A Friend To Me

15 July 2000

By Suisan "Sue" R.

Disclaimers: <Sigh> That's right, as much I might wish otherwise, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg do not belong to me, but rather Pet Fly Productions and Paramount. But, should those two "owners" ever put the boys up on the auction block… I'll be first in line to 'bid' on Jim. <EG> However, I’m giving notice right now… If they ever put "sweetheart" up on the block -- SHE'S MINE! Got it? Good. (I'll challenge anyone to a duel that thinks they want "Sweetie" and, not to brag or anything, but I do have my Sharpshooter's Badge from my stint in the Sheriff's Department. <EG>)

As always, I'd like to take this time to thank my betas and editors -- Mary Shukes, and my co-writer -- CarolROI. Carol? Mary? You've both been great editors and heck of a couple of friends as well. And I'd like to take this time to thank BethB, who's been a great asset for both Carol and I while we were pounding out Immortal End Game. Beth? You're the best!

Spoilers: None that I can think of.

Feedback: Yes, but only if you really want to. Private or public.

Notes: This is my first attempt to take a song and write a story around the lines, I just hope that it works. Just in case some of you don't recognize the title of the song, also the title of this story, it's from the Garth Brooks album "Sevens" that was released in 1997. Victoria Shaw and Garth wrote the song, and when I first heard it I immediately thought of our favorite Sentinel and Shaman. Lyrics will appear in <<brackets>> throughout the story.

Warning: Mostly a PWP thing. That does mean "Plot? What plot?" Right?

 

A Friend To Me

 

Detective James "Jim" Ellison wasn't in a very good mood when he finally made it down to the garage and his beloved truck. Twelve hours spent working the interview of a suspected child molester and killer had turned up squat, until Brian Rafe had come up with the idea of using a prop during the interview. They had allowed the suspect to be taken back to the holding cells for dinner and Rafe had taken the hour and a half the man was gone, to prepare the interview room.

When the suspect was brought back into the room, and reappraised of his signed waiver to wave counsel, the 25-year-old was confronted with photos of the 9-year-old victim. A heavy plumbers wrench lay on the table, just off to his side, while Jim and Rafe continued their questioning.

The man had tried to keep his eyes from wandering to the weapon, bagged in a clear evidence bag and still covered in blood and long blond hair from the victim, but in the end he couldn't stop himself. After an hour had gone by, being pounded by two detectives, facing the photos of little Kaylee Johns, he cracked. He spilled out the whole sordid tale of how he'd enticed the young child into his home with a story about having a litter of puppies he needed to find homes for. He tried to 'seduce' the child and when she started to cry, not understanding what he wanted, he'd hit her, over and over again with his fists, until he had killed her. Wrapping her up in a blanket, he drove her to a remote section of town where he dumped her body. Afterwards, he had taken the wrench to her skull and tried to set up the scene to look like a sexual assault gone wrong.

Jim had had a hard time holding back his disgust, his anger and his stomach contents. Timothy Deffenbaugh had related the story so calmly, with little or no care for the pain he'd caused his young victim to suffer that Ellison had literally seen red. He wanted, no -- he NEEDED to pulverize the man into a spineless puddle of putrefied flesh. Brian Rafe had done what most officers would consider impossible -- he'd managed to pull an enraged Ellison out of the room before the senior detective could do anything to the confessed killer.

Several hours later, after filing his reports on the case and the interview, and stopping to thank Rafe for keeping him from doing something stupid, Jim climbed into his "sweetheart" and cranked over the engine. The radio was on the fritz, refusing to pick up his favorite 'classic rock' station, and he had to settle for the one station he could pull in on the AM band.

Well you and I are buddies, and we've been since we first met.

 Me and you, well, we've sure been through our share of laughter and regret.

Lord knows we've had our bad days, and more than once we've disagreed,

but you've always been a friend to me.

Finding his thoughts turning to his roommate, his guide and brother in spirit, Jim Ellison found himself starting to relax his death-grip on the steering wheel as he turned for home. The song seemed to speak to him about his friendship with Blair Sandburg. After all they had been through, the younger man had never given up on him, even when others would've run off, screaming, into the Cascade Mountain range, never to be seen or heard from again. Even when Sandburg wasn't right by his side, the man's presence was always there for Jim, grounding him in reality, pulling him back from doing something ill-advised and foolish.

