Polar Ice Caps
Blair sat at his computer,
fingers flying across the keyboard. The words appearing before him brought a
smile to his lips as he nodded, apparently agreeing with the sentiments
expressed on the screen. A buzz next to him went ignored as he continued to
type. The buzz repeated itself, two, three times and finally the left hand
stopped, reached, pushed a button and Blair spoke.
"Lori, I'm writing."
//I know. But you haven't picked
up the paper yet.//
"How do you know that?"
Even as he asked, his fingers continued to type and he continued to smile.
//Because I know you. Now go.
get. the. paper// "You witch."
"Gone. Bye." The hand
reached out and pushed the button; with a grimace, Blair rose, walked to the
front door, opened it, bent over and picked up the morning paper. Stepping back
inside, he tucked it under his arm and walked into the kitchen, poured himself a
cup of hot coffee, then over to the table where he sat down, unwrapped the paper
and started reading.
Rituals were good. Sanity
Twenty minutes later, as he
perused the personals his attention was captured by the second to the last ad
which simply read:
BS - parts unknown
SB - Cascade
Hands shaking, Blair reached for
the phone and as he dialed the familiar number, his mind raced back in time....
Cascade. Washington - Eighteen
months earlier -
The body rolled over and into
Jim's side. A smile crept across the face as an arm dropped across Jim's chest.
Jim Ellison mirrored the movement by bringing his own arm down over his bedmate.
Pale blue eyes blinked open and Jim gazed down at a mass of brunette frizz. He
smiled, sniffed at the hair, then dropped his face into the darkness.
Mornings were the best now. Of
course, this was their *second* waking of the day, but just as great as the
first. He'd already been up, had even been to the deli and they'd shared
breakfast. But none of that changed his delight, because no matter when he woke
up, Blair was there. And waking up with Sandburg next to him, smelling the
younger man, working his way into all that hair, then gradually waking his
partner with kisses....
And watching the response,
waiting for the body to move, to seek out his mouth and his dick and his
Blair shifted, groaned and his
mouth sought Jim's like a baby trying to find its mother's nipple. Jim obliged
and brought the objective into reach. Their lips met and Jim felt Blair's smile.
As the kiss ended, Blair's husky morning voice said, "hi."
"Very. I could get used to
"You damn well better. One
"Hard to believe I didn't
see it sooner."
Blair snorted against Jim's skin
and sucked at the older man's right nipple. Jim arched a bit as his fingers
clenched around Blair's hair.
"How far --- are you going
to take this?" Jim managed to gasp out.
The mouth left his skin as Blair
raised his head and asked, "How far would you...."
Jim pushed the head back down and
felt the thrill of Blair's chuckles against his sensitive skin. Blair went back
to work and as his mouth treated Jim's nipple to a workout, the younger man's
hand slid down under the covers to encircle Jim's erection. Jim dropped his arms
to his side and he closed his eyes.
"Aw, god, Blair ...
Blair smiled and continued to
suckle, his tongue now swirling around the hard nipple. Jim could feel his
impending orgasm *and* he could smell --- Simon's cigar.
"chief, chief ... stop ...
" his own fingers clamped down over Blair's and he gave a tug while at the
same time he tried to rise.
"simon, simon is ...
The name of their Captain
penetrated Blair's fogged brain and he allowed Jim to remove his hand. He
blinked up at his bedmate and managed a "wha?"
"Simon," Jim hissed
out, his brain back on-line. He managed to scoot out from under Blair and stand.
As he slipped his robe on, he said, "You stay put and don't make a sound.
I'll tell Simon you were - out all night, or something."
"Shit. Okay, I'll tell him -
your date picked you up. Just don't make a sound."
Jim bounded downstairs, leaving a
stunned Sandburg staring after him and wondering why he didn't just follow Jim.
How the heck would Simon know whether Blair came from upstairs or down? Then
Sandburg heard the front door open....
Ellison skidded to a stop, his
hand coming up and slapping his forehead.
Shit, the game, he'd forgotten.
"Hey, Simon, come on in and
no, I'm not ready." Banks stepped around the door and wagged a finger at
his friend. "You left the door open, Ellison. You crazy or something?"
The deli. The muffins. A naked
Blair. Yep, he'd left the door open a crack.
"Uh, went out earlier -
muffins. But when I came back, well, I must have fallen asleep again." He
gave Simon a sheepish grin and ended with, "Sorry."
"Well, get a move on,
Ellison. The guys are waiting. And where's your shadow?"
"Uh, he's - not here."
Jim started back upstairs when Simon laughed.
"I figured as much. For one
thing, there's a blueberry muffin on the sink. If he were here - it wouldn't
Jim nodded and pointed at Simon.
"Good point. I don't think - he came back last night." Then Jim added
hastily, "His date picked him up."
"Figures he'd have a date
that picked *him* up." Then one dark eyebrow rose. "Sandburg got a new
Jim tried to shrug noncommitally
as he continued up for his clothes.
"Must have, he's not here,
"I guess I 'm just
surprised. He hasn't said a word and you know him. A new girl means we *all*
hear about it."
Jim threw back what he hoped was
an agreeable smile, then continued to the top, where he stopped dead. Blair was
staring at him and the look was *not* a happy one. He took a deep breath, rushed
to the closet, took out a sweater, grabbed up his jeans, socks and shoes, then
walked to the bed. He leaned over, his face close to Sandburg's.
"i forgot the game, chief.
we both did. i have to go, you know?"
Blair just nodded.
Jim started to drop a kiss on the
upturned lips, but Simon chose that moment to yell, "JIM! Come on. We're
gonna be late."
He shrugged helplessly and
He sighed heavily. He was trying
to finish his dissertation, his own personal deadline two days away, but instead
he was obsessing over Jim, their relationship and who to tell and who not to
tell. Not to mention why, on a glorious Saturday, he was alone while Jim was at
a football game with *the guys* and he *wasn't* one of the guys. And to add
insult to injury, this was the second time in two weeks that he hadn't *been*
one of the guys.
But to be fair to Jim, the
tickets had been offered and accepted *before* the two of them had - well,
become a - couple.
He dragged his attention back to
the project at hand, shoved all worries aside and started typing. He was on his
last chapter and he just might make his deadline yet.
Blair stirred the pot, then
checked his watch one more time. It was after seven. He did some quick
calculations; the game had started at noon, should have been over between three
and four and even if Jim had gone out afterwards - oh, yeah, he should be home
by now. Yep, Blair was officially worried.
He added a little more seasoning
to the stew, then dropped the lid back down, lowered the heat and returned to
the dining room table. Once seated, he began to pack up his notes but before
saving and shutting down his laptop, his gaze returned to the last words he'd
*The sense of responsibilty that
an urban sentinel must carry, the fear
of failure that must dog his or
her every step, can not help but color
He wasn't sure he liked the way
it currently read, but damn, it *was* Jim Ellison. On the other hand, wouldn't
it be anyone who suddenly found themselves with heightened senses? How would
*he* have handled it? Wouldn't his
own fears have been magnified by being a sentinel?
There was a topic for a
dissertation; The fears of Blair Sandburg.
He knew that Jim didn't have a
clue about said fears, fears that in the last month had floated just below the
surface, coloring every decision he'd made.
And the root of those fears?
Best not go there. Especially
since it was after seven and Jim still wasn't home. And he needed to be cool
about that. Couldn't let the insecure Blair Sandburg surface.
He closed the lid on his
computer, unplugged it and carried it into his room along with his papers.
Coming back out, he set the table, then prepared the salad. He was just putting
the finished product into the fridge when it hit him ... he was preparing dinner
for - one, because of course, at this late hour, Jim and the others would have
gone to dinner.
