Another Shot

by Sue Kelly

Warning: The following story contains SPOILERS for both the episodes Night Shift and Sentinel Too. Warning #2- This is the first story I've ever written in first person. I don't know *why* I wrote it in first person, except at three a.m. I wasn't thinking too clearly.

Disclaimer: Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg, Simon Banks and the concept of Sentinels are not my property. (It they were I would have been able to sleep last night). I am making no money off of this story. If you feeled compelled to sue me I really hope you like dogs.

Comments appreciated at

Thanks to Judy, Dawn and Wendy.

"This can't be happening. It *can't* be happening!"

I stare down at the ground, at Sandburg's still figure, his sodden curls tangled and lying like seaweed on the pavement. The one paramedic doing the heart compressions stop, the other squeezes the green plastic bulb of the ambu-bag, forcing air into Sandburg's lungs. He lays his fingers along Blair's throat, searching, I know, for the carotid pulse. Five seconds pass like an eternity before he shakes his head at his partner, replaces the mask and squeezes the bulb again. The second medic leans over, pumping Blair's chest. My hearing suddenly sharpens and comes on-line. I hear Sandburg's ribs creak ominously and I cringe.

The sounds are all around me now, I can't stop them. The sounds of cars in the distance, the hum of conversation from the building across the Quad. The rustle of the wind tickling the emerald grass, splashing the water in the fountain.

That damn fountain.

Nausea clenches at my gut as I think back -- how long? Ten minutes, fifteen? We were right behind her -- Alex -- thief, murderess and a Sentinel. I keep repeating those words in my head, around and around. We *were* right behind her. I'd dialed Blair's office, the new one, holding my cell phone with one hand while with the other I frantically cranked the wheel to swerve around a carful of little old ladies out for a joyride. Conner, seated beside me in the passenger seat of the truck - Blair's spot - used her own cell phone to call Simon, requesting back-up.

My God, back-up. Why didn't I ask for it earlier? Alex wouldn't have been so easily able to turn my senses against me; Megan wouldn't have been forced to leave her on the floor in order to rescue me from that plunging elevator.

Because *Blair* was my back-up. He had been for three years; my back-up, my partner, my roommate, my cherished friend. Always there for me. He who was afraid of heights leapt off a cliff for me. Took a bullet because I wasn't quick enough to get him away. Shoved me under a garbage truck and saved my life, the second time we met.

Always there for me.

And today I killed him.

*** *** ***

The paramedics stop again, check for pulse and breathing. I try to also, using my Sentinel hearing, but I can't control it today, and the sounds are just a hodge-podge of meaningless noise. But my eyes are working just fine and I see the defeated look on the face of the paramedic closest to me. "I'm sorry, guys," he falters. He turns to take something from the pile of equipment.

"No," I whisper. "No!" I say it louder, my voice trembling. "Damn it, why are you stopping? This is not over!" I scramble to Sandburg's side, tip his head back slightly to open the airway. His skin is cold and clammy from the water, just from the water, I tell myself viciously. I place my mouth over his and exhale. "Somebody help me, do the compressions!"

Nobody moves. They're all staring at me. Henri and Rafe and Megan. The paramedics. One of them tries to pull me away but I fight him.

"No! Don't quit!" I don't know if I'm yelling at them or at Sandburg. I'm pounding on his chest, my compressions erratic and spastic. "Sandburg, come on, buddy, breathe, come on, you can do it, come back..."

Strong arms snake around me, pulling me away in spite of my struggles. Simon. His breath is rank with those cigars he smokes as he pulls me back into his body. "He's gone, Jim. You've got to let him go."

"No!" I want to cover my ears, childishly, blocking out the words I don't want to hear. I don't, of course; I just stand there, feeling my insides turn into ice. One of the medics has trotted back to the ambulance and returns with a white machine dangling wires and leads. I recognize it for what it is. A telemetry unit. In this state, as in so many others, only a doctor can pronounce death. The medics will transmit the reading to the hospital, and then a doctor I've never met, who never met Blair Sandburg, will say the words that end any hope.

My legs weaken and I'm forced to grab onto Simon for support. They're sticking the leads on his head. Sandburg doesn't move, doesn't stir, his face white and peaceful, lips slightly parted. His eyes are closed. Those expressive eyes that saw so much.

