"I dunno, Jim. With Sandburg still laid up, you might want
to hang out here for a week or two, just to get some peace."
lightly as Blair shot Simon a dirty look. Listen, Chief, why don't you go home
and get some rest yourself? Captain, would you drive him?"
Blair was shaking
his head, but Simon nodded. "Sure thing."
"Blair, I'm fine. Go home, get some sleep." It was one thing for
Jim to stay at the hospital for 3 days running, but he hadn't had broken ribs
at the time. "I'll be home tomorrow." Blair nodded slowly, meeting Jim's
eyes for only a moment. There was something other than concern there. Something
deeper. He had just killed a man, and he wasn't well himself. Maybe Jim shouldn't
push the issue? It might be better not to let Blair be alone. He couldn't ask
Simon to stay with his partner while Blair was standing right there. Maybe...
"Come on, Sandburg. I'll drive you. Jim, I'll be over tomorrow to drive
you home." The Captain turned to Jim and gave a quick nod of understanding.
"Nothing to worry about."
"Thanks, Simon." He watched Blair
look from Simon to him, then he nodded. "Get some rest, buddy. I'll see you
tomorrow." Trust the Captain to understand. And Jim did trust him. With his
own life, and Blair's current mental state.
Blair nodded once. "Yeah,
take it easy, okay, Jim?"
Simon put a hand on Blair's back for just a
moment, ushering him out of the room. Jim watched them go, then settled in against
the pillows and closed his eyes. The EKG monitor was silent, the IV drip gone.
Down the hallway he could hear nurses talking quietly, the elevator doors opening
and closing. There were other sounds that he began to block out one by one, until
there was nothing left but the sound of his own breathing. That, and one other
sound he could now hear more clearly.
Jim fell asleep to the sound of gentle
Blair unlocked the door, and Simon followed him
inside. "Thanks for the ride, Captain." He wondered if Simon was going
to inspect the loft as well, until his eyes locked onto the living room. The coffee
table was still on its side, couch cushions were on the floor, some of them stained
in blood. Jim's blood. Blair forced his eyes away from the blood stains, but they
found the tape outline of Agent Mills.
"Damn. I told forensics to get
this cleaned up, but they had another case to get to." Simon moved around
Blair and stepped up to the overturned table. "I know what a neat freak Ellison
is. Can't let him come home to this." Simon reached down and righted the
"I can do that," Blair protested, but he still hadn't come
any closer. He felt frozen in place, staring at the outlined evidence of what
he had done.
"Sandburg, I've been a bachelor long enough to know my way
around a vacuum. Where does Ellison keep it?" Simon had replaced the table's
contents and was pulling up the tape.
Blair stood there, staring at the mess.
He felt cold, and he had to shake himself alert to reply. "Um, over there."
He nodded with his chin towards the closet under the stairs. "I can do that."
He moved finally, walking as wide a circle around the living room as he could.
"Just let me. Why don't you go lie down, huh? I can handle this. I'll
just clean this up, then go home and get some sleep myself." Simon pushed
Blair's hands away as he reached for the closet door.
"I need to clean
the couch, Simon." Blair turned towards the kitchen then stopped. His hands
were shaking, and the cold was spreading deeper. Why was he so cold?
There was blood on the couch he had to clean up. Simon should go, let him clean
Blair's heart was racing, his hands wouldn't
stop shaking, he was so cold!
"Sandburg, come over here."
Blair didn't feel Simon's hands on his arms, or even realize he was being ushered
to the kitchen table and forced to sit down. It wasn't until Simon sat down beside
him, and blocked his view of the living room, that he realized where he was and
what was happening.
"Sandburg, look at me!" Simon reached out and
touched Blair's chin until he met the larger man's eyes. "You're in shock,
Blair. You've been hurt, Jim's been hurt, and there's a man dead."
did it. "I killed him." Blair was shaking now with something other than
cold. He looked at Simon, seeing him then for the first time. "I killed him!"
