Author-Kimberly Workman and Author-Lucy Hale
Soldiers of Fortune
by Kimberly Workman and Lucy Hale
Summary: While Rafe and Blair are revealing some truths, what were Jim and Henri doing? You'd be surprised. #2 in the Brothers in Arms Series.
Disclamer: Not mine.
The car was silent for a long time, lost in the blackness and stillness of the night -- the men inside it weren't talking.
"'My kind of town,'" Henri Brown broke the silence with the softly mumbled words.
"What?" Jim asked. He didn't really want to know, but might as well feign interest.
"Oh. Nothing. Sorry," H quickly apologized.
Jim Ellison faced the passenger's side window again. 'God, could the Job get any more boring than this?' he thought. It wasn't that he and Brown weren't friends, but they would each admit readily that no way would they have been there if not for direct orders. They had their own partners.
"'My kind of town,'" Brown repeated quietly. Jim could pick up a murmured rhythm this time, almost like he was singing. He glanced back over at his car-mate, but the man shook his head again.
"Sorry." Henri grinned out the window, his fingers beating against the side of the door in a slow rhythm. He hummed to himself quietly for a minute, but quickly noticed Jim's eyes on him and shut up.
Jim raised an eyebrow, but turned back to look out the window. Nothing was out there. Nothing at all. Who was Simon fooling? These guys weren't gonna show. Him and H were gonna sit here all night long waiting for nobody. It was a near certainty, but Simon put them there just in case.
'You never know,' he had said as he pushed them into the situation; a boring, irritating, and tedious situation.
"'My kind of town, Chicago is...'" H had started again.
Speaking of irritating. "What? What is it? What are you repeating that for?"
Henri's grin stayed firmly in place. "Sorry, man. The radio station's been having a Sinatra-fest every morning. That song was playing when I left the house."
"Oh." Jim returned the smile faintly, then faced the window again. Time passed. Slowly, inexorably passed.
Jesus, he wasn't up for this. It was too quiet.
"'My kind of town-'"
"H?" Jim was getting irritated now.
"Oh. Uh, yeah?"
"Can it with that song."
"Right. Sorry." Henri's smile didn't even lose its edge. He just went back to drumming his fingers.
Jim briefly wondered if this was better or worse than being in this situation with Sandburg. Probably better. At least Henri could sit still, even if he had to drum his fingers.
"'Start spreading the news.'"
Or maybe it was worse. "Brown?"
Henri chuckled. "Funny thing. That was the second to last song I heard. For some reason it stuck with me."
"If I wanted to be on a stake-out with Frank Sinatra, I'd have called him and asked, okay?"
"Sure, Jim, sure. Sorry. So....uh. How's Hairboy doing lately?"
"Fine. You know Sandburg." Jim shrugged.
"Yeah." Henri looked at him for another minute, then looked away again. "'Daa da daa da da, daa da daa da da.'"
"Henri? Give me a break here."
"'Start spreading the news....I'm leaving today'....come on, Jim, sing it with me. 'I wanna be a part of it!'" Henri gestured towards him grandly.
Jim glared at him, then found he couldn't hold the expression under Henri's huge smile. Finally, he slumped down in his seat and mumbled, "'New York, New York.'"
"Yes! Now we got us a song going! How bout you take the daa da's, I'll sing the words?"
Jim had a hard time not laughing. "Henri, for the love of God."
"Well? What do you expect? You're not contributing much to the conversation here, and if Frank's the only one talking to me, I gotta respond, you know?"
"If I had known I was gonna be stuck in a car all night with a lounge singer...." Jim shook his head. "How does Rafe put up with you?"
"Please. More like the other way around." Henri shook his head fatalistically. "The boy tries, Jim, he does. But he hasn't got any rhythm at all, and he doesn't know the words to any decent songs. It's ridiculous."
Jim chuckled, his eyes wandering to the window again.
A moment later, Henri was humming under his breath again, but Jim was able to ignore it...partially. His eyes were scanning the hilltop above them and suddenly stopped on a car; a very familiar car, sitting silently above them. He opened his mouth, wondering if he should call Henri's attention to it, but decided instead to try a little test of his senses to figure out what was going on up there. Jim opened up his hearing, filtering out H's increasingly annoying song, and heard a familiar voice.
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty, I'll have you know."
Rafe? That was Rafe, sitting up there talking to...who? Jim got his answer a few seconds later.
"But...you bet AGAINST the JAGS?"
