Encounter With 'Mr. B'

by ljc


Summary: Camping after TSbBS.

Rating: PG for a few words. No warnings.

Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.


Blair was immersed in his reading. He was stretched out on a flat grassy area near the spot where Jim and Simon were fishing. He had had little time these days for relaxation. Academy training had been exhausting physically and even though he had had a thorough grounding in day to day activities, surveillance, and writing Jim's reports, it hadn't meant that he was well versed in the intricacies of the law. Or proficient in the physical requirements of self-defense and takedown procedures ... and then there was weapons training.

Blair sighed as his thoughts strayed from his book. Jim and Simon had been great through all of it though, gladly offering their expertise, with Jim enthusiastically adding to the bumps and bruises acquired in his Academy training sessions. Not that Jim hadn't tried teaching him before, at least self-defense moves, but now it was 'for real', and Blair's stomach still did flips when that thought crossed his mind.

He wouldn't be just the observer anymore. He'd be expected to act, for the public's safety. He would stand between the perp and the citizens depending on his protection. It was a daunting change in his outlook, and his view of his own abilities. But, he grinned to himself, his abilities had grown considerably, and with them, his confidence. He wasn't cocky, he knew. He'd seen situations go from good to bad in an instant. But, he was trained now, and his natural instincts had proven effectual in some diverse circumstances. He believed that he, and Jim, would do the best they could. And that's all they could do.

After the battering he'd taken over the dissertation flap, he'd been uncertain of his own decisions, and he had to admit that he'd been depressed. He hadn't said anything about it to his friends, but he knew that Jim and Simon had noticed. He had really appreciated their efforts. It had made a big difference in his outlook. Coping with the stress was something he'd had a lot of practice with in the past few months.

But graduation was over and this trip was one of his gifts, along with some new gear. The members of the Major Crimes Dept. had been behind him, too. Some more than others, but the core group that had been there during his ridealong years was firmly in his camp. He grinned, pun intended.

He laid back on the grass and stretched every muscle from the tips of his fingers to his boot clad toes. He had to get moving soon or he'd fall asleep where he was. That wouldn't be such a bad thing. This was, after all, his graduation present. A time to relax before he was sworn in as a Detective, Junior Grade, in Major Crimes.

It had taken some tap dancing around the regs but his previous observer/consultant status was credited with his advancement to a prestigious unit in the police department without too many overt complaints, especially after he'd defended his 'real' dissertation, “Watchmen of an Urban Population: The Police as Sentinels of the Twenty-first Century Tribe”.

After the hitman's, Zeller's, demise, the release of the disastrous first dissertation had been explained as an intentional flight of fancy, a fictional jumble of his Masters thesis on tribal sentinels, and his research on a different closed society of protectors (the police) that he was observing for his Doctorate. A fictional extrapolation that was released without consent and with such extremely bad timing that he had rashly sacrificed his work to end the frenzy that had led to the shooting of two of his best friends.

Blair sighed deeply as he recalled those first painful weeks after the diss mess, then roused himself to collect his book, blanket, and backpack for the short trip back to the campsite. He detoured to watch Jim and Simon, both hip deep in the middle of the river. He shuddered just thinking about the icy currents swirling around them. He almost called out to them but the wind was blowing toward him and the river sounds would have drowned him out, to Simon anyway. His sentinel wouldn't have had any problem hearing him, but both of his friends seemed immersed in the companionable ease of their shared activity. Well, there was no way he was going to get any closer. No way would he voluntarily get cold and wet, not this early in the spring. He decided to let them fish undisturbed while he settled down on the sun warmed bank.

It wasn't long before he decided to once again give up on reading. He relaxed and leaned back to soak up the sun. The breeze was warm, coming out of the south, and carried his friend's voices faintly over the water. As the breeze subsided, the sounds of the wind tossed leaves died and he began to be able to discern their muted words. He listened carefully, not realizing he was eavesdropping, just making a game out of deciphering the half heard words. At least, not until their meaning was no longer in doubt.

Simon cast his line out into a shaded spot along the farther bank. He looked toward Jim and asked, “Have you noticed a ... difference in Sandburg?”

