Destinies Entwined Dotty Kathy Lvblair Mary Ellen Ophelia KAM Ronnee Kathy 'n Mary Ellen
A Final Moment
WARNING: DEATH STORY
The group of four men and one woman stood huddled together, separate from the others, watching in silence as people came forward to say their final goodbye before leaving. No one from the small group stepped up, not ready to let go just yet. So they watched, silent tears mingling with the cold rain falling from the darkened sky.
I think that I – that all of us, really – always knew that they would go together. It just seemed impossible to think of one of them without the other. Whatever it was that connected the two of them together was too strong to be severed. Even in death.
The first time death tried to part them, Jim was able to call Blair back. Even now, I think that if he hadn't been able to, then he would have gladly followed Sandburg into death. After the fountain, after the whole mess with Alex, their relationship was strained. But even then, the connection was still there. Dimmed maybe, but not gone. Never gone.
See, the thing of it is, Jim was always a loner. Don't get me wrong, he wasn't exactly unfriendly or aloof. Just … There was just this air about him, making him seem untouchable. He was there, but separate. When the guys went out for a beer at night, he'd go along. Drink a few, laugh along with the rest of us, but… but there always seemed to be this invisible wall there. You could get close, but you could never ever really get inside those walls.
When he married Carolyn, I thought some of those walls would come down. I admit that I watched the two of them together sometimes … curious as to how she would be able to get inside those walls. I have to give it to her, Carolyn did her best. But gradually, I watched as she grew tired of it. Tired of trying to get inside those walls when it became so obvious that she was unwanted there.
It wasn't much of a surprise when they divorced. And I watched as Jim – a man I regarded as not only a hell of a detective, but a friend as well – retreated even deeper behind those walls. After the divorce, there was no more going out for a drink with the rest of us. He was in hiding. I realize that now.
But what I didn't realize is that maybe, just maybe, he was waiting as well. Waiting for the one person who wouldn't give up. Waiting for the one person who would keep on trying to scale those walls. Keep trying until they succeeded.
Then he walks into my office with a long-haired, hyperactive kid dressed in thrift store clothes. A kid with expressive blue eyes and an even more expressive face. I saw through that line of bull about Sandburg being Jim's cousin right away. I was prepared to boot the kid right out of the PD. But then the whole thing with Kincaid happened and I found out about Jim's senses. And I grudgingly allowed Sandburg to ride with Jim.
At first, I didn't think the kid would stick around very long. Hell, a lot of veteran cops hadn't seen the action the kid saw in those first few months. But he surprised me. Surprised us all really. He stayed. Then he moved in with Jim. That's when I really started to watch them.
I was amazed by what I saw.
See, those walls Jim had built around himself… Blair got through them. I don't even think Jim realized what was happening at first. It was how Blair approached it.
Carolyn, she tackled those walls like they were some kind of personal affront. Like Jim had put them up just to spite her. So she attacked them. And in doing so, she attacked Jim. As a result, he just shut down. When he did that, it was like Carolyn realized that there wasn't any challenge there any more. She lost interest.
But Blair… He was different. It was like he knew that those walls were there not to keep Jim separate, but to keep him safe. Jim's had a lot of loss in his life. Had a lot of people hurt him. So much so that he just walled himself off. I think Blair realized that those walls were such an integral part of what made Jim who he was, that it would be impossible to break them down entirely. If that happened, then an essential part of Jim would be destroyed as well.
So unlike Carolyn, Blair didn't try to just blast his way through Jim's walls. Instead he… he scaled them. Scratching and clawing his way up those walls inch by agonizing inch. Every once in a while, something would happen to knock him down a few pegs. Sometimes even knock him off entirely. But he never gave up. Just determinedly got his grip and started climbing again.
Finally, he reached the top.
I think I know the minute it happened too.
The press conference.
Seeing that sacrifice … seeing how far Blair would go to protect him… having someone else put him first…
From that moment on, Jim wasn't alone behind those walls. Sandburg was there with him.
I'm not saying it was all great after that. They still had their fair share of problems. But there was this… this closeness between them after that. Like they had faced their greatest challenge and come out of it … not unscathed … but stronger for having made it through to the other side. A rite of passage, as Sandburg would probably say.
