Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Smarm

by Becky
July 1998

Hands folded behind his head, Jim stared at the ceiling of his bedroom, wondering for the hundredth time why he had even bothered going to bed. It wasn't like he was sleeping or anything. Oh, no. Just laying there. Staring. Thinking. Remembering. Letting the images of earlier that day play through his mind in an endless loop, like one of those mobius strips -- no up or down or beginning or end. Just all one long strip. Supposed to be a mind game. Something fun. Something to distract you.

In his case, the fun was definitely absent. His endless loop was filled with guns and violence, with bad guys and sticky situations. Nothing new for him really, not in his line of work, well, actually, not in his life. Both covert ops and police work sometimes felt too similar for his own liking.

Today, however.... Jim sighed and moved his hands to rub at his eyes, then his face. Giving up on any hope of sleep, he sat up and shifted to the edge of the bed. Standing, he grabbed his gray robe from the bottom of the end of the bed and pulled it on. As he walked toward the stairs, he glanced at the red LED lights on the clock near his bed.

2:13 a.m.

He shook his head in mild disgust, heading down the stairs quietly. He'd been lying in bed for three hours, just staring, unable to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he only saw one thing.

Blair. Falling. Landing hard on the street pavement. And not moving. Not answering Jim's calls from several feet away.

Jim froze on the stairs, his mind caught on the horrific image. Everything after that was just one big blur. He knew he'd fought and hurt several of the men whom the department had been hoping to catch red-handed with a drug shipment -- his bruised and swollen knuckles told him that much. It had been a set-up from the start as the dealers had discovered the trap hours before Jim and his partner had arrived at the scene.

Blair had nearly paid the fatal price for that discovery.

Nearly. Remember that word, Ellison? Nearly. Not .... totally. Just nearly.

Jim shook himself and continued down the stairs, padding softly across the room toward the kitchen. As he passed the closed glass doors that led to Blair's room, he paused, looking at them a moment. Sighing and giving into the need to see his partner, he pushed the doors open quietly, glad that he'd finally gotten Blair to oil the hinges the other day. As he stepped inside the darkened room, he let his eyesight open and focus on the sleeping form of his partner, half-buried under the multi-colored blankets, face covered by loose hair.

Stepping across the room, avoiding a untidy pile of books, a half-graded stack of papers, and pillows scattered across the floor, Jim let himself be drawn to his partner's side. Like a moth to a flame. Jim had to smile slightly at the thought. The smile died as he reached down a hand to brush soft curls away from Blair's right cheek, revealing the large, vivid bruise spreading across the skin. Even barely touching the mark, he could feel the heat rising from it, the broken blood vessels, the pain it must be causing his young friend.

The big man shuddered, eyes closing momentarily, the sight of Hawkins brutally smashing that gun across Blair's face rising up again to taunt him. He'd reacted quickly to that, going for Hawkins, knocking away the gun. But there had been too many. And back-up had been too far away to stop what had happened next. While Jim had been held, Hawkins turned back to Blair, who had looked first at Jim, then at Hawkins, swallowing, one hand on his face. Jim remembered Blair trying to talk his way out of it, trying to reason with the men who just wouldn't listen to him. And while Hawkins' attention had been diverted to Blair, Jim had broken free of the hands holding him.

The fighting had started in earnest, but Jim had been too late to stop Hawkins from hitting Blair twice more, once in his stomach, and then again on top of the already bruising cheek. It had been the second hit that had sent Blair stumbling back into the wall, tripping and falling to the ground in a tumble of limbs.

After that .... Jim opened his eyes again, looking down at Blair's peaceful face, his fingertips still lightly touching the nasty bruise. He shook his head. After that he didn't really know what happened. The next thing he remembered was Simon yelling at him, pulling on his arms, telling him to let go, to stop, that Blair needed him. It had been that final phrase that had gotten him to release the gasping Hawkins from his grasp.

The memory of stumbling over to Blair's unconscious form, ducking past Brown and a paramedic to grasp a limp hand and touch his partner's face was quiet clear. Way too clear. As was the panic and fear he'd felt when the younger man refused to wake up, to respond to his touch, to his voice ... at least for several worrisome, terrible minutes.

"Jim? Wha...?"

The low, slightly confused-sounding voice jerked him out of his thoughts and back into the real world. He blinked, looking down into half-shuttered, drowsy blue eyes. Moving his hand away from the bruise and resting on Blair's forehead instead, Jim shushed him.

"Sh, sh, go back to sleep, Chief. It's just me."

Blair squinted up at him for a few moments, obviously trying to get his befogged brain to cooperate but having little luck. Finally he lost the battle to wake up and drifted back to sleep, murmuring slightly, his forehead creasing a little. Jim stroked his hand over Blair's forehead, wanting to soothe any worries or fears that his young friend might have.

Satisfied that Blair would continue to sleep undisturbed, Jim left the small room, pulling the doors closed behind him. He stood for a moment outside the doors, wondering if he should bother going back upstairs. He rubbed his face with one hand, then ran his fingers through his hair, further mussing the already-mussed hair. With a sigh, he walked into the kitchen and got a bottle of water from the refrigerator before padding into the living room.

He sunk onto the couch with a groan, slouching down to rest his head against the cushions. Alternately drinking from the water bottle or stripping off the paper label, Jim stared across the darkened room to the windows that overlooked the city. Or at least part of it. A city that right now was quiet, resting, asleep.

