This was the first time I ever used a beta to proof my story. Her help was invaluable and Robyn (Allritas) has my eternal gratitude. Unfortunately, I lost her upon completion of this story and now will continue on without assistance. Alas, I fear my powers of poor grammatical skills are capable of serious damage.
Again, thanks to Starfox for the home and Robyn for using her skills - I miss you already.
They ain't mine in reality but just try and stop me from playing with them.
What can I say? The best time of a relationship is in the beginning. When you learn to enjoy the discovery of the person who freely chooses to discover you. So here we go...
Most of the Chopec in the small village respected the visitor; others feared him. He had returned to Peru from the outside world in search of answers, his eyes desperate with barely controlled fear. He sought out the wisdom of the Shaman of the village, an old friend who accepted strange things as a way of life. Yet, Incacha had no answers to give. Enqueri was as he should be.
Still, Enqueri wanted to be like he had been before. Normal. Incacha explained that life was this way for a reason. The other now had to travel the path of The Sentinel. He had to seek the Keeper of the Light.
Enqueri, also known as James Ellison, was furious. He had spent quite a bit of time, money and effort to come to Peru and still had gotten no closer to any kind of acceptable answer. The doctors at Cascade Memorial suggested that he suffered from some vague type of post-traumatic stress while working with the police department and offered the names of several doctors for him to consult. Shrinks with nothing better to do but dispense useless advice and even more useless tests.
His career fared no better. His superior Capt. Simon Banks of the Cascade P.D., Major Crimes Division, refused the detective's requests to return to active duty. Ellison had suffered one too many 'freezes' on the job. He had become a liability. In fact, if the stoic loner ever did decide to work with a partner, he'd have to travel to somewhere like, Alaska, to find someone to work with him. The rumor mill had done an excellent job of destroying his credibility.
Even in sleep the detective was haunted by visions of a wolf and a man - short in height, with longish hair, hair that was dark in color - calling to him with a soothing but urgent tone. The man always disappeared just before his face could be clearly seen. When the distressed man had told Incacha about the dreams, the shaman simply smiled and told him that his walk along the path had begun. Rhetoric was not what the detective needed.
With no other options to seek at his disposal, a frustrated and shaky Detective James Ellison tried to resume a reasonable semblance of normal life. He returned to Cascade.
He sat at his desk and mentally reviewed the list of attributes belonging to the men and women under his command. The Cascade Police Department contained a special unit whose job was to investigate highly violent crimes and thus called the Major Crimes division. Each man and woman had special skills and each had an exemplary records. The unit was quite special and he was proud to be assigned as its captain. He gazed off to the lone figure seated at the desk in a corner away from the others and sighed; some things never ran perfectly. That was life.
Captain Banks hadn't really expected Ellison to return. He had seen cases like this before - a cop over-worked or pushed to the edge who just snaps. The Switchman case, which involved a series of bombings and a calling card at each site addressed to Detective James Ellison, would have been difficult for any man to deal with. Yet apparently the loner detective had dealt with it on his own and had been a valuable asset in bringing the terrorist to justice.
Soon thereafter an assault on the Policed Department by the military lunatic Kincaid had also been quite stressful. Ellison, in particular, was the reason these incidents fizzled out so expediently. The detective was one of the best but he had been apparently pushed too far. The man claimed to see and hear things no one else did. He had seen psychiatrists and doctors. Still he seemed to get worse after each visit.
Though his relationship to the tight-lipped man was somewhat friendly, Capt. Banks kept his distance; familiarity with anyone under your command sometimes was a hindrance to your authority. Still he was concerned for the detective, who seemed edgier lately. Not much would push him over.
Ellison was unaware of his superior's scrutiny or concern and knew only that he was alone in dealing with his dilemma. His life had always a solitary one and he preferred it that way because it meant he was in charge and had no one to answer to or for. Things had begun to change and lately solitude had taken on a more desolate feeling. The detective continued to accept the assignments he was given and to work on the less glamorous aspects of police work - purse snatchings, carjackings, research and assisting in preparation of reports but it was disappointing to know that he had basically been reduced to being a gun-toting secretary of sorts.
Like any good soldier, he considered alternative solutions; something quick and clean. His life was spiraling downward. He was quickly losing all control. Caroline, his wife for one year, had filed for a divorce and was already with someone else. His father and brother kept their distance from him, which was not unusual considering his family hadn't been 'together' for several years, but it indicated another avenue that was closed to him. He didn't have anyone he'd considered a close friend. Though had gained the trust of several in the military even they were not the type of people he considered sharing his current situation with. They were not exactly a sympathetic bunch. For a time, he had once had a partner but Det. Jack Pendergast had disappeared a while back and shortly afterwards Ellison's second partner had been murdered during a gang bust, which led the detective to prefer working alone. No one left you when you were alone.
He had served God, country and man. Now it was time to do the world a favor and disappear.
Simon, preparing to leave that evening, walked past Ellison's desk and saw something that disturbed him. The detective had left and his desk was cleaned of everything - not that the guy was into photographs or plants, or even that he was untidy - but the desk was immaculate. Not one thing out of place. Reports were completed, no voice mail light, and no trash. It was as though the man had decided to quit. Hesitantly, the Captain reached into the detective's drawer and peered into it. Thankfully, Ellison's badge was nowhere to be found. The man just felt like tidying up before his three day weekender. Simon shook his head and smiled. It was great to be wrong sometimes; still he'd keep a closer eye on the detective for a while.
Jim had the next three days off. The moment he got into his loft he began cleaning and tossed out what little trash he had. The loft was immaculate. Sterile. Perfect. A fact he appreciated.
He leaned against his balcony and looked back into his sanctuary. Instead of a home, Jim had come to think of his loft as a place to hide from the strange sounds, the unusually sensitive feel of life around him and from the odors that assaulted him at unexpected moments. Jim was scared out of his mind and this was where he came to escape.
He decided that it would be done in a clean and methodical way. No need to cause a mess. He had made sure his bills were taken care of. His power of attorney for healthcare ensured that the hospital would not resuscitate him and his power of attorney for property ensured that his truck would be given to his brother Steven to sell and pay for whatever arrangements were left to make for his funeral. A plot had been paid for long ago and the headstone as well. He was to be cremated and the date carved into the space allotted by the headstone maker. All Ellison needed was to move in.
He felt a sudden peace come over him and was grateful for the feeling. He realized that to a certain extent, he still had some control. He looked at his loft once more and decided to take one more walk through the nearby park and then the beach before ... Well, every condemned man gets a final wish and Jim decided he wanted one last look before he ...
He grabbed his loft keys and left. He smelled the sweet dampness of rain and decided to go anyway. He wouldn't catch a cold before then and ... The park would be empty and he could avoid having to deal with too many unwanted stimuli.
As he previously surmised, the park was devoid of human activity. The rain was coming down steadily and would soon become a downpour. The wind carried the various odors of wet earth and the nearby lake. Time seemed to have fallen asleep. The moment suited his mood - gray and lonely. The sounds seem to beat in time with his heart. Jim headed towards the beach and climbed some rocks to take a last look at the land behind him. In the distance he could hear the rumble of thunder, the sounds of a bird as it searched for a place to hide from the rain. Slowly Ellison's concentration drifted away with the sounds. He was oblivious to the dangers of the rising tide crashing against the rocks behind him and the threat of being pulled out to sea.
As usual he was not prepared. He hated the cold wet weather of Cascade but decided that his time here was better than the time he had spent in Alaska. 20º below zero for two consecutive months was just too much for a guy to take in one lifetime. The beach was the shortest route to the warehouses by the docks and the young man decided he could brave the rain that was slowly building into a flash flood.
The walk brought back memories of his mother. The woman was special; she made him feel that nothing and no one had the right to change him. She had died six months after he started college; he had only been sixteen. They had lived in Chicago then and though he had been accepted to other universities, the young man decided the hospitals there were the best for helping his mother and that DePaul University would do just fine.
Naomi had developed a malignant brain tumor but made sure to place her son in a school dorm and prepared him for life with as much advice as she could find during the remainder of her life on earth. "Never trust anyone completely, only trust in yourself". The young man never understood the philosophy until he met Alex Barnes. The lady had read his paper on Sentinels and was intrigued. It turned out that she had been blessed with heightened senses and used him to further her usage of these extraordinary abilities. Later it was discovered that she had used her abilities for corporate espionage and worse. When he discovered her hidden agenda, he immediately reported her to the FBI.
Alex eluded the officials for weeks, but one night she had lost control of her car and died after plunging to her death off the side of steep cliff. In her wake she had killed six police officers, destroyed two high-profiled corporations and caused a great deal of problems for the I.R.S. Alex had also caused a great deal of pain, physical and mental, to the young man. In return, Blair Sandburg learned that he could hate but, thankfully, he also learned to move on.
The FBI had him brought up on charges of being an accomplice to the fact but the charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence, no prior offenses, and because he had assisted the officials with their hunt for the woman. Blair left Chicago and came to Cascade in hopes of leaving the whole Sentinel business behind. Here he would follow in the steps of Dr. Stoddard. Some day he hoped to work with the man. Some day he hoped he would forget ever wishing to meet anyone with Sentinel abilities. Dreams, he realized, could become nightmares.
As he hurriedly passed the rocks that framed the shoreline to his right, he noticed a man standing high on the rocks closest to the powerful waves. The guy must have a death wish. The wind or the tide is going to knock him over. He considered ignoring the guy but stopped. His mother had raised him to care for others and he just couldn't ignore a cry for help, even if the guy seemed motionless.
He tried to yell to the man but the wind cut off the sound of his voice. He tried to wave at the man and catch his attention but the guy didn't seem to notice him. He just stood there, like he was frozen or something. Whatever has gotten his attention must be pretty interesting.
After adjusting his somewhat over-stuffed backpack securely to his back, he cautiously climbed the rocks and edged towards the rigid figure. The waves were slamming harder against the rocks making it difficult for him to reach his goal but he didn't stop. As he neared the man he noticed the blank look on the other had on his face, almost as if he were in shock. Slowly he reached out and touched the man's elbow, "Hey man, you've got to get out of here, you're gonna get seriously hurt. Sir?"
Slowly Jim heard the voice and felt himself being mentally tugged back towards reality. He blinked and turned his head towards the voice. The guy next to him was trying to pull him away from his perch and had his back to him. Neither men noticed the rather large wave before it struck the two of them and sent them into the turbulent lake.
