A Safe Place by akablonded

A Safe Place - akablonded

We all have many histories. Those real, those imagined, and those refashioned by want, by need, by the glow of longing, and the fog of regret.

Would have. Could have. Should have.

It was the same with Jim Ellison, former Army Ranger, present-day detective, and Sentinel, a man with five extraordinary senses. One who could see, hear, taste, smell and touch, like few others on earth.

But to a man so alone, none of these powers seemed to matter much.

Detective Jim Ellison saw them all in the faded tapestry of his life as a Sentinel, as he distractedly shook the old snow globe in his hand. Its two small inhabitants, a wolf and panther, were surprisingly new-looking, considering how long the gift had sat on a living room shelf next to artifacts from a different time. A should have time. He could almost hear the tiny pieces of porcelain cascading past the animals, the only sound breaking the silence around him. Not total silence. There was the sound of his own heartbeat, proving he was alive. There was the white noise of traffic, televisions, I-pods, cell phones, and the chatter of nameless, faceless people on the street below hurrying to and from their own lives. All seemed oblivious to the solitary resident of Apartment 307, 852 Prospect, a building largely abandoned during the holiday season. Other apartment dwellers had begun their respective pilgrimages to different homes and Christmas destinations. What was it that someone* once said? "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned."

Jim Ellison knew no such place. No matter where he landed, it wasn't home. Just four walls, furniture and emptiness.

Why? Because years ago, he had denied his heart to someone who asked for it, a special someone who would have truly cherished it, cared for it, and washed it in love every day.

Now, Blair Sandburg was on another coast, lost to Ellison as surely as he'd fallen off the face of the earth.

It had all been stubborn, unbending, fearful Jim Ellison's fault. A "no" to friendship," no" to love and "no" to practically everything finally worn his former partner down. Blair had no choice. He resigned from the police department and walked out. Ran out, as fast as his small bank account and overworked credit cards would allow. Back to teaching anthropology and writing, a particular talent he always nurtured. At least, that worked out spectacularly. His fiction series -- detective stories featuring a cop with special abilities -- were stunningly successful. On any particular week, Ellison could glimpse his former roommate in a book review and, now and then, a YouTube video clip, or Facebook entry.

Outside of that, Jim only heard about Sandburg through third-parties: detectives Joel Taggart, Megan Connor, and former Captain Simon Banks, although that was filtered through the prism of Banks' son, Daryl.

God, the loft was unbearable, with its smattering of cards, a string of LED lights, and a tree that even Charley Brown would reject. I shouldn't have decorated for the holidays. I shouldn't have gone to the PD's Christmas party or my brother Steven's get-together. I shouldn't have been drinking this past weekend. And I sure as hell shouldn't have taken that call from Naomi Sandburg. Naomi, Blair's beautiful, ditzy, yoga-practicing, vegetarian-munching mother had phoned on her way to yet another spiritual retreat. West Virginia? West Yemen? Ellison had stopped listening after her Solstice/Hanukkah/Christmas greeting. She'd chattered away brilliantly and blithely, sharing a myriad of disparate stories. And the conversation was made depressingly complete not only by a reference to "processing," but also to what her amazing son was doing. "Sweetie, you'll never guess! Blair sold his book rights to Paramount! Even though I don't agree with the entire construct of material wants and needs, I spent a week at a sweat log in New Mexico meditating and I'm content now with his decision. I'm sure he'll tell you all about it."

There were a million things Jim Ellison could have said. Don't you know, Naomi? Didn't the mother ship tell you the last time they beamed you aboard? Your son and I don't talk. We don't call or email one another. We don't do ... anything. He only managed: "It's been good talking to you, Naomi, but I have to go. Take care of yourself. Happy New Year."

Then he ended the call. Jim Ellison looked at his smart phone and thought grimly that it was the smartest thing in the room.

I shouldn't have let Blair walk away.

What was worse, Ellison's Sentinel powers -- still as strong as they were in the beginning -- acted as daily reminders of what could have been and what he'd lost. The good he accomplished as a police officer using these remarkable gifts seemed empty and hollow. What did Gabe** ask so many years ago? "What good does it do for a man to have ears that will hear a thousand miles if he cannot listen to the whispers of his own heart? You should begin by listening to the hearts of others."

Was it too late? No. It wasn't. It couldn't be. As a Special Ops Army Ranger, Ellison was sure of one thing: "If you're still breathing, it's not over." Jim picked up his car keys, a small overnight bag kept packed and ready by the door, and started plotting out strategy: getting to the airport, parking the truck, guessing which airline might have a last-minute cancellation on flights to New York City. He touched the front door knob, just as the door bell rang and he was hit with a wave of ... what? Staggering for a split second, he opened the door to see Blair Sandburg standing there. Shorter hair, thicker waist, with small, crinkled lines around the still-startling blue eyes. Eyes that looked the same as they had that first day at the hospital, when "Dr. McKay" had bounced into his Examination Room and established a beachhead in Jim Ellison's troubled life -- and waiting heart.

Both stood looking at one another, mute and incredulous.

Blair spoke first.

"Hey, man. I was just in the neighborhood ..."

"Long walk from Fordham, Sandburg."

"Well, yeah. So, can I ..."

"Come in? Sure. Chief --"

Jim Ellison dropped his keys and bag, and grabbed Blair Sandburg by the lapels of a very expensive cashmere jacket. He yanked the smaller man inside the apartment, lowered his handsome face, kissing the unexpected Christmas visitor hesitantly, chastely. Gauging Sandburg's reaction -- one of surprised but happy acceptance -- Ellison kissed him again.

And again.

And again.

They kissed hungrily for several minutes, even as Jim muttered "I'm so sorry" and "I was afraid" and "forgive me" and "stay" and, most importantly, "I never stopped loving you."

They kissed thankfully, even as Blair whispered "I know" and "I know" and "yes" and "you'll never get rid of me again" and "I never stopped loving you, either, you big jerk."

Tangled in one another's space and souls, the two men maneuvered toward and collapsed onto the sofa. As they prepared to make love for the first time, Jim Ellison knew that he was finally in the safest of places: home.

Across the miles and the years, Blair Sandburg had brought it with him.

The end

*Maya Angelou

**Gabe, the Angel, From The Sentinel episode, NIGHT SHIFT

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to all my fellow Mongoosians (editors, writers, betas, artists, et al) who continue to encourage me and one another. Ya gotta love ‘em!