Warning: Please do NOT take this story seriously. I had an exceptionally crappy Christmas -- having given myself food poisoning. While laying around and watching the insipid, end of the year, MTV Musical Countdown of the 20th Century, I basically took an equally insipid idea and dared myself to make it work. Shockingly, I think it does -- but that might just be me. Drop me a line and let me know if you agree.
Summary: Have you ever wondered why it supposedly took Blair eight years to get his masters and doctorate (which I guess, technically, he never really got)? Doesn't that seem like a rather long time? This is my take on what could have happened during the missing time period.
Notes: Set before Sentinel Too.
Disclaimers: All standard disclaimers apply. Pet Fly Productions and UPN own the characters and the series. No copyright infringement intended. No money was made in writing or sharing this story -- unless someone wants to pay me and then I'll talk to my lawyers about sharing *weg*
Disclaimer 2: "Arms Wide Open" and "Higher" were written by Tremonti and Stap, produced by John Kurzweg and sung by Creed. No copyright infringement was intended. No money made.
Thanks: A huge round of thanks goes to NightOwl's and her timeline of events. I would also like to thank my beta readers, IrisWilde (my detail goddess), Lola (who always goes above and beyond the call of duty), Carole (who is always cheerful about the stuff I dump on her) and Beth (who knows I wasn't suppose to be working on this story and didn't give me a hard time about being derelict in my other duties). I was amazed at how many mistakes I made in this story. I think I caught them all, but if not, it's my own darn fault.
"Coming in at 97 on MTV's Top 100 Videos of the 20th Century is Dakota Jones and the debut performance of his 1988 hit 'Eyes Across the Room'. In a time when videos were starting to become more stylized, this video stood out for its stark simplicity. Jones, while visiting family in Texas, attended the Houston State Fair where Guns N' Roses were supposed to perform. However, due to plane problems the band was unable to attend the fair. The authorities, worried about a riot, were seriously considering bringing in local law enforcement to handle crowd control, when a young man carrying only a guitar approached the microphone and began singing an unplugged version of 'Reckless Life.' The crowd went wild when Jones tried to leave the stage, so the young man went back to the microphone and sang several more songs, including 'Eyes Across the Room'. Who would have guessed that a moment of courage to pursue one's dreams while backpacking across America would have made this young man such a mega-success? More on Jones' mysterious disappearance later in our show. But now, 'Eyes Across the Room', number 97 on our top 100 countdown."
"At number 64 on our countdown is Dakota Jones and his double platinum smash single 'Taking All I Have to Give'. While this song was skyrocketing to number one, Jones simply vanished without a trace. Foul play was suspected for a time, but tax records were signed and duly filed. Jones, often referred to as the politest man in the music industry, a man who defied labels and whose style could never quite be pinned down, simply walked away from fame and fortune. Many believe it was to follow a dream.
**cut to 1990 interview with Kurt Loder**
KL: With 'Taking All I Have to Give' soaring up the charts, what do you intend to do to top this success?
DJ: I never intended to take this path, Kurt. My cousin dared me to go on stage and with one too many beers under my belt, I did. While I wouldn't have traded the last two years for anything, it's time I focused back on the path I was walking beforehand.
KL: Which was?
DJ: Searching for my Holy Grail, man. Searching for my Holy Grail.
So with ten top forty hits, four of which went to number one, Dakota Jones left the music industry with his final contribution making it to 64 of MTV's Top 100 Videos of the 20th Century, 'Taking All I Have to Give'.
"Undercover in a karaoke bar." Blair Sandburg laughed as he looked up from the blue books he was grading. "That sounds like your own personal version of hell, man."
"What are you laughing about, Junior?" Detective Jim Ellison growled, walking to the refrigerator and pulling out a beer. "You're going to be with me every step of the way."
"Oh no, man. Not me. I've got... I've got... to finish grading these tests."
A feral grin blossomed over the sentinel's face as he leaned back against the kitchen island. "Didn't you tell me when I first came in that you only had five more to go?"
A whimper rose from the kitchen table while the grad student slowly pounded his forehead against the wood surface.
"Come on, Darwin. Think of it as an anthropological expedition into the forays of the human psyche."
Blair laughed. "You, my man, are spending way too much time with my friends."
"Just think," Jim said nonchalantly, sitting at the table across from the grad student, "you could do a paper on how alcohol makes everyone believe they can sing."
"Oh, man." Blair laughed in defeat while he ran his hands back through his hair. "Been there. Done that."
"Come on, Chief. It'll be fun."
