Bed Of Lies

By CarolROI and Suisan

Reaching the big purple eighteen wheeler, I pull open the passenger side door and swing up. Closing it behind me, I press the lock down, shutting out the world. Owen's not here. Just as well, I don't know what I would say to him if he was. Sooner or later, he'll look for me here, and then we can hit the road.

Crawling in the back, I take a look at myself in the small mirror hanging on the wall. The man in the glass is even more of a stranger than the one I'd spoken to in the restroom. This man is shell-shocked, the numbness masking the pain in his heart, in his soul. I can't even feel regret for the harsh words I've just uttered to the man who used to be my best friend.

Jim. He's here. Somehow he found out what had happened and got here. Why, I don't know. I feel I should, but the reason eludes me.

Grabbing a bottle of water from the mini-fridge, I use it and a towel to wash the worst of the blood from my face. Stripping out of the T-shirt I was wearing, I pull another over my head, kick off my shoes, and collapse on the bottom bunk. I need desperately to sleep, but as I try to drift off, questions circle round and round in my mind. Why is Jim here? And what does he want from me?

No I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there'll be no rest for these tired eyes
I'm marking it down to learning
I am


Present Time

I watch, lost in a cloud of confusion, as Blair stomps away from me. Maybe I shouldn't have come here, maybe I should have gave him more time…

Hours Earlier

Only after calming myself with Megan and Simon's help, can I actually use my senses the way Blair taught me. Filtering past the noises, searching for the one sound I was sure I wouldn't hear, I nearly break down when I do pick up the gentle rhythm. He's okay. A little excited if I'm not misreading his heart rate, but by piggybacking sight to my hearing I can almost see him. Oh, God! He's a mess, hope none of that blood is his…

"Jim!"

"What?" I look toward Simon, who had shouted in my ear, wondering why he did that. Then I catch the look of relief on his face. "Oh. Sorry, Simon."

"Just don't do that again, will you?" After all this time, the Captain still can't handle it when I zone out. Even Megan looks perturbed. Guess she didn't have much luck pulling me back either. Maybe Blair's the only one who can do so with any skill.

"Is Sandy okay?" Megan. I hate the nickname she threw on him, but Blair and I can't seem to get her to quit using it.

"Yeah, he seems to be." I watch as the SWAT teams make a cautious entry into the building. If I listen carefully, I can almost hear the "clears" as they make their way into the restaurant. A hard jab in my side pulls me back from my auditory search. "Connor! Will you quit doing that?"

"Company." She pointedly looks behind me, and I turn to follow her gaze. An older couple is walking across the parking lot toward us. The woman is short, and dressed in a denim work shirt, jeans and boots, her silver hair cut close to the scalp. The man I recognize as the driver of the 18-wheeler that Blair took off in. If it weren't for the beard, bushy like he hasn't had a chance to trim it in weeks, he'd almost look like Brother Marcus. He's Owen Sandburg, the man who helped tear my life apart.

"'Cuse me, folks. I couldn't help but notice you all standing here…" Bright hazel eyes look up at me as the older woman speaks in a soft drawl. "…and the way you reacted when the gunfire went off. You wouldn't happen to be from Cascade, up Washington way, would you?"

"Yes, ma'am. We are." Innocent enough question, might as well be friendly, right?

"Told you, Bess. This is the same fella I saw in my rearview mirror a few days ago." He saw me? Oh, yeah, I did sort of stand out in the road under a street lamp when I watched the rig take off. "You're Jim, aren't you?" I nod. "Thought so. Owen Sandburg, and this here is my wife, Bess."

I shake the man's hand, then the lady's (whose grip is firm, she's not one to sit around. She's a hard worker judging by the calluses on her hand.) and introduce myself. "Jim Ellison, Mr. Sandburg. And this is Captain Banks and Inspector Connor."

"My, someone sure raised you up right." Bess Sandburg's voice is full of mischief. "And if you came all this way to find Blair-Bear, then I'd say that you're just the sort of friends that boy needs."

Words fail me, but Simon steps quickly into the conversation. "Mrs. Sandburg, I consider Blair one of my men. I would do anything to help him if he got into trouble, as would the rest of his friends in the department."

