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Coming Home

by ljc

10/04



Summary: AU. After separate tragedies, Blair comes back home to Cascade and meets Jim. Not a great summary but that's what happens.



No warnings. Rated PG. Unbetaed.



Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.



Note, a spoiler or sorts: Contains a quote from the first season of shows.



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Prologue



Blair sat rocking his new little daughter. Fingering her tiny hands. Whispering sweet nothings to her tiny ears. Telling her about her dear mother who had loved her so very much. And about the twin brother and sister that were so eagerly awaiting her homecoming and had yet to be told of their great loss.



He reached up to wipe tears of grief from his face. Raising his face heavenward he then made silent promises to his beloved wife whose still and lifeless body was waiting for his last goodbyes.



<>



Jim sat tense and silent in the airplane seat on the aisle. His two children curled against each other in comfort. Not against their dad. The long separations caused by his army career had resulted in a bitter divorce that had torn his children from his life. But he would never have wished this to happen to Carolyn. His children, his son and his daughter, were strangers, and now they would be forced to be a family once again.



Caro had been the love of his life. He had vowed privately before that last fateful jinxed mission, to transfer to a different unit. He knew his family life was at risk. But that month long mission turned into a disastrous eighteen months. And when he finally came home, a silent and angry man, a changed man, Caro and the children were already gone. Base housing had turned their home over to someone else after he went missing and presumed dead.



He couldn't blame her. He'd loved her and left her too many times. She'd thought this was the final time. She and the children moved on. And there had been no place for him.



<>

<>-<>

<>-<>-<>

<>-<>

<>



Blair stood with arms crossed gazing out the balcony windows. Eli would be home soon with the children. He had to shake this latest depression before they arrived. He didn't want to depress the kids after their trip to the park. They were always in high spirits after an outing with their adopted Uncle Eli.



Prof. Eli Stoddard, Phd. ... what a good friend and mentor. After Katie died Blair hadn't known what to do. He hadn't been doing himself any good and certainly not the kids. Katie's death was just so unexpected. She'd been in such good health. The pregnancy had gone well.



Complications. What a cold word. What a world of grief they encompassed. They'd been unable to save her. So here he was, a widower, twenty-five years old, with twin toddlers and an infant.



Eli had just swept into the apartment in Berkeley and had taken over. Blair needed to tell him again how much he appreciated him, his friendship. He'd sat Blair down and explained that he was an old man and all alone in the world and Blair was doing him a favor by letting him adopt a family for his own.



Blair never had a father, and mom, as great as she is, just doesn't do the normal mom or grandmother things. She doesn't stick around much. It's not that she didn't love them or want to help, but he thought this was all too overwhelming. She could handle it for a little while then she just had to take a break.



Blair could understand that a little. Sometimes he just needed a break too. But he loved his kids, and he had loved Katie. He'd settled into married life and fatherhood and he loved all of it. He still loved it. He let out a huge sigh as he considered his present options once again. He needed to break himself out of his rut. Get his mind engaged in something exciting intellectually, to break the hold grief held on his mind and his heart, and maybe the ache in his soul would ease.



Here he was back at Rainier University, where he had spent his undergrad days, where he had met Katherine McDonald, journalism major. Mom had just left after spending a few weeks with him before his senior year. He was nineteen and Katie was twenty-one. She was a trust fund student. She was an orphan with mega-bucks in the bank. Blair didn't know that at the time. She didn't dress like it. Her whole wardrobe, he thought, was t-shirts and jeans. She was so down to earth. She was so interested in anything he said and he was so flattered. They would talk for hours. Why did she want to be with a nineteen year old, geeky, four-eyed, really poor, student, whose wardrobe consisted of purchases from the Salvation Army and Goodwill. God, he loved her so. He ached just thinking about her, about being wrapped in her arms, or listening to her lovely voice sing lullabies to their babies.



Blair's thoughts slowly turned outward. He smiled and his eyes lit with warmth when he heard the crash of the door and the eruption of giggles in the hallway. Eli's warm voice tried to calm and cajole them out of their coats. Thank God for Eli, he's brought laughter back to our family, given us a roof over our heads, and a respite from the grief that weighed so heavily on our hearts. He'd never be able to thank him enough.



Eli handed over Hannah with a grunt, “My goodness, Blair, she weighs a ton.”



One of the twins piped up, “Nuh uh, Uncle Eli, she's just a little baby. She can't weigh a ton. Elephants weigh a ton. Don't they Daddy?”



“I think Uncle Eli just meant she is heavy for her age, Jacob. She's growing up fast. It won't be long before she's as big as you are now. Did you and Hope and Hannah have a good time at the park?”



Hope was trying to get her buttons undone, with little effect. “Daddy help me.”



