Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!)
Summary: Our intrepid protagonists try to cope with their new roles, and Daniel Casey gets a surprise visit from a certain curly haired, dead anthopologist.
Warnings: Sort of a death story, although the fact that the guys are dead doesn't seem to be slowing them down none. Nor does it stop them from making cracks. (I guess this gives new meaning to the phrase "dead funny.")
Notes: Thanks for previous feedback and keep it coming, please!
"Victor!" said Sonia, rushing to meet him, moving to interpose herself between Victor de Guzman and Daniel Casey.
"I forgot my...sunglasses," said Victor slowly, staring at Casey, who stood tense, defensively, muscles clenched. He exhaled a long breath, then fixed an eye on Sonia. "Dr. Cortez, you have some serious explaining to do."
"Victor, please — he came looking for Blair and I needed a place to put him and so I thought — "
"He's a friend of Blair's?" asked de Guzman, eyes narrowing.
"No, but Blair sent him to me. It's like the underground railroad, Victor," Sonia explained. "Blair's already laid down the tracks."
"Dear God," said Victor, eyeing the young blond air force officer. "Is it a type?" he asked suddenly.
"Probably, yes," said Sonia. "I mean, look, you have to see Sandburg's data — "
"Could you please stop talking about me as if I'm not here?" yelled Casey suddenly, angrily, and they both turned to stare at him.
"Casey, I'm sorry," said Sonia.
"Sonia, who is this?" asked Casey.
"This is Dr. Victor de Guzman. He's also an anthropologist. He was one of Blair Sandburg's students and also his friend. Victor, this Daniel Casey. He's — "
"A Sentinel," said Victor. "I can see that."
"How do you know that?" asked Casey, suspiciously.
Victor shook his head helplessly. "Because." He crossed the room and opened a cabinet. He pulled out a large cardboard box and set it on the coffee table. He rummaged in it for a moment, then pulled out a photograph and held it out to Casey. "Mr. Casey, meet James Ellison."
Hesitantly, Casey came closer, snatched the photograph from his hand. He looked down to see a tall man, an Army Ranger, in uniform: he walked away from de Guzman, taking the picture with him. "The photo probably won't explain it," said de Guzman, following him with his eyes. "It's really more a matter of body language. You would have had to have known him."
"Yeah, well, I didn't," said Casey quietly, back turned.
"Sonia, what do you think you're doing?" asked Victor.
"I don't know," said Sonia, sitting down on the living room sofa. "Look, Blair Sandburg obviously had contacts that sent people with super-sensory abilities to him. The underground railroad, like I said. I'm in his office now: what am I supposed to do? Send them away? Send him away? I have a responsibility, here, Victor. I'm trying to do what Blair would have wanted. Daniel needs a place to stay. I thought — well, you did give me the keys..."
"Yes, I did," said Victor, after a moment, and then he smiled. "You're right: I think Blair would have liked the idea of this place as...well, as a Sentinel halfway house. Maybe that was his idea all along. You can't really out-think Blair Sandburg," he muttered, rubbing his temples. "You'll just get a headache. Trust me, I know from experience."
"Victor, please, you can't tell anyone about this," begged Sonia.
"Tell?" asked Victor de Guzman, looking up in surprise. "Who would I tell? What would I tell them? That there's another grumpy Sentinel living in Blair Sandburg's apartment?"
"You know, I'm not grumpy," said Casey, irritably. "You don't even know me." Sonia noted that he had slipped the photograph of Ellison into his pocket.
"All right, I'm sorry. So: what are you going to do with your talents?" he asked brusquely.
"I don't know," replied Casey. "I mean, this is all new to me. And right now, it doesn't really seem like a talent. More like a curse," he said, sitting down again at the kitchen table. "Headaches. Strange noises and smells — blinding colors — "
"Well, no wonder Ellison was always grumpy," Victor commented to Sonia.
"Don't talk about Him like that," retorted Casey.
"Oh, Jesus," murmured de Guzman.
