Warning: Spoilers for TSbyBS.
Detective James Ellison lay in his bedroom listening to the early morning DJs for the first time in months. Never one for radios since he couldn't find a station that played music he liked, he had just started using the radio for an alarm in the past week. Anything to bring more voices into the silence of the loft apartment. It was a silence he was finding more and more difficult to take. And yet, as hard as the silence of the apartment was to him, it was quickly becoming the only place where he could maintain some degree of control over his heightened senses.
The month since the capture of Karl Zeller, aka 'The Iceman', had been horrendous. For the most part, reporters had left Jim alone after Blair Sandburg declared himself a fraud and his research and manuscript naming Ellison as a Sentinel, a man with above normal hearing, sight, taste, touch and smell, a fabrication. For a brief moment, things had seemed to be going well for the Cascade detective. He and Captain Simon Banks had been able to convince the police department to hire Sandburg as a detective once he completed the police academy. Sandburg had seemed delighted at the prospect.
But three weeks ago, Ellison had returned to the loft and found only a short letter from Sandburg. The letter had hurt because it had really laid out the truth of the matter. Once past the initial anger that seemed to be his first response to everything, Ellison had been forced to agree with the assessment. Sandburg had every reason to think Ellison and Banks had treated him like an abused family member. Hell, not even a family member. Ellison had routinely trusted everyone except Sandburg in the past three years. He had failed him on more than one occasion, refusing to hear him out--once getting the anthropology graduate student drowned in the process. In all honesty, Ellison had decided there was no real reason for Sandburg to hang around. Like the letter said, the detective didn't seem to need him around to help with his senses.
Over the past three weeks, Ellison was coming to see the error of his thinking, however. The first few days hadn't been too much out of the ordinary, although he still found himself expecting to see Blair at home or at the station. By the fourth day, Ellison noticed his control of his heightened senses slipping. It dawned on him by the beginning of the second week that he needed Sandburg's presence to ground him and give him control. Embarrassed to admit it, Ellison had begun to carry a shirt Sandburg had left at the loft. His control was adequate as long as he could pull out the shirt on occasion. Being in the loft where enough of Sandburg's presence remained helped as well. But even here, evidence of Sandburg was dissipating. Ellison wondered how he would survive when all trace of his former roommate was gone.
He hadn't confided to Simon yet about his growing dilemma. He wasn't sure what good it would do. Much as he needed Sandburg's presence, after that letter there was no way he would tell Blair. If Sandburg came back of his own accord, Ellison would be elated. But to find him and tell him he had to come in order for James Ellison to remain sane and functional would only further prove Sandburg's point in the letter: his only purpose in life seemed to be putting James Ellison first; only James Ellison mattered; Blair Sandburg was a non-entity.
The detective's keen ears picked up the footsteps in the hallway outside the loft and unbidden his nose caught the smell of cigars. With the familiar hall-marks of his captain headed toward his front door, Jim remembered why he had set the alarm this morning. He wearily hauled himself out of bed and opened the door as the soft tap became a hard rap.
Captain Simon Banks frowned as his detective walked away after opening the door. The man was thin and looked worn out even though he hadn't been to work in more than a week. Simon closed the door behind him and followed Jim to the living room. Jim plopped down on a couch and Simon sat down on the opposite couch. Jim stared out the balcony doors without speaking.
"Jim," Simon began then hesitated. "How are you? I haven't heard from you all week."
"You called me yesterday," Jim reminded him.
"Because I hadn't heard from you. No one's heard from you." Jim let out a short huff of a laugh at that and rubbed his face with his hands. "You need to come back to work. You need to get out of here," Simon continued. "You look...." He trailed off, looking at the unkempt apartment around him.
"Like what?" Jim asked from behind his hands. "Like I just lost my best friend? That about sums it up, doesn't it?"
The two men were silent for a moment then Simon began again, speaking softly. "I know you're having trouble controlling your senses, but that's why you need to come back. You need to be back among your friends."
Jim scrambled to his feet and began pacing. "I don't have any friends!" he shouted.
"The guys at the station...."
"The guys at the station don't like me," Jim interrupted. "They don't trust me and I don't blame them."
"What are you talking about?" Simon demanded. Jim was silent and Simon went on. "We're worried about you."
"Have you really been listening to what's going on in your department, Sir?" Jim demanded. "How often have they asked you about me and how often have you asked them if they've heard from me?" He watched Simon consider his words and saw the realization dawn on him. "I'm sorry, Simon. I've put you out of the loop, too." Jim went up to his room and returned with his badge and police issue gun. He placed them in front of Simon on the coffee table. "I think you should take these with you."
"Wait just a minute," Simon said, rising from his own seat and stepping away from the items. "What are you saying? You can't quit."
