Title: The Struggle for Life by marianne aka honiglippe
Fandom: The Sentinel
Pairing: GEN, Jim and Blair Friendship, Joel Taggert
Warnings: violence (but nothing in detail), Not beta read yet. Would love to have one.
Summary: Friendship of a special kind. A continuation to 'G. I. Jim, the Soldier from the Past and Future'
Feedback: Any and all comments welcome; constructive criticism craved, but remember it is not beat-read.
Any and all help is appreciated!
The Struggle for Life by Marianne
The little feet were pumping furiously through the uneven ground. The night was lit by a crescent moon as the little curly-head boy ran through the wet and dark forest. Only clad in a green, long-sleeved sweater touching by his knees and what seemed cargo like pants and small soaked through socks, the boy shivered in the cool night. He ran as fast and far away as he could from the camp of hell he had been in the last three weeks.
He escaped through a small hole behind a box in the room he had been held, carving it a bit larger in the ground area with the eat utensils he had gotten with his meals. Time had made the flooring a bit brittle and as small as he was he didn't have to carve a lot to get through it when the camp had slowed down for the night.
It was pure luck that that room had been intended for larger prisoners than he was or he would never had the chance to escape at all.
His only thought was to get back to his Mom. He had been alone for some moments at the library he had seen when they were in the city they had been for a week. Albeit he was only five years old he could read and write early on and that old library had fascinated him a lot. His Mom asked him to sit down and read his book while she just went to the next door to purchase a special tea she wanted and talk to the herb lady.
He was fascinated by an old book at the library and wanted to read again some passages. His little fingers had traced the golden words with reference, 'The Sentinels of Paraguay'. As he was too small to read it sitting at the tables he sat down on the floor between the book aisles with the book carefully on his legs. A sound made him look up; a dark clad figure was in front of him. Something made him scramble back from the man only to be stopped by another man's feet and strong hands which held him firmly. A rough cloth was held over his face as he struggled to get free, before he could get any sound out and soon he remembered nothing else until waking up at the camp.
Tall for his age the fourteen year old boy hiked through the forest finally happy for a change. In a reflex motion he had run away when his father and younger brother had taken off to Japan for three weeks without him. It was all so unfair. He felt bad for Sally for running away, she had been their housekeeper and surrogate mother figure since his mother had left them some years ago at Christmas time, but enough was enough.
He never intended to go back home if he could help it.
All that was dear to him had gone into his hiking gear the rest he left behind, taking his own money he had spared and the mountain ride bicycle out of the garage and he had left in the middle of the night without a look back. The streets were almost deserted at that hour and the few cars he saw but no one saw him as he always managed to circumstance them. As they were living not far from the city limits he was soon at the road and decided to head for the mountains. The bikes sidesaddles were packed with instant food and water as well to get him around before he could fish or anything else in the meantime.
The only thing he had not predicted was to get his bike broken as badly as it got and he had not even gotten to the mountains yet. All because of a small animal getting in front of him as it ran to cross the road downhill on the third night. Breaking hard he had flown from the bike but had not been injured but his pride. His heavy backpack had saved him when he landed hard on a big rock.
He managed to get up without any problems after he made sure he was not injured in any way and walked back to the bike.
"Shit," he shouted when he saw his brand-new bike. He had taken spare rays and some other spares but a broken axle was too much beside other damages.
With a sigh he began to take the sidesaddles away from the bike and threw the mountain bike behind the large rocks. As it seemed from now on it was to be going on by foot.
Taking his large backpack from his back he hung the sidesaddles so that they were now straddling on each outside of his thighs as he took it back on his back. It was heavier with the sidesaddles hanging from the backpack but he could manage.
At least he was near the edge of the Cascadian forests by the time he had taken the dive and resolutely entered it.
The little boy was exhausted when he finally stopped for some rest. The night sounds let him shiver as well as the cold but it was preferable to be in the dark outside in a forest than in that camp. Generally he had been left alone after being taken to the room he had fled. On intervals he had been given food and that was the only times he had gotten to see anyone in all the time he had been there. The window with bars had been too high for him to climb to see anything but day and night and shadows. Many a nights he had cried himself to sleep, heard chanting of a terrifying kind and cries and shouts of terror. One day one of the large, sealed boxes in his small room had been taken away by cloaked men. He staggered back behind the bed and made himself as small as possible. One of them just glanced at him disdainfully and they left him alone. That's when he saw that small hole under a cemented bank behind the rest of the boxes.
