Title: I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine

Author: Lin Deale Thomas

Summary: Jim realizes that he might just have to . . . talk about it.

E-mail: [email protected]

Rating: PG-13

Status: Complete.

Category: Pre-slash humor; Jim's version of angst.

Spoilers: None.

Season/Sequel: Any time.

Content Warnings: Jim talks about his own and other's hard-ons, says a few words we all loved when we were in middle school. M/M sex is contemplated extensively but doesn't happen on-screen.

Author's note: Two drop-dead gorgeous guys who have more in common than they think they do - too much fun to resist.

DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel, the Guide, Jim (James Joseph) Ellison, Blair Jacob Sandburg, and all other characters who have appeared in the series "The Sentinel" together with their names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of the original copyright holders and this fanfiction is not intended as an infringement upon those rights; it is meant solely for entertainment and generates no revenue. All other characters, the story idea, and the story itself are the sole property of the author.

Author's copyright April 12, 2001 - 10:28:32. Please ask to archive.

Home. Man, am I glad to get home. I throw my keys into the basket, hang up my jacket.

I'm alone today for a few hours. Sandburg has classes until seven Monday and Wednesday of this term. That's okay; I have some thinking to do before he gets here.

Like - when the hell did I become a hopeless sappy romantic? At eleven-thirty-eight this morning, I guess, when I fell in love with Blair Jacob Sandburg. Although it could have happened any time before that, sometime when I was so busy tracking the beat of his heart I didn't listen to my own.

Shower. I want a shower. I assemble some nice worn sweats over one arm, find my Moroccan leather slippers. (Christmas gift from Sandburg, last year. I think he just wanted to see if I'd wear curly-toed slippers. Well, they're comfortable; why not?)

On the way to the running water I make a left turn to the stereo. I'm not in the mood for vocal music today. My hand, knowing what I want better than I do, goes unerringly for a Ry Cooder CD, his version of Ike and Tina Turner's "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine." I set it on fifteen-minute delay, track repeat, and go to get the afternoon's sweat off.

Shower feels good. I let the water run down over me, a lot like Sandburg's burble when he's doing his anthropologist-from-hell thing. He'd probably have some things to say about the title of the song I chose, and he'd definitely zoom off mentally to assemble all of the footnotes and monographs and obscure references he's ever read in his life about ethnomusicological doo-wah, and he would fashion them into a fifteen-minute burble, which he would do while he was giving it. The Sandburg mouth is hard-wired to the Sandburg brain.

That brain terrifies me. He thinks like an SST, and I chug along in my biplane, here.

Soaping a random bullet scar, I realize I'm going to have to talk to him about it, dammit.

All of this thought on my part concerns this morning, when Sandburg and I were working out together.

Ry kicks on, and I can hear Tina Turner's raspy grown when he plays the refrain. I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

We were alone in the Cascade PD gym, which is unusual. I like working out with Sandburg, so we started with a little hand-to-hand.

Put him down, he bounced up, grinning. Put him down, he bounced up, grinning. Put - whoa! put me down, I climbed slowly and painfully to my feet.

"You okay, Jim?"

"I think so. You learn that from Brown?"

"Megan." He grinned at me.

Sheesh. I'll have to get her to teach me that one. She'll enjoy bouncing me around until I get it, though.

Sandburg spotted me while I was lifting weights, seemed to take too much of the bar when I was setting it back in the rack, and damned near busted a gut. I was lifting two eighty-five, which is about twice his body weight; I thought he might have strained a groin muscle, or God forbid popped a hernia. So I grabbed the bar back from him and hefted it onto the rack. "Sandburg, you okay?"

"Yeah . . . I think so." He's bent in on himself, trying to sell me this line of bullshit, so I get him over to a bench, and do a quick check.

Now, I already knew that Sandburg has a . . . great gift. Short, skinny little Jewish kid, packin' major meat. Right now he has a hard-on like an I-beam. His problem is that he's clipped the tip of this Washington Monument with the weight bar. Only Sandburg.