Ellison reached out for the hand of the man that had tried to save him and held on. He would not be the cause of anyone else's death. The two were washed under by a wave and Jim struggled to maintain his grasp on the smaller man. Using all of his strength he swam toward the shore with his would-be rescuer tucked beneath his chin.
They reached shore fifteen minutes later, both paddling against the waves. Ellison rose to his feet and was pleased to see the younger man doing the same. "Hey m-mister, are you alright?"
Jim couldn't look the guy in the eye, "Yes, thanks." Since the other was walking and talking, his work here was done. He turned and headed towards the loft.
The younger man was stunned, Thanks? He continued to stand in place, his soggy backpack now plastered against him. He watched the man continue on without a backward glance. Shrugging, he turned to head towards his original destination when a sudden wave of dizziness struck. His last thought was that the people from Baywatch made it all seem so easy.
Jim reached a greener part of the park and turned around just as the younger man collapsed. He ran back and quickly turned him over. "Hey kid, you okay?"
He was met with a giggle as the downed man murmured, "Yes, 'thanks'." Then the body went slack.
Ellison hoisted the Good Samaritan over his shoulder, making certain the backpack stayed in place and could not slip off the other's shoulders as he carried the man back to his loft. He would call for an ambulance from there. Distractedly, Jim wondered why the kid seemed familiar but he brushed the thought aside.
He woke to the sounds of a man carrying on a one-sided conversation. Slowly he opened his eyes and realized that he was in a hospital. Great. And me without medical insurance. Slowly he tried to sit up and realized it was a bad idea.
"Hey, you're gonna hurt yourself."
He was caught in the arms of some orderly. The guy was tall and really strong. He was quickly pushed back down onto the couch, which was when he realized that he wasn't in a hospital and the man tucking him in was the man from the rocks.
"What's your name, kid?"
"My name is Blair Sandburg.” He looked around and then looked back at the guy. "Where am I?"
"You're in my loft, I brought you here so I could get an ambulance to take you to the hospital. Unfortunately, there was a commotion at some warehouses near the docks and the hospital is extremely busy with the people injured in the explosion, so the doctor gave me instructions on how to tend to you and, well, here you are."
The man seemed unsettled - edgy. "What's your name?"
"Ellison, huh?” From the looks of the guy, military was a way of life. Blair never trusted the military. "Well, Ellison I feel better, thanks, and if you ... Wait, did you say an explosion at a warehouse?"
"The one on Fisherman Street?" Please say 'no'.
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"Great. That is just terrific. Now what do I do? I do a good deed and get punished for it. Guess I could go to the U and stay in my office. Yeah, then I could see if Sid still has that spare...."
Ellison had no idea what the kid was rambling on about. The voice. He suddenly realized that this hippie-looking kid was the man he had dreamt about - the build, the hair and then the damnable familiarity about him. He was the man with the wolf.
It was too strange for words and the detective liked things that added up. He hated feeling out of sorts and now wanted nothing more than to have the guy leave. This can't be happening. How could he be real? Here? Slowly he heard the voice call to him and once again he was tugged away from the darkness.
"Mister, I'd like to go now. If you could just tell me where my jacket and shoes are, I'll leave."
Jim quickly retrieved the items for him. Blair stood and shakily put on his shoes and jacket. He almost fell over when he reached for his still soaking wet backpack. He quickly recovered and looked at the silent man standing in front of him. "Ellison, you should see someone about those zone-outs you're having. What happened on the beach was pretty serious. I don't know what you do for a living but I hope it has nothing to do with operating heavy machinery."
The other said nothing.
Sandburg wanted out of there, the guy seemed to stare right through him and acted like some hermit who had never seen another person before. He reached the door and again swayed a bit.
Ellison placed his hand on the kid's shoulder. "Look, how about I give you a drive to wherever you need to go? All right?"
The last thing Sandburg wanted to do was accept a ride from a madman but he truly felt dizzy. Of course, having had no breakfast or lunch combined with playing Mitch Buchanan was too much to take. "Thanks, I'd appreciate it."
Jim heard the kid's stomach grumble and offered to buy him something to eat on the way to his destination, but the young man refused. After five minutes of listening to the aggravated stomach, Ellison decided the kid was going to have something now. Besides, it seemed the right thing to do.
All Blair wanted was to get to the U and away from the edgy man seated next to him, but the burgers smelled good and, well he couldn't refuse a kind offer. He accepted the meal but decided to eat it later. As he exited the truck he thanked Ellison and entered the Anthro building, grateful to be away from the strange man and happy to have dinner.
Ellison watched the other make his way towards the large brick building and shook his head. The dream probably meant nothing. Maybe it was just some strange kind of deja vú.
He slept that night - no dreams, just total peace. The events which occurred earlier left him rethinking his solution to his freezes, no, no what did the kid call it? 'Zone-out'. Suddenly he wondered if the younger man was all right. The doctor told him that the amount of water the two took in could cause congestion but since he didn't feel any worse for wear, he assumed the kid felt the same. Still maybe he should check just to be certain. He didn't notice that his earlier plans had suddenly been ignored. He had something more important to think about.
As he drove towards the U, Jim began to feel stupid about the whole idea. The guy was probably fine and again wondered why he had to make sure. The guy said he had an office; it was a place to stay and surely there was a medical facility at the university. What else did the kid need? Ellison turned the truck back towards the loft. Sandburg could take care of himself. He was a grown man.
Blair called the two people he knew in Cascade and they agreed to find out if they knew anyone who was looking to rent a place. He knew that living spots near the U were a rare find, but he had no choice. The fire department official informed him that there was nothing left of the warehouse except steel beams. He was strapped for cash and he had nowhere to turn. He looked out his window from his basement office as the rain continued coming down and realized it was never going to let up.
He prepared the cot in the back of his office and pulled on a sweater and another pair of slacks he kept in the storage closet. He was shivering and wondered if Rainier turned off its heat at night. He suddenly started coughing and realized he was coming down with something. Great, Mother Nature is wreaking havoc with me too. With the knowledge that his weekend was not going to be the 'fun in the sun' kind, Blair fell asleep.
The next morning Blair headed toward the University clinic/drug store. He was sick but decided against seeing a doctor. It was only a slight chill and a cough. Thankfully, he had previously applied for the medical insurance offered to him as a staff member and purchased some aspirin from the campus drug store. It had finally stopped raining and it was now cooler out. To Blair it felt colder than the 66 degrees flashing on the sign over the nearby building and hastily he headed back to his office/room.
Ellison paced the loft; he hated the nagging feeling that he should make sure the kid was all right. Why should I care? He probably is doing great. He saved my life but I saved his back - we're even, right?
He argued with himself once again -- all the way to the U. He headed towards the Anthro building and found himself wondering why the kid wasn't in the dorms instead. Jim was quite familiar with the University's layout. A drug bust several months earlier forced Jim and his co-workers to search for a local drug dealer who used the University as a hideout. The guy was finally located in a janitor's closet.
As he entered the building he noted the paper nameplate taped to the Directory. The kid was a teaching assistant. He seemed a bit younger than that. Ellison headed towards the room and again was met with another paper nameplate taped over the words Janitorial Storage Room. He knocked and was greeted with a raspy response.
"Yeah, over here." Blair was busily constructing a bookcase for some artifacts that had been delivered earlier that day. It was a bit difficult due to the fact the bad cough kept forcing him to stop but he needed a distraction from his thoughts about his old living space. When he turned, his found his thoughts were now completely diverted.
"I, uh, I just wanted to see if you were alright." Ellison was never one of those touchy feelie types. He was military through and through, yet the kid in front of him made it difficult not to care. He just seemed so young.
Blair was startled; he thought he'd never lay eyes on this particular individual again. "Oh, Ellison, right?" What is he doing here? I thought he was gone for good.
Ellison noted the raspy tone of the man's voice and frowned, "Yeah, thought I would come by and make sure you were doing alright and to thank you again for helping me out of the lake yesterday."
Blair was about to laugh, that was the most he had heard from the Ellison person. Unfortunately his laugh never came out; instead he was forced into another bout of coughing. This time he slumped against the wall, it hurt so much and his lungs felt bruised. Ellison frowned, and as he tilted his head he marveled at the fact that his hearing could be focused. He listened; the kid had built up quite a bit of congestion and he could feel the heat emanating from his body - Sandburg had a fever. "Did you see the clinic doctor about the congestion in your lungs and that fever?"
"No, I've had colds before; this will pass." Again he began coughing. "Wait, how did you know I had a fever and that my lungs were congested? Can you hear…wait, zone outs...Oh, dear God, not again." Blair's heart began a race his body soon followed. He was out the door and running towards the parking lot.
Blair had no idea where he was headed; he just wanted to be away from the other - he was like Alex. Before Alex, he would have been excited to meet another person exhibiting those special capabilities. He never considered the harm a person with those abilities could create. He never thought of the torture, the fear and even the self-loathing Alex could do but after she was done with the young TA one thing became certain, Blair Sandburg never wanted to know another person with those so-called 'Gifts' again. So, fearing the worst, he ran out into dark night, not caring about what lie ahead, only wanted to get far, far away. Unfortunately, his lungs were too congested to get very far and he soon struggled just to breathe.
Jim was stunned by the kid's reaction; he acted as though the detective had suddenly grown two heads. Now he was chasing the younger man down the street and wondering if he should just stop and let him go. Still, the kid seemed to know something about Ellison's situation and that spurred the detective on.
When he caught up with Sandburg, the younger man was coughing so hard Ellison thought a lung might collapse. He cautiously placed his hand on the man's back in order to ease the pain and waited for him to settle down.
Blair could hardly speak, the coughing seemed to sap all of his energy and slowly he sank to his knees. "Please Ellison, no offense, j-just leave me alone. I-I will be just fine if I never meet another like you again."
Jim pulled back, shocked, "What the hell does that mean? I came here to see if you're okay and you act as though I've threatened your life or something." He noticed that the ailing younger man was sitting on the cold, wet ground trying pitifully to move further away from him.
The actions angered him, "Look, I'll leave you alone as soon as I take you to the doctor. You are sick and I owe you; the trip is on me."
Blair finally was able to stand and continued to back away from the man before him, "Look man, you don't owe me anything. I told you; I'll be fine. Y-you can't force me to go if I don't want to. You don't have the right…" He intended to walk away but gravity and his body had a different idea.
