Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Drama

Summary: Jim and Blair deal with a last bit of emotional fallout from TSbyBS and in the process, learn to let go and move on.

Spoilers: Since this is post-TSbyBS, anything goes, but mostly The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. I reference one line of dialogue from my previously posted S2P2 story, Journey of One, at the top of the story. It also takes into account my story Ripples (after TSbyBS), in which Blair decides not to be a cop, and my series of Changes drabbles.

Warning: A post-TSbyBS story (no, Blair isn't a cop). I must state at the beginning that I do read both virtual seasons and while I still can't see Blair as a cop, I remain grateful to both teams in their efforts to provide the fandom such wonderful tales.

Additional Disclaimer #1: The views expressed in this piece (i.e., Jim doesn't need to do penance) are mine and not meant to say that they are correct one way or the other. Some readers are bound to hate this piece and I won't be the least surprised if I get flamed for it. Others will probably think I've done and gone off the deep end. ~grin~ Who knows? Maybe they're right.

Additional Disclaimer #2: I have no real experience with doctorates or dissertations or defenses or anything to do with this area. I have no real idea what the procedure for dealing with this would be in the police department if this situation were real. This is fanfic based on a TV show. Reality doesn't always apply, so I'm taking the standard literary license, to a degree. I apologize if this bothers anyone, but to me the characters are more important than researched details.

Penance
by Becky
February 2000

Blair: "Do you think I'm being too easy on Jim?"
Simon: "...I think that's something the two of you will have to hash out for yourselves."
-- Journey of One

Singing along with Angie Ferris' newest number one single, Blair pulled the Volvo into the lot outside the loft building, parking next to Jim's truck. After turning off the engine, he reached across the seat and picked up the two bags from the passenger side. His afternoon errands had taken him to several stops around the city, the last of which being the grocery store to pick up the items on Jim's meticulously written list.

Blair chuckled to himself as he opened the door. I swear he does actual inventory sometimes. How else would he know I only had two bags left of...what does he call it...that red smelly tea? Shaking his head, he got out of the car and jogged around to the trunk and started unloading it, calculating how many trips he'd have to make. He couldn't ask Jim to help since the man really wasn't walking yet.

Jim was stuck at home with a broken foot, courtesy of one Morty Pulaski, a petty thief Jim had chased through a train yard the day before -- ooh, big surprise there -- and had tackled just as he tried to climb up the side of a train car. Morty, heavier than Jim by a good twenty pounds, had fallen on top of the detective, causing him to slip and break his foot. By then Blair had caught up -- carrying Jim's earlier dropped gun. Megan wasn't far behind and took care of arresting Morty while Blair called an ambulance. Considering that his other leg was still a bit achy from the gunshot wound from Zeller, his partner wasn't the least bit pleased about his newest injury.

Arms loaded with bags from various stores, Blair paused a moment, thinking of the term that had slipped into his thoughts. Partner. It still wasn't a sure thing that their partnership would continue for much longer, not after the whole dissertation fiasco two weeks earlier. While both were grateful the news really hadn't stuck with the general public, making life a bit easier, those it did stick with had created problems. Chief Warren had been lenient, granting them a few weeks to explain in more detail just what had happened. Simon had worked hard to get the Chief to agree to even that much after Blair turned down the Academy offer, and Jim and Blair both knew they owed the captain much more than they could ever repay.

Shaking such thoughts from his head, Blair pushed the trunk closed and turned to head into the building. He'd come back down for the second load after getting the more perishable groceries into the loft. Old Mrs. MacKenzie was just leaving the building as he entered and kindly held the door open for him. He paused in the doorway and raised his voice a little to thank her.

"Thanks, Mrs. MacKenzie. Wasn't sure how I was going to manage that."

She smiled and reached up to pat his cheek with a wrinkled hand. "You're welcome, young man. Is Jim doing okay? I can hear him stomping about right above me." Everyone in the building, especially the ladies, no matter their age, saw Jim as somewhat of a protector and protectee, depending on the situation. Personally, Blair wondered sometimes if it wasn't just that all the females had a crush on the detective.