I also know he isn't given to lugging around building materials in his shorts unless he has a human body in view to start him up. His reaction is usually pretty - immediate. So whatever cranked his scooter, it wasn't long in the past. And we've been alone together for about forty minutes.

Okay, I know that Sandburg's emotional history is all with women. Well, the emotional history I know about, anyway.

Uh . . . I'm pretty sure I'm not a woman. (I'd have found out in Vice.)

This time I remember Sandburg gettin' skanky with arousal about ten minutes after I broke a sweat, lifting. This time I remember that every other time we've worked out together, he's gone all skanky on me the same way.

Intellectually I am not Sandburg, but you don't have to be Sandburg to figure this out. He got started up in my presence.

What puzzles me is that I feel remarkably okay about this. Any other man would have been dead at my feet.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

And then I got the doubts.

Maybe his - celebration - had nothing to do with me. Maybe the wind was blowing from the wrong direction.

On the other hand, maybe the wind was blowing from the right direction and it had everything to do with me. I can hope. But I will have to ask to find out.

To talk about it.

I wouldn't have to do this if I hadn't turned into a hopeless sappy romantic.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

I'm actually willing to talk about it. How sick is that?

He's got the brains. I've got the muscles. I have no problems with that difference. He does the heavy thinking, I'll do the heavy lifting.

We both have male - maleness. Suddenly I'm very okay with being attracted to a man, so long as that man is Sandburg.

Gender preference? Not, when it comes to Sandburg and only to Sandburg, relevant. I'd have thought I'd have problems with that, and I'd have been wrong.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

Last week we were watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, the episode called "The Host." You remember it? Crusher falls for a Trill, whose host human-male body dies; the Trill's new host is a woman. Crusher couldn't adjust; hell, she had a hard time with the Trill's emergency transfer into Riker. Sandburg said it was a nice little meditation on human love.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

Me, I seem to have found no problem in falling in love with a particular person, and seeing our mutual gender as . . . a detail we, he and I, can work around. Through. From. Into. With. Out of. Pick your preposition; we'll cope.

I don't believe it either. It causes me to wonder if I'll be the subject of a science-fiction show anytime soon.

Not that it's anyone else's business, but yes I do know how it works between men. How did I learn that? Think Vice. That'll distract you.

We're still gonna have to talk about it, though. Sandburg and me, I mean. You and I have already done all the talking about it we're going to.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

I hate taking risks like this. I risk my physical life, that's no problem. I have a lot of training, some talent for tactics, great practice-range scores, and a stubborn belief in my own luck. (And this Sentinel thing going for me.) Risking my heart is a completely different story. It hurts way worse than getting shot if you gamble wrong. Or at least it has so far.

I hate having to talk about it.

Toweling dry my short hair, I stare at this man in the mirror I thought I knew, who is emotionally pretty clueless at the best of times.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

Shuddup, Ry. Hopeless sappy romantic idiot, at the best of times. Like right now.


I put down the newspaper. It's time to start dinner.

I'm tired enough I think about ordering Chinese or pizza, but decide to make biscuits instead. I need something to do with my hands tonight, while my mind churns uselessly, looking for some way to avoid having to talk about it.

I'm kneading them gently when I hear that heartbeat, quite loudly, for a moment. I stop, puzzled, for a moment, and then realize that he's on his way home, and the Volvo, that automotive knock-knock joke, meshed its internal rhythms with Sandburg's own, there for a moment, and amplified them.

I turn Ry off.

I resume kneading. We have established that Sandburg doesn't make biscuits. He kneads them like he talks: very fast and too much. They end up tough. He likes them, though: the first time I made them he ate nine out of the pan of twelve. Then he spent the night throwing up.

I don't know who suffered more, him or me - I had to listen, and to smell it, which makes people want to join in: and I'm a Sentinel. It wasn't exactly a bonding experience, bein' barf buddies in the only bathroom that night.

