Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Rated: PG

Feedback: Yes, please...at dawn_twilight@hotmail.com

Summary: Blair goes on a little excavation with a group of students and comes back bugged.

Bugged

by Twilight (Dawn)

********************

Whistling a tune he heard on the radio on the way home, Jim dug into his pants pocket, pulling out his key ring and unlocking the loft. A small smile turned the corners of his lips as he listened to the shower running through the closed door. Blair's car was parked out front and he could hear his friend moving around in the bathroom, clothes sliding over skin and the curtain parting, a tiny sigh as the water sleuthed over his friend's skin.

Blair had been away for the long Labor Day weekend, being asked at the last minute to accompany a group of students to an excavation site in West Virginia. Blair's friend, fellow TA and assistant to Professor Jenkins was supposed to go and help supervise the students, but Jamie came down with the flu or something a few days before.

His roommate was a little excited, but also a bit reluctant. They had made plans to go to a cookout at Joel's and play a few games of baseball with the rest of the Major Crimes Unit, but Jim insisted he take the offer and enjoy himself.

That was four days ago and Jim was glad to have Blair home and not all the way across the country.

Pushing the door open, he nearly tripped over Blair's duffle, open and sideways in front of the door, soiled shirts and a pair of questionable boxers hanging out the open zipper.

"What the hell?" Jim kicked the bag out of his way and under the coat rack.

The water in the other room puttered to a stop and Blair half stumbled from the door in a cloud of steam, hair sticking up and out, one towel hung low on his hips. "Hey, Jim. I didn't hear you coming in."

"Just got here." Jim walked slowly to the fridge, grabbing a bottle of beer. "You want one?"

Blair went into his room calling, "No thanks. I think I need a nap."

Jim could hear the covers slide over the sheets and Blair cough as he settled on his bed, the wet towel landing with a thump on the hard wood floors.

"And how was your trip, Chief?" Jim laughed, moving to his own room to change. The day was spent with his friends from work, eating and drinking and playing ball, but it appeared that Blair was a little too tired to inquire.

Oh well, maybe after he gets some rest.

Seeing that his partner was not up to much, Jim went back to the living room and settled on the couch, beer and remote in hand. Maybe he would find a good movie marathon.

Hours later Jim got up, flipping off the set and went to the kitchen to make a sandwich. The food network had a series on called 'The Secret Life Of...' and he had just watched an hours worth of the history of the submarine sandwich and now he only hoped that he had some sub rolls left from the week before when they had cold cuts for dinner.

A few minutes later he had the grill pan on and a few thin slices of steak and onions sizzling in the pan. The earthy scent wafted though the living room toward the open bay doors. The sound of people out and about drifted up to him as he chopped lettuce and diced tomatoes before pulling out the mustard and ranch dressing, knowing that Blair liked ranch over mayonnaise. One more trip to the fridge for the forgotten sandwich stacker pickles and the table was set.

Now all he had to do was rouse his resting roommate.

Jim wiped his hands on a kitchen towel, snatching a pickle from the plate before making his way to the partly open french doors.

Blair lay curled on his side, one hand resting near his head, the other hanging off the bed. His lips were parted, eyes opened a slither and intermitted snores sounded though the room. His shirt was hitched up, revealing a strip of bare skin and the blanket was twisted hopelessly around his legs and ankles.

"Hey, buddy?" Jim stepped into the room, smelling something musty and old coming from behind one of the doors. Blair's hiking boots were covered in mud and dried grass. Jim bent to pick them up.

"Jim?" Blair's voice was a little scratchy and Jim hoped he wasn't coming down with whatever Jamie had. He was a nice enough kid, but it seemed to Jim that he was always getting sick, catching whatever was going around and asking Blair to cover for him.

"I made dinner." Jim said, taking the stinky boots to the balcony and sitting them on the rail. When he came back, Blair was in the bathroom so he grabbed up Blair's duffle, pulling out dirt encrusted jeans and shirts. He dumped them into the laundry basket, planning on taking them down to the washer after he ate.

Blair emerged, a wad of tissues in one hand. "Sorry, Jim. I'll take them down to the washer."

Dropping the basket by the door, Jim shook his head. "I'll take care of it after we eat. It's my week for laundry anyway."

Blair nodded, sinking wearily into his chair. "Yeah, and it's my week to cook."

"Don't worry about it, Chief. It's only a sandwich." Jim sat, picking up his hoagie or hero or poor boy...depending on where in the U.S. you lived. A small smile lit his face as he chewed his dinner. Didn't really matter what he called it, as long as it tasted as good as the one he was currently enjoying.

Conversation was sparse. Blair talked a little about his trip while he picked at his sandwich and Jim told him all about this years cookout.

"We should do it one year." Blair said, pulling the piece of bread into tiny shreds.

Jim downed the last bit, chasing it with the remainder of his beer. "It could be fun, but we don't have a back yard."

"That's okay, man. We can grill on the balcony...go down to the park near the docks. It would be fun."

Jim gathered his dishes, running the water to rinse them before looking for a good movie on the tube. "Yeah, we could do that."

