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The Sentinel/General/#081. Relieved

Title: The Nature of Friendship
Fandom: The Sentinel
Characters: Jim Ellison, Blair Sandburg
Prompt: 081. Relieved
Word Count: 5,247
Rating: FRM
Warnings/Spoilers: Angst, Blair owies
Summary: When Blair is injured, he distances himself from Jim and the PD. Will his and Jim's friendship suffer as a result?
A/N: This is written for 100moods. I don't own the characters, that honor belongs to Pet Fly and Paramount. My prompt table is here.



The Nature of Friendship
Debbie


Jim sat on the log, wondering if it was the end. He remembered feeling relieved when Blair was found alive, still breathing in the aftermath of the explosion. Even if there were burns, broken bones and a distinct breathing difficulty, Jim was sure Blair would make a full recovery. What he hadn't counted on was Blair spiraling into a deep depression and rejecting all attempts to come out of it. It seemed Blair wanted to wallow in his pain and self-pity.

It had taken over nine months before they released Blair from the hospital. After two weeks, Blair made it abundantly clear that he wanted to be alone. Jim tried reasoning with the younger man, but Blair was adamant, having the hospital personnel help to enforce his wishes. Jim found himself barred from Blair's room, kept out by the nurses. Even when he tried to sweet talk his way into the room, they kept him out.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim staked out the hospital the day Blair left. Jim didn't know the young woman who picked Blair up from the hospital. He followed the vehicle to a house in a nice neighborhood. Jim noticed how slowly Blair walked and the attached oxygen tank that he pulled behind him. The young woman helped Blair inside and Jim debated about what to do.

He sat in his truck, keeping an eye on the house, wondering if Blair would try to contact him. All of Blair's belongings were still at the loft and there was no way Blair would be able to move it all on his own.

Suddenly, Jim's cell phone rang and he picked it up, answering it after the second ring.

"Ellison."

"Detective Ellison, I'm Corinne Scott. I'm calling on behalf of Blair Sandburg."

"How is Blair?" Jim blurted out the question.

"He was released from the hospital this morning. He wanted me to contact you to arrange the removal of his belongings from your residence."

"If I may ask, Ms. Scott, who are you to Blair?"

"Just a friend from the university. Blair has had a difficult time relating to people since recovering from his ordeal. Even the hospital and rehabilitation personnel have had a hard time getting him to open up and talk with them. He realized early on that he needed to have someone outside of the hospital to rely on and to call when he needed to talk. He chose me."

Jim wanted to respond to Ms. Scott, but he didn't voice what he was thinking. It used to be that Blair would come to him, would call him when he needed someone to rely on and talk with. Why had it changed now? Jim just didn't understand.

"… can we set a time, Detective?"

"What?" Jim realized Ms. Scott was talking again.

"I said can we set a time, Detective? In order to get Blair's things. He really wants to start to lead a normal life again."

"Um… sure. Look, is there any way I can talk to Blair? I would really like to hear myself that he's okay."

"That wouldn't be a good idea right now, Detective. Blair is resting and I don't want to disturb him."

"Can you tell me where he's staying? I mean, he did have a perfectly good place here with me and I am more than capable of helping him when he needs it." Jim felt better speaking about his concerns.

"It is Blair's wish that his location not be revealed to anyone at this time. I am abiding by his wishes. He did mention something about not burdening his friends with his recovery."

"I wouldn't consider it a burden, Ms. Scott. Blair and I have been through a lot over the years. I just want him to know that he can contact me if he wants."

"I'll give him the message, Detective. Can we arrange a time?"

Ms. Scott was nothing if not persistent. "Okay. How about Saturday?"

"That will be fine. If you can have Blair's things boxed and ready to go by Saturday, it would help a lot."

"I can do that." Jim knew it was best not to push things.

"Thank you, Detective Ellison. Goodbye."

Jim closed the cell phone without saying another word. He looked towards the house where Blair and Corinne Scott went. He tried using his enhanced vision to see through inside a window, but he couldn't concentrate enough.

"Not without my guide by my side to help me through it."

