Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Missing Scenes Collection

Summary: Epilogue for Cypher.
Notes: Becky thanks Dolimir for the idea she sent during the recent "need ideas" round on CT.
Spoilers for Cypher.

Link
epilogue for Cypher
by Becky and Robyn
March 2000

"A friend is someone who allows you distance but is never far away."
-- Noah benShea

Jim paused as Blair stood on the sidewalk in front of the main anthropology building on Rainier's campus. He watched as the student stared at the building, oblivious to the other co-eds and faculty milling around them in the encroaching evening darkness. Stepping closer, Jim rested a hand on Blair's shoulder, feeling the tenseness in the muscles underneath.

"You okay?"

Nodding, Blair answered somewhat distractedly, eyes still focused on the building and his own inner demons. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm good." Together they walked to the doors and entered. If Blair hesitated at all, Jim ignored it, simply pleased that he could do this for his friend...

*******************
Two hours earlier...
*******************

Jim eyed the younger man covertly across the span of the loft's main room, watching as he marked something in the anthropology book he was reading, then paused to push his glasses up again. Four days after Lash's attack, the detective still wondered if Sandburg was as okay as he claimed to be. He didn't know Blair well enough yet to really read him, but coming so close to death hadn't been what the grad student had signed on for and the event had definitely left a mark on him.

The most noticeable mark being that the student hadn't been alone in the loft since Lash had taken him. Actually, he hadn't been alone anywhere since that day. Loud noises still had a tendency to unnerve him. The morning before, Jim, in his semi-sleepy state, had dropped a frying pan on the floor causing an unnaturally loud ringing in the early morning quiet. Blair, yawning as he shuffled out from his room, had frozen in a moment of remembered terror before turning and rushing into the bathroom to hide his reaction, Jim presumed.

Scowling and muttering at his own clumsiness, Jim's movements had been jerky as he'd set about making breakfast. He had tried to clumsily apologize when Blair had reappeared and thankfully, the younger man had understood and simply touched his arm once before turning to get a cup of coffee. Hell, Lash had left a mark on both of them. The man himself was dead, but he'd left behind memories that neither wanted. Jerking himself back to the present and grimacing at his own memory of seeing Lash bent over Blair, attempting to pour that knockout mixture down his throat, Jim tried to focus his attention on the bubbling pot of marinara sauce on the stove. Letting the sauce burn wasn't what he had in mind for this particular evening's meal.

The dinner was somewhat celebratory for several reasons. First, the loft had been repaired and a new door installed. Second, all the paperwork on the "yellow scarf killer" had been finished, filed, and on its way to being hopefully forgotten. Third, IA had cleared Jim in the shooting of David Lash. And fourth...fourth was the fact that Sandburg finally seemed to be settling down after everything that had happened. Jim hadn't heard any hints of a nightmare the night before and he seemed a little less jumpy, both of which Jim saw as good signs. While the detective understood the residual panic, seeing it in Sandburg's eyes made him feel...protective. And not a little guilty.

The phone rang and Jim glanced upwards again as Blair startled on the couch, then slid a long bookmark between the pages and stood. "I'll get it."

Jim nodded and kept stirring, lifting the wooden spoon to taste the sauce, judging the amount of spices in it and whether it needed more.

Dropping the closed book on the kitchen counter, Blair picked up the cordless phone and leaned on the opposite side of the island as he answered, "Blair Sandburg.....oh, hey, Em, how're things.....uh-huh.....uh-huh...." He chuckled and Jim lifted one eyebrow at him in curiosity. Blair waved him away and pushed back from the counter, turning towards the couch. He froze halfway there. "The seminar? Oh, that was tonight, wasn't it...."

The shift in Blair's tone made Jim look up. He caught the younger man's eyes for a moment, then Sandburg frowned and deliberately turned away, walking over to the balcony doors. His voice lowered as he spoke into the phone. Jim struggled with the not-too-subtle hint to mind his own business, then took a calming breath and reached for the oregano bottle on the counter.

Occasional partial phrases drifted across the room and Jim tried to ignore them, listening instead just to Blair's voice, hearing the hesitance and apology in his words.

"....don't think....I know....important....changed my....Em....sorry....yeah....see ya...."

The call ended abruptly and Blair stood at the balcony doors for a bit longer before returning to the kitchen and placing the phone with almost too much care on the counter.

Without looking up from shaking a bit more oregano in the sauce, Jim asked, "You need to head out?"

"Hmm?" Blair's head lifted and he blinked. "Oh, the seminar. Uh, no." Eyes unfocused, he traced a finger over the top of his book. "With the case and...everything, I'd sorta forgot about it. One of the other TA's called to remind me since I'd mentioned it to her a couple weeks ago." He opened the book idly and fiddled with the bookmark.