On the second night out there he heard sounds of heavy feet. He was still inside a tree trunk he had found before it got too dark and too exhausted to continue to run. The tree was very old and a hole just large enough for him to fit he stuffed it with autumn leaves and buried himself in them; a bush hid it from outside view as well. As the heavy steps from several men passed his hiding hole he held himself still terrified to be found out, but the men had continued to walk farther and farther away.
He huddled as small as possible and buried his face between his knees, while silent tears ran down his dirt-smudged small face. After a while, and sure he heard no one else, he took his small handkerchief from a cord around his neck inside his sweater and opened it to retrieve the treasure it held. Wild berries, roots of some kind and nuts. He ate them carefully and left some for breakfast.
Just a year before he and his Mom had been at an Indian Reservation for some weeks and he still remembered the time he had spent with the tribes Shaman who had taught him a lot of cool things, like what was eatable in a forest and what not. His hands were still too small then for him to learn how to make a bow and arrows what he really regretted now.
He never felt so alone in all his short life and cried himself to sleep.
Almost the second week hiking through the woods the fourteen year old boy felt like Grizzly Adams. He was alone but the wonders of the forest and small rivers still held him in its magic. Hiking and fishing were his primer stakes for now and camping each day on another site. His small tend was easy to make up and dissemble and very light as well as the space blankets and his warm winter knapsack. Water there was plenty around and he had a lot of the Swiss purification tablets to make it drinkable.
Lying down for the night he fell asleep when a pounding beat awoke him. It seemed like drums to his ears in a steady rhythm. He also heard voices of men, angry by the sound of them. Unconsciously he titled his head to one side and tried to overhear what he heard.
What he heard made him shiver in horror.
"Damn that little monster. How can a little boy like that best us. I'm going to wring his neck when we find him."
"Oh, Buck, better to leave him alone. You know that the Master wants him for the sacrifice next week and preferably undamaged. He wants the pleasure to gut him out in the usual way. We just have to find the kids for it once a month at a full moon. Or do you want to get it like those hookers he tries some of his gory sacrifices sometimes?"
"Harrumph," was the only commentary the Buck guy gave.
"He must be somewhere nearby; it's not possible for him to get too far in two days in the middle of the woods. Otherwise if we do not get him soon we must find another one for the Master and preferable another curly one with blue eyes."
Without preamble the teenager packed all he had and put the fire out leaving no trace of it on the ground. With stealth he gathered his belongings and followed the staccato of the hammering beating sound from the way the strangers had come from. The nearer he came the beats, they got slower but still hammered in his ears like a beacon to be followed. Unerringly he found the sound coming from a tree behind a bush, which he carefully held apart to find a hole in the tree filled with yellowed leaves. A small foot in a dirty sock was the only thing he could make out. He touched it lightly and the hammering got more pronounced and he could hear a terrified sniffle and the sock clad foot disappeared in the leaves.
"Shih, don't worry, I am not going to hurt you. I am a boy like you just a bit older and heard some bad guys looking for you. We must get out of here before they come back."
The teenager hunched more down to be seen from the hole and saw a movement coming from it. Big wide open blue eyes starred back at him from the dark space. He smiled assuring and waited patiently for the little guy to come out by his own. It took some searching minutes when finally a little curly head full of leaves and a tear struck strained and dirty face came out to look at him. Smiling he held his hands out and suddenly had an armful of a little body in his arms. Small arms laced themselves around his neck in a stronghold.
"Are you going to take me to Nomi? I sure want to go back to her now. They took me from the library and I woke up and was in that room. It was sooo scary." The boy whispered finally after he had cried some more. He felt so safe in those arms of the older boy and shivered only slightly.
"Sure you bet'cha, little Chief. Just who is Nomi?"
"My Mommy. She will be really, really scared by now." The little boy sniffed.
