Author's disclaimer: The Sentinel characters belong to Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. Written for pleasure, not profit.

For adult readers only please. Do not repost, publish or link without discussing it with me first.

Comments are welcomed at JBonetoo@yahoo.com

Author's notes: Contains SPOILERS for the final episode. Rated NC-17 for language and the description of a male/male relationship. Thanks go to my nameless, blameless betas.

Note: This story doesn't really belong with either the Territorial Imperative series or "Back to Good." However, if you find you can shoehorn it into either universe, more power to you.

Weathering

by Bone

Detective Blair Sandburg. Let's say it out loud: "Detective Blair Sandburg."

It doesn't sound that different from "Doctor Blair Sandburg," does it? The same hard "cuh" sound, the same hard "tuh". Even the "duh" at the beginning.

Duh.

Duh-tec-tive Blair Sandburg.

I didn't know, when my mom sneaked up and scared the wits out of me the other night, that it meant I'd be finding a new life, that I'd be trading in the one I'd envisioned for a whole 'nother thing. I didn't know that then. Had I known, I might have done the laundry. I might have worn a shirt with all its buttons still attached. I might have taken the time to store my fucking thesis behind password protection.

Then again, I might not.

I should know better than to get complacent. Complacency is where the devil slides in. Complacency means it's time to change schools, or bring out the moving boxes, or learn how to say, "Excuse me, where's the bathroom?" in yet another language. I learned early that all complacency gets me is a numb butt in the backseat of somebody's van, going somewhere I've never been, to do something I can't even imagine, let alone prepare myself for. Naomi's not a big fan of complacency.

But the thing is that I hadn't realized I felt complacent until the pop bottle that is my life had a thumb slapped over the top of it and got shaken within an inch of its carbonated life, exploding everywhere. And you know what happens after the fizz is gone?

Yup. It goes flat. It all goes flat.

So that's where I am right now. Shook up beyond reckoning, scattered in twenty sticky directions, fizz going flat. I'm not feeling much of anything, to tell you the truth, which is even harder than it would be otherwise, because I live with a man who feels all too much.

The panic's gone. It left when I saw Megan and Simon bleeding all over the bullpen and remembered that life is about more than dissertations and publications, and even about more than whether a partnership can withstand the degree of torture to which we're putting it.

The sick, nauseous feeling is mostly gone, too. That took longer. A boatload of shit came down all at once - feeling betrayed, feeling like a betrayer, feeling like we both got flattened by the damn garbage truck after all, feeling like who I was wasn't who I was anymore, and who was that, anyway?

For a while there, I felt like I was carrying around a whole dinner buffet of bad sushi, just waiting to find some inconvenient re-entry point into the world. I felt worse than I did with Lash. Worse than the time with the Golden. Worse, because I was conscious and sober, and I could see the world falling down around my ears, and there wasn't a single, solitary, goddamn thing I could do about it.

Except what I did.

I did what I did because it was the only thing to do. Because those were consequences I could live with, and the others I couldn't. Because those consequences only affected me, and not every victim who wouldn't get to be saved by James Ellison, Sentinel of the Great City.

I've lived in more places than I can remember. I can pretty much make a home in a refrigerator box if I have to (I did it once, for two days - it's not bad). I've been thrown out of places, I've had places blow up underneath me, I've squatted, mooched, bartered, I've even paid rent. So cleaning out my office at Rainier wasn't really that big a chore. I mean, it's not like it was anything new. I've got a system I use: big stuff on the bottom, little stuff to fill in the crevices, get a big guy to help with the lugging. I'm covered.

I never look back at the empty spaces. What's the point? Eyes forward, young man, eyes forward. I walked out on my life with a box of books under my arm. I've done it at least a dozen times. The boxes get heavier, but it still feels the same.

I've made three homes here - the U, the station, and the loft. I get to keep two of them. That's not bad. Really, if I had to choose one to lose (and I did), I'd say I kept the important ones. I had to choose to lose, and I didn't lose as much as I feared. I didn't lose everything I ever wanted. I just have to reconvene with all my inner selves and have a little talk about expectations and future scenarios and getting the fuck over my fear of firearms.

I'm not going to be Doctor Blair Sandburg. I'm not going to be Blair Sandburg, Ph.D. I'm not going to head up anthropological expeditions. I'm not going to be a college professor.

