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Blair Sandburg, Ph.D.
by Laura Picken

Hi all! After all the discussion about Night Sift and Sentinel Too on the Sentinel fiction list, I decided to do some editing on this and re-post it. It was my first posted fanfic, and it's been interesting to work on this after everything that's happened on the show and on the list. The story now contains one slight spoiler fo Night Shift but nothing that hasn't been extensively discussed on the list the past few days. Let me know what you think!

Summary (for the archive): Blair finally gets his doctorate. Don't worry, it's not quite what you think! :)

I started playing around with "What if..."s this morning, and this popped into my head. It's become pretty clear to anyone who's a Sentinel fan by now that Blair could never legitimately publish his Sentinel findings. But since he can't be a Ph.D. candidate forever, I came up with this as a compromise -- one that keeps his friendship with Jim intact and permanent, and still gets him those elusive three letters at the end of his name. This is my first TS fanfic that I've been able to finish fast enough to get it out to the archive and mailing lists, so I hope you enjoy it. I welcome -constructive- criticism, particularly about my characterizations, but please, don't flame me -- the firefighting suit's in the shop this week.

DISCLAIMER: All characters from "The Sentinel" are property of Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. I'm just playing around with them for fun, definitely not for profit. If you like the story, by all means, tell me!--I have at least one more story in the works right now, and the more compliments I get on this, the faster I'm likely to finish the other one. My e-mail address is cranesnake@bigfoot.com

*****

"Blair, this is Mark Jacobson. Congratulations! The committee has just finished reviewing your dissertation, and they've accepted it. Not only that, but they're also prepared to offer you an associate professor's position in the anthropology department until your dissertation is published, at which point, with such a groundbreaking work as the one you've written, you'll probably be offered a tenured professorship. Please call me as soon as possible to set up a time to meet with the school's publishing house….."

Jim let his attention trail off as he listened to the message for what had to be the fifteenth time. [Why didn't Blair say anything?] He would have had to at least talked to him before any of the Sentinel research was published--it brought too much danger to both of them if some madman somewhere got a hold of the dissertation and found out about Jim's abilities. Even if Blair published the results protecting his anonymity, which he had promised to do, someone could still figure it out. And what would happen to their partnership? Now that he had finished his dissertation, it would be pretty hard to still hang around as a 'police observer'. Didn't Blair think that Jim needed him anymore? "Of course he didn't think about that," mumbled Jim to no one in particular, "He never does."

*****

Ten minutes later, Blair breezed into the empty loft. He saw the blinking light on the answering machine, and pressed play to listen to the message.

"Blair, this is Mark Jacobson. Congratulations!….."

Blair was jumping out of his skin with excitement. "Blair Sandburg, Ph.D.! Wait until Jim hears about this!" Then it dawned on him--the light on the answering machine wasn't blinking fast when he pressed play, it was blinking slow.

Jim had heard the message.

"Ohmigod, Jim--" He realized he had never told Jim what was going on. After Simon approved the idea, things happened so fast that he just never got a chance. But Blair also realized, now, that he hadn't told Jim because he was afraid about how it was going to affect their partnership. Heck, at this point -he- didn't know how it was going to affect their partnership. After figuring out the perfect way to protect Jim -and- still get his Ph.D., he hadn't quite figured out that part yet. [I thought I'd have more time!] "Well, no time like the present, as they say." He picked up the phone and dialed the precinct.

"Banks."

"Captain, it's Blair. I just got a message from my thesis advisor. My dissertation's been accepted."

"Congratulations! That has to be the quickest turnaround time on a Ph.D. in history--"

"No Simon, you don't understand! There's a problem. Jim heard the message--"

"Before you got a chance to talk to him about it?" Blair could almost hear Simon massaging his temples.

He hoped Simon could hear the guilt in his voice as he replied, "Yeah. Is he there?"

"No. I sent him home for the day about two hours ago--I was going to put him on a night stakeout tonight, and I wanted him to get some rest first. He's not at the loft?"

"No. "

"Any idea where he might have gone?"

[Where would Jim go to keep himself from murdering a brain-dead post-graduate student? I have no idea. Unless...] "I think I know where he went. Can you re-assign the stakeout?"

"Sure, but -only- if I come with you. If Jim's as mad as I think he's going to be, you may need the shield."

"Okay. I'll come over to the station, and we'll take your car. The way mine's running, it might not make the trip."

Blair heard Simon's laugh over the phone. "The way your car runs, it's a wonder it makes it over to the station. I'll see you in a bit." The two men hung up the phone, and Blair ran out of the loft to get to the station as fast as possible.