Blair felt that all too familiar
tightening of his stomach. He turned the heat off under the stew, put away the
dishes, then switched off the light and walked into the living room. He bent
down, started a fire, and sat down on the couch.
He really didn't like being left
alone with his thoughts like this - not a safe thing at all.
Shit, whenever he'd been in a
relationship in the past, he'd had - Jim. He
might *know* that the woman or man would eventually want out of the affair, but
it didn't seem to matter beause when he'd come home - Jim would be there.
And before Jim? Easy. Blair had
simply ended the relationships first. It wasn't as if he couldn't tell when
someone was getting tired of him; he could, easily. Just like he could always
tell when Naomi had become itchy, eager to move on....
Okay, this was getting him
nowhere fast. He picked up the remote and powered up the television. He surfed
for awhile, then stopped at the health channel. He sat back and watched,
blanking out his mind.
Jim fumbled with the key but
finally got it inside the lock. He turned, pushed and stumbled inside and once
there, somehow managed to get out of his jacket, but the keys hit the floor
instead of the table. Jim adjusted his eyesight and immediately wished he
hadn't. Blair was standing a few feet away.
"I - we went out
"Figured as much."
"Right. So, you're not -
"Nope. And," Blair
cocked his head, "have you been drinking?"
Blair stepped close and sniffed.
Then he flicked on the light.
"Oh, sorry. You okay?"
"I was until you blinded me
"You *have* been
"Jim, you don't - I've never
seen, I mean, since your senses and all - other than a few beers, but you're
"Well, let's just say -
tanked. And this is the second time in two weeks, man."
With as much dignity as he could
muster, Jim started for the stairs. But they seemed to be - lowering. He bent at
the knees and tilted his head and everything went back to normal. Relieved, Jim
Behind him, Blair bent to the
right as Jim started walking like a ninety year old man - a *short* ninety year
"Not. At. All."
"Then why are you walking
bent at the knees?"
Jim froze. Turned. Pointed.
"Well, the stairs - you
"Yeah, you did something to
them while I was gone."
"Sure, they're - you know,
"Ah. Lower. Need some help
with the navigation?"
"Don't be silly, Sandburg.
I'm perfectly capable of walking up the stairs."
"Okay, just thought I'd
Jim snorted and started up the
shorter stairs. He was amazed actually - because - it took *longer* to get up
the *shorter* stairs. He stopped halfway.
"If the stairs are shorter,
shouldn't it take me less time to climb them?"
Blair dropped Jim's keys onto the
table, faced his partner and scratched his head. "Well, Jim, actually, if
the stairs are *shorter*, it means there'd have to be *more* steps, you know? So
logically speaking, it *would* take you longer, see?"
Jim seemed very happy with
Blair's answer. He grinned and went the rest of the way.
Blair shook his head, locked up,
turned off the gas to the fire, hit the light and went upstairs. It was after
The first thing he saw when he
entered their room was Jim; flat on his back, fully clothed, legs hanging over
the edge of the bed - and sound alseep.
Sighing, Blair quickly and
efficiently stripped the man, then lifted his legs, turned them and pullled
Jim's lax body up to the pillow. Once he had him settled, he pulled up the
covers and tucked the man in. He patted Jim's cheek, then undressed himself, put
on his sweats and climbed in beside the passed-out sentinel. Blair turned out
the light, settled down, clasped his hands behind his head and gazed up at the
Jim had - gotten drunk tonight.
And Jim didn't *get* drunk.
So why now?
They were doing fine, right?
Shit, it had only been a month. It couldn't have soured that quickly, could it?
He thought about it and concluded
that one month wouldn't be a record, but damn close.
Man, Jim was going to be
It was hours before sleep finally
Jim made his way slowly down the
stairs, every step another nail in his coffin. He needed - sunglasses.
"they're on the shelf there,
to your right."
Jim tried to focus on the voice,
but gave up.
"What's on the shelf?"
"oh." He fumbled, found
them and slipped them on. Oh, yeah, definitely better.
"my own recipe for a
hangover. just like last time. don't talk, don't argue, just drink. and drink
all of it."
"I remember and it
"jim, i have the power to
make your day miserable or bearable. drink.
Gentle hands took him by the
shoulder and pushed him gently to the couch.
"how's your skin?"
"dials not working?"
"No. And could you talk a
"jim, i'm whispering
"we need to get your dials
working so lean back and close your eyes."
Jim mock saluted and snapped out,
"jerk. just do it."
Jim leaned back and closed his
"you have the dial in front
"now picture it on a bottle
"sorry, maybe it was wild
"You're asking for it,
"jim, today you couldn't
beat a baby with both its hands tied behind its back."
"They're - moving. The
numbers, the dials, everything."
"maybe you'd better -
Jim raised his left hand, middle
finger waving in the air.
"i don't think so, jim. not
in your current condition. you'd never - survive."
Jim dropped his head into his
hands and moaned. Shaking his head, lips curling up, Blair sat down, very
carefully, next to his partner.
"okay, jim, lets give it a
try. now lean back and close your eyes again."
Jim did as instructed.
"now, what i need you to do
is picture the dials as *very* thick and sluggish. like they'd gained weight and
can barely move."
One of Jim's eyebrows rose.
"jim, just do it."
"Uh, Chief? That makes no
"it did last time, so could
you just do it?"
"But it sounds stupid."
Blair closed his eyes and counted
to ten - slowly. Finally in a voice that gave no hint of his frustration, Blair
said, "jim, just try it."
Jim shrugged, winced at the
movement and started picturing *fat* dials....
As the dials got fatter and
slower in his mind's eye, his symptoms began to abate.
Blair watched the frown melt from
Jim's face, nodded in satisfaction as the older man's body began to relax and
slowly he eased the hand holding the drink up to Jim's lips.
"drink the rest now."
Again, Jim did as instructed.
"why don't you just rest
awhile? i need to run some errands."
"just some last minute
research, and a couple of books I ordered came in yesterday. you take it easy,
enjoy the peace and quiet and i'll be back in a couple of hours."
As he stood, Jim changed position
and stretched out his legs. Blair dropped a kiss on the top of Jim's head and
smiling, said, "you're a cute drunk, did you know that?"
"You're dead meat,
Laughing softly, Blair gathered
up his jacket and keys, whispered good-bye and left, making sure the door closed
gently behind him.
He knew that in spite of his
background in academia and science, he was still considered by many to be a *go
with the flow* kind of guy. A fly by his pants, spontaneous, whacky guy. And he
supposed he was - to a certain extent, but only because constant movement and
constant talk tuned people out and kept eyes trained elsewhere and not on him.
Defense mechanisms, all. But he'd lowered some of those defenses for Jim. Just
as Jim had lowered a few for him.
They'd forged a friendship that
many considered to be odd, to say the least. And yet - it had perservered. But
now they'd taken another step, gone in another direction and suddenly Blair
found himself on a rocky balancing beam.
And last night - the second time
in one week, Jim had come home drunk.
It just didn't happen. And yet it
had. Was the man feeling crowded? Too much Sandburg now that Blair was sharing a
bed as well as a home?
Solution? Simple. Sandburg would
give Jim more privacy, like today. The last place Blair needed to be was the
library. His research was complete and he had everything he needed to finish at
home. But giving Jim time alone seemed more important than what the hell Blair
could do to fill the day by himself.
And he'd have to give Jim more
days like these. Many more. And maybe a few evenings as well.