Oh my God! Saving Jim was one thing...but now Blair knew--he'd killed
"Blair, listen to me. This is natural. You killed a man in self-defense,
and you saved Jim. Now that you know Jim is going to be all right, it's coming
down on you." Simon glanced around the room. "Do you have pills or something
you should be taking? I know the doctor mentioned them."
but couldn't think. He didn't want pills, he didn't want any of this! Simon stood
and went to the bathroom, and Blair's eyes automatically found the couch again.
"Here, Sandburg, take these and get some sleep." Simon returned,
standing in front of Blair, once again blocking his view. He was holding out a
glass of water and two small white pills.
Blair accepted them and swallowed
the pills without thinking. His mind was numb, and he was so cold!
get some sleep. I'll clean up out here and sleep on the couch."
looked up as the Captain's words slowly sank in. "You don't have to. I'll
"Sandburg, I've been a Captain for several years now. I
see this more times than I'd like. A young cop kills a man for the first time,
and even if it's a justified killing, it's not an easy thing to deal with. But
you deal with it. We've got people at the Station who can help you."
not a cop." Jim's own words reverberated in Blair's tired mind. God, what
would Naomi think? He'd taken another man's life. Was saving Jim enough to justify
that? It had to be!
"You might as well be." Simon stood
and walked to the kitchen. "I'm gonna leave this up to you and Ellison."
He opened some cupboards and began to extract cleaning supplies. "He's got
more experience than most in dealing with these things. But if he wants you to
talk to the department shrink, don't argue." He found a bucket and began
to fill it with cold water.
He didn't want to talk to a shrink. He didn't want
to talk to Simon. He didn't even want to talk to Jim about it. He'd have to admit
that Jim had been right all this time, and Blair had no business being a part
of his police life. And right now, that argument was sounding more and more valid.
"Sandburg, listen to me." Simon set his bucket of soapy water and
scrub brush on the table and looked down at Blair. "I'm going to explain
this to you, just like I have to countless others, okay?"
up and nodded, not really wanting to hear, but too fatigued to stop the Captain.
"What you did was justified. You didn't murder anyone, you didn't set
out to kill anyone. If given the choice, I believe you would have done anything
other than pull that trigger. But you weren't given the choice. I may have come
in just after it all happened, but believe me, I can put two and two together
pretty quick. I'm not that slow, you know."
Simon paused and Blair felt
a yawn coming on that he had to suppress. It must be the drugs. The Captain had
given him two, and he'd taken them without thinking. Now they were going to put
him to sleep and this issue wouldn't be resolved.
"But I can tell you
this...I'd rather have one dead murdering FBI agent, and a mountain of paperwork,
than a dead detective and a suspect under arrest."
Blair nodded slowly.
"Yeah, but killing him kinda puts me on their level, huh?"
Absolutely not." Simon pushed the bucket aside and sat down. "Blair,
what separates you from them, all of us from them, is that you did something out
of fear for another man's life, not hatred of another man."
at the Captain then, trying to determine if he was just being nice to someone
he didn't want to see freak out in front of him, or telling the truth based on
experience. He desperately wanted to believe the latter.
"You killed to
save a life, a life other than your own, not to take a life. As hard as it is
to believe, Mills set out to murder several people, including a young girl, even
if he didn't beat them to death with his own hands. His killing was planned, cold-blooded,
and intentional. What you did was spontaneous, done in fear of your life and Jim's,
Simon paused and Blair had to suppress another yawn. This
was not the time to look bored in front of the Captain! "Yeah, I guess."
"Well, I don't guess, I know. If I thought otherwise, I'd have you arrested
and we wouldn't be having this conversation." Simon stood again and picked
up the bucket. "Now, you need to get some sleep. And I need to get this place
cleaned up before Ellison sees what a mess you made."
