The First Meeting
An AU story about Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg meeting under different circumstances.
Warnings: Some Blair owies (past events), AU beginning
Feedback: I'd really like to know what you think of this. Feedback
on or off list is fine.
Author's Notes: I don't own The Sentinel or any of the characters
and this is written for entertainment purposes only. I'd like to thank Lyn for the great
and quick beta job (as usual) and the encouragement.
Jim Ellison didn't enjoy the trips into the city. He preferred to remain in his cabin on the outskirts of the city limits of Cascade. He had moved there five years ago after resigning from the Cascade Police Department on disability. Rumor around the station was that his disability was mental and Jim did nothing to dispel those rumors. However, the truth was that Jim's hearing and sight kept spiking on him, out of control, making it impossible for him to do his job. He sought out medical help, but no one had answers for him.
With his father's help, Jim found and purchased the property outside of the city where it was relatively deserted and quiet. Jim reveled in the silence and serenity of the area. He built the cabin by himself. The difference between this seventy acres and the hustle and bustle of Cascade was like night and day.
Jim only came to the city when he needed supplies and he limited his exposure. He was hoping that someone would have an answer for him to help quell the hyperactivity of his senses. It wasn't just his hearing and sight anymore - it had spread to touch, smell and taste, to varying degrees.
Jim had turned to the internet to try to find someone who might be able to help him. He had come across several people who claimed to describe what Jim was experiencing, but none was willing to come help Jim. He even offered to pay their expenses, but every one turned him down. Then, there were also those people who said they would help, but turned out to be charlatans and only wanted to take Jim's money and offer no help or hope. He concluded that he would spend his remaining days on his own.
Jim did the only thing he could think of to do. He kept external stimuli to a minimum and didn't allow anyone to invade his space for very long. It allowed Jim to keep a tenuous, fragile hold on his senses and his sanity. Of course, every time he ventured into Cascade, the city and the people living there put his tenuous hold to the test.
On occasion, he would ask either his father or his brother to do his shopping for him, but both of them had their own lives and Jim hated to appear needy in front of them. That was especially true with his brother, with whom Jim barely spoke. The two Ellison brothers grew up as rivals and now each were still in competition with each other on a certain level. Jim wanted to prove that he could handle his own life. He didn't need a caretaker or a guardian. He was in his forties and he could do things for himself.
Jim braced himself for the trip into Cascade. He had to do it and he had stalled long enough. He got his keys and left the peace and safety of his cabin. In his mind, he wished he could 'dial' down his senses to an acceptable and tolerable level.
Blair Sandburg scanned the latest information from the test results in the folders. There still hadn't been any subjects exhibiting more than three hyperactive senses. He was beginning to believe that his professors were right. It was just a myth that there were modern day Sentinels, people with all five heightened senses. Of course, there was more to the ancient Sentinels than just the heightened senses advantage. There was ample documentation that they were scouts and watchmen for the tribes in the past. They also safeguarded the tribe. Blair wasn't sure how that would transfer to any modern day Sentinels.
Blair had become enamored with the idea of Sentinels ever since he had read an old manuscript written by Sir Richard Burton, the explorer. Blair read the book when he was thirteen and the idea of Sentinels had taken root in his imagination. Blair wanted to find modern day Sentinels and explore how they differed from the Sentinels who patrolled and protected the tribes in the past. Blair had written a proposal for the influential people at Rainier University and received funding to conduct tests to test his premise that, given there were Sentinels in the past to protect ancient tribes, it was only reasonable that the traits had been passed down from generation to generation and that there still existed Sentinels in today's modern society. There had been no positive proof yet that the premise was correct. However, Blair Sandburg wasn't a person easily dissuaded from a task.
Blair came to Rainier when he was only sixteen years old and by the time he was twenty-three, he'd received his PhD and was on staff as a researcher and teacher in anthropology. He was considered the golden boy and the local genius by professors, students, even the dean, and the president of the university. He lived up to the expectations of everyone. He took on any task asked of him and finished on time. He loved the idea of a challenge and the Sentinel project was definitely a challenge.