I'm not going to publish.

I'm not going to make my fortune on the back of the myth of The Sentinel. And I'm not going to make my fortune on the back of the fact of The Sentinel.

I'm going to be a cop.

Detective Blair Sandburg, Cascade P.D.

At your service.

To protect and to serve.

Whoa, that's going to take some getting used to.

The whole scene at the station today was cosmic. Here's Naomi, who spent her last visit with me carping about oppressive male structures and crime statistics, just beaming at the thought of me joining the police force. Simon's shorter than me, for once. The whole gang's gathered, looking at me. And Jim has this strange, fixed look on his face, like a zoneout that includes me. He's limping, but his arms are strong, and he's got his hands full of my hair, and he's talking about Blairskin rugs and making jokes, and underneath, he's hanging on for dear life.

He's hanging on for dear life, and my Mom bailed.

She stayed for the cake, kissed me, kissed Jim, patted Megan on the shoulder (for some reason, she's not real keen on Megan), gave Simon a sort of awkward wheelchair hug, and then she breezed out as fast as she breezed in. Sort of like an F4 tornado - the Doppler radar warnings only do you so much good if you can't get below ground in time. All you can do is grab onto something stable and hope like hell you can hang on hard enough, and you know good and well when the wind stops you're going to be left with a ton of debris to clean up.

We've still got some debris to wade through. I need to start feeling something again, for one thing. Jim needs to unclench that jaw of his and crack his neck a couple hundred times. He's upstairs already. I'm going to join him in a few minutes. It's my hope and prayer that we'll sleep. We haven't slept much since Hurricane Naomi slammed onto the scene. For one thing, it's weird to climb in Jim's bed while my mom is downstairs in what we now call the guest room. For another, you can hear like everything in this place, so any heavy petting would have been accompanied by pillow smothering, and while I'm sure there's a place in this world for erotic asphyxiation, auto or otherwise, I'd just as soon not have to explain that to the 911 operator and my mother.

And then sleep became a sort of moot point, along with sex, right about the time we started curling away from each other instead of towards each other. When he stared at his wall all night, and I stared at mine. When an accidental touch suddenly seemed to require an "excuse me."

Sex, which for a while there was the only thing I thought about, became the one thing I couldn't imagine. I even wondered if maybe I'd made the whole thing up, dreamed it all, fantasized it into smelling, tasting, feeling existence just because I wanted it so much. Because the word "distance" doesn't even begin to cover how it was for Jim and me once word broke that the word had broken that I broke my word. Once that happened, it's like we were never naked together, like I'd never heard him groan my name, never felt him seize up and spill on my stomach, never put my fingers inside him, never licked behind his ear.

Like I'd never fucked him, or he me.

Like we were strangers who had to keep a respectable distance. We, who made personal space an anachronism. We, who fit together like bricks lying side by side to make a path. We, who made compromise into an art form.

I'm stalling. I'm feeling a seed of panic and nausea rooting, which sort of makes me happy, because it means the flat fizz thing might be almost over. Feeling anything, even sick to my stomach, seems like a good thing right now. I'm on the couch, getting my nightly dose of the Weather Channel, which is always, blessedly, the same. A cold front sneaking south here, the jet stream omegaing there. Someone somewhere's weathering a storm.

Just like we are.

Give me a few more minutes here. A few more gratifyingly normal minutes with Jeanetta Jones, then maybe a good night's sleep, then maybe Jim and I can go a round or two by ourselves, talk about this new me, this new him, this new us.

I'm the best cop he ever saw.

I'm the best partner he could ever ask for.

I'm a great friend, and I've pulled him through some pretty weird shit.

I didn't do those things for the dissertation.

At one time, yes, that book was my life.

But it's not any more.

Looking back now on how we spent last night, I'm sorry I wasted precious minutes of it watching Jeanetta. And my need for sleep turned out to be vastly overprojected. Come to think of it, even the desire to hash things out again seems ill-conceived and even silly.

Turns out all we needed to reconnect was ...to reconnect. Slot A to Tab B. Hook and eye. To be crude about it, it took my dick lodged solidly in Jim's ass to really make us feel better about the world. That doesn't surprise me - it's been changing my view of the universe for a while now -- but it's reassuring to know that the kick is still there, that once the shock (and in my case, panic and nausea) wore off, the connection still worked. We still worked. Oh my God did we still work.

