TITLE: Going Nowhere
CATEGORY: Gen, a little angst
DISCLAIMERS: I did ask if I could have them, but
SUMMARY: Blair stops off on the way home, and it takes a little longer than originally planned.
I'll always be the first one to raise my hand in the air and admit that I might not be the most organized of people, and certainly not the best person to remember where I've put something. That can apply to anything. Honestly. Pick something. Take the dissertation chapter I accidentally shredded last week, thinking it was something else entirely. What about the time Jim gave me the spare key to the truck on pain of death, and then he fixed me with that intimidating glare in place of fixing me to the wall with an with an incredibly painfulneck grab when he found it kicked under the couch.
Not my fault there was a hole in my jean pocket and I hadn't noticed the damn thing falling out.
So that brings me back to the one time I actually remembered exactly where I'd parked the car.
I was only in the store for ten minutes. Tops. Needed to pick up some milk for the morning, and got a little carried away reading the opening couple of pages of the latest bestseller to hit the shelves. Ten minutes, I swear.
And I know I remembered to lock the car for once. I made a conscious effort to do that.
My backpack's slung haphazardly over my shoulder, and my cell phone is somewhere in the chaos at the bottom.
The series of streetlamps are ignoring me as I wander aimlessly past the Chevrolets, the Fords, the pick-ups, the Mazdas, the has-beens, the wanna-bes, the ego-extensions, and the could-have-beens. Somewhere in there should have been a relatively filthy Volvo. One that I left parked here no more than ten minutes ago.
There's even a nice wet puddle of escaped engine fluid slowly soaking into the ground to show me the car's former precise location.
And you know what? I don't care.
I really don't.
It's a lovely evening out here, the moon is three-quarters full, and the gentle breeze is such a relief from the oppressive heat that's been slamming into us for weeks now.
Behind me I can still make out the harmless music beckoning out of the store speakers. It's a track that I last heard many, many years ago and I didn't think too much of it back then either. But what the hell.
So, no car.
As I said, it's a lovely evening, and I haven't had much chance to be outside recently; certainly not to be alone with my thoughts, in the peace and quiet of my own mind.
I consider going back inside and informing the store detectives so they can at least make a note not to record straight over that particular surveillance tape. Of course, I could always call Jim and he'd arrive faster than the speed limit legally permits, and no doubt use his sentinel skills to track my dilapidated car.
That thought alone makes me realize that I am frankly relieved that the damn machine has gone. At least this way I can file a legitimate car insurance claim, and get a settlement check. Yeah, okay, it would probably buy a heap of junk that's just as unreliable but for all my words about the green beast being a classic, it's caused me far too many raps on the knuckles for being late at both the University and at the police department.
The semester's over, so I don't have to be up early in the morning; all my grading is done, for once I'm on schedule with my papers, there's no jumbled pile of student's work lurking around on the back seat of the car. It's ironic that I took those four volumes back to the library this afternoon.
There is nothing of value to me inside the car. Its only the car itself, and that matter, as my brain reminds me, will be resolved by the insurance company. No explosion, no bad guy shooting holes in it, no student taking the keys and helping himself, no brake failure and subsequent crash, no high-speed chase. I've finally got a legitimate claim. Add a police claim number against the form and the check should arrive within the next two weeks.
A cloud scuds in front of the yellow-tinged moon, and in a surreal way I find myself watching the other customers as they journey to and from their vehicles. The music from the store seems to underscore their movements, and it's like watching the conclusion of a bad documentary.
Turning, I decide that the night is too good to waste. Shoving the milk into the backpack, zipping it up and settling it firmly on my back, I head towards the far exit of the parking lot.
Replacing the inane drumbeat of the store music with tracks more to my liking, my internal dialogue kicks off again, and I realize just how long it's been since I had time to just wander. To think my own thoughts without having a faint nag questioning whether or not I was fully prepared for the next lecture I was either attending, delivering, or facing an exam for. No bad guy to consider the motive for, no crime to help Jim locate the perpetrator for, no sentinel senses on the verge of wiping out one of Cascade's detectives, no need to be anywhere.
The loft is a good twenty-five blocks away and, like the car being missing, I dont care.
With a grin, I change the CD in my head and give myself something much more lyrical.