Sandburg! Jim had to bite his tongue to stop from responding out loud. What the hell was this? Rafe and Sandburg in the same car, watching out for their separated partners. How...nice. And how dense. They had hearts of gold, he and H's partners, but they always ended up in the wrong places. They should know better by now than to-
"New York! New YOOOORK!" H yelled, bringing Jim out of his eavesdropping and almost threatened to bust his eardrums.
"Would you NOT do that again please?!" Jim ordered, extremely ticked off. "We're supposed to be on a stakeout and you're sitting here belting out show-tunes!"
"Sorry," H quieted. He stiffened his resolve. He could be quiet. If Jim wanted quiet, well, fine.
Three seconds later, it was too much. "Man, this is BORING!" "Good job Sherlock," Jim quipped. But as long as they were talking about it... "Whatever gave Simon the idea to put us out here in the middle of nowhere waiting for a guy to never show....he's going to have a lot of explaining to do when we get back."
H laughed. "He's going to play dumb, you know he will. 'How was I to know the guy wouldn't show? He was supposed to show!' I can just hear him now."
"Or else he'll say this was an opportunity for character-building. 'Gives you some variety in your working situations.' Yeah, that's sounds about like Simon." They both fell silent at the last remark. H returned to drumming his fingers and Jim to his eavesdropping. He was intrigued at what he tuned into.
"It's hard; joining up with a group of people who are already close, who've already worked together and counted on each other. You have to prove yourself. And you can't do that if Simon's always telling you to stay home or your partner's always telling you to get back or stay in the-"
"-In the car. Henri really says that to you?"
"Not as much as he used to, but yeah. First few times we worked together, I'm surprised he even let me leave the station. He'd kill me if he knew we were up here."
Jim knew he was a little overprotective of his partner, but he never knew Henri was like that. He looked around at his car-mate curiously. As much as Sandburg complained, could this be the same in all partnerships? Henri never struck him as the protective type, but when he thought back on the past few years...H did have that air about him.
"You wanna share the joke?" H asked as he noticed the budding smirk on Ellison's face.
"I was just thinking-
Henri grinned. "Hey, that IS funny."
Jim glowered at him for a moment, but the grin forced itself back up. "Just thinking about how we're so alike," he finished. He paused, waiting for the smart-ass reply Henri would undoubtedly make.
"You'll never know..."
Jim's eyes immediately widened with interest. Suddenly there was no humor in Henri's tone at all. He'd breathed that in a hushed tone that no one should have possibly heard him.
But of course Jim did. "I'll never know what?"
Henri's head jerked towards him. "How did you...nothing."
"I'll never know what?" Jim pushed.
"How much we're alike," H explained after a moment.
"Well, we're both cops, we're both partnered with complete opposites." His eyes went up of the car above them briefly. "Completely irresponsible, headstrong, idiot opposites. We're both hard workers." He made a brief stab at lightening the air between them, that had gone dark for what reason he still didn't know. "Speaking of which, you're making me look bad."
"Making you look bad?" Henri snorted. "There's no way possible to do that, Ellison."
"Look at you. The number of hours and shifts you pull makes you look like you live at the Station."
"Just doing my job," H shrugged.
"That's not a job, that's an obsession," Jim chuckled.
"And what about you? You work just as hard as me, only since Hairboy's got such a magnet for trouble you work outside the station. Or at the hospital, or out of your loft."
Jim shook his head. "We work a lot, man, I'm not saying we don't. But you make people worry, the amount of time you spend at your desk."
"Worry? Who's worried?"
"Try everybody. It just doesn't seem to fit with the rest of you, H."
"Yeah, well..." Henri sighed, turning back to his own window. His voice again dropped to the whisper Jim shouldn't have been able to hear. "I failed once and I ain't gonna fail again."
Jim frowned. This wasn't the Henri Brown he knew. Something was definitely wrong here. "H you got something on you mind?"
"I was just thinking about...the past, the stuff I've seen and never want to see again." Henri's voice was quiet, distant.
"Seen where?" Jim asked, turning to face him more directly.
"Back in the Army."
"You were in the ARMY???" Jim was shocked. "You never told me that!"
"I don't tell many people about that. Don't want to think about it really."
"Did you see much action?"
"Desert Storm, up on the Iraq/Saudi border in '91."
"Man, H, you're just full of surprises aren't you?" Jim looked at him, stunned.
"I don't like talking about it, brings up too many things that are better left buried, you know?" He looked at Jim, then smiled tightly. "What am I talking about? Of course you know."
"It can be hard sometimes, but it's harder to keep everything inside." Jim ignored the voice inside him that said he was getting more and more like Sandburg every day. "So what's got you talking about it now?"
