No permanent damage was done to anyone in the writing of this story.J The author does not condone acts of terrorism - do not try this at home.
The apartment was cozy. The floors were hardwood and well polished. The furniture was plain yet had a certain style to it. Bookcases were crammed in the corners, full of books and artifacts - tribal carvings decorated the walls. Stairs led to a loft; French doors concealed another room. There was a fireplace and a yellow chair; a steel topped dining table and a kitchen with wooden fittings. At the moment the only illumination came from the fire. Jazz played on the stereo quietly. Loud enough to be heard by someone with normal hearing, not too loud to jar sensitive ears, it filled the apartment unobtrusively.
Two men sat on the larger couch together, shoes off. They were different. One man had military short hair and wore drill pants and a neat, plain sweater. The collar of a business shirt peeped over the neck of the sweater. He was broad shouldered and precisely made - even slouching on the couch he was the picture of restrained grace and power.
The other was shorter and less bulky. He wore layers of flannel and comfortable jeans. His hair was long and rioted off his head in a cascade of curls. He was slender and had the frame of a runner. His energy simmered beneath the surface of his skin and in the sparkle of deep blue eyes. The riot of colour seemed a part of him even as he sat almost still beside his larger companion.
Both men cradled hot cups in their hands. They slouched side by side comfortably. The silence between them was natural and comfortable. It had a presence of it's own in the apartment. The jazz CD ended and the shorter man got up to turn it off. He negotiated the half dark by familiarity, his companion focussed his eyes and watched to make sure there were no accidents. He smiled down at his companion and sat on the coffee table.
"So Jim, I haven't seen or heard any plans for this vacation of yours," his voice was deeper than you'd expect, but fit him perfectly. Detective Jim Ellison scowled up at him, the light blue eyes looking annoyed as only they could. He sipped at the coffee in his cup and pondered the many responses he could make.
"This is enforced long service leave, Sandburg - it's not something I really planned for," Jim let his irritation show freely. Graduate student Blair Sandburg let his smile deepen in support. His whole body was canted towards Jim in empathy.
Jim pondered the many contrasts of the man in front of him. He was young - barely twenty-seven - yet he already had ten years of college under his hat and was almost finished with his Ph.D. in Anthropology. He was lightly built, yet exhibited a rare strength. He had spent his life travelling, yet had settled into Cascade like a hermit crab into its shell. His soul was beautiful. He knew whom Jim was and what Jim was capable of. He accepted Jim whole-heartedly and loved him like a brother.
"Jim?" Blair's voice was warm and amused; "You lost in your thoughts there?"
"Scary place to be, Sandburg," Jim cracked and Blair laughed lightly. Jim wondered what he'd done to deserve such a soul mate. He was the Ying to Jim's Yang, the best partner a cop could ask for, and the Guide to Jim's Sentinel.
In long ago times a Sentinel was a person with five hyperactive senses who protected and hunted for the tribe. They were the ultimate hunter and warrior and treated with great respect. The Sentinel was not superhuman. They needed the help of one other individual - one person alone who could break through their concentration and the walls the Sentinels erected to guard their heart. The Guide was the Sentinel's anchor to reality and passport to true happiness.
In modern times the Sentinel trained and worked and lived in secret. The Sentinel hunted the criminals and protected a tribe that didn't even know he existed. The tribe didn't even know it was a tribe. His Guide and soul mate eased his pain and trained his abilities. The Guide's support was unflagging and unconditional. One other knew of the Sentinel's existence - a chief among the tribe if you would. That was Jim's boss, Captain Simon Banks. The man who'd decided that Jim should take the long service leave that had been accumulating for so long. The man who'd forced it on his detective - citing burn out and exhaustion as the driving reasons for the leave.
Blair had backed Simon up whole-heartedly and Jim had been unable to fight them both. Which brought Jim back to his Guide's question. What was he going to do with the next two months off?
"I get it - you're going to make me torture the information out of you," Blair's voice brought him back to the apartment for the second time. Jim grinned at his Guide and put the cool coffee aside. Blair would probably still think the coffee was hot enough, but since his senses came on line Jim had found he only liked his coffee really hot. Blair was working on that unobtrusively - a Sentinel with a scalded tongue was a cranky one and it was as much self preservation as the desire to help that motivated the Guide.
"Well, I was thinking," Jim replied, letting his voice carry his amusement. Blair shifted a little - knowing that tone didn't bode well for the future, "You get to observe me at home and at work all the time. I was thinking that turn about is fair play. You go to the Uni and whatever you'd do if you weren't at the station and I'll observe you."
Blair felt his jaw drop and took a hurried sip of tea to cover up. He thought rapidly, his eyes flicking around the apartment and then over to his best friend and brother. Jim waited for the inevitable argument that would wear him out - an argument that Jim was going to win or die trying.
"Ok, Jim," Blair agreed and bit his lips to keep from smiling at the look on Jim's face, "I warn you now, though. My life as an academic is adrenaline free. If you want to back out at any time I'll understand."
"Agreed," Jim nodded, privately determined to stick the time out. Blair collected the cups and carried them to the kitchen, letting his smile spill over onto his face. He gave Jim a week.
Jim dressed carefully for his first day as an observer on campus. He chose comfortable clothes that weren't too dressy and headed downstairs to the kitchen. They were up early for Blair's first class of the day - anthro 101. Blair was making breakfast for two and humming to the radio - turned low to avoid upsetting his Sentinel. There was a document next to Jim's plate and he picked it up curiously.
"What's this Chief?" he asked and Blair jumped - he hadn't heard Jim come down the stairs. He took in Jim's clothes and nodded approval - Jim didn't look like a student, but he didn't look like a cop either.
"It's your paperwork, Jim," Blair replied, "You'll need to complete them to gain ride along status. You'd better do it before the terrorists show up - you know what happened the last time one of us filled out this kind of form. I'm all out of vending machines."
Jim laughed and read through the document. Blair had obviously typed it last night and printed it while Jim was in the shower. It was fairly straightforward. Jim had to agree not to discuss any privileged information he came across, and to respect the student's and teachers right to privacy. He had to agree to follow instructions Blair gave him and follow all the campus regulations. Jim signed the document and handed it back to Blair who smiled at his friend. Jim could see that the simple acceptance of the rules had made Blair genuinely happy.
Breakfast over they headed for campus in Blair's car. Jim had an old backpack he'd found in the closet last night and he'd loaded a notebook and a few pens into it. Blair led the way to the first class and waved Jim to a seat where he could see both teacher and students. He pulled the notes and artifacts he'd brought out of his backpack and set up while the lecture hall filled with sleepy freshman.
The college setting was not a new one for Jim - he'd attended college and come away with the usual qualifications. He'd enjoyed his studies, but not wanted to go any further. The Army had beckoned and Jim had answered that call without looking back. From the glimpse Blair had given Jim, things hadn't really changed - at least not important ones.
Jim sat back and observed. It was a two hour lecture touching on the cross cultural significance of common objects. Jim watched as Blair gestured and almost danced for his class to break the topic open. He used humor and life experience to make the topic more interesting and called upon feedback to generate further discussion. His students woke up a little and took notice, though Jim figured you'd have to be dead to ignore the dynamic teacher at the front of the room. Even Jim, who had no real idea what the topic was about, found the subject fascinating. Blair was born to teach - and Jim wondered for a moment what on earth had possessed this dynamic man to follow him into danger and possible death. It wasn't the Sentinel dis - Jim had finally figured that out, though he still lay awake at nights worrying what would happen when the dis was finished.
Blair packed up the lecture and grinned over at Jim.
"Still awake?" Blair teased and Jim frowned at him.
"That was really interesting, Sandburg - I discovered I really don't know what you do for a living. Why in Gods name do you follow me around?" Jim blurted and Blair frowned. His normally open face was unreadable for a moment.
"To protect the tribe, man. That's what we do, right?" he dismissed the question lightly and picked up his pack, "You ready? I've got a lecture to attend now."
"Yeah, I'm ready," Jim nodded, scooped up his gear and followed Blair out. He used the lecture time to annotate his 'Blair notes'.
Blair introduced Jim to burritos in the park - steering him away from the Uni cafeteria with dire warnings about stomach pumps. The vendor knew Blair on sight and Jim was welcomed as the ‘Professors student'.
"Take a deep breath Jim, and tell me what's in the burritos," Blair murmured as they were being served. Jim rolled his eyes.
"You're not the Observer here today, Blair," Jim grumbled, and Blair fixed him with the 'I'm-your-Guide-so-do-it' look. Jim grumbled under his breath again and took a deep breath, opening his mouth a little to extend his taste too. He listed all the separate ingredients in a quick monotone, earning a surprised look from the vendor.
"Good nose," was the startled comment and Blair laughed as he paid. The two men walked to a nearby bench and sat down to sample their lunch.
The burrito's exploded pleasantly across Jim's taste buds and Blair grinned at Jim's expression.
"Best burrito man in Cascade," Blair mumbled through a mouthful and Jim nodded happily.
They spent the afternoon in the campus library - where Blair researched for a paper and Jim spent the time adding details of the day in his notebook. Blair sneaked looks at the pages until Jim covered them with his hand and glared at his roommate. Blair grinned and looked around the library.
"If you're looking for someone to observe, check out the co-ed at two o'clock," Blair gestured discreetly and Jim turned to look at the curvaceous blonde in the very tight sweater. Jim grinned and turned away quickly when she looked up from her book. Blair was giggling quietly into his notes and Jim shook his head.
"Isn't she a bit young, Sandburg?" Jim said in a very quiet voice, and Blair giggled harder.
"Looking, not touching," he gasped and Jim grinned harder, shaking his head at his friend's antics. A young man walked over to the table and Blair sobered up instantly. The newcomer was a freckle faced brown haired man, skinny and well dressed in casual clothes. He put a hand on the back of Blair's chair, sent a smooth smile at Jim and leaned over Blair a little. Blair had covered his notes up quickly and was leaning away from the newcomer. Jim was about to leap up and pull the guy away when Blair made a 'stay still' gesture.
