*****
The Future
Debbie Tripp


*****

EMAIL: Debbie



'It was a dark and stormy night.'

Blair Sandburg looked at the words he just typed and laughed aloud.  "Now, there's an original beginning!"  He backspaced and erased the words from the computer screen. 

Ever since the dissertation fiasco two months ago, an idea had been pestering Blair.  During his press conference, he had mentioned that his sentinel thesis was a good piece of fiction.  He had to do something, now that he had time on his hands.  He was thinking of writing a real fiction story, maybe even turning it into a series of books or stories.  He knew that there had been a lot of interest in sentinels when the story broke.  Of course, he hadn't run any of this by Jim yet, but he was sure the detective would be okay with it.  If it were successful, it would provide an income and keep him off the streets.

Not that there was a danger Blair would be out on the streets.  He and Jim had discussed the whole situation.  It took some time for both men to release anger and distrust, but it did happen.  It seemed as though their friendship was stronger than either man realized.

They decided that Blair would attend the police academy to become fully qualified as Jim's partner.  It's what both of them wanted.  The academy classes would not start for another six months, which would allow some damage repair to occur, some of which already occurred.  Blair also was negotiating, or at least William Ellison's lawyers were negotiating with both the publishing company and Rainier University to try to get some type of settlement because of the unauthorized release of parts of his dissertation and his sudden termination from the university without any formal hearing.

It surprised Blair to know that both William and Steven Ellison were on his side.  Both expressed to him how grateful they were that Jim had found someone to help with controlling his senses.  Blair wondered how much Jim had encouraged his father and brother to accept Blair as a legitimate and vital part of Jim's control of his senses.  It really didn't matter, but it surprised Blair when William Ellison offered the services of his lawyers and Steven wanted to get to know Blair better.  It made Blair feel like a part of a family.

Even Naomi, Blair's sometimes elusive mother, was supportive of the path Blair chose to take in his future.  He was hoping to return to Rainier to finish his doctorate degree at some point in the future.  If he couldn't do it at Rainier, he could apply to other schools.  Naomi even saw the reasons why Blair wanted to go to the police academy to become Jim's legitimate partner.  Blair could see how hard it was for Naomi to accept totally his decision, but she did not voice her objections. 

*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim Ellison finished the report he was working on.  He saw that Joel was still in the captain's office.  He got to his feet, trying not to grimace as a shot of pain ran up his leg.  He quit using the cane several weeks ago and was back on active duty, thanks to his doctor.  Occasionally, though, he pushed just a little too much.  He had always been an active person, not one to sit by on the sidelines.  He pushed in his rehab in order to come back as soon as possible.  Major Crimes was still short-handed with Simon still on rehabilitation leave and Megan deciding to return to Australia to recuperate from her injuries.  So Jim felt an added responsibility to return to work.

Jim knocked on the door and heard Joel inside say 'Enter'.  Jim walked in, carrying the report on the latest case he wrapped up yesterday.

Joel smiled when he saw Jim walk into the office.  "How's it going, Jim?"

"Just fine, Joel.  My leg's a little stiff today because of having to chase Fredericks the other day.  I finished the report and thought I would turn it in and call it a day.  If that's okay with you?"

"Fine with me, Jim.  How's Blair doing?"

"He's going stir crazy at the loft.  I think he'd like to hear something… some good news about something."

"I keep trying to get the chief to issue another ride-along authorization for him so he can help out here at the station, but I've been denied so far.  They don't want to stir up things now that they have calmed down again."

"But what's going to happen after he goes to the academy and becomes a legitimate police officer?  They'll have to accept him then."

"I'm not so sure they will, Jim.  I think those in charge wants all of this to just go away."

"I can go away also, Joel.  I'll submit my resignation.  Blair deserves to be a part of this department.  He's given as much as anyone else here."

"I agree with you, Jim.  Just so you know, I've alerted Simon about the situation and he's planning on talking with the chief here soon to make a case for getting Blair back where he belongs."

"I just don't want him to lose everything, Joel.  He doesn't have his ride-along, he's lost his job at the university, and he's lost his education chances.  For a while, he thought he was going to lose me also.  I had to make a case for him to stay.  I don't want it to be for nothing."

"With all of us together, it won't be for nothing, Jim.  Now, get out of here and go get some rest."

"Thanks, Joel.  For everything."

