Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Author's note: set immediately after the Simon Says Series. For the person who asked (you know who you are) ;-)

Warning - some bad language. The song is not mine either: it's called 'Message in a Bottle' by The Police - I swear!

Electronic Bottle

by Shedoc

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Jim sat at his desk and listened to Blair read the riot act to two uniforms in the lift as it rose towards Major Crimes. They'd made an overly loud comment about Jim and his new partner and Blair had turned and pinned their ears back in a pleasant tone that none-the-less carried an undertone of pure malice.

Jim sighed and put his pen down. The first week out of Academy Blair had been the target of malicious comments about frauds and hippies. He only replied to them if Jim was also maligned and the Sentinel was getting tired of it. He'd caught Taggert reaming a couple of uniforms and Henri and Rafe backed a few Vice cops into a corner of the men's room. Simon had gone toe to toe with the Captain of Robbery after a report Blair had written was sent back with the request it was checked for accuracy.

The door to the lift opened and Blair walked out - his breathing was even and his heart rate normal. He sat at his desk next to Jim and checked his mail on the computer.

"Hey Jim, have we heard from the witness in the Jackson case yet?" Blair asked as he read the first entry and looked up when Jim didn't respond, "Jim are you here?"

"Yeah," Jim grated, "We haven't heard from her yet. If there's no sign of her by four I want to go out there and find her."

Blair folded his hands and leaned forward a little. He frowned at his partner and sighed.

"You shouldn't be listening in to every conversation I have, man. You're only going to hear bad things," Blair kept his voice quiet so others couldn't hear him knowing Jim would adjust. Jim reflected there was a definite downside to having someone know you so well and care so much. The phone rang - giving Jim a reprieve - and Henri called Blair over to give them some distance.

"Hey - I haven't heard this song in ages!" Henri was saying as Jim hung up. Blair was nodding along and Jim listened to the lyrics.

I'll send an SOS to the world…

I'll send an SOS to the world…

I hope that someone gets my…

I hope that someone gets my…

I hope that someone gets my…

Message in a bottle, yeah…

Jim sighed, knowing that Blair was sending out an SOS too, but Jim was unable to do anything about it. His Sentinel abilities had to remain a secret from the rest of the world if he was going to be able to function as a cop - the whole thesis mess had proven that.

But that meant that Blair was considered a fraud by the whole force - with the exception of Major Crimes, who couldn't speak the truth any more than Jim or Blair could.

Woke up this morning…

Can't believe my eyes…

One million bottles floating on the shore…

Looks like I'm not alone in being alone…

Blair's voice drowned out the lyrics as he told Henri about someone's theory that the artists had predicted the Internet with this song - using the island as a metaphor for a computer that was connected to the net. Henri was laughing as Blair explained the tale - a big grin on his face and hands flying as of old.

Jim considered the computer in front of him. It was a little island. He could reach out and touch anyone in the department with this thing. Kind of an electric message in a bottle. A plan formed in his mind and he grinned over at his Guide. Henri decided it was safe to send Sandburg back and Blair flipped him a little wave as he headed back to his partner.

Pretty soon they were both immersed in their computers - but for different reasons.
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The whispers Jim heard were changing. Every time he was at his desk, the Sentinel would sweep the building for conversations that involved Blair.

He would listen to them long enough to catch a phrase that the conversant would remember and then post it to their e-mail with the time, date and his rebuttal. He usually included which sense he had used to find these people and how long he'd listened. If the two people weren't going to be near their computer he'd call on the cell phone and let them know his side of the issue.

Focus shifted off Blair and his hippie ways and settled firmly on Jim and his uncanny calls. Blair was oblivious to it all as Jim firmly repressed his guilt and became more demanding with the Sentinel stuff. It almost backfired as Blair increased his workload and decreased his sleep to get Jim through it. Simon occasionally increased Jim's guilt load by giving him a knowing look, but Jim figured he could weather the storm - and the extra training was really honing his control.

The clincher came when a hostage taker took over an office on the third floor of a mid-city office block. There was a construction site nearby and several other high-rises. SWAT had positioned their men, but was having trouble setting up an incursion that wouldn't also kill the hostages.

Jim and Blair were standing on the other side of the scene, while Jim used his senses to scope things out and check on the people locked in upstairs. He was also eavesdropping on the SWAT leader as he tried to come up with a workable plan. The construction site was the best place for a sniper to be, but they didn't have a weapon powerful enough to hit him.

Jim relayed all of this to Blair, who looked at the half-finished structure and then the tools lying around. There was a pile of girders that were waiting to be installed in the structure and a lot of tools that had been abandoned when the workers had been evacuated.

"Hey Jim, look at that," Blair pointed and snagged his partners arm, "C'mon man - I have an idea."

Jim followed willingly, knowing that they were being watched and listening to a few of the derogatory comments that the snipers made to each other over the open comm. Blair found the large piece of machinery he was looking for and bullied Jim into helping him carry it up the three stories of scaffolding.

"What the hell are we doing?" Jim grumbled as he helped Blair position the thing and Blair hit him with the - ‘are you dense or just annoying' look.

"Ok, we're going to use this awesome piece of pneumatic equipment to break the siege," Jim conceded, "But why aren't we up here with a SWAT sniper?"

"Because they don't have your eyes man, and there is no way to attach a site to the rivet gun - or whatever it's called," Blair replied as he hooked up the air hoses to the compressor.