Blair moved quietly to the
kitchen, dropping his bag off on the way. At the sink, he set dinner down and
started carefully pulling out the boxes of Italian food, then putting them in
the oven to keep warm until Jim woke.
He trashed the bags then walked
over to the couch and rested a hand gently against Jim's cheek. Satisfied that
there was no fever and that the sleep was deep and natural, Blair walked into
his old room and quickly changed into something more comfortable.
All of his clothes were still
downstairs as they'd yet to really move anything, their relationship still so
new. Well, okay, a month new. He slipped out of his jeans and into his sweat
bottoms. He pulled off the flannel shirt, but left his undershirt on, then
carried the jeans into the bathroom and dumped them into the hamper. Walking
back into the living room, he picked a book up off the coffee table, sat down in
the chair and started reading.
"Hey, if it ain't Sleeping
Beauty and no, I'm no prince."
Chuckling, Jim held out his arms
and wheedled, "Then come on over here, my little frog and let me kiss you
and make you a prince."
"Fat chance, Ellison. You
can kiss all you want, but this frog remains a frog. The best you can hope for
Jim wiggled his fingers at Blair
and as the younger man stood and dropped the book onto the chair, Jim said,
"No warts for this guy - protected sex all the way. Now get your green,
froggy ass over here."
Chuckling, Sandburg lowered
himself gently, then crawled up Jim's body, letting his own dip and rub
suggestively as he targeted Jim's mouth.
On Sunday, while Jim watched a
game, Blair tried to finish up his dissertation, but found that he was still
having difficulty with his conclusion.
As he puzzled over the current
paragraph, having given up the previous one, Jim strolled over and placed his
hands on Blair's shoulders and started to rub.
"Aw, man, that feels sooo
good, don't stop."
"Shit, Sandburg, you're
tense. What the hell are you working on?"
"Final chapter, same as
Friday, same as last week."
The hands stilled.
"Final chapter of your
"Yep. I told you last week
that I'd set my own personal deadline and tomorrow is it. But I'm stuck and
no," he quickly pulled the lid of the laptop down a bit, "you can't
read until I'm finished, remember?"
Jim fought for a neutral tone as
his hands dropped from Blair's shoulders.
Blair waved his hand and bent
back to his task. Jim took a bottle from the fridge, unscrewed the top and
downed it in two swallows. He tossed the bottle and grabbed another one.
"jim, come on, up and at 'em."
He squinted as hair brushed his
nose and warm lips touched his as Blair whispered, "morning" into his
mouth. Jim brought up one hand and fingered soft, thick curls as he kissed the
smiling face. The kiss deepened as bodies shifted, hands roamed and morning
erections bumped deliciously.
"ah, god, i love mornings
Blair lifted his head and,
smiling down on Jim, answered, "yeah, I kinda like 'em too. you make a
great bed warmer. shoulda done this years ago."
Their voices were low and husky
with early morning brusqueness, hands slow and easy as bodies woke.
"nah, i put the alarm ahead.
you've got plenty of time."
Jim reached up and trailed small
kisses up the stretched neck as he mumbled, "how much ahead?"
"what happened to slow and
"you can go slow and easy -
as long as slow and easy doesn't take longer than fifteen."
Jim chuckled, his hips thrusting
up into Blair.
"slow and easy, but in
fifteen, eh? that's what you said?"
Blair nodded, his hand sliding up
and down Jim's bulging erection. His movement increased as Blair began to tongue
fuck Jim's mouth in time with his hands and Jim's hips.
Jim felt his body leave the
world, then yelling Blair's name, he came crashing back down.
"you woke the neighbors
Smiling without opening his eyes,
Jim nodded happily. "They needed to get up anyway."
"Hey, it beats *briiiing*."
"Not for old Mrs. Stubbs
down in 203. Bet she jumped three feet out of bed."
"She's deaf, Chief. And
contrary to popular belief, I do *not* wake the dead or bring sound to the deaf
Jim swatted Blair's rear as he
finally opened his eyes and rolled out of bed, dumping his surprised bedmate
rather unceremoniously back onto the mattress. "Care to join me in the
shower? And are you coming to the station today?"
"No and - no. I join you in
the shower and you're late and while I'd love to watch you explain to Simon why
you were late for the fourth time in two weeks, well...."
"Good point. We'll save the
shower for tonight."
He started back for the bed as he
asked, "But are you sure you can't make it today? Classes that heavy?"
"No, no classes. But this is
my final day, my self-imposed deadline.
Gotta finish. If I do, I'll be
At Blair's words, Jim veered
left, picked up his clothes and started downstairs. As he moved, he called back
up, "I'm gonna change in the bathroom and don't worry about the station,
you work - we can get along without you today."
Frowning, Blair dropped his head
onto the pillow, waited for the sound of the bathroom door closing, then looked
down at himself. At his rigid and painful self. He quickly, efficiently and
joylessly brought himself to completion, cleaned himself off and climbed out of
By the time Jim was showered,
dressed and ready to go, Blair had his laptop open and was back at work.
Blair stretched, raised his arms
and flexed his fingers. He stood, twisted at the waist, then bent back until he
heard his back pop. He'd been typing non-stop for the last three hours. He
stepped away from the table, walked into the kitchen, pulled a cold water bottle
from the fridge, unscrewed the top and took a large gulp.
For a moment he rested, back against the counter and contemplated his
afternoon of work.
Technically - he was done. It was
finished. Three years of his life, three years of Jim's life, was now on paper,
in black and white. Words. Three
years reduced to paper and words and sentences and paragraphs.
His dissertation. Completed. All
that remained was his final paragraph and it was in his head. Once those words
were real, in black and white, it would truly be over.
A question for the ages - or at
least for Blair Sandburg and Jim Ellison. What then?
Blair ambled back to the table,
took his seat, placed his fingers on the keys and as the shadows deepened into
afternoon, Blair typed....
*Humanity has long dug into its
past in the hope that it will shed light on its future. Perhaps what this
reveals is that it is the best of ourselves that will survive and lead us
through the next millennium.
Watching our every step will be
our tribal protectors—the sentinels
-- and their insight will further
illuminate the spiritual connection of
His fingers typed in the last two
He was so intent on his task that
he never heard the front door open, missed entirely the fact that he was no
longer alone ... until two arms snuck around his neck....
Laughter ... bubbling up and one
A crack formed in the glass that
was his world. It would soon shatter....
It was amazing how one small,
insignificant event, like the arrival of his mother, could blossom into a
nightmare. And how one random act by the aforementioned mother could shatter his
world so completely.
Of course, the random act was
given considerable help by a publisher named Sid Graham, a union jerk by the
name of Jack Bartley, and the return of an assassin who went by the handle of
the Ice Man.
Random acts and now the world
knew that Jim Ellison was a sentinel.
He thought back to the hours
following his mother's appearance in the loft ... to the media surrounding the
truck two days ago....
"...that's got to be the
Simple words yelled out by the
media, then a mic had been stuck in his face through the open window of the
truck and a man's voice had asked, "Detective Ellison, can you tell us why
you decided to reveal your abilities at this time, sir?" On Jim's side of the truck, another reporter yelled,
"How is the publication of Mr. Sandburg's manuscript affect your work with
the police department?
Blair could still see Jim's
stricken expression as he'd turned to ask, "Chief, tell me you
God, how he'd tried to explain,
but then the reporter had talked about *his* publisher sending the dissertation
to the media and once again he'd tried to say, tried to explain but the media
"Let's hear it from the
"There's nothing to hear,
I've no idea what you're talking about! Now get that out of here and back off
before someone loses a toe!"
"Jim, I can
"Chief, do *not* say
anything right now...."