A little later, Blair pulled the box of saran wrap out and wrapped his sandwich, dumping his plate in the sink. "Thanks Jim."

"Not hungry?" Jim frowned a little as Blair stuck the leftovers in the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water.

"Not really. I ate a little on the plane."

Jim stacked the dishes in the drainer, drying his hands before moving into the living room. "Movie?"

Blair hesitated, aborting his movement toward his room. After a second, he straightened and walked around the sofa to sink into the comfort of the cushion. "I could do a movie."

Jim flipped around, settling on the Lifetime channel. True, it was supposed to be television for women, but they had the best movies and Jim had to admit that if it was possible, he never missed an airing of 1-800- the Missing.

Tonight's movie had Melissa Gilbert, not one of his favorites. She always seemed a little...melodramatic. He looked toward Blair to see if his friend had a preference, but found Blair to be curled into a tight ball, soundly asleep.

Jim's first inkling that something was seriously wrong was the following day. Blair had a few more days off before the new semester and Jim had come home at lunch to find Blair hanging a tribal mask that had been sitting against the wall for as long as Jim could remember. He had made a comment the day before about how it would look good on the wall near the windows, but Blair just shrugged, saying that he would get around to hanging it someday.

Blair seemed a little out of sorts, moving slowly as he stretched up to hammer in the nail.

"You okay, Blair?"

His friend just shook his head. "I'm really beat." The mask was carefully deposited back to its resting place and Blair shuffled to the sofa to sit. "I'll finish this later."

Jim sat next to him, putting a hand on Blair's shoulder. He had called only an hour before to find that he had woken his friend. "Must have been some excavation to make you this tired."

"It wasn't too bad...I think I'm going to lay down."

Jim watched as Blair climbed into his unmade bed. "You need anything?"

Turning toward the wall, Blair mumbled, "no thanks." Drifting off to sleep, he mumbled a few times before settling on his back and Jim couldn't resist the small touch to his friend's forehead. His skin was a little pale and a bit clammy, but he wasn't really very warm.

Crossing the threshold, Jim shut the door partway. He decided that if Blair weren't feeling any better the next day, a trip to the doctors would be in order.

********************

Blair lay on the couch, snuggled under a mound of blankets. His friend and roommate was in the kitchen making dinner...again. Blair really did feel bad about the uneaten sandwich the day before and that Jim had to make dinner again.

He was just sooo tired. It was ridiculous, he had just gotten up from a mid afternoon nap and powered up his laptop, planning on checking his mail and a new article that his friend Jamie told him about before he left for West Virginia. He had only looked at a few messages and scanned the article before he could feel his eyes drooping.

He slid down and pulled the blanket from the back of the sofa. The room seemed cold to him and he asked Jim if he thought it was cold.

"You want another blanket?" Jim asked, already walking to the linen closet to pull out the thermal blanket.

His friend draped the covers over him and plugged in the heating element before handing him the controls.

"Thanks." Blair smiled, turning to get more comfortable, but grabbed his right leg when a searing pain shot up his calf and into his thigh. "Oww."

Jim sat on the coffee table, leaning forward to pat him on the arm. "Got a cramp?"

Blair shifted up a little more, talking between gritted teeth. "Something...my legs have been a little achy, but this is something else."

Jim reached forward, taking Blair's calf in his hands, squeezing firmly, but not too hard. Soon the pain eased and Blair lay back panting, sweat trickled down his neck and he wiped at it with his hand.

"Better?" Jim asked, hands still running up and down his leg, shifting to the other to squeeze and knead.

"Yeah, yeah. Thanks. I must have overdone it, running around in the woods from dig to dig."

"Maybe," Jim said, working on a tight knot in his right calf.

A little time passed, and Blair was just drifting. At some point Jim had stopped his impromptu massage and returned to the dinner preparations.

A hand on his shoulder shook him to wakefulness sometime later. He squinted open his eyes to see a bowl of soup and a few thick slices of bread sitting on the coffee table. Jim walked back into the room, carrying a mug and glass.

"Eat up." Jim told him, helping him sit up a little, stuffing some pillows behind his back.

It smelt really good, but just the thought of putting anything in his mouth made him feel sick. He picked up the bowl anyway, stirring the hot contents with his spoon. He took a small tentative sip and his stomach rumbled.

Jim smirked at him over his own mug. Blair took another sip and then another. He managed most of the soup this way, but he left the buttered bread on the plate. Jim took his plates away and came back with a bottle of Tylenol.

"I don't need that." He tried to sound convincing.

Jim just nodded, shaking out two pills before replacing the cap. "Humor me, okay?"

He downed the pills with a swallow of cola, putting his cup back on the coffee table.

Jim sat on the other sofa, flipping open the paper from this morning.

The room was quiet, except the occasional turn of paper. Blair flexed his neck and stretched his legs. He still felt achy, but it was getting better with the drugs that he had taken.

The next time he opened his eyes, the room was dark and he was hot. He pushed back the blankets and shivered, feeling suddenly cold.

What was going on?

He heaved himself up from the couch and walked stiffly to the bathroom. The achy feeling was back and now his back was hurting too. He left the light off as he used the john and splashed some cold water onto his face.