They were something to watch after that. The way they worked together. Like a well-oiled machine. Effortlessly. But it wasn't just work. Every aspect of their relationship was like that. They were closer than ever. But, more importantly, they were happy … and content. With their life, with each other, and with themselves.
Everything was going so well. We should have known it wouldn't last. Not the way trouble seemed to follow the two of them around. But I … we … never thought that we would actually lose them. They seemed too … too alive for that. Too vibrant. There was this energy that just seemed to surround them.
Surround them and keep them separate. Together, but separate from the rest of us. Those walls sheltered both of them now.
And we thought that meant they were somehow impervious to harm.
They just seemed so untouchable.
Or so we thought.
We were wrong.
Dear God, we were so very wrong.
I still remember the first time I met … or rather saw … Blair. Kinda hard to forget considering I had a bullet in my leg and a bunch of lunatics had taken over the station. I have to admit that I was impressed. He was scared, anyone could see that, but he still managed to give that load of bull to Kincaid. I was actually pretty impressed. I mean, come one, Lieutenant Sandburg from Narcotics. No one would have believed that line, but he played it off pretty convincingly. The kid won me over in that second.
I admit that I've always had a soft spot for Blair. No matter what was thrown at him, he always faced it with such courage and determination. There was nothing that could get the better of him. Nothing he couldn't overcome.
But what really got to me was how he faced those things. I've known a lot of cops, myself included, that have become so… so jaded. The things they've seen, the things they've experienced… they come to expect the worst in people.
Not Blair though. The kid had been kidnapped, drugged, beaten, shot … drowned… but through it all, he never lost that fundamental part of himself that set him apart from the rest of us. He never lost his faith, never stopped looking for, or believing in, the best in people.
Even in the PD.
I didn't think he told Jim about it. The harassment, I mean. And when I found out, he swore me to secrecy. It was shortly after the Golden incident. I was coming up the stairs, getting my exercise for the day, when I heard voices. Angry voices. I stopped and listened. I recognized Blair's voice right away. By that time, I'd gotten to know him pretty good and I could easily hear the note of panic in his voice. The other two voices I didn't recognize, but I could hear the hate in them. And I heard the cruel, vile words of ridicule and contempt hurled at the kid.
I raced up the rest of the stairs, as fast as I could anyway, and got to the fifth floor landing just in time to see Blair shoved back into the wall. Hard. When the two officers heard me coming, they took off. But I was able to get a look at them.
I made sure Blair was okay, and then wanted him to go to Simon. But he wouldn't. Kept insisting that it wasn't anything major, that it was to be expected since he was an outsider, trying to integrate himself into a closed society or some such nonsense. I respected his wishes, but I kept a close eye on him after that.
Before too long, I realized that Jim knew something was up. I watched him as he watched Blair, his eyes searching the kid's face each time Blair showed up out of breath or disheveled. At first I was angry. Angry that Jim knew what was happening and didn't do anything about it. So angry that I confronted him one day. I knew I was taking a risk. Everyone knew you didn't mess with Ellison. But I had to do something.
For a split second, there was a look of such rage on his face that I feared for my safety. But then, his face just sort of … crumpled … before that hard mask reappeared. He told me to stay out of it. To mind my own business. But I pushed. What can I say? I disarmed bombs for a living. I thought I could defuse Jim, figure out his inner workings. I couldn't though. Only Blair could ever do that. He pushed past me and stormed off. I let out a deep breath, part relief, part frustration.
It wasn't until the next day that I learned who to truly fear in their partnership. I was down in the garage when Blair confronted me. There was a look in his eyes, one that took me a moment to place. I was used to seeing that expression on Jim, not Blair. It was a mixture of protectiveness and barely controlled anger.
I stood there, speechless, as Blair explained that he had told Jim not to intervene. And that if Jim could respect his wishes then I should too. I tried to say something, but he cut me off effortlessly. By the time he was finished, I finally understood. You can only protect someone as much as they'll let you protect them. And Blair wasn't going to let anyone, not even Jim, fight his battles for him.
Over time, I watched as Blair fought and persevered. To my surprise, he won acceptance. He earned respect and admiration. Something he wouldn't have been able to do if Jim had fought his battles for him in the beginning.
