Author's Notes: No profit, copyright laws bent but not broken; Beta'd by the generous Arianna - remaining errors are mine.

Spoilers: Post TSbyBS and Blair is a detective.

Warnings: None - but the facts noted are all true, so consumers beware!

Sentinel Sensitivities

by Roslyn

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

Rhonda, secretary extraordinaire, reported to Captain Banks that a personal year had been requested by one Blair Sandburg via phone that morning. Preoccupied, Banks simply nodded his consent. "That's fine, Ellison is in court all day today so I guess a personal day for the kid won't be a problem."

Rhonda cleared her throat, mutely signaling her annoyance at being misunderstood. "No, Captain. He requested a personal 'year' and sounded pretty stressed."

Banks looked up, startled. "What? You're not serious," he exclaimed. "A year?"

She shrugged. "Well, he might not have been serious, but he sounded really upset..."

Simon's lips tightened in concern. As there had been no panic-laden communications from a Sentinel in Blessed Protector overdrive concerning his guide, he could assume Jim Ellison was currently in a state of Blessed Ignorance while spending his day in court. That left himself to assume the responsibility of finding out what had befallen the squad's newest detective. "Rhonda, I'll be clocking out for an hour or so of personal time."

"I wonder why," she smirked, returning to her desk before the stern Captain could respond to the sarcastic comment. Banks could always be counted upon to be there for his men - and for unpredictable rookies, although he would staunchly deny any level of concern beyond that required by duty.

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

Approaching the door of the loft, Simon realized no sentinel ears would be there to note his presence before knocking. Pleased with that thought, he raised his hand to the door and was startled at its sudden opening. Looking down upon the loose, unruly curls of a distraught young man, he growled his surprise. "Sandburg! Don't tell me that you can hear through wood and concrete, too?"

"Simon!" The hair fell forward as the head bowed in obvious relief. "I heard the elevator stop and my heart almost did, too, thinking Jim was back early. Man, he's going to kill me!" Blair trailed off on that wailing note and stalked back inside, the tread unusually heavy for his light frame.

Resigned to taking another journey into the Sandburg Zone, Banks entered the loft. He immediately noted the waning odor of some solvent, and sniffed carefully.

"Yeah," Blair admitted, "I spilled cleaning fluid on the couch and had to remove it. The couch, I mean, not just the cleaner. No way is that coming out of the foam cushions in this century!"

The area of rug left vacant by the missing couch was a glaring testament to the kid's carelessness. Simon immediately understood the reasons for Sandburg’s obvious anxiety. Jim was very protective of his furnishings and had enforced enough 'house rules' over the years to protect them from his roommate's casual approach to household order. He reluctantly decided to inquire further. "How did you and a bottle of strong cleaner get so close to the couch?"

Pacing up and down the naked expanse of living room carpet, Blair anxiously explained, "Jim practically zoned on this little stain spotting the arm of his precious couch last night. I figured I would just use a bit of this nasty stuff before leaving for work. This way it would have the day to air out before he and his nose got home tonight. I tripped on the way, while opening the bottle, and it spilled all over the damn thing. I pushed the couch into the elevator right away and put it on the street to air out. Nearly gave myself a hernia doing that, but no way could Jim tolerate that kind of chemical spill indoors."

"Sandburg, there ISN'T any couch on the street in front of this building."

"I KNOW that, Simon. Some guy in a truck took it away as if it were being thrown out. And no, I didn't get the license number." Blair ran a frantic hand through his already disheveled hair. "By the time I knew what was happening, he was closing the tailgate and was gone when I got to the street. Then I called for leave."

"Yeah, I know. A personal year." Simon was torn between laughter and sympathy at Blair's serious dilemma. Jim would certainly kill him and Major Crimes would be short a valuable asset.

The disgusted rookie sank to the floor in a lotus position but his Captain refused to stand and watch the man spend an hour 'centering himself'. "No meditating now, son. Just a trip to a furniture store..." Simon broke off, recalling how Jim could not enter such stores. He'd even fled Simon's own living room last month after the acquisition of a new lounger chair. Gasses from polyurethane foam, formaldehyde and stain-proofing chemicals had upset his breathing after a short time. Hell, it had turned the tips of his ears red and itchy. Simon had been amazed when Blair explained how toxic new furnishings were during their first year.

