Old Friends and New
Summary: An old army buddy of Jim's shows up and they drag Blair along for some cold weather camping (brrrrrr).
No warnings. Rated PG for a couple of words. Unbetaed.
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. All stories are written with the love of the show in mind. No money is being made. All stories are property of the author.
“Hey Ellison,” spoke a sandy haired, tall, stocky man at the entrance to the bullpen. His military bearing was enough to define him without the Army Major's uniform.
“Larson, what are you doing here? I thought you were at the Pentagon. Good to see you, sir. What can I do for you?” answered Jim warmly. This was a pleasant surprise thought Jim as he automatically straightened his stance.
“Come on Jim, you're not a Ranger, now, drop the sir. I heard you had this cushy job down here in Cascade, so I thought I'd drop in and see how you're doing. Maybe see how the Jags are doing. You always were convinced they'd blow everyone else away in the playoffs. Maybe we can take in a game and I can finally see what's so great about your little hometown team,” Larson teased with a twinkle in his eyes and a warm grin.
“Them's fightin' words, Larson. Hope you got your pay before you blew into town. I'm willing to back up my words with a small bet. How about you?” Jim grinned broadly back at his old friend.
“You're that sure are you? How about something better than a few bucks. Maybe we can see who'll pay for a little trip into the Cascades. A bit of hiking, some cold weather camping, nothing too hard on those old bones of yours. What about it?”
This sounds perfect, Jim thought, “No bet necessary Larson, and if I remember correctly, your bones are older than mine. I'm always willing to get away for a weekend. Maybe my roommate can go with us. It's been a tough few weeks and we need a break.”
Larson laughed, “I heard you had a wife, Ellison. Don't tell me she's into camping?”
Oops, Jim thought. Blair had so quickly and so thoroughly become a part of his life that he forgot he'd have to explain things to his old buddy, “Uh, well, actually you won't get a chance to meet Carolyn, our divorce was final a few months ago. The roommate I was talking about is Blair Sandburg, a grad student and teaching assistant over at Rainier University.”
“Damn, I'm sorry, Jim. I hope I didn't hit a sore spot. I didn't know about the divorce. But you old dog you, you sure move fast. You've got a new gal already lined up,” Larson looked surprised but was quick on the uptake.
Jim felt a little uncomfortable with the turn in the conversation. He hurried on to correct his friend's assumption, “Sorry to burst that bubble, but Blair is a he not a she. He lost his place a while ago in a fire and I let him move in for a week about four months back. He seems to have settled in to stay. I think you'll be surprised when you meet him. He called himself a 'science nerd', does that give you a hint?” Jim felt a little embarrassed to be joking about his friend, but that didn't stop him soon enough, unfortunately. “He has to set his alarm to remind himself to go to sleep, and he has long curly hair that clogs the drain,” and with an awkward chuckle, “but I think he only wears one earring now.”
“You let him stick around for four months? This kid must be tough for a bookish type. What does that guy on Stargate call that professor, a dweeb? We'll drag him along with us this weekend, maybe let him carry our gear. Teach him a few things, you know, about 'manly' pursuits.” He gave Jim a conspiratorial wink.
Jim laughed at the wink, then relaxed. Sandburg could hold his own with just about anyone. And Jim had known Larson a long time and he knew when he was kidding around. Larson was certainly smart enough to figure Sandburg out on his own. This ought to be fun watching these two guys get to know each other. “Are you staying with your sister?” At Larson's nod, Jim continued, “Why don't I call you tonight with the info and we can hopefully start out early tomorrow morning.”
“Sure thing, Jim.”
“Ellison, my office please, Detective,” bellowed Simon.
Larson and Jim shared an eye roll and Larson gave a short flip of a salute as he headed for the bullpen door. Jim grinned and turned to Simon's office.
Blair, with his latte in hand, stood stock still as Larson came into the hallway and turned away toward the elevator. Blair was glad because he really didn't want to face Jim's friend with his backpack on his shoulder, a stack of papers in one hand, and his glasses sliding down his nose. His eyes lost their focus and he felt himself wilt for a moment, shoulders drooping to the point he almost lost his backpack onto his forearm. Wake up Sandburg, you almost lost your 'school bag', latte, and everything else.
It ticked him off. He shouldn't feel like he did in high school when he got tossed aside by a new 'friend'. He was too old for this adolescent crap. What was wrong with him?
