A Crime Like Any Other
by Rhianne





Summary:What's going through Jim's head as he watches Blair's press conference?
Notes: I know a thousand people have done TSbBS missing scenes, all much better than this, I'm sure, but I couldn't resist. *g*


"…My thesis "The Sentinel" is a fraud."

Jim barely registered the quiet gasps around him as he stared into the TV screen. Blair’s words echoed inside his head, over and over, mixing with the rest of his statement until suddenly Blair was walking away from the podium, pushing his way through the crowd.

The camera tracked him as he moved, head down, movements swift, almost frantic as he left the room. Jim could see Blair’s anguish – the too bright eyes and pale face would have given him away even if Jim hadn’t spent the last four years cataloguing every thought and feeling that flashed across that expressive face. He could tell that the man was close to tears, everyone who had seen the conference had to have heard it in his voice. Blair knew exactly what this was going to cost him, probably realised it more than he did, and yet he’d done it anyway.

‘Jesus, Blair,’ he thought blindly, his breath catching in his throat. ‘What have you done?’

Then the doors were slammed in the cameraman’s face, and Blair disappeared out of sight with a furious looking Chancellor Edward’s on his heels. Jim didn’t need a sentinel’s abilities to know what she had to be saying. A fraud couldn’t work at a university, and Edwards had kicked Blair out once before with a lot less reason than this.

The camera angle changed, and the slight flash of static, the unexpected brightness as the scene changed back to show the podium again was like a physical blow, rocking Jim back on his heels and forcing his awareness back to the present.

A creak to one side forced him to glance away from the television, and suddenly Jim realised that everyone else had gone. The last one to leave, Joel, turned to look at him as he pulled the door closed, a sadness on his face as their eyes met for a moment before he walked away, leaving Jim alone.

The reporter started talking and Jim heard his own name above the chatter coming over the television as a dozen reporters began telling the story, going over the announcement and putting their own spin on Blair’s words, and every single one of them getting it so wrong.

Just as they were meant to.

Instinctively he took a step forward, towards the TV screen, towards Blair, but of course Blair wasn’t really there, had never actually been there, and Jim almost laughed with the absurdity of it. Blair was miles away, throwing his career and his life away, and it was too late for Jim to do anything about it but watch the results unfold on national television.

This can’t be happening.

Suddenly Jim felt sick, reaching blindly behind him for a chair to sink into as the camera panned back over the podium, a small inset picture of Blair appearing in the top right hand corner of the screen as the high pitched voice of the reporter continued to bleat on in the background, finding a dozen different ways of repeating the lie.

Jim thought it would sink in more each time he heard it, that someone with hearing as acute as his, someone who heard everything even if he didn’t realise it, who could go back over a years-old conversation again and again with pinpoint accuracy would at least be able to understand and accept straightforward words. In that instant he hated his senses more than he ever had before. These were words he never wanted to hear again.

And yet the sense of unreality remained, the feeling that somehow this was happening to someone else.

Jim half expected police to swarm over the podium, laying out police tape and going over the small lectern with fine toothed-combs, because Jim knew he was looking at a crime scene.

A crime had been committed here.

There may not be a body to autopsy, not physically anyway. The victim was probably in his car by now, jobless, running from the scene of the crime, and suddenly Jim realised he had no idea where Sandburg would go, if there was anywhere left he would feel safe.

But the victim was also here, slumped in a chair and staring at a TV screen. Looking back at him with hunted eyes every time he looked in the mirror, because God, he’d never asked for this, didn’t deserve this.

Neither of them did.

But crimes had perps, didn’t they? Someone to be held accountable, someone whose fault it was, who could be made to take responsibility for what they’d done, for the pain they’d caused others.

And in that instant all the anger, all the rage Jim had felt at Blair for what he’d done, for all the damage his work had caused, simply melted away, replaced with a bone-deep exhaustion and sadness that Jim didn’t think he’d ever be able to cure for as long as he lived.

Because who was to blame for this?

Was it really Blair, who should have told Jim the second he realised that someone else had read his dissertation, that Jim’s secret was no longer a secret, who should have known better than to put Jim’s real name all over the fucking thing? But then, Blair had never meant for this to happen. Blair wasn’t the one who had published the dissertation, who had told the press what he was. The shock on Blair’s face when those reporters had first swarmed around his truck had proven that.

Or perhaps Naomi, for going behind her son’s back and sending private material to Sid Graham without his consent, for actively encouraging Graham to act against Blair’s wishes even after the man had said no. But Naomi hadn’t read the dissertation, and they’d kept its true subject a secret from her just as anyone else. If it had really been about the police department, about closed societies or whatever the hell Sandburg used to spout whenever anyone asked, then none of this would have happened. Naomi had had no reason to think the dissertation was such a secret, even if she should have respected her son’s wished for once in her life.

Or was it his own fault for not expecting this to happen all along? For not realising that Blair wouldn’t have done this on purpose, for not at least listening to him when the shit hit the fan and finding a way for them both to fix it before it ever got this far.

Hell, they both should have known right at the beginning that there was no way Blair could get his doctorate without the truth being made public. Even if Blair had changed the name of his subject, anyone who knew anything about Blair, about the people he spent time with over the last few years, about the close friendship they had nurtured and the cases they’d worked on together, anyone with the slightest logical mind would have known exactly who the subject was.

This was always going to happen, but now they had both paid the price, and while Jim knew he still had a job, that the furore would settle down now that people didn’t think he was some kind of freak, Blair had been left with nothing, and Jim knew enough about the press to know that they’d go after Sandburg with the same single-minded intensity they had him.

The picture in front of him changed, leaving the press conference and moving on to other, local news, things that Jim had no interest in, and he switched the television off automatically.

He knew how insecure Blair could be, deep down beneath the bravado that he used as a mask, the whirlwind that stopped people from getting too close except on Blair’s own terms. Blair wasn’t the only one who had been observing these last few years, and Jim knew that they had more in common than perhaps even Blair realised.

Denouncing his work and himself would damage Blair’s self-image more than he would ever admit, Jim knew, even if Blair knew that he’d lied for the best of reasons, and that he wasn’t any more a fraud than Jim’s abilities. Blair would need to know that not everyone believed what he’d said, otherwise Jim knew that Blair would simply pack and bag and leave, thinking that was the best thing for everyone concerned.

But Jim was a cop, he solved crimes for a living, and if a crime had been committed here, if only an emotional one, then it was up to him to fix it, to find a way to put things right.

He stood slowly, still thinking furiously as he pulled out his cellphone and dialled Sandburg’s number, nightmare visions of Blair already on the highway out of Cascade filling his mind as he dialled.

He swore when the voicemail kicked in, leaving a brief message before Joel appeared at the door, frowning apologetically as Jim dumped the phone back in his pocket.

"Sorry Jim, but Bartley’s here. He’s demanding to speak to you."

Jim sighed, rubbing his forehead, feeling the headache begin to gather behind his eyes. He followed Joel out of the room without a word, vowing to get this mess with Zeller fixed as soon as possible.

He had more important things to do.





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