By Suisan "Sue" R.
Forty-two hours, seventeen minutes. Far too long to be a resident of the hell that is commonly referred to as Cascade General. I hate hospitals. Always have. The antiseptic smells, the lingering odor of death, the sweet miasma of birth -- it's enough to drive a normal man to their knees. It's more than enough to drive me to mine. Lord knows, I am NOT normal. Haven't been for years. And the 'reaction' I had to whatever they're now using to wash the sheets with? Not fun. All over body rash, coupled with an idiosyncratic reaction to the antihistamine… Yes, there is nothing quite like having your blood pressure shoot to the moon and be so hyper the staff teases you about 'channeling' your roommate.
It was just before noon when I signed the last of my discharge papers and since I didn't want to wait for someone to pick me up, I called a cab instead. Stepping out of the bright yellow conveyance, I pay the cabbie, adding in a fairly generous tip, and slowly enter the door that will lead me up three flights of stairs and home.
Entering the loft, I'm assailed by odors that remind me (all too well) of what happened here. The controls that I've worked so hard on fail me and I'm stuck having to face everything. The plastic bag holding the clothes that I'd been wearing when admitted to the hospital falls to the hardwood floor, just inside the door. I slam the door shut with a savage mule kick. Then I notice what is really wrong with the picture before me.
The boxes are gone.
Damn, he must have made arrangements for someone to pick them up and deliver them before he left. The one thing that I'd hoped would have him calling me, so that I could hear his voice, is gone. Just like him.
Crossing over to the kitchen, I grab a clean glass from the cabinet and, after taking a whiff to make sure it hasn't turned 'green,' pour myself some tea. Now what the heck am I supposed to do?
How you make your face just like a wall
How you take your heart and turn it off
How I turn my head and lose it all
Draining the glass, I make my first real decision since entering my home. I need a shower and, judging by the stubble I can feel growing, a shave. Loping up the stairs to my room, I grab a change of clothes, my carefully stashed shaving kit, and a few large, thirsty Egyptian cotton towels.
The lemon verbena scented soap clears the final cobwebs from my mind, even as the steam helps to cleanse my sinuses of that damn hospital smell. The soap was a gift, from Naomi of all people, and I rarely use it. But it has more 'wake up' power than any commercially milled soap and, to be honest? It doesn't bug my skin like the others do. Drying off, I step out of the shower, wrapping the second towel around my waist and using the slightly damp one to wipe away the fog on the mirror.
Cold blue eyes stare back at me from a face that is far too pale, a face that shows absolutely no emotions. I almost chuckle. Thinking that of all the times for me to notice -- now I realize why I am called "stone face" behind my back at the PD. Unzipping my shaving kit, I pull out the items I want. English shaving soap, boar hair bristle brush, and my grandfather's straight edge razor. Sometimes, when the beard gets heavy, like it is now, the only way to properly scrape it off is with a fine, sharp edge. The blade is quite sharp; one wrong move and I'll bleed like a stuck pig. So I'd better make sure I can handle this.
"Check your emotions at the door." How many times have I heard that advice, or given it? I push the thoughts aside and concentrate on the job at hand. Just enough water to moisten the hard soap, wrist action to whip the brush around inside the holder to work up a good, thick lather, then I'm painting my face with the substance. Before picking up the blade again, I hold my hands out over the sink, to check just how steady my hands are, and satisfied with the results, I pick up the worn, ivory-handled steel. Carefully, carefully, Ellison. You haven't done this for about six months, careful…
"Ouch!" Damn. I drop the blade into the sink and bring the edge of my towel up to staunch the flow of blood from my chin. Should've remembered. It takes TWO hands to shave with a straight blade. I hold the wound closed for a few minutes, keeping track of the blood flow by touch alone, and when I'm fairly certain I'm no longer bleeding I draw the towel away. Yep, it's stopped. Okay, back to business.
How just one move puts me beside myself
There you go just trusting someone else
Now I know I put us both through hell
Wearing my dark blue sweat suit had seemed like a good idea at the time, but after working my way through the loft, cleaning up the mess that was left in the aftermath of… No, don't think about that. Not yet. I'm sweating and need to cool off. Hmm, forgot to check the mail earlier.
Grabbing up keys from the table, I trot down to the mailboxes, enjoying the cool breeze that is coming up the stairwell, knowing that one of the other tenants must have left the door open. I really don't care; it's nice and reminds me that I should go ahead and open the balcony doors when I get back upstairs. It's not like Sandburg's around to complain about the chill. Damn it. Quit that, Ellison.
The mailbox is full, stuffed, and I try to sort through the junk as I walk back up the stairs. I'm just opening the door to my home when I find it. Damn, when did he write? Dropping the rest of the mail on the coffee table, I hold the letter in my hands as I sink back onto the couch. I don't want to read it, don't want to smell the distinctive scent of Blair wafting off the paper as I hold it, don't want to see his cramped, yet clearly legible writing. None of those reasons keep me from ripping the envelope open. I want to find out what he felt he had to say, what he couldn't, or wouldn't say to my face.
