Warning: Spoilers for TSbyBS.
Another Side of the Story
Few people in Seattle knew him, so Blair Sandburg expected the person entering to be his doctor returning, Jim, or Megan. His breath caught when he saw William Ellison pause just far enough in the room to let the door swing shut behind him.
William Ellison briefly met the gaze of the patient before focusing on the partially closed blinds of the hospital room window and wondered how to begin this conversation. The decision was not his to make, he realized, as Blair Sandburg's soft but stern voice floated across the room.
"The answer's the same, Mr. Ellison," Blair said.
"Perhaps the proposition has changed," William Ellison replied, and Blair noted the more subdued voice and attitude.
The last time Sandburg had seen his friend's father, William Ellison had pushed his way past Sandburg and into the loft just about a month ago. The elder Ellison had a plan and he fully expected Blair Sandburg to see the soundness of that plan. In the patriarch's eyes, his solution would benefit everyone: Jimmy, Sandburg and himself. Sandburg's unhesitating rejection of his plan that day had surprised the businessman.
"Why would I be interested in anything you proposed?" Sandburg asked, still distrusting the man before him.
"Because it's the answer to our problems." Sandburg's only response was skeptical silence, so Ellison continued. "I would like to hire you."
"Hire me?" Sandburg repeated, eyes widening in shock.
"As my son's....bodyguard, if you like the term."
Sandburg couldn't help but laugh at the image of a five-foot, nine-inch academic guarding the six-foot three-inch athletic Jim Ellison.
"Jim's bodyguard?" Sandburg managed to control the laughter enough to speak. "You couldn't pay me to leave," Sandburg reminded him. "What makes you think you could pay me to stay?"
"Because my son needs you..." William began.
"Your son needs someone who understands his gifts...." Sandburg interrupted, wishing someone would listen to him on this.
"And that seems to be you," William interjected smoothly. Sandburg fell silent, turning his eyes to look out the window, wondering how he could explain. "You have, apparently, always understood him in ways I didn't." William watched the young man before him, wondering if Sandburg understood what the older man was saying, wondering just how much Jimmy had told him about growing up.
Blair turned narrowed eyes toward the man. "You did know, didn't you?" William remained silent, turning away from the accusing eyes. "He never really said. Just that you hadn't let him tell police what he saw when Bud was murdered." William refused to meet the younger man's eyes.
"I always thought a Sentinel's senses came out because of extended periods of isolation," Blair said, sliding out of the bed. "When Jim told me he remembered having them as a child, I was surprised. I couldn't figure out how he could have lost control." Blair began pacing the small room. "I mean, if he had these heightened senses from day one, they should have been as normal to him as normal senses are to us, right? I just couldn't figure it out. Then he said you wouldn't let him tell the police about Bud's murderer. I knew there was something he wasn't saying. What did you tell him? What made him suppress his senses?"
For a moment, Sandburg didn't think William Ellison would answer the question. "I asked him if he wanted the world to consider him a freak." William's response was whispered. The self-loathing in the man's voice did nothing to temper Blair's shock and rage.
"He was 10 years old." Blair's own voice was a whisper as well, but anger rumbled beneath the soft sounds. "Ten. How the hell did you ever get custody of those boys, Mr. Ellison? Who in their right mind would give you the right to mold their lives? Was it that important to your business that you looked interested in your sons? Do you have any idea what you did to him?"
"I did the best I could," William whispered. His mind replayed those last months of his marriage, and his voice grew stronger. "I love my sons. I love them now and I loved them then."
"Your love helped him deny who he is," Blair reminded him. "He should never have needed me to teach him about his senses, about how to control them."
"He wasn't that way as a child," William whispered. Blair almost lost the comment in his tirade.
"What do you mean? When did you first notice Jim had heightened senses?"
"He was three and a half when I realized something was wrong. I thought it was just a reaction to what had happened."
William took refuge in the window again as he started his story.
"I was supposed to be gone for almost a week on a business conference," William began, clearing his throat against the painful memories. "The hotel's pipes burst on Saturday, and we all went home on Sunday morning, instead of that afternoon. I got home early Sunday afternoon." William Ellison paused again before recalling that day.
"Grace had a drinking problem. She was an alcoholic," he admitted. "It hadn't been a problem before. When I got home, Jimmy was alone. He was three and a half. I found him in his bedroom, naked, curled into a ball with his hands clamped over his ears. There was no sign of Grace. Jimmy was filthy, and scratched. I didn't know what to do.
"We had just started having Sally come in once a week to clean. I called her and she came right over. She put Jimmy in a bath. Grace came in then. From what I could gather, she'd gone out drinking Saturday afternoon with a friend while Jimmy was sleeping. She'd locked him in his room and left. She 'lost track of time' she said."
