Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Everyday Life Series

Night Light by Robyn (graphic by Robyn)

Summary: Can a sentinel know what it means to be afraid of the dark?

Night Light
by Robyn
October 2000

He feared the darkness.

He had never understood it before, but tonight he knew. Tonight he knew what it meant to fear the darkness.

<flash-flash>

Lightning slashed through the second story window, briefly illuminating the room with an eerie flicker that intensified his fear instead of easing it. Frozen in bed, he waited for the thunder as a prey waits for the predator to pounce.

<CRASH-RUMBLE>

His whole body jerked, startled by the reverberating loudness even though he had anticipated its coming. It was no longer the gradual rumble he was used to. He had not been able to hear its predictable crescendo.

He wished it would rain. He needed something to drown out the silence which left him so vulnerable to the evil of loud noises. The rain had always comforted him, soothing him to sleep with its pitter-patter, washing away his ten-year-old sorrows and trepidations like a nonjudgmental, faithful friend. But tonight the moonless, cloud-filled, ebony sky was ungiving. Uncaring. Unwilling to console his fear-wracked soul.

Tonight, Jimmy was friendless.

Alone.

Outside, a neighborhood dog howled. The shutters on his window rattled. Below, the bare tree branches rustled together. It's just the wind, he told himself. Or was it? A part of him wanted to go to the window and look out, but a greater force kept him frozen in bed, unmoving, clutching the edge of his blanket to his chin.

His intense blue eyes squinted, then widened as he desperately tried to see through the shadows, but all he could see were obscure shades of gray. The darkness had even robbed him of color. His eyes adjusted so slowly now he wondered if this was what it was like to be blind. Shapes he logically knew were furniture turned into abstract objects with the potential for treachery.

Before tonight, he'd never understood why his little brother had been afraid of the dark. When Stevie was younger, he'd come running into his room at night during thunderstorms, wanting to crawl in bed with him. He'd willingly obliged, though not really understanding why.

Now he knew.

Ironically, just as his little brother had grown out of his fear of thunder and darkness, he had begun to comprehend it.

Before... before this he had just looked through the darkness the same way he looked through the light. It kept no secrets from him, therefore it held no terror. Before, darkness had been nothing more to him than water to an Olympic swimmer -- an unchanging, even friendly environment through which he could move with ease.

But now everything was different.

He couldn't swim. Darkness was the enemy.

<FLICKER-FLASH>

<CRACKLE-BOOM!>

The lightning struck again, followed more quickly by the roar of thunder. The storm was getting closer. Closing in on him. Outside his window, the street lights flickered and went out, the shadows taking on the inky feel of a midnight blackout. His room fell completely dark.

The resulting blackness was oppressive. Tangible. Omnipotent.

He refused to pull the covers over his head, resisting the urge to hide. Was it possible to be so afraid you couldn't hide?

He'd asked for a night light. Yesterday, in the local dime store. Dad had said no.

He'd wanted the one with the triangular red and yellow Superman "S" which glowed when it was plugged in, but his dad had said no. "Men aren't afraid of the dark," Dad had scoffed. Jimmy had known better than to argue.

He was ten years old. A big boy. A ten-year-old shouldn't -- couldn't -- be afraid of the dark. Only sissies were afraid of the dark.

How could he ever be a hero if he was afraid of something as silly as the dark?

He was afraid.

He could not be afraid.

He couldn't let himself.

He wouldn't...

<CRASH!>

Jim sat bolt upright in bed, gasping for breath. He was in his own bed. The darkened loft seemed cozy compared to the electrical storm raging outside, intermittently lighting the upper level windows and the balcony doors, rattling them with thunder. Rain had begun to fall, pouring down on the deck and the roof.

Something other than the storm had awakened him.

"Ow!..." a voice hissed softly.

"Sandburg?" Jim called.

"Ow-ow-ow-ow..."

In an instant Jim was downstairs, the bed abandoned, kneeling beside his partner in the darkness.

Several feet in front of the entryway, Blair gasped in pain from where he had fallen on the wood floor, leaning back on both hands, his eyes shut tightly. His brown backpack lay strewn on the ground. "I'm sorry, man. I am so sorry I woke you up. I was trying to be careful..."

"Shh. Shh-shh," Jim soothed, putting his arm around Blair's shoulders. "Don't worry about me. Are you okay? What happened?"

"I guess I tracked some water into the house," answered Blair. "First I accidentally kicked the corner of the kitchen island, then I slipped on the floor. I can usually get around better in the dark than that, but... I am so sorry, Jim."

