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A stakeout. Normal business in the police world, not so normal for the academic, but since Iíve hung with Jim for a couple of years now, this is not my first one. I would have brought a chapter of my diss and worked on that but... well that didnít seem like a good idea.

I sigh and keep looking at the warehouse in front of me. At least it isnít cold. Stakeouts are the worst when itís cold. I glance at Jim and heís just staring at the building, at least I think heís staring Ė who knows what he actually sees.

Shifting slightly in the seat I make myself a little more comfortable. Things between Jim and me are better ever since the night shift from hell. Itís like we just dropped the whole issue, or issues. The dissertation, the sneaking a peak, our argument. We never talked about it, how the diss would eventually affect Jim, or how Jimís actions and words made me feel. Itís as though that part of the evening didnít happen, just Gabriel, the crooked DA and the crocodile. No vicious words in the parking garage.

I shouldnít be surprised; Jim is not the most touchy-feely person when it comes to his emotions. The apology was nice, definitely needed for me to get past the incident, but for him it was closure. The truth is Iím far from closure. Iím more confused than ever and he doesnít see it. At least he doesnít let on that he sees it.

My biggest problem wasnít that Jim read it, albeit that was a huge break in our trust, it was the questions it raised and the words said in anger. His personal life. His personal life... like Iím not a part of that? I didnít want to go to Caroline, knew that it would upset Jim, but I had to. I meant what I said in the garage, that she was probably the only person that knew Jim as well as I do.

After I let you stay with me and got you a job at the department...

Let me stay. And I thought we were passed the whole ďinconvenienceĒ thing with me living with him. I know that it was only supposed to be for a week, but it just seemed easier and we fell into a routine. The routine was good, still is good, so to have my living arrangements and place of work thrown in my face... it bothered me. Made me feel like Jim still doesnít think I belong in his life. Well man face it, over two and a half years, Iím here to stay. I turn my head slightly so I can see Jim out of the corner of my eye. And itís whether he likes it or not that Iím staying.

Turning my focus back onto the street I start to pick at the seams in my jeans. It makes this clicking-like sound that is soothing in the darkness and silence that reigns within the cab of this truck.

My personal life and those that it involves is intimate to me.

Sex and intimacy. I see it as two different things, I thought Jim did too Ė that isnít the case. Iím not sure if he was more upset that I talked to Caroline about his marriage, or that I was being so thorough that I thought to include his sex life. I smile slightly envisioning a chapter entitled: Sex and Sentinels: A Sensual Journey. God that sounds awful, like bad porn movie or something. But intimacy is something that is far more personal than sex. Sex is just an act, the physical.

Real intimacy - - maybe Jim does see it as something more, maybe that was why he reacted so strongly.

I believe that Jim and I are intimate with each other. We both know things about the other that no one else does. We both help each other through things, are there for each other. Friends, good friends, are intimate with each other in a way that a casual sexual partner isnít. Not that Caroline was casual, she was his wife, but thatís why I went to her. He doesnít have a long list of close friends, so Caroline would be an unbiased opinion. I smile to myself as I remember her frankness; she was a tad more open and honest than I had anticipated. I took everything she said, then tried to sift through the things that were said because she was still hurt, and used the statements for what they were: observations of a man that she lived had with and loved.

No different than me.

I will my fingers to stop their nervous movement, I grit my teeth, then slowly let my jaw relax and turn my head so now Iím looking out the side window. Jim and I. Therein lies the problem.

I donít feel threatened by you; I see it as a violation of friendship and trust.

That stung the first time and it still makes me wince when I think about it. Iíve given up a lot to help Jim with his senses. Itís true that Iíve gained a lot too. The chance to observe him, to help him control the senses, learned about everyday police work, not to mention time management. Jim would roll his eyes if he could hear me, always saying I donít know how to manage my time, thatís why Iím up Ďtil two in the morning trying to grade papers. Itís not because I was out until midnight with him chasing down a lead on a case, but that I donít know how to ďtime manage.Ē Sure Jim.

Iím off track. This stakeout came at a bad time Ďcause all I can think of is analyzing what happened the other day. I offered Jim an out. Asked if he wanted to call it quits, and I admit to myself that the pause in his answer pushed me over the edge. I was trying to keep an open mind about the whole thing, granted I wasnít too successful. Running up the stairs to greet him with ďyou also have a fear of courtesyĒ as he came out of the elevator, was not my finest hour.

