Author's Notes: This piece started bugging me sometime yesterday, and wouldn't leave me alone until I'd written it. I wrote it long hand last night (something I very rarely do anymore), and typed it in this morning. I sent it off to my betas with an urgent beta request. They came through with flying colors. Thanks Barbara! Thanks Susan! Thanks D.L.! As D.L. would tell you, great minds think alike. As I was shipping this off to her to beta, she was writing her own version. I like hers a lot better than mine, so I urge you all to read it when she posts it.

Disclaimer: The same old same old. Not mine, never will be. I do this for the sheer joy of it.

Warnings: Rated G. Major spoilers for TSbyBS, and a reference to S2.

Archive: Yes. Link to my site. http://www.skeeter63.org/kandacek

Summary: An epilogue to "The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg". In other words, what happened "later".

Atonement

by KandaceK

05-27-99

Jim had followed Blair to the loft; now he followed him inside their home. They hadn't said much to each other since leaving the station, or the entire time they had congregated with their friends at one of the favorite cop bars. Their silence had been somewhere between companionable and awkward, but not really either. Now, they were alone in the loft for the first time in almost a week. To Jim's quiet relief, Naomi had headed back to California after the little presentation at the precinct.

Jim watched as Blair wandered over to the couch and sat down. Blair's quiet disturbed him. Since the incident at the fountain, the younger man had been more introspective and more contemplative, but this current silence was different, almost oppressive. Jim feared he knew the reason. Sighing quietly, he hobbled to the fridge with the aid of his cane, and snagged a couple of beers. He limped back to the couch, offering one to Sandburg, who took it absently. Jim settled carefully on the couch beside his partner.

"Are you okay with this?" he asked quietly.

Blair blinked, visibly pulling himself back from his thoughts. He glanced at Jim before fastening his gaze on the bottle in his hands. Swallowing, Blair nodded slightly.

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm okay with this." He smiled and laughed a little. "I'm surprised Mom was okay with it though." The smile faded. "Not exactly how I'd envisioned it, you know?"

Jim took a swallow of beer. He nodded in understanding. "Blair, I.... This is too little, too late--but, I'm sorry. I'm sorry about it all. For being such a jackass. For blaming you. For you trashing your career to save mine." Jim took a ragged breath. "I'm sorry."

Blair shrugged. "I won't lie, Jim, and tell you it doesn't hurt, because it does. It hurts a lot. But--you're more important. Your friendship. Your sentinel abilities. You're a good cop with or without them, but one with a distinct advantage with them."

"God, I'm an arrogant sonovabitch." Jim's disgust with himself was evident.

Blair's lips twitched, but he didn't smile. "Is it arrogance, when it's the simple truth? I should have stopped everything months ago, after you read my intro. It should have been crystal clear then that I couldn't write the diss without exposing you. Even if I had changed our names, it wouldn't have made much difference. What makes me mad, though, is that I didn't get the chance to decide on my own not to go through with it. I'm angry at Naomi, but I know she was only trying to help. I keep thinking, maybe if I hadn't left my laptop on, she might have left it alone. And God how I wish I'd just let her read the damn thing in the first place, or told her what it was about. But, as they say, if wishes were horses, and all that crap. Who knows, maybe I was subconsciously asking for what happened. I don't know."

Jim was silent for a moment. "Even so, I didn't need to take it out on you. In here," he pointed to his heart, "I believed you. I really did. Getting my head to believe it was something else entirely."

Blair did smile at that. "So, how did you convince Simon, or should I say the commissioner, to let me into the academy? After all, Jim, my reputation is pretty well shot. God, I can't even believe I'm doing this! Me, a cop."

Jim stared at his bottle. "You don't have to, you know? What I said to you in the hospital is the truth. You're the best cop I've ever known, the best partner I could ever have asked for, and you've been a good friend. Even when I haven't been much of a friend to you. I--I want you as my partner, but if you don't want to become a cop, I understand. I certainly haven't given you any reason to believe I wanted you as a partner."

"The investigating, the 'detecting', you know I love that part. It's everything else that comes with being a cop that I'm not sure about. And, you still haven't told me how you and Simon talked the commissioner into this. Right now I should be persona non grata just about everywhere."

Quiet filled the loft for a long moment. "We told him the truth."

"Huh?" Blair's expression clearly showed his confusion.

Jim nodded. "We told him the truth. Everything. We explained that you weren't a fraud, that in fact I am a sentinel. That your research was sound. We explained that we kept it a secret to protect me. After the media frenzy that took place and how it affected my ability to do my job, he understood. When we told him what your role was in this sentinel thing, and what kind of sacrifice you had made to recapture my anonymity, he was more than a little impressed. After that, it didn't take much to convince him of the necessity of you as my partner and guide if he wanted to retain a secret weapon on the force." When Jim looked up, he found Blair staring at him. "What?"

"You told the commissioner all that?"

"Yeah. I thought it was the least--the very least I could do to--to try to make up for my behavior. I've been such a selfish bastard about all this. It took you throwing away your hopes and dreams to wake me up to the fact."

"Well, you know, Jim, technically, I'm the bastard here."

Jim's head shot up, and he stared at his partner. He almost missed the tiny quirk on the lips and the mischievous twinkle in Blair's eyes. He realized Sandburg was teasing him, and he relaxed, chuckling a little. When he looked at his partner again, Blair was smiling at him. A genuine smile.

"Thanks, man. For doing that for me. It means a lot."

Jim returned the smile, reaching out to cup the back of Blair's neck. Squeezing gently, he let his hand drop to a shoulder. "You know what else I'm going to do?"

"What?"

"Come Monday morning, I'm going to go talk to that dean at Rainier. I'm going to tell her the same thing I did the commissioner. I'm going to make her see why you did what you did and why it's best that my abilities stay...secret. I'll have Simon come along, if it takes that. It might not get you those three little letters, but it might be enough to let you back in the door to academia, if you ever want to go back."

Blair was now staring at him with something akin to awe. "You'd do that for me?"

Jim snorted. "Hell, Chief, you basically threw your life away for this dumb cop. Trying to get you back some margin of respect is the very least I can do. And if I hear anybody questioning your integrity, I'm going to bust their heads, then tell them that you have more integrity than they'll ever have."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Thanks, Jim," seemed to be all Blair could say.

"You're welcome, Chief." Jim paused. "I promise to try and do better with this friendship thing."

Blair grinned crookedly. "Detective Ellison? Detective Sandburg hereby charges you with one count of friendship repair."

Jim spewed the mouthful of beer he'd just taken, caught between choking and laughing. "Sandburg!" he growled when he could catch his breath.

Blair just continued grinning.

"Thanks, Chief."

Blair nodded, then got to his feet. "Night, Jim. See you in the morning."

"Good night, Chief. Sleep well." Jim watched his partner disappear into his room, then turned back to face the balcony doors. He sighed. It had been a long, tense week, with more low points than high points, but for the first time Jim felt that things were going to work out okay. He'd had his doubts. He stood up, took the empty bottles to the recycle bin, checked the locks, and headed to bed. One of these days, he'd get this friendship/guide thing right. In the meantime, he was satisfied with the knowledge that he still had a friend like Blair, whether he deserved him or not.

finis


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