By Polly


Warnings: Character death mentioned, not J/B.

A/N: My first effort for sentinel_thurs, hopefully not my last. Thanks Castalie for explaining how, and thanks Maxine for explaining the explanation, lol.


In the seven years since Incacha's death, Blair had learned some of what the way of the shaman entailed. He'd learned well that the veil between the living and the dead wasn't the immutable barrier he'd once believed it to be, but a curtain that could be lifted aside by the right hands.

And he knew what he had to do.

He went alone into the northern Cascade mountains and sought out an empty place; a lonely place, a clearing where there were more rocks than trees. A place where the earth felt newly glacier-carved, sharp-edged and restless, which suited his questing spirit.

When he was satisfied with his choice of site, he stripped bare and started a small fire, burning sweetgrass and white sage, cedar and tobacco to smoke off the area. He then mixed up the natural plant dyes, duplicating that blood red handprint on his own forearm as best he could.

Arranging prayer ties around the clearing, he made his offering and finished by sinking to his knees in the cold dirt, ignoring the weak, lightheaded feeling he'd deliberately invited by having fasted so long.

He faced east, knowing it was right. Lifting his hands to the sky, he began to speak. He called to the mountain spirits, the spirits of the four directions, to the Great Mystery, to Grandfather Sky and to the Great Deer, the personification of the Mother. He called upon all his relations, and finally, to the spirits of those who'd traveled ahead.

Naomi, lost four years ago to a mudslide in Bolivia. Rafe, three and a half years gone in a shoot-out at a hostage negotiation. Joel, dead from a stroke two years ago. Jack Kelso, who had simply stopped breathing in his sleep last year. And Incacha himself, who'd been here and not here and somehow knew...

"'There is no death, only a change of worlds'," Blair said softly, quoting Seatlh as he felt the west wind lift his spirit free, turning his surroundings blue.

"That is so, my son," Incacha said to him, and they clasped each other's forearms. Incacha's hand fit neatly over the palmprint Blair had recreated, and the older man nodded his approval.

They sank to the ground together, and it felt as real as anything Blair had ever experienced, looking into those depthless ebony eyes for help.

"Enqueri is lost to himself," Incacha concluded, searching his face steadily.

Blair nodded.

"He's been in a coma for a week."

"You seek to recall his spirit to his body?"

"No. I ask only that it be fixed up in a good and gentle way. That Enqueri does not suffer, and that the spirits of our loved ones be there to greet him as he walks west, if that's what is meant to happen," Blair whispered, unable to trust his own voice as he tried to keep his petition free of the howling pain behind the words.

"You seek to offer your own spirit in Enqueri's place?"

"I would if I could, but it's not up to me, is it."

Incacha looked unexpectedly satisfied.

"You have learned much, child of my heart."

"No. I've learned that I know nothing."

"Yes." Incacha smiled at him, sweet features impossibly bright and calm. "It is as I said. Go and be, now."

Blair opened his eyes, sighing as he realized his vision quest - his *visit* - was over. He sat by the fire until it burned out, then he dressed, leaving the dyed evidence of Incacha's touch hidden under one long sleeve.

It took him two hours to hike to his car, and another three to drive back to Cascade. Refusing to acknowledge his inner terror of what he was going to find, he went directly to Cas Gen and up to the seventh floor SICU where Jim had been lying unconscious for a week.

Simon met him as he got off the elevator, grabbing his shoulders in a firm grip.

"Sandburg! Where have you been? I've been trying to call you all day! Jim's awake! He's off the ventilator and asking for you!"

Blair allowed Simon to hold him up while he ducked his head and hid his stinging eyes, almost falling to the floor in his relief.

"That's- that's great, Simon," he managed to choke out, startled when Simon pulled him into a hard hug.

"When was the last time you ate, Blair? Listen, you go see the old man then I'll take you out to dinner. We'll celebrate. No arguments."

Blair looked up, eyes fixing on another night-dark gaze full of understanding, and smiled through his tears.

"Yeah, Simon. Thanks."

Simon waited until he could support himself, then released him. As he walked towards Jim's room, Blair's heart danced.

It was supposed that lost spirits were roving about everywhere in the invisible air, waiting for children to find them if they searched long and patiently enough... Christine Quintasket (Mourning Dove) Salish Tribe.


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