[personal profile] starwatcher_fic

Title: Letter to Jim
Summary: Blair's letter discusses, hopes, and rambles.
Style: Gen
Size: 7,300 words, about 13 pages in MS Word.
Warnings: None
Notes: Posted September, 2003. My thanks to Arianna for suggestions that greatly improved this story; it would have been vastly different without her input, and not nearly as good. Her support is deeply appreciated.
          As you read, remember -- we know what Jim said in his letter, but Blair hasn't seen it. This should only be a one-hanky number.
Feedback: Not necessary, but every comment is treasured.
Email: If you prefer not to post a note that everybody can see, you can reach me at starwatcher -at- dreamwidth.org

Letter to Jim

by StarWatcher

Hey, Jim,

How are you doing? Hanging in there? Senses under control?

Yeah, yeah -- like I could do anything from here to help. But I still worry about you, man, and feel like I'm shirking my duty. But you do know why I had to leave, right? Too much, too fast, totally overwhelming; I just reached the breaking point. No reflection on you, Jim, but I couldn't get my head straight while staying in the same place and same situation. I needed space, and time, to work things out.

Right. Get to the point. Well, that's kinda tough. I've started this letter about six times, and keep getting bogged down in -- caringness, I guess. I have to say some hard things, man, and some of them will sound like I blame you. But I really DON'T blame you. (Really. Even though... but I'll discuss that later.) And I don't blame me, either. Just, we both made mistakes and got caught in the undertow and couldn't fight our way out. So keep that in mind when you read this letter -- IT'S NO ONE'S FAULT. Got that? Okay.

So anyway, in the interest of actually finishing and mailing this thing, I'm going to ignore the little voice that tells me, "You can phrase that less bluntly," or "You have to find a better way to explain that." I'm going to just lay everything out here, however it comes into my head. I'll be as clear and honest as I can, and I'm not going to pull any punches. We're both grown men; we can take a few hits without falling apart. Hopefully, something good will come out of my meandering, and we can finally get things fixed up right.

First -- I'm doing okay. Better than okay; I'm fine. Not panhandling in stinking alleys, or eating leftovers out of dumpsters. (I know how your mind works.) I've landed on my feet, just as I always do.

I must admit, right after I left I felt like the whole world would recognize my name, and that I had to hide my identity. I used a couple of aliases -- Blake Sanders, Blade Sampson -- and even cut my hair to change my appearance. (I figured desperate times required desperate measures.) ::shrug:: It's growing out again; it's long enough that I'm 'that weird hippie' when I go to town. After awhile I realized that I was just being paranoid. Outside of academic circles, the media hype and my press conference was less than a dot on a page. If anyone read or heard about it, they promptly forgot; I haven't met one person who had an unfavorable reaction to my real name once I started using it again. (Well, except for those 'good ol' boys' who think 'Blair' is a sissy name for a guy. <g>)

That first summer, when I was still afraid of being recognized, I hid in what I figured was the least likely place to find an educated academic -- following the crop harvest, mingling with the migrant workers. That was an education; talk about closed societies! (And I turned that education into a paper that I hope to submit, some day.) Have to admit, the other workers were pretty wary and resentful at first; they figured I was a rich white boy just slumming and taking money that they needed to feed their kids. Living and working with them was an interesting experience, though; the strength of those people is amazing. They accepted me eventually, when they saw that I didn't expect any different treatment than they got. But the biggest breakthrough came from the kids. Somehow I became an evening summertime tutor, helping them get solid in such basics as reading, math, and English. It's heartrending, really; the parents know very well that education is the only way for their children to be able to step up in the world, and they make sure to enroll the children in school wherever they're working. But even if the local school system is welcoming and supportive (some are, some aren't), just the logistics of being constantly on the move makes the kids' education haphazard and full of gaps. Some of these kids go to five different schools in a single year!