My objectivity. Iím the one that said it, but it was Jim that prompted me to think about it. And being the reflective guy, I know that I havenít had ďobjectivityĒ when it comes to Jim for some time. I donít when I lost it, but I know itís gone. You canít live with and work with someone and stay detached. Life and relationships donít work that way, and Jim and I have a great friendship. Heís the best friend Iíve ever had; Iím not sure he knows that though. I wonder if Iím his best friend, the answer seems obvious that I am, but the way he brushes me aside sometimes makes me wonder.

Well this was definitely the long way around to the problem at hand. The dissertation. I canít imagine that Jim is going to find the clinical and detached narrative any better in the other chapters. I offered to destroy my notes for Jim. For our friendship. I meant it. I went to our desk, gathered all the papers I had and stuffed them in my bag. I had all intentions of burning it when I got back to the loft. The events of that night combined with our small conversation outside the station changed that. The notes are still intact but tossed into the corner of my room.

I roll my neck around trying to get some of the stiffness out. As I do I look at Jim. Heís still looking at the warehouse, doesnít seem to have moved much, but a twitch in his jaw tells me heís not zoned. Maybe heís thinking too. Hey itís possible Ė this stakeout is beyond boring.

Iíve come to realize that Jim didnít think I was serious about my offer of destruction. I was serious, even though it came out with an attitude. It would have pained me to destroy almost three years of my life, but I would have done it. Whether Jim knows it or not, weíre linked. These years arenít just about him, but me too. Yeah, heís the Sentinel, the one with the gifts, but Iím the guy thatís been helping, the one there to assist in any way that I can. Sure, finding less harsh cleaning supplies and organic vegetables seems minor when compared to sniffing out a murderer, but Iím with him every step of the way. Those pages are going to reflect me too. All the failed tests, all the failed instructions, itís all in there. Iím not perfect, I have fears...

I sigh again. But they arenít in black and white for the world to see are they? Is it still a good idea for me to write and publish the diss? I sit quietly, as I contemplate it. Yes, I still need to write it, if not for me, then for other people like Jim, and Jim himself eventually. What happens if Iím not around, if I get transferred to another school, or something more permanent happens like an injury? I donít really want to be as morbid to think about my own death. Jim will need someone. So I have to write it, make it the best summary and instruction manual or guideline for Sentinels that it can be.

Do I publish it?

I just donít know anymore. Can I hide Jimís identity? He doesnít want the city to know about him and I agree. But it probably wouldnít take a genius to figure out who Iím talking about since I spend most of my free time with Jim. Iím going to change his name, but that probably isnít good enough. Itís fine if Iím tabling the publishing part, if Iím just going to write it for Jim and myself and maybe someday others.

What do I write instead? Iím going on thirty and Iím seriously contemplating starting over; a totally different subject for my dissertation. I must be insane. Start over. Three years of work - - worth almost nothing. All this for the stoic man beside me.

Friendship is an odd thing. Sometimes we do anything to keep it, to save it Ė other times disaster strikes and thereís nothing we can do. Maybe I can try and avoid another argument like the one in the garage. I sit straighter in the seat, happy with my thoughts. Which is ironic since I havenít really come to any conclusions. I smile to myself, Ďcause itís not true. I know that my friendship with Jim means everything to me, even my dissertation. So tomorrow Iíll do some research in between my classes and see what I can do about changing my diss. What the repercussions of that are, and Iíll look for a new subject. Maybe closed societies Ė wouldnít that be ironic? Taking the line of bull I spun to Simon and turning around and actually writing it.

This is one of the most useless stakeouts Iíve had the dubious pleasure of sitting on in a long time. Weíre collaborating with Homicide and Fullerton, Captain that is, asked most of Major Crime to help stake out the city. In what I personally think is a fit of spite, heís assigned MCís best teams to the hottest potential areas. H and Rafe drew the sixth mostly likely spot, Megan and Joel got the seventh and Sandburg and I are dutifully guarding the tenth mostly likely area (of twelve) that these putzes are possibly going to show up at. Can you smell the sarcasm?

So here I sit, staring at this empty warehouse that is likely to remain empty all damn night. Sandburg is sitting quietly next to me, thinking. People joke that they can actually hear his mind rev up Ė fire, steam, shoveling coal and grinding gears. They think that the rest of him revs up too. I know better. The harder heís thinking the less he actually moves. Small twitches and repositioning are all Iím seeing from him tonight.