*****

The drive up to St. Sebastian's went far faster than Blair would have liked. [Jim's never going to talk to me -- could I blame him?] In Jim's mind, Blair just betrayed their friendship, plastered Jim's most private secret up for national scrutiny, and placed his life in danger, this time on purpose. "If I were Jim," he said to Simon, "I'd kill me right now too."

"Will you stop beating yourself up about this, Blair?" replied Simon. "He doesn't know. I read part of your dissertation, remember? It's brilliant. When you explain it to him, he'll be just as happy for you as you should be right now."

"That is, if he'll let me explain."

"He will. Let me do the talking first, if that's what it takes, but you'll get your chance to explain. You brought your copy of the paper, right?"

Blair nodded. He had been holding the copy in his backpack, just in case he got the chance to talk to Jim and show him what he had spent the last six months of sleepless nights working on. He had been waiting for the right time. Under his breath Blair muttered, "Yeah, well you're timing has always stunk, hasn't it Blair?"

*****

"Sandburg!" exclaimed a breathless Simon, "Are you -sure- you know where you're going?"

Stopping for just a moment, Blair replied, "I'm sure, sir. Jim's up here, I just know it." The last time Blair had gone up here to get away from Jim, he had found a beautiful spot about a half-hour hike away from the monastery. It was a small clearing, perched on the edge of a steep slope that allowed you an incredible view of the countryside below. On a clear day, you could see practically all the way back to Cascade. It was a tough climb to get up there, but well worth it when you were rewarded with that type of a view and an area around you that was calm, peaceful, and above all, quiet. The perfect place for an enraged Sentinel to cool off.

Sure enough, it was in this peaceful setting that Simon and Blair found Jim, sitting on a fallen tree trunk. You'd have to be blind not to tell by the look on his face that he was mad as hell. He stood up and greeted Simon only with "Hello, Captain." His only greeting for Blair was a look that sent the younger man off on another self-depreciating guilt trip.

Simon took a look at both of his companions and realized that if anyone was going to be doing the talking in this situation, it was going to be him. Knowing that it would be easier in this case to cool Jim down with the truth than pull Blair out of a guilt trip, he started with his detective first. "Jim, Blair told me about the message and why you came up here, and I can understand how you must feel..."

Jim interrupted, "Captain, with all due respect, you don't have a clue as to how I feel." Leveling another withering gaze at Blair, he continued to tell Simon, "You've never had someone work with you for years, say that they're there to help you, live with you, and then blast your most private, most dangerous secrets all over the evening news!"

At that last part, Blair finally got up enough nerve to get defensive. "That's not how it was at all Jim!" Jim's only response was to turn his back on Blair.

The Sentinel was fully prepared to tune out any possible explanation when Simon stepped in. "Jim, will you get a grip -- Blair didn't do anything like that to you -- the paper wasn't even about -you-! I know, I read part of it!"

The impact of Simon's words hit Jim like a slap on the face. He sat back down on the tree trunk and stared at Blair, confused. Simon motioned to Blair, and suggested, "Now might be a good time to show him the paper, Sandburg?"

Blair shrugged out of the guilt trip long enough to hand his copy of the dissertation to Simon, who then carefully placed it into Jim's dazed hands. Jim took one look at the title page, which read "Life, Death, Brotherhood and Loyalty: a Study of the Microcivilization contained within the Law Enforcement System", and he knew he had been totally wrong about Blair, again. The kid never ceased to surprise him. He looked at his captain, who brought the two of them together to work this out, and he realized that what he needed to say, he needed to say to Blair, alone. "Captain, could you give us a minute?"

Tactful as ever, Simon graciously took his cue to leave, "I'll just be over here if you need me."

Blair took one look at the million emotions that were, for once, playing across the usually staid Sentinel's face like an open book and knew he might have a chance of getting out of this alive after all. "Jim, man, I am -so- sorry I didn't talk to you about this sooner but when I first thought of the idea I had no idea how you were going to react if I told you that my thesis wasn't going to be on Sentinels anymore and when Simon approved the idea I had to go through all my research and reanalyze it with a different spin on it and it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be and things just went so fast after that..."

The second Blair took a breath, Jim spoke up. Smiling, he grabbed Blair and tried to shake the young man out of his rambling. "Whoa, whoa, slow down chief--I can barely understand you! And if you think I'm still mad at you, I'm not. Actually, I'm pretty impressed. How did you come up with the idea for this?"

For the first time since he got up here, Blair was actually able to calm down. Sensing the relaxed attitude of his partner, he sat down on the tree trunk a few feet away from Jim, and explained. "Just before I was about to present that opening chapter to the committee, I looked over my research and realized that I could no longer -truly- be an objective observer when I was working with you as a Sentinel. Whether I liked it or not, I was your Guide and your friend, not to mention your partner, and there was no way I was going to be able to get away from that."