The kid had gone on to explain why he hadn't purchased a new car to replace his 'classic' Volvo, given that his new salary would allow him to make payments on a new one. New cars 'out-gassed' fumes from vinyl dashboards and door coverings, as well as formaldehyde from carpets and upholstery among other nasty substances. Toxic gasses quickly accumulate in the closed interiors of new cars during the first three years, reaching levels well above OSHA standards for work environments. Blair had said he wouldn't expose a child to that danger, much less his sensitive sentinel!

"Well, what are you going to do? Buy a couch and leave it outside for six months to 'outgas'? You'll furnish every living room in town occupied by some passing yahoo with a truck."

Blair decided those comments were unworthy of reply. Instead, he opened his laptop and typed in a search term, 'non-toxic furniture'. The menu offered a series of websites by manufacturers targeting environmentally aware consumers and those intolerant of the usual array of synthetic constituents in conventional furnishings.

Simon read over his shoulder. "The stuff looks safe enough but the prices, Blair! And not too many styles, either."

Blair covered his face and moaned, "And how do I know if he needs Texas or Peruvian organic cotton? Or tung oil finish on wood versus unfinished wood? I'm dead, Simon. It'll take months to have the stuff made to order and delivered."

"I'll give you a fine, official funeral." Simon winced at the irate glare directed at him. "Sorry. Look, finish out your personal DAY, researching this stuff. I'll intercept Ellison after court and take him out for a few beers. You know, prepare him for the trauma in store for him. By the time we leave the bar, he won't be homicidal any longer. Otherwise, I'll toss his ass in a cell for the night."

Blair wasn't sure that last remark was entirely facetious. "Thanks, Simon. I'll phone these places and figure out the best options. Maybe call up some of the experts on chemical sensitivity. Apparently, sixteen percent of the population reports being adversely affected by common chemicals. The rest of us don't even recognize the harm they do to us. Lots of stuff written on it, someone will be able to answer my questions."

Simon left, rethinking his conversation with his ex-wife, Joan, about refurbishing their son's bedroom. Too many new items could mean trouble. Come to think of it, the last time Daryl had new furnishings as a little kid, he'd battled bronchitis all that winter. Getting into his recently leased car, Simon paused and then opened the windows a crack, despite the cool drizzle. With a few muttered curses regarding a certain former academic possessing a wealth of inconvenient facts, the dour commanding officer of Major Crimes drove off to salvage some part of his workday.

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

A slightly tipsy Ellison was delivered home that evening, feeling magnanimous about the lost couch that Simon had carefully explained had been confiscated, to spare him a very bad reaction. Or something like that. It had seemed clearer before those last two beers.

Blair doubted that his partner's 'good fellow feeling' would continue past sunrise, when the hangover set in. Still, he knew Jim wouldn't rage over the issue after such a delay. He silently blessed Simon for his intervention, as well as the patron saint for guides (well, there ought to be one, even for Jewish guides). He proceeded to serve up a superb dinner that was greasy enough to satisfy his sentinel's plebeian tastes. Jim was then ushered back to the 'scene of the crime'. With limited seating options, Blair deposited the older man in his armchair and took a seat at his feet, spreading around the print-outs of various furnishings found during his internet search.

"You could get a regular sofa and put it in storage for a few months but frankly, all the storage facilities I called said they exterminate the premises every month with insecticide sprays. We already know how those affect you and fabrics just soak 'em up like crazy. No way to get those chemicals out of cloth, foam or wood once they are contaminated." Blair's tone was obviously disapproving of this option.

Jim took pity on his exhausted and nervous partner. The food had made things a bit less fuzzy. "Look, this is my fault, too. If I hadn't been so, I don't know ..."

"Fastidious? Obsessive-compulsive? Pissy? Freaked out?"