"Not," the student countered sarcastically. "What's the real reason for wanting me to come along?"
"What do you mean?" Jim raised one eyebrow as he stood and walked back to the refrigerator. "Daniel Carton is suppose to be meeting with his supplier tonight at Chords. We have all the tables wired. As soon as they make the deal, we'll jump in and make the bust."
"So you need me there to help ground you from the noise and the smoke." Blair sagged back into his seat.
"Umm. Well. Yes, that too."
Blair whimpered loudly. "That too? What do you mean that too, man?"
"The chief has this set up as a joint operation with ATF, Major Crimes and Vice."
"And since there's going to be a large number of officers in the bar, we don't want to draw attention to ourselves by not singing in a karaoke bar..."
"Makes sense," Blair said, when Jim hesitated.
"So we decided to have a little competition amongst ourselves."
Blair banged his head against the tabletop again.
"Megan can sing pretty good," Jim hastily explained. "Joel and Simon are more gospel singers than pop singers, and, quite honestly, that doesn't go over real big in a karaoke bar."
"Henri can sing--"
"But Henri's on vacation."
"What makes you think I can sing?"
"Oh, come off it, Sandburg. I've heard you in the shower. While I don't want you to give up your day job or anything, I think you got what we need to put us over the top."
Jim furled his brow in confusion when his roommate graced him with a brilliant smile.
"Besides, how hard can it be to out-sing Vice doing their version of Louie Louie?"
"This is gonna cost you, man."
Jim's jaw twitched. "How much?"
"The next four Sundays, we test. No complaining. No putting it off. I have got to get my next chapter done and you've been putting me off for a month."
"Two and you help me rotate the tires on the Volvo."
Jim reached across the table and shook his roommate's hand.
"Man, I can't believe they really sang Louie Louie." Blair laughed, shaking his head in disbelief.
"I can't believe they were so bad." Jim grimaced, a small shudder rolling down his back, a motion which was immediately noticed by his partner.
Laying one hand on the detective's arm, Blair asked, "How are your dials?"
"They're steady." Jim patted the student's hand in reassurance. "It's just there are times when I really hate being a sentinel. You know?"
Blair chuckled evilly, shaking his head in disgust as he watched the Vice crew pretend to stumble drunkenly from the stage. Leaning closer to his friend, he asked in a whisper only a sentinel could hear, "Man, aren't they making the deal yet?"
"Not yet. Right now, they're too busy mocking Vice," Jim supplied helpfully.
Blair snorted back a laugh. "At least they're discriminating criminals."
"You realize you're up next, Chief," the detective said, nudging his friend with his elbow.
"You realize we're talking eight full hours of testing each day, don't you?" the student shot back.
"Come on, Blair," Joel said in a loud voice, playing the part of an enjoining friend to perfection.
Megan smiled broadly. "Come on, Sandy. Show them what you got!"
The student reluctantly stood to the clapping and encouragement of his friends and walked to the stage with his head down. As he climbed the stairs, he looked up at the karaoke band members and sighed.
"Hey, it won't be that bad," the guitar player laughed encouragingly. "At least you can't be any worse than that last group."
Blair shuddered in sympathy. "You guys must have a high tolerance for pain."
"You wouldn't believe our threshold," the bass player chimed in brightly.
The guitar player leaned forward and asked kindly, "So what'll it be?"
"Do you know Creed's 'Higher'?"
"Y-e-s," the guitar player said slowly. "That's a little ambitious, don't you think?"
Blair smiled at the group. "Yeah, probably, but I gotta admit I've been wondering what it would feel like to sing that song live."
"Oh, what the hell, John. Let him give it a shot." The drummer laughed. "It'll probably be the only time we get to play a real song for the rest of the evening."
When the other band members nodded, the guitar player relented. "All right. Let's do it."
Jim's attention was focused on the gun runner and his supplier as the band began the opening strains of the song, but his focus snapped back to the stage as his friend began to sing.
"When dreaming I'm guided through another world"
"I never knew Sandy had such a beautiful voice," Megan said in quiet awe.
Jim watched as his roommate continued to sing with his eyes closed, his hands cupped around the microphone, yet not really touching it.
Finally, Blair opened his eyes as he reached the chorus. His arms moving slowly outward and upwards.
"So let's go there
Let's make our escape
Come on, let's go there
Let's ask can we stay?
Can you take me higher?
To the place where blind men see
Can you take me higher?
To the place with golden streets"
"And what does the winner get again?" Joel asked in triumphant glee.