And there was that fight they'd had the other night. He'd said some things he never should have said, wounding his 'partner' with words in a way that no one had ever hurt Blair before. Even when he took into consideration all the times Blair had been shot, shot at, bludgeoned, drugged and roughed up beyond belief, none of those criminals had ever caused the student to physically shake while trying to hold his temper. To make matters worse, if it hadn't been for the conviction Jim had heard in Blair's voice as he insisted that Jim and Rafe look into the background of one Timothy Deffenbaugh, the murder of Kaylee Johns would still be open. Instead, the murderer was sitting behind bars where he couldn't hurt another child. Blair was right. And Jim had to find a way to tell his best friend just that.

He listened to the rest of the country and western song, wanting to learn who the artist was so that he could look into possibly buying the album as he drove home. "Never thought I'd find myself listening to, or liking, a country song, " Jim muttered to himself as he turned onto Prospect Avenue and an idea started to take form in his head.


Blair Sandburg couldn't believe his luck. He had been able to get out of proctoring one test, only to get saddled with another. All he wanted to do was get through his day and join Jim Ellison at the station to help the man look for the killer of 9-year-old Kaylee Johns. 'Whoops, shouldn't even think about that,' the student chastised himself as his stomach rolled in warning.

To top things off, after the tests were administered and turned in, Sidney had called a meeting of all the Anthropology TA's. The meeting had gone on for hours. So, instead of being able to get to the station before Jim called it a day and headed home, Blair had been caged in Hargrove Hall all day long. It bothered him.

He'd come up with a theory that the little girl's killer had to have been someone she either knew from her neighborhood, or maybe even a family member. That thought had made him really ill. That had been two days ago, three days after Kaylee's parents had called in the missing persons report. A construction crew, working on renovating an old warehouse down by the wharf, had found the girl's body one day later. And while Blair knew that Brian Rafe was backing Jim, he worried about the sentinel. There were so many things that could cause the man to 'zone-out,' and Rafe wouldn't know what to do in that situation.

But, no. He had to sit in on students of Anthro101, making sure that no one cheated on the tests. Then the rest of his day was ruined by inane meetings that basically covered the same ol' crap that they always did. He'd managed to get a few minutes to call Major Crimes, to let Jim know that he'd been detained, but he didn't think he would be this late.

Pulling his car keys out of his pocket, Blair walked towards his Volvo under the sodium lights and the faint moonlight of a waxing early spring moon. Dumping his backpack in the passenger seat as he climbed into the car, he turned over the engine and winced as the radio blared to life.

You can be so stubborn, there's times that I think you just like to fight.

And I hope and pray that I live to see the day when you say I might be right.

And there's times I'd rather kill you, than listen to your honesty.

But you've always been a friend to me.

"Ain't that the truth." Jim and Blair had argued for hours about his theory that the neighbor a few doors down from the Johns' residence had to be considered a suspect. There had been reports filed with the patrol division from several people in the area that Timothy "Timmy" Deffenbaugh had been spending an 'inordinate' amount of time in the park, watching the children play, even though he had no kids and no steady girlfriend.

Jim had basically told him he was way off base with that line of reasoning. He'd even gone so far as to point out Blair's own habit of sitting in the park close to their home, watching the young women who gathered there. Blair had tried to argue the point away, stating it was normal behavior for a single, adult man to watch single adult women, scoping them out before deciding if they were approachable. Whereas watching young children with the same 'look' in your eyes was a sign that there was something to seriously worry about. When he'd asked Jim to just 'check the man to see if he has a record of voyeuristic crimes,' the detective had blown up at him, telling him to keep his 'psychobabble' theories to himself and quit trying to be a cop.

