Teaser: A year after committing career suicide, Blair considers the direction his life has taken.

Disclaimer: The boys don't belong to me ('cause if they did, they'd be chained to my bed). They belong to Paramount and Pet Fly Productions.

Spoilers: The Switchman, Cypher, Rogue, Spare Parts, Warriors, Sentinel Too: Part 1, The Sentinel by Blair Sandburg. Direct quotes from the show are denoted with // \\ and italics.

Rating: PG - for suggestions of NakedBlair.

Archive: Please archive

Classification: I consider this piece to be Alternate Universe since it's outside of the show's time parameters. In other words, it takes place about a year after TSbyBS. Blair is now 'Detective Sandburg' in this story, so if you don't like that idea run like the wind.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Kimberly (KimberlyFDR) and Bonnie (bonni317) for being my TS beta-readers. Since I first came to love The Sentinel from reading fanfic, Kimberly helped me keep my canon and my fanon straight, while Bonnie helped straighten out my grammar and punctuation, and questioned my visual images. And also, to MD1016 for being my non-TS beta-reader. She helped remind me exactly why I love this show when I was forced to explain the Jim/Blair relationship to her (not an easy task).

COPYRIGHT INFO: © All literature found on the following pages produced by ::Lacy::. Unauthorized reproduction of text is not allowed. Contact author :: xfwatcher@aol.com:: for permission // \\ The preceding symbol denotes a line or literature taken from episodes "The Sentinel"

SEVENS

By Lacy

I've been changing my mind
Through with looking behind
It's a crash course in Life
Best you can do is get by
No getting out alive

I'll hold the light
For you to see
All Things in Time
All you'll ever need

--Toad the Wet Sprocket

The brass ring.

Blair smiled to himself. It came in many different forms, with shapes and sizes as unique as the people who reached for it. For him, the brass ring had once included money and fame, notoriety and respect.

How things change.

Ever since he could remember, Blair dreamed of being an Anthropologist -- even before he knew the word for it. A life spent traveling the globe had left him with an insatiable curiosity about the cultures he had visited. But it wasn't about the history, nor was it about the rituals and traditions -- it was all about the people. He knew that now. The insights, like this one, that he had had over the last year were enough to make his brain spin. Not an easy feat.

The last two years had been difficult ones, full of tests. Tests of courage, loyalty, and a thousand other virtues he couldn't name. He was pretty sure he had passed those tests -- most of them anyway. He hoped he passed. He used to tell his students, back when he had students, that as long as they learned from their mistakes then failure wasn't failure. Life was all about growth and change and being reborn into something new. Of course, the birthing process can be painful. But worth it. Definitely worth it.

He still had it. That 'new all over' feeling, with eyes that still looked at the world with a certain innocence. He saw the world differently than he had as an anthropologist. It was still tough to see the ugliness there -- to face a truth that had been wholly unfamiliar just a few years ago.

The human race did terrible things to each other.

Years ago, somewhere in the back of his mind, he had known that, but it was easy to let it go when you can put a thousand years between you and the Truth. A little trickier when the blood is fresh and the gun is still smoking.

He still hated that part of the job. It was okay though, because he was supposed to hate that part of the job. It was one of the things that made him good at it. It was very important to Blair to never forget why he made the choice he made. To never forget why he left academia behind to pursue this occupation, an occupation that continued to baffle him on occasion.

Despite his own confusion, somewhere along the line he realized his work had become a part of him. It helped define him in a hundred little ways -- and that -- he had never expected. When he stepped on this path, Blair had never expected that one step, one single choice, could lead to his destiny.

This wasn't what he had wanted. As a teenager, when he had envisioned his future, his dreams had never included handcuffs and Miranda rights. They most certainly never included a 9mm Glock. After all, Naomi's baby boy had been raised to respect human life.

"Hey, Chief! You gonna leave any hot water for me?"

