Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Smarm

Introspective smarm. Emotional h/c and some angst, but no owies.

Spoilers: minor references to Switchman, Deep Water, Secret, His Brother's Keeper, Remembrance, and Warriors.

Safe Harbor
by Becky
June 1998

Jim stood alone at the edge of the water, hands shoved deep in his jacket pockets, staring silently at the waves crashing against the sand just a few feet in front of him. A few birds floated effortlessly through the light wind of the early evening, calling to each other lazily. The last rays of the orange, yellow, and pink sunset danced and glimmered off the ocean surface, sending up shifting patterns of light and colored shadows. He wasn't sure what had brought him out there, to the edge of the water, by himself, alone. Being outside wasn't any different than being in the loft, which was just as bereft of company right then as this lonely little stretch of beach was.

Kicking at a rock with one foot, he considered those thoughts, letting his mind drift where it wanted. Not something he typically allowed himself to do, but for just this once, he decided to see where his mind would lead him, curious, he supposed.

For most of his life, he'd been a loner, someone who neither wanted or needed anyone. Someone who had chosen early in his life to keep others at a distance, to not let them too close. The reasons? More than he could really count. But mostly for protection -- protection from getting hurt by someone he'd let into his life and then lose quickly any number of ways.

His mother. He winced. She had been the first, leaving him and his brother so early in their young lives. Steven hadn't even been in school yet. Jim's memories had dimmed to almost nothing. But he could never forget the arguments he heard between his parents, especially the ones where his mother -- his own mother -- had quite bluntly told his father that she neither wanted her children or had time for them. Too busy for them. Or they were too much trouble.

That painful knowledge had been something he'd kept from Steven for as long as he could. Now that he could remember having his sentinel abilities at such a young age, he could also remember thinking they were normal and that Steven must've had them as well. Therefore, he'd become adept at distracting his younger brother whenever he would hear arguments or yelling or disturbing phone calls at the other end of the large house. Already his protection streak had been fully operational, along with his senses.

His senses. Yeah, those pesky little things.

They had been what had completed the division between him and his father after Bud's death. Something inside him clenched at the renewed pain, so long suppressed. His closest adult friend as a child. Dead at another's hand just because he had more money than his killer. And then there was the trauma of finding the body of such a good friend and his father telling him that he couldn't have seen someone so far away in the forest, telling him that it wasn't normal, that he had to stop pretending, that he could be considered a freak. His senses had vanished within the week, but so had any remnant of filial closeness he might have had with his father.

The closeness he had with his brother hadn't been that far behind. Jim remembered changing nearly overnight, becoming closed off, constantly angry, hurtful toward the confused little boy who worshiped his older brother. Years passed and Jim wished as he grew older and the antagonism between him and Steven strengthened that he could've gone back into the past, changed things, stayed close to what family he had.

But he couldn't. So after the traumatic death of a man who had been like a father to him, he had more or less lost his real father and his brother. The lesson had been learned. Don't trust. Don't hope. Don't give anything away. If you stay detached, you won't get hurt. You'll be safe.

His family had paid the price for that lesson. And so had he.

Military training had reinforced such ideas until they had become a way of life, his way of life. Sure, he had those in the army he called friends, but never close ones, never ones he let inside. Trust them to watch your back, to keep guard, to stay with you in a fire fight. But never, ever, trust them with your heart, your soul. Because that was only asking for trouble.

It was a policy Captain James Ellison had adopted fully and completely when the covert ops mission to Peru came up. His men had been handpicked, chosen for specific talents, for how well they could work together as a team, for how well they could follow orders. Knowing it was going to be some time before they would be relieved, Jim had also chosen men who he knew he could get along with and could get along with each other. They had all been men he had worked with before on other missions. They were all men he could trust. They were all men that trusted him, believed in him, looked to him for leadership.

Their trust had been sorely misplaced.

In one fell swoop the men whom he knew the best, trusted the most, had been the closest to -- they had all been killed by a mission that had been targeted for betrayal from the start.

Oh, he knew now it wasn't his fault, but he hadn't known it then, hadn't known it when it had mattered, hadn't known it when he'd had to bury all of them and still continue on with the mission he'd been given, regardless of the bitterly familiar and long-forgotten pain of regret and sorrow which had coursed through him.

But continue he did, using abilities lost in childhood without even realizing he was doing it, like it had been before his father had told him he was a freak for 'pretending' to see and hear and smell better than anyone else. The tribe had welcomed him in. Incacha had found him, helped him, guided him. He kept himself apart from the natives, mixing with them only when necessary, ignoring their constant friendly efforts to include him in their ceremonies, their daily lives.

He had a mission. He needed nothing else. The mission had been the only thing that mattered to him, the only thing he had left.

Time went on. He had been rescued and returned to his home town after years and years of absence, joining the police force almost immediately, needing something else, something different to give his life focus, to give it meaning again. Robbery, Narcotics, Vice, and then, finally, Major Crimes.