"Mr. Castle, what do you want?" Blair's voice was polite - just. Castle smiled broadly.
"I just came to see if you needed anything, Professor," he said, "And to be introduced to your friend. I didn't know I had competition on campus."
"Competition?" Jim blurted and Blair shook his head at his friend.
"This is my roommate, Jim. And you know I don't need anything from you, Paul. You're too expensive and too … risky to use," Blair frowned up at the other, who snatched his hand from Blair's chair.
"I was innocent," Castle snarled, "And I already told you - for the youngest Professor on campus I'll lower my rates."
"Innocent?" Blair stood, and got into Castle's face, "I heard it was a lack of evidence, not innocence that let you keep your credentials. Now if you don't mind, I have work to do and you're interrupting me."
"I'll see you later," Castle growled and stalked off. Blair slumped back into his chair and the people at the nearby tables went back to their studies. Jim looked at his friends' face and decided he'd ask his questions later.
"Who peed in his coffee?" an amused voice reached Jim's ears and a woman came to sit in Blair's lap - pulling at the chair so she could fit between him and the table. Blair accommodated her happily and introduced the shorthaired vibrantly healthy woman to Jim as Charlie Vancouver.
"Pleased to meet you Jim. Any friend of Blair's…" Charlie began.
"Needs a back ground check," Blair chimed in with her to complete the sentence and laughed at the look on Jim's face.
"Old joke - have you ever met who he dates?" Charlie shook her head, "But seriously folks, as much as I'm enjoying sitting on my favorite cushion I came to issue an invitation. Same bat time, same bat place. See you there?"
"Or not," Blair bounced his knees and Charlie protested and got up. She dropped a kiss on Blair's cheek, then one on Jim's for good measure and walked away, waving over her shoulder.
"She's…" Jim trailed off, wondering how involved Blair was with this new woman.
"Very unique and totally not into men, despite the flirting," Blair finished and grinned at Jim, "She just likes to cuddle."
"I'll keep it in mind," Jim said dryly, "What were we just invited to?"
"A little stealth mission," Blair replied, "I'll explain later, ok?"
"Sure," Jim nodded and Blair got back to his research. At five o'clock on the dot Blair packed up and urged Jim to hurry out of the library. Jim had been reading one of Blair's discarded magazines - he'd found an article that Blair had written a few months ago and had been sucked into the sub-culture of the retail business. Jim could clearly recall the case that had led to this article and was getting quite a spin out of seeing it from the flip side.
Blair led the way to his office and put his pack inside, urging Jim to do the same before locking the door. Then he led the bemused detective to the quad and started talking.
"Ok, Jim - think of this as a stealth exercise. You have to get into the auditorium without being seen and find yourself a seat. You can get in any way you like to, but no breakage. Once you're in sit down and enjoy the show. I'll meet you at my office afterwards," Blair patted his arm and Jim frowned.
"You're not coming with me?" Jim asked and Blair shook his head.
"I'll be there," he promised, "Remember the rules Jim - follow the instructions. If someone yells run - then get out."
Jim sighed and looked over at the auditorium for a moment and then looked back at Blair. Blair was gone. Even a Sentinel sweep couldn't reveal his presence to Jim, except a faint scent trail where he'd stood. Jim remembered the rules and didn't look any harder - though he was dying to know how Blair had done that. Puzzled, Jim headed for the auditorium.
He got in through a window that wasn't locked properly and left it just enough ajar for others to use - mentally promising to go back and lock it on his way out. The foyer was lit by the huge stained glass skylights overhead - bright enough for Sentinel vision, though anyone else would have found it very dim indeed. Jim watched two others walk carefully towards some doors and then waited a moment before following them. The auditorium was also dark - in fact Jim had to adjust his sight to almost maximum. He found a seat that was near the front and out of the way and settled down. Using his hearing he located the other members of the audience and people in the lighting rig, backstage and the boxes up on the balcony level.
Three tuning forks sounded - in harmony but too loud for a man with his hearing dialed up to maximum. Jim winced and then dialed it down, taking his senses back to a four - Blair's number for normal levels. The others in the auditorium settled into silence and voices from above took up the notes.
What followed was a medley of songs from the recent days and the recent past. The voices harmonized together to create the impression of the instruments and voices as well. Jim leaned back and closed his eyes, letting his ears do all the work. The Beatles made an appearance and even Beethoven was sung. He enjoyed the performance thoroughly.
Three tuning forks signaled the end and the audience and performers snuck out again. Jim re-locked the window he'd used and headed over to Blair's office.
"Why is it that you sound like a cat in heat in the shower, but in the dark like that you sound like an angel?" Jim asked as Blair walked up the corridor.
"I wasn't singing," Blair protested and unlocked the door. Jim raised an eyebrow at him.
"Are you telling me I wouldn't recognize your voice in the dark?" Jim let the subject drop. Maybe one day he'd tell Blair how much Jim relied on Blair's voice for relief from pressures the city placed on his senses every day.
Jim made dinner that night as Blair finished his assignment at the table. Blair cleared for the dinner plates and sampled the steamed vegetables and rice in appreciation. Jim had also cooked a lean steak and cut a third off for Blair - knowing a whole steak would put Blair over his red meat quota for the week.
"So, who is this Castle guy?" Jim asked when he was sure Blair was settled. Over the last two years he'd learnt not to hit Blair with difficult questions too early in a meal - the younger man would simply leave the table, sometimes even the loft. While Blair might still leave the table now at least he'd had a chance to eat half his meal and wouldn't be hungry tonight.
"Paul Castle is a research assistant - one of the professional ones. He hires his services to professors and so on for a fee. When I was working on my masters, one of the professors was involved in a plagiarism suit. Castle had been working for him and it was suspected that he was leaking the professor's work to the other guy. There wasn't enough evidence and the professor had to let it drop. He's in Boston, now," Blair sighed, "I don't like the guy - he's sneaky and nasty, but he had enough of an in with administration to keep working at the Uni. And he is good at what he does."
"So that's why you covered your notes up when he leaned over you," Jim surmised and Blair laughed.
"God, no!" he protested, "It's not like I think I'm so important he'll steal my work! I covered my notes up because the guy is just plain nosy and it annoys him. He's got this thing for me - I guess he thinks it would enhance his image if the former wunderkind used his services."
"Former wunderkind? You been demoted or something?" Jim sat up straight. Blair laughed and collected their empty plates. He dished out some ice cream and returned to the table.
"As a twenty seven year old I think that I'm definitely illegible for the wunderkind title. There are plenty of younger and smarter kids on campus lining up for that title," there was no regret or disappointment in Blair's tone - he was grinning as he spooned the ice cream up. Jim shook his head and let the subject drop.
The next morning they were up early again. The rounds of lectures - given and taken - as well as the office hours and research sessions were all fascinating to Jim. Away from the stress and horror of police work Blair was a different person - his energy was unrestrained, his personality worked full force. Students and teachers alike were drawn to his energy. With no commitments to the PD for two months Blair was free to assign his time to help others out. He was always busy, but he also made sure that he had time for Jim - something that made Jim feel … cherished. Even William Ellison hadn't tried this hard to make sure his son felt wanted and accepted.
The notebook was filled after only two days and Jim was on his third by Friday morning. Blair had the early lecture again and they were headed to his office to collect some materials.
There was a strong smell of chemicals - or at least strong to Jim's senses. The cleaners had left a bucket and mop at the far end of the corridor, but Jim kept sniffing, trying to isolate the smell.
"What can you smell, Jim?" Blair asked as he unlocked his door and Jim frowned, turning his head towards the bucket and mop. Inside the office something shifted and there was a dull thump. A hot pressure wave slammed Jim into the wall. The back of his head impacted hard, and Blair slammed into him. Blair's cry was the last thing Jim heard as he slid into unconsciousness.
Simon's voice woke him. The smell of the hospital told him where he was, and the fact that he couldn't hear Blair's voice panicked him. Jim tried to sit up before he even opened his eyes and the pain slammed him back into the darkness.
Simon's hands and voice woke him again and Jim opened his eyes.
"Take it easy Jim, don't you move," Simon warned, shifting his grip from Jim's wrist to his shoulder, "Blair's alive and doing well - we had to put you in different rooms this time. Just stay still and heal for me."
"Simon?" Jim frowned, "Why am I tied down?"
"The last time you woke up you tried to get out of bed and nearly snapped in half. You need to lie still and the doctors thought this was the best way to make sure you did," Simon replied honestly, "And until I was sure you weren't having Sentinel troubles I had to let them."
As he spoke the handsome Captain was undoing the wrist restraints and then undid the waist and ankle restraints. He dropped them onto the rolling bedside table that all hospital rooms seem to have and then sat down again. Jim had lain still the whole time, listening hard for Blair's heartbeat.
"I can't find his heartbeat," Jim frowned and Simon patted Jim's wrist.
"I'm telling you, Jim - he's going to be just fine. You can go see him in a few days, I promise," Simon used the tone he'd use for Daryl in this situation and was glad to see Jim respond, "I'm going to get the doctor - so stay awake for me, ok? I'll be back soon."
The doctor confirmed that Jim could get out of bed in a few days - the detective had a nasty concussion and Blair's pack had badly bruised his ribcage when the anthropologist was slammed back into Jim. Brown and Rafe stopped by to take down Jim's statement and commiserate with the detective about his holidays. They didn't update Jim on the case and he was too uncomfortable right then to push the issue.
"So what were you doing at the Uni, Jim?" Simon asked when they'd left. The Captain seemed to be in no hurry to return to the station and Jim was honestly glad for the company.
"I was riding along with Blair - sort of payback observer status," Jim laughed at Simon's face and Simon grinned back, "Did my notes survive?" Jim asked anxiously, and Simon fished his pack out of the bedside locker. At Jim's urgings he pulled the two full notebooks and half-full one out and opened them up. They were neatly labeled and Jim had drawn pictures - quick fluid sketches - of Blair to illustrate his point.
