After untying the last line, Jim gave the MarySue a massive shove
away from the dock, then jumped back onboard. Blair had the engines warmed up
and began to ease the boat away from the marina while Jim pulled in the bumpers.
The temperature difference alone felt like a vacation, and the sights, sounds
and smells were invigorating. As they moved farther away from the docks, the noise
and the heat of the city, he could feel the tension of work and sleepless nights
fade away. With a sigh of contentment, he took a seat aft, facing forward, and
gazed at the blues and greens ahead. Blair was handling the controls like a seasoned
pro, and Jim watched him for several minutes, wondering just where his friend
had picked up this particular talent.
He'd heard of only the one uncle, but
with Naomi's habit of attracting men, there was no telling how many different
personalities had a hand in shaping a young, impressionable Blair Sandburg. Of
course, his mother alone was just quirky enough to explain everything Jim found
in his friend. But he did wonder now and again how much Blair had picked up from
those men. He knew from experience how having a less than ideal family shaped
your personality, and he sometimes wondered what his life would have been like
had his father acted just that much more kind, that much more affectionate. Somehow
Jim couldn't imagine Blair with any other type of personality than the one he
had developed. But then, he also knew better than to regret the past. Whatever
had happened yesterday, good or bad, was what brought you where you were today.
And where he was today was exactly where he wanted to be. He had a stable job,
one that he was good at. His Sentinel senses, as strange as they still seemed,
were at least more in control. And he'd finally found in Blair a friend he could
trust everything to. He was friend, partner, little brother, and even teacher
when the need was there. Jim trusted Blair with more than his life, he trusted
him with his sanity.
Once they cleared the last marina marker buoy, Blair opened
up both engines and headed up the channel toward more open water. Jim stood and
walked forward, ducking slightly as he entered the cabin. He slapped Blair lightly
on the back as he passed, moving into the galley. The refrigerator was fully stocked,
just as Simon had said. The cabin itself was large and roomy, with a propane stove
and oven, lots of cabinets fully stocked with dry goods as well as utensils, pots
and pans. There were two settees, one of which unfolded to make an extra bed in
addition to the master berth fore and guest berth aft. Each berth boasted a head,
shower, and queen-size bed. And in a storage locker below one of the couches,
Jim found the fishing gear.
Since it was only 8:00 in the morning, two cans
of ginger ale accompanied Jim back to stand next to Blair at the helm. "Not
bad, huh?" Jim handed his friend a can and leaned against the back of the
seat, gazing out over the bay and the many boats they were passing.
nice, actually." Blair accepted the can and popped the top, smiling. "I
don't know what we did to deserve this, but let's try and do it again sometime."
Jim laughed, nodding. "So tell me, where'd you learn how to handle a boat
this size, Chief?"
Blair swallowed ginger ale and set his can on the sidebar.
"One of Naomi's friends had an old clunker he was fixing up, and for the
18 months she lived with him, I got to know my way around it pretty well. He had
four daughters, none of them lived with him, but when they'd visit, they hated
the boat. Three of them got seasick just looking at the water." He shrugged
and glanced out the port window at a sailboat they were passing. "He was
so thrilled to have a kid around who would listen when he talked, sometimes I
couldn't get him to shut up." Blair retrieved his can and took another drink.
"By the time Naomi and I moved out, that boat was running pretty well."
"So, Skipper, how long will it take us to get out in the Straits?"
"About 3 hours. There's a great spot just off the point, sort of midway
between the peninsula and the first of the islands where the fishing can't be
beat. Or at least it was a good spot 10 years ago."
"Any spot away
from Cascade is a good spot, Chief." Jim took off his shoes and socks, stuffing
them under one of the cabin seats, then walked aft. "Just wake me when we
get there." With a nod, he returned to his seat at the stern and got comfortable
on the padded cushions forming a couch over the transom. The twin engines encased
beneath provided the perfect vibrating massage. That, coupled with the fresh,
cooler air, had him dozing in minutes, only vaguely aware of the sounds around
The change in the engine's pitch and the reduction of his massaging vibrations
alerted him to their arrival several hours later. Stretching, Jim looked around,
taking note of the large land masses visible in the distance to either side of
them. Not that he needed the reassurance, he really was over that fear thanks
to his partner, but it was still an instinct to want to know your position relative
to any given point of reference. Judging by the distance to either shore, and
the huge expanse of deep blue water around them, Jim decided this must be the
"Hey, Jim, is this great or what?" Blair shut off
both engines, then flipped a switch on the console that lowered both bower and
sea anchors. "I don't care if there's fish out here or not, man. Just being
out of the city for a while is worth any trip."