"Dinner at William's Steakhouse, drinks included." Simon chuckled, leaning back and biting on his cigar in smug satisfaction.
When the song was done, the members of Major Crimes were on their feet clapping and whistling, much to the embarrassment of the anthropologist, who tried to make his way down the steps but was stopped by the band.
Jim watched as Blair blushed and shook his head to whatever the band was asking him. He also watched as the student's shoulders slowly sagged as he appeared to reluctantly consent to whatever he was being asked to do.
The observer turned back to the crowd, his face hidden behind the microphone. "Umm. The band would like to play another Creed song." The anthropologist cleared his throat nervously. "So this one is for David, whose wife is expecting in two months."
Jim shot a look over to the vice officer, who seemed stunned by the recognition, then over to the perps who were simply smiling up at the nervous grad student, unaware for whom his dedication had been intended.
"Well I just heard the news today"
The crowd hooted in recognition as Blair's sultry voice began the song. By the time he reached the chorus, the room was silent as they watched the young man in front of them put his heart and soul into the song.
Jim looked over and was stunned to see tears in Megan's eyes. He looked over at his captain and was even more surprised to see the man swallow hard.
"If I had just one wish
Only one demand
I hope he's not like me
I hope he understands
That he can take this life
And hold it by the hand
And he can greet the world
With arms wide open"
Jim looked back at his friend and really listened. Was Blair really that good of a singer? He watched as his friend slowly brought clenched fists up to his chest as if he were truly looking for redemption.
After several moments of awed silence, the bar exploded into applause.
"Thank you," Blair said quietly into the mic as he walked quickly back to his group.
The attending members of Major Crimes slapped him on the back, jostling him back and forth between them.
Rafe ruffled the younger man's hair. "Why didn't you tell us you could sing?"
"You've been holding out on us, Sandy." Megan pouted, but the effect was ruined by the huge smile on her face.
Blair raised his hands in supplication. "I wasn't holding out. It just never came up before."
"Well, for the steak dinner we'll all be enjoying tomorrow night, you have at least my undying gratitude." Joel grinned as enthusiastically shook the observer's hand.
Blair shot Jim a disgruntled look. "Steak? You were going to tell me about the steak, weren't you, Jim?"
"Only if you won." Jim grinned back, dodging the elbow aimed at his midsection.
"The deal is going down, gentlemen," Simon interrupted as the group sat down and waited for the signal for the arrest.
"Well, you have enough brownie points to last you... oh... at least until next week," Jim teased as he and his guide headed toward the truck to go home, since ATF was taking the responsibility for the paperwork.
"Funny, man, real funny."
"Hey Dakota," the guitar player from the band called out.
Blair stopped and turned. "Yeah?"
"Great set. Any time you want to jam, you let us know. We're called The Aspens, but hell, we'll change our names to The Black Hills if you say the word. Just ask for the manager of this joint. He'll know where we are."
Blair laughed as he got into the truck. "Hey, man, my singing days are way over. But thanks."
Jim started the truck. "What was that all about?"
"My guess is that they're tired of playing 'Louie Louie' every night." Blair sighed as he melted back into the seat.
"No doubt. But why did he call you Dakota?"
"What?" Blair barked sharply, turning and looking back over his shoulder at the members of the band, who were still loading their equipment into their van.
Jim placed a calming hand on his friend's arm. "Whoa. What's going on, Chief?"
"Nothing," Blair said in a much calmer voice as he cleared his throat. "Though you got to admit, that was rather strange. I don't know how you get Dakota out of Blair."
Jim looked over at his friend, studying his reactions, but the grad student seemed to be in a much calmer frame of mind. "Well with all the noise in that place..."
"Poor guys will probably be deaf before they reach forty." Blair shrugged and sank back into his seat. "Man, let's go home. I feel like the smoke from that place has inundated every pore of my being."
Jim loosened his tie as he entered Major Crimes, grateful that his part in the Fanin drug trial was at an end, and hopefully that the DA would convince the jury to give the scum the maximum sentence.
"Jim, over here." Rafe waved as soon as he spotted the detective, turning quickly back to the television.
"What's all the excitement?"
"Get this. It's the second time they've aired this clip today," Rafe said quietly, his attention never leaving the screen.
"It appears that a ten year music mystery may soon be drawing to a close. In April 1990, Dakota Jones quite literally disappeared from the music industry, never to be seen or heard from again. However, if members of a local band called The Aspens are to be believed, Dakota Jones sang two songs with them last Thursday evening in a karaoke bar called The Chord."
"John Bartlett, the band's guitar player, had this to say..."