For the first time in a couple of years, I can take my time.
The elderly couple walking slowly down the sidewalk are clutching hands as though theyve only recently started their relationship, and I felt a pang to think that they loved each other so much after what must have been many years. That was special.
The guy in the sweatpants jogging past the couple is holding onto the lead of his dog nearly as tightly.
Cars slow as they approach the crossing, tempting the fates to change the lights from green to red.
Sporadically, the wheels splash through the disappearing puddles from the brief downpour of earlier.
I've always wanted a place with a garden. Something about the green, and the peace and tranquillity. Never really stayed long enough in any place that had a garden I could thoroughly enjoy. Today's rain would have helped the grass to grow greener and stronger, taking away the yellow-white straw effect the summer months always brings.
The next music track flicks on in my head, and I find myself humming along to the silent music, causing bemused looks from the elderly couple as I pass them. I smile back, and find the sentiment returned.
A younger couple are the next ones I pass, and I smile again, this time receiving looks of consternation in return. But that's okay. I'm actually quite comfortable being part of the world as I watch it go by.
This is the first time in a very long time where I haven't had to be anywhere for anyone other than me. No expectations. No demands. No obligations.
The clouds part to allow the moon to follow me on my path. I have another twenty-four blocks to go. But that would be if I followed the route I would have taken by car. The night's too good to waste on the suburban sprawl that Cascade has become.
Hanging a left, I let the grin take over my face, and I head off on a multi-block detour that will take me somewhere near to the park. If I get into any difficulties, I only need to pull out the cell phone from the depths of my bag and call either Jim, or the familiar three-digit yell for help.
The track changes again and I pick up the pace a little. Not because I'm in a hurry, but simply because I can.
I always have music on in the car, partially because I love the sound, but mainly because it covers the myriad of warning squeals, creaks and groans from my failing car.
The grin remains firmly planted on my face. I don't care who sees me. I don't care what I look like. I don't care where I am. I don't care what time it is.
I keep up the pace for several blocks before less comfortable thoughts seep into my peacefulness. Thoughts of how can I actually turn the dissertation around and protect Jim's identity, or to continue with the other endeavour I began to present to my advisor a while back. Where were Jim and I headed in terms of our professional contact? What would my plans be after another couple of months had gone past and there was no longer any need for me to be in Cascade? For weeks I'd begun to realize that my dissatisfaction with one or two trivialities had been less to do with the things that were bugging me at that moment, and more to do with knowing that I had turned down several expeditions - and I no longer wanted to do that. I wanted to be out there, and doing. I didn't want to be learning from books anymore. I didn't want to be sharing knowledge with those younger than me in readiness for sending them out to where I wanted to be. I didn't want to be writing recommendations for them to participate in adventures that I wanted to take. Not them. Me. Call me selfish call me whatever you like. But the more I walk, the more my present life begins to crystallize.
How many times is a person expected to accept being shot at? Being blown up? Having their life turned around without them having a say in the matter?
Damn, I should have had this walk months ago.
I consciously change the track in my head to a slow rock I need the soft power of that pulse hitting me hard. Just like the punches that I've received too many times.
The adrenalin rush is addictive; I give it credit for that. I love certain parts of what Jim does, and therefore what I get to share in with him. In all seriousness, I'm around four months away from having a completed dissertation. With luck, effort, research and skill, I can defend my work and gain those elusive letters to my name.
And then what?
I pick up the pace yet again, wanting the exertion to blast the confusion of thoughts from my head, but I seem to be out of luck.
It takes another twenty minutes before I hear the unmistakeable ringing of my phone, and this time I choose to ignore it.
This is my time. Only I know where I am, and that's a refreshing thought. Once upon a time it unnerved me to think that I could disappear off the face of the planet and no one would know. And, being honest, not too many people would have cared.
Anyone seen Naomi recently? The Queen of Convenient Appearances. Yes, Mom, I love you. You're my mother. Of course I love you. Yes, I fully understand that you can't be here for my graduation, or my birthday, or . I'll always forgive you. You're family.
The only family I have.
Although that's not true. I have Jim.
And I'm fairly sure I remember something about an Uncle out in Rhode Island somewhere. Maybe.
