Fandom: Sentinel with guests from Supernatural.
Warnings: horror elements (there’s a surprise).
Spoilers: none -- set pre season SPN and first season TS
briarwood and Cindy (Combs) were kind enough to beta this fic prior to me inflicting it on betagodess as part of the Scrapbook. lilguppee gave it a thorough going over before I posted it. Thank you.
I’ve made a few additional changes. Any errors are mine, all mine… \o/
“What the hell is that smell?” Jim wrinkled his nose. He set his half-eaten burger on the dash board.
In the gloom of the car on a midnight stakeout, Blair’s raised eyebrow had to be obvious to the sentinel. “Why do you always ask me? I mean, it’s not like I have a super-nose.”
“It sort of smells like wet wolf, but not?” Jim shook his head.
“Wolf? We’re in the middle of Cascade.”
Jim popped open his door and unfurled his long legs. He stood, the line of his frame screaming of tension.
Still sniffing, he stalked – definitely stalked – across the street to the gloomy lamppost which was the only source of illumination in the drizzly night. The hair rose on the back of Blair’s neck. Muscles bunched, head down, Jim was a heartbeat from sprinting.
Snap, he was away.
“Shit.” Blair abandoned his hoagie to the floor and scrabbled across the Ford’s bench seat and out on Jim’s side. Ahead of him, Jim made an abrupt left turn into an alley.
“Jim!” Blair hollered, scooting around a garbage can and pushing a filled shopping cart into a mound of cardboard. Someone yelped. “Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.”
He caught a drain pipe and used it to swing rapidly into the alley. Silence blanketed the grimy scene. Narrow and dark, Blair could barely make out the details. A single light above a strip-club back door did little to shed light on the goings on. Squinting, glasses smeary with drizzle, Blair crept forward. Shadows and darkness resolved into Jim standing, his back to Blair, feet shoulder width apart, arms raised.
“Police! Stop or I’ll shoot.”
“Shoot it! Shoot it!” A high pitched voice shrieked.
The report of the weapon reverberated through the alley. Jim stood stance picture-perfect for shooting. Each shot was shockingly loud. A tall stringy figure rocked back with each unforgiving impact. Then its head jerked back with a spray of glistening splat. The meagre light caught an elongated face, warped and out of sorts. The figure dropped, but twisted – impossibly stretched out – onto all fours. A blink and it was gone; bounding over a dumpster, leaping up to a tucked up fire escape, storeys high above their heads.
Blair let his backpack swing down from his shoulder. “What the Hell was that? That wasn’t…”
“Can it, Chief. Give me the first aid kit.”
“What?” Dismissing his question (for the moment), Blair pulled the compact first aid kit that Jim insisted that he drag hither and yon.
“What do you need?”
“Sterile trauma dressing.” Tucking his Sig in the back of his jeans, Jim dropped to his haunches. Blair had missed the sprawled form that Jim had stood over so protectively,
He scuttled over and slapped the dressing into Jim’s outstretched hand. “What was that?”
“Not now, Chief.” Without looking, Jim pointed behind, finger unerringly aiming at a wheeled dumpster piled high with life’s detritus. “There’s a kid, young by the sound of it, hiding under there.”
“Oh.” Blair bent over but couldn’t pierce the darkness. “Hello?” He was too far away. Left, right, he squinted, trying to see any movement. Girding himself, he left the sentinel’s side
“It’s gone, Chief. Can’t hear it. Can’t smell it.”
Hesitantly, Blair knelt on wet, slick tarmac. “It?” He glanced back.
Nostrils flaring, eyes dilated, Jim was focused on his patient. The teenager was a huddle of jeans and plaid shirts, lax in unconsciousness. Jim ran sentinel-sure fingers over the kid’s head and down this neck. The dressing was already firmly wrapped around the kid’s forearm. Finishing his assessment, Jim rolled the lanky teen into the recovery position carefully guiding his right arm.
The kid moaned with the movement, eyes flickering open. “Sam?” he asked.
“Don’t move,” Jim ordered. “You’ve got a broken arm. And probably a concussion.”
“Sammy!” The kid surged against Jim’s grip.
“Chief, the kid. Under the dumpster. See if he’s all right.”
“Oh.” Blair dropped lower as if doing a push up. Two big dark eyes met his.
