by Sealie Scott
Hi, this is for Shelly - 'cos it's her birthday <g>.
Rating: 'PG' since Blair swears - he has provocation.
Feedback would be....nice.
*Spoilers* - for 'Warriors'.
Standard disclaimers, plus - I just do this for fun and because I can't help myself.
"Aw, come on, man."
"I said NO."
"But I think that it would be a valid experiment."
"That's what you always say. You're not the one who has to put up with the headache and the sneezing."
"I promise no 'weird' taste tests. I just want you to meditate."
Jim Ellison slammed down his empty bottle on the coffee table and almost launched himself to his feet. Blair rocked back against the cushions of the couch. The Guide twisted in his seat and peered over his shoulder as the Sentinel stomped over to the fridge and proceeded to gulp down his third Miller.
"Look, Blair, I have had an absolutely," Jim paused searching for a suitable adjective, "shit day and I just want a quiet evening to watch the television and have a few beers."
Blair watched the final dregs of malted hops and barley sliding from the bottle and easing down a tired and frustrated Sentinel's throat.
"Bear with me, Jim. A little meditation and you will feel top of the world."
"Yeah, hippie, happy thoughts" Jim muttered under his breath - but loud enough for the Guide to hear.
Blair hid a grin. He knew that Jim meant him to hear the 'insult' and that Jim was reluctantly willing to try the new meditation technique but Jim's need to control his environment meant that the older man had to rail against his Guide's little ways. If Jim did not state outright that he did not want to indulge Blair in his latest 'idea', Blair knew that he had fighting chance of persuading Jim to try his plan.
"I've had three beers; won't that effect your meditation?"
Jim slammed the fridge door shut and waggled his fourth beer his expression
baiting. He twisted the cap off in his bare hand and took a long pull.
"No," Blair said easily, "you need to experience a degree of altered reality to truly experience what I have planned."
The choice of words was a bad one. The detective's eyebrow rose until it almost reached his hairline. 'At least I didn't use the dreaded 'd' word.' Blair mused to himself.
"Come on," he cajoled, patting a cushion.
Jim hummed and hawed but reluctantly joined Blair on the couch. As the Sentinel settled his long limbs, Blair twisted onto to his knees and shifted forwards so he was at right angles to the Sentinel. Jim lounged on the couch his arms crossed over his wide chest.
"Try to relax - you can't even begin if you sit there all tense and angry. Rest your hands on your thighs - face upwards. Close your eyes and rest your head back on the cushions."
Jim obeyed, begrudgingly but he obeyed. Blair contained a small smile.
"Actually, I think this would work better if you were in a trance?" Blair said.
Jim nodded absently, already settling into a relaxed, rhythmic pattern of breathing.
"Now listen to my voice..."
Slowly, Blair took the Sentinel through the familiar steps to the relaxed state necessary to open oneself to new ideas, impressions and visions. They went deeper than they had ever gone before, swimming into the depths of subconscious dreams.
"Right, Jim. I want you to think back to the last time you saw your spirit guide. I want you to contact your Spirit Guide - see the panther."
Blair took a deep breath. The spirit guide was a glyph that fascinated the student. The Spirit Guide offered guidance when the Guide couldn't help. If the spirit guide was an 'imaginary friend' on Jim's part - Blair guessed that it was Jim's emotional side. For all his supposed stoicism and unemotional behaviour Jim truly was an emotional being. Perhaps it was the barrage of sensory information, which Blair suspected he had fought with his entire life, which made the man curl up behind a facade of machismo. Yet, despite his admittedly anal lifestyle he had allowed a young student with a tendency to overreact and talk to much into his life. Possibly, it all boiled down to emotions and the patterns of behaviour forced on children's impressionable minds. But Jim had the strength of will to overcome his father's influence and military conditioning to extend the hand of friendship to a hippie wannabe. Alternatively if the spirit guide was a definite entity, talking and learning more about the Spirit Guide would be useful in Guiding his Sentinel. There was also the slight possibility that he would learn something, anything, about being a shaman.
Kicking off his shoes, Blair slipped off the couch. For a moment he paced barefoot before the Sentinel then he sat on the coffee table opposite Jim. Comfortable in his baggy shorts and T-shirt he settled into a lotus position.
"Go to the panther - feel it's breath across your face - caress the fur beneath your fingers - become the panther - OH SHIT!"
Blair toppled backwards off the table falling in a sprawled heap on the other side. His head connected with the floor in with a dull, muffled thud. As his vision greyed into darkness, familiar features loomed over him shifting, moving like liquid silver until only the cat remained.
Blair groaned and weaved his fingers through snarled curls.
"God, what a night?"
A warm weight was draped over his legs. A tad confused, Blair looked upat the ceiling realising, belatedly, that he was lying on the living room floor of the loft. Memories came rushing back.