Blair shut his eyes as Jim's face
floated back to him, that expression of hurt....
How many discussions had they
attempted after the run-in with the press, with each encounter ripping into the
fabric of their relationship, destroying the foundation upon which their
friendship had been based?
He took in a deep, painful breath
as the minutes after they'd parked, before joining Megan, Simon and Bartley,
came back with crystal clear clarity....
It was cold and a little windy as
they walked the dock toward Bartley's building. Blair had his hands stuffed deep
into his pockets as he tried to match Jim's purposeful stride. Since they'd
pulled away from the curb and the reporters, Jim hadn't said another word and
Blair was scared.
"You're not saying
"There's nothing to say,
Chief. It's all been said. Out, over, no going back. I just thought we had an
agreement that I was going to read the thesis first."
"We did, look, I didn't do
"Right. You didn't write the
book, and you didn't put my name all over it."
"Well, of course I did. But
I was planning on changing your name and probably even mine to protect you.I, I
just hadn't figured out a way to do that without compromising the
"To just generate publicity
for the sake of generating publicity without even having a deal because he wants
to what, toss it in your face like a dangling carrot..."
"Wait a minute, wait a
minute, wait a minute, stop. Wha-What are you trying to say? That I was part of
this from the start? How long have we known each other, that you think that's
what I'm about?"
"Why didn't you say anything
about this last night? It's just like a guilty conscience to me."
"I thought it was over. My
mom was doing what she thought was right, she didn't know what it was
"How the hell did your
mother get her hands on it in the first place? It was, what, just lying around
like some kind of coffee table reading?"
"No, now look, don't you try
to run some interrogation on me, you're not gonna find some weak spot in me, all
right? Look, I'm not a perp, I'm your - lov.. your friend."
"Chief, you gotta great
opportunity here, a once in a lifetime play, go for the brass ring, good luck,
He opened the door and stepped
from the car, shutting the door behind him, not bothering to lock it. He glanced
over at the elevator and for one brief moment considered - running. Away. Far
away. Anything to avoid facing Major Crime and - Jim.
Instead, he took a deep breath,
lifted his chin a bit and headed toward the elevator. It wasn't as if he didn't
have a clue how this would end, right?
"Hey, hey, Jim, when you
gonna start wearng tights and a cape?"
"Uh, I don't know, you got
something I can borrow, Peter Pan?"
He went to his desk only to be
faced by a smiling Joel Taggert.
"Come on, Jim, why don't you
have a sense of humor about this whole thing?"
"Why did you keep it from
us? Why didn't you just tell us what's going on?"
"I, I've got some work to
do, will you excuse me?"
"Okay, buddy, I get the
As Joel slipped away, another
voice made itself heard.
"I hope you're not too busy
for me, Jimmy."
He looked up and into the
concerned eyes of his ex-wife, Carolyn Plummer and, next to her, Simon.
Jim pushed back his chair and
"I figured you might need -
someone. I got the first media report last night, made my reservation and here I
He stepped toward her and they
hugged. As she pulled back, but didn't let go, her eyes searched his. "You
"Fine, fine. You should have
called me, let me know you were coming."
"She called me, Jim. Asked
if I thought she could help. Figured she couldn't hurt." Simon smiled
gently at Carolyn's back.
Before Jim could answer, a flurry
of activity behind them captured their attention.
The elevator door slid open and
he stepped out, then into the Major Crime squad room. The first voice he heard
was Henri Brown.
"Hey, Sandburg, who's
playing in the Sentinel tv show? I know, Adam Sandler!"
"I hear," Joel
straightened his tie and finished his quip, "Denzel is playing me."
Blair was surrounded by cops and
detectives. He held up his hands and exclaimed, "There isn't going to be a
television show, all right...."
He was interrupted by Rafe, who
joked, "Nobel Prize," and the whole gang was suddenly bowing and
chanting, "We're not worthy, we're not worthy, we're not worthy...."
Carolyn tightened the arm that
she'd slid around Jim's waist and glanced up at his face. Solid granite. On her
left, Simon had stepped forward and held up his hands.
"All right everyone, listen
up. The official line is this is not true.
There is absolutely no
He looked around the bullpen and
added in a steely voice, "Why am I seeing people not working?"
The scurry to find something to
do became an almost living thing and still standing in the middle of the room -
He watched as Simon placed his
body in front of Jim's, noted that Carolyn Plummer stood at Jim's side, caught
her gazing at him, eyes cold, before Simon's body blocked his view. Blair's
throat closed as his eyes stung. He turned and walked out.
"I'm fine, Caro."
They were seated in the small
diner a few blocks from the station, away from prying eyes, flashing cameras and
joking detectives. And Sandburg.
Carolyn had grabbed his arm the
moment she'd spotted Sandburg scurrying from the bullpen like the rat he was and
spirited Jim out the back way, dodging sneaky newsmen, getting him into her
rental car, pushing his head down and then driving out of the garage. Now safely
ensconsed in a back booth at the restaurant, a frown marring the boyish beauty
of her face, she asked again, "Jim, this is me, your ex-wife. How. Are.
"Honestly? Tired. In a fog
and I can't believe this is happening. My worst nightmare come to life."
Something in his tone forced her
to really listen to his words - to *hear* them. His worst nightmare? How does a
man dream something that can't possibly be true - unless....
"So - his dissertation is
His eyes lifted from the straw he
was nervously twisting. "I assumed that's why you came."
She shook her head in shock.
"No, no, I - I figured, well, I never trusted Sandburg, you know that. He
was harmless and all that, but, so when I heard the report - I figured he'd
lied. Betrayed you for his own advancement, which he has, this whole sentinel
thing being true or not...."
Her voice trailed off as she
realized she was making no sense at all.
Carolyn took a deep breath and
"He betrayed you whether he
made it up or not, I guess that's what I mean. And I'd assumed he'd made it
Now that all those words were
out, the import of what they signified stunned her. Jim really was, this -
thing. This Sentinel. A sentinel. She
sat back, the air forced from her lungs.
"You never - you should have
told me, Jim."
"I didn't want anyone to
"Obviously. But Simon knows.
Simon knows, Jim. And Sandburg. But not me, your ex-wife. I don't know."
Jim smiled wryly. "You do
"I'm sorry." It was all
he could say. It was all he'd ever been able to say to Caro.
She breathed out a gentle sigh
and shook her head. "No, no, I'm sorry.
This is not the time to go into this. Let's get you fed and figure out
what to do next, okay?"
What to do next. Could that be
figured, he wondered? But he didn't say that. Instead, he let her order for him.
A burger with everything. When it came, he stared down at it and almost threw
Carolyn once again stood by Jim's
side as the detective gazed out the window. Since arriving, Jim had said not one
word to Sandburg.
"There's more press than
even before," Jim said to no one in particular. "They're probably waiting for someone to kill him so
they can get themselves a Pulitzer prize winning photo."
"Nobody's spotted Zoeller
yet," Simon added.
"The speeches start in five
"You'd better get down there
"On my way." Jim moved
from the window and addressed Bartley. "Mr.
Bartley, it's time for you to get
As the man took his seat at the
desk, Jim gave Carolyn a pat on the arm and walked out, sparing not a glance for
Sandburg who'd been standing silently in the corner.
"What are you doing? Go with
him, Sandburg!" Simon barked out as Blair remained in the corner.
Sandburg shrugged his shoulders
helplessly and said quietly, "He doesn't want me with him."
"*I* need you with him. Help
him focus. Now go on."
Blair went, conscious of
Carolyn's eyes boring bullet holes in his back.