“SAMMY!” the order was unmistakable.
Sammy shot out from under the dumpster as if from a cannon.
“Whoops.” Blair grabbed a hank of wet shirt, stopping the kid from barrelling into the other boy.
“Dean! Dean!” he shrieked, flailing.
“It’s okay.” Blair yanked the squirming kid back, easily holding him against his chest. “It’s okay. He’s hurt his arm. Don’t jump on him.”
The older kid – Dean – sat up despite all Jim’s protests.
“Give him to me, now.” White, pinched with pain, arm cradled against his chest, his tone was resolute.
“Careful, careful!” Blair chided even as he released the child.
Sammy reached across the distance and burrowed into Dean’s lap. Jim kept a hand on Dean’s back, helping him stay upright as he swayed. Jim flipped open his cell phone in his other hand.
“This is Ellison. I need a paramedic unit and CSI at Esterbrook and West in Downtown.”
The stretched out feeling that bespoke exhaustion from an all-nighter lay heavy on Blair as he sprawled in the emergency room chair. The hard, scooped chair did little to support his aching back and its cold plastic – easy to clean, Blair supposed – was an added misery. Sammy huddled next to him drowning in the folds of Blair’s winter coat. Feet on the chair, knees tucked in tight, backpack clutched against his chest, he was a curiously familiar figure.
“He’s going to be okay, Sammy,” Blair said, and kicked himself for the triteness.
Sam peered up at him disdainfully through long straggly bangs. "It's Sam."
“Okay, Sam it is. Jim thinks that he’s just broken one of the bones in his forearm.”
“Which one? Radius or ulna?” Sam asked.
“He didn’t tell me.” Blair brushed his own arm, remembering how Jim had handled the older kid. “Ulna, I guess.”
Sam brought his arm up in an instinctive blocking motion. “Makes sense, I guess.”
“Karate?” Blair hazarded.
Sam shuffled down in the chair and continued his unrelenting stare at the treatment room doors. His vigilance was rewarded and the electronic doors swung inwards. Jim was revealed with an upright Dean wobbling at his side. Only a deft hand at his elbow seemed to be keeping him on his feet. He weaved like a sapling beside Jim, the stalwart oak tree.
“Dean, Dean. Dean!”
Galvanised, Dean straightened, his uninjured arm coming out to offer a wing of succour for his younger brother. Sam fitted under like a piece in a jigsaw.
Blair picked up Sam’s backpack and ambled over.
“What did they say?”
“I couldn’t get in touch with Dean’s father.” Reaching into his pocket he pulled out an unfamiliar cell phone. “The slashes needed cleaning and stitches – which I convinced the attending needed to be addressed asap given the crap on that thing’s claws. I had to talk to Rae in social services, and got temporary custody so I could get Dean seen to. Luckily, the break’s not that serious, manipulation set the bone right.”
The fabric from the arm of Dean’s checked shirt had been cut off. The kid had a fancy brace but no cast – sensible; so that they could keep an eye on the lacerations.
“I don’t need your help,” Dean said angrily.
Jim shot a frustrated, quelling glare down at him. “I took responsibility for you. I could have easily handed you and your brother over to Child Services.”
Beneath Dean’s arm, Sam made a tiny bleat.
“I didn’t ask for your help,” Dean reiterated.
Jim leaned forward and Blair could almost see a mantling eagle. “I guess you didn’t need my help with that thing either.”
“Are you--” Sam piped up, and squeaked as Dean squeezed him hard.
Dean glowered but kept his mouth shut. Jim ground his teeth.
“So,” Blair said brightly, rocking back on his heels. “Back to the loft.”
“I dunno, Chief, there’s always juvie.”
Sam made a loud, shocked intake of breath. Dean jerked back trying to free himself from Jim’s grip on the back of his shirt, but Sam clinging like a limpet prevented the escape.
“So, Dean, what is it? Our place or juvie? There’s no beds available at CS,” Jim said flatly.
“Jim? What? You can’t.”
“Can it, Chief. It’s Dean’s decision.”
Rock and a hard place had nothing on Jim and his authoritarian bullshit, Blair thought. Dean was white pale, his freckles in stark relief. The kid glared up at Jim, green eyes unwavering. Jim met the stare, unflinchingly.