After I finally realized that I could use my real name and official identification, I did various odds and ends for awhile. Trucking was good; it gave me lots of time to ponder and contemplate while I drove. Library assistant was even better -- all those books, and Internet access. (You can imagine how much I enjoyed that.) Later, when I found myself in New Mexico, I took a break from the real world and hired on at Clem Barstow's ranch; that's where I am now. He owns a working ranch that accepts guests for fishing, long rides in natural surroundings, and working the cattle. It's "next door" to the Gila National Wilderness, and in the middle of Apache territory. I'm in Heaven, man! The work is... elemental, basic, freeing. No matter how tired and dirty I am at the end of the day, I still feel a peace from interacting so closely with Nature. And on the days when it's my turn to escort any novice fishermen, the fishing is stupendous; Simon would bite his cigar in half if he could see the beauty I pulled in last week. On my days off, I visit the local Apache tribe. The Shaman is sharing the history and legends of the tribe with me; it's awesome stuff. He's been telling me stories of special warriors who could see / hear / smell farther than other men, although Standing Bear says such a man has not been known since his great-grandfather's day.

Why the hell am I rambling on like this? I guess to prove to you that I'm doing just fine. I know, I already said that, but I bet you're convincing yourself that I'm obfuscating to let you off the hook. No way, man; every word has been the honest truth.

Actually, I needed the time off; it gave me a chance to process, and do some deep thinking. I've thought about what happened -- how things got so messed up -- and I've realized some things about myself. Nothing earth-shattering, just ideas that I didn't bother to actually put into words before. They seemed too self-evident. But I guess sometimes it's necessary to acknowledge the 'self-evident'ness of things to crystallize our thoughts and move forward.

I feel you frowning already. Lighten UP, man! I swear to you, I'm cool.

My biggest, deepest self-revelation is that I really want to be the Sentinel's Guide. You do an important job, man, and it really charges my batteries to be able to help you. I like being a part of that, no matter what speed bumps (dead bodies, psycho killers, plain ordinary nutcases) we hit. I know, I sort of stumbled into the 'Guide' thing without knowing what I was letting myself in for. But now I do know; my eyes are wide open and this is my choice, not something you've roped me into. So if your immediate reaction is, "No, it's too dangerous," picture me IN - YOUR - FACE!!! I know the risks; they're the same hazards you face every day to do your job. I can live with those risks the same way you can live with them... if you still want me around.

This is the really hard part, Jim, where I have to lay it on the line and say some unpleasant things. There's a lot that affects me and you personally, that we have to get straight before we can move on. Remember -- everything I say here is not laying blame on you; it's just to explain how I feel, and point out some personal areas that we have to resolve. If we don't, we'll just end up going round and round in a similar dysfunctional pattern, and I'll end up out on my butt again. We need to deal with this stuff before we start. If we can't resolve these "issues" (sorry for the PC-ish terminology, but it's what fits), or at least agree that they need to be addressed and worked on, I don't see much hope for us as a team.

::sigh:: I swear, I feel your walls going up already. Come on, Jim, give me the benefit of the doubt. Have I ever made unreasonable demands, or expected you to turn into another person? Just bear with me, here, read with an open mind, and give real consideration to what I'm saying. Remember, I'm not being accusing, I'm just being as honest as I can and showing you my viewpoint. Your viewpoint may (probably will!) differ. But if we know each other's viewpoints, we can meet in the middle, discuss, resolve, and move forward -- hopefully with a partnership that's stronger and more solid than ever.

If not... ::shrug:: Well, hell... at least we can say that we gave it an honest try; no one can ask more of a friend and partner than that.

Okay, the main thing is, you're a strong, 'take charge' kinda guy. You were a leader in the Army, and you're a leader when you investigate a crime scene. You've learned to assess the information you have -- however minimal -- and react instantly because if you don't, the perp will get away, or the crazy will get the drop on you, or the mission will go sour. Lots of times, in your professional life, you don't have time to stop and think; you have to figure and calculate and plan on the run, and hope that your instincts are right and your actions will have the desired result. You calculate a worst-case scenario because that gives you the greatest probability of success. I mean, if it is worst-case, you're ready to meet it, and if it isn't, nothing happens, so no harm, no foul. This is not a bad thing; it's what's kept you alive probably more times than you can count, and I'm all in favor of you staying alive. I'm NOT expecting you to toss that behavior (information - assess - react) out the window.