Startled out of his quiet reverie by the sound of his roommate's booming voice, Blair winced just as the water cascading over his head went icy cold. "Sorry," Blair said in a voice only his roommate would have been able to hear, as he hurriedly turned off the water. He grabbed a towel from the rack, ran it through his hair, and proceeded to wrap it around his waist. Blair stepped over the edge of the tub, onto the bathmat, and began to wipe his feet on the soft rug. He didn't want to leave wet footprints on the tile floor of the bathroom. Jim hated that.

Blair reached for the door, not surprised to find his commanding roommate waiting on the other side in his worn, gray bathrobe. "Sorry, man. I must have lost track of time," Blair began. The truth of his apology was evident on his face.

"You've been in there for over half an hour. I was starting to think you might have been sucked down the drain."

"Again. Sorry, Jim. I've just got a lot on my mind."

The larger man's eyebrows creased together in concern. "You okay?"

"Yeah, man. I'm good." Blair stepped past Jim and headed to his room. "By the way, if you're planning on taking a shower, you might want to dial down that sense of touch," Blair said over his shoulder.

"Damn it, Sandburg!"

Blair laughed, knowing that Jim's bluster was all for show, and that his bite was almost non-existent. Unless you happened to be a perp. He shuddered at the thought, or maybe it was just the chill in the air.

Jim.

If it hadn't been for Jim, he wouldn't be here right now. He wouldn't have a home, wouldn't have a friend, wouldn't have a life -- literally. The last five years had been the most important of his life and all because Jim had been a part of them.

Five years!?

Blair glanced at the calendar on the wall. Damn! No wonder he had been so introspective today. He must have known all along, probably on a subconscious level. Five years -- today. It was five years ago today that this journey began.

Five years ago today that Jim had stepped into Blair's office at the university, demanding answers. Blair had been so naïve back then. He had been caught up in the books and the dust, and papers and notes. He hadn't had a clue about the real world. But Jim knew. Jim knew everything. Well, almost everything. Blair didn't know what Jim knew and Jim didn't know what Blair knew. Was there ever a more perfect setup for a friendship?

Well, aside from the fact that they could not have been more different.

They had a rocky start, that day. Not five minutes after entering his office, Blair had unintentionally offended the hard-ass detective, and Jim had proceeded to throw Blair against the wall and threaten him with all manners of police tactics.

// ... and considering your behavior, I've got probable cause to shake this place top to bottom for narcotics!//

Rocky start, indeed.

When Jim had walked into his office, Blair found what he had always been looking for. What he did not know, at the time, however, was that it seemed the Hand of Destiny was pulling a little overtime that day.

Blair Sandburg, erstwhile Anthropology student, had discovered Sir Richard Burton's monograph on Sentinels years before. For reasons he still could not fathom, he had been drawn to the fragile forgotten book that was worn with age and misuse. Even after reading it, he couldn't get it out of his mind. The concept of the Sentinel, a Watchman with genetically heightened senses, was just too delicious to dismiss. For years he conducted studies on people with heightened senses, surprised at how easy it was to find subjects with one or even two hyperactive senses. The odds of finding a single subject with all five senses heightened were astronomical, and after years of research and study -- Blair's hope had begun to dwindle.

Until Jim.

Jim had been desperate to find help, and even more desperate to not look desperate. When he came to the University, even Blair could see that Jim was a man who had reached the limits of his sanity. Sensory overload can cause a person to want to lose touch with reality -- but Jim was still holding on for dear life. However, despite his desperation, Jim had almost rejected out of hand Blair's explanation and offers of help. Blair knew that Jim's first impression of him had not been favorable. 'Face it, Blair, Jim thought you were a flake.'

It had taken a little perseverance and whole lot of chutzpah, but Blair had managed to insinuate himself into Jim's life. Insinuate. Good word. Over the course of three years Blair had managed to wheedle himself into just about every part of Jim's life. And Blair was small, he could fit just about anywhere.

Getting into Jim's work had been easy. Getting into his home -- marginally more challenging. Getting into his life -- that feat had required downright sneakiness. See, Jim's sensory uniqueness meant that the cop would need an equally unique partner. Someone who would know what to do when Jim zoned out on one of his senses, or when sensory spikes caused those unbearable headaches. In short, Jim needed a partner who could show him the way, teach him control and be his anchor when the lights were too bright or the sound too abundant.