“Dean?” Sam sniffed and the decision was made.
“Your place, man,” Dean said sullenly.
“Cool.” Blair clapped his hands together. The three jumped. “I think that that’s the best idea. Safer.”
Safer… safer from a weird-assed creepy thing that could leap over buildings in a single bound.
Jim guided a dead-on-his-feet Dean into the bathroom. Blair had the distinct feeling that shock and pain medication kept the younger man quiescent. Sam watched with trepidation as the bathroom door swung shut.
“Sit.” Blair pointed at the stool by the kitchen counter. “I’ll make some breakfast. Eggs?” He turned to the fridge, mentally assessing the supplies before he even opened the door. Bacon, pancakes and syrup would go down a treat.
Arms filled, he turned back to the counter. Sam sat, hunched, checking the closed bathroom door, balcony windows, skylight above the kitchen and back to the door. He kept up the constant scrutiny as Blair set out a frying pan and added a dash of olive oil.
“Jim’s a trained medic and a police officer; he knows what he’s doing.”
“Have you got any salt?” Sam blurted.
“Yesh.” Blair wrinkled his nose at the condiments as he cracked an egg into a mixing bowl. Rapidly, he cracked a half-dozen eggs, added a dash of milk and seasoned them with a twist of salt and pepper.
“No. A bag?”
“It’s not good for you, man. It’ll stunt your growth.” Blair carefully laid slices of bacon on the skillet.
Sam glanced at the floor-to-ceiling windows leading to the balcony.
“Oh.” Realisation slowly dawned. Anal retentive, buy-in-bulk Jim had a big bag of salt. Blair retrieved it from the back of the cupboard and set it before the kid.
Sam’s roving study, inevitably moved back to the bathroom door. He didn’t touch the salt, even though his fingers twitched.
“Keep an eye on the bacon.” Blair snagged up the bag and crossed to the balcony windows. Laying salt lines was a known method of warding an area. Once, after a pretty spectacular week of nightmares, Blair had woken up in the middle of sleepwalking, pouring salt by the back door. Jim had been pretty phlegmatic in the face of the wavy lines and throughout Blair’s explanation that his mom, Naomi, sometimes liked to lay salt lines when vibes were bad.
Sam watched him pour a thick line across the threshold, his gaze old and worldly wise. The bacon popped and sizzled.
“You know about salt?” Sam gnawed at a finger nail.
“Yep, pretty standard.” Blair headed back over, handing off the salt to the kid, wanting to see what he would do. “You want to do the front door while I do the eggs?”
Plainly thinking so hard that he could barely walk in a straight line, Sam complied.
“Don’t forget the big door.” Blair pointed at the red door with the big number 4 painted on. How were they going to ward the skylight?
Sam knelt, shuffling along, placing a perfectly straight line of salt, he had done it before.
Salt for protection. A flash of memory -- spray of blood, impossibly long face. The jump had been impossible for anything human. He hadn’t had a chance to talk to Jim; engrossed by Dean. Sam hadn’t batted an eyelash in the face of a monster. Monster? Holy cow. There had to be a rational explanation.
The bacon hissed and Blair jumped.
Sam finished by the door. “Any other entrances?”
“Room under the stairs. Fire escape and window.”
Sam trotted through.
“Ignore the floor,” Blair called.
Sam grinned back at him over his shoulder. Blair couldn’t help but respond. Cute kid.
Unfortunately, Blair could multitask, so the mundane task of preparing breakfast didn’t stop him thinking. They had to go back to the alley, get Jim to use his sentinel senses to figure out what they had really seen.
“What the Hell was that thing?” Blair asked the world at large.
“The creature in the alley?” Sam poked his head out of Blair’s room.
“Creature?” Blair echoed.
“I dunno. It was hunting us.” Sam gnawed on his lip. He ghosted into the living room, running his fingers along the back of the sofa. “We were just going to get something to eat from the diner and --. Are you a hunter?”
“A hunter?” The question was a mistake. Sam’s expression shuttered. “I’m a scientist, an anthropologist. I study. I don’t have an explanation for what we saw tonight. Yet. I will.”
