originally posted to the sentinel angst list
PG-13, some gorey stuff, but it's brief.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The Deep
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"JIM!"

The second explosion hit, rocking the boat and knocking Blair off his feet. He slammed backward into the rail, his spine bending painfully, then flipped over. The water hit him like a block of ice, and he gasped from the cold as he went under. The salty water followed the air and sliced into his lungs like slivers of metal. He coughed even as he struggled toward the surface, and more water slid down his windpipe.

*Oh God, I'm gonna die.*

*JIM!* He'd caught only a glimpse of the sentinel running toward him when the second bomb went off, but he had no idea whether Jim had been caught in the blast.

He exploded into the bright, clear day and promptly threw up half a lungful of the biting water. He saw the boat several feet away, sinking rapidly. Debris floated all around him. He scanned the area, his heart drumming madly in his chest, but there was no sign of Jim.

The boat sank further, and it suddenly occurred to him that he'd be pulled under with the vessel. And so would Jim. *Oh God, Jim. Oh God.* His eyes darted amongst the debris, searching for something that would keep him from going under. He thought the boat was small enough that a life raft would be able to stay afloat amidst the underwater storm its
sinking mass caused.

There! To his right just a few feet away - the rolled up aerobed, self-inflatable. But it was now waterlogged, and he doubted the inflation device would work.

And he still had to find Jim.

But it was too late. The boat sank deeper, nearly gone from view, only the tip of its bow visible. He already felt the pull from beneath him. Frantically, he swam the few feet toward the mattress, yanked the inflation cord, and nearly cried out when the bed sprung open and, within seconds, settled into a floating twin-sized mattress. Just as the boat disappeared and Blair felt himself going under, he grabbed onto the edge of the mattress and, with strength he didn't realize he possessed, propelled himself upward. He landed on his stomach, his face pressed against the cool vinyl, and threw up more water.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Blair!" Jim's voice spread out over the ocean surface. Just as the boat disappeared, he spotted his partner on the other side, collapsed on the surface of the inflatable bed. Relief expelled the air from his lungs, and he sagged forward, trembling inside.

This one had been *way* too close for both of them.

"Can you tell if he's okay?"

Jim barely glanced at the boat's Captain seated next to him in the small raft. "I think so. Yeah." His senses told him without doubt that Blair was alive and breathing hard, but he couldn't tell that to the Captain. His nose also picked up the scent of blood, and his vision zoomed into the small cut on Blair's forehead. The kid seemed to be on the edge of
consciousness, his eyelids drooped low, almost closed.

"That's good. How did you find that bomb, anyway?"

"I found it too late." It had been well-hidden, and he cursed himself for not finding the scent sooner. But, damnit, he'd had his dials turned down due to the overwhelming odor of fish from their respective catches.

"Who'd do something like this?"

He had a few ideas, but nothing solid. Sotsiahpeh perhaps -- the drug lord he and Sandburg had been tracking with some of the guys from Narcotics. Or maybe the eco-terrorist group that had been making headlines lately.

Who had done it wasn't as important at the moment as getting to Sandburg and paddling back to shore -- which, unless someone spotted them, would take several long hours.

He felt a vibration through the boat and immediately went still, extending his senses further. His eyes scanned the ocean waters, and he saw a large figure beneath the surface. "Watch out!"

The boat rocked, and he grabbed onto the sides. The monstrous white shark emerged from the water, its massive jaws opened. The boat skidded away from the beast and managed to remain upright, but the Captain was tossed overboard.

"Daniel!" Jim knew it was too late. The shark's jaws clamped over the Captain, and the animal disappeared beneath the surface with its catch.

"Jim..." A soft voice floated through the now-quiet breeze. Jim looked up to meet Sandburg's horrified eyes.

*He saw it. Damn.* Taking a deep breath, he forced himself calm. "Be still Chief," he shouted across the water. "Don't move! I think it's satisfied now, so it's probably taking off, but let's not chance it."

Jim scanned the water again, but even his sensitive vision could only penetrate a fraction of the ocean's depth, and the reflection of sunlight off the surface made it even more difficult for him use his heightened vision.

But then a disturbance in the water near Blair's raft caused Jim's chest to tighten. Captain Daniel bobbed to the surface, the water murky red around him, his eyes staring blankly up into the sky.

Blair reacted, first letting out a startled yell, then reaching instinctively for the Captain even as the body rocked back to reveal a half-corpse. Sandburg jerked back as through burned.

"Blair!" Jim grabbed the oars and began paddling as fast as he could.

