PLUCK

By: Lyn

Feedback to: Lyn


DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Petfly andUA and Paramount. This fanfic was written for my own and otherísí enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

CATEGORY: Missing Scene, Drama.

RATING: PG (V) (L)

AUTHORíS NOTES: I promised Dawn a thank you fic for being kind enough to download eps. Her suggestion, as Iíd downloaded "Cypher" was a missing scene for that. In case you hadnít noticed, I suck at titles. (g) But I loved the words, written as a foreword in the book "Jessica" written by Bryce Courtenay, a gift from my daughter for Mothersí Day.

Anyway, Dawn, thank you. I expanded on your idea of a missing scene for Cypher. (bg) Here you go, you can watch the ep, stop at the end of each of these scenes and read the filler. (g)

Feedback is very welcome.

"If you lose your pluck, you lose the most there is in you Ė all youíve got to live with."

- Eighty year old grandmother of twenty-two children, forced to leave her Oklahoma farm during the Great Depression, 1936.

"Pluck"

Scene one:

Jim Ellison had no idea what had disturbed his sleep. He felt a prickle of unease as he rolled to his back and pulled sweat-damp sheets down to his waist. He waited a moment, staring at the night dark ceiling and extended his senses in the hope of catching a glimpse of what had interrupted his deep slumber. It only took a moment to isolate the problem. The heartbeat below him was only a little more rapid than normal but pounded like surf against the shore, breath coming in short staccato bursts that almost bordered on a sob.

Jim untangled himself from the sheets and swung his feet to the floor. He reached for his robe and wrapped it around himself before he stood. He walked toward the stairs in the slow, unhurried gait of the recently awoken, then abruptly wheeled around and walked back to his closet. Kneeling in the dark, he dialed up his sight and pulled a soft blanket from the depths. Draping it over his arm, he headed once more for the stairs and the muffled sounds of distress.

He could see Blair easily in the moonlight. The anthropologist stood at the balcony wall, his chin resting on his hands, gazing out over the skyline of Cascade. Jim approached him quietly but paused at the doorway, not wanting to startle the young man.

"Sandburg?" He kept his voice low. "You okay?"

Blair jumped a little at the sound then turned the movement into a graceful stretch as he turned and smiled at the detective.

"Jim! Hey! You should be sleeping. Youíve got an early start in the morning."

Jim shrugged and wandered out into the chill night air, suppressing the urge to shiver. He draped the blanket he held around Blairís goose-bumped shoulders, noting the chill flesh that touched his fingertips.

"Iím all right," he finally said. "You?"

"Oh, you know. Iím okay." Blair was silent for a long moment and both men shared a companionable silence gazing at the horizon. Finally Blair spoke.

"Iíve been thinking about Susan Frasier, the lady who died. Iím just finding it really hard to get past this, man." He turned to face Jim. "I mean, one minute sheís getting home from work, wondering what clothes sheís going to wear for dinner and the next thingÖ. The next thingÖ"

He broke off; his voice breaking and a tear sliding down his cheek. Jim nodded.

"The next thing you know, sheís dead."

"What if it had been you?" Blair said. "What if it had been my mom?" he whispered. "Does she have family, parents?"

Jim nodded and led Blair back to sit on the couch. "Her parents have been notified. The funeralís is in a couple of days. I have to go."

"Why?" Blair asked softly.

"Sometimes the murderer will show up to gloat, to celebrate not being caught or wanting to be caught."

Blair nodded. "Okay, what time do we need to be there?"

Jim shook his head. "You donít have to come."

"I know," Blair said, standing up and moving toward his bedroom. "I just feel I owe that to her. We found her lying in that tub, naked, vulnerable. I think the least we can do is show our respect at her passing."

"The best thing we can do for her, Chief, is catch the bastard that did this. Let her rest in peace."

"Iím with you there, Jim." Blair turned to look at him. "But she should be out dancing or watching a movie or having a girlsí night out. Not lying in the morgue."

Blair continued on to his bedroom, stopping as Jim called his name once more.

"About tonight, with you and Christine. Iím sorry."

Blair smiled at him, a slight blush coloring his cheeks. "Itís your place, man. No need to apologize."

"I told you that this was your home for as long as you want it to be," Jim said. "You have every right to bring your friends home, male or female. Letís just make a new rule here."

Blair rolled his eyes and looked heavenward. "House Rule number what, Jim?"

Jim shook his head. "No number, Sandburg. Just call and let me know youíre entertaining, so I can go take in a movie or something."

Blairís eyes lit up in delight. "You would do that for me?"