Somehow, Blair had managed to fit that role. As if he had been born to it. Of course, he had often been forced to admit that most of the time he was flying by the seat of his pants -- making it all up as he went along. Blair was actually shocked that Jim hadn't given him the heave-ho and tried to find help from a more traditional source.

So, with a little sleight of hand and a whole lot of paperwork magic, Blair had become an official police 'observer', which was basically an all-access pass to every crime scene, shoot-out, and high-speed chase in the city of Cascade, Washington. And if there was a high-speed chase in Cascade, Blair would happily bet every penny he had that Jim was a part of it. Of course, it wasn't exactly like gambling since Blair was usually sitting right next to Jim, hanging on for dear life and praying that the air-bags had been installed correctly.

Blair shucked his now damp towel and began to dress before the chill of the room could settle on his skin.

See, originally the plan had been this: Blair helps Jim control his wacky senses, and Jim pretends to let Blair write his doctoral dissertation about him. A working relationship. Strictly academic. That had been the deal. Of course, back then it never occurred to either of them that their relationship could be anything else -- anything more.

Burton's research suggested that every Sentinel needed a partner to watch his back -- a Guide. Not a guide, but the Guide. That's a capital 'G', thank you very much. At the beginning, Blair had not had an inkling of just what being the Guide to a Sentinel would entail, but he never could have imagined it would be so demanding, so ... all-consuming.

Rationally, Blair knew that a Sentinel was territorial in nature -- he couldn't help it -- it just was. So, thinking back, Blair couldn't even recall that single moment when everything changed and HE became Jim's territory. Jim probably wouldn't know either. At what point in their relationship had they subconsciously begun to view one another as extensions of themselves? It had all been so subtle.

It seemed to Blair that life-altering moments should NOT be subtle. They should be accompanied with fireworks and drum rolls and all manner of fanfare. Life should scream and say, "Hey! Here's a moment you don't want to miss!"

And yet, the moments you would rather forget are the ones you just can't shake.

Blair cringed as visions of David Lash filled his head.

// Nice work, Detective. You too, Blair. Impressive field work.//

// I CAN BE YOU! //

And Lee Brackett.

// You're going to help me steal something.//

// You're his Guide. . .//

And Alex. He still had nightmares about Alex. You can never forget a person once they've killed you.

//This is the one thing I really didn't want to do, but I can't leave you alive. //

Blair shook his head, freeing his mind and clearing out the monsters. He could only look back on those moments now because he knew they had been for a purpose. They had all led him here -- to this ... place. This destination. Lash, Brackett, and Alex had all played small roles in the morality play that would lead him to his life. Colonel Oliver, Iris, and Garrett Kincaid were all just little tiles in the mosaic that was The Big Picture.

They had made his life hard -- but they had also made his choice easy.

Even though Burton's mentions of Guides were vague, at best, Blair fell into the role with frightening ease. Once he had moved into the Loft with Jim, it had become even easier, and to this day it amazed Blair how effortless it was to become someone else and yet lose nothing of himself. He had never thought of himself as domestic, and yet after moving into the Loft, Blair found instincts he never knew he had. He just felt this all-encompassing need to take care of Jim. Blair chuckled, because he knew that Jim would laugh outright at that thought. Jim Ellison? Mr. Ex-Covert Ops being taken care of? The idea was laughable!

Laughable, but true.

Jim's territorial imperative to protect The Tribe could cause a multitude of problems. Problems that could keep Blair awake at night. Like, when Jim was in his most driven state, he could forget to do the little things like eat, or sleep, or bandage a gunshot wound. So whether the Sentinel needed a little direction or just an icepack, it was Blair's job to deliver. THAT was the Guide's purpose, to keep the Sentinel in working order. Because, as Blair had learned (the hard way), a hungry, sleepy, or bleeding Sentinel -- is a grumpy Sentinel.

