Here's a quickie to let you know I'm still writing for the fandom. Should be a few more along shortly.
Hope you enjoy!
Do they know?
Do they know how worried we are?
Do they know how hard we're praying for them?
Do they know how tired I am of being in this position? Of waiting for word of their survival? Why do they do this? Why do they take these chances with their lives? Don't they know they're my best team? Don't they know they're my friends? Don't they know I truly care? Apparently not, or they wouldn't put me through this crap on what seems like a weekly basis. I have a son I need to worry about. I have other officers, other friends, other relatives who need my attention. Yet, the majority of my attention finds its way to these two. What's a captain supposed to do?
"The machinery is here, Captain."
I nod and turn my head toward the sophisticated digging equipment that's just arrived. Then I turn back toward the collapsed quarry where my two detectives are presumably buried. They hadn't been working a simple case, but it shouldn't have ended like this. A kidnapping. A little girl. Two grieving parents. Well, it looked to me like two grieving parents, but there was something about the father that had Jim edgy from the beginning. I thought maybe it had to do with his own background, his shaky relationship with his father. I mean, there were similarities. Dave Pinter was a businessman like William Ellison. Pinter had two kids. Pinter had to be dragged from "an important meeting" to be informed of his daughter's disappearance. I didn't like his attitude either, but I didn't think it was evidence of guilt.
Jim did. And Blair agreed with him. I should have known they were right. If Jim had just been reacting to his own past, Blair would have called him on it. He's good at that, keeping his partner in check. I'd thought it was going to be the other way around when it began. Jim keeping the little hippy from bungling crime scenes. Hell, that seems so long ago now. Even before I found out Jim hadn't had any contact with his mother or his mother's people in decades, I didn't buy that "cousin" crap they'd tried to sell me that first day. Cousins, my Aunt Fanny. But I was reluctant to turn down the request for ride-along status. It was the first sign that maybe my lone wolf detective was going to leave his private woods and rejoin civilization. After Pendergrast's disappearance, Ellison had put up these barriers that even his wife Carolyn couldn't get through. If these barriers were coming down, I didn't want to give him an excuse to start nailing them back into place.
So, I let the civilian start on the paperwork. Then all hell broke loose. Daryl, Joel, Rhonda, Sandburg, and the others were trapped in the station with those crazy Sunrise Patriots. That son of a bitch Kincaid dangling Daryl out of the window like some kind of bug. Jim telling me some nonsense about special senses. It had been a wild ride, but had ended with my son in my arms and Jim with a partner.
Who knew it was going to be a permanent partnership? The kid was writing a paper. Ellison had the patience of an angry hornet. I gave it a couple of weeks, maybe a few months, if Ellison truly had to get a handle on his heightened senses. Now, here it is five years later, and the kid really is one of my detectives. He's brilliant, especially when it comes to discerning motive or finding a pattern in a crime spree. He's also intensely protective of his partner. The things he's done to keep that man safe....
"We're ready to start, Captain."
Despite my initial protests, they had started to investigate Pinter. Because I didn't want a Jon Benet Ramsey on my hands, I backed off and let them do their job. It soon grew ugly. The Pinters resented being investigated, and took their complaints to the press. Parents' Rights groups appeared out of the woodwork to accuse the department of shoddy work, of focusing on the parents instead of finding Deanna Pinter and her kidnapper. The mayor ordered me to take Ellison and Sandburg off the case. Instead, I assigned two more detectives, and left my own personal dynamic duo to do as they saw fit. The next day they had uncovered Dave Pinter's mountainous gambling debt and the multi-thousand dollar policy he'd taken out on his daughter just a month before her disappearance.
By the time we had a warrant in hand, Pinter had fled. But one of these days the criminal element's going to have to realize that you can't buck a determined Sentinel on your tail. Jim tracked Pinter hard, almost zoning several times despite his Guide's constant presence. Both men were wrung out by the time they called to tell me they'd found Pinter at a gravel quarry out in the far northern corner of the county. I raced to get people out there, but I was slowed by having to coordinate with the Sheriff's Department. By the time back-up arrived, there had been some kind of slide in the quarry, and the only way I knew I was in the right place was by the blue and white pickup parked at a crazy angle outside the fence surrounding the area.
I sent officers everywhere, trying to find them somewhere other than where I knew they were. Hope springs eternal, but at some point, it dies. It was after the dogs had bayed into the rocky pit, that I'd called in the digging crews. Between them and the dogs, they would find my missing detectives. But, heaven help me, I don't think I want them to be found. Without the physical evidence, I can still dream, still hypothesize, still lie to myself about their fate. What had Danny Glover said in those Lethal Weapon movies? Yeah, I'm too old for this shit.
"They got a body."
