Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Everyday Life Series
Gentle smarm for a spring day. This story is for MegaRed, who wanted to a story to explain "where the boots came from." In the second season episode Hear No Evil, there's a scene where Jim's standing by the loft's front door pulling on his clothes and his shoes. The coat rack is shown very briefly in the scene with two pairs of boots set underneath it -- one larger green pair and one smaller yellow pair. These boots remained a part of the loft set for the rest of The Sentinel's filming and were still there during the filming of the fourth season finale (Becky and I saw them when we went to visit the set). This story takes place sometime in second season before Hear No Evil, but no spoilers <g>.
Jim Ellison wore a big, silly, childish grin on his face that wouldn't go away -- and he knew it.
"Thanks, Mr. Yin," he called to the slight Chinese man behind the counter as he pushed the single glass door and caused the bell on the shop's door to tinkle merrily. The shopkeeper waved goodbye, his eyes squinting as he smiled at the detective exiting his store.
Jim grinned again. Embarrassed, he examined the wet pavement as he dodged raindrops on the way down the sidewalk, clutching the beige plastic bag which held his purchase. The most he could do was pull the rim of his Jag's cap down a little further and try to hide behind the casual gesture of wiping his hand over his lower face.
As the detective headed back toward the loft, he wished he could say he didn't know why he couldn't maintain a more serious expression. But that would have been obfuscating according to Sandburg. For some reason, surprising the kid made Jim grin stupidly every single time.
He couldn't wait to get home.
The evening before...
Jim hung the phone up rather roughly, an unconscious display of the frustration he was feeling. He paced over to the balcony windows again, looking out at the moonless, pitch-dark, stormy night sky and listening to the rain pour down on the roof above his head and the cars whiz by on the street below, leaving generous sprays in their wake. He crossed his arms over the front of his blue plaid flannel shirt and clenched his jaw. It was 9 pm, a full hour after Blair had said he'd be home.
The kid had called from his office at Rainier just before he was going to leave, and it should've taken the kid only 15 minutes at the most to make it home from the University. There were no car accidents on the way home from the University according to traffic control -- Jim had already checked. To make things worse, Sandburg wasn't answering his cell phone, which meant his battery was probably dead -- again. At least Jim hoped that was the explanation. His mind was already wandering to worse possibilities.
Sandburg always answers his phone. The Corvair isn't exactly the most reliable car in the world. The weather isn't exactly prime for a nice stroll outside in the middle of the night. Cascade isn't exactly devoid of bad guys. What if... "Where are you, Chief?" Jim whispered aloud. You are such a worry-wort, Ellison.
He was. He was man enough to admit it to himself, even though he'd never say so out loud. But amazingly, he didn't feel too guilty about it. It was all Sandburg's fault anyway, he reasoned. He was the one who came up with the Blessed Protector idea, right? Right.
The detective paced back over to the kitchen where he lifted the lid on the pot simmering on the stove. The steamy aroma of chicken noodle soup made from scratch wafted up to his sensitive nose, and he stirred it unnecessarily with the wooden spoon, chanting a calming mantra to himself with each circle of the utensil. I will not worry about Sandburg. I will not worry about Sandburg. I will not worry...
The spoon paused in mid-stir.
Maybe I should go look for him...
Jim jerked his head up at the strange sound in the hallway. The rhythm was familiar, and so was the heartbeat. But the noise? Now it stopped. He ran to the door and flung it open.
Relief flooded him at the sight of the person standing rather forlornly on the other side of the door. "Chief!"
"H-hey J-jim," Blair's voice quavered. He managed a quirky smile, then sneezed. "Achoo!"
Jim's relief rapidly turned into worry again. The poor kid was shivering like a leaf, soaked to the skin, his limp hair looking worse than a drowned rat, a puddle rapidly forming around his feet as water dripped from the edges of his pants. The drenched grad student shifted, emitted a little <squinch> as more water oozed out of his waterlogged shoes and residual water rolled off a depression at the top of his hopefully waterproof backpack. Sandburg was obviously wet -- and chilled -- to the bone.
"You're soaked! Get in here! Why're you just standing there?" Jim reached for his partner's soggy flannel sleeve to pull him in.
Blair shrugged mischievously. "I th-thought you m-might w-want m-me to s-stand on a n-news-p-paper." <Achoo!> <cough>
Jim smiled as he ushered Blair into the loft with one hand under the younger man's elbow. "I'll make an exception this time, Squishy," Jim chuckled, covering up his concern with humor.