*~*~*~*~*~*

By mid-afternoon, Blair had ten typed pages of a story.  He reread what he wrote and wondered again if it was such a good idea.  He was sure Jim wouldn't be thrilled to know he was really writing a fictional account of real sentinel powers and abilities. 

Blair heard the rattle of a key in lock and quickly shut down his computer.  He'd wait a while before letting Jim know about his desire to write fiction stories. 

Blair looked up when the door opened and immediately saw the slight limp as Jim walked inside the loft.

"Hey, Jim.  You okay?"

"Just some residual pain from that chase with Fredericks the other day."

"Is that why you're home early?"

"Yeah.  I finished the report and asked Joel if I could leave.  So, what have you been doing all day?"

"Just keeping in contact with some friends from the university and I had a phone call from my mom.  She wanted to know if anything has changed yet.  I told her that I was thinking about getting a job at a convenience store."

Jim turned and stared at Blair.  "You're not serious!"

"Sure I am, Jim.  I have expenses just like everyone else.  I don't go to the academy for another six months.  I've given up any hope of being able to get anything either at the university or the police department until other things is resolved."

"I can loan you some money, Chief."  Jim limps over to the couch and sits down, looking straight at Blair.

"Not that I don't appreciate the offer, Jim, but I've always stood on my own two feet and I've been able to survive on my own since I started at Rainier as a sixteen-year old.  I've always been able to find a job, some type of work to tide me over until I get to where I want to be.  I have every confidence in your father's lawyers and the fact that they will be able to get me a settlement from the publishing company and maybe even get Rainier to reinstate me.  I've heard from several colleagues from the university that many people are not happy that they let me go without a hearing and without being able to express my side of things.  It would be an embarrassment for them to lose such a genius.  My opinion only."

"I totally agree with you there, Chief.  I asked Joel about getting you another ride-along pass, but the chief of police doesn't want to authorize it."  Jim paused, trying to gauge Blair's reaction.  There really wasn't one.  "There is even some talk about not even letting you join the force once you go through the academy."

There was a flash of shock across Blair's face.  "Then, why am I going through all of this?"

"I threatened to resign if they don't allow you to become my partner.  It's what we both want and what I need."

"Aw-w-w, Jim.  You always say the nicest things."

"Also, Joel said he contacted Simon and he's going to talk to the Chief about the situation.  I thought I'd call Simon and tell him he can use my resignation as leverage if he wants to."

"I don't want you to lose your job because of me, Jim.  If they don't want me on the force, I need to find that out now, before I invest myself in academy classes and possible unwanted attention.  Maybe I can get your father's lawyers to talk to the Chief and find out if there is a viable option for me to join the force.  Put some pressure on him also."

"I'm serious about what I said, Chief.  I'll resign.  I can always find another job somewhere.  I'm sure my dad can get a position for me in his company."

"You wouldn't like it, Jim.  I know you.  You're a man of action and movement.  Reading contracts and schmoozing people isn't the best use of your talents."  Blair laughed and stood up to go towards the kitchen.  "What do you want for dinner, Jim?"

"Whatever is handy for you.  You know, you're spoiling me by cooking every night."

"Hey, you work hard all day and all I've been doing is taking an extended, unwanted vacation."  Blair opened the refrigerator and looked around inside.  "Hey, there's some of that roasted chicken left over from the other night.  I can whip together a quick chicken noodle soup."

"Sounds good, Chief."  Jim leaned against the back of the couch and closed his eyes.  It felt good to just sit here and not worry about anything.

"I'll wake you when it's ready, Jim."  Blair softly said the words as he got busy preparing the meal.

*~*~*~*~*~*

It was the perfect comfort food for both men.  It was an enjoyable meal and Blair told Jim to relax afterwards while he did the dishes.  Blair even promised Jim to massage his leg later with liniment to help him relax. 

Jim sat on the couch, relaxing and letting the soft sounds of the loft wash over him.  His mind returned to a time before Blair Sandburg had come into his life.  Jim wasn't even sure if he would survive.  He didn't even know what was happening to him.  Until he met Blair Sandburg, a most unlikely person to hook up with Jim Ellison.

As the days, weeks, months and years went by, Blair proved to be the answer to any question Jim had about his senses.  Blair knew what he was telling Jim.  Blair knew what he was doing.  The two men developed a great friendship.  They endured rocky times and doubted each other over the years, but always knew there was a bond, a link, to each other.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim lay on his bed, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt.  Blair came up the stairs and saw that Jim seemed relaxed.