But he didn't make it. Blair's makeshift raft flipped over violently as the Great White Shark once again exploded from the water. The airbed popped, dissolving to nearly nothing, and Blair was now virtually face-to-face with the shark in the water with Captain Daniel's corpse
floating less than a foot away.

And there was so much blood.

"NO!" Rational though fled, and Jim dove into the water. He was close enough that his momentum carried him right to Blair, and as the Shark came down on them, Jim pulled Sandburg under the water.

The shark followed, and that's when Jim got a full view of the beat. It
ooked about fifteen feet long, with HUGE jaws and cold, eerie eyes. It swam straight for them. There was nothing Jim could do except push Blair away from him and swim in the opposite direction, hoping the Shark chose to go after him. It would hurt -- of that he had NO doubt. But he could die. He was prepared to die. He'd faced death often enough, both as a soldier and a cop.

His tactic work. The shark went for him. Jim closed his eyes and tensed. Seconds passed.

But the impact didn't come. *Oh God.* Thinking the shark had changed its mind to go after Blair, Jim opened his eyes.

He couldn't believe what he saw.

Dolphins. Everywhere. One already cut in half, killed by the shark. But others pummeled away at the creature.

Jim's astonishment lasted only moments. Then the burning in his lungs overpowered all other sensations, and he realized he needed air NOW.

Blair! He looked around, and spotted Blair floating just beneath the surface of the water -- and he wasn't breathing.

Moving faster than he thought possible, he propelled himself toward his partner and grabbed him, then pushed to the surface. Air! Blessed air. Taking greedy gulps, he forced his legs to keep moving and headed toward the small lifeboat. With one massive movement, he hoisted both himself and Sandburg into the raft, adrenaline giving him the strength he needed.

He flopped Blair onto his back and listened. Thank God! A heartbeat. Quickly, he tilted Sandburg's head back and began mouth-to-mouth. Four breaths. Then he moved to Sandburg's legs and pushed them up quickly, several times, pumping the water out of Blair's lungs. Too much of the salt water pulsed out of Blair's mouth, and Jim placed his mouth over Blair's, once again forcing air into the kid's lungs.

*Come on! Breath!* His prayer was answered when Blair coughed, his body spasming violently. Nearly sobbing with relief, Jim, his reserves spent, collapsed next to the young man. His last thought before darkness overtook him was a quick prayer to whoever was listening that help find them soon.

~~~~~~~~~~

~~Beep. Beep. Beep.~~

The insistent noise prodded Jim to consciousness. Opening his eyes, he blinked a few times to clear his vision. Flat light panels in the ceiling told him he was in a room. The strong odor of antiseptic accompanied by the gentle beeping told him the room was in a hospital.

"Jim?"

He looked to his right. "Simon?" The word came out as a croak, barely decipherable.

"Yeah. How you feeling?"

"Okay." He tried a few experimental moves of his arms and legs, and realized he felt a little stiff. Fortunately, however, he wasn't in any pain. The shark had...

The shark! "Blair!" He jack-knifed into a sitting position. "Simon, where's..."

"Easy, Jim." Simon put a restraining hand on Jim's shoulder. "He's okay. He's in another room sleeping."

Immediately, Jim extended his hearing, searching for Blair, but there were too many other noises -- too many other heartbeats and voices -- and he couldn't differentiate Blair's from all the others. "What room? Where?"

Simon pointed to his right. "Two doors down that way."

Focusing his hearing in that direction, he found a steady heartbeat and soft, regular breathing. "Has he been awake?"

Simon shook his head. "Not yet. He took a lot of water into his lungs, and they were worried about him developing pneumonia or bronchitis, so they put him on antibiotics. He's also got a knock on the head, but because he's been out since they found you, they don't know whether he's got a concussion. They took some scans, and the doc said everything
looks okay."

"How long have we been here?"

"About a day. What happened out there?"

Jim sank back against the mattress and released a low, tired sigh. "Someone set bombs on the ship. Two of them. We went down. The Captain and I managed to get into one of the life rafts. I lost Blair in the explosion, but when the boat went under, I saw him floating on an air mattress. The next thing I knew, our boat was being rocked by a Great White. The shark got the Captain, then went after Blair. It destroyed the mattress, and Blair was in the water with it. I dove in, and..."

"You dove in?!" Simon raised his eyebrows.

Jim nodded. "Yeah. The shark was just about to clamp down on him. We went under water, and the next thing I knew, there were dolphins all around. I didn't even see them coming." He shook his head. "It was really weird. Anyway, I got myself and Blair back into the life raft. He wasn't breathing, so I did mouth-to-mouth. I remember he came to, but I guess I must have passed out soon after. How did we get here?"

"A chopper spotted you about a mile off shore."

Jim nodded and sat up again, looking at the IV in his hand. "Get the doctor, sir, will ya? I've gotta get out of here and check on Sandburg."

"Jim, he's fine. He's resting."

"Simon, please. I'm fine. Right? Not a scratch."

With a sigh, Simon nodded. "Yeah. You just had a touch of heat exhaustion and you were a bit dehydrated, but the doctor did say that once you woke up, he'd check you out and probably send you home."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sitting next to the bed, Jim's gaze hovered over his partner. Blair lay silent and still in the bed, his chest rising and falling slowly with each breath. A small, white bandage covered the cut in his forehead. Jim wasn't sure how Blair had sustained the head injury, but he assumed the kid had gotten it in the explosion. They'd all been knocked around fairly well. The blood from Blair's head injury might have been the thing that attracted the shark.

A soft knock preceded the squeak of the door opening. Jim looked over to see Simon step in.

"Hey, Jim. How's he doing?"

"Still sleeping."

The regular beeping of the heart monitor changed, speeding up ever-so-slightly. Jim leaned forward in his chair and focused his hearing on the actual heartbeat underlying the mechanical rhythm. "Chief?"

Simon moved quietly to the foot of the bed as Jim continued to talk to his partner, but it didn't look like Blair was going to wake. Finally, Jim gave up and sank back into the chair.

Simon fidgeted on the balls of his feet. "Don't worry too much. He needs the rest after what he went through. You do, too."

"I feel okay."

"Jim..."

Jim rubbed a hand over his face. "Really, Captain. I didn't get hurt out there - amazing, I know, considering what happened."

"No, Jim," Simon pointed to Blair, "look."

Jim's gaze snapped to Blair, and he tensed when he saw the blue eyes open and staring blankly at the ceiling.
~~~~~~~~~