"All right, look. I'll try to help you control it," said Sonia to Casey. "I will try. You just have to understand that I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm not Blair Sandburg: this isn't coming natural to me. All I know is what's in the book," she said, gesturing to the seventeen volumes on the floor.
Casey laughed suddenly, and Sonia found herself thinking that he looked younger, sunnier, when he laughed. "Well, that's OK: what isn't in that book probably isn't worth knowing."
"Right," said Sonia, laughing too. "So we'll figure it out," she said, approaching him. "We'll take our time, okay? The important thing is that you...well, that you stay well. That you stay calm. Okay? Please?"
"Okay," Casey said softly, touching her arm. "If you try, I'll try."
"Victor, will you help?" asked Sonia, turning to him.
"I'll help," sighed Victor de Guzman. "I owe it to them, I guess. We'll all take a crash course in Sandburg," he said, staring at the binders. "It'll be like a study group — grad school all over again."
"Why do we need his help?" asked Casey, eyeing de Guzman jealously.
"Because we do," said Sonia softly. "Because we're going to need all the help we can get."
"If you say so, Sonia," conceded Casey.
"I say so," she said, and then smiled. "And I guess I'm the Guide: and so what I say goes."
"So can I interest you in coffee?" Casey said from the door to her office the next afternoon, and Sonia looked up and greeted him with a brilliant smile, and Casey felt warmed, felt lost in that smile.
"Yeah," she said. "Sure," she said. "How did you make out on your first night Chez Sandburg?"
"Fine. It's Chez Ellison, I think," he corrected. "Sandburg clearly did the decorating, but that place is designed for a Sentinel. Trust me." He smiled, and stepped into the office. "I mean, the sheets! I don't think I've ever been so comfortable in my life."
"So you slept well?" asked Sonia, getting up and coming around the desk.
"Well, actually, no," he said, embarrassedly. "I stayed up late. First I snooped around and looked through all those photographs. Then I got caught up in reading Sandburg's book. And You Know You've Been Reading Too Much Sandburg When," said Casey, rubbing his eyes.
"When what?" asked Sonia, smiling.
"Well, I kept having these wacky dreams," replied Casey, smiling shyly back.
"What dreams?" said Sonia quickly, smile vanishing.
"They're stupid," said Casey, assuredly, "they can't mean anything."
"How far are you in the book?" interjected Sonia.
"Still on the first volume, why?" asked Casey.
"Tell me about the dreams," said Sonia, grabbing his arm.
"What are you getting all worked up about?" asked Casey. "I told you, they're stupid. I'm wandering around in the jungle, and there are all these animals and they keep trying to talk to me — it's like a damn Disney movie," he added, teasingly.
"What do they say?" asked Sonia, and Casey laughed.
"They don't say anything — I don't talk to animals, okay?" he replied in an amused voice, sitting down on the edge of her desk.
Sonia sighed loudly. "Oh, God, Casey," she said, beginning to pace. "Look, Blair Sandburg describes dreams later in the book — I forget which volume — and also spirit animals that talk to you and give instructions. I mean, this is really where people are going to think Blair Sandburg was on drugs, but he says his spirit animal was a — "
"Wolf," said Casey, and his face was suddenly white. "Right?" and Sonia nodded, eyes wide.
"Fuck it!" exploded Casey, leaping off the desk. "Fuck this crazy-ass shit!" and then he was tearing out the door and running down the hallway, pushing past a stunned group of undergraduates.
He shoved his way out the door of Hargrove Hall, and walked briskly across the lawn, needing air, needing to clear his head —
— and then the universe stopped and stood still and he heard the growl of a jaguar and leapt back in fear of the crouched, poised, muscular animal, noticing suddenly that he was the only person in the landscape who had moved. He looked around wildly, noticing that the entire university seemed to have frozen in place like an oil painting, leaving only him and one very angry-seeming black jaguar, and he was very, very afraid.
"Don't mind him," said a friendly voice, "he won't hurt you. He's only trying to get your attention." Daniel Casey boggled, gasped, raised his hands to his head, knowing that he was finally, utterly, losing what was left of his mind.