Jim looked at Simon, “I'm not sure what you mean, Simon. He's been tired and depressed. That's why we decided he needed this trip. He's finally getting the rest he's needed for a while. But I have a feeling that isn't what you mean.”

Simon squinted into the sun, then said, “He, uh, he seems quiet, for one thing. Really focused. And committed, and I don't mean just about his Academy studies. That's all good but I wonder sometimes if he isn't too focused ....”

Jim looked startled, then tried for a half-hearted joke, “Well that's not necessarily bad.”

Jim,” sighed Simon, “Don't take this the wrong way but ... it just seems unhealthy. He gave up so much.”

Jim lost whatever mirth he'd shown, “I know he's given up a lot, Simon. I know it. You know it. Everyone in Major Crimes at least suspects it.”

Look, Jim, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you. But I don't even mean the research and teaching at the University. It's something less definable. It's, oh I don't know. Maybe it's just that his focus has gotten so narrow. It used to encompass everything, you know? His one purpose now is to be your partner and your, uh, guide. And to do that, he's now a cop. Maybe it's just that he seems so isolated from everything at the University. I just think it's a shame that he's changed so much, that's all.”

Jim looked devastated, “I guess I've been trying so hard not to notice that I finally convinced myself there was nothing wrong. He deserves so much more, and he's stuck with a middle-aged partner in a job he would never have given a thought to before we met. I guess I hoped that after getting his doctorate that he'd loosen up some. But he signed on for the Academy and he decided to be my partner, a detective. I'm worried that he felt he had to settle for that when he could be so much more.” Jim lowered his head, then admitted, “There were times I wished he'd leave, for his own safety. But you know the chances of that. He stayed Simon, beyond all our expectations, even after the diss mess.”

The two friends were drawn from their conversation by Simon's exclamation. He had a struggle to hold onto his pole as the end was pulled under the surface by a sizeable fish. The thread of the conversation was lost in the struggle and then for plans for supper. But Blair had already slipped quietly away into the forest by that time.

Blair headed to the trail that followed the ravine. The three of them had deviated from the trail at a point near the river to take advantage of a favorite fishing spot of Simon's. When Blair reached the trail his only plan was to get further away from his friends, and from anybody else that might be attempting this trail. He just wanted to get away.

All the hard won acceptance, the study, the training ... what was it all for if not to be Jim's partner? What did they expect from him? What was that b.s. about narrowing his focus, being isolated, giving up so much for Jim? Man, they were 'so' out of line. It was his choice to do that. Not Jim's. Not Simon's. Although he couldn't have done it without their backing. Were they sorry now? Did Jim really think he should leave? What a crock! For Blair's safety? What kind of wuss did they think he was? He could make his own decisions. He was his own person. He'd done whatever he needed to do to get where he wanted to go for most of his life. Did they really think he was so ineffectual that he'd lost himself in Jim's life? He couldn't believe this! Man, he needed to calm down. Their expectations of him must have been pretty low. Did they think he'd just 'leave' Jim, the best friend he'd ever had? He stopped for a moment, the stress of his thoughts forcing him to gather his wits before proceeding. And not just Simon, but Jim, too?

Blair proceeded with determination. He took the trail away from their campsite. He put a lot of distance between himself and his two friends, but it didn't seem to matter. His anger still simmered, and his steps failed to slow, so that he covered some distance before he stopped to catch his breath. He sat on a boulder under the trees, on the bank of that same river where they were probably still fishing. Still congratulating themselves over their catch for tonight's dinner. Probably still dissecting the character of Blair Sandburg, their maladjusted friend. What did they think, that he was their 'mascot' all those years? That he had no will of his own?

Then Blair began to wonder uneasily if they had a point. He knew his self-confidence had taken a shock on a number of different occasions in his association with Jim. He'd left a lot of academic friends behind. And truthfully, after the press conference, they'd left him behind. That had hurt a lot. He'd told himself that they hadn't really been his friends anyway. But maybe he had been too quick to reject them in return. With a little effort some of those friendships could have been salvaged. Some of them had been friends for years. If he'd given them a chance ... maybe ... well, it was not too late to try. He'd wanted them to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he hadn't done the same for them. He 'had' admitted fraud, after all.

