Disclaimer: All Characters belong to Pet Fly, UPN and Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended and no money has changed hands
Author's Note: Nothing earth shattering, just a little story that was dreamed up for SA dues while I was watching an episode of Starsky and Hutch. It had been a long time since I'd seen the series and I'd forgotten what a great 'buddy' show it was. So here is my S&H inspired Sentinel story. Of course our guys have better taste in clothing, way better hairstyles and definitely don't wear white socks under jeans!! *g*
Thanks: A huge thank you to both Bobbie and StarWatcher for their beta talents. Thank you ladies. I will have to organise those flowers and chocolates!! And of course, thanks to wolfpup for posting my stories.
Feedback: Yes please! firstname.lastname@example.org
Three weeks. God, has it only been three weeks? It seems like a lifetime ago, but then I guess twenty-one days can seem like a lifetime when you come so close to losing someone you love. Yep, that's what I said; love. Not that I would ever bring myself to actually tell him that and, knowing Sandburg as well as I do, I don't think he'd ever expect me to. All that mushy, touchy, feely stuff is his department, not mine. My idea of showing the kid affection is to give him a whack across the top of the head; his idea is to get deep and meaningful. I wonder if this is the reason why it works so well? Our differences. Maybe that's the glue that bonds us together. His yin to my yang, or is it the other way around? I have no idea when it comes to all that philosophical stuff. As I said, that's his department. My department is basic sticks and stones stuff. Give him a roof over his head, make sure he's fed and watered and make sure he stays outta trouble. Unfortunately, sometimes fate seems to have a way of intervening.
No matter how many times I've gone over and analyzed what happened that night, or how many longwinded speeches Sandburg has drummed me with in order to try and eradicate my guilt, it still boils down to one thing. I wasn't being vigilant. I let my guard down, and because of that, my best friend nearly died. I know he'd be upset if he knew I still felt this way, so I don't talk about it anymore. Like the long list of failings that make up my life, it's been catalogued and filed away for future reference. I guess if Sandburg and I do have one thing in common, it's that we do 'guilt' extremely well.
When I think back to that night, I'm still not sure whether it was Murphy's Law that came crashing down upon us, or whether it was the luck of the Irish smiling. One inch, that's all it was, just one precious, life-saving inch. It's funny how your mind remembers certain events. Sometimes things speed by so quickly, small details never get a chance to leave an impression. Small details. That's exactly how I'll remember that night, every action, every sound, and every single image, captured like a grand finale touchdown, replayed in slow motion. Only this touchdown ripped through my partner's body like a hot knife through butter. But he managed to score the most perfect touchdown ever played -- he lived.
I guess when you think about it, a cop and small details go hand in hand. You can't be a good cop if you overlook the small details. I only wish somebody would tell me how to overlook them when you're a Sentinel. Do you have any idea what's it like to hear a bullet impact flesh? Well, I do. The minute that tiny piece of lead left the chamber, I knew where it was headed. It slammed into his shoulder with a dull thud, tearing its way through skin and muscle, popping blood vessels like a child's balloon until it connected with bone, and then a ping. Not the shattering sound I was expecting, but a ping as it bounced off, veering deep into his chest, missing his life force by less than a heartbeat. But if I were to be honest, the sound was nowhere near as frightening as the imagery I remember. The look on his face as his eyes met mine for that split second. God, he was so bewildered, so confused, so trusting.
One night and three weeks of ever-present, small details.
"What's up Jim?" Blair's trademark smile was plastered over his face, his body bopping in time to the sound emanating from the apartment at the end of the hall. "Music too loud for you, man?"
"Sandburg, if the music was fifty decibels lower, it would still be too loud."
"Oh come on, big guy, they're just kids having a bit of fun while their folks are out of town. Didn't you ever throw a wild party while your dad was away on business?"
"Sandburg, I shared a house with a brother who suffered from 'I wanna be the favourite child' syndrome. What do you think the answer to that question is?"
"Are you saying that Steven would have squealed on you?"
"Like a pig, my friend."
