Author=s note: Actual dialogue from the episode are contained with {}.

Second Chances

by Wendy Myers

Jim heard the sirens as he finished securing Francisco. Rising to his feet, he heard an unmarked squad pull up onto the pier and seconds later he saw Simonís familiar figure emerge from the vehicle. A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed that Maya still stood close by. She hadnít said a word since heíd taken down her supposed boyfriend, and Jim wasnít certain whether it was shock or guilt that held her silent. At the moment, he didnít care. He had more important things to worry about.

"Ellison!" Simon called out. "You all right? Whereís Sandburg?"

"Iím fine, sir," Jim replied. "But we need an ambulance. Gustavoís been shot and Sandburgís unconscious." Indicating the handcuffed an, he added, "Can you keep an eye on this scum until some backup arrives?"

"Itíll be my pleasure. Go see to your partner. Iíll call for the ambulance and check on our reinforcements."

Satisfied that the situation was under control, Jim headed back to the boat. Heíd barely stepped aboard when he found himself face to face with Gustavo. The older man was clutching his shoulder, his fingers tinged with fresh blood.

"Did you kill him? Where is Maya?" Gustavo demanded.

Jim had to admire the man. Even with a painful gunshot wound, the manís first concern was for his niece.

As much as the Sentinel wanted to answer the manís questions, *his* first concern was his Guide. Pointing toward where he had left them under Simonís watchful eye, he quickly explained that Francisco had been taken care of and that Maya was fine. Picking up sounds of movement from where heíd left his partner, he slipped past the older man, murmuring a soft apology for his hasty departure.

"Sandburg?" he called tentatively. As Jim approached the boatís aft, he saw the Blair was indeed starting to stir. Jim rushed to his side and gently grasped his shoulders as the young man tried to rise. "Easy," he cautioned. "Easy."

Blair got to a standing position, then slowly began to sink back down to the deck with a groan.

Jim wrapped an arm around his partnerís waist and half-carried, half-walked Blair to a stair step and sat him down. Kneeling in front of the younger man, he took his Guideís face in his hands. Looking into Blairís eyes, he tried to judge the extent of the injury, searching for signs of a concussion. There was none. Brushing the curls away with his fingers, Jim inspected the gash above his friendís eye.

It, too, was not as bad as it looked.

All the while, Blair was babbling about what happened. ". . . I tried to get the gun away. . ."

Jim clenched his jaw as he listened to his friendís ramblings, especially when Blair explained that Franciscoís thug had decked him with his gun. As he completed his inspection of his Guideís physical condition, the detective noticed the red marks appearing on the knuckles of his partnerís right hand and smiled to himself. At least the kid had been able to throw in a good punch.

"Youíre gonna be okay, Chief," said Jim, placing both hands on his shoulders.

"Yeah, well, I wish I could feel that way," Blair groaned as he raised a hand to his head. Then he remembered what had been happening. "Oh man, Maya!" He jumped to his feet, only to be greeted with a fresh wave of dizziness and dancing black spots before his eyes. "Whoa!" he said, grabbing his head as his knees buckled.

Jim had been startled by the sudden move, but recovered quickly as the anthropologist started to fall. Grabbing his arms Jim eased Blair down onto the step once more.

"I gotcha. Just take it easy," Jim cautioned, sitting down next to his friend. "Itís all right. Mayaís fine. Itís over."

Over. That word echoed in the far reaches of Blairís mind. Jim had done it again. The Sentinel had saved his bacon from the flames. Again. Maya was fine, no thanks to him. All heíd managed to do was get himself kidnapped, which had forced Jim to get the real codes from Mayaís father --- and who had them now? Then heíd topped it off by getting his butt kicked by Franciscoís thug. It began to rain and Blair started to shiver uncontrollably. Reality came crashing down, along with the rain.

Jim responded to his Guideís obvious distress by embracing Blair in a tight hug, tucking the young manís head under his chin and rubbing warmth into his partnerís arms.

Blair didnít resist, gratefully accepting the comfort and strength of the older man. But his mind was far from calm. ĎJim deserves better than this,í he thought guiltily. Blair had walked off to clear his thoughts after Gustavo accused his own niece of being in on the kidnapping. He just couldnít believe she could be in on it. He had forgotten all about Francisco. . .until the would-be drug lord showed up in that alley. *Canít even prevent my own kidnapping.* he thought glumly. After a while, he spoke. "Iím sorry," he said quietly.

Jim continued to hold him, more for himself as an affirmation that Blair was alive and safe than anything else.

"Nothing to be sorry about," replied Jim. "Itís not your fault Francisco took you. Thatís my fault."