"Pish! No one calls me 'Mrs. Sandburg' around these parts. Call me 'Bess'." She turns towards her husband. "Owen, find us a hole, will ya? And see if Sally or one of the other deputies can rustle up some coffee for us." She waits until her husband is off on his errand, then turns her attention back to our small group. "Okay, now that the old coyote is off doing something important, maybe you all can tell me why you're here?"

Simon is nice enough to explain to her how we came to be here, timing it perfectly so that when Brian Rafe joins us, she knows who he is and the role he played in our arrival in Waco. Megan even joins in a time or two, along with Brian, clarifying certain points in Simon's explanation. My attention keeps drifting back toward the truck stop, trying to keep track of the real reason why I'm here. Unconsciously following the conversation going on around me, my feet move my body. I get yet another jab in the ribs. I wish Megan would stop doing that. As I come back to full awareness of my surroundings, I find the Cascade contingent has moved away from the police line. They're making themselves comfortable in a picnic area set up near a playground on the premises of the truck stop. It's an oasis of calm in an otherwise tense sea of actions.

Owen joins us there, and we fill each other in on our various roles in the life of a certain anthropology student. The coffee the older Sandburg found is almost palatable. He brought a huge thermos of the stuff, which pours like a thick espresso, as well as a few carbohydrate-filled snacks. With all this caffeine and sugar, I should be awake for hours.

Before too long, I find myself really liking this branch of the Sandburg family tree. Owen is Naomi's eldest brother, the one who actually set the pattern for his youngest sister. He's a free-spirit, a traveler, and a man gifted with a dry sense of humor. And Bess, actually it's Elizabeth, she's a pistol. Fiercely independent, she's the middle child of a very influential Texas cattle family, who upset her mother's plans for her when she met and married a certain trucker, over 25 years ago.

Eventually, members of the group wander off, looking for something to do in the hours that seem to crawl by as the local police sort everything out. I'm left alone with Mrs. Sandburg.

"You sure aren't very talkative, are you James?"

"Guess not."

"Blair must drive you up the wall. I never saw a child more gregarious and loquacious than that one." She pauses to pour herself a fresh cup of coffee, silently offering to refill mine, which I politely refuse. My nerves are jumping enough as it is. "Bear's talked with me some over the past few years. I get the idea that he's finally found what he's been looking for, and that, somehow, it's connected to you." I must have jumped or something, for she puts her small hand over mine and gives it a gentle squeeze. "I won't ask, it ain't my business. But when he called the other night, I think he'd somehow forgotten what he was looking for."

"Maybe. Or maybe what he was looking for was never where he thought it was."

Ouch! For such a small lady, Bess sure has one hell of a grip. "Bullshit. James, look at me." The command, given in a soft voice, draws my eyes to hers. "Bear's a little lost right now. So are you. You need some time away from the pressures of city-life. And maybe from each other, but somehow I doubt that." Her hand tightens on mine as she gives it a good hard shake. "My sister-in-law may be a bit flaky, but she raised her son up just fine. Blair's a pretty good judge of character and if you weren't what he was looking for, then trust me on this, he would have dropped you faster than a hot coal." Finally, she releases my hand as she leans back from the tabletop to stretch. "Damn, been sitting too long in one place. These old bones can't take this much stillness."

"Bess?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you."

"For what, James?"

"For being honest. Blair isn't the only one who's lost sight of what he's been looking for, and I think you helped me find it again." I grasp the empty Styrofoam coffee cup until the sides give way and it crumples in my hand. "It took me a while to find a friend like him, and because I lacked the insight to see what I was doing, I nearly pushed Blair away. Hell, I may still push him away, but only if that is what he wants."

She stands up and walks around the table to sit beside me, her hand resting on my shoulder. "James, Jim… If it is time for Blair and you to travel different paths, then nothing either of you does will change that. But, if it's not time?" I turn to look at her again, seeing a faint smile on her lips. "Then Heaven help the soul that dares stand between you."

One final squeeze from her hand and she's off and running, literally. The shrill whistle she lets out rings across the parking area, drawing the attention of everyone there as she makes a bee-line towards Owen. Her final words to me cause my tired brain to shift into overdrive and the thought tumbles out of my mouth of its own volition. "But what if I'm the soul that stands between us, Bess?"

Present Time

A soft touch lands on my arm and I look down to see a no-nonsense look on Bess' face. Her voice is oddly tinted with sadness as she looks after her fleeing nephew. "Bear always was a stubborn one, James. Give him some time. He'll come around."

