Title: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Author/pseudonym: Wolfling

Email address: wolfling@email.msn.com

Rating: G

Pairings: J/B

Category: missing scene

Status: NEW, complete

Date: Feb 3, 1999

Archive: Yes

Archive author: Wolfling

Archive email address: wolfling@email.msn.com

Other website: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Studio/3603/wolfling.html

Series/Sequel: not yet

Disclaimers: The boys aren't mine; they still belong to PetFly and I'm using them without permission. No money made, written only for enjoyment, yadda, yadda, yadda...

Notes: For the record I loved S2p2. I've watched it four times now and like it more every time. So this isn't a "fix-it" story, just a missing scene and my attempt to fill in a few of the things the episode didn't deal with. I had to write it; Blair started talking to me five minutes into the show and wouldn't shut up until I did. Thanks to hooly who came up with the "Alex obsessed with pools of water" explanation I used here. This is the first time in years I've written *anything* in the first person so feedback -- of all kinds would be even more appreciated than usual.

Summary: Blair discovers that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't always what you expect.

Warnings: spoilers for Sentinel, Too, both parts

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It's funny how everything can change because of one event. Okay, granted, in my case it was a pretty pivotal event -- there's nothing much bigger than dying and coming back to life after all -- but I still wouldn't have guessed even that could change things this much.

Or maybe I should say "fix" instead of "change" because before I took that unscheduled swim in the fountain my life was falling apart around me. My dissertation subject had backed out of our project, my roommate had thrown me out, my best friend had basically told me he didn't trust me and wanted nothing more to do with me.

That fact that subject, roommate and best friend were one and the same person just highlights how much my life has come to revolve around one Jim Ellison.

Which is something I'll come back to later.

Anyway, the way things had been going being killed wasn't as much of a surprise as it should've been. I mean, that was about the only thing left that could've gone wrong and following Murphy's law...

Okay. So dying wasn't a big surprise. What happened next was.

I've never done things the conventional way and apparently my out of body experience wasn't going to be when I started to. Instead of a dark tunnel and a bright light I get a jungle. Instead of angels or friends and family that have passed on before me I get animals.

Actually I didn't just get animals -- I became an animal, a wolf to be specific. And I guess I did get a friend appearing in a weird sort of way because there was also this black jaguar. That's Jim's spirit animal -- which I guess makes the wolf mine.

And I did get the bright light after a fashion as well, but it wasn't at the end of a tunnel. The wolf -- me -- and the black jaguar jumped at each other and merged. That's when I got the bright light.

And then I was back in my body coughing up what felt like a lake's worth of water. Man, that was *not* fun. But it beat not breathing by a long shot so I dealt.

So I was back among the land of the living again and everything had changed. It took me a while to realize exactly how much because at first everything seemed pretty much normal, or at least what passes for normal in my life. Then again that in itself was a change since things had been incredibly abnormal right before so...

Did I mention I tend to overanalyze?

Jim visited me in the hospital and it was like nothing had gone wrong between us -- the tension had totally disappeared. But it was different than before; I think both of us were mega-aware of what we'd almost lost and were savoring our regained closeness for all it was worth.

I didn't get an overt apology from Jim but then again I would've been surprised if I had. And I didn't really need one. Jim's expression, his eyes, his body language, even what he chose to joke about, they all said "I'm sorry" loud and clear for anyone who knew how to translate them. And I did. In the three years I've known him I've become fluent in "Jim-speak".

And just in case I hadn't gotten the point, before Jim left for the night he casually offered to get my things from the motel and take them back to the loft for me. "So you won't have to worry about it when you come home, Chief."

Message received and understood buddy.

Home. There aren't words to describe what it felt like to be released from the hospital and walk back into the loft to find everything back the way it's supposed to be.

The last time I had walked through that door, there had been nothing here; Jim had taken out every scrap of furniture, every decoration, every *thing*, leaving only bare walls and empty rooms. That had been hard to face -- the time before that had been even harder. Walking in and seeing all my stuff packed up in boxes because Jim was throwing me out has to be one of the most painful experiences of my life.

But seeing everything back, both Jim's and my stuff, erased some of that hurt. I walked around the place, touching things randomly, just making sure they were real. Then I went over to my bedroom door and looked in.

Everything was back just the way I'd had it before Jim had dismantled it and thrown all my things -- my life -- into boxes. I swallowed hard and stood there for a long moment, perilously close to tears. Figures doesn't it? I go through all this heavy emotional shit dry-eyed and it's the sight of my own bedroom that gets me.

Jim had been standing at the door watching me reacquaint myself with the apartment with this funny little half smile on his face. When I froze in my bedroom doorway, doing my best not to get choked up, he walked over and stood behind me, laying a hand on my shoulder and squeezing, saying through touch what he couldn't with words. I took a deep shaky breath and the threat of tears receded.

"Hungry Chief?" he asked after a moment and I had to suppress a laugh. Jim was the original food as comfort kind of guy.