Blair struggled not to laugh as he gently reminded, “Help me ... please ... Hope. Remember, please and thank you,”



“Please help me. Please Daddy. It won't come out of the hole,” Hope said plaintively while working steadily at the frustrating button.



Blair's help stopped the bouncing up and down of his little daughter. He hung up her coat and turned to help Jacob with his, too. All this was helped along by Blair as he encouraged them in their stories of friends met and games played in the park.



“Blair, you look a little pensive, why don't I take the children to the playroom and you put Hannah down for a nap. I'll meet you in the kitchen and we can start supper,” Eli suggested while looking worriedly at his young friend.



“Thanks Eli, I have been thinking about a few things. Perhaps we could meet in the den and talk for a while. I already have supper in the oven,” Blair answered as he gathered up Hope with a bounce and a tickle. He loved to hear her laugh. It sounded so like Katie's.



“I'll be there in just a minute son, just let me get Jacob and Hope settled since you have Hannah in hand,” smiled Eli.



<>-<>



Leaning back with a sigh in his favorite chair Eli remarked, “Jacob seems to just absorb information. We saw elephants weeks ago at the zoo.”



“They were his favorite, except for the monkeys and tigers and bears. Well, you know, whatever he was looking at at the time,” Blair answered with a grin.



“They keep me busy that's for sure. I think they're keeping me young. It's refreshing to have young, innocent eyes to see through,” Eli replied, waiting for Blair to embark on the topic he wanted to discuss.



“I know. They keep me sane my friend. Eli, I've been thinking about what you said. You're right, I do need to get going on a project. Get back in the swing of things academically. Even though I can afford the time off I have too much time to think, and all I can think of is Katie. It's going to have to be something different from expeditions to Peru of course. I can't leave the kids for months on end, not for a long time. Katie understood my passion for anthropology and I'm afraid she indulged me, letting me run off on expedition half way round the world with barely any notice. And I know, you said you'd help in any way you could, but I want and need to be with them.



I don't want to be like my mom. Even though Naomi gave me an exciting childhood, I really missed not having a home. I think back on all the times she left me with friends and I would miss her terribly. I should have told her just how much I feared she'd never come back, that her next retreat or new boyfriend would make her realize how much better her life could be without me as extra baggage,” Blair revealed with a deep sigh.



“Ah, Blair. You and I both know Naomi was a loving parent who brought you up to be an independent, caring, and thoughtful young man with a zest for life and people. She just didn't have that yearning for a place to call home,” consoled Eli.



“Maybe she was really running from something. She's always seeking, but she never seems to find what will make her heart content. I always felt bad about that too, that maybe I was the cause of her discontent, that maybe I was inconvenient. I know some her boyfriends would like to have forgotten I was part of Naomi's life. I wanted her to be happy. I know she loves me and truthfully I always knew she would come back for me. I just hated to be left behind. I won't do that to my kids Eli. Katie let me get away with that too much,” Blair answered ruefully.



“Katie loved you Blair. You asked me to check in with her often when you were away. She didn't mind being in charge at home and she loved being a mother to those children. Between them and her own career she kept herself quite busy. Probably partly to keep her mind off your absence. She missed you very much, son, but she did understand. Her encouragement was whole-hearted. And she knew what you really held most dear .... But speaking of keeping busy, you said you considered what we talked about the other day. Have you made any decisions?” questioned Eli.



“I have been considering different areas of study, some that you suggested. You know the subject of my thesis was the primitive tribal sentinel that Sir Richard Burton profiled in his writings. And you also know I was hoping to search for a more modern, civilized equivalent, but my previous grad school research was unproductive. There are other avenues that I can consider in the future in my search but that could be a dead end too. I don't need an endless search for someone I may never find. I just don't have the energy right now.



What I wanted your opinion on was a project titled 'Modern Watchmen: Protectors in Our Urban Society'. I thought about concentrating on the police department, but I could include any number of professions, say firemen, paramedics, search and rescue personnel. But my first thought were the police. Not a 'thin blue line' treatment at all, but a dissection of their motivations and reactions to their choice to 'protect and serve'.”



“Are you going to use words like 'dissection of their motivations' when you present this proposal? A lot a tact would be a useful thing my boy. They carry guns, remember? They won't like being dissected,” said Eli with an ironic grin. “Their's is a rough and tumble world, with great risks, and many rewards, but still a hard life. A profession they sometimes give their life for, literally. You've got to get your head out of the academic mindset. Remember these are real people. They deserve your respect. This can't be just a project to take up time, give you something to do until your life gets better,” admonished Eli.



Blair leaned forward, clasping his hands loosely between his knees as he reflected on what his friend was saying, “I hear you, Eli. Thinking of them as research subjects lets me keep things objective. Maybe keeping my emotions out of this is a good thing, maybe not. A lot depends on their reactions to me. You're probably right though, I doubt if they'll talk freely if I come on too strong - like scientist to guinea pig. Katie often found it much easier to get a good story if she could relate on a personal level with her subjects. I want to do this the right way. I think I can do justice to this subject, even though I'm the son of a pacifist hippie.”



