Rating R for bad language
Spoilers Murder 101, Sentinel, Too, Switchman
Summary: Blair and JD do some reflecting, or another tale for the inebriated guide series
Thanks to Suisan for her ability to give me a Jim line just when I'm stuck. And my beta, Beth.
A Murder 101 Missing Scene
Jim pulls the truck to a stop in front of the loft, then looks over at me. "You sure you don't want to come down to the station? Should be an interesting night."
I shake my head, the ends of my still damp hair stinging like miniature whips against my cheeks. "Yes, I'm sure, Jim. It's been a long day and I'm tired. And wet."
He shrugs, oblivious to the pain and frustration in my voice. "Suit yourself. I'll be home late. That punk is going to confess by the time I'm through with him."
I climb out of the Ford, then watch as Jim pulls away, bitter words on my lips. "Thank you, Sandburg, for backing me up out there. I know after the day you've had, getting the shit kicked out of you, then fired from the university, you didn't feel like jumping out of a helicopter into a freezing lake, but I appreciate it. You've got guts." My tone changes as I cease my Ellison imitation. "Or you're just fucking insane, Sandburg."
On that sour note, I enter the building and squelch up three flights of stairs to the loft. First stop, the fridge. Beer sounds perfect right about now. I open the door to discover the bottle I'd sworn was there yesterday is gone. Damn it! And it's Jim's turn to pick up groceries. I close the door and slam the flat of my hand against the metal. The sharp sting feels perversely good, and I do it again. Then I open the cabinet under the sink and take out the bottle of Jack Daniels that's been there for ages.
Unscrewing the top, I take a swig straight from the bottle and nearly choke as the liquid sears its way down the back of my throat, setting my stomach lining on fire. I set the bottle down and lean against the counter, blinking back tears and trying to remember how to breathe. I'm better in a few seconds and, picking up the bottle, I take a second sip, much smaller this time. Then I head for the bathroom, stripping out of my wet clothes as I go. I don't plan on leaving any hot water in the tank.
Thirty minutes later I'm back in the kitchen, still shivering slightly, but another swallow of whiskey cures that. At least I don't smell anymore, though my head hurts like a motherfucker. Maybe I should have gone to the emergency room. I vaguely remember Brad nailing me with his elbow as we struggled in the water. I shrug, and locate the aspirin. I'll live. I've been through worse, I remind myself.
There's a couple eggs in the fridge, along with the heels of a loaf of bread. I scramble them up and toss the bread in the toaster, where it gets stuck. I manage to salvage the toast before it gets too burnt. Still, I have to scrape the black stuff on top into the sink, and the loft now smells like smoke. Normally I would open a window or something to air it out before Jim gets home, but tonight I don't give a damn.
Taking my scrounged meal over to the table, I sit down, then rise and fetch a glass from the cupboard. I pour a couple of fingers of Jack into the bottom and add a dash of water. Sitting down again, I tackle my dinner, my mind finally replaying the day's events in slow motion.
I'm past the ass kicking and up to the getting fired bit, when my mind hits the mental pause button and the memory tape rewinds. Someone said something important at that little meeting. Brad didn't say a word, and I was pretty much tongue-tied, so it had to be Edwards or that lawyer guy.
"Since Mr. Sandburg began his research with the police, he has missed more teaching days than any other T.A. on campus, including a sudden and unauthorized 12-Day trip to Peru two years ago. Yet in three years, Mr. Sandburg has not officially submitted so much as a draft of his doctoral thesis."
His words surprised me at the time, but I don't know why they should have. They're all true. I've been playing at being a cop instead of buckling down and doing what I was paying the university for, the wonderful privilege of writing a doctoral dissertation. Only thing I ever turned in regarding my diss was the introductory chapter Jim threw such a hissy fit over last winter. I got it back from my advisor with a big note asking if I was shooting for a doctorate in psychology, not anthropology. I haven't written a word since. The realization hits me that I've been fucking wasting my money for three years.
I say the word out loud. "Fuck." I've lost my appetite. I take my plate and my barely touched eggs over to the sink. Picking up my glass, and the bottle of JD, I wander over to the couch and plop myself down, staring out the balcony doors as the streetlights begin to come on.
