Disclaimer: The Characters of The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, The SciFi channel and others. No copyright infringement is intended.

Notes: A short story I dreamed up while listening to one of my favorite CDs in the car on my way to work. Who says commuting has to be a bore? Thanks, as always, to Danae for her beta expertise and to Wolfshy for her fabulous web site. "Broken Arrow" was written by Robbie Robertson and recorded by Rod Stewart. (Don't be surprised if another story or two comes out of the same CD. The musician in me sometimes just can't resist.) 

Post-TS2, and pre-TSbyBS, with spoilers for Cypher.

Broken Arrow

by JET

********************

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow?
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?
There he goes,
Moving across the water.
There he goes,
Turning my whole world around.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

The blanket of darkness covers the still summer night. In the loft, the tenseness in the air is almost palpable. In all our years together, there have been arguments, many fierce and some nearly fatal, but this one rates right up there in the top ten. No words have passed between us for nearly forty-eight hours, since the shooting on High Street.

Since we both nearly lost our lives.

We survived. Again. Thank God. Dodged the bullets one more time. Now, the only question remaining is whether our partnership and our friendship will survive as well.

I know I look tired, and I am. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. I feel like a man shattered into a thousand pieces, a man devoid of purpose and strength.

Amazing how quickly an argument with the one closest to your heart can drain your spirit.

Once more, Sandburg ignored my order to stay where he would be safe; to remain in the truck while I followed the perp. We'd been tracking Graves for days, and the tip that he had holed up in the abandoned warehouse down by the docks seemed to be on the level. The man was a maniac. Anyone who kills a half dozen innocent victims has to be; at least that's the way it reads in the James Ellison encyclopedia of criminal behavior.

One thing I was sure of as we pulled up to the High Street warehouse was that I didn't want that bastard anywhere near my partner. Only five weeks before, I had pulled his limp, lifeless body from the waters of that damned fountain. No matter how long I live, I'll never forget the absolute helplessness I felt that day; I'll never forget the agonizing realization that he was dead, banished from my life forever.

I still have the same dream nearly every night. I am standing at the ocean's edge, waiting; for what, I'm not yet sure. My heart is beating far too fast, and a desperate fear claws at my chest. My senses are out of control, and I have no guide. Then, far in the distance, I see it. A small boat sailing toward shore, its white sails billowing in the wind. The closer it comes, the slower my heart beats. By the time I see his face, I feel normal again, in control of my senses, able to breathe calmly at last. Sandburg has turned my life around once more, and again, I catch a glimpse of the living hell my life would become without him.

Thankfully, this time, it is only in my dreams.

So, on that night in the warehouse, if I was being overprotective, I had a right. If I have my way, nothing will ever threaten my partner again.

Too much depends on it. Not only his life, but my own.

I ordered him to stay in the truck and wait for back up. Being Sandburg, he followed. Me, not my orders. Simon calls him my shadow, and I guess he's not far off. I read a poem once in which a lonely man looks to his shadow as proof of his own existence. In those words, I heard the ring of my own truth.

Graves never tried to hide or run once he knew I was in the building. I located him immediately by his smell. A lifetime of gin and tobacco leaves an indelible imprint.

I thought it would be simple. The man had the hunted look of a fugitive who is tired of running and is almost relieved to be cornered at last. Perhaps prison would be a release of sorts from a lifetime of looking over his shoulder. He was almost ready to give up the gun. I was certain that I could bring him in alive and unharmed.

Until my shadow showed up. When Sandburg appeared out of nowhere behind me, Graves lost it. He fired off two shots in close succession before I could push Sandburg out of the line of fire. One bullet passed by Sandburg's temple. I could hear the whisper of his hair as the bullet breezed by. I hit the floor and rolled between Graves and my partner, squeezing out my one shot as I went. It was enough.

Graves was dead, and I was furious.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Do you feel what I feel?
Can we make it so that's part of the deal?
I gotta hold you in these arms of steel.
Lay my heart on the line this time.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I know I should have held my temper. I never should have attacked Sandburg the way I did, especially in front of the uniforms and Simon who had arrived on the scene by the time the smoke had cleared. There's a time and place for everything and giving your partner a public tongue-lashing definitely falls in neither category.