"I could eat," I replied and even managed to keep my tone casual.

Jim just nodded, gave my shoulder one last squeeze and headed for the kitchen. He started pulling out the ingredients for his homemade sauce so I wandered over and grabbed a pot for the pasta. I was filling it up with water when he asked, "Sandburg?"

"Yeah Jim?" I turned off the water and hauled the pot over to the stove, putting it on to boil.

"What are you doing?"

Huh? "Boiling the water for the pasta. What does it look like I'm doing?"

"You should be resting. You just got out of the hospital."

Oh. Overprotective sentinel at ten o'clock. It was kind of nice actually to have him back. "I'm fine, Jim," I said, smiling at him.

Now if everything was holding true to form he'd...

"Still Chief, I'd be happier if you took it easy..."

I grinned. Right on time. Man, it felt good to be able to predict how Jim would react again.

"Boiling water is hardly akin to running a marathon. If I get tired I'll rest, okay?"

I watched him struggle for a moment with the urge to bundle me up and *make* me rest before he did what I'd expected him to do. He gave in. Heaving a huge sigh he said, "Fine Chief. Just don't overdo it."

"Wouldn't dream of it man," I promised.

Jim looked at me suspiciously for half a moment before shaking his head ruefully and turning back to chopping up ingredients for the sauce.

A few minutes later he was asking me to cut up some peppers and then complaining I hadn't done it right.

Things were back to normal.

The rest of the afternoon and evening passed uneventfully which, given everything that had happened -- and was still happening, after all Alex was still out there -- was an event in itself. By unspoken agreement we avoided any mention of Alex, the nerve gas or anything else connected to the case. This evening was for rest, recuperation and reconnecting. Everything else we would be dealing with soon enough.

Sooner than I had expected as it turned out. The moment I fell asleep that night the dreams started.

Or maybe they're more properly termed memories since it was essentially just a replay of my death and after-death experiences.

I woke up around 2 am and knew I would not be getting back to sleep any time soon. The dreams had just been too unsettling. Not disturbing, per se, though I could do without reliving my drowning too many times. Just... unfinished. Like there's something I should be picking up on that I haven't.

I got up and went out to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea, trying to move as quietly as I could so as not to wake my roommate. Like that is even a possibility when your roommate is a sentinel.

"Chief? You okay?"

I glanced at the clock. I'd been up for four minutes. New record.

"I'm fine, Jim," I said pushing my hair out of my face and turning back to the kettle. "Just making a cup of tea. I didn't mean to wake you."

"S'okay." There was a rustling sound and then Jim was coming down the stairs dressed in his robe and flip-flop slippers. "Pour me a cup too Chief, will ya?"

I raised an eyebrow at that; Jim is not a big fan of my teas. I let it pass without comment though, recognizing it for what it was -- an excuse to keep me company.

I brought two mugs of tea over to the table, handed him one and sat down beside him.

"You want to talk about it?" Jim asked after a few moments' silence.

I looked at him a bit surprised. Jim isn't really known for his love of conversation. Especially when it's something serious. Which this was. At least I thought it was. I was still trying to figure it out for sure. "Isn't that my line?" I joked.

Jim shrugged. "Maybe you're rubbing off on me." He took a sip of the tea, made a face, then put the mug down. "I'm willing to listen."

I smiled inwardly. Role reversal indeed. Still the offer was tempting. I always think better when I can talk something out.

"I had a dream," I began, watching his face carefully. I was still not sure he'd want to talk about this. "About my d- about what happened at the fountain." Somehow I couldn't just blurt out the words. Not yet.

I saw the barely perceptible flinch Jim gave only because I was looking for it. Still his voice sounded normal when he asked, "Nightmare?"

"Not... precisely," I replied. "Though between what Lash wanted to do and what Alex did I'm seriously considering developing a phobia to small bodies of water."

That earned me a ghost of a smile. "To go along with the fear of heights and falling elevators?"

"Something like that yeah." We were silent for a moment before I finally decided to take the plunge. "I really would like to talk about it," I admitted hesitantly.

Jim nodded encouragingly. "I said I'm here to listen."

I let out a breath I hadn't known I'd been holding. I had half-expected Jim to back off and I really did feel the need to talk this out with him.

"She came to my office with a gun," I began, staring at the mug in my hands. "Thanked me for helping her," here I couldn't get the sarcasm out of my voice, "but said she couldn't leave me alive. I thought she was going to shoot me right there, man." I shivered, remembering what it felt like for those few seconds when I was convinced she was about to pull the trigger.

Jim reached out and laid a comforting hand on my arm. I glanced up and met his eyes and for a second I knew what it was I was trying to figure out. Then it was gone again.

Frustrated but knowing I was somehow on the right track I continued talking. "But then she forced me outside, still at gunpoint. I went -- I figured hey at least I'm still breathing right? And I was hoping for a chance to get away. But then she saw the fountain. She kept staring at it, muttering about pools of enlightenment and sacred waters and shit. It sounded like she was talking about this ancient legend I had told her about so I turned to ask her about it -- on the theory that if they're talking to you they're not shooting you -- and she must've whacked me on the head with her gun or something because everything went black."