Blair closed the folder, placing it in the wire basket on the corner of his desk. He looked at his watch, noting it was time for lunch. He got to his feet, stretching his back and arms and taking several deep breaths. He was hungry and was wondering which secretary he could talk into going with him today. He walked out of his office and went down the hall to where the secretaries sat.
He cleared his throat. "Okay! Which one of you lovely women wants to accompany me to lunch today? The first one who speaks up is the lucky winner!"
Blair waited for a response. There was none forthcoming.
"Aw c'mon! You're going to pass up the chance to be seen with the most eligible bachelor in Cascade?"
There were a few snickers at that remark. And even Blair had a smile on his face. "Okay, okay. You know, you're all wounding me here. Okay, I'll go off by myself. See you later!"
There was a chorus of "Bye, Blair" that followed him to the elevator, which made him smile even more.
As he rode the elevator down to the first floor, he was already thinking up more ways to find his elusive modern day Sentinel.
Jim decided to risk taking a side trip to his father's office. William Ellison was the CEO of a very profitable accounting firm. After Jim's resignation from the Cascade Police Department, William tried to get Jim to join him in the family business. To his credit, Jim did try it for a week, but at that point, it seemed as if all of his senses were battling each other to see which one would disrupt him the most. William understood how Jim's condition affected him. Jim's special abilities had manifested themselves when he was about five years old. However, William Ellison didn't treat his son any differently and tried to downplay his abilities. Things became more intense as Jim got older.
Jim walked inside the building housing his father's offices. He smiled when he saw Charlotte, his father's long time secretary, sitting at the desk.
Charlotte Bringer looked up from her computer screen, seeing the younger man standing there.
"Jim, how are you doing?" She gave him a smile.
"I'm okay, Charlotte. Is my father in?"
"Yeah. Let me buzz him to make sure he's not busy. He was actually trying to get hold of you a couple of weeks ago. Just a minute, Jim."
Charlotte picked up the phone and buzzed William's extension. Jim was able to pick up his father's voice on the other end of the telephone and could hear the excitement in the older man's voice when Charlotte announced that Jim was there to see him.
Charlotte looked back at Jim after she hung up the phone. "You can go on in, Jim."
"Thanks, Charlotte." Jim walked towards the door to his father's office. He knocked on the door and then opened it.
Jim walked inside the office, closing the door behind him. He had fond memories of this office growing up. His father, trying to raise two sons as a single father, often would bring his boys to the office if they didn't have school. He always kept a supply of activities for his sons to occupy their time -- books, toys, and a variety of games to stimulate their minds as well as being fun.
Jim saw his father was smiling as he walked into the office. "Hi, dad."
William Ellison's smile faltered slightly as he noticed his son's appearance. It looked as if life was rough for his eldest son. However, he was hoping that he had a glimmer of hope and possible respite for Jim.
"It's good to see you again, Jimmy. I've been trying to contact you for a couple of weeks now. I heard that there is a professor at the university conducting tests on subjects with heightened senses." William looked around his desk, in search of the information. "I don't remember what his name is right off hand, but I have the information here somewhere. Paul Laudner's daughter goes to Rainier and she told him that this professor was looking for people with hyperactive senses."
"Dad, I don't really want to undergo any type of tests. What I'd really like would be someone who could tell me how to get rid of these sensations so I could possibly return to some type of normalcy in my life. Of course, I've never had anything approaching a normal life, so that would certainly be something novel to experience."
William held up the business card. "Aha! Here it is. His name is Dr. Blair Sandburg and he's a professor in the Anthropology department at the university. Here, take this." William held out the card to Jim. "At least go see him, Jimmy. It's the first possible answer I've been able to come across after all these years."
"How long has this Sandburg been testing people with hyperactive senses? And how come I haven't heard about him before now?"
"I don't know, Jimmy. Maybe he's just now making his studies more widely publicized. Don't be such a skeptic, Jimmy. If he can help you, why look a gift horse in the mouth?"