"I'm telling you, man, it was Dakota. He's older and his hair is way longer, but it was him. Although he seemed reluctant at first, he sang two Creed songs with us. It was magical, man. Pure magic." Looking into the camera, the guitar player added, "I'm serious about the offer, man. You ever want to go back to the top, give us a call."
"Band members paid to have a professional sketch done of the man they believe to be Dakota Jones."
Jim gasped as the picture cut to a sketch of a man who bore a remarkable resemblance to Blair Sandburg.
"If you know this man, please call us here at the station at 555-4598. This is Don Haas for Cascade TV5 reporting."
"That's Sandburg," Jim said quietly as Rafe turned off the television. "But who the hell is Dakota Jones?"
"You're kidding, right?" Megan asked, walking around her desk. "Even in Australia we knew about Dakota Jones. Where have you been?"
Jim shook his head in confusion. "When did all this supposedly happen?"
"Didn't he come onto the scene around '88?" Henri Brown asked his partner.
"Hell, I don't know, H," Rafe shrugged. "I only heard of him after the fact, after he disappeared."
"I was in Peru in '88," Jim said quietly. "I didn't return stateside until September '89. Didn't get out of the service until early '90."
"Sorry, mate. I didn't mean to--"
"Don't worry about it, Connor," Jim smiled gently. "So why does this band think Sandburg is this Dakota person? I mean, he sang okay on Thursday--"
"Okay?" Megan was flabbergasted. "Okay? He was bloody brilliant."
"He was pretty good, Jim," Joel offered from beside him.
Jim raised his hands in supplication. "Well, okay, he was pretty good, but that doesn't make him Dakota Jones."
"Where is Sandburg now?" Simon asked quietly from the doorway of his office.
"He's at the university. He has class until two o'clock today."
"Why don't you swing by the university and offer him a ride in today, Jim. No doubt someone is going to recognize that picture pretty soon. The kid is going to be up to his neck in reporters by the end of the day." Simon sighed quietly, rubbing the bridge of his nose under his glasses, knowing the headaches were just starting.
"Remember, your papers on the Masai of Tanzania are due next week," Blair announced to his class as he finished his lecture. "Now are there any questions?"
The class remained unusually silent.
"I have a question."
"And we're all waiting with bated breath to hear what it is," Blair teased, when the young man hesitated.
"I want to know... I mean to say... that is... oh hell. What did it feel like to win a Grammy?"
The class broke into tittering. "What?" Blair started.
"I mean... why would you give up fame and fortune to be a teaching fellow?"
Blair stood silent for several minutes, his eyes blinking several times as he tried to process the question. "What does a Grammy--"
"Your picture is all over the news, Professor," Allison Gardner said in a sincere voice, nodding toward Brian.
"And... when was I supposed to win this Grammy?" Blair asked quietly.
"In 1989," another student called out. "For 'Eyes Across the Room'."
"But Dakota Jones sang that song," a brunette from the left side of the lecture hall said, not following the conversation.
"Yes, but the news is saying that Professor Sandburg is Dakota Jones," a jock from the back of the room called out.
"I'm... I'm... supposed to be Dakota Jones?" Blair asked in disbelief. When the majority of the class nodded back, he laughed out loud. "And I gave up fame, fortune, fast cars, fast women... and a Grammy to teach Anthropology at a small university in the Pacific Northwest?" The class grinned openly at him. "If I thought for a second that staying up all next weekend grading your papers was going to be more glamorous than jetting off to... what... the Caribbean with some beautiful blonde bombshell, I'd be checked into Conover so fast it would make your head spin."
The class chuckled.
"But as I appear to be sane, I would suggest you all concentrate on your papers because this rock star makes people work for their A's."
The class groaned as they stood and started to make their way out of the lecture hall.
"I think you'd make a great rock star, Professor. You'd be very socially conscientious," a petite red head said, before she scurried away, blushing.
"Your very first groupie," a warm voice laughed behind him.
Blair spun, heart in his throat, until he recognized his grinning partner. "Don't do that, man. I'm way too young to have a heart attack. Do you have any idea what is going on?"
Jim quickly filled the grad student in on the news report. "You realize, sooner or later someone is going to turn you in to the press," Jim said in a more serious tone of voice.
Blair picked up his backpack and threw it over his shoulder. "Is that why you're here?"
"The news stations are flashing your likeness all over the airwaves. Simon thought it best if I stopped by and picked you up."
"Well, I appreciate the ride. I had to drop the Volvo off at the mechanics this morning. It was making that weird pinging sound again." Blair sighed as he stepped out into the hallway.