He'd lost his objectivity, that's what. He had thought Jim was his friend when he really was just his thesis subject. He thought Jim liked him back. That's human isn't it, to expect your feelings to be returned in kind? Maybe Jim had remained more objective. Maybe for Jim, his acceptance of their living and working arrangements was just expedience, an efficient use of available resources. Blair allowed himself to grieve for a moment for a friendship that probably never truly existed except to him.
Straighten up, Sandburg. It was a rude awakening but he'd just have to get back on track. The deal was he'd help Jim with his senses in exchange for doing research for the thesis ... not for a friend. Jim had been less than enthusiastic about the testing but it was getting done and he'd given him a place to stay. Blair may have had to do a little begging to get that room under the stairs but Jim had been great about not pushing him to get out yet. Just let it go. Ellison's working and that's where he should be, observing like a good little grad student intent on his Phd. Back to work, Sandburg.
“Shake a leg Sandburg, I told Larson we'd meet him at 6 a.m. not 6 p.m.,” Jim called. “Move it Chief.”
Jim seemed to be in a good mood Blair thought darkly. He always was when he got to pull him out of a warm bed. Man, he couldn't believe Jim wouldn't budge on this. He didn't want to go! He'd thought he'd made it plain enough last night. “Jim, come on, man, I've got too much work to do. I can't believe people enjoy cold weather camping anyway. They must be masochists. I know you heard me Jim. You're masochists. Go. Have fun with your army buddy. I'm sure you two can find enough to do and talk about between the two of you.” They can make more jokes about four-eyes Sandburg. Come on, get over it already. Let ... it ... go.
Jim went to stand in the doorway of Blair's room as he said, “Chief, I happen to know for a fact that finals are over, that's why I suggested to Larson that you come along. You need a break. Quit whining. It's not attractive on a five year old and even less so on you.”
Jim suggested that he go? Because he needed a break? Jim was thinking of him? Blair didn't hear that. He looked confusedly at Jim from under his quilt.
“What?” Jim asked when he saw the confused look turned his way.
“Nothing Jim, I was just surprised I guess,” answered Blair.
“About ... ?”
“I guess I just thought you'd rather spend time with your friend. I was surprised you even asked me to go ... I kinda heard you in the bullpen talking to Larson,” Blair confessed.
Jim's face flushed as he questioned gently, “What did you hear, buddy?”
“Well, the stuff between nerd and dweeb. And I thought that maybe you figured four months was too long to have a temporary houseguest,” Blair answered unsurely.
“Come on Chief, that was just two army buddies acting tough and kidding around. You know that right?” Jim asked quietly as he shifted to look directly at Blair.
“Yeah I guess. Acting all macho, that's representative of a certain Neanderthal type.” Blair grinned but felt more than a little embarrassed. Boy, it was way too easy to fall back into childhood reactions. Or maybe that should be 'childish'. “You'd think I'd be used to that after five months observing in the police department. But Jim, if you think it's time for me to move out it's okay. I can still come here and help you. A lot. I wouldn't leave you without help. I hope you know that.” He rolled awkwardly out of bed and his layers of covers. He shivered a little and thought of the cold weekend activities ahead.
“Blair, I'm a big boy. If I wanted you out, you wouldn't have any doubt about it.” Jim sighed, “I could probably have made that sound a little better .... Look Blair, I trust you about the Sentinel stuff. I trust you not to ditch me if I need your help. That wouldn't have happened if you hadn't become a friend Blair. You have a place here as long as you need it or want it. Remember, that Blessed Protector title fits for both of us. So come with Larson and me today. I want a couple of my friends to get to know each other. Just come and be yourself Chief. Okay buddy?”
Blair couldn't talk. He was such a wuss. He stepped up to Jim and meant to give him a quick hug but Jim hugged back. Blair's eyes were a little misty but hopefully he could keep the tears at bay.
The ride into the Cascades was long and Blair was longwinded as usual. The young man regaled his companions with tales of the topic of the day, Native American creation myths. Blair's tales were never dull and he finally got his companions to break their silence too.
Well, Blair thought, Larson has a first name, Thomas. He wondered how those two got together. Little by little he got their story out of them. They'd known each other back in college, in ROTC. They'd met up over and over again throughout their careers. Tom decided to make a career in the army, finally ending up at the Pentagon.
He was glad that Tom didn't have anything to do with Jim's team that was lost in Peru. He didn't think Jim would be so easy around him if he had been. It would have been hard for him to lose another friend because of that mission.