Like I should be. But, no, instead you're out here mulling over the day's events, trying to decide what you could have done differently, what you should've done differently. He snorted softly. 'Could haves' and 'should haves' -- always so helpful, Ellison. Since when has wanting to change the past become your way of doing things.

A little niggling voice spoke up in the back of his mind. Since Sandburg.

He glanced at the doors of the downstairs room, focusing his hearing on his partner's heartbeat, reassured again to hear it thumping steadily to a beat he knew better than his own. A beat he hadn't been able to hear earlier today through the fear and anger he'd felt during the scuffle. A beat that grounded him, kept him and his senses functioning even at the worst of times. A beat that meant life. A beat which belonged to a soul that filled all those empty places in his own heart.

Pulling back, Jim chuckled and shook his head, chugging down another swallow of water. Sentimental. That's what you're becoming. He recapped the bottle and set it aside before leaning back into the cushions again, closing his eyes, focusing inward to find some kind of peace that would let him sleep.

Less than a minute later, the cushions on his right sunk down with additional weight. Jim lifted his head up and opened his eyes to see Blair, a blanket pulled around his shoulders, seated next to him. His eyelids were at half-mast, still clouded and heavy with sleep. One hand clutched the blanket, holding the sides together in front. Even as Jim watched, Blair's other hand appeared from beneath the blanket to rub at his eyes, carefully avoiding the bruised cheek.

"Blair, what are you doing up? You're supposed to be sleeping."

"Hey, man, I could say the same thing about you."

Jim nodded once in agreement, watching silently, not saying anything more. Blair frowned, then shifted to lay a hand on Jim's leg.

"What's up, Jim? Are you okay? You don't normally take to prowling around the apartment in the middle of the night unless something's wrong."

Jim rested his hand on Blair's, squeezing it, forcing a small smile on his face. "I'll be all right, Chief. Why don't you get back to bed? We both have a busy day tomorrow."

Blair shook his head. "No, not until you tell me what's wrong. Come on, Jim, talk to me."

With a sigh, Jim leaned forward a little, looking toward the balcony windows. He thought about getting up but discarded the notion, knowing that distance wouldn't keep his rather persistent partner from bugging him. He looked back at Blair, watching him in the dim light streaming through the balcony windows. Blair didn't say anything, just waited patiently, knowing that Jim would talk to him when he felt ready.

Jim raised the opposite hand and reached over to touch Blair's cheek, fingertips gliding over the bruise, barely making any contact. Blair flinched only slightly but didn't pull away. Softly he whispered, "It wasn't your fault, Jim. And I'm okay. You know that."

Letting his hand drift down to Blair's shoulder before pulling it back into his lap, Jim nodded. "I know."

Blair stared at him a moment longer, then shifted closer to Jim, pulling the blanket up further around his shoulders before releasing it to hang loose around his body. He grabbed Jim's nearest hand and pressed it to his chest, over his heart. "Feel that, Jim? That means I'm okay. I'm alive. It's only a bruise. Nothing life-threatening."

Jim swallowed, throat thickening with emotion, voice roughening as he both felt and listened to Blair's heart, beating under his hand and echoing in his ears. "When you fell, I couldn't .... I couldn't hear your heartbeat at all. I couldn't get anything to focus. I thought ... I thought you had paid the price for my carelessness."

Shaking his head, Blair smiled a little. "Not your carelessness, Jim. It wasn't your fault Hawkins figured things out. Things happen like that sometimes. But everything turned out all right. Don't think about the 'could haves' and 'should haves', Jim; they'll only make you crazy."

Chuckling, Jim smiled. "How did you know I was thinking about those things, Junior?"

Blair grinned. "I know you. That's what you do when something wrong happens on a case. Especially when ..." He stopped and shrugged slightly, displacing the blanket from around his shoulders.

Jim finished for him. "Especially when it involves my partner." He moved his hand, sliding around Blair to grab the blanket and tug it up over his shoulders again. He leaned back into the cushions again, drawing his blanket-wrapped partner with him, gently encouraging Blair to rest his head on his shoulder.

"Uh, Jim, don't you think we ought to get to bed now?"

"Not yet. Give me a few minutes, okay, Blair? Then I'll be ready."

A hand patted his leg. "Okay, whatever you need, Jim." Blair shifted a little, curling his bare legs underneath him where they would be covered by the blanket. He yawned, then said, "I'm about ready to fall asleep here, Jim."

Jim laughed softly, patting Blair's back with the arm he still had around his young friend. "That's okay, Chief. If you're tired, just go to sleep. I'll make sure you get back to your bed. I don't need conversation or anything right now. Just you. "

"Oh." A pause, then a softer voice. "Okay." Within moments, Blair's body grew heavier as the young man drifted back to sleep, dependent on Jim to take care of him.

Jim continued to sit there, hand softly rubbing Blair's back through the blanket, sometimes drifting up to touch the soft curls billowing out at the top of the blanket, carding his fingers through them. A heart belonging to a soul that completed his own beat against his side. Life pulsed with every breath that wafted out across his chest. He looked down at the head resting on his shoulder, smiling softly at the trust so evident in the way Blair lay against him.

Just a few more minutes and then he'd steer his sleepy roommate back to his own room. But for now, he just wanted to enjoy the quiet companionship -- even if his companion was asleep.

~ The End ~