Future AU. PG
Thanks to Cheryl R. for the rapid beta -- all mistakes are mine.
The shabby, footsore man looked young until you saw the pain in his eyes and the silver threading through his close cropped hair. He came into Last Chance's only diner and flopped down in a booth with a weary sigh. He was oddly still as he huddled deep into the high backed seat. It was as though he'd had a lot of practice looking insignificant. He sat unnoticed, sipping endless cups of coffee all morning.
The Sheriff came in at noon and ordered his customary lunch. He was a big middle-aged man, with thinning salt and pepper hair and an almost white, neatly trimmed beard
"How are those campers you rescued?" Katie, the waitress, smiled at the dusty, khaki clad figure. "It was something how you found those kids, Sheriff. The chopper pilot said it was like you were like Superman or something."
"They're fine. It was just dumb luck, Katie."
The man who was huddled in the booth waited until the waitress left before he spoke. "Maybe you have enhanced senses? Better sight and hearing? Smell and taste off the charts. Extra sensitive touchy feely."
The Sheriff tensed but didn't turn as he started to eat his meal. "Shouldn't believe everything you hear on the radio. It was a one-time thing."
"I knew someone once." The younger man ran his hands through his short, ragged hair. "He had all five senses enhanced. A Sentinel. He was a detective in a big city out west."
"I wanted so desperately to study him. I think I forgot that he was a person first and a Sentinel second."
"I do know that he was my best friend -- until we had a falling out."
"A falling out?" The Sheriff glanced sideways as Katie returned and refilled his sweet ice tea.
"Okay... Big, honkin', knock-down, drag-out fight. I stormed out in a rage and left town." The young man sat still and spoke very quietly. "I calmed down and came home to find my friend, Jim gone. He'd just vanished. A lot of people believed that he was dead... murdered by some enemy. Or snatched up by the government. Or maybe hiding from the vultures."
"Shame. Law enforcement could use someone like that."
"Anyway. I set out to look for him -- God, I looked forever -- but I never found him. I heard a story about you on the local radio, so I decided to stop here. I thought if I could find and help another Sentinel... It could would make up for betraying... for failing my friend."
"Katie give me two pieces of that apple-raspberry pie." The tall, man limped slightly as he carried the desserts and his tea over to the table. "Here kid, eat up. You look like a strong breeze could carry you off."
"I'm not hungry." The thin figure didn't move until a fork was placed into his fist. Then he wolfed down the luscious confection in four bites. "Thanks."
"Not hungry, huh?" The empty plate was replaced with the untouched second serving as the sheriff patted his own, slight belly. "Save me from myself, kid. I need to lose a few pounds, anyway."
"It's good pie." The man ate more slowly. "I didn't mean to bother you about the senses and things. I'll leave if you want."
"You know, I know what it's like to lose a friend, too?" The Sheriff leaned back and looked out the window at the surrounding desert. "I had a buddy once -- years ago -- one in a million. He'd walk through fire for me. I was a real self-centered jerk back then. I kept testing his loyalty. Doubting him. Finally, he had to give up his way of life -- everything he'd worked for -- to prove that he loved me. I use the word 'love' in a platonic way, of course."
The young man nodded, returned the slight, wry smile and took another bite of pie.
"Anyway... I couldn't live with the idea that I'd destroyed my best friend so I turned self-destructive. Took chances, chased the wrong guy down the wrong road. I was grabbed and worked over pretty badly. They left me out here in the desert to die. I survived... sort of."
"Don't be. I have a good life. The only vultures here are the flying kind."
"Sounds like a nice town."
"If you like dry and hot."
"Beats cold and wet."
"You're looking kinda beat. I have an empty room over at my place. Think, maybe you might wanna hang around a while?"
"I'd need a job if I stayed."
The Sheriff grinned. "You came at a good time. My dispatcher-secretary... oh hell, the person who does everything I can't, over at the jail -- just quit."
"Was that a job offer?"
"Yep, I believe it was."
"Sounds good to me." The not-really-so-young man put out his hand. "Jacob Blair."
The Sheriff's wide smile made him remarkably handsome. The corners of his eyes crinkled and their pale blue color was startling next to the deeply tanned skin. "Good to meet you, Blair. My name is Ellis... Jim Ellis."
"I'm happy to meet you, Jim." Blair Sandburg grinned and for the first time in years he looked and felt like himself. "You have no idea how happy."
"I have a pretty good idea, Chief." Jim's voice was soft as he stood and gestured for Blair to follow. "Let's go home."
"I could sleep for a week."
"Do whatever you want, Chief." Jim grinned, looking down at the other man who was almost staggering with exhaustion. "We have all the time in the world."
This was inspired by an old country song and Herbert, My Hedgehog.
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