But that didn't explain why Jim and Simon hadn't seen any changes before that. Blair knew he'd changed. He'd matured. He wasn't twenty-five anymore. He'd seen a lot of the world growing up. He'd learned very early on that every culture had dark corners that would look unsavory to someone raised differently. But still, being Jim's ridealong, he'd been shocked at the dark corners of his own culture. He'd been ashamed, and saddened by the cruelty, indifference, and greed that dominated that dark corner of their world.

He'd learned early in his life to stand up for himself. He'd stood his ground with Jim and even Simon, from their first meetings. He'd been forced to look at things differently, from their perspective. What he'd seen had given him different priorities. He'd even stood up to Naomi, and her assumption about cops being 'jack-booted thugs'. And sure, Jim was a big part of that. They'd been best friends for three years. But Blair had brought his own talents to the partnership. He was a good anthropologist, and the qualities he trained in himself for that career stood him in good stead for police work. Damn it! Jim himself had said he was one of the best cops he'd ever known, and he'd only been an observer.

He couldn't go back yet. It would be better to cool off first. He turned to the trail again with renewed energy and another burst of adrenaline. He again turned that energy into wide strides away from his friends on the river below.


Those friends were enjoying their day in the sun. Simon had come up with the biggest catch. Only when they'd gathered their equipment and headed to the campsite did they notice that Blair was missing. His book, backpack and blanket were found in a pile near the tent.

Where's Sandburg, Jim? He couldn't have strayed too far,” said Simon with a hopeful chuckle. When Jim turned in a circle and then dropped his own gear in an untidy pile, Simon lost his grin. “What is it, Jim? Do you hear him?”

Jim's lips had thinned into a grimace and he'd cocked his head to one side, in what both Blair and Simon had described to him as his listening pose. Blair had wondered about that but his tests had determined that Jim heard perfectly fine with both ears, especially for a sentinel.

Jim, is he in trouble? Give me a clue here, Ellison!” said Simon.

Jim looked at him in exasperation, “Simon, please. Let me concentrate.”


Blair had finally walked himself out. Now he had to walk back. That was great planning. He turned and scanned the trail back to the campsite. It looked like a long hike back and he hadn't even brought water with him. He was out in the middle of nowhere! He should have been more careful. No one even knew he was gone or where he went. Who was he kidding? Jim 'The Nose' Ellison could track him like a bloodhound. Sigh. He knew he shouldn't disparage Jim or his gift. That was unfair and unkind. It was his own fault he had to walk so far to get back.

He headed slowly down a steep section of the trail, coming out into a deeply shaded area where the river made a deep, shallow incursion. He saw a deep pool of still water to his right. He took a moment to appreciate the solitude and the beauty. He was going to stop for a moment to cool off but heard a noise to his left.

Now, Blair loved the whole camping experience. He loved the wildlife in it's natural habitat. But a bear?! Not on his list of favorites! And the bear had seen him first. The deep growl scared him into stillness. Which was good because that was the first thing you were supposed to do: be still, be quiet, and hope the bear didn't see you, or at least didn't see you as a threat.

But the bear had seen him and stood tall to oppose the threat: Blair. Blair stepped back slowly and talked quietly, “Hey Mister Bear. I'm no threat to you. You don't want to eat me. I'd make a really small bear meal ....” Blair backed up to a boulder and waited to see if the bear would just go away. But no, it charged straight at him.

Blair had planned his move toward the boulder with a purpose in mind. He knew that bears sometimes do a fake charge and, thankfully, they had eyesight much worse than his. And they didn't like to attack humans, or something bigger than them. So, Blair jumped up on the boulder and waved his arms wide and yelled loud and long. Luckily, that was enough. The bear gave up his attack and ambled away, leaving Blair shuddering and watching till it was out of sight.


<<Hey Mister Bear. I'm no threat to you. You don't want to eat me. I'd make a really small bear meal ... GO AWAY. GO, GO, GO. GET OUT OF HERE BEAR.>>

Jim? Jim! Ellison, don't zone on me! That's an order,” yelled Simon.