Blair nodded, seeing
the smile on the Captain's face after the last remark. He really should clean
it up. He hated thinking Simon felt he needed to be taken care of, just because
Jim wasn't there. But he was too tired! Some of the cold had dissipated, and the
drugs were taking a strong hold. Wearily he stood, avoiding eye contact with the
living room, and walked into his room. Taking off his jeans took nearly all the
energy he had left, so he kept the sweatshirt on and eased himself down onto the
bed, pulling as many blankets over him as he could. The sound of Simon cleaning
the living room gave him something to focus on as the last of the chill was worked
out by the blankets. Blair was afraid to close his eyes, afraid he'd see that
gun going off over and over again. Afraid he'd see Jim's blood as it came out
around his fingers. After another wave of drug induced dizziness hit, the next
thing Blair saw was his alarm clock.
you." Jim smiled back at the nurse who had helped him with his shirt. Before
he could add anything more, Simon came into the room.
"Jim, you all set?"
"You take it easy now, Mr. Ellison. We were glad to see you back, but
we prefer better circumstances." The nurse smiled at Jim, then glanced at
Simon before leaving.
"Your timing is perfect, as always, sir," Jim
teased, easing his arm into a more comfortable position in the sling. The shoulder
was throbbing, but it was controllable if he stayed still.
"I'm sure you've
been doing just fine," Simon replied. "Are you ready to hit the road?"
"Yeah." Jim had just begun to ease himself off the bed when an orderly
came in, pushing a wheelchair. Jim opened his mouth to protest, then thought better
of it. "Where's Sandburg?"
"Still asleep when I left."
Simon took the handles of the chair from the orderly and they started towards
"When you left? Is he all right?" Jim had expected
Blair to come with the Captain to pick him up, and had even expected him to show
up bright and early that morning.
"I think it hit him last night, what
happened." Simon pressed the elevator button and they waited for the car.
"He had an almost text-book reaction to having killed Mills."
was suddenly concerned. He'd known Blair was upset, and didn't even realize yet
what he had done, but he'd wanted to be there when reality struck, so he could
help his partner get through it. "I should have let him stay here last night."
"No, Jim. You needed rest and so did he." The elevator doors opened
and Simon pushed Jim's chair inside. "I got him to take his pills, like the
doctor had been telling him to since we brought you in, and talked him down from
the worst of it. He fell asleep soon after that and I just left him that way.
I left him a note, told him I'd be bringing you back. Don't worry, Jim, that was
just 20 minutes ago. He's probably still sound asleep."
Jim did worry,
but said nothing. This wasn't an easy thing for many people to handle, let alone
someone in Blair's position. He wasn't a trained police officer, schooled in what
to anticipate or expect if and when he ever fired his weapon. They were in the
parking lot now, and Simon held the passenger door open while Jim eased himself
out of the wheelchair and into the car. He was weak, and a little shaky, and idly
wondered how he and Blair were going to manage if neither one of them could get
around well. Simon returned the wheelchair, then got into the car and started
"How'd he take it?" Jim could picture Blair not wanting to
open up in front of the Captain if it was something really serious.
be all right, Jim. That kid's got a good head on his shoulders. Just don't tell
him I said that."
Jim laughed. "I won't, sir. But you're right. I'd
just hate to see things like this change him." This was something Jim worried
about often. Blair had a wonderful, fresh way of looking at things. Sometimes
he saw the world the way he wanted to see it, and it hurt just a little every
time Jim saw Blair struggle to deal with the things Jim had learned to live with
years ago. Blair was quick. Quick to learn, quick to grasp, and better at thinking
on his feet than most men Jim knew. With the right help, he'd get through this
as well. He knew Simon must have been helpful. After all, he'd been a cop for
years, and a Captain since Jim had known him. If anyone knew how to coach someone
through his first time, Simon would. But it was still Blair's first time. A first
that never should have happened to an anthropologist, studying Sentinels.
you didn't tell Sandburg about you not wanting him to work with you again, did
Oh God, that was another issue they had to deal with. "Yes,
I did," Jim admitted. "But I was wrong. I can see that, I just hope
he can." He would. He had to. Blair was usually understanding about things
like this, and he definitely was one to pretend something had never happened.
