By Joel Warner
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A little more than a year after he cheated death, Sebastian was well enough to attend the ceremonies for Denver's Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He stood up in full Angel uniform and accepted a warm welcome back and thank you.
"It felt amazing," he says. "I have got nothing but love from the city of Denver, and I love 'em back. I mean, come on, people standing up there cheering you for the effort you made and the things you've done...I was just really, really touched," he says.
Shauna couldn't keep up with the calls and e-mails about Sebastian. She started a daily blog to keep people up to date and says she got 40,000 hits.
But Sebastian's development was slow. He snapped and swore at Shauna and was quick to fly off the handle. To give her a break, Sebastian flew to Vancouver Island in Canada to spend some time with his mother and family.
"He's reclaiming his life," his mother says. "I've been watching, and people with brain injuries, it's like they've lost a piece of themselves. They go through a process of remembering themselves, rediscovering their life, and it seems to me that he's been moving through the different stages of his life from childhood right through adulthood and replaying them, finishing up each one and moving to the next one."
But on his return to Denver, Shauna became more of a parent figure to Sebastian. Twice he dropped Rooks. After the second time, Shauna expressed more concern.
"That was three fucking months ago," he screamed.
"That was three days ago," she told him.
Shauna knew his memory loss and his anger were a result of the injury, but she felt Sebastian needed more attention than she could give him with their infant child to tend to as well. They decided Sebastian should go back to Canada for a while.
An Angels power struggle erupted during Sebastian's absence.
Doc, who'd led the chapter for ten years until he became the Colorado coordinator in 2004, didn't see eye to eye on a lot of things with the new Denver leader, 54-year-old Ted "Brimstone" Noyes, a retired chemist. In the past, Sebastian had been there to smooth things out. Sebastian's best friend, Ted "Oriton" Fowler, who had spent much of the previous year by Sebastian's side, had taken over the regional director job, but he couldn't keep things cool between Doc and Brimstone, partly because he traveled a lot.
In 2005, the Angels lost their parking contract and their major source of funding. A few months later, Brimstone moved the Angels' headquarters from their historic stamping grounds on Colfax to a place on Santa Fe — a decision that upset some of the members and hurt recruiting.
In early 2007, after returning from Vancouver, Sebastian decided it was time for him to return to the Angels to help rebuild. The move was hard on Oriton because Sebastian critiqued his decisions, acting like a backseat driver, but one without sufficient short-term memory to know the directions. Eventually, Sebastian says, it became too much for Oriton to bear, and the two had a falling out. Oriton left the Angels. He didn't return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment for this story.
"I don't know what I could've done differently," Sebastian says. "I was injured. I wasn't myself in many ways. I had to grow back into my own ability to do my own life, let alone the Guardian Angels. So I did some damage to the group in that way."
After Oriton left, Jag was enlisted to lead the western region, but he was also in charge of dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, so he had to manage Denver business from afar. Neither Doc nor Brimstone liked Jag's style, which they considered too aggressive for Denver, and both left shortly thereafter.
Soon the Denver chapter was down to just two or three members.
After Sebastian's return to Denver, Shauna decided to take Rooks to Nashville, where she could pursue her music career. She asked Sebastian to go with her, but he insisted on getting his own apartment in Capitol Hill and taking care of himself.
"There's a lot of layers of difficulty: There is the difficulty of losing a partner and losing a father for your kid and your confidant and your best friend," Shauna says. "And on top of that, he changed very much. His behaviors were different than they used to be. He would never yell or have a hair-triggered temper, and after the brain injury, he did."
Although she knows that's normal for someone with a brain injury, "after a year and a half, I couldn't do it anymore," she adds. "I didn't want to raise Rooks in that environment, and I had no idea what the future held. I still don't. We don't have a fairy-tale ending here, and that's okay with both of us; we'll deal with it. But we're not going to stop loving each other and having love for our child, pretending what happened to us didn't, because it did, and what happened sucked, and I wish I could change it every day."