"He, uh, sorta broke his foot yesterday and now he's on crutches." He glanced upwards, as if he could see through the floors to the third floor apartment. "He's supposed to be staying on the couch and resting, but Jim, well, he's not good at that."

Mrs. MacKenzie laughed and patted his arm. "You take care of him, Blair. He needs you." She turned away before he could answer and walked down the street slowly, walking cane in one hand.

Blair watched her go, then chuckled. "Definitely a crush." He headed into the elevator and juggled the bags enough to push the third floor button, then waited as the elevator rose. His thoughts went back to Jim and the smile faded from his face. Stomping around. Somehow that describes Jim more than she realizes. Especially lately.

In the two weeks that had elapsed since his dissertation had inadvertently become public, Jim had swung from one mood to the other with very little warning. While he was somewhat used to Jim doing that as little things could set him off, Blair was finding these particular mood swings more...upsetting. He was working more and pushing himself harder than usual, almost too hard, almost like he was...paying for something. Blair shook his head. Maybe breaking his foot was inevitable. We should be glad he wasn't chasing some arms dealer.

The one good thing to come about was that the Major Crimes team had somehow finally realized that Blair had been lying at the news conference. No one ever really came out and said they knew, but little things like H turning down his boombox when Jim entered the bullpen or Rafe making sure Jim got fresh coffee just added up to them knowing. Some of the teasing had remained, but had taken a different tone, one of "group inclusion" rather than ridicule.

And that wasn't such a bad thing.

The elevator rattled to a stop and the doors slid open onto the third floor. Shifting the bags again, he headed towards the apartment. Jangling his keys, he found the right one and stuck it into the lock, twisting it and the knob deftly. Shoving open the door with one hip, Blair stepped inside and said, "Hey, Jim, how're you..." He stopped and frowned when he saw the couches were empty even though the TV was playing a Lethal Weapon movie at a higher than average volume. Kicking the door shut, he walked further inside and stacked the bags on the counter. He raised his voice a little, trying to be heard above the TV. "Jim?"

Then he spotted Jim's crutches propped against the wall outside the bathroom. Frowning more, he strode past the kitchen island and stopped next to the open bathroom door. His mouth fell open and he stared. With his back to the door, Jim, still in his sweats and a t-shirt, knelt on the tile, scrubbing rather vigorously at the grout with an old toothbrush.

"Uh, Jim? What're you doing?"

Jerking minutely in surprise, Jim paused only a moment before dipping his brush back into the bucket of soapy water and continuing his self-appointed task. "The grout's dirty. I needed something to do."

"Jim, you're supposed to be resting."

"I'm fine," Jim snapped.

Blair watched another second, then stepped forward and snatched the brush from Jim's hand. "Enough!"

Jim shifted and glared up at him. "I'm not done with that, Sandburg."

"Yes, you are." Blair turned and left the bathroom, doing some stomping off his own as he entered the kitchen and threw the brush into the sink. He ignored Jim's muttered words, certain he didn't want to hear them and concentrated on putting away the groceries. Several moments later, Jim appeared in the kitchen, using only one crutch to support his weight.

"Sandburg..."

Blair ignored him and continued to stack chili cans in a cupboard, then moved on to stocking the designated pasta shelf.

"Sandburg--"

"You're supposed to be taking it easy, Jim, so go...veg on the couch or something." He waved towards the television. "Watch Mel do his thing. Though you might want to turn it down in deference to the neighbors."

Jim limped further into the kitchen, heading toward the sink. "I don't wanna watch the movie, Sandburg. I was working." He shifted his weight and reached down to grab the abandoned brush. A dart of color and sound and wind beat him to it and he could only stare as Blair waggled the brush in front of him.

"No."

Jim blinked. "No?"

"No." Blair walked over to the tall kitchen and currently half-full trash container and dropped it inside. "No more cleaning for you today." He rejoined Jim and started tugging him towards the couch. "Come on."

