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Set during and after Night Shift. Some of the dialogue is taken from the episode.

Blair finished his lecture on the native tribes of the Aleutian Islands at eleven, with a directive to the students to find out as much as they could about the transfer of the area from Russian rule to the United States before their next class, and watched the last ones leave with... not exactly a sigh of relief, but certainly with a feeling of tension released. This was not an easy group to teach, though he couldn't really understand why; they seemed keen enough, they were attentive... perhaps it was because they gave nothing back? They absorbed what they were told, but it didn't seem to stir any curiosity in them to discover more detail about what they were told. He could have received as much feedback from a class of puppets.

It was classes like this one that made him wonder just how effective he was as a teacher. It should have been possible to spark enthusiasm in at least *some* of them! But it seemed clear that if anyone could, he was not that person.

He gathered his notes together and went down to the storeroom that was his office, filed them away and sorted out the notes he would need for his next two classes later in the week, pushed them into his backpack, and headed off. One thing was certain; there was no point in delaying in case any of *this* class arrived wanting something clarified.

He drove to the PD, parked and headed for the stairs, telling himself that the exercise of walking up seven flights was good for him. In truth, still a little unsure of how completely he was accepted by most of the personnel there, he was delaying the moment when he had to walk into the bullpen.

He was halfway up when he met Carolyn Plummer coming down.

"Hi, Carolyn."

"Hello, Blair." Without sounding unfriendly, her voice was slightly flat.

"How're you doing?" Blair asked, thinking gloomily that he couldn't even arouse someone's interest in what might be called a social situation.

"Fine. What about you? Rumor says you've moved into Jim's spare room - well, if you can call that broom closet a room."

"Yeah, that's right," Blair said. "My old place blew up and I was stuck with nowhere to go - I was doing a paper on a Barbary ape, and the options for getting a motel room with Larry were zilch. Jim came to the rescue."

"How're you getting on with him now you're living in the same house?" Curiosity gave her voice a little animation.

"No problems. He can get a bit territorial at times, but hey, it *is* his place." He put a slight chuckle into his voice.

"So how long are you planning on staying with him?"

"Well, it was supposed to be for a week till I found somewhere else, but an affordable place for a student isn't easy to find in a university town mid-semester even though I gave Larry back to the zoology department after four days, and when he learned I hadn't found somewhere and was meaning to sleep in my office at Rainier, Jim told me I could stay indefinitely. We get on fine together."

Carolyn's eyebrows lifted in surprise, then she said, "Well, since you have your own room it might be different, but... well... I mean, I still like him, love him, even, I really do, but *live* with him?"

Blair looked thoughtfully at her. "Okay, I know I haven't been there long, but we don't seem to be having any problems."

"Haven't you seen how... well, paranoid he can get at times?" she asked.

"I've seen him get defensive, sure, but doesn't everyone, sometimes?" Blair hesitated before asking, "Was that what went wrong with you and him?" He managed to put some sympathy into his voice, although from the little he had seen of her, he felt he hadn't met anyone in the PD who was less compatible with Jim.

Carolyn shook her head. "That was only a small part of it. It was more... he seemed terrified of intimacy, wouldn't ever let me get close to him. Even in bed together, having sex... It was almost as if he wanted to get it over with fast so he could get back into his own personal space."

"I haven't seen any signs that he values his personal space that much," Blair said.

"Oh, he does," Carolyn said dryly. "He touches a lot, yes - but *he* does the touching. It's like he's holding people at arm's length when he does, though, he doesn't encourage anyone to touch him. You move into his personal space, he backs away, at least emotionally; you can almost feel him forcing himself not to move away physically. It's like he only feels safe if there's that two feet of space between him and other people. God, why am I telling you all this?"

Blair grinned. "You're warning me not to let myself think I'm getting close to him?"

"Yeah, I suppose that's it. You have an affectionate nature, Blair; I'd hate to see you hurt by discovering that someone you thought of as a friend thinks of you as nothing more than an acquaintance." She sighed. "Hell of it is, we get on really well together now that we're divorced - better in a lot of ways than when we were married. In some ways I wish it was possible for us to get back together - we know what we did wrong last time... or at least I know what we did wrong. It's not going to happen, though - I'm well aware it would be a mistake to try. Which is why I'm thinking of moving away from Cascade. If I'm not seeing him constantly, maybe I'll be able to get on with my life."

"Where will you go?"

"I've applied for a job in Seattle. If I don't get it, I'll try somewhere else. Maybe San Francisco. I hear they're always looking out for Forensic staff."

"Well, good luck," Blair said sincerely. "You'll be missed here, but I think you're probably right. There's nothing deader than a dead romance, even if you manage to stay friends."

Carolyn nodded, smiled, and moved on. For a moment, Blair watched her going down the stairs, then he turned and carried on upwards. She had given him something to think about.

Fear of intimacy... now was that a sentinel thing, or a Jim thing? It would be worth making a note of her comments, and considering the implications later.