"Damn, Jim," Simon murmured in awe as he looked at the pictures of Blair. They all caught him in the middle of a word or gesture and seemed to bare the subject to the eyes of the observer.
"It's been so good to be with him this last week," Jim sighed, "I've come to appreciate him more - to appreciate what he really does. To be honest Simon there are times when I forget we're not the same people - especially if we're working on a hard case. This has reminded me that Blair was a whole and incredible person before he met me. I'm so lucky that he's agreed to spend time with me."
"This is incredible," Simon was reading the notes, then looked up, "What made you decide to do this, Jim?"
There was a funny tone in Simon's voice, but Jim ignored it.
"I …I guess that I thought at first it would be good payback for him - Blair gives me tests and follows me around and saves my life every day, but there are times when I wish I had a little more privacy. So I thought I could explain that to him best by turning the tables on us. The second day, I thought that it would go with the Sentinel dis," Jim blushed, "Blair's as much a part of that as I am, but he only writes about me. So it was going to be my contribution to it - I was going to observe him at work too to balance the study out. I didn't tell him that yet - I thought I'd wait until it was finished and then just hand it over."
"It would be an incredible part of the dis," Simon nodded and put the books away very carefully. He was leaving the second part of the sentence unsaid, and Jim began to worry about his friend and Guide all over again.
"Simon - can Blair have visitors?" Jim asked, plucking at the blanket - he really wanted to know Blair was all right.
"You're staying in bed, Ellison," Simon growled immediately.
"I just want you to go visit him. I can track your heartbeat up to his room that way. Then at least I'll be able to hear him," Jim pleaded and Simon gave him an incredulous look. For some reason he'd thought that Blair's was the only heartbeat distinguishable to Jim - sort of a paging device for the Sentinel.
"You can hear my heartbeat?" he asked, wondering why that disturbed him and Jim nodded - too anxious to soothe the other man. Simon sighed.
"Ok, I'll go visit him. But you'd better not zone out doing this or Sandburg will kill me," Simon grumbled and got up. He hesitated and looked at Jim, "Ready?"
"Just go, Simon," Jim grinned up at his captain, "I don't need to chant or anything."
Simon muttered something unkind under his breath and walked out. He walked up the hall, got into the elevator and waited out the ride. Knowing that his every move was being listened to made him feel oddly nervous - could Jim hear the grumble of his stomach or the scrape of cloth on cloth? The burns unit smelled unpleasant but Simon sucked it up and headed into the room where Blair lay. The curly hair was singed and frizzy, but kept under control by the bandages that swathed the upper face. Blair had turned his head when the door opened and Simon immediately said hello.
"Hi Simon, how's Jim?" Blair's voice was a little hoarse - from the breathing tube and the smoke he'd inhaled when the firebomb went off in his doorway. Luckily it hadn't set fire to the building - Blair had lost a few books to the secondary blaze and that was all. Of course, he'd also lost his sight - the burns to his eyes were serious and no one could tell if the damage was permanent or not - it would take a while for that to happen. His forearms were burnt too, as was his abdomen and thighs.
"He woke up again. He's fine - lucid and no sense spikes. I watched like you told me," Simon put a hand on the bed and Blair covered it with his own, "He was worried about you so I came up here. He's tracking me to get to you."
"Damn it Jim, don't you dare Zone on me in here when I can't get to you," Blair said angrily, "I'm fine - you're fine. Get some sleep and I'll see you soon."
Simon felt a little odd, listening to someone speak to a person two floors below them with the certainty that the other would hear them perfectly.
"I'll go back and make sure he's ok," Simon offered and Blair nodded immediately.
"Thanks, Simon," he replied and turned his head back to the ceiling, "I'm allowed out of bed tomorrow, so I'll get them to give me a wheelchair and come visit you Jim."
"Goodnight Chief," Simon was unsure what prompted him to say it, except a part of him was sure that Jim was saying it to the ceiling two floors down. A small smile crossed Blair's face and he patted Simon's hand in thanks.
"Goodnight Jim. Goodnight Simon," Blair replied and withdrew his hand. He lay still and Simon felt the burnt man's personality retreat from the room.
Jim turned his head eagerly. Blair's heartbeat was getting closer to the room. Jim could hear the wheelchair that carried his Guide and the footsteps of the person pushing it. It was Simon; Jim realised, catching the telltale odor of cigars. Neither man was talking. The chair stopped and the door opened. Simon carefully pushed Blair inside and Jim cried out in shock.
"Blair! My god! They said you were alright!"
"Shhh," Blair soothed, putting out a hand. Simon wheeled him closer and Jim grabbed hold desperately.
"Shhh Jim, it's ok," Blair rubbed Jim's hand with his free one, "I'm ok - I'm here, right? This isn't as bad as it looks."
Simon moved restlessly behind Blair and Blair turned his head accurately towards him.
"I'm not lying Simon," Blair said firmly, "The bandages look more impressive than they are. My arms are fine now the blisters are draining and the wheelchair is more because of the rules than because I need it."
"But your eyes?" Jim knew his voice sounded desperate and didn't care. What were they going to do if Blair was blind? How could they bear that? Blair sighed and held on tighter.
"It might be ok," Blair said as gently as possible, "I might be ok - we won't know for a while. It's ok, Jim. We're both still alive and where there's life there's hope, right? And if it's … permanent then you'll be ok, cause Simon will find you a cop that I can train and we can work together when you're not at the station…"
"No!" Jim yelled, "No! I have a partner already - and I'm not giving you up."
"Shhh, you don't have to give me up Jim - I'll always be your Guide. But a blind partner in a shoot out is dangerous - so you'll need a field partner too," Blair soothed, then decided not to push it. You didn't need to see to be able to tell how this was affecting Ellison, "Hey - that's only a contingency plan! We won't need it because I'll be fine. A hundred percent and back to annoying you before you know it. We're ok, Jim and that's all that matters. Shhh, take it easy for me now."
Simon watched his consultant soothe his detective and shook his head in awe. Burnt and possibly blinded for life, Blair was still the rock that Jim relied on to handle the world and it's harsh truths.
When Jim was quieter and calmer, Blair turned to 'look' at Simon again.
"Sir? Do we know what happened? I wasn't able to give Brown much when he came for my statement," Blair asked and Simon moved to sit in the chair he'd brought in only a few days ago.
"There was a small incendiary device attached to your office door. An amateur who was lucky not to kill himself made it. If it had worked right you'd both have been vaporized as well as half the building. We were lucky it just produced a relatively small explosion," Simon kept it impersonal and was glad that Blair did too.
"So, any idea who had access to the stuff to make this?" Blair asked, ignoring the waves of anger and outrage pouring off Jim.
"That's the kicker - its all stuff you can buy from a hardware store or garden center. The guy was trying to make something called anfo - basically it's fertilizer mixed with fuel and set off with a detonator. Very powerful stuff, but this time he got the proportions wrong. Enough fertilizer to make a boom, but too much fuel - hence the fireball," Simon replied, "And the scary thing is that Taggert found a web site that tells you how to make this stuff - and a lot of other things too."
"So did anyone claim responsibility for it? Was this aimed at me or was it a statement?" Blair asked, soothing Jim by rubbing his arm slowly. Jim's jaw was clenched, so Simon knew it wasn't working. This dispassionate discussion was upsetting the Sentinel and the Ranger was also mad. The Detective was paying attention though, probably so the other two aspects of Jim's personality had some information to go on when he went after the guy who'd done this.
"No," Simon kept the reply short and Blair nodded.
"Stop it," Jim growled, "Stop treating this like it happened to someone else."
"Jim, I'm well aware of who got hurt here," Blair said quietly, "A pity party isn't going to help anyone here - so suck it up, man."
The anger and frustration in his voice was evident and Jim squeezed the hand that still held his.
"Sorry, Chief. If I'd paid more attention I might have been able to stop you before you opened the door," Jim sighed, "We wouldn't be in this mess."
"So you're confessing to making the bomb - is that what you're doing? 'Cause I better not be hearing guilt over there Jim. There is no way this is your fault and I can't spare the energy to pull you out of the Ellison Guilt Pit," Blair growled and Jim shook his head. Blair couldn't see him - couldn't read his face and eyes like normal to see what Jim was really feeling. It would be up to Jim to make the connection now - with his voice. Jim sighed - that was Blair's job, and the other man was so good at it.
"I…" Jim swallowed hard and thought carefully, "I guess I feel angry that you got hurt so bad and there's nothing I could have done to stop it."
Simon nearly fell off his chair - Jim Ellison actually volunteering his emotions and articulating clearly why he felt that way?
"Simon? Are we in the right room?" Blair was grinning, "'Cause that doesn't sound like Jim at all."
"I must have taken a wrong turn. Sorry Sandburg," Simon grinned back and Jim chuckled at them, rubbing his thumb over Blair's hand.
"You're tired," Jim told the man in the wheelchair and looked over at Simon, "Take him back to bed, Simon. I'm allowed up this afternoon - I'll come see you then, Chief."
"I look forward to seeing you then Jim," Blair grinned as Jim groaned at the pun and Simon shook his head. He disengaged the brakes and carefully pushed the chair out into the corridor.
When the Nurse pushed Jim into Blair's room on the burns ward Blair was standing by the window, facing out.
"Hey, Blair - you have a guest," the Nurse said cheerfully, "Good view?"
"It's all the same to me," Blair quipped back and the Nurse chuckled, patted Jim on the shoulder and engaged the brakes. Jim waited until she was gone and leaned forward a little.
"You ok?" he asked immediately. Blair smiled and nodded.
"Feeling fine," Blair replied, "And check your brakes - one of them isn't engaged."
Jim checked and freed the fold of blanket that was stopping the brake from engaging.
"How'd you know that?" Jim asked and Blair shrugged his shoulders.
"I heard the squeak when your weight shifted in the chair - it wasn't a weighty squeak. Repress a sense and the others come on line even stronger - like you already know," Blair's voice was amused. Jim bowed his head in sadness, but made his voice sound amused too.
"I guess so - does that make you the Sentinel and me the Guide?" it would be easier to lie to Blair now - and Jim hated that he'd just done it now. He vowed not to do it again.