Ellison caught the kid before he hit the ground and carried him to his truck. Stubborn, pig-headed son-of- a-bitch.
Jim waited until the doctor came out of the examination room. Being a man of action, he had called Detective Brown and asked that he do a background check on Sandburg. The kid was just too nervous. Twenty minutes later a fax was handed to him with the particulars on the younger man.
Mother, Naomi Sandburg, died when her son Blair was sixteen, a genius of some sort, an anthropologist, one brush with the law for suspicion to conspire with an Alex Barnes who dealt in corporate espionage. Alex Barnes had been deemed mentally unstable because she claimed to hear things that weren't there. She met Sandburg shortly after this diagnosis and suddenly her career shifted. No longer seeking medical help for her seemingly unstable condition, she began to partake in shady, unproven activities. Getting richer and more successful in a short amount of time, she was soon investigated for corporate espionage. The FBI thought that it was Sandburg who had instructed her on how to succeed because of his intelligence and the fact that it had all began when he stepped into the picture, but the kid had insisted that this was not so and had even gone as far as to assist the Feds in their pursuit to capture the woman. Soon that assistance led a car chase that ended with Barnes' subsequent accidental death. The kid was released for lack of evidence and all charges were dropped.
Having still more time on his hands, Ellison made further inquires through associates he knew in covert ops and found out a great deal more. Alex had tortured Sandburg into assisting her whenever the kid resisted. According to the young man, she monitored his heartbeat and would push him to the edge. Though the government officials had difficulty with the claim that Alex had special abilities, Blair assisted them none-the-less. With two broken ribs, severe lacerations on his back and a mild concussion, Sandburg had proven his innocence. The scars on his back were removed and all medical bills paid for as part of the deal he made with the FBI, along with the subsequent relocation of the young TA. Sandburg wanted to make a new start away from Chicago and the memory of Alex Barnes.
Ellison placed the file down on his lap as he slid into the chair in the waiting area. For whatever reason, Sandburg and he had crossed paths. It was very apparent that Sandburg knew what Ellison was but how was the detective going to convince him he would never harm him. Jim only wanted answers.
Dr. McCoy exited the patient's room and stood before the detective, "Mr. Ellison?"
"Yes, how is he?"
"Mr. Ellison, Mr. Sandburg has what is commonly known as a walking pneumonia. Not extremely dangerous if tended to and I did suggest he stay the night but he refused. Mr. Sandburg can go home and with careful monitoring and rest, he should be all right in a day or two. However, I get the feeling he is lying about having someone to look out for him. Be that as it may, he has asked me to inform you to go ahead and leave. Said he'd call a friend to come and take him home." The doctor sighed, "Honestly, he needs to stay here but I am forced to do as he wishes."
Ellison sighed, Stubborn. "Look doctor, Mr. Sandburg will be staying with me. Please prepare the release papers and I'll go have a word with him."
The doctor nodded in satisfaction; the man seemed to understand the patient quiet well.
Jim hated hospitals; the smells and sounds here were too distracting - he wanted out and fast. As he entered Sandburg's room, he was surprised that he could hear the fluids in the other man's lungs along with an elevated heart beat which had obviously occurred when his presence was registered.
"Oh God, what now? Look, I'm at the hospital, thanks for paying the bill and please let's just say good-bye."
"Look, you arrogant little hippie, I have had it with your attitude. Yes, you saved my life, and I owe you but I don't deserve to be treated like some kind of unwanted freak. Now you need a place to stay until you can get one of your own and not some drafty unheated office. I'm willing to allow you to stay with me in exchange for a few answers to questions you seem to know about - questions you seem capable of answering. So either you agree to this arrangement or you can stay here. Dr. McCoy is prepared to force the stay due to your weakened condition and the fact that you have no place to live." The last part was a complete lie but Jim hoped the kid would give in. It was his fault that Sandburg was ill - that much he could accept - but there was the other part, the strange part. Unbeknownst to the sick young man, he held the key to whether or not Ellison would continue living.
Blair was angry at the fact that the guy had informed the doctor of the fact that he had no place to live and considered staying in the hospital but he really hated them. The man in front of him needed help and Blair could see that the emptiness in the detective's eyes had been replaced with fear and anxiety. Normally Blair was helpful type of person but the past had made him cautious. For the moment his gave into old habits. "God I hope I don't regret this. Alright Ellison, I agree to your terms."
Ellison avoided informing the kid about the background check which had been done earlier and the fact that he was a cop until they reached the loft.
The sick man was once again on the couch beneath several blankets. He almost smiled at the way the man bundled him up like an infant.
Jim sat across from the comfortably situated younger man and suddenly didn't know what to ask or how to phrase his questions.
Sandburg sensed his predicament and sighed, "All right Ellison, I'll try to help you but this is only until I can find a new place."
Jim slid forward in his seat, "Fine." Again he was at a loss for words. So many questions, so many uncomfortable feelings he wanted to hide. He had no idea how to phrase what he hoped were rational thoughts.
Blair signed, "Let me start. There is a researcher by the name of Sir Richard Burton and he discovered that in some tribal societies a Sentinel was born. A Sentinel is an individual with five heightened senses, he can feel the change in weather, smell a fire before it reached the community, etc. Now if I am correct in my assumption, you can do all these things and more, only you can't control them, you need to learn to regulate these senses and how much to use to assist you in whatever it is you do. Right now you think you're going insane and that makes you uneasy, but you shouldn't be. You have what some consider a gift. Today's society doesn't require Sentinels due to modern technology, but I believe that there is still a natural need for predisposed people to protect the tribe. Recently I have learned that the need to protect is often not necessarily for the better of the tribe. Sometimes it's a desire to harvest the tribe of what it values most. Hopefully you don't need to learn about that."
Jim was captivated; everything Sandburg said sounded so right. Still he couldn't ignore the fact that the tone used by the other indicated a great deal of reluctance in deal with the subject at hand. "Sandburg, I am a detective for the Cascade Police department. I have been downgraded to desk jockey because of my inability to handle these… senses?"
"You're a detective?" Sandburg was not extremely surprised; the man was built like a rock, either was military, or had been. Being a cop - fit. Still, Blair wondered if Ellison was an honest cop and whether the man had taken the time to research his background.
Jim was amazed at how easily he read the emotions that played on Sandburg's face. The kid seemed so at ease with himself and yet so apprehensive being near the detective. "Please, before you ask. Yes, I know about your past, about Alex Barnes and your reason to want out of Chicago. I understand your reluctance to help me but, please, I need answers. If I could just control these senses I think everything would be alright."
"Look, it was said that every Sentinel needs a watcher, partner or some such title, someone to watch his back when he focused heavily on his senses. Your zone-outs are caused when you focused too much on one aspect of your abilities; subconsciously your mind ignores everything else. You forget to breathe."
The detective leaned back in his chair, "How can I find a Watcher?"
Sandburg looked away from the man. "I-I've made a list with names, people for Alex when I wanted to…" Suddenly he choked; he had promised himself never again. "I'll get the list for you when I can get to the U tomorrow." Blair suddenly felt the immense need to distance himself. "If you don't mind I am feeling rather tired."
Ellison had forgotten about the doctor's orders but he also knew the kid wanted time. It wasn't that Jim meant to be insensitive. He was just overwhelmed by the thought that he was no longer the man without control he thought he was, there was hope and the only one who understood that he wasn't a freak was a neo-hippie who despised all Sentinels because someone else learned the darker side of these senses and used it destructively.
"Sorry, I'll be upstairs if you need anything."
Sandburg was already asleep. Stress, anticipation and fear had taken its toll on the younger man. Unknowingly, he had surrendered his safety to the detective.
Ellison didn't move and instead found himself deep in thought. The what-ifs, whys and how-comes were plaguing his mind. If Sandburg had met him first, would he have considered being his Watcher? The job seemed temporary and Jim would have pushed himself to learn quickly. The kid seemed so young and vulnerable and yet so intelligent. Why couldn't he, just for a little while, be Ellison's Watcher?
Standing, the detective sighed. He looked down at the sleeping form and found himself mumbling to the other, "I would never hurt you. Please just give me a chance. I'd do my best to learn quickly." With that he quietly prepared to take a shower. Later that evening as he lay in his bed he marveled at the way some complete stranger had made him reconsider ending his life in just one day. Suddenly he was filled with hope and felt compelled to protect the person who gave him this gift. Somehow he needed Sandburg more than he'd like to admit. Why couldn't the kid see that?
Slowly he drifted off to sleep without the conscious knowledge that his hearing was focused on the heartbeat coming from the couch below.
Jim woke with a start and quickly cupped his hands over each ear. He felt as though the world were trying to drown him in over exaggerated sounds. He got up and staggered down the steps. Sandburg had been awake for some time and noticed the man staggering towards him. Quickly and without conscious thought, he went to the helpless man's side. "What is it?"
"Please, make it stop; everything is too loud. I-I can't; it's too much." He kept his hands against his ears but the sound of his own movements was too much to bear.
Blair quickly placed his hands on the detective's shoulder, "Ellison, please listen to my voice, focus only on the sound of my voice. Ignore everything else."
"Okay." Hesitantly Jim focused on Sandburg's voice.
"Now I want you to imagine five dials, each representing an individual control for your senses. Focus on the dial for your hearing and turn it left to turn down the sound. Can you see it?"
"Yes." Jim lowered his hands. The tension in his shoulders slowly eased out.
"Turn the dial until you feel it's right for you."
Jim marveled as how simple it seemed. Sandburg just knew what to do.
"Alright, now take a deep breath and slowly exhale." Blair hadn't realized he was just as anxious for the detective and was astonished at how easily the cop took his suggestions. Alex had been different, obstinate, and had fought all the way. God, I am starting to care.
Slowly Ellison opened his eyes and gazed into deeper blue eyes. Eyes that showed concern but were a bit guarded. "How do you feel?"
"Better thanks. Sandburg, is there any way to make this senses stuff go away? Is there any way to go back to the way I used to be?"
Blair smiled sadly, "I've never heard that one before. Look, these are gifts and although I know of no way to ignore these gifts, in time you can gain control over them."
"When I get you the list, you can contact one of the names I have suggested. Your Watcher will help you."
Jim didn't know how but he knew that the unwilling person in front of him was his Watcher.