"Jim?" Blair struggled up onto his elbows - judging from the dull headache between his ears he had only been stunned for a couple of minutes at most. Disconcerted, he kicked at the weight on his legs.
A low, annoyed purr reverberated through his body.
The largest black panther, the only black panther, he had ever seen - was draped over his legs.
"Oh, Gods & Goddesses."
Then the phone rang. Blair jumped and the panther decided that it had had enough and sinuously climbed to its feet. Blair scurried like a crab to the far door, conveniently heading towards the phone. Blair plastered himself against the wall and watched the cat like a hawk.
"Jim? Jim - man - this isn't funny. Where are you?"
The panther sat back on his heels and proceeded to methodically clean its paws. The facetious part of Blair's personality noted that it was a boy panther.
The panther finished with his paws and moved onto his shoulder.
The sane, sensible, scientific, logical part of Blair's personality was pointing out that Jim was not in the loft and he would not have left his unconscious Guide lying on the floor with a black panther - even as a practical joke?
"Jim?" Blair offered tentatively.
The cat stopped his grooming and stared directly at the Guide with pale ice blue eyes.
"Jim," Blair said simply.
The incessant ringing of the phone intruded. On autopilot, Blair reached up tugging on cord so the phone fell in his lap.
"Blair," he said absently.
"Banks. Put Jim on the phone."
"Em, slight problem there," Blair hedged as the panther moved through the room to press a damp nose against the balcony window. The cat left a moist smudge on the glass. "Jim's not feeling like himself."
"Sandburg, Put. Jim. On. The. Phone."
"Can I give him a message?"
The panther chose that moment to growl an interrogative.
"Was that Jim? What's the matter with him?" Simon demanded.
"He got a....really sore throat." Blair managed.
On the other side of the window a pigeon flapped and landed on the balcony. The panther licked its lips.
"He was fine an hour ago?"
The panther left the window and the transfixed pigeon and padded forwards. Blair froze as the panther settled by his side and butted his shoulder with a hard head.
"Er..I erm tried something new which didn't agree with him."
"Does he need to see a doctor?"
"More like a veterinarian," Blair muttered.
The panther purred deep in his throat
"What?" Simon demanded.
"I've given him some antihistamines from his last allergic reaction. They'll kick in soon. I'm keeping an eye on him." Blair babbled.
He could picture the Captain in his mind's eye mulling over the words, dissecting the meaning behind the obfuscation, coming to a decision based on instinct.
"I'll be 'round in a couple of hours. Have Jim talking by then. If he gets worse - phone me."
Simon slammed his phone down in the cradle. Blair winced and the panther rumbled sympathetically in his other ear.
The panther stayed glued to his side wherever he went in the loft. Blair guessed that the whole experience was quite disturbing for his Sentinel. As strange this was, though, that he had no sense of Jim within the panther. There was no recognition or conscious thought. It was as if he had a giant cuddly house-cat prowling after him. Then the predator would examine obsidian claws nearly two inches in length before sheathing them with an audible snick.
The panther no longer scared him - Jim was as dangerous in his own way. And Jim would never hurt Blair.
The panther butted his hand purring its pleasure as he absently stroked its ears.
"This is all very nice and I wouldn't have to clean the loft as much but I think that we should try and get Jim back, don't you?"
Blair coaxed the panther onto the couch. As majestic as a sphinx, the panther took over the couch leaving the Guide to sit cross legged on the coffee table.
"Now what?" Blair asked absently.
He was fresh out of ideas - he didn't know how to make a panther achieve a state of meditation.
"Oh, man," Blair rocked back and forth on the coffee table, "what am I gonna do?"
The panther didn't offer any advice and remained inscrutable.
"There was that squirrelly paper I read on pet hypnosis a while back..." Blair mused. "I don't think that that's gonna work. No other ideas, though."
Jiggling, Blair untied his necklace and held the leather tie with the fragment of moonstone before ice blue eyes.
"Nice kitty, watch the pretty stone."
He could have sworn that he heard the cat snort. Futilely, he tried to force relaxation on the panther. Phlegmatically, the panther occupied itself licking the soft pads covering large paws as the Guide waggled the necklace in its face. Frustrated, Blair dropped the necklace on the tabletop - the panther plopped a heavy paw on top of the necklace preventing the Guide from retrieving the jewel.
"Aw, come on, Jim." Blair gingerly prodded the paw.
The damn cat was laughing at him, Blair was sure despite the fact that the feline features didn't move a whisker. The tail, which was as thick as his wrist, switched lackadaisically from side to side underscoring the feeling of amusement. Blair drummed his fingers against the tabletop.
"Damn, Simon's gonna be here in an hour. What am I going to say? 'Gee, sorry I turned your best detective into a giant house-cat?'."
