by Julad

This is for the ts_ficathons challenge, "Getting a Sense for Clichés." My challenge was to use the sense of sight and the cliché, "The Government (or other organization) finds out about Jim’s senses." Of course it grew a plot on me; this is why I suck at flashfics and challenges.

one: flee

Sandburg's mother's psychic's ex-girlfriend's beach house on Taboga Isle was less a house and more of a-- even 'hut' was too kind. Jim stared at the five sheets of corrugated iron, held in approximate box-shape by the enormous number of vines wrapped around them, and scowled. It was a lean-to at best. He zoomed in a little, wondering if it improved on closer inspection. Up close, it was covered in rust, and the roof had holes in it with tendrils of vine poking through.

"Wow, this is perfect!" Blair cried, leaping over the edge of the boat and wading through the shallow surf to the beach. "Have you ever seen anything so great?"

Jim cut the outboard motor and waited until the dinghy wedged itself into the sand. He wondered if it was too soon to take more ibuprofen.

Blair had been talking about moving out.

"I'm raking in the big bucks now-- heh, crime pays me." He laughed like he was the first cop who ever made that joke. "Besides, people are starting to talk about us, man."

Jim looked at him. "Sandburg, people have been talking about us since the day you walked through the doors with too many earrings in your goddamn ears."

Blair's mouth dropped. "They have?"

"The number of headaches I've had," Jim said testily, "from hearing people speculate on what we do in bed together? Yes, they have!"

"But we don't do anything in bed together! I mean, we don't do anything in bed! I mean, together. I mean, there's no us-in-bed-together. Jim," and Sandburg had a special way of saying that, where he sounded both extremely annoyed and deeply concerned, "why didn't you say anything?"

"I assumed you knew and were too much of a lefty-liberal-fruitcake to care. You really didn't know they were talking about us?"

"I wrote a fucking paper on why they weren't talking about us! Impenetrable Heterosexuality in a Male-Dominated Law Enforcement Environment. Hey, wow, how embarrassing would that have been, if I'd published it."

The irony of Sandburg writing about Jim's impenetrable heterosexuality was enough to make Jim jerk the conversation back on track. "My point is," he said, rubbing his forehead where the headache was starting, "moving out now would be locking the barn door five years after the horse bolted. You can get your own place if you want, but believe me, I'll just be hearing people talk about why we broke up."

"Huh," Sandburg said, frowning. He leaned back and put his feet on the coffee table with a loud thunk. "I have a whole new paper to write now."

Sandburg insisted that a little water coming through the roof wouldn't kill them, but it was the fucking wet season. Jim told him to clean up the hut while he took the boat back to town and bought a tarp.

"Yeah, yeah." Blair slung his backpack over a tree branch and threw his jacket over the top of it. "Oh, and I forgot to buy a bucket, can you get one? And I really want some fresh OJ if you see any."

Fuck you, Jim thought, stomping his way back down the sand to their boat.

"Fuck you too!" Blair called after him. "And get the juice with pulp in it!"

The township was rustic and relaxed, but starting to decline towards tourist trap. The woman in the grocery store smiled up at him, fluttering her eyelashes, and said, "Are you having a nice holiday, sir?"

Jim shook his head. "I'm not on holiday."

She made oh-I'm-intrigued noises. "Then you are here on business?"

"Hell if I know," Jim snarled, sullenly pleased that they only had the orange juice Sandburg hated.

Sandburg called him at the station at four in the afternoon. He was waiting for the call-- Sandburg was off meeting an informant, and Jim was fairly sure the informant had legs and at least a C-cup, or he wouldn't have insisted on going alone. The call wasn't Sandburg gloating, though, and he didn't say anything about the Gorlecki case.

"Jim," Blair said, in the very calm voice that meant he was freaking the fuck out, "I need to you to meet me at the airport."

"On my way," Jim said, grabbing his jacket and checking his guns were in place. "Which terminal?"

"Um," Blair said, and swallowed. "International."

That pause should have given Jim his first clue, but he missed it in his rush to catch the elevator. "Tell me what's going on." It sounded like Blair was in the loft, moving stuff around, which should have been his second clue, but he was too busy jabbing at the down button to notice.