Eli had more cautions to add, “You do know your mother will object. She still calls them pigs. She'll object just on the fact that they carry guns. And speaking of guns, how dangerous will this be? You do have to consider the children in this, too. They don't need to risk their father after losing their mother, Blair. Have you seriously considered this?”



Blair eagerly outlined more of his thoughts and plans, “I was doing some research on that. As a police observer, I would be partnered with a cop. I was actually going to request a detective, that should be safer. They're not on the street like beat cops. It's not likely that I'll be in the middle of a shootout. Cops are not going to take crazy risks or put a police observer at risk either, after all they will be responsible for me. I just hope I won't do something foolish to put them at risk. If it seems too hazardous I'll have to back out, that's all I can do, Eli. But I would like to give it a try. For some reason this has caught my imagination. It seems ages since I felt excited by something.”



Eli still had misgivings but rejoiced at the enthusiasm in Blair's voice, “Then do your research. If I can help with the proposal let me know. I know the Commissioner, if you need a favor I might be able to help there too.”



“Thanks, Eli. You're a good friend.”



<>-<>



Here comes Ellison. Simon sat with cigar in hand waiting for his detective to arrive. He rolled the cigar back and forth between his fingers. He couldn't smoke, even in his own office, but no one could legislate the cigar out of his hand yet. It had a solid feel and the smell was rich. He liked cigars, and this was one of his favorites. He needed something to calm his nerves, and this was one of the best stress reducers he knew and he was going to need all the help he could get with this next little duty he had to assign. This wasn't going to be a fun meeting. He'd be lucky if he still had glass in his door when Ellison left. Well, might as well get started. “Ellison, my office.”



“Captain. What 's up Simon?”



“Have a seat Jim, we've got a situation.” At Ellison's look, Simon replied, “It's not what you're thinking, it isn't something we need to call SWAT in for, this is more a personal situation for me. Us. Well, actually you. Sorry, Jim, I know you're not going to like this, but the Commissioner was adamant about this. He had some friend up in that ivory tower they call Rainier University that called in a favor.”



“How does this favor involve you. Us. But actually me?” Jim asked sardonically. “Seeing you sitting there rolling your cigar is making me nervous. What's the story?”



“There's been a proposal for some research on some idiot idea of Urban Watchmen. They want to send some academic, some student I guess, named Blair Sandburg, to collect data for a research paper, maybe a magazine article. The Commissioner seems to think that this article would be good PR for the department.”



“Come on Simon. You think some bright-eyed co-ed is going to write a glowing little editorial and make the Commissioner happy. It'll be in some obscure academic journal that nobody's going to read anyway. What's the point?”



“The point is, it will make the Commissioner's friend happy. It will make the Commissioner happy, and the Chief of Police, and therefore, me. You know how chain-of-command works. What it will not do is make you happy, because this bright-eyed co-ed will be YOUR police observer. So, Jim, if you have any comments make them now before your observer shows up,” Simon said, leaning back tensely in his chair. Here it comes he thought. Mt. Ellison is about to blow.



knock, knock



“Hello, Capt. Banks? Rhonda, said I should come in. I'm Blair Sandburg, from Rainier University. I think you were expecting me?” said an eager, bouncing Blair Sandburg.



“Mr. Sandburg, come in. I see you have your observer badge. Vera in Personnel must have finished with the paperwork. I see she gave you the handbook.” Simon choked back a smirk as he thought, Sandburg isn't a woman? There'll be bets placed before the hour is out on when, not if, Sandburg is scared off. I don't think I've ever seen Ellison exactly that shade of purple. I should have called him in sooner and let him blow off some steam. I'd rather not lose the observer before his first day is over. The Commissioner would be unhappy, and I do know how chain-of-command works. “Detective Ellison, this is the police observer I was telling you about.” After Ellison shook hands with Sandburg, and treated him to a steely eyed glare, they all sat at the conference table at Simon's suggestion.



<>



James Ellison was grinding his teeth as he fixed Simon with a grim expression. Simon is going to be so sorry for this, or did he think Ellison was the one to get rid of him the fastest. This guy is just a kid, and he's bouncing on the end of his toes. Even Jim's daughter hadn't done that since she was five.



Maybe he can use this to wrangle some better hours out of Simon. Getting more time off with Sarah and Joey was something he'd hoped to talk to Simon about anyway. Losing their mother this year and moving back here to be with their dad was hard on all of them. They lost their mom and their home and friends while gaining what had been a long distance dad, and a new home. And even though they had known Sally as Dad's housekeeper, accepting her as a kind of nanny was stressful, too. But she's really good with them. They eat up the attention. Now we need some time to get to know each other better.