Jim rose from his seat instantly and leaned over the bedrail. "Blair?"

The young man gave no response, and Jim waved his hand in front of Sandburg's face. "Come on, buddy. You with us?"

Blair continued to stare blankly at the ceiling, and Jim cast a worried glance at Simon. "Get the doctor, please."

With a nod, Simon spun on his heels and hurried out of the room. Now that he was alone with his partner, Jim lowered the bedrail and sat on the edge of the mattress. He placed a gentle arm on Blair's shoulder and gave him a small shake.

"Come on, Chief. Wake up. Look at me."

No response. Was this some kind of shock? He placed his hands on either side of Blair's head and turned the young man's face toward him, but Blair's eyes remained fixed on the ceiling.

He gave Sandburg's cheek a soft tap and then leaned closer and spoke softly. "Blair, it's okay. You're all right. I need you to come back now."

Blair blinked, and Jim almost cried out with joy, but his victory was short-lived. Sandburg came to with a jerk and scream, his arms flailing defensively, and he had almost toppled out of the bed before Jim grabbed him and pushed him back into the mattress.

"Easy, buddy! Easy! Blair, you're okay. It's okay!"

~~~~~~~~~~~

"... It's okay!"

The words penetrated, and Blair realized he wasn't in the water anymore, and there was no shark about to cut him in two. His heart pounding, his eyes darted around to take in his surroundings. White Walls. Machines. An empty bed against the far wall. And a pair of warm, familiar blue eyes.

"Jim?"

The sentinel smiled. "You okay, now?"

Blair sank back, relishing the feel of the soft pillow beneath his head and the warmth of Jim's hands on his chest and shoulder. He was shaking all over, but mostly on the inside. His stomach felt like it had dropped to his knees, and his hands and feet felt oddly cold compared with the rest of his body.

*I'm alive. I'm alive. I'm alive.* He repeated the mantra several more times until he remembered Captain Daniel. He hadn't been so lucky. The memory of that half-eaten corpse sent a shiver through him. The eyes had been the worst of all, staring blankly toward the heavens.

And there had been so much blood.

"Chief?"

The door opened and footsteps squeaked against the tile.

"Mr. Sandburg?" a strange voice inquired.

*Oh God, Captain Daniel...*

"Mr. Sandburg."

"Chief?"

Blair looked at Jim. The sentinel was staring at him, his eyes pinched with concern. That could have been Jim in the water, half of him gone. *And I would have done nothing but stay on my raft and watch.*

No. No. No. That wasn't true. He wouldn't have just watched. Daniel was different. There was nothing he could do about the Captain. The shark had snatched the man from the life raft, barely missing Jim.

And, God help him, but he was *happy* about that. How horrible a person did it make him to feel relief at another man's death -- that it had been Daniel instead of Jim?

"Mr. Sandburg, can you hear me?"

Blair finally looked at the doctor. He was an older man with graying temples and a worn, tired face. His name tag read, "Dr. Lynn."

"I can hear you." Blair scooted up on the mattress until his back was against the headboard. He wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled his legs up, hoping to quench the trembling he felt inside.

The doctor managed a smile. "Do you mind if I check you out a bit?"

Blair swallowed. "Am I hurt?"

"You hit your head, but I don't think it's serious. You were also a bit dehydrated when they brought you in, and both you and your partner were suffering from mild sun stroke."

"But it wasn't very hot."

"That's true, but it was a sunny day and you two were in that boat long enough to be affected."

"But I'm okay? Jim's okay?"

"I think so."

Blair glanced at Jim, looking at him more critically this time. His eyes were bright and his face had it's usual color. He appeared perfectly fine.

Blair looked back at the doctor. "Then I'd like to go home now."

Dr. Lynn nodded. "Just let me check you out. If things look okay, I'll sign your release papers."

Blair nodded, though his eyes held a touch of reluctance. "Okay. Whatever."