"More like oink!" Jim craned his neck, peering over the back of the couch. "What about you? Did you ever get caught throwing a party while Naomi was out of town?"
"Are you kidding, man? The word 'party' and 'Naomi' are synonymous with each other. I used to get reprimanded for not throwing enough parties."
Rowdy chants of 'chug, chug, chug,' drifted loudly from the apartment down the hall, interrupting their conversation. An eruption of laughter followed. Fed up with the noise, Jim tossed the remote on the coffee table. "Time for a bit of police intervention, I think."
Blair rounded the couch. "Come on Jim, you can't do that. That's so not cool, man."
"I know, but 'uncool' is my middle name." Jim slipped on his shoes. "I'm just going to have a friendly little chat with the kids and show them the error of their ways. I'm sure I'll come up with a creative, peaceful solution that will make everyone happy."
Blair studied the look on Jim's face for a brief moment, before realization struck. "You're gonna kick them out, aren't you?"
"As I said, Chief. A peaceful solution that will keep everyone happy." He patted Blair on the cheek. "I'll be happy, because peace will be restored, and they'll be happy, because their parents won't have to bail their butts out of jail in the morning."
Blair headed to his room as Jim headed out the door. "Only two words, man... party pooper."
It wasn't the first time he'd had a gun barrel shoved in his face. It wasn't even the first time he'd been mugged. But this was the first time, since his senses had come on line, that he'd been caught totally unaware. The youth's hand trembled, his grasp on the gun precarious. Before being given the chance to reason, Jim was pushed back through the doorway. "Your wallet!" the boy yelled. Fine tremors ran through the kid's frame, as his body started to loose the ability to function unaided. "Give me your wallet and I won't hurt you."
If the situation hadn't been so potentially dangerous, Jim might have laughed at the statement. His mind switched gears quickly, as years of training came to the fore. Calmly and clinically he assessed his options. A junkie in any circumstances was unpredictable, but a junkie armed with a gun and coming down off a major high was explosive.
"Okay," Jim stated calmly, raising his hands in a passive gesture. He needed to defuse this situation and he needed to do it quickly. He watched wild eyes dart back and forth as the boy shouted his demand once again.
"Look, kid, why don't you--" Jim froze in mid sentence. His eyes shot over to the small bedroom under the stairs. Blissfully unaware, Blair emerged from his room, his hands fumbling with the back of a portable CD player. "I thought you were going down the hall to play bad cop?" He glanced up. "Hey, we got any batter--" The smile on his face never even got the opportunity to fade as a bullet erupted from the gun's chamber, followed immediately by another. The unsuspecting grad student crumpled to the floor, still not comprehending what had just happened. The music down the hall pounded in the background as his eyes fluttered shut. The sound of gunfire merged with the relentless thump, thump, thump of electric drums.
"Don't move, don't you fuckin' move!" the kid shouted in terror, as he watched blood pool on the wooden floor beneath the man he'd just shot.
Ignoring the junkie's warning, Jim rushed to Blair's side. "Get me a towel!" he yelled. Jim rolled Blair onto his back, pressing the palm of his hand down hard against the entry wound. He looked up into the drug-crazed eyes of the kid. "I told you to get me a towel. NOW!"
The kid found his voice, summoning up his last reserves of bravado. "And I told you not to move." He waved the gun in Jim's direction, his finger twitching on the trigger.
As far as options went, Jim didn't have a lot of them and neither did his partner. He needed to stop the bleeding and he needed to do it fast. The drug-addicted kid was unstable and highly volatile. The detective needed to assert a measure of control, if he had any hope of getting Blair out of this situation alive. "If you don't bring me a towel now, I swear to god I'll come over there and rip your lungs out." Jim's ice-cold blue eyes bore straight into the kid's. He saw the boy's eyes flash with fear, and it was this fear he needed to exploit.