Just then the phone rang. Captain Banks was on the other line; Max Daniels had escaped - his last known whereabouts, the Cascade Forest Preserve. Max had killed four officers and three civilians at a Police Benefit for Orphaned Children, claiming that society owed him for the time he spent as a mechanic for a nearby factory. The plant that had laid off several hundred individuals when they had relocated the facilities to an area outside the U.S.
All officers were called on duty.
Ellison prepared to leave and hesitated before asking the still ailing man to join him.
Blair considered the question and again remembered his feelings towards helping any Sentinel. "Ellison, I..."
The irritated detective tried not to sound harsh but somehow he wasn't too successful. "Look, Chief, I am not asking you to compromise your damn code of ethics. I just wanted to know if you would like to see what I do for a living. Maybe it would narrow the list of names a bit. Oh, and by the way, my first name is James."
"Hey, look, I can't help the way I feel about people with your abilities. I would be nothing but a hindrance to you. But…" Sandburg took a deep cleansing breath and looked into the eyes of the man in front of him. He seemed honest, trustworthy and a bit apprehensive, "Okay, I agree; maybe my seeing what it is that you do for a living would help in the selection of a Watcher for you." Sandburg stood up and gestured ahead of him.
Ellison quickly dressed and left with Sandburg in tow. Again he was reminded of the dream. The man with the wolf was beside him and now he wondered for how long.
They arrived on the scene and Ellison informed Sandburg that he should wait in the truck. Blair quickly argued that Jim needed to see the benefit of having a Watcher and this was as good a test as any.
Simon Banks noticed the newcomer and quickly walked over to Detective Ellison. "Jim, this is a manhunt and not a place for civilians."
Ellison immediately stood between his Captain and Sandburg, "Hey Captain, you called me on my day off and I owed this guy a favor. I promise he won't get in the way. Besides, you're just going to assign me to traffic control so what is the big deal?"
Simon glared at the disrespectful detective and then at the strange looking man who stood silently nearby. Now was not the time; traffic was indeed a problem. He reluctantly gave in. "Okay, but he had better stay out of the way. Is that understood Mister…?”
Sandburg was stunned - this guy was big and intimidating and for a moment he wondered how he got himself into this mess. Repeatedly, he reminded himself that this was temporary and quickly he read the man's name off of his badge. "Sandburg, Captain Banks. Blair Sandburg."
Ellison immediately turned and placed his hand on the smaller man's shoulder and guided him towards the growing number of media onlookers. He noted that Sandburg didn't flinch from his touch and for one strangely absurd moment that pleased him immensely.
Blair waited until they were beyond the Captain's hearing. "Look, Ellison, I mean Jim. You can find this guy and get home before nightfall."
Ellison smiled; the kid had used his first name. It seemed right. "Chief, you heard what my Captain said. This is dangerous and no place for someone like you."
"I'll stay right behind you and if you feel it's necessary, I'll hide. I am really into living, and catching dangerous criminals is not some hobby I want to get in on, but what better time to see what you can do? So, well, what do you say?"
One hour later and at least two miles into the forest, Jim shook his head at the absurdity of life. One minute he had to practically threaten Sandburg into joining him and now he was having trouble keeping him behind. Still, he hadn't had one zone out and he felt less nervous about using his senses.
Blair placed his hand on the small of Ellison's back as though he had done it a thousand times before and leaned closely. "Now Jim, try again. Focus on the sounds of the forest and search out the ones that seem to be foreign here. Daniels has got to be running and his heartbeat must be extremely fast. Hone in on that sound and we'll see what happens."
Daniels was hiding in a cave behind some trees, a place easily located by the fledgling Sentinel. The detective immediately called for back up and sent Sandburg to find cover near some dense brush. Movement indicated that Daniels was exiting the cave. Jim wasted no time and announced that the man was under arrest. When ordered to lie down, the suspect simply dropped his weapon. Another officer entered the now contained area to cuff the man.
Ellison tilted his head and smelled a familiar odor - C-4. "Shit! Explosives, everyone get back."
The forest erupted in flames.
Sandburg was allowed into the Waiting Area. Daniels had been killed in the explosion and had apparently wanted to take as many officers as he could with him by detonating the C-4 explosives he had strapped to his chest. Fortunately, Detective Ellison was able to shout out a warning before anyone got much closer. Three detectives were injured. Ellison was one of them; he suffered a concussion and was in a coma. Only time would tell if he would come out of this all right.
Captain Banks entered the Waiting Area and approached the strange looking man. "How do you know Detective Ellison?"
For the umpteenth time, Blair wondered why he had followed the detective to the hospital. He reasoned that it was to park Ellison's truck nearby - for when the detective had recovered and was discharged. Still, he began to think it had been a bad idea because now he was being confronted by Ellison's boss. Cops could not be trusted; the Feds had proved that. "We, uh, met on the beach the other day and well, I did him a favor and he was paying me back when you called, Captain, sir." Obfuscation? Yes, but it was sort of the truth.
The Captain didn't seem to believe the story but he let it go. "Listen Sandburg, I don't know you but until very recently, I thought I knew Detective Ellison. He would never drag a civilian into a volatile situation. Now, he has been known to ignore a direct order or two but I get the feeling that you had some hand in this." The darker man sighed, "I don't know if I should be saying this about one of my men, but you're the first 'friend' Ellison has ever introduced me to, let alone brought to the job and well, I would like to know if you are aware of his strange behavior of late and if this has anything to do with your favor. If not, I wondered if you could convince Ellison to seek psychiatric assistance for whatever he is going through."
Sandburg couldn't believe it. What next, a frontal lobotomy? "Jim doesn't need to see a psychiatrist, he just needs time."
Banks faced the smaller man beside him and lowered his voice, "Wait, what do you mean he needs time? Has he told you about his, his senses?"
Sandburg winced, maybe speaking to the Captain wasn't such a good idea, "Yes, I am aware of his situation."
Just then, thankfully, the doctor came to inform the Captain and Sandburg that they could see the patient one at a time. Captain Banks allowed Blair to go first. He would see Jim after he checked in on one of the other detectives.
"Mr. Sandburg, I will need to see you later. It is standard procedure to have all witnesses involved in a situation such as this file a report - a sort of debriefing session, if you like. Will you be available to join me at the station after we see Detective Ellison?”
Blair panicked, "Uh, sure, why not?" Blair had every intention of making sure Ellison was all right and then he would take off. He planned to stick to that idea.
Simon was informed that one of the other men in surgery had been moved to a room in Critical Care and that the officer's family members were gathering. He informed Sandburg that he would be back in half an hour to continue their discussion.
The young man had other ideas.
As Blair entered the room he found himself amazed at how the detective managed to project strength even though he was unconscious, and he wondered if it was a Sentinel trait. The grad student quickly reminded himself that this was no longer a field he wanted to pursue. Slowly he walked near the older man's bedside. Again his mind recalled the vow he had made - 'Never again' - but once more his heart told him that he could not ignore someone who needed help. Jim needed help and Blair was the only one who could provide the help the detective needed.
Hesitantly he placed his hand on top of Ellison's. This has to be some sort of zone-out. Captain Banks seemed to indicate that Ellison had no friends and Blair felt saddened for the man. No one should be alone in life; Sandburg was lucky. He had shared good times, times that had been more than enough for one lifetime with his beloved mother. Slowly Blair shook Ellison's shoulder, "Ellison, can you hear me? You have to come back, man. Your Captain is really pissed. He's talking about psychiatric care. Come on Ellison. Jim?"
Ellison felt as though he had been tossed into a black velvet box. Nothing but darkness and muffled sounds reached him. As he drifted in the soft darkness, he wondered if this was death. Slowly he began to let go, no one cared, no one would be there if he did wake. Then he heard a voice calling to him and felt a soft touch on his shoulder. He mentally reached for the voice, determined to follow it back and find out who was waiting for him on the other side.
Blair was about to leave and get the doctor when a hand grabbed onto his, "Hey Chief. Thanks."
Blair exhaled breath he wasn't aware he held and smiled, "For a minute I thought maybe this wasn't a type of zone-out. I should to get the doctor."
Ellison held onto the hand, "Blair, are you coming back?"
Just then the door swung open and Captain Banks strode in. "Ellison, so glad to see you are back among the living."
Blair used the distraction to slip from Jim's grip and quickly informed the doctor of the patient's condition. He almost headed back to Ellison's bedside but stopped. Ellison would be just fine. Blair would send him the list of names as promised and the detective would be take care of himself. He turned and headed towards the nurses station and asked the nurse seated there to give Ellison his truck keys. Then he exited the hospital and headed toward his office on campus. With nothing but the clothing on his back and the desire to concentrate on getting his life back on track, he soon reached his office and faxed the hospital a copy of the list containing the candidates most appropriate for Ellison and a note thanking Jim for putting him up at the detective's loft.
The still weakened man decided that he would stay at the U until he could find another place to stay - perhaps move again - and once there he decided to give into the exhaustion that begged to be respected. He reluctantly took his prescribed medication and prepared his cot for the night. He felt guilty for leaving the detective at the hospital but assured himself that the man could take care of himself.
Captain Banks didn't notice the way Jim maintained constant eye contact with the door while he was busy updating the detective on the fact that just after Daniels was pronounced dead, another hotel had been bombed, leaving five dead and several injured.
The Captain continued, "The person responsible left a note: Those who murdered Daniels will pay. Those nearest will suffer."
Ellison nodded but didn't seem paying any sort of attention to what the man was saying. No, his mind was all to aware of the fact that it had been at least 45 minutes since the kid left. "Simon, excuse me sir, could you check and see if Sandburg is out there?"
"Check what? Jim, what is it with you? Did you hear any of the information I just told you? This is serious; both you and anyone close to you are in danger. For now I have assigned a guard outside your door for your protection. " Simon headed out of the room, suddenly aware of the fact that the doorway seemed more interesting than the subject at hand. "Fine, I'll go see if the kid is out there and when I return you and I are going to have a serious talk."
Five minutes later Captain Banks returned carrying a fax message and the keys to the detective's truck. Ellison already knew - Blair Sandburg was nowhere to be found and the fax would be the list the kid had promised him. Sandburg had been fast, meticulous and very professional. Jim understood at that moment that the skittish young man wanted nothing to do with Sentinel work - nothing to do with him.