Jim recapped the oregano and set it aside, then took up the wooden spoon again, stirring the red sauce. "What's the seminar about?"

Blair blinked again and his eyes refocused on Jim. "About? Uh..." His eyes dropped to the bookmark under his hand. "The Social Hierarchy of the Cree Indians: Observations, Commentary, and Panel Discussion, followed by a question and answer period with Drs. Kenneth and Marianne Struke."

Chuckling quietly, Jim shook his head. "And you say you forgot?"

"Actually, I was reading this." He waved the bookmark in the air, an insert that Jim recognized as coming from one of Blair's Rainier paychecks. "I've been using it for a bookmark so I wouldn't...um...forget since I'd been planning to go..." His voice trailed off.

Wooden spoon halfway to his mouth for another taste test, Jim raised his head, but Blair was studying the bookmark, eyebrows drawn together in thought. "Uh, Chief...?"

"Yeah?" Blair dragged his eyes away from the bookmark to look at Jim across the island.

Jim held Blair's eyes with his own and asked softly, "Why the change of heart about the seminar?"

Sandburg fidgeted and shifted on his feet, then closed his eyes as he replied, the words spilling forth in a rush. "Because it's in the main Anthro building, the one where I thought I saw Lash, or at least his reflection, when he was all dressed up as me. He already had the wig and the glasses and my coat and... I just can't..." He shook himself and shoved away from the counter, eyes skittering away from Jim's. "It's a pretty lame excuse for not going to the seminar, but it's the truth. I walked by that building this morning and just stared at it. I could almost feel him there, watching me. I mean, I know he's dead, but I just..." Hands gripping the back of the couch, Blair leaned forward and laughed once sharply. "Man, I should be glad it wasn't Hargrove. It's not like I can avoid my own office."

Jim didn't say anything for several long moments, then made a quick decision. "Do we have time to eat first?"

"Huh?" Sandburg turned and stared at him blankly.

Withholding the loud laugh that wanted out, Jim continued as if Blair didn't look like a fish with his mouth gaping open. "I wouldn't want to interrupt the speakers and you know how loud my stomach gets when it hasn't had its regular feeding. And I somehow don't think snacking on potato chips would be appreciated. Though I suppose since this is college, I could be wrong. It's been awhile."

"Huh?"

The second time, Jim couldn't help it and he laughed. He set down the wooden spoon and walked around the island to stand in front of Blair. He placed both hands on Blair's shoulders and gave him a little shake. "Chief, I'll put this simply. If you want to go to the seminar, I'll go with you, okay? Would that work?"

Blair blinked. "Go with...oh, no, Jim, you don't have to--"

Jim interrupted. "Sandburg, do you want to go or not?"

"I...yes."

Smiling, Jim reached up and patted Blair on the cheek. "Then it's settled." He released the younger man and walked back into the kitchen to start dishing up the spaghetti.

Blair followed him after a moment, watching silently as Jim piled noodles and sauce on a plate. Mechanically, he took the plate from Jim when he held it out. He started to head towards the table but then hesitated. "Jim..."

Jim turned and smiled slightly at the mild confusion on Blair's face. "Go. Eat. We don't want to be late."

An answering smile settled on Blair's face and Jim watched in satisfaction as he saw another leftover Lash-mark drop away. "No, we don't." He looked at the plate of spaghetti as he walked to the table. "This looks great, Jim. You said this was your own recipe?"

"Yup. My famous Ellison spaghetti sauce." He dished up his own plate and joined Blair at the table.

"Famous, huh. We'll see about that." Blair grinned and dove into the meal.

*******************
Present...
*******************

Subtly shifting in the lecture hall chair, Jim tried to be inconspicuous in the fact that he didn't understand much of what the speaker was talking about and that what he did understand wasn't all that enthralling to him. He wasn't sure he was being too successful since there were several young women in the next aisle over who kept staring at him. Ignoring them, he plastered a semi-interested look on his face and turned his body towards the person sitting next to him. He looked fondly at Sandburg who was leaning forward, eyes alight and intent on the speaker, the panic of entering the building forgotten in the enthusiasm of learning.

Smiling, Jim suppressed another yawn and stretched his arms in front of him before draping one over the wooden back of Sandburg's chair. He slouched down just a tad in the seat, trying to find a more comfortable way to sit, then settled back into listening again.

Sandburg would be just fine.

*******************

One sleepy detective and one energized anthropologist respectively trudged and bounced their ways back into the darkened loft after the two-hour seminar. The lecture had been as scintillating as a morning cup of Zambian coffee while paradoxically having the sedative effect of a couple Vicodin, depending on whose point of view you chose to believe.