But I also saw how much it hurt Jim. How much it hurt him to stand by and do nothing as Blair was harassed, as Blair struggled day in and day out to find a place in the PD. But he respected Blair enough to stay out of it.
I often wondered what Blair did to earn Jim's respect so completely. It wasn't until years later, after a night out and a few too many beers, that I heard the story of their first meeting… of the garbage truck and how Blair saved Jim's life.
See, Blair was Jim's protector first, and that's how it remained until the end. Blair protecting Jim, quietly and unobserved … from the sidelines.
I can picture the two of them now, Jim standing strong and proud, guarding his city, his tribe, with Blair standing silently behind him … protecting our protector.
Together until the end, like they were meant to be.
I have to admit, I gave hairboy a lot of grief in the beginning. Made a lot of jokes at his expense. Hell, I figured he wouldn't be around for long. I mean, he was just an observer, a ride-a-long, and they never stick around. The passes are only supposed to last for a few weeks at most. But then a strange thing happened. He stayed … and he became more than just an observer. He was right there, right in the thick of things with the rest of us. Doing things that no mere observer should ever do.
It confused the hell out of me. There came a point when I wondered if the kid had something on the Captain or Jim … or maybe both of them. No other captain would have allowed a civilian to get as involved as Blair did. And Jim never allowed anyone to work as closely with him as Blair did. I couldn't figure out why they let him stay.
After Blair started working with Jim, his arrest rate skyrocketed. Most of the other guys were jealous … or angry. But I was curious. What was it about the two of them together that made them so unbeatable. Over time though, I began to pick up on a few things. The way Jim would see or hear things that no one else could – like with that whole Juno thing. There was nothing as blatant after that. But it was there …. if you looked closely enough. And I looked.
I remember one time at a crime scene. Jim was going all over the apartment, like he was looking for something. I could tell by how frustrated he seemed that whatever it was, he wasn't finding it. Then Blair showed up. The two of them went outside for a few minutes. When they came back, Jim was more focused. More in control. Blair stood off to the side as Jim began to prowl around again. Everyone else was watching Jim. Me, I watched Blair. I could see his lips barely moving, keeping up a constant stream of silent words. From time to time, I'd glance over at Jim and see him stop, cock his head to the side like he was listening to something … or someone … and after a moment, he'd nod and continue on.
I'm a detective, so I did what detectives are supposed to do. I detected. I found some papers that Blair had written a while ago. And suddenly it all made sense. I realized pretty quickly that the Captain had to know … and he kept their secret for them. Who was I to do differently?
Jim was a fellow cop and had my back on more than one occasion. I was more than willing to do the same. As for Blair… he wasn't a cop… but he was. I know a lot of the other guys didn't see him like that. But I did. He'd shed his fair amount of sweat, blood and tears, more so than some of the 'real' cops. Even though he didn't have a badge, to me he was still a brother in blue. And I protect my own.
I just wish I'd had the courage to step forward, to let them know how much I respected and admired them. Even after the mess with Blair's dissertation, I didn't speak up. I thought they needed time for themselves, time to make things right between the two of them. I thought there would be plenty of time later. So, I silently sat back, quietly watching their backs, as they rebuilt their partnership, once again awed by the strength of it, by the strength of them.
And now it's too late.
Too late to tell them how much I valued their friendship … valued them.
I can only hope that somehow they knew.
Please, God, let them have known.
I remember when I found out that my transfer went through and I'd be working in Major Crime. I was so excited … and nervous. Jim was the big draw to me. I wanted to work with the legend. Maybe even be his partner. I'd heard all the talk about how he wouldn't work with anyone since Pendergrast. But I knew I could win him over. Sandburg had shown up by then, but I wasn't worried. He wasn't a real cop, just an observer, a ride-along. Besides, he wasn't fit to work with a cop like Jim. I knew he wouldn't be around very long. Either he'd get tired of the danger and leave or Jim would get tired of him and make him leave.
But it didn't happen. When I transferred to Major Crime, he was still there. Still riding with Jim, acting like he belonged, like he was worthy of being Jim's partner. I had nothing but ridicule for him. I'd laugh when I saw other cops harassing him, putting him in his place. I was careful about it though, I didn't let Jim see. I didn't let Jim know how I really felt about Sandburg. And I knew Sandburg wouldn't say anything. He wasn't the type.
