Author's Notes:

Just a little mood piece that seemed smarmy enough for Valentine's Day. :-)

Hope you enjoy!



D.L. Witherspoon

(Posted 02-14-01)

Blair looked toward the balcony doors as he heard the rain intensify. It was getting nasty outside: heavy rain, brisk wind, and a chill that seemed to bypass clothing to sink directly into the bones. Just a few years ago he would have been worried. He'd have wondered how badly the ceiling was going to leak, and what mildew smells he was going to have to live with afterwards. He'd have the library schedules on hand in case it became too cold and he needed to find some free heat. Already shivering, he would have scrounged around for some heavy plastic to place over less than well-seated windows to keep the wind from seeping in. In other words, he would have been miserable. But that was then, and this was now. Now he lived in a comfortable loft, windows and ceiling "sentinelized" against the elements. A fireplace crackled and popped in the corner providing additional heat to the already cozy room. A pot of soup bubbled on the stove, its aroma pleasing not only to the nose, but to the soul. He stretched, scratched his chest, and returned his attention to the papers he was grading.

Fifteen minutes later, he heard a key slip into the lock. He looked up, a ready smile on his face as his roommate entered. The smile turned sympathetic as he took in the drowned figure. Poor Jim was soaked to the skin.

"Straight to the shower, man. I'll bring you down some dry clothes."

Jim nodded and peeled off his sodden jacket. He removed his holster, checked his gun, and removed soggy shoes and socks. As he made his way across the varnished hard wood floor, his wet feet made a sticky, rasping noise similar to the opening of Velcro. Blair winced at the sound, knowing Jim was getting it in tenfold stereo or more. But the Sentinel said nothing as he disappeared into the bathroom. He was equally quiet as he sat at the table later, eating his soup while Blair talked about his day. Some would have been annoyed at the unequal conversation, but Blair accepted Jim's silence. He'd learned silence didn't mean inattentiveness, and that while Jim could talk, ramble, and sling bull with the best of them, he preferred a quieter approach to life. Maybe that had something to do with him being a Sentinel. Maybe it didn't.

But when Jim slumped onto the sofa and stared at the television that was showing something on the life cycles of the fiddler crab (it had apparently been left on the Discovery Channel), Blair knew this was not a typical Jim silence. He powered off his laptop. Grades could wait. Padding to the kitchen, he made two mugs of tea. Then he walked over to the sofa and handed one of them to Jim.

"Thanks, Sandburg."

Blair frowned. Not even a "What's this?" Very atypical. He motioned for Jim to move his feet and sat down when Jim bent his knees to give him room.

"You seem down, man."

A shrug. "Just one of those days, Sandburg, you know?"

"No, I don't know, Jim. Tell me."

"It's like if you were married, this would be the day that your wife runs off with a serial killer because he's more emotionally there for her than you. It would be the day your dog leaps into the back of an Animal Control truck voluntarily. It'd be the day three of your best buds turn down an invitation to go to the game of the year with you because they have to wash their hair. Just one of those days, Sandburg."

Blair grinned. "You and me, man. As soon as you retire, we're heading down to Nashville to sell some lyrics to the Grand Ol' Opry." He pinched a sock-clad toe. "I don't have to wash my hair. The only truck I'm leaping into is the blue and white one you drive. And I've done the serial killer gig; trust me, you're a much better option. What happened today?"

Jim sighed. "That's just it. Nothing happened today that hasn't happened before. The D.A. pleaded one of my murder cases down to a misdemeanor death. Simon tore a hole into the unit because we haven't made any progress on the mall robberies. The drink machine gave me a Pepsi instead of a Coke. Nothing of great importance."

"But it's extra weight you just can't seem to bear today."

"Yeah. Stupid."

Blair shook his head. "No, not stupid. Everybody has days like that, Jim. I think it helps us be strong when the big things hit. Think of it like a dam. If it breaks wide open, there's nothing to be done, except to hang on and hope you don't get swept away. But the occasional small leaks can be repaired and the dam is stronger for it. Make sense?"