And Jack. Jack, who had no want of a partner. Jack the loner. Jack who had found himself partnered with a rebellious cop from Vice with an attitude the size of Texas and a chip on his shoulder the size of the whole western United States.

Jim smiled in both fond and bitter memory and shook his head at what he had been then. Still feeling pretty full of himself after his military experience, but not having any goals in life other than to just live the good life. Any kind of good life, as long as he didn't have to go back to his father to get it.

Even though Jack hadn't wanted him, he'd taken Jim and taught him how to be a good cop, how to do what he needed to do. Jim, of course, had resisted following any advice given him, just nodded and shrugged it off. It was ironic that it took Jack's disappearance to make Jim follow what his partner had tried to teach him. Within a month of Jack's loss, Jim had changed himself into the model officer. Simon hadn't known what to think.

Simon.

One of the first people he'd finally allowed himself to call a real friend after his return from Peru. Never totally close, but they had established a base friendship, although at times it was shaky and filled with yelling, it was a friendship nonetheless.

And then Carolyn had come along. Their courtship had been fast and furious, their marriage had been even more so. Jim now realized more of how Carolyn had tried to keep their marriage together, to not let it fail. But then, Jim hadn't been interested in the hard work a relationship required. He knew he short-changed the woman. Their divorce was something he still, at times, regretted. He didn't like failure. And that he'd failed at something so important, well, it wasn't something he felt happy about, even now.

But Carolyn was a good person who deserved much better than he had been able to give. He had refused to let her in, didn't like to 'just talk' to her about just everyday stuff. In actuality, he hadn't known how. Hadn't known how to open up to her, hadn't known where to look for the key to his own heart, hadn't known how to break the barriers he'd built up between himself and the world for so many years.

Until one Blair Sandburg blew into his life and he found his neat, orderly ways turned upside down and rearranged out of order and then left that way, scattered in pieces all over the ground. A man who couldn't be defined or pigeon-holed, who thrived on adrenaline and excitement, who had more interests than Jim could keep track of, who was more intelligent than any one person Jim knew, who was blessed with wisdom, grace, and infinite patience. Who had given up nearly everything in his life just to help one angry and confused detective find his way back into life.

Jim chuckled softly under his breath, a gentle smile gracing his features and banishing the pain in his light blue eyes. Sandburg had refused to be scared off by any barriers. But instead of fighting and battering his way through, like Jim had first expected, he'd just found ways to get around them, under them, over them, through cracks, through holes, through windows left open accidentally, until he finally found the key and kept it for himself.

A key Jim hadn't ever bothered to get back. A key Blair no longer even needed. Jim had thrown the lock away and never got around to replacing it. He didn't want to. He didn't need to. He no longer had to worry about protecting himself from risk. Blair had taken over that job for him. Jim's job was to protect his city, his tribe, and most importantly, his confidante and friend.

Blair's job was to protect him. To be the one true soul to whom he could always turn to, could always count on, no matter the situation, no matter the time, no matter the place. Blair was his safe harbor.

"Hey, Jim, here you are. What are you doing out here?" A hand touched on his back, rubbing it through the jacket. "I got home and couldn't find you anywhere. Your truck was still parked outside so I knew you couldn't be far. Is something wrong?"

Jim shook his head, then lifted one arm to drape over Blair's shoulder, looking down into those dark blue eyes, so filled with friendship and concern. "No, nothing's wrong, Chief. I was just thinking."

Blair raised an eyebrow. "Thinking? About what?"

"Life, the Universe, and Everything."

"Isn't that a book title? Some science fiction novel or something?"

Jim shrugged. "Could be. I don't know. It just fits, that's all I know." He squeezed Blair's shoulders, pulling him into a one-armed hug, inhaling the scent of his guide's herbal shampoo to ground himself before he lost himself in the mad swirl of emotions running through his body.

"Jim? Are you sure you're all right?" More concern, mixed with a little confusion, filled the young man's voice as he laid a hand on Jim's chest, right over his heart.

Jim pulled back, releasing him, but leaving his arm over Blair's shoulder, putting his other hand over Blair's on his chest. "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine." Blair didn't looked convinced. Jim laughed softly and smiled. "Really, Blair, I'm fine, just a little introspective tonight, that's all."

Blair nodded, hints of skepticism in his eyes, but let it be. "Well, if you're done, can we go back to the loft?" He shivered. "It's getting cold out here."

"Yeah, we can got back now." Jim turned them both around, still holding Blair to his side. He asked as they walked over the uneven ground, "You have your keys?"

"Keys? Of course I have my keys. Don't you?"

"No, I left them inside."

Blair tilted his head up to look at Jim incredulously. "Now I know you've lost it. You never leave the loft without your keys and the door was locked when I got there. What is with you tonight?"

"Nothing's with me, Chief. I just knew you'd be back soon." He paused, smiling again, a twinkle in his eyes. "And I knew you'd have your keys with you, so why would I need mine?"

- The End -