Polar Ice Caps

by alyjude


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 inducing.

Twenty minutes later, as he perused the personals his attention was captured by the second to the last ad which simply read:

To:                   BS - parts unknown


JE - 911

From:               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....

...like now.

And watching the response, waiting for the body to move, to seek out his mouth and his dick and his body....

....like now.

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."

"Hi yourself, Chief. Sleep well second time around?"

"Very. I could get used to this."

"You damn well better. One month and counting."

  "Hard to believe."

"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 ... yes."

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 ... stop...."

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....


  Jim's bare foot had just touched the hardwood floor when the front door opened and Simon peeked his head around.

"Jim? You ready yet?"

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 be."

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 one?"

Jim tried to shrug noncommitally as he continued up for his clothes.

"Must have, he's not here, is he?"

"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 started downstairs.


  Blair stared at the computer screen in front of him but the words wouldn't come. Figured. His mind was still on Jim and the football game that he, Simon, and two detectives from Burglary were currently attending. Not Jim's fault. They'd both forgotten,  but - Jim could have, well, faked it. Told Simon he wasn't feeling well, or he had to, to, well, to *something*. And hadn't they agreed to *tell* Simon about their *new* relationship? Today would have been a perfect time, right?

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 typed....

*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

each decision....*

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.



"Hey back."

"I - we went out afterwards."

"Figured as much."

"Right. So, you're not - mad?"

"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 without warning."

"You *have* been drinking!"


"Jim, you don't - I've never seen, I mean, since your senses and all - other than a few beers, but you're like..."


"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 continued on.

Behind him, Blair bent to the right as Jim started walking like a ninety year old man - a *short* ninety year old man.

"Uh, Jim?"


"Something wrong?"

"Not. At. All."

"Then why are you walking bent at the knees?"

Jim froze. Turned. Pointed.

"Well, the stairs - you know?"

"The stairs?"

"Yeah, you did something to them while I was gone."

"I did?"

"Sure, they're - you know, *lower*."

"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 ask."

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 eleven.

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 skylight.

Jim had - gotten drunk tonight. Again.

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 miserable tomorrow.

It was hours before sleep finally took him.




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?"

"your sunglasses."

"oh." He fumbled, found them and slipped them on. Oh, yeah, definitely better.

A hand took his and a glass was placed against his palm. "What's this?"

"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 tastes..."

"jim, i have the power to make your day miserable or bearable. drink.  now."

Jim drank.

"that's better."

Gentle hands took him by the shoulder and pushed him gently to the couch.


He sat.

"how's your skin?"

"On fire."

"dials not working?"

"No. And could you talk a little softer?"

"jim, i'm whispering now."


"we need to get your dials working so lean back and close your eyes."

Jim mock saluted and snapped out, "Yes, sir."

"jerk. just do it."

Jim leaned back and closed his eyes.

"you have the dial in front of you?"

"Uh, huh."

"now picture it on a bottle of scotch."


"sorry, maybe it was wild turkey?"

"You're asking for it, Sandburg."

"jim, today you couldn't beat a baby with both its hands tied behind its back."

"Dials, Sandburg?"

"right. so, concentrate."

"They're - moving. The numbers, the dials, everything."

"maybe you'd better - attack?"

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 sense."

"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."

"Errands, Chief?"

"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, Sandburg."

Laughing softly, Blair gathered up his jacket and keys, whispered good-bye and left, making sure the door closed gently behind him.


  Blair sat at the small table in the rear of the library, three books open in front of him, his legal pad under his hand, a pen clenched between nervous fingers. He hadn't read a word or written a sentence.

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.

Jim. 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 slipped into the loft, arms full of dinner, bookbag hanging from his shoulder. Jim was sound asleep on the couch.

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.


  The sun was setting and giving the loft a lovely magenta glow when Jim finally stirred. He opened bleary eyes and raised his head. Blair was smiling at him from the chair in the corner, a book open on his lap.

"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 is warts."

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.