Jim spoke the words aloud. He wanted to do nothing else but get out of his truck, walk up to the house and demand to speak to Blair. Blair had to realize that he was anything but a burden to Jim. He was never a burden. He was the best friend Jim ever had and always seemed to return the friendship. Something was wrong and Jim just wanted an opportunity to make it better, if possible.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

It was an unusual occurrence. Jim Ellison was procrastinating. It wasn't in his character to procrastinate, however in this particular task, he didn't want to complete it. Hell, he didn't even want to start it. He knew though that Corinne Scott and possibly others would be by on Saturday to pick up Blair's possessions. It would serve no purpose to aggravate Blair's newfound friends. The ones he relied on now and felt safe to talk with.

Jim wondered when everything had turned upside down. The worst part was that he couldn't see Blair and talk to him face to face. He thought that if he could talk to Blair, they could resolve the problems that seemed to be between them.

Jim realized he needed more boxes. His mind returned to the past, when he had boxed up all of Blair's stuff and kicked him out of the loft. That had been Jim's extreme response to Alex's entrance into their lives and her quest to wrestle Blair from Jim's side. The result of that action had been that Alex drowned Blair in the fountain at Rainier. He had been dead until Jim was able to bring him back. Jim shuddered with the memory.

He really didn't want to be here, boxing up Blair's stuff, letting Blair walk away without a word. There had to be a way of contacting him. Jim walked over to the phone and dialed the number for Corinne Scott. Yesterday, she had called, reminding Jim that she would be coming. At that time, Jim asked for her number, knowing that Blair was still staying with her.

Now, Jim wanted to try one more time to talk to Blair. He couldn't just leave things the way they had been in the hospital. Jim hadn't had any contact with Blair for nine months. He had seen him several times, but he needed to talk to Blair, to try to change whatever had happened between them. He realized Blair's want to be independent, but Blair had never been dependent on Jim since they knew each other.

"Hello?" Blair answers the phone.

"Blair, it's Jim. I was hoping to talk to you. We need to talk about your decision to leave the loft."

"There's nothing to talk about, Jim. My *week* has been up for over three years now. I'm going to finish my alternate dissertation, get my PhD, and return to teaching. I've talked to the chancellor and the president at Rainier and they are willing to forgive and forget as long as I remain to teach. It seems both students and professors have been lobbying in my favor since the whole thing blew up in our faces. I need to concentrate on my academic life, and because of that, I have no room for -"

"I understand completely, Sandburg. Go, get your PhD and become a world-famous anthropologist! I'm sorry we're no longer worthy of your attention." Jim hit the off button of the cordless phone and resisted the urge to toss it across the room.

Well, he had been the one wanting to talk to Blair. Now he knew where he stood in his *friend's* list of priorities. Fine! If that were what Sandburg wanted to do things, Jim would accommodate him.

Jim walked over, placing the phone back on the base. He then went to put on his coat, to go get more boxes. He had a job to do and he had procrastinated long enough from doing it.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

On Saturday, Jim was up early. He had breakfast and washed up the dishes. Just as he was finishing, the phone rang. It was Corinne, telling him they were on their way and that Blair had decided to come along with the two helpers Corinne had wrangled into helping with the lifting and carrying. It was a surprise to Jim, at least now he would get a close up look at Blair. He hadn't wanted to risk a zone the several times he had gone to stake out Corinne Scott's house.

He heard them arrive around 10:00 AM. Jim surprised himself by being able to latch onto Blair's heartbeat almost immediately, as well as his voice when he spoke.

<<"Just don't try to aggravate Jim, Corinne. He's basically a good guy and he did help me out when I needed it."

"But you don't need him anymore, Blair. As we have been telling you, it was because you were hanging around him and those other *cops* that you were even involved in that explosion. There were no injuries for cops from that explosion, just the civilian consultant. You were right to cut your ties to this detective and his friends."

"Just don't say that to his face, Corinne. In fact, why don't you not say anything more.">>

Then they got on the elevator and Jim had to refocus to get things back. He gathered Blair remembered about Jim's hearing and decided he didn't really need to hear the negative opinion Corinne had, not only of Jim, but apparently for the police department as well.