"Easy, Chief!" Jim intervened when Blair seemed prepared to continue the less than flattering litany of adjectives. "May I suggest you quit while you're ahead?" His tone mild, he continued, "As I was saying, perhaps had I not been, uh, overly concerned about that stain on the old couch, we wouldn't be needing a new one. Let's split the cost of an organic one for 'our house'. Hell, sounds like we're supposed to eat it instead of sit on it."

Blair exhaled a sigh of relief, and Jim lost the last vestiges of his annoyance at the realization of how upset his guide had been all day. His tone softened further, "We're okay, Chief. This isn't important in the scheme of things." Jim hated to see the younger man so upset over something this trivial, after all they had been through together. But it was kind of embarrassing to realize he would not have regarded this as trivial, had he arrived home to be surprised by the events of the day. Perspective should not be found in bars ...

Blair leaned happily against Jim's leg in a release of tension. "You wouldn't believe what I learned today, man. I can understand a lot more now about how hard it is for you to maintain your equilibrium on a daily basis. The EPA says indoor air quality is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, even in the inner cities! All from inadequately tested products on the market like pesticides, furniture, rugs, laundry products, wood substitutes - the list seems endless."

"You forgot to mention cleaning products," Jim teased.

Blair smiled his acceptance of that gentle jibe. "Yeah, that one is big on the hit parade of dangers. All this accumulation affects us, putting immunological and detoxification systems on full alert around the clock to manage it. It ages us prematurely, as well as creating conditions that can lead to many illnesses like asthma, severe allergies, cardiac problems, auto-immune diseases, dementia, cancer ..."

"Whoa, Chief! If you're trying to cheer me up here, you’re failing dismally. But I know how much better I feel here at home than anywhere else. I also know it's because you engineered the environment just for me. You got the management to use less toxic pesticide baits and gels, special paints and varnishes that don't give off so many petrochemical fumes, monitor for mold and I don't know what all."

"Well, it looks like I benefit, too. My lungs are good here but in some other places - ", Blair flushed and his voice dropped away. He and Jim both hated any reference to his drowning and subsequent tendency towards lung infections.

"All the more reason to go safe. Let's find a style we both can relax with. I like the ads for this Boston outfit. On the other hand, you look really good sitting at my feet, grasshopper. Maybe we have enough furniture!"

A swat to Jim's leg led to a resumption of their examinations of various catalogue items and they selected one together. The company would mail them a sample of the wood finished with tung oil, so they could test out Jim's tolerance of the product in advance of purchase. If it didn't 'agree' with him, or with Blair for that matter, they could order an unfinished wood frame. After all, covered by organic cotton upholstery, no one would be the wiser anyway. Jim found it amusing that the cushions would be stuffed with organic cotton grown in Peru.

Blair was now groggy with fatigue after a long, anxious day. The beers Jim had drunk left him ready to embrace an early bedtime as well. He laid a hand on Blair's head, now resting heavily against his knee and woke his guide from a light doze. "Let's get you to bed, partner. And I need you to know how much I value your keeping track of all these pitfalls around me, even on the rare occasions when I seem to be a 'tad resistant' to your efforts." He deadpanned the remark successfully.

Blair laughed heartily at that understatement, basking in the offered praise and reassurance. Weaving a path to his small bedroom, he murmured, "You're worth it, man. Besides, it would be hell trying to 'housebreak' a new sentinel. Gotta save the old one." A huge yawn preceded the sound of his dive under assorted blankets, discarded garments and other detritus of the complex life of a scholar-guide-cop-shaman and friend. Content, Jim ascended the stairs to fall asleep to the comforting rhythm of his guide's heartbeat.

The End

Note to Readers: The EPA and the FDA do NOT test products. They merely review the limited research presented to them by the manufacturers before granting the registrations required for marketing. In the USA, labels are not required to offer full disclosure of toxic ingredients. Laws protect companies from having to make such disclosures, under the headings of 'proprietary formulas' and 'trade secrets'. Consumers should take responsibility for purchasing products offering full disclosure of their manufacturing processes and weigh the potential savings in medical costs against the higher price sometimes required for safer merchandise. Caveat Emptor ...

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