Now he was hot again.

Rummaging through the medicine cabinet, he found the bottle of Tylenol and dry swallowed two more.

As he walked backed to his own room, he shivered and shook, gooseflesh rose on his arms and exposed legs. He slid under his covers, teeth chattering he pulled the blankets closer to his chin, closing his eyes.

Soon the shaking faded and he slept.

********************

The alarm clock went off, and Jim shot his hand out to silence the annoying buzz.

He was still tired, having spent most of the night listening to Blair get up and down, but he had to go into the office this morning, so he reluctantly rolled out of bed and headed for the shower.

The warm water and steam worked out his kinks and woke him up. Once dried and dressed Jim stopped at the French doors to look in on his sleeping partner. Blair was turned away from him, but he looked to be sleeping soundly.

A second later, Blair's alarm went off, but his friend didn't even budge. Jim shut off the clock and perched on the end of the bed, running a hand down Blair's arm. "Rise and shine, Chief."

Blair let out a tiny groan and rolled over. Jim could see the flushed face and slightly red eyes. He put his hand back on Blair's forehead.

"I don't feel so swift," Blair admitted. "Maybe I got the flu from Jamie."

"Could be." Jim said, going to the bathroom for the Tylenol. He stopped by the kitchen to grab a bottle of water. By the time he got back to Blair, his friend had drifted back to sleep.

Tapping Blair's cheek, Jim ran his hand over Blair's head and down his face. "Feels like a fever."

"Jim?" Blair's eyes were puffy and cloudy and the tip of his nose was red.

"Here," Jim said, handing Blair the pills. "Take them."

Blair shifted forward, grabbing onto Jim arm for support. It took a couple of tries to swallow the pills, but soon he was settled back under his covers, one arm flung over his pale face.

Jim went to get another bottle of water and the portable phone. "I have to go in this morning, but I'll check on you this afternoon." He said as he made his way back to his friend's room, but Blair was already sleeping.

Sighing, Jim went to the kitchen to get his morning cup of coffee. He popped an English muffin into the toaster and grabbed the butter and sugar jar. When the toaster popped, he lathered on the butter and sprinkled sugar on top, wrapping them in a paper towel.

Glancing at the clock, he saw that he had just enough time to make it to the office before his task force meeting with some other members of Major Crimes. They were in the final stages of setting up a sting on a smash and grab theft ring.

With one more look in on his friend, he slipped from his apartment and headed into work.

********************

When Blair woke it was well after noon. Bright light spilled in through the fire escape door and Blair shifted his forearm up and over his eyes. Steady pounding pulsed behind his eyes and he squinted at the bedside table, seeing the bottle of pills and water.

After a few minutes, he rolled to his side and pushed up. The pounding flared, but after sitting still with his head in his hands he was able to pull himself up and walk slowly to the bathroom. The living room was cool and Blair shivered, feeling the steady ache in his back and legs.

A short trip to the thermostat told him the loft should be a comfortable 69 degrees, but his body was telling him a different story. He pushed the tiny lever to heat and upped the needle to 73.

His stomach rumbled, but he also felt a little nausea and didn't want to make the trip to the kitchen. He hunkered down on the sofa and buried himself under the blanket he left there the night before.

The TV didn't hold his interest, it was too hard to think and the light of the screen hurt his eyes and head. He rested his head back into his pillow and closed his eyes, teeth still chattering.

Sometime later a warm hand rested on his forehead. "Chief?"

Blair tried to open his eyes, but he only managed to peel them apart a slit.

"Your fever is up." Jim told him. "Did you take anymore Tylenol?"

He shook his head. He didn't, did he?

Maybe he did..."I don't remember."

Jim was quiet for a few seconds and then he started to pull Blair up. "Let's go."

Go? Where were they going?

Jim had him up and leaning against his side as he pulled his cell phone from his jacket. "Yeah, okay."

The phone hit the table with a small thump and Blair jumped. "Sorry, sorry Blair. I got through to Dr. Morgan. He said he could squeeze you in."

The idea of getting dressed and leaving his home was a little too much for his befuddled mind. "I don't want to go, man."

Jim shifted, leaning Blair's body against some pillows. "I know, Chief. I'll just get your shoes and we can go right in and see him, okay?"

Not even Blair believed that one. If his doctor was squeezing him in, they both were in for a wait. Jim returned with his sneakers, bending to guide his feet before lacing each one loosely. "Okay, you ready?"

"Jim." Blair leaned forward as his friend grabbed both of his arms. "It's probably just the flu." Half way up he doubled over in pain, a large knot snaked through his stomach and he gagged, not able to stop the fluid and bile from hitting the floor and dripping down the table. "I'm sorry..."

Jim was shushing him, leading him backward to the chair. "Don't worry. I got it."

He watched as Jim grabbed a few supplies and started to clean up his mess. His cheeks colored as the gooey slop was swiftly mopped and wiped up.

Jim stood in front of him again and reached for him. He got up on shaky legs and moved with his friend to the door. "I've got ya, Chief. Don't worry."

********************

The waiting room was crowded; all sorts of people lined the rows of chairs. Jim had found a few seats and Blair sat, head in hands until Jim pulled him back to lean against his shoulder.