Jim was searching the perimeter
as Blair came up beside him. He noticed the older man's frown as Jim tried to
concentrate, so placing a hand on Jim's back, Blair guided, "All right, now
you know he's not going to make it easy on you, so you should probably start by
trying to isolate sounds...."
"Chief, all right. I don't need
your help. You don't have to quote me chapter and verse. Save that for your
Blair took a step back as if
struck. He shut up immediately.
And of course, Jim *had* needed
the words. He'd been overwhelmed with the sounds, the lights,and the movement.
But once Blair's voice and words had penetrated, he'd begun to do just as Blair
And minutes later - all hell
Once home, both men had to face
their company; Naomi.
They'd arrived within moments of
each other, parked and silently trudged upstairs.
Both were surprised to find that Naomi had dinner ready.
Jim was polite as Naomi tried to
entice him to eat her comfort soup.
"Thank you, Naomi, but I'm
not really hungry. I'm just going upstairs, crash early. But thank you."
Naomi shot a startled glance at
her son, whose eyes looked forlornly at the retreating back. She took a step
toward Jim as she pleaded, "Please, Jim. You need to eat...."
He turned, a hand raised.
"I'm fine, really, just - tired." He looked pointedly at Sandburg
before adding, "It's been a rough day."
"Jim, this is my fault, not
Blair's. Please? Can't we talk? I mean, I should have known how special you
were, that you had this gift. I always sensed this special energy about you. I'm
so terribly sorry, and when I see you the two of you ... what's it's doing to
the two of you...."
"Naomi, I know you were just
trying to help Blair...."
"You two listen to me, you
two can not let this tear apart your friendship...."
"Things happen, Naomi. You
know, people change, you just gotta go with it. This whole Sentinel thing has
gotten out of hand. I can't take this attention, it's not me. I just want to go
back to the way things were."
His voice was soft and gentle
until Blair added, "Well, you can't just turn it off...." then Jim
focused his anger on Blair as his voice took a decided edge to it.
"*Sure* I can! There's got
to be a way to make it go dormant. some meditation," he turned back to
Naomi and his voice went soft again, "you can show me or I could find
somewhere, that can tune out or turn all this off ... I'm just done with
Blair had stayed in the shadows,
listening, but at those words, he reminded gently, "That's not who you
It was the wrong thing to say.
Jim turned, his anger finally
unleashed and directed at Blair.
"Well, you tell me who I am
then, because I have no idea," Jim's voice held more than a hint of sarcasm
as he went on harshly, "At one point, I had a reputation of being a pretty
decent cop. Now people look at me and they, they percieve me as some goofball
comic book character." His voice rose as he went on, "People are
calling my father, my brother, asking how they feel about living with a freak,
now how would you like that, uh?"
He grabbed his coat and opened
the door as he threw out his parting words.
"If I ever want to go back
to being a good cop and living a simple life, it ain't gonna happen this way.
Your research is done, Chief, now why don't you just let it go."
And then he was - gone. And Blair
was left in the shadows, a non-entity.
But he couldn't stay there - he
needed to catch Jim, to talk....
"Mom, I gotta go,
"I know, dear. Go."
He drove like a maniac and
somehow ended up back at the station, completely unaware that Blair had followed
Unfortunately, Simon was having
his own problems, namely dealing with his boss.
Jim stood before Simon's desk,
listened to his Captain tell him that all his cases were going to be reviewed
and Jim just wanted to stop the clock, to go back ... he held up his hand to get
"Captain, before we hear
from the review board or the brass tells us to go pack our bags, I'd like to go
back to things the way they were before Sandburg, when I worked - alone."
"You talk with Blair about
this, Jim?" Simon was clearly stunned at Jim's words. He took off his
glasses and pinched his nose.
- *his* ride is *over*! I want to
go back to being a cop, a regular cop. And
with this sentinel thing hanging over us, it's always right there, and I'm tired
of it. I want out!"
Neither man noticed that Blair
had been standing at the rear door of Simon's office. At Jim's last words, his
face paled and slowly he turned away, heading back to the elevators. But halfway
- he changed his mind. He and Jim
needed to talk. He shoved down his hurt and turned left and pushed through the
front doors to the bullpen.
He stood and addressed Jim.
"Well, maybe that's for the
best." He picked up a photograph on his desk and walked toward Jim. "I
got this picture back from the rally, take a look." He set it down and
pointed. "You were that close, until the papparazzi got in your way."
Blair walked slowly upstairs to
the loft and let himself in. Naomi was already in bed, having tried earlier to
come to the hospital but, at Blair's words, remaining here, waiting.
Blair started for the stairs,
then stopped. No, even if Jim were with - Carolyn, Blair had no business
sleeping upstairs tonight. He turned, stripped as he walked toward the couch,
leaving his clothes where they fell. He dropped down on the cushions, pulled the
afghan over him and tried to sleep but the memories of Megan falling, of seeing
Simon, shot in the back, of Jim's face at the hospital....
There would be no forgiveness for
Blair Sandburg that night. And there would be no sleep for Blair Sandburg that
In the wee small hours of the
morning, as Simon Banks finally slipped into a natural healing sleep and Megan
woke, hungry, as Naomi tossed and turned, and as Jim slept in Carolyn's hotel
room, Blair made his decision.
He had to give Jim everything
he'd asked for ... the only way he could.
At three-thirty in the morning -
Blair's heart shattered - which seemed fitting, considering the state of his
At seven, Blair tossed the afghan
from his body and stumbled to the bathroom. He could hear his mother moving
around in his old room, but he couldn't bring himself to check in with her
before hitting the shower.
He spent over thirty minutes
cloistered in the shelter of the bathroom, letting the heat and steam of the
shower cleanse him as the normal, mundane tasks of shaving, brushing his teeth,
and relieving himself lulled him into believing this was just another day.
By the time he'd exited, wearing
Jim's robe, his mother had scrambled eggs dished onto a plate and was pouring
orange juice for him as well as hot coffee.
"Come on, sweetie, sit down
He did as told but didn't
actually - eat anything. He had to tell his mother his plan.
His calls had been made and now
Blair sat on the edge of the coffee table as his mother fretted over him. She
understood his decision, so she said, but she didn't want him to do it, *any* of
It was early afternoon and after
checking with the hospital and discovering that Simon and Megan had both been
moved to regular rooms, he felt even better about his plan. Joel had called two
hours ago to tell him that Zoeller was dead, killed by Jim when news had leaked
that Bartley was alive and Zoeller had gone after him, at the station of all
Blair had wanted to rush to Jim,
to ensure that he was all right, but Joel had hastened to tell him that other
than a few bruises, Jim was fine.
Zoeller, on the other hand, had
seven bullets in him. No one was in mourning.
His mother's voice brought him
He glanced up from the papers in
his hand, from the words he'd written for later and caught the worry in her
"It's okay, mom, we're all
gonna be fine."
God, how she'd been hurt by
everything. He had to convince her that his decision was sound and that they'd
see each other again. He rose and took her into his arms.
"Ah, mom, come on, don't be
silly. Of course I do, always. Hey, we were all doing what we thought was right,
right? Hey, for awhile, I had it all, mom, the brass ring and now I know what I
gotta do to make sure Jim gets his brass ring, you know? He never wanted this
and now - it's up to me."
He brushed some hair from her
cheek, then added, "You know that nothing happens in this universe
randomly, so I know what I've got to do. Now why don't you go make your
She searched his face in the
shadows of the afternoon sun, saw only resolve etched in the fine lines and she
nodded as she dropped a kiss on his cheek. She turned to the phone and Blair
took that moment to gaze around him.
His home. For three years.