"Of course," Jim answered sincerely. "Mind you," he added as Blair disappeared into his room, "if sheís pretty, I might have to introduce myself.. See if she wants to take in a movie too."

Blair grimaced before he pulled his curtain closed with a rush. "Thanks, Jim. Now I know why I have no enemies." He poked his head out. "With you around, I donít need them."

Jim laughed and busied himself doing a final check on the apartment before heading back up to bed. Blair watched him a moment, then spoke again.

"Seriously, Jim. Iím sorry I lost it at the murder scene and Iím sorry about tonight."

Jim looked up and smiled on his way through to the kitchen. "So am I, Chief. I acted like your mother. Get some sleep, all right."

Blair nodded and grinned, appeased by the words. "Good night, Jim."

"Gínight, Sandburg."

Scene two:

Jim waited around at the bridge for back up to arrive and ensured that the Harbor Patrol had been sent to search the bay. He doubted the woman could have survived such a fall into the ocean but the case needed to be tied up.

Satisfied that everything was taken care of, Jim climbed into his truck and headed back to the church. He assumed Blair would still be waiting for him. The detective felt his anger rise when he thought of the scene in the church.

Jim had already seen the woman approach the casket and noted her similarity to the dead woman. If Sandburg had stayed down and kept quiet, he was sure he could have caught her, found out who she was and where she figured in the whole mystery.

Jim sighed. As he and Simon had so often reminded the kid, Blair wasnít a cop. He could hardly be expected to start acting like one. Heíd been trying to help, that was all and as often happened with Sandburg; his natural exuberance and eagerness to assist Jim had gotten out of control. The problem was; Jim thought, clenching his jaw, this time it had cost them their only suspect in the murders. There was no way though that Jim could even entertain the thought that Blair was leaking information to the press. After todayís debacle, he only hoped he could convince his captain of that.

Pulling up outside the church, Jim noted that the mourners and most of the news crews had gone, leaving a couple of uniformed officers standing guard at the church doors. Brown and his partner, Rafe were about to drive off, having finished taking the last of the witness statements. Jim trotted over to them, waving them down before they could leave.

"Hey, Henri."

The detective got back out of the car and walked a few steps back toward Jim.

"Hey, Jim. We heard you lost her."

"Yeah. Man, thereís no way she could have survived that fall, H, but theyíre still looking." Jim looked around. "You seen Sandburg?"

"He was here when we first arrived," Henri answered. "I told him if he waited for us to finish up, we could give him a ride, but he said heíd wait for you. I canít see him anywhere though."

Jim shrugged. "Probably got tired of waiting and left already. Iíll catch you later at the station."

"Sure," Henri agreed. He clapped the other detective sympathetically on the shoulder. "Bad luck, Jim."

"Yeah, thanks, H."

Blair was already in bed when Jim got home and had left for the university by the time Jim got up the next morning. The detective knew the young man was probably still embarrassed and worried over his lapse at the church and decided to let things ride until he saw Blair that night.

0~0~0~0~0

Scene three:

Jim frowned as he exited the police station and headed toward his truck, noticing Don Hass waiting at the driverís side of his vehicle. Gritting his teeth, he fished in his pocket for his keys and glared at the reporter. "If you donít mind, Iíve got work to do."

Hass shrugged and stepped aside. He waited until Jim had the door open before he spoke. "So, you lost her, huh?"

"Where are you getting your information, Hass?" Jim asked.

"Somebody has been phoning in anonymous tips," Hass replied. "Looks like so far, heís been right on the money."

"I have no comment to make at this time," Jim growled.

He swung himself into the cab but paused at the reporterís next words. "We caught her on camera running out of the church. The way she took off, you can bet she had something to hide."

Jim looked at him. "You have her on camera?"

Hass stepped back defensively. "What if we do?"

"I might be willing to do a deal with you," Jim answered. "íCourse I could always just subpoena the tape but thatís going to take time. Time that another victim may not have. You let me see the tape and quit hassling me until we get this all sewn up and Iíll guarantee you an exclusive tip."

Hass looked thoughtful. He waved to the cameraman standing behind him. "Doug, give me the tape."

"But Don, the producer saidÖ"

"I know what he said," Hass answered impatiently. "Just give me the God-damned tape."

The camera-man flipped open his camera bag and pulled out the video, handing it to Jim.

"You just remember your part of the deal," the reporter warned.

Jim hefted the videotape in his hand. "Iíll be in touch," he said.

Jim turned his truck onto Prospect and immediately spotted the familiar figure of his partner up ahead. Blair trudged along the pavement slowly, his shoulders hunched as though he carried the weight of the world on them. Jim pulled his vehicle into his regular parking spot in front of the apartment building and alighted from the truck. He stood, leaning against the door, his arms crossed as he watched Blair approach.

