Not beta'd. Rated G. Inspired by my many, many, many years as a student (God, when will I get a real job?!) *grin*

Fatigue


Finals. He hated them. He hated giving them, and he sure as hell hated taking them. Fortunately, as a grad student and teaching fellow, he didn't have to take many classes, so he only had one final this semester. Still, he had a class full of final papers to grade and another class full of finals to administer and grade. He also had a paper to finish for an anthropology journal. He'd already taken Professor Steinen's final, so at least that was out of the way. He was pretty sure he'd aced it, but he wouldn't find out for certain for another three or four weeks. In the midst of all that, he also had to find some time to help Jim out at the station. Crime didn't stop just because finals hit.

Just two more days, he assured himself. Two days of no sleep, tons of coffee, and then it'll be summer and you'll have two weeks off... Well, off of the university, anyway. Which pretty much means two full-time weeks at the station. He groaned inwardly. As much as he liked working with Jim, there were times he missed the down-time he used to take as a student. Christmas. Spring Break. Summer. As a grad student, he really didn't get a full summer break, but at least he'd always managed to take a week or two off and wind down. For the past three and a half years, though, he'd taken no Christmas breaks, no spring breaks, and no summer breaks. All his spare time was spent with Jim, and, quite frankly, he was beginning to feel a bit worn down. Even the times he'd taken going camping or fishing had often turned out to be anything but relaxing. Poachers, drug dealers, and terrorists always managed to put a crimp in his vacation plans.

Okay, there was that one spring break we had. That was over a year ago, I think. Or was it the year before? He sighed, his shoulders slumping as he adjusted his backpack and headed toward his office. Well, at least Jim and I managed one real vacation. One spring break of camping, fishing, and relaxing, sans bad guys. Count me spoiled.

Arriving at his office, he unlocked the door and shuffled inside, dropping his backpack by his desk as he plopped into the chair. He raised one arm to pull his hair back, but noticed the small tremors shaking his hand and promptly lowered his arm. He leaned forward, folding his arms on the desk and resting his head in the crook of one elbow. His arms and legs felt like lead, and his eyes stung with fatigue. He'd been doing far too much reading and computer work over the past few days, and the insane pace was beginning to take its toll on his body. He'd managed a total of three hours sleep over the past two days, and it didn't look like he'd be catching up on that lost sleep until after finals.

Caffeine. I need caffeine. And Sugar. That'll help. Now, if he could just get out of the chair to retrieve his study food.


The elevator slowed, squeaking to a stop on the seventh floor of the police station. Blair opened his eyes and pushed himself off the wall just as the doors slid open. He forced his legs to carry him to the hall, his backpack weighing heavily on his shoulders. Keeping his eyes open took a monumental act of will, as did convincing his knees not to buckle.

He entered the bullpen and spotted Jim at his desk hunched over the computer's keyboard. Immediately, he trudged forward, the air around him seemingly as thick as molasses as he struggled to travel the short distance.

"Hey, Blair, you feeling okay?"

Blair turned his head to see Joel Taggart gazing at him with concerned eyes. He managed a small smile and nodded. 


"Yeah, Joel, just tired. Finals, and all," he explained.

The stout man nodded sympathetically, gently slapping Blair on the shoulder. That small impact nearly knocked the anthropologist off his feet. "I'm glad I'm not a student anymore. Don't know how you do it, kid," Joel mused.

Me either, sometimes. Blair simply shrugged, forcing his smile wider. "Lots of caffeine, man."

Joel chuckled. "No doubt. Well, get some rest, Blair. You look like you could use it."

Sure. Rest. Piece of cake. Not! Certainly not with all he had to do. To top it off, he seemed to have come down with a bout of insomnia. Last night he'd tried to get a decent night's sleep, going to bed at midnight, but his mind had just been too active to wind down. He'd laid in bed, awake, until about 2 a.m., then given up and did about an hour's worth of reading. He'd finally fallen asleep around four. Unfortunately, his alarm had gone off at six, giving him a grand total of two hours sleep.

"Sure, Joel," Blair replied automatically. "Thanks."

The big man nodded, smiling. "Well, see ya, Sandburg."

"Bye," Blair said, watching the former Bomb Squad Captain walk away. With a tired sigh, Blair resumed his seemingly long trek to Jim's desk. The detective's eyes met his, and he rose from his chair.