Yeah, he thought Simon had a lot to make up for saddling him with this little hippie throwback. Just look at that hair. Yup Simon, Jim thought, he would play this for all it's worth.



<>



Blair was getting negative vibes from this Ellison guy. Please don't let this be his detective. relaxrelaxrelax. He hoped his nervousness wasn't obvious. Man, calm down. He didn't want them to think he was on drugs.



If this is his detective then he'd just have to win him over. An anthropologist as a consultant could be a real asset in the right situation. Being that anthropologist, he'd just have to convince them of that. Might be able to get in the detective's good graces that way. Or maybe the detective would let him help him with his paperwork. Nobody would turn that down, right?



One look at him though and he could see the conclusion he'd already jumped to, after all, he had his own first impressions of them. First impressions are hard to change, but he'd done it before.



<>



“Capt. Banks, all the paperwork has been processed and my observer credentials have been approved. I hope you've selected a detective for me to observe. I'm eager to get started. I've been back at Rainier for a couple of months and this is my first project in my new position. I work with Dr. Eli Stoddard in the Anthropology Department. Did you have a chance to read the proposal I presented to the faculty review board and to the Commissioner?” Blair asked, trying to cover his case of nerves.



“Sorry, I haven't had a chance to read it through yet. Actually I've only read the summary, but I have to say the proposal was approved over my objections. I want you to understand that the Major Crimes Department isn't an easy placement even for experienced veteran cops, and you haven't had any military or police background. I don't know how you managed to get approval so quickly but we'll do our best to help you with this research because it's now part of our job, right Jim?” Simon said as he looked pointedly at his detective. Jim's glare could freeze hell with a glance, but it just seemed to bounce off his eager beaver observer. Well, they were in for a good few months weren't they? Luckily Simon would be in his office being Captain and Jim would be out there with his observer. Yes, it's good to be Captain.



“Of course, Captain. It seems, Mr. Sandburg, that you're my ride-along, so we'll get you settled in, and sorted out. Maybe as we go along you can fill me in on what you're going to need,” Jim spoke with cold formality.



“I really need to start at the beginning. I need to get a background of police procedures. Perhaps you know someone at the Police Academy that can give me an overview and suggest some reading on the various subjects studied by cadets. I'd like to sit in on some classes, too. I'll need to interview cadets, police officers and civilians with whom they come in contact, with their consent of course. I'll also be requesting that officers consider letting me do psychological profiles, all absolutely confidential. Anecdotal information would be helpful too, as I will be researching motivations for the protective instinct. I think that will be enough to get us started, unless you have other suggestions Detective Ellison?” Blair ended with a questioning, deferential, look to 'his' detective.



Ellison glanced at Banks. Sandburg was spared the eye-rolling, and look of disbelief. Simon wasn't and he groaned inwardly. Ellison was going to make him pay for this, big time.



<>-<>



Blair thought the day went fairly well. He wasn't as sure how Detective Ellison and Captain Banks thought the day went. He was introduced to the other detectives and shown around the PD. He was also introduced to paperwork. It was tedious and copious. Not altogether unusual or unexpected. That seemed to describe paperwork anywhere. For a settling in day, it was good. But there was a lot of work to do. There would come a time, soon, when they would have to leave the office, and he'd have a better idea just where this project would lead.



<>-<>



Man, what is wrong with these guys. He'd done everything he could think of, even brought them lumps of processed white flour, fried in lard and rolled in sugar. Man, donuts must have been invented just to raise cholesterol and harden arteries.



He'd encountered closed societies before and had broken through their barriers, but these guys were tough. He knew they talked about him amongst themselves, and they teased Ellison. Then Jim would come back grumpier than a bear just out of hibernation and very, very hungry.



But today, Blair thought, was the pits. Ellison, with his ridealong, was called to a crime scene. He was all business, then bam! We're viewing the body ... what was left ... and he just seemed to stop. No motion at all. Blair had seen catatonics, and it had seemed like that. You could move a hand or arm and let go and it wouldn't move. Although he had done that little test verrry gently. Jim's arm froze in that new position. Fortunately there wasn't anyone nearby to witness it. When Blair had nearly vomited on the crime scene they all took off. So it was just him and Ellison.



Jim seemed too stable emotionally for catatonia. Besides, it was just a symptom, but of what? He wanted to help him, but how? He spoke softly to him but didn't get a reaction. He went up close, practically eye-to-eye with him, no reaction. Jim was so rigid Blair knew he was going to be sore when he came to. Sheesh, Blair was going to have to touch him. If Jim didn't kill him, one of those uniforms over there would come and pound him into pulp. Well, they're not looking now, here goes.



Bam! Up against the wall. Yup, he was right, Jim's going to kill him!



