Story Title: The Price of Forgiveness
Characters: Blair Sandburg
Summary: Blair finds himself dead.
Disclaimer/Warnings: Character death... sort of. These characters are lovingly borrowed from PetFly’s ‘The Sentinel’ and will be carefully returned to the toy box when I am through.
Special thanks to Pam, debraC, Sara, WoD, Caro, Anne, ShayAlyce, chairchick and the entire Sen_beta list for their wonderful words of wisdom.
*I’m sorry, Jim.*
It was my last thought before the cold water stole the life from my body. Despair prevented me from putting up much of a struggle when the shapely blonde angel of death appeared before me in my office. I felt life was over anyway; no sense fighting the inevitable.
A small voice inside my head had been screaming at me to fight since Jim kicked me out of the loft. Those who know me would never have believed that I allowed him to push me away without putting more of an effort into arguing some sense into him. But I couldn’t do that, not when I already did not hold myself blameless.
It was insidiously easy, just a little obfuscation. After all, I reasoned, he’s kept all sorts of stuff from me. Getting him to talk about his senses has always been like pulling teeth. So I kept my mouth shut, quietly adding ‘Alex’ to my to-do list above ‘pick up the groceries’. ‘Help Jim with his emotional crisis’ was bumped right off the list. If I had forced the issue before taking on Alex things could have ended so differently.
Looking back, it was so obviously a mistake. Guilt began to gnaw at me almost immediately. The debates raging in my head would have made Congress look like a gathering of old friends. After all, I never promised Jim my undivided attention. Surely he would understand that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a second research subject. I was a Guide, after all, how could I justify not helping a Sentinel in need? Besides, I tried to tell him and he just blew me off.
Perhaps I was so tired of arguing with myself that I didn’t have any energy left to argue with Jim … or Alex. I was so preoccupied with the stuff inside my head that I missed the warning signs. Perhaps if I had been with him instead of her I could have recognized and helped him cope with instincts on over-drive. If I’d been paying attention, I would’ve noticed he was struggling. How did I miss that? Jim’s sentinel instincts were so obviously going crazy. I mean, hello! First he was having visions and then suddenly he answers the door by pointing a gun in my face. Red flashing lights should have been going off all over the place.
How could I leave him to face that alone? I knew from experience that a confused Jim was a recipe for disaster. It should not have come as such a shock when he struck out in fear and anger at the perceived threat to his territory. After all, I have seen him do that so many times, it had just never occurred to me that one day the threat would be me. I abandoned him, sacrificing my duties as his Guide in the pursuit of a piece of paper to hang on my wall.
Somewhere along the way I forgot I was not just a Guide… I was Jim’s Guide. This was not about my dissertation, it was about helping Jim. It was about loyalty and trust and friendship and … love. At least if my mistake had been about Alex, I would feel some redemption in my actions. This was not about Alex, not about Jim, this whole fiasco was a selfish attempt to serve my own interests.
I don’t blame him. How could I when I made the fatal error of getting so lost in my research that I forgot about the man behind it? It is almost funny in a twisted way. My biggest mistake was to follow the advice pounded into my head from the first day I walked into Anthro 101: ‘Stay detached, stay objective.’ What a bunch of B.S. How could I put my dissertation over Jim? Was the damn paper really that important?
Standing here on this side of death’s door, it seems pretty worthless. In the end, no matter what his fear-based responses were; it was my actions, my betrayal that led to my own death. It was my fault.
The forest path I find myself on is dark. I stumble on blindly, lost and confused.
Am I being too hard on myself? People betray those they love all the time. It’s happened to me more times than I really want to think about. But then Jim and I were not normal people. Between us the stakes were always higher, the consequences always more severe. On the other hand, we had each other. Always before when death came knocking Jim and I found a way around it. Is it because I have forfeited the right to be his Guide that death has finally claimed me? I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. If my death was a punishment for my actions or just one of those things, the end result is the same. I’ve lost Jim.
The loss of the little things hits me the hardest; the reassuring twitch of a smile he gives when things are at their worst, his quiet strength that neither wanes nor fails, and most of all his warmth. Being by his side kept away the biting chill, as though his very presence surrounded me, keeping me safe and warm.
I’m so cold here, so alone and cold.
It is the sound of my own name, spoken in a familiar voice, that draws my attention.
“Come on, Sandburg.”
The call is faint and yet echoes from every direction.
“Oh God, no.”
Jim is in pain. I can hear it in his voice. He is in pain and he is calling for me.
“This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening.”
Then the light comes, shining before me. The cry of the wolf pack rings in my ears, calling me home. Peace flows from the light and over my heart like a balm as I am beckoned forward. I want that, to have the cares of the world lifted from me, to be in a safe place where I will not have to fight or bleed or die.
Something stops me. A warm breeze stirs the fur on my face. Is it Jim? I look both front and back, searching, but the cord of connection that has always drawn me to Jim in the past has faded, or perhaps had been broken altogether. The thought hits me like a knife to the chest. This, then, is my ultimate punishment -- I have been cut off. My duties and responsibilities as a Guide have been taken from me, leaving me alone. Yes, it is time to move on.
Then suddenly Jim is there, the great cat coming after me with a look of determination fiercer than any I had seen before. Despite all I have done, all I have forfeited, he still wants me. My heart is filled to bursting. The beckoning of the light is still real and powerful, as is the promise of peace; but it no longer holds any allure for me.
I turn and race as fast as my four legs will carry me. I am going to go back to him, where I belong. As I spring into the air across the gorge between us, I have no delusions that returning is going to be easy. It has never been easy before; why should it start now?
Never once do I think that simply by going back the break between us would be miraculously healed. All I have forfeited is gone, and some things, once lost, can never be reclaimed. To have continued forward into death would have been the easy path. To go back, to do what is necessary to win back his trust will be the greater struggle.
It does not matter. I know now that I am happiest at his side even if the role of Guide is lost. I am willing to do more than die for his forgiveness, for his friendship…I am willing to live.