That wasn't what Jim wanted, though. He didn't want to pretend it had never happened,
he wanted Blair to understand why it had happened. But would he understand the
dreams? Jim's Spirit Guide had been something Blair understood even more than
"He'll understand, Jim. As long as you can get him past this,
I can't see him sitting still while you come back to work. That kid worships you,
"Yeah." No pressure there. They were at
the loft now, and Jim climbed slowly out of the car. He wasn't sure if he'd have
the strength to discuss this with Blair today, but he didn't want it going any
longer if he could help it. Simon came up with him and Jim let him open the door.
From the quick scan Jim had done on the way upstairs, he knew they'd find Blair
in the kitchen. And he was right. Blair was standing in the kitchen, dressed but
hair still wet, which meant he probably hadn't been awake for very long.
Blair turned as they came inside, one arm still tucked close to his injured side.
"Hey, partner." Jim crossed the room, glancing at the couch and living
room. "How's it going?"
Blair shook his head slightly, then pushed
wet hair from his face. "I'm fine."
"Oh you two are gonna have
some fun." Simon glanced from Jim to Blair and back again. "Jim, you
want me to hang around? Neither one of you is in good shape."
think we'll manage, Captain." Jim saw the look of relief cross Blair's face.
"We're both too tired to do much anyway, right, Chief?"
raising both eyebrows.
"All right. Call me if you need anything."
With that, Simon left.
Jim walked to the couch and sat down, noticing the blood
had all been cleaned up.
"You want some coffee?"
you manage okay?" Jim watched Blair moving slowly in the kitchen. Simon was
right, it would be interesting to see how the two of them managed for the next
"I can manage." Blair reached up slowly for the coffee filters.
"Might take me an hour, but I can manage."
Jim laughed lightly. "Okay,
Chief." He glanced at the rug where he remembered Mills falling. There was
no sign of what had happened anywhere in the living room. The couch showed signs
of having been cleaned, very thoroughly. That, coupled with his partner's current
physical state, led Jim to conclude that Simon had cleaned up. He had also mentioned
having spent the night. At least Blair hadn't been alone.
"How's the shoulder?"
Blair was still in the kitchen, presumably waiting for the coffee.
too bad." Jim shifted on the couch just enough to get his feet up and stretch
out, kicking both shoes off. "The pills don't work for very long, but if
I concentrate, I can keep it pretty tolerable." It was throbbing now, and
Jim realized he hadn't been concentrating.
"You know, Jim, the doctors
had some trouble keeping you under during surgery." Blair turned around to
pull two cups out of the cupboard as the coffee finished. "I was afraid of
"Afraid of what?"
"This whole sensory reaction
to medication. Jim, we need to study this. You don't realize how important..."
Jim held up his uninjured hand. "Hold on, right there. If this is more
of your pain experiment stuff, you can forget it."
"Jim, you don't
understand." Blair poured two cups of coffee, but remained in the kitchen
looking out at Jim. "We need to know why this happens and to what extent.
These medications are obviously working on your metabolism, but when they reach
your senses, you seem to be compensating in some way, and fighting them off. What
I want to know is why, and how, and how far does this go? You don't want to be
at the dentist and have the Novocain wear off halfway through a root canal, do
"Chief, what I want is coffee. Do you mind?" Jim did understand.
He understood Blair was trying to avoid coming out to the living room. Out to
face the spot where it happened. He also knew his partner would use that thread
of conversation to skate right over the issue. And Jim wasn't going to let him.
Blair sighed in exasperation, but picked up both cups, wincing a little as
he moved his right arm away from his side. "Jim, this has be due to your
Sentinel senses, but why your metabolism is doing this, I have no idea. It was
the same when you took that cold medicine. First your senses were all haywire,
then you shook it off." Blair handed Jim a cup, then moved to the chair farthest
away from where Mills had fallen, forcing Jim to turn around on the couch to face
"Sandburg, I'm too tired to talk about this right now. I'm sure you'll
figure this all out in time."