But when you use that same behavior -- calculating a worst-case scenario -- in your personal life, it's gonna bite you on the ass. In other words, I'm sick and tired of you assigning the worst possible motives to my actions. That really hurts, man, and I don't need that grief anymore; we've gotta find a way to deal with that.

I know, I know... a lot of it is my fault. How long did I keep treating you as a research subject instead of a friend? All the times I mentioned 'book deals' and 'movie rights' must have set your teeth on edge, and made you incredibly wary about our relationship. I look back now and realize what a schmuck I was, how terribly unfairly I was treating you. I'm sorry, Jim. I don't think I ever told you that before, and I mean it most sincerely. I'm truly, abjectly, sorry. All I can offer in extenuation is that a combination of enthusiasm and scientific mindset gave me tunnel vision. It took awhile -- far too long -- for me to look around and notice the big picture.

But somewhere along the line, our relationship really did change from 'researcher and subject' to 'friends'. I guess I can't blame you for not noticing; hell, I barely noticed it myself, and still kept prodding you with 'research' behavior. Note that I'm not apologizing for subjecting you to tests for your senses; how else can we learn the possibilities of what you can do? Every added piece of knowledge increases your control and suggests new ways for you to use your senses more effectively. Keep that in mind before you decide whether or not you want me back in your life -- I'll be devising new tests until we're both old and gray. But I do apologize for the manner in which I conducted those tests. Scientists can get tunnel vision when they're on the trail of an idea. (Much the same way a detective does.) You might have thought that I regarded myself as the 'heap big all-knowing researcher', and you as the 'lowly reactive guinea pig'. I never felt like that, I swear, but I can see how you might think I did. I'm truly sorry, Jim, and I promise it'll never happen again. From now on, we'll be partners in the tests. You'll tell me what you'd like to be able to do with your senses, I'll make suggestions about things I think you need to try, and together we'll figure out ways to make it all happen.

But getting back to the personal reaction thing, and you assigning the worst possible motives to my actions -- enough, already! I've made a few mistakes (okay, a bunch of mistakes), but nothing I ever did was intended to hurt you. And yet, it seemed like every time I screwed up, if there were two possible explanations for what was going on, you chose the least flattering one.

No; that kind of blanket statement is unfair. You are one of the most generous, supportive people I know. You're incredibly loyal to your friends, and there were lots of times when you backed me up and gave me the encouragement or help that I needed. Which is why it was so frustrating -- and painful -- when you responded in the completely opposite manner.

You know, what makes this whole thing really odd (or really funny, take your pick), is that I'm a 'take charge' kinda guy, too. Duh! You think I could teach college students or help run expeditions if I wasn't? You think a wishy-washy guy could have overridden all your protests about doing the sensory tests and experiments? Nope; I've been standing on my own two feet and taking charge of my life for a L-O-N-G time. So... self-analysis time, here... why did I back down and accept the emotional crap that you tossed my way? Damn good question; not sure I have the complete answer even now.

Part of it was hero-worship, I think. There you were, "The Sentinel", my lifelong dream standing in front of me; by definition, nothing you did could be wrong. It seemed like, if I would've tried to -- moderate -- your reactions, I would've been subtracting something from your 'sentinelness', or tainting it somehow. (Hey, the subconscious mind is frequently stupid and illogical.)

Another part of it was the 'researcher' mindset that says we should remain detached and mustn't do anything that will affect the natural responses and reactions of the subject. 'Duh!' again -- as if moving in with you and bugging you about what you hear, see, feel, taste and smell (whether in tests or in the field) is remaining detached and not affecting the subject. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Maybe another part of it was -- forgive me, man -- the 'courtship behavior' that you once accused me of. I wanted you to like me, to let me keep hanging around, so I did what most people do in a new relationship... I "made nice", and modified my actions to the perceived wishes of the person I was trying to impress. I'm not suggesting anything hinky, here; the same actions frequently show up in new employees in the office, new kids moving into the neighborhood, or whatever. It's not reserved for courting couples; that's simply the best-known 'application' of such behaviors.