"Hey," he said when he knew the other man was within hearing distance. Blair looked suddenly as though startled then gave him a tired smile.

"Oh, hey, Jim. I didnít see you drive up."

"Looks like you were in your own little world there, Chief."

Blair just shrugged and made his way into the building, pausing to hold the door open for Jim. Both men headed for the elevator and stepped inside. Blair broke the silence first.

"Jim, Iím so sorry, man. I canít believe I was such a jerk."

"Not your fault, Sandburg," Jim answered. "You were trying to help."

Blair shook his head emphatically. "I was stupid," he insisted. "Iíve been hanging with cops long enough to know how itís done and there I am, standing up there, waving my arms around, doing semaphore signals, looking like a first class dork and all I did was draw attention to you." He gave a weary sigh then looked Jim squarely in the eye. "I screwed up."

Jim patted his shoulder as they exited the elevator. "Apology duly noted and accepted."

The detective decided to keep Simonís concerns regarding Sandburg being the leak until they were inside. "Besides," he continued as he shut and locked the front door. "Iíve got something to show you. Go turn on the TV."

0~0~0~0~0

Scene four:

David Lash had to forcibly refrain from hugging himself with glee as he hurried into the precinct menís room to change and make good his escape. This last one had been entirely too close, he thought as he pulled the tie from his ponytail, but he had so enjoyed getting in the faces of the cops. The anonymous tips to the press had been a stroke of genius too, causing the police to suspect even their own men.

His previous friends had all been rather mediocre, Lash decided. Even the attractive, successful Susan had been rather a disappointment in the end, her professional demeanor giving no hint to the drab dress sense and personality she possessed. He chastised himself silently for his unkind thoughts. Despite her failings, Susan Frasier had led him to what would be his greatest achievement yet. The young man he sought to befriend was smart, good-looking, an original thinker who put forward his ideas without fear of ridicule.

As he let himself out of the menís room and hurried toward the exit, David Lash felt his excitement grow. How he had wished to be the very person he was about to become. He would be Blair Sandburg.

0~0~0~0~0

Scene five:

Blair pulled down the blinds then hurried over to the wall phone and punched in Jimís pager number. Tonight of all nights, the detective had decided to stay behind at the police gym to work out. Blair paced a moment up and down, then glared at the phone, willing it to ring. His desperate plea was interrupted by a crash as the door splintered and was torn from its hinges.

Blair took a couple of steps back, taking a quick look behind him to ascertain his route of escape. The voice turned his attention forward.

"Come on, Blair," Lash wheedled. "I just want to be your friend."

Blair shook his head vehemently and continued his wary retreat. "No way, man," he answered, despite his fear. "Iíve seen what happens to your friends."

Lash slowly began to advance, an evil grin twisting his features. For every step forward, Blair took one back. If he could just get to his bedroom, he could make his escape down the fire stairs that were outside his window. He rounded the end of the kitchen counter and made his move, spinning quickly on his feet and taking off in a panicked headlong dash for his room. He never made it. Lash threw himself at the young manís legs in a tackle any football player would have been proud of and brought Blair crashing heavily to the ground, his breath driven from him.

Blair kicked out hard as Lash struggled to maintain his grip. He felt his foot connect with something hard and the murderer issued a pained gasp. Twisting free of Lashís hold, Blair managed to get to his knees and crawl forward a couple of steps, his goal now being the broken, open front door. He got as far as the coffee table before Lash was on him again, the table collapsing beneath their combined weight, sending papers and books to the floor. Lashís strong hands scrabbled now for purchase around Blairís neck as the anthropologist frantically moved his head from side to side to escape the grasp. He felt a hand fist in the back of his hair before his head was pulled back and slammed brutally down against the hardwood floor. Pain and flashes of light exploded in his head before Lash repeated the maneuver. This time the darkness descended so rapidly, he had no chance to fight against it and he slumped, unconscious, to the floor.

0~0~0~0~0

Scene six:

Jim staggered back up the staircase to Lashís lair, his body bruised and aching. Blair sat slumped in the dentistís chair, his breath coming in frantic gulps. The anthropologist stiffened and fought against his bonds as Jim laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Easy, Chief, easy," Jim said quietly, not wanting to startle the young man any further. "Itís me, Jim."

Jim turned the chair around to face him and began to examine the straps and chains that held his partner captive. Blair struggled to open his eyes; the pupils dark and dilated in the gloom.

"Where is he?" he asked, his unfocussed gaze darting around the room before settling finally on Jim.