A good forty minutes later his name was called and Blair was helped to his feet. Jim steadied him with one hand as he followed the nurse, Judy, to the exam room.

"I can see you don't feel too well." She stood off to the side as Jim helped him climb onto the exam table. He canted to the side and she grabbed his arm, helping him down to the table. "You a little dizzy?"

A slight moan came out when he opened his mouth.

"It's okay." She moved around the room, picking up things as she went, her long hair bouncing in its ponytail. "Probably got the grudge that's been going around."

She leaned over him to reach the blood pressure cuff attached to the wall and pulled his arm out. Once the cuff was secure, she pumped the bulb, listening with her stethoscope as the air deflated. One tiny hand wrapped around Blair's wrist as she slipped a sheathed thermometer into his ear. The device beeped and she pulled it out and looked at the display. "101."

She asked a few questions about his symptoms and the onset of his illness.

Jim stood nearby, but sank into the chair when Judy excused herself, telling them that

Dr. Morgan would be in soon.

The room was cool, or Blair was cool, he didn't know which. The door opened a short time later and Blair's doctor came in, carrying Blair's chart.

"I hear you're a little under the weather?" The young man said, pushing his wire rim glasses up a bit on his nose. He was tall and lanky, but smiled easily and didn't seem to take himself too seriously which was one of the reasons Blair chose him as a primary care provider.

"You could say that." Jim stood, taking Dr. Morgan's offered hand.

"And how are you, Mr. Ellison?"

"I'm fine. Blair's been not feeling well for a few days."

Dr. Morgan looked back toward Blair. "Let's take a look."

He helped Blair roll to his back, pressing against his chest with his stethoscope. He listened a few seconds before moving the instrument to another part of Blair's chest. "Your lungs seem clear."

"That's good." Blair said shifting a little on the table.

"I see you're shivering. Have you been having hot and cold spells?" Dr. Morgan asked, lifting his shirt and pressing his hand into Blair's belly.

"Yeah and I'm achy."

The exam went on for a few more minutes before Dr. Morgan moved away and picked up his chart. "I think it's just the flu."

Blair sighed, rolling to his side. "That's what I told Jim."

His roommate shot him a look, but Blair ignored him.

"Well," the doctor said, sitting on the rolling stool by the table. "You're a little dehydrated. It's a good thing Jim brought you in."

Now Jim was smirking at him. Great.

"I want you to get plenty of rest and drink, even if it does make you feel sick." The doctor told him. "Take Tylenol and luke warm baths will help with your fever and help you feel better."

Dr. Morgan stood, folding Blair's chart under his arm. "If you don't feel any better in a few days, come back and see me."

Blair nodded, feeling a little better.

Once the doctor left, Jim helped him up and out to the truck. "How ya doing, Chief?"

"Okay, I guess." The trip home was quiet but when they were almost home Blair's stomach decide to rebel. "Stop the truck."

Jim shot him a weird look, but pulled over. Blair had a little trouble with his seatbelt, but managed to get the door open and clear the sidewalk before he started to throw up. Jim stood behind him, hand rubbing small circles on his back. "Sorry, man."

"Hey, it's not my yard."

Blair looked up startled...oh, man.

********************

Jim helped Blair into the bath, pulling the curtain to give his friend some privacy. The water was just barely tepid and Blair complained as he sank into the full tub.

"Just wash off and you can get out...you're getting a little ripe." Jim grabbed a few towels and put them on the sink rim.

"Sorry." The water sloshed as Blair moved. Jim could hear the washcloth rubbing over his friend's feverish skin.

"Don't worry about it." The evening had gone fairly well, Blair hadnít been sick since the incident on the way home and wasn't that fun to explain to the woman standing on the front porch? His fever was back up a bit, but as long as it didn't go too high, they would be fine.

Out in the kitchen, Jim could hear Blair standing, water dripping and dribbling from his body and back into the tub. "Need any help?" he called.

"Nope...I got it." Blair came thought the door, wrapped in his robe, still dripping water. "I'm going to lay down."

Jim nodded, listening as Blair slumped into bed, struggling with his boxers and t-shirt. "I'll be in later with some soup and soda."

A muffled, "yeah," reached his ears as Blair pulled his shirt over his head.

Jim settled in and turned on the TV. The paperback book that he started to read the week before was still on the coffee table near his issue of 'Field and Stream', but he just didn't feel like reading tonight.

Finally he settled on a baseball game, the Orioles were playing his home team, but truth be told, he liked the Orioles better, even though his favorite player, Cal Ripkin, had retired.

The game was good, but he was tired and soon he started to drift, keeping one ear on the game and the other on Blair.

His roommate was tossing and turning for the most part, but at least he was sleeping and getting the rest that Dr. Morgan said he needed.

He wasn't sure how long he dozed but a heavy thump woke him and Jim jumped up and headed for Blair's room. He found his friend face down on the floor, still but breathing.

"Blair?" Jim kneeled near his friend, already feeling the heat rise from Blair's body. His hand went to Blair's head and he was hot...very hot...103 degrees at least.