The upshot of all this is that, between the two of us, we managed to fall into a pattern that had us heading for a dysfunctional breakdown if I hadn't left. In general, you frequently jumped to conclusions, assumed the worst, and lashed out. In the belief that I was supporting the sentinel, I usually backed down or stepped aside, letting your words and actions go unchallenged. Finally, when the diss blew up in our faces, we were both too entrenched in the pattern to step back and look at the situation dispassionately. Not that we even had time for that; so much happened so fast that it was all we could do to keep up with the situation, let alone step aside and consider it calmly.

So -- I understand the mindset and reactions on both sides, but that doesn't mean that we have to keep traveling that same road. Fair warning, man; if I come back, I intend to change my role, and I would hope that you might consider changing yours. Just because we know where it comes from doesn't mean that we have to keep up the pattern. You can learn to consider my intentions before you make unwarranted assumptions; I can learn to explain my reasonings and give you the information you need to understand the situation and know where I'm coming from. We've been an awesome team, man; think how much better we'll be if we're working in tandem instead of at cross-purposes.

Damn. That sounds like I'm setting up conditions, and that isn't what I want to do. But, if we want our partnership to work long-term, we can't keep dancing the same old steps. You know, the old saying "it's water under the bridge" is trite, but very true. I look at it this way -- the past is just a story that we can either hold onto and angst about, or accept and move on. I want to let go of and forget about the bad stuff (except as a reminder not to repeat the pattern), and remember and hold on to the good stuff, and use it as a jumping-off point to a better, stronger partnership. We need to throw out all our old reactions and preconceptions about each other and start fresh, with a new song and a new routine. I'm ready to move on, Jim. Are you? Can we do this together? God, I hope so.

Second on my wish-list -- assuming that you do want me back and working with you -- I'd like to continue being a part of Cascade PD. I feel I made some good friends there and, truthfully, I've missed them almost as much as I've missed you. Major Crimes became the family I never had -- Joel the kindly uncle, Simon the irascible patriarch whose word he expects (but doesn't always get) should be law, Megan the bossy but well-meaning sister, Henri the family clown. Rafe and Rhonda are a bit harder to pin down, but they're part of the family too; I always knew that either of them would lend a hand or give advice if I needed it, as would any of MC. And you, of course, are the overbearing big brother, eternally sure that you know everything, and that your way is the right way. But I wouldn't change that for anything -- you're a very beloved big brother, and I'm grateful you came into my life. (Or I came into yours. Whichever.)

So I'd really like to remain part of MC and Cascade PD if we can swing it. I gotta tell you, being offered a permanent place as your partner was scary, even though it was incredibly flattering. I had to do some real soul-searching to work it all out in my head. On the one hand, I really do want to continue to be your partner, backup, and Guide. On the other hand, you know I don't like the idea of carrying a gun. Yeah, I know that most cops can go through a whole career without having to use 'deadly force'; but, man, I won't be partnered with 'most cops'. You draw the bad guys like honey draws flies; it's pretty near inevitable that, eventually, I'd have to use my gun to protect you or an innocent civilian. But then I think, who better to carry a gun than someone who doesn't want to use it? Knowing myself, I know that I'll always use other methods first, and the gun will be a last resort, used only when all other possibilities have been exhausted. It's not the gun that presents a problem, but the person (and personality) wielding it. I mean, you carry a gun without going off half-cocked (ooh! no pun intended) and shooting indiscriminately at everything in sight. It doesn't make you a less reliable or less stable person. So, okay... having acknowledged all that, and knowing my own soul and psyche, I've concluded that I can comfortably carry a gun in a career as a policeman and detective. You have my word, Jim -- I won't let you down.

But if we can make it happen, I'd much prefer to keep supporting you from the civilian side of the line. After all, it worked well for us for almost four years. And you know, there's lots of times when people -- victims, witnesses, whoever -- are more comfortable talking with a "not-policeman". If I could have some kind of official standing, being connected with the PD (hey, man, I need a paycheck!) but not an actual "policeman", I think we can continue to make use of that. And you know how often something I've been able to contribute -- from my knowledge of anthropology, psychology, other cultures -- has given you or the other detectives a new lead that helped solve a crime. Not that I wouldn't keep contributing that information once (if) I became a cop! I'm just saying that maybe we could capitalize on that and persuade the PD to give me a paying, official position as... oh, "Cultural Liaison"? "Information Synthologist"? "Analytical Synthesist"? "Specialist for Integrations and Correlations"? "Forensic Anthropologist"? Just something that's open-ended enough to let me "do my thing" but still sounds official enough to let me have a paycheck without raising red flags for the Powers That Be.

