FAMILY OF CHOICE
Epilogue to The Killers
FEEDBACK TO: Lyn
DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel is the property of Petfly, Di Meo and Bilson and Paramount. This fanfic has been written for my own and othersí enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
SPOILERS: The Killers.
AUTHORíS NOTES: For Wolfshy who gave me permission to use her sig line as my title and because she epitomizes what The Sentinel Angst List and so many others are about. "Itís about friendship."
"Family of choice."
Blair turned to watch as Beverley Sanchez approached Jim and the two began to talk. He wished he had sentinel hearing in order to be able to pick up what was being said, then immediately chided himself for that thought. He leaned back against the police car and watched the by-play between Jim and Beverley, as Jimís face lit up in a wide smile and Beverley laughed. His training as an anthropologist had some perks, he figured, it was easy enough to decipher what was being said by the simple act of observation. He shrugged to himself and walked toward the bus stop, a quick check of his pockets revealed he had enough for the fare. Ordinarily, he would have asked Jim for a ride home but the detective was well and truly otherwise occupied. Blair grinned as he took a quick backward glance at the couple still chatting behind him. Who needed sentinel hearing.
The anthropologist let himself into his warehouse and trudged wearily up the stairs. He went straight to the kitchen and put water on to boil before stripping off his jacket and heading for the bathroom. By the time the water had boiled for his tea, Blair had showered and changed. He sat on the old sofa and sipped at the warm brew. He contemplated turning on the television then decided against it; he was still too keyed up after the past few daysí events to settle down for long. Sighing, he rose to his feet and walked over to gaze out of the dirt encrusted window. The scene below him was silent and dark. Warehouses and narrow alleys stretched for miles and the loading bays dimly lit by an occasional light were deserted.
It was vastly different to the view he had seen briefly from Jimís loft when heíd gone there to run some tests on the sentinelís senses. Heíd opened the door to the balcony and stepped out while Jim was upstairs getting his jacket. It had been a clear, almost warm day, by Cascade standards, the sun twinkling on the water of the bay. Blair had raised his head to capture the full advantage of the rays on his face and had taken several deep breaths of fresh air. Below, people scurried by, two boys on bicycles raced each other down the street and the delicious odor of fresh-baked croissants from the bakery on the ground floor wafted tantalizingly to his nose, causing his mouth to water and his stomach to rumble. Heíd wanted to stay there forever.
"You ready to go, Chief?"
Blair turned at Jimís summons and smiled at the detective. "Sure. Just admiring the view."
Jim shrugged and motioned Blair back into the living room. "Knock yourself out."
Blair gazed back at the balcony view before stepping through the front door. "You are so lucky, Jim. Having this apartment here. I bet the view at night over the skyline is just awesome."
"Itís just an apartment," Jim replied, punching the button for the elevator before grimacing and heading for the stairs. "Iím not here often enough to appreciate the view."
Blair shivered as a gust of wind slipped through the gap in the window where it didnít fit completely into the frame and wrapped his arms more closely about him. The chill cleared the cobwebs from his tired mind and he turned back to the notebooks piled precariously on the packing crate he used for a coffee table. Heíd been meaning for the last few days to write down Jimís experiences of losing his senses after Danny had died but heíd been so caught up chasing the determined Ellison around as the grief-stricken detective pursued Dannyís killer that he hadnít found the time.
The echo of Jimís cry of despair made him shudder and he felt vaguely ashamed that he was considering committing Jimís grief to paper. Stoically, he shoved Blair, the humanist aside and let Sandburg, the scholar emerge. It was for Jimís benefit, after all, he convinced himself. They were both running blind here, only by figuring out what caused each of Jimís experiences could they formulate plans and methods to ensure they didnít happen again and put the detective or anyone else in danger.
A half-hour later, Blair threw his pen down in disgust. Looking down, he realized that he had written only one word on the writing pad balanced on his lap and then his thoughts had once more drifted off, away toward a certain sentinel on the other side of town.
Blair had not even met the man but he still felt an ache well up in him at the senseless loss of a young man's life and the pain it had caused Jim Ellison. He felt an irrational surge of jealousy too, that this unknown young man could have engendered such feeling in the normally taciturn detective. Ashamed, he pushed the thoughts away and drained the dregs of his now cold tea. Yawning, he pulled his legs up onto the sofa and bunched one of the thin cushions under his head before picking up the remote and turning on the TV.
Must be nice, he thought, to have a friend that cared that deeply about you. Blair had friends, lots ofÖacquaintances, who he knew would be sad if he died. He sighed deeply - then they would pick up the threads of their lives and move on. So would Jim, Blair thought, heíd have a small moment of sadness. More than likely heíd be relieved that Blair was out from under his feet. Their relationship was simply a business one, after all and one that Blair himself had struck. ĎIíll help you with your senses and I get to study you for my dissertation at the same time.í It was a trade-off, nothing more.
Jim had mentioned that he was Dannyís ĎBig Brotherí. Blair had always wanted a brother, or a sister, for that matter. Anyone to keep him company when his mother departed on one of her many journeys of spiritual enlightenment and growth. Someone to play basketball with or share secrets with. Instead his constant companion was a mother who told him at 5 that Santa was an establishment fraud perpetrated on an unknowing public to create more wealth for the wealthy. Blair had never looked at another Christmas tree in quite the same way again.
He didnít blame Naomi really. Blair adored his mother with all his heart and he knew without a doubt that his love was reciprocated. Naomi had encouraged him in his rather unusual career choice from the beginning, ensuring Blair had whatever he needed to continue his studies. Sometimes, just staying in one place long enough to make friends would have been enough, though Blair knew he could never have told her that.