“You little neo-hippie, witch doctor, punk, get your hands off me. What do you think you're doing? This is a crime scene, you stay behind me and don't touch anything, especially me. Got it?” Jim growled.



“I think you've impressed your cop buddies enough, Ellison. Let me go. Now damn it!” Blair said quietly, then added, “I was trying to help, and you'd better listen, and then you'd better have a good answer. What happened just now, with you? I thought you were looking at the body for a minute, and then what? You just stopped. You just froze in place, like you were catatonic. You better talk to me Jim. This could be serious stuff.”



Well that's done it, Blair thought. Ellison just pushed past him and resumed working like nothing had happened. But he saw Jim's jaw, and his eyes. Jim knows and we will discuss this later. But if Ellison was cold before, now he's frigid. Brrr. He had to stick close to him though. Something could happen to him if he's alone. Does he have family to help? He hadn't talked about himself even though Blair had asked. Blair hadn't wanted to do a formal interview with him first thing. He hadn't wanted to alienate the cop he rode with. He'd tried to question him, tactfully, about his motivations, his history, get little anecdotal stories, anything, but all he'd gotten from Detective James Ellison was all surface, no depth, almost like a soldier giving his name, rank, and serial number.



<>-<>



Blair pushed again. Too hard. Jim practically shoved him out of the bullpen. He just picked up Blair's papers from the desk, pushed them into his backpack and into his hand. Blair turned back to object, but thought better of it. Jim was standing right there, in the doorway, glaring at him, daring him to push again. If he won't talk about it with him, he'll have to talk about it with Simon. Blair wasn't afraid of him, much. He wasn't afraid of turning him in on this account. Jim's life and the safety of others, himself included, were at stake. He hoped Jim would understand that he didn't want to see him hurt. He knew if this affected his job, Jim could end up hating him. But a man with that disability is a liability, to himself and other cops. Jim could be killed just crossing the street. Blair had to talk to Simon soon. He'd come back tomorrow when Ellison wasn't playing big-immovable-object.



<>



“Ellison,” Simon's bellow shook the windows. “I want to see you in my office. Now.” Simon's glare rivaled Ellison's. “What did you just do to your observer? No games, I saw you shove him out the door.”



“We had a disagreement. I won,” Jim's jaw was clenched tightly. A sure sign of the tension he felt.



“You didn't see Sandburg's face? I think you'd better reconsider that statement,” Simon replied. He'd come to know the observer a little better and knew that look of stubborn determination.



“It was personal. If there isn't anything else, sir...” Jim retreated to military protocol.



Simon was getting exasperated, “Ellison, you do remember that the Commissioner and the Chief of Police will only be happy at the successful conclusion of this little academic enterprise. I will be even happier, and I'm the Captain. You do want to make your Captain happy, don't you Jim? This will be successfully completed, right? Look, Jim, we both know you've been kidded about your tagalong observer but you know it has both political and practical motivations. We, have to let outsiders in so they'll understand us, and we have to understand their viewpoints too. That makes cooperation with the community possible. Sandburg will be back, right? After observing him for a while he doesn't seem the type to scare away too easily.”



Releasing a long-suffering sigh Jim replied, “Oh, he'll be back, Simon. I'm sure.”



<>-<>



“Rhonda, sorry about having you stay late, but these reports were an emergency request,” Simon apologized.



“That's alright, Simon. I know you had plans tonight too, with Daryl. I'm sorry you're both missing out on the Jags game,” Rhonda commiserated with her boss.



“Yeah, Daryl was upset, but Joan was even worse. She really gave me a hard time. How can she believe I would break a promise to Daryl, or miss any time with him, if I could help it. To make it up to him, Daryl and I talked about planning a camping trip, one where the cell phone won't work.”



Turning to Ellison's desk, Simon continued, “Jim, these reports will finally finish up that smuggling case. You said you had the finished copy for the DA all ready to go. Brown and Rafe are still discussing their final report on their case in my office. Rhonda's ready to fax them over to the DA's office, as soon as we sign off on them. Then we can all get out of here for the night.”



“Here's the report folder, the forensics report is right over here,” Jim said as he turned to search. Then searched more franticly. Then Jim looked at Simon with mortification.



“What?” Simon barked.



“Uh, I think Sandburg has them,” Jim confessed very reluctantly.



“What!” Simon bellowed.



“I think they're in his backpack,” was Jim's muttered reply.



“Why? How ... ? Oh yes. I see,” Simon fumed for a moment. “Call him. Right now. Apologize, whatever. Just get him down here.”



“But ... but, ” Jim spluttered.



“Now, Detective Ellison. Right now,” Simon out-glared Ellison.



<>-<>



man oh man oh man. Now, he says. Right now. Who does he think he is. Blair knew this case was important. But it's NOT. MY. FAULT. He's the one that was in such a snit. He's the one that put the papers in the backpack. Now Blair have to haul himself down there to hand them over. No apology. No nothing. Just wait, Ellison.