He tugged and pulled until he had his friend rolled over to his back. "Come on, buddy. Let's get you back into bed and some Tylenol into you."

Blair only moaned as Jim manhandled him into his bed. Jim grabbed the blanket, but it was soaked with his friend's sweat. "Hang on, Chief...let me get you a clean blanket."

When Jim came back with the clean linen, Blair had rolled over and away from the door, shoulders shaking, and his body rigid. Just as he was spreading out the blanket, Jim caught sight of the bottom of Blair's feet. "What the hell?"

The right foot was covered with tiny splotches and a few more peppered the left. Blair moaned again as Jim sat near his hip and picked up his foot. "I think we need to make another trip to the doctors, buddy."

********************

He could feel Jim hauling him up, his friends hands on his arms, pulling. A wave of heat flushed through his body, followed by a cold spell. He sat where Jim left him, watching through hooded eyes as his roommate rummaged through his drawers, trying to find something warmer than the boxer shorts and t-shirt he wore to bed.

Hands on the hem of his shirt yanked upward and a slight gasp sounded in the tiny room. "What?"

Jim leaned down, running a soft hand over Blair's sweaty back. "You got a rash back here too."

Blair craned his neck, hand automatically going to his sore shoulders, but not able to see what Jim was talking about.

"It's not too bad, just take it easy." Jim helped him negotiate his head and arms into a long sleeve shirt and maneuver his legs into a pair of sweats. "Your feet are like ice."

"My feet are always cold." He shivered as socks enclosed his feet and his sneakers were twisted on.

"Not usually this cold." Jim told him, standing and holding out his hand.

Blair grasped the offered help and stood on shaky legs. It took some patience on Jim's part and a lot of work on his to make it to the elevator, sweat poured from his body and he was panting on the ride down.

Jim was on his cell phone, taking to the answering service for Dr. Morgan. "The lady said she would page Dr. Morgan, but to go on to the E.R."

Blair could barely nod, his head felt thick and heavy, even with the support of Jim's arm around his shoulder.

The waiting room of Mercy General was crowded, even for this time of the night, or morning...whatever. Thinking made his head hurt. A man on the other side of the large room was singing a little off key and way too loud, a toddler sat across from him, squirming and screaming in his mother's arms, and a heavy...okay, fat man was sprawled in a seat a few chairs over from Blair, his greasy unwashed belly hanging out from the hem of his shirt made Blair's stomach knot again.

Jim had left him there, going off to talk to someone, but came back just when Blair was sure the body odor of the fat guy was going to do him in. His friend sat between them and Blair wondered how Jim could stand the stench of unwashed flesh. An arm snaked behind him, one hand rubbing up and down his shaking back.

"The triage nurse will come and get us soon."

Blair closed his eyes, willing the sounds and smells of the room away, wishing that he were back in his own bed suffering in peace and silence.

All too soon, Jim was tapping his arm. "Come on, Chief. We're up."

Up was one thing that he was sure he did not want to be. The nurse brought a wheel chair with her and Blair was manhandled into it, the singing man hit one last loud, sour, obnoxious note as Blair was wheeled though the double doors leading back to the treatment room.

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg. I talked with your friend and I know you're not doing so good, so let's get you undressed and onto the table." The voice drifted somewhere above him as his whole existence was tilted on its axis. Soon his head hit something firm, but soft hands were pulling at him, bending his arms and lifting his hips. A scratchy gown was draped over him and his arms were pushed though the sleeves before a thin sheet was tossed over his body...and then it all faded.

He thought he was sleeping until something tight wrapped around his arm and something else was forced into his mouth. "Jim?" he mumbled around it.

"Right here. It's okay, the nurse is just checking you over."

"The doctor ordered some blood tests, Mr. Sandburg. You're going to feel a little prick."

"I'm cold." Blair chattered; his teeth firmly clinched together.

"I'll get you another blanket in a minute."

His wrist was bent forward and fingers tapped against the raised veins of his hand. A needle slid in, then out. A sharp, brief burn snaked across his hand and then the needle slid in again. "I'm sorry. I got it this time."

He turned his head on the pillow, managing to open his heavy eyes. Jim's brown trousers came into view, his friend's hand rested on one raised bed rail. "Jim."

The body before him seemed to shrink, and Jim's face was suddenly at eye level, swimming in and out of focus. "It's okay. You still have a fever. They're concerned about the rash, so they are running some tests. Just relax."

Closing his eyes, he shifted a fraction, startled to find a strange, but somewhat familiar pull from down below when he moved.

When did that happen? His eyes popped back open.

"Close your eyes and rest, Chief. The doctor said he would be back in a little while to check on you again."

The doctor was already in to see him?

********************

Jim held the receiver of the pay phone closer. "They're not sure, Simon. It could be a virus or fungus. It might be bacterial...the doctor mentioned Meningitis...they started him on antibiotics. But his fever is still pretty high. He's been in and out...sometimes he's not all there. Okay, I'll tell him."