"You'd think someone of your stature would drive something better than that old rat trap," Jim teased.
"Hey, don't diss the classic, man," Blair laughed as he playfully shoved his friend.
"Sandburg, your car is in the shop more than a Benz."
"It just needs more TLC than other cars. And I wouldn't be calling me a pot, kettle."
"Man, what's going on?" Blair stared at the crowd of reporters standing in front of the police station. "Don't tell me we have another high profile case on our hands."
Jim gently put his hand on the student's head and pushed him below the window line as he turned the truck into the underground garage
"Hey, watch the hair, man. What was that for?"
Jim pulled into his normal parking spot and turned off the engine. "There's no high profile case, buddy. My guess is that those cameras are here for you."
"What?" the observer squeaked. "Has everyone lost their minds?" He looked frantically out of the truck then relaxed when he realized they were by themselves. "Oh man," he whispered as he fisted his hands in his hair. "The guys are going to give me such a ration of shit. Please tell me... No, of course not. You wouldn't have picked me up otherwise. Everyone's gone insane... that's the only explanation. Everyone's just gone freaking insane."
"So why didn't you want to sing last week, Chief?" Jim asked quietly.
Blair turned to his friend in stunned silence, dropping his hands to his lap. "Not you too."
"I'm just curious is all."
"Look, Jim," Blair said quietly. "I sing okay. I can admit that. But the last thing I wanted to do last week is get up in front of the guys and make a fool of myself. I mean, I was damn lucky we won the competition, otherwise I would have never heard the end of it. And had you told me about the steak bet, I probably would've been so nervous I would've really flubbed things up."
Jim catalogued his guide's reactions. Everything pointed to his being upset, but the situation was more than enough to upset even the calmest of souls, which Blair wasn't known to be. "Come on. Let's go on up and get this over with. We can't put off the inevitable forever." Jim patted his friend on the shoulder.
"Why not?" Blair sighed, but followed the sentinel into the elevator. "Be sure to turn down your dials, man. Life is probably about to turn into a zoo and the last thing we need is for you to zone on some reporter's idiocy."
Jim chuckled but did as instructed.
Jim didn't hesitate; as soon as they got off on the seventh floor, he guided the observer straight into Simon's office, ignoring all the jibes and questions from their friends.
"Simon," Jim called out as he pushed the student through the door.
"Come on in, gentlemen." The captain looked up from his discussion with Joel Taggert. "You saw the crowd outside, no doubt?"
"Yes, sir," Jim acknowledged.
"It's not just reporters either. Civilians are starting to gather also," Simon said, with a tired sigh.
Blair tiptoed to the window and peeked between the blinds. "How did they get here so quickly?"
"You've been on several cases which have caught the media's attention, Sandburg. Quite frankly, I'm surprised it took them this long to put two and two together."
"Man, I guess I should be flattered, but quite frankly I didn't think my singing was that good." Blair tried to laugh but ended up blushing.
"You were good enough to win us dinner." Joel patted his own stomach in satisfaction.
Directing the conversation back to the matter at hand, Simon asked, "The question is what are we going to do about this situation?"
"Can't we just ignore it?" Blair pleaded.
"I'm afraid we can't, Chief," Jim said quietly. "If we ignore it, the speculations will only grow wilder and wilder and we won't be able to get any peace, let alone police work done."
Blair blinked several times. "What do you suggest then?"
"A press conference," Jim said confidently. "Let's hit this head on. We'll set up the conference room. Let them ask their questions, answer them and get the whole thing behind us."
The observer opened his mouth, but no sound came out.
"Do you have any pictures from the time period in question?" Joel asked quietly.
"At the loft," Blair replied, dazed. "In my top right hand desk drawer. But I don't see how that's going to help."
Simon looked over at Joel. "Okay. Let's set the conference up for seven tonight. Jim, you go home and get the pictures. We'll have Serena blow them up for us. Sandburg, you'll stay here in my office until the conference. Come on, gentlemen. Let's move like we have a plan."
"Deep breaths, Chief. Deep breaths." Jim sat beside his friend in Simon's office, rubbing small circles on his back. "You can do this."
"I can't believe I let you talk me into doing this, man. I've totally gone around the bend." Blair never raised his head from between his knees.
"Who was it who said everyone had fifteen minutes of fame?" Jim teased.
The observer finally lifted his head and glared at the detective. "I would've preferred to have had my fame over my dissertation. Not over somebody everyone thinks I am."
Jim chuckled. "Don't worry, Chief. Your time will come. Besides, it seems like you make the news... what... every two months or so."