Then there's the problem of the people I'll be working with. I know the gang in MC accepts me and won't give me any real hassles (teasing doesn't count), despite my news conference. Besides, I imagine that you fed them some sort of story to explain away the use of your name connected with a 'Sentinel' article. (I saw the retraction story in the papers, about six weeks after it happened. Sheer luck; I was using a stack of old newspapers to line the cages in an animal shelter.) Otherwise, they would have wondered why you took such strong action against Edwards and the University. And I have some friends in other departments who I think will also give me the benefit of the doubt. But I wonder about the average cop from other areas of the PD, 'cause if they continue to think that I'm a fraud, cheat, and liar, working conditions could get pretty dicey. I worry about you not getting the backup you need because you're working with said 'fraud, cheat, and liar'. I would hope that, with the University news conference, that attitude has been dispelled. With any luck, they just think I'm careless and naïve, and are ready to chuckle, tease me about it, and move on.

But we need to be sure about this before I take any kind of position at the PD. I don't mind for myself, so much, but repercussions against me could easily affect you and your work, and even the others in MC. I can't -- we can't -- take that chance. So, somehow, we need to take the temperature of the Cascade PD as regards one Blair Sandburg becoming an official and permanent part of the 'family'. Maybe Henri, Rafe, and Megan could start a rumor that I'm coming back, let it spread around the station, and see what the response is. They could keep tabs on the overt reactions, and you could use your hearing to catch the covert -- maybe less favorable -- mutterings.

Don't shrug this off, Jim; this is a biggie. If I expect to spend the next twenty-odd years working with the Cascade PD, I have to be sure that I'm accepted as part of the tribe. Hangers-on around the fringes of closed societies generally have a short and unhappy career. There's no sense in my letting myself in for that kind of grief; if that's the way it'll go down, I might as well quit before I even start.

Damn, again. It still sounds like I'm setting up conditions, and I'm not. I'm just trying to be practical and realistic. Much as I'd like to come back to stay, I can't face it if I have to fight to prove myself every day I go to work. Sorry, man, I just don't have the "intestinal fortitude" to face that scenario. So I really need your input, here. Is this something we can work on together, or should I just continue to travel my own road?

Moving right along (I know, already too late, <g>), the third thing on my wish-list is that I really would like to finish my PhD and continue teaching, at least part-time. I can live without it -- hell, the majority of the population manages just fine without one -- but I worked damned hard for that thing, and I just hate to give up on it. Besides, I really enjoy sharing ideas and teaching something new; it's a large part of who I am. I've written two papers based on my observations while wandering; having those letters after my name will give me that extra cachet when (if) I submit them for publication in the Anthro journals. It would also be a visible 'proof' to the narrow-minded that I'm on the up-and-up; if the University granted me a PhD, then they'll figure that I can't be the 'fraud' I was once proclaimed.

Jim -- thank you. This will be so much easier because you already got the University to admit that I didn't submit the dissertation and that the media hoopla was escalated because of their greed -- well, not that they actually expressed the 'greed' part -- and that I wasn't a fraud. I can't tell you how much it means to me, man, that you would go to so much trouble to clear my name; it indicates that you won't simply run my ass out of town when (if) I get back to Cascade and try to hook up with you again. Well... probably. It could be that you're just trying to assuage whatever guilt you feel by giving me a chance at a new life so that I don't land on your doorstep again. But I don't -- I won't -- believe that. We've meant too much to each other, and still do. I can manage the rest of my life without being by your side, but I hope I don't have to. It leaves me feeling kind of empty inside. I'm thinking it's probably the same for you; otherwise you wouldn't have pushed the press conference. So, I'm ready to come back, if you're ready to have me.

Hunh! I'll bet Edwards was ready to shit bricks, right? Wish I could've seen her face.