Jim tracked them to the door of the apartment, letting them knock before opening the door. He didn't want to arouse any more suspicions about his abilities. For the most part, the talk had faded away to nothing and it was old news. Every once in a while there was someone who asked a stray question, but nothing that either he or Sandburg couldn't just explain away.

Jim saw four people standing on the other side of his door, but his concentration was on Blair. He could still see the scars and the remnants of being involved in a serious incident. Blair was looking at Jim, but broke contact first.

Corinne stuck out her hand. "Hi, Detective Ellison. I'm Corinne Scott and those two guys are Pete and Joe. And of course you know Blair."

"Welcome. I've been able to box up everything and they are stacked by the wall over there." Jim watched as Blair walked over to the balcony windows. "I hope you're not going to try to move any of those boxes yourself, Sandburg?"

Blair turned around at Jim's words. "I've been cleared to resume all normal activities. The least I can do is help. After all, it's all my stuff."

Jim threw up his arms. "Suit yourself. I've a few errands I need to run. Just make sure the door is locked if you finish up before I get back."

Jim walked over to the coat hooks, grabbed his coat and his keys out of the basket and left the loft. He really didn't want to spend any more time with Blair and his new friends. It was obvious from the time Blair spent in the hospital and in rehabilitation that he had changed his mind on what he wanted to do in his life and with whom he wanted to have as friends.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair stared at the door for several minutes after Jim had left. He wished he had Jim's abilities and could track Jim and knew where he was going. It was a safe bet that Jim had heard the conversation between him and Corinne as they walked into the building. There wasn't anything Blair could do about the situation anyway.

Blair realized that when he banned Jim from his hospital room, that it hurt his friend. At the time, Blair was in pain and he himself blamed Jim and the police department for the explosion that landed him in the hospital, fighting for his life. It was true that Jim somehow missed the presence of explosives in the building as they searched for the gunrunners inside, based upon a tip by an anonymous source. It had been determined to let Jim try to find the gunrunners and of course, Blair went along, being Jim's backup. Somehow, they separated inside the building and Jim got out of the building, while Blair was still inside when the place blew sky high.

Blair just didn't want to think about Jim feeling guilty and have to deal with Jim's guilt, besides having to concentrate on his own recovery. That was why he had Jim banned from the hospital and from seeing him. It extended even to the rehabilitation center he had gone to after release from the main wing of the hospital.

Blair wanted to wallow in self-pity and to deal with his situation his own way, without criticism from Jim. He didn't need Jim by his side every day telling him it was going to be okay, that he'd come home soon and that things would return to normal. Left on his own, Blair had doubts and fought with depression and doubts about recovery. Every step he took in his recovery was on his own terms, at his own pace. There was no one there to tell him that one day soon, things would be sunny and rosy and perfect again. Blair knew that wasn't going to be the case.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

A month after arriving in the hospital, he called Simon at the station, telling him he wasn't going to return to the police department after his recovery. Simon tried to persuade Blair not to be so hasty in his decision, but Blair stood his ground.

"I've been thinking it over, Simon. This is the right move. I hate leaving Jim in the lurch so to speak, but I can't stay. I know Jim has been working with Joel a lot lately. Joel always suspected there was something extra special about Jim anyway, and I think Joel can handle the news about Jim's senses and abilities. As soon as I get out of here, I can give Joel a quick course on how to get a sentinel out of a zone. In the meantime, you know the basics and can authorize the partnership. I just want to make sure Jim isn't out on the streets alone where it could be dangerous if he tries to use his abilities without someone to ground him."

"But what about the sentinel/guide bond that you claimed you and Jim shared? Was that just a lot of talk?"

"I thought we were like the ancient sentinel/guide pairs, but we're not. It was wishful thinking on my part. I think any one can be an adequate guide for a modern day sentinel. More so, I think another cop is the best guide for Jim."

"If you say so, Sandburg. I just want you to realize that once I do this, there will be no reversals."