It was in those first few years with Jim, that Blair learned that Purpose and Ambition are not the same thing. It was Ambition that brought him to Jim's side, but it was Purpose that kept him there. Ambition and Purpose. They seem like such similar animals, but therein lies the great deception. They could not be further apart. Ambition might get you where you want to go, but in order to do that it must cut out pieces of your soul. Ambition has a Price. Only Purpose can fill the holes left behind.

'Yeah, man. That's profound'. Blair chuckled to himself as he pulled on his Levis and tucked in his blue flannel shirt. He heard the bathroom door open and the sound of Jim's bare feet padding against the hardwood floors of the Loft.

"Leaving in ten, Chief," Jim called as he ascended the stairs to his room.

Zipping his jeans, Blair approached his dresser, picked up his CPD ID and flipped open the wallet. It had taken four months at the Police Academy to earn the gold badge that stared back him. Of course, his had been a special case. A deal had been made with the brass to get Blair a place on the Major Crimes roster directly after graduation. Three-and-a-half years as an observer had given him street experience that could not be denied. The higher-ups agreed that it would be a waste of Blair's time and talents to have him strolling a beat for the mandatory three years. His case was not totally without precedent since incoming recruits could enter directly into the Detective Corps if they had a military background, or a Masters Degree in one of the Criminal Sciences. Anthropology was not one of the Criminal Sciences, but everyone in Major Crime could recall a time or two when Blair's anthropological knowledge had been instrumental in solving a case.

Blair studied the photo next to the badge. Sometimes he didn't recognize the picture on the ID, so he looked up into the mirror to remind himself that he was the guy on the identification card.

It was still a shock. His hair, once a monument to his neo-hippie lifestyle, was now cropped close to his scalp. Not close enough to qualify as a military; barely close enough to qualify as regulation, but close enough to shock Blair on a regular basis.

Even more shocking was that he liked it.

Mostly because the women liked it. His short hair made his blue eyes look even bigger and his lips even fuller. Women found him irresistible. Of course, with short hair, he looked like a wet-behind-the-ears rookie (which was officially true -- if not technically). Everybody at the station seemed to take great pleasure in referring to him as 'The Kid'. And if some secret part of him inside didn't like it so much, he might be offended. They took care of him, especially those in the Major Crimes Department. Somehow, Blair Sandburg, former anthropologist, had called upon every protective instinct that every member of the Major Crimes unit had. He had no idea how he did that.

Blair ran his fingers lightly over the gold shield. Badge number 7215. The brass ring he never knew he always wanted. In retrospect, Blair suspected that his heart was giving him clues long before he had actually had to face the choice.

// Lieutenant Sandburg. Narcotics.//

Even if it had been an 'obfuscation' to save his life, it still felt good to say it. It had felt -- right.

// Honey, you're just not cut out for this kind of work. //

He could still recall how his stomach had dropped out from under him when Naomi spoke those words. In that moment, it seemed that all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room, as he desperately waited for someone, anyone, to contradict her. Thankfully, Simon had come to rescue.

//Technically, that's not entirely true//

Not the enthusiastic support he had been hoping for, but hey, it was Simon. Blair had felt lucky and blessed that day.

//Do you think Simon Banks would let this partnership continue if there was no legitimate reason for me to be here?

I don't know, Chief. I think the Captain has kind of an abiding tolerance for you.

And what about you? You sure as hell don't need me around if you don't have your Sentinel abilities.

So, what's this about, Chief? You afraid you're not going to be able to finish your dissertation?

C'mon, Jim. I've got enough information for ten dissertations. I could have finished months ago.

So, what? You've been stalling?

Yeah. What, did you expect me to jump back into my academic life after this? It would be like getting off a roller coaster and spending the rest of my life on a merry-go-round.//

Even then, Blair had known that something unexpected and unplanned was happening to him. Suddenly his life had become about more than just books and artifacts. His life had become about action and risk. Saving lives and solving crimes could be the most addicting thing in the world and he hadn't wanted that to be taken away from him.

// You may be just an observer, but you're the best cop I've ever met. You're the best partner I could have asked for. You're a great friend and you've pulled me through a lot of weird stuff.//

Jim's words that day had healed his broken and bleeding heart.