Larson was amused and amazed. This was Ellison's friend. Jim said he'd be surprised. He could hardly keep from laughing every time he thought about it. Hardnosed, by-the-book, ramrod up his a-- Ellison, with a hippie roomie. He was glad he didn't put up a bet on that. This Sandburg is quite a firecracker. He doesn't take anything from Ellison. Larson had seen a lot of raw recruits over the years. Sandburg may look like fluff on the outside but he thought there was more than a kernel of grit on the inside. He wondered if he could get Jim to put Sandburg through a little field test, just for fun. This 'recruit' could take a little hazing he'd bet.
Blair didn't think he'd be enjoying himself this much hiking into the Northern Cascades with Jim and his friend. He was always surprised at the amount of snow in these higher elevations. The Park Service did a great job of keeping the area open to the public.
The clear air and the snow made for some beautiful mountain views, and the hiking left plenty of time to reflect on a certain Sentinel and his Sentinel's friend. Tom seemed to be okay. But what Jim said this morning really got Blair thinking. Could he really be that lucky to have a friend and a Sentinel all in one? That's more than he had ever expected when they first met. He'd been afraid Jim wouldn't tolerate him long enough for Blair to do the research he needed.
He was glad he'd come. He needed the time to think and to work up his courage. He needed to talk to Jim about Lee Brackett. Brackett had called him Jim's guide. Blair had told Jim all along that he needed someone to watch his back. Brackett showing up and more or less confirming it shocked him more than he tried to let on. He'd really like to know Brackett's research sources. Blair couldn't extrapolate how needing a guide would translate for a modern, urban sentinel with the information he had available.
He knew how important control was for Jim. Not just personally, but, practically speaking his life depended on it. If Jim had to depend on someone else, even if he totally trusted that person, that still meant that in a crisis help could come too late. Blair had been hoping Jim would gain enough control that he could manage without a guide.
He wondered if Jim had thought about the 'guide thing'. Jim wouldn't even work with a partner, he'd never want to consider choosing a long term guide. Blair wished it could be him. How crazy was that thought? What did they always say 'You're not a cop Sandburg'. Maybe Simon could find some way for him to stay on to work with Jim after his thesis was finished, at least until Jim can choose a guide. Blair thought he really must be crazy. Right? What are the chances Simon would go to bat for him at the PD?
He'd have to wait to talk to Jim alone later in the week. It would take some time to wear down the man's stubbornness. But Jim knew that Blair understood what he was, even if he wouldn't be Jim's preferred long term choice.
This hike in the clear cold air of the Northern Cascades had really been the break Jim had needed. The time to pull some thoughts together about Sentinels and Guides and the future. About fears for his guide and their future.
He didn't know if Blair realized the hold he had on him. This guide thing that Brackett surprised him with was news to Jim. Blair had mentioned someone to watch his back, but did he ever mention that this might have to be a permanent relationship?
Jim could hear Blair's heartbeat. Better than anyone else's. Without even concentrating. It was damned annoying to have this 'switch' going on and off in his head right in the middle of an interrogation or just while doing paperwork. Now he could hear it, then he couldn't, as Blair slipped in and out of his range. It blew his concentration. Well ... not really. It actually seemed to calm him, settle him, because he knew that Blair was near and if he was safe or hurt or upset. But why was that calming? Maybe Blair had bewitched him.
Blair knew Jim could squash him like a bug if he thought he was trying to mess with him and Blair was still not intimidated. Well, actually he was. Blair wasn't stupid. He knew the basics of Jim's background in the service and in covert ops. That was enough to give anyone pause, but he just didn't let any of that stop him. Jim pushed, and Blair was right there in his face, bouncing on his toes in agitation, waving his hands in either enthusiasm or frustration, or jabbing that finger into Jim's chest to make a point, especially when Blair thought it was in his sentinel's best interest.
Maybe he wasn't bewitched, just bemused, because there was this short, four-eyed, long-haired, hippie looking, pacifist, right in his face as if he had some knowledge or status that gave Blair rank over him. And he did, and so Jim let him. How screwy was that? How screwed was he? Outranked and outflanked by a neo-hippie pacifist guide. Brackett was more right than he knew. Jim didn't think Blair realized that he really was Jim's guide and not just a researcher that found his 'holy grail'.