"I understand, Captain. It's best to do things this way."

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair was amazed that Jim didn't fight harder to try to get in to see him. At about the fourth month, he realized that Jim really didn't even want to be friends with him. Of course, that idea was fueled and reinforced by Corinne, whom Blair had called his second month of recovery to have someone on the outside to talk with. Blair had known Corinne for several years. She was an assistant professor of English and they had taken several classes together over their years at Rainier. They had even dated for a time when Blair was in pursuit of his Master's degree.

Corinne came into Blair's hospital room and spent hours by his side, even when he went through his silent phase of not wanting to communicate with anyone. Jim never would have understood Blair's silence and would have pushed him to express himself, even if it was in negative terms. Corinne sat in silence with Blair, occasionally telling him about the news from the university, along with the fact that people there were missing him and wanted him back. That was when Blair entertained the idea of trying to return to Rainier. He wanted his doctorate. That was the bottom line. He wanted to be Dr. Blair Sandburg. In addition, he wanted to see if he could resume teaching, studying anthropology, going on expeditions and leading a normal life. Normal. Just the word alone was a foreign concept to Blair. Nothing had been normal in his life over the past three plus years since hooking up with Jim Ellison. He basically lived Jim's life, doing what Jim did. He even followed Jim to the police department after the dissertation fiasco because it was a knee jerk reaction. It was what everyone expected of him. Well, everyone from the police department, which consisted of the majority of his friends at the time.

Corinne encouraged Blair's break away from the police department and his return to Rainier, but she hadn't been the main reason Blair was doing it. He wanted it as much as Corinne was encouraging it. With Jim's rejection, it was easy to see that he had other paths and other career opportunities.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

In reality, Jim had no errands to run. He just needed to get out of the loft and away from Blair and his new friends before he said something he would regret. He started driving, no set destination in mind. Soon, he found himself at the park near Rainier University. Blair had shown him this park, explaining to Jim that he would come here when he needed to think about life or have an important decision to make. Blair confessed that he spent a lot of time in the park when he was an undergraduate. The great thing about it was that few people knew about it.

Jim came across a log and sat down. Even though Blair had pushed him away, and severed his ties with the police department, Jim still wanted to maintain a friendship with the younger man. He really believed there was a true friendship between them, despite all the psychos, criminals and murderers they had encountered over their years together. Jim understood Blair's need to distance himself from what had caused his near-death experience. Since teaming up with Jim and the police department, there had been too many near-death experiences and one very real death experience. At Rainier, there weren't the constant day-to-day risks. Blair could study his beloved anthropology to his heart's content, concentrate on his doctorate, and teach students. Jim couldn't blame Blair for wanting to return to a safe life.

Jim got to his feet and walked back to his truck. He'd come to a decision. He'd give Blair some time to settle back into his safe academic life and then try to reestablish the lines of communication. After all, Blair was still the most important member of his tribe.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair sent Corinne, Pete and Joe downstairs while he did a quick walk-through to make sure Jim didn't forget anything. Corinne had offered to stay and help, but Blair told her he could handle things on his own.

Blair hadn't moved many of the boxes, due to his continued breathing problems and his lack of strength. He figured Jim knew about his limitations and knew he wouldn't risk what health he had.

He also knew Jim hadn't forgotten anything. Jim was nothing if not thorough. Always had been and always would be.

Over the past nine months without Jim's friendship and presence in his life, Blair knew his life was incomplete. No matter how much Blair wanted to sever his friendship with the police department and especially with Jim, he knew it wasn't going to be that simple. He couldn't just walk away from Jim after three-plus years of partnership and friendship.

Blair found the notepad by the telephone and sat down to write a note for Jim. If Corinne found out about it, she'd tell him it was a step backwards towards a destructive lifestyle. However, Blair did not intend to immerse himself into Jim's lifestyle as he had before. A person just didn't abandon a friendship on a whim. Blair wrote out the note, placing Jim's name on the outside of the folded pages. He left it on the kitchen table, hoping Jim wouldn't just toss the note without reading it.