What happened to me? I used to be so focused, so driven. I've wanted to be an anthropologist as long as I can remember. I've whipped through my bachelor's and master's degrees with enough time left over to dabble in psychology and archeology. I've done plenty of field work too, living among indigenous people all over the world. And I am a good writer. I've been published enough to realize that.
So what in the hell is my problem? Why can't I just write the frigging thing and turn it in? I fill my glass again, and drink it slowly, pondering my propensity for procrastination. What am I waiting for? I told Jim I have enough research for ten papers, and I do. So what do I think is going to happen if I write it? The end of the world?
Amazing how alcohol can make things so blindingly clear. The end of the world is right. I turn my dissertation in and it's all over. There's no reason for me to be here anymore. I've been stalling. Why? I think back over the past few months, and have to laugh at myself. I've been hanging onto something that is already over. Alex Barnes and my death were just the straws that broke the camel's back. Sure, Jim brought me back; we shared a vision, something so unique and wondrous and beautiful that I feel tears sting my eyes at the memory. I guess somewhere deep down inside, I feel that should have been a turning point. From that moment on, we should have been one. Instead, it only underlined how far apart we truly are.
I pour a little more alcohol into my glass and swirl it around, reflecting on the last couple days, on this case. Things I didn't give a second thought to at the time are put under the magnifying glass. For two days Jim has been poking at me, denigrating me. I lose my fucking job, and he can't bother to reassure me. An "It's okay, Sandburg, don't worry about it, I'll help you out" might have been nice. Or a "Let me go explain things to the Chancellor. Once she sees how valuable you've been to the PD, she's bound to change her mind."
I take a big mouthful of JD and realize how out there Jim would have to be to say either of those things. I laugh, and snort booze through my nose. Damn that hurts! Wiping my nose on the sleeve of my bathrobe, I wonder where I'm going to go from here. Without the diss, I have no reason to continue to ride along with Jim. With the diss, I have to produce something, and soon, and then I'll have no reason to ride along with Jim. Shit! I can't turn the damn thing in even if it was done. If there's one thing I've learned in three years, it's that Jim's abilities make him a target. Even with the strict protection accorded research subjects identities, Jim's name might slip out. Or someone could figure it out for themselves, the way Brackett did. What's that old saying? Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead?
And I'm right back where I started. I have no job. I have a dissertation I can't turn in. I have a ton of loans that will come due if I quit school. But I have to quit, because I have no job. And I can't stomach the idea of trying to come up with another thesis topic. Let alone, the department won't let me dick around another three years to write it.
I come to a decision. It was sweet while it lasted, when I thought I had his support and his respect, but Jim didn't need me today. He and Joel and Simon had it all covered. It's past time for me to hit the road.
Getting to my feet, I stretch, drink the last of the whiskey in my glass, and the phone rings. "Hello. Oh hey, Aunt Bess! How are you and Owen?" As I speak to my favorite aunt, a plan begins to form, and I realize that fate is looking out for me. "Hey, is Owen still looking for a new partner? He is? Well, it just so happens I'm looking for a change..."
I'm almost done packing when Jim rolls in around 3 am. Amazing how little time it takes to shove my life into a few boxes. They're lined up by the door, part of them addressed to the university, part of them with my aunt and uncle's address in Texas. I know he's seen them by the bellow.
"Sandburg! What in the hell's going on?"
The bottle of Jack Daniels was half full when I started drinking tonight. Now there's about a shot's worth left. I pick up the bottle from my now bare dresser, and down the last of it. Time to face the music, or is it pay the piper? I drag my duffle into the living room.
"Sandburg, what's the meaning of this?" I had thought Jim's expression might be surprise, but instead his face is a mask, hiding his emotions like it always does. Makes me feel like he doesn't give a shit, always has.
"I'm leaving," I announce, then cringe inwardly anticipating the explosion. I don't have long to wait.
"What! What do you mean you're leaving?" Jim moves toward me, his hands clenching into fists.
"There's no reason for me to stay," I answer calmly, the alcohol giving me nerves of steel. "I don't have a job."
"But what about school, what about your degree? What about the Sentinel stuff?"
