Running Away

By: Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

This is the first story in the trilogy, Running Away. In this story, both Jim and Blair leave Cascade separately as a result of the events in The Sentinel By Blair Sandburg. Both Jim and Blair feel a need to put distance between them. Originally posted on the SentinelAngst list 4/2004.

 

RUNNING AWAY -- JIM

 

My dad stops by. When I open the door and see him there, it surprises me. "What are you doing here?"

"Is that hippy here?"

"You mean Sandburg?"

"Yes. Is he here?"

"No. He's out somewhere. I don't know when he'll be back."

"I need to talk to you, Jimmy."

"About what, dad?"

"Can I come in?"

"Sure, dad. Come on in." I move aside and my father walks in. He sits down on the couch and I sit opposite him. "Do you want something to drink?"

"No, I'm fine."

"What brings you by, dad?"

"It's about those things that were brought out about you."

Suddenly, I'm on the defensive. "What about them dad? They are the truth you know."

"I know. But the world doesn't need to know that my son is a fre-- different from other people."

I hear what he almost said. He almost called me a freak again.

"Dad? It's my life. And Sandburg took care of things. He denounced everything in his news conference. Or didn't you see that?"

"Yes, I saw that. And I heard from my contacts with the university that he's officially history as far as they are concerned. Who knew that he'd be so untrustworthy?"

"He did the best he could, dad. And there were times when he really helped me."

"But you are going to tell him to leave, right?"

"I think he'll do that all on his own. Look, I hear him coming. I don't want him to hear us talking about him."

"Why not? It's about time someone tells him what is really going on and where he really belongs."

"Please, dad. Not now. He's had enough disappointments for the time being."

We both go silent as Sandburg unlocks the door and walks in. I don't look at him, but I notice the look my dad's giving him. It takes all of his control not to say a word. I hear Sandburg walk across the room and go into his bedroom, closing the doors behind him. I turn back to my dad.

"Jimmy? I think it would be best if you leave town for a while. With your injury and the media hype, well..."

"I agree with you, dad."

"If you want to, I can let you use the cabin. It will be quiet this time of year and it may be just what you need."

"You read my mind, dad. Thanks. I need to sort things out in my mind. Like what's going to happen from now on."

"Whatever you decide, I'll back you up on it."

"Thanks, dad."

We talk for a while longer, then my dad leaves. I realize that because of all of this, my father and I are closer. It may be the only good thing to come out of this. I sit back down on the couch and turn on the television. I wonder if my dad will back me if Sandburg decides to stay? Of course, that hasn't been determined yet.

A short time later, I hear Sandburg come out of his room. I don't turn about to look at him and I don't say a word. I know that I should say something. There are a lot of things I should say. That we both should say. We need to talk about things. Get it out in the open. But I don't want to do it tonight. Sandburg goes back into his room and the moment is gone. Forever.

I get up in the morning to find Sandburg already up and fixing breakfast. I look at him strangely. It's like he thinks everything is normal and nothing has changed. But everything has changed. And he needs to know that. He speaks first.

"What?"

I decide to let him know the basics. We can't get into everything here and now. We can deal with it when I get back.

"I'm taking a week off. My father said I could use his cabin just outside Cascade. I'm leaving this morning as soon as I pack up my things."

There is a slight pause of silence. I can't read the expression on Sandburg's face. But then he speaks again.

"Well then, you need a good breakfast to start you off."

"Thanks, Sandburg."

He's a real pal and a real buddy. I go to take my shower and get dressed. While in the shower, I think that I should have offered Sandburg a chance to go with me. But, truth be told, I don't want him with me. Not that I don't enjoy his company. I do enjoy his company. But there are residual trust issues between us and I just need a break from all this sentinel stuff. And Sandburg is in the center of the sentinel stuff. A week by myself is just what I need. I know that's not what Sandburg really needs right now. He's been hit from all sides and now I'm abandoning him too. But he's got to understand that it hit me hard too. I need a break from Sandburg. But I can't tell him that. He'd take that the wrong way. Especially in his current state of mind. I'll keep that little tidbit to myself.

By the time I get back downstairs, showered and dressed, breakfast is ready. Sandburg's gone all out. Eggs, bacon, toast, juice, and coffee. I sit down opposite him. We eat our food. There are no words between us, no eye contact. Each of us concentrating on our own plate, on our own food. When we finish eating, we carry the dishes to the kitchen. I place mine in the sink first. Sandburg is just behind me.

"I'll wash the dishes. You can go pack."

I only nod at him and turn to walk away. I keep walking upstairs to pack. I get out my duffel bag and start to put clothes inside. Unintentionally, I listen in to Sandburg downstairs. Listening for any telltale signs that he's upset. Or angry. Or just pissed off at me. But I hear nothing from him. It's not like Sandburg. Usually he's muttering to himself about this and that and I'm able to pick up on it. His rambling to himself actually helps to keep me grounded. But I don't hear that. Sandburg has been too silent ever since the news conference. That whole scene comes back to me as I go about packing what I want to take with me.