The grad student groaned and leaned back against the back of the couch. "Bite me, Jim."
"Come on, Darwin. Show time."
Captain Simon Banks strode up to the podium and looked out on the sea of faces. "Ladies and gentlemen, I appreciate you coming. There seems to have been a grave mistake made and before you completely tear a man's life apart with idle speculation, he would like to have the opportunity to address your questions in a calm setting. I would ask that you only ask him one question at a time instead of throwing them at him all at once. Mr. Sandburg is very nervous about being here today but has graciously agreed to this Q & A. Please treat him with the respect due him."
"Captain, Sandra Cullens, TV9 News. What can you tell us about Mr. Sandburg?"
"Mr. Sandburg is a graduate student at Rainier University. He is currently in their doctoral program, studying closed societies with a focus on law enforcement. As many of the local stations know, Mr. Sandburg has been working as an unofficial consultant to the department for approximately two years and has been instrumental in helping this department solve several crimes of various natures. This department greatly respects Mr. Sandburg and will not stand by and watch him be unduly harassed. Now, with that, I present to you, Mr. Blair Sandburg."
Simon turned to face the doorway and couldn't help but return the brilliant smile aimed at him by the graduate student. Holding out his hand, Simon beckoned him into the room. Joel followed with several large posters. Jim and the other members of the unit stood along the walls, not wanting to draw any unnecessary focus on themselves, knowing that the more they were exposed to the press, the less chance their future undercover operations would be successful.
The captain gently turned the student to face his inquisitors, his hand never leaving the younger man's shoulders. For several moments lights flashed almost continuously as reporters stood and took pictures. Blair silently endured the attention, although he leaned slightly back against the captain for support.
When the flashing dwindled, he cleared his throat and leaned toward the microphones. "Thank you for coming. As Captain Banks has already informed you, there has been a horrible mistake which I would like to clear up as quickly as possible. I figure the easiest way to do that is to answer your questions. So, please, what can I answer?"
"Don Haas, Cascade TV5 News. Mr. Sandburg... Blair, are you claiming you're not Dakota Jones?"
"I'm not claiming, I'm saying it, Don. I am not Dakota Jones."
"Mr. Sandburg, you claim, or rather, you're stating that you are not Dakota Jones, and yet there are no public records of your whereabouts for 1988 to 1990." Another reporter waved to him. "Would you care to explain?"
Blair looked over the room crowded with reporters from all media. "As I'm sure many of you know by now, probably after spending hours digging into my past, I graduated with a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology, and with minors in psychology, sociology and linguistics, from Rainier University in May 1988. I entered Rainier at the age of sixteen using one of their acceleration programs. For the next eight semesters, I took approximately eighteen to twenty-one credit hours per semester. I can see many of you doing the calculations in your head. I spent late July and all of August of 1987 with Dr. Eli Stoddard on an expedition, studying the Kambai Tree people of Irian Jaya."
"That doesn't tell us where you were from 1988 to 1990?" the reporter pressed.
"True. I'm sorry. As you can imagine, I was... well, uhm, am basically a science nerd. I had been working myself to the bone for three years, so I decided to backpack across the country."
"But that's what Dakota Jones was doing when he was discovered," another reporter called out.
"Believe me, I understand the similarity. However, that's where they basically end. Joel, would you turn over the first picture? Thank you. As you can see by the date in the bottom right hand corner, this picture was taken in September 1988. I have the negatives available for your perusal so you can see that the pictures have not been doctored in any way, but I really want them back. This is a picture of me and my mom, Naomi, and I at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. And please, before you try to correlate the location with the singer's name, look at my hair. My understanding is that Dakota Jones had short spiky blonde hair. This picture clearly shows that I did not."
"Speaking of my mother, if you should talk to her, I would ask you not to overwhelm her with your questions. But be that as it may, I can't believe anyone would seriously suggest that I was a famous rock star and never mentioned that fact to my mother. I mean, yes, she would have wanted front row tickets and everything, but I think Dakota Jones could have coped with that."
Several reporters in the room laughed.
"Joel, next picture, please. This was a picture taken about mid-1989 in Nepal. The man to my left is a Sherpa guide," Blair pointed out as he smiled gently at Joel. "I don't think there was any record of Mr. Jones going to Nepal, was there?"
Several reporters frowned and wrote frantically in their notebooks.
"Later in 1989, I spent time at a regional monastery. I would rather not give the name as it's small and the monks there would be overwhelmed by your presence. However, spending time with them, in their closed society, made me start thinking about what I wanted to do with my life."
