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The weather has enticed me outside today. One of those rare sunny, warm days in early spring when the temperature reaches "shorts weather" before dropping back to "jeans and a jacket" when the sun goes down. So I gave in to the lure of the rarely seen ball of flaming gas overhead, shed clothes down to shorts and t-shirt and, grabbing my old yoga pad, I headed out onto the balcony. Cold and wet is not going to be my world today!

Stretching out, I slip my shades over my closed eyes and just soak up the sun. Heat and silence are the first things I notice. Then I notice that it isn't really silent. The breeze brushes past everything, making noise. Cars shush or rumble by on the street below, people's voices, the words indistinct - drift in with the air.

For long moments I loose myself in the listening, shutting my mind off from the hideous circles it's been running in for days. I've privately labeled the thing as the Diss-aster. My Sentinel paper in it rawest form was sent off without my permission, released without my permission, and then denied- my idea, but the only out I could see at the time.

It's been three days since Simon and Jim offered me the badge. I can still feel the leather in my hands; I was holding it, looking at it earlier today. I put it down on the coffee table just an hour or so ago.

Jim and I have had a chance to talk since then. He's apologized, which he should have; hovered over me, which he shouldn't have and today he's gone out. A doctor's appointment and some paperwork at the station, I think. He's finally admitted to understanding his excessive feelings of hurt and betrayal and honestly, with Jim's background, I'm impressed with his progress. He was even remarkable during the mess- I mean, no greeting me with a gun and no packing of my things. Noticeable when we were able to calm down and look back on it.

We talked about the mess, the job, the university. We're going to talk to a lawyer whether or not I take the PD job. In fact- it might be better to hold off on the Academy, if I'm still thinking of going, until after the lawsuits.

But I haven't decided. Haven't decided if I can handle carrying a gun and the responsibilities with it. I think if it came down to it, no I know if it came down to Jim's life or the bad guy's I'd be able to make that decision. But even then I'm not sure if I could make a killing shot. Probably, if I'm honest with myself. Unfortunately I doubt I've got the same protective instincts for everyone else. And that bothers me.

A woman used as a hostage has as much right as Jim to live- obviously. But if the guy holding her is just a scared kid versus the guy holding Jim is a serial murderer?

I should be able to think my way out of this loop. But I'm stuck. Sighing in disgust I sit up, take off the glasses and wrapping my arms around my legs, I rest my chin on my knees.

The breeze blows a lock of hair across my nose and I'm struck by the colors glinting off the strands. I reach up and snag the piece, holding it steady in the light right in front of my nose. The sun picks out brown, copper, auburn, red, gold, sienna, cinnamon, umber, even one silver and shades of glitter that I run out of descriptive words for.

Dazzled, I find myself sinking toward a meditative state. My vision narrows to the colors of my hair backed by the gray of the cement, my ears hear all that I heard before but ...more. There's bird song, a plane cruising by overhead, the stirring of branches without leaves and faintly a bell from the harbor. I feel the sun paint stripes of heat on my skin, the breeze blowing the hairs on my arms and legs, stirring the mass hanging down my back, making it rub against me. I can feel it through the shirt, feel the shirt ripple against me. There's the hard cement below me and the feeling of nothing above me.

This must be what it's like for Jim, except only a fraction of his input... Amazing.

I drift, lost in the feelings and sounds for some time.

A change in pressure and temperature denoting a feeling of nearness pulls me back a little. A gentle brush of fingers over my shoulder blade stirs the material of my shirt and some hair but doesn't startle me. Strange that despite my listening I never heard Jim come home.

"Chief? You in there?" Jim's voice, even with me rather than above, is low and a little rough. He must be sitting; I hope he was careful with his leg.

I blink, pulling back in as he gently nudges my hands. His hand entering my visual range: large, strong, dusted with dark hair, long elegant fingers and a broad palm, the skin on the back of it looking like it would probably be soft.


I blink rapidly, finally knocked loose. Shaking out my hands and stretching out my legs and back, I look over at him. He's sitting sort of sprawled, mindful of his leg, staring at me as if I'd suddenly turned green, his eyes all intense blue with just a dot of black from the bright sun. "Yeah, I'm here. I'm back. Way cool though." I grin at him.

Jim frowns a little, "What was? Your meditation?"

"Yes. No. Sort of." I wave a hand around looking for words and notice his frown clear into a slight smile. "I started out just thinking and got distracted by the light and the colors in my hair and then it was like my senses expanded and I could hear and feel things and yet it sort of got narrow and then it was like meditation except not the usual way. It's given me a whole new perspective on the way you feel things."

He grins at me, now definitely amused. "So how come you didn't hear me come in, if you were hearing more? Your own personal zone out to help you figure me out, huh?"

I shrug. "Dunno. But it was cool!!" I smile back and see he's focused on my hair.

"So what did all your thinking tell you?"

I sigh. "I'm afraid I'm still thinking about it. Though I think now it'd be best to make any final decision until after the suits are at least filed."

Jim nods, still staring at my hair. "Man- what are you doing?" I
can't help but ask.

"Counting the colors." He blinks a couple of times and grins again.

"So...? So how many do you see? I saw about seven or nine I think..."

Jim's grin turns into an evil smirk. "Nope. Not telling. Come on- help me get up. I'm hungry. Let's set up the grill and get some food going."

I stand, indulging in a quick stretch before offering Jim a hand. "Aw, come on... Gimme a number!" Pleading and bouncing as he straightens up.

"Mmmm," He eyes me and my hair again, "Steak, Sandburg. I want steak on the grill, your potato salad, some grilled vegetables and brownies."

My mouth drops in astonishment at this, "That's blackmail!"

He nods complacently, arms folded looking like some Sentinel statue
in the sun.

"Fine. Steak and salad and veggies."

"And brownies..."

Sigh. "And brownies."

Jim steps around me to head inside. "I see two colors, Chief. Brown and silver." He throws that evil grin over his shoulder at me. I can only imagine my expression.

"That's it! You can TOTALLY forget the brownies!!! And I'm going to get tofu dogs instead of steaks!! And grilled bean sprouts, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and ... and ... ugly fruit!!!"

Laughing at my outrage, Jim's in the kitchen assembling ingredients. "Alright. Alright, sheesh. Maniac. I saw at least 16 different colors, then I lost count or got confused if I'd already counted it or whatever." He shot me a quelling glare. "And don't ask me to name them!"

Jim tossed me my keys with a $20 rolled into the ring. "Brownies, Chief." He chuckled as I managed to catch them even in my stunned state.

"The kind with chocolate chips..." followed me out the door.