Written for SentinelAngst list dues. Not beta'd. Sequel to Starting Over, but stands alone.
In Need of Comfort
by Raine Wynd
“Hey, Ellison, where’s your partner?” Captain Cabraio asked as he stepped up to him in the crowded pub where most of Major Crimes was celebrating their victory. “You did a good job on the Landren case. You two prevented a huge disaster, uncovering that anti-war group she was tied to. I can’t believe they were planning on bombing the Army base, Beirut-style.”
I blinked, realizing for the first time in at least an hour that I had no idea where Blair had gone. “He was here, sir. Must’ve slipped out after the reporters showed up.”
“Yeah, well, you tell him I said good work. Take the next four days off and go enjoy yourselves.”
I rolled my eyes. “Actually, sir, I believe we were already scheduled to be off the next four days anyway.”
“See how generous I am?” Cabraio joked, slapping me on the back. “Enjoy your weekend, Ellison.”
“Thank you, I will.” Cabraio wasn't Simon, but he was a good, solid captain who looked out for his people. After Simon had taken a promotion to Assistant Chief, I'd been relieved to find that my new boss was someone I could respect. I quickly settled my bar tab and made my goodbyes.
There were easily a dozen places Sandburg usually goes when he wanted to disappear, but I narrowed my list down to the three most likely. I found him an hour later, sitting on the retaining wall of Bayview Park, one of the city’s primary places to look out over the city as well as Puget Sound and the main site where numerous postcard photographs have been taken. This late at night, the park was deserted, but the view was still fairly spectacular.
“Crowd got to you?” I asked quietly as I walked up.
“Yeah,” Sandburg admitted. He didn’t turn around, and I bit back a sigh. The summer had been hell on both of us, and I realized abruptly I hadn't been paying as close attention to him as I should have. He’d been so focused on making sure I found my dials again, so focused on helping me get through my grief at losing a woman I’d loved, that he’d submerged himself. I swore silently, seeing for the first time how lean and rangy he’d become while I’d been busy needing him.
Knowing that he’d agreed to help me only made the guilt worse. He’d left five years ago because we both realized he didn’t have much of a life outside of what we had together – as friends, work partners, and roommates. When a consulting firm had come calling with an offer he couldn't bring himself to refuse, I'd helped him pack. He'd come back in part because the life he’d found hadn't made him happy — and because he’d seen in visions what would happen if he didn't come back as my Guide. The fact that those visions had come true over the past few months only added to the weight of my guilt.
Not for the first time since he’d come back in April, I found myself wishing he hadn't been gone in the first place. He was quieter, more reserved with people he didn’t know well, and didn’t feel comfortable in crowded rooms. I knew the reasons were all tied up in a confidentiality agreement that mirrored some of the ones I'd signed as a Ranger. Whatever Sandburg had done for the firm in Colorado hadn't been the "fantastic anthropological opportunity" it had been advertised to be. Experience told me it was likely tied up to some covert military operation; I'd once been assigned to help guard cultural artifacts as they were being transported out of a war zone, supposedly to "save" them. I knew better now, but I'd been so naive then, and I was sure Sandburg had been the same.
I just wish to God his innocence hadn't been taken so; it meant I'd failed as his Blessed Protector, again. Realistically I knew there were only so many things I could control, but it didn't stop me from wanting to make Sandburg's life easier. I owed him so much, more than I could ever say. If it wasn't for him, I knew I wouldn't be here now.
This wasn’t the first time he’d bolted, but he usually came back long before I had to go looking for him.
“You planning on telling me why you got spooked this time?”
Now he turned to face me and shrugged. “Too many people. Needed some air. Franklin was harassing me about being your boytoy. Pick one.”
“You told Franklin to shove it, didn’t you?”
Again with the shrug. “You know we’ve been fighting that gossip for years. Didn’t see the point. He's a redneck; what he's doing in Major Crimes is beyond me.”
“You know, you used to be better at telling people off and turning them into your friend.”
He laughed humorlessly. “Yeah, well, maybe I learned when to shut up, and Franklin's so not worth my friendship.” In the light cast by the street lamps, he studied me. “I’m okay, Jim.”
“Yeah? So why are you here and not in the truck, going home with me?”
A faint smile curved his lips. “It’s statements like that, Jim, that cause people like Franklin to leap to conclusions,” he admonished me as we started towards the truck. “You so do not help sometimes.”
“Me?” I feigned innocence.
He just shook his head, not willing to rise to the bait. His exhaustion spoke to me, and I let the subject drop for the moment. We had four days off; I wanted to spend it making sure my Guide got some much-needed rest. Everything else could wait, for now.
Comments welcome, either via email or at my journal.