"Hey, if you don't want me to do this, we can postpone it."

"Nah, I think it will feel better after you work your magic fingers on me."

Blair smiled and walked over to the bed, sitting at the end.  He opened the liniment jar and scooped up a generous portion, warming it gently between his hands.  He reached over and started massaging Jim's thigh, working the liniment into the muscles.  He could hear Jim's soft sigh as he relaxed under Blair's ministrations. 

"You seem really tense, Jim.  Just relax and don't think about a thing."  Blair said the words softly, keeping up the massage, noting when Jim became more relaxed.

Blair finished with the massage, making sure to work the liniment in thoroughly.  He looked at Jim and noticed that he was practically asleep.  Blair smiled to himself.  He finished up, got to his feet, picked up the blanket at the end of the bed and draped it over Jim's body.

"Thanks, Chief," Jim mumbled as he drifted off to sleep.

"You're welcome, Jim," whispered Blair as he quietly made his way back downstairs.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair wrote out the beginnings of another story.  He had a basic outline and knew where he wanted to take the story.  He started typing and got about six pages into the story when he decided to get some sleep.  He saved his work and shut down his computer.  He made sure the locks were secure before going to his own bedroom.

During sleep, he dreamt of more stories to write. His sentinel would be heroic.  He also dreamed of the perfect guide for the sentinel and their many adventures.  He knew it would be a bestselling series of stories.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Jim got up the next morning feeling like a new man.  He made his way downstairs and saw Blair in the kitchen, making breakfast.

"Smells good, Chief," remarked Jim as he walked over to the kitchen, getting himself a cup of coffee.

"Well, I figured you would have an appetite this morning.  So, I splurged and made eggs and bacon."

"I'm going to have to keep you around, Chief.  You know how to take care of me."

"Yeah, a guide's work is never done."  Blair finished plating the breakfast and placed it on the table.  "Dig in, Jim."

Over the next several minutes, both men ate their breakfast.  Blair noticed Jim appeared to have his appetite back and he looked relaxed and ready to go.

Jim interrupted the silence.  "So, what do you plan on doing today?"

"I was serious about what I talked about yesterday, Jim.  I'm sure there's some job out there I can do that will give me a steady income.  At least until there's a determination with the lawyers and the university and the police department."

"Okay, but I think you can do better than a convenience store."

"I actually agree with you there, Jim.  But we'll see what my prospects are once I start my search."

*~*~*~*~*~*

After Jim left for work, Blair got ready to leave also.  He would see how successful he was at finding a job to bring in an income.  He washed, dried and put the dishes away and then grabbed his backpack and left the loft.  He would find something to do.

After several hours of looking, filling out applications and talking to perspective employers, Blair decided he needed a break.  He drove to the coffee shop near Rainier University.  It was the closest he'd been to Rainier since his dismissal.  He knew everyone that worked there.

He walked inside and got a smile from Gloria, the owner.

"Hi, Blair!  It's good to see you.  You haven't been in here for a while."

"I've been busy, Gloria.  Plus the fact they banned me from the university."

"No?  Really?  How could they possibly do that?"

"They run the place, so they can do whatever they want."

"It was an honest mistake.  They shouldn't hold that against you."

"Well, I have lawyers looking into the legality of that.  Something will be determined eventually.  Can I have a cup of coffee and peach Danish?"

"Sure, coming right up."  She got Blair the coffee and the Danish and he went to sit down at one of the tables there.  It was mid-morning, so it wasn't too busy.

"You don't happen to know anyone who is looking for workers, do you?"

"Since you mentioned it, I'm looking for a counter person.  My part-time worker, Amy, went back to Idaho after she graduated from Rainier.  It only pays minimum wage and it's only for fifteen to twenty hours a week."

"I would be very interested, Gloria.  Do you think I can have the job?"

"I'm the owner, so it's my decision.  I say yes.  When can you start?"

"As soon as you need me."

"How about tomorrow?  You can work the 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM shift."

"I'll be here.  Thanks, Gloria."

"It'll give me a chance to go back to my mobile shop.  Now that I have somebody I can trust with the shop."

"Thank you for the opportunity, Gloria."

Blair got out his cell phone and called Jim at the station.  He told Jim about his new job and Jim was happy for him.  He said it was better than a convenience store and Blair had to agree with him.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair was happy when he got home to the loft.  He had a job that he would enjoy doing.  In addition, there was even the prospect of another part-time job that he could work as well as the coffee shop.  It would keep him busy and out of trouble.  At least that's what the people at the police department would say.