Anyway, I turned our ongoing fiction into truth. While I've been on the road, I've actually written a second diss on police sub-cultures. The working title is "Tribal Guardians: the Function of Police in a Modern Society". What do you think? God knows, I had more than enough information floating around in my head. Right now it's real rough -- I'll need access to the notes I left with you to quote some specific instances (I kept meaning to transfer all those paper notes to the laptop), draw some statistical conclusions, find references -- but it shouldn't take more than two or three months to clean it up and put it in a presentable form, then submit it to the committee.

In general, diss committees don't like it when the diss topic is changed. But I don't think it'll be a problem; in their eyes, the media fuss will have completely invalidated the original idea. Also, one of the prime requirements of a dissertation is that the identity of the subject must be protected at all costs. Since my 'subject's' privacy was compromised, this is another compelling reason for them to allow me to change my diss topic. I don't expect to hear a single 'nay' vote when I oh-so-politely request that I be allowed to present a diss on a different topic.

I've considered that Edwards might try to stonewall the process, but I'll bet that she doesn't dare. Imagine the stink I could make if the university that officially admitted I did nothing wrong now denies me due process in submitting a diss. I almost wish some of them would make waves -- I feel an unhealthy urge to rub their noses in the whole sorry mess that they helped create. (I'm thinking, karma be damned; I must have stockpiled enough points to override such mundane pettiness on my part.) Frankly, a public apology and cancellation of all my school debts barely scratches the surface in the way of reparations, but I suppose a million for pain and damages would be a bit over the top.

By the way, thank you for that. (The cancelled debt thing was part of the report in the paper I read.) I know you're the one who pushed for that, and it's sure been a relief not to have that hanging over my head. I had been picturing garnisheed wages, and hordes of bill collectors stripping the Volvo for parts.

Okay, big guy, hold on to your hat for the last thing on my wish-list. Take a deep breath and remember that I won't do anything that'll cause you any grief.

Also, understand that this is something I can live without, if you honestly can't stand the idea. But it's something that I'd really like to do, so give it some careful consideration, okay?


Another deep breath.

Here goes --

I want to find a way to get information about Sentinels into the public awareness. NOT by publishing my dissertation; after the media mess, I don't think any explanations can make anyone believe that the information is for real, and we've already seen the problems you'd have to deal with if everyone believes that you're a 'superman'. But I actually think that, if we do this right, it'll take some of the pressure off you.

What I'm thinking is, we make what I said in the news conference the truth -- I write a novel about a police detective with heightened senses, and how he uses them to help him solve crimes. His partner is a rookie fresh out of the Academy who just happened to minor in Anthropology before he became a cop, and he studied the theory of Sentinels in one of his classes, and figures out what's happening when his partner starts having sensory spikes. So, together, rookie and detective work to help the detective understand and control his haphazard senses. What do you think of 'Jack Ellsman' as a name?

We'll make it look all open and aboveboard. The Author's Notes will say that I took my admiration for the work the police do, misappropriated your name, and mixed those two liberally with speculations about what ancient Sentinels might have been able to accomplish, how they might have controlled their senses, and how that would fit in a modern police setting. Yes, I'll admit (with all due humbleness, <g>), this is the work that was mistaken for an actual dissertation, and I'll invite the readers to share the joke with me -- no man could have such heightened senses, but I hope they'll enjoy the story anyway.

It shouldn't be too hard for a publisher to promote it; all he has to do is tie it in to the dissertation / fraud scandal, and I expect that people will be flocking to read the book that 'caused all the fuss'. With any luck (because it seems that more people watch movies than read books, nowadays), it really will be picked up by Hollywood and made into a movie, or at least a TV movie of the week.

No, really; think about it, man. Hollywood makes everything so hokey, nobody believes that what they see on the screen has any basis in reality. So the audience will spend two hours watching car chases and shoot-em-ups, and then walk out thinking, "Well, it might be fun to have senses like that, but get real; do they actually expect us to swallow that stuff?" So if anyone even mentions enhanced senses, the speculations will automatically, even unthinkingly, be dismissed. A perfect example of 'hide in plain sight'. You're off the hook; if everyone is certain that there's no such thing as a... oh, call it a 'Superman of the Senses', then you can't possibly be one, can you?