I give him the speech. "I can't afford to stay in school without a job. And I realized tonight I can never turn my dissertation in."
"So you're willing to just piss it all away? All of it? Your career, the teaching, your work with the PD, me?" Jim's voice is raised now. He's feeling betrayed. I'll show him betrayed.
"Yeah, just pissing it all away. It's not like you expected much else from me!"
Now he just looks puzzled, like there's something he can't quite figure out. "I don't understand, Chief. I thought we had something here, a partnership. I..." His voice trails off as he sniffs the air. Eyes widen in recognition. I wondered how long it would take him. "You're drunk. I've never seen you drunk. It's not attractive, Chief."
I feel my lips pull back in a parody of a smile. "There's a reason I never get drunk. I'm not cute or nice when I'm drunk. I say what I really feel. Most people don't like that."
Jim gives me a patronizing look. "Chief," he starts.
"Don't give me that 'Chief' crap! You call everybody Chief! You called that freaky car thief Chief! So don't call me Chief! My name is Blair!" I'm getting wound up and am ready for the delivery, but he interrupts me again.
"Okay, okay, *Blair*. What's your hurry? Why the rush to leave tonight? Why don't you stay the night and we can talk things over in the morning--"
I shake my head vehemently. "No! I'm not staying. I'm not going to let you soothe me with promises of how things will be different. Things are not going to be different, Jim. Things didn't change even after I fucking *died* for you! You were *scared*," I say sarcastically. "You couldn't take that extra step, couldn't join me in the water, because that would have been about *me*! And it can never be about me, can it? It's always about you, about Jim! Well, you're not the only person with needs! I need respect and praise and admiration, too, man! I can't survive on swats on the head or cracks about my appearance or my love life! A goddamn thank you would be nice!"
"Thank you," Jim responds automatically in a futile attempt to placate me.
But I'm on a roll. "You don't have a frigging clue what you just thanked me for! Face it, Jim, you need to work on being a compassionate human being. But I am not sticking around for you to practice on anymore. I've been banging my head against your brick wall for three years, and damn if it doesn't feel good now that I've stopped!" I'm finished. I stand there breathing heavily, feeling absolutely free for the first time in I don't know how long.
"But I need you as my Guide--"
Oh, clever, Ellison, go for my guilt complex. Make me remember I was the Blessed Protector first. The memory of shoving him under a garbage truck hits me, but I shake it off as the air horn of a semi sounds loudly outside the loft. Jim doesn't even flinch. I give him a tight-lipped smile. "You don't need me, Jim. You've never needed me, only tolerated me. And toleration just isn't enough anymore." Shouldering the heavy duffle bag, I pick up my backpack from the table and head for the door.
"Chief, Blair, wait! We can work this out--"
Digging into my jeans pocket, I pull out my keys and turn back to him. The expression on his face is confusion, and the slow recognition that this is real. I am leaving him. I toss the keys to him. "Sell the Volvo. That should cover whatever back rent I owe you." I open the door, then I'm through it, heading down the stairs to my uncle's truck.
The huge purple 18-wheeler is sitting at the curb when I get there. Owen must have seen me coming, because he throws the passenger door open and reaches down to take my duffle from me. I swing up into the cab and give the bearded man a hug. Damn, it feels good to be wanted.
"Good to see you again, Blair," he greets me. "Just toss your stuff in back and make yourself at home. I'm going to start back toward Hewitt. Get some rest, and you can drive later."
I give him a grin. "Okay, Uncle Owen." I duck between the seats and into the living space. Tucking my stuff out of the way, I curl up on the lower bunk, pulling out my CD player and putting on the headphones. Soon the sound of soaring guitars and the rhythm of the wheels are lulling me to sleep, Rob Thomas' words echoing in my ears, tears stinging my eyes.
...can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
get put back together
you're breaking me in
and this is how we will end
with you and me bent
If I couldn't sleep could you sleep
could you paint me better off
could you sympathize with my needs
I know you think I need a lot
I started out clean but I'm jaded
just phoning it in
just breaking the skin
can you help me I'm bent
I'm so scared that I'll never
get put back together
you're breaking me in
and this is how we will end
with you and me bent...