Fic: A Novel Solution part 7/10 (QL/TS, gen)

Back in Cascade

“I like the kid, Sam,” the hologram admitted. They were in Blair’s car en route to some place named Gunderson Shipping. Al had been telling Sam about his latest conversation with the young man. “I like him a lot. I even–hell, I even find myself wishing I were his father, though I know it’s impossible.”

“Impossible?” Sam asked curiously.

Al nodded. “Yeah. The kid was born after I married Beth, and while I was in ‘Nam. Plus, I have yet to ever meet Naomi. All things considered, it would be pretty difficult for him to be mine. But I swear, Sandburg’s like an amalgamation of you and me–your brains and my gift with women.” The hologram smirked. “You should have seen Tina swoon over him–good thing Gooshie wasn’t there.”

Sam laughed. “Just don’t tell me he can get Ziggy to cooperate, or I might be tempted to keep him there.”

The Observer’s face sobered immediately. “Don’t even joke about that, Sam. As much as I like Blair…hell, I’d take getting you home any day.”

Sam smiled gratefully. “So, what did Blair do about his dissertation anyway?”

“Apparently he called a press conference and declared himself a fraud. Damn, the kid has guts.”

“He turned down a chance at a Nobel Prize? God, Al, I don’t think I would have that kind of courage.”

“Yeah, you would,” the Observer replied with quiet confidence, remembering two separate occasions when Sam had made a far greater sacrifice for him. “If you had to choose between a Nobel Prize and someone you cared about, you would do it in a second. You and the kid have a lot in common that way.”

Sam studied his friend. Do I, Al? Or are you just seeing me reflected in the mirror of who you are?

-8-

“These Gunderson files are going to take days to go through,” Megan expressed the thought that had been dancing through Sam’s mind almost since the moment he’d arrived. She looked at the man she thought was Blair, then at Jim, then added pointedly, “Although things might move more quickly if you two would speak to each other.”

Thank you for that glaringly obvious observation, Sam thought with a silent, sarcastic sigh. Any suggestions for *how* to get Detective Ellison to speak to me would be nice.

Jim’s reply answered both of them. “There’s nothing to say, Connor.”

“Sandy didn’t do this on purpose,” Megan pointed out.

“Oh, no?” Jim glared at the Leaper. “Hey, Chief, let me ask you something. How did you intend to protect my identity and still keep your research valid?”

“I don’t know,” Sam answered honestly.

“Ah!” the Detective pounced on that confession. “You don’t know. That’s a good answer, Chief. You couldn’t have. You knew that and went ahead and wrote it down anyway.”

There was no answer. Jim turned to stare at him and Sam swore wordlessly. Oh damn. I did something out of character. What would Blair have done?

Since he didn’t know, he just maintained a stubborn silence. After a moment, Ellison shook his head and turned away. A moment later, he straightened up suddenly as if something had caught his eye.

Something probably did, Sam acknowledged. “What is it?” he heard himself ask, curious in spite of everything.

“Connor, we got a 211 in progress.”

Followed closely by the Australian, Jim hurried across the street. Sam started to follow, then had second thoughts and dropped to the pavement with a sigh, balancing his forehead on his knees.

-8-

The only sound in the loft for hours had been Naomi’s voice. Jim refused to speak and all Sam’s efforts had been brusquely deflected. The time traveler felt a little sorry for Blair’s mother, who seemed to be doing everything she could to undo the damage wrought. He sipped at the tea she had just given him and watched as she handed Jim a mug of the same steaming blend.

“Didn’t surprise me to learn, Jim, that you had this…gift. I always sensed a special energy about you.”

Jim accepted the tea and the compliment with a stiff nod. “Very kind, Naomi. Thank you.”

“I’m just…terribly sorry at how all this has…turned out, especially when I see what’s happened to you two.”

“Naomi, I know you were just trying to help Blair.”

Sam set down his own mug almost hard enough to break it. He can forgive Naomi, who got the damned ball rolling in the first place, but he’s shutting out his best friend over this?

Before he could say anything, though, Naomi babbled on with a worried glance at him. “You two, listen to me. You cannot let this tear apart your friendship.”

You hear that? Sam directed upwards with a pleading glance.

“Thank you.” Jim handed the mug back to her. “Things happen, Naomi, you know? People change. You just got to go with it. This whole Sentinel thing has just gotten too out of hand. I can’t take this attention. That’s not me. I just want to go back to the way things were.”

“You want to quit.” The physicist’s voice was quiet, sympathetic.

The detective’s attention remained focused on Naomi, even as he flinched at the other man’s choice of words. “Yeah…I guess so.”

Sam found himself pondering the roles the detective and anthropologist had assumed. Ellison was a reluctant hero, caught by a choice he made long ago. Sandburg was his lifeline, the one person inside his secret world, the person who made that world sane. Those were roles he could identify with, having played both with Al. But now, those roles had been shattered, and if something didn’t happen soon to reverse it, the men themselves would probably follow.

The Leaper considered his next words very carefully. He knew that “I know how you feel” was the worst possible choice right now. Jim needed to believe that Blair was where he wanted to be, not a man as trapped as him in a life he had never asked for. Especially since that wouldn’t be Blair speaking, but rather Sam Beckett.

“Would you really rather spend the rest of your life pretending to be someone you’re not?” was the quiet reply he settled on.

The detective spun to face him, his face still ablaze with hurt and anger. “Someone I’m not? Well, you tell me who I *am,* then ’cause I have no idea. At one point, I had a reputation of being a pretty decent cop. Now, people look at me and they…they perceive me as some goofball comic book character.”

“You’re a man who feels like he’s lost control of his life,” Sam answered immediately, interrupting the detective’s tirade.

Jim paused halfway to the loft door. “I don’t just feel that way, Sandburg,” he admitted without looking back. “I have lost control.”

“So we’ll get it back,” the Leaper promised.

“That’s what I’m talking about. Getting it back.”

“Throwing your Sentinel abilities away isn’t going to give you back your control,” the other man argued. “It’s letting the attention and the media and Sid Graham control your life, not you.”

“You have a better idea?”

“No,” Sam admitted. “Not yet. But I will, I promise.”

Jim shook his head. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Chief. If I ever want to go back to being a good cop and live a simple life, it ain’t going to happen this way. Your research is done. Why don’t you just let it go? Thanks for the tea.”

The door closing behind him made a very final sound.

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