Jim watched as Blair,
seemingly out of habit, checked the instruments before securing the helm. He couldn't
help but wonder sometimes what his partner had been like as a teenager. But then
some days, usually when women were around, he thought that couldn't have been
more than a few hours ago. "Yeah, I think I'll drop a line and see what comes
up." Jim walked back inside the cabin and put his empty can in the trash,
then went below and changed into shorts himself.
When he came back out on deck,
fishing pole in hand, Blair was already napping on the bow. His jeans had been
traded in for cutoffs, and he was using his shirt as a pillow. Before Jim could
question his good sense, he spotted the tube of sun screen next to the tackle
box. After setting up his line and securing the end of the pole inside one of
several braces, he applied some of the sun screen, grateful that it was non-scented,
and relaxed in the sun. It seemed odd, how the exact same sun that was now--and
had been for nearly a week--beating down on the city with such force it kept them
awake even at night, could at the same time be so much more pleasant from a different
Jim set both feet up on the transom as he found a more comfortable
position in the seat. A quick focus forward told him Blair was napping, so he
set his own mental clock to wake him in thirty minutes should he fall asleep himself.
If Blair was down for a good long sleep, sunblock or not, someone would have to
roll him over. With eyes closed, Jim let his hearing wander over the waves, listening
to the sound of water lapping against the hull, seagulls in the distance, and
even the bark of an occasional seal.
The gentle rolling was hypnotic, and the
hollow sound of the waves hitting the boat drew Jim's attention downward. Letting
his focus change direction, he began to notice different sounds coming up from
the depths. Sounds that seemed almost alien in nature. Clicks and whirs presumably
from fish, or maybe even some whales in the distance. Bubbles bursting on their
way up from the sea floor. The echo from waves as they hit the MarySue, bouncing
back down to the blue depths. Sitting there, eyes closed and attention directed
downward, Jim was struck by the presence of the sea itself. It wasn't just the
multitudes of sea life, or even the mysteries still to be found, but something
more. Something so profound it defied description. It was as if the deepness itself
had a presence. As if you could remove all life found there, and still there would
be something alive. It felt as though depth was no longer a unit to gauge, but
a distinct object in its own right. If the sea had a soul, it was the very depth
Jim came suddenly alert. He glanced instinctively at his watch and was
rewarded once again with infallible timing. Running a hand over his face he stood,
then looked down at the very water he'd been zoning into. No doubt I have
Sandburg to thank for that moment of philosophy.
After checking the pole,
he walked through the cabin and up to the hatch that Blair had left open. "Hey,
Chief, how about some lunch?"
Blair rolled over sleepily and looked down
at Jim. "Man, I could sleep for a week."
"Yeah, but we've only
got the weekend. Just roll over while I fix something to eat."
and wordlessly changed positions, falling almost instantly back to sleep once
he'd gotten on his stomach.
Jim stretched again, letting his back pop a few
times before going into the galley to see what was available. The MarySue was
well equipped to house several people for a few weeks at a time, and by the looks
of the cupboards, Simon had expected to be out for a while with Daryl. There was
a large assortment of meats and cheeses, as well as fresh fruit. Already tired
of fruit salad, Jim gathered up the bread, meats, and other sandwich fixings and
set about making a substantial lunch. The city had been so hot, neither man had
much appetite over the past several days. But out on the water, with the cooling
breeze blowing steadily in from the ocean, Jim felt like making up for some lost
time. He made sandwiches, then found a bag of chips and retrieved two beers from
the fridge since they were anchored for the duration now. After placing lunch
on the main table, Jim walked forward and tapped on the window Blair was resting
"Wake up, Chief, lunch is on." He waited until his friend
began to get up, then walked back to the table and sat down.
that felt good." Blair rubbed his face as he approached the table, then pushed
a few escaped strands of hair back out of his face.
"Have a good nap?"
"I wasn't napping, Sandburg, I was fishing."
Jim picked up his sandwich and took a bite, eyeing Blair as he removed the top
from his beer bottle.