The cell phone gives it a rest after a few more aborted efforts covering more than forty minutes.
Knowing Jim, he'll give me another half an hour before he calls out the cavalry, and gets an APB put out on the car. When it gets pulled over and is discovered to be stolen, then he'll drag every uniform he can onto the streets to look for me.
The same grin comes back as I appreciate the big brother mode that Jim often demonstrates over me.
Never had that before.
It gets kinda tough on someone who's so self-proficient, and so used to fending for themselves.
I've got a great deal, living at the loft for minimal rent, and getting to study my dissertation subject at such close quarters. I get a great friendship out of the deal too. Even if it is a little stifling occasionally.
I really hadn't realized how much I missed my time on my own.
It helps that the semester's over so my University worries are in abeyance.
I'm so wrapped up in my thoughts, hearing the silent music, and the thundering of non-existent sounds, that I completely fail to notice the intruding noises around me.
The approach is subtle, could be anyone. Could be the jogger. Could even be another elderly couple out enjoying the night air.
However, I'm Blair Sandburg. And shit only seems to happen to me.
By the spade-full.
I've been walking for well over an hour and have finally come to the conclusion that the best way to move forward with regards the dissertation, and my life afterwards, is to sit down with Jim and talk to him. Tell him what's going on in my head, tell him how I feel about life both now and in the future. Discuss friend-to-friend the options that are, or could be, available.
I've made that decision, and I'm happy with it.
I'm okay with that. Really I am. I've had a good life, I've got some good friends, I've accomplished more than I thought I would have five years ago, even if it isn't the same trip to the moon I planned when I was five.
As the solid weight from behind strikes me, the moon is the last thing I remember seeing.
I could have predicted the next part.
I wrote the book.
Didn't you know?
The throbbing headache, the blurred vision, the warm trickle of blood trailing down my face.
The realization that I am in the same kind of deep shit that I've become accustomed to.
The difficulty in breathing.
The sudden silence that the end of the track brings.
"We've found him." Jim could have hugged the operator who finally relayed the awaited words.
"Corner of 9th and Victoria."
"What the fuck's he doing in Vi ?" The rest of his sentence left as an internal query, he slammed the truck into gear, swerved dangerously close to the oncoming semi, and headed over to the quadrant in question, disregarding all safe forms of driving.
The flashing lights led him to the correct area, and Ellison flew out of the truck, landing on his knees next to the still form being worked on by the paramedics.
He'd seen this team before; they were the ones from the fountain. He recognized them. With a paralyzing lurch of dread, he also recognized the pallor of Sandburg's skin. Sentinel senses be damned, this was his friend, and this was not supposed to happen. Couldn't happen. Not again.
Except this time, the only blue lights encompassing anything here were from the emergency vehicles.
The gasp of fear his body emitted was lost in the flurry of activity as the paramedics worked.
It was an interminable time before the first of the emergency vehicles left the scene.
The track ended.
The CD was ejected.
Jim couldn't sleep. His body was crying out for rest, but it was the furthest thing from his mind.
There was so much that needed to be done.
Sandburg's attacker needed to be traced and caught.
How could a simple case of the Volvo being stolen turn into such a bloody mess?
The blood loss from the head wound had been extensive.
No, he'd sleep when he was ready and not before.
He stared blankly around the room.
Nobody ever heard of decorating?
Something caught his eye almost guaranteed, he mused with a flash of warmth, as the seated object came into focus.
"Ch'nge m'sic "
"Chief?" Jim was out of the chair, reaching for the bed.
"Ch'nge th' m'sic." For some reason it was easier to croak words with his eyes closed. "Dr'ms too loud."
The way Jim's shoulders dropped in relief, led him to question how he remained upright. He placed a tender hand against Blair's forehead, brushing away the strand that threatened to fall into his right eye. "Okay," he laughed, dryly. "I'll get them to turn the drums down for you."
"Gl'd you're here." It was a croak, but the blues eyes that opened and stared up at the sentinel were surprisingly clear.
"I'm here. Not going anywhere." Jim smiled back.
"Hmm." Blair's eyes drifted shut as he fell back asleep, willing the headache away. "Me neither."
copyright Xasphie 19/07/05
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