"Glad you made it, Chief," Jim said. "We've got a meeting with a snitch in twenty minutes. I was just about to take off." The Sentinel grabbed his jacket off the chair and maneuvered around his desk. "Let's go."

Blair stopped dead in his tracks as the Sentinel passed. Turning around just took way too much effort. Maybe if he just left his backpack behind, he'd be able to walk without struggling to remain standing. He shrugged out of the straps and let the backpack fall to the floor. It hit with a heavy thud. Jim turned around, glancing at the discarded backpack.

"You coming, Chief?"

Blair nodded. "Yeah. Just thought I'd leave my books here," he muttered, his words slurring together.

Jim furrowed his eyebrows and took a step toward the young man. "You okay, Chief?"

"Yeah, sure. Jus' tired."

He took a step toward the Detective, but he could still feel the phantom weight of the backpack on his shoulders, weighing him down. The room suddenly spun, and he reached out for Jim's desk. His hand found only, air though. He tried to take another step, but suddenly his feet seemed glued to the floor.

"Blair?"

Jim's voice seemed to come through a tunnel, sounding low and distant, almost distorted. The Sentinel's image wavered, and Blair blinked in an attempt to clear his vision. Then everything just shut down.


"Blair!" Jim lunged forward to grab his partner.

He caught the unconscious young man and lowered him gently to the floor. Instantly, he was surrounded by a mass of bodies.

"What happened?"

Jim recognized Brown's voice and looked up at the man. Megan, Joel, and Rafe also crowded around, their faces etched with concern.

"I don't know. He just collapsed," Jim explained. "Call an ambulance, H."

Brown nodded. "Sure, Jim," he replied, then spun on his heels and hurried to the nearest desk.

Joel knelt down next to Jim, placing a hand on Blair's forehead. "He said he was tired, Jim. He didn't look too good."

"What the hell happened?" Banks' deep voice boomed.

"Blair collapsed, Sir," Jim explained. He tilted his head, listening to his partner's breathing and heart rate. Despite Blair's inactivity, his heart pounded like a man who'd just run a marathon. Jim frowned, his jaw clenching with concern. "I think it's just exhaustion, Sir, but I'm not sure." He looked up at Brown, standing by the desk with the phone cradled on his shoulder. "Forget the ambulance, Brown. I don't think it's that serious. I'll drive him myself."

"Okay, Jim. You sure?"

"Yeah, H. Thanks."

Jim studied Blair's pale face and realized he hadn't seen the kid eat for over two days. Of course, he hadn't seen a lot of Blair during that time, so he'd just figured his friend had been grabbing meals at the university. Now he suspected otherwise. Blair probably hadn't eaten much during the past two or three days, and the Detective knew for a fact that the kid hadn't gotten much sleep because he'd heard him shuffling around in his room 'til the early morning hours.

He touched Blair's cheek, then gave the young man a gentle slap. "Chief? Come on, wake up." When he got no response, he tried a slightly harder slap. "Blair, open your eyes."

The young man groaned, his eyelids fluttering open. His blue eyes peered up at Jim, narrowed with confusion. "Huh? Jim? Whu happened? Did I sleep through my alarm?"

"No, you didn't sleep through your alarm." Jim looked up at Simon. "Help me get him up, Sir?"

Simon knelt down and grabbed one of Blair's arm. Jim grabbed the other one, and the two of them lifted Blair to his feet. The kid was heavy, dead weight, and his head hung forward.

"Blair?"

"Huh?" he moaned.

"Can you walk, buddy?"

"Uh-huh," the groggy man replied, but his body remained limp in contrast.

Jim glanced at Simon. "I guess we get to carry him to the truck, Sir."

"Okay, Jim." The Captain shook his head and moved forward with Jim as they carried Blair to the elevator. "You're sure it's just exhaustion?"

The Detective nodded. "Pretty sure. I'll take him to the E.R. to make sure. I think his blood sugar might be low. That's my main concern. He can sleep the rest off."

Banks shook his head. "Damn, doesn't the kid take care of himself?"