"There's a difference?" He grinned, then took
Jim shook his head while he chewed, but decided to ignore his partner's
editorial comments. He'd always known that while Blair enjoyed boating, kayaking,
and just about every other outdoor activity there was, fishing was just something
he did when he was hungry for fish. Jim, on the other hand, could spend hours
casting a line or watching a pole, and didn't care if he caught a thing. There
was a relaxing quality to simply being there, listening to the water, watching
the play of light on the waves. Sentinel eyesight had proven an asset to fresh
water fly fishing, since the water was crystal clear and typically rather shallow.
But out here, the water was far too deep and murky with plankton and kelp to see
more than a few feet down.
They finished lunch, then went aft, Jim to once
again sit beside the pole he'd set in search of some bottom fish, and Blair to
sit lotus-style on top of the transom facing him. The seas were calm and the breeze
blowing steadily southward seemed to lessen. Jim set his beer down and pulled
the pole out of its holder so he could slowly begin to reel in.
that out." Blair nodded starboard. "I bet they're heading up the passage."
Jim looked in the direction his friend had pointed and saw the three-masted
schooner. "Looks like a charter." He turned his attention back to the
pole. "I almost took one of those up the inland to Alaska last summer."
"Really? What stopped you?"
"Money, Chief. My old truck had
finally given up and I had to make a choice. Take a vacation I didn't need, or
buy a new ride." He glanced up at Blair. "Turns out, the charter was
the same price as that red jeep."
"You see, that's the trouble with
money. As soon as you get ahead, something happens that inevitably costs exactly
the same as the money you've got." Blair shook his head. "That's why
you never want to win the lotto, Jim. I'd hate to see the kind of problem that
would occur in direct relation to that kind of money."
Jim laughed a little
as he continued to reel the line in. "That's one way to look at it."
He had nearly half the line back on the reel when it suddenly tugged. Realizing
it was more of a snag than a fish, Jim stood to get a better angle and continued
a steady re-wind.
"You get something?"
"No, more liked snagged
something." Jim tried to focus through the water but it was too murky to
see the end of his line. Blair got up and stood next to him, peering over the
side. "Probably some kelp." The line was getting harder and harder to
bring in, and just when Jim feared he'd have to cut it, his eye caught sight of
something orange slowly surfacing.
"Oh, man, would you look at that!"
Jim set the end of the pole down and glanced around the deck. "Sandburg,
get that grapple over there." Blair spotted the hook and went to unstrap
it from the storage section. "I haven't seen one this big around here in
a long time."
Blair returned with the grappling pole and began to extend
it, gazing at the huge, deep orange jellyfish as it bobbed and pulsated next to
the boat. "Ever get stung by one of these?"
"Yeah, it's no fun."
Jim reeled in as close as he dared, careful not to raise it out of the water while
Blair tried to hook the line and pull it close enough to cut. "Those stingers
are like battery acid. Don't see many of these, thank goodness. The white ones
are nothing." The line was close enough now, so Jim reached out with the
fishing knife and started cutting. "Me and a buddy in the Rangers did a night
dive one time, during training. We couldn't see the thing till we were right on
top of it." Three passes of the knife and the line snapped, freeing the jellyfish.
"I got a few stingers wrapped around my legs, but my partner really got tangled.
He was in the hospital burn unit for two weeks."
Blair made a face and
looked back at the orange glob that seemed to be staring back at them. "It's
amazing, isn't it? Almost everything deadly, poisonous, or in the least bit dangerous
to be around, is beautiful to look at."
"What happened, Chief? You
ask Sam out again?" Jim laughed, dismantling the pole.
"No, her window
closed again right after I forgot our last date. Which, if I have any sense, will
be our last date."
"If you have any sense?" Jim glanced at the
jellyfish that was slowly pulsating its way away from the boat, trailing several
yards of stingers behind it. "This from the man who showed his girlfriend
his journals, forgets 48 hour windows that I still don't understand, and who asks
women out almost compulsively."
Blair rolled his eyes and held both hands
up in defeat. "Okay, okay, I get it." He returned to his seat on the
transom and finished his beer in one swallow.
"I've been trying to teach
you all I know, Chief. You should be taking advantage of my many years of experience.
One failed marriage taught me more than enough about the complexities of a relationship."
"At least I'm learning."
"Slowly, Sandburg." Jim stowed
the pole and picked up his beer before sitting back down. "Very slowly."