"I can't talk right now. I have to make some more calls. Wait for me outside the long-term parking, okay?"

Click, and he was gone. Jim gave up on the elevator, took the stairs down to the car, put the siren on, and focused all his senses on getting through the beginnings of rush hour traffic.

When he got back to the hut, night was falling. Sandburg had their gear stacked, their food cached, and was roasting fish over a fire.

"You've even had time to go fishing," Jim snapped, dropping the tarp on the grass. "I can't tell you how happy that makes me."

Sandburg grabbed the bucket and juice from his hand. "I bought them in town this morning. You know, that supplies run you were too busy being an asshole to help with?"

"I'm not the one who got me into this mess."

"I'm doing this for you and you know it." Sandburg ran a hand through his hair and looked at him, eyes hollow in the firelight. "It's not like I really wanted to leave my job and my friends and go on the lam with you. This is not-- Jim--" His face screwed up with bitterness, or maybe pain. "Can you please stop taking it out on me? I know how much it sucks, okay, because it sucks for me too."

Jim stared into the flames, and visualised letting the anger drain away. "Sorry," he said finally.

Blair nodded. "I know."

Sandburg had met him outside the long-term parking with a backpack slung over each shoulder. Jim pulled over to let him in, but he walked around to the driver's side and tapped for Jim to wind the window down.

"Park the car," he said, the veneer of calm barely covering hysteria. "But I need your ATM card first."

"Sandburg, what's going on?"

"I can't tell you. Just give me your wallet."

"Obviously we're leaving the country," Jim snapped. "If you think I'll do that without an explanation, I've got news for you, Houdini."

"Don't argue with me, Jim, I am begging you. We don't have time."

"Don't bullshit me, Sandburg, or I'll turn around and go home."

"Jim!" Blair yelled, hair practically standing on end. He clutched the door until his knuckles turned white. "This is a situation where you are going to have to trust me, okay? Because if you do not trust me, if you make me tell you why we're leaving before we leave, then you will not be able to say later that you left the country because I dragged you off on one of my wacky spur-of-the-moment jaunts like the crazy fruit loop that I am. And later, you are going to need to say that." He was nearly in tears. "So for God's sake, give me your wallet and park the fucking car!"

Jim didn't like it, but he didn't ask any more questions. He gave Sandburg his wallet and parked the car.

Inside the terminal, Blair handed him about five thousand dollars in cash. "I've got the other half," he said, voice still a little unsteady, "plus some of my own. I want us to visit a great place I know in Panama, but I probably want to go to a few other places first. You know, because I'm such a crazy guy." He made a fake loony face that wasn't even the slightest bit convincing. "So maybe you want to pick somewhere we could go first?"

In other words, get us to Panama without leaving tracks. "I hear Colombia's nice this time of year," Jim said.

"Colombia," Blair echoed, and then closed his eyes with relief. "Colombia sounds wonderful." He handed Jim one of the backpacks. "Your passport's in the side pocket. Let's go."

In the light of a new day, the hut wasn't so bad.

It didn't have running water, or a bathroom, but it had a water tank that only took them an hour to clean out, and after cutting down vines and chasing off spiders, they had an outhouse.

Sandburg spent the rest of the morning cleaning out the inside of the hut, eventually uncovering a wooden floor, shelves, chairs and a table, and hammering them back into shape. Jim covered all the holes and windows with insect screens, hung mosquito netting over the doorway, and managed to secure the tarp with a generous overhang, like a porch, out the front.

In the afternoon, they hacked their way into the former vegetable garden and inspected the remains. There were rotting watermelons, half-dead bell peppers, huge clumps of garlic, a few banana plants. "Hey, not bad," Sandburg said. "Look, pineapples over there!" Mint and basil were fighting to the death in another corner, and half a dozen cannabis plants were fenced off to the side.

"So what exactly were you doing last time you stayed here?" Jim said, keeping his voice light.

"Oh, it was one summer in junior high," Blair replied absently. "I just hung around with Naomi and her friends." He wiped his forehead, leaving muddy streaks across it like camouflage paint. "We should get seeds and cuttings tomorrow."