* * * * * * * *

Over the next three years he occasionally thought over Carolyn's comments, and when he finally realized that he really had to make some attempt to finish writing his dissertation, he read through the notes he had made after that chance meeting on the stairs, considering her comments in the light of his now three-year acquaintance with Jim Ellison, rather than the nearer three weeks it had been at the time.

He nodded thoughtfully as he considered her comments, appreciating them as he had not fully done three years previously.

Territorial - god, yes. Even back then he had realised Jim could be territorial - Carolyn hadn't needed to tell him that - but he had only recently begun to realize just how territorial Jim sometimes was. Could he, he wondered, make that a generalization, or was it Jim-specific? None of his part-sentinels had been bothered by the presence of other part-sentinels in their workplaces; indeed, he had found they frequently worked happily together, collaborating to improve their efficiency.

He thought about it for some time, then decided that in the absence of another full sentinel as a comparison, he could only assume it was Jim-specific. Or maybe full-sentinel-specific? Pity he couldn't find another sentinel... but it had taken him long enough to find just one; the odds on finding another had to be pretty impossibly long.

The 'personal space' comment... now that one was really interesting. He and Jim were constantly in each other's personal space, though now he really thought about it, Jim did seem more at ease when he was controlling the closeness of their contact, although he didn't seem to have any real problem with Blair touching him; something the younger man had frequently had to do, especially in the first months, to help Jim maintain control of his sometimes erratic senses. Carolyn had been right - Jim touched a lot, some people more than others, but - without being too obvious about it - tried to avoid being touched. Of course, with his sense of touch as acute as it was, that was perhaps not too surprising; he could control how hard he touched someone, he couldn't control how hard they touched him.

The sex/intimacy thing was interesting. Blair had seen Jim attracted to someone more than once over the past three years, and in every case it had been a purely physical thing. He had suspected that Jim felt a little more for Sheila Irwin than just lust, but when it turned out that she was already engaged, he hadn't shown the least sign of regret. Indeed, the only people towards whom Jim showed genuine, deep affection were Simon, possibly Daryl, probably, now, his father and brother - since meeting up with them again, he had begun to see both on a semi-regular basis - and Blair himself.

Hmmm... Men. All men. Of course, Jim had spent much of his life in a male-only environment, even when he was growing up; his mother was 'gone' - and Blair was still far from sure if that meant she'd walked out or if she'd died; he expressed affection for Sally, who had certainly been a surrogate mother, but a servant in William Ellison's house would certainly have been encouraged to keep her place.

God, no wonder Jim's marriage had failed! The man had had no idea whatsoever of normal male-female interaction, and Carolyn had probably never realized that, seeing Jim's uncertainty as 'distance'. But that was speculation, and had no validity for inclusion in his dissertation.

He read through his notes again, and sighed. He had those few comments from Carolyn. He had some occasional comments from Simon and one or two passing observations from the others in the bullpen. Everything else was based on his personal interaction with Jim, and he knew that he was biased. How could he write a dispassionate, measured dissertation about a man he had come to... yes, love.

And yet he must, and he must present all possible facets of a sentinel's life if his dissertation was to have any credibility. He must present the problems as well as the advantages, and indicate how these had helped to mold his sentinel's personality.

He sat for some minutes, just thinking; and then he pulled his laptop forward, opened a new file, and began typing.

* * * * * * * *

Blair had read a few theses in his time, as well as many, many papers, and his considered opinion was that too many of them were very dry reading, even for someone who knew the subject, and unlikely to be read by anyone except really serious students. He believed that the field of anthropology was one that interested many laymen, even if they didn't want to study the subject, so he had always tried to keep his papers factual but readable, throwing in a little humor if possible. It was impossible not to use a lot of technical terms, but apart from them, he saw no point in using polysyllabic words that would have most people reaching for a dictionary if he could use simpler ones. Over the years, he had discovered that although some of his lecturers disapproved of what they considered his frivolous approach and tended to give him lower marks than the work deserved, most of them accepted that this was his style of presentation, and as long as his points were clear and unambiguous graded his work fairly.

Although he had more than enough material for several different dissertations, he had delayed and delayed and delayed starting to work on one, but he finally accepted that he could delay no longer, and began the introductory chapter. He knew it was unfair of him to tease Jim about it, but he knew that what he had written was good, informative, interesting and entertaining and - he later realized - he had been subconsciously pushing Jim into doing exactly what he had done; taken the folder containing the introduction to read it.

Major mistake. He had forgotten how much of a layman Jim was, and how easily he would probably misconstrue what he read. It drove him into defensive aggression when Jim called him on it.

It began when Jim snapped, "Come on, Chief! Can I get a little space here?!"

Blair frowned, puzzled at the hostile tone. "Jim, what's the matter with you?"

"Maybe I'm feeling a little, uh, how did you say it - 'territorially threatened to the point of paranoia'? I mean, what the hell is that?"