  The rest of the weekend passed quietly for the two men and somehow Blair managed *not* to ask Jim about Friday night.

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 dissertation?"

"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.

"Right, of course. Want a beer?"

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.


  The dull buzz of the alarm, an arm across his chest, hair trailing over his face....

"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 with you."

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.

"outta time."

"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?"

"fifteen minutes."

"what happened to slow and easy?"

"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 *again*, jim."

Smiling without opening his eyes, Jim nodded happily. "They needed to get up anyway."

"Yeah, but to an alarm yelling *Sandburg!*?"

"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 during orgasms."


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 there, promise."

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 bed.

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.

So what then?

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

all things.*

His fingers typed in the last two words:

The End

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 word....


A crack formed in the glass that was his world. It would soon shatter....



  Blair sat in his car, parked in the garage of the Cascade PD, fingers tapping a nervous tune on the steering wheel. It had been two days since he'd typed, *The End*.

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 sentinel...."

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 didn't?"

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 interrupting....

"Let's hear it from the sentinel himself..."

"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 explain...."

"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 anything."

"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 this."

"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 documentation."

"You said this Sid was throwing a lot of money in your face, right?"


"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 about."

"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, uh?"



  *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?


  Jim walked into the bullpen and was immediately assaulted by joking detectives, led by Rafe.

"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?"

"Joel, just let it go...give it a rest, okay?"

"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 picture."

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 stood.

"Carolyn, what are you doing here?"

"I figured you might need - someone. I got the first media report last night, made my reservation and here I am."

He stepped toward her and they hugged. As she pulled back, but didn't let go, her eyes searched his. "You okay, Jim?"

"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.



  Blair rode up to Seven, his heart hammering in his chest. He could feel his jaw clench and his hands move into fists. He could do this.

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 proof."

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 - Sandburg.

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.


  "Are you really okay, Jim?"

"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. You?"

"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 true."

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 tried again.

"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 up."

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 know."

"Obviously. But Simon knows. Simon knows, Jim. And Sandburg. But not me, your ex-wife. I don't know."

Jim smiled wryly. "You do now."

"With the whole world I know. How could you not tell me, of all people?"

"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 up.


  Blair drove aimlessly. Aimless circles. Ever widening aimless circles.  His mother waited for him back at the loft but he couldn't face her right now. He knew he needed to go back to the station, they still had a case and a union boss to protect and Jim still needed his help ... of course, he might not want it, but damn, he did still need it.


  The plan was set, the wheels in motion. Bartley, Simon, Megan, Jim, Carolyn and Blair stood in Bartley's office going over the plan one more time. If anyone wondered why Carolyn Plummer had been included, no one asked and Bartley seemed thrilled to find another good looking woman on the case.

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 minutes."

"You'd better get down there then."

"On my way." Jim moved from the window and addressed Bartley. "Mr.

Bartley, it's time for you to get into positon."

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.


  Outside, the crowds were heavy and the noise almost too much for Sandburg, which meant Jim had to be suffering. Blair searched over the heads of the people milling about the platform where the speeches would be held. He spotted the Jags cap and moved toward his partner.

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 interviews."

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 had advised.

And minutes later - all hell broke loose.


  Bartley was in protective custody and the world believed him dead.  Following the clean-up after the faked death of the union leader, Jim and Blair had gone back to the loft ... in separate cars ... and not before Jim had shared an intimate hug with Carolyn, who was staying at the Hyatt. And  not before Carolyn had shot more *bullets* in Blair's direction. Sandburg actually - wilted under her withering gaze.

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 it...."

Blair had stayed in the shadows, listening, but at those words, he reminded gently, "That's not who you are."

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, try...."

"I know, dear. Go."


  Jim took the stairs two at a time, his hurt and anger building. He couldn't have stayed there, not for another minute. He couldn't look at Blair's face, at Naomi's. The faces of his destruction. His vulnerability. His Achilles heel.

He drove like a maniac and somehow ended up back at the station, completely unaware that Blair had followed him.