Hanging up, he turned back to the elevator, a cold cup of vending machine coffee still in his hand. The sun was just coming up, chasing shadows from the floor of the waiting room. Large bay windows covered the south wall; a brilliant view of Cascade harbor lay in the distance and Jim wondered if Blair's room would have a similar view. He had been admitted a few minutes ago, the doctor worried that Blair had something more than a case of the flu.

A little later in the morning, Jim was going to call Blair's friend Jamie and ask about his symptoms. Check with the campus to see if any of the other students on the trip had been showing any signs of sickness. Whatever this was, it could be something going around the campus. The thought of Meningitis fleeted though his mind again. He knew that Blair had told him about being inoculated...but he wasn't sure if that covered both forms...

Just before going up to his room, Blair had woken, confused, his speech slightly slurred; saying that his feet and hands felt tingly, but had fallen right back to sleep. Jim worried, but the nurse told him it could be a side effect of the drugs.

The hall was still dim and only one nurse manned the desk about halfway down the hall. She gave him an inquisitive look, but he only nodded a short greeting before continuing on to the room he knew Blair was in.

Another nurse was still in with his friend. Blair lay half covered and she ran a damp cloth over his clammy skin, looking up when Jim entered. "I'm Jim...Blair's friend."

She smiled, going back to wipe the cloth over Blair's chest and down both arms. Jim could already feel the heat rolling off the prone form of his friend. A gown was pulled up and snapped around Blair's arms after a few gentle tugs and pulls.

She sat a basin aside, smelling faintly chemical. "Visiting hours start at ten o'clock. Dr. Morgan called up to tell us you wanted to make sure your friend was settled, but you can only stay a few minutes." She pulled a warm looking blanket up around Blair's chin, tucking the arm without the IV under the covers. "He's cooling off a little."

Jim nodded as she passed, pulling the visitor chair a little closer to the bed before sitting. "I'm here, Chief. I've already called Simon to tell him I wasn't coming in and let him know you're here so...I guess I'll go grab a shower and something to eat. I'll be back soon." He patted his friend's arm as he stood.

Looking back one more time at the doorway he frowned, seeing that Blair's skin was already beading, a tiny trail of sweat working its way down his friend's face and into the pillow that supported his head.

He stopped at the nurse's station, making sure that they had his phone and cell number. "He's already looking hot again."

The nurse from earlier pulled a chart from the trolley sitting off to the side and flipped it open. "He's got a few more hours before we can give him anything else, but I'll make sure to mention it to the doctor in morning rounds."

Jim walked slowly through the parking lot to his truck, a little surprised that the gates to the pay parking lot were raised. On the trip home he thought about the things that Blair might need, making a mental list. It was only 6:15 am. He had plenty of time to get together some comfort items and keep his mind occupied.

********************

Gloved hands smoothed over his heated skin. It took a bit of time, but Blair managed to pry open his sticky eyes. A woman stood beside his bed, inspecting his arm from elbow to wrist, then pushed up the sleeve of his gown to look at his bicep, lifting his arm above his head to see the underside, her fingers brushed over some itchy spots, making his skin crawl and demand to be scratched.

She smiled at him when she caught his stare. "Just relax Mr. Sandburg. I'm just looking for any obvious bite marks. Can you remember being bitten by any insect?"

He shook his head, mouth too dry to answer. Swallowing painfully, he looked to the wall, squinting at the clock.

"It's almost noon." His leg was uncovered and moved around. He shivered, waiting for her to finish.

"Hey, Chief."

Blair tried to smile as his friend entered the room, a blue plastic grocery bag in one hand. Jim stopped next to the bed, a perplexed expression marring his face. "What are you doing?"

The nurse looked up, finishing with Blair's foot, she tucked him back under the covers. "Some test results are in. We have ruled out Meningitis and some other insect borne diseases, but Dr. Morgan wanted an inspection of the dermas to see if we can see any insect punctures."

What?

"Oh..." Jim sank into the chair, waiting as the nurse looked over his chest and torso.

"Why..." his voice squeaked, a prickly pain silencing him, his tongue felt too big for his mouth.

She looked at him, pulling up his covers. "Your blood cultures are being reevaluated, Mr. Sandburg. We know you don't have a tic borne infection and we know it's not Meningitis...but we're still waiting on some of the results."

She tucked the blankets around him, smacking lightly at his hand as he began to scratch his belly through his gown and sheet. "Try not to scratch."

He nodded, but his hand drifted over to his side as she turned to leave. "Stop that."

Blair looked up startled, forgetting that Jim was in the room. "Sorry."

Jim sat forward and picked up the bag he brought with him. "I got your portable CD player. Thought you might like to listen to some music."

Maybe music would help him relax and forget about the awakening itch. Jim helped him put the earphones on and he relaxed back against the pillows as his friend dug through the bag to find a good CD.

The music helped for a little while, but soon he became restless, drifting in and out. He felt a lot clearer minded, probably because the medicines were working to keep his temperature down.

After a while his hips began to ache and he longed to just roll over. Looking to where his friend was sitting; he frowned at the empty chair. Jim must have left when he was dozing.

"I'm here, Chief." His friends voice sounded from the other side of the room and Blair turned his head toward the window. Jim was standing still, looking out at the setting sun.