In a liquid movement, the panther moved from a crouch to rest on his hind quarters bringing their heads level. Then the cat breathed heavily through his nose washing the Guide in his clean breath. The breath was as cleansing as sage from an incense burner.
"Yeah," Blair said softly, "I can't help you when I'm bouncing around like a jack-in-the-box."
Blair took his own deep breath, resumed his lotus position and closed
his eyes. Thoughts were jiggling around his mind refusing to settle. Blair
ignored them - seeking no answers - allowing the answers to come to an open
Blair's impassive, meditative face smiled as he realised that he might have a Spirit Guide similar to the Sentinel. Blair re-established his even breathing, which had faltered with the revelation, and tried not to wish with all his heart for help with Jim's problem but sort to find the answers himself.
The wind surprised him and he almost opened his eyes to see if he had left a window open. He knew that he had closed them - not wanting the Sentinel kitty to wander off in pursuit of local wildlife of the four legged or even the two legged variety.
He could feel fingers of air playing with his curls, caressing his face and circling around him. Cool wind, refreshing wind, wind after the violence of a thunder's storm. He could almost scent the sea breeze on the air.
Air was an elemental force
Air was his birth sign
Air was the essence of communication
Air was his spirit guide.
The basic truth of the discovery rocked him. As did the realisation that he had manipulated his Sentinel and betrayed his trust. He had not thought the experiment through to a conclusion. He had had an idea - 'let's talk to Jim's Spirit Guide' with no thoughts of the ramifications.
Yet, half the time - maybe most of the time - he operated on pure instinct solving Jim's Sentinel problems with a mixture of acquired wisdom, scientific thought, guess work and what felt right in his soul. That sense of rightness led him where fools rarely dared to tread. And now he knew he should have discussed the steps he was taking before hypnotising the Sentinel.
Whiskers tickled his face and warm air fanned over his lips as a clap of wind driven thunder rocked the room. For the second time in less than an hour Blair fell off the coffee table.
"Christ!" Jim Ellison's bass tones echoed through his head.
Blair opened bleary eyes, noting once again he was sprawled on his back on the floor but this time his legs were still on the table.
A flash of lightning flooded the room - showing a human Sentinel fighting with the balcony door flailing in the high winds.
Propelled by the crash of thunder, following the lightning, Jim slammed shut the door and bolted it firmly.
Jim was swearing, his hands were clasped over his ears as he obviously fought for control. Galvanised, Blair tried to sit up but he couldn't find any purchase in his awkward position.
"Lie still!" Jim ordered as he peeled his hands away from his ears. With a final shake of his head, Jim appeared to gain control. Lightning filled the room as he crossed to the Guide's side.
Roll of thunder followed lightning after lightning. The storm was directly over head.
"Don't move," Jim commanded with a laborious movement of his lips.
Blair realised that the Sentinel must have turned down his hearing to his lowest setting to cope with the continuous peals of thunder.
Competent medic's hands fuelled by Sentinel sensitivity played over his body feeling for broken bones and contusions. Blair could only guess at what a picture he made to a confused and tranced Sentinel, who had awoken in the middle of a storm to find his Guide unconscious at his feet. It wasn't surprising that Jim had moved into Blessed Protector mode. Strong fingers sweeping over his scalp lulled him until Jim found the slightest of swellings at the base of his skull. Jim stopped his automatic jerk away and rested sensitive fingers over the small bruise assessing its severity. Then Jim caught him by his shoulders and hauled him into a sitting position. Apparently, he had survived his little adventure intact.
"Hey, man, are you all right?" Blair mouthed.
Another sheet of light filled the room casting white actinic light over the Sentinel. Blair couldn't help himself; he reached out running his fingers over the chiselled planes of his friend's face. He needed to feel, to test the reality, despite the evidence to his eyes.
Jim nodded against his fingertips.
The electric lights flared and danced and then settled, warming the room while the storm still raged outside. A fist hammering against the door went unheard by the Sentinel.
"Door," Blair said.
Jim read his lips and left his side - crossing to the door. Simon stood in the hallway looking like a drowned rat. Water dripped off the end of his nose and his expensive coat was a sodden mass. Simon asked a question as Jim gestured him into the apartment. Jim pantomimed to his friend and superior that he had turned down his hearing. Both non-Sentinels grimaced as another roll of thunder rocked the room.
Blair struggled to his feet and snagged a towel from the kitchen table and handed it to the Captain. Jim had already divested the Captain of his coat and was draping it over a chair. With a nod of thanks, Simon towelled off his short hair.
"That storm is incredible - it came out of nowhere. I got this wet walking from my car to the lobby."
Carefully, Simon dried his glasses and set them back on his nose.