"You think we'll be here that long?" Jim said.

"We're in deep, deep shit," Blair said gloomily, poking his stick into a shiny green shrub. "It's the mother of all clusterfucks. It could be years before we can go back. Maybe never."

Jim sighed. Being angry at Sandburg had been a really good way to avoid thinking about it. "So it's really that bad?"

"It might not be. Maybe Simon will decide it's best if we face it head on. We could be going back in a few days." He used the stick to beat back the dead remains of a banana tree, revealing what might have once been a fence. "But we should do something for Moonbeam anyway, since we're staying in her house."

Jim didn't know if he was hoping to fight it or flee from it. Every option he had sucked like a fucking hoover. That was why it was the mother of all clusterfucks, he guessed. He ripped the cannabis out of the ground and threw it onto the growing pile of plant wreckage. "Sandburg, stop calling it a house."

"You got subpoenaed yesterday," Blair said, on the ferry from Panama City to Taboga Isle. "So did I."

"To testify about what?" Jim said.

"About your senses." Blair had a different air of calm now; one more like resignation. "We were going to be questioned under oath. Perjury or exposure-- I didn't know what to do."

Who, where, how, what--? Jim felt his gut twist painfully, the hollow feeling of so many fears coming true at once.

Blair's hair was tangling in on itself in the wind. "All I could think of was to buy us some time. Maybe Simon can do something, I don't know. I need to think. We both do."

Jim grabbed him and spun him around until they were face to face. "Sandburg, what the fuck happened?"

Blair wouldn't meet his eyes. "Somebody got their hands on a copy of my dissertation," he said. "Somebody with an axe to grind. They started asking questions, started getting answers, started digging deeper." He rubbed the stubble on his cheek and turned back to stare out over the water. "I'm sorry."

It wasn't the CIA, the FBI, the NIC, ISIC, AFTAC, the IAIP, INSCOM, MI5 or any of the other agencies they'd worried about.

It was Jamison, Bradford and Partners, the biggest legal firm in Cascade.

Blair's informant was a clerk at the courthouse. Eleven appeals had been filed simultaneously, asserting that evidence used against their clients was obtained illegally. Detective James Joseph Ellison had used specialised equipment to observe activities and listen to conversations that any reasonable person would expect to be private, without first obtaining a warrant to do so. Defense requests the verdict be overturned and a retrial scheduled. Additionally, information gained from thus violating the rights of their clients rendered all evidence obtained in subsequent investigations void.

In the eleven appeals currently before the court, each brief concluded, it should be evident that many of Detective Ellison's actions could not be accounted for without some as-yet-unknown access to privileged information, and the overall picture was one of years of systematic abuse of the rights of the subject of a criminal investigation.

Oh, and by the way, the briefs said. His partner says that Detective Ellison has superhuman senses of perception. Here's a copy of his dissertation, where all the evidence is meticulously documented, referenced, and indexed.

My, my, the briefs said. Aren't the legal implications of this fascinating?

two: wait

"The mighty huntsman returns," Blair greeted him, blue eyes peering out from above a book and under a straw hat that was losing its battle with the wet season. "Catch anything?"

Jim held up his catch. "Fish," he announced wryly. "It's what's for dinner."

"And breakfast." Blair rolled over in his hammock. "And lunch. And fish for dessert, my favourite."

"So get off your ass and dig up some yams or something," Jim told him, and moved to stand over him. "Pick some berries. Make some bread."

"Mm," Blair said. "In a minute."

In a minute meant when I finish this book, and maybe the next book too. For Sandburg, a month in a lean-to on Taboga had mostly been a chance to catch up on his reading. And he'd known it, too, Jim thought. Blair had packed books, along with their passports and a few changes of clothes. Jim wondered about his priorities, sometimes.

"Giles," he said loudly, tugging on the hammock rope. "Get up. I'm hungry."

"Go boil some rice or something," Blair said, planting a bare foot in the centre of Jim's chest and pushing him away. "I'm busy."

Jim held up the fish pointedly. "I catch. You cook."