"You okay, Jim?" Blair tried to move, but his back was killing him.

"I'm okay. The doctor was in a little while ago. They know what's wrong with you." Jim turned and moved closer, resting a hand on Blair's bed rail.

"Um...okay." He was hot again, the sheets were sticking to his back as he shifted. Jim lowered the rail and took hold of his shoulder.

"Let me help you." Jim pulled on him and he was eased onto his side, facing the window.

"So...is it bad." Blair didn't like that Jim didn't tell him right away and how come he couldn't remember the doctor coming in?

"It's caused by an infection spread by mosquitoes. It's West Nile Virus."

"Wh...what?" A cool chill sweep through him...he had heard of this virus before.

"It's caused by birds, which pass the virus onto mosquitoes. You must have been bitten." Jim patted his shoulder before raising the rail. "It's just like any other virus in that it has to run its course."

Jim plopped in the chair he pulled around. Blair didn't know what to say or even what to ask. "Doc Morgan said that there could be some serious side effects, but they're monitoring you closely. Really all they can do is treat the symptoms and keep you comfortable. Hopefully you'll be able to go home in a few days."

Jim sounded like he was repeating something he heard and he didn't make a lot of eye contact with Blair.

"Is there something you're not telling me?" Blair leaned up and rested his head in his hand, elbow bent and supported by his pillow.

Jim sat up a bit straighter, but smiled. "Nah...you'll be good as new in no time."

Falling back onto his pillow Blair closed his eyes. "That's good." A little yawn escaped. He couldn't believe he was tired again. He opened his eyes, but Jim wasn't there and the room was dark. Huh??

"Jim?"

A little panicked he fumbled for the call button. A man he didn't recognize came in, smiling. "Something wrong, Mr. Sandburg?"

"I uh...I was just wondering what happened to my friend Jim."

The nurse looked a little confused. "Well, when I came on a few hours ago, you were alone. I'm sure he just went home when visiting hours were over."

OH...

"Um...what time is it?" Blair pulled up his legs, realizing he was now turned and facing the door.

"It's a little after midnight." The man moved closer, checking a few monitors and the bag at the end of his bed. "You still feeling hot?"

Blair took a few deep breaths. He was tired and a little hot. He probably just drifted off to sleep and Jim headed home.

Nothing to worry about.

Right?

"Um...a little. Can I use the phone?"

********************

Jim came into the slightly dimmed room. The nurse on shift this morning told him that Blair wanted to call him the night before, but his friend was rambling and not making a lot of sense. Probably just the fever the nurse assured...but that didn't make him feel any better.

A cooling blanket rested over Blair and Jim could see fine tremors course through his friend's body. Apparently Blair had spiked a fever early in the morning and they had to give him some intravenous drugs and use the blanket to control it. Now Blair seemed cold, but Jim could still sense the heat coming from his friend's body...not a high fever, but still there.

He moved closer, dropping a bag he brought with him with Blair's clothes and stood closer to the bed. Dr. Morgan was pretty confident that once he had Blair's fever under control, his friend could go home to recover...so he brought Blair some clothes, hoping that by the evening he could take his friend home.

One hand moved forward, touching Blair's warm cheek...a small grimace appeared on his friend's face...Blair's eyes scrunched tight. "It's okay, Blair. You're getting better."

"Hmmm."

Jim used his hand to smooth some hair back, to comfort, but mostly to check Blair's temperature. "Are you awake?"

"Noooo." Blair's voice cracked and he tried to swallow. Jim could see the slight puffiness under his friend's chin.

"Well, since you're still asleep, you won't mind if I go get some coffee." Jim kept his hand on Blair's head, watching the struggle to come to full wakefulness.

"Huh?"

Well, that at least was a little more coherent.

"You want something cold to drink?" The shivers increased and Blair's head moved from side to side.

"Freeeezing." Teeth chattering started to prove the point and Jim moved his hand lower, resting it on his friend's chest.

"I know. You're under a cooling blanket for a little while...you're still warm." Jim looked around, spotting a fresh bucket of ice with a few small cartons of apple and grape juice. A covered breakfast tray sat off to the side and Jim opened it one handed to find some dry toast and a banana. "Yellow or Purple?"

"Huh?" Eyes finally opened as Jim reached for the cup and lid on the tray table. He opened a carton of grape juice and held it up for Blair to see. "Oh...I want yellow...gold, really."

Making a small face, Jim sat the carton down and poured some apple juice into the cup. "Why do you always go for the apple?"

Blair sipped carefully. "Cause grape is too tart and makes me make funny faces...but you know that. OW."

Jim nearly dropped the juice carton he was playing with. "What?"

Blair sat very still, gripping his cup just a little too tight. "I'm okay...just pulled a tube..."

"Oh...Ohhhhh. You want me to get the nurse?" Jim reached for the call button, but Blair grabbed for his arm.

"No...no. I'm good." The juice was sat aside and Blair shifted over on his own, plumping his pillow. The blanket slid down and Jim reached forward to pull it back up. Blair rolled his eyes. "Gee...thanks."

Jim sat...a small smile emerged. "Think nothing of it. So you seem to feel a little better. How's the head?"