"For the most part of my three years off, I wandered the world, observing, relaxing, experiencing life to the fullest. After a while, I realized what I really wanted to be was an anthropologist. So I applied for the master's level program back at Rainier. I know I probably should have gone to another college, but I wanted to be close to Dr. Stoddard, who had been my mentor. I'm sure if you dig around deep enough, you will find I signed a lease in early 1990. Unfortunately, I didn't get back from my travels in time to get into the master's program in the spring and had to wait until the fall. During the spring, I went on another expedition to South America to study the various indigenous tribes and how the lumber industry was affecting their lives by shrinking their territories. I published several articles on my findings in "Anthropology Today," "National Geographic," and even "Psychology." If anyone wants the direct cites, I'd be willing to email them."
"So what's your take on this situation?" a female reporter from the front row asked.
"I guess, in a way, I'm flattered. I mean, I know I have the whole Seattle grunge look down, but basically I'm a student of mankind. I think my family and friends would probably laugh themselves sick to think of me as a rock star. In fact, as much as I respect the detectives of Major Crimes, I gotta tell you all, this 'incident' is going to be haunting me in the form of practical jokes and teasing for a long time to come. And don't even get me started about my students."
Again, the room laughed with the observer.
"You must admit there is a striking physical resemblance between you and Dakota Jones," Kurt Loder from MTV said from the back of the room.
"Ohmigod," Blair smiled brilliantly. "I mean... you're Kurt Loder. Simon, look..." the student turned and pointed at the music reporter at the back of the room.
"I see him, Sandburg," the captain grinned at the young man's enthusiasm.
Blair suddenly blushed. "Oh God, that was such a dweebie thing to do," he groaned, covering his face with both hands. The room exploded with laughter. After a moment, face still red, the student raised his face and asked, "How so, Mr. Loder?"
"The face," Kurt responded back.
"Oh yeah," Blair's smile blossomed slowly over his face. "Umm, is that going to be on the news? Because there's this girl I've been wanting to date and I'd love to... umm... that is to say..."
The room again reverberated with laughter.
Several more questions were asked and answered and then silence reigned. Blair looked up from the podium. "I... uh... want to thank you all for coming. It was kind of flattering in a way. I'm sorry I wasn't who you all thought I was."
A couple of female reporters made sympathetic noises and smiled sweetly at him while they filed out of the room.
"Do you think that'll be the end of it?" Blair turned to ask his captain.
"The end of it? No. I think you may get some die hard reporters digging a little deeper, but I think the majority of them will realize their error. I hate to say this, Sandburg, but by this time tomorrow, your fifteen minutes will be up."
"Well, hopefully it was long enough to get a few dates out of it," the observer laughed as he waggled his eyebrows.
Several weeks later:
"Hey, Jim, what's up?" Blair asked, dropping his keys into the basket and sliding his backpack through the open doors of his bedroom.
"Nothing much. Just thinking."
Blair closed the distance between them. "Is it serious? Are your senses giving you any problems?"
"My senses are fine, Chief," the older man said quietly.
Blair studied him for a moment, then nodded before heading off toward the kitchen. "I'm thinking something light tonight, like vegetable linguini. Is that okay with you?"
"Sure. Sounds great."
The student practically disappeared into the refrigerator as he gathered up the various vegetables, humming to himself. Hands full and satisfied with his selections, he retreated from the refrigerator's chilly interior -- and nearly tumbled over his partner. "Jesus Jim."
"Can I ask you something, Chief?"
Blair stepped around him and set the vegetables on the kitchen island. "Of course. You know you can ask me anything." He turned and got a knife out of the block sitting on the opposite counter.
"Why did you give it all up?"
"Give all what up?"
"The fame. The fortune. The babes," Jim teased, although his smile did not reach his eyes.
Deliberately, the observer laid the knife on the counter before looking at his friend. He was silent for several minutes, opening his mouth occasionally to speak, but shutting it before saying anything. Finally, he said by way of explanation, "When I was fifteen, a Navajo shaman told me it was my destiny to find and teach a guardian who had lost his way." Blair tried to gauge his friend's reaction to that bit of news before he continued. "He told me my path would be a diverse one, but that was not to be considered a bad thing because in order to teach, one had to learn. However, he also told me that the road would be filled with many obstacles, and if I wasn't vigilant I could take a wrong path and never reach my goal."
Jim nodded but remained silent.