"Hey, I can fish too. Just because I can't see them half a mile away doesn't mean I do less work." A hammock wasn't the best position from which to push somebody away. Jim stood firmly in place, spine straight, as Blair tried again, harder, and only succeeded in making the hammock swing back further.

Jim grinned. "Into the kitchen, wench."

"We don't have a kitchen." Blair put both feet on Jim's chest and got a good swing going, instead. "And your fascist division of labour is a self-centred fallacy based on a juvenile conception of gender roles in hunter-gatherer societies."

Jim grabbed his thighs and forced him and the hammock to a standstill. "Nuh uh," he said. "I've read Margaret Mead, I know how this stuff works. It's my turn to lie around and do nothing."

Blair closed his book with a snap. "You have no idea what you're talking about. Which is not at all surprising, since you only read the sexy bits." He swung out of the hammock and stood with his arms folded as Jim got in.

"Have fun," he said, plonking his hat down over Jim's face. "Try not to sprain anything."

It was an old ache, and one that filled him with a luminous kind of bliss. Blair, some piece of his heart would think, and send out a fierce pang of longing. The ache was a good ache, like the burn of a good workout; its own kind of pleasure, endorphins and adrenalin mixed in with the pain.

The longing was usually a quiet longing, though, because Sandburg was right there, providing cover fire and making a mess in the living room and leaning over his shoulder to read his case notes. Jim already had him, which lit his days with random moments of joy, but he didn't quite have all of him, which kept the yearning alive. He was always being thrilled, without ever being sated, and Jim wasn't a stupid man. He'd worked out years ago that he had it as good as it was going to get.

"Hi, Simon," Blair chirped into the answering machine. "I guess you're working late, or maybe I screwed up the time zones again, ha ha. We're in Thailand now, and it's so freaking cool, but I'm sick of Jim complaining about the food. We've sent you a postcard. Well, talk to you later, I guess. Bye!"

Jim looked at his watch. "Nine seconds," he said. "Nice."

"You got anything specific you need to know?" Blair asked, dialling the next number. Jim shook his head and leaned in close, not so much to hear better as to look like he needed to. He was a lot more conscious of the details, now.

"Sandburg," Simon said. "So nice of you to get in touch."

"Hey Simon," Blair replied, and Jim cringed. Sandburg was still chirpy, and Simon sounded seriously pissed. "What's the news?"

"The news is," and Jim could hear him chewing hard on his cigar, "you're gonna have to spend a few more weeks getting in touch with your whatever-it-is you're off getting in touch with. The DA doesn't like the odds of us beating the appeals. In fact, he mentioned that it would be make his life much easier if you two didn't get anywhere near a courtroom until he's reconstructed the evidence in all eleven cases."

"Shit," Jim said.

"Except he's already had to do some fancy footwork to postpone the court dates again, and it'll be uphill all the way unless you're on the stand to explain everything."

"Doesn't he know that we can't explain it?" Blair asked.

"Of course he knows!" Simon snapped. "Bradford, Jamison and Partners made it pretty obvious that you can't explain it! And in the meantime, it has occured to them to subpoena me as a witness, which means that sooner or later I either get to plead the Fifth, perjure myself, or put eleven dangerous criminals back on the streets."

"Stop it," Blair said despondently. "You're ruining my day."

"Don't talk to me about ruined days, Sandburg," Simon growled. "Don't take this the wrong way, but right now I wish I'd never laid eyes on you or Jim Ellison."

Blair slumped in despair against Jim. Jim took the receiver from his hand. "What do you want us to do, Simon?"

"Stay out of sight," Simon said. "Think about your options. Get your stories straight. Whatever happens, this won't be pretty."

"Yes, Sir," Jim said.

Some days, Jim stood on the beach and looked north. He stared until he zoned on it, as if he could see all the way back to Cascade, losing himself on a fleck of ash in the atmosphere, black and grey but also crystalline, fluttering and swooping, moisture condensing on it as it drifted toward the sea.

"Jim," Blair would say, with a hand on his arm, and leave his hand there as Jim pulled carefully back to stare at the waves.

They both knew the criminal code like the backs of their hands, but every visit to town, Sandburg spent a fortune in internet cafes downloading and printing stuff Rhonda sent. While he read his way through it all, Jim did all the fishing and all the cooking.