"But, I also realized that there was no way I was going to be able to ever publish my research, because it would put both of our lives in danger, if anyone even believed it at all. So, after I thought about it for a while, I realized something: because I had been working as your partner for so long, I had access to the police force in a way that no one outside of the force would have ever been able to get. I had gained the trust of some pretty difficult cops," nudging his partner as he said it, "And I had gotten a chance to study things about the police force that most people wouldn't have been able to see, let alone understand, unless they became cops themselves."

"After that, coming up with a new thesis idea was pretty easy. I got an extension and talked to my advisor about it. He loved the idea -- somehow I knew he was smelling the book deal even then. I then talked to Simon, who jumped on the idea, since it was not only great PR for the department, but it kept you out of the public 'line of fire', so to speak. After that, it was just a matter of conducting interviews with the guys in major crimes and writing up the experiences I've had with you, just from a different perspective. Your name does come up several times in the paper, by the way -- I hope you don't mind." At Jim's cautious look, he replied, "And no, there's nothing in there that would give you away as a Sentinel. I portrayed you as a great cop, nothing more."

For the first time since Jim came to the monastery, he was able to totally relax. He was, in fact, pretty impressed that the young anthropologist had such respect not just for his senses, but for his work and their friendship as well. Not to mention that Blair somehow found a way to totally re-direct his focus so quickly from something that had been the focus of his life for years, just to protect him. It had taken a long time for the younger man to understand the concepts of loyalty and trust when they first met. Now, though, it seemed that Blair not only understood them, he would bust his butt to put them into practice when it came to one Jim Ellison. There were a couple of things that were still bothering the older man, though. He asked Blair, "Why didn't you tell me about this when you came up with the idea?"

Looking out at the view, Blair sighed loudly in response. "I don't know. When I first thought of it, I was still a bit uncomfortable with talking to you about it. We had done so much research, that I wasn't sure how you would react when I threw the whole Sentinel concept out the window, at least from an academic standpoint. On a professional level, re-directing the focus of the paper left me no legitimate reason to follow you around anymore. I guess I was scared..."

Jim couldn't help but let out a small chuckle.. [After all this time, the kid still thinks that if he makes one wrong move, that I'm going to throw him out?] "We're partners, chief. I thought you understood that. I don't think I would trust anyone else, cop or no cop, in the position you've not only put yourself in, but thrown yourself into every day since we've met. I wouldn't want to take your work away from you for anything, but even if you never had to go back to school again, from what I've seen, you'd make one hell of a cop. I don't know what I would do without you."

Blair had to take a deep breath to choke back the emotion he was feeling. "Thanks, Jim. Coming from you that means a lot."

[Now comes the tough part,] thought Jim. "That only leaves one other thing, Chief. From a public perspective, your work is done. I don't think Chief Warren or the Mayor will take too kindly to a civilian hanging around the Major Crimes division just for the heck of it. Where -does- this leave us?" Blair shrugged. He had no idea either.

Jim added, "Besides, I do believe you have a job waiting for you back in Cascade, Professor?"

Blair grinned evily in response. "I -do- like the sound of that."

By this point, Simon felt comfortable enough to realize that no one was going to be killed, so he re-joined the group, carrying a small bag. He interrupted the two men, "Gentlemen, I hate to break up this little chat session, but it's getting late. We really should be getting back to Cascade. We can figure out a solution to that problem on the way back. And then, I do believe we have reason to celebrate?" He looked at Blair, who finally seemed to be getting excited about this culminating point so far in his academic career. Blair then noticed the bag Simon was carrying and asked him, "What's in the bag, captain?"

Simon smiled, and chomped on his cigar, leaving both his hands free to open the bag. In it was a bottle of sparkling apple cider and three plastic champagne flutes. "Celebration material?"

Jim then chimed in, "Sparkling cider?"

Simon simply replied, "I still have to drive us all home, remember?" He handed the bottle to Blair, asking, "Sandburg, would you like to do the honors?"

With an evil grin on his face, Blair shook up the bottle, and primed it so he could pop the cork and send it flying. Just as Jim and Simon were preparing to dive for cover behind the tree trunk, Blair wheeled around and popped the cork, sending it flying over the edge of the cliff in a spray of cider. After the bottle calmed down from releasing half its contents into the early evening air, he poured out drinks for the three of them. Jim and Simon accepted their drinks, and Jim raised his glass in a toast, "To Blair Sandburg, Ph.D."

*****

Well, that's it! The next part of the story is told in Truth, Justice and the American Way.

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