Sandburg committed professional suicide just to protect me. I never asked him to do it. And had he asked me, I would have stopped him from doing such a final thing. I don't deserve that kind of loyalty and trust. I would never have him give up the one thing he loves above everything else. I still can't believe he'd do such a thing. Just something else in the long line of things that we need to talk about.

I limp downstairs with my duffel bag. I place it by the door and go into the kitchen. I pull out the cooler and start to put several bottles of water inside for my trip to the cabin. There's a small general store where I can get all the food that I'll need while I'm there. I don't look over at Sandburg when he comes out of his room. I finish putting the water in the cooler and then place that by the door with my duffel bag. I turn around and walk towards the living room where Sandburg is standing, looking at me. It looks like there are tears forming in his eyes. I know this will hurt him. That I don't want him with me. For his credit, the tears don't fall from his eyes. I have to tell him something.

"I need to go. To let things die down. When I come back, it will be better."

I stand there for a few minutes, thinking he'll say something. Rant or rave or throw a tantrum. But he doesn't say a word. He looks defeated and lost. I turn to go. I gather up the cooler and my duffel bag. He still doesn't say a word. I walk out of the loft. I still hear nothing from him. I take the elevator down to the lobby. It's slow going with my cane and bum leg. I walk out to my truck and load the cooler on the floor of the front seat and my duffel bag on the passenger seat. I get in my truck and drive off. Sandburg's look comes to mind as I drive off. It will be better when I get back. Sandburg will be ready to talk. He'll have time to *process* things and so will I. I'll be ready to talk. About everything. We'll know what to do then.

 

RUNNING AWAY -- BLAIR

 

I always thought I was smart. But when it come to knowing when to leave, I guess I allow my heart to rule my reason. Now, I'm walking away. I don't know what I'll do with my life. But I've got to reclaim it. For too long, others influenced me. I had pursued anthropology with the hopes of finding a sentinel, a person with all five enhanced senses. And it happened. Much to my surprise. And that's when I lost my life in the life of Jim Ellison. My life and pursuits were put on hold in order to help Jim. Not that I had to be forced kicking and screaming to help him. I eagerly allowed him to take over my life. And then when it all fell apart, I was left with nothing. And still I try to stay. But no one wants me. Oh, they offer me a detective's shield, but I know that is only for show. There is no way I'll be allowed to go through the academy, let alone become an honored member of the Cascade Police Department.

And my pursuit of my PhD went up in flames after the press conference. A few of the professors in the anthropology department try to talk to me about what I did. Some even tell me that they knew I was pursuing a Sentinel. I tell them I didn't find one. That in my desire to get my doctorate, I falsified reports, data and research. That effectively severed all my ties with the university.

I thought at least Jim would understand. After all, we had been through almost four years together pursuing the same goal. At least, I thought it was the same goal. He had to see that I had done it all for him. I had to protect him. There was no other recourse. At the station, he was the one who came forward and wanted me as a partner. I thought we would talk it out and work it out. I'd give him a few days to get his thoughts together, and then we'd talk. He had to realize that I wanted to be his partner.

Then I came home last night. When I walk in, I notice that William Ellison is there with Jim. The place got silent as soon as I walk in. Somehow, I know they were talking about me. William gives me a look of disgust and Jim just looks away. I walk straight to my room and close the doors. I can hear them still talking, but I can't make out the words. After all, I'm not the sentinel in this relationship. Finally, William leaves. I think maybe Jim will come to my room. But soon I hear the television. A short time later, I come out of my room and walk towards the kitchen. Jim doesn't even turn around or say a word to me. I return to my room and don't say anything either.

I get up this morning and make breakfast. I figure with Jim hobbling around, he needs to rest his wound. He comes downstairs and looks at me as if he has never seen me before. I can't let it pass. "What?"

"I'm taking a week off. My father said I could use his cabin just outside Cascade. I'm leaving this morning as soon as I pack up my things."

I notice that Jim is only talking singular.

"Well, then, you need a good breakfast to start you off."

"Thanks, Sandburg."

I hear what Jim doesn't say. He doesn't say that he wants me to go with him to the cabin. He doesn't tell me that he wants me near him. He doesn't tell me that he needs me. How could I have read him so wrong? I go back to preparing the breakfast and in that instant it hits me. I'm not wanted. My heart has gone cold. I'm all alone.

I finish fixing breakfast by the time Jim comes back downstairs after getting dressed. We sit together at the table. But there's no friendly banter back and forth, no eye contact between us. I avoid looking at Jim, afraid of breaking down. My emotions are on the edge right now. We eat the food, concentrating on our plates. Once we finish, we take our plates to the kitchen.

"I'll wash the dishes. You can go pack."