Sigh. How did he tell Blair this connection they seemed to share scared him to death? When Jim looked back on his life, there was no one he'd let get to him like Sandburg. Blair had fought his way inside Jim's defenses. Why did he bother to fight it? The kid had courage. The first day they met he saved Jim's life and then he went up against Kincaid and his Sunrise Patriots. Right from the start he was my 'partner'. Blair would just say it's nothing unusual for a sentinel to have a protective instinct, a need to protect the tribe. But it goes beyond that, to protect the guide ... Blair ... too.
Jim had never felt this way about anyone, not his parents, not Stevie, not even Carolyn, and he'd promised to love and protect her till death do them part. He and Blair had already stood by each other through terrifying situations that would have driven other partners apart. They had already been through the 'for better or for worse'. 'Until death do us part'? That's a real kick in the gut.
He's my guide. They'd have to learn what this was going to mean to both of them, sentinel and guide. He knew it scared Blair, too. Blair was afraid to fail the sentinel. But did the guide know Jim was afraid of failing him, too.
Jim heard it first of course, a creaking, and then that horrible freight train kind of sound pounding around us. We were lucky. The edge of the avalanche just brushed by Jim and Tom; and Jim, being doubled over by the pain of the sound, couldn't even think about getting out of the way. Although who ever heard of anyone outrunning an avalanche?
Blair found them just a few hundred feet down the trail. Of course he'd been frantic by then. They were both hurt, too badly for Blair to try to move them far, not badly enough for them to have critical injuries thankfully. Jim's right leg was broken and he had a slight concussion. Tom's ankle was sprained and his left arm was broken.
They were stoic about their injuries but Blair could guess what they were thinking, **One lone Blair Sandburg simply couldn't get them both home. He'd have to go for help.**
And Blair was thinking, **They wouldn't last long alone with both of them immobilized. I'm not leaving.**
They'd posted their trail with the Park Service and their departure and return date and time. They'd be looking for them tomorrow or the day after. Simon would definitely be looking for them on Monday because Jim had to meet with the DA about a case coming up for trial.
The worst part was that Jim and Tom had lost their supplies. That had been the least of their worries when they saw what was bearing down on them. Blair found a few things near where he found Jim, but Tom's supplies were gone. The best find had been Jim's sleeping bag.
He made them as comfortable as he could. He splinted Jim's leg and Tom's arm, and wrapped Tom's ankle. He left Tom to make sure Jim stayed awake as Blair set about making camp despite their disagreement over future rescue efforts. They finally desisted when Blair told them, forcefully, that there was no way he was leaving two injured men laying on top of a snow slide while he went for help, so just forget it.
Since their plan was out of the question Blair had to come up with Plan B. He hadn't been that scared in a long time. He couldn't fail. Their lives were now his responsibility. His experience, his strength, his decisions could make all the difference for their survival.
He'd never thought the survival training he'd had to take would ever be used in these latitudes. His expeditions were always in tropical or temperate climates. He had to dredge up half forgotten survival tips, and quickly.
Since there were never any convenient caves around when needed, he decided to make camp using a tree pit. Jim would laugh if he knew he'd seen that in an old Army survival manual. He'd read it while bored to death while living on a commune with people that didn't believe electricity was safe.
He found a clump of three fir trees with heavy lower branches out of the line of the slide . It looked safe from a future slide although Blair was no expert. He used a small hatchet and a pot from the remaining supplies to further dig a hollow under the branches until he reached the ground. A foot thick layer of branches pulled from nearby trees would make good ground cover in the pit. They'd need the insulation.
Under all the seemingly calm preparations ran his mantra, 'hurry, hurry, there's no time to waste'.
Getting those two big macho oafs into the shelter was the hardest part. They didn't want to admit they needed Blair's help. He used a salvaged ground tarp like a sled to move them. He was so afraid he'd hurt them, that maybe there were internal injuries of which they were unaware.
It wasn't that comfortable or warm in the shelter but he used the two sleeping bags, Blair's and Jim's, to put under and over them. He tied the ground tarp over the low overhead branches, layering more branches on top and then packing on snow to insulate and to keep out the wind. A lit candle provided light and a little warmth. He had to remember to keep the shelter well ventilated. After all this he didn't want anyone to die of carbon monoxide poisoning from a lit candle. Now for the rest of his Plan B.