I wonder what heís thinking about. I know whatís drifting on the back of my mind right now Ė his dissertation. For a long time during our first year, he brought it up almost weekly, certainly monthly. At some point, before our ďvacationĒ to St. Sebastianís it started to taper off and life settled down to a regular routine of friendship, partners and experimenting with my senses. Sure he took notes, designed tests, but the diss was only mentioned on that rare occasion.

Now since Iíve actually seen that first chapter in print, the whole damn thing is hanging over me like my own personal Sword of Damocles, ready to drop in an instant and seriously hurt me. Iíd like to believe that he wouldnít necessarily do anything like that on purpose. Heís my partner and friend, heís supposed to be looking out for me. And yet...

The diss is his lifeís work. I have to wonder, after reading it, if I was ever the focus or if it was always the book and the techniques we found to help me were just a means to an end. The friendship was just a happy by product?

Of course not. Heís so open and obvious about how he feels. Iím his friend and heís mine and I know it. But the dissÖ Itís like this whole other living entity and I donít know how to deal with it or where to put it in my life.

Looking back on it now with days of space and objectivity, I can say that the chapter was, of course, well written and logically and clearly stated. But at the time the scientific language and cold statements bit me to the core. Like that damned sword had slipped and sliced me a little.

Fear-based responses. It was a hard thing for a man like me to read. Iíve spent years mastering my fears, controlling them. Then Sandburg, my friend, my BEST friend comes along and says that not only havenít I mastered them but theyíre controlling my every action...

I think I could have dealt with everything else in that chapter, including his discussion with Caroline (after heíd explained himself) if it hadnít been for that particular bit. I see his point now. It wasnít that I was cowardly and fearful, but that my actions were dictated by my fears for everyone around me. A cold and scientific way of saying ďprotect the tribeĒ. I wish heíd just said that.

I sigh and shift a little, scanning my eyes and ears over the tenth most damn likely place weíre guarding. Sandburgís hands are twitching slightly, playing with his jeans, still thinking. When heís done, heíll either drop off into a doze or check to see how I feel about conversation.

And thatís just it, heíll want to talk about it. I apologized to him. That was sincere. I really meant it and I still do. But I donít know what else to tell him. The dissertation scares me and thereís a fear-based response he can hang that fuzzy hat on.

Iím scared of the results his publishing is going to bring about. How well published or well read is this thing going to be? Will it be referenced in journals or just something obscure? Will all the Rainier professors read it? All the anthropology profs in the States? Will this bring more Sentinels out into the open and what happens to me when it does? All those criminals clamoring for retrials, IA on my or our asses, Sandburgís (out-of-date) ride-along pulled, invasion of privacy lawsuits from all our neighbors? Will I get reactivated? Called in for special service and never allowed out again? Can I bring Sandburg with me or would he run screaming in the other direction? Will I just be taken one night in the dark? Will we both be? Will the criminal element still out there feel the need to start ďtesting the SentinelĒ?

Has he even considered any of this if he goes on? Or does the book control him?

As for his talks with Caroline Ė I see his point, I really do. I just really wish he hadnít. I wonder how much of our divorce come out in that interview. We didnít part as bitterly as some, but not as kindly as we could have. She didnít have the right keys to me, and I, I didnít even know where the lock was. Still, I have to wonder if the things I read in the chapter were actually what she said or what Blair paraphrased. I suppose I should be glad he didnít know about Stephen and Dad still living in town at the time or heíd have been after them too. And if Caro had unflattering things to say, I canít even imagine what would have come from the two of them. Maybe if he talked to them now, but back then... I suppress a shiver and clench my teeth briefly.

And gee look, the tenth mostly likely spot for these people to be at tonight is still empty. Do you get the impression that Iím less than thrilled to be here tonight?

Somethingís coming. I can feel it. And it has absolutely nothing to do with this collaboration with Homicide. It doesnít even have anything directly to do with my bizarre blue dreams or these damn senses. Itís just long years of protecting my ass and looking over my shoulder. Somethingís coming. I have to be ready; we have to be ready. And weíre not.

This book. Itís sitting like a wall between us now. For so long it was transparent; our thoughts and feelings passing through it and over it as if it werenít even there. Now itís a barrier in our lines of communication.

And I have to wonder, sitting here, still staring at this damned empty warehouse, sitting silently next to my best friend and his invisible book Ė where do we go from here?

~End~