Jim nodded. "I'll be okay, Sandburg. This feeling never lasts long. I'm too busy to be depressed."

"You big, bad Sentinel. Have criminals to catch. No time for self-pity." Blair accentuated his terse statements with a grunt.

Jim gave a weak smile. "Yeah, something like that."

"Well, as your friend and partner, I'm telling you to take the time. Mopping up after a dam break is not my idea of fun. So how do you usually do this? Jazz on the stereo and Chunky Monkey ice cream? A sad movie like Brian's Song? A hot woman and a long night?" He wiggled his eyebrows as he said the last.

Jim shrugged. "A beer and silence, I suppose. I don't know, Sandburg. The mood hits. It leaves. I don't give it another thought."

"How about when you were a kid? Mom used to lay my head in her lap and sing a folk song or two. When I was older, I'd do the same for her. Didn't your mom or dad ever do something like that?"

"No." Jim closed his eyes. "But I remember Stevie climbing into my bed with some lame book after she left. And I would have to read it to him over and over again until he fell asleep. Maybe she read it to him, and that's why he wanted to hear it so much after she left."

"But you don't remember her reading to you?"

"The truth, Chief, is that I don't remember her much at all. The last time I saw her I was fifteen maybe, and I have a vague image of her wearing a dress. That's it. Sometimes I'm not even sure it's her I'm remembering. Dad got rid of her pictures a long time ago. Of course, now that I'm a Sentinel, you could probably take me back to that day and I'd be able to remember in great detail. But what's the use?"

Blair pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them. "There's something I've been wanting to ask you, but the time never seemed appropriate, or I figured it was something you didn't need to deal with at the moment--"

"Just ask, Sandburg."

"Is--is your mother still living?"

"I have no idea."

Blair's head jerked up. "What do you mean?"

"One day she was living with us and we saw her everyday. Then she moved out and we saw her once a week, once a month, maybe a couple of times a year. Eventually, we didn't see her again."

"And you never asked why?"


"And you've never wondered?" Jim had access to a dozen information servers that could locate his mother in a matter of hours--including her death certificate if that was the case.

"Chief, my circumstances are different from yours."

"Huh?" When had he become the subject under discussion?

"Your father doesn't know you. He probably doesn't know you exist, and even if he does--and bailed on Naomi after the news--he doesn't know you. So you can wonder about him and cling to the hope that if he knew you, he would love you. My mom knew me--and she chose to leave. That's closure enough for me."

Blair felt pain radiate in his hands and looked down to see his nails digging into his palms.

"Drink your tea, Chief. And the next time you want to ask me something, just ask. If I don't want to answer, I won't."

"'Kay." Blair rubbed his palms, pleased to see he hadn't broken skin, but unable to figure out which had upset him more--his parental troubles or Jim's. "Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief?"

"Can I get the Chunky Monkey from the freezer and put on some soft jazz?"

"You finished the Chunky Monkey last weekend, along with the Cherry Garcia, and I really could do without the pulsating of the stereo."

"Cool." Even with the music coming through headphones, Jim could still feel the sound vibrations.

"But you can sing a folk song if you want."

Blair's feet hit the floor. "Lift up, man."

Before Jim could begin a protest his head was pillowed on Blair's lap.

"I said a song, Sandburg."

Blair shrugged. "Package deal. Comfy?" He smoothed his hand across Jim's hair. As soft as down.

"I feel silly."

"I don't." Blair smiled as the tension left the broad shoulders. "How many roads must a man walk down," he began to sing.

"Don't quit your day job," Jim remarked, his eyes closed, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

"Don't worry. I like my job too much to quit," Blair said, his knuckles playing soothingly across Jim's brow. "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind," he continued singing.

As the fire crackled inside and the rain poured outside, two dams--stress-fractured, wind-buffeted, and deeply gouged by churning debris--were skillfully and lovingly mended.


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