<>-<>



Finally. He hated elevators, but it was better than climbing 7 flights. He guessed he should feel lucky that he could park downstairs in the police garage tonight.



<>-<>



Finally, the elevator. Jim thought he could hear Sandburg. That's a crazy thought. Stop it Ellison.



<>-<>



Hunh, these papers must be really important. Nearly everyone's still there in Simon's office working on the report. “Hi Rhonda, would you do me a big favor? These are my kids. These are my twins Jacob and Hope, and the baby is Hannah. Could I please leave them out here. I just have to take these papers in to Ellison.”



“Oh, Blair, I'd be happy to. It'll be the best break I've had all day. They're beautiful. They have your eyes and the curls, too. You'd better get those papers in there soon though. Simon's a bear. He's growling about everything. I don't know what's going on with Jim. He goes all silent when he's upset. I think I'm missing some of the story there. How did you get this forensic report?”



Grimacing, Blair answered evasively, “Well, Jim could tell you that. Kids, you be good for Rhonda. I'm just going in that room over there for a minute.”



“I'll be good, Daddy,” said Hope and Jacob in unison. But Blair knew they only looked like little angels.



“I'll be right back. Don't touch anything without asking Rhonda first, okay?” Blair cautioned.



“Okay, Daddy,” they said and returned little waves as Blair went to the door.



<>-<>



“Finally, Sandburg. Not that I'm not grateful that you brought them down, but we could have used them an hour ago,” mumbled a grumpy Simon around a mangled, but unlit, cigar.



“Sorry, Captain. It's not easy getting everyone going at home. If Eli, Dr. Stoddard, was there, I could have left sooner. But when Jim so politely ordered their delivery I was happy to oblige. Right Jim?” Blair asked Ellison sarcastically.



Jim and Simon quickly sorted through the required reports, checking that everything necessary was included. “Alright men, why don't you call it a night. I'll give this to Rhonda to fax and then we'll all be out of here. Thanks again, Sandburg,” nodding his thanks to Blair, Simon turned to gather the reports to deliver to Rhonda.



“Hey Blair, why don't you join us for a beer. H and I are heading out to the Silver Street Pub to meet Adams and Henriks,” Rafe suggested.



“Thanks for that thought, Rafe, but I've got to get everyone home and in bed. It's getting late,” Blair answered, wishing he could take them up on their offer.



Much confusion. Then some leering grins. “Everyone home and in bed, hunh. Busy night Sandburg?” teased Henri “H” Brown.



Blair stilled. He'd been so busy asking questions. How could he be so dense? He never told anyone? Time to take care of that, “Let's go out in the bullpen and I'll explain. It's really not what you're thinking.”



Blair took two steps out the door and stopped, a big smile lighting his face. Hannah was asleep in her seat on the desk near Rhonda and the twins were curled up together in a chair in front of her desk. It didn't look very comfortable, but they were as cute as two sleeping toddlers could be. Along with Blair's smile came a deep feeling of warmth that filled his heart and spilled into his voice. Speaking quietly, “Well, intros will be short. That's Jacob and Hope, and this is Hannah. Thanks Rhonda for watching them.”



“They were no trouble. They climbed in the chair and asked if I knew a lullaby. So I just sang quietly, and they drifted off,” Rhonda returned Blair's smile with one of her own.



Looking behind him, Blair had to stifle his grin. Maybe they weren't big macho, stoic cops all the time. He'd just realized, belatedly, that opening up has to go both ways. Since he'd now seen the error of his ways, maybe they could get some good discussions going. He'd found that he liked these guys as well as respected them. Maybe they could even become friends.



“I'd better gather up my kids and head home. See you tomorrow Jim?” Blair asked hesitantly, remembering their earlier disagreement all too well.



“Tomorrow, Sandburg,” Jim acknowledged as he rubbed at his jaw.



<>-<>



Where is everybody, Blair thought? Did they sleep in this morning? With Simon as Captain, he doubted it immensely. There, that's the spot. It looks like it belongs right there. He should have brought a picture of them before this. They're my family and they deserved a place of honor wherever he was.



Coming up quietly beside Blair, Jim asked, “Hey Chief, nice picture. Is that your wife?”



“Her name was Katherine. She died a few months ago. The kids and I just moved up here with Eli Stoddard. He's been a great friend for years, since I started college. Now he's family. I was feeling pretty lost and alone before he stepped in,” admitted Blair with a small, loving caress of the newly placed picture.