"Good point," Jim conceded again, "So how much kick will this thing have, how do I aim it and what is its range?"

Blair grinned at him and came across to the edge to help. They spent a few minutes figuring everything out and discussing how it would aim. Jim used the back wall to practice a few rounds.

"You want to pin his arm first, and then the opposite side," Blair advised, "If he turns into one of these we could kill him, so we want to avoid that."

"Duh," Jim grinned, "Help me cushion the recoil."

Jim used the smell and touch of his Guide to focus as he zeroed in his eyes and ears to locate the gunman and hostages. The man was standing above his hostages and presented a clear target. Jim succeeded in pinning his arm to the wall and then snagged his clothes as well, securing him in place. The SWAT team was yelling at each other as the glass fell to the ground and Jim pulled out his cell phone to contact the team leader and brief him on what had just happened.

Then he went and stood near the edge, folded his arms and stared over at the SWAT team as they cautiously entered the room and let the hostages out before trying to get the hostage taker off the wall. It was not easy and the whole time Jim just stood there with his arms crossed, watching.

The SWAT leader looked over at the half built building and spotted the Sentinel. Blair became a little uneasy and approached carefully, laying his hand on Jim's shoulder and asking if he was still there - had he zoned?

"No," Jim replied, making sure his point had been made to the cops looking over at him. He let Blair urge him away from the edge. They left everything set up as it was - knowing the investigators would want the scene left intact.

Jim also knew from the look that Blair had given him that the genie was about to come out of the bottle. His time was almost up.
*******************
Jim made sure the two way in his hand was right to go and walked into the bullpen. He dropped it carefully on his desk - it hadn't taken long to rewire the thing into broadcasting continuously. He wanted the whole force to hear this - Blair's vindication and possibly the last gift Jim would give him in Cascade.

As Jim expected Blair was at Jim's desk, hacking at the e-mail program and furious with each letter he read.

"What the hell are you doing, Jim?" Blair growled at his Sentinel and Jim gave Blair his best unreadable look.

"Sandburg - are you in my e-mail?" Jim managed to sound annoyed, "That's illegal you know."

"So arrest me," no warmth in a voice that was always so accessible, "Can you please explain to me why you would choose to not only eavesdrop on everyone in the station, but then tell them you were doing it from your desk?"

"No one calls my partner a fraud," Jim replied firmly, crossing his arms and leaning against Blairs desk. Blair leapt to his feet, properly pissed off, guard down just as Jim needed it to be.

"I frigging killed myself for you! I threw away everything for you and this damn job and you decide to throw that in my face?" Blair roared and Jim was glad he knew his friend wasn't the type to just punch his way through a problem. Simon came out of his office and the bullpen went silent.

"You shouldn't have had to," Jim let his anger and frustration flow, matching Blair's volume easily, "Ok, so the media won't let me live as a Sentinel but here at work I should at least be able to be straight with our colleagues! You shouldn't be branded a fraud for the truth! Hell, everyone here knows I'm a Sentinel and they've all accepted that! Just like they accepted you before they knew you were my Guide!"

"So you just think everyone will accept that?" Blair yelled right back, standing angrily, "You think I'll be accepted because I lied about what I do? Man, all you've done is prove everything they've said about me right! You've vindicated them! What am I supposed to do now man?"

"As I see it we've got two options," Jim returned, finally glad to say what he'd been feeling for so long, "Either the PD here accepts the truth of what we are - Sentinel and Guide: two halves of the same coin, or we resign and go somewhere to hire out as a team. If we're not welcome in Cascade then we go, Chief. It's that simple."

Blair stared at him in shocked silence. How long had Jim felt this way? Why hadn't he noticed?

"Leave? Just like that?" he managed to say and Jim nodded.

"I would live in a cardboard box in the darkest alley of the remotest country to have you accepted for what you are," Jim growled - his voice becoming gruff now, "You're my Guide and I'm a Sentinel. Whatever it takes for us to be accepted is what I'll do. Hell, everyone here already knows how far you'll go to protect me. I'm only ashamed it took me this long to see the light. You should never have had to kill yourself for me. You won't ever have to again."

"Man I hate it when your instincts kick in," Blair mumbled too soft for the two way to pick up - and Jim was relieved to see his Guide back down.

"Now that you two have cleared the air do you think we could get back to business?" Simon growled loudly and everyone returned their attention to their desks.

"It's a slow day," Rafe complained and Brown slapped a hand across his partners' mouth.

"Shut up, man! You'll offend the Gods! Hey Blair, you're an anthropologist! Do you know of a way to appease their wrath after that little statement?" Conner called and Blair grinned.

"Like handcuffing him naked to the flagpole?" Blair's comeback was the last thing Jim's two way picked up as the detective yanked the battery. He'd tell Blair the full story tonight - including the two way - and apologize properly. Jim meant what he'd said though. If they had to quit the PD they would. Blair was too important to Jim.
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Epilogue

They'd yelled at each other all night, but finally Blair had come around. He'd made Jim promise never to manipulate him like that again and Jim had done so whole-heartedly.

Jim apologized to Blair publicly first thing the next morning.

Three days later an anonymous person left a petition on Blair's desk. Most of the PD had signed it. It asked them to stay on.

They did.

End.

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Shedoc.