Words that never would have been necessary had it not been for The Great Dissertation Fiasco. Naomi, in one of her Super-mom moments, sent his unfinished dissertation to a publisher. The next thing they knew their lives were disrupted by every reporter in the world asking Jim what it felt like to be a Sentinel. Jim blew his stack and Blair was sure his best friend would never forgive him.

The offers came pouring in. Blair Sandburg, penniless Anthropology student and part-time police observer, was suddenly a potential millionaire -- not to mention Nobel Prize nominee. Ambition rearing its ugly head. In a moment of clarity, Blair knew he was left with no options.

// We all thought we were doing what was right. Right? Nothing in this Universe is random. Everything happens for a reason. That's part of what I was writing about. You know, I always wondered if my work would ever amount to anything, and if it's taught me one thing, it's taught me that Jim was right. I've got it all. I've got it all right here. The brass ring. And now I know what to do.//

So, he had called a press conference, and declared himself a fraud. One moment he had been a rising young scientist -- the next, an academic pariah. He would never work in this town again. In one swift counterattack, Blair destroyed his own career to save Jim's, and for awhile it felt like he was dying inside. Blair's act must have been a wake up call for Jim, since he wasted almost no time at all extending the olive branch.

So, his friendship with Jim was pulled from the jaws of death - and not a moment too soon. But that still didn't take care of Blair's little problem of losing his career. Well, since not even Simon Banks can call back the tide, the Major Crimes Captain had done the only thing in his power. He politicked. He pulled strings. He called in favors. He might even have schmoozed a little. He got the brass to offer Blair Sandburg, Academic Fraud, a badge. A gold badge.

//You're through in this department, Chief ... as an observer.//

He'd been slightly taken aback. Witnesses that day might have classified him as speechless. He was touched. The faculty at Rainier had turned their backs on him, but the cops in Major Crimes had gone to bat for him. Blair had found out who his friends were that day.

He had told Simon, in private, that he needed time to think about it. It was a big offer. Huge, really. As his mother would say, he needed time to process. It hadn't taken long. Lying in bed that night, staring at the ceiling, Blair had an epiphany.

//Nothing in this Universe is random. Everything happens for a reason.//

His own words to his mother came back in a rush. Blair realized, in a flash of brilliance, that everything; the years of 'observing' Jim, the cases they had solved, the dissertation getting out, the press conference - all of it ...

Hadn't everything just been leading up to this?

Wasn't this the natural progression?

The Great Dissertation Fiasco had just been Fate's way of clearing the path. What's the old saying? If you don't make a choice, Fate will make it for you? Well, Blair had stalled and stalled, and the choice had been made for him. Something had to give, but Fate had been kind. Only taking away the books and the artifacts and the dust, and leaving him with a living, breathing Sentinel who needed him. He could live with that. Because the alternative was unthinkable.

Back when his life was falling to pieces, Blair had tried to see the good in it. He had wondered why. What's it all for?

Well, this is what it was all for, man!

Blair placed his badge into his back pocket and reached for his shoulder holster. He had stripped and cleaned his weapon last night and he could smell the acrid odor of the solvent and the super-sweet aroma of the gun oil.

The gun. A 9mm Glock. Single action. Semi-automatic. Thirteen shot capacity. Blair placed the weapon on the dresser and swung the holster around his back, threading his arms through the leather bindings. This had been the hardest part of carrying a badge, but you can't have one without the other.

He'd tried just about every holster on the market, before settling on the shoulder. His propensity for getting cold and his nearly constant need for a jacket made the shoulder holster the most practical choice. Blair picked up his department-issued weapon and held it in his hand. For the first few weeks after graduating from the Academy, he had to remind himself on a daily basis to take his weapon.

He had never liked guns. He believed -- had always believed -- that problems could be better solved without violence. The idealist that he was still warred with the realist he was becoming. He had seen enough violence in the last five years to know that a cop without a weapon was a sitting duck. But it was in the Academy, during his firearms training, that he had been forced to face his fear of guns. He didn't fear the gun itself, after all it was just a hunk of metal.