Blair hadn't dallied on his boulder. As soon as the bear was out of sight, Blair was gone. It's a good thing going down hill was faster than going up. Even so, it was some time before Blair reached the campsite. Blair was still making as much speed as he could, and still looking over his shoulder every few steps when he stumbled past the tent.

Simon looked at him furiously, “Where the HELL have you BEEN?”

Blair stopped short and even took a step back. Simon had bellowed at him before, but Blair knew this was something else entirely. Then he saw Jim. “Simon?” Blair rushed to Jim's side, kneeling on the other side from Simon.

Simon swallowed hard. He visibly forced down his anger ... and his worry ... and explained, “He seemed to be listening to something ... you know what he does. I could tell he was listening. Where were you, Sandburg? We'd just realized you were missing.” Simon looked at his watch, “It must have been almost half an hour ago. Jim was standing at first, but after a few minutes he just got more pale, his eyes rolled up, and he collapsed. Sandburg, he's not breathing well.”

Blair muttered, “What did he zone on? Oh my God! The bear!” He looked over his shoulder in the direction of his close encounter with 'Mister Bear'.

Simon, watching, looked like he understood. “Jim was looking up there at the time. It was you, wasn't it. It must have scared him pretty good.”

Blair looked devastated. He pulled the blanket that Simon had placed over Jim just a little higher on Jim's chest. He began the little rituals that had always brought Jim out of a zone. He whispered little encouragements, and stroked and patted his arms and hands. He pulled Jim into his lap so he could press his ear to Blair's chest, hoping Jim would recognize his heartbeat, or his scent. He did all this to no avail. There was no overt reaction from his sentinel.

Blair turned to their friend, “I have to stay with him, Simon. But it's been a long time and you're right, his breathing is depressed and it could get worse. You should go for help. I'll try my best to bring him around. I just don't dare leave this to my own efforts, you know? He could .... You have to go, Simon. Okay?”

For once, Simon had little to say, “Is there anything I can do for you? Anything I can bring back with me?”

Blair choked out, “Just hurry, Simon.”

Simon just nodded and got up to leave. He grabbed his jacket and started to head out but turned at the last moment. “Blair, this is not your fault kid. Do you hear me? Not your fault.” He could see the fear in Blair's eyes. He hated to leave him like this, but there wasn't any choice. Jim might need medical intervention this time. He grabbed another blanket and some water to put beside Blair and left the campsite.

Blair kept whispering and stroking. He used some water to wet Jim's lips. He considered what he had available to stimulate the senses. He thought about the ice chest. He maneuvered Jim to the ground and grabbed some ice. Jim showed no reaction to the cold. He grabbed a smoking stick from the campfire ... nothing. He'd brought a few basic spices but there was no reaction to any of them, even when he placed them on Jim's tongue.

This is getting old fast, Jim. Wake up, damn it! Come on man, this has to stop. Listen to me, Jim! Please Jim. I need you, man. Don't do this, okay?” Blair's pleading seemed to produce no reaction either.

Snuff. Snort.

Blair froze. Oh no, no, no! He very slowly turned to the bear that seemed to have followed Blair back to camp. Blair hoped 'Mister Bear' would find something to distract him in the camp, so he stayed very still. The bear wandered past the tent, tearing a peg from the ground when he became entangled in it. 'Mister Bear' wasn't happy. He swiped at the tent, taking it down quickly. Blair gulped as the bear turned and headed for him and Jim. Blair had no boulder to stand on to make himself bigger, so he decided to try to draw the bear to the edge of the camp. He dragged the ice chest with him. He slowly knelt down to open it and dragged out the fish Jim and Simon had caught that day. He flung one away from Jim, toward the river. At first the bear looked interested, but his gaze swung back to Blair and the ice chest.

Blair tried to back away from it but stumbled, falling to his butt. He didn't have much time to worry about it. The bear was on him in a second. Blair curled into a ball, making himself as small a target as possible, and protecting his head. The pain when the bear swiped at him was unbelievable. He knew he was losing blood from the rake of the bear's claws. He thought he was going to pass out but the thought of leaving Jim unprotected gave him added strength. He was planning to get up and run, to lead the bear away from camp. He knew that was a really stupid move. The bear could certainly run faster than he could, and he was injured. But he couldn't play dead, not with Jim totally unprotected. He had to 'do' something.