In less than a minute, a towel was tossed across the room. Jim caught it in mid flight and, without hesitation pressed it against Blair's wound. The several layers of clothing that the grad student wore aided in keeping it in place. Gently rolling Blair onto his side, Jim checked for an exit wound, hoping in vain that the bullet had made its way out of his Guide's body. "Damn," he whispered, laying the young man back down flat. His fingers darted to Blair's neck. "You just keep that pulse beating nice and strong for me, kiddo," he pleaded with the unconscious man. His fingers remained for a few more seconds, rejoicing in the steady flow of blood that still coursed through the veins beneath his touch. Satisfied, he moved his attention upward to the deep graze on the side of Blair's head. Like most head wounds, it was bleeding profusely. Using the bottom of his shirt, he carefully wiped the area to gain a better view of the injury. From what he could ascertain, the bullet had nicked the side of Blair's head, leaving a deep, raw gash. He probed the area gently, trying to gauge if there was any damage to the skull. Unable to be sure whether or not there was bone damage, his concern turned to the fact that Blair still remained unconscious.
Jumping to his feet, Jim headed to the phone. Throughout his ministration, he had been fully aware of the position and the condition of the third person in the room. A rapid heartbeat pounded in his ears as the kid tracked relentlessly back and forth across the room like a caged lion. A steady flow of curses mixed with words of fear and remorse flowed aimlessly from his mouth. Tremors had grown into noticeable shakes, as the PCP gave one last-ditch effort to keep control of its captive.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" the kid stuttered. His hands were shaking as he leveled the pistol at Jim.
"My friend needs an ambulance."
"I'll shoot you. I swear I will. You move any closer to that phone and I'll shoot you."
"Look, kid. He's hurt pretty bad. If you don't want a murder charge on your rap sheet, I suggest you let me get him some help."
"I said NO!" In a sudden move, the kid changed his aim. It shifted from the detective to the prone figure on the floor. "If you take another step, I'll unload the rest of these bullets into him. I swear to God I will!"
Jim backed down immediately. "Okay, okay, just take it easy." He carefully edged his way in front of the line of fire, placing his body between that of the kid and Blair.
"Chief!" Jim swung around, immediately making his way back to Blair's side.
"...happ'n'd?" Blair slurred, his eyes barely able to focus on Jim's face.
"We've just got ourselves a bit of a situation going on, Chief." Jim monitored Blair's vitals as he spoke. "How do you feel?"
"No' sure... numb, maybe." He swallowed hard. "'Ive b'n shot?"
"Yeah, buddy. But you're gonna be okay... understand?"
"A bullet nicked the side of your thick noggin."
"You were shot in the shoulder, Chief. I think the bullet has lodged itself in your chest."
Blair grunted. "Oh... jus' a... flesh woun', 'nen."
Jim forced himself to smile. "Yeah kiddo, just a flesh wound. Nothing that a bit of antiseptic and a Band-Aid won't fix." Jim rubbed his thumb over Blair's cheek. "How about we get you off this floor?"
"...goo' idea... think my butt... s'gone numb."
Jim positioned his arm under Blair's knees, the other arm carefully sliding under the grad student's back. "You ready?"
Blair closed his eyes and grimaced, already anticipating the pain that was to follow.
The kid edged closer to the sofa. "What are you doing now?"
Jim didn't bother to look up. "I'm moving him to the sofa." A small grunt escaped his lips as he strained under the weight of his partner.
For the first time, the boy's eyes studied the damage he had inflicted. Blood trickled down the side of Blair's face. Congealed clots clung to the hair around the wound, as Blair's body made a desperate attempt to begin the healing process. The front of his white shirt was now stained crimson, the pressure from the towel the only thing stemming the flow. The kid swallowed nervously as the reality of the situation finally sunk in. "He gonna die?"
Jim settled Blair as comfortably as he could. His piercing stare left no room for interpretation; neither did his answer. "If he does, I can guarantee that you won't be far behind him."
The boy's eyes grew wide. For a split second the drugs released their grip, taking pleasure in giving their victim a glimpse of his future. "Shut up!" he shouted, backing away. "You just shut the fuck up." He resumed his pacing, his body now shaking almost uncontrollably.