Blair slowly got to his feet, taking one last look around the loft. It was best to have a place he could call his own. He had outgrown the small room under the stairs a long time ago.

He left the loft, locking it behind him. He had his own place to take care of now.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Five hours later, Jim came back to the loft. Before he got out of his truck, he determined that the loft was empty. He walked up to the third floor, able to follow Blair's scent that lingered behind.

Once inside the loft, Jim looked around. The place seemed barren. He spotted the note pages right away. He walked to sit at the table, picking up the note. He knew it was from Blair, recognizing the writing.

Jim released the breath he was holding as he finished the note. Then a small smile came across his face. It sounded as if Blair still wanted to maintain a friendship with him, which to Jim was an encouraging sign. Jim still decided to give Blair some time before renewing their friendship.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

It was actually Blair who called Jim a couple of weeks later, asking if Jim was free for dinner. Jim agreed to meet Blair at the pizza parlor near Rainier.

Jim walked into the restaurant, spotting Blair talking to the waitress. Some things never changed. He walked over to the table, slipping into the seat opposite Blair.

"Oh, hi Jim. I was just telling Missy about you."

"I'm sure you were, Chief. Gee and I thought you invited me here for something to eat."

"Oh I did, Jim. That, plus I wanted to talk to you about something."

"Hm-m-m. That doesn't sound good."

Blair laughed. "You're just so dramatic, Ellison. We'll both have colas, Missy."

"Coming right up, Blair."

As soon as she left, Blair turned his attention to Jim. "I wanted to ask if I could stop by the station some time this week and interview the guys."

"Interview the guys? What's going on, Sandburg?"

"Well, I'm working on getting my doctorate and I've decided to go with the 'closed society' spiel that used to be our cover story. I wrote a lot of things down and I presented a preliminary report to my dissertation committee after I got approval to change topics from the department head."

"It sounds like you have everything well in hand. It's okay with me, but you might want to clear it with Simon too. Is it just Major Crime?"

"Oh, no. I also had some interviews I did with patrol officers and detectives from other departments. I've already gotten clearance from Chief Warren to conduct follow-up interviews."

"Then why ask me if you could stop by?"

"To be honest, I just wanted to give you a heads up in case you had a problem with me being there. I could avoid Major Crime if necessary."

"No, no. That's fine. You can stop by. I read your letter you left after taking your things. I want us to remain friends also. I was going to give you a little time to get settled in and then contact you."

"I'm sorry for what I said. It was a terrible thing to do to someone who has been at my side for as long as you have. I just needed the time alone and I reacted to the pain more than anything else."

"I understand. And I'm sorry if I was short with you. I have to tell you something, Blair. I followed you when you left the hospital. I was going to confront you, but I didn't want to upset you after doing it shortly after the explosion."

Just when Blair was going to say something, Missy came back with their drinks. Blair took a sip of his soda.

"Your choice of toppings, Jim."

"You sure about that, Sandburg?"

"Yep. Your choice."

"Okay. We'd like a large supreme with everything."

"Is that all?" Missy looked from Jim to Blair.

"Yep, that'll be it, Missy. Thanks."

~*~*~*~*~*~*

The meal was enjoyable and by the end of the pizza, both Jim and Blair were laughing and talking as if nothing had ever come between them. Blair was happy, because he had been worried that Jim wouldn't want to have anything to do with him ever again. It was nice to know that the friendship was still intact.

Blair was also pleased that Jim had no problems with him going to the station to do the interviews. It meant a lot to him that he was going to be able to do this. He just recently realized how important it was to him to get his doctorate. He'd been working for years towards that very goal and now it was within his grasp as soon as he wrote up his presentation to his dissertation committee.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim watched Blair as he conducted his interviews in Major Crime. He talked to Brown, Rafe, Dills and even Simon. Every once in a while, he'd look over towards Jim and wink. Jim would just smile back at him.

When he was finished with Simon, he came out of the captain's office and walked towards Jim's desk. He sat down in the chair beside the desk.

"Your turn."

"What?"

"Your turn, Jim. I've interviewed everyone else and now it's your turn."

