Joke's on Me
They're laughing again, and I smile along, but I'm not in on the joke. We were talking about the case, and Sandburg switched topics in midstream, launching into his usual brand of social commentary. I should be used to it by now, should realize that everything eventually relates back to the mating rituals of a native culture.
No, that's not entirely true: everything eventually relates back to Sandburg.
I thought it was a bad idea, when Jim first came to me, kid in hand, selling me the pretty fiction they concocted to secure Sandburg's place at his side. I shook my head, puzzled, wondering how Jim Ellison, of all people, was hoodwinked into aiding and abetting what had to be the most ludicrous idea I'd ever heard. In so many ways I was wrong, but in others...
Ellison has changed, and most would say for the better, but the warmth in his eyes frightens me. He's always ready with a smile, the intense drive that unsettled so many tempered beneath a veneer of social nicety that I know owes its very existence to Sandburg. And when the two of them get drawn into one another, completely consumed by the case, or with Jim's senses, or with whatever God-forsaken stone that's thrown their way, those eyes change again. They're still, watchful, intent in a way I've never seen before. It's the look of a man who has everything to lose.
I look at them together, and I know that I've lost my place in Jim's life. I'm no longer the best friend, hell, the only friend, and I'm certainly not the guy he wants to spend a Friday night with, grabbing a beer, unwinding from the job before we head home to our solitary lives. I think that's what hurts most of all, the fact that I've lost the only other person who knows, who really understands what a failed life, a failed marriage, feels like.
Because Jim's not that person anymore. He's alive. He's in love. And I'm... I'm the person who puts that in danger, who sends them out every day knowing each call is one step closer to one or the other not coming back.
I love my friend. I care about Sandburg. But, I'm going to destroy one of them. Hell, I'm going to destroy them both.
Jim's laughing, a smile stretching across his face as he shakes his head at Sandburg. The kid's scowling, mock irritation not fooling anyone, even me. I haven't been paying attention, don't really know what I'm supposed to be laughing at, but that's nothing new. I think, maybe, the joke's on me.
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