Jim knew that his window of opportunity was closing fast. He needed to gain control and he needed to do it quickly. Pulling the afghan off the back of the sofa, he tucked it around Blair's cooling body. He kept his voice low. "You think you're up to playing a little game, Chief?"
Blair snorted at the absurdity of the question. "Sure, J'm... mean it's no' like 've got 'thing else t'do... wha'... you have 'n min'?"
"Well, I was thinking about a little game of good cop, bad cop."
Blair breathed in harshly. "Tha'd be righ'. Le' me be a cop... wh'n it suits you." He paused for a brief moment. "I wanna be... th' bad cop." His last sentence was noticeably slurred.
Jim frowned in concern, touching Blair's face lightly. "You're too much of a goody two shoes to play the bad cop, Junior." He increased the pressure of his touch. "Can you feel that, Chief?"
Blair closed his eyes briefly. "Yeah... I think. Feel kinda numb. Fing'rs... tingl'ng."
Jim picked up Blair's cold hand and rubbed it roughly. His concern grew rapidly. Blair was becoming less and less responsive.
"Yeah, Chief," Jim answered, his hand not ceasing its rubbing action.
"...do th's quick? No' feelin' s' good."
The boy pulled up suddenly. "What are you two talking about?" He waved the gun around the room haphazardly.
Jim let go of Blair's hand, tucking it back under the blanket. "We're talking about how much time you're gonna do on the inside. I was thinking you'd probably get about eight, maybe ten years. My friend here seems to think that you might get out after a few years, with good behaviour." Jim stood, raising his body to its full height. "Of course, there's always a good chance you won't get out at all... alive that is."
"I told you before to keep that fucking mouth of yours shut!" the kid warned, his agitation growing steadily. "Didn't I... didn't I tell you?"
"Jim," Blair raised his head off the cushion. He squeezed his eyes shut at the pain it caused. "Lay off, man. He's jus' a kid. It's no' his fault. It's th' drugs... it's the fault... of th' drugs." He dropped his head back down, his body exhausted and steadily running out of fuel.
The boy latched immediately onto Blair's words. "That's right. It's not my fault. None of this is my fuckin' fault. It's the drugs... like he said, it's the drugs."
"Bullshit!" Jim shouted. Keeping his movements inconspicuous, he slowly edged his way around to the other side of the couch. "You are the only one who can be held responsible." He pointed his finger. "You took the drugs. You broke into my house, and you fired the gun." Before the kid could form a response, Jim found himself a mere foot away from the boy. "YOU!" he shouted. "Not anyone else, just you!"
The kid shook his head. "No, it wasn't my fault." He steadied the gun with both of his shaking hands.
"...jus' a vic'm, J'm." Blair's breathing was now harsh and rapid. "He's jus' a kid... give'm a chance."
The boy took his eyes off Jim for a moment, seeking out the only voice that seemed to understand why he was forced to do what he did. A moment was all Jim needed. He lunged forward, knocking the gun from the kid's hands. It hit the floor with a clatter, the kid diving aimlessly after it. Jim crash tackled the thin body, hard, knocking over the hall table in the process. A dull thud could be heard on the other side of the room.
The boy struggled under Jim's strong hold as the detective yanked him to his feet. Slamming the youth up against the wall, Jim snarled. "Why did you have to shoot? He didn't do a damn thing to you." He shook the boy hard. "Why did you have to fucking fire that gun?" Grabbing the kid roughly by the collar, he dragged him across the room. Fishing in his jacket pocket, he withdrew his cuffs.
"Oh, shit!... You a cop?" the youth asked in absolute fear.
Jim kicked the boy's legs out from underneath him, causing the kid to land hard on the floor. "You got that right, Bucko. One very mean and very pissed off cop." Securing his captive tightly to the banister at the bottom of the staircase, Jim grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
Assured by the operator that an ambulance was on the way, Jim moved back to Blair's side. He smiled down at his guide, who was now lying on the floor between the sofa and the coffee table. He knelt down swiftly. "Hey, partner, what'ch'ya doing down there?"
A small smile graced Blair's lips. "...jus' checkin'... dust' bunnies."