“I'm sorry about your wife, Blair. She was beautiful. My ex-wife Carolyn died just this summer, too. I hadn't really spent much time with my two kids in years. Caro and I married young, just after I went in the Army. We went separate ways when I went on my last mission in the Rangers. She never was happy with all the separations during the time I was in the army. Only the kids kept us on speaking terms. It was just easier and less stressful to keep contact to long distance phone calls and letters. Then suddenly I was a Dad again, trying to make up for lost time. I don't know what I would have done without Sally, the lady that helped my Dad raise my brother and I,” Jim sighed as he recalled his own painful past.



Looking around Jim saw the bullpen was starting to fill up with the morning shift. He gestured for Sandburg to join him in Simon's empty office, “Look Sandburg, I'm sorry for the way I've been treating you. I know you only want to help, and maybe I need someone objective to just listen. Maybe you could just hear me out, okay?” At Blair's nod, “I know these spells could be dangerous, but they're a rare occurrence.” Blair tried to interrupt but Jim kept on, “I've already tried seeing doctors and even specialists. No one could help. At worst they thought I was going crazy. But Sandburg, I swear I overheard them and they weren't even on the same hospital floor. At other times I can see my kids in the park and it's two blocks away. Taste and smell bother me too. You

wouldn't believe the stupid things that can make me gag. And what about touch. Rashes can't be a symptom of a mental problem, can they? Sometimes the senses get unbearably intense. I don't know how to explain it. And no one's given me an explanation I can accept. The doctors were speculating about schizophrenia. I researched some of the symptoms and they could be applied to me. Like the times I lose myself. It's not like someone driving home and wondering how they got there in one piece because they don't remember driving. When I'm lost it's different. I wake up and the time of day is different and I haven't moved. Sometimes I'm stiff from holding myself rigid so long.” With a despairing sigh, “Maybe I am crazy, but if I am I'll lose everything, my family, my home, my career. If you've got anything to add that's helpful, then go ahead, but please don't spout platitudes or try to tell me there's nothing wrong with me. I know something's not right .... ”



Blair's excitement was growing, but he tried to keep his answers carefully neutral, “I know a bit about schizophrenia, Jim. I minored in psychology, and I know I'm not an expert but I know some basics. There are a lot of symptoms, and yes you do have some, but we're not talking bizarre here. You're just normally odd.” Jim's sour look had Blair adding quickly, “Okay, one, so what if you're irritable, a lot of people are, you've had a lot happening in your life recently. Two, you have difficulty expressing emotion. So do 95% of the male population at a conservative guess. Three, I haven't noticed any really bizarre behaviors, for a cop at least. Four, you're not irrational, except for your love of buttermilk donuts.” That got a little grin, good. “And consider all the positives in your personality. You still take good care of yourself physically. You may act indifferent to some horrifically violent crimes but I know you're not. You just have to keep a safe distance emotionally, to protect yourself. You haven't isolated yourself, in fact you've made a home for your two kids, and Sally. And if you have any sleep problems, have you not heard of 'stress' as a factor.



But all those things aside, I really want to address the staring, and the sensitivity to stimuli. The staring could be a reaction to sense overload. I'd call it zoning out when you take in too much sensory data too fast to process. The sensory sensitivity you mentioned is just astounding. I've actually read about this in my anthro studies in the writings of the explorer, Sir Richard Burton. If what I suspect is true you've been given a very rare gift Jim.”



“Now you're crazy. The overloads are the worst. You can't imagine how bad they can get. There is nothing good about them. Look, just forget I ever said anything. It's really not your problem. I don't know why I even tried discussing it with you. I'll deal with it in my own way.”



“But Jim ...” Damn he's run away again. Come on Blair, you have to remember Eli's words when you started this project: a lot of tact, treat him with respect. He had to treat him like a friend that needed his help. Everything Jim cares about is at stake and he's running scared.



<>-<>



“Eli, you awake?” whispered Blair.



“Yes, Blair. I was just resting my eyes,” Eli joked sleepily.



“Sorry Eli. Ah, since you're awake ... I've just got to talk to you about something, someone. A sentinel, Eli. A modern, civilized sentinel, here in Cascade. This is so amazing. The service professions were a sector of society I wanted to search for living sentinels but I didn't think one would just fall in my lap. I can't believe my luck,” Blair enthused as he paced with short quick steps.



“I take it this sentinel is in the Cascade Police Department. Have you talked to him? What was his reaction to the idea? Did he know what he is?” questioned his mentor.



“Eli, I haven't spoken to him yet about the Sentinel concept. I can't get him to listen to me about it. I think he's afraid. He doesn't have any idea what he is. This is tragic, to not know, not understand. Sentinel senses for a detective. That would make him amazing in the field, a human crime lab. But what must he be thinking? This could seriously mess with his head. He's afraid he's crazy. It's causing all kinds of emotional distress. And if he doesn't get help soon, he could get into trouble in the field because he has control problems. And he's got kids, Eli! I've got to talk to him ... get him to talk to me.”



