Who Am I Now?

By: Kathy

*Who Am I Now?*

Once again the question unwittingly comes to mind as I sit here on the couch and watch Jim get ready to leave for the station. He really shouldn't even be going in yet but I know he's doing it so that he won't have to sit here at the loft with me. His cane is leaning against the door and he's trying to keep his balance as he shrugs on his jacket. I want to go help him. At this moment, there's nothing that I want more than to just go over there and help him. But I don't. I just sit here and watch. When he's finally got his jacket on, he grabs his cane and reaches to open the door. For a second he hesitates and I know he's trying to decide whether or not he should say something to me. A part of me wishes he would. Wishes that he's just turn around and finally say something. But there's another part of me, a larger part, which isn't ready for that yet. So when he finally just says a weary sounding, 'Later, Chief,' I'm relieved. When I don't say anything back, his shoulders slump just a little bit and at that moment he looks so defeated. With a small sigh, he leaves and I'm alone.

*Who Am I Now?*

I first started asking myself that question when I was cleaning out my office at Rainier. Jim, Joel, hell even Rafe and Brown, offered to help me but I turned them all down. When I first started at Rainier, I was by myself so it was only fitting that I should be by myself when I left. It took me most of the day to pack everything up. I had just about finished when I spotted a box that had been shoved behind some filing cabinets. The room was barren and so empty looking. Once again reverting back to the unused storage room it had been before I took it over.

Wanting to do anything to postpone that final transformation of this room, reluctant to let go of the last remaining remnants of my academic life, I drug the box to the center of the room and sat down next to it. As soon as I opened it, I remembered why I had hidden it away in the first place. Hands trembling, I pulled out the bulky jacket.

Fingering the bullet hole in the sleeve, I remembered the day Jim had brought it to me. It had only been a few days since Lash had kidnapped me. The loft was pretty much put back together then and the only traces of Lash's appearance in our lives was the nightmares that plagued my sleep. I was working late, trying to get caught up on some grading when Jim showed up at my office. I was about to ask him what was wrong when he pulled that damn jacket out from behind his back.

He wasn't trying to be cruel or anything. In fact, he was just trying to help me out. Knowing that my money was tight, he had pulled some strings and gotten it released from evidence. Like they'd even needed to keep it in the first place. The son of a bitch was dead, after all. It's not like there was going to be a trial or anything. But I hadn't minded. I was planning to burn the damn thing as soon as I got it back anyway. Kind of like a purification ritual, I guess. A cleansing fire to burn Lash from my mind and my soul I took one look at Jim's face though and felt my heart clench at the hopeful look in his eyes and the small, shy smile on his lips. He told me that he thought I'd want the jacket back since it was turning cold outside. At first I could only sit there and stare at it. When Jim's smile faded and he started to lower the jacket, I came out of it. Pasting a smile on my face, I stood up and walked over to take it from him. When I said thanks and slipped it on, his whole face lit up. Then he made some mumbled, lame excuses and left. I stood there for a few minutes, my skin crawling, and waited until after I was sure he was gone. Then, I slipped off the jacket. I shoved it in a box and hid it behind the filing cabinet. It's been there every since.

One time, Jim asked about it. I tried to lie, but I couldn't. So I told him the truth. He look so stricken, I couldn't believe it. Kept apologizing over and over again. Saying he couldn't believe how stupid he had been. After a while, I finally convinced him that it was no big deal and that I was fine. The next day, I came home and found a brand new coat lying on my bed. I tried to give it back but he wouldn't take it. I got a plastic liner that I store it in during the summer. It's the best coat I've ever had. And my favorite.

So I was sitting there in what used to be my office, holding what used to be my coat, and the question came to mind. "Who am I now?" I could even see it written in red, just how Lash had left it written in the restroom for Jim and I to find. I shoved the coat back in the box and carried it out with the last of my belongings. Then I left Rainier, knowing that this time I would never be coming back. And it felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind.

*Who Am I Now?*

I went to the station after that. Much to my surprise, Jim had left a message asking me to meet him there. I parked in the garage and just sat in my car for a while. The memories I have of the station are, oddly enough, even stronger than my ones of Rainier. Maybe because, as much as Rainier was a part of my life, this is the place that taught me more about the kind of person I am. The trials I faced as I earned acceptance here, as I made a place for myself here, were more challenging ... and often more rewarding ... then any I faced during my years at Rainier. I may have grown up at Rainier but here is where I really became an adult.

Not wanting to keep Jim waiting, I went up to the bullpen. Surprisingly, I didn't receive the open hostility and condemnation I had been receiving at Rainier. Sure, there was some. But nowhere near what I was expecting. The ones that always smiled at me still smiled. The ones that said hello still greeted me. The ones that were rude to me were still rude. In the elevator, somewhere between the second and fifth floor, it finally hit me. Once again, I was served with a reminder of the difference between the two worlds I had inhabited for the past few years. And the difference of actions to words. In the academic world, everyone had ignored or overlooked my actions over the years and only focused on my recent words. Immediately taking my word that I was a fraud for the truth. In this... this police world ... a place where actions seem to always speak louder than words, I was being judged not on my declaration but on my actions over the years.

By the time I stepped off of the elevator, I was filled with confusion. Still caught between two worlds, not fully belonging to either one anymore. As I walked into the bullpen, I remembered late nights sitting at Jim's desk. Splitting my time between grading papers and filling out reports. Juggling my responsibilities and duties, each day a constant struggle to balance them both and not let anything slip out of my grasp.

No one was around so I walked into Simon's office. And I flashed on a blonde-haired psychologist sitting at the table as I come bursting into the room. The stern expression on Jim's face as I tell him about going to Club Doom. Simon's impatience as I tell them about Aztec Warriors eating the hearts of their enemies. My two worlds blending again as Lash looks on with anticipation in his eyes.

Joel came in and the memories fled. I'm about ready to bolt, knowing that I can't take being at the station any longer now that I can't be a part of this world anymore. But then, Jim and the others walk in. I'm surprised to see Naomi with them but that fades away as my eyes land on Jim. He's smiling at me. For the first time since the whole dissertation mess started, he's really smiling at me. Like he used to when we first met. The smile he gave me when I caught my first fish. The smile he gave me when I told him I wasn't going to Borneo. God, I hadn't seen that smile in such a long time.

Just when I think that we can salvage our relationship, that we might still have some kind of future together, I'm tossed that damn badge. Then Simon gives me the opportunity to be a cop. Before that could sink in, Jim grabbed a hold of me and messed with my hair, making some smart-ass remark about a blairskin rug. Everything spins out of control as I'm again sent reeling, lost and not knowing where to go or what to do. Not knowing who I am.

*Who Am I Now?*

I hear a key in the lock and I turn to watch as Jim trudges back into the loft. He doesn't seem surprised to find me still sitting on the couch. I look over at the clock and see it's only been a half-hour since he left. Silently, he comes over and sits down next to me. We just sit there, the two of us, just looking at each other. Finally, I can't hold it in anymore even though I know what my asking it will do to him. Voice breaking, I ask, "Who am I now?"

His breath hitches and for a second I don't think he's going to answer me. But then, he gathers me in his arms and I'm protected by his strength. "You're who you've always been. Who you always will be no matter if you're an anthropologist, a cop or something else." His arms tighten around me. This time it's his voice that's choked with emotion. "You're my partner."

The End


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