Blair pulled away slightly and looked at the detective. "Your fault? How?"

Jim looked out to the water. AI never should have told Francisco we knew about their planned kidnapping." He remembered the look on Blairís face as Francisco drove off with him. . .that look of helplessness. That image was burned into his brain as he rushed to get the codes and rescue his partner. Then the fear of seeing his friend unconscious on the deck. . . . He shook his head and clenched his jaw. "Hell,, I never should have let you out of my sight."

"You couldnítíve know what Francisco was gonna do," Blair said. "You canít blame yourself for that."

Jim looked at him, amazed. It always astonished him how Blair could go through so much and still have enough faith in his "Blessed Protector" to pull both of them through every ordeal.

Blair turned his gaze to his feet, like they had sprouted something of great interest. "I shouldnítíve walked off like that. Iím sorry." He started to shiver again.

Jim brought his friend back into a warm embrace. He actually blamed Maya for all of it. She was in on it from the start and had played on Blairís emotions. The whole thing had been planned right down to the stint outside their apartment building the first night this mess had started. But he wasnít about to say that to Blair. His Guide had found out the hard way and had been through enough. Jim took comfort in the fact that this exuberant bundle of energy he called his partner would bounce back to his usual self after a while.

The sirens were louder now and the sun was setting. The rain had petered off to a drizzle. Jim took one look in the general direction of the sirens, then looked back at his partner. "You think you can walk?" he asked the young man huddled against him.

Blair stood shakily, accepting Jimís arm as he steadied himself. "Yeah, I think so," he said, smiling weakly.

Jim returned the smile and wrapped an arm around the younger manís shoulders, leading them both to the gangplank and the waiting ambulance.

Theyíd taken no more than a couple of steps on the gangplank before Blair started to collapse. "Sorry. . ." he trailed off as he lost consciousness.

Jim didnít miss a beat as he scooped up his partner and carried him to the dock. "Síall right, Chief," he whispered in his Guideís ear. "Síall right."

oooooo

Blair stirred to consciousness as Jim sat him on the edge of the ambulance.

"Nnnh. . ." he groaned, holding his head in his hands.

Jim maintained his hold of his friendís shoulder. "Youíre gonna be okay, Chief."

As the EMT examined and treated Blairís injury, Simon approached them. He handed each of them a heavy Police jacket to ward off the chill caused by the rain.

"You okay, Sandburg?" the captain asked, eyeing the young observer closely.

Blair nodded, then winced as his head protested the motion. "Yeah,í he said, giving the taller man a weak grin. "Iíll live."

The EMT finished with Blair and turned to Jim. "He should be okay. I donít see any sign of concussion, but you might want to keep an eye on him for a day or so. If he starts exhibiting any signs of something wrong --- dizziness, disorientation, vomiting --- take him to the hospital right away." Seeing Jim nod, the EMT patted Blairís shoulder and left to assist his partner with Gustavoís shoulder wound.

Jim turned to his captain. "So whatís gonna happen now, Simon?"

"The Feds are gonna deport them. . .Maya too," said the dark captain.

Blair looked up. "Why?" he asked, stricken.

Jim laid a hand on his partnerís shoulder. Part of him was secretly relieved Maya was getting deported so she wouldnít be able to cause Blair any more grief. Yet another part knew that the forced separation would create simply another brand of misery, at least until his friend came to terms with how he really felt about the young woman.

"Itís for the best, Sandburg," Simon explained calmly. "Sheís not being arrested, but she will be prohibited from ever coming back to the States again."

Blair just nodded. The police jacket Simon had given him was two sizes too big for the young police observer and with his drenched hair and hunched posture, Blair looked more like a small lost child than a teaching fellow of Anthropology at Rainier University.

The rest of the conversation and his surroundings blurred as Blair dealt with his emotions. Did he still love Maya? He wasnít sure. He may have loved her at one time, but now. . . .

After talking with her, telling her of her deportation, Blair decided what he felt for her now was friendship. Despite all she had done, he would still be her friend.

{"You gonna be all right?"} asked Jim as Blair walked up beside him.

Blair nodded. {"Yeah. . .still hurts though."}

The last statement was said so soft only Jimís Sentinel hearing caught it. He wasnít sure if Blair had been referring to the physical injury Franciscoís thug had caused or the emotional one caused by Maya. Or maybe both. Before he could make a decision, Blair flashed his partner one of his familiar smiles.

Jim reached out and gave his friendís shoulder a reassuring squeeze and smiled. ĎYeah, he was going to be fine.í

 

The End.

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