A voice is keening, a wail to the heavens above. Slowly I realize it's *my* voice I hear, begging, begging, Blair or anybody listening. "This can't be happening!" It can't be. Sandburg's not dead. This is a nightmare. Like the one where I shot the wolf and it turned out to be Blair. I'm going to wake up and Blair will be safe in his room below mine, legs crossed, tapping away at that infernal laptop computer.

`No, he won't be there,' a voice in my head chides me. `You threw him out, didn't you?'

Visions rise up before my eyes, blocking out the scene in front of me. Sandburg's face, his blue eyes stretched wide-open as I spit those words at him, the words ending our partnership, our friendship. His quiet voice saying, "You know where I am."

Older visions, the look on his face in Simon's office when I said I needed space. He knew and I knew what I was really saying was that I needed away from *him*. All the times in recent weeks I've turned him away, shut him out, belittled him.

I told him I knew who I was and I didn't need him to tell me. God, Chief, I was wrong, and I knew that as I said it. I *don't* know who I am without you. Who was I *with* you? Your Blessed Protector. What a joke. A Protector that threw you out, right into the path of someone bent on destroying you. Destroying us.

Suddenly, my vision fades, then another scene unfolds. We're at that damn warehouse, Simon and I, looking for you, but all we find is that obscene chair, the pile of your clothes, those four insane shrines to Lash's other victims.

Then we're at the pond, the water choppy and disturbed. Ducks are quacking in agitation. A group of people huddle around a still figure. I reach out with my senses, trying desperately to feel, to sense somehow that you still live.


I've had this vision before, in a dream, night after night after I brought you back home. You knew, although we never discussed it. You were having your fair share of nightmares at the time.

I blink. The scene before me comes back into focus. Sandburg is still lying there. Wet, quiet, still. Too still. Sandburg is never still. It drives me nuts sometimes, the way he can do three things at once.

"Oh, God, please God, let this not be happening!"

Suddenly, the medic startles and stares back at the screen of the telemetry unit. He grabs the radio. A strange, loud pounding in my ears keeps me from hearing what he says. The other medic grabs the mask and fixes it over Blair's face.

"What--?" I hear Simon say from somewhere distant. My ears are filled with that pounding, weak, unsteady, but familiar. Oh, thank you, God, so familiar.

My legs fail beneath me and I crash down, Simon and Brown barely catching me before I hit the ground. I ignore them, pulling from their grip to crawl to the side of my partner. Hesitantly, my fingers trembling, I lay them on his throat. His pulse pounds in my ears and throbs under my fingers.

"We've got activity on the monitor," the paramedic says, his voice stunned. "He has a pulse!"

"We need to transport *now*!" The other medic urges everyone to step back, to give him room to bring in the gurney.

I don't move. I can't. I just cling to Sandburg's hand, my heart stopping between every beat of his, breathing as they force air into his lungs.

"Come on back, Chief. It's not your time. Don't leave me."

*** *** ***

I've lost track of time. What's it been, two days, three? I sit here, beside him, breathing as he breathes. They're giving him oxygen, but he's breathing on his own, no respirator required.

The doctor comes in several times a day. This last time he seemed cautious but encouraged. Sandburg's condition is improving, slowly but steadily. His weakened lungs haven't developed pneumonia, which was a big concern, apparently. His reflexes and autonomic reactions seem normal. As to what kind of residual damage there might be, from his brain being denied oxygen those precious minutes before we got him out of the fountain, there's no way of telling now. "We'll be able to judge better when he wakes up," the doctor tells me.

At least he's saying "when," now. In the ER that afternoon, the same doctor sat down with Simon and me and flatly said it was a miracle Blair was alive at all. It might take a second miracle to bring him all the way back.

I didn't argue with him. Sandburg will come back. He has to. He's my Guide. He's my shaman.

He's my best friend.

*** *** ***

Simon comes in, bringing me coffee and a hamburger. He talks, I listen, most of my attention focused on Sandburg, ready to react to the slightest change in his condition.

Alex has disappeared without a trace. She still has the two canisters of nerve gas. I should care more about that than I do. She tried to kill Sandburg; now she could take out the entire city if she wants. My city. My territory, as Sandburg would say. Funny. Right now it seems as if my territory is this room.

Simon leaves and I lean back, stretching sore muscles. "Sitting still is as hard on me as it is on you, Chief," I tell him.