"I've always been skeptical, dad. You and I both know there are too many people in the world who are out just to get themselves ahead, no matter the consequences. It would be a refreshing change to find someone willing to help others."
"See, I knew you could be optimistic if you tried. How about going with me to lunch?"
"I really need to get my supplies and get back to the cabin. I've had about all the exposure to Cascade I can stand for one day."
"What about lunch at the house? I'm sure Sally will be willing to make some of those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that you love so much."
Jim let a small chuckle escape. "You know just how to get to me, don't you? Okay, dad."
Jim followed his father to the house where he grew up. As soon as he walked inside, the memories, both good and bad, returned to the forefront of Jim's mind.
William Ellison reared his sons as a single parent. His wife left when Jim was six and his brother Steven was three. William was a strict disciplinarian and demanded much from his sons. He even went so far as to pit the boys against each other to bring out the best in both of them. As a result, an intense rivalry developed between the brothers early and continued throughout their lives. There was still evidence of it, as the two boys became adults.
Jim left to join the Army as soon as he graduated from high school. He felt the need to become his own person. For some reason when Jim joined the Army, his heightened senses seemed to retreat and go dormant. Jim seemed to miss the constant bombardment and felt that he would have an advantage over the other soldiers with his abilities, even if he had no control over them.
However, by the time Jim left the Army, his heightened senses were back online. He had lived for a time with the Chopec Indian tribe in Peru after being the sole survivor of a mission gone badly. The shaman of the tribe explained to Jim that he was special because of his heightened senses and that he needed someone to help him control and understand his destiny. Jim had been skeptical about the shaman's words, but he did notice a control he hadn't experienced before. He stayed with the tribe until a rescue unit came from the States to bring him home. As he returned to civilization, his newly found control slowly eroded and vanished, leaving him suffering again.
Jim followed his father to the kitchen, where Sally was working.
"Sally, look who I brought home for lunch!"
Sally turned, seeing Jim standing in the doorway. She went over to him, pulling him into a hug. "Jimmy! It's so good to see you! It's been too long since your last visit! Isolated alone in the wilderness."
Jim laughed and returned Sally's hug. "It's not the wilderness, Sally. I have all the modern amenities - an inside bathroom, running hot and cold water, and even electricity. But what I miss the most is your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on wheat bread. I can't get the right combinations."
"Have a seat, Jimmy. I even have cold milk."
Jim and William sat down at the table.
"How's Steven doing?"
"You should go see him, Jimmy. Both of you are grown men and need to get along. After all, you are brothers."
"And you were the one who pitted us against each other, dad. You shouldn't be surprised that we're still rivals."
"I did that to toughen both of you. To make sure you grew up to be strong, independent men. I seem to remember that you forgave me for pushing you during your formative years."
"I understand why you did what you did." Jim paused a moment. "Okay, being the older, more mature sibling, I guess I can talk to Steven. We do have the foundation for a renewal of becoming close again."
William smiled. "Good. I'm sure he'd love to see your place."
Before Jim had a chance to answer, Sally placed the sandwiches and glasses of milk on the table.
"I also have chocolate chip cookies for dessert."
"Sally, you've always known how to win my heart." Jim grabbed a sandwich.
Blair finished his lunch and went to pay the bill. He had walked the six blocks from the university to the deli. He remembered coming to the same deli since his arrival at Rainier as a sixteen year old. Sharon Master, owner of the deli, took pity on the much too young collegian. She looked out for him as a surrogate mother. It was the reason he kept returning and raved about the food.
"Excellent as always, Sharon."
"You're welcome, Blair. So, are you planning any expeditions in the future?"
"Nah. Not for a while at least. I have a grant study I'm working on at the moment that's monopolizing all my time that I'm not teaching." Blair looked at his watch. "And I need to get back for my afternoon classes."
"You best get going then. It doesn't look good when the professor is late."