The longest time he'd stayed in
one house. His eyes lit on his luggage sitting by the door and he shook his
head. How often had he seen just that picture? All the years growing up, the
many times his mother would....
...and once again, he was forced
to move on.
Odd how even now, at almost
thirty years of age, another move was indirectly a result of his mother. Did
that mean he'd come full circle?
God, what he'd give to be in
Jim's arms one more time. To feel Jim's lips on his skin, to hear words of
tenderness wrap around him, to be able to pretend just - one - more - time that
Jim loved him, needed him, wanted him....
He moved away from Naomi and
walked slowly upstairs, stopping only when he reached the bed. He picked up
Jim's pillow, held it to his nose and took a deep sniff. There, just - there -
faint, but there - Jim's scent.
Still holding the pillow, he
walked to the dresser and picked up a tossed polo shirt from the top of the
hamper in the corner. Jim's polo shirt, and below that, Jim's Cascade PD tee
shirt. He pulled the pillow from the case, tossed it back onto the bed and
stuffed the two shirts into the case, then walked back downstairs and shoved the
pillowcase into his duffel bag.
He'd always wondered just how
strong a man he was, how much willpower he really possessed, how much inner
strength. He'd never imagined he had much. Guess he was about to find out.
"It's time, mom."
She walked to his side, slid her
arm around his waist and begged, "Please, let me come."
"No, it's better if you meet
Charlie as planned, in Tampa and I'd just as soon not have an audience that
included my mother, you know?"
"When will I - when will
Her fear that she'd never hear
from him again drove her to ask, "You promise, Blair? You promise?"
"I promise, mom."
It was a promise he really didn't
intend to keep. She'd be better off this way as well.
The two Sandburgs picked up their
luggage and with one last glance back, Blair shut the door on number 307, 852
Prospect Avenue, Cascade, Washington.
The paperwork was finished and
the clean-up completed. The battle to bring Zoeller down had been messy, what
with bullets zinging through the air, officers taking cover and Jim stalking the
crazed man. Windows had been shattered as had the glass of the bullpen doors and
desks had been shot up but fortunately not one officer had been injured.
Carolyn sat on the edge of Jim's
desk, watching worriedly as he signed his report. The plan was to head over to
the hospital as soon as Jim was done but something about his silence was setting
off her internal alarms.
He didn't look up as he dated the
report. "Fine, just fine."
"When you showed up last
night, I mean, I'm glad you did and I'm glad I was there for you, but you really
didn't say much and now...."
He was saved from answering by
Rafe, who came out of the conference room where several detectives were watching
some breaking news. Voice dripping with sarcasm, he said, "Hey guys,
Sandburg is on tv - he's giving some kind of press conference."
Puzzled, Carolyn and Jim quickly
joined the others.
A podium surrounded by the press
appeared on screen and Jim recognized the room as being at Rainier. Chancellor
Edwards' office. As they all watched, a subdued Blair took his place at the
podium. His hair was tied back and he was wearing a flannel shirt and and the
leather jacket Jim had given him for his last birthday.
Everything in Blair's body
language cried out in pain and Jim almost winced as in a slightly tremulous
voice, Blair addressed the press.
"Hi, uh, thank you all for
coming, I just have a short speech prepared here."
Jim watched him swallow hard,
then face the cameras again.
"Um, in our media informed
culture, a scientist receives validation by having his or her work published.
And after years of research, there is, ah, great personal satisfaction when that
goal is reached. However," Jim watched Blair bring both hands up to grip
the podium, "my desire to impress my peers and the world at large drove me
to an immoral and unethical act."
Blair's voice broke a bit as he
cleared his throat before continuing and Jim felt his stomach plummet seven
"My thesis, The Sentinel ---
is a, is a fraud. While my paper does --- quote ancient source materials, the
documentation proving James Ellison," Blair paused painfully, his eyes
dropping down again, but after a shift, Jim watched as Blair took a breath and
"...actually --- possesses
hyper senses is fraudulent. Looking back I can say that it is a good piece of
As if the most painful part was
over, Blair's voice dropped low as he seemed to regain some degree of composure
"I apologize for this
deception and my only hope is that I can be forgiven for the pain I've caused
for those closest to me. Thank you."
The entire Major Crime crew
watched the man who'd been in their lives for three years gather his notes and
quickly rush by the eager and questioning reporters. All eyes turned to Jim who
was rooted to the spot.
Blair pushed past everyone in his
effort to beat the media, but Chancellor Edwards grabbed him as he tried to
slide past her.
"You've embarrassed this
University for the last time, I want your office cleared out by Friday."
He stopped long enough to say,
"Already done. And happily so."
Blair moved away from her and ten
minutes later, he was in his car and speeding out of Cascade. His heart, soul
and life left behind.
Carolyn looked questioningly at
her ex-husband and asked, "What the hell did that mean, Jim?"
He shook his head, his mind still
too full of the press conference to think clearly. What the fuck had Blair just
Dear Mother of God.
He had to get to Sandburg....
Jim pushed away from Carolyn's
cloying hand, picked up the phone and punched in Blair's cellphone. It rang,
then a voice came on. "The party you are trying to reach is either out of
the area or not connected at this time."
Jim hung up. Okay, where would
Blair go now?
The hospital, of course.
Blair wasn't at Cascade General,
although the doctors told Jim that a Mr. Sandburg had called to check on the
condition of Captain Banks and Inspector Conner.
Jim hurried to the payphone,
tried the loft but got no answer. No Naomi, no Blair. An icy fear gripped Jim's
heart as cold hands from a grave reached for him.
No Naomi, no Blair.
He started down the hallway,
completely forgetting that Carolyn was next to him.
"Jim, what is it? What's
He waved her off. "I have to
go, to the, home. I have to go home."
Carolyn followed him; she had no
choice, she'd come with him.
Jim rushed up the stairs, shoved
the key into the lock and pushed his way inside.
His home was quiet. Still.
Shadows governed the space with
blinds half down, the setting sun shooting sepia tones into the loft. Dust
particles danced in the few rays of light allowed by the window coverings. Jim
paused, Carolyn coming up hard behind him.
He took a deep breath, then moved
to the French doors. He pushed them open - tentatively, and peered inside.
The closet door was open,
revealing a few lonely coat hangers swaying listlessly in the slight stirring of
air caused by Jim's movmements. Shocked
blue eyes took in the empty book case, showing only dusty outlines of where
books had once stood, and an empty desk, neater than at any time in the last
three years. Dresser drawers yawned at half mast, bare of belongings. Empty of
He shot from the room, literally
bumping Carolyn out of the way in his mad dash upstairs.
He skidded to a stop at the top.
Blair's book - gone. His glasses
- gone. His sweats - gone. The bed still made from the previous day, except,
oddly, Jim's pillow, lying in the middle of the bed, sans its pillowcase.
whispered his name, feeling suddenly - unsettled.
She was just behind him, three
steps back, gazing up at him, eyes wide and frightened.
"he's gone, caro. blair is
She moved to his side, looked
around the room that had been their bedroom and understood.
"dear god - you and - and
Blair sat in the park and filled
out yet another application form. He was no longer Blair Jacob Sandburg; that
would be too - difficult - to disappear and he wanted to avoid causing Jim
anymore pain than he already had. And the papers had been full of Blair Jacob
He carefully printed *John
Sanderson* and thanked his lucky stars for a bookie cousin with connections and
the resulting new driver's license and social security card. Of course, it was
cash and carry now and Robert would be receiving money from Blair to make
payments on student loans and such, but basically, Blair no longer existed.
