Disclaimer:  The standard issue.  Don't own them, someone else does, but if I did….  Well, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, right?  <G>


Dedication:  To my wonderful partner in crime, CarolROI.  She wanted a piece with emotional angst that was a little dark and this is what my drug-fogged brain came up with.  


What If?

By Suisan

Started 03 June 2002

Finished 04 June 2002


"What if?" 

How many questions a person asks themselves in their lifetime start with those two little words?  I snort as I open the door to my office, pushing my shoulder against the solid oak frame, as I wearily trudge across the threshold.  Setting my book bag down on the floor near the desk, I collapse into the leather-covered chair and swing my feet up to rest on the blotter covering the desk. 


"This has been one seriously fucked-up week."  I say out loud, knowing there's no one nearby to hear my ranting.  The building, Hargrove Hall, was pretty much deserted when I pulled up and I'm not even sure that campus security knows I'm here.  Which is just how I want it. 


Why, you ask?  Simple, I've screwed up and I know it.  Oh, it probably wouldn't have been as bad as it is if I'd managed to get more information out of her before deciding to help her, but I couldn't.  She needed help right then, not in a few days when her background check came in.  Derisive laughter escapes me as I realize just how much like him I sounded just then.  Of course, he would've been right.  I should've taken more time to check her out, get more information on her and, more importantly to him, I should have made it a point to tell him about her sooner than I did.


Dropping my feet back to the floor, I pull the chair closer to the desk and lean my chin into my hands.  I did try to tell him, more than once, that I'd met someone who might be a potential sentinel, but he kept brushing me off.  Okay, okay, I know.…  The burglary case he's been working was driving him up the proverbial wall, but was that any excuse for him to shove a gun in my face? 


My hands fall from my face to smack the desktop with enough force to make me wince.  And my thoughts go spiraling further after each other in my brain.  "Oh this is useless!"  Snatching up my backpack I rummage through its TARDIS-like depths and pull up the notebook I had set aside for her.  Alex Barnes AKA Alicia Barrister, the other sentinel.  The thief. 


Placing the spiral-bound notebook on my desk, I open it to the last page I had my information on the tests I'd run with her, and then reach over to boot up my computer.  I really need to input the latest results into the database I've built before I forget, or before I fall asleep.  I also need to update the other file, the one I've been building for four years, even if it looks as if I'll never get a chance to update it again. 


Knowing the last thing I need right now is drop into a dead sleep while working on my thesis data, ending up with keyboard face and drooling into the keyboard, I get up and grab the carafe for my ten-cup coffee maker and step out into the hall to get water.  I'm going to need the caffeine if I'm going to get through this night.  Maybe after I get the information organized I'll be able to find a newspaper and start searching the classifieds.  After all, I've been kicked out of the only home I've known for four years and, while Suzanne Tomaki's security people wouldn't mind my sleeping in my office for a few days, I can't do it forever.  I need a place to live, near campus if possible, at least until I get a chance to sign up on another expedition.  As I pour the water from the carafe into the reservoir of the coffeemaker, I make a mental note to call Doctor Stoddard's assistant to see if he might still want me on the team in Borneo.  



He's made it so easy.  Goading him into doing exactly what I want, no need, him to do.  I don't need the senses his little friend has been helping me with.  Now to make the final arrangements so I can lure my prey into the trap I want him in.  Yes, once I deal with my competitor, and the witch trailing along behind him like a lost lamb, I'll be free to handle my other problem. 


Maybe.…  Yes, that would work out for the best.  Get rid of the only impediment to his accepting me as his -- what did he call it?  Sentinel? -- yes, accept me as his sentinel and I won't need to ever worry about another freaking migraine.  And just think of what it would mean to my career as a procurement specialist.  No place would be able to keep me out!  I'd be able to acquire anything I, or a client, desired.  Anywhere in the world! 


I stop, halting my progress through the dilapidated foundry I'm stalking my prey in, as a thought goes skittering through my mind, breaking my concentration.   


What if? 


What if I hadn't broken the law?  What if I'd never ended up in solitary?  What if I'd never fully developed these senses of mine?  What if Sandburg hadn't taken the time to show me there was a way to live with heightened senses without losing my mind? 