But see, what I keep thinking is -- how many other people are scattered throughout the population, fighting their senses? There were two in one state that we know of. Could there be three in each state? Five? Ten? Let's take a nice low number, figure that you're not the only one, and speculate that there might be three Sentinels hiding within each state. So, somewhere, 150 people are trying to deal with runaway senses, or have already given up the battle. Let's not forget Canada, and increase the number to 200 people. And in the rest of the world... maybe a thousand people or more could use the help, though I doubt that a 'fictional novel' would travel that far. Maybe the information would dispense by word of mouth.

I can't help but wonder, what would you have done if I hadn't been able to help you deal with your senses? Would you have become a recluse, hiding away in the hills to avoid the over-stimulation of modern society? Would you have become a drugged-up permanent 'guest' of some psychiatric facility because the doctors couldn't ease your 'symptoms'? Would you have finally committed suicide to escape the torment? (God, I hate to think of that!) Hell, it might be a good thing that you repressed your senses in childhood. I wonder if a child with fully on-line sentinel senses would survive to adulthood with no one to help him understand his senses and guide him through their development.

On the other hand, maybe a child with sentinel senses would use them so naturally that he wouldn't be bothered by them. You've said that you didn't have any trouble before Bud died. Wonder if we might find any kids with sentinel senses...

Right. Back to the point. Anyway, I think this would be a way to get the message to those people who might be floundering. The thing is, even if it's presented as light entertainment, information about sentinels (that's more accessible than some hundred-year-old dusty tomes) could help someone over the rough spots. The story would include some of the glitches the detective runs into as he learns to control his senses, so our theoretical budding sentinel won't expect smooth sailing right from the start. It definitely would include the methods the detective uses to avoid being overwhelmed by his environment -- using dials, anchoring with one sense so he won't zone out on another sense, looking for sentinel-friendly versions of common household products, and having a buddy as backup for dealing with / controlling the senses. (I don't think I should use the term 'Guide'; it might make any potential buddy / backup feel inadequate, and that they don't know enough. Been there, done that, finally threw away the T-shirt.) But a story like this would show our budding sentinel that he doesn't have to be swamped by sensory input, that he can achieve control and remain a normal part of his family and society. Hope is everything, man; hope lets us keep going until things can get better, instead of giving up and packing it in.

So, what do you think? Could you live with this? I mean, sure, there might be a little attention focused on you for a while, but I think it would be really short-term, especially if we slant it the right way. Like, "No, I'm not a Sentinel; I'm just a damned good detective. Gotta admit, those heightened senses might be useful -- Sandburg has a wild imagination, doesn't he? -- but I can do my job just fine without them."

Would you prefer 'Joe Ellsworth' as a character name?

= = =

So there it is, Jim -- all the things I'd like to do if I could arrange my life as I want it (knowing that such control is seldom possible). I want to start fresh, build on what we had, and move forward -- together. Do you feel the same way?

God, I hope so. I hesitate to write this, because I don't want to put pressure on you. On the other hand, how can you make a valid decision if you don't know how I feel? So here goes --

The bottom line is, I want to come home, Jim. Home to Cascade, and Rainier, and the PD, but mostly -- home to you. And in a deeper analysis, we could ditch everything but that. If you decided you were tired of being Sentinel of the Great City and wanted to move to Outer Little Podunk, so tiny it's not even on the map, I'd want to go with you, because wherever you are is 'home'. Shades of Damon and Pythias, or Ruth and Naomi (the Biblical one, not my Mom) -- I don't feel complete without you.

I have to admit, I find this very strange. You know me -- I've moved into and out of peoples' lives for my entire life, and they've moved into and out of mine. "Detach with love" is how I was raised, and it makes perfect sense to me. People change, you can't hold on to them; it's better to let them go, or go on yourself, without stressing about it. Even Naomi, as much as I love her and know she loves me, was never permanent in my life.

