Apr. 18th, 2013

starfishyeti: Snowy mountains (Canigou)
A/N: The usual disclaimer applies. I don't own them and no money is being made from this.

"Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing."
Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

All he could hear was the chirping of the birds and the rustling of leaves as the breeze played through the trees. The sun felt warm on his face and the smell of pine filled the air. He stopped a moment and gazed up at the mountain looming before him. Rather than looking ominous, the sunlight turned the rocks golden and the peak rose majestically into the bright blue, cloudless sky.
He shivered with anticipation. It was a long way to go, but he was prepared. Nothing was going to stop him making it to the top. Shrugging his shoulders so that the pack nestled more comfortably, he grinned and set his foot on the path that snaked up between the rocks.

Blair opened his eyes and for a brief second wondered where his was. His head was filled with the images of mountains and blue skies: the last remnants of his fading dream. The sounds of someone else snoring in the room coupled with voices and footsteps resonating behind the closed door brought it all back to him. He stretched feeling his vertebrae pop and he couldn't help it; he almost laughed out loud.
He was in his shared dorm room in Rainier University Halls of Residence and today was his first day at that august establishment. At sixteen years of age he was now a freshman and taking his first steps to becoming Dr Blair Sandburg, world-renowned anthropologist. He leapt out of bed eager to start the day.

The path had become considerably steeper, but was still manageable. He had no idea how long he'd been climbing, but he'd certainly made some progress. Carefully, he turned round and settling himself on a large mound of grass he gazed out over the magnificent vista laid out beneath him. He and heights weren't meant to be friends, but he felt that the occasion warranted him taking stock of how far he'd come.
Below a river glinted in the sunlight and the forest stretched beyond it to as far as the eye could see.

He dropped his gaze to where there was an outcrop of rocks that had made the going a bit difficult for a while. In fact there were a couple of moments when he'd thought that he couldn't go on. The summit had seemed unobtainable. Fortunately, his natural stubbornness had come into play and he'd pushed forward.

He got to his feet and turned back to the trail. Things could only be good from now on; the end was in sight.

Waking with a snort, Blair pushed himself up onto his arms taking the paper that was stuck to his face with him. He'd fallen asleep while studying again. Sitting up straight, he pulled the paper off and spying the Burton monograph he pulled it towards him. He opened the page to the drawing of the sentinel and an eruption of laughter bubbled up from his stomach.

Suddenly, he couldn't keep still. He clambered out of bed and started dancing round the cold warehouse that he called home clutching the monograph to his chest. He'd done it! After all these years of searching, doubting his research, listening to his theses advisors telling him to change his dissertation subject, he'd finally done it. He'd found a sentinel. A real live sentinel with five, count that, Blair, five enhanced senses.

He collapsed onto the bed and looked again at the drawing he'd shown Detective Ellison the day before. "Oh yes, man," he said breathlessly, "you're gonna help me make it to the top."

He was tired and needed to rest for just a minute. Finding a fairly flat rock, he perched himself on it and gazed around. The normally blue sky was slightly overcast and the mountain seemed colder somehow. Looking up to the summit he was perplexed to see that it didn't look any nearer despite the fact that he'd been keeping a steady pace along the trail. Okay, not with the speed and assurance of the lower slopes, but he'd still been moving constantly upwards.

Letting his eyes fall to the river below he frowned. Rather than the blue, fast running water he normally saw, it appeared to be muddy and sluggish. Shaking his head he reluctantly stood up again. There was nothing he could do about it, so it was best he just concentrated on getting to the top. Rolling his shoulders, the backpack felt heavy. Facing the mountainside once more, he dug his heels and started up the trail once more.

It was the pain in his shoulders that shook Blair out of the sleep that had had him dreaming of mountains again. With a groan he lifted his head and surveyed his office. He'd fallen asleep on his desk again. Although Jim had apologised for reading the introductory chapter of his dissertation, Blair had felt a certain reluctance to going back to the loft with the man.

Claiming he had some papers to grade, he'd made his way to his office at the university. Intending to do some of the countless tasks he had to do as a TA, he'd instead merely sat at his desk eyeing the dark blue folder holding his dissertation. Deep thinking had brought forth no insights as to what he should do now and the hectic and emotional hours he'd spent at the PD that day had exhausted him. So, pillowing his head on his arms, he'd given in to sleep. He'd decide what to do later.