Simon shipped three boxes to them, care of the grocery store. They held photocopies of every piece of paperwork they'd filed or signed in the last five years. Jim bought a fluorescent light and a generator to power it, and they spent a week going through it all, filling in the gaps noted by the DA, annotating the case files and evidence trails with every detail they could remember. When they were done, they shipped it back for Major Crimes and the DA to go over.

In between times, there was nothing to do. They replanted the vegetable garden. Jim dug another outhouse downwind, and filled in the one that was upwind. They swam and fished when it wasn't raining, or sat on the porch when it was. After five years together, they didn't have to talk much, but they'd never run out of things to talk about. Jim read some of Blair's books. Blair practised his aim, throwing rocks for hours at a time. "Some day this'll save your life, man," he said, and Jim had no reason to doubt it.

They were going wild-- barefoot and shirtless, shaving once a week, losing weight on a steady diet of fruit and fish. Sandburg's skin turned brown, and his hair knotted into dreadlocks and streaked with blond. Jim went running along the beach, pounding the sand for four or five miles until he was gasping for breath and water. Then he'd plunge into the ocean and swim out about a mile, until he could look back at the hut and see Sandburg.

It was his own weird ritual, keeping the guilt and fear at bay. A part of him blamed Sandburg, would always blame Sandburg, for leaving Jim's name in the dissertation, for writing it in the first place, for knowing what Jim was, for setting off the chain of events that had led him all the way from the hospital to here, career in ruins, five years later. He floated in the warm ocean and hated Blair for that, just a little. But Jim had never been able to hate him for long, and with the water lifting him and the waves rocking him, his resentment never lasted.

When it was gone, he could drift off in remembered joy, grateful for what he'd had for the last five years. Blue eyes, beautiful face, the lips that he loved to stare at more than anything else in the universe. Laughter, wonder, understanding, and the rock-solid security of Sandburg behind him, so that he never felt alone or exposed. Jim hugged himself with glee, sometimes, zooming his vision in on the hut and watching Sandburg hurling rocks at a distant target, one of a thousand demonstrations that Blair was his and would never abandon him.

This week they were calling Simon at his Aunt Matilda's birthday dinner. Blair identified himself as Detective Brown to the woman who answered.

"What's our status?" Blair said, when Simon picked up.

"The bad news is, the judge has set a date for the proceedings. The other bad news is, they've got a mountain of evidence and something like forty witnesses who'll testify that our mutual friend has an unusual ability to hear things and see things he shouldn't. The even worse news is, we're running out of reasons why you're out of touch, and we can't delay on your accounts any longer."

"Shit," Blair said.

"The DA wants to negotiate reduced sentences with Jamison," Simon said. "Basically, their clients get off, but we don't have a precedent that can be used against us by every other lawyer in town. I haven't agreed yet, but I probably will."

"No," Jim said loudly. "No, no way do you let them walk."

"Jim, shh!" Blair said, making shut-up gestures at him and then waving cheerily at the other people in the grocery store.

"We can make deals on the strongest cases, the ones we'd probably lose anyway; then fight over the weaker appeals. Otherwise," Simon sighed, heavily, "we're fucked. I won't let the last five years' work come unravelled, Detectives. I'm cutting my losses."

"They're dangerous," Jim shouted down the phone, bristling with rage. "Miller, Stefanos, Jacoby, those guys killed anyone who got in their way, and they'll kill again! They'll want payback; they'll go after the witnesses!"

"Jim!" Blair pushed him away from the phone. "Chill the fuck out!" he hissed. "Go outside and wait for me there."

Jim stalked out, still listening.

"Is he okay?" Simon asked.

Blair sighed heavily. "Yeah. No. I don't know. I don't think a Sentinel is really built for the niceties of the modern judicial system, which is half the reason we're in this mess in the first place."

"Huh," Simon said, thoughtful. "Would you testify to that in court? Can we argue some kind of diminished capacity?"

"No good," Blair said. "Diminished capacity would only make it worse."