"Sandburg, quit apologizing. Is your leg okay?" The taller man moved to inspect his friend's right leg, moving strong hands gently up and down it, feeling for injuries. Blair had broken his leg weeks ago in a camping accident and had only just come off his cast and crutches yesterday.

"It might be a little tender in spots, but nothing really sore," answered Blair as Jim felt his leg. "Nothing compared to my big toe -- or my pride," he chuckled ruefully. "I just feel bad that I woke you up."

"This floor isn't too comfortable. What do you say we move you to the couch?" suggested Jim. Placing another arm under Blair's elbow for support, Jim helped the anthropologist gingerly pull to a stand, allowing him to lean on him for help. Together, they hobbled slowly toward the living room sofa.

"I'm glad you woke me up, Chief," said Jim as they collapsed on the couch.

"What are you talking about? Nobody likes being woke up in the middle of the night," said Blair, leaning against the cushions.

"No, really, I'm serious," said Jim, reaching over to turn on the small table lamp beside the couch. "I, uh -- I was in the middle of a bad dream and let's just say I was glad to wake up from it."

"Really?" said Blair. "What -- you woke up in a world where there were no Twinkies?" he teased.

The detective chuckled a little. "No," he said softly. "No, nothing like that," Jim shook his head.

Blair observed at his friend's expression, hearing the unspoken words. "What were you dreaming?" he asked gently.

The taller man looked away. "It was almost like a flashback. I was dreaming that I was a kid again, right after Bud died. There was a storm and a blackout, and I was scared. All of a sudden, I had this terrible fear of the dark that I'd never had before."

"Because you didn't have your senses any more," Blair said.

"Yes. I didn't realize it at the time."

"Why didn't you just get a night light?" asked the younger man.

Jim gave a short laugh. "Dad wouldn't let me have a night light. I think it was another one of his ways to get Stevie... Steven and me to toughen up."

Blair nodded. "That must've been rough."

Jim paused for a few moments, leaning back against the couch, shoulder-to-shoulder with Blair, enjoying the closeness of sitting beside his friend. "Were you -- were you afraid of the dark when you were little?" he asked quietly.

The younger man chuckled. "Heck, yeah. Naomi bought me a night light when I was three."

"Really?"

"Yeah. In fact, I think I still have it." Blair started to scoot forward, moving to get up.

Jim touched his arm. "Sit down, Sandburg. You don't have to get it right now."

"No, it's okay, really," said Blair. "I think it's in my room. I want to show it to you." He smiled, his eyes meeting Jim's.

"Just don't trip on any wet spots," called Jim as his partner retreated into his room.

In a minute, Blair was back, carrying a white and blue packing box with both arms. Jim recognized it as the box that had held Blair's most treasured possessions over the years, since he was little. "Here, hold this," said the anthropologist, setting the box down in Jim's lap and sitting down beside him again.

Blair pulled the cardboard lid off the box as Jim steadied it in his lap. After a little rummaging which required removing a few stacks of papers, an artifact or two, and a couple old books, Blair broke into a smile. "Here it is," he said, pulling out the item in question and placing it in Jim's hand.

"A superman S," Jim said softly, looking at the old, dusty night light.

"Yep," said Blair. "The faithful S chased away many a demon during my childhood years. I think I stopped using it sometime before high school, but I've always kept it." Blair considered the trusty object. "Besides, S is a good letter."

The detective grinned. "S for Sandburg?"

Blair grinned back. "Actually, I was thinking S for sentinel. Or shaman."

Jim fingered the light, looked at his friend and smiled. "It might be feeling rejected in the bottom of your old box. Maybe we could use it again."

Blair laughed. "Considering my mishap tonight, that might not be such a bad idea." Taking the light from Jim, the younger man took it into the kitchen. "You sure it won't bother you upstairs?" he asked over his shoulder.

"No, I'm sure," answered Jim.

"Okay." With that, Blair plugged it into one of the free outlets next to the sink. The old light blinked a few times, sputtering to life after many years of disuse, but soon put forth a steady, unwavering glow. "Still works," Blair said proudly.

Returning to the couch to his spot next to Jim, Blair reached over Jim's lap and turned off the lamp. A soft glow cast a friendly light on the kitchen area. The S was bright, but not too bright.

Both men settled back into the couch. Blair rested his head against Jim's shoulder, and Jim put his arm around Blair's shoulders, leaning his head against Blair's.

He was no longer alone. No longer friendless. No longer afraid.

He had never understood it before, but tonight he knew. Tonight he knew he would never again fear the darkness.

~The End~