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.

Author's Notes: Okay, I know this is kind of a cop-out, because obviously there is another half of the story (Blair's half, actually) and I will write it, I promise, someday. Until then, you're stuck with this. Any claims to quality for this little piece are purely thanks to Techgrrl, who betas like a champ.

Warnings: Bad language. Again. As usual. Sorry.

Rampage

By DCStreets

********************
James Ellison sighed in resigned frustration when he saw the cheery "Sorry, Out of Order!" on the doors of the elevator at 852 Prospect. Of course the elevator was out of order. With the way his week was going, the stairs would probably be out of order too. He had a sudden, ridiculous image of himself climbing up the outside of the building, like a Sentinel superhero. Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor broken elevators shall keep this protector of the peace from his hard-earned rest. No, that was the postal service...what was it...oh yeah. Faster than a speeding snail. More powerful than a broken slinky. Able to climb multiple stairs in a single, complaint-filled stagger. It's a bird; it's a plane; it's--SUPERSENTINEL.

The exhaustion-fueled humor propelled him up the first flight of stairs. But for the rest of what seemed a punitively long journey, Jim had only visions of his bed to pull him upwards. By the time he reached his door, he was grimacing wryly. So much for superheroism. Just let me sleep.

He had his key in the lock before recognizing what his senses were telling him--the door was not even completely closed. Dammit, Sandburg. How am I supposed to keep this place from becoming bad-guy central if you're practically issuing invitations?He had to push the door open against some sort of blockage--looking down, he saw Blair's backpack.

"One week, Sandburg," he muttered angrily, shoving the bag aside with his foot. "I'm gone one week and you let the loft go to hell." He cast a furious glance around the rest of his home, his castle dammit, and maybe it was time to go over the house rules again, because...

Broken glass on the floor, decorations torn down and methodically destroyed, stray marks and scuffs on the walls, marks in--marks from--

Smell of blood, salt, fear...

Shit! Jim pulled out his gun in a smooth, practiced motion, furious that his exhausting week could have made him overlook the obvious signs: the door unlatched, the loft not so much robbed as tossed for maximum impact.

Extending his hearing, he could find only one heartbeat within the confines of the loft--an agitated, racing flutter, overlain by harsh breathing and coming from Blair's room.

"Sandburg!" Jim hissed, keeping his voice down in case his auditory scan of the situation had been wrong. Moving quickly to the closed door of Blair's small space, he stood with his gun at the ready, every muscle straining to move as he listened once more to the sounds from inside the room. Strained, gasping breaths and muffled groans were most obvious, although there was also a hint of a rhythmic thumping, as if Blair were hitting something. He could smell more blood in the room.

Nudging the door open, he stayed behind the cover of the wall until he could see that Blair was the room's only occupant. His roommate was huddled in the corner of the room, slowly rocking into the wall so that the back of his head beat a dull percussion against the plaster.

"Chief?"

There was no reaction, and Jim felt another icy chill crawl down his spine. The loft had been ransacked, and this...this was scary. Keeping his gun in hand, Jim moved over to crouch a few feet from his partner. After a long moment of silence, the figure in the corner slowly raised its head.

"Jesus, Blair. What the hell happened?" Jim was horrified by what he saw in Blair's eyes. Bloodshot eyes stared out of the pinched mask of his partner's face. Deep midnight-blue shadows under his eyes made him look sickeningly like the junkies Jim often encountered in the course of his work.

But the worst thing was the pain--the utter, bone-deep despair that Jim could see in the otherwise empty gaze. Jim closed his own eyes against the sudden flashback to Peru, to Sergeant Nicholson's grimacing, generous smile. "Make it quick, Cap." Nick couldn't move--broken neck--but he kept that grin, kept eye contact with--until-- Nick hadn't looked like this, never burdened his buddy with his final despair, but Jim had no doubt that this empty shell facing him now was much like what Incacha had reclaimed--the only life salvaged--

Shaking his head to dispel the memory, Jim reached out slowly, as if approaching a wild dog. Blair showed no sign of even realizing that he was there, just continued his ceaseless metronomic assault on the wall behind him. Jim glanced at the wall and noted the growing bloodstain with a feeling of sick disbelief. How long had this been going on? Receiving no recognition from his partner, he finally took the risk and made contact, placing his hand on Blair's cheek and gently holding him still.