"I shouldn't have come here, Mrs. Sandburg. I'm only making things worse."

"Tsk, tsk. How many times do I have to tell you? Call me 'Bess.' And you cannot be the James Ellison my nephew was always talking about. Where is he? I thought I saw him here a few minutes ago…" I watch as the woman makes her point by looking around.

"I'm here, Bess. Just not sure I should be."

Hazel eyes look up at me through the gold rimmed glasses that sit on her face. "Fine, so you shouldn't be here," she points to the asphalt beneath our feet, "where do you suppose you should be? Back in Cascade?"

"Maybe."

"WRONG!" I jump as she clamps a small hand around my wrist, tightening her grip to the point to where I think she could actually break it, but I can't shake the woman loose. "You and your friends need a place to stay tonight, and with all the damn reporters that flocked in to cover this mess, you ain't gonna find an open hotel. You come with me." She lets go of my wrist and starts to walk away. "NOW, James!"

I find myself actually having to run to keep up with the woman. She's walking over to where Megan and Brian are standing, stunned looks on their faces in the wake of Blair's outburst. Her few words have them looking toward me then following her as I catch up to them.

"Captain Banks!" Geez, Bess can really get a person's attention with that voice of hers. She's located Simon and Sheriff Navarjo, and once I finally manage to slink in behind Megan and Brian, she's already laying down her version of the law. "… so you're done with any statements you might need from Blair's friends, R.J.?"

The Sheriff looks a little uneasy as he answers, "Yes, Miss Bess. Why?"

"Good. These folks need some rest so I'm taking them out to the ranch. You know the number if you need to talk with them again, right?"

"Yes'em."

"Great! Okay, come on, folks. Its time to get you all settled down at my place for a spell. Owen!" The man appears from the crowd. "Find Bear and met us at the ranch, and do not tell him that his buddies are staying with us, ya' hear me, you old coyote?"

"Woman, just because I leave you alone for months at a time, at your request by the way, don't mean you have to tell me everything! Shessh..." I watch as he stomps, no, make that skips, away toward his rig. I lost track of Blair in all the confusion that followed in Bess' wake. Concentrating, extending my hearing, I locate him again. He's in the purple rig's sleeper cabin, snoring loud enough to wake the dead.

A tight grip on my elbow pulls me back. A snarl for Connor is on my lips, when I realize it's not Megan who has the hold on my arm, but Bess. "Day tripping not allowed here, James. Good thing I brought my truck. Let's get you out of here."


I don't think that I could take another empty moment
I don't think that I could fake another hollow smile
It's not enough just to be lonely.
I don't think that I could take another talk about it

The vibration of the rig starting up wakes me. Guess I managed to doze off after all. "Owen?" I call out, sure of where I am, but unsure all the same.

Owen sticks his head around the curtain that divides the cab from the sleeping area. "Just me, Bear. You doin' okay?"

Sitting up, I nod slowly, running a hand through my matted and sticky hair. "Yeah, just exhausted." The full impact of what's happened hasn't hit me yet. Maybe it never will. I feel closed off, shuttered, from the terror I went through. Like what happened didn't happen to me; I only watched it happen to someone else.

"Well, you just lie back down and relax, son. I'm heading for the ranch where you can take a shower and sleep in a real bed. Be an hour or so before we get there."

"Okay," I answer, and Owen's face disappears. The truck shudders, then we're moving. I get some juice out of the fridge and drink it, then lie back down.

Jim! I'd forgotten about him for a moment. I hope he's gone back to Cascade. I don't think I could take a confrontation with him right now. Images of Felicia and Toby swim in front of me, and I vow that no matter what Jim says, I won't go back. I can't live that life any longer.

Funny how nearly losing my life doesn't affect me at all, while thoughts of having to deal with Jim have my emotions churning inside me. Guess that tells me what my biggest fear is, huh? But is it losing him, or losing to him that scares me the most?

Just like me you've got needs
And they're only a whisper away
And we softly surrender
To these lives that we've tendered away


I must have drifted off, because I awaken with a jolt when the truck comes to a stop. "You awake back there, Blair?" my uncle calls back.

"Yeah, yeah. We here?" I sit up, stretching my back, and reach for my shoes.

"We're here. Sandburg ranch."

