Stay One More Day

Jim rolled over in his bed. The sheets were hot, defying the cold air of the night outside. Sleep was elusive again -- he hadn't slept since he'd nearly killed the security guard four nights ago and hadn't expected to be able to sleep tonight. Prowling the loft restlessly, as he wanted, would have drawn questions from his Guide and that he didn't want. He knew what was wrong and he didn't want to talk about it with someone who couldn't understand.

The loft was dark, but his senses gave him enough information that it seemed like day. Day for normal people, his days were like explosions. Seeing his long past companions brought back the realisations he'd never wanted to face, not since returning to the US, not since re-discovering his Sentinel abilities. Losing his senses had seemed a blessing, a way to regain what he thought he'd lost forever.

When Incacha died and made him -- forced him, he and Blair -- to accept his abilities again, he wondered if he would ever regain it. He wished he'd had a chance to speak to his teacher, ask him for guidance....

He closed his eyes against the wave of recrimination. He *had* a Guide. One who seemed to always have the answers despite his claims to not know what he was doing. 'And if you go downstairs now, and talk to him... what will he say? What answers will he give you?'

Jim turned away from the voice in his head. He *knew* Sandburg would find some way to Guide him through this. But he didn't *want* that. He didn't want answers. He wanted....

Sleep stole over him and he sank, deeply, into dreams. The trees were high, tops thick with interlacing branchs. Birds and monkeys chattered into the noonday; insects flew in mysterious patterns; the breeze dipped hesitantly towards the forest floor.

He stood still, merely watching, hearing, smelling, feeling... being one wih the forest with no mission to pull him away. For once no one was waiting for him, no one expecting his return, no one waiting for information he had come here to find. He was simply standing here, enjoying the peace of the forest.

For all its barrage of sights, sounds, and scents, the forest was so much more peaceful than the harsh city he'd left behind. The canopy above him created a shield -- not just against harsh sunlight and against the harrowing openness of the sky. It formed a dome, protectively arching itself over the denizens of the land, as if to say 'here we are, where we belong, and nothing outside shall come in'. The forest was always a better place for him, a place where the information lay waiting for him to gather it instead of banging down his door and forcing its way in. He was expected to sit back, and let it arrive in its own time, rather than rush out to greet it, wrestle it to the ground.

A deep breath, and he caught a familiar scent. He turned, and began walking. His feet slipped silently through the underbrush, skirting around dead logs and thick vines. He realised he had no machete, and knew this then to be a dream. Smiling, he continued walking. Peace was not to be trifled with, in sleep or while awake. He followed the scent, feeling no urgency at finding its source.

He came upon a small cleared area between two ancient trees. Beneath it a panther waited. He nodded in greeting; he hadn't expected this one to be here. But the Spirit was here, his partner was not, so he walked up to the cat and held out one hand, plam down as if to pat it. The panther nudged his fingers and leapt onto a low hanging branch.

"You're kidding."

A growl told him it was *not* kidding. With a rueful sigh, he walked up to the tree and stretched. Gripping the edges of the branch with his fingertips, he leapt, scrambling for purchase, pulling his legs up to reach around the tree. The panther seemed pleased, and continued its journy upwards; he followed, more slowly and with an occasional glance down.

At first the sight of the ground reassured him, then it worried him. As it grew too far away to see clearly, he began to forget it. The panther settled in the crook of two branches and waited. He joined it, sitting near enough to touch the panther's fur if he desired. The panther made no move, no sound. He was confused.

"So... why are we here?"

The panther began inspecting its paws, apparently ignoring him. He sighed, shaking his head. Looking around for some sort of clue, he found nothing but the mid-canopy of the tropical forest. Animals of the forest were thick up here, staying far away out of respect for the panther's fangs and man's strange scent. The aroma of the leaves and fruits were stronger, and he felt a pang of hunger. No fruits were within reach, and he didn't feel up to climbing out to retrieve some. Instead he looked around, for some clue as to his presence.

The forest was beautiful. He leaned back against the trunk, inhaling deeply. He could almost hear the drums, through the tree, of the earth's music. He smiled, remembering Incacha's recognition of the Aboriginal music, remembered the moment of enjoyment and peace that crossed the shaman's face as he listened, before turning his attention to other things. He wished he could find that sort of peace. That sort of knowledge, that confidence.

