Partners and Friends
Epilogue for The Killers. Smarm abounds. Betaed by Annie. Thanks, mate.
Jim is as stoic and silent on the drive back to my place as he had been at the funeral. Though I hadn't known Danny Choi, I certainly wasn't immune to the outpouring of grief I'd witnessed from his family and friends today and I'd struggled to hold my own emotions in check. Remembering Danny's mother, supported by a stone-faced Jim on one side and her sobbing daughter on the other as she dropped a single rose on the casket brings the lump back to my throat and I feel tears sting my eyes. A memory arises from that of the night Danny died, of Jim screaming his denial to the heavens. It was a sound I'll never forget and it chills me to the bone even now, remembering it.
I startle at the sound of Jim's voice. I've been so lost in my thoughts, I haven't realized we're home. "Oh, thanks for the ride." I reach down to grab my backpack from the floor of the cab then let myself out. I pause and turn back to Jim. "You want to come in, have a beer or something?"
Jim shakes his head, still staring out the front windshield and I realize he hasn't actually looked at me all day. In fact, I don't think he's really registered I've been at his side at all. "Nah, got some paperwork to finish up at the station."
I feel an inexplicable disappointment at his words. After today, I don't feel like being alone, but it's more than that, though I can't seem to put my finger on the source of my discomfort. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow."
He doesn't respond, just puts the truck into gear and takes off, no looking back, no goodbye.
My footsteps echo loudly as I cross the empty expanse of warehouse and make my way into the sheltered corner I've set up as my home. Looking around at the mess, I'm kinda glad Jim didn't take me up on my offer of a drink. We've been busy the last few days and the chaos I see is disgusting, even for me. Desultorily, I start to clean up but after a few minutes of merely shuffling stuff from one overcrowded surface to another, I accept that my heart isn't in it and give up. Sweeping a couple of textbooks off my old couch, I sit down and stare off into space.
I've lost friends and family to death before but I think it's the abruptness and violence of Danny's demise that has me so shell-shocked. One minute he and Jim are hugging each other, laughing and joking, the next I shiver as the memory of Jim's cry haunts me again.
I force myself to think of other things. Jim and Beverley seem to have hit it off and his senses are back to normal. That makes me wonder about just what I've let myself in for here. I really walked into all of this with my eyes closed, my excitement over finding a sentinel and my desperation to finally have my thesis on its way to publication, blinding me to the reality of just what I've promised on my end of the bargain. I realize now, with some disappointment, that it really is a case of the blind leading the blind. I'm pretty good at thinking outside the box but what happens if - no, not if, when there comes a time that I really can't fix whatever weirdness Jim's senses throw at him. Will that be the end of the partnership? If I can't uphold my end of the deal, will Jim just cut me loose?
It's not just a selfish concern on my part. I'm beginning to feel that, despite the less than savory elements of Jim's job, Jim and I are becoming friends. Not as close as he and Danny, and that might be something we never have, but a camaraderie at least, built on the bonds of sharing his secret, of working together to make his senses the gift I believe they are, instead of the burden they'd become.
I just wish that he hadn't closed himself off from me today. Perhaps the blossoming friendship I think I see is only in my imagination.
I stand and scoop up my backpack once more, searching through the overflowing contents for my car keys. I can't stay here, my depressing thoughts are only spiraling me down into nervous uncertainty and on the other side of town is a grieving man who I consider my friend, even if he doesn't see it that way, even if he never acknowledges it. Mind made up, my steps a little surer, I leave the warehouse and head for the station.
Jim doesn't look up when I enter the bullpen. He's seated at his desk, concentrating on the computer screen in front of him, ferociously jabbing the keys and muttering under his breath. I hang up my suit jacket and drop my backpack on the floor then sit on the edge of Jim's desk.
"Problem?" I ask him.
"Stupid damn computer!" he growls. "I logged in my damn password already and it says I don't exist."
I stand and shift around behind him, studying the screen and then the keyboard. "I think I see your problem." I reach past him and flip the caps lock off. "Try it now."
He does and relaxes visibly when it works. Task accomplished, he leans back in his seat and tilts his head back to look at me. "Thanks, Chief."
I shrug. "No problem." I move back to my position on the edge of his desk and study the tiny hole in my only pair of good trousers, hoping my jacket covered it at the funeral today.
"What are you doing here?" Jim asks and I feel my face heat when I look up and realize that he's studying me intently.
"Thought you could use some help with the paperwork," I say. "Things were a little too quiet at home."
He nods and appears to be mulling something over. Seeming to come to a decision, he stands and reaches for his jacket - and mine. His abrupt movement startles me and I almost topple off the desk. Recovering quickly, I catch my jacket when he tosses it to me. "Paperwork's done," he says. "Wasn't as much here as I thought there was."
"Oh Well, that's good." Again I feel that sense of disappointment, that I'm being dismissed once more.
"How about that beer?" Jim asks.
I look at him, confused. "Huh?"
Jim rolls his eyes then grabs my arm and propels me toward the door. I manage to lean down and grab my backpack as I move past. "You offered me a beer. My place is closer though. If you want, you can sleep in the spare room, pick up your car tomorrow."
"Sure, okay." I feel like an idiot but the words I want to say seem to be caught up around that damn lump in my throat.
Jim doesn't speak again until we're in the elevator heading down to the parking garage. "I want to thank you, for standing by me on the Juno case and for helping me out with my senses."
"Hey, that's what a partner's for, right?" I smile at him, waiting for the now-expected rebuff over the partner comment but Jim just nods.
"Partners, and friends," he says simply.