"Chief? You with me, buddy?" No response. He couldn't see any major injuries, but the blood--

There was blood smeared across Blair's hands, and Jim took them gently, checking the damage. Broken skin, bruises, but no bone damage. He slipped his hand from Blair's cheek up around the back of his head, delicately tracing the damage where yielding skin had met unyielding wall. The injury was superficial, nothing to explain this catatonic state.

"Blair, I need you to tell me what's going on, okay? Come on, Chief, help me out here."

Blair blinked.

"Okay, that's a start." Encourage the small steps, Jim thought with grim humor. "Come on, Blair, give me a little more to go on. I need to know what happened."

Another blink. With all the speed and urgency of tectonic movement, the wide-empty eyes focused. Jim forced himself not to step back in the face of the pinpoint horror that now reproached him.

"Chief?"

The harsh breathing sped up as Blair raised one shaking hand to Jim's shoulder. "J--"

Small steps, Jim reminded himself. "Yeah, buddy, it's me. It's Jim."

"Jim?" The sudden cry, feral with pain, shocked Jim back a pace. Blair surged upwards, grabbing Jim's arms with painful pressure. "Jim!" He managed a deep, rattling breath as his eyes widened and rolled back. Jim caught him just before his head hit the wall--again.

Jim stood for a second, monitoring his now-unconscious friend. "Okay. We're making progress."

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

"No. No sign of any of that. Just...well, yeah. Yep. I have it on good authority that I'm dead."

Jim looked down at the huddled form of his roommate--who refused, even in sleep, to release his grip on Jim's hand. Jim felt a vague sense of relief that videophones were not yet a part of his life. No need for Simon to see this.

"No, of course you didn't tell him I was--my god, Simon, you're brusque, not vicious. No. No, I know that." Jim switched the phone to his right hand, and as if of its own volition, his left hand drifted down to Blair's back to trace soothing patterns. "But if you didn't tell him..." Wincing slightly, Jim muffled his hearing and brought the phone closer to his ear to keep Simon's rant from waking Blair.

"Simon. Simon! Look, all I know--and it's not much because Sandburg kept getting hysterical-- He thinks you came by his office a week ago...No, his timing's all off. He thinks tomorrow night was last week. Anyway...wait. Okay, from the beginning. In the Sandburg Universe, I got home from the conference on Sunday...right, like I did. Only this was days ago in Sandburg's world. Yeah, scary at the best of times. Then the next day I went to work and in the afternoon you came by his office with the bad news."

Jim was shocked to find his throat closing up--Blair's obvious misery over this memory had been more painful than he could have imagined. Yeah, they'd become friends--good friends. Partners. And god knows Jim would be a wreck if--but this devastation that Blair obviously felt at the loss of his friend... He didn't know whether to be flattered or terrified.

Pragmatically, he settled for a mixture of both.

He suddenly realized that there had been silence on both ends of the line. "Simon?" He could hear Simon clearing his throat. Guess I have even more to be flattered or terrified about. Just my luck.

At Simon's question, he sighed. "No. The loft's a mess and he's not great, but he's not hurt bad. No. Split knuckles, some bruises..." no need to mention a self-inflicted head-injury to the man who controlled the observer pass. "It's like he went on a rampage...yeah, our peacenik. Oh yeah, Simon, I would be flattered if it weren't for the fact that he changed his MO in my loft. It's going to take me days to clean this up."

Blair whined quietly, and Jim lowered his voice while shifting to lean over his partner protectively. "No. No, I don't know what happened. I mean, it's not just...his timeline's off. Something happened..." He paused, then gritted his teeth and continued. "Look, Simon. You're not going to like this...yeah, your least-favorite words, I know, but it is a Sentinel Th--okay, okay. But when's the last time you saw Sandburg?"

If the situation hadn't been so serious, Jim would have had to smile at his captain's quick list of all the ways he and the rest of his department had kept track of and entertained their observer while Jim was away. Blair must have been going crazy with that many babysitters in his life. Finally Simon reached the end of his exhaustive list, culminating in dinner with the kid just the night before.

Jim said, "Simon, you're going to have trouble with this...I know, how's this different, huh? But he hasn't eaten in days. Hell, I don't think he's slept in days either..." No need to mention the shower issue. "Yeah, I know you fed him last night. I'm just telling you, I can sense these things...it's easier with him, he's a special case, okay? And yes, I could give you your precise doughnut count...okay, okay. But Simon..." Jim trailed off, looking around at the wrecked loft again before returning his gaze to the shaking, oblivious man in his lap. "Simon, some of the blood's days old. No. No, I know you saw him last night. I'm just telling you that somehow he had dinner with you while also managing to have a week of hell--no food, no sleep, no comfort--thinking I was dead."