I paused, remembering my last thoughts before I blacked out -- which were almost my last thoughts ever. A small smile came to my lips as I told them to Jim. "The last thing I remember thinking was 'Man, Jim is going to be pissed!'"

That got a brief smile in return from Jim. "Pissed doesn't even begin to cover it, Chief. You scared the crap out of me!"

"Sorry man," I replied, spreading my hands. "It wasn't my choice."

"I know." He was quiet for a moment but I could see he wanted to ask something so I waited until he got up the courage to speak. "Do you remember being in the fountain?" he finally asked in a tentative voice.

Do I remember dying, he meant. This at least I could put his mind at ease about. "No," I answered, watching as some of the tension drained out of him with that one word. "The next thing I remember after being hit on the head is being in that jungle and discovering I suddenly had four feet instead of two!" I grinned at him. "But you saw that part."

"Yeah I did." Jim took another sip of tea. "That's not the first time I saw the wolf," he confided.

"What? You saw the wolf before? When? In what context?" I bit my tongue before I could add any more questions. Like 'why didn't you tell me?' for example. We didn't need to have *that* argument again.

"It was the day you came home and I pulled a gun on you."

I nodded, remembering that day well -- it was the day I first met Alex.

"I had a dream -- vision -- I don't know." Jim shook his head then continued. "I was in the jungle, hunting with a bow and arrows. I saw this wolf and I shot it." He wasn't looking at me now. "It fell over onto its side and died. Then it changed into you."

That I hadn't been expecting. "So in your dream," I said slowly, wanting to clarify, "you killed me. Symbolically speaking."

Jim nodded once, the twitching muscle in his jaw a dead giveaway of his distress.

Oh man! No wonder he'd started pulling away! A lot of things that hadn't made much sense before suddenly were becoming very clear. If he had just told me about this when it happened... but I understood why he didn't.

I looked at Jim; he was sitting there looking like he was waiting for me to start ragging him out. About his vision? Or his keeping it secret? I wasn't sure. Either way I wasn't going to do it. Whatever wounds that had been inflicted had been healed during our shared vision. I wouldn't open them again.

"I like my vision a lot better," I said instead.

Jim blinked, then looked at me, surprised. Then he slowly smiled. "I do too."

I nodded and finished my tea. I still hadn't figured out what I was missing but I had the feeling that I'd be able to get back to sleep anyway.

As I stood to take my mug to the sink to rinse it out, Jim reached out and grabbed my arm, stopping me. "Are we okay then Chief?" he asked quietly.

I nodded. "We're fine, Jim," I replied, feeling a warmth steal through me at the look in his eyes. God I love this man.

Whoa.

Where did that come from?

I examined my feelings as I absently washed out my mug and put it away. Did I really love Jim? Unbidden the image of the black jaguar and the wolf merging into a white light came to my mind. But this time I saw -- or rather felt -- what I had missed before. The need, the friendship, the acceptance and yes, the love that flowed both ways between Jim and me was blatantly evident.

I chuckled softly to myself; I'd been in love with Jim for a long time and hadn't even realized it. And I was pretty sure Jim felt the same way about me and was equally oblivious. Man, we were a pair, weren't we?

"What's so funny?" Jim asked. I looked over and saw him watching me with a questioning look on his face.

I wondered if I should tell him. But then I remembered what he had said back at the hospital, about not being ready to take that trip into the mysterious with me yet, and I realized telling him would be a mistake. He'd had the same vision I'd had; I had figured it out, so would he. When he was ready. I could wait.

He was still waiting for an answer. "Nothing," I told him. "Just... I'm happy to be home."

Jim smiled that smile he saves for really special moments, the one that just lights up his whole face. God, how could I not have noticed how much I loved him before? "Glad to have you home, Blair."

"Listen," I said, "I'm going to turn in. Thanks for staying up with me but I think I can sleep now." Now that I had discovered what had been nagging at me I was sure of it.

Jim nodded. "Good. You need your rest. You're still recovering."

I rolled my eyes a little at that, but just the same it felt good to have him mother-henning me again. I had missed it.

"Night Jim," I said as I headed towards my room.

"Night Chief." He waited until I had reached the bedroom door and then turned out the light. I stood just inside my room and listened to him make his way upstairs. Or tried to listen -- he really did move as quietly as a big cat. Still I had seen him go up those stairs so many times that I could fill in the blanks even if I couldn't actually hear-

"Go to bed Sandburg!"

I grinned. I may not have been able to hear him but he could definitely hear me. Before he could start growling I did as ordered, snuggling down contentedly under my blankets, knowing that Jim was listening for me.

I had been wrong -- I had gotten a light at the end of the tunnel after all. In my case it just had a name.

Jim.

END

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