A morning after a night like that should be bottled and sold as joy juice. We weren't even really fighting, and we still got to have some window-rattling, throat-scratching make-up sex. It's like all the restraints came off. Shout it to the rooftops, man, there's no one here but us. No one to hear but us. No mom downstairs, no misunderstanding about who did what, and when, and why. No cameras, no microphones. No more self-deprecation on my part. Jim's right; it really doesn't suit me. I may have genuinely questioned what the fuck I thought I was doing with the ride-along, but when it comes to knowing what I'm doing in the sack, I'm the king of self-esteem.

I grade myself on the curve of Jim's ass. When it flexes without him knowing it, I give myself a B. When it tightens up, stays that way and humps the mattress, I figure I've got a cool A-, and I let myself come. An A+ one time made him pass out. Flat-out unconscious. Scared the shit out of me, so I never strive for more than an A- these days.

I'm feeling again. Feeling places I haven't felt in a while. Feeling sore in a few new spots. Feeling full in some, empty in others. Jim's up and gone already. I felt his hand slide down my side, felt his mouth on the back of my neck, pushing up under my hair and licking, felt him slap my hip on his way out of bed. I heard the cane on the floor, the thump-thump of a less-than-agile Jim trundling down the stairs. I forgot all about his leg last night - I bet he's sore in a few places, too. Not that I heard any complaints, mind you. Begging, I heard. A whimper or two. But no complaints.

The morning after a night like that should be dragged out as long as possible. Jim's going to work. I think I'm going to sleep in, enjoy these sore spots a little longer, keep that Jimsmell on my skin. No one's expecting me anywhere. I don't remember the last time I didn't have a deadline. It feels really, really weird, like a dog with a leash, but no one holding the other end.

I did the right thing; it's not that I think I didn't. I knew it at the time, hard as it was to do, hard as it was to say. I made the right choice. I wouldn't trade what we have for all the money, or fame, or scientific acclaim in the world.

Nothing beats this.

Nothing.

Okay, it's been two weeks. Jim's off the cane and Simon's graduated to using one. Megan still hasn't figured out what to do with her hair with one arm constantly in a sling. I've offered to shave her head, but she just curls a lip and mutters dark nasty things in Australianese. Good to know she's on the road to recovery.

Two weeks now to get used to the idea that I'm not going to be who I thought I was, and that I'm going to be someone I entirely didn't think I ever wanted to be. Two weeks isn't very long to alter your lifeforce identity. It's barely long enough to get comfortable with the idea that I really don't have to leave, that it's okay to stay. Okay to stay in Cascade, okay to stay with Jim.

Okay to stay with Jim. Still sharing the loft, still sharing the blankets, still sharing pre-orgasmic sweat and post-orgasmic lassitude. Still waking up tangled and hot. Still getting petted in the middle of the night by a hand that can't seem to stay away from my head.

I was sort of surprised to find that when I did start feeling again, I mostly felt relief.

Relief beyond belief. That it was over for one thing. Whatever the outcome, at least the fucker was done. When I erased it from my hard-drive, I opened up three gigs for porno pics, the new Star Wars game, or whatever else people put on their computers when they don't have eight years worth of notes, research, anecdotes, theories, and scientific data to store. And yes, I kept a hard copy of almost everything. That's my baby there; I can't just toss it out with the bathwater. If nothing else, it'll make a great doorstop. But I did feel a strange sense of spiritual liberation hitting the delete button and then emptying the recycling bin. A rite of passage of sorts, I guess; a certain sense of closure.

And if it felt a little like a gut punch to look at all those stacks of paper and realize I'll be the only person besides Jim and Simon who knows every word is true, something else I've learned along the way is that the journey can be as important as the destination.

I didn't want it to work out this way. I didn't want Jim to have to go through that. Hell, I didn't want to have to go through that. And I definitely didn't want to strain our not-always-entirely-stable relationship that way. But you know what? Shit happens. It seems to happen twice as often when my mom's around, but it would've happened anyway, most likely. Shit happens and then you do what you can to clean it up and Lysol it. Mask the smell, get the bacteria count down, and remind yourself it's only a matter of time before shit happens again.

