Getting to know you
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DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly. This fanfic was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
CATEGORY: Feelgood piece.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I've been having a rough couple of weeks and needed some 'Aww Therapy' so I thought I'd share it with you.
Jim Ellison stood at his balcony door and stared out at the rain that lashed down from a lightening lit sky. A distant rumble of thunder sounded ominously close and he struggled to pull back his hearing a little. He was still shaky with his control, something Sandburg had said would become easier over time, and he still suffered unaccountable spikes in his senses at the most inopportune times.
"This was a great idea, Jim," Simon said from behind him and Jim turned to smile at his work associates sprawled on the couches in the living room. An assortment of snacks sat on the coffee table and each man nursed a beer. In the corner, the flames from the fire gave the room a cheery glow and as Jim moved to take a seat in another chair, Henri picked up the remote and tuned the TV to the game channel.
"Yeah," Jim agreed as he leaned forward and perused the potato chips that Joel had brought. No way was he confident enough yet to try anything stronger than plain flavored. "There's no way I want to brave that weather for the sake of a basketball game. Much more civilized doing it like this."
"Jags will romp it in anyway, man," Henri observed as he sat down next to Jim. "Sloman's a legend."
"Too arrogant," Jim put in. "He loses his temper too much. It gets in the way of him being a truly great player." He picked up a bowl of dip, sniffed it, shrugged and dunked in a chip. "He's spent more time on the bench this year after being fouled out than he has on the court."
"You think we can keep the form discussion for the breaks?" Simon asked as the familiar music heralding the transmission began.
"Sorry, Si "
There was a collective groan as a knock sounded at the door. Simon looked at the other guests. "We're all here. You expecting any one else, Jim?"
Jim shook his head as he stood up. "No." Walking to the door, he took a quick look through the peephole and sighed.
"What?" Simon hissed. "Who is it?"
Jim slapped his forehead. "Sandburg."
"Who?" Henri looked puzzled for a moment, then nodded as he recognized the name. "Oh, Hairboy."
Joel pulled his attention from the dip and sat forward. "Hairboy?"
"Yeah, you know. The kid that's been riding with Jim. He's got all that hair."
Jim raised an eyebrow. "You're just jealous because you have none."
Henri looked righteously affronted. "This is a planned look, man. The ladies love it," he said, running a hand over his bald pate and preening a little.
A second louder knock turned Jim's attention away from the banter and he opened the door. "Hey, Sandburg. What brings you out on a night like this?"
Sandburg looked awful. He was soaking wet; the long, rather ragged coat he seemed to favor was obviously not waterproof. His hair hung around his face in a bedraggled, dripping mess, his shirt clung to his body, outlining his ribs and his soaking wet jeans hung low on bony hips. Pulling a crumpled tissue from one pocket, he pulled off his glasses and wiped the water from the lenses.
"Hey, Jim." His voice sounded hoarse with the beginning or end of a cold and Jim realized he hadn't seen the observer for a couple of days. Finished with his glasses, he plonked them back on his face, gave his reddened nose a perfunctory dab and smiled. "I promised to come over tonight and work on your " He broke off and stuck his head partly through the doorway, lowering his voice as he spotted Jim's guests. " your senses."
"Oh, right." Jim swallowed. "You see, I "
"No, not really. Well, yeah, it's just we were going to go to the game and then when this storm came in, we decided to watch it on TV, chill out, you know? It's been a rough week." He felt vaguely defensive as he excused his forgetfulness.
"Yeah, I know." Blair flexed his hand and Jim realized he could still see faint bruises from where Sandburg had punched out Veronica Sarris on the bus. "Anyway, I can see you're busy, so I'll get going."
"You want to come in for a while? Meet the guys?"
Sandburg stepped back, holding up a hand. "No, no. Don't want to intrude. It's cool, man. We can do it another time, okay?"
"Jim! Come on, man. Game's started, and close the door, you're letting all the heat out." Simon's voice made him look toward the living room, then back at the anthropologist and Jim wavered, unsure why he felt guilty letting the kid go. They hardly knew each other, after all. "Okay," he said finally. "Maybe over the weekend. Call me and I'll set something up."
"Sure." Blair gave a wave and turned, heading for the stairs.
Walking back into the living room, Jim lowered himself into a chair and picked up his beer.
"What did the kid want, Jim?" Joel asked.
"I promised to look over some notes for him, for his thesis," Jim replied.