"Oooh, it's n-nice and w-warm in h-here," Blair shivered again as Jim closed the door behind them.
"C'mon Chief, go take those wet clothes off," Jim ordered, gently nudging him down the hall in the direction of the bathroom.
Quickly, he retrieved Blair's flannel bathrobe from his room where it was draped over a chair. Jim could hear Sandburg's teeth chattering as the younger man peeled off his long-sleeved shirt, t-shirt, and pants. He waited until he heard the kid drying his hair with a towel, then quietly tapped on the bathroom door and pushed it open slowly. Gently, Jim draped the robe over Blair's shivering shoulders and helped him into the sleeves.
"Th-thanks, m-man," Blair said as Jim wrapped his arm warmly around his shoulder and walked him down to the couch, sitting him down in front of the wood stove.
"What happened to you, Sandburg? Take the long way home?" Jim teased as he shook out the afghan and spread it over Blair's lap, tucking it around him and then turning back to the kitchen.
Blair chuckled. "Puddle hoppin'," he said.
Jim paused in the middle of ladling the soup into a bowl. "Puddle hopping?"
"Yeah, you know, puddle hoppin'. Didn't you ever do that, Jim?"
The detective looked quizzically at his partner, wondering if he should check Blair for signs of hypothermia. "Maybe once when I was little. But I can assure you it wasn't in the middle of the night on a deserted street."
Blair grinned at Jim, gratefully accepting the steaming bowl of chicken soup his friend handed to him over the back of the couch. "You got a point there, man. Okay, maybe it did have something to do with the fact that the Corvair's battery decided to die on me a mere three blocks from Prospect. I had to leave it in the Safeway parking lot. It wasn't that far to walk and I thought it'd be silly to take the bus just for that distance. I can't help it that the sky decided to turn into Niagara Falls while I walked home."
"Why didn't you call, Chief?" Jim chided gently as he sat down on the sofa next to his partner. "I almost called the station to put out a 'boogie man's got my partner' alert. It wouldn't be the first time, you know."
Blair giggled between slurping cautiously at the hot delicious liquid. "Yeah, you're right. Jim, man, I really meant to change the battery in my cell phone -- I just, uh..."
"Forgot?" offered Jim. "Don't worry, next time I'll put blinking neon lights around the reminder note on the fridge."
The detective nudged Blair with his elbow good-naturedly and tried to look stern. "Did you leave your jacket in your office or the car?"
"In the car, man," Blair said between chews of the whole wheat roll Jim had given him to go with the soup. "I had my leather one with me and didn't want it to get wet."
Jim rolled his eyes. "It does rain from time to time in Cascade, you know. Maybe I should make you carry an umbrella with you to school," mused Jim.
"No way, man. No way I'm looking like a tourist -- you know true Washingtonians don't carry those things."
"Only the ones that go 'puddle hopping' at night during a flood," Jim retorted, his blue eyes twinkling.
Blair's eyes twinkled back. "Okay, maybe you got a point there."
The two partners laughed.
Soup bowl drained, Blair leaned back against the couch's arm, pulling his stockinged feet onto the couch and his knees to his chest so he faced Jim. His hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and a trace of cinnamon, Jim's specialty. The anthropologist's eyes were half-shuttered, and when he took a sip of the hot drink, it left a foamy white ring around his upper lip. The kid blinked sleepily at his friend and sighed, smiling contentedly like a puppy with a full stomach in a warm room.
Jim grinned stupidly at his friend's oblivious state and whipped cream mustache. The detective couldn't help it. Sandburg could be most amusing when he was about to fall asleep. But just when Jim had started to wonder whether he should take the hot chocolate away from his sleepy friend to prevent an accident, Blair spoke.
"I had yellow boots."
"Huh?" Jim asked, a little startled that Blair was still awake enough to talk.
Blair grinned again, and his eyes took on a far-off look. "Yellow rubber boots. I got them when I was five. I thought they were the coolest thing." He chuckled. "Naomi was supposed to take me on a picnic one Sunday, but when I woke up that morning, it was pouring rain. I was so disappointed, I told her I hated the rain. She didn't say anything -- just walked to the Goodwill store on the corner and came back with a pair of yellow rubber boots. I still remember what she said. 'Sweetie, don't be sad when it rains. Just go puddle hopping.' Then she took me outside and we splashed in the puddles in front of our apartment. That was when I learned how to puddle-hop." Blair yawned as he finished the last of the hot chocolate. "Some kids teased me about having ducky boots, but I didn't care. Those things were the best boots I ever had. The day I outgrew them was a dark day indeed." He smiled, turning his attention back to Jim. "So when did you learn how to puddle hop?"