"Not without tests, Jim."
that, you can forget. Maybe next time I get a cold, we'll discuss this."
Blair made a face, then took a drink of coffee instead of replying. "How'd
it go last night?" Jim's question was delivered quietly, and as casually
as he could manage.
Blair shrugged. "Fine. I think Simon spent the night,
but I'm not sure. I fell asleep and just woke up an hour ago."
one. "You ready to talk about it?"
Blair looked up. His eyes
darted to the spot on the floor, then back up again, and he shook his head. "Talk
"About Mills." Jim lowered his cup, balancing it
on one knee.
"Oh, yeah." Blair shook his head. "Man, I never
would have guessed. How could he do something like that, and continue to lead
the investigation? I mean, announcing what he was doing here in Cascade, and asking
for help. It was like he was taunting the cops, or wanting to get caught."
"He had to play along in normal investigative fashion, or else start someone
thinking." Jim shifted a little, easing his shoulder into a better position.
"What about you, Chief? How do you feel about this?"
at Jim for a full minute, with eyes that saw nothing. Finally he seemed to shake
himself and focus, then he shrugged. "I'm okay." He raised his cup to
take another drink, but his hands began shaking, and he quickly lowered the cup,
then a hand pushed still-damp hair away from his face. "It just happened
so fast." His voice dropped to something barely above a whisper.
two. "Yes, it did." Jim kept his own voice calm, and quiet enough
to force Blair to listen.
"He didn't give me a choice." Blair kept
his eyes on his coffee now, and his voice shook ever so slightly.
Chief, he didn't." Jim watched his partner. Blair wasn't looking at anything,
and his hands rubbed the handle of the cup back and forth. He was working things
out in his mind, but he wouldn't find the answer there.
"Do you get used
to this?" Blair asked his coffee.
"No, you don't," Jim replied.
"The day you do, is the day you quit. You learn how to deal with it, that's
all. Deal with it and move on."
Blair nodded slowly, still studying the
cup. After a moment, he looked up and found Jim's eyes. "When was your first
Jim sighed deeply, wincing just a little as the movement of his
chest set his shoulder throbbing. "Back in CovertOps. I was trained to expect
it, and taught how to deal with it. It came with the job, just like being a cop.
It's different for you just due to the fact that you haven't had to expect this.
You haven't been taught this was a part of the job, something that might never
happen, but could. Dealing with it is still the same process, Chief."
well I think I can deal with it by just not doing this again." Blair raised
both eyebrows for a moment, glancing around the room quickly before settling back
on his cup. "You were right, man, I should stay out of the cop stuff."
Stage three wasn't going to be easy. "No, you're wrong there,
Chief." Jim reached out and carefully set his cup down on the coffee table.
"I was wrong." Blair was looking at him again, a quizzical expression
on his face. "Listen, I want you to understand, what I said the other morning,
I meant it." He had to hold up a hand then to stop the protest he saw coming.
"Just, hang on. I meant it, and I always will. If anything were to happen
to you, it would be my fault, and my fault only. I took you on, and took the responsibility
for your safety. Nothing new there, Chief, I'm used to that. What I'm not used
to is this..." God, how to find the right word. "This dependency."
Blair was going to love that one.
He just sat there, looking puzzled.
"I've had some time to think this over, Chief, and I changed my mind.
I was wrong. You're just going to have to realize that's the way I feel, and if
it ever does come down to your safety or this damn Sentinel stuff, you come first."
Blair swallowed, then looked at the cup again. He seemed uncharacteristically
at a loss for words. Finally he nodded and looked up. "Yeah, well, I just
don't know if it's a good idea, me coming back."
Stage three was a
long one. "Blair, listen to me." Jim leaned forward just a bit.