Blair shifted on the lumpy couch and shivered. It was getting cold but he didnít feel like going to bed yet and he wished he had a cozy afghan flung over the back of his couch to drape over himself, like the one heíd seen adorning Jimís couch. He was still too wired to sleep anyway. He lay on the couch and let his mind drift back to Jim and Danny.
ĎMust be nice.í
Jim Ellison headed straight for the fridge the moment he got home. He reached for a beer and twisted the cap off quickly, lifting the bottle to his mouth for a long drink. Sighing deeply, he walked slowly over to the couch and sat down. He reached for the TV remote, then threw it back down on the table and leaned back, stretching his long legs out under the coffee table. His stomach rumbled and he thought about getting up to cook dinner but he felt heavy and lethargic and loathe to move from his comfortable position.
A small smile lit his face as he thought about his last conversation with Beverley. ĎFriends with potential.í He wondered where that had come from, then decided it didnít really matter. Beverley had liked the idea and they arranged to meet for dinner on Saturday night. Jim thought back to his earlier conversation with Carolyn. Heíd asked her why they seemed to get on better now than when they were married. Carolyn had merely shrugged. Maybe, Jim thought, if theyíd started out as friends instead of considering each other a sexual conquest, the marriage might have stood a chance. Maybe.
He sat forward and stretched his arms above his head, working the knots of tension from his body. As he did so, his eyes alighted on a photo album resting on the shelf beneath the coffee table. On impulse, Jim reached down and picked it up. He opened it slowly, almost reverently and began to carefully turn the pages, his hand ghosting lovingly over the images of friends gone from his life. Jack, his partner; Bud, his coach and mentor; Danny, the little brother he had always wanted.
He slammed the book shut and rubbed at his tired eyes. Heíd been so proud when Danny had told him that he was joining the police force.
"I want to be like you, big brother," Danny had said, grinning widely. "Youíre the best cop in Cascade."
ĎYeah, right,í Jim thought bitterly. ĎThen why couldnít I stop you from being killed.í
His thoughts turned inexplicably to Sandburg. The kid had doggedly followed Jim and supported everything heíd done, even coming close to getting his own head shot off on a couple of occasions in the last few days. After the past months of being almost blown up and taken hostage by terrorists, Jim wondered if the anthropologist was ruing his decision to study him. No, he decided, there was something more to it than just a dissertation, though he couldnít put his finger on it. Regardless of what crap had been thrown at him, and that included both Jim and Simon going off at him at various times, and the captain revoking his observerís pass, Blair had resolutely remained focused on the case at hand and steadfastly backed Jim up.
Jim sat up suddenly and felt in his shirt pocket, pulling Sandburgís observer pass and ID from within. He studied the smiling face on the ID for a moment. There was something about the kid, Jim thought. There was certainly some weird stuff going on with him; Jim had called it The Sandburg Zone, but he was also beginning to feel there was something more to the partnership than just a trade-off of useful information.
Stuffing the pass back into his pocket, Jim made a decision and headed toward the door, picking up his keys from the basket by the counter. His stomach rumbled again and he picked up his wallet as well. He wondered if Sandburg liked pizza.
Blair was roused from his uneasy slumber by an insistent buzzing. Annoyed, he swatted drowsily at his face trying to shoo away the pesky mosquito, then started suddenly as he realized that the incessant noise came from his intercom. He sat up on the couch, grimacing at the aches caused by the lumpy cushions and leaned over to press the button.
"Sandburg? Itís me, Jim Ellison. Iíve got your observerís pass and ID."
"Oh, right," Blair scrubbed at his weary eyes and popped a jaw-cracking yawn. There was a momentís silence before the voice echoed tinnily from the speaker again.
"So, can I come up?"
"Oh, yeah. Of course. Come on up. Itís not locked."
Blair stood and shuffled over to the steps that led up to his living space and waited, smiling as he saw Jimís familiar head appear at the foot of the stairs. Jim pulled the passes from his pocket as he climbed, holding them out to Blair as he reached the top.
"Here you go, Chief. I meant to give them to you this afternoon before you left but I got sidetracked."
"So I noticed," Blair said, his eyes twinkling. "You didnít have to drive all the way out here tonight, Jim. I could have come by tomorrow and picked them up."
Jim shrugged. "Itís no big deal." He stood a moment; his hands shoved into his pockets and let his eyes roam around the vast space that Sandburg called a home. "So, what are you up to?"
"Oh, umÖ" Blair shrugged as well. "Nothing really." He sighed. "I was going to start documenting that stuff with your senses going out on you." He felt embarrassed at the admission. "Guess Iím just too tired or something."
"Oh. Right. I should let you get to bed," Jim said apologetically. "Did I wake you up?"
"No. No. Iím too wired to sleep, you know?"
Jim nodded in understanding. Blair shivered suddenly from head to toe and Jim reached out a hand to touch his arm. "Youíre cold, Chief. Donít you have any heating?"
"Do you know how much it would cost to heat this place, man?" Blair asked, smiling to take the sting from the words as he chafed at his arms.
"Do you want to come back to my place? Catch a game on the TV? Iím not much in the mood for sleeping myself."
"Sure. That would be cool," Blair nodded. "Let me get my jacket and close the place down. Should I follow you over?"
"I can drop you back here on my way to work in the morning, if you want," Jim answered as they started down the stairs together. "Iíve got a bed in the spare room you can crash on tonight. We could get a pizza, have a few beers."
"Veggie pizza?" Blair asked.
"Donít push your luck, Sandburg."
"Okay. Okay. Pizza and beer is good."
"I meant to tell you," Jim began as Blair followed him to the truck.
"The view from the balcony at night is pretty spectacular."