I'm sorry about the way I'm leaving, but it's time, don't you think? Time for
both of us to face the world apart, to see what we can become on our own.
He's sorry about leaving? HE'S sorry? Oh, Chief… I already know what will become of me if you're not here to help ground me. You might be ready for that, but I'm not. Not by a longshot.
I know I need to figure out who I am, examine the life I've been leading. I
suggest you do the same. I'll have my family to support me, and you have
Simon, Megan, and all the guys at Major Crimes.
Maybe you're right. The old me never would've let someone like you get so close. I thought I had been happy, leading the life I did before you blew into my life, but I wasn't. As for family, well, let's just say I don't see me getting close to William anytime soon, and Steven's been tied up with business trips. Simon? Yeah, the Captain's a good friend. So is Connor, but I don't think either one of them is too happy with me right now. Hell, even Rafe seemed pissed at me. So much for your idea of 'family,' Chief.
What is it they call people like us? Enablers? Co-dependants? We perpetuated
and supported each others faults and shortcomings. But you're the strongest
person I know, Jim. And I'm a survivor. You'll get through this, but we're
better off alone.
I thought we were called Sentinel and Guide. And I'm not as strong as I used to think, not half as strong as you are. After all, I'm the one sitting here trying like hell not to cry. Men don't cry, right Dad? Bullshit.
Turning the page, I see more writing, but I need to do something before I finish reading this letter. Reaching over, I snag a few tissues, dry my eyes and blow my nose. Gee, guess what, Dad? Men, real men, cry over the loss of friends. Especially friends like Blair Sandburg. He's wrong, we're not better off alone, or at least I'm not. If that's the way it's going to be, then I need to find some way to repress the sentinel within, to shut down that which makes me a freak.
And maybe now, or with the passage of time, you'll come to see the world is
not just black and white. Maybe you can view things through someone else's
eyes, expand your mind.
Maybe, once, a long time ago, I thought the world was black and white. But not since I got stranded in Peru, not when I found out why my insertion team got nailed, and definitely not since meeting you. I often saw this world through your eyes, Chief. Maybe I never said anything. Maybe I should've. You saw the world through eyes that looked upon the landscape around you with the vision of a child, aglow with the wonder, the beauty, that only you could see. You didn't know the ugly underbelly of society, the part of this world I've seen far too often, and that I reluctantly let you see as well. You once called me your Blessed Protector, a title I may have overplayed a time or two, but damn it, I was trying to protect the part of you I wished I had never lost in myself. Selfish, huh?
If nothing else, the past three years have been a hell of a ride. I don't
know about you, but I feel we accomplished some amazing things. There is
still so far to go, but I know I'm not the one to travel that road with you.
So if you feel my leaving is your fault, I don't know what to say to convince
you otherwise. I don't know if I would be telling the truth if I tried.
I lower the letter to my lap, thinking back over the past years. Yeah, it's been one hell of a roller coaster ride, and maybe we did accomplish some pretty incredible stuff. But that is the operative word, WE. Not me, not you, but the two of us working together as a team. We were a very special team within another team that is the best the City has ever seen. And just which road are you talking about? The one I turned away from when I told you I wasn't ready to "go there" with you? The one I should have been brave enough to travel?
Snorting laughter escapes me, as my mind flickers back to the time in the La Montanya region of Peru, land of the Chopec, when Incacha damn near snapped my head off when I tried to ignore my Sentinel abilities and the Jaguar. Laughter turns back to tears as I realize just how much the passing of my first "guide" still hurts, how much the departure of my current shaman and friend pains me.
If Sandburg's leaving isn't my fault, if this was something that he just had to do, why do I feel like Atlas with the weight of the whole fucking world on my shoulders? Nothing, absolutely nothing that Blair, Simon, Megan or any of the others could tell me will ever convince me that at least half of the reasons that drove Blair from Cascade weren't related to me. If it hadn't been for me, he never would have left the safe world of academia, gotten involved with the police force, got himself shot at, beat up, kidnapped, tortured, terrorized… Shit. Keep this up Ellison, and you'll be a prime candidate for the squirrel cage and the lovely jacket that only Houdini, and a few others, could ever get out of.
Bracing myself, I struggle to finish reading the letter.
It's a new feeling, only having to worry about myself now. I feel like the
door has been opened, and I'm poised at the brink, ready to fly. And it may
take some time, but I know you'll feel that way, too.
I hear that, buddy. You're right, the door is open and you're not the only one poised at the brink. I already feel like I'm standing on the edge of the abyss, ready to step off. But if I decide to do that, will I end up dead, or merely just wish I were? Flying, no, Chief. I don't think I'd fly. Fall, yes -- and fall hard. Straight down to the cold, hard, unforgiving ground.