Blair decided to continue his story that he had started and write out some more ideas for stories.  He determined it was time to explain to Jim that he wanted to write stories about the fictional sentinel he had created.  He had to find out Jim's reaction before he took things to another level, like sending the stories to a publisher.

In the afternoon, he heard from the grocery store, telling him he had a job as a stocker.  It was also a part-time job, mostly evenings and weekends.  He would also be a checker when needed.  It was looking as if his life was taking a turn for the better.  At least something was happening.

*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair had dinner cooking when Jim got home.

"I got another job other than the coffee shop."

"Just tell me it's not at a convenience store."

"It's not at a convenience store.  It's at Robert's Grocery.  Part-time stocker and checker.  Mostly nights and weekends."

"Doesn't sound too bad.  That smells heavenly.  Spaghetti and meatballs.  Homemade?"

"Of course they're homemade, Jim.  I wouldn't subject you to those frozen blobs of meat, not knowing what all are inside of them.  By making my own, I know exactly the ingredients and there aren't any filler."

"Sounds good.  Will I still have your culinary skills when you start working?"

"Sure you will, Jim.  I'll still have some free time and I can do things in advance.  I may not be here for meals, though.  Depends on my schedule."

"That's okay, Chief.  As long as I don't have to cook for myself."

"Ha!  You are spoiled, Jim."  Blair stopped stirring the pasta and looked over at Jim.  "Ah, Jim.  There's something I want to get your opinion about."

Jim could detect the seriousness in Blair's voice.  "What's going on, Chief?"

"I had an idea how to make some money and I was wondering how receptive you would be to it."

"What idea, Blair?"

"We'll I've had several ideas and outlines of possible sentinel stories that I could write as fiction.  After all, I admitted in my press conference that it was a good piece of fiction.  Why not take advantage of that and then have someone pay me for it?  I'm sure some publisher would be interested in a fantasy series about someone with enhanced senses."

"Except that it's not a fantasy, Blair.  I'm real flesh and blood.  I live with enhanced senses every day.  My life is not fiction.  Maybe we should admit that I'm really a sentinel since you discovered that there are people with enhanced senses who need someone to help with their control.  Even if they don't have all five senses enhanced, you are the undisputed expert on enhanced senses.  You are the one who can help others.  You've helped others, even before me.  And without you in my life, I'm not sure I would have a life.  You've shown me control and acceptance and that's more than I could have ever hoped for."

Jim's declaration shocked Blair.  "I didn't know, Jim.  I'm sorry.  I didn't mean to diminish what you have or what you are.  You've always meant everything to me.  You came along to prove what I always believed since reading about sentinels when I was a teenager.  I knew there had to be sentinels in the modern world.  And that the stimuli would be practically overwhelming.  I didn't mean to trivialize your life, Jim.  I just didn't think.  I'm sorry.  I'll abandon that idea.  Why didn't I even think about you?"

"Don't worry about it, Chief.  I can see why you believed your own press conference.  It makes things easier that way.  To just deny everything."

"No, Jim!  It's not like that.  I don't deny that you are what you are.  You are not fiction or fantasy.  The past three plus years is a testament to that.  I just lost my focus.  I'm sorry."

"If you want to write stories, you can.  Just no publications, okay?"

"Okay, Jim.  But, I don't see how we can let your abilities come out in public."

"I've been thinking about that ever since the whole dissertation mess.  What if there was a way to introduce enhanced senses as not some sensation but as almost commonplace?"

"But they're not commonplace, Jim.  That's the whole problem.  But I do see your idea.  Make it as if enhanced senses are no big thing.  I mean there are documented cases of people with one or two enhanced senses.  I have the documentation in my files at Rainier.  If I could get access to them…"

Blair's voice trailed off as the reality of the situation hit home.  He didn't have access to his files.  Technically, they were the property of the university, at least until there was a resolution.

"How about you call my dad's lawyers tomorrow and see what the status of things is?  There should be something soon."

"Yeah, maybe I will.  I'd really like to know where things stand."

*~*~*~*~*~*

After his stint at the coffee shop, Blair called the law firm, asking to speak to Jason Chandler, the lead lawyer handling his case.  A few minutes later, Jason came on the line.