"Headache is still there, but better," Blair admitted. "And the rash is clearing up."

"Good." Jim sat up a little and grabbed the gym bag he brought with him. "I brought some clothes. Dr. Morgan said as soon as the fever breaks, you could go home."

"Really?" A tiny cough escaped his friend, but his eyes were bright...more alert than Jim had seen in days.

"Yup..."

********************

The next evening Blair was released. He felt like crap...but better. Currently he was tucked into his bed, the firmness of his mattress and the softness of his own pillow and blanket comforting.

Jim was puttering around in the kitchen, trying to find something Blair could handle for dinner.

Blair turned on his side, trying to stifle his cough.

"You okay, Chief?"

Jim stuck his head in the doorway as Blair tried to contain the spasm in his chest...each tiny movement sending a dull jolt to his stomach.

"Yeah...can you bring my laptop?" Jim bowed ever so slightly and saluted. "So not funny, man."

A short while later, Blair was propped on some pillows, eating some orange jello. It went down easy and didn't really bother the few sores in his mouth.

Jello.

He didn't even know they had jello, let alone that Jim would make it for him before he made a grocery run.

He was feeling a little tired and sore from trying not to cough. His neck was still a bit stiff and puffy from swollen glands, but over all he was feeling better. His rash was even clearing up for the most part. He had one itchy patch on his back that he couldn't quite reach and it was making him crazy.

His eyes scanned the web page he pulled up. He found a site with the signs and symptoms for West Nile. It was a little odd, because he had a few symptoms not listed, but the site said that the disease varied from person to person.

The section on encephalitis was scary and he suspected that was why Jim was a little off earlier in the week. He knew he was talking out of his head sometimes, but those moments were too fuzzy...

The front door swung open and bags were deposited onto the kitchen counter. "You still doing okay?" Jim called.

"Yeah." Blair pulled himself up and slipped from the bed. The bathroom was calling so he carefully made his way down the hall, one hand outstretched in case he got dizzy.

It took a few minutes and he moaned when the flow finally started.

Great.

What else?

"You need any help?" Jim was close to the other side of the door.

"Nope..."

When he came out a little later, Jim was setting the table.

"Um...can we eat in here?" Blair headed for the couch, resting his head back on the cushion.

Eyes closed, he breathed in deep, exhaustion just rolled off of him in waves.

The cushion next to him dipped and he opened his eyes. Jim was setting the bed tray over his lap, holding a bowl of some kind of soup and a few crackers.

"Can we watch some TV?" Jim asked, knowing that the TV had bothered him earlier.

Blair nodded, spotting a cup with what looked like pudding.

"Sure...Butterscotch?"

Jim smiled, handing Blair a spoon. He scooped up a mouthful of pudding even as Jim protested.

"Hungry?" Jim asked, picking up his sandwich to take a bite and flipping on the TV.

Blair smirked around a mouthful of pudding. "A little."

The phone rang a while later and Jim scooped it up. "Hello."

Blair was still playing with his soup, now cool and congealing.

"Yeah, he's right here." Jim handed him the phone.

"Hello?" He looked to his friend, eyebrows slightly raised. Jim jumped up and took his tray to the kitchen. "Oh...hey, Jamie. I'm good. You are...sorry to hear you don't feel so well. You do? Oh, um..." He shot a quick look to the kitchen. Jim was washing up, back turned from him, but he was holding himself a little to straight. "Well, thanks for thinking of me, but I don't think I can make it...yeah, I still need some more recovery time...hey, have you tried Brad. I hear he likes desert climates. Yeah, okay...get better."

He pressed the off button and tossed the cordless to the coffee table. Jim returned with a dish of ice cream, chocolate sauce dripped down the sides and onto Blair's fingers when his friend handed him the dish.

"Jamie under the weather again?" Jim asked casually, picking up the remote to find a movie on Primetime.

"Yeah...it's funny how he always gets sick when he has something big coming up." Blair dug in, enjoying the cool feeling on his sore throat. A tiny cough buddled up, but he held it back, one hand pressed firmly into his sore stomach. "He's not on campus this semester. He's got a group going on an expedition in a few days. They'll be gone a few months."

"Months?" Jim asked, looking from the TV to Blair.

"Yeah...he's got this throat thing going on. Thinks it's his tonsils or something."

The room was quiet for a little bit. Blair finished his cool dessert and Jim took the dish before he could even make a move to put it down.

"Thanks, man." He caught sight of the tribal mask he left leaning against the wall. Standing, he waited until he felt steady enough to move toward it. A single nail stuck from the brick surface and he remembered his aborted attempt to hang it. Carefully leaning over, he picked up the artifact, startled as hands joined his to hang it on the wall.

Blair stepped back, aware of Jim's closeness in case he felt woozy. "Looks good."

"Yeah." Jim agreed, hovering close as he made his way back to the couch, feeling worn out. "Told you it would."

Blair leaned over, resting his head on a throw pillow. Jim pulled his legs up and the blanket down to cover him. "Yeah...you did. Thanks Jim."

Patting his leg Jim moved into the kitchen, "Anytime, Chief. Anytime."

The End

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