I talk to him all the time, the way I did when he was in the coma after being overdosed with Golden. He's never said how much he remembers of that time, if he remembers anything. He could have written his whole dissertation with the stuff I spilled those days.

His dissertation.

I take his cool hand in my own. "Chief, Blair... I'm sorry. I know I keep saying that, but there's so much I'm sorry for. I don't even know when things started going wrong between us. Maybe it started back when Incacha died. Maybe when I saw my dad again and realized he'd always known about my senses. Whenever. Doesn't much matter now. I started shutting you out, I was panicking, Sandburg. I've never let anybody as close as I let you. Not my father or Stephen. Not even Carolyn."

Stephen and the old man came to the hospital last night. I couldn't believe it. Stephen saw the name in the newspaper and recognized it. I have no idea what the article said, I haven't read it. But Stephen said he knew I'd be here, thought maybe I'd need my family. I didn't know how to say to him, "My family is lying there in that bed." I don't think I needed to; they both realized it.

Speaking of family, we can't find Naomi. Or rather, Megan and Simon can't find her. No big surprise there. We couldn't find her when Blair was shot in the mountains; when Lash kidnapped him, or when he was on full life-support after the Golden. Sandburg said later it was probably a good thing we didn't find her then; she would never have gone along with the life support. I freaked at that and so we both saw a lawyer about having Power of Attorney drawn up. God knows, Sandburg is the only one I want making those kind of decisions for me; he trusted me to make the correct ones for him.

Trust. That word again.

How many times in the last few weeks have I bandied that word around. `I thought I could trust you, Sandburg'. 'I consider this a breech of trust'. "Oh, yeah, *somebody* violated trust, but it wasn't you, Chief, it was me. It was me. When did I start thinking you were the one that had to make all the changes? You were the one that had to make the sacrifices?"

I can almost hear his voice in my head. "Hey, you sacrificed your privacy so I could move in."

"That was no sacrifice," I say to him, out loud, wishing he could hear me. "After about the third day, I got used to you. No, it was more than that - I liked having you there. Not because of the cooking or the extra money, not even because of the help you were giving me with my senses. I just liked having you there. You're my friend and my partner. You took everything I dished out, everything the job did to you, and you kept coming back for more. And how did I repay you? Did I thank you? No, never out loud; I always just assumed you knew. Then I read your dissertation. God, Chief, I was so angry and so hurt and I don't even know *why*! You said you'd tear it up. I know it was your anger and your pride talking, but you would have done it if I'd asked. Chief, I hope you never know how close I was to asking. I had to convince myself I didn't need you, that we weren't a team.

"But you always knew better, didn't you? You said it, It's about friendship. All the rest of it rests on that. So come on, Chief, come on back now. You've had your rest... and I *need* my friend. I need *you*."

"Wondered... if you were ever going to get around to saying... that."

The voice is weak, breathy. For a crazy second I think my senses are playing tricks again. But my heart knows better. It takes a wild leap as Sandburg's eyelashes flutter against his pale skin, then slowly open. His lips quirk in an attempt at a smile. "Hey, Jim."

I close my eyes, blinking back the tears, and whisper a silent "Thank you". Then I return his smile. "Hey, Chief. About time you woke up."

His eyes drift around the room. His forehead furrows with a frown and he looks back at me. "What happened?"

I start to answer him, but my words are choked off by a huge lump in my throat. I feel the tears start to spill down my cheeks. Sandburg looks startled, and then a little frightened, so I tighten my grip on his hand reassuringly. Then I feel something or someone behind me, and I turn my head to see two shadowy figures crossing the room. I recognize them: the black panther that is my Spirit Guide, and the wolf from my dream. The panther stops beside my chair, purring, and the wolf walks to the other side of the bed to nuzzle Blair's hand. Then they both vanish.

Sandburg looks down at his hand. "What was that?" he asks groggily.

I smile at him, reach up to comb the curls back from his face. His eyelids are heavy, and I know soon he'll be asleep. "I'll tell you," I promise him. "I have a lot to tell you. You may have to add another volume to your dissertation," I add teasingly.

A shadow crosses his face at the word "dissertation." He opens his mouth, but I gently lay my fingers across his lips. "Don't. We'll talk about it, Chief. We'll work it all out. You're back, and that's all I care about right now. We'll have time to talk later."

We have all the time in the world.

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