He laughed at the look on his friend's face, but before he could add another comment,
the sound of twin engines and breaking water caught their attention.
the point was a large, ocean going private yacht that out-shadowed their own by
at least 40 feet. Jim focused on the vessel as it began to slow, still a few miles
away from them and veer off toward the shore slightly. It took several minutes
for the boat to lose all forward momentum, then the sound of two large anchors
plunging into the water was clearly heard.
"Looks like we'll have neighbors
tonight." Blair pulled his sunglasses down from their perch on top of his
head and put them on, gazing at the new arrivals.
"At least they're keeping
their distance. Sound travels far enough out here without them parking it too
close." Jim turned away and looked out over the water behind them, watching
a seagull fly overhead.
"You ever think about running away, Jim?"
Blair was still watching the yacht, an oddly contemplative look on his face.
He turned to look at Jim and shrugged. "You know, just up and leave. Go
on some grand adventure, escape the confines of society and work and all that
day to day crap that builds up in your life."
"What brought this
on, Chief?" Jim eyed his friend, seeing easily through the dark glasses to
those expressive blue eyes beneath. "You're not planning on going pirate
on me, are you?" One thing he had come to realize was that Blair's moods
could alter with the tide, and would sometimes take bizarre twists and turns before
coming back to settle in one place.
Blair shrugged. "When I was a kid,
and I'd see a yacht that size, I'd start to daydream about just getting onboard
and shoving off. Sail the world, visit exotic places, never staying in one place
for very long." He glanced at the yacht again. "You know, when you're
out here, nothing can touch you. Sometimes I think if you could find a place big
enough, open enough, you could get lost and nothing could catch up."
sighed, hoping his friend was just feeling the beer and childhood daydreams. "That's
just it, Chief. You can't. There's no place big enough, or far enough away that
reality can't catch up. Running from something doesn't make it go away, because
nine times out of ten, the problem isn't outside, it's inside." Jim pointed
to his chest for emphasis and watched Blair closely as he nodded his understanding.
"Just what is it you think you need to run from?"
Jim, I was just...romanticizing, I guess." He gazed around, gesturing with
one hand at their surroundings. "You know, the wide open sea, tales of adventure.
Boyhood fantasies of conquering the world."
"Yeah, that and maybe
you shouldn't drink beer when you're tired." Jim stood and walked over to
remove the empty bottle from Blair's hand. "I think maybe you need to cool
off, before heat stroke sets in."
"Jim, trust me, I was just making
conversation." Blair held up both hands and shook his head. "There's
nothing to read into here."
Jim nodded slowly and deliberately, then looked
over the side at the deep blue water, making sure there was no lingering sign
of the jellyfish they'd so recently had as a visitor.
"Jim, just put that
thought right out of your mind." Blair stood and took a few steps away, still
shaking his head.
"It's been awfully hot lately, Chief." Jim smiled
and looked in the opposite direction, scanning the gently rolling waves around
"You know that water's cold, man. Even more so when you're hot."
"Yeah, just about right, I'd say." In one quick move, Jim turned,
catching Blair easily by both arms and pulling him to the side and over before
he could protest. His friend hit the water with a huge splash, then surfaced quickly,
spouting curses. Jim heard only the first few. He dove off the boat himself and
submerged close to his friend. When he came up, Blair palmed water at his face.
"You know, Jim, one of these days I'm going to start keeping a record
of how often you throw me to the ground."
"As long as you're also
writing down the reasons why, Chief, I've got no problem with it." He laughed,
then watched Blair shake his head and begin to swim away from the boat.
swam several yards out, side by side, then turned and made their way back. When
they reached the boat, Blair declared he'd had enough and climbed back on board
while Jim went out for another lap. After their swim, both men got comfortable
on the bow and let the sun dry them out while they dozed. By early evening, the
wind had stopped blowing completely, and the water was almost dead calm, lending
a stillness to the hot summer air. Blair volunteered to put dinner together, so
Jim set about re-stringing the fishing line and attaching the new reel before
he stowed the gear. Within an hour, the table was set with steaks, salad and rolls.
There was beer for Jim, but Blair opted for water. They ate, happy again to have
appetites and knowing that if the hot weather continued after returning to the
city, they wouldn't feel like eating this well for a while.