Sam set the salt bag on the kitchen table without a word. The kid was a true believer and Blair had an open mind – so open that Jim had a tendency to say that Boeing 747s could fly through it. The kid believed that a creature had attacked them – he wasn’t disassembling or telling tales. He simply accepted that it had been a monster. The sane logical explanation was that it was a creep that got his kicks dressing up in Kevlar and a weird mask. Smack in the face of that – oh so, reasonable – explanation was a sentinel-focussed shot in its head followed by a jump that no human could do on the best day of his life.
“I’ve worked with a Shaman in Africa, studied the Tingali, -- there’s so much out there that we don’t understand. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t help.” Blair always thought out loud.
“Shaman?” Sam questioned even as he pointed at the far wall. The carved African mask grinned at them.
“Spirit mask.” Blair supplied. “Wards off evil spirits. Scares them away.”
Sam drifted over to study it better.
“There’s a book on them there.” Blair pointed at a scatter of books on the shelf with the stones that he had collected from Tanzania.
“You a researcher? Like Uncle Bobby?”
“I’m a researcher. I don’t know if that makes me like your Uncle Bobby.”
“Probably not, if you don’t hunt,” Sam said dismissively as he was drawn to the books.
Blair rolled his eyes. “Knowledge is important, man.”
The bathroom door opened and Jim shepherded out the weary teenager. He steered him over to the dining table.
“Just stay awake long enough to get some food into you. Then you can take some antibiotics.”
Dean slumped. Caught between the call of books and his brother, Sam froze. Dean won. Sam took the chair at his side. Dean wore one of Jim’s grey t-shirts and a pair of sweat pants. The t-shirt and pants enveloped him. The knobbly prominence of his collar bones looked like the frame of a tent beneath the soft, over-washed t-shirt. The rangy length of Dean’s bones emphasised that he was still growing.
Clean and dry, the kid’s hair was a sort of burnished gold, coupled with pouty, sulky lips and long lashes, made a combination that Blair knew that girls would gush over. Teachers would probably let him get away with murder, too. It was good camouflage. But Blair had seen the fire in his eyes when he had demanded Blair release his brother.
“Here.” Jim set down two glasses of chocolate milk.
“Coffee?” Dean said lowly.
Jim simply raised an eyebrow. Sam latched onto the milk and started glugging.
“Not too fast, you’ll make yourself sick,” Jim rebuked.
Sam immediately slowed. Jim moved around Blair getting plates and cutlery, stopping a moment to turn the bacon as Blair poured the pancake mix onto the griddle. Together they had the meal put together in half the time. The portions that Jim set out were minuscule. Blair kept his mouth shut even as he put the extra bacon and pancakes in the oven to keep warm.
Sam dove in like he was starving.
“Slow.” Jim settled opposite, working methodologically through his own small portion.
One-handed, Dean dug a fork in the fluffy eggs. “Is there more?”
“Yeah.” Jim nodded. “When you clean that plate. No hurry. It’s not going anywhere.”
Oh fuck, Blair knew where this was coming from. Jim set the pace, both Sam and Dean matching him. Suddenly, Blair wasn’t hungry anymore. When their plates were clear, Jim poured them a second slug of chocolate milk.
“Seconds?” He stood taking their plates. Sam nodded enthusiastically, Dean, however, was weaving in his chair. “Dean? More eggs?”
Dean blinked. “Yes, sir.”
Blair got up behind Jim, but beat him to the oven. “They’re--”
“Wanting seconds, Chief.”
Knowing that now wasn’t the time for discussion, Blair doled out the seconds. On returning to the table, Jim twisted open the child-proof cap of the bottle of antibiotics and carefully shook the container until two caps dropped, one after another, onto the side of Dean’s plate.
“Antibiotics. You need them.” Jim held the container up so Dean could read the label.
“You don’t want those slashes to get infected, Dean,” Sam said, chewed on his bottom lip.
“I know.” Dean washed them down with the final mouthful of chocolate milk. The yawn which followed was purely unintentional.
“Come on.” Jim was on the other side of the table and reaching for his elbow before Dean finished.
“What?” Dean asked.
“Time to get your head down.”
“What, man?” He blinked owlishly. “I’m not sleeping here. We’ve got to get back to our place.”
“You’ll pass out before you’re on the sidewalk.” Jim easily levered him to his feet and frogmarched a stumbling Dean into Blair’s room under the stairs.