That had hurt. Deeply. But instead of getting into a knockdown, drag-out fight with his roommate, Blair had swallowed his pride and closed himself up in his room. Licking his bleeding soul as his mind played tricks on him, Blair thought he heard the whimpering cries of a wolf in distress while a large cat growled and snarled in the distance. The only balm to his wounded psyche had been hearing from Megan Connor, who'd taken his call to Major Crimes, that Jim and Rafe had brought in a suspect they thought 'looked good' for the murder. The suspect was Timothy Deffenbaugh.

Listening to the end of the country song and hearing the DJ announce the artist; a plan started to form in Blair's mind. A plan that would let Jim know that no matter what, he was always going to be his best friend.


Jim was surprised he made it home before his roommate, but that would work with the plan he had in mind. Sliding out of the truck, making sure to grab the small plastic bag from the music store, Jim headed up to his apartment. It was his turn to cook tonight, and while they didn't have the makings for spaghetti, they did have what he needed to make salmon cakes.

Entering the loft, he crossed over to the stereo system and, after unwrapping the new album, popped the CD into the player, turned it on and cranked the volume up to a comfortable level. He'd listen to the rest of the songs while fixing dinner.

A couple of the songs made Jim laugh, the first and the fifth ones in particular, while the last one simply made him shiver. Once the salmon patties were sizzling in the oil, he hunted for the stereo's remote and wasn't too surprised to find it tucked between the cushions of the couch, where Sandburg liked to sit while working on school papers or watching television. Sliding the remote into the rear pocket of the jeans he'd worn in to work, Jim finished up the cooking. Adding a mixture of vegetables and a side of wild rice, he was just about to place the plates into the oven to keep warm, when the jingling of keys outside the loft's door caught his attention.


Blair's luck hadn't improved over the course of the day, of that he was certain. The first store he'd stopped in had just sold the last copy of the album that he wanted. After the sales clerk called over to the store's other branch, halfway across town in the Cascade River Mall, they had only one copy of the album left and couldn't promise to hold it for him. So he'd busted a few traffic laws getting there in record time, thankful that he hadn't come across any of Cascade's finest while he broke those several laws. He got to the mall and bought the last remaining copy of Garth Brooks "Sevens" album just as a large, rough looking 'cowboy' came into the store searching for the same album. Paying for the CD, Blair boogied out of the store before the clerk who had helped him find the country album could point the cowboy in his direction.

Pulling into the parking area outside of the loft, Blair spotted the familiar blue and white Ford pickup and hoped his roommate had remembered it was his night to cook. If not, he decided not to get too picky if Jim had called out for delivery.

Slipping the small plastic bag containing the new CD into his backpack, Blair Sandburg made his way from the parking area to the side entrance of 852 Prospect Avenue. Stopping only long enough to check the mailbox, he made his way up the stairs to the third floor.

Juggling his backpack, the mail that was comprised of a few fishing magazines, a Law Enforcement Technology magazine and the monthly bills, he nearly dropped his keys and wasn't too surprised when his roommate opened the door.

"Hello, Chief. Hope you're hungry for fish of a sort." Jim reached out and relieved Blair of the mail and managed to catch the student's backpack before it, and the laptop it held, could hit the floor.

"Hey, Jim. Thanks, man." Stepping into the apartment, the odor of salmon hit his nose and his stomach grumbled in appreciation. "Smells good, salmon patties?" Taking his backpack from his friend's hand after slipping out of his windbreaker, Blair crossed over to his accustomed spot on the couch and started to look for the stereo's remote control.


Chuckling at the noise his guide's stomach had made, he could've sworn that he'd actually heard the words 'feedmeI'mhungry' issue forth from Blair's tummy. He tried not to notice his friend's frantic search for the remote. "Yeah, salmon cakes and from the sound I just heard from your belly, I won't have to worry about leftovers."

"Oh, man. I got so busy today I didn't get a chance to grab more than a couple of bottles of SunnyD between classes, meetings and grading papers." Jim watched as Blair raked his hands through his hair, a puzzled expression on his face as he turned to ask, "Jim? Have you seen the stereo remote?"

"Yeah. Why?" Jim placed the plates of food on the table as he answered. "Please don't tell me you brought home a new 'earth music' CD -- I'm not sure I could handle that noise right now." Besides, he was not about to relinquish the control until he was ready, and it just wasn't time.