Damn, the rain was cold! It blew into his eyes blinding him and made the path treacherous. To prove the point he took another unsteady step and slid down the trail. Falling onto his hands he scrabbled about trying to find some purchase. Nails torn and palms scraped he managed to stop himself from sliding too far by slamming his chest down. Pressing himself into the ground he simply lay there for a moment trying to get his breath back.

Squinting against the onslaught of water, he tried to look up to see just how much ground he'd lost. It was difficult to judge, but he was sure he'd lost at least a few days of climbing. He managed a glimpse of the summit, now looking foreboding and distant. He dropped his head onto his hands feeling his breath hitch in his aching chest. Did he have the strength to go on? Did he want to go on?

The door opening woke Blair out of a light doze. He found that the plastic, oxygen prongs up his nose were uncomfortable enough to prevent him from sinking into a deep sleep. His heart sank when he saw that it was Megan and not Jim who was creeping through the door. He closed his eyes again wondering whether he could get back to the sun-soaked mountain he used to dream about rather than the cold, inhospitable place that it had become in recent years.

"Sandy?"

He dragged his eyes open again and found the Australian woman standing next to his bed.

"Hi," he rasped out and immediately hunched over in a fit of coughing.

"Hey, hey."

A soft hand rubbed his back and once he'd stopped hacking up his lungs another hand held a glass of water out to him. He sipped from it gratefully and brought his reddened eyes up to Megan's. "Thanks," he whispered.

"No probs, mate. Apart from the coughing how're you doing?"

"Believe it or not, better. My chest still hurts though."

"Yeah, well. I can understand why."

Silence reigned for a moment as they both studiously avoided the Jim Ellison shaped elephant in the room.

Megan broke first. "Damn it, Sandy!" She started pacing up and down in the small space. "I just don't believe it. It's my case and he and Banks have gone haring off to South America somewhere chasing that murdering bitch!"

"Wha?" Unfortunately, Blair's mental faculties were pretty much on par with the state of his lungs. "He's gone? He's not here?"

"Yeah, gone. Last night, the pair of them. Without even a word to me."

Blair sank back into his pillows despair clutching at his heart. He felt moisture on his face and thought for a moment he was reliving the moment when the murky water of the fountain had sucked him down. However, he realised that, in fact, it was the caress of cold rain.

"Oh, god!" His words were torn away by the blustery wind buffeting the mountain. He'd lost his backpack earlier as the wind had caused him to tumble back down the trail and now was in danger of losing his jacket to the wind's malicious fingers. Bruised, battered and scraped his ignominious fall had come to a jarring stop at the rocky outcrop he'd passed so long ago.

The wind seemed to laugh at him and a sob was his only reply. He was bewildered at how he had reached this point. Everything had been going so well. The summit had almost been in his grasp and the trail had been easy going. He didn't know what to do; didn't know what he was capable of doing. He certainly wasn't sure that he could make up all the ground that he'd lost.

Another gust of wind tore at him and sent his hair into his eyes and mouth. He clutched harder at the rock he was lying against. It looked as though the only thing he was capable of doing at the moment was to hold on to the rock.

Blair awoke to burning eyes and the tight feeling in his chest that meant he'd been crying. Apprehensively, he cast his eyes to his ceiling as if he could see through it to Jim's room above him. He heard nothing, which meant that he'd not been crying audibly. Or maybe he had been and the detective had simply decided to let him get on with it.

He scooted up in the bed until his back was up against the wall. He started to run his hand through his hair and then stopped. Despite his vehement declaration in the bullpen that he wasn't cutting his hair he was pretty certain that the academy would insist upon it. God, the academy. He was going to become a cop! Due to his mother's meddling and his complete ball's up as an ethical anthropologist he was crossing over the thin blue line.

But did he want to? Could he do it? Did he deserve to? How could he become an upholder of truth and the law after so publicly declaring himself a fraud? He felt as if he was drowning again and the only thing he had to hold on to was a small gold badge.

The wind had died down, but he didn't have the energy to move. He lay shivering against the rock simply 'existing'. After a time – he had no idea whether it was hours or days - he lifted his head to peer at the mountain peak, but it was shrouded in mist. Was this total despair he was feeling? Why was he going through this? How had his easy climb up a sunlight mountain turned into this fight for survival?

He was just going to lie here until he… A muted growl sounded to his left. He stilled. Another growl, louder and closer. Oh, god. It sounded like a bear. Maybe if he stayed very, very still he wouldn't be noticed? Unfortunately though, his recent luck was running true to form and he felt something tug on his sleeve and then a burning sensation in the arm beneath. A stronger tug had him sliding down the slope and as he picked up speed he looked back to see a large grizzly roaring upright on its back legs.