William paused, not recounting the vicious argument that had erupted, the hateful words he had flung at his wife, her tears and utter self-loathing, his barely contained inclination to physically attack her.
"I would have divorced her after that, but she found out she was pregnant with Steven. I knew if I divorced her she'd get the new baby and maybe Jimmy." His voice dropped even softer. "She was horrified by what she'd done, and I did love her. I wanted to believe it was the bottom of the barrel and that she would overcome her addiction." His voice grew stronger as he returned to the story.
"I agreed to stay with her and she agreed to stop drinking. Everything went well for a while. Until Steven was two. Then I found out she'd done it again, left Jimmy alone, at least twice in the previous four months. I gave her an ultimatum. She chose to leave. I made sure she didn't get the boys.
"Later, when Jimmy was old enough, I allowed overnight visits, but she began to resent me and eventually she took it out on the boys. I haven't talked to her in years. I don't know about Steve and Jimmy."
"What about Jim?"
"Sally said the bath calmed him. He spent a lot of time with his ears underwater. Thinking back, I suppose it muffled the noise. I almost took him to a doctor, but he seemed to be getting better, and I didn't want Grace in that much trouble, once I'd calmed down. I guess, I just didn't want anyone to know what she'd done."
"Jimmy was hard to handle for several months after that. Several times I almost took him to a doctor, but Grace always said no. I don't think either one of us wanted anyone to know what happened. Not long after the divorce, business improved. I moved to the house I have now, and Sally came to work with us full time. She never said anything about Jimmy's ordeal."
"It must have seemed like he was alone forever," Blair whispered, heart going out in sympathy to the three-year-old boy in a dark house by himself, wondering where his parents were.
"I'm surprised he didn't cry out. We were in another neighborhood. The neighbors would have heard him crying."
"The noise," Blair said, seeing the child in his mind's eye.
"The noise. His crying probably hurt his ears. If he figured that out, he wouldn't have added to the sensation. He doesn't remember this, does he?"
William shook his head. "No. I never told him about it. I doubt that Sally ever did. There are no records of it anywhere." William looked at the young man. "I tried to do what I thought needed to be done," he tried to explain. "I know I didn't do the best, but they were never left alone. My son never went through that again in my house. When I saw Jimmy again, when he told me about this 'gift,' I was scared. All I could remember was the pain it had caused him as a child. Even finding Bud. Surely it wouldn't have been as painful without that extra awareness. Then when this dissertation thing happened.... I just wanted him safe. I thought with you out of his life, this thing would be, too." He took a deep breath. "But, I've spoken with his captain and now I know. He won't just get rid of this, will he? They won't go away again. So he needs your help. You've helped him before. You can help him again."
"I'm not vital to his function as a Sentinel," Blair repeated. "Anyone he trusts can help him. Anyone who understands, can help him."
"Maybe. Maybe not. I don't know. But you're the one he trusts. You're the one he thinks of as a friend. You're the one he turns to." William Ellison held Blair's focus. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry my actions make it so hard for Jimmy to tell you how he feels. I'm sorry my actions make it so hard to trust him. I'm sorry for all the hurt I have caused my son. I can't change it, and I can't fix it. You can. I'm asking you to do that."
"And what do you get?" Blair asked. "Do you expect me to get Jim to get to know you? Do you think an apology to me makes up for what you did to him?"
"I can't make up for what I've done to either of my sons, Mr. Sandburg. All I can do is try to help in the future. I know you're the only one who can help Jimmy. I want you to be able to do that. I will do whatever you want to help him."
"I'll answer any questions you have. I'll tell you anything you want to know for your paper."
"There's not going to be a paper," Blair said.
"But Jimmy..." William trailed off and Blair almost smiled to see the older man rethinking their conversation, wondering if he'd said too much.
"Jim offered to go public. I just don't know that that's what we'll do."
"Why wouldn't you?"
"There may be other options. Everything has just gone too fast," Blair said, turning away himself to contemplate the window blinds. "My dis got out too soon and then I had to act fast. It's time to slow down. We have time to think before we act this time. I think it's about time we did."
"And what will you do?"
"I may have an offer to teach at a high school in Cascade."
"Private. St. Bernard's." William nodded, recognizing the name. Blair considered his visitor. "Maybe I'll take you up on your offer of answers, though. My paper may be history, but your son isn't. There may still be answers out there I need if I'm going to help him."
William nodded his agreement. He stood in awkward silence for a moment.
"Jimmy will be back soon. I don't think he's interested in seeing me just now." William turned to go. "I will help you, Mr. Sandburg. If you need anything from me, let me know."
Blair Sandburg watched the man leave and settled back on the bed. Jim would be back soon and the doctor had given Blair the go-ahead to leave today. If nothing else, Blair was ready to head back to Cascade and see what the future would bring.
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