There was a long pause, which Jim filled with another impression of his partner. Under the blood and tears and sweat and panic he could smell the sour taint of dehydration and the spine-itching stink of hunger. Even in sleep, Blair's breathing was quick and harsh, and his heartbeat was still stuttering far too fast. Blair's hair was matted with blood, and Jim's sensitive fingers could detect the livid rows of raised, torn skin where Blair had scoured his arms with his nails. Jim purposefully avoided glancing down at those broken hands for confirmation.

Pulling back from his scan, Jim realized that there had been only one quiet word in response from Simon. He smiled grimly. "Yeah. I think that pretty much covers it."

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

Giving up on convincing Blair to release him any time soon, Jim finally manhandled them both into Blair's room and spent an uncomfortable night on the small futon. Blair went through periods of incessant moaning, waking with frantic cries, holding Jim in an octopus grip even when he did fall back to sleep for all-too-short periods. After a week in a hotel-room, Jim had reached a level of exhaustion that was physically painful; having Blair clinging to him pitifully didn't help the situation. But somehow it seemed churlish to complain about a bad night's sleep when his friend was basically scattered wreckage by the--greatly exaggerated--report of his death.

He must have fallen asleep at some point, because Simon's voice awakened him. Not what I need, he thought, before realizing that first, he wasn't in fact stuck to his roommate like gum to the bottom of a desk and second, Simon wasn't actually in the loft. No, it was just the dulcet tones of duty, droning through the speaker of the answering machine.

Ask not for whom the captain calls--he calls for thee.

Groaning softly, Jim attempted to roll over, only to find his hands pinned above his head. "Chief, wake up." He was still trapped. "Sandburg, get off me so I can..." and then the superior senses kicked in and he realized that he was held in place not by his partner's sleeping form, but by his own handcuffs. Attached solidly to the frame of the futon.

Okay.

"Sandburg!" A quick multisensory scan of the loft--the first snort of the day was always so much fun, dust and exhaust and...oh, coffee, okay--confirmed that he and Blair were the only occupants. And unless I'm cuffing myself in my sleep now...

I have my kinky side, but that's a bit much.

"Sandburg!" He pulled against the cuffs, testing and proving that he was, in fact, firmly secured to the futon. You had to teach him effective restraint techniques, didn't you?

"...know I said you could take the day off, but Seattle just called to graciously inform us that they've lost track of two prisoners and that at least one of them is expected to head back to Cascade. I need you in here. Bring Sandburg if--no, convince him to get some sleep. Just get your ass in here." The gruff voice paused. "Sorry, Jim, no rest for the weary."

The answering machine fell silent, and Jim was free to focus his attention on his situation. "You know, Sandburg, when I get handcuffed to a bed, I generally..." He stopped. "Never mind. Need-to-know basis."

"Thanks, man."

"Oh, so you're deigning to talk to me?"

Blair slowly walked into Jim's field of vision. "Have you shut up long enough to feel the lack?" He smiled shakily, and Jim felt a large measure of his banked wrath melt at the sight of his partner.

God help me if Sandburg ever figures out what a sucker I am. Because, realistically, feeling protective and worried about the person who's just handcuffed you...

Well, since when has my life been realistic?

Reality has left the building. "So, you gonna let me up to piss, Sandburg?"

Blair looked uncomfortable. "Actually...no. So, can you hold it?"

Jim shrugged. "Yeah. A while." As Jim saw it, there were two ways this conversation could go. And he was really too tired to yell so, surreal as it was, they were going to take it calmly. "Not sure what you're going to do when that changes." He forced himself not to follow Blair's glance, not wanting to see whatever it was that had drawn that squeamish flicker--oh. A plastic urinal. From the last time he was shot. Trust Sandburg to know where that is when he can't find his own shoes.

"So," Jim began.

Blair twitched slightly, then shifted. "So."

"You going to let me go to work?"

"I think you need a day off."

"I think Simon has other ideas."

"I think he's going to be disappointed." Blair smiled again, and Jim felt a trickle of unease crawl down his spine. Taking a step back with faked nonchalance, Blair slid down the wall until he was seated on the floor.