Still expositing on the opinions of the husband-and-wife speakers, Blair turned toward his room in anticipation of at least another half hour of writing and summarizing the most intriguing facts and conclusions he'd gained from the evening. He'd attempt to do it quietly and with minimal lighting, since his partner had appeared more somnolent than a toddler during a bedtime story. "Jim?" he called.

"Yeah?" The taller man paused on the stairs, his hands on the half-unbuttoned placket of his plaid flannel shirt.

Blair cleared his throat, briefly brushing his lip with one hand before looking up at Jim. "Thanks."

The corners of Jim's mouth turned up in a silent chuckle and his drowsy blue eyes twinkled for a moment. Resuming his trek upstairs, the detective disappeared from view as his voice floated down to the loft's lower level. "You can thank the captain tomorrow when I start going off about the Cree Indians in the middle of the Deming case debriefing and can't stop myself."

Blair laughed to himself as he brushed the curtain hanging in the bedroom doorway aside, placed his books and notes on the futon bed, and proceeded to change into a blue t-shirt and gray sweats. If Jim is so set on being my "Blessed Protector," the least I can do is make it an educational experience.

His attire changed to something more comfortable and acceptable for falling asleep in, Blair shuffled out of his room, intending to grab his toothbrush before Jim needed to use the bathroom himself. His mind still on the particular slide depicting a man demonstrating the use of a traditional fishing spear, he unexpectedly bumped into his friend not five steps after emerging from his room.

"Jim! Sorry, man, I thought you were still upstairs. Let me grab my toothbrush and I'll be out of your--"

Blair stalled mid-sentence when he realized Jim was holding out a small box to him.

"I was going to give this to you after dinner, but with the lecture and everything, I forgot until now."

Blair felt his arms automatically closing around the box, but for some reason he could only stare. Jim had never given him a gift before.

"Well, open it." A shade of gruffness laced Ellison's voice, although Blair couldn't tell whether it was from exhaustion or covering up a touch of shyness.

Obediently, the younger man lifted the lid. Nestled securely inside the molded white plastic lining, the sleek black shape of a new cellular phone rested tranquilly. Blair noted that it looked exactly like the one Jim carried himself.

Ellison finally broke the ensuing silence, reaching into the box and pulling the phone out. "This is yours, Sandburg, and I expect you to carry it in that backpack of yours at all times so I can keep track of your trouble-prone personage. Got it?" Opening the phone itself, he pointed to one of the buttons as if demonstrating the unit's functions to a customer. "I, uh, programmed a few numbers into the speed dial already. #1... is the Blessed Protector button."

Then, as if to prove it worked, Blair watched as the taller man pushed the appropriate buttons and a familiar digital ring echoed from the upstairs bedroom. The anthropologist immediately broke into a wide grin, looking appropriately impressed, nodding and bouncing a little. Jim grinned widely as well, chuckling when Blair began to laugh. The grad student noticed his friend's expression showed more than satisfaction -- it appeared to be one of delight.

Placing the phone back in the box after silencing the ring with the "End" button, Jim rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. "I'm going to brush my teeth and go to bed. This body isn't used to sitting in small lecture seats for two-hour stretches." The taller man headed down the hall, leaving Blair standing in the shadows next to the dining table.

Blair smiled again as he watched his friend retreat into the bathroom. Moving to set the box on the floor next to the bed, the anthropologist picked up the phone and held it, considering the piece of technology. To most people, a cell phone represented convenience, freedom, even status. But to him, the phone was a link -- a symbol that Jim would never be very far away.

No matter what happened, he would be just fine.

*******************

Jim sighed, sinking in among the soft sheets and Down comforter. Nothing like an esoteric anthropology lecture to cure insomnia, he thought. His back still hated him for subjecting it to a cramped seat, but he ignored it for now. It would be better in the morning, and if it wasn't, he'd give Sandburg grief about it.

The detective reached over and flipped off the small lamp, punched his pillow and shifted until he was settled comfortably. His eyes drifted closed as he relaxed, tuning in to the faint scratching of Blair's pen below him.

<<Ring-ring! Ring-ring!>>

Blue eyes opened again, and Jim snatched his cell phone from the bedside table. "Ellison."

"Hey, Jim -- oh man, did I wake you?"

"No, Sandburg, but you would have if you'd been 30 seconds later," the detective growled.

"I just wanted to make sure my 1-800-DIAL-A-SENTINEL button was working."

"Funny, Sandburg. Now quit snickering and go to sleep."

(laughter) "Okay, Jim. Good night."

"Good night, Sandburg. And just remember -- now that you have a cell phone, I can check up on you any time."

<click>

"Jim? Jim? Hey Jim! What do you mean 'check up on me'!?! Jim? I'm gonna call you back..."

~The End ~