Simon was surprised to see the look of despair on his friend's face as he handed the paper and keys to him. "Jim, what is this about? Who was that kid and why is it that you operated better while he was around? You didn't freeze out there. Hell, if you think about it, it was like he brought you out of your coma when he was in here earlier."
Ellison looked at the fax containing names of people unknown to him. He crumbled the paper and looked as though he were about to toss it away as he slowly became angry. He thought if the kid saw what he did for a living, he would change his mind and consider becoming his Watcher; instead Sandburg had run off.
He looked at his superior and sighed, For god's sake, I'm not a monster. "Simon, maybe you ought to have a seat. This will take awhile."
Watching the detective go from anger to resignation, Banks nodded, "All right, Jim, let's hear it. What is going on?"
"Simon, Blair Sandburg is an anthropologist and is working at Rainier as a TA until he can obtain his PHd. Apparently he is some kind of genius, with an I.Q. that's on the high side of the Richter Scale. Anyway, he initially made a study of people with my condition. He calls us 'Sentinels'. He said that, simply defined, it means a person with heightened senses. I can hear, see, feel and smell on a higher level than an average human being."
Simon skeptically smirked, "C'mon, does that mean you're like, what, like, a Superman or something?"
He shook his head, slightly dismayed. Though Ellison knew he could trust his superior with this secret, his Captain unknowingly proved that Sandburg was the only person who understood what he was going through. The kid didn't think James Ellison's condition was a joke. "No sir, I'm just different. Sandburg was helping me to handle this, this senses stuff. He showed me how to locate Daniels just by listening for his heartbeat and by smelling the C-4 and that enabled me to shout out a warning to the other men. He taught me that I could save lives with this."
Capt. Banks slid forward in his chair, "Okay, if the kid is aware of how helpful he can be to you and your condition, why'd he run off?"
Ellison closed his eyes and sighed, "Seems he had the misfortune of meeting up with a female Sentinel in Chicago. I saw the report. The woman was heavily into corporate espionage and kept that part of her history carefully hidden from Sandburg. Like I said, the kid isn't stupid and when he eventually confronted her with evidence, she held him against his will, using torture to force him to continue to help her. She even tried to frame him as her accomplice. The kid fought back." Ellison opened his eyes, "Simon, he faced her again after all of that and assisted the FBI in their attempt to apprehend her and after her subsequent death."
Simon was astonished - Sandburg couldn't be that much older than his son Daryl. How had he lived through so much? "The kid has every right to be apprehensive. Probably wants to pretend he never heard of heightened senses."
Ellison couldn't hide his surprise, "You believe me, sir?"
Banks smiled, "Jim, you are stubborn, a royal pain in the ass, a good cop and a very private individual. You have just shared something very personal with me. You admitted, in a round about sort of way, that you, Lone Wolf Ellison, need this Sandburg kid. That in itself is unbelievable and your story sounds like a new-age comic book. Bearing in mind that it just isn't in your nature to fabricate such an outlandish story, well, it's so strange it has to be real. There is also the odd way you've been acting lately and how this seems to answer a lot of questions I've had."
Jim closed his eyes again. "Still it does me no good. I can't force him to help me. He faxed me this list of people familiar with someone with my abilities, or gifts as he puts it, so that I can screen them for compatibility. Get help somewhere else. I-I just can't shake the feeling that he is the only person who can help me."
Capt. Banks smiled wryly, "Jim, until the second bomber is caught, those involved in the Daniels incident are being placed in protective custody."
Ellison lifted his head off of his pillow and faced his captain with a puzzled look, "Sir?"
"All officers on the scene will have to be placed into protective custody. All officers and their partners."
Jim smiled and leaned back against his pillow, "Does this include civilians as well?"
Banks slid back into his chair and winked, "Well, since Blair Sandburg was instrumental in the capture of Max Daniels, let's say as a Police Observer? That would make him a potential target in this situation. Now, if I were to put the both of you in the same shelter, you could watch out for him and the 'Observer' title would enable us to bypass any unnecessary paperwork." The captain stood, "I'll get started on this right away."
Ellison tilted his head, "He won't be happy, sir. He may resist."
The captain smiled, "Anyone who ignores my request to stick around for a debriefing gets treated the same way." Reports were important to every case. Details kept the IAD off the unit's back.
"Thanks sir, but why would you...?"
Simon looked at the detective, really looked, for the first time in quite a while. Jim appeared healthier, more at ease. Whoever this Sandburg was, he cured the man in the hospital bed faster than any shrink ever could and with visible results. Ellison had purpose and control. "Let's just say some day you'll pay me back and leave it at that."
Jim smiled, "If I can get the kid to stick around for a while, I'll owe you more than you know."
Yeah, Simon definitely had to see what the little weird guy's secret was. As for that business with enhanced senses, well, Simon decided to push the idea aside for the time being. It was just too much to accept at once.
Ellison had been amazed at his Captain's contacts. The Police Protection Package included a small cabin located deep in the forest near the Cascade Forest Preserve, hidden between two mountains and with a spectacular view. Visual aspects aside, it was also easily defendable and had only one road in. Concealed in dense growth was an alternative path that led to an escape vehicle tucked safely behind some evergreens.
Being a man of action, Ellison was not the kind of guy who enjoyed hiding from a suspect. The ex-military man knew he needed to learn how to control his senses and this cabin could provide protection and privacy. He had already zoned once today when he focused on a man walking down the street that he had mistaken for the young TA. It had proved to him that he was not ready to pursue the bomber and that he didn't want to lose what little control Sandburg had instilled in him thus far.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of an approaching vehicle. He smiled as he focused his hearing towards the vehicle with unexpected ease. Sandburg was arguing with Capt. Banks and from the sounds of it, he had been at it for quite some time.
The detective knew Simon would not be happy, but he couldn't shake the feeling that everything was going to be all right. Sandburg was here.
Blair Sandburg was tired, achy and furious. He had faxed the list to the detective and kept his side of the bargain. Why couldn't the guy just leave him alone? Next time I will not play Mitch Buchanan; next time I will go and find a phone.
The Captain was of no help whatsoever. The man didn't even seem to be listening to a word he said. Blair was more afraid of being involved with a Sentinel again than some damn suspect with explosive issues. He simply wanted to be left alone.
As they approached a cabin in the clearing, Blair silenced the moment he noticed Ellison standing in the doorway waiting for them. His heart began to race and he once again was filled with the overbearing need to run. Didn't matter where, just away from Ellison, someone who had the ability to cause indescribable pain and distinguish every nuance while you suffered.
Simon was stunned at the sudden but abrupt quiet. He glanced at the man in the back seat. The kid was frozen in fear. Simon followed the kid's line of vision, shocked to see it lead towards Ellison. The young witness was positively terrified of the detective, forcing Banks to question whether this was a good idea.
Ellison braced himself. He had a somewhat abrasive relationship with his father, been in the service for four years, two additional years with covert ops, not to mention time spent in the Peruvian jungle, but the look on Sandburg's face seemed to wash all that experience away. The kid was frightened and extremely angry - and this was directed at him. He was uncertain how to approach the other and wondered if this was the one time his gut was wrong.
Captain Banks stopped the car and exited the vehicle. "Mr. Sandburg, if you please."
Blair was nonplussed, "I do not 'please' and demand transportation back to the campus."
Simon walked over to the back door of the passenger side of the vehicle. "Mr. Sandburg, it is my duty as an officer of the City of Cascade to provide protection to civilians when they are being threatened. You, sir, are in danger and I will do what I have to do in order to ensure your safety."
"I, sir, am no idiot. I am well aware of my rights and if I refuse your protection then you, sir, are to grant my request. I told you I refuse your protection; I want to be left alone."
"And I told you that when you crossed the line between being an outsider and helping the investigation, you became my responsibility. You will follow my orders or I will take your sorry ass back to Cascade and instead of a cabin, you'll be staying in a cell with some of Cascades more colorful citizens."
Sandburg exited the vehicle and mumbled, "If you ask me, the criminals of Cascade have nothing over the two of you. I'd probably be safer."
Sandburg stormed into the cabin, leaving a furious Captain Banks and a silent detective in his wake. "Jim, I swear, he had better be worth this. He never stopped complaining and when I stopped for gas, somehow he opened the safety lock on the sedan and escaped. Five minutes later, I caught him trying to hitch a ride."
Jim smirked as he looked in the direction the angry anthropologist was headed. "Well, you've got to admit he's resourceful.”
Simon was stunned. Not two days ago the Captain thought Ellison had the look of a man condemned, but today he seemed rejuvenated. What was worse was that he seemed to expect the behavior the kid was dishing out. "I better get going. Look, I will call at the designated time. If anything goes wrong…"
"Yeah Simon, we'll be fine."
"Oh, and Jim, if this help he can offer doesn't pan out, let me know. I'd love to toss his sorry butt in jail for noise pollution."
Ellison knew that Simon would never abuse his authority in that manner. He also knew that the kid had pushed his superior a bit too far. "Well, now for Round 2." He headed into the cabin.
At first it seemed that the young anthropologist had exited the cabin and once again had taken off. For a moment Jim was furious. Then he realized that the kid was outside sitting behind a tree facing away from the cabin. In short, Sandburg was pouting. The detective decided to let him stay outside for a while; he needed to cool off.
Blair was also furious; he felt like a caged animal. Several days ago he was fairly certain that he was safe from ever meeting a Sentinel again. One day later he rescued said unwanted individual type and ended up with a walking pneumonia in the middle of a bombing. Surreal.
His own mother would be angry about his current behavior. "Don't place people in boxes. They are all different in a beautiful way. Treasure each friend you make by accepting who they are, not how you think they should be.”
A lesson he tried hard to live by until now. Was he wrong?
He had promised to give Ellison a list of the names of people who understood the condition. He did so. Yet the detective had him forcefully brought here. Ellison proved once again just how manipulative Sentinels could be. Blair was a human being with rights and if he didn't want to help Ellison, then that was that. So here he sat, determined to ignore the man in the cabin by staying far away from him. Slowly anger gave way to exhaustion; he was still not feeling a hundred percent. The ground seemed so cool and felt good next to his warm skin.
Jim approached the sleeping figure and cautiously placed a hand on the man's forehead. "Sandburg. Hey Chief, c'mon, wake up."
Sandburg jerked away. "Leave me alone."
Jim sighed. "Sandburg you're burning up. C'mon, let's go inside."