The next phase involved building a fire. They all carried the tools essential for that, it was just common sense. He set about building a fire about ten feet from the tree pit with a rough stack of rocks as a heat reflector. Then he set rocks in it to warm to transfer into the tree pit. When tucked into the sleeping bags the warm rocks would help fight off hypothermia and shock. Jim and Tom were shivering and it was probably from more than just the cold. Shock and hypothermia were threats Blair had to deal with now, before they became more dangerous.
'Hurry, hurry'. He had to fight to keep panic from taking over. A missed opportunity, a half thought out idea, a misstep ... could mean disaster.
The battered 'digging' pot went on the fire to heat water. Food shouldn't be problem. He had the makings for a good couple of meals in his pack but he also had seen a rabbit that was killed by the slide. That would stretch the food in the supplies, just in case it turned out to be a long wait for rescue. Using the meat and blood in a soup would make a broth that would help warm them and keep them hydrated.
'Hurry, hurry'. Time was not on his side. The afternoon was waning and darkness would come all too soon. Darkness and plummeting temperatures.
One of the other things Blair needed to do was to get signal fires going. He didn't know if he'd be able to get enough wood together to get them going before dark. He knew the international distress signal was three fires or three columns of smoke. Of course, they had to be spaced out maybe eighty to a hundred feet apart, so they would be seen as signals and not as a camp fire. That meant that he'd be traipsing through lots of deep, cold snow for hours in his effort to keep the fires supplied with fuel. Hopefully it would only be hours. It was quite possible it could be days.
The weather was supposed to continue bright and sunny for a couple more days, but rescue personnel wouldn't look for them until their arrival time passed. Blair hurried to work on his planned distress signal. There were some nearly bare ledges close enough to be of use. He didn't want a forest fire to complicate things. Although that would almost surely get someone's attention, they'd be too close to the action. Then he gathered all the wood that was in quick and easy reach. Maybe he could use some small singly spaced trees, and save the gathered wood for the campfire and tomorrow's signals.
When he got back to the camp Jim was asleep and Tom was staring at him. Blair was worried. Had he forgotten something? “What?” Blair asked softly.
“Not bad kid, not bad,” Larson whispered back with an approving nod.
“Oh. Can you think of anything else, Tom?” Blair asked, relaxing his anxiety a bit.
“Not anything necessary right now,” Tom answered, easing his arm into a more comfortable position.
Blair looked worriedly at his friend, “How's Jim?”
“I just woke him about ten minutes ago, and he was fine. The shivers have died down. He was worried about you when he couldn't see you. I told him you'd deserve a field promotion if you were in the Army. When I embellish this story later for my army buddies you're going to have to at least be a Lieutenant. ...Blair are you going to get the signal fires going tonight?”
Blair was pleased that Jim was doing okay, but he wished he were awake to check for himself. Tom's words of praise made him squirm a little. He'd done everything he could think of and now they just had to wait and hope it was enough. “I think at sunset the wind should calm down a little more. I'm going to set those three trees on fire by the ledge. Maybe someone will see them. Probably not, it's nearly sunset and we're pretty far out for this time of year, and nobody will really be looking yet ... but maybe we'll get lucky. They won't even miss us until tomorrow night, but tomorrow I'll set three fires and by adding branches of green wood there should be some good smoke columns going. Hopefully, that will get someone's attention. Why don't you eat some soup and then get some sleep. I'll be warming some rocks throughout the night and keeping watch.”
“Sandburg you can't go day and night without some rest,” Tom said carefully.
“I can manage. I've done alnighters in college many times ....” Blair began his defense.
Larson spoke earnestly, “Jim said you're a smart guy Blair. Listen, I do have some experience with these situations. You've been exerting yourself for hours. You're risking hypothermia yourself. You need to take a break, get warm and take in some warm fluids. I know that I need some sleep too. I'll make a deal with you. I'll sleep for a few hours, then after you replace the warmed rocks you wake me and then you sleep for a while. We'll rotate through the night. When the rocks cool down or the fire needs tending I'll wake you again. Okay? Remember, you're the only ambulatory one of the bunch. You HAVE to take care of yourself first or you can't take care of us.”
Blair hung his head. He knew Tom was right, but it was hard for him to give in on this. Tom and Jim were his responsibility. He couldn't afford to fail them, it would cost their lives. But Tom's advice couldn't be faulted either. There was too much that had to be done to ensure their survival and he was the only one that could do it. He looked up with a solemn gaze. “I know Tom. Its good advice. It's a deal.”
Tom nodded approvingly, “I see what Jim likes about you, kid. You've got guts and sense too.”
