Summary: Some things can haunt you long after an incident occurs.
Note: This is my attempt at writing a themefic for October, for the SentinelAngst List. For SA members, this story was titled 'Haunting' when I posted it to the List, and I did a tiny revision or two.
Warnings: Spoilers for one of the episodes (name of ep. at the end).
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.
Blair cringed at the blast of cold, wet rain that gusted through the door. The rain lashed at the scurrying pedestrians unmercifully so it was no surprise that he hesitated to step down off the bus. He once again questioned his decision, but traffic was backed up for blocks. Intersections were a snarled mess both ahead of them and behind as far as he could see, which wasn't far in this sideways rain. He couldn't stand on the steps forever so he shivered in anticipation and took the steps quickly. He headed for the side of the nearest building hoping to be sheltered a little from the gusts.
It didn't seem to help much. He had pulled up his collar and tucked in his hair before he got off the bus, but that didn't help much either. He gave a huge disgusted sigh and set off for Prospect Ave. It was going to be a long walk.
Blair took a moment to shift his backpack so that the straps were over his shoulders. He hoped it would help keep some warmth in, and some of the rain off. After the first block he wasn't sure it had done much good, but at least his arms were free to wrap around himself. That bit of extra warmth was welcome.
Pedestrians that had umbrellas weren't faring well either. Blair saw that some people had given up and just carried them under their arms, while some determined souls struggled with the wind. They huddled under umbrellas that were held tilted at extreme angles as they were buffeted by the wind.
Blair tried to dodge one such umbrella when it tilted uncontrollably toward him. When Blair dodged right, the other person was pulled in the same direction by the wind. The force of their collision was just enough to cause Blair to lose his footing on the slick pavement. The other person was able to right himself and continued on, but Blair had slipped and had automatically tried to catch himself on a railing. Blair's extra weight on a sodden flower box was enough to knock it from it's fastenings. He pulled the box down on top of him, spilling its contents of water, mud, and dead flowers.
Blair laid there for a moment as he tried to breathe through the pain. It seemed that he hurt all over. The backpack, which he normally carried over one shoulder, had overbalanced him. He'd fallen backward and he'd hit his elbows and his tailbone, and of course he had landed on a backpack filled with books and papers. But he soon discovered the worst pain was in his forearm, at the point where the flower box had landed. The pain made him gasp and caused him to involuntarily curl around the center of the pain.
He lay panting for several minutes, as he tried to get his bearings, and decide the next move. He glanced around but now the sidewalk seemed deserted. The walkers around him had completely ignored the flannel and jean clad young man sprawled at their feet. Blair shook his head in disbelief that not one person had even asked if he was okay.
With his good hand he shifted the box off his arm, and the ache in his right arm was immediately clamoring for his full attention. He felt the forearm carefully, and the pain almost made him pass out. When the pain eased, he probed the arm again, but more carefully. He couldn't detect a break, but he could wiggle his fingers. That was a relief because it meant that at least something still worked in there.
Unfortunately he was still blocks from Prospect, and the traffic was still not moving. He glanced at the cars in the lane nearest the sidewalk, but it was hard to see past the rain fogged windows.
He reluctantly pulled out his phone and dialed Jim.
Blair couldn't help but feel a rush of warmth at the no-nonsense tone, “Hey, Jim. It's, uh, me.”
“Sandburg? Why are you out in the rain?”
Blair grinned despite his situation, “You can tell? That's cool.”
“Sandburg, it's pouring. What's the problem?”
“Oh, well, traffic on Prospect is at a standstill. And, you see, I was on the bus and it was just sitting there at the light where it intersects with Main, so I got off.”
“That's ten blocks, Chief. How far have you gotten?”
“Well, two. But there's a problem.”
Blair couldn't hear the sigh over the rain, but he heard the silence.
“Tell me, Sandburg.”
“Well, I think I brokemyarm.”
“Did you say broke - your - arm? What happened? Is someone with you? Was there an accident?”
“I'm okay, it's just my arm. It hurts, that's all. I wasn't in an accident, unless a run-in with an umbrella counts.”
“Never mind. I'm just cold and wet, and my arm hurts. With the traffic at a standstill it would take you an hour just to get to me, so there's no use in you getting cold and wet, too. I'm going to head back to the loft and you can check my arm out later. It's probably just bruised anyway.”
“You know an x-ray would be best.”