"Take care, Sharon. I'll probably see you tomorrow. Tell Charlie I'll stop by in a few days. He called to tell me he got in a shipment of books. Your husband knows how much I love to peruse old books."
"I don't understand the fascination. Just give me a romance story with a little plot line and I'm happy."
Blair laughed. "Bye, Sharon." He left the deli, waving his hand.
He walked back to the university campus. Along the way, Blair's thoughts naturally focused on his grant study. For the sake of the study, he hoped he found his modern day Sentinel. Someone envisioned as a true protector.
All of a sudden, an involuntary shudder passed through Blair. It was an unwelcome memory of the past.
Five years ago, before the grant money and the concentrated effort of trying to find someone with all five heightened senses, Blair inadvertently came across a person with all five heightened senses. But there was no way she was a Sentinel. She cared only about advancing her own life and didn't care who she hurt. Blair believed he could change her, but it didn't work out that way. Blair told her he could help her harness and fine tune her abilities. That way, she could have maximum results.
It turned out that Alex Barnes was nothing more than a petty criminal who used Blair to get control of her out of control senses and to up her criminal activities to include robbery. She even used Blair as a shield to help her getaway.
Blair tried to dissuade Alex from robbery, but she didn't want to listen to him rambling on and on about helping the world and going into a line of work that would reflect that. She became paranoid and kept Blair prisoner in her apartment, monitoring his every move.
Right before she planned to rob a bank in a neighboring city, Blair found the opportunity to alert the local authorities about Alex's plan. Blair knew he would be an accomplice, but he hoped to be able to convince the right people he was innocent and coerced into helping. If he came out of the situation alive, he planned to reevaluate his life goal of finding a Sentinel. Maybe no one with five heightened senses could be protectors and upstanding members of modern society. There was a study and a paper in that revelation, but Blair didn't want to deal with that at present.
Because of Blair's alert, the police stopped Alex's attempt at bank robbery. Before they got her into custody however, Alex shot Blair in the chest.
The police interviewed Blair in the hospital, where he explained his relationship with Alex Barnes. They arrested him as an accomplice to the robbery. Blair was able to retain a lawyer after explaining everything to Rainier officials, including the president and the chancellor. They weren't going to let Blair go to prison for something he didn't do.
The judge gave Blair two years probation because he didn't have a record and he showed that he'd made the wrong choice. It didn't hurt that many professors and students from the university also vouched for Blair's character and the fact that he would never commit a crime such as robbery. The judge commended Blair on his ambitions, but told him to make better choices in the future. Blair vowed to do better.
When Blair returned to Rainier, he finished his doctorate, graduating with high honors. He allowed all thoughts of Sentinels to drift to the background. He didn't want a repeat performance of Alex anytime soon.
Blair rushed inside Hargrove Hall and to his classroom. Once more, his thoughts almost made him late for his class.
"So, you'll go and see Dr. Sandburg tomorrow?" William looked at Jim.
"I don't know, Dad. You know how much I hate to undergo tests and talk about my abilities. If I could find someone to take them all away, it would be a much better scenario."
"Jimmy, you've always dealt with your heightened senses. And now, there may be someone out there with the answers to help you gain control. Are you really willing to pass up a person who could help?"
"I'm just not sure I can endure it, Dad. Do you still have his card?"
William pulled the card out of the pocket of his jacket. He handed it to Jim.
Jim looked at the name - Dr. Blair J. Sandburg, Department of Anthropology, Rainier University. This could be his lifeline, the person with the key. Jim looked back up at his father.
"Okay, Dad. I'll take a chance and go see this Sandburg fellow."
"Good. Let me know how it goes."
"You'll be the first one to know."
Jim returned home to his cabin and the safety of his surroundings. He put away his groceries and supplies and went to sit down by the big window in the front room. He loved the scenery and serenity of this place.
His thoughts kept returning to Dr. Blair Sandburg. Jim wondered just how much an anthropologist could know about his condition. Jim wished he knew more about the man and his background, but decided that he would be able to determine something when he met him. First impressions and all that. Jim was always able to pinpoint and get a sixth sense about people when he met them.