I hear him opening the door and getting out. I follow a few seconds later, grabbing my duffel. I glance up at the blackening sky. Storm's moving in, and from the looks of it, it'll be a big one. As tired as I feel, I'll probably sleep right through it. I look around the ranch. Owen's parked the rig next to the barn. Across the courtyard formed by the barn, bunkhouse, and garage is the house. Somehow I don't think I could take being fussed over by my Aunt Bess right now, even though I know she's probably been worried about me. "Uncle Owen, if you don't mind, I'm going to go crash in the bunkhouse. I need a shower and about three days sleep."

He looks at me for a moment, then enfolds me in a tight hug. "I'm so glad you're okay, Blair. I don't know how I would have explained this to your mother."

I can't help the giggle that escapes me. That would've been something to see. Owen manages a chuckle or two about it himself, then says, "Go on, get some rest. Come over to the house when you wake up and Bess'll rustle you up something to eat."

He heads toward the house as I turn and climb the wooden steps up to the bunkhouse and go inside. It's not very big, consisting of one large room with a couple bunk beds, some chairs, and a bathroom at one end. Owen and Bess' ranch is small, and they've never had need for more than a couple hands during the busy season. Right now, it looks like I'll be the only occupant. Tossing my duffel on a bunk, I head for the bathroom, toilet kit in hand, shedding clothes as I go.

Turning the water on, I climb in, adjusting the water temperature until it's just shy of scalding. I wash my hair about ten times, and even then I'm not convinced I've gotten all the blood out. I stay under the water until it runs cold, scrubbing my skin until it's red. I realize the symbolism in what I'm doing, that I'm washing away what happened to me. If I'm to start over, to make a new life for myself, I have to let go of the past, of the things that might have been, of my relationship with Jim.

I stick my head under the stream of water one last time, the cold sending shivers down my spine. Enough of that, Sandburg. Shutting off the faucet, I get out of the shower and dry off, then pull on a clean pair of boxers and a t-shirt. Pushing my duffel to the floor, I climb into bed, and pull the covers over my head, just as thunder rolls outside. I close my eyes, glad to be alive, and inside where it's safe and warm. Within a few minutes, I'm asleep.


But I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there'll be no rest for these tired eyes
I'm marking it down to learning
I'm marking it down to learning
'Cause I can

The sharp crack of thunder wakes me. My heart pounds in my chest during the few moments it takes me to remember where I am. As I recognize the spartan surroundings of the bunkhouse, I relax. The light filtering through the windows is very dim, and I realize I must have slept for quite awhile. I debate getting up to see what time it is, but I decide against it. The bed is warm and comfortable, and I see no reason to leave it.

I roll over just as a flash of lightning illuminates the room--and the still figure seated in one of the armchairs. A scream almost escapes my lips, and I sit up abruptly, smacking my head on the upper bunk. "Oh, shit, ow!"

"Careful, Chief."

It's Jim's voice. He's been sitting there in the dark for god knows how long, watching me sleep. How creepy is that? I suppress a shudder, then realize if Jim's here, Owen and Bess had something to do with it. All at once I'm hurt and angry. I feel betrayed by my own family. I scramble out of bed, grabbing my clothes, yanking them on. I can't stay here.

The chair creaks as Jim gets to his feet, and I dress faster, shoving my feet into my shoes. I can't breath; everything is closing in on me, and my heart feels like it's going to explode. Wonderful time for a panic attack, Sandburg. I am calm, I am calm--

"Blair, calm down. I didn't mean to startle you..."

I can't deal with this. I really can't deal with this right now. "I can't believe they did this."

"Why? Your family was nice enough to let us bunk here until the storm's over, and we can fly back home."

Shit! I guess I must have said that last bit out loud. Stuffing my clothes into my duffel, I force the zipper closed. "I left Cascade to get the hell away from you. Owen knows that; Bess knows that. I can't believe they did this to me." I have to get out of here, or I'm going to really lose it. Shouldering my pack, I head for the door.

In two strides Jim crosses the room and grabs my arm, whirling me around. Instinctively, I lash out, my fist glancing off his cheek. For a moment he seems stunned, then he takes hold of my upper arms and shakes me. "What in the hell is wrong with you?!"