Somehow, though, Jim picked up on my contempt. Eventually, I noticed him shutting me out. He'd go to Henry or Joel or Megan for help with something. But not me. Never me. I don't know how he knew. But he did.
Sandburg was just the opposite. He'd go out of his way to include me. He'd ask for my input or advise, invite me over for poker games at the loft. I could tell it bothered Jim, especially those times I was in his home, but he tolerated it. For Blair's sake.
I couldn't understand how someone like Jim could lower themselves for someone like Sandburg. How he could cater to Sandburg's wishes like he did. I hated it. And I hated Sandburg for it. I resented the fact that Sandburg was where I should be … at Jim's side.
There were so many times when I thought I was finally going to get what I wanted. So many times when I thought Sandburg was finally going to leave. Lash. Golden…. So close. But I was disappointed every time.
Then there was Alex Barnes. But even death's angel couldn't grant my wish. Through it all, he stayed. He always stayed.
The final straw was the dissertation. Seeing that, seeing Sandburg's betrayal. Oh, I was overjoyed. I got a perverse thrill when Sandburg came into the bullpen and I started the 'we're not worthy' chant. The look of horror on his panic-stricken face. And Jim… there was so much anger and pain – all directed at Sandburg. This was it. This was what I'd been waiting for, for so long.
But then Sandburg gave that damn press conference, made the final, ultimate sacrifice to protect Jim. That's when I truly saw who Sandburg really was … saw the kind of person he was. And I realized that I paled in comparison. Those words I used to torment and ridicule were, in fact, the truth. I truly wasn't worthy. Wasn't worthy to be Jim's partner. Wasn't worthy to watch his back. Wasn't worthy to be at his side. There was only one person worthy enough to fill that role … Blair.
The realization had finally come … but it had come too late.
Too late for me to accept the friendship offered to me for so long.
Too late for me to earn the respect that I so craved.
Too late for me to become even a small part of something so special … so rare.
I really hadn't known them all that long. But it was long enough for them to earn my respect, my loyalty, and my love. I still expect to walk into the bullpen and see them there, heads bent close together, talking softly to each other, working on a case. They completed each other. They were soul mates. I know that sounds ridiculously romanticized and they both would've laughed their asses off if anyone actually had the nerve to say it to their faces … but it's true. As odd as it seems, those two opposites fit together so perfectly. At times, I envied that. But never as much as I admired it. Never.
Right from the start, they accepted me. Oh, I know Jim liked to fuss and grouch, but that was just for show. And Sandy… well, Sandy was just Sandy. I've never met anyone quite like him. I expect I never will either.
For a time, I thought about starting something with one of them. Jim…. well, Jim and I were just too much alike. We'd have killed each other within a week's time. Sandy… well, Sandy and I could have had a good time together for a while, but it wouldn't have lasted.
I know everyone thought that Jim was the closed-off one, that he was the one you couldn't get close to. But they were mostly men. Clueless men, at that. You'd think that for detectives, they would have been a little bit more observant.
Sandy was the one you couldn't really get to know. But he was so adept at deflection, at diverting focus and attention away from himself, that you never realized he was doing it. That he was purposefully hiding, keeping his true self concealed. I don't think any of us really saw him for who and what he really was. None of us except Jim, that is. Blair bared his soul to Jim, just as Jim bared his soul to Blair. And each of them found in the other everything they were lacking, everything they needed. That's why no matter what was thrown their way, they always came through intact. Because only together were they whole, were they complete.
I was honored and privileged to be allowed within the inner circle of those they trusted, of those they called friends.
Those few of us… we touched something special, something powerful and mystical.
We're changed for it.
None of us will ever be the same person we were before Jim and Blair came into our lives.
Now that they're gone, there's this emptiness left behind.
An emptiness where they used to be.
They were left alone at last. Finally, they approached. One by one in their grief, they stepped forward.
A final moment to express everything that had been left unsaid.
A final moment to ask for forgiveness.
A final moment to express gratitude and love.
A final moment with the men who had touched them so deeply.
A final moment to last the rest of their lives.