I am interrupted in this fond assessment by arrival of Sandburg's distinctive footstep, heartbeat, and personal smell. "Sandburg," I say, as he shuts the door behind him.

"Hey Jim." He smiles, bounces over to the coffee table, and decants his laptop, a stack of papers to grade, and several thick books. "Have I got time for a shower? Man, I am starved."

"Twenty minutes," I say, checking the progress of the biscuits, the steamed veggies, the sausage gravy.

"Great." He bounces off to his bedroom, where his personal tsunami of dead trees has enveloped every horizontal surface. Only grouchy vigilance on my part has kept the living room free of paper.


Salad, my last dinner-prep task, is resting in its bowl. I resist strongly any urge to be a rabbit but it looks good.

Sandburg arrives, smelling of himself and the new essential-oil soap and shampoo we acquired for him not long ago. He gets out two beers, opens one for me, takes a hit off his own and sets the table. That's thoughtful of him.

The essential oil scents are a great relief to me. Drove me nuts, that conditioner he used to use that was banana in the morning, kiwi in the afternoon, and then strawberry all night long. Once he left me alone in the health-foods store and I went through all the oils, sniffing and testing until I found the ones that work best with him. Sage for shampoo, rosemary for soap. No conditioner except olive oil, once in a while. Although when he uses that and eats tomatoes, he smells like good Italian food.

And I like Italian food.

I grin at myself. Who said my sense of humor was challenged?

"Jim, man, what're you smiling at?" He takes up his station, tilts his beer bottle back, the long smooth throat working. The front of his jeans shows no hard-on (yet. I can hope for "yet.") Just as well; I might have wrestled him to the kitchen floor right then, and ruined the biscuits; 'course, you can always make more biscuits.

That's actually easier than . . . talking about it.

I take a slug from the bottle myself. "Oh, nothing, really. How were the halls of macadamia?" Continuing to dodge talking about it. Again. Still.

He makes a horizontal half-circle gesture with the beer bottle, butt against the counter, one leg out in front of him, one slightly bent at the knee, his other hand behind him grasping the edge of the counter. His hair is so full of movement it's probably illegal somewhere, those eyes are blue as heaven. "Students doing their best to dodge actually working through a class, my advisors dodging a diss meeting, an admin meeting I couldn't dodge: they all made me crazy."

I grunt in sympathy. The oven pings and we get dinner going.

Clean up is easier by more than half when two people do it. We start the dishwasher and snag another two beers from the fridge, as I watch Sandburg's smooth, well-muscled forearms move through these tasks.

There's no Jags game tonight. I find a Bogey festival on AMC, for when I'm not watching Sandburg. The movies are Bogey and Hepburn, Bogey and Bergman.

The African Queen is on my top-ten list of favorite movies. One of its best scenes happens after Hepburn pilots the boat down a wild stretch of river. She loves it, and says so. Her enthusiasm scares the shit out of Bogey, who knows exactly where, and what, and how big are the dangers she just lucked through.

Is that Sandburg and me out there doing my cop thing, or what? Jesus, man. I get so scared for him I can hardly think straight. He, on the other hand, puts his whole life right into my hands and it never ever occurs to him that I will let him down. So far I've used the terror that trust inspires in me pretty well. So far I've used it to keep myself sharp, him alive (usually), if not totally safe.

He tilts his bottle for the last of his Molsen. Suddenly, I realize I've given him two beers. Dammit! I want him to make a decision, but I want him sober. Two beers just take the edge off reality for me, but he's such a lightweight, he's half-plastered by now.

I want him, but I want him sober.

For me this is not about getting him drunk and into my bed.

For me this is about love and friendship, not lust.

If love is not on offer, will I take lust by itself? . . . no, I don't think so. I haven't so far found it sufficient, when I was dating women. I don't see that changing now.

But then again, I sure didn't see this changing, this attracted-to-women-but-not-to-men thing changing. We'll see.