"Nah, your job is safe," Blair replied. He wanted to raise the problem of where he would stay once the hospital released him, but didn't want to hurt Jim.
"Spit it out Blair - I can see something on your so called mind," Jim kept his voice calm. Blair folded his arms across his waist and sighed.
"I've made arrangements to stay in a hostel attached to the hospital when I'm released tomorrow. I won't get final word on the burns to my eyes for a few weeks and…"
"No," Jim struggled up and walked over to Blair. The Sentinel put his hands on either side of Blair's neck and rubbed his thumbs along Blair's jaw, "You're coming home with me, Chief. I know you'll be all right and I know that I won't have strangers looking after you when I could be doing it. I'm still on leave and I want to take care of you - and we can use the time to find out who did this to you."
"Jim, you don't want to nurse a crock like me…" Blair began but Jim put a hand over his mouth lightly.
"You stuck with me during the Golden," Jim said plainly, "And you taught me the Bat Echo Trick - which I expect you to use, by the way. How could I abandon you to strangers now? You're coming home with me and that's final. I'll sign out AMA tomorrow morning and we'll go home together, partner."
"I knew that Bat Echo Trick would backfire," Blair mumbled and some of the tension left his body. Jim would take care of him - Jim always did.
"Suck it up, Sandburg," the response was said lovingly - in a macho repressed kind of way.
Three days after the bomb went off Blair and Jim were released from the hospital. A community nurse would visit Blair daily to change his dressings and help the young man with bathing - Jim had arranged it, knowing Blair would be less embarrassed if a stranger helped him instead of his roommate. She would come by early in the morning - leaving them free for the rest of the day.
Simon drove them home and carefully ushered them inside. Blair was a little shaky, but determined not to be dependent or clingy. Jim was having none of it and kept a hand on Blair all the time.
"I don't believe this," Simon groaned when he saw the 'out of order' sign on the lift, "Jim why is it that the lift hardly ever works?"
"Karma," Blair replied, and turned instinctively for the stairs, "Take it easy, ok Jim. You just got out of hospital and I don't think Simon wants to carry you when you pass out."
"Darn straight," Simon agreed, "We'll just leave you there till you recover."
Blair gripped the handrail carefully and started up the stairs at an easy pace. Jim grumbled about the fact that he was not about to break - he'd been bruised and concussed not killed - as he followed Blair up the stairs. Simon joined in, watching Blair like a hawk but disguising it by telling Jim to grow up and be a man. Blair laughed once or twice as he moved carefully, trying not to pull on burned skin or stumble on a riser.
Simon got his men settled on the couch and then left for work, exhorting Jim to take care of his partner, and telling Blair to keep Jim in line.
"Right," Blair said as soon as the door closed, "We'll give him an hour to get well clear and then head to my office. Even after a few days you might be able to pick up a few clues that forensics missed. Are you all right to drive or should we get a cab?"
"Sandburg - you're not going anywhere," Jim protested, "I'll go look at your office, but you're staying here."
"Like hell I am," Blair grabbed Jim's wrist - his hand lashing out like a rattlesnake to grasp the target, making Jim wonder how Blair knew exactly where his wrist was, "Jim, I won't break. Nor will I cower in the loft while life goes on. Remember the Golden? You kept pushing me to let you work - to try and recover some sense of normalcy."
"You never let me push beyond a certain point," Jim retorted, "And did you think I didn't know how you spent the night on the floor near the bed in case I needed anything? In case I had a problem that the doctors hadn't predicted?"
Blair hung his head a little, embarrassed that his friend had discovered the things he'd done. Blair didn't regret caring for Jim, but knew the older man liked his privacy, so he tried to keep the caring as subtle as possible. Obviously he'd been noticed anyway.
"Did you think I didn't notice that you were willing to spend the rest of your life with me if things were permanent?" Jim's voice sank to a near whisper and he put an arm around Blair, "I noticed, Chief. I noticed."
"Have you noticed that I face the same dilemma? I don't expect you to sit by me at night, but damn it Jim I have to know that I can keep going - that life isn't over for me. The best way to do that is to keep on living - like helping you investigate this whole mess," Blair's breathing was uneven and what Jim could see of his face was pinched. Jim sighed and rubbed gently at the shoulder his hand was resting on.
"Ok, Chief," Jim conceded, "But will you promise me that you'll take it easy? I don't want to see you hurt again."
"I'll take it easy," Blair promised, "A nice easy walk to my office and back home again - ok?"
"Ok, but we'll drive, not walk," Jim sighed, resigned to losing this argument with his Guide. After all Jim knew how it felt to be thrust into dependency and the urge to reinstate some control in a situation that ultimately couldn't be. He wouldn't begrudge Blair's attempt.
Five people were standing in the corridor outside Blair's office when Jim led his friend down the corridor. Jim had the idea that they were trying to break in, but couldn't concentrate as he led Blair past a small knot of students. Led was perhaps the wrong word - Blair walked along slightly ahead of Jim but to one side. That allowed Jim to put his hand on Blair's back or shoulder to steer him through crowds. Blair had been uncomfortable with the idea of walking arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand with Jim - much to Jim's secret hurt. Was Blair embarrassed to be seen with Jim like that?
"Hey, Teach," a dainty Asian man stepped away from the group and smiled at Blair. The man was lightly muscled, the same height as Blair and dressed in many layers of loud colors. Blair grinned at the voice and shrugged Jim off subtly.
"Tom, is everyone here?" Blair trailed a hand lightly along the wall as he hurried forward.
"Yep - hail, hail the gangs all here," Tom replied and Jim watched as Blair used the voice to gauge when to stop.
"April? I thought you were due soon?" Blair turned a little, as if looking for her and the pregnant red head stepped out of the group to guide his hand to her stomach. Blair rubbed at it gently, and Jim smiled. She wore a light coat over a woolen dress that made her look graceful, even though her body was definitely not its normal shape.
"Another three weeks," she agreed in a rich low voice, "But you're important too, Teach. I wanted to help."
"Thank you, love," Blair smiled and she kissed his cheek in reply.
"Ok, stop feeling up the pregnant lady," the speaker was obviously a football player - he wore the team jacket and was built like a truck. Blond hair cut in a buzz cut freckles and a wide grin struck the eye immediately. What you only noticed when you looked carefully was the intelligent gleam in his green eyes.
"You're just jealous Tiny," Blair retorted and Tiny moved up to hug him. Only Jim heard the pained intake of breath as Blair was squeezed in the wrong place.
"Chief?" Jim blurted, "You ok?"
"Fine," Blair nodded over his shoulder as Tiny let go in a hurry and tried to find a way to hold onto Blair without accidentally hurting him again. Blair soothed the boy in the Guide voice and protested when the other woman whacked Tiny on the arm.
"I'm not fragile Joanne," Blair protested, "And Tiny likes to hug."
"Sorry Teach," Joanne wore her hair in short spikes. She had a nose stud and eyebrow ring as well as several piercings in each ear. Her clothes were torn and layered - her fingernails were painted black and chipped. Blair put his free hand out and she took it for a moment. Her face betrayed her worry and anger and Jim decided on the spot that he liked her.
"That just leaves me," the last man in the group stepped over and joined his hand around Tiny's. This man was average in height, average in clothes and average in attitude. His black skin gleamed dully in the lights.
"As if I could forget you … what was your name again?" Blair joked and got a laugh.
"I'm Peter," he protested and the others closed in, making Blair the center of a gentle group hug. Jim clenched his jaw nervously and took a step forward when Blair's muffled voice said 'uncle'.
"So I guess you were trying to use your sense of touch to pick the lock to my door, Tiny," Blair said as they split away and Tiny nodded, glancing curiously at Jim before focussing on Blair again.
"I tried piggy backing sight like you suggested, but it wasn't working," Tiny sighed and Jim gaped at him.
"Another Sentinel?" Jim blurted and Blair shook his head.
"A heightened sense, Jim. I told you when we met that I had documented cases of people with a single sense, or sometimes two or three," Blair replied, "Guys, Jim can do by himself what it takes all five of you to do together."
"Man, I thought I had it rough when my one sense spiked. How do you handle all five?" Peter mumbled and Jim pointed at Blair.
"Blair does it," Jim replied, "Sometimes he's the only thing keeping me out of the nut house. I can't manage without him."
"Yeah, Teach is the best. He always knows what to do," April agreed and Blair shook his head.
"You guys do the hard work. I just talk a lot," Blair dismissed himself and Jim saw anger kindle in five other faces, knowing he looked the same way, "Lets get into the office and take a look around, ok?"
Jim unlocked the door and went in first, taking a sensory snapshot of the room to work through later. Then he let himself look at the damage. The shelves near the door were scorched and blackened - their contents soggy from the chemical extinguishers. Blairs desk was mostly untouched, but a fine layer of smoke lay over everything. The window was boarded up and barely let in any light. The walls and ceiling were also smoke damaged. The door was new and looked out of place amongst the damage - Jim and Blair had picked up the keys from the front office on their way in.
The smell nearly overwhelmed Jim and Blair put his hand on Jim's arm.
"Isolate the smells for me Jim - once you know what they are you can ignore them," Blair murmured and Jim glanced bashfully at the five person audience and then did what he'd been told to do.
"I smell the fire extinguishers and smoke… that soggy paper smell. Your shelves near the door are toast, Chief," Jim looked down at the bandaged head. Blair grimaced and nodded at the comment, but stroked Jim's arm and urged the Sentinel to go deeper.
"I - I can smell the bomb …it's what I was smelling before, but I thought it was the mop and bucket down the hall. Uh and there's this …fragrance. I …it's familiar. Dammit!"
"Easy Jim," Blair soothed, "Just tag the smell in your memory and move on. Maybe it's connected and maybe it isn't so just don't worry about it for now."
"Teach? It's an after shave I think," Peter spoke up, "I've smelt it before. I don't know … maybe near the U? Or at work maybe."
"Peter works at Print World - they're a graphic design studio," Blair told Jim who nodded in frustration, "Anything else you can smell?"