I was just so damned angry, but even more than that, I was frightened. Terrified in the depths of my soul. Seeing that gun pointed at him literally sucked my breath away into a vacuum of fear. At that moment, all I wanted to do was wrap my arms around him and hold him close enough for the feel of his heartbeat to convince my soul that he really was all right, that once again, he had survived. Instead, I lashed out at him in anger, and he turned away from me, his wide blue eyes filled with hurt and touched with a trace of fear.

I wish I could open his heart and pour all my emotions into him so he could understand how much it frightens me whenever he is in danger. To make him see the future as I see it should I lost him . . . bleak . . . colorless . . . devoid of life and hope. I was given a bitter taste of that future a mere five weeks ago, and I'm not anxious to ever confront it again.

I think I'm as angry with myself as I am with Sandburg. For the first time in my life, I've put my heart right out there, on the front lines. For as long as I can remember, I've always held back part of myself, even from those I cared about the most. Not even Carolyn ever touched that part of my heart that I nurtured and protected from the pain of rejection.

Until Sandburg came into my life. A whirling, twirling kaleidoscope of motion and color and enthusiasm who, quite frankly, fascinated me. In my mainstream, ordered, military life, I'd never known anyone like him. Probably wouldn't have taken the time to know him had I not been desperate to believe he really could teach me to control my renegade sentinel senses.

Before I knew what had happened, I had surrendered that last vestige of my secret heart to him. And he took it into his possession as though it was his birthright, as if he knew it had belonged to him all along.

Now, the thought of losing him terrifies me. Not just because I know that without him, my senses would overwhelm me and drive me straight into that insane asylum that was beckoning when he came into my life. No, I fear losing him not only because I need him, but also because I love him. Not an easy thing for me to admit. An Ellison doesn't need anyone, at least in the version of life I was taught, and he certainly doesn't admit to loving anyone.

So much for the apple not falling far from the tree...

I have the ability to do many remarkable things, but not loving him is an impossibility for me. Blair Sandburg is one of the original wonders of this earth, and the world needs him. He makes this planet a better place through the sheer force of his compassion and humanity. Perhaps an even greater accomplishment is that he makes me a better person, a more compassionate and humane person, merely by being in my life. He's opened my eyes to things even my sentinel senses could not reveal, and he's opened my heart to emotions I never knew existed. I can't imagine my life without him.

Yet, I let him risk his life each and every day, merely because I need him beside me to ground me, to keep me focused, to provide the stable center I so desperately need. I let him put himself in danger, selfish bastard that I am, and that infuriates me.

I jog down the stairs to the street below. I have to get away from the loft, and, as much as it hurts to admit it, away from Sandburg. He has retreated to his room, only emerging for bathroom breaks and to fix light meals to carry back inside his sanctuary. Right now, I want to escape our home, which somehow has turned into a prison for us both. A prison where we have willingly sentenced ourselves to solitary confinement, refusing in our stubborn pride to allow the other entrance.

The summer heat slams into me with a vengeance. Cascade is sweltering through a heat wave, and even my temperature dial can't be turned down low enough to relieve the discomfort. Maybe this hellish heat is another reason we haven't spoken to each other since that afternoon in the warehouse. Everyone seems to have a short fuse these days.

Without realizing it, I find myself in the park near the loft. I can't help smiling a little as I realize that I'm standing under the tree. Our tree. Sandburg calls it 'the witness tree.' It's a huge oak, towering above the park and stream beside it. Its spreading branches almost seem to reach out and shelter those who seek refuge beneath it.

Which was exactly where I found him about a month after the nightmare with Lash. We really hadn't been working together that long when the psycho kidnapped him. Remarkably, he had held together pretty well, considering the hell he went through that night. But now, he had lost whatever inner strength had been holding him together. When he didn't show up for dinner, I got worried. After all, the kid had almost died only a few short weeks before. His car was parked out front, so I figured he couldn't have gone far, and I went out to search for him. I found him beneath the giant oak.