Jim only nods and walks away. I wash up the dishes. Trying to decide where I'll go and what I'll do. I know that I have to leave. It's the only answer now. I was kidding myself that we could resolve this. Jim has already moved on.

I dry the dishes and try to decide what I'll do with my things. I don't have that much extra money. Maybe I can sell my things. Maybe I'll just give them away. I can't exactly spend much more time here in Cascade. I should have taken my mom's offer of going with her on her latest trip. But I didn't think I'd have to run away.

I put the dishes away and walk to my room. I look around and see the sum total of my life. It won't be hard to let go of this and start over somewhere else. I can do this.

Jim comes downstairs carrying his duffel bag. I come out of my room and watch as he grabs several bottles of water out of the refrigerator and puts them into a cooler. He walks towards the living room and sees me standing there. I see the sadness in his eyes. And I successfully hold back my tears. I can't be the weak one now.

"I need to go. To let things die down. When I come back, it will be better."

He turns and walks away. I sit down on the couch and wonder how things got so complicated. Jim still thinks we can work it out. I just don't see how that's possible. I don't hear it when Jim leaves. But I get up and walk over to the balcony windows and watch as he drives down the street. His own version of running away.

That spurs me into action. I go into my room and pack up all I want to take with me. I remember the boxes from Rainier that I had stored in the basement. I make a snap decision to just let go of everything that I'm not going to take with me. I'll leave Jim a note, telling him he can do whatever he wants with what is left. I can't care anymore. It's past my abilities.

I pack up all that I want to take with me in my car. The rest of the stuff has been packed up and put down in the basement. Everything I'm leaving behind. Now, I've got to write the note. What do I say? How do I explain that I was the one who made the mistake? How do I tell Jim that it had been wrong from the beginning? I get a notebook out of my backpack. My observer's pass falls out on the floor. I pick it up and put it on the table. Jim will have to return it for me. I sit down to write the note.

Jim --

I never thought that we would come to this point. I thought everything would work out for the best. That's what I get for being so naive. You would think I wouldn't be that way - I mean, I've seen the world and I've been around the block several times. I got blindsided. By friendship and things that I thought were important. You have to believe me when I tell you that I am profoundly sorry for all that happened. I know directly it wasn't my fault, but in the end it was my entire fault. For having the dream and for thinking it didn't matter who you were but it was enough what you were. My Holy Grail. What was I thinking? I think in my quest to find a real sentinel, I lost sight of the fact you are a human being. Full of faults and failings, just like everyone else. I took advantage of you. I treated you like a lab rat and used you to further my own ambitions. I just worried about my studies and my paper and didn't give a damn about you or your feelings. Just something else to be sorry for. Ipushed you and made you do things you didn't want to do. Like take me in and let me run your life. I know that you would dispute much of what I'm saying, but let's be honest about things, Jim. I can be a pain in the ass. You're not the first person to think that. It's not unique to Jim Ellison. Basically, I've been a pain my entire life. I know Rainier had their full of me. It's the longest I've ever stayed anywhere. I've stayed longer than I should have. So now it's time to move on. I'll be okay. The Sandburg clan always land on their feet. I'll have to get a real job, but it won't be the first time. I've been through this before.

I left several boxes in the basement. It's just things I don't want or need anymore. Travel light. That's my mom's motto. I need to adopt it. Do with the boxes what you want. Sell the contents and get some of that past rent money back.

Thank Simon and whoever else was responsible for the offer to become a policeman. I'm sure you had a lot of input into that. I knew almost immediately it wasn't feasible. A labeled fraud and liar would never survive the academy, let alone the police department. And it would be wrong to saddle you with that problem along with your heightened senses. I'd never do that to you, Jim. Well, I best wrap this up. Take care of yourself, Jim. I know you'll do fine with your senses. You have so much more control now than you did in the past. I am proud to think maybe I had a small part to play in your ability to gain control. Since Megan knows about your abilities, I'm sure that she will help you. And she's a real cop and can give you real backup. It might not be a bad idea to let the others in Major Crimes in on the truth. After all, I'm sure most of them suspect that it's true anyway. They are smart guys. If I'm ever back in Cascade, I'll look you up. Thanks for everything.

--Blair

I reread the letter and then place it on the kitchen table. I put the observer's pass and my keys on top of it. Jim had mentioned something about things being better when he got back. Things will be better. For Jim. I'll be out of his life and he can have his privacy back. I look around the loft, my home for the last three plus years. It was a home for a while. The first one I really remember in my life. I never cared too much about home and family growing up because I never had such a thing. My mom and I moved around a lot when I was growing up. It helped foster my love for anthropology. Exploring new regions and new people. Now will be the ultimate exploration. I'm not sure where I'll end up or how far I'll go. I leave the loft and make sure the door is locked behind me. I walk down the stairs, taking a last look around the area. I don't think I'll ever come back to Cascade. I get into my car and drive out of town. New adventures await me down the road.

END