Sandburg, don't even twitch,” Jim said softly. “I've got the pepper spray. I'm coming. Don't move.” Jim moved quickly into position between the bear and Blair and sprayed the animal in the face. It stung 'Mister Bear' and he howled his disapproval while wandering off into the brush.

Jim shoved the spray back into his pocket, “Blair? Okay buddy? The bear's gone for the moment. Can you unroll for me? Slowly.”

Ow, ow,” gasped Blair. “Jim? You're alright! Man, you had me scared.”

Jim looked confused, “I had 'you' scared. Stay here, don't move. I need to get the first aid kit. Simon? Where 'is' he?”

Blair looked at Jim in confusion, “Oh, of course. You were zoned, big time, Jim. I ... I couldn't bring you out. I'm so sorry. It was my fault. I sent Simon for medical help ... you weren't doing too good, man.” Blair ended his explanation with a shudder and a loss of focus.

Jim brushed Blair's curls out of his face. He didn't really remember being zoned, but that didn't matter right now. “Blair, stay with me,” he whispered. He got out a pressure bandage to stop the flow of blood from his shoulder, and threw a blanket over Blair. Blair was shivering already. Shock was a possibility. He hoped Simon had a good start on finding help.

Blair's shivers slowed and he became more aware with the added warmth. Jim didn't realize their positions had reversed. He was now holding Blair off the ground and tucked into his chest, so he could keep pressure on the bandage.

Hey, Jim?”

Yeah, Chief?”

We've got to stop doing this, okay?” said Blair.

Well ... I don't think we've ever met up with a bear before,” teased Jim gently.

Blair gave a small chuckle, “Well, you got me there, man. But you know what I mean, right?”

Jim sighed and glanced down at the bandage, checking for fresh blood. He was glad it had slowed. He put more pressure on the injury, eliciting a small gasp from his friend. He thought a moment about what Blair was talking about, “You mean, you getting hurt all the time? Yeah, we should stop that.”

No, you big doofus. Camping. Something bad always seems to happen. Don't tell me you never noticed,” Blair said with exasperation.

Camping! Sandburg ....”

I know, I know. I was just kidding. Just don't call 'me' a trouble magnet, okay? We were both in trouble this time,” said Blair firmly.

I think I remember ... I heard you talking to a bear! Is that right? Only you, Chief,” Jim said as he shook his head in near disbelief.

Only me,” sighed Blair.

Why did you take off?” asked Jim. “Simon and I found where you'd dropped your things. That isn't like you ...” and with a little grin, “to leave a book unprotected like that. And you know that we'd want to know if you decided to go off on a hike, alone.”

Blair squirmed a little in embarrassment, “I, ah ... I was near the river, and I ... heard you and Simon talking.”

Jim had to think for a moment. That conversation had been forgotten after the meeting with the bear. “We were talking about you. Sorry, Chief. I hope you weren't too upset.”

Blair sat up and regretted the movement. “OW! Oh, man.”

Slow down. You started it bleeding again. Come on, lie down on the blanket,” Jim said and dragged Blair's abandoned backpack over to put under Blair's head.

Blair began softly, “I'm not going anywhere, Jim. Are you listening? This is where I want to be. I'm not missing out on anything I really want. The brass ring is right here. You're my sentinel and the work you do has become my life's work, too. What we do is important to a lot of people. I'm surrounded by friends. My life's obsession has been fulfilled, both personally and professionally. THIS is my life. THIS is my choice.”

Jim gave Blair a gentle noogie as he listened carefully to his friend ... and for 'Mister Bear', “Well ... I'd be happy if you just stayed away from bears. You think you could do that as a favor to me?”

Oh yeah man, I'll add that to the top of my list!”





If You Encounter a Bear

I was out walking one day, and in the snow I saw fresh deer tracks and five sets of turkey tracks that crossed the road. I'd wondered what to do if ... so I Googled it.