"Do you want a change of clothes?" Jim said.
"Are you feeling better?" Simon replied, earning himself a confused look from the Sentinel.
A weaker peal of thunder sounded in the distance.
Blair caught his Sentinel's attention with a wave and then pretended to turn up a dial. Nodding, Jim paused and his face went blank as he focused inwards.
"If you want to jump into a shower and warm up," Blair rushed
to say before Jim joined the conversation, "I'm sure that Jim can lend you
Simon appeared to consider the suggestion - he did look chilled to the bone.
Jim twitched his head to the side. "Yeah, feel free, Simon, you look freezing."
"Okay, five minutes and then we're going to discuss your tests, Sandburg." Simon growled as he headed towards the bathroom.
"Tests?" Jim queried, snaking a hand to grab a jittery Blair before the student could think of escaping.
"Hi, Jim." Blair smiled beatifically.
"What's going on here? I find the loft in darkness. The windows wide open. Then you lying on the floor. What have you been up too, Sandburg?"
"You won't believe it!" Blair wriggled out of Jim's grasp. "I turned you into a panther. Well, that's not quite right... I tried to get you to contact your Spirit Guide - to become 'one with the panther'. And *whooosh* you turned into the panther right there on the couch. That's when I fell off the coffee table - the first time."
Jim's eyes had narrowed and he was looking at Blair as if he had found
a silver dollar and when he picked it up realised that it was a chocolate
"The first time you fell off the table?" Jim asked, his tone light.
Blair watched mesmerised as Jim's Sentinel pupils widened. He could feel the pressure of Jim's gaze as the Sentinel examined his eyes with clinical intensity, no doubt looking for signs of concussion.
"Jim, Jim, I'm fine - I was just stunned. You morphed before my eyes - it was intense. And then when I woke up you were this big black panther."
Jim gripped Blair's flailing hands in one larger hand and with his other hand felt the back of the Guide's head. Blair hissed as he gently pressed the bruise.
"So what happened next?" Jim asked, and Blair allowed himself to be carefully guided to the couch.
"Well, I didn't know how to change you back and then the panther told me to calm down and then I figured it out. I had to contact my Spirit Guide! Then I realised that I should have told you what I was up to instead of just leading you into a trance. Then I fell off the table when the gust of wind blew me over."
Blair stopped talking and gazed sorrowfully up at his big friend.
"I'm sorry, man. I shouldn't have done it."
"No, you shouldn't have." Jim said in a placatory tone.
"Yeah," Blair shook his head. "That's why you became the panther to show me my Spirit Guide and maybe show me a better way to go with the tests. We have to talk more... Like can you think of which way you wanna go? I mean did Incacha try anything I've never done?"
Blair stopped mid breath as he realised that Jim had smoothly directed him to his study/bedroom.
"Jim?" Blair asked plaintively.
"I want you to lie down and we'll talk about it after you've had a nap."
Jim deftly set him on the edge of the bed. He was practically ready for bed - wearing just shorts and an enormous T-shirt.
"Well, I'm going to be waking you up every hour or so - to check on you."
"I do not have a concussion!"
Implacable, Jim pushed him down onto the mattress. A heavy hand on his chest kept him firmly pinned to the bed. Jim pulled up the covers, rucked up at the bottom of the bed, with his free hand.
"Blair, you've just told me that you changed me into a panther. I think you've had a hard day - I know I have."
"Ask, Simon! He rang when you were the panther. That's why he came over - he was worried about you."
"You told him that I was a panther?"
Blair sagged back against the pillow. "No, not really - I said that you had a sore throat."
Jim pursed his lips. "Blair, you put me into the deepest trance you've ever achieved then somehow you knocked your head not once but twice. I think you hypnotised yourself when you took me through the steps and your...imagination supplied this story."
Blair knew he was pouting, he could feel his bottom lip jutting out. "It happened," he said sullenly.
Jim's expression was a mask - Blair knew that his intractable,
obstinate Sentinel was not going to entertain his little fancy another moment.
He almost doubted that it had happened himself. He had no proof. Maybe he
had only fallen off the table once and dreamed the rest of the adventure? A
thought niggled: Sentinels were real why not were-panthers? He had also spoken
to Simon on the phone, he couldn't have dreamed
"We'll discuss it - in the cold light of day. Tomorrow." Jim said flatly as he tucked the covers around Blair's chin. With a final pat on his shoulder, the Sentinel headed to the door.
"Jim, do you feel okay?" Blair had to ask again. Even if it had not really happened his friend had been shocked out of a deep trance by the thunder and lightning.
Jim stopped at the doorway his hand poised over the light switch.
"Actually, I feel like a changed man," Jim said with a decidedly wicked grin. Laughing, he switched the lights off and closed the bedroom door.