With a nod, the physician moved forward and withdrew his penlight. "This shouldn't take very long."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair pulled the thick, wool blanket tighter around his shoulders as he looked out over the night lights of the city. He really liked the balcony. His old warehouse had been nothing like the loft, and, of course, it hadn't had a balcony three floors from the ground.

This was a place where he could just sit and think, surrounded by the steady, soothing rhythms of the city. Remarkably, he didn't even mind the cold. Not that Cascade's night air was anywhere near as cold as the ocean water.

It really was a beautiful city, but Captain Daniel would never get to see it again.

*Oh give it a rest.* He almost laughed at that thought -- it sounded suspiciously like Jim's voice. The detective-sentinel sure seemed to be handling things fairly well. He'd seen the same things Blair had seen. He'd watched Daniel get killed by the shark. Hell, he'd been closer to the man when the Great White had attacked.

But Jim was sleeping soundly upstairs. No nightmare images kept him from his slumber. And that was the difference between Jim and himself. Jim was strong. Jim knew what was what, and he sure as hell knew when and how to let something go.

Well, maybe not *all* the time, but with things like this, yes. With death and blood and senselessness, Jim was a master of getting over it and moving on. He *had* too, Blair knew. It was part of being a soldier and a cop.

*But I can't seem to do that. I used to think that it wasn't healthy to suppress deep emotions -- that doing so dampens our humanity. But now I wish I could. So what does that say about me? I wish I could just not feel and forget about seeing Captain Daniel half-eaten in the water. I wish I could be more like Jim.*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Enough was enough. Jim threw the covers off and got out of bed. Blair had been out on the balcony for over two hours, and it was *freezing* outside. He knew the kid was having a hard time dealing with what had happened -- hell, that was written all over his face and, most especially, in his ever-expressive eyes -- but Jim was damned if he'd let Sandburg risk frostbite and pneumonia.

Throwing on his robe, he trotted down the stairs and opened the balcony doors. Blair, wrapped snugly in a thick blanket and seated in the lounge chair, glanced back at him, momentary surprise flashing over his face.

Jim moved in front of Blair and leaned against the ledge. "What are you doing out here?"

Blair lowered his eyes, then shifted his gaze back to the city lights. "I couldn't sleep, so I came out here."

"Wanna talk about it?" He detected a slight increase in the young man's heartbeat.

Blair looked at him. "Do you?"

"If you want to."

Blair shrugged. "There's not much to talk about, is there? You were there. You saw what I saw." His voice turned softer. "How are *you* doing?"

"I'm fine, Chief. You don't need to worry about me."

"Are you?"

Jim furrowed his brow. "Am I what?"

"Worried about me?"

Jim opened his mouth to say "A little," then stopped himself. The conversation was suddenly beginning to make sense to him. There was a look in Blair's eyes that spoke volumes about the meaning underlying his words.

Jim grabbed the neighboring chair and sat down, facing his friend. "Yeah, I'm a little worried about you. I know what you're going through, Chief. I can't sleep, either." He sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He'd never been all that comfortable revealing his emotions -- especially the ones that made him vulnerable -- but he knew that, right now, Blair needed to hear it from him. "I... I was right there, Blair. I did see what you saw. Only I sensed the shark a few seconds before it struck. I tried to warn Daniel, but it was too late. I keep thinking... I don't know... maybe if I'd been more alert, I'd have sensed the shark sooner and been able to save Daniel."

Blair shifted, adjusting the blanket higher on his shoulders. "Jim, you may have heightened senses, but you're only human. There was nothing you could have done. I know. I was there."

Jim nodded. "Maybe. Daniel was dead seconds after the shark got him -- well before the shark brought him near you."

"I know that, Jim. I know there was nothing I could have done. That's not what's bothering me."

"It was a horrible thing to watch, I know."

Blair nodded. "It was." His voice caught, and he looked back to the city lights. "A hundred times worse than seeing Susan Frasier in that bathtub. I mean, one minute he was alive, and the next..." He swallowed hard and shook his head. "But you want to know something?"