Simon heaved out a huge sigh. "D-Day is six weeks from now, Sandburg. I need a decision from you and Jim about whether or not you'll be here, and what you'll say if you are. How soon can you give me that?"

"Give us a couple of days to talk it over and hash out the details," Blair said. "Then I'll call you at work. You can fill me in on everything that's happened while we were gone, and I'll be so shocked and dismayed, you'll want to give me an Oscar."

Simon laughed hoarsely. "You do that," he said, and hung up.

"Fuck," Blair said under his breath, and Jim said it with him.

three: act

They paid an obscene amount of money for rump steak and roast potatoes at a touristy restaurant near the ferry landing. The red meat was like a shot in the vein after months of mostly fish. They each had a couple too many beers, and staggered the half-mile to where their dinghy was tied.

"Are you sure you're all right to drive, man?" Blair said, and then laughed weakly.

Jim wasn't sure. His vision was weaving in and out of focus, and his hands felt clumsy.

"Jim?" Blair repeated, and then took his hand and led him away from the boat. "Okay, we're gonna sit down and watch the waves for a while."

The waves looked like his nightmares rolling in, slick and dark and neverending. The moon was full and huge, looming bright with dark pock marks in it, each one a scar from rubble striking down from the universe, this one like a knife wound, this one like a bullet hole, that one like the holes left by Andrew Miller's hammer on Janie McMahon's head.

"Breathe, Jim, just breathe," Blair was saying, rubbing his back. "Take your time, follow my voice back."

Jim blinked and shook his head.

"You with me?" Blair was in close, studying his face, a little pale himself.

Jim nodded.

"I know we're screwed," he blurted. "Jim--" He leaned forward and put his head in his hands. "We're so screwed."

"Sandburg," Jim said roughly, and pulled him close. "It's not your fault, okay? Whatever happens, you've done a whole lot of good for my city, and nothing will change that. You did good getting us here. You did good buying us time."

"Yeah," Blair said, shrugging angrily. "It still sucks, though."

"Who knows?" Jim told him, shaking him a little. "Maybe there's still a way out. Come on." He stood up and hauled Blair to stand beside him. "We'll go home, and then we'll work out what to do next. We'll get through it."

Back at the hut, Sandburg lit the gas lamp and sat down at the table, gesturing to Jim to sit opposite.

"Okay, the options are," he said, and wrote them down as he spoke. "Exposure, which risks all of our work, plus makes our lives hell. Perjury, which saves our work if we pull it off, but makes an even bigger mess if we're busted. Pleading the Fifth, which really doesn't help. Not testifying, which just means Simon faces the same decisions we do."

Jim stared at the table and didn't say anything.

"There's another option," Blair said, hesitantly. "If it works, it could buy us a lot more time."

"What is it?"

"I go back, you stay here." Blair was biting his lip-- he obviously thought Jim wouldn't like it. "They subpoena me; I assert spousal privilege. They deny it because Washington doesn't recognise same-sex relationships. I scream from the rooftops, refuse to testify, and go to jail for contempt. Giant mess, political nightmare, puts the case into limbo, and gives the DA's office more time and leverage to work it out."

Jim inhaled sharply-- it was a good idea, a damn good idea. "You'd do that?" he said.

"Of course I'd do that! Jim," and there was that tone again, exasperated and devoted, "you said yourself, people think we're together, right? So if it's a good idea, I'll do it, no question."

Jim looked at him. "You'd be lying."

Blair shrugged. "For you, I'll tell any lie I have to. You already know that, man."

And that was one of those moments of joy that Jim lived for, when he loved Blair more than he'd ever thought possible, and knew he was loved in return. He reached out and cupped Blair's cheek. Words failed him, but Blair turned his head and kissed his palm, then took his hand and held it.

"Jim," he said softly, eyes intent in the lamplight. "Even if you thought I didn't care, didn't you care what people said about us for all these years?"

"I told Simon there was nothing I could do to stop it," Jim confessed. "But the truth is, I was too much of a fruitcake to care. Being with you made me happy."

Blair squeezed his hand. "It made me happy too."

Jim looked at Blair, and really thought about what he was offering. "I won't let you go to jail for me."