Jim placed his hands on the other manís shoulders, feeling the tremors that shuddered through Blairís body. "Heís dead," he said, squeezing the cold skin. "Youíre safe now."

Blair stared at him for a long moment then began to push against the chains holding him to the chair. "Can you get these off now?" he asked pleadingly.

Jim nodded and grasped Blairís hands in his. "Give me a second, buddy. Just relax for a minute or youíll hurt yourself."

He looked up as his enhanced hearing picked up the sound of sirens indicating backup was arriving then he looked back at Blair who now sat slumped in the chair, his energy seemingly depleted.

Finally, he spotted a key pushed under assorted papers on the desk and he bent to unlock the padlocks then quickly unbuckle the straps around Blairís torso and feet. The moment he felt the chains fall away, Blair launched himself from the chair and into Jimís arms, sending them both toppling to the floor. Jim attempted to cushion Blairís fall but the young man still grunted at the impact then rolled himself out of Jimís grip before scuttling crab-like toward the wall. He pressed a hand against the wall and slowly levered himself upright then stood, blinking owlishly at his surroundings before sliding slowly down the wall, his eyes widening in surprise.

Jim hurried to his partner, reaching him just as Blair slumped forward, unconscious. He eased the young man onto his side and felt for a pulse, relieved at the steady though rapid beat.

He looked up as footsteps echoed on the stairs and Simon Banks burst into the room, gun drawn. The captain hurried over to them and crouched down at Blairís side as Jim began to check the other man over for hidden injuries.

"Is he all right?" Simon asked, looking about, his face a mix of curiosity and horror.

"Yeah," Jim answered. "I think Lash got some chloral into him though. Looks like he got a bit banged up when Lash grabbed him at the apartment too."

The detective lifted Blairís shirt and grimaced at the purple bruises covering Blairís ribcage.

"Speaking of Lash," Simon began.

Jim jerked his head toward the stairs. "In the basement. Heís dead."

Simon nodded then stood, moving over to stare at the macabre trophies displayed. He turned back to Jim. "Iíll get the medics."

Jim continued to absently rub Blairís shoulder, unsure of whether he was comforting the young man or himself. "Thanks."

0~0~0~0~0

Scene seven:

Jim lifted the front door away from the frame and leaned it back against the wall before reaching back to grasp Blairís arm and lead him into the apartment.

Blair stood silently, watching Jim with rapidly blinking eyes as the detective maneuvered the door back into its proper place, then stood casting about for a solution to its unsecured status.

"How about a chair, under the doorknob?" Blair suggested, his weaving motion making Jim feel vaguely seasick.

Jim raised a finger. "Good thinking, Sandburg. Let me get you situated and then Iíll fix the door."

Blair nodded agreeably and allowed Jim to lead him to his room where he sat on the bed and attempted to help while Jim unbuttoned his shirt and pulled off his jeans before bundling the young man into sweats and tucking him beneath his bedcovers.

The doctor had said that Blair had ingested a moderate amount of chloral hydrate; enough to make him pliant and docile, withdrawn and sleepy. He thought his lapse of consciousness could be attributed to a mild concussion and shock, aggravated by low blood pressure, which was a side effect of trichloral ethanol. He had initially wanted to keep Blair under observation in the hospital but the anthropologist had created such a ruckus that Jim had assured the doctor that he could just as easily observe his partner at home. Armed with a list of instructions and a mild analgesic to ease Blairís rib pain and headache, he had poured his partner into the truck and headed for home.

"Jim?" Blairís voice was hoarse; dryness of the mouth was another side effect of the drug and Jim had to bend low to catch his words.

"Thanks," Blair breathed. "For finding me. Knew you would. I just wasnít sure when."

Jim rubbed a soothing hand across Blairís forehead, watching the tense lines of pain relax and disappear under his touch.

"Wish I had been faster, Chief. Iím so sorry. You did good."

Blair cracked one sleepy eye. "I did."

Jim nodded and walked over to the doorway, switching on the bedside lamp before he left. He had no doubt that nightmares would haunt them both for a few days to come. "Real good. Iíll fill you in tomorrow. Go to sleep."

"íKay. Jim?"

The detective paused at the door. "What is it?"

"Thanks, Jim."

Jim grinned and pulled the curtain closed behind him. He dialed up his hearing, fixing on the slow, steady breathing and heartbeat coming from Blairís room, then walked over and pushed a chair under the knob of the damaged door. He collapsed onto the couch and curled up, pulling the blanket from the back over his exhausted body. He was asleep in less than a minute, his senses soothed by the familiar closeness of his guide.

FIN

- Lyn Townsend

- 5.13.01