Henri shrugged. "That's why I work so much. Take extra shifts, never call in sick...because of what happened over there."
"H, I'm here if you want to talk," Jim became concerned. "I've been there, I can relate."
"Yeah, but you've never sent a man to die in your place..."
Jim was startled. He wouldn't have thought an hour ago that Henri would get this serious. And now he was crossing the line into bitter, guilty. It sounded familiar. "H....talk to me man, what are you holding inside?"
Henri hesitated, then shrugged, almost to himself. "You gotta keep this on the down, Jim. Rafe's the only one I've...look, it's not something I'm proud of. Just don't go telling everybody."
Jim looked at him solemnly. "H, who would I tell?"
Sandburg. The obvious answer, it wavered in the air between them for a second, then vanished. No, Henri could tell by the solemn set in Jim's jaw that he DID know, and he wouldn't go telling his partner if he didn't want him to.
So he let out a breath and spoke quietly. "The whole thing....the whole situation, it was so fast. I mean, everything out there seemed fast. I know, in my head, how much time we spent waiting. Hanging around, almost wanting something to happen. But I can't remember it. That part of it isn't real to me. You know?"
Jim nodded silently.
"So when things were finally happening, it almost didn't seem real. Shit, I don't know. It's hard to explain. Anyway, this one night, I'm supposed to go out on patrol. I flew copters, I tell you that?" He didn't wait for a response, his mind lost somewhere in a memory. "That's one thing Rafe and me got in common. We were born to have wings." he smiled slightly. A minute later, it was gone. "So this one night I'm supposed to go out, but the mail comes and I finally get a letter from my folks. It was big time, you know? I hadn't heard anything the whole time I was there. I even got on TV once on some network, telling my family hi, doing the American Soldier Abroad act, but I never heard from them. And this letter comes, and it's practically a novel. My mom, she's not good at abbreviating things." Another faint smile, come then gone. "I was getting ready to go out, but this letter was burning a whole in my pocket. I had to know what was happening back home. I had to put some part of myself back someplace familiar, and...I just couldn't wait. So this guy, Mark Jesky, he comes in, and I practically offered him my life savings if he would go up instead of me. He didn't want to at first, but I just laid into him with everything I had. Showed him the letter. I think I even let a few tears fall, you know? Just let him see how miserable and homesick I was. So he says cool, no problem, and starts suiting up."
Henri glanced over at Jim, and saw with a look that was almost surprise that the older man was intent, listening to every word.
He cleared his throat and faced the front again. "I didn't even stay to watch him go. I just went running back to my bunk and pulled the letter out. You know something, it wasn't even that interesting. But it was home, so I was happy. And I settled down for the night, and I remember thinking, 'boy, when Jesky gets back he's gonna make me look like an asshole, crying like that.'" He looked back at Jim, almost angry. "That's the only time I spared him a thought."
Jim nodded slightly. "He didn't make it back?"
"Wandered a little too close to the wrong side of the line. They shot him down without a thought. He never had a chance." Henri's eyes went back out the window.
"And that's why you always offer yourself up whenever they need a guy?" Jim asked, knowing.
"I can't let it happen again. It should have been me they shipped back in a box. I should have been the one they cried over and buried in Arlington..." Henri paused. "But since I'm still here among the living, I have to make sure I never put another guy in the same situation."
"H, it wasn't your time to go, you have to realize that."
Henri shot him a look, eyebrows raised, and Jim suddenly realized how condescending that had sounded.
"Look, working double shifts and weekends isn't gonna bring him back."
"But I won't be skipping out on anymore dates with the Grim Reaper, I'll you that! I have a duty and I'm going to serve it if it kills me."
"And it just might, H," Jim told him.
"I accepted that when I first joined the force." Henri smiled slightly, a bitter tinge to the expression. "I just hadn't accepted it in service. Not until Jesky."
"You know, if you had gone out that night, nothing might have happened. The guy Jesky went too close to the line, you said that. If it had been you, or anyone else, you might have gotten home okay." Jim hesitated, gathering his thoughts. "Look, I'm not good at talking about fate and destiny and all that crap. Blair could make it sound right, but I'm gonna try anyway. What happened to him was his fate. You getting that letter, him walking in -- it was about him, man, not you."
"Look, Jim, don't think I don't appreciate the help, but I went to psychs for a while over this, and they all told me the same thing."
"Doesn't that mean there's a good chance it's the truth?"
Henri glanced over at him, and a small version of his normal megawatt smile floated over his face. "Since when do you give advice, anyway?"