In the meantime, I'm bored out of my fucking mind.

Never, ever, in my life, have I had less to do. I don't ever remember not being in school. First I had the academic year. Then I had summer school. Then, depending on the year, I had YMCA camp, or basketball camp, or Learning the Existential Way camp, or I was getting ahead on the reading list, or catching up on calculus, or researching the next place I thought I might get to go.

Now I literally have nothing to do except tag along with Jim while my observer status winds itself down and I get ready to make the grade. So I'm busy, what, eight hours a day? For the first time I can remember, I'm sleeping in on a regular basis. Just sleeping. I get up around ten, wander downstairs, make some breakfast, call Jim, wander into the station, wander off behind him doing whatever he's doing, wander home and back up to bed, and conk out again.

It's a hell of a life.

Jim's holding up all right. He's a survivor. If he can handle what he had to handle in Peru, he can certainly recover from a bout with late twentieth century paparazzi. He went from disbelieving to disgruntled to discouraged and then whip-lashed himself back into Blessed Protector mode so fast I didn't even see it happen. He saw the press conference. He saw me do what I had to do, and somehow, that made the rest of it all right. And it wouldn't surprise me if he had one of those epiphanal moments there on the floor of the bullpen, holding in Simon's blood while I tried to do the same for Megan; one of those moments where you realize all the other shit really doesn't matter.

We've had a lot of those - I call them eye-openers, he calls them grounders. Same concept, different execution, in the patented Sandburg/Ellison style.

We're enjoying the day-to-day thing more than we have for awhile - something else we can thank the grounding eye-opener for. We savor the little things. He's enjoying the good food I have time now to cook, and he likes how clean the place is. It's good not to be wasted on work, too tired to screw, too wired to sleep. It's good to reach out and feel him pressed up behind me, his hands tightening on me in his sleep. It's good to put my feet up and watch TV without feeling guilty about it. I watch the soaps and eat bonbons. Not really, but that's how it feels.

I'm mostly joking when I tell him not to get used to having a hausfrau around. I know how all this could look from the outside - like I caved and gave up my life for his. Does that sound like a familiar tune? Spouses have been singing it for years. And okay, yes, even from the inside there's some truth to that. But it's my life to give, and ours to live. I don't want to live it without him, and there's a lot more at stake here than my vocation.

Besides, avocation or vocation, what difference does it make? So, before I would have been paid as an anthropologist and observed with the police department. Now I'll get paid by the police department and keep my intellectual curiosity as a hobby. Evidence of certain unnamed LAPD officers to the contrary, it's not necessary to check your brains at the precinct door. I've got three gigabytes of hard-drive space just waiting for some new passion to light. I haven't had a hankering so far. So far, I don't have the vaguest clue what to do with myself. I wandered by mistake toward the university one day and ended up in a coffee shop where the students go. Three pitying looks sent me scurrying back to the precinct, where I'm less likely to get pity and more likely to get a wedgie. It's a sign of acceptance, if not respect, and I take it as such.

I won't be at loose ends for long - I should probably be enjoying it more. My time for bonbons will be gratifyingly short. Before you know it, we'll be back to getting Chinese takeout, stealing the last of the clean white socks from the other's bureau drawer, and propping our eyes open with toothpicks to make it through Sports Center.

Because you know what's funny? After all this shit, what am I going to do? I'm going back to school. Back to what I know. Back to tests and homework and practical exercises and grades. Back to learning and doing and seeing where my limits are and how far I can stretch them.

Been there.

Done that.

But this time around, instead of a degree, I'll get a badge. Instead of a classroom and young, occasionally eager minds to mold, I'll have baddies to track and data to crunch. Instead of intellectual colleagues, I'll have the other eight members of the Cascade P.D. softball team. Instead of grumpy, dictatorial administrative types, I'll have ... oh, wait ... never mind. Some things never change.

Some things never change. Whoever I was going to be, I'm still that person. Who was that again? Doesn't matter the title. I'm still Blair Sandburg. I've still got a mind and heart and a tougher body than I once did. I've still got a mom who will always do what she thinks is right, and a partner who will occasionally admit when he's wrong.

I'm Blair Sandburg.

I'm weathering the storm.

I'm starting over. Again.

The end.