Blair rose from the ground avoiding getting close to the detective and staggered towards the cabin. Ellison reached out to steady him and was met with an angry response. "Don't you touch me. I think you've done enough for one day, don't you?"
No response was given.
Blair entered the cabin and landed on the couch. He regretted his words and knew his mother had raised him to behave better. "Sorry. I didn't really mean to sound like that." Blair sighed and was suddenly caught up in a coughing fit. "Oh God, I really feel bad."
Jim moved to sit beside him but not near enough to alarm him. "Why don't you lie down and I'll prepare some chicken soup?"
Blair looked at the older man and could see only concern. Of course he's just doing it because he thinks I am his only hope. Blair shoved the thought aside and smiled weakly. "Okay, thanks."
Ellison was a bit uneasy with the suddenly cooperative Sandburg. The kid must really be ill. He searched the younger man's backpack to locate the medication the doctor had prescribed and went to prepare a meal. He moved about quickly; the younger man needed to eat and then rest.
Blair accepted the soup and ate it slowly. Ellison then handed him the pills and some water to drink it down with. Hardly finished with the soup, the younger man abruptly ran from the couch toward the bathroom. Ellison followed close behind and stood next to him, holding his hair away from the toilet opening, "Ellison, I-I really don't feel too good."
The detective helped the weakened man to the couch and placed two blankets over him. Sandburg was burning up and Jim became increasingly concerned.
Sandburg fell into a deep sleep while his fever remained elevated. Ellison knew he had to keep the fever from getting worse. Thankfully, he had served as a medic while in the military and knew how to attack the condition. Armed with a basin filled with cold water and some towels, the caregiver quickly administered a sponge bath to the sleeping patient.
As Jim turned the sleeping figure onto his side, he noticed the subtle pattern changes on the skin. Unknowingly he used his Sentinel enhanced eyesight and focused on the pattern. Blair's back had been slashed in every conceivable spot. The pain that the kid must have endured brought back memories of the pain people in prison camps were subjected to. The man found himself hating this Alex Barnes even more, "God, kid, if she wasn't already dead I'd kill her myself." Completing the sponge bath, he changed Sandburg's shirt and carefully tucked the now sleeping man in.
Blair had fallen off of the couch twice and Ellison decided to make a bed for him on the floor while sitting beside him just in case. He took this time to look into the sleeping man's face. Unable to display anger and seemingly calm, Blair looked even younger and more vulnerable. Jim felt a stronger need to protect the innocent man. Hesitantly he reached out and brushed an unruly curl from the face beside him and smiled. Somehow the kid had to realize that he was needed. Somehow Sandburg had to feel the same pull that Jim did; it just seemed that this was meant to be. He was Ellison's Guide.
Jim slowly fell asleep next to his patient while unconsciously keeping a hand on the other's shoulder. Even in his sleep he felt the need to protect the kid.
Blair woke slightly disoriented and definitely dizzy. Slowly he turned his head and realized he had fallen asleep on Ellison's lap and that a hand was on his shoulder. Something inside seemed to surrender to the feeling of safety the surrounded him. Not apprehension, like the times he shared with Alex. No, this was different. Jim made him feel protected. He could trust this man to never hurt him or anyone else. Slowly he sat up.
Jim immediately woke and shifted away, "Hey, Chief how are you feeling?"
He smiled and brushed away an errant curl from his eyes, "Better, thanks." Blair hesitantly avoided eye contact. "Look, uh, I think we need to talk."
Ellison stared off through the window in front of him. "Yeah, look, I know all your reasons for wanting to..."
Blair cautiously placed a hand on the detectives to silence him. "Please Jim, allow me." Blair pushed himself up onto the couch behind him where Ellison quickly joined him.
He had to explain and get this right. "Alex was a really bad seed and I was always a bit apprehensive around her but I never understood why so I just kept myself distant from her. When she proved me right by forcing me through her sadistic 'tests', I-I promised myself that I would never again involve myself with the study of Sentinels."
Jim closed his eyes; he would never force Sandburg to do something he didn't want to. He had decided that he would figure a way through this alone.
Blair nudged him and smiled shyly. "Jim, I don't feel apprehensive around you. It feels -- right. Like I was meant to help you with this and I gotta wonder if maybe guides are pre-selected to assist a certain Sentinel. If so that would explain why I never felt comfortable with Alex - and let me tell you, evil doings aside, the woman was beautiful and you, my man, are definitely not my type."
Ellison chuckled. It was true. The feeling of wanting to protect and be near the kid seemed strangely compelling and yet there was nothing romantic about this. It seemed instinctive and right.
"Any-who, I guess what I am trying to say is if you don't mind working with a slightly apprehensive and damaged guide, then ...."
Blair chuckled. "God, I hope I'm not making a mistake."
Ellison had to know, "So why change your mind? I mean you're still not comfortable with this."
Blair looked down, "I simply can't allow myself to think that everyone with enhanced senses could be evil. I wasn't brought up that way." He looked directly at Ellison, "I hope you will help prove me right. Otherwise, I will be proven twice a fool."
He smiled, in time he would help Blair to see that this was the right thing to do.
"Jim, just one more thing. Your senses, the enhanced capabilities, are yours for life and I have during the time I spent with Alex I have discovered that the zone-outs are part of the package."
Ellison faced Sandburg, "So you mean I will need yours or someone's help for life?"
Blair chuckled again, "Easy there, big guy, these are conclusions I have gained while working with Alex. Maybe you are different. They could change and in time we may be able to figure out if another guide could help you. That way if anything happens to me, well, there would be a replacement."
For Ellison there would never be a replacement. Like the kid said 'this' just felt right but for now he just nodded. The detective didn't trust easily - hell, you could count the number of people he trusted on one hand. Sandburg was different; he was simply someone to be trusted, no questions asked.
"So, Chief, what now?"
Blair closed his eyes. Could he let himself go? Could he enjoy the fact that he had found the subject to his original thesis? His Mom taught him to detach with love. Alex taught him the meaning of distrust and caused him to give up on his work. He looked into the ice blue eyes that bore into his and wondered what he would learn from the man in front of him. "Guess we'll just take it day by day and see what happens."
Simon feared the worst. One of the officers held in protective custody in a remote part of the city had been murdered along with the two detectives assigned to protect him. A mile away, a second detective had been struck by a vehicle on the way to the safe house he had been assigned to. The man was in critical condition and at the moment the doctors held little hope of his recovering. That left two more people involved and Simon was determined that they stay safe.
He placed the call from his cell phone.
"Jim, its Simon, a breach has been made and I suggest to you that it's time."
"Jim, take care of the C.O. and be careful."
Ellison immediately began packing the knapsacks. Sandburg had fallen asleep two hours ago and was currently oblivious to the situation. Thankfully his fever was down and he was breathing easier. Jim decided to allow him thirty minutes more and then they would leave.
He was nearing the last of the safe houses; they would pay for Daniels' death. Justice had to be served. Daniels' understood, why couldn't everybody else?
"Blair, Sandburg, c'mon kid. We gotta get going."
"Huh? What?" Sandburg needed a moment to wake up.
"Chief, we gotta get out of here now." Ellison hoisted the younger man to his feet and ushered him towards the bathroom.
Two minutes later they were out the door. Blair seemed better but Ellison took precautions. The kid was wearing a T-shirt, sweatshirt and a fleece shirt over that along with jeans, socks and hiking boots. The detective also made certain that Blair stayed in front of him, within his sight.
"Jim, wait up. Why don't you scout the area, see if you hear anything out of the ordinary?"
Ellison was about to protest the idea but realized it was worth the try. "Alright." He still felt hesitant about trying to use his senses but he reminded himself that Sandburg was there to help.
Blair sensed the older man's hesitation and slowly placed a hand on Ellison's shoulder. "Take a deep breath and listen for something out of the ordinary."
As instructed by the Guide, the Sentinel closed his eyes; Sandburg's voice seemed to have a hypnotic quality about it. He opened his hearing. The sounds of the birds, leaves moving in the wind and the rustle of forest life were mentally recognized and ignored. The sound of someone running towards the cabin behind him caught his attention. Slowly he turned in the direction of the sound.
Blair sensed his reaction, "Did you find something?"
Ellison smiled, "Yeah kid, someone is running towards the cabin."
"Okay, so now what?"
Jim was stunned; the kid was devoid of all hesitancy. Instead he faced the older man with nothing but trust and seemed to expect Ellison to get them through this. The detective was astounded by the enigma that stood beside him. "We continue towards the escape route and don't stop."
Blair nodded. Something told him that Jim would keep him safe and that thought blocked all doubts. He realized that it was the same something that told him the exact opposite about Alex. He stayed close to the Sentinel and followed his every instruction.
Ellison motioned for Sandburg to stay hidden in the bushes as he approached the truck. He tilted his head and listened for any sounds of their unknown stalker. It seemed so easy and so natural to use his senses and Jim wondered if it was because Blair was nearby or if, in time, he could master their use.
The area seemed clear and he motioned for Blair to join him. Sandburg neared Ellison just as something flew through the air and landed between the two men. Jim shoved Blair off towards the bushes, just as he flung himself in a different direction. The grenade exploded and left behind two unconscious men.
Blair woke to discover a searing pain coming from his back. He began to cough and brought up some blood. He panicked at the sight and immediately tried to ignore the fear, focusing instead on searching the area for Ellison. Slowly he rose and turned towards the direction he last saw the man.
Jim was face down and still unconscious. Blair rushed to his side carefully turning the body over and was happy he didn't discover any injuries. Blair shivered, he felt suddenly very cold and realized that he may be suffering from shock and that the detective could be doing the same.
"Well, well, well. I am so glad my little trap snared the two of you."
Blair turned to meet their attacker, "I'm sorry. I missed the part where you tell me who the hell you are and why you are tossing grenades at us?"
"The name my little injured hippie friend is Steven Daniels. I am the son of the man you and your partner there had murdered."
Blair rose to his feet and instinctively placed himself between Ellison and the man with a gun. "So what now?" He slowly moved off to the left, hoping the man would forget about the unconscious form on the ground and focus on him.
Daniels smiled, "Well, you've got balls, I'll give you that. I could tie you to that tree over there and let you bleed to death. You have enough shrapnel from the grenade to cause a nice little mess. Then I can finish off the cop there. Still nothing is quite as final as one through the head."
Blair wondered what the man was speaking about. He back hurt but that was all. He felt all right. "I can't allow you to do that."