“Why don't you invite him for supper tomorrow,” Eli suggested. “Maybe in a more relaxed atmosphere you can lead into it gently. Talk about your studies, your thesis. See what he says to that and go from there.”



“Thanks Eli,” Blair had relaxed a bit at these suggestions. “Jim likes things direct and to the point, but if I come straight to the point on this, I would probably scare him off again. I'll try to get a chance to apologize when I see him at the PD. Hopefully Jim will do more than grunt at me tomorrow.”



<>-<>



“Hey Blair, did you get everyone home and in bed okay last night?”



Blair felt all eyes on him as he stopped to talk to H and Rafe. “Yeah the baby was asleep all the way home, but those two three-year-olds fought me all the way. Their little nap ruined a good nights sleep for me. Thanks for the invite to the pub. I'd like to take you up on it soon.”



“We like to hang out there once in a while. Do you like the Jags?” asked Henri.



“I love basketball. Orvelle Wallace is a hero of mine. I have one of his cards. I got him to sign it after one of his games years ago,” and Blair bounced in his enthusiasm.



“Man, you're kidding. I've got to see that. Rafe and I, heck most of MC catch any game we can. Jim's a big fan too. We'll have to get together soon,” Henri aimed a high five at Blair which he returned deftly.



“Maybe you guys can come over for supper Saturday. There's a game on tv that night, unless you have tickets of course,” offered Blair.



“Yeah that would be great,” enthused Rafe, “Are you sure it's okay with the wife?” When Blair lost his smile, and stilled, Rafe knew he'd said something wrong.



Blair let out a long sigh, glanced down at the floor to give himself a chance to gather his thoughts and his control, then with a look to his friends, “My wife, Katie, died a few months ago. A close friend Dr. Eli Stoddard, wanted us to move up here from Berkeley and live with him for awhile. It's been good for the kids and me.” At the looks on their faces he rushed to reassure them and apologize, “I know I should have been more open about myself, after all, I've been asking you questions about everything. How could you know me, trust me, if you don't know about me and my life? And my kids are my life.”



“We're just sorry about your wife, Hairboy. And let's get something straight ... you've been a real 'pest' with your questions!” joked Henri.



“Hairboy? Pest? Thanks H. I'll remember that when I'm writing my article,” teased Blair.



<>



Jim, with arms crossed and head down, leaned his back against the wall by the stairs. He'd heard them in the bullpen. He'd remembered what Sandburg had said last night, too. Sandburg thought he had an explanation. When he thought about the talk with Sandburg he remembered the spike in his heartbeat and respiration. Something had him excited. Did he really have an idea of what was going on with him? If he'd didn't take this chance, would there be another? He didn't really have much to lose. Another talk with Blair Sandburg. What could happen?



<>-<>



“Your kids are great Jim. They were so patient with Jacob, Hope and Hannah, even with the age difference.” He shyly admitted, “I was surprised you'd even talk to me today.”



Jim felt it was time to confess and apologize, “I realized I didn't hear you out, Chief. I asked that privilege for myself and didn't listen to you. I've been clutching at straws for a while, and I was feeling pretty desperate. If you don't have an answer I don't know where or if I'll find one.”



“That sounds pretty serious Jim. I'm really pleased that you came to my home tonight. I don't want you to push me away again. I'm just asking you to be patient with me for a bit. I want you to know I think I have good news for you. I heard you out, would you let me have just five minutes? Please?” Blair asked.



Sigh, this is what I came here for, Jim thought. It's now or never, but Jim grinned as he said, “The clock is ticking, Chief.”



Blair walked back from the desk in the den with a bound manuscript. “This is for you, Jim. It's my thesis for my Phd. It's subject is primitive tribal sentinels.”



“Wait, wait a minute. You have your Phd.? We all thought you were a student doing research for Dr. Stoddard.”



“I think I'll always be a student, Jim. I guess Simon never got around to reading my proposal, hunh. It's my name under the title,” chuckling lightly, “no wonder 'I don't get no respect' around the PD. Now, no more misdirections, this isn't counting as part of my five minutes.”



“Go on Doc., I'm listening,” and he really was now.



>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<



“In all tribal cultures, every village had a sentinel. Now, a sentinel is chosen because of a genetic advantage -- a sensory awareness that can be developed beyond normal humans. I've got hundreds of documented cases of one or two hyperactive senses but not one single subject with all five. You could be the real thing.”*



>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<



<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>

<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>



finis



*Excerpt from the opening monologue from Season 1. Full monologue is below, from Becky's Transcripts.


Opening monologue from Season 1: "In all tribal cultures, every village had a sentinel. Now, a sentinel is chosen because of a genetic advantage -- a sensory awareness that can be developed beyond normal humans. Your time spent in Peru has got to be connected with what's happening to you now. I've got hundreds of documented cases of one or two hyperactive senses but not one single subject with all five. You could be the real thing."