At first, he tried to hide the tears and the shivers, which wracked his body, but it didn't take long for even that effort to be too much. I sat close beside him, and when I wrapped one arm over his shoulders, he lost it and collapsed into my arms. Between his sobs, he managed to tell me how afraid he had been, how certain he was going to die. He had known I'd be searching for him, but never believed I could find him in time. Especially when Lash forced that bitter liquid down his throat.

I didn't know what to say, what words would make it better for him and relieve the anguish I heard in his trembling voice. I sometimes think that was when I gave up that last remnant of my heart, which I had so carefully guarded. Feeling the warmth of him in my arms... knowing that, maybe for the first time, I was truly needed by another human being... longing with my whole, aching soul to be able to comfort this sobbing, frightened young man... I lost my heart.

I don't remember everything I told him that day, but I do remember this. I promised Sandburg that I would do everything in my power to protect him, to earn the title of "Blessed Protector" that he had so blithely bestowed upon me. When he raised his face to look at me at last, I could read so clearly the medley of emotions playing out in those blue eyes -- hope, admiration, trust... love. Then, he promised to do all he could to help me deal with my senses, to stand beside me no matter what dangers we encountered. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think those emotions in Blair's eyes were mirrored in my own.

From then on, he's called this oak our witness tree, for it was here that we truly became partners.

And it's to the witness tree that I've aimlessly drifted on this sweltering summer day when it seems we've never been further apart. I sink down onto the soft grass and lean back against the rough bark. My eyes close to shut out the glare of the hot summer sunlight, and I dream of cool waters.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Do you feel what I feel?
Do you feel what I feel?
Ah , can you see what I see?
Can you cut behind the mystery?
I will meet you by the witness tree,
Leave the whole world behind.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

And then, he is beside me.

I've learned that when my emotions are in turmoil, I often miss little sounds and smells that would ordinarily alert my senses in an instant. My emotions must be in a cyclone today, because I never heard him approach.

I must have slept. The sun is significantly lower in the cloudless sky, but the air is still stifling, and the sweat trickles down my back in a tickling trail.

Blair lowers himself gracefully to the ground beside me, but he doesn't utter a sound. Totally un-Sandburg, the silence of the past two days. I joke that I'd love a little peace and quiet, but to be honest, I miss his constant chatter. Maybe I'll tell him one day that sometimes those strange stories of his are all that keep me sane when my job threatens to drown me with its madness.

Today, I just long to hear his voice.

Why the hell is it so hard to say three simple words?

Blair, I'm sorry...

He takes his backpack from his shoulders, settling it on the ground in front of him. Still, he is silent.

Reaching in, he pulls out two objects. From the corner of my eye, I try to figure out what the kid's up to now, but I can't discern what he has in his hands. Heaven forbid I should break down and ask.

Don't show weakness, son! If it hurts, hide the pain. If you care, disguise your vulnerability. Don't ever let them see you cry. You're an Ellison, and that's a name that means something in this world. Remember that.

Yeah, Dad, I'll remember. I promise.

I always keep my promises.

Even if it kills me. Or the ones I love.

Blair's voice interrupts my reverie. He is holding something out toward me, and as I look down, I can tell at last what it is.

A broken arrow. The point is carved of dark gray flint, expertly chiseled to a cutting sharpness. It has been bound to the shaft with tightly wrapped sinew. Obviously very old, the shaft itself is snapped in two; its end jagged where it was splintered.

He speaks at last, his quiet tone sounding more like he is talking to himself than to me. "In the tribes of many cultures around the world, holding out a broken arrow is a sign of peace." Blair's gaze never leaves the shattered shaft in his hand. Keeping his eyes down, he adds quietly, "I can't undo what I did, Jim. I wish I could. I know that sometimes you have to pull rank on me, even if I disagree." He takes a deep breath. "You're the expert out there, Jim; I know that. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."

My heart leaps with hope.

He holds out the arrow. "Peace?"

I reach out to take it, and my hands brush against his. I can feel the shiver that passes through him.