"Blair, I was just going to call you.  We've made progress with Rainier University in an effort to reinstate you.  They acknowledge that they released you without following protocol and they want to meet with you.  I made an appointment for 10:00 AM Friday, if that is good for you?"

"Yeah, I can make the appointment, Jason.  Do you think there is a chance I can be reinstated to the university?"

"Well, I plan on negotiating for your reinstatement.  Let's meet at my office at 9:00 AM Friday and we can go together to the university."

"Sounds good to me.  I'll see you then."

*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair explained things to Jim when he came home from the station.

"That is good news, Chief. However, I don't know if there is a future for you at the police department.  Simon went to talk to the Chief of police, but he didn't give an answer to him.  Simon and Joel are going to prepare a file and a report explaining your contributions to the department as a whole and to Major Crime in particular.  They don't think it's right that you can't even have a ride-along status like you did before."

"Wow!  That's special that Simon and Joel are sticking up for me."

"It's not just Simon and Joel.  It's everyone in Major Crime, including Rhonda.  We all did our own report about your contributions."

"I'll make sure I thank everyone.  It really means a lot to me.  If I can return to Rainier, I can finish my doctorate and I could legitimize my work with people with heightened senses and do reports for the Chief of police explaining about your heightened senses in particular and what your abilities are."

"See?  I knew there was a reason why I pushed to get you to stay."  Jim couldn't keep the smile off his face.

"Let's make dinner, Jim.  Nothing has been determined yet.  I've got to hope Jason can get the ball rolling."

"Jason's a smart guy.  If he can find a way to help you, he will."

*~*~*~*~*~*

On Friday, Blair went to meet with Jason Chandler.  They went over the basics of what would happen when they got to Rainier.  Jason told Blair that he would do the talking unless there was something specific they wanted to know from Blair.  Blair was fine with that.

They went to Rainier, meeting with the president, Chancellor Edwards, lawyers for the university, and a couple of professors.  The meeting took about an hour, with the lawyers on both sides doing most of the talking.

Blair was fascinated with how things went.  He was in his element as an observer.  He did avoid looking in Chancellor Edwards's direction, as it appeared she was very uncomfortable with the whole situation.  It didn't please Blair that she kept her job, but he would just avoid her if they reinstated him.

In the end, they allowed Blair to finish his degree at Rainier, with the stipulation that he had to provide periodical updates as to his progress.  He had no problems with that.  He decided to have no dealings with the Cascade Police Department, except with Jim, his thesis subject.  That was a lot of the problem the last time.  His dealings with the police department distracted his true goal, which was to get his degree and prove that sentinels did exist in the modern world.

When they left the president's office, Blair thanked Jason for all that he did.

"We're still working with Berkshire Publishers to get a settlement from them for false release of your material.  We have heard that Sid Graham left before they fired him and that they want to repair their credibility.  I'm sure there will be something soon."

"I can't thank you enough, Jason.  Even if we don't get anything from the publishers.  All I've ever wanted to do was to finish my doctorate and teach students.  I'll at least get my doctorate."

*~*~*~*~*~*

Blair went by the station after leaving Rainier.  He told everyone the outcome of the meeting at the university.  Jim was especially happy to hear about the outcome.

"So, how long will it take for you to finish your degree, Chief?"

"I'm not sure, Jim.  Without distractions from the police department, it could take six to nine months."

"What are you talking about, Blair?  We didn't distract you from anything!"  Rafe chimed in on the discussion.

"No, Rafe, it wasn't so much you, it was my involvement with you guys.  I'll be able to concentrate on my studies.  I wanted to let all of you know."

The door to Simon's office opened and Joel and Simon came out.

"I thought I heard a lot of noise coming from out here!  I figured it was some kind of disruption.  I should have known it was you, Sandburg."

"Hello to you too, Captain.  How are you doing?"

"Well, I've graduated from the wheelchair to a walker.  Within a couple of months, I hope to return to partial duty."

"That is good news, Simon.  I was telling everyone that I've been reinstated back at Rainier in order to obtain my doctorate degree."

"That's good news also, Blair.  I tried talking to the chief about getting you another ride-along pass for Major Crimes, but they don't want the continued spotlight."

"That's okay, Simon.  I have other ideas that I'm working on to smooth over what went on with Jim and his senses.  I'll keep everyone informed when they become more concrete."

"It sounds like you have a future, Blair."  It amazed Joel how resilient Blair was.

Blair looked around the room, his gaze resting on Jim.  "I'll always have a future, Joel."