Blair was too embarrassed by the praise to answer, but was warmed by the thought of Tom's, and maybe Jim's, approval.
And so passed the night, Tom woke Blair and Jim at intervals, and Blair did the same in his turn.
Jim was more able to stay awake in the morning, his leg not giving him much choice even with Blair's subvocal whisperings about dials. Blair tended the fire and made breakfast and tended the signal fires.
Tom watched Jim watch Blair. He wondered how such a strong friendship came to be in just a few short months. He knew friendships were often forged in times of hardship. What hardship had forged theirs? He could see it's strength in the pride in Jim's expression and the caring and concern in Blair's. Well, he thought, the field test is working out just fine.
The search plane flew over around 3 p.m. and saw Blair's X in the snow, for medical help required. The rescue chopper arrived within the hour.
After a minor media frenzy and Simon's arrival, Jim and Blair were allowed to go home from the hospital. Tom Larson opted to head for his sister's home since it was close enough that traveling with his injuries wouldn't be too burdensome. Simon drove a weary Jim and Blair home to the loft they shared and a warm and welcome bed and lots of sleep.
Blair was still asleep when Simon let himself in with his spare key. He quietly set about putting away a few fresh groceries and made a huge pot of coffee. He figured twelve hours was long enough to sleep. And he wanted to hear the story. There had to be a good one.
Coffee was a good alarm clock. The smell was heavenly. Jim slowly rolled out of Sandburg's bed. Blair had insisted Jim sleep in his room until he could function without dizziness while balancing on the crutches. And Jim had wanted Blair to have a long comfortable sleep, so he insisted Blair take his bed upstairs rather than the sofa. Blair slept on and Jim let him. He and Simon talked quietly and Simon got 'the story'.
When Blair finally awoke, the tv was touting the benefits of a certain gecko's insurance, and the smell of fresh coffee was percolating up the staircase. His stomach growled and he decided coffee would be welcome, especially accompanied by a really BIG breakfast. He was a little confused at first by the big bed, then climbed out and down the stairs.
He saw Simon sitting at the table with Jim which was a surprise. A good one though. He was sure glad to see him at the hospital. He was there to help, like a good friend.
“hey, simon, mornin',” mumbled Blair around a jaw-breaker of a yawn.
“Sandburg, good afternoon.”
Blair stopped, looked out the window, and noted where the sun was. Oops. He'd waaay overslept. “Simon, I'm not even sure what day this is.”
Simon just chuckled and shook his head. “It's Monday. Don't look so worried. The news media let everyone know where you've been this weekend and if anyone is missing your presence, all they had to do was watch the news. You're the newest hero-of-the-day.”
“You're kidding, right Simon?” Blair hoped Simon was kidding.
“Nope. You have a bit of pleasant notoriety. You did good Sandburg. You got all of you back safe and nearly sound. As for you Jim, you have a few days off at least, until you can even take on desk duty. Let me know what the Doc says when you see him. Until then, rest and recuperate, we need you back. Both of you,” eyeing Blair over the top of his glasses to emphasize his point. While pushing himself up and gathering his coat he continued, “I, myself, have taken enough time off. I need to show up at the office again today so I'd better get going. So long you two and take it easy. You've both had a long, rough weekend. Sit still, I'll let myself out.”
“Simon's right you know,” Jim said.
Blair was confused, “About what?”
“You did everything right out there Blair. Otherwise we wouldn't have made it. You saved our lives. You saved my life again Blair.”
“Are we keeping score here, Jim? 'Cause if we are, I don't know who's ahead.”
Jim just smiled a little smile at his partner.
“What?” Blair was feeling a little worried and a bit confused, “What's with the Cheshire cat grin?”
“You've never failed me,” Jim stated in a matter-of-fact tone.
Blair felt his stomach do a little flip. He had a lot of insecurities about failure, and a lot of them involved what he felt was his responsibility to his sentinel friend. With heartfelt sincerity he said, “I hope never to fail you, Jim.”
Blair's solemnity caused Jim's grin to fade to match Blair's expression, but the pride was unmistakable. Blair's eyes widened at Jim's next words, spoken as a solemn pledge to himself, as well as to his guide: “Blair, I give you my word as Your Sentinel, to do my best to never fail My Guide.”
Note: I did read about the pit shelter in a U.S. Army Survival Manual.
The pit shelter is described on the net, as well as other survival ideas.
Simple Survival Shelters © 2004 Gary L. Benton