"What?"

Blair took a deep breath. "When I think about it, there's a huge part of me that's really glad it was him instead of you." He looked at Jim, his eyes wet. "That's not right, I know, but it's how I feel... and I hate myself for feeling that way. His life was just as valuable as yours or mine. He probably has people who miss him, but I'm *happy* about it."

Jim shook his head. NOW he understood. "No, Blair, you're not happy he died. You're just relieved that it wasn't me." He offered a small smile. "I feel the same way. I'm just so damn glad the shark didn't get you. But that's not bad, Sandburg. That's -- what did you say? -- human." He smiled, but it lasted only a second before his face turned serious
again. "The truth is, his life was just as important as ours, but he didn't mean as much to me as you do. So, yeah, it's selfish, but because your life is just as valuable -- but you mean more to *me* personally -- I'm relieved that *you* didn't die. I'm sad he died, but you and I are still here and I won't pretend not to be happy about that."

Blair shifted deeper beneath the blanket, his eyes tinged with red.  He sniffled, but whether from the cold or something else, Jim couldn't be sure. Rising from his chair, Jim grabbed Blair's arm and prodded him upward.

"Come inside, Chief. You don't need to be out here, not after what your lungs went through with that saltwater."

Blair yielded to Jim's tugging and got to his feet. Jim placed a hand on the young man's back and guided him inside, then steered him to the couch and gave him a gentle push down. "Here, I'll boil some water and get you some tea."

Blair sank back against the cushions. He was silent for several moments, then his soft voice broke the quiet. "Jim?"

Mid-stride to the kitchen, Jim stopped and turned around. "Yeah?"

Blair looked back at him. "I *am* glad you're here. And thank you for saving my life."

Jim swallowed the unexpected lump in his throat and managed a smile. "You're welcome, buddy. Though, I think we both have some dolphins to thank."

Blair's brow creased. "Dolphins?"

"Yeah. You were unconscious, but the shark was heading straight toward me. I closed my eyes, expecting the hit, but it never came. When I opened them again, there were dolphins everywhere -- pummeling the shark, protecting us. It was weird." He shook his head, thinking back on just how surreal the whole thing had seemed. "I mean, I didn't sense
them coming at all. I didn't see them. I didn't feel the vibrations in the water. Nothing."

Blair raised his eyebrows, the sadness in his eyes replaced by a curious spark. A small, delighted smile played at his lips. "You think there was some divine intervention?"

Jim shrugged, his eyes completely focused on Blair. "I don't know. Maybe it's like the spirit animal -- but..."

"Man is the dream of the dolphin."

Jim cocked his head. "What?"

"A song -- Remember the Shaman, when he used to say: 'Man is the dream of the dolphin.'"

"I don't follow, Chief."

Blair smiled. "Many shaman-oriented cultures attribute magical powers to dolphins. In fact, there's this myth of the pink dolphins. I can't actually remember where, but there's a village next to a body of water. These pink dolphins are considered magical. At night, they supposedly take human form and walk on land, and if a person kills a dolphin, one of the others will supposedly come on land at night and kill the perpetrator. If the village treats the dolphins well, the village flourishes."

Jim raised an eyebrow. "Chief?"

"Yeah?"

He smiled. "I think it's time for you to get back to bed."

Blair's smiled broadened. "Isn't that kind of odd?"

"Now what?"

"If I'm just a dream of dolphin -- the dolphin dreaming me asleep? You think the dolphin can dream me up a date with Sally in records?"

Jim chuckled. "Keep dreaming, Chief."

~~~~~~~~~~

Note: just so you don't think this *too* hokey, there was a case of a group of dolphins saving a man from a shark attack by pummeling the shark and encircling the man so the shark couldn't get to him. Oh, and the pink dolphins story is true (well, the belief, not necessarily that they turn into people) *big grin*

Evil treadmill took a bite out of my foot - but feedback would make me feel better! :-)
Dawn