"Just you and your artifacts. Brown and Rafe were in here too and the forensics crew. Taggert has been here recently. That's it," Jim reported and Blair nodded, shifting his weight a little.
"Ok, lets go to sight," Blair told Jim firmly, "Find your center - take some deep breaths and focus for me. I want you to look around carefully and note all the disturbances in here. Track them back to their cause and then file them away for future reference. I know we've lost the door but that will be at Forensics at the station and we can look at it later. Tell me what's seriously out of place here."
"Track what's out of place in the wilderness you call your office?" Jim forced a lighthearted joke and Blair whapped him on the arm gently, as the others laughed.
"The smoke patterns are wrong -like the window was open," April frowned, "Maybe that's why you were confused Jim - the fumes were releasing and not really enough to trigger your warnings."
Blair felt a shaft of pure relief - maybe Jim would be able to let go some of his guilt now.
"I work out of Station Twelve," April grinned at Jim, "Sight and hearing come in very handy when putting out fires."
"I thought I recognized you," Jim exclaimed and April nodded, "Which sense is dominant?"
"Sight," April replied warmly, "It's my strongest. I'm kinda hoping that they are the only senses that come on line for me. I really don't want to be able to smell too well when changing diapers."
That got her a laugh and Peter vowed not to visit the kid until it was toilet trained and Blair smiled a little, which was what Jim had been hoping for. Jim swept the room again and then stood back against the wall while the others conducted their own sweeps. He saw them tilt their heads and close their eyes and stand still. Blair stood silently next to Jim, not Guiding at all. He was not even a real presence in the room. It made Jim uneasy that the man who usually reminded Jim of a force of nature was so quiet and still. The others were all casting little glances at Blair too and Tiny kept biting his lip. Jim decided it was time for a diversion.
"So, how many people are there in Cascade with heightened senses, Chief? Have you thought of testing the water?" he asked lightly and got no response.
"Last count was one hundred and ninety eight," Joanne said absently, "But there's a couple moving here next month."
"What?" Jim exclaimed. Tiny nodded in confirmation. The others straightened and turned to face Blair, pride and affection on their faces. Jim realised that this mixed group felt the same connection the Sentinel did to his Guide - and oddly enough he didn't mind it. After all who better to tame raging senses than Blair?
"It's Teach. People move here so he can help them," Tiny told Jim, and Blair snorted. This was the first sign he'd made that he was aware of his surroundings in ten minutes and Jim was unnerved at the scorn in that one little sound.
"Yeah right," he scoffed, "People move here just to be near me? Tiny - words fail me."
"Teach, why did my parents send me here?" Tiny straightened up and stood squarely in front of Blair.
"Cause of that damn web site that Joanne maintains - Sense Ability," Blair growled.
"That's right. They were hoping that I'd agree to meet you and you could help me with the touch - I was in so much pain Jim. I'm sure you know what it's like when it feels like water is acid and your clothes sandpaper."
"Yeah," Jim nodded. Tiny was trembling a little and his breathing was unsteady. The others stood quietly, watching the scene unfold in front of them without any involvement. It occurred to Jim that everyone in this room knew what it was like to be attacked by your own senses.
"I'd been to so many different doctors and shrinks. I got here and I couldn't handle it. I climbed up the clock tower, stripped naked and got ready to jump off. Who stopped me, Teach?"
"I did," Blair said softly.
"Who saw the rashes and inflammation and helped me get control right there and then?" Tiny demanded loudly.
"I did," the same soft inflection.
"Who saved my life," Tiny roared.
"I did," barely audible.
"Don't you forget it Teach. And the people who move here and the ones on the web site - they all feel the same way. And I bet Jim does too," Tiny choked and Blair moved, using touch - Tiny's strength - to soothe the boy.
All five people escorted Jim and Blair to the car and Jim drove home very carefully. He was still reeling from Tiny's outburst and Blair was a silent human shaped nothing in the passenger seat.
"I never realised … why didn't you tell me you worked with others like this?" Jim asked at a traffic light.
"I … guessed you'd feel like even more of a lab rat if I told you that I worked with such a large group of people," Blair's voice was flat and empty too. Jim shivered and grabbed one of the lax hands in Blair's lap. He rubbed his thumb over the back of Blair's hand as they drove.
"Chief - I know I bitch about the tests. But …I guess I learn a lot when we test something. Not that I want to do more tests than we already do - I guess I just…"
"Relax, Jim," Blair's voice carried a tiny smile in it, "I'll try not to let the magnitude of that compliment go to my head."
"Good," Jim replied and kept in contact with his Guide for the rest of the drive. Jim elected to lock his door and slide over the seat rather than let go of Blair's hand. Blair didn't try to loosen the grip as Jim led the way inside the apartment block, though he did let go once they were inside the loft itself. Jim wondered again why Blair didn't like to hold his hand or arm.
"Point me at the bathroom man," Blair joked as he stepped cautiously in the right direction, "Man I hope this isn't the week you decide to rearrange the furniture."
"See why neatness is important now?" Jim cracked back and headed over to the blinking answering machine, keeping track of Blair with his senses.
"You mean to tell me you want everything perfectly neat in case one of us goes blind one day? Man talk about planning ahead," Blair teased over his shoulder, one hand now trailing along the wall. The machine beeped and played back the first message.
"Hey Teach. Do you like the dark? Do you like being dragged around like the loser you are? I'm glad you lost your sight…" a low voice snarled but Jim didn't hear any more as Blair caromed off the doorjamb in shock and fell to the floor in a painfull sobbing heap.
"Blair!" Jim raced over to cradle his sobbing partner in his arms. Blair twisted in Jim's grip so his face was pressed to Jim's chest and shuddered with huge wracking sobs. It hit Blair that all the positive thinking in the world wouldn't heal his wounds and no matter how much Jim tried to deny it Blair's days as a Guide were severly numbered if this was permanent. Jim's arms were like iron around Blair and for a moment he thought - just a moment - it would be ok to let go.
"What if it's forever?" Blair choked out - the first negative thing he'd said since Jim woke in the hospital. Jim shrugged aside his own doubts and became the rock for Blair.
"Its going to be ok, Blair. I've got you partner. I'm here. You're safe now Buddy," Jim crooned, holding Blair close and rocking gently in time with his words. The tape ended and the machine beeped before falling silent. Blair's sobs slowed and calmed a little - Jim didn't loosen his grip or stop speaking, calling his Guide to a safe place.
When Blair got it together he stirred a little in Jim's arms and straightened away from the Sentinel. Jim let go reluctantly and watched as Blair swept his hands over the sodden bandages.
"Still gotta go to the bathroom," Blair mumbled and Jim stood, carefully pulling the blind man to his feet. Jim made a show of lining Blair up with the door exactly and Blair rewarded him with a weak chuckle as he shuffled inside and closed the door. Jim waited until he heard Blair find the toilet and then hurried to call Simon.
"I hate to ask this Jim, but can you bring it in?" Simon's voice betrayed his stress, "We've got a situation at the cannery on West side and all available units are there."
"What sort of situation?" Jim asked sharply, "Simon?"
"Hostages - some night janitor got sacked for being stoned on the job and he's come back with a lot of reefers and a rifle. I don't want you anywhere near it Jim - everyone on site is wearing masks for the smoke and knowing our luck you'd still get stoned. Blair's in no condition to be in the field at the moment - let alone a potential gunfight. Bring it in to the station and get the labs started on processing it. And get me a copy. We'll go over it later - you know," Simon's voice faded out for a moment as he turned his head to answer a voice in the background and Jim sighed. His instinct to serve his tribe was warring with his instinct to protect his Guide. Jim's jaw clenched - his Guide came first - without a Guide the Sentinel was helpless.
"See you soon, Simon. Be careful," Jim conceded and Simon cut the call short gratefully. Blair came out of the bathroom and Jim looked him over carefully.
"I'll have to change the bandages, Chief," Jim said gently and Blair nodded. He fumbled for a kitchen chair and sat down without speaking. Jim collected what he would need and then started unwrapping carefully.
"Simon asked us to bring the tape in," Jim said as the last of the wrappings came away. He carefully avoided looking in any great detail at the ugly burns and blisters as he dried, salved and then wrapped his friend's face. Jim did not want to remember with Sentinel clarity the damage to his Guide's face. If this was a permanent injury Jim wanted to remember Blair as he was before the bomb. Irrationally Jim believed if he just didn't look now it wouldn't be permanent.
"Sure," Blair agreed, "I assume you mean we're both going in to the station."
"If you're up for it. I'm going to back off Chief - you do what you think you can handle. All I ask is that you listen to me if I think otherwise," Jim secured the bandages and Blair sighed. He caught Jim's hands and smiled. A little of the usual warmth shone through there and Jim was glad to see it.
"I will listen," Blair promised, "Thank you for trusting me."
"That's the easy part, Chief," Jim murmured and pulled Blair in for a gentle hug, "That's the easy part."
The siege ended happily - very happily for the very stoned hostages in fact - and Simon headed for the station grimly. The last thing he needed was to deal with a pissed off Sentinel and his helpless Guide, but Simon figured he owed it to Blair not to flinch from this.
As Simon and the other detectives filtered out of the lift and into the bullpen they were met with the last sight they expected to see. Jim Ellison was no where to be seen and Blair was sitting at the computer, touch typing rapidly. The phone was held in the crook of his neck and he was making affirmative noises as he typed. Simon realised with a jolt that Blair was typing whatever the person on the other end of the phone was saying - and at the speed they were saying it too.
Taggert nudged past Simon and headed for the desk that was slowly becoming his. Rafe and Brown followed, making a little noise to let Blair know they were there, but not enough to make things difficult. Jim appeared from the direction of the bathroom down the hall and the others greeted him.
"Who's he talking to?" Brown gestured at Blair and Jim grimaced.
"A witness in the Fell case. He finally called in, but is out of town tomorrow. Blair volunteered to type his statement and the guy's coming in tomorrow morning to sign it," Jim frowned, "I just pulled the program up on the screen and left him to it."