Daniels approached the frightened anthropologist. "So tell me, creep, how you gonna stop me?"
"He won't but I will." Ellison woke and had been able to surprise the man from behind, thanks to Sandburg's distraction. "Put the gun down, you're under arrest."
Daniels leapt forward and grabbed Blair by the arm, raising his gun to Sandburg's temple. "Shoot me and the hippie will get it."
Ellison shook his head. "You'll be dead before you press the trigger."
Daniels laughed, "That sounded so Dirty Harry." The killer shifted and grabbed Sandburg around the neck, placing the nozzle underneath his chin. Blair winced when his back came into contact with his assailant but remained silent. "So, cop, any last words for your little freakish friend?"
Jim looked towards the younger man who had changed his life so drastically in just a few days. Before Blair, Ellison would have looked forward to oblivion, now he simply wanted his guide out of the way - safe and protected.
Blair could see the desolate look on the detective's face. I can't let him die. I will not be the cause of his death. With the little strength he had, Blair twisted and then shoved Daniels into Ellison's direction.
The gun discharged.
The detective caught the bomber and a fight ensued. Two blows to the man's ribs and one to the head later, Daniels was down for the count. Ellison immediately handcuffed the man and turned to check on Sandburg. He found himself suddenly afraid; the guide was so still.
The moment his hand made contact with the curly haired man he heard a moan. "Jim?"
Ellison smiled, quickly dropped beside his guide on the ground and began checking on his injuries. "Easy, kid, let me have a look."
"Uh, Jim, it hurts."
Jim turned the young man over to see his back and was almost sickened by what he saw there. "Ah, jeez, kid. Just hold on, help is on the way. I-I can hear them coming."
Blair laughed, "You know? You really have to work on how you break bad news to a guy." Blair began coughing and again some blood came up. "J-Jim, how you feeling?"
It was strange how the younger man seemed more concerned for the welfare of the detective than his own, "Little dizzy but alright. Please, Blair, try to keep quiet. Help is coming."
Blair closed his eyes, "Good. Jim?" He slowly took a deep breath, feeling weaker already. He wanted to let Ellison know that in the short time they had gotten to know each other, he was grateful for the experience. Grateful to have discovered a Sentinel who had no sinister plans to harm others for personal gain. "Thanks for everything, man."
Ellison frowned, "What are you talking about? I-I let you down. You got injured and it was my fault."
Blair forced his eyes to stay open, "Hey, you're a Sentinel, not Superman. You are not responsible for this." Blair gasped for more air. "You proved to me that Sentinels aren't predisposed to be evil. You gained my trust and ---" Blair coughed and Jim shifted him onto his lap, elevating the other off the ground, hoping to relieve the pressure on the back injuries. "I'm okay. Jim, you let me live out my dream. You, my friend, are the real thing. So thanks."
"Remember to use the list. The names with the asterisks are the ones..." The weak voice silenced, its owner having succumbed to unconsciousness.
Ellison felt his heart cringe in fear. Without concern of a zone-out, he sought out his Guide's heartbeat and found it slowing at an alarming rate.
Just then Capt. Banks, several officers and the EMTs came crashing into the clearing.
The tall, dark man had never thought he would see the day Detective James Ellison openly displayed his emotions. Not long ago, when his first partner had died, the detective held it together. No tears, nothing. He had been cool and detached. How had this kid been able to get to the detective so easily?
Ellison was crying.
It took a bit of coaxing to separate the detective from the injured man but soon after the paramedics were working zealously to revive Blair while Ellison stood nearby whispering, "Please, please God, don't let this happen. Not now. Please."
Twenty minutes later Sandburg was stabilized and airlifted to a hospital nearby.
Simon left Captain Taggert in charge of the crime scene, with directions to ensure that there were no further explosives lying around. Banks immediately redirected his attention to his friend as he ushered the unresponsive detective into his car and headed to the hospital.
Simon noticed that the detective was clutching Sandburg's shredded jacket and staring off into the distance. "Jim, he'll be all right."
Ellison looked at the Captain as though it was the first time he had noticed him there. "What if he doesn't make it? Simon, I need his help. I-I need ... we just ... This can't be happening, not now."
Simon shook his head, "Jim, he gave you a list. If he ..."
"No." Ellison didn't mean to sound so angry but he had little control over his feelings at the moment. "Sir, I know you don't understand about my condition, or as the kid called it 'Sentinel' abilities, but something tells me that Sandburg is the only one I can - or will - trust, the only person who can make this all right. If I lose him, I-I lose everything I've gained until this moment. I can't do that."
Simon frowned. "Jim isn't that a just a little too much to be placing on some flower child's shoulders? He hasn't even agreed to work with you. Hell, he hardly trusts you."
"We talked. He and I made an agreement to work together. He said I gave him hope for a dream he had long since let go of." Ellison shook his head. "Jesus, in just a few days a guy I would never consider speaking with, let alone confiding in, has saved my life and given me a reason to believe that I am not going insane." He paused and looked out the window of the sedan he rode in. Life passed by in a flurry of colors and movements. If he focused and listened to the voice, that voice that now lived in his mind, he'd be able to see individual colors of the spectrum. If he tried harder, he'd be able to take in the scent of life around him. He was a Sentinel. "Simon, he brought balance to very shaky ground."
Simon continued to drive in silence as he wondered just how Sandburg had saved Ellison's life and then, using the skills borne of a good detective, he realized just how close Ellison had been to the edge. Somehow this grungy looking collegiate had turned the detective around and given him a reason to stick it out. He gazed over at the man sitting beside him and chuckled.
Ellison frowned at the unexpected sound and met the Captain's gaze. "What?"
Simon shook his head. "The kid's going to be fine. You know how I know?"
Ellison tilted his head.
Simon replied, "Because he is a stubborn little son of a gun."
"That he is."
The attending nurse at Cascade Memorial refused Jim permission to see the patient but before the scene became ugly, Simon flashed his badge and gained access for his detective by claiming that Sandburg was Ellison's partner. Thankfully the nurse understood about partnerships in the police force and granted the detective permission to enter.
As Ellison neared the still unconscious man, he sought the other using his hearing. The heartbeat was there but it was slower than natural.
He stood next to the bed that held the strange man who now inexplicably became an important part of his life. This short, long, curly haired enigma with the I.Q. to rival a Harvard grad had saved his life several times over. All just by caring for a complete stranger. The thought both stunned and baffled him. He placed his hand on top of the smaller man's and closed his eyes, "Please, if you are listening, I need you. You have to wake up."
Blair found himself in the jungle - at least that's what it seemed like. He stood before a very old building and realized he was facing the Temple of the Shaman. He had had this dream before and in it he was warned against trusting the female Sentinel - she was considered volatile. Blair questioned the reason for his being her helper and was told that it was his heart that made him stay but that his light was for another. He didn't understand the light part, but after that dream he became very wary of Alex and in the end he was grateful that he never truly trusted the woman.
"Hello, young one."
Blair spun around and realized that the voice came from around him. "Hello."
"You have questions, yes?"
The ground rumbled and yet Blair somehow knew that he was in no danger. "Ask your questions, young one. Time is short and you have much to decide."
"Am I to be punished for leading my Sentinel to her death?"
"The Sentinel you called Alex was never yours to begin with. She missed her time and the one that was meant for her. She abused the gifts she was given. The price for such insolence is high. Justice was given and paid. You did nothing wrong, young one."
Blair shifted from one foot to the next. "Why have I been brought to the Temple of the Shaman?"
The ground rumbled again, "Shamans often came here for guidance. Past experiences were shared amongst each other. Time has changed. You have been brought here because you are a Shaman, young one."
"I'm a ... no, that can't be right. Shamans were wise. I don't even have a Sentinel."
"Your time is now. The light must be shared with he who was with you last. In your heart you have accepted this. He is to protect you and you him. One soul with two bodies. Your trust will be accepted and revered."
"He would be better off with another. Someone who hasn't had such a ..."
"No, he will not accept another. There is only you."
"I am scared. What if I fail him, too?"
"A Sentinel and his Shaman are on the earth to protect as one. Destiny has selected you as the other half of his soul and he yours. It cannot be ignored. As you saw for yourself on the rocks, he will die if you decide otherwise."
"What is the decision you expect me to make?"
"Though you have importance at this place in time, a choice has been granted. You can relinquish your title and this life here and now, move away from the fears flooding your mind and towards a future life with promise."
Blair closed his eyes, "Would he cease to exist without me?"
"The answer is known to you already. Even now he watches over you and fears for your death."
"What is your decision? Time is closing."
Blair searched deep in his heart and realized the answer was there all the time. "I choose to live. I choose now.”
Ellison nodded off. It had been two days and still no change. Blair wasn't expected to live. The fever, the blood loss and his deteriorating condition indicated little hope. Still Jim remembered what his Captain had said. 'The kid was stubborn.' Ellison waited and hoped.
That's why, when Sandburg's breathing suddenly altered, Jim froze. Please don't. Blair's heart began pounding faster. Ellison squeezed the hand he had held for the past two days. "Sandburg? C'mon Chief don't give up."
Blair felt pressure on his hand and smiled. Without opening his eyes he came to understand what the vision had meant. He had no family in this world, no love as yet and no true friends. Things were changing and now he had only to realize that he was a Shaman and knew that his world was in for a change. Change was good. So he smiled and spoke the name of the man that he was meant to guide, the man who would ensure his safety, "Jim."
Ellison was stunned. The kid just knew he would be there. He never even opened his eyes. "Yeah kid. It's about time. I-I was beginning to think you were giving up on this partnership before we even got started."
Blair opened his eyes and gazed into ice blue ones, eyes that held fear in them. "No, Jim. Didn't I warn you?"
Blair continued to smile. "I really am a stubborn guy."
Ellison chuckled, "Chief, that's common knowledge. In fact Captain Banks was the first to find that out."
Blair chuckled and gasped. "Oh man, that wasn't too smart."
"Let me get the nurse."
"Jim, please just let them wait for a moment. I just want to-to say..." Blair blushed.
"Yeah, I understand." Ellison understood the need to share the moment and waited.
Blair closed his eyes and smiled gratefully. "Jim?"
"Being there." Blair yawned, sleep begging him for attention.
Jim frowned. "Being where, Chief?"