Jim looked guiltily at the Captain. "He's been pretty tapped between the station and studying for finals, Sir. I knew he wasn't getting much sleep, but he rarely gets enough sleep so I didn't think much about it. I haven't even seen him all that much for the past few days."

They arrived at the elevator and Banks pressed the down button. "Yeah, well, when he wakes up, tell him I don't want to see his face in here until a week after finals."

Jim nodded. "Gladly, Sir."

"And just so the kid doesn't worry himself rampant during that time, be sure to tell him you're on desk duty 'til he comes back."

Jim groaned. "Sir--"

"That's final, Detective."

The Sentinel released a low sigh. "Yes, Sir."


Blair shifted deeper beneath the covers. His pillow felt a bit too hard, and the mattress seemed much too uniform, lacking its normal lumps. He opened his eyes to see fluorescent light panels in the ceiling. Huh?

"Hey, Chief."

Blair turned his head toward Jim's voice. An IV bag hung from a pole next to the Sentinel. Blair followed the line down to his hand. A hospital? Why am I in the hospital?

He looked back up at his friend. "Jim, man, why am I in the hospital?"

The Detective leaned back in his chair, his jaw muscles taught and his eyes admonishing. "You tell me."

Blair's brow furrowed with confusion. "Huh?"

"Exhaustion and hypoglycemia, Sandburg."

What? The crease in Blair's forehead deepened. "What are you talking about?"

Jim sighed and leaned forward. "You collapsed at the station, Blair. You haven't slept in days, and you obviously haven't eaten because your blood sugar was so low they hooked you up to a glucose drip."

Blair raised his hand to rub his eyes. "That's ridiculous, Jim. I'm a student. I've always done this during finals."

"Foregone sleep and food?"

"I've been eating," Blair protested.

"That's not what your blood sugar says."

The young man sighed, closing his eyes. "Man, I'm too tired for this right now." He allowed himself a moment's rest, then opened his eyes and sat up. "And I've got finals, man. I don't have time to be laying around in this hospital bed."

Jim shook his head, pushing Blair back down. "Wrong. Banks called the Dean and you've got someone to cover as proctor for your exams."

Blair's face grew hot. He didn't like the idea of Simon going behind his back to tell the Chancellor he couldn't cut it. "That still leaves the article I have to finish," Blair shot back, making another attempt to sit, but Jim pushed him back down.

"When's it due?"

"It's not exactly due, Jim, but I want to submit it in time for next month's journal."

Jim eyes turned to daggers. "It'll have to wait."

Blair clenched his jaw. "Like hell, Jim. Where do you get off --"

"Sandburg," Jim growled. "Cut the crap. If it were me laying in this hospital bed, you'd be telling me the same thing -- to lay off. Take it easy. In case you haven't clued in, we're partners. That means when you're down, I'm down. Simon's got me on desk duty until you're fully rested, and you know how much I hate doing paperwork. So, believe me, you're going to get rest because I'm not spending anymore time doing paperwork than I have to."

The admonishment stole Blair's anger, and he sagged back into the mattress. "Sorry, Jim," he muttered, looking reproachfully up at the Sentinel. "Simon really put you on desk duty?"

The Detective nodded. "Unfortunately, yes."

A tiny smile touched Blair's lips. "He's a good Captain."


Jim opened the loft door and placed a hand on Blair back, steering him inside. "To bed," he ordered.

Blair gave no argument. He still felt tired. He'd only spent a couple of hours in the hospital, and although he felt better after receiving a healthy dose of glucose, his body still ached with fatigue. Wordlessly, he shuffled into his room, falling forward onto his bed. His head hit the pillow hard, and one hand dangled over the edge, his fingers touching the floor. The doctor had ordered a mild sedative, which felt more like something that could put down an elephant. He didn't even bother struggling against sleep as it claimed him.

Jim stood in the doorway, a wistful smile on his lips as he stared at the ragdoll figure on the bed. With an affectionate sigh, he moved forward. He slid Blair's sneakers off, then worked the jacket off. Finally, he lifted the young man's arm and placed it on the futon mattress, then raised the covers and tucked them around his partner's smaller frame.

"That's better," he muttered approvingly, extending his hearing to listen to his friend's vitals. Blair's breathing sounded slow and regular, and his heart had resumed its normal rhythm. A small smile tweaked Jim's mouth. "Much better."

The End