"Sandburg, let go of me!" Jim pulled away and lost his balance, putting weight on his foot inadvertently. "Ssst! Ow..." He stumbled hard against the counter edge and clenched his teeth around a few questionable words that wanted to slip out. Forgotten, the lone crutch clattered noisily to the floor.

Resolutely resisting the urge to help the taller man, Blair backed away and held up his hands. "Fine. Be the martyr if you want." He returned to unpacking the groceries. "Let me know when you're finished with this penance kick you're on."

Silence answered his statement and the only sounds that echoed between them were Jim's harsh pants, the overloud TV, and the crinkling of paper bags.

Finally as Blair turned to head back out of the loft to get the second load from the Volvo, Jim spoke up hesitantly from where he leaned against the counter.

"Chief? I...I could use a little help. Please?"

Hand on the doorknob, Blair stopped, then let his hand drop. He remained where he was for a moment, then turned and walked back to Jim. Crouching, he gathered up the crutch and quietly helped Jim situate it before moving towards the door again. Again, Jim stopped him with words.

"I'm not...I'm not doing penance, Blair."

Facing away from Jim, Blair let out a soft wry chuckle. "Oh, yes, you are, Jim. I know penance when I see it, trust me. And that's exactly what you're doing. What you've been doing for the past two weeks." He turned to look at Jim across the distance separating them. "I thought after Naomi left and we talked that we'd...settled everything. But then..." He paused, then rushed on, gesturing with one hand. "But then you started going all wonky on me."

Jim's lips curled up in a tiny smile and he shifted his weight slightly, wincing at the brief bit of pain. "Wonky?"

An answering smile twitched Blair's lips upwards as well. "Yeah, wonky." He walked back to Jim's side and carefully drew him away from the counter. "Come on, you need to sit down before you fall down. I don't feel like moving the TV into the kitchen today."

Leaning slightly into Blair as they shuffled towards the couch, Jim chuckled. "Oh, I don't know -- maybe the reception would be better over there."

"Jim, we have cable, remember? Reception doesn't matter."

They stopped next to the couch and Jim all but let himself collapse into the cushions. "Closer to the snacks then?"

Blair carefully propped Jim's foot up on the table and shook his head. "That I'll give you, but I'm still not moving the TV."

Jim chuckled. "Okay, no furniture moving." Running out of things to say, he fell silent and tilted his head back to rest against the cushions. He didn't see Blair snatch the remote from the coffee table, but he did notice the sudden cessation of sound when Blair hit the mute button. Lifting his head again, he found it slightly strange to see the gunfire battle on screen play out soundlessly. Next to him Blair shifted and dropped the remote onto the couch between them. Yanking his eyes away from the TV screen, Jim gave his attention to Blair. Blair stared back at him, a seriousness to his face that Jim saw very rarely. Deciding just to get it over with, he blurted out, "Why do you think I'm doing penance? And for what?"

"For what?" Blair shook his head. "Come on, Jim, you know the answer to that one. You're doing because of the whole dissertation mess. You still feel...guilty. I told you before -- it's gone, forgotten. Let it go."

"I have." Jim frowned.

Blair shook his head. "No, you haven't. Jim..." He reached up and placed a hand on Jim's shoulder. "Look. How many times in the past two weeks have you cooked? And how many of those meals were meals that were my favorites? You even bought grubs once! How many times have I come home to find some odd clipping that was even vaguely anthropological on my desk? How many times have I caught you watching me out of the corner of your eye when someone brings up anything related to Rainier? Or my diss? Or Zeller? Jim, the other day, you actually volunteered to let me run some tests on your senses!" He let go of Jim's shoulder to gesture into the air. "And as if that wasn't enough, you also decide to hit the opposite side of the pendulum, getting all moody. And pissy. Shoving me off like I'm yesterday's news. Which, to be honest, you've been doing here and there ever since Alex, so I'd gotten used to it, but added to everything else..."

Jim lifted a hand. "Sandburg, stop. Stop. I get the point. Okay, okay. I'm doing penance. Are you happy?" He looked away, jaw muscles tightening.