"You call your Mommy by her name?"
"Yup. We are like sooo bestest of friends."
"Okay, little Chief, we have got to get away from here really quick before those scary man come back through here. I just know a good route to follow where they can never find us." He stood up and walked as quickly as he could through the dark woods with the boy still in his arms for now. He just felt like he could not let him out of his arms so scared was he for him.
The words sacrifices and guts being taken out still made him shudder. The little arms still held firmly around his neck but a bit more relaxed and the little boy lifted a bit from his neck where he had buried it to look into his eyes. The soulful big blue eyes almost framed all the small face. They were looking trustingly up into his crystal clear blue eyes.
"I'm not little Chief I'm Blair. What's your name?"
"I'm Jimmy. Little Chief is just a nickname I only get for my bestest of friends."
The big blue eyes grew even bigger if possible and a large smile followed the 'oh' he gave with puckering those little full lips.
"I never had the bestest of friends beside my Mommy. You can call me little Chief whenever you want." With that he buried his face again on his neck while Jimmy hiked farther away from the bad men.
After a while down a stream, he finally grew too tired to continue for the night as the weight got too much for him to handle. He knew that on the other side of the stream was a small cave a bit farther away, well hidden from sight. At this part of the stream it was shallow to cross over and any tracks would be washed away.
Blair had fallen asleep in his arms and he just wanted to make it to the other side to be as far away as possible, the cave was a perfect hiding place and what was better without an animal init.
He crossed the creek without problems albeit he was exhausted by now. The stones at the margin would leave no trace of them.
Finally reaching the cave he crawled inside and laid Blair on the dusty ground. He made sure there were really no animals inside. All clear from his backpack as well he took a large empty water bottle and crawled out again and destroyed any traces from them where they had left the stony margin after he filled the bottle.
He heard the beating sound, which was so soothing to his ears; accelerate just before he reached the cave. He got in.
"I'm here little Chief. I just got some water for us."
"I was scared when I did not see you. Jimmy, never leave me behind. It's scary." Big tears were falling down from the eyes of the little boy huddled by the backpack with his small arms wrapped around his body. Jimmy held out his arms and Blair scurried into them.
"Sorry, little Chief. I was just outside. I would never leave you behind. Don't you worry. Bestest of friends never leave one another behind. Scout's honor."
"Huff, I am truly tired by now. Let's wash ourselves a bit before we crawl into my knapsack or it will get all dirty." Jimmy said when he finally took a good look at Blair. The little guy sure was dirtier as anything he had ever seen. He didn't even know if the water bottle would get account of it. But for the night it should be enough to make him at least a bit more presentable for the night.
Oh, boy, he sure was happy he had packed a lot of clothes as he sure was not wrestling him into those rotten ones again. Hopefully a wash in the morning would save some of the clothes the little guy wore.
As good as he could he washed them both. His eyes grew angry when he saw welts and bruises on the little body but was careful not to show it to Blair and took a long shirt from his backpack and put it on a slightly cleaner Blair and a pair of his socks which got all the little legs up. Blair giggled at that and yawning widely he rubbed his eyes sleepily. Jimmy put also a long shirt on and his favorite sweatpants he wore at night and put the bedding up with a space blanket first on the ground and the sturdy knapsack upon it. He crawled init first followed by Blair and closed the zipper and put another space blanket over them.
Huddled together they fell asleep.
Morning came but it got almost ten in the morning before the exhausted boys woke up. It had been filled with nightmares on both but the nearness from one to the other after a moment they disappeared without a trace and as the night grew morning their dreams were filled with a panther cub and a wolf pup running side by side through a wondrous jungle holding the nightmares at bay.
Straining his hearing, Jimmy held so still at the margin of the creek where Blair and he were washing themselves that Blair got up and held is hands on each side of the boy's face.
"Jimmy, wake up." He said in a soothing sound of his child voice over and over again until Jimmy woke up like if after a dream, shaking his head from side to side.
Jimmy looked around and then back at Blair. He relaxed when he saw Blair smiling at him. "Sorry, Chief. Sometimes I get a bit lost but you found me really quick."