“Jim,” Blair sighed the word dejectedly, “I'm sitting on the sidewalk. Rain is dripping down my neck. I'm covered in muck, and I just want to get home and clean and dry. If it's broken, I'll go to the ER later.”
“Eight blocks,” and another unheard sigh and noticed silence, then, “Alright, Chief. But call me when you get home.”
Blair relaxed a bit, “I'll call, Jim. You know me.”
“Yes, I do. 'Call' me.”
Blair felt better just hearing the calm, concerned voice. “I'll call, man.”
Blair was glad he'd called, even though Jim couldn't do anything about the situation. He hadn't wanted to worry him, but it was best to check in sometimes if things went wrong. He'd heard too many stories at the PD about loved ones gone missing. The regrets people voiced that if someone had only called, or if someone had checked up on a friend or family member a little sooner, then the trail wouldn't have been so cold that there was little hope of finding them. Or it wouldn't have already been too late.
How did someone deal with that? He didn't want Jim to have to deal with it. The recent situation with Lash had been painful for them both. Blair had regrets. He regretted that he hadn't called when he'd felt uneasy on campus. It 'had' been Lash that he'd seen, but Blair had brushed off the feeling of danger. And then Jim had received the phone message from Blair too late, and so Blair was almost Lash's latest 'friend'.
'Well, enough with the bad memories,' Blair thought. He pushed himself up, grabbing the railing to keep on his feet. When he was steady, he readjusted the backpack and eased his right hand into the front of his jacket. If it was broken, he should keep it protected.
He was beginning to feel flushed, and his shivering just wouldn't stop. He thought he might have a mild case of shock. Jim wouldn't be happy that he hadn't mentioned it. He looked around hoping to find a coffee shop, but the only one he could remember was just a block from home. The stores that were still open would be getting ready to close soon, since it was almost five. It would be best to just head home. So that's what he did, determinedly putting one foot in front of the other.
It worked for a while, but his exhaustion grew and the ache in his arm became more insistent. When he studied his surroundings again he noticed that the evening traffic had begun to move once more. He quickly scanned the street looking for his bus, knowing that it would be better to get on again since he was only half way home, but he was out of luck on that score. He'd missed it. It was already at the next corner. He impulsively decided to try for it, and broke into a jog, but stopped after only a couple of steps. He gasped at the pain the movement awakened in his arm. He curled around it protectively for only a moment, but when he looked up the bus was pulling out.
Just then a man with long, wet, curly hair, wearing a soggy flannel jacket and jeans ran up and banged twice on the door. The bus lurched a bit, but stopped to let the man on. The man stopped with one foot on the bottom step and looked around. It seemed that his gaze stopped on Blair, then he turned and climbed quickly aboard the bus.
Blair's breath faltered briefly, then he berated himself, “I'm too cold, and too wet, and that's what I get for thinking too much about Lash.” Blair shivered again and headed down the sidewalk.
He walked on, holding his arm as steady as he could. A raincoat clad figure brushed by him, nudging the injured arm enough to make the pain flare once again. Blair stepped aside to lean against the wall of a building. He tried his best to breathe through the pain and when he felt a little better, he straightened up. A poster was tacked on the wall, and one upper corner was flapping in the gusts of wind and rain. It wasn't until the top corner was pushed up by a gust, that he saw that it was for Club Doom. He was so startled that he gasped in surprise.
Blair muttered to himself, “This was just a coincidence. Nothing more. Get over it!” He walked away, but not without one more glance over his shoulder.
Three more blocks to go. Right foot, left foot. Just keep going, Blair told himself. He passed more and more shops that were closing for the night. He kept thinking about how nice it would be to stop in one of the shops for just a few minutes, but then he'd think that he'd just have to go out into the cold and rain again. He was so close now that he really just wanted to get home, so his decision wasn't that hard. He moved on but still glanced longingly into the shops as he passed.
The woman in one window stood with arms crossed as she stared out into the rain. She saw Blair, and gave him a little smile. She did a little mock shudder, to show that she sympathized with his cold-and-wet appearance. Blair just stumbled away in shock. She had dark hair curled softly just below her chin, and had a silky yellow scarf tied casually around her neck.
That was Blair's last straw. He took off running, nothing would stop him now, not the cold, not the rain, not the pain in his arm. He was running on adrenaline and fear. He ran the nearly three blocks until he was home. He fumbled with the outer door, ran to the stairs and up to 307, and the pain goaded him with every step. He fumbled with the keys, moaning in terror and pain as he stared wildly around the hallway until finally he was in. Then he struggled with the recalcitrant inner locks to secure it again. He then switched on the lights and hurriedly scanned the room.