Blair returned to his office after classes were over. He grabbed the latest lab tests done on the current participants in his study. There were two people with heightened sight and taste, and two others with heightened hearing, taste and touch. They were all progressing with various techniques to help with coping with everyday life. Blair was proud of the work he was able to do to help these people. He just made sure he didn't invest too much of himself in any one subject.
He didn't know if things would be different if he came across another person with all five heightened senses. That's what had caused problems before. He believed he was able to help Alex Barnes on a personal level. He couldn't invest himself as deeply again. He couldn't make the same mistakes.
On the other hand, there was the whole concept of the Guide who helped the Sentinel stay focused and in tune. Blair thought he was Alex's Guide. She responded to his suggestions and nudges. Could he Guide another Sentinel? Did he even want to consider the possibility?
Blair knew he couldn't let a potential Sentinel flounder alone. If there was someone else out in the world dealing with an overload of stimuli, it was Blair's duty to try to help them cope. Blair had the knowledge to help people with heightened senses and he knew deep down, he would continue to impart his knowledge to others. Maybe he could branch out to teaching people who could become potential Guides. Blair didn't know if there was anything special in the makeup of Guides to Sentinels. He would need to do more research to find out.
Blair closed the files and put them away. It was time to go home and get some rest.
Jim got up early the next morning, fixed breakfast and sat at the table, thinking about going to see Dr. Blair Sandburg. He was still a little apprehensive in letting a complete stranger know about his abilities. It wasn't something Jim imparted to just anyone.
"C'mon, man. The man deals with people with heightened senses. He'll know why you are there the minute you walk in. If he can help you, it will be worth it."
The words ran around in Jim's head as he convinced himself to take that first step and ask for help. He was reluctant to ask for help, but if he could obtain some control to deal with the bombardment of stimuli, then it would be worth it. He'd make sure that Sandburg didn't let his abilities become common knowledge.
Jim stood outside the door to Sandburg's office. He could hear the music playing inside, something that sounded like jungle music, with lots of drums. The secretary had directed Jim to the end of the hall, where she assured Jim that Dr. Sandburg was in his office. Jim knew that as he neared the door.
Jim raised his hand to knock and realized that Sandburg would never hear it with that music blaring. He opened the door and stood there, staring.
Whatever image of Blair Sandburg that Jim Ellison had, vanished in an instant. First impressions were immediate. The guy was too young, too hippy, and not someone Jim was likely to trust.
Before Jim could turn to leave, Blair turned around. "Hey, man! C'mon in! Something I can do for you?"
"Ah no. I think I'm in the wrong office." Jim grimaced slightly.
Blair noticed the grimace. He flipped off the music. "Sorry. I wasn't expecting anyone this early. I'm just going over my notes for my first class this morning."
"I think I made a mistake. I was looking for Dr. Blair Sandburg."
"That's me. Don't let the looks fool you. I have my credentials if you want to see them."
Jim noticed how Sandburg's eyes pierced through him, as though seeing his darkest secrets. Jim shook his head and looked away. "I should go."
"Have a seat. What's your name?"
Jim found himself moving forward without another thought. He was soon sitting in the chair in front of Sandburg's desk. "My name is Jim Ellison. I understand you are conducting a study on people with heightened senses."
"Yeah, I am. Do you have heightened senses, Mr. Ellison?"
"I do. I've had them all my life."
"Which of your senses are heightened, Mr. Ellison?"
"Please, just call me Jim." Jim looked down at the floor, then back up at Sandburg. "All five of my senses are heightened, Dr. Sandburg."
"Well, if I'm going to call you Jim, then you have to call me Blair. All five, huh? Would you agree to submit to some tests, Jim?"
For some reason, Jim felt comfortable around Blair Sandburg. It was as if things were stable and steady. He readily agreed to the tests and started telling Blair about growing up with five heightened senses. He had a feeling he had found a friend.