"Yup, like Wolfie and Panthera in the dream. He made the same with Panthera so that I know what to do."
"That's right, little Chief, we had the same dream it seems. That's odd." Jimmy said with awe at his voice and face.
Blair nodded effortful with a huge grin. "Bestest of friends even in dreams."
He giggled and Jimmy tickled him. Their young hearts happy for once.
"Yeah sure ye bet'cha." Jimmy laughed and finally they put on their clothes. "We have a long walk before us before we get out of here. Your clothes, at least the pants and underwear are savable and they will dry when I hang them on my backpack while we walk. It's better to get as far away from this side of the mountain as possible. I sure don't want to meet those guys again."
Jimmy sighed heavily as they hiked to reach any station of the Forest Rangers, as he was now sure he had to go back for Blair's sake as well as he had overheard the men say they would kidnap more boys. He shuddered at that prospect to hear from more boys to be gutted out. How could people be so bad? He asked himself.
For a five year old Blair was sure a smart one and had a motor mouth, that Jimmy could just shake his head in wonder. And by his exploits was also far traveled.
In his five years he had seen more of the World than Jimmy in his fourteen. He had even been to Egypt. He would have liked to see those Pyramids as well. Japan would have been his first trip out of the country if his father hadn't taken Stevie instead.
He sighed as he could see no way around it to be able to take Blair back to his mother and warn the police of the whereabouts of those scary kidnappers.
From time to time he took Blair into his arms as the forceful hike was too much for the little boy, and when he got to tired as well they rested and ate something or other. He had laughed when the little boy had taken out his handkerchief full of berries to share with him. For a little tyke he sure was a resourceful guy to have around. They could make it out there all by themselves, but he had to take him back and warn the police, there was no way around it.
On the fifth day in the woods they finally arrived at a Ranger Station. Jimmy took his time to scout it out with his hearing and sight while little Blair held his tiny hand on the small of his back.
He could hear two voices inside it but one had a bleary sound to it like an echo. Finally he found out the second voice was coming from a radio. The Ranger was making an update to his superior at the Main Station it seemed.
A big Ranger's truck was parked beside the Station. The only road he had seen so far was a dirt road leaving a trail through the woods.
He sighed in relive, when he could hear no other men around in this neck of the mountain. It would be save for Blair now.
The Ranger couldn't believe his eyes when after a knock at his door and he opened it. A teenage boy held a small curly eyed one in his arms, both with huge blue eyes. The little one by his estimate about four had a long sweatshirt on over his cargo pants and dirty big socks with no shoes on. To see more then one bruise on the small face he became immediately concerned.
"Come in, you look like you are cold. What happened to both of you?" He could see that both of them had been in the wilds for some time by their appearance. He could not imagine how they had been in the forests around here as no alert had been taken out to two missing boys, not even farther from here. Rescue parties would have been on the S&R all around more so when involving children.
He observed as the teenager by his estimate no more then fifteen sat the little boy carefully near by the roaring fire he had going on. The days and nights were growing colder as it was already the end of autumn. He approached with two bowls of a hearty breakfast while the big boy tended for the small one.
"So what happened?" he asked again as no answer had come before. "And where have you come from? There are no alerts for missing boys in the woods."
"Sorry, sir." The teenage boy said respectful. "I was camping around when suddenly at night; five days ago, two men were conversing near my campsite. I was well seconded and my fireplace was small and behind a bolder, so they did not know I was nearby. What I heard made me immediately take it down and go in search of Blair. I found him huddled in a tree trunk hole after a while and the bad men were not nearby. So I took off with him and came as soon as possible your way. I had seen this Ranger Station before."
The Ranger perceived that the boy did not want to go into more details of what he had heard after a glance to the little boy, but just his face told him a lot and by the bruises he saw.
Seeing that the little boy was getting sleepy he went near him to examine him a bit. Large bruises on the little arms by hands made a lot larger than the teenager's ones told him a lot. Nothing seemed broken. A farther examination would be made by the Medics in town. He took a blanket from the sofa a bundled the little boy init when he fell asleep leaning on the larger boy.
"Okay. Let's get a bit over here. Blair is asleep now and tell me more about it. And what's your name?"