That hair and those eyes and that sturdy little body reaching up maybe as far as my chin: he's just so damned cute. He was thinking about cutting the hair, but didn't; I didn't tell him how relieved I was. I like the fact that it goes off in five or six directions simultaneously. How could it lie quietly on his head, with all that brain thinking furiously underneath it?

Now he's staring intently at the TV, frowning. To hide my disappointment, I grouch, "Sandburg, I know I'll regret this, but what's up?"

"It's that doohickey on the mast, there," he says, gesturing toward the hanging scene from African Queen. "Totally anachronistic. Not invented until 1947, in fact."

And then he goes on, God help me, to give me a four-minute burble on the history of doohickeys. So he isn't that drunk.

I didn't expect to feel this much relief. Since I don't have designs on his virtue, just his heart, I relax again, finish my beer.

After a lengthy commercial break, during which I cravenly avoid or ignore any chance to talk about it, they start up Casablanca.

I know a lot of Bogey's lines by heart, and I take a tough guy's pleasure in saying them along with him. (I have a lot of people convinced I'm a tough guy. Sandburg knows better, but doesn't tease me about it. Much.)

I keep it up because it makes Sandburg grin when I get the words wrong.

Of all the cop shops in all the world, he had to walk into mine.

You hopeless sappy romantic, Ellison.

No scent of arousal rewards me, though. Just the grin. Most nights, it would be enough.

No scent of arousal from him all night.

Nothing, nothing, nothing. It gets to be 11 o'clock. The movie ends. A blackness descends on my chest.

He sighs at the end of Casablanca. Me too. That ending is so much better, so much more fitting and so much more appropriate, than happily-ever-after.

"Naomi raised you right," I say to him.

"Huh?" He wipes away a tear, surreptitiously. He thinks.

"Never mind, Blair. I'm glad you like the movie."

We watch the news, and my heart increases in weight with every passing moment.

I hoped for a happily-ever-after, here. (Hopeless sappy romantic idiot.) No smell so far. Maybe I was wrong. I just wanted to have it happen again for . . . proof, I guess.

At least this means I won't have to talk about it.

I click the TV off from the middle of a black cloud, get up to take the beer bottles into the kitchen, and finally, then, it's there. The blackness dissipates. Instantly.

Dear God. His scent of arousal is there. It began when I reached across him to take his empty to the kitchen.

My head whirls. Or the room, or maybe the entire world, getting back on its rightful axis.

On my way back to the couch, I look at Sandburg, and he looks tired, but he makes eye contact and smiles at me. I start Ry up again, but softer, this time.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

"Chief, you gotta minute?" The words come out of my mouth, and I realize, Oh, God. I'm going to talk about it.

"Sure, Jim." My name ends in a gigantic yawn.

I sit back down, my elbows on my knees and my hands clasped together in front of me. Those huge variable-blue eyes look into my soul.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

I watch myself massage my hands together. This is already difficult, and now I have to say something and make it worse.

"It's just - sometimes I smell things on you, Sandburg."

He's gone very still now. When he finally says something, I don't hear his next words.

". . . is it, Jim? We can isolate it, I'll get it out of my life, it's no problem." His eyes are on mine, his face concerned.

"Chief, I don't think so." I watch my hands twist around each other. "Sandburg, when we work out together, I . . . I can smell you getting aroused."

He swallows, audibly, and gives me that deer-in-the-headlights look.

I think it's gonna work out fine . . . .

I say hastily, hopeless sappy romantic that I am, "Sandburg, it's okay. It's just that - you get turned on, and that turns me on, pretty much like a cheap lightbulb." I rub my palms together, not looking at him. "I don't know whether - mmph!"

I am interrupted when he levitates across the sofa to plant one on me the likes of which could power the entire city of Cascade, Washington, for at least the next three months. I am surprised I don't burst into flame. The CD skips: I think it's gonna work out - frdrblp!

But now I don't have to talk about it.

I think it's gonna work out fine.