Jim maneuvered himself into a more-comfortable position facing him. "Sandburg, you need to let me go to work."

Picking idly at the hole in the knee of his jeans, Blair shook his head. A curtain of matted curls hid his face, but Jim could tell from his posture that he was looking stubborn. "No."

"Chief, I know something happened. I know it was rough. But--"

"You don't know shit!" The sudden shout assaulted his sensitive hearing, and Jim winced backwards. When he looked over again, Blair was on his feet. "You don't know...you know nothing! Nothing. You don't...you don't, okay? You just don't."

Okay. "Okay, I don't know. But I do know I have to get to work. There's a tribe to protect, Sandburg, I need--"

"What?"

It was hard to stay calm, watching Blair pace and listening to him yell, but Jim tried.

"Chief--" His second attempt at finishing the sentence was no more effective than the first, as Blair interrupted him again furiously.

"What? What do you need, man? You need water? Right here." He grabbed a bottle from his desk and stalked over to Jim's side. "You need food, I'll cook. You need coffee? It's ready. You need to go off and get yourself killed? Well fuck that. Not a chance! You're not going anywhere, Jim. You're staying here. The tribe can go soak its head, man, because the guide has a sentinel to protect."

"Chief...Blair--" Jim wished that he could get up; this would be a perfect time to grab Blair and not let go till he'd talked some sense into him. Sandburg nixed that option, though, didn't he? "Blair, I know something weird went on here. I know-- Honestly it's only been a week. I don't doubt reality. But I also don't doubt that for you it was longer." He intended to go on...but was stopped by the naked pain in Blair's eyes.

"For me? Jim, you have no idea."

"So tell me." He couldn't face trying to browbeat Sandburg into releasing him, and since he wouldn't be getting out of the cuffs on his own, he might as well listen. He tugged at his restraints again, establishing beyond doubt his inability to get free. The observer was getting to be a pretty damn good cop. Ironic, huh? Alanis, eat your heart out.

Obviously expecting further protest, Blair stood belligerent in the middle of the room. Slowly his stance relaxed as Jim's words made an impression. He seemed to deflate, falling in on himself without the scaffold of his anger, ending up cross-legged on the floor by the bed.

Jim watched him in concern, strangely regretting the departure of the anger that had given Blair a false strength. This wasn't the partner he was used to. When Blair spoke, the words sounded distant, like a campfire story two tents away.

"Simon came by the school--I was helping a student, but I don't remember who. It was obvious something was wrong. Simon was--" He gave a kind of choking laugh. "Man, that's not a color that's going to be hot next season in Paris, that kind of gray-brown. He looked half dead himself, and I was worried about him. I remember trying to get him to sit down, figured he was sick, maybe about to have a heart attack, I don't know. He was trying to get me to sit down, and I think I knew what was coming before I let myself know, you know?"

Strangely enough, Jim did. He nodded, but Blair continued, oblivious.

"I don't remember...I don't think I did anything like identify the..." Blair leaned forward suddenly, wrapping his arms around his stomach. "...anything. But I do...I think I remember throwing up a lot. Everything's kind of blurry. Even last night, but I think I lost some of the memories overnight. If I knew exactly what happened, I wouldn't have to do this!" He jerked his head towards Jim's shackled hands, and Jim found himself in the odd position of comforting his captor.

"It's okay, Chief. I know everything's kind of confused." A worrying thought infiltrated. "Chief, do you think there's any chance...does changing this mean that someone else is at risk? Because I can't let that happen..." he pulled suddenly at his bound hands. "I can't let someone else take this for me."

Blair was suddenly beside him, holding his wrists to remove the pressure from the cuffs. "No, man, no. There's no way that's going to happen. I can't believe they would give me this chance and then twist it like that."

"They?" Jim hadn't really considered a source for this weirdness.

"Yeah, you know..." Blair seemed oddly reticent. "The spirit guides. Incacha."

"What makes you think--"

"He was at the funeral."

Oh. Okay. Okay? "Incacha was at my funeral?"

"Yeah. I thought it was kind of weird, too. I mean, I kind of hoped he'd be helping you out, you know. Welcome-wagon for the afterlife. But I guess he was helping me out. Didn't feel that way at the time, though." Blair shifted back on his heels, still with his hands resting lightly on Jim's wrists. "He just sort of nodded to me. He was on the other side of your...you know. And I knew that he was there to give me a message, but you were dead." His voice broke. "The only message I seemed to be getting was 'You Failed', and I remember thinking if he had just given me some warning--I would have done anything..."