"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING?"

Jim's voice cut through the noise of the police clean up of an operation gone bad. Blair winced as his strident tone notched up the pain of his headache.

"Please, detective," the paramedic treating him looked up, a glare on his face. "He's just woken up and your shouting isn't helping."

"Sandburg!" The paramedic glared at the newcomer, but Banks ignored him and advanced on his hapless detective, hands on hips. "Care to explain what on Earth was going on in that disorganised head of yours? How I'm going to explain to the Chief of Police that because of the actions of my rookie detective three of Washington's most wanted managed to escape despite the presence of more than 30 officers of the law? You're no longer a revolting student, but a detective. You have to be responsible for your actions. You can't go through life without realising there are consequences that affect other people. Well?"

"Sir," Blair's voice was thready, but firm, "I was doing my job."

"How can you…?"

"Captain, let him explain." Jim turned towards his partner, his arms crossed and his face grim. "I'd really like to know as well."

"There was a fourth person."

Simon opened his mouth to protest then snapped it shut when Ellison put a hand on his arm.

"I saw someone creep up behind you with a weapon in his hand. I called out a warning trying not to make too much noise and not warn the others. However, he didn't hear me. I saw him aim at either you or Jim and called out again. He turned and I shot at him. I… I… think I hit him." Blair swallowed.

"Detective, think carefully for a moment. The Baker Gang is made up of three, not four, but three members. Your partner was tracking them in the warehouse while all you had to do was make sure no member of the public strolled onto the scene. A job you failed miserably. I want your gun and your badge. You're suspended until IA rules on this. And I hope they throw the book at you!"

He strode away after receiving the requested items disgust at the situation evident in every line of his body.

Blair looked up at his partner who was staring down at him no expression on his face.

"Sandburg…"

"I saw him!" He hissed.

"How come I didn't…?"

"Isn't it enough that I saw him?"

Before Jim could reply the paramedic came back. "Okay, we have to get going. Careful, detective, I'm closing the doors."

"What hospital?" Jim shouted as the doors were closing. He heard a shouted 'Memorial'.

Looking around at the scene he spotted Banks talking to the Head of Forensics, Serena. He didn't look a happy man. Jim went over to join them.

"Tell Ellison."

Serena sighed and turned towards the detective. "We found a number of cigarette butts and a few splashes of blood where Detective Sandburg said he saw someone. We dug out two slugs from the wall above where you and Captain Banks had been standing. From the damage, it appears they'd been fired from a pistol with a silencer." She paused and looked up at the two men who were absolutely still and staring at her with frightening intensity. Very reluctantly she continued, "I can't say more for the moment, but on first impressions, it appears that the bullet that creased Detective Sandburg's arm was fired from your position."

Both men turned to look at the ambulance, but it had already left. Their shoulders slumped and they turned towards each other. Jim blinked. For a moment the image of a roaring grizzly was superimposed over his captain.

What was the point in trying anymore?

He found himself lying face down on the edge of a small bluff overlooking the river. Slowly, with almost delicate precision, the earth gave way and with hardly a splash he slid in to the water. It was icy cold and full of silt. He made an effort to kick up and his head broke the surface. As he did so, he caught a glimpse of the mountain peak. The clouds had parted and a ray of sunlight was illuminating the rocks in a golden glow.

And he finally understood; the mountain was too high for him. It had always been too high.

The door to the loft opening jerked Blair awake. The TV remote control slipped out of his hand and clattered to the floor.

"Hey, Chief. Sorry to wake you." Jim entered and hung his jacket on the hooks whistling under his breath.

"So, how did it go?"

Jim's enormous smile was answer enough. "She said 'yes'."

"Hey, congrats, man. Have you set a date?"

"She finishes her internship in three weeks, so we thought about a month after that. You'll be my best man, won't you?"

"I'd be honoured."

"And there's a cherry on the icing, too."

Blair raised an eyebrow.

"Amy's father runs a multinational oil and piping company out of Daytona, Florida. They build deep-sea platforms, refineries etc. And they need someone to troubleshoot problems that arise in countries that aren't too stable. The pay's great, the hours are better and I'll be pretty much my own man." He opened the bottle of beer he'd got from the fridge and took a long swig while staring out of the balcony windows. "I'll probably sell this place, but don't worry, there's no rush. You can take all the time you need to find somewhere else."

He finished his beer and stretched. "Well, I'm bushed. I’m off to bed. Good night, Chief."

The water closed over his head.

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