Blair nodded. "I didn't think you would," he said, and smiled wryly. "But will you come to bed with me?"

Jim's heart stopped, the breath knocked out of him, body saying 'yes' before his mind even finished processing the words. Blair kissed his palm again, and raised his eyebrows at him. Jim raised his eyebrows back. "You wouldn't be asking unless you'd finally figured out the answer."

In the morning, they lay in the hammock together and stared out over the sea.

"We have to decide," Blair murmured, but Jim pressed his face into Blair's neck and pretended to be asleep.

They took the boat out and caught their lunch and dinner, eating mangoes in the sun and licking the juice from one another's lips when the fish weren't biting.

"I don't like the options," Jim confessed, while Blair scaled their catch and he gutted them.

"Me neither," Blair said shortly.

They chopped up vegetables and herbs for a stew and left it sitting in warm coals while they walked aimlessly along the shore. Blair held his hand, and Jim paused occasionally to kiss his neck, his forehead. It felt like they'd been this way forever. The sun was setting in a fiery blaze, and Jim wondered how he'd ever thought that unrequited longing was as good as it got.

"What if we tell them, hm." Blair swung their hands. "That you're clairvoyant! They laugh at us, and then we laugh at them, because no court in America will rule that clairvoyance is illegal."

"Would I have to guess what card you're holding up?" Jim said, amused. "Because I hate that game."

"Fine." Sandburg rolled his eyes. "We tell them you're an alien from the planet Krypton, and watch their wires short out."

Jim shook his head. "Just say 'no' to tights, Chief."

"We could always tell them the dog ate your warrants."

"Or you were going to get them, but you had to wash your hair."

"Ha ha. The truth is, I picked up the dry cleaning-- you were supposed to get the warrants."

Jim laughed. "Sandburg, you never pick up the dry cleaning."

As the light faded to dusky grey, Blair stopped walking and stood with his feet in the surf, looking north as if he were trying to see into forever. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "We've been using the wrong criteria to decide this," he said. "Legal arguments, risks and gains, competing options, it's all bullshit. You're a Sentinel. You've got to go with your instincts. What does your gut tell you, Jim?"

It only took Jim half a second to figure that out. "That I hate hiding. That I hate lying." Jim watched the colours of the sky going dark. "That what those men did was wrong, and I used my senses to make it right."

Blair turned to face him, smiling like the sun. "Then that's what we tell the court," he said, as if it were that simple. "We go in with guns blazing, and we make sure they understand that using your senses was the right thing to do. Yeah, my disseration was true. Yeah, you can see things and hear things, but you save lives that way, and you didn't violate anyone's privacy unless lives were at stake."

"That could still do a lot of damage if we lose," Jim warned.

"Yeah, but look at it this way. All the stuff we got from your senses, we couldn't use it in court the first time, and we knew it. We already won all these cases based on legally obtained evidence. So we go in there and say, yeah, he's got the senses, so what? Most of their case is proving what we just admitted. Then we're like, duh, we know what the law is, we already did all of this legally, and they'd have to show specifically when and where we didn't. Meanwhile, I'll be talking about your genetic imperitive to protect the tribe; I'll be saying, 'hey, I'm an anthropologist, I work with entire communities to put these criminals away.' They're caught off-guard, and our case is much stronger."

Jim wanted to believe it. "But what if it doesn't work? These guys are animals, they need to be locked up."

"We'll watch them like hawks. As soon as they screw up, we'll put them right back. We're smarter than them, don't worry."

"And the media?"

"Who cares?" Blair looked up at him, face shining. "We'll deal with it, Jim. It doesn't matter, because all that matters is that this is the right thing to do. If it all goes wrong, we come back here and lie in the hammock, or go to Peru and help the Quechua, hike through Thailand, whatever. But even if we lose, at least we fought for what we believed."

"Yeah," Jim agreed, and then grinned down at him as the weight on him suddenly vanished. "Yes, yes, we fight all the way, yes."

"Who da man?" Blair shouted, punching the air. "Da Sentinel da man!"

Jim shook his head. "You're all class, Chief."

Sandburg flung his arms around him and kissed him on the lips. "You're all mine," he said, and laughed.

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