Blair laughed suddenly, a bitter huff of laughter that once again had Jim's skin crawling to escape. "So now I know it was a warning, but...I kind of thought I'd get a Spock moment--remember, in Wrath of Khan with Bones--" he laughed again, "Yeah, 'remember' being the operative word. But no such luck."

He sat back, removing his hands from Jim's wrists and dropping his head again. "If I could remember, I wouldn't be screwing this up right now."

Okay, the man had him in cuffs but still Jim felt a surge of protectiveness. This couldn't be healthy. "You're not screwing anything up, Chief. Although, you could uncuff me now."

Blair's face twisted in a near-comic mask of regret and refusal. "Sorry, Jim. Not...not that I don't trust you, okay? But I just...you're...I just can't, man. I can't go through that again. My turn to be selfish, okay?"

"Chief--"

"No!" This time the anguished tone held no anger, just a soul-deep pain that made Jim's heart want to curl up in a little ball and hide behind his spleen. Blair leaned forward until his head was resting against the frame of the futon, then pulled back in order to thump his forehead into the frame a few times.

Okay, definite step backwards. "Chief, stop that. Stop it. Blair!" Reddened eyes stared up at him. "Don't do that. I'm not going anywhere, okay?" Blair returned his head to its resting place, but softly this time. Jim could trace every tiny shudder through the stressed body, feel it through the frame of the bed, and it acted as a harsh reminder.

Keeping his voice calm and reasonable, Jim asked, "Can I get some water here, Chief?"

It seemed to have been the right thing to do. The tremors eased, and Blair raised his head. "Yeah--of course. I'm sorry, you must...I can't--"

"Just thirsty, Chief. Not a problem." Not yet, but that urinal was going to be a problem soon. Jim didn't mention that, though, pleased to see Blair acting with more purpose as he grabbed for and opened a bottle of water. "You first, Sandburg."

"What?" Blair glanced between the bottle and his prisoner and then paled--something Jim would have thought a physical impossibility, as ghoulish as Blair had already looked. "I wouldn't--it was sealed, Jim, I wouldn't give you any--"

Jim was horrified. "God, Blair, I know that. Jesus. No, I want you to have something to drink. You're dehydrated; this has been a weird week," understatement of the century, "and you need to start taking care of yourself again. Should never have stopped, and don't think we're not going to have a talk about appropriate responses to--"

"To your death? What the hell, man? I mean, what--what's an appropriate response there, huh?" Blair was getting worked up again, and Jim hated to hear that harsh, gasping hitch in his breathing. He needed his hands, dammit.

He settled for leaning forward, awkwardly pushing his body into Blair's space. "Hey. It's okay. Come on, Chief, don't do this." Blair rocked forward until his head rested on Jim's shoulder. Not the most comfortable position--probably for Sandburg either--but better than it was. He's calmed down a little, at least. Now for the practicalities... "Water, Chief. Drink something."

But first Blair held the water for him, cupping Jim's head with his left hand and tilting the bottle with his right until Jim had downed a few swallows. Then, under Jim's stern stare, he finished it himself, sighing a bit as he finally rested the empty bottle on the floor beside him.

"Carolyn couldn't stop crying." It was an odd non sequitur, and Jim had to pause a moment to remember what they had been discussing. Blair kept his eyes firmly locked on the floor between his knees. "She cried and cried 'til I was kind of thinking she might just dry up and blow away. I felt like...I was glad almost, because I couldn't, but she could. I just couldn't seem to cry at the funeral, although I'd been a mess the night before..." He glanced up in quick discomfort. "Shit, man. I slept in your bed. I'm sorry. I was just losing it, Jim, and I felt--I needed--"

"Shh. Don't worry about it."

"Yeah, well you're going to worry about it when you see the state of your pillow. I couldn't stop crying then, but at the funeral...nothing. I felt just kind of hollowed out. Empty. Carolyn cried for all of us. Well, no, because Joel cried for himself."

"He's lucky that way."

"Yeah. Yeah, he is. She still loves you, you know."

Jim had no trouble following that leap. "Yeah. I know. I still love her. It's not enough."

Unbelievably, Blair managed a watery smile. "Better not be, man, because she's got a new boyfriend."

"Yeah?"

