Written for Veteran's Day 2009.
Being a Hero
by Raine Wynd
Most days, he didn't think about being a veteran; most days, being a cop and a Sentinel filled his thoughts. Whatever was left over was filled with living with a man who refused to be put in a neat, tidy box Jim could label "Guide" or "hippie witchdoctor punk" or "observer-turned-consultant-with-license-to-carry" or one of a dozen other labels. For a man who'd once planned detailed missions, who'd been a leader of men, who'd learned that Tabasco sauce wasn't just to cover the taste of bad MREs, and who still remembered in exquisite detail the things that never happened in places he never was, Jim found himself floundering sometimes when it came to Blair, for Blair was a constant challenge to Jim's sense of order. Blair wasn't afraid of Jim's nightmares, though he'd learned Quecha was sometimes the only language Jim understood in the height of such events. Blair demanded knowledge Jim sometimes couldn't give: secrets Jim knew he was honor-bound, if nothing else, to take to his grave.
By word and deed, Blair showed Jim a meaning of honor and sacrifice Jim knew to be rare, even among soldiers. That first year after the mess with the diss was filled with turmoil, dealing with all the fallout, and Jim couldn't find the words to say just what it all meant. He'd always been better with actions, though, and planning what to say and how to say it came more readily when he approached it as if it were a mission he had to accomplish. By Veteran's Day of the following year, Jim thought he had it figured out. Stealing Blair's journal had been a simple thing: writing in it had taken hours while Blair slept, oblivious, even though Jim had thought he'd already had the words ready. Then he tucked the photo he'd taken from the album he'd never shared with Blair into the journal as a placeholder, and slid the journal under Blair's glasses.
Then, too restless to sleep, half-afraid of what might happen if he stayed, Jim left the loft, returning hours later to find Blair on the couch, tears drying on his face. Blair rose to his feet. His voice was rough as he said, "I'm not a hero, Jim. I just did what I thought was right. What you wrote...I'm not one of those guys you served with. I didn't do anything equal to--"
"Yes, you did," Jim argued flatly. "I couldn't let you keep on thinking I didn't appreciate your sacrifice. Damn it, Sandburg, you threw yourself on a grenade for me."
And in Blair's eyes, Jim saw understanding at last.