"Damn - what does the guy have to do to get out of your paper work?" Rafe teased and Jim pretended to consider it. Simon finally headed for his office, waving for Jim to follow. Jim made a 'duty calls' comment and headed in too.
"How is he, Jim?" Simon asked as Blair hung up and Brown headed over to help him save and print the report. Jim watched too and tried not to hover.
"He's scared and hurt and worried and tense and in pain and…" Jim bit the words off, took a deep breath and tried again, "He's doing as well as expected. Being Blair he hides a lot and tries to do more than I think he should but … we're getting there. I'm going to back off a little and he's going to take advice. This call didn't help any."
"Do you have a copy?" Simon was glad of an excuse not to dwell on Blair's pain. It made the Captain feel too damn helpless. Simon didn't like that feeling.
"Here," Jim produced a tape and Simon loaded it into the player he kept on his shelves. He came to stand next to Jim who leaned forward in the chair a little and nodded. Simon hit play and together they listened to the message.
"Hey Teach, do you like the dark? Do you like being dragged around like the loser you are? I'm gad you lost your sight. I never thought you had true breadth of vision. You're not the visionary most people think. Hey Teach, maybe the next bomb will work right…<click>"
"Son of a bitch!" Jim growled in fury and Simon nodded as he rewound the hateful message.
"Did he hear the whole thing?" Simon grated, looking out at Blair who was talking to Taggert at Taggerts desk now. Jim shook his head and wiped his face with a shaky hand.
"No - he walked into a door when the message started. He was too upset to focus under my voice after that. He …he cried Simon. I held him in my arms and he just ... fell apart. I've never seen Blair lose it like that. Even the Golden didn't knock him around that much. It scared me that he was so … vulnerable," Jim took a deep breath and tried to shake the effects of the message off, "Play it again, Simon. I want to hear it again - this time I'll try to isolate the background noises and see if there's anything that will clue us in here."
Simon nodded and hit the play button again, this time going to stand next to Jim in case he needed to stop the detective from going too deep. Jim leaned forward and frowned as the message played again. At the end Simon sighed and moved to turn it off. Jim's hand whipped out and grabbed Simon's wrist in a bruising grip. Simon froze and stared at the seated man. Jim was zoned - totally blank faced and motionless as he listened to the nothing on the tape. Simon found he could just reach the player and turned the tape off, calling Jim's name as he did in the hopes that the end of the tape and his voice would call Jim back from the zone out. Nothing. Simon tried speaking quietly, in a calm voice that usually reached his son Daryl when the boy was upset - no effect. Simon reached out with his free hand and shook Jim gently, even slapped his cheek lightly, only to have the grip on his wrist tighten.
"Sandburg!" Simon yelled and looked out at the bullpen. Blair got up from his conversation at Rafe's desk and headed into Simon's office, navigating the route from memory and sweeping a little with his hands out at his sides. He fumbled with the door and closed it behind him. Rafe headed back to his desk - he'd followed Blair silently the whole way in case of trouble.
"Yeah Simon?" Blair asked and Simon frowned at the other man. He sounded so …detached not all himself. Would he be able to connect with Jim and bring him out of the zone?
"Jim's zoned," Simon said urgently, "He's breaking my wrist where he's squeezing it so hard and I can't get him back."
Blair used Simon's voice to find the two men and Simon reached out to guide the other man closer. Blair dropped his hand on Jim's and stroked lightly.
"Jim, let go of Simon," Blair said firmly, his voice a warm velvet tone, "You're hurting him, Jim. Time to let go now and follow my voice. Come back to me, my friend. Come back where it's safe. Come on Big Guy, let go of your focus and open those eyes of yours - I know they're closed. You were listening to that nasty message and closed your eyes to concentrate didn't you? That's why you're lost now. That's right, let him go - you're ok now. You need to follow my voice back, Jim."
"Chief," Jim's eyes opened and he clutched at Blair's hands. Blair smiled and rubbed his thumbs over Jim's hands. Simon was rubbing his freed wrist and watching in awe as Blair did his thing.
"Yes, Jim, I'm here. Come on Big Guy. Come all the way back now. It's all over - you're safe now," Blair's voice softened from firm to soothing. A few more seconds of Guide speak and Jim was apologizing to Simon for the bruises and Blair was standing silent next to his Sentinel.
"Really, Jim, it's ok," Simon sighed, "Did you get anything from the tape?"
Jim frowned and looked up at his silent friend in concern. Blair gave no sign that he was paying attention to their words and that was scary. A still Blair was a herald of the apocalypse as far as Jim was concerned.
"Uh … not really. I pretty much zoned out straight away," Jim confessed angrily, "I'm sorry, Blair."
"I know," Blair soothed, putting a hand on Jim's shoulder, "I'll stay with you and you can try again."
"I don't want you listening to that," Jim growled and Blair sighed. He began stroking Jim's shoulder, much like you would a cat. Jim leaned into the touch unconsciously - after a deep zone he always wanted more contact with his Guide.
"I won't listen," Blair murmured, "I'll be too busy trying to figure out if you're ok to listen to it. Please, Jim. I know you think I can't handle this, but I'm your Guide. It's a life contract and if the blindness is permanent…"
"Shhh," Jim stood and pulled Blair close, "This is one of those trials - right? We have to find a new way for you to Guide me until your sight comes back. We can do this."
Simon stood to one side totally forgotten. He was awed by the depth of trust and … love that these two men showed each other. He realised that no matter what the outcome of this case was Jim and Blair would stay as partners for the rest of their lives. The bond was that deep.
"Simon?" Blair asked as he pulled away, "Are you ready to try this again? I need you to run the tape for me."
"I'm ready," Simon nodded at Jim who sat down again. Blair put a hand on Jim's shoulder and then held the other out, palm up.
"I want you to place one finger on my palm, Jim. When you zone you usually drop your arms to your side - it's probably a protective gesture. I'll know you're gone if the finger leaves my palm," Blair explained and Jim did as he was told. He started to lean forward but Blair shook his head.
"You don't need to be closer Jim - let your senses do the work. That's what went wrong last time - you were focussing your body but not your senses. Sit straight and take deep calm breaths. Find your center and ready yourself. Simon, play it now."
Simon almost missed the fact that Blair was talking to him - he was staring at a very calm and relaxed detective. He turned and hit the play button before turning back to watch Jim closely. Blair was unexpectedly relaxed - his stance was free of tension. He had inclined his head towards Jim and stood with his back to the player - almost as if he was denying the tape. Jim was gazing up at him; one finger resting on Blair's palm steadily, his head tilted a little to catch the sounds beneath the hateful words. The recorded click that signaled the end of the call sounded over the speakers and Simon turned to shut it off. Jim removed his finger and ran a hand over his face.
"The call came from a payphone on Rainer. They didn't disguise their voice very well - sort of husked a little. Maybe we can check the security cameras on campus - they cover the payphones. We know approximately when he called so that should make things easier," Jim said firmly and Blair's face bloomed into a brilliant smile. The one that made Jim feel ten feet tall and bullet proof.
"I'm always in awe when you do that," Blair complimented Jim, "Good work, man."
"I'll send Rafe and Brown over for the tapes," Simon headed for the door. Jim frowned.
"We can go, sir - how will we explain to the others what we know?" Jim stopped the captain and Blair stepped back, giving Jim room to get up and walk towards the door. Blair turned to follow and stumbled into the chair. Jim whirled to steady him and Blair caught Jim's arms, laughing a little breathlessly.
"Nice catch," Blair made to pull away and Jim frowned.
"Am I that awful that you don't want to be seen touching me?" the question startled Jim even as he asked it. Blair sucked in a breath and shook his head emphatically.
"I don't want you to feel like you have to drag me around," Blair blurted, "You wouldn't let me lead you around with the Golden - I figured it was because you were embarrassed to be seen so dependent on me. So I know you don't want to be attached at the hip to some dependent wuss now."
"Jesus - where do you come up with this stuff from?" Jim groaned, "You're right Chief - I was embarrassed to be so dependent when I was blinded by that damn drug. I also knew that Simon would kick me off the case if I couldn't walk around the bullpen without help. And I was right wasn't I - he nearly did kick us off the case. But Chief, I wasn't embarrassed to take help from you - it felt …safe to know that there was someone around who knew what I needed and didn't think less of me because of it. I don't think less of you now you need me - and I certainly wouldn't call you a wuss! If you want to hang on to me I'd be honored."
Blair put a shaky hand on Jim's arm and Jim tucked it closed to his side, covering the hand with his free one and daring Simon to make something of it. Simon grinned, shook his head and sighed.
"Now that you've declared undying brotherhood and peace on earth, can we got those tapes sorted out?" he growled and Blair laughed - not the usual full out happy sound, but pretty close.
"On our way, Simon," Blair answered for them both and let Jim lead him out of the room. They walked across to Jim's desk for their jackets, before heading out to the lift with Blair's hand on Jim's wrist. No one in the bullpen so much as blinked.
Campus Security was willing to hand over copies of the tapes and Jim drove them home.
"It's late and you're tired, Blair," Jim argued as Blair pressed for them to watch the tapes that night, "And truth be told so am I. I'll zone right out if I have to watch any of these tonight. First thing in the morning we can get started. Please?"
"Yeah, all right, Jim," Blair conceded softly and allowed his Sentinel to usher him to the couch. Jim turned the TV on and selected the Discovery Channel for Blair to listen to. Blair smiled at Jim and leaned his head back against the couch while Jim headed for the kitchen. Jim's senses told him Blair was asleep almost instantly and he smiled to himself before rummaging around quietly to prepare dinner.
An hour later he woke Blair to eat and then put the burnt man to bed.
"Remember - I can hear you if you need me Blair. And I want you to promise you'll wake me if you need to," Jim sat on the edge of the bed for a moment and Blair took his hand.
"Jim, it felt good to work like that today. We're gonna make it through this - I can feel it," Blair smiled and Jim gripped tightly, "Thank you for taking care of me."
