Sentinel Too 1 and 2 - Epilogue and spoilers
A Place Called Home
"God, what a trip." Blair closed his eyes, leaning against the back seat window. "You can drop me off at Rainier," he told the cab driver. They'd already dropped Megan off on her place since she lived closest to the airport.
"What for?" Jim looked over at him.
"My car, man." Blair didn't bother opening his eyes. He was tired, and his chest felt tight, making breathing difficult.
"You okay, Sandburg?" Simon asked, his voice coming from the area in the front seat.
"Yeah, just tired." Blair wrapped his arms around himself, huddling more securely into the corner of the cab. "I think I'm gonna sleep a week."
"That sounds like a good idea, Chief."
The cab slowed to a stop, and a slightly-accented voice told him. "Here you are. That comes to...."
"I got it," Jim said. "I'll pay the whole thing once you drop me at Prospect."
Blair waved a hand in the air. "Thanks." He finally forced his eyelids open, and his fingers groped for the door handle. He found it and pulled, nearly falling out when the door swung open.
A hand grabbed his arm. "You're not okay to drive, Blair. Just come home with me, and I'll drive you to pick up your car tomorrow."
Blair shook his head, pulling away from the grip. He grabbed his backpack and stumbled out of the cab. "No, I'm okay. Really." He shook his head harder to wake himself up. Now that he was outside in Cascade's cool evening air, his fatigue seemed to be lifting. "I'll see you, okay?"
"Sandburg," Jim scooted toward the open door.
"Goodbye, Jim," Blair said slowly. "I'm okay to drive now."
Jim gazed at him with narrowed eyes. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Believe me, Jim, one near-death experience in a month is enough for me. I'm not going to tempt fate."
Jim's eyes flickered with something dark. He reached out, grabbed the door handle, and nodded. "Drive carefully. I'll see you in a bit."
Blair nodded. "Bye, Jim." He waved toward the front passenger window. "Bye, Simon."
Jim staggered into the empty loft. The tiny light on the answering machine blinked red, but he walked past it, heading straight for the bathroom.
After taking care of his personal business, he headed for the living room. And stopped. Looking around, his chest grew cold. Shit. His furniture was still in the basement. All he had was his bed upstairs, which meant Sandburg would have no where to sleep when he got home.
Jim winced at his own selfishness. Sandburg would get the bed. Geez, the kid was ready to drop, and he was still far from recovered. He needed rest, and he shouldn't have been anywhere near the jungle. When Blair got home, Jim would steer him upstairs and fix a spot for himself on the floor.
Tomorrow, he'd get the loft back together.
Glancing at the clock on the microwave, Jim frowned. Blair should be just about home by now. He cocked his head and extended his hearing but didn't hear the distinctive rattle of the Volvo.
His frown deepened, and he moved quickly to the phone, grabbing the cordless. If he knew Blair, the kid was in his office. Jim dialed the number and waited until the voice mail picked up. He took a deep breath and returned the phone to its base. Okay, so Blair wasn't in his office. He'd give Sandburg a few more minutes before starting to worry.
Damn. He never should have let the kid drive.
He paced the empty living room, taking deep breaths. What the hell had he been thinking? Wouldn't it be ironic - pulling Blair back from death only to lose him days later in a car accident.
Blair stumbled into the motel room, letting his backpack drop to the floor as he kicked the door closed.
He headed straight for the inviting mattress, navigating around the packed boxes, and fell forward. He bounced when he hit, then scooted up until his head reached the pillow. He wrapped his arms around the fluffy bundle and fell instantly asleep.
Jim circled Rainier for the third time, but he still saw no sign of Blair or the Volvo. He was now officially worried. He hadn't spotted Blair en route from the university to the loft, and he hadn't found the young man in his office, either.
So where the hell was he?
The answer slammed into him, and he almost jerked the truck into the oncoming lane.
Oh, hell. Did Sandburg still think he wasn't welcome at the loft? Jim realized he'd never actually asked Blair to come back. He'd just assumed that things were okay between them and that everything would go back to the way it had been. He'd figured it was obvious.
It was obvious, wasn't it?
He stopped the truck at a red light and closed his eyes. Where the hell could Sandburg be? He had to have a few friends that would've taken him in on short notice. As for all his stuff... Storage? Certainly not in his office. Jim had already checked there.
Well, Jim needed to start somewhere.
A car horn jerked him out of his thoughts, and he glared at the black Mercedes behind him. Yanking the wheel to the right, Jim turned the corner and pulled over to the curb, then whipped out his cell phone.
Five minutes later, he had his answer. Blair only had one credit card, and he'd used it to pay for a room at the Motel 6 on Trower Avenue.
An incessant, annoying noise intruded upon his slumber, driving him toward painful consciousness. His head throbbed, and there was something sharp poking him in the chest.
No, it couldn't be time to get up already.
He pulled his arm out from beneath the mound of covers and batted at the alarm clock on his bureau. His hand hit something. A loud noise made him wince, and he shoved his head beneath the pillow. The head-pounding noise stopped, and he managed a small sigh of contentment before falling back asleep.