But with you, it's something totally different. Knowing you're near (although 'near' is relative; me at Rainier and you at the PD is close enough, 'cause I know if one of us needs the other, he'll be there), gives my world a "rightness", as if it's cosmically destined. And maybe it is -- maybe Guides and Sentinels are meant to be lifelong companions. (Although if that's the case, Destiny sure waited long enough to get us together.) I prefer to think it's a Jim and Blair thing; as different as we are, we fit together like two pieces of a puzzle, or like yin and yang. I think, even without the Sentinel / Guide thing we could have been friends -- IF we had ever gotten together. That would have been tough -- you a cop, me a longhaired neo-hippie, and very little reason for us to run into each other.

Now there's an idea -- maybe the cosmic point is friendship, and the Sentinel / Guide thing was just dumped on us to get us together. (Oh boy, that's an idea you'll really like... NOT! <g>)

But you know, I don't care about reasons; I just want to come home. Is it still my home, Jim? Can I come home?

But hey, like I said earlier, no pressure. Maybe you're comfortable finally having me out of your hair, and you're dealing well with your senses, and you really don't want me dogging your footsteps for the rest of your life, or even another four years. No problemo, man -- just ignore the pathetic tone of the last few paragraphs and tell me, 'Sorry, Sandburg, you're on your own'.

No guilt-trippin', okay? Do NOT make any decisions based on what you feel you 'owe' me. You don't owe me ANYthing, and I'll be just fine without you being around to tuck me into bed every night. If the wish-list is out the window, I do have alternate plans. Life does go on, after all.

First, I figure I'll stay on the ranch through the winter. After the "guest season" is over, there's time to concentrate on training the three-year-old colts to become steady riding animals, and I've always been good with animals. I'm looking forward to winter in this area. The young stock will need hours of experience on the trails; riding through the trees, up and down the hillsides, through the meadows... even covered with snow, I think it'll be an awesome experience, renewing my soul. Or at least I'll have fun while freezing my butt off. But that shouldn't happen too often; I'm told that the winters are quite mild, and snowfall usually melts within two or three days.

Come spring, I think I'll go 'walkabout'. With Standing Bear's introduction, I should be welcomed to visit a number of different tribes; I want to keep studying the Sentinel legend. Even if I can't use the information now, knowledge is never wasted. Maybe -- years from now, after you've retired -- I'll write it up and see if it can be published as "Tribal Legends", or something like that. I think I could make it entertaining, and the information might trickle to someone who needs it. I can just see people with erratic senses seeking the advice of a Native American shaman, and the interaction helps to develop a greater tolerance and understanding between Indians and Anglos. (Yeah, yeah, so I'm idealistic and sappy. I can dream, can't I?)

After the walkabout, a couple of semesters at a university (not Rainier!) to establish my credentials, submit my diss, and get my PhD. Then, a visit to the Chopec. I'll devise some sort of study that will let me live with them for a year or so, without impacting their way of life.

Then... whatever. Hey, this is farther ahead than I've ever planned in my life. I firmly believe that we make our own fortune, and that everything happens for a purpose. That's not to say that the purpose may be clear right away (or ever!), just that I'll be open to whatever God or Fate or Destiny throws my way. So don't worry about me; as always, I'll continue to land on my feet.

Now I'm feeling really awkward. I find that I don't want to end this letter; writing it makes me feel connected to you. But all good things come to an end, so I guess I'll just quit. I've enjoyed "talking" to you, and getting all that stuff out of my system.

Now it's your turn. If you want me back, just say the word and I'll start making arrangements. (I'll have to wait until Clem can find someone to take my place; it wouldn't be fair to leave him shorthanded.) If not... well, at least let me know, okay? You have my address now, if only for the next several months. Just tell me which way my plans should go. I may be flexible, but I'd like to know which way to jump.

So... if I never see you again... thanks, Jim. I'll always remember what we shared. The good times outweighed the bad, and I'm richer for having known you. Take care of yourself, and have a good life.

Your friend always,

The End

The "Letters" Trilogy --

1. Letter to Blair - Post TSbyBS. Jim writes an unmailable letter. 8 pages.

2. Letter to Jim - Blair's letter tells Jim of his hopes and plans. 11 pages.

3. Moving Forward - Resolution of the two letters. 60 pages.

Author's Notes

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