Jimmy making sure Blair was asleep indeed turned then urgently to the Ranger.
"I'm James Ellison, sir. You got to have to alert the Police. I heard the bad men talking about sacrifices and gutting out little boys like Blair and others like, ah, hookers they said. One was commenting that their master always sacrificed little boys on full moons and sometimes on other days, hookers. They also said that if they couldn't find Blair they would look for another little boy to be used instead. The only name I got was that one of them was called Buck and I can show you the location they came from on a map."
The Rangers face grew alarmed by what he had heard and held a calming hand over the boy's shoulders. The terror could be seen by this boy's big eyes which were darting all the time to the little boy, clearly preoccupied that he would hear the gory details. But he was heavily asleep after the ordeal they had passed in how long it had been.
"Okay, calm down. I've got you now, you're both save. Let me make a call with the long range radio to my Captain, meanwhile rest a bit. And then we will take the truck to get to the next hospital."
"Okay, sir." Jimmy answered and finally he calmed down enough to take a big breathe and sat down at the end of the sofa, holding lightly on the sock clad little feet as if to assure himself that Blair was save now.
After a while he was strapped into the driver's seat with little Blair still asleep in his arms and they went to get to the next town near Cascade.
The next hour went by quickly along the drive and the question he dreaded was finally made.
"How come you were camping alone around here? You can't be older than fifteen, albeit that you are tall."
He saw the boy's face grow hot. His baby-face was still too revealing of what was going on. "You ran away and hid in the forest, isn't it?" He asked with surety. He sure had nothing on him to be held as a runaway. His clothes were well cared for and expensive as he could see, as well as the hiking boots and his gear. Not a poor kid, but money could hide a lot of things as he knew by some cases he had come across over the years.
The boy lowered his face still beet red. "Yes, sir."
"Was it so bad you had to run away?" The Ranger asked gentle.
Jimmy just shrugged his shoulders in a non-committal way. What those little boys and others had gone through seemed by far worse. He had already prepared himself to get back home meanwhile until he was big enough to take off again. Saving the lives of other boys was far more important then his own plait.
Finally they reached the small towns hospital and a Police car was already waiting for them. By the description the Ranger had given over the radio some inquiries had been done and red flags of alerts had been given out by both boys as the name of the about four year old was Blair and description he had been kidnapped from a library 4 weeks ago and was in reality five, just small for his age. And with the name the teenage boy had given it was also one they were in alert to being missing for four weeks as well with no traces where he had gone.
The boy's father had been already informed of his whereabouts and should get to the small town within two hours tops. Blair's mother should arrive at the same time or later on.
Jimmy was asked a lot of questions by a Cascade Detective called Taggert. The tall Detective inspired a lot of confidence in the teenager and he answered as well as he was able to, although he had half an ear turned to the proceedings of what was happening to Blair in the next room.
He was relieved when he was confirmed that the bruises were the worst he had suffered during his incarceration and malnutrition but not as bad as it could have been.
Detective Taggert was impressed by the detail the teenager gave him from the happenings he had gone through since he had heard those men although he got no face description as he had not seen them face to face.
The FBI would be soon around too to take the investigation on as it handled with missing children and such. That was one investigation he was glad the FBI was going to handle. Just imagining what had happened and still could happen with others could give anyone nightmares. He had encountered a lot of atrocities since he turned a Police Officer. With children involved it was the worst to handle.
Taggert had been visiting the Sheriff of the town and asked to help out with the preliminaries. He would head back to Cascade soon after the FBI debriefed him.
"Okay, Jimmy. Thank you for your detailed description, it will help us a lot out to find those men. Even more though as you could point out where it was you found Blair and the kidnappers headed. Here come the FBI agents, there will be just some more questions by them and then all will be behind you. Don't you worry about it."
Jimmy gave him a small, shy smile and turned again his listening to Blair and what was going on in his cubicle.
As the Detective had said, the FBI Agents questions were not that bad to be answered as well, albeit he preferred the Detective for a mile more.
Looking out of the window he could see his father's black Mercedes coming along the road. He sighed.