"No, Jim, I'm not." Blair shifted and leaned closer, gripping Jim's shoulder again. "Jim, I don't want you to do penance. There's no need. It was my decision. My choice. My life. And I'd do it again if I had to."

"I know you would, Chief. And that..." Jim trailed off, shaking his head. He looked back at Blair, eyes wide and unshuttered, his turbulent emotions written plainly on his features. "And that is something I will never to be able to pay you back for."

Blair shook his head angrily. "I don't want you to pay me back! You don't owe me anything, Jim!"

"Yes, I do!"

"No, you don't! Why can't you understand that?" He reached over and grabbed Jim's other shoulder, pulling the older man around a little, shaking him. "This isn't a game of 'who owes whom what', Jim. This has nothing to do with one-upmanship or who loses more or who gains the most toys. This isn't about making the other person feel sorry or trying to find a way to balance the scales." His voice softened and he sat back, releasing Jim. "There are no scales, Jim. There might have been...way back in the very beginning. But that changed a long time ago. I told you it was about..."

"...friendship." Jim interrupted quietly.

Blair smiled and nodded. "And it still is. Yes, I lost a lot of things. No, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do now. And yes, it still hurts, some days worse than others." He closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "It probably will for a while yet." A hand came down on his and gripped warmly. Re-opening his eyes, he met Jim's gaze. "But that doesn't mean you need to do penance. The only way to heal is to move on, to let go, to forgive, not only others but yourself, too."

Jim stared at him for a long moment, then asked, "Have you forgiven yourself, Blair?"

The younger man's smile wavered and he lifted his free hand to wiggle in the air. "I'm...working on it. I did a few monstrously stupid things--" He held out his hands to identify the size of said 'stupid things'.

"Ah-ah-ah." The detective shook his finger at him. "If I can't do penance, then neither can you." He held out his hand, eyes growing serious. "Deal?"

Blair pursed his lips in concentration, then pointed at Jim. "No more penance?"

Jim shifted his hand upward and pledged, "Scout's honor." A soft smile lit his features. "Or maybe I should say Sentinel's honor."

Chuckling just a little, Blair gripped Jim's hand with his own, shaking it once firmly. "Okay, Ellison, you got a deal. And don't think I won't hold you to it."

"Yes, sir." He released Blair's hand and relaxed back into the cushions again. "We okay now, Chief?"

"Yeah, we're good." Another moment passed, then Blair slapped his hands on his legs and stood up. "Now that that's settled, I'm gonna go get the second load of stuff from my car." He held up a hand, anticipating Jim's response. "And, no, I don't need help. You -- sit. Stay. Good boy."

"Hey!" Laughing, Jim swung outwards but got only the air left in Blair's wake as he quickly back-pedaled away. Jim rolled his eyes and returned to his slouched position. "Fine. I'll sit. And stay."

Blair chuckled and headed towards the door. "It shouldn't take me but one more trip. Well, maybe two. That one box is kinda heavy... Fortunately nothing down there is perishable." He patted down his pockets to make sure he still had his keys and found that he did.

"What's down there anyway?" Jim asked idly as he fished for the remote control that had slipped between the couch cushions. The movie was coming up to a favorite part and he wanted to be able to hear it.

Pulling open the door, Blair replied, "Oh, nothing much really. Since I had to, uh, return the artifacts on loan to me, the place has looked kinda empty. So I stopped by a few hole-in-the-wall stores I know and got some things to replace them. Nothing quite as cool as that death mask, but they'll do. Though I think that one from Mikael definitely counts as cool." He looked across the room, eyes narrowing a bit as he made mental calculations. "Maybe I could hang it on the staircase..."

Abandoning his search for the remote, Jim shot upright and twisted towards the door. "Things? What things? Chief...?"

Blair laughed -- rather evilly in Jim's estimation -- and walked out the door. His voice echoed in the hallway as he pulled the door partially shut behind him. "Don't worry, Jim. You'll love them!"

"Sandburg?! Sandburg, get back here! SANDBURG!!!"

- The End -