He tucked some hair behind his
ear and smiled self consciously. There *was* hair but it was considerably
Blair finished the application,
gathered his stuff and headed back across the street to the small curio shop.
The bell tinkled overhead as he entered and the young woman at the counter
looked up and smiled.
"All finished, Mr.
"Yes, here you go. How soon
will I hear?"
"My father will call you,
but I must say, everything looks good."
"All right. Thank you."
The next morning, Blair received
the call that started the next four months of his life.
The job was hardly challenging,
selling curios and antiques, working for Harold Rothman and his daughter Heidi.
But hey, it paid bills and kept him busy. He'd been working easily, living in a
small, tidy apartment in Southern California, in a city called Irvine and he was
pretty sure he'd been here before, when he was little, with Naomi, but who cared
He had a job, the Volvo was still
running in spite of the long trip south and everyday he managed to go five
minutes without thinking about Jim Ellison - well, that was a major
Of course, his life wasn't
perfect, being one of the walking dead was a bit of a hang-up, but other than
that, hey, life was cool. What constantly amazed him was the fact that he *was*
a walking dead man. That the sun
rose and set, that warmth and light followed the bright orb, that he shopped for
frozen dinners, purchased gas, washed the car, interacted with other adults,
managed to sound like an adult, very grown-up, not at all spacy, still surprised
him every day. And damn, he'd even caught himself smiling on occasion. Of
course, the smiles had been necessary, required, and none of them had ever
reached his heart, but still, he'd been surprised that his lips still knew how
to make the move.
The biggest stunner was his
heart. The damn thing was still beating. Of course - Blair didn't *feel*
anything, ever, but that old muscle just kept pumping and pumping. Now how the
hell was that possible?
As the days stretched into weeks
and the weeks into months, he was pleased to see the infamous, fraudulent Blair
Sandburg fade into the woodwork. The media didn't take long to find something
else and someone else to hound.
Robert, while suddenly persona
non grata in Cascade, thanks to his *connections* and coming a little too close
to the less than stellar gamblers, still managed to keep him up-to-date on Simon
and Megan's condition. Blair had known exactly when both had been returned to
full duty and he'd been incredibly relieved. He doubted that he'd ever forget
seeing her fall, or seeing Simon's body....
His fault too.
Just before leaving Cascade,
Robert had called to let Blair know that Jim was working quietly and without a
partner. He had the anonymity he so craved and life *before* Sandburg. Jim could
claim that brass ring.
The knowledge that Jim was happy
was all that make Blair's life bearable. The thought that Jim was in Washington,
that maybe, just maybe he'd find something with Carolyn again ... find what he'd
been unable to find with Blair, yeah, somehow that made it all worth while.
Maybe this was what was supposed
to happen? All roads leading to Jim's freedom?
Which brought Blair back to
He sat in his apartment, staring
out over his small balcony, a cold glass of beer in hand as he pondered the
universe, the idea of fate, destiny and love.
He'd been trying for weeks to
figure out why he was - unlovable. Was that the word? What was it in him that
people found - that people couldn't - he took another sip of his beer and tried
to marshal his own thoughts....
It wasn't that people couldn't
love him, they just couldn't love him for long or up close and personal, not
even his mother. His face split into a bittersweet smile as he watched the
sunset because at least he'd had a month with Jim. Thirty days in Jim's bed,
four weeks of Jim in his body, day after day of waking up with Jim spooned up
behind him, feeling the man's morning wake-up call....
Blair drifted off, his head
tilted back as he dropped the glass of beer down onto the floor....
Strong, slender hands roamed his
body, knowing exactly where to stop and where to tease. Blair moaned softly as
Jim's breath seemed to flow over his face, as Jim's hand moved through his hair
and Blair could almost imagine Jim's slight mous at the sight of the shorter
...his own hand lowered his
zipper, then began a slow slide up and down his rigid dick. He closed his eyes
and experienced the warmth and scent of Jim Ellison, of the older man's body
against his, of muscles rippling under his fingers, of tremendous strength
harnessed for Blair, and his hips bucked as he shot over his hand....
"jim," he whispered out the name, silent tears making their way down his face.
Jim managed to get through three
whole weeks believing that Blair's absence was for the best.
Three weeks telling himself that
he had what he wanted.
Three weeks before he cracked.
Three weeks before he tore the
Three weeks before he blew up in
Three weeks before he admitted to
himself that he *never* wanted to go back to the time before Sandburg.
Three weeks before he confessed
to a recovering Simon Banks, in the wreckage that was his home, that he *wanted*
to be a sentinel, that he *needed* Blair, loved Blair....
"Okay, okay, Jim, I get it.
Come on, let me help you up here...."
During the methodic destruction
of his home, Jim had slipped on pages from one of the books he'd ripped apart
and now sat stunned, in the middle of his living room. Simon had never seen Jim
Ellison so lost and vulnerable. The man looked broken and incredibly frail, and
*that* scared Simon shitless.
"Shit, I fell."
"Yeah, Jim, you fell. Now
come on, let's put our feet under us and stand up."
"Us? There is no us, Simon.
*You* didn't fall. *I* fell."
"Well, I'm right down here
with you, buddy. So get the fuck up."
Jim waved off Simon's arm and
pushed himself off the floor. Standing, swaying, he looked around him, Simon
following his gaze as he used his temporary cane to get himself up.
"Yeah, you did a pretty good
job of it, Ellison."
"I don't know. I left that
"Only because I arrived and
"I could finish it
"No, no, don't think so.
It's going to take us forever to get this place cleaned up as it is."
"I was thinking of leaving
it alone - sort of a testament to my stupidity, you know?"
"A monument to idiocy, so to
"Well, you are one stupid
son of a bitch, no doubt about it."
"He left me, Simon."
"Yes, he did. He left
Jim turned to face his boss, one
eyebrow rising in mock surprise.
"Simon, I don't believe you
were sleeping with him, right?"
Simon held up both hands and
shook his head. "Hey, I *liked* the kid, but I drew the line at sleeping
with him. Besides, can you actually see *me*," he pointed at his chest,
then dropped his hand down to his hip, "with *him*? Mr. Shortstuff?"
"This conversation is now -
"A ucking Sandburg zone
without the Sandburg. We just can't escape it."
"I loved the Sandburg
"Well, as long as we're
confessing here - so did I. It was a *good* zone, you know? Full of life,
energy, good will..."
strange unwritten codes of male behavior, unfathomable sexual practices..."
"Whoa, Ellison, you have now
crossed the line into things Simon Banks *doesn't* want to know."
"Hell, Simon, I didn't mean
he and I, I meant the stuff he knows, you know?"
"Jim, let's clean up."
It took them over two hours to
clean, sweep, mop, toss and straighten, especially since Simon was still moving
slowly. But they did it. When the last piece of broken whatever had been taken
downstairs to the garbage, Simon made Jim sit down while he got a bottle of
scotch and two glasses, then limped over to his best friend.
As Simon settled next to his
suddenly quiet friend, he handed him a glass and then poured.
"I say we get stinking
Jim glanced down at the amber
liquid and whispered, "tanked."
Red rimmed eyes lifted to his and
for a moment, everything that was Jim Ellison was revealed in the agonized gaze.
Simon caught his breath and in a millisecond - whatever he'd seen - was gone.
Jim downed the glass and let
Simon pour again.
"Yeah, yeah, I'll be fine,
great, super duper. I've got exactly what I wanted, right? Life before Sandburg.
Life before Sentinel."
"He'll - come back. He will,
"No, no he won't. I told him
just what I told you. That I wanted it over - wanted it gone. That all I desired
was life as it was before. He's doing the only thing he can - he's giving me my
"Jim, come on...."