Blair's jaw dropped. "You read my dissertation. Jim, I don't believe you. I asked you not to do that!"

"After I let you stay at my place. I get you a job at the department. I mean you don't have enough data you got to go digging into my ex-wife's life?"

Blair took a deep breath. "When I spoke to Carolyn, it was just after I moved into the loft. It was actually only a casual conversation, and the only reason that I kept a note of it was because at the time, she knew you better that I did."

"What has my sex life got to do with your project?" Jim demanded.

"Sex life?" Blair asked, completely puzzled. "She said you had a fear of intimacy, Jim. Intimacy and sex are two different issues - "

"Maybe to you they are, Chief, but my personal life and those that are involved in it is intimate to me!" Jim snapped.

"Look, we have three years of our lives invested in this thing and I'm not going to start shading any of it because you're starting to feel a little threatened!" Blair snapped back.

"Threatened by you? I don't think so, Chief." But he knew that he did feel threatened... Not by Blair himself, but by the words Blair had written.

"What else do you call the way you're reacting?" Blair demanded.

"I call it a violation of friendship and trust!" Jim turned and stalked off.

Blair watched him go, his face a mask of misery. He had been so pleased with that chapter... He should have known that Jim was bound to misunderstand the different meaning with which he had shaded the words.

After a few seconds, he turned and went off to make himself useful, preferably doing something mindless that would allow him to think.

* * * * * * * *

Kaplan was a man Jim could cheefully have throttled, the sort of man able to twist any statement to mean the exact opposite of what was meant. Wondering how he could possibly get Johnny Macado to trust the cops and come clean with what he saw, he headed to where Blair was handing out sandwiches. Feeding the kid might just help to persuade the boy that the cops weren't the monsters he obviously thought they were.

He picked up a sandwich without paying too much attention to what kind it was.

Unsure how Jim would react, Blair said tentatively, "Uh... I'd probably stick to the tuna if I were you."

Jim glanced at him as he put back the one he had picked up and reached for the one Blair was offering him. "All right." He hesitated for a moment. "Look, Chief, uh... you know, uh, I... maybe I... maybe I overreacted."

Blair's eyebrows lifted. "Maybe?"

"I know I shouldn't have read your dissertation," Jim admitted. "And I'm sorry about that, but I'm... You know, I thought we were friends."


"It doesn't read that way to me," Jim said, and Blair could hear the hurt in his voice.

"I said that most of your life choices are fear-based, yes," he agreed. "But it's not as bad as it sounds."

"Are you kidding me? It makes me sound like a coward!"

Blair sighed. "Come here." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "This is an introductory chapter; an overview of the whole thing. In a later chapter I plan to develop that theme, and I would have explained to you exactly what it meant if you'd just waited before reading it.

"We all have fears. You chose to be a sentinel. And the way that you deal with your fears, all of them, is based on that choice. It doesn't automatically mean that you're afraid for yourself. It can be fear of failing the tribe, fear of not meeting your own expectations of what you can do, or should be able to do. Fear can be one of your greatest allies. Now, you can choose to bottle it up inside or we can work on it."

"After this?" Jim asked, a touch bitterly.

"So, what do you want to do?" Blair asked. "Just want to call it quits?"

Jim looked down without answering.

"Ah, maybe you're right," Blair said after a long moment. "Maybe I've, uh... lost my objectivity. I'll tell you what - I'd rather just be friends. So why don't I go destroy my notes? How about that?" Turning, he walked quickly away.

Jim stood for a moment, still watching the corner around which Blair had disappeared. He jumped when he heard the quiet voice behind him.

"You didn't answer him. What good does it do for a man to have ears that will hear a thousand miles if he cannot listen to the whispers of his own heart?"

Jim jerked around to stare at the man called Gabe. "What?" How the hell did this guy know...?

Gabe just looked at him. "You should begin by listening to the hearts of others." And then, apparently losing interest, he began muttering again, words that Jim could not understand.

Jim stared at him for a moment, then walked down the corridor, following his guide.

* * * * * * * *

It had been a hectic night, but in the morning, as Kaplan was loaded into the police van, still insisting that there was no way he could be held for anything, Jim led Blair back towards the bullpan, saying, "Hey, Chief, you think you can still get the intro to your dissertation in on time? I mean, you know, aside from the stuff about me, I... I thought... I thought it was pretty good - really good."

Blair smiled, recognizing the comment for the apology that it was. "Jim, it's all about you."

"Well, yeah, but nobody needs to know that, right?" A few steps further on, Jim went on, "Let me ask you something. Between you and me, do you think I'm paranoid?"

Blair's smile widened. "Well, if you need to ask... "

Jim glanced at him, and he relented. "Okay, Jim - when we get home, I'll go over the chapter with you, and explain exactly what all the big words mean."

He ducked, and Jim's swat went harmlessly over his head.


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