Nearly bouncing over to the table, Blair sat down as he retorted, "It's not noise, Jim. It's music that soothes the soul, helps the mind and spirit become 'one' with the earth…" He started to attack his food with glee. It was rare that the detective would cook anything more complicated than spaghetti or tuna casserole, but the salmon patties were well done and tasty.

"Chief, I know you like that 'noise' and I have to admit, some of it's not too bad, but I don't think I could handle it right now." Jim was just reaching for his second patty when Blair managed to snag his third. The fact that his friend wasn't practically inhaling his food made the observant student think.

Dropping the salmon patty on his plate, he looked across the table at his friend, noting the fine lines that had appeared overnight on the sentinel's forehead. "Headache, huh? Probably tension induced. After we're done with dinner and I get the KP taken care of, I can try to work on your shoulders for you." He knew that there was a chance that Jim had already taken his daily allotment of Tylenol or aspirin and couldn't take any more. So the massage would probably help.

"Thanks, I'll take you up on the offer."

"No problem. Just part of my duties as a friend."


Blair didn't mind cleaning up the kitchen after Jim had cooked. The man was such a neat freak that he really cleaned up as he went along. The mixing bowl, the measuring spoons, cutting board, knives and most of the pots and pans had already been washed and stacked in the drying rack so that all that was really left to wash up was the serving plates and other stuff they had eaten off of.

As he finished up, he couldn't help but notice that Jim had retired to the couch and was watching the local news cast, albeit with the volume turned down so low that Blair couldn't hear it. Disappearing into his room, where he found what he needed to work on Jim's tension, he couldn't help but wonder when and if he'd ever get the chance to play the song he'd heard earlier.

"Hey, Jim? Come over here so that I can work on your shoulders." He pulled his high-backed office chair out of his room and patted the back in an invitation to the worn out detective.


Carefully twisting around on the couch to see what Blair was talking about, Jim winced as his neck muscles protested the simple movement and sent a knifing pain up from his right shoulder to a point just behind his left temple. Sighing as he stood up, trying to loosen the muscles by rotating his shoulders, he walked over to the chair and, when he tried to sit in it like a normal person, he found himself directed to sit in it backwards.

"Chief, this isn't exactly the way you're supposed to sit in a chair like this." He straddled the backrest, leaning his torso against the padded back, then chinned himself on the headrest.

"No, wait a second, let me adjust this for you." Jim sat back and waited until Blair had adjusted the headrest to its maximum height. "There, rest your forehead against that now." Leaning into the backrest, he placed his forehead against the padding. Much better, he thought, just as the aroma of the massage lotion that his roommate liked to use gently caressed his olfactory senses.

"Slip your shirt off before you get too comfy." Blair's request almost sounded like an order, but he'd said it in the tone that Jim often thought of as 'the Guide voice' and decided to comply.

Sitting up to slip out of his shirt, leaving on only the deep cut tank shirt that he'd worn underneath it, he removed the stereo's remote control from his back pocket with skill enough to make a professional pickpocket green with envy. "Better?"


Warming up the lotion by rubbing it between his hands, Blair nodded and with gentle kneading motions, started on the deep muscles of Jim's shoulders, working his way up to the base of the skull and back down again. "Yeah, now relax, Jim. Use those breathing techniques that I taught you a few years ago." The bunched muscles under his hands started to give a little, almost begrudgingly, and he thought of something else that might help his friend to relax even further. "You know, if you'd tell me where the remote is, I could put on some of my "earth music" and help you to relax even faster…"

Jim mumbled his answer into to the headrest. "Nope. Got a surprise for you."

"What was that? Sorry, I turned off my mumble filter when I left the campus." Blair allowed himself to smile as he felt Jim starting to chuckle, the man's shoulders actually quaking with the effort to suppress his mirth. He'd hoped that his idea of humor would help Jim relax further and it seemed to be working.

"I've got a surprise for you."

"A surprise? Jim, I hate surprises." Getting more lotion on his hands, he started to knead deeper into the hard muscles and was rewarded with the feel of knots giving way to his skills.

"I think you'll like this, it's my way of apologizing for the way I talked to you last night."