A commotion from the cubicle held his attention. He got just a glance to a pretty, long-haired young woman from the side rushing into it and embracing Blair. One of the agents made him go out and get down to the First Floor of the Hospital to his father's side.
Taggert observed from his car he just got in when he saw a man getting out of the Mercedes' backdoor. It seemed to be Jimmy's father but there was no embrace in sight just a stern look. He could not hear what they were talking about, but the father talked to the FBI Agent and then took the boy's arm in his hands and steered him into the back of the Mercedes while he saw the boy pleading for something to his father, but a firm shake of the forbidding head was the last he saw of them as they drove away.
A commotion at the entry of the hospital distracted him. Blair, the little boy squirmed out of his young mother's arms to get running behind the distancing car shouting with tears running down his tiny face for the boy of whom he could see just a hand on the dark back glass.
Finally the young mother took her child back into her arms calming him down, soothing his fears. It was heart breaking to look at from his stance at the car. As the small child continued to sob fore lonely, hiding his face in her neck, Taggert finally bet good bye to his Sheriff friend.
As the years got bye that scene always remained in his memory. Thinking of what had become of those so unlikely but bestest of friends as they had told him.
Captain Joel Taggert was sitting with the other Detectives around the Loft of Detective James Ellison and his roomy and Special Consultant for the Cascade PD, but fore most and permanently at the Major Crimes Division of which the former Bomb Squad Captain was also some years a Detective now, albeit still with the ranking of Captain at the Division. Thinking about the years which had gone by and those unlikely friends he was marveled how the Police Observer had turned out to be even a Detective besides a Special Consultant to the PD. He had still his bounce as when he was a grad student. His hair was still longer but less then before.
Simon Banks, the Major Crimes Captain, was sitting on the sofa where his recently rescued son from the Militia Groups camp, Darryl Banks was sitting beside Jim Ellison talking his head off not even perceiving that Jim had fallen asleep with a contented smile on his face. Blair Sandburg was bouncing around, the perfect host for this shindig they had after the rescue.
Jim's Sentinel abilities had been an excellent help to find the boy in the deep forest the camp had been. Finally Garrett had been eliminated from ever disturbing them again and the shot fired in defense to his friends at Major Crime from Taggert himself. Albeit he felt a bit by having to shoot and killed he was not as disturbed by it as he thought he would be. Just looking all around him he was content with himself and the World.
He was still in awe with Jim's abilities they held a secret on their PD. It had not been one for long at the Police Department itself after the dismal Press conference but was held jealously around the PD. As a never spoken of secret anywhere they could even be slightly overheard there were some suspicions but not enough to endanger the Sentinel and his Guide. Being one of those to have been shown the original Dissertation by Ellison himself after some hectic months, trying to clear Blair's name and reinstate him to the Doctorate Program at Rainier University, with a 'The Close Blue Line at The Cascade PD', Blair, after getting his PhD in Anthropology, got nevertheless to the Academy to become a Detective and the Special Consultant Placing.
He still was adverse of using the gun if he could find another way around it and stunned the Officers with his good aim nevertheless. He was fondly laughed at by them for his good aim, even with a never forgotten about Vending Machine or whatever else he used over the years. But he would use a gun if it meant to protect and there was not another way as Joel had when it was to save his friends.
Perched at the high seat at the kitchen balcony he had a good sight over the men and woman while the party was going on. He smiled easily to see Rafe, Brown and Steven Ellison, Jim's younger brother, in a fun looking conversation by the smiling faces he saw. Inspector Megan Conner was in conversation with Jim's Father by the fire place. Blair was bouncing around and sometimes perched on the sofa near Jim, the only time he held still for a minute to get up again retrieving a beer or whatever else someone wanted.
Suddenly Taggert held his eyes to Jim and slowly to Blair and smiled. Jim was just waking up from his short refreshing dose the big crystal blue eyes looking straight at Taggert and the head inclined a bit questioning and recognition light in those big eyes now in a frowning face as if thinking and then he looked slowly up into the blue eyes of his roommate.
Taggert laughed now as he suddenly knew what had become of the two unlikely boys he had known such a long time ago but still the bestest of friends which those boys had told him.