  He managed to get into the building without a fuss, the media dogging the front of the station. Jim took the elevator up, his only goal - Simon, a calm in the storm that his life had become.

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 Simon's attention.

"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.

"It's not his call, Captain! This is *my* decision

- *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.


  Simon listened to Jim's tirade as he sat back. This was wrong, very wrong, but how....

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 entered the bullpen and something slammed into the door next to him, and Megan fell and all hell broke loose....


  The ambulance, the hospital, the waiting room, surgery, wating, giving blood, words of recrimination from Carolyn, her arms around Jim as he seemed to carry all the responsibilty, Blair trying to help, getting nowhere and Jim, after hearing that Megan and Simon would make it - leaving - with Carolyn....

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 night either.

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 world.


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 and eat."

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.

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 places.

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 back.

"Will you ever forgive me for making a mess of things, sweetie?"

He glanced up from the papers in his hand, from the words he'd written for later and caught the worry in her eyes.

"It's okay, mom, we're all gonna be fine."

"Will you still love me, even with all this?"

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 calls?"

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 you...."

"Mom, when I'm settled, I'll call or email, okay?"

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.

"Jim, is everything all right?"

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 floors.

"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 went on....

"...actually --- possesses hyper senses is fraudulent. Looking back I can say that it is a good piece of fiction."

As if the most painful part was over, Blair's voice dropped low as he seemed to regain some degree of composure to finish.

"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 done?

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.

No Blair.

He started down the hallway, completely forgetting that Carolyn was next to him.

"Jim, what is it? What's wrong?"

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 Blair.

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.

"jim?" Carolyn 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 gone."

She moved to his side, looked around the room that had been their bedroom and understood.

"dear god - you and - and sandburg."



  Two Weeks Later -

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 Sandburg.

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 shorter.

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. Sanderson?"

"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 now?

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 accomplishment.

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 himself.

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 curls....

...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 loft apart.

Three weeks before he blew up in the bullpen.

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 bookshelf intact."

"Only because I arrived and you slipped."

"I could finish it now."

"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 speak?"

"Yeah, exactly."

"Well, you are one stupid son of a bitch, no doubt about it."

"He left me, Simon."


"Yes, he did. He left *us*."

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 - officially weird."

"A ucking Sandburg zone without the Sandburg. We just can't escape it."

"I loved the Sandburg zone."

"Well, as long as we're confessing here - so did I. It was a *good* zone, you know? Full of life, energy, good will..."

"Useless information, 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."

"Yes, sir."




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 drunk."

Jim glanced down at the amber liquid and whispered, "tanked."

Simon leaned in and asked, "What did you say, Jim?"

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, Jim? You gonna be okay?"

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, Jim."

"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 wish."

"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."

Jim whipped his head around to stare at his Captain. "What!?"

"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 again."

Simon shook his head and held out the bottle.

"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."

Simon poured.

They both drank, then Jim asked, "You're still recovering, Simon. Should you be drinking?"

"Oh, yeah."





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.

"Well fuck."


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 else."

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 to pace.

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 together.





"Simon, calm down."

Banks threw his cane across the room. Jim went after it, picked it up and carried it back to his friend.

"Who knew, Jim? Who knew?"

"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. Know."

"Carolyn come up with anything?"

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, Simon."




Irvine, California

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.

"Elliot Detective Agency."

<Joe, got something for you>

"How'd ya know it was me?"

<Uh, your voice?>

"I didn't use my voice."

<Yes you did>

"But I was in disguise."

<Right. And you call yourself a detective>

"You gonna tell me what you've got?"

<A case, right up your alley>

"You coming here, or do I...."

<You show up at the station and my boss will have my ass. It's almost

lunch, I'll be there in twenty>

"The usual?"

<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 pickles?"

<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 assistant."

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 fractionally.

Wasn't he lucky? He managed to hire a smartass Bitch.

He pointed to the black purse hanging from her chair. "That yours?"

She nodded.

"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....