"You killed a man. You stopped him from killing me. You stopped him from
killing any more innocent people, including the next 16 year old victim he might
have gone after. He didn't give you a choice." Blair was maintaining eye
contact with the coffee, but he seemed to be listening. "You gave him every
chance, and I'm proud of the way you handled yourself. But when it came down to
it, he gave you no other option." Blair glanced up for a moment and nodded,
then looked at the cup again. "Believe me, partner, I know what you're going
through. It doesn't get easier, it just gets more familiar. I still go through
the same emotions after killing someone, but now I know those emotions for what
they are, and I can get through them. And so will you. You'll get through this
because you know it wasn't your fault, you know he gave you
no choice, you know what you did was done in self-defense, and not anger.
And, you know I'm here to help you. Me, and an entire department full
Blair looked up again. "Yeah." He paused, looking
out over Jim's shoulder somewhere, fighting back the moisture that was building
in his eyes. "Thanks, Jim."
"Are we okay now, Chief? You're
not going to hold that argument against me or anything?"
slightly, then shook his head. "No. I guess not."
He seemed to be bouncing back, but Jim knew it wasn't over. "Hey, at least
your aim has improved, huh?"
This time, Blair made a face. "That's
funny, Jim. Mills was kinda hard to miss, you know."
Jim was smiling,
trying not to laugh. "I know. In fact, if you had missed, I never would have
forgiven you." He reached down and pulled the remote control out from under
the cushions. "Listen, Chief, I meant it when I said the department was there
for you. We've got a shrink, and a Precinct full of people who can help you through
this. They're there if you need them."
Blair nodded. "Thanks, Jim.
I think I'll be fine. I might need to..." He let his voice trail off, glancing
once again at the coffee growing cold in his hands.
"Anytime. I'm right
"Hey, how about something to eat,
huh?" Jim flipped on the television. "What do you say we order pizza?"
"Yeah, I guess I can handle that." Blair stood slowly and walked
to the phone.
Jim flipped through the channels until he found one with news.
Blair ordered a pizza during the weather, and had returned to the kitchen when
Jim recognized a face on the screen. "Hey, check this out." He turned
up the volume, and Blair came out from the kitchen. "Looks like Raymond is
at it again."
"And in local news this afternoon, well-known Montana
businessman Eugene Whatcom was in court today, settling a lawsuit that alleged
his son, Rainier University student Raymond Whatcom, had forced himself on a co-ed
last March, ending in the girl's pregnancy. While still maintaining his innocence,
Mr. Whatcom has settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. This is
apparently not Raymond Whatcom's first day in court, as we have learned...."
Jim turned the sound down and shook his head. "Sounds like life is finally
catching up to Raymond."
"Yeah, life, and half the women on campus."
Blair rolled over in bed, feeling the aching in his chest
as he did. At least it was tolerable now. Two weeks had passed, and the bandages
had finally been removed just yesterday, but his ribs were still sore and didn't
appreciate sudden movement or pressure. Still, he was finally able to sleep in
a position other than flat on his back. He pressed his face into the pillow, willing
the clock to read 3 AM. When he finally opened one eye to confirm the time, he
"Sandburg, you coming or what?" Jim called as he passed
Blair's door, leaving the bathroom.
"I'm up," Blair mumbled into
the pillow. "I'm up." I'm up. He took as deep a breath as he
could, and forced his legs out from under the blankets. Bare feet hit a cold floor
and he forced his eyes open wide. A quick propulsion across the hall got him into
the bathroom, where the steam from Jim's shower still lingered. The bruising across
his chest was still obvious, but the one on his face had long since faded. Both
he and Jim had spent time in the doctor's office yesterday, being cleared to go
back to the Station. Blair had been to the University twice in the past two days,
but only to grade papers and catch up on some cataloguing. Two hours of Professor
Kinyon had exhausted him the first day back, but yesterday had been very productive,
unpacking and inspecting a shipment of pottery from the Amazon. But now it was
time to get back to Jim's work, and he had a full day to devote away from the
University, now that Professor Kinyon had brought him up to speed.
on the shower and stepped inside, enjoying the feeling of water finally flowing
across his chest again, instead of over tightly wrapped, water proof tape. He
was only halfway through rinsing his hair when the water changed temperature.
"Oh, man, this sucks!"