“Lash is dead. Lash is dead. Lash is 'really' dead. It's just a coincidence,” he muttered unconvincingly, even to himself, so he went to grab his baseball bat.
After that frantic burst of energy he really needed to sit down but he fought it, forcing himself to stand ready to repel an intruder. But it didn't take long for his exhaustion, the warmth of the loft, and the pain to conspire to make him drowsy and even more confused. He dimly knew that he wasn't thinking clearly, but his energy was spent. He lowered himself to the floor and leaned against the end of the kitchen island, with his weapon held close.
“Simon, could I speak to you for a minute?”
Simon glanced up and saw the serious look on Jim's face. “What's the problem, Jim?”
“Well, Sandburg called an hour ago. He said he was hurt, but not badly. He said he was going to finish walking back to the loft because of a traffic jam.” Jim sighed in exasperation, but Simon could clearly see that he was worried, too.
“An hour. And he isn't there yet, I take it,” said Simon.
“I told him to call when he got there. He doesn't answer the phone at the loft or his cell. I'm worried. I checked with Dispatch, and there were a couple of accidents on Prospect. No one seemed to know if someone of Sandburg's description was involved. I was going to check with the hospitals, but you know those accident scenes can be congested, especially in this weather. They did say that traffic was moving again, but the EMT's could still be stabilizing their patients at the scene.”
Simon nodded thoughtfully. He stood and motioned Jim to follow him. He saw Henri Brown at his desk, and Rafe had just entered from the breakroom with coffee. “Brown, you and Rafe start calling the hospitals. There were accidents on Prospect Avenue and Sandburg's not answering his phone. See what you can find out.”
“Right away, Captain,” and Brown and his partner were already reaching for their phones.
“Connor, check with Rainier. He wasn't headed that way, but Jim said he'd been injured slightly. He might be confused.”
“Yes, Sir,” and Megan pulled out her phone listings.
“Joel, would you check with Dispatch again? When Jim talked with them, there'd been nothing about Sandburg, but that information could come through anytime.”
“Of course, Simon,” Joel said as he turned on his heel and headed down the hall.
“Jim, you head on home. If we hear anything we'll call. And if 'you' hear anything, or need anything, just say the word.”
“Thanks, Simon. I appreciate it.”
“Go. Hopefully Sandburg will have fallen asleep as soon as he got home, and didn't hear the phone.”
“Yes, Sir,” said Jim, obviously not convinced by Simon's words.
was sitting on the floor and leaning against the end of the kitchen
island when Jim's pounding woke him.
“Jim?” he asked softly. Running on instinct, he knew that Jim could easily hear him with that enhanced sense.
“It's me. Open up.”
Blair stood unsteadily, but kept his 'weapon' near by, leaning it against the wall. He fumbled at the locks and finally got them open.
When Jim saw him, his worry increased, and it was already 'dialed up'. “Sandburg, you were supposed to call!”
Blair didn't answer except to reach down for the bat and glance fearfully out the still open door.
Jim glanced out the door, too, as he wondered what Blair was expecting to see, but Jim didn't see or hear anything except their neighbors. When he glanced back at Blair, his worry meter spiked once again. Blair's breathing was shallow, one hand was tucked into his coat, and his face was flushed.
Jim closed the door and set one of the locks, then turned to Blair. “Hey, Chief, why don't you let me have that?” Blair just looked at him in confusion when Jim eased the bat out of his hand. “Come on. Let's get you into the shower, you're soaked and half frozen. Later we'll have to have a talk about that puddle on the floor.”
Jim had expected that statement to provoke some kind of reaction from Blair but he didn't seem like he'd even heard him. He led Blair into the bathroom. He started to help undress Blair, starting with the backpack, but that provoked a moan from Blair and he pulled his right hand close to his chest. The pain seemed to bring Blair back to awareness.
“Ow, ow, ow. Ouch! Jim don't touch it.”
“Chief, I need to get your things off, and then I need to check it out. It could be broken.”
“It sure feels bad enough to be broken,” Blair mumbled as he reluctantly let Jim finish peeling off his coat and then his outer shirt. Then Jim carefully eased his soaked tee shirt over his head. By that time Blair was biting his lip in pain.