"He's smart, Simon. Do you
know how smart he is? How really, really smart he is? Do you have a clue?"
"Yes, I've an idea."
"So, he read between all my
lines. He knew what I was saying. What I wasn't saying. He might as well have
been standing outside your office when I told you...."
"He probably was, Jim."
"Henri mentioned something
about seeing Blair in the *back* hall *before* he came in the front doors, and
all hell broke loose."
Simon downed *his* drink.
"He heard me. He heard me,
didn't he? Didn't he?"
Simon poured himself another as
he said, "Possible. Be just like him.
Accidently overhears us, walks away, decides to talk to you anyway, comes
in the front and...."
"Yeah - and."
Jim swiped a hand over his face
as he stretched out his legs and let his body slump down into the cushions.
Simon twirled his glass between long, brown fingers and watched the liquid lap
against the side of the glass. Blair
had heard not just Jim's words - but his own as well. "You
know, Jim, I was wrong when I said maybe you were right about going back to the
way it had been. The press may have interfered with your attempt to catch
Zoeller, but without Blair and your senses, you'd have never spotted him. Hell,
without your senses, we'd never have known we were fighting him. *And* he
probably would have suceeded in his first attempt."
He glanced at Jim over the rim of
his glasses and added slyly, "Of course, I'm just rambling here."
When Jim failed to respond, Simon
went on. "Blair *is* smart,
Jim. He's the smartest man I know. Which means that after he calms down, he'll
realize that you didn't mean any of what you said. And he'll come back."
"Wanna know something,
Simon? I *did* mean it. I meant every word. When I said it. It wasn't anger or
hurt or lashing out. I *meant* it."
"But you don't mean it now?
But if he comes back, you could mean it again?"
Jim waved the hand holding his
drink, the action causing the liquid to slop over onto his thigh. He ignored it.
"No, no, of course not. I
mean, that I meant it then, meant it at the moment, but I'll never mean it
Simon shook his head and held out
"Either we need to have more
of this, or we've already had too much.
Which is it?"
Jim held out his glass. "My
jeans are thirsty."
They both drank, then Jim asked,
"You're still recovering, Simon. Should you be drinking?"
The bottle was empty and Simon
was peering into the small opening.
"A'course, I'm only a
sentinel here, but Simon, my friend, that bottle is empty."
Simon flicked out his tongue and
licked the rim, then let the bottle drop to the floor.
They both brought their glasses
up to their eyes and peered inside - by upending the glasses - which caused what
little liquid remaining to drop onto their respective faces. Fingers swiped,
then were plopped into mouths.
Simon tilted his head and stared
at his friend.
"So we go after him?"
"Jim, calm down. You've
little left in this place as it is. You can't afford to destroy anything
Jim collapsed like a deflated
balloon as he sank into the chair.
"How? How could he have
disappeared? We're fucking detectives, we find criminals every fucking day but
we can't find a short, long haired nerd? A
guy who fucking drives an old green Volvo? We're talking Blair here."
"Exactly, Jim. Blair. He has
friends all over the world, he could be anywhere."
Jim stood impatiently and began
They'd been searching for Blair
for over a week with no success, and Jim was nearing the end of his rope.
"Had - he *had* friends. You
heard the assholes. We've interviewed how many? People Blair helped, befriended,
taught, coached, tutored, and they turned against him. They didn't give a flying
fuck about happened to him."
"Fair weather, fair weather.
Not like us."
"You're not helping. How the
hell has he been able to travel without using his cards?"
For several seconds both men were
silent, then, almost in unison, they turned and faced each other...
"ROBERT!" They said
"Simon, calm down."
Banks threw his cane across the
room. Jim went after it, picked it up and carried it back to his friend.
"So Robert has gone
underground. Okay, another dead end. But we're not finished. We have other
avenues to explore...."
Simon sat down with a sigh.
"What other avenues? Uh, Jim? What other avenues?"
"I don't - know. I. Don't.
Jim shook his head, remembering
the call he'd made to his ex-wife. After Carolyn had figured out about Blair and
the exact nature of his relationship to Jim - well, she'd gone very silent and
finally - solemnly - had left him alone. Two days later, she'd caught a plane
home. She hadn't been thrilled to hear from him and even less so when he'd asked
for her help. But she had tried. And had come up empty.
"Nothing. Like us."
"I think it's over,
The paper looked - blank. Blair
picked up the pen, stared at it, then placed it against the snowy white
blankness. He moved it and the words came....
Six hours later he dropped the
pen and cursed his cramped fingers and the fact that his laptop had been stolen
the previous month. He sat back, picked up the papers and started reading....
**He wasn't an *investigator* and
he wasn't a private eye. He wasn't a private dick either. A dick maybe, but not
a private one. What he was, was a *Private Detective*. He detected and left the
investigating to the suits.
Joe Elliot tossed the red ball
against his office wall, deftly caught it as it bounded back, then repeated the
action. On the other side of the glass door sat the temp. A scrawny woman with a
bad temper and the best filed nails in the building. Joe was surprised that she
didn't smack gum.
The phone rang. Then rang again.
He sat up, catching the ball in the process. The phone rang a third time and
still the bitch in the outer office ignored it. He let it ring twice more, than
picked it up himself.
<Joe, got something for
"How'd ya know it was
<Uh, your voice?>
"I didn't use my
<Yes you did>
"But I was in
<Right. And you call yourself
"You gonna tell me what
<A case, right up your
"You coming here, or do
<You show up at the station
and my boss will have my ass. It's almost
lunch, I'll be there in
<Nah, I'll try something
different this time. Instead of the Pastrami on
rye with yellow mustard? Tell him
I want Dijon>
"A true gourmand. One or two
<One. I'm on a diet>
"See you in twenty."
He hung up smiling. Then he
stopped smiling. Time to dump another temp.
He stood and walked out his door
and into the outer office. The
Bitch was filing her nails. Big surprise. Joe picked up the phone and held it in
front of her face.
"In *detective* parlance,
this is called The Ameche. When The Ameche rings, the twisted temp of a
secretary picks it up and says, 'Elliot Detective Agency, may I help you?'
She blinked at him.
"Don Ameche," Joe
patiently explained, "He played Alexander Graham Bell.
Henry Fonda played his
She opened her mouth, popped her
gum and said, "It is the year 2001. *No one* calls it The Ameche anymore.
In fact, I sincerely doubt that anyone ever called it The Ameche. Except in very
bad detective novels."
His pale blue eyes narrowed
Wasn't he lucky? He managed to
hire a smartass Bitch.
"Take it and go. And do us
both a favor and never darken this doorstep again."
She cocked her head. "Do you
really catch bad guys? Because with dialogue like that, I can only picture them
laughing their asses off."
All right - he was starting to
like The Bitch. Maybe he should rethink the firing.
"I'm thinking - you learn to
answer the phone and I'll keep you."
She looked at the phone, still in
his hand, then up at the handsome face. Square jaw, chiseled features, those icy
pale blue eyes, the body....
"I'm thinking - you buy me
lunch and I'll stay."
He put the phone down.
"You going to Gebhart's?"
"I'll take a Ruben. Extra
sauerkraut. Potato salad *and* two pickles.
*And* a Diet Coke."
He started for the door, then
turned and in a resigned voice, said, "I'm expecting Lieutenant Simmons.
You'll ignore him when arrives, won't you?"
He shook his head. Naturally.
Isn't that what all temps did?
Joe Elliot, private detective,
headed out to the deli**
Blair shifted and took a sip of
coffee. Then, as the sun set, he continued to read what he'd written....