Jim almost responded with a joke, but shut his mouth before it could come out. Henri was changing the subject, trying to lighten the air. Defense tactic. Jim knew them all well. He was a master at most of them himself. "If you need it, I'm here. I just want you to know that."
Surprised his levity had fallen flat, Henri nodded. He let out a huge breath and sank back into his seat. "It was so much easier before Rafe, you know? I was cool, I was okay doing my work and no one else's. I didn't have to worry so much about someone else getting.... Now I've got him around and I'm so scared that he's going to take a bullet or go into the wrong building and then...I can't let another one die for me. Especially..." He looked down at his hands. "Especially not him."
"You adore him and now you're afraid that he's going to leave you," Jim said in a hushed tone. He knew the feelings well, he lived them. Everyday he lived with the knowledge that Sandburg might die because of a situation he put him in. "We all live with that fear man."
H looked at Jim, knowing that this was striking really close to home. "Sandburg?"
"Yeah, everyday. I learned a long time ago to not trust anyone. I shut off my feelings so that nobody could break me and then along comes some...KID to blow my whole way of thinking. He's so trusting and looks at me like I'm his savior. What's gonna happen if one day I can't save him?" Jim quieted then, knowing that he revealed more about his past to H than he had ever told anyone -- including Sandburg.
"Jim," Henri's voice was hushed, almost hesitant. "You did save him."
Jim glanced over, confused, until he saw the haunted look in Henri's eyes. He flashed on the only other time he'd seen the light-hearted man looking that way.
The time they had dragged Blair Sandburg's dead body out of a fountain at Rainier. The time Jim had begged and pleaded and shouted for Blair to come back, to not leave his side like everyone else in his miserable life had. The time the paramedics had given up, and were walking away. Were going for the body bag.
And yes, Jim had brought him back. Credit it to luck, or a freak of nature, or Sandburg's fate. Credit it to Incacha, the Spirit Guides, the bond between Sentinel and Shaman. For some reason Blair Sandburg left Jim alone like the others, but he had come back.
Jim realized he had been quiet for too long. "Yeah. I saved him. But that isn't about to make me want to stop trying to protect him. If anything else, it's harder now. Because I know how it feels to lose him. I know what's going to happen, sooner or later. That day at Rainier I was just postponing the inevitable."
Henri nodded quietly, his eyes reflecting his understanding. "We have to protect them and hope that they don't step the wrong way or turn the wrong corner. We are of a breed, Jim, that lives to protect. If we turn our backs for an instant, something will happen to them...it's just fate."
That word again. Boy was Jim starting to hate fate. "But we can't be everywhere and that's what really gets to me. If I let him out of my sight, he's going to get hurt."
"Yeah, but we can certainly try. That's why I didn't want the job tonight, not because I didn't want to be partnered with you, but because I didn't want to leave Rafe."
"Same here," Jim said. Even though he knew that Rafe and Blair was safely in the car, watching them, he couldn't help but worry.
There was a pause, and then suddenly Henri barked out a laugh. "Listen to us, man. We're acting like they're children or something. There are two grown men we're talking about. Rafe's a cop, Sandburg's tougher than most men on the force. What are we doing?"
Jim smiled somewhat in response. "Sometimes it seems ridiculous," he admitted. "But other times-"
"It seems like if they were any more naive or helpless they really would be kids. I know. Rafe...man, he's tough. There's no one I'd rather have watching my back, and that's the truth. We've been through a lot of crap together. But I swear sometimes I want to slap some sense into him. He stays out late nights, he walks downtown through the shittiest streets alone, when God knows he dresses like he's got a fortune stuffed in his pockets. I argue with him, he says he's a cop, he carries a gun, he'll be fine. He just doesn't get it."
Jim nodded his agreement. "Sandburg's the same way. Only without the gun."
They shook their heads, matching rueful expressions on their faces. "Man, I guess we really do have a lot in common."
Jim chuckled. "Does this mean when Sandburg does something to make my life miserable, I can bitch to you? Because Lord knows he doesn't listen anymore."
Henri thought about it, then turned surprisingly serious eyes to him. "Jim, anytime you want, man. I got a load off my chest tonight. Anytime you want to talk, I'm there."
Jim gave him a genuine smile, free from wry, bitter humor. "Same here, H."
The pair quieted and Jim opened up his hearing again to see what was going on in Rafe's car. He heard something that made his heart fill.
"You're a good one to have around. I think we just might keep you," Rafe said.
The next voice was of his Guide. "Anytime, Rafe, anytime."
The whole bunch of them were good to have around. H, Rafe, Blair, and himself all had their strong points and together they made Major Crimes into a place to be proud of.