath Blair's eyes. Then, he carefully turned his friend away from him again, wrapping his arms around his shoulders once more and pulling him tightly against him. "Look up," he whispered.
Blair raised his eyes to the array of stars above.
"Now," Jim's voice was soft, his warm breath tickling Blair's ear. "See that bright star right beside the moon?" He waited for Sandburg's nod. "That's Polaris, the North Star. It always points the direction northward. No matter where you are on the face of the earth, no matter how far you wander from home, no matter how lost you get, Chief, that star will always guide you home."
Jim pressed a soft kiss to Blair's temple. "Don't you get it, kid? You are not small, you are not inconsequential, and you sure as hell are not insignificant. Not to me. Ever." He bent low again to whisper in his friend's ear. "You are my North Star, Sandburg. No matter how lost I get, no matter where I am in this world, all I have to do is look to you, see that light of yours, to find my way home. I can't promise that I won't have to leave you one day, Chief. That kind of risk comes with being a cop, with being a Sentinel. You know that. But, I do promise you this. No matter where I go, no matter how far away from you I am taken, I will find you again. It won't be forever, Chief. Just as a mariner lost at sea in a storm will always be able to find the North Star eventually when the clouds break, I'll always be able to find you. Never doubt that."
This time, as the tears streamed down Sandburg's cheeks, they were tears of release and of joy. He turned once again to face his partner, burying his head against the comfort of the strong, warm chest, wrapping his arms around the broad back and holding on as though he could capture the moment forever in his arms.
Above their heads, the patterns of starlight continued their slow, timeless dance across the skies. Below them, the nightlife of the city thrummed quietly in the darkness. But on the balcony high above Prospect Place, there were only two solitary figures -- two hearts, two souls, entwined forever in a complicated knot of friendship and devotion and need, renewing their certainty that their bonds would never be broken and that their guiding lights would never be extinguished.
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