"Nice guy. Enrique...something. Don't remember. But he was really good about being at his girlfriend's ex-husband's funeral and watching her go into deep mourning for said ex-husband."

"I'll have to remember to thank him. You know--when I meet him." They shared a strained smile.

Jim started slightly when Blair brought his hand down, hard, on the mattress. "Oh, and what the hell were you thinking, leaving me the loft?"

Danvers had been quick. Well, Dad always said they were the best law firm around. "It's your home, Sandburg."

"No. No it isn't. Not without you here. It's like a...it's just not. Not without you."

"So sell it. Dammit Sandburg, we don't need to deal with this now, do we?"

Blair sighed and half turned so that he could lean against the futon. "No. But, Jim, you need to work things out with your dad."

"Sandburg, for god's sake--"

"No, man, listen. This is...your brother was okay."

"Oh, that's good to hear. Glad my death didn't upset him or anything." Jim bit back a complaint as Blair smacked him on the arm.

"Shut up, Jim, that's not what I meant. He was miserable, of course. But he'd had a chance to work out his guilt and...and everything. You and he have done a good job recently. But you can't leave your dad like that. I've never seen someone so...damaged."

I'd have to really question that one, Chief. Unless you consider that you didn't actually 'see' yourself. Doubt my dad knocked himself bloody over it.

Could be wrong. Jim shook his head slightly. But I doubt it.

Misunderstanding Jim's silence, Blair leaned forward insistently. "No, Jim. You have to. You're screwing up your own soul if you leave it like that, okay? There's like this dark aura--don't laugh at me, man."

"I'm not." Blair looked seriously pissed, and Jim continued, "I'm not. I swear, Chief. I'll give him a call, okay?"

"Okay."

As if following some universal sit-com script, just then the phone began to ring. Jim sighed at the renewed obstinacy on Blair's face.

"No chance you're letting me get that, huh, Chief?"

"No. Look, think of this as your well earned rest, okay? For one day, man."

"Pretty soon it's not going to be restful--" Simon's voice from the answering machine interrupted Jim's complaint.

"Jim! Sandburg! Dammit, one of you pick up the phone! Those idiots in Seattle just deigned to inform me that the escaped man headed our way is Mikey Eberstadt." Before Jim could fully process the name, Blair had jerked upright and was reaching under the bed. "That's right, the same Mikey-E who vowed he would get even with 'that pig Ellison'." Jim felt a disconcerting shock of cool metal as Blair pushed his gun into his hand, and the noise of the cuffs unlocking seemed to echo under Blair's near-silent mantra of 'sorry, sorry, sorry'.

Simon's voice continued, "Which was nice of Seattle, but next time don't bother, since a couple of uniforms recognized him when he came by the station to gloat for god's sake, because he's sure you're dead now. Is this going to be a fad? 'Erroneously Believe Ellison's Dead Day'? But since you know the only talent the little loser ever had was car-bombs, for god's sake stay away from your truck! Ellison, where the hell are you? Sandburg, pick up the phone! Look, stay away from your vehicles, okay? Taggart's crew will be over there in less than five minutes--"

Blair looked at him questioningly; hearing the sirens within a mile of the loft, Jim nodded reassuringly. He spoke quietly over Simon's continuing rant. "Chief, let Simon know we're okay and everything's under control." Then, taking in the guilt-fueled trembling of the still-bloodied hands, he changed his mind. "Forget that. Drink some more water while I talk to Simon." The final click of the answering machine removed any need to dash for the phone, and Jim took advantage of that gift of time, sparing a moment to reach out and gently shake his partner by the shoulder.

"It's okay, Chief. You did it. Bomb squad will take care of Mikey's present, and we're safe."

When Blair raised his face, Jim's heart clenched at the sight of tears again streaking the pale cheeks. "Jim...?"

"You did good, Chief. It's okay now." Jim grabbed a second water bottle from the table and held it in front of his bemused partner. "Now drink some more. And I know we're not through talking--I accept that--but you are going to eat. We'll get through with Joel and the inevitable paperwork, and then I'm making eggs and pancakes and bacon, and you're not going to give me any crap about cholesterol, okay?"

His attempts at bluster didn't usually receive such blinding smiles in response. "We'll make 'em together."

"Right." Jim shifted uncomfortably as Blair idly shook the water bottle.

"Um...and you'll call Simon, right?"

"Uh huh." Making an executive decision, Jim strode quickly out of the room. "Right after I piss."

END

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