“Okay, Chief. Take some deep breaths for me. I don't need you fainting on me.”
Blair looked at him from under his lashes and said shakily, “Blair Sandburg does not 'faint'.” He even managed a wan smile.
Jim grinned back, “Okay, Buddy. It's good to see you're back with me. Now, I need to touch that arm. Take a good deep breath for me and let it out. Slow and easy.”
Blair clamped his eyes shut at the pain, and moaned softly. “Sorry, Jim,” he whispered.
Jim shook his head in exasperation, “You've got a broken arm, Sandburg. Nothing to be sorry about.”
Blair's shoulders suddenly slumped, “Oh, man. You're going to make me go back out in this rain aren't you? To the ER.”
“Well, it stopped raining. It's snowing now.”
“What!” Blair whined.
Jim wrapped Blair's arm with an elastic bandage, to secure a splint, then wrapped that in plastic, to keep it dry. Blair's temperature was lower than normal and he wasn't convinced that Blair was steady enough to take a shower so he insisted on a bath. Blair didn't really care as long as it was as warm as he could stand it.
Blair soaked up as much warmth as he could. He had started to drift off when he heard Jim's voice on the phone. He was talking to Simon. He wondered foggily what they were talking about. He hoped he wasn't calling Jim in to work, although Jim would be going out again anyway if he insisted that Blair go to the ER. He dreaded the thought of going back outside, but knew he had no choice, not with Jim Ellison, Blessed Protector, on duty. He had to admit though that after Jim had wrapped the broken arm to keep it stable, the pain had eased some. He might as well resign himself to that trip to the ER.
He eased himself carefully out of the bath and dried himself off as best he could. He found dry clothes laid out for him; Jim's work again. He struggled into the blue sweats without too much difficulty and went out to find that Jim had soup and sandwiches on the table. Blair's stomach was a little queasy with the pain but the soup turned out to be very welcome.
Blair sat back with a satisfied sigh. “Jim, thanks for the supper, man. I know it was my turn to cook.”
“With you having only one good hand, I think I'm going to be cooking a lot. I hope you like Wonderburger.”
“Ohhhhh yes,” Jim smirked.
Blair just groaned and hung his head.
Jim pushed his own bowl back and leaned onto his crossed arms, “Chief. What was going on with the baseball bat? You were really out of it when I got here.”
Blair looked confused for a moment. Then a faint blush could be seen on his face. “Oh. That.”
Jim just waited.
Blair looked at him, hoping he'd let it go. 'Nope, not a chance,' Blair thought. “Well, it's kind of silly. After I called you, I saw someone that looked like Lash. Well, like me really. I mean, it reminded me of Lash dressed like me.”
“Lash?! Do you think someone's after you again? Why didn't you say something right away? I'll call this in ...”
“No, no! Jim, it was a coincidence. Really. I had just called you, and I got to thinking about that call I made the night Lash ... got to me, and my imagination took off.”
“Just because you saw someone that looked like you?”
“Well ... no. But remember, this is all just coincidental,” Blair said warningly, “Right after that, I saw a poster for Club Doom, and then there was this woman in a store. She looked a little like Susan Frasier. She was just looking out at the storm and she had this yellow scarf on, and I probably scared her more than she scared me ...”
Jim interrupted his story, and Blair was glad he had when he realized that he was getting himself all wound up again. “I'm okay, man. But see what I mean, all that stuff was just a coincidence. Really,” Blair stated firmly.
“Okay,” said Jim quietly.
“That's it? Okay?”
“And tonight they were just coincidental events.”
“If you say it's coincidental, then it probably is.”
“Wait a minute. Probably?” Blair squeaked.
Jim just watched him calmly, and Blair finally relaxed.
“Sure. Of course,” said Blair. “A coincidence.”
“Good. I'll get your shoes and then we can go to the ER.”
Blair slumped, and said unconvincingly, “It doesn't hurt that much.”
“Come on, Darwin. Shoes. ER. Cast. Night-night.”
Blair snorted incredulously, “Night-night? It's been a long time since I was two years old, man!”
Jim grinned as he elaborated, “Sandburg, we've been this route before. They'll give you pain meds and you'll be asleep before we even get home. I'm just hoping you can walk in under your own power. I'm the one that will be tucking you into bed tonight. Why do you think I put out your blue 'jammies'?”
Note: Spoilers for Cypher.