I believe there's another life out there for me, and I'm taking the
initiative, I'm out here looking for it. I hope you do the same, that you
don't fall into a rut and let the world and all it has to offer pass you by.
Oh, God. I hope he can find that other life and that it's all he hopes it can be. Because each minute that flies by, knowing that there is a chance he won't be coming back, I feel like crawling into a corner and just letting go of all of it. These damn senses, that damn cat, his wolf, my mind, my whole damn life. Oh yeah, I'll fall into a rut all right, the one I'll cut into the padded flooring of the cell I'll be thrown into when it becomes obvious to all those around me that I've gone totally bonkers.
It was good while it lasted, but now I know I was only holding you back.
You're free to fly, and so am I.
Holding me back? More like the other way around there, Chief. I've been holding you back, taking precious time from you that you could've been using to finish your doctorate, to go on that expedition with Dr. Stoddard to Borneo. You should've gone on that one, but I refused to believe I could handle these senses of mine on my own. I've been so damn selfish. You had your own life to live and I should've let you, but instead I held you back. Kept you anchored to my side by slowly letting you realize, letting myself realize, that there were levels of the Sentinel that Burton never knew, or even speculated, about. Doling the new information out in dribs and drabbles, just so you wouldn't just pack up and leave.
I carefully fold the pages back into the envelope as I stand up and walk over to the stereo, where I place the letter in an open crevice of the CD rack. I turn on the CD player as I cross over to the balcony, while avoiding even looking into his room. I stand there in the cool evening air as I watch the sun slowly sink into the western horizon.
I'm not saying
There wasn't nothing wrong
I just didn't think you'd ever get tired of me
I'm not saying
We never had the right to hold on
I just didn't want to let it get away from me
The song intrudes upon my thoughts, sending me searching within myself for answers that may, or may not, be there.
But if that's how it's gonna leave
Straight out from underneath
Then we'll see who's sorry now
If that's how it's gonna stand, when
You know you've been depending on me
The one you're leaving now
The one you're leaving out
Yeah, that about sums it up. He's pulling the carpet, hell, the whole damn floor, out from underneath me. Leaving me on shaky ground trying to recover my balance. Maybe I did become too dependant on him, maybe it was the other way around, but something had to give and it looks like it might just be me.
How you threw me on
And you tore me out
How your good intentions turn to doubt
The way you needed the time to sort it out
Aggravating? No, not that. Upsetting maybe. He led me on with smooth talk, helped me to realize these freakish senses of mine could be put to use, then when things got to be too much? He threw me out of his life without a care, without a friendly good bye. Okay, maybe he's having doubts about what he was helping me to do, but he was right.
Tell me is that how it's gonna be
When you know that you've been depending on
The one you're leaving now
And the one you're leaving out
Taking a deep breath, I come to my decision. I just hope the World is ready to have an unguided Sentinel working its streets. Hell, I hope I'm ready for that. No more crutch for James Joseph Ellison. No more Guide, no more Shaman, no more friend named Blair Sandburg. At least, not until he's ready to come back. In the mean time, I will NOT allow myself to fall into a zone-out; I'll control these freakish senses of mine, all by myself. Simon won't like that idea; I'll have to prove myself to him, just like I had to prove Blair's worth when the Sentinel within decided to wake up and turn my world upside down.
Something else I need to take care of in the morning -- clearing the path so that Sandburg can return to Rainier when he's ready to come back. That means talking with Sidney-what's-his-name, and probably talking to Chancellor Edwards as well. Sidney just needs to know that Blair needed a break from campus after the Ventriss/Nadine case. The old guy seems to like Sandburg, so maybe he'll understand. Chancellor Edwards is going to be a little tougher to convince. I'll stop by the station before heading to RainyU to pick up a copy of the sworn confession Suzanne Nadine signed. That, coupled with testimony from Simon and me about how Blair's been a great asset to the Department, might just work on the woman. And if that doesn't do the trick, maybe I'll just hire a really good attorney for him.
What the hell? Oh, shit. Where did the time go? The sun's down and the moon is on the rise. I glance at my watch as I race for the phone. Two hours. I'd been standing on the balcony for two flipping hours! There goes my vow of no more zoning, right out the damn window.
"Hello? Simon, I'm fine… What? Where? Are you sure? What do you think?! Yeah, sorry, Sir. I can be ready to go in fifteen minutes… Yeah, all right, I'll meet you at the station." I hurriedly hang up the phone and bolt for my room. I have ten minutes to pack a few things, including some of my backup weapons. As I pack, I recall the offer from earlier. I just hope he was telling the truth. Finding my cell phone on its charger, I pull it free and dial as I start to break down the folding stock of my powerful crossbow.
"Rafe? Ellison. Look, were you serious about wanting to help? I don't have time to go into details. I don't have them all just yet, but can you be ready to fly in an hour or less? You can? How many can your plane carry? Great, Captain Banks and I will meet you at the airstrip. We may have reinforcements. Thanks, Brian."