"Thank you for all you do for me. My God, Blair. Even blinded you can control this thing better than I can. And the way you held up in Simon's office when you had to listen to that tape - I couldn't have been that objective. I wouldn't have zoned out if I could be objective about all this. So thank you Blair," Jim replied and Blair leaned up for a hug, which Jim was all too willing to give him.
"Sleep well Big Guy."
"Sleep well Chief."
The tapes weren't too helpful- the payphones were visible, but the customers were anonymous people - even the ones who face the camera weren't identifiable due to poor focus, bad angles, low light and in several cases hats worn pulled down against the chill.
Simon received the negative report stoically and urged Jim to take the tapes back to the University before heading into the station. Blair accompanied Jim as always, walking a slight step ahead with Jim's hand on his back. Blair still tried to be independent and Jim couldn't begrudge the anthropologist that - Jim had been the same way when his eyesight had gone on the fritz.
Blair was oblivious to the stares the curious students and faculty sent his way as Jim helped him pilot through the crowds but Jim wasn't - and glared hard at anyone who looked too long or hard. Blair chuckled as they reached the security offices and Jim asked what was funny as he reached around to open the door for Blair.
"You, man - you'll scare our suspect off if you keep hitting people with the Ellison Evil Eye. Relax - let them stare. And if they're saying anything then I can't hear it and if you can you should dial your hearing down - what have I told you about dialing right up on campus?" Blair turned to Jim and Jim swore he was being looked at through the bandages. He ducked his head and sighed.
"Sorry, Chief. I guess I wasn't thinking too clearly," Jim confessed and Blair put a hand on Jim's wrist - letting himself be guided by the Sentinel in to reception.
They were taking a shortcut back to the truck when Jim froze and turned his head sharply.
"Sandburg - there's that scent!" he murmured in a low voice and felt Blair's hand tighten on his wrist.
"Take it easy, Jim. Focus and try to locate the scent. Remember it could just be someone's deodorant - let's not go off the deep end here," Blair's voice was calming. Jim nodded and took a deep breath, turning to face the strongest source of the scent.
"This way," Jim moved off quickly, with Blair hurrying to keep up. His Guide stumbled once, then matched his gait. Jim forgot the injuries to Blair's eyes and Blair's voice rose a little, centering him and helping him focus as they hurried past other people and buildings. The scent led to the faculty car park and Jim finally spotted their suspect. He lurched forward into a run as the man realised he'd been spotted and Blair's footsteps sounded behind Jim for the first few paces before Jim sent his hearing after the suspect. They hit the edge of the woods that surrounded this end of the campus and Jim plunged in without second thought as Blair's voice urged him on.
He followed the scent into the woods where Blair liked to take his daily run - Blair's preferred form of exercise. Part of the morning routine of going to Uni included this run - Jim had joined him once or twice but found himself left in the younger man's dust when Blair put the sprints on.
The branch connected solidly with the back of Jim's head and his last conscious thought was to curse himself for getting involved with his memories and forgetting the reason he was running through the woods in the first place - was this a Sentinel thing, kind of a zone out?
Reality returned slowly and painfully. His head hurt, his arms hurt and he had to go to the bathroom. Jim forced his eyes open and squinted around the dim room he was lying in. His own cuffs were pinning his aching arms behind his back and the rough concrete was digging into him through his clothes and leaching the heat from his bones.
It was dark - the only light came from a filthy small window set up near the ceiling. That meant he was in a basement somewhere. Jim tried to extend his hearing but a sharp spike of pain drove him to the edge of consciousness and he gasped, trying to control the pain dial as Blair had taught him. This was still a new skill and worked better when Blair was nearby. His sense of smell flared out of control and Jim plainly smelt the fixings of another bomb in the room with him. He groaned- they'd found the bomber all right, but now they were…
Blair! Jim twisted around frantically, looking for his partner, ignoring the pain caused by the cuffs cutting into him.
"He's not here," the voice on the tape sounded loud and Jim twisted to look. A door at the top of a flight of stairs back lit his assailant and obscured his features. Not that Jim needed to see them - he knew who this particular asshole was.
"Once I took care of you it was easy to pick him off," the voice continued, "Nice of you to leave him defenseless so I could finish the job. Way to think ahead, Detective. Leave a blind man defenseless in an isolated area. I had a lot of fun with him before I finished it…"
"No!" Jim screamed and tried to get up. He made it to his knees and then lurched up heading for the bottom of the stairs. His tormentor slammed the door and locked it. Jim slipped on the stairs and cracked his knee hard. He yelled in pain and felt something pop. His head hit the next step and he passed out, yelling Blair's name.
The attacker listened upstairs and resolved not to open the door again - at least for another few days.
Blair realised he'd lost Jim just five steps into the car park and stopped dead. He knew better than to yell for Jim - the Sentinel would have his hearing dialed up and the yell could distract Jim at the wrong time. He stopped uncertainly and dug in his pocket for his cell phone.
"Banks," the gruff voice soothed Blair's jitters a little - if he couldn't back Jim up he could get someone out here that could.
"It's me," Blair said rapidly, "I'm at the Uni - in the faculty car park. Jim's chasing our suspect - I've lost him, Simon but he needs backup. Can you come? I'm really worried about him."
"On my way kid. Hang tough, I'll bring the cavalry with me," Simon agreed and hung up. Blair listened to the dial tone for a moment and then sighed. He put the phone away and took a few uncertain steps to the left. He had no point of orientation and was totally lost in the car park. Jim had shaken loose when he kicked into high gear and Blair was uncertain if they'd been running down the middle of the road or along the edge of it. He wasn't really too keen to find out the hard way.
"Teach?" Tiny's voice was very welcome and Blair gulped for breath before calling his student over. Tiny put an arm around Blair and gently led him to the edge of the car park. Blair told him breathlessly what had happened and Tiny dug out his own cell phone and started calling.
Simon pulled up and got out of the car, followed by Taggert, Rafe and Brown. They hurried over to Blair who smiled uncertainly and started talking as soon as he heard their voices.
"They're in the woods somewhere, I'm sure that the direction they were heading. Simon - he's not back yet and he should be by now. I mean if he caught the guy he'd be back by now, right? So something's happened to him - maybe he fell or something, Simon we gotta find him."
"Take a deep breath, Blair," Simon caught Blair's shoulders and squeezed in comfort, "And something painful will happen to him when I catch up with him - what was he thinking, leaving you behind like that?"
"He was thinking he wanted to catch the guy who planted a bomb in my office and hurt us both," Blair replied, "He was doing his job."
Blair's voice was cold and firm. Simon didn't reply, accepting the Guide's need to protect the Sentinel. Taggert and Brown headed for the woods while Rafe looked around the car park. Tiny stepped over to Blair and put an arm back around the other man, leading him away from the captain to a group of people who had arrived after Simon. One of the women was pregnant.
Simon headed over to Rafe, who had nothing to report. Simon sighed, looked around and nodded.
"Go after Brown and Taggert," he told Rafe, "I think they'll need help. I'll stay with the kid and try to get things organized here."
"You got it, Captain," Rafe jogged off towards the woods, looking incongruous in his suit and polished shoes. Simon looked at the five people standing with Blair and wondered who they were and what they were discussing so intently. Blair was speaking quickly and then letting the others speak their minds.
"Blair?" Simon called as he approached them. The conversation stuttered to a halt and five people put Simon under the microscope. He bore the scrutiny with his customary scowl and looked over at Blair.
"What's going on, Sandburg?" Simon growled, his hackles up. Blair stood still and all five put a hand on his arm or shoulder.
"Simon - I haven't been completely honest with you," Blair sighed, "Jim isn't the only person in Cascade with heightened senses."
"There are other Sentinels?" Simon scowled, "Are these people Sentinels too? Does Jim know? What's going on here, dammit?"
"Simon, calm down," Blair sighed, "My friends here aren't Sentinels - as far as I know Jim is the only Sentinel in America. When I met Jim I told him I had hundreds of documented cases of people with one or two heightened senses. My friends want to help me find Jim. We'll use their abilities to track Jim down - just like he would if he were here."
"How are they going to track someone they've never met?" Simon growled - Lord he hated this Sentinel stuff at times! The pregnant woman stepped forward.
"We met Jim when he and Teach were checking out his office. And Teach has enough of Jim's scent on him to let us follow on."
"What's this us stuff? I'm the one with the super sniffer," a man spoke up and Blair held up his hands.
"You're going to build a Sentinel," Simon blurted and could have died of embarrassment right there. The five people just laughed at him and Blair shook his head.
"So can we try this?" he pressed, "We need you to back us up, Simon. You're the law here after all."
"Lets get it done then," Simon sighed, "Lead on, Sandburg."
Simon stood back and watched as the others surrounded Blair and he directed them to extend their senses carefully. It occurred to Simon that he didn't know anyone's name in the group, but then he realised that they wanted to be anonymous to him. Not that it would be hard to track them down. How many heavily pregnant women were there in Cascade? Not to mention football players, or wildly pierced women?
Simon decided not to take his curiosity any further. Obviously they'd agreed to use their talents because he already knew about Jim. This was a mark of the faith they had in Blair and if Simon betrayed that faith Blair would kill him and Jim would bury the body parts.
Blair was surrounded by the five, now, they walked around him in a rotating group talking softly as they reported what their senses found. Blair was the only fixed point in that group but he never stumbled once as someone always kept a guiding hand on him and the reports included the terrain ahead. Simon stood back a little and shook his head in awe as Blair kept up a continuous stream of advice and questions.
Then they found the bloody branch. Blair lost it all for a moment there, retreating into himself and shaking wildly as he tried to get a grip on his fears for Jim. The football player wrapped Blair in his arms and rocked back and forth, soothing him with touch and voice. Blair straightened after a long moment and got them all moving again. Simon walked next to Blair now - holding his arm protectively.