Great, Blair grumbled inwardly. He hadn’t even had a chance to clean up. God knew what was under his bed.
Sam was watching with those big, hazel eyes. Solemnly, he ferried the last spoonful of scrambled eggs into his mouth. “Dean won’t touch anything unless they’re girlie mags in there.”
“No, there isn’t.”
Sam nodded wisely. He set his fork down. “So what happens now?”
“Now?” Blair abandoned his own meal. “I guess it depends. That thing, do you know what it was? Will it come back?” He looked to the salt lines.
“Might. I dunno what it was. It was fast. Long hands with claws.” Sam slashed at the air with his fingers. “It was skinny. Its legs were backwards. Dad’s not hunting a monster. He’s hunting a doppelgänger in Seattle. We were just walking to the diner.”
“Doppelgänger hunting?” Blair double checked. Okay, the day had got officially more surreal.
“Out like a light,” Jim quietly closed the door into Blair’s room. “We’ll have to wake him every hour or two; concussion.”
“I hope you put fresh sheets on the bed.”
“Yeah, your ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ ones.” Jim ruffled Sam’s hair as he passed and then dropped a pile of clothes on Dean’s empty chair. “You want to grab a shower, kiddo?
“Is that an order?”
“I can make it one,” Jim said easily.
Sam slid off his chair, scooping up the clothes. An old, washed and shrunk sweatshirt belonging to Blair and a pair a swimming trucks that could double as shorts.
Jim wiped his hand on his slacks and sat. Blair kept mum until Sam had shut the bathroom door.
“What the fuck happened tonight!” he exclaimed. “I don’t believe it. It was a thing!”
Jim rubbed his temple. “You’re not kidding, Chief.”
“What… Fuck… Man... What was that thing!”
“I dunno.” Jim sagged back in the kitchen chair and his finger trailed over his eyebrow to rub tiredly at the bridge of his nose. “I know what I saw. And I know what I smelled.”
“Dog, wolf, canine – but sweeter. Rotten wood?”
“It stood on two legs.”
“Not after I put six rounds into it.”
“Geez.” Blair pushed a scrap of cold pancake across his plate. “I don’t suppose you smelled LSD?”
Jim chuffed a snort of a laugh. “Both of us? It could be something. Hmmm,” he mused, halfway convinced.
In the space of a heartbeat, he was off down a route where there hadn’t been anything weird in the alley. That it was a joint hallucination. Blair knew his sentinel. Knew despite his phenomenal abilities that the mundane ruled his life.
“Sam said that his dad is hunting a doppelgänger in Seattle,” Blair dropped his bombshell.
“What the Hell’s a doppelgänger?”
“A spirit. A death omen.”
“How do you hunt a ‘death omen’?”
“I haven’t got a clue.”
Jim turned in his seat, attention on two boys behind closed doors. “Sammy said it was stalking them?”
Blair reviewed their conversation, knowing that Jim had been listening as he helped Dean. “Not in so many words. He said that they were going to the diner. I guess it attacked them. That could be a lie; they’re hungry.”
“They’re underfed and borderline malnourished, but they’re not starved. They smell like too much fried food and not enough vegetables. They could have been going to a diner. I don’t think that they were going to buy much, maybe a couple of burgers or scavenge out the back.”
“When you’re hungry,” Jim said pragmatically.
Blair drummed his fingernails against the table – rattatat-- drawing Jim’s concentration to him. “What,” he said with gravitas, “Did. You. See?”
The shrug was half-hearted.
Thy name is denial, Jim Ellison.
“Come on, Big Guy, you remember everything, especially when you’re in hunt mode. You were engaged: full on sentinel senses.” Blair perched on the edge of his seat. They were on a cusp. This was important.
Again, Jim rubbed at his temple. “Tall. It reminded me of a leathery tree. Hair like straw. Fat, red lips.”
“You asked, Chief.” His hand moved down his face drawing a long plane. “Elongated face.”
“And,” Blair prompted.
“It wasn’t human.”
There. The words stood before them, bald, brave and naked. It wasn’t human.
“What the hell do we do now?”
Jim’s gaze was unerringly drawn to the two boys that he had brought into their home. “Protect them.”