The panther moved, settling into a position that said 'nap'. You didn't have to be a cat person to recognise that pose. He grinned, realising that the panther had no more plans for him at the moment. He could sit back, relax... and enjoy the peace he'd found. Here in the panther's world, with the spirit nestled in close or guiding him along, he could find the peace and safety he longed for. He realised that he knew his way here, and the comfort and confidence he needed was waiting for him, encased in soft, black fur. Raising his head to stare into the tops of the trees, he felt a light breeze caress him. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Jim found himself standing in the jungle where he'd learned to scout, learned to identify poisonous plants and edible fruits. The jungle was familiar, like coming home to an old friend's house where you were always welcome even though you could not stay. He looked around, wondering if he would see his spirit guide, in any of its forms.

He heard a man's step in the distance, and began walking towards it. The jungle was dark, although it felt like midday from the heat. Perhaps there were clouds overhead. He continued walking, and realised it was not weather that darkened the jungle in his dreams. The atmosphere was not weighted with moisture, it was weighted with emotion. Somewhere, in the jungle ahead of him, was a source of stress; the man he was following was in some kind of pain.

Jim wondered if he would find himself, if his spirit guide had brought him here to help him heal the pains of losing his friend, nearly losing his Senintel abilities. Maybe it had brought him here to show him that the solitude and safety he'd longed for in the jungle could not be found by conventional means. The comfort of the place where he'd first learned to be a Sentinel -- though he'd later forgotten -- beckoned him like a blanket he wanted to wrap around himself. Incacha had brought back memories of sitting with the tribe, speaking their language and being a simple warrior, even as one with great power. The jungle had been so much easier to read than the city ever was.

Was that because Incacha had been there to Guide him? A shaman, one who walked in dreams with confidence, who answered his questions before he had a chance to ask them? Even as he walked, tracking the man he followed, he felt the stab of guilt. It was unfair, he knew, to expect such from his new partner. Sandburg had knowledge, although not the experience of the elder shaman. Jim trusted his new Guide, knew Blair wouldn't ever truly fail him. It wasn't Blair's fault that Jim felt so out of place, a Sentinel in city, bombarded with information even regular humans could barely process, much less one whose senses were enhanced. Blair was the only reason Jim could handle it as well as he could; it wasn't the young man's fault it wasn't enough.

But his spirit guide knew, otherwise why had it brought him here? To the jungle, where he always came when he needed true guidance and understanding, the kind he could only get from within himself. He would thank it when he saw it -- and he found himself in a small clearing, with two great trees.

The feeling he'd identified before was fading, perversely as it went he identified it as chaos. A life spinning almost out of control, a life on the edge which, he realised, was a normal state of being. But sometimes, as it had apparently been until moments ago, it spun too far towards the edge and threatened to fall over into the void. But that spinning had slowed now, and as he looked up he knew that peace had been found above.

He heard the purring of a cat high in the trees. With sudden understanding, he sat up.

Climbing out of bed, he made his way downstairs to his roommate's bedroom. He found Blair sleeping, looking like he'd been tossed into his bed by a giant's hand -- sprawled on top of a sheet, blankets scattered across his body. His eyes were closed with a slight frown, his lips pinched shut and one hand reaching out to grab. Silently Jim stpped forward, watching as his Guide's face began to slowly clear into more restful, more gentle sleep. He reached out and brushed his fingers across Blair's cheek, grateful that he had the young man here, not wanting to consider the life he'd have led without his Guide beside him.

"Thank you." Blair spoke without waking.

He whispered, "You're welcome." Jim pulled the blankets over, to cover less hap-hazardly, and easing himself down, wrapped his arms around his sleeping friend. A hand moved to his arm, grabbing onto him carefully, then Jim closed his eyes and fell back asleep.

Blair opened his eyes. The panther was still napping, curled in a crook of the branches. He smiled, and stretched; he felt more at peace than he ever had before. There was something to this spirit guide thing, if it could give a person this kind of guiding. He reached out and carefully laid his hand on the panther's foreleg.