I lean back heavily against the hood of my car. Dear Lord. I wonder which one it is. But does it really matter? Because I know the other one will be found nearby. Probably even touching if possible. They have a very tactile relationship. An odd one for men in this day and age, but once I got over the initial shock of finding out my keen detective was even keener than I realized, the touching was already ordinary. That's why I hated watching them destruct when Alex Barnes came into the picture. It was like viewing a train wreck in slow motion. Blair had been stuck on the track, confused and paralyzed by his partner's actions, and Jim had been barreling onward, powered by some instinctive hatred of his fellow Sentinel and an equally powerful force which told him he was dangerous to his Guide. The crash had been as spectacular as I'd feared. Blair floating in the fountain at the university; Jim yelling his anguish as the paramedics gave up on his partner. Then the unexplainable had happened and--
"It's Pinter, sir."
My hand shook with relief as I reached up to wipe my face.
"He's pretty messed up. The gravel-- it broke every bone in his body, Captain."
Shit. How badly had they suffered? Maybe they'd been unconscious when the rocks rained down upon them. Did God share mercy like that anymore? At times Jim could barely tolerate clothing on his skin. What must the rocks have felt like to the Sentinel? Had he screamed? Had his Guide reached for him, trying to help him manage the pain?
Maybe it was better this way, better that they'd died together than apart. This way I don't have to see the slow decline of the remaining one. Was it so inevitable that they couldn't survive without each other? Not really. Sandburg would eventually recover. He wouldn't be the same man, probably would just sort of close up, keep people at arms length for a while...maybe forever. And Jim? I worry about him so much. I meant it when I asked him if he could do without Sandburg. I remember right before I was shot that he was saying something about wanting everything to be the way it was before Sandburg. I knew he didn't mean it, because he wasn't whole without the kid. Not only had the Sentinel been kept in the darkness, but some part of Jim Ellison had been, too. After finding out some of his background-- Damn that had been a shock, discovering the man had a brother and a father in Cascade. I knew Jim was a tight-mouthed bastard, but how can you work with someone and not know a damn thing about his personal life? Anyway, after seeing his reactions to his brother and father, I sorta understood some of the walls he'd put up. But Sandburg had just waltzed in and tumbled them one by one.
"The dogs have another scent."
I hear their excited yapping, and I curse it. I know they're just doing their jobs, but a moment like this deserves some solemnity. Jim would understand that. Jim valued a good silence as much as I. Why, then, did he still live with Sandburg? I think it's because Blair's noise was a type of silence for Jim. It was peaceful, soothing, a safe place for him. No. I really don't think Jim would have lasted long after losing Blair. I just don't think he'd have the heart for living anymore.
"Sir! They're calling for the paramedics! Someone's alive down there!"
I have to be looking at the two luckiest people in the world. The third one is down in the Pediatric Ward. Little Deanna Pinter is sleeping quietly with her mother at her side thanks to my detectives, and in part, to her father. He'd buried her in a metal trunk with an oxygen tank. That metal coffin had protected the three of them when the slide began. Blair had been found with the girl tucked in his arms, and Jim had been on top of them. The two on the bottom had suffered bruises. Jim's ribs had cracked as the lid of the box had been battered by the gravel. All were going to recover.
Some people would call the outcome of this situation deus ex machina, a derogatory term showing the disbelief of the hand of God swooping down to save the heroes. I call it God's grace, and I'm thankful for it. In fact, I stepped into the hospital's chapel and spent a few minutes making sure He knew just how grateful I was.
I leave my position in the doorway and move to the side of one of the beds. "Jim's fine," I whisper.
"That's Captain Banks to you, Detective," I tease, hoping that the little bit of normalcy will make him understand I'm telling the truth. He knows I would never tease him if Jim was in danger.
"Your 'other' home."
He sighs, and I resist the urge to brush away a curl that dances across his forehead. However, I will admit that I'm glad to see his hair growing long again.
"Cascade General," he says, his eyes trying to see into the dimly lit room.
"A one-room suite for two," I reply, stepping back to let him see the other bed.
"Broken ribs. A nasty gash on his back. Nothing out of the ordinary."
"Sleeping down the hall. You and she will be released tomorrow. Jim'll have to stay a couple of extra days."
"We don't know whether he was going to release her, or was just making sure she wouldn't be found before he left town," Blair reports, and I realize what a good officer he has become.
"Doesn't matter, Sandburg. It's over. Just rest, okay?"
"Okay." He obediently closes his eyes. I wait exactly three seconds. The lids pop open again on schedule. "Thank you, sir," he says softly.
"For what?" I ask.
"For being here. For being there. You're our backup. We couldn't do it without you. Wouldn't want to."
The blue-gray eyes close again and this time I know he's asleep. I watch the two of them for a while, then go join the other members of my Major Crime Unit in the waiting room. They should have gone home. But they wanted word from me that their friends were going to be fine. Like I had the final say-so in such matters. I give them the word, and we all disperse.
As I stand at my car, looking back toward the hospital, I realize that my questions have been answered. They know we worry. They know we pray for them. They know I get tired of waiting to find out if they've survived their latest "incident", that I'm their friend, that I care. But they also know why they take these risks. And why they can't stop. And why I'll never force them to stop.
Yes. They know.
And I do too.
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