"I can't go back to the station," Jim explained. "You're right, I'm losing control. The only place I can stand it is here, where I can still sense Sandburg."
"You just need to get used to working with someone else," Simon suggested.
"Even if you're right," Jim asked, "who'd work with me? Megan's known longer than anyone else and she's so mad at me about Sandburg's leaving she can't stand to look at me. Besides, she'll be gone in a another couple of months."
"You've been working with Joel," Simon said. "Between the two of us, we can brief him."
"They don't trust me, Simon," Jim repeated.
"Of course they do. Why wouldn't they?"
"You mean aside from the fact that I kept this secret from them for four years? And why shouldn't they ignore the fact that I let my best friend commit professional suicide just to keep my little secret." He sank wearily onto the sofa and buried his face in his hands. "If I'd do that to my best friend, what would I expect my co-workers to sacrifice just to keep my secret."
"So what? You want to go public?"
"I can't now."
Jim exploded from his seat, shoving the coffee table and flinging its assorted items across the room. "I TOLD YOU! I DON'T HAVE CONTROL OF ANYTHING!"
Jim sank to the floor, his own voice echoing in his ears and the morning light suddenly burning his eyes. He knelt on the corner of his badge and the leather case burrowed under his kneecap. The noise stopped as abruptly as it began as Jim was swept away by the pain of his light-stabbed eyes. He jerked suddenly from the hand that touched his shoulder and squinted into the brightness to see Simon leaning over him, mouth moving silently. Ellison scooted away from his captain and stumbled to his feet, aiming his awkward steps for the little room off the kitchen. He slipped through the French doors and slammed them closed, falling to his knees at the side of the futon bed. Crawling onto its surface, Ellison wrapped himself in the blankets and breathed deeply. When the doors rattled open, bombarding his suddenly working ears, Jim glared at the man standing in the doorway.
"Get out," he whispered to his captain, not wanting the room tainted by the smell of Simon's cigars. "GET OUT!" Jim closed his eyes and longed for a sensory zone out. The zone out eluded him, but eventually, saturated in the lingering scent and surrounded by the remaining possessions of the anthropology student who had saved him from this nightmare four years earlier, Jim regained a measure of control. Knowing Simon was waiting and probably considering calling for help about now, Jim finally left the room.
Jim waved off Simon's voiceless offer of help as he slipped into a kitchen chair across from the police captain.
"What the hell was that?" Simon demanded in a soft hiss, unsure how sensitive the Sentinel's ears were at this point.
"A nightmare," Jim admitted.
"We have to find Sandburg," Simon said.
"We've looked," Jim reminded him. He saw the frown that passed briefly over the dark man's face and his suspicions were confirmed. "I've looked," he amended, knowing Simon's "help" over the past three weeks had been non-existent. "He doesn't want to be found. And even if he did, I couldn't ask him to come back here just so I can have a life."
"Jim, no matter how mad or hurt Sandburg was, he wouldn't have left if he'd known this would happen."
"I don't think he knew. God knows I never told him." They fell silent and Jim looked at his home. "Brackett knew," Jim said, reviewing the rogue CIA agent's unwanted visit to the loft. "He knew how important Sandburg was to this whole thing." He turned a weary, sad smile to Simon, then froze again at the look on the man's face. "What?" he asked. "You didn't come over here just to try to get me back to work, did you, Captain?"
"No," Simon said. "I just got word last night that Brackett's out. He's been out for at least a week. He was last seen in Portland. They think he's headed this way."
Jim nodded, then put his head on his arms. "At least Sandburg's out of the way. Maybe Brackett will just come here and forget about Blair."
"Jim," Simon began, but stopped when the phone rang. After the second ring, Ellison stood and retrieved the cordless phone from its base.
"Ellison," he answered. Simon watched the detective's face transform from hopelessly weary, to intense interest and quickly to alarm. "What happened?" Pause. "When?" Pause. "How is he?" The last inquiry barely a whisper. "I'll be there as soon as I can." He replaced the phone.
"What is it?" Banks asked.
"Sandburg. He's been in a wreck outside of Portland. He's in the hospital." Jim shook himself back to the present and raced for his room. "I have to go. I'll call you when I know something."
Simon shook his head, pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number. When Jim returned five minutes later with a hastily packed duffel bag, Simon was blocking his way out the door.
"Get out of my way," Jim warned. "I have to get there. I may have one more chance, Simon," he pleaded. "I have to try to make it up to him, in case...."
"I know," Simon said. "I'll take you. I'll drive. I checked the airlines. Their flights are booked. We can get there faster driving."
"Thanks," Jim said as he stepped around the taller man and headed out the door.
This was it, Ellison knew. This was his last chance to help Sandburg. This was his last chance to apologize and salvage a friendship that should never have needed saving.
Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Madraf.