Shaking off the questions, like a horse shaking off bothersome flies, I return my attention to the task at hand.  I must rid myself of Ellison, for two reasons.  He's a cop, hot on my criminal ass, and he's the only reason Sandburg won't commit himself to helping me one-hundred percent.  I feel my lips pull back in a grin as he unwittingly steps into my trap.  I hear a cat scream in rage just as I rush Ellison and push him into the dark, open elevator shaft and I smile as I listen to him hit the floor.  Hard.  Satisfyingly hard.   I pull the switch that powers the old car and send it slowly grinding downward.  Yes, I'll crush him like the gnat he is.


My brain turns to other, more important matters as the Australian witch barrels into my side, tackling me to the ground.  Too many years of watching opossums as a child taught me certain tricks…like playing dead.  She makes a mistake as she turns her back on me without making sure I'm out of the picture, running off to save him from his doom. 


So be it.  If I can't kill my rival, then I shall cripple him.  For life.  By taking a life.  I wait, listening carefully until I'm sure that Ellison and Connor are distracted and then I make my escape. 


If half of my information is good, then Ellison made a fatal mistake by casting his guide, his friend, out of his home and his life.  All the better for me, for I know where Sandburg must be.  Now to get there before the sentinel figures the same out for himself.



"What if?" 


I startle awake as the words slip past my lips and I jerk upright in my chair.  The gray pearlescent skies outside my windows let me know exactly what happened.  "Damn, fell asleep."  The sudden movement I'd made earlier causes me to wince as muscles, no longer accustomed to sleeping in cramped positions, protest their abuse as I slowly, judiciously stretch.


But the words still ring through my head, echoing in my skull as they ricochet from scenario to situation.   What if…I'd found Alex before I found Jim?  What if Jim hadn't been a cop?  What if I'd forced him to listen to me when I tried to tell him about her?  What if I were to find Alex now, what would I do?  What if I decided to leave Cascade?  Who would help Jim?


A choked sound escapes my throat as I realize just what the answer to my last rhetorical question would be.  Megan.  Connor knows, so does Simon, and I suspect Joel may be catching on to what Jim and I have hidden from the others for so long.  Yes, Jim wouldn't lack 'guides' -- people to watch his back and to pull him back from zone-outs if need be.   Not that zoning has been a problem, until recently, but that could be directly attributed to the presence of Alex in the city.  Even if we didn't know, know for certain, that she was here until just a few days ago. 


Scrubbing my hands over my lightly-bearded face, I try to push away the thoughts that now insist on banging around inside my head.  Jim doesn't need me.  Jim doesn't want me in his life.  Not as his friend and certainly not as his guide.  I stifle back a sob as I realize that even if Ellison doesn't need me, there is one person who does.  But do I turn my back on all that I know, all that I care about, on the friends I've made in the law enforcement community to help the one person who might see the reasoning behind my helping her?


The door to my office is kicked open and all too soon I'm faced with the decision I'd hoped to put off until much later as I stare down the barrel of the weapon being pointed at me.  "Alex."


Do I want to help her?  I don't know, I really don't, and being the prudent person that Naomi raised me to be, I slowly bring my hands up from the desktop. 


"You know, if it hadn't been for you, I never would've understood what I really am -- I owe you that."  She's just standing there, like she's got all the time in the world, not a single movement to betray any nervousness.  This can't be good.  "You want to know how I really got the sentinel senses?"  I nod, anything to keep her talking while I try to figure out what I need to do here.  "Solitary confinement in prison.  I thought I was going crazy.  It wasn't until I met you that I realized what I'd become."


Dare I help her?   Would she even be willing to trust me, knowing I helped Jim track her down in the first place?  My hands are now near shoulder height and I watch as she carefully paces deeper into my office.  "And look how you used this gift.  What a waste."  What the hell am I doing?  Talk about letting my mouth run away with me!  Shit!


She's smiling, almost a wry grin, as if she's come to decision.  "This is the one thing I really didn't want to do, but I can't leave you alive."  She moves closer to my desk, her finger slowly tightening on the trigger of her gun. 


Now would be the time for my hyperactive brain to come up with a glib remark to keep me alive, but I just squeeze my eyes closed as a final thought scurries through my brain.


Where the hell is Ellison? 



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