Don't wanna be the one who turns the whole thing over
I don't wanna be somewhere where I just don't belong
Well it's not enough just to be sorry
Don't you know I feel the darkness closing in

Twisting out of his grasp, I step back just as a bolt of lightning illuminates the room again. I'm up against the wall now, next to the door, gasping for air, shaking with rage. Jim makes the mistake of taking a step toward me, and I heave my bag at him. He catches it as I yell, "What's wrong with me? You wanna know what's wrong with me?! According to you, just about everything!" I begin to tick items off on a mental list. "Let's start with the hair. The earrings. My clothes. The food I eat. The car I drive. My career, or lack there of. The women I date. The friends I make. My beliefs. The fact that I won't check my emotions at the door, that I won't be a good little Jimmy clone!"

I tried to be more than me
And I gave until it all went away
And we've only surrendered
To the worst part of these winters we've made

"Blair, I--"

"NO! Shut the fuck up! You wanted to know what's wrong, and now you're going to hear it!" I poke my finger at his chest, and he moves back, dropping the duffel on the bed. "I put up with your shit for three years. I kept my mouth shut. I didn't talk back or complain, because I didn't want you to throw me out, because I thought we were doing something important. And now here I am, with no job and no paper. I don't even have a friendship to show for it." Jim opens his mouth to protest. I shove him, and he staggers back, falling into the chair.

"I am NOT finished!" I run a shaking hand through my hair, a little voice in my head asking what in the hell do I think I'm doing. Ignoring the voice, I press on. I want to get it all out. No more lies, no more unspoken truths. "You wanna know when I woke up and smelled the coffee? When I realized I couldn't do this anymore?" I twist my voice into a sarcastic version of Jim's. "'I've got to have a partner I can trust.' I trusted you, Jim. I thought you were my friend. I thought you knew I was yours, until the whole thing with Alex Barnes."

Jim manages to get a word in edgewise. "Alex, you're still fixated on Alex? That was four months ago!"

"And doesn't that just say everything about our relationship, about who you think I am? You don't even know what I was going through then! What did you want me to do, Jim? Come running to you to tell you about another sentinel, when you couldn't bother to tell me what in the hell was going on with you? I tried to tell you about Alex, and you blew me off. You threw me out of the loft, out of your life, and yet you still blamed me for what happened. I didn't know she was a criminal! All I knew was she was someone with heightened senses, maybe like you, maybe not. She didn't know what in the hell was going on with her. I did. I could help her. And you treated me like that was wrong!" I'm shaking all over now, the memories vibrant and painful. "You wanted me to turn my back on someone in pain, to be loyal to you, when all you've done is tell me how you can't trust me?!" Wiping at my eyes, I start to pace, trying to loosen the tension I feel in every muscle.

His words are almost a whisper. "I do trust you, Blair..."

But I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there'll be no rest for these tired eyes
I'm marking it down to learning
I'm marking it down to learning

His comment only adds fuel to the fire in my heart. "Trusted me enough to tell me it was over? To let me walk out of the police station and right into her grasp? I DIED because I was loyal to you, Jim!" The vision I'd had when I was dead swims before my eyes, and for a moment, I'm the wolf again, running through the jungle, running away from the jaguar. When I speak again, my voice is soft, but I know he has no trouble hearing me. "I didn't want to come back, you know. It was nice in the jungle. I liked it. I wanted to stay there, where I didn't hurt anymore." I can see the wolf leaping into the air, feel it combining with the jaguar as an incredible energy flows through me.

I am
All that I'll ever be
When you - lay your hands
Over me
And don't go weak on me please
I know that it's weak
But God help me I need this

My next words tear at my heart, and I can't stop the tears from sliding down my face. "You called me back. Do you realize how amazing that is? You *wanted* me back so badly you made it happen. I thought that meant things had changed, that you trusted me, that we were friends, that I mattered to you."

Grabbing my bag up from the bed, I deliver my parting words. "But now I see it's all the same. Nothing is ever going to change. It's all been a lie, and I can't live this lie any longer." Opening the door, I step outside. In a matter of seconds, I'm soaked to the skin. I don't know where I'm going, or how I'm going to get there. But I've learned my lesson; I can't remain in this bed of lies.

I would not sleep in this bed of lies
So toss me out and turn in
And there'll be no rest for these tired eyes
I'm marking it down to learning
I'm marking it down to learning
'Cause I can

~finis~


Mad Season
Mad Season Cycle
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