Joel shook his head and reached for another potato chip. "Kid's got to be nuts, coming out on a night like this. How'd he get here? I thought he said the other day his car was in the shop?"
"Oh, Christ." Sandburg's soaked appearance suddenly made sense to Jim and he groaned, then stood. Careful not to let on, he walked over to the balcony door and extended his hearing carefully. It took him a moment but he finally zeroed in on Sandburg's heartbeat. A little too fast, panting breaths wheezing slightly from tight lungs, the splashing of water as he hurried along the sidewalk. Jim winced as a crash of thunder assaulted his eardrums. Shit. Ears ringing now, he turned back to the others. "I'll be back in a minute."
"Jim? The game's started, man," Henri said as he strode to the front door and pulled his jacket from the hook.
"Take notes, H. I'll be back."
He made it to the sidewalk outside just as Sandburg was about to disappear around the corner. "Sandburg! Wait up." Jim hurried after the young man, dipping his head to escape the worst of the icy wind. "Sandburg! Hey!"
This time, the kid must have heard him and he slowed his pace, looking behind uncertainly then turning and hurrying back toward Jim. "Jim? What's wrong?" He frowned. "You're getting drenched, man."
"So are you," Jim replied, wrapping his jacket more securely around his body.
Blair looked down at his wet clothes and shrugged but Jim could easily detect the shivering he was trying to conceal. "What's wrong?" Blair asked again.
Jim pulled him to one side of the sidewalk under the shelter of a shop awning. "Why did you come out on a night like this, when you don't have your car?"
"Because I said I would," Blair answered simply, as though that explained everything and Jim realized, that to the anthropologist, it probably did.
"Come back upstairs," Jim suggested. "Watch the game, meet the guys. You can catch a ride home with one of the others when they leave. Please," he added as Sandburg began to shake his head.
Blair looked up and down the street then back at Jim, as though weighing his options. "Okay," he finally said.
Jim nodded, feeling a wide grin spread over his face. "Good." He slapped the other man's back as he led the way back to the apartment building. "Just one thing," he said as he remembered Sandburg's proclivity for chatter. "Don't talk while the play is on. It makes Simon antsy."
"Got another for the game, guys," Jim announced as they entered the apartment. He led Blair into the kitchen. "Take your shoes and socks off, Chief. I'll get you a towel so you can dry off a little." He surveyed the shivering man critically. "I can lend you a set of my sweats. They'll swim on you but we can get your own clothes dry before you go home."
"Sure, okay. Thanks, man."
"You done in there, Mother Ellison?"
The men in the living room chortled at Simon's sarcastic comment and Jim gave him the finger before walking away as Blair smiled at them uncertainly. "Captain Banks. How are you?"
"I'd be better if I had a beer in my hand, Sandburg. You want to bring me one?"
"I'll take one," Henri said.
"Me, too," Joel chimed in.
Blair looked down nervously at the water puddling at his feet. "Umm "
"Don't worry, Sandburg. Ellison's a prima donna about his apartment. Get the beers already."
Blair pulled three beers from the refrigerator, then placed them on the counter while he toed off his shoes and socks. Padding into the living room, he handed out the beers.
"Take a load off, Blair," Joel Taggart invited, indicating the seat next to him. "Where's your beer?"
Blair's face reddened. "I didn't I don't " He broke off and looked up in surprise as a cold bottle was pushed into his hands.
"Right here," Jim said. He dropped to the floor in front of Blair and pulled the chips. "What's the score, H?"
He smiled as he heard Blair settle into the seat behind him and pop the top on his beer. The kid took some getting used to, but he seemed genuine enough about helping Jim, and having a couple of beers with the guys wasn't much of an imposition.
"Are you sure you don't want me to wake him up and give him a ride home?" Simon looked over at his newest addition to his team, where he was sprawled on Ellison's couch, snoring softly through a slightly stuffed nose, the afghan spread over him so that only his curly head showed.
"Nah, don't wake him," Jim answered as he handed Simon his coat. "Kid looks worn out and he's running a fever. Let him sleep. I can drop him home in the morning."
"You getting soft on me, Ellison?"
Jim's mouth twitched. "No, sir."
"Hmm." Simon didn't look convinced. He accepted his jacket then took another look at the sleeping anthropologist. "So, he's just an anthropologist, not your cousin's kid?"
"Yeah. I'm sorry about that, Simon. I just knew I needed his help and I couldn't think of any other way."
Simon shook his head as he walked out the door. "I couldn't see the family resemblance."
August 18th 2002
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