"You know, I used to like this fountain," Blair Sandburg said, conversationally, looking around as the jaguar suddenly turned and coiled itself affectionately around his legs. "Then I got a little cold on it. Got a little cold in it, actually. But that's a whole other story, really," he said, and smiled, dismissing the matter with a wave of his hand.
"You're young," said Casey, bluntly, staring.
"You're as young as you feel," joked Blair Sandburg, grin widening, reaching down with his hand and absently stroking the animal's sleek, heaving sides. "Look, I'm not trying to freak you out, here," he said, "but you're not responding through the usual channels so I thought a little direct intervention might be in order. I mean, Jim was in massive denial when I first met him, but at least he knew his spirit animal when he saw it." The jaguar suddenly lashed out with his tail and thwacked Blair Sandburg hard, and Blair said, "Cut it out, will you? You were, weren't you? I'm not lying, am I? Just ignore him," he said to the stunned Casey. "He's in a mood."
"My spirit animal?" asked Casey weakly, and Blair looked up and pointed and only then did Casey let himself notice the falcon gracefully circling overhead in the clear, blue sky.
"Look, you're just going to have to relax," said Blair. "I know you didn't ask for this, but you drew the genetic wild card, so just sit back and enjoy the ride. I mean, I know that's easy for me to say: I've got nothing but perspective from where I'm sitting. It's one of the best up-sides to being dead. But you know, I am speaking from experience, here. Plus, I'm the acknowledged expert, academically speaking," he added, modestly.
"I'm not having a nervous breakdown, am I?" asked Casey, nervously.
"No, no, no, no," said Blair, reassuringly. "Everything's just as it seems. You'll find that this whole thing is relatively straightforward. Weird, but straightforward. You just have to go with your instincts, which most people are culturally trained to deny. For example, you really like Sonia, don't you — well you should, because she's your mate and you need her and you're going to get her, so you don't have to wait until the end of the movie to know how that one turns out. I mean, once you accept the premise that all the weird things that are happening to you really are happening, you're halfway home. In fact, here's an aphorism for you: the stranger it is, the more likely it is to actually be happening. I should have put that in the book," he said, frowning.
"Oh boy," moaned Daniel Casey.
"All right, all right: we're going," Blair said to the jaguar, which had begun to pace restlessly. "He hates this fountain even more than I do," Blair explained. "It's probably why he's in such a temper. He's really very nice: you'll like him," added Blair, sincerely. "What?" he asked the jaguar. "Come on, that's not important. All right, all right," he said, laughing. "Jim says to tell you not to plug in the desk lamp in the office because its broken and it'll short out the electricity. First precious words of advice from a Sentinel," Blair said, rolling his eyes. "You can put that in your scrapbook. Jim, the kid thinks he's having a nervous breakdown and you're giving him do-it-yourself tips. Don't you have anything more immediately useful to contribute? All right, fine — fine!" Blair said, holding up his hands in a gesture of surrender. "He says that is useful, and I suppose he's got a point. Whatever. We'll be seeing you," said Blair —
— and the world started spinning again, and the undergraduates continued their interrupted strolls across campus, and Daniel Casey felt his knees buckle but then Sonia was there, holding his arm, and he stared at her and pointed with wide eyes at the place where Blair Sandburg had been.
"Daniel, it's okay, it's okay," said Sonia, and then she was guiding him gently to her car, and he got in, still shaking, and tried to get his breathing under control as she drove him back to 852 Prospect.
"Look, I know this has been a shock to you," Sonia was saying, "but it's all going to be okay. Don't be afraid of the dreams," she added, and Daniel opened his mouth to tell her about Blair and the jaguar at the fountain, but she was focused on the road and just pressed on. "I know this is weird, but, well — listen, you've got to finish the book. It'll help to prepare you for what could happen. You mustn't think that you're going crazy: that's the important thing. One thing you'll learn from Blair's book: the stranger it is, the more likely it is to actually be happening," and Casey closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the headrest. "Casey?" she asked worriedly, glancing over. "Casey??"