"After I graduated, I was really burned out on school. I mean, seriously burned out. I was tired of being the science geek. I wanted to... rebel. So I decided to backpack across the country. When I ran out of money, I'd work for a while then continue on. One of the stops I made was to visit my Uncle Owen and his wife. My cousin, Dale, had been a roadie for Guns n' Roses for a couple of summers and invited me to sit backstage at their concert at the summer fair. I helped do the sound check, which was why I had a guitar with me. The fair officials were going nuts when they got word of the plane delay because the fans were getting rowdy. They didn't have any back-up band and knew they'd have a riot on their hands when they announced the show had been canceled. Being a state fair, there were a lot of little kids in the crowd and Dale was scared they'd get hurt. So he dared me to go onstage and sing until the officials got up the nerve to make the announcement."
"He dared you? And you did it?" Jim was almost incredulous.
"Well, yeah, you see, I was drunk off my butt," Blair admitted quietly, blushing as he did so. "And he offered me five hundred dollars. Look, man, it's why I don't drink to excess anymore. I just do incredibly stupid stuff when I'm wasted."
"So what happened?"
"Well, I did an unplugged version of 'Reckless Life.' You know, just me and the guitar. When I was done, the officials made their announcement. The crowd was not happy, but then someone started chanting for me to come back and sing. Before I knew it, the whole crowd was demanding I come back. I mean, what in the hell was I supposed to do? So, I took requests from the crowd. Various people from the audience started coming up with instruments and jammed with me. It was very cool, a once in a lifetime experience."
"And the song 'Eyes Across the Room'?
"I had being playing with songwriting during my walkabout. It was basically just poetry set to music. When we left, the crowd kept screaming for an encore, so I went back out and played the song. I had no idea MTV was taping the show. Hell, after the show was over, I went back to Uncle Owen's, spent the night and hit the road again the next morning. I mean, what a high! How many people can say they played to a crowd of almost ten thousand? Uncle Owen tracked me down two weeks later to tell me that there were a ton of record producers looking for me, and the next thing I knew my song was shooting up the charts to number one."
Jim nodded and then grinned. "So what was with the hair?"
"Oh man." Blair laughed with embarrassment. "I ran out of money in Las Cruces, so I did odd jobs working at this Beauty School. I had already let one of the stylists cut my hair to a crew cut because it was hot as hell, but then Janine needed a guinea pig for her coloring test. Since I didn't have any hair, I thought what the hell. She said it made me look like Billy Idol."
"So there you were tanned, buffed, blonde and famous."
"So why did you tell the reporters you weren't Dakota Jones?"
"Because I'm not. Dakota Jones never existed on anything more than tax records. I am and always have been Blair Sandburg."
"And Naomi never knew?"
"Yeah, like I'm going to tell my hippie mother that I've embraced the capitalist lifestyle by selling my soul to the record industry. That would have gone over real big."
"But the pictures..."
"I wore a wig."
Jim barked out in laughter. "And the trip to Nepal?"
"I took that trip, man. It was something I always wanted to do and I finally had the money to do it. So I took two weeks off from my schedule and went."
"Telling no one, of course."
Blair grinned. "Hey, I was one of those moody creative types."
"So back to my original question... why did you give it all up?"
"I gave it up for a couple of reasons. One, I was scared. I kept thinking that eventually people would realize I had duped them and it would all disappear and I was afraid of becoming dependent on what I had surrounding me. The second thing was I didn't like the people around me. They didn't care about me. They only wanted what I could give them."
"Taking all you had to give?"
"Yeah. You know, I think you're the first person to realize I wasn't talking about a girl when I wrote that song."
"Any other reasons?" Jim pressed.
"Yes," Blair whispered, his gaze locked on his hands splayed flat on the counter.
"What other reasons were there?" Jim asked in a voice that matched his partner's.
"I hadn't found you yet, man; and I realized as I looked around at all the leeches surrounding me, I wasn't ever going to find you if I continued down the path I was walking."
"You gave it all up for me?" Jim asked in a stunned whisper.
"Well, I didn't know it was for you personally, but yes."
"But the money?"
"I have a nice nest egg accruing interest somewhere that helps me pay for things."
"And the fame?"
"Fame is fleeting, man."
"But you could have had it all back," Jim whispered, stunned as he realized what his friend was telling him. "You could be in New York or Los Angeles right now with a million dollar record deal if you wanted."
"I don't ever want it back, Jim."
Blair took a step closer to his friend as he laid his hand on Jim's heart. "Because you're my Holy Grail, man. My destiny. And I wouldn't give that up for all the fame and fortune in the world. After all, it's about friendship, man."
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