"Oh. I didn't think you would need an interview with me."

"You are kidding, right, Jim? You are what makes Major Crime so successful! If I didn't get an interview with you, Chief Warren would think that I didn't have a clue about what I was trying to do."

"So, you want to do the interview here?"

"Yeah, here's fine. I just have several questions regarding procedure and the relationship between cop and perp and cop and victim. Just give me honest answers."

The question and answer session went well. Blair asked Jim several additional questions that sprang from some of the answers he gave. All it all, it was as successful as the rest of his interviews had gone. Blair knew by the end of the interviews that writing his paper would be a breeze. He'd have his doctorate by the end of the semester.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

It was surprise to Jim when he opened the invitation to Blair's graduation. He and Blair had been getting together on a regular basis over the months and it even seemed as though their friendship was more solid than it had been before.

Jim decided to go to the graduation ceremonies only because he wanted to see Blair attain the one thing he had been striving for in all the years Jim knew him. He'd be Blair's cheering section. Jim was actually excited to be going to the ceremony, along with the fact that Blair had extended the invitation.

~*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim followed Blair's voice after the ceremony to locate him. Of course, by the time Jim reached where Blair was, there was a crowd of well-wishers around him. Jim stood there, watching as Blair interacted with every person there. It amazed Jim that Blair was so patient. As he stood there watching Blair, Jim realized that his friend had grown up. He had a maturity about him that pleased Jim.

Finally, the last person, a young woman, kissed Blair's cheek and left his side with the promise to call him later. When Blair turned to look at Jim, the smile was still on his face.

"Well, it appears that some things never change, right Chief? Or should that be Dr. Chief?"

"For you, Blair Sandburg, PhD will be just fine."

Jim laughed aloud and then reached out to pull Blair into a bear hug. "Congratulations, kiddo. You did it!"

Jim felt Blair return the hug. "Yeah, I did, didn't I?" Blair pulled out of the hug and Jim saw the huge grin on his face. "I never thought I'd get to this day and I have you to thank for it."

"I didn't do anything to help you, Chief. If anything, I impeded your progress."

"No, Jim. It wasn't you. It was all my doing. I should have known that getting involved with the police department wasn't the way to accomplish my goals. Don't get me wrong, I learned a heck of a lot riding along with you and getting involved in cases and deductive reasoning and solving crime cases, but I also learned that it's not the path for me." Blair paused a minute, as if to gather his thoughts. "I think that's why I pushed you away after the explosion and then contacted Simon to let him know that I wasn't coming back to the department. When I first made the decision, it was sort of knee jerk and it was as if 'Of course, Blair will stay with the department. Why would he not?' Even I didn't question that reasoning until after the explosion. It took me almost dying to realize what I really wanted to do with my life."

"And here you are, a doctor of anthropology. So, what's next on the horizon for Dr. Sandburg?"

"Well, for the time being, I'm just going to teach, write some articles, and stay in touch with my best friend."

Jim looked at Blair at the last line. "What would Corinne say?"

"She's already told me that I'm a fool, but I figure you don't let friendship go when you find it."

"I agree with you. How about a celebratory cookout?"

Blair frowned. "What are you up to, Jim?"

"Hey, I just happened to mention to the others that I was going to your graduation. Rhonda came up with the idea of a barbeque. I'm to bring you to Simon's ASAP."

"Great! Well, I guess I can endure more congratulations. They are like my extended family."

"Speaking of family, where's Naomi?"

Jim saw another frown cross Blair's face. "I'm not sure. I sent an invitation. It must not have caught up with her."

"Well then, you can celebrate with your extended family. You want to follow me to Simon's?"

"Sure, Jim. I'll be right behind you."

~*~*~*~*~*~*

It was late when the party finally wound down. Jim and Blair were sitting side by side at the picnic table in the back yard. It felt so right and both men knew it.

"Thank you." Both men spoke the words at the same time. A chuckle escaped.

"I think we're meant to be together."

"I think you're right."

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These are my stories chronicling the continuing adventures of Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg, Sentinel and Guide, partners and friends.

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