Blair opened his eyes and was met with a confused looking Sentinel. He smiled and whispered, "Thanks for being there when I woke up."
"Hey, what are friends for?'
"Yeah, and it really is about friendship, right?" Blair drifted off to sleep smiling contentedly.
Two Months Later
He was healthier now and even a little heavier thanks to the rather large and continual meals forced on him by an over-attentive Sentinel. The man was relentless.
Blair sat on the sofa in Jim's loft and continued to peruse through the "FOR RENT/LEASE" ads. So far he had narrowed it down to three listings. Two were really close to the U and one was near the precinct. He rose from the couch and prepared to visit the living areas when the phone rang. "Sand-, I mean Ellison's, may I help you?"
"Hey, Chief, I'm heading out for some lunch and thought I'd check up on you."
Blair smiled. Jim was acting more and more like an over-protective brother and, well, it was kind of nice. Being an only child, he had always wondered what it would have been like to have a brother and the older man was better than anything he had ever imagined.
"Sorry, Jim, got distracted."
"Sounds like the early stags of senility to me, kid."
Blair chuckled, "Hey, you're closer to that threshold than I am."
Blair heard some mumbling and then Ellison returned to the conversation, "Hey Chief, that was the Captain - your Observers' ID just came in. You can start tomorrow."
"Hey, that's great. Oh, hey, I got a few errands to run should be back in a few."
"Okay, how about we get some Chinese and discuss the department policies when I get to the loft tonight?"
Blair sighed. "I don't know, Jim. The last time we covered these rules I believe they began and ended with stay in the truck, but Chinese sounds great. I'll have it delivered before you get in."
"Call you later."
Blair smiled; he really liked the big guy. As he reached for the newspaper, he realized he was going to miss sharing the loft with him but he had not been raised to be a freeloader and hated making the older man feel put upon. They had agreed that this was a temporary situation and with that thought in mind, Blair grabbed his duffel bag and headed out.
As Jim headed out for lunch, he couldn't help smiling. It had been a long time since he had someone to check up on and it was weird to realize it was something he kind of liked. He missed being a big brother - or having a family for that matter. Sandburg had, in a relatively short time, somehow become his 'Guide', friend, and unbeknownst to the kid, little brother.
It was surprising to the long-time loner how easily he became accustomed to the younger man's presence in the loft. It was like living with a source of energy. The kid seemed to bounce off the walls and never seemed to rest. Even when he was supposed to be relaxing one could simply look into the kid's eyes and note the intense restraint the kid placed on himself just to sit still.
He purchased a cheeseburger and a large fry from Wonderburger and returned to his desk. Just as he sat down, Simon approached his desk. "So, Ellison, did you finally get tired of sharing your living space with the kid?"
Ellison smiled. Simon seemed to enjoy picking on the kid and Sandburg was more than up to the challenge. The two got off on who could one-up the other last. "What do you mean?"
"Oh well, he just used this office as a reference for an apartment in the near west side district. I gotta say that area is kind of dangerous and I'm a bit surprised you didn't convince him to look elsewhere." Simon's smile slowly faded as the expression on the other man became the same cold-looking detective he had been before he met Blair. "Jim, are you all right?"
Jim nodded. "Yeah, I just didn't know he was looking. I thought he'd stick around for a while."
Simon smiled at the response; the kid definitely changed the man before him. Ellison was actually going to miss that strange bundle of energy. "Jim did you and he ever discuss his sharing the loft on a regular basis?"
Ellison shook his head. "I just thought he'd just know it would be alright."
Simon smirked, "You, my friend have a great deal to learn about friendships."
Jim sighed, "Yeah. Guess I do."
Blair was excited; everything seemed to be falling into place. He had found a Sentinel who wanted to work with him. He had learned to trust again without reservation.
In time he would even tell Jim about the dream and how this was somehow all pre-destined. Now he had found an apartment on the west side. Sure it wasn't the safest of areas but that was nothing new to Blair. He was just happy he didn't have to mooch off of the detective anymore, as he was getting his first check next Wednesday and would be able to pay his rent and also pay back Jim what he could for his time in the loft. Jim will see that I can take care of myself.
Jim left work early. Captain Banks had suggested he use the time to resolve any difficulties he may have with his new ride-along now - besides, Jim never took a day off nor a vacation. Frankly the captain wanted to see if he'd take him up on his offer.
He did. The detective was just too damn distracted to work anyway. So here he was just barely following the speed limit as he headed home. Why can't anything with this guy be easy?
He avoided the elevator and opted for the stairs. Just before he put his key into the lock, he paused. Ellison, you don't need him around all the time. Besides, I like the quiet. It was the voice of his old self. Now, he wondered why the idea of the kid moving elsewhere filled him with trepidation. He had never needed anyone and except for his senses, he really didn't need this kid.
He opened the door and immediately smelled the scent of Chinese food in the oven. The lights were dimmed and Blair sat on the couch. Closer inspection proved that the other was asleep.
Ellison walked over to the couch and instead of waking the sleeping man, he found himself staring at him. Blair was an anomaly. Wise, naive, innocent, well-versed, intelligent, impressionable, stubborn, forgiving, guarded, open-minded and younger in essence as well as age. His guide. His rescuer. His friend.
He pulled away from the deep emotional thoughts as he reached out. "Hey, Chief. Let's eat."
Blair stirred. "Hey, I didn't hear you get in."
"I'm a Sentinel; you're not supposed to hear me."
Blair stood and shook his head. "You're a regular Colonel Flagg."
Jim frowned, "Flagg?!? Oh, yeah - M*A*S*H, right?"
Blair laughed as he entered the kitchen. "Yeah, Jim. See, I just knew you're a couch potato."
Ellison swatted the kid on the back of the head and laughed. Blair giggled with him.
Dinner was eaten and the two discussed Blair's roll as an observer. Since he was Major Crime's first official observer, the rules were basically invented by the Captain and the detective, but that juicy tidbit was omitted from the information shared with Sandburg. The kid needed strict supervision and his stubbornness needed to be curbed.
Ellison got up and reached for the salt. He was too busy talking to Sandburg regarding Rule 34 - no flirting with the precinct personnel - to notice that he had reached and touched the Jalapeño powder. He placed the pepper on the table and moved to swipe away a tear of laughter from his eye. The reaction was immediate.
"Blair!!!" Jim started rubbing his eyes as the stinging caused tears of pain to blur his vision. It felt as though his eyes were on fire.
Quickly Blair jumped from his chair, grabbed the older man around his waist and led him to the bathroom. He struggled to keep Jim's hands away from his eyes and quickly flushed damaged skin around the eyes with cool water. Blair spoke calming words to the man in his care and smiled, as the other slowly relaxed. "Just dial it down. Breathe." Twenty minutes later Jim was guided back towards the couch and made comfortable. His eyes were a bit swollen but he felt better.
Blair sat down beside Jim and sighed. "Jeez, you really scared the hell out of me. What would you have done if I weren't here? I mean you need to be like soooo careful. You can't even take regular cough medicine because of your senses. The loft needs to be made Sentinel-proof."
Ellison quickly formed a plan. "Well, how long would it take for you to check out those two or three things?" He knew what was coming and didn't have long to wait. Five.... Four.... Three...
"Two or three!?! You're kidding right? Everything has to be looked into - cleansers, spices, medicine… oh and let's not forget detergents, soap, salve, everything you eat. Man oh man, you really have to be careful. Nothing can be taken for granted."
Jim could barely contain his smile; the kid was up and pacing. The fortuitous trap was set and the kid had sprung it. "Jim, you know I was just about to tell you about an apartment I was about to lease. But now…" He paused and sat next to the Sentinel. "Look, Jim, it's your call and like I said I have an apartment already set up, but I would feel better if you'd let me stick around until I've had a chance to go through everything you come in contact with on a daily basis and check for your reactions to them."
Jim was elated. It just seemed natural for his Guide to exist nearby. Somehow fate had stepped in - again. "Hey, I know you're a free spirited kind of guy but if you would feel better about sharing the loft for a while then I have no problem with you staying. In fact, I was going to suggest you stick around anyway. It just seems to be easier for me to get a hold of you whenever I needed to."
Blair smiled and wondered if Jim had planned this all along. "Well I guess I had better go call the landlord and tell him no deal." Blair stood and found himself feeling quite happy about the situation. Jim had said he needed him. It was nice to be needed.
It had been a particularly rough two weeks - four homicides, three bank robberies and one drug deal gone bad, yet somehow Ellison had never felt more at ease. His senses enabled him to spot clues that put a murderer behind bars, he was able to smell the explosives used in the robberies to arrest the leader of a gang and his two accomplices, and he was able to detect the location of 300 kilos of uncut heroine. Sandburg was the main reason for his ability to use his senses so efficiently. He had zoned twice and the kid was able to bring him out without attracting attention. Blair also monitored his behavior during the drug sting, concerned for his health while being exposed to hallucinogens. Fortunately the drugs were very well wrapped.
Still, the kid kept his cool through all situations, although Jim was having some difficulties when it came to having the kid stay in the truck. He hoped in time the kid would see it his way and do as instructed.
Ellison had just signed the last report of the evening, a report that had been quickly and efficiently typed by his guide. Blair was a gift from the gods. As he looked up from his desk he noticed the ball of energy heading his way. "Hey Chief, you ready to go?"
Blair smiled. "You bet, Jim. Hey, how about we have Greek tonight?"
"Sure, just as long as we are eating and no tests are involved."
The other smiled suddenly, realizing the he was where he belonged. Alex hadn't been able to destroy his spirit. His past experience seemed to prove to Blair that he could overcome any obstacle life could dole out, even one stern looking detective with way too many house rules. "Hey Jim, ya wanna go see that new Sci-Fi flick afterwards?" Blair waggled his eyebrows.
"Sure, why not?" Life had a funny way of making things work out. Ellison never thought he would have considered someone like Blair to be a friend, but now he would have it no other way. Blair changed him somehow. The young observer made life worth living just to see what the kid was planning to do next. "Hey Chief, let's take a walk on the beach tonight on the way home from the theatre."
Blair smiled, "Sure, Jim, just stay off the rocks."
Ellison swatted Blair on the back of the head and then placed his hand on the kid's shoulder. "Okay, but if I fall in will you save me?"
Blair chuckled, "No problem dude, it's what I am here for."
Then they left for the evening, thankful for the friendship they had discovered and the second chance both were given.
- The End -
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