Before I can speak, he holds out the second object. It's a small bottle filled with water. The arrow, at least, was original. Unique. But this... ? Water?

When will I learn to quit underestimating him?

Now that I have accepted the broken arrow, his voice is stronger, surer of his words. He holds the bottle up to the sun, letting the light filter through the water to create a tiny rainbow on his cheek. I can't help smiling at the significance.

The sign of promise at the end of the storm...

My treasure at the end of the rainbow...

God, I've missed being connected to him.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I wanna breathe when you breathe,
When you whisper like that hot summer breeze.
Count the beads of sweat that cover me.
Didn't you show me a sign this time?

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

His soft voice almost a whisper, he never looks at me. "Once, when I was about ten, Naomi and I went to this island out in the Pacific. It was paradise on earth. We were on the beach, and the sun was shining. Not a cloud in the sky. All of a sudden, it started to rain. I couldn't figure out where the raindrops were coming from, until I looked up toward the high mountains behind us. It was raining on the mountainside, and the breeze was carrying the rain down below to the beach."

He pauses and turns to capture my eyes. "Naomi laughed and called it 'liquid sunshine.' She grabbed this old bottle and captured the rain. Then, she gave it to me and said that whenever I had a bad day -- a stormy day -- I should take it out and remember. Remember the day I felt liquid sunshine on my face." He falls silent once more, but his eyes hold mine, searching intently for my reaction.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I want to come when you call.
I'll get to you if I have to crawl.
They can't hold me with these iron walls.
We've got mountains to climb, to climb.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

I know he's waiting for me to say something... anything. Why the hell does it have to be so damned difficult for me to say I'm sorry, to even meet him halfway? My mind flashes back for an instant to a time when I was desperate to cross a different void that separated us, possibly forever...

Coarse ropes cutting my wrists... warm blood dripping down my arms as I struggled for freedom... desperate to get to Blair... the sounds of his screams resonating through every cell in my hyper sensitive body... my name... he's screaming my name... a final, painful surge... the ropes give at last, enough for my bloody, slick wrists to slip through... pain shooting through my ankle, twisted in the fight leading to our capture and the gunshot wound in my thigh... more screams from the room next door... his screams... my name... screaming my name... ramming the heavy metal door with my shoulder... again... again... again... there is no pain... no pain... pounding... pounding... stumbling forward as the door gives way at last... wresting a gun away... shots ringing out... collapsing to the floor, unable to stand any longer... crawling toward the sound of his moans, dragging my shattered leg behind... gathering him to me at last... holding him close... rocking slowly... alive... safe... with me... I can breathe again... breathe in synch with him...

I was willing to do anything to reach him then.

Just as I'm suddenly willing to do anything to reach him now...

I take the bottle of rain from his hand, letting my fingers gently brush against his, then hold it between my palms, wrapping my fingers around the coolness of the glass. I stare into the clear water.

"Liquid sunshine... "

"Is the storm over now, Jim?" His eyes burn into mine with hopeful fire.

I reach out to wrap my left arm around his shoulders, still holding the precious bottle in my right, the broken arrow resting in my lap. He leans closer to me and rests his head against my shoulder. His sigh blows warm on my neck. "Yeah, it's over, Chief. I'm sorry, too, you know. It's just hard... " I'm not sure I can finish the thought.

He doesn't force me. "I know. It's all right, man. Just as long as we're okay. Are we okay?"

Resting my head against his soft curls, I nod and whisper, "We're okay, Blair. We're okay."

And the sun sinks below the horizon.

In every relationship, there has to be a peacemaker, someone who has the courage to take the first painful step toward mending the rifts that tear apart even the strongest of friendships. I wish I could say that I possess such courage. But, I would be lying.

I'm blessed to have a friend who is the bravest of peacemakers.

A friend who can work miracles with only a broken arrow and a bottle of rain.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Who else is gonna bring you a broken arrow?
Who else is gonna bring you a bottle of rain?
There he goes,
Moving across the water.
There he goes,
Turning my whole world around...
Turning my whole world around...
Turning my whole world around...
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Finis...

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