During his training he came to a sudden, blinding realization. His greatest fear was not that he might be forced to use his weapon against someone -- to take a human life. His greatest fear was that some day, when faced with the possibility, he wouldn't have the strength.

With that realization in mind, Blair had thrown himself into that aspect of his training. After all, forewarned is forearmed. No pun intended. No one was more surprised than he to discover that he was a quick draw with near-flawless reflexes. Blair figured that Jim wasn't the only one whose responses were fear-based. His own fear had driven him to be the best damn shot in his class.

For years, Jim had protected Blair, by any means necessary. Now it was Blair's turn to return the favor. Strangely, he was okay with that. Of course, he never drew his weapon unless it was absolutely necessary. If he could get out of a situation without exchanging fire, then that was his first choice. But if Jim was in danger, Blair usually found the Glock in his hands without any recollection of drawing it. Odd, that. Instinct could be a funny thing.

Blair could honestly look back on his life and say that he wasn't the same person he had been five years ago. The irony was that he was still Blair. Maybe now he was he was more 'Blair' than he ever was. He was still the free spirit that Naomi had raised, and he continued to drive Simon Banks crazy with his extemporaneous lectures on ancient customs and ritual. You can take the boy out of Anthropology, but you can't take Anthropology out of the boy.

Four months in the Academy hadn't changed him as he thought it might. Neither had carrying a gun. Instead, the experiences of the last year had enriched him. He felt at peace, now that he was officially partnered with his Sentinel - it was all he really ever needed.

Double-checking the safety on his weapon, Blair placed his thumb on the release adjacent to the trigger and ejected the empty clip into his left hand. He took several bullets from the ammunition box on his dresser and carefully began to load them into the magazine. With each successive round in the clip, the next became more difficult to load, as the clip's coil became increasingly resistant. When he had finished that task, Blair slid the magazine into the weapon, listening for the loud click as the clip slid home. Reaching up, he placed the Glock in his holster and snapped the leather restraint, locking the gun into place.

"Chief? Train's leaving."

"I'm coming, Jim." Blair glanced in the mirror one last time before joining his partner.

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

"Sandburg, say something!" Jim glanced at his partner as he pulled the '69 Ford pickup truck into Central's parking garage. "Are you angry about something?"

"It's nothing, Jim, really." Blair looked up, noticing for the first time that they had arrived at the Station.

"Is it the Rutherford case? 'Cause I know that one's been bothering me too."

"It's not the Rutherford case."

Jim pulled the Ford into his parking space and shut down the engine. Blair reached for the door, but before he could exit the vehicle a strong arm snaked out to grab him.

"C'mon, what's up? You know it freaks me out when you get suddenly quiet. Clue me in here, Chief, because the silence is deafening."

"Just been doing a little woolgathering, that's all. Nothing to get your instincts in an uproar. Repeat after me, 'The Guide is fine'."

"Just woolgathering, huh?"

"Yeah, you know, cleaning the mental attic," Blair replied.

"Discover anything interesting while you were rummaging around in there?" Jim smiled as he let go of his Guide and stepped out of the truck.

"Are you kidding, man? You should see inside my head. It's a wonder I don't decide to stay in there."

"I shudder to think. You want to tell me about it? Your discoveries, I mean."

Considering for a moment, Blair stared at his fingernails. "You know when you pull the handle on a slot machine and all sevens pop up?

"Yeah. Jackpot," Jim grinned. "You been thinking about taking a trip to Vegas, Chief?"

"No. Just thinking about my life. You know, where I've been ... where I'm going."

"Reach any conclusions?" The grin on Jim's face slowly slid away and was replaced by a worry frown on his brow.

"Yeah, Jim, I did."

"And?"

"I had to put a lot of quarters in the slot machine, Jim, but I finally got it."

"Got what?" Jim asked, noticing that the familiar and endearing bounce had returned to Blair's step.

"Sevens, man. I got Sevens."

The End

Thanks for reading! Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Try to keep the personal attacks to a minimum.