"Huh? Oh." Jim's eyes suddenly refocused on his partner. "Me? I think the most I ever did was land in the mud during a football game."
Blair laughed. "I bet Steven wanted to get muddy just like his big brother Jimmy."
"Yeah," Jim grinned. "Battle scars, you know. Mud was the real sign of a manly football player, Sandburg."
The younger man's chuckle was cut off by another huge yawn. "Guess I'd better hit the sack before I fall off the couch and hurt myself. You think this storm is gonna last till tomorrow, Jim? We were supposed to go camping tomorrow."
"Yeah, sounds like it according to the Weather Channel. I guess we'll have to put off camping till next time." Jim stood up from the couch, taking Blair's hand and pulling his tired partner to a standing position. He draped his arm around Blair's waist as they ambled toward the younger man's room beneath the stairs.
"S'okay, man. I wanna sleep in for once anyway," mumbled Blair as he crawled into bed and let Jim pull the covers up around his neck. "No loud rock music at 5 a.m. or whacking me with your wet towel, 'kay Jim?" he teased.
"You're no fun," grumbled the detective good-naturedly. "Guess I'll have to think of something else to do..."
The next morning...
Blair downed the last of his algae shake and rinsed out the glass, setting it neatly on the counter. Slipping on his glasses, he leaned against the kitchen island to peruse the morning paper which had been waiting for him when he'd finally emerged from his room around 9 am feeling refreshed. Now that he was showered, dressed in a white t-shirt, green v-necked tunic sweater, and jeans, and had his morning pond scum as Jim called it, the grad student was ready to enjoy the day off.
He was somewhat puzzled about the absence of his roommate; Jim hadn't been in the loft when Blair had awakened. The truck was still in its parking spot below the balcony, which meant the detective couldn't have gone very far. Blair hoped not, anyway; it was still raining steadily outside. We're almost out of milk -- maybe Jim went to get that, he reasoned.
As if in answer to his question, at that moment the loft door opened. "Hey, Jim. Where'd you go?" asked Blair, putting down the paper and walking over to stand next to his friend.
"To get something for a rainy day," answered the grinning detective, not bothering to hang up his jacket or remove his cap. "Here. I think they'll fit."
Blair's forehead furrowed in confusion as he took the offered bag. Reaching in, he pulled out the objects inside. An equally silly grin spread across his face as he comprehended the situation. "Yellow boots."
Jim shrugged his shoulders sheepishly and grinned again. "'When it rains, go puddle hopping,'" quoted the detective.
The anthropologist smiled quietly. "Thanks, Jim."
Jim cleared his throat. "They're also for next time you insist on walking home during a flood. I hate that squish-squish noise your shoes make when they get soaked, not to mention the smell of your wet socks," defended the taller man.
"Yeah, yeah. I figured there were ulterior motives involved, Detective," Blair's eyes twinkled.
"Well, what are you waiting for? Put your boots on and let's go get an early soup and sandwich lunch at the corner deli. I'm starved."
"You mean we're going puddle hopping."
"No, I didn't say that. We're going to walk down the street like civilized adults."
"C'mon, man. We're going puddle hopping," Blair said excitedly as he pulled on his new yellow boots and took his blue parka from Jim's hand.
"No, we're not. But just in case you try anything --" Jim pointed at a large, tall pair of green rubber boots sitting underneath the coat rack. "-- I'm wearing those."
Blair's eyes widened, then narrowed at the sight of the green boots he hadn't noticed there before. "That's CHEATING, man. Those things are, like -- practically waders!" he grumbled.
"Tough. I know you, Chief. You'd have no problem splashing an old man and giving him rheumatism before his time."
"I'll remember that, Gramps," sniffed Blair in an injured tone. He lifted his nose slightly into the air and looked away. "No matter. It's not the boots that count -- it's the skill involved. YOU'RE IT!"
In a flash of yellow rubber and blue gortex, the grad student whapped Jim on the shoulder, yanked the door open and took off down the hall.
Jim clenched his jaw as he hobbled out the door and down the hall, awkwardly trying to pull on the larger, clumsier boots as he stumbled after his partner whose laughter was already echoing in the stairwell.
"SANDBURG!!! GET BACK HERE! YOU'RE GONNA END UP WETTER THAN YOU WERE LAST NIGHT!!! SANDBURG??!!!!...."
~ The End ~