Jim pushed the table aside. "Did you find any?"
Blair shook his head slightly. "No... but I foun' my... black arg'le sock... was wond'rin'... where tha' go' to."
Jim hooked his arms around Blair's torso. "Come on Junior, let's get you up. You're bleeding all over the rug."
"...tha's nothin'... shou' see what 've done... to th' sofa."
"Hey, don't worry about that, Chief. I'll just add the cost of cleaning to next month's rent." Jim eased Blair gently back against his chest.
"...tha's wha' I love 'bout you, big guy... y'r c'm... passionate nature."
Jim chuckled. "What can I say, I'm oozing with the milk of human kindness." With his hand now massaging Blair's scalp, Jim asked. "So how did I do? Think I'm good enough to win an Oscar?"
"Reg'lar... Cary Grant, man." Blair flexed his hand several times.
"Still numb, Chief?"
"...p'ns and nee'les... foot too." Blair moved his cheek against Jim's shirt. "Wha's happ'nin'?" His voice faltered with an underlying fear. "...I get sho' in th' back?"
"No, buddy, I've already told you remember?" Jim took Blair's hand in his own. "You've got a concussion, Chief. I don't think that head of yours is as hard as I first thought."
Blair's eyes drifted shut. "Har' heads 're your depar'men', El'son. No' mine."
Jim tightened his grip a little. "You got that right, Junior."
"That's 'cause it's broken."
"...though' I w's shot'."
"If my shoul'er's broken... do I get outta doin' th' dishes?"
"You still got one good arm, don't ya?"
"Well, there's your answer."
Blair took in a deep breath and blew it out slowly, his brain finally relenting to his body's demand for rest. In the distant streets of the city below, the shrill screech of sirens could be heard. The pitiful sobs of an addicted young man on the other side of the room were drowned out by the relentless thump, thump, thump of electric drums.
I've been watching Sandburg closely out of the corner of my eye for the past few minutes. His half empty coffee mug is resting on his knee as his eyes drift shut, only to be reopened as the action of his drooping head startles him awake. He's been home for less than a day and already he's worn himself out. The minute he walked through the door he was on the phone. Calls to lawyers and social workers, using any contact he could think of to try and find out more about the kid. Trying to make sense of why a boy so young needed to turn to drugs to find solace. I don't quite understand his obsession. He's explained it to me, of course, in that calm, patient voice he uses when he's trying to make me see things his way. But the reality is that he can talk until he's blue in the face, and I still won't forgive. I can't. That little punk can spend the rest of his life rotting in jail and I'm not gonna loose a wink of sleep over it.
I don't know if Blair has completely comprehended what I nearly lost that night. I mean, there's probably only been a handful of people in my life that I would feel comfortable using the term 'true friend', and I'm not even sure Sandburg's name would fit that description. I have no idea how to explain how I feel about him because, to be honest, I've never felt like this before, and that scares me. It scares me to think how dependent I've become on him. I honestly don't know how I'd cope if Blair wasn't a part of my life. Losing Sandburg would be like losing a part of myself.
The kid's my partner, my guide, my friend and my brother. If I could think of a word that could roll all of these things into one, then I'd say this describes how I feel about Sandburg. But I can't. I don't think one exists.
I lean across the sofa and remove the coffee cup from his grasp. "Hey, Chief, why don't you hit the sack?" I place the mug on the table. "Before you do any more damage to the sofa."
He flashes me a small smile, before struggling to his feet. "Yeah, I think I might." He leans down and kisses the top of my head. "Night Jim," he yawns, before making his way to his room.
I sit there, stunned by the total openness of his affection. It comes so naturally to him that I doubt he even realizes what he's just done. I open my mouth to speak, but the words get stuck. Even after everything that we've been through, I still can't bring myself to tell him how much he means to me.
He stops when he gets to his door and turns around. "Hey Jim!" My eyes lock with his. "Don't ever change, man."
I shut my mouth and swallow the words that I was finding so hard to voice. I suddenly realize what Sandburg is. He's the other half of my soul.
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