After dinner Jim
cleaned up the galley while Blair made a pot of decaf. He found a bottle of whiskey
and added a modest splash to the coffee before they retired to the stern to watch
the sun set. Their neighbors also seemed to be enjoying some libations for the
evening, but Jim had to focus to hear the party and found he could easily tune
them out, so he did. Blair had been in a fine mood all through dinner, giving
no hint that his little run-away speech had been anything more than the idle daydreaming
he'd said it was. But Jim still took note of his body language. One thing he'd
learned, among many since meeting his new partner, was never to completely discount
anything he said. Some of it was bullshit, some of it was just his tendency to
think out loud--a habit Jim often found more informative than anything he'd say
on purpose--but typically it was what Blair didn't say that needed to be heard.
But tonight, all seemed well. They watched the sun sink below the distant waves,
quietly marveling at the array of orange and red that sparkled and danced as it
reflected off the water. Bright oranges soon gave way to muted reds which in turn
morphed to an almost purple-hued blue before fading completely to black. When
the sun left, the moon appeared, shining down like a spotlight directly above
them. One by one, stars joined in, until the night sky was filled with lights.
"Look at that." Blair leaned back, resting on both hands as he gazed
at the display. "Reminds me of a summer Mom and I spent up at Big Sur. She'd
spend hours meditating under the stars."
"Yeah." Jim found the
north star, then followed it until he could identify some of the constellations.
"When I was ten, I thought I wanted to be an astronaut."
at him, eyebrows raised. "That would be interesting. Testing out your sight
and hearing in the vacuum of space." He paused and Jim could see his mental
wheels spinning with lost possibilities and speculative results of impossible
tests. "I'd love to see what differences you'd pick up if atmosphere and
filtered light weren't big factors."
Jim smiled, more at the sight of
his partner in discovery mode than the idea of him in space. "That might
have made it harder for you to come to work with me every day, don't you think,
Blair shrugged dismissively. "There's always a way around
"With you, Sandburg, I believe it." Jim shook
his head and gazed out over the sparkling moon-lit water. It was true, of course.
And he'd known Blair too long now not to believe he could find some way to do
exactly what he wanted, no matter what obstacles lay before him. Jim was a Detective
in Major Crimes, and Blair had managed a permanent position as his partner. Not
only that, but he'd managed it while still keeping Jim's Sentinel abilities a
secret, making his reasons for being there even more of a mystery to the rest
of the Precinct. Somehow he knew, if Jim was still a Ranger, Blair would have
managed to be there beside him. Or if he were an astronaut, a firefighter, or
even a deep-sea welder, he'd still have a partner. How on earth he'd accomplish
it, Jim had no clue. But he also had no doubts as to Blair's ability to get what
he wanted. It was a trait he'd come to count on, and admire, no matter how mystifying
it could be.
Blair stood and stretched. "I'm gonna turn in. I think this
will be my first full night's sleep in a week."
Jim finished his coffee
and nodded. "Yeah. Might be the only one for a while, if this weather keeps
up." He handed his empty cup to Blair to take back to the galley. "Good
Jim stayed on deck, watching
the moon slowly move across the night sky. The sounds and smells of the sea reminded
him of Carolyn's uncle's old house at the ocean. That in turn reminded him that
she had called last week, leaving a message on the machine about the insurance
and that mysterious gas leak that caused the house to be destroyed. He'd have
to call her back about that, one of these days. Voices could be heard in the distance,
and Jim turned his attention to the yacht anchored nearby. On the water, and especially
at night, sounds carried dramatically. Luckily, the party goers seemed to be taking
it indoors, and Jim found if he blocked them out, he could still enjoy the peace
and quiet of the water and not be kept awake.
As the lights on the other yacht
went out one by one, Jim decided it was time for him to go to sleep as well. He
secured the cabin, glanced around the galley to make sure they'd cleaned up everything,
and went forward to the main berth. Blair had taken the guest berth aft, but it
was a simple matter of direction for Jim to pick up on his partner's quiet breathing.
He used that as a focal point to keep the sounds from the other yacht from interrupting.
As the night progressed, the party there seemed to rise and fall in decibels.
Onboard the MarySue, all was quiet. Jim got out of his clothes and into bed,
letting the sheet cover only his legs. This weekend had turned out to be an unexpected
treat, instead of the sweltering tedium he had expected. And he had Blair to thank
for most of his enjoyment. His fear of open water made trips in the wider Straits
somewhat nerve wracking, even if they didn't hold the same all-out gripping terror
as the open sea. But now that he'd been able to overcome that fear, thanks to
Blair, this trip held none of the old twinges of discomfort associated with his
Jim fell asleep, wondering if Blair would have been able to
conquer his own fear of heights, if Jim had turned out to be a Sentinel helicopter