An hours walk through the woods brought them to the edge of the woods and one of the yuppie suburbs that had sprung up on the edges of Cascade. Simon estimated that a fit man could have made the walk in ten minutes or so - it was Blair and the constant stopping for clues that slowed them down. The suburb was made up of large blocks of land that allowed large houses with a 'woodsy' feel to sprawl in privacy. It let the owners feel like they were living in a cabin in the woods with all the convenience of being in a city. The place was referred to as 'Yuppie-ville' though officially it was called Foresters.
The five led Blair and Simon to a house close to the edge of the woods. It was a large rendered ranch style house, painted white. Unlike its neighbors it was in poor condition, the garden overgrown and the windows dirty. Everyone hid behind a convenient hedge and Simon called in their location from his cell phone. When he hung up he realised the five were also one their cell phones and he leaned in close to Blair.
"Who are they calling?" Simon asked quietly - hoping that the people with heightened hearing were too busy to listen to him. Blair shrugged.
"Backup I guess," he replied, and touched one of the men on the arm, "Stretch your sight for me and see if you can find us a way in that will lead to Jim."
The man nodded and hung up from his conversation before turning to scan the house. He leaned forward a little and Blair tightened his grip carefully. Simon wondered why it was bad for Jim to lean, but not this guy, and then realised that five heightened senses would increase the zone out factor, not decrease it. After a tense moment the guy grunted.
"I can see Jim, he's on some steps - handcuffs on. I think he hit his head again," the guy frowned, "He's in the basement."
"There's no movement in there - I think it's empty. We're in luck - if we're quick we can do this now," the pierced woman spoke up, "I can only hear one heartbeat - it must be Jim."
"Teach - I can smell that chemical smell again - like the one in your office," a second man spoke up and Blair shivered in reply.
"All I care about is getting to Jim. The rest of this can go to hell. Where's my entrance?" Blair's voice was chilling in its determination and Simon looked at him in surprise.
"The back door will get us in - no reason to be fancy," the first guy said and the football player gathered Blair close. Simon wondered idly why the big guy was so touchy feely - then groaned silently at his own pun. Obviously the football player had heightened sense of touch.
"Stay here Teach, while I go get him," the football player said and Blair shook his head.
"A blow to the head will put his senses right out of whack. I need to be there to get him back on line. You guys stay here while Simon and I go in."
There was an immediate protest lodged by the five and Blair sighed.
"You're not cops, guys. I can't risk you."
"You're not a cop either, Sandburg," Simon growled, "And may I remind you that you're also blind as a bat here? I'll go get Jim, carry him out if I have to. You can do your thing and we'll all be happy."
"He won't let you touch him, Simon," Blair protested, "I'm telling you …"
"And I'm telling you. Stay put. We'll be right out," Simon interrupted and headed out before Blair could grab him. Part of him felt guilty at playing Blind Man's Bluff with a blind man, and he promised himself to make it up to Blair later. The back door was unlocked, and Simon wondered what sort of criminal was so arrogant as to leave a door unlocked.
The door opened onto a disused laundry and Simon went through to the kitchen. The door to the basement was in there and it was a moment's work to unlock it and hurry down the stairs. Jim was unconscious at the base of the steps. His knee was obviously swollen and the back of his head sported a nasty lump. Simon rolled his best detective over to groans and winced in sympathy at the bruises on Jim's face. Jim was restless now and trying to get away from the hands on him.
"Easy, Jim. It's me," Simon soothed and tightened his grip a little. Jim struggled harder and Simon frowned, then let go. Jim moaned again and subsided to the floor. Now the intruding touch was gone the Sentinel retreated to whatever world he'd been inhabiting. Blair was right - Jim was offline and needed his Guide to get him out of there.
"Damn," Simon swore and tensed when footsteps sounded near the door. He pulled his gun and knelt over Jim protectively. What was taking the back up so long?
"It's me, Simon," Blair called before stepping into view. The football player was with him, an arm wrapped around Blair's waist protectively. He guided Blair down the steps and Blair dropped to his knees next to Jim.
"Jim, it's Blair. I need you to get up for me, Buddy," Blair reached out and Simon guided his hands to Jim's shoulders.
"Not here, not here," Jim moaned, but let himself be pulled up. Blair got his feet under him and stood, then pulled. Jim struggled up, moaning in pain and then returning to his mantra of ‘not here'. Simon and the football player picked him up under Blair's direction and Blair latched a hand onto Simon's coat to follow them out. He pulled the back door shut behind them and the other four stepped out from behind the hedge to help carry Jim back into the woods. The pregnant lady led Blair by the hand, while he talked to Jim, trying to stop the mantra from repeating itself over and over.
They came to the road and lay Jim down on their coats. Blair sat with Jim's head in his lap, bent over and whispering to the injured man soothingly. After a while the mantra stopped and Jim settled down. Rafe pulled up in Simon's car and Brown and Taggert followed in Brown's unit. Some patrol cars pulled up too and an ambulance. Jim and Blair were loaded into it and whisked away. The five people who'd led Simon to the house stood a little distance away from the action and talked quietly.
"Captain Banks," the pregnant lady called, "The owner of the house is headed this way."
Simon's eyes widened and he urged the patrol cars out of sight. Taggert, Rafe and Brown gave him a funny look, but hid obligingly when he growled at them. They all watched as a car pulled into the private driveway of the house and the driver got out. On the road more cars pulled over and people eased out quietly, converging on the house.
"Cascade PD!" Simon identified himself as he stepped out. The suspect turned to run and found himself met by a wall of unsmiling people. They stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing at him with unnerving intensity. Simon stepped closer - sensing the man was about to run or surrender.
After a long tense moment the suspect turned and offered his hands for the cuffs. As Simon read him his rights the people all turned and left - still in absolute silence. The five people who'd led Simon to the end of this case went with them.
"That was weird," Rafe mumbled to Brown as they supervised the search of the house.
"SOP when dealing with Sandburg and Ellison, my boy, SOP," Brown mused and led the way down to the basement.
"Who the hell did we just arrest anyway?" Rafe frowned as he looked at the bomb factory that had temporarily been Jim's prison.
"Some guy by the name of Paul Castle. Apparently he works at the Uni," Brown shook his head in disgust, "Look at this. What kind of person thinks that blowing up innocent people is a good idea?"
"Only a moron," Rafe agreed, "What was his beef with the kid?"
"I guess we'll have to wait for Captain Banks to get that out of him. Five says it only takes ten minutes."
"No way man …"
Jim didn't really want to wake up. It wasn't the pain of his injuries that had him worried - it was reality itself. Blair was dead - his captor had told him so - and it was Jim's fault. He'd abandoned his blind partner without second thought.
"Blair," Jim groaned as he lost the battle to stay under.
"Right here, Jim," the loved voice was close and Jim shook his head.
"No," he argued and heard a soft chuckle. A familiar touch soothed him.
"Open those wonderful eyes Jim. I'm right here. What makes you deny my existence today, hmm?" Blair's voice expressed his confusion and Jim's eyes snapped open. There was his Guide, bandages and all.
"He said you were dead," Jim blurted and snatched Blair to his chest. Blair huffed in surprise and then let Jim hold him close, exorcising his fears. Jim could smell that they were in the hospital - he couldn't spare a glance to confirm that as he drank in the sight of Blair. He opened his mouth and let the words tumble out - what Castle had said to him about Blair and his own realization that he had indeed left his blind partner behind to fend for himself. Blair let him get it all out, making soothing noises and leaning into Jim's embrace trustingly.
"It's ok, Jim," Blair finally managed to get a word in, "We all make mistakes- and I'm betting you won't make that one again. After the doctors deliver their verdict on my sight we'll think up a way around this dilemma. How does that sound?"
"Good," Jim mumbled and let Blair up. Blair smiled and held his Sentinel's hand.
"Castle confessed," Blair said quietly, "I just got the call. He was doing the whole blow up parts of the campus thing as revenge. I'm not the only one who didn't trust him or his skills. He had a list in the house of who he was going after - Rafe found it near the bombs. You've been out of it all day - I was really worried, Jim."
"I'm ok. He only hit my head," Jim mumbled and Blair laughed softly. Jim looked at the swollen lump that was his knee and Blair squeezed his hand.
"The doctors x-rayed your knee. Nothings broken it's just bruised and swollen. You'll be fine in a day or so, and back to normal in a few weeks," Blair told him.
"How do you do that?" Jim spluttered, "How do you know what I'm thinking?"
"Jim, you and I are partners. We live together, work together, train together and play together. People have commented on how well we fit together. We can work in small spaces without getting in each other's way because we have a good sense of where the other is going to be. It stands to reason that with a bit of thinking on my part I can figure out what's bothering you and try to help out. Not always mind you - just sometimes."
"I can't tell you what it means to me that there is someone in the world who cares enough to try and figure me out like you do," Jim sighed and Blair leaned over for a hug. No further words were needed.
Jim held his breath as the bandages and dressings came off Blair's face. The past month had been a combination of joy and fear for the Sentinel. Fear that his Guide was forever blind and would use the injury to leave Jim far behind; joy that he finally had an iron clad reason to spoil his Guide rotten. Blair had undoubtedly noticed that and purposefully kept any requests to a minimum, leaving Jim to come up with his own form of telepathy to anticipate Blair's wants.
Blair's face was red and white. The skin was alternately dry and wrinkly. His eyes were shut and the room had been dimmed to prevent discomfort. The doctor urged Blair to keep his eyes closed while his skin was examined. Blair's foot tapped nervously the whole time - the doctor ignored it. He'd probably seen his share of nervous tics in his time.
"I see some excellent healing, Blair. This is looking very good. I doubt you'll even scar," the doctor smiled and patted Blair's shoulder, "Now, when you're ready I want you to open your eyes. There will be some discomfort, but just take your time and work through it."
"Ok," Blair licked his lips nervously and blinked his eyes open for a second. The doctor kept up a steady stream of encouragement and after a few minutes Blair's eyes were open. He turned his head from side to side and flinched away from the hand Jim put on his shoulder.
"Blair?" Jim pleaded. Blair blinked a few times and frowned.
"Hey - that's my shirt you're wearing!" he exclaimed in delight. All Jim could do was laugh. All was right with their world again.
Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Shedoc.