His hands stopped their digging, shocked by the words he'd heard. "This is about last night? Hey, you weren't the only one to lose their cool then. I did my fair share of that myself, remember?"

"Yeah, but you were right. Rafe and I looked into Deffenbaugh and found the connections you were talking about and, well, we closed the case against him right before I came home."

Blair returned to his massage, thinking he couldn't have heard Jim correctly. The man actually said he'd been right? About a suspect? About police procedure? Couldn't be right.


 

Sensing, more than seeing, that his buddy was distracted by the words he'd spoken, Jim pulled up the remote and started the CD from the start of track 12. The sound of a softly played piano started to fill the loft, joined in by the baritone voice, singing the words that had spoken so clearly of his friendship with Blair.

He felt Blair stop his manipulating massage as the sounds of piano, voice, guitar and strings started to fill the loft.

You've always been, time and again, the one to take my hand.

And show me that it's okay to be, just the way I am, with no apology.

Oh, you've always been, and you will 'til God knows when.

Yes, you've always been a friend to me.

Jim watched his friend with concern as the younger man walked over to the couch, collapsed onto the cushions, and began to dig into his backpack. "Chief? You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Here." Blair found whatever it was he'd been looking for and sent it lofting in a gentle curving pitch towards him. "Guess we both had the same idea."

Catching the flying disc, Jim stared at the cover and started to laugh. The sound rumbled up from deep in his soul until it escaped into the room. "I thought you never listened to country music?"

"And I always thought you just listened to either classic rock or Santana. How is it you know a Garth Brooks song?"


Blair watched as Jim stood up from the chair, the lines of tension gone from his face, and crossed over to the living area to sit beside him. "I had trouble with the radio in the truck, couldn't pick up the station I like and ended up listening to 1200 AM. You?"

Smiling, Blair shook his head in disbelief. "I had turned to 1200 on my way into work to pick up the traffic report and forgot to set it back when I got to campus. When I got in the car, that song was playing."

Jim's hand was a warm weight on his shoulder, just before the man delivered his customary "cuff" to the back of Blair's head. Trying to keep his actions hidden from the sentinel wasn't easy, but Blair chuckled as he managed to get in the first salvo of the fight. He had surreptitiously snagged one of the smaller throw pillows, one filled not with polyester foam but a fine feather stuffing, and with a wild grin, managed to nail the unsuspecting detective with the missile. Right in the puss.

Wasting no time, Blair moved off the couch to avoid the returning pillow. Which lead to a good ol' fashioned pillow fight, just what they needed to work out the tension that had built between them the last few days.


Giggles and howls of laughter filled the loft as the Sentinel and Guide threw pillows, couch cushions and at least two pairs of rolled up socks at each other. The pillows were the first casualties, feathers floating on the air, landing everywhere and tangling in long hair. The second casualty was even more important, as the pressure that had been building between Jim and Blair vanished in the resurgence and reaffirmation of friendship.

Over in a relatively safe corner and unknown to either man, a black jaguar and a gray wolf watched them from the spirit plane, nodding in unison, as their plan to seal the rift between their two charges seemed to have worked its magic.

~~ End ~~

Like? Dislike? Don’t' ever want to see me try this type of story ever again? Feed the musea, and maybe you can convince them to keep out of my head when it comes to songs like this. <G>

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Here are the full lyrics, for those that are curious and don't want to dig back through the story to find them:

A Friend To Me

By Victoria Shaw and Garth Brooks

As it appears in the album, Sevens

Copyright 1997

 

Well you and I

We're buddies

And we've been since we first met

Me and you

Well we've sure been through

Our share of laughter and regret

Lord knows that we've had our bad days

And more than once we've disagreed

But you've always been a friend to me

You can be so stubborn

There's times that I think you just like to fight

And I hope and pray

I live to see the day

When you say that I might be right

And there's times I'd rather kill you

Than listen to your honesty

But you've always been a friend to me.

You've always been

Time and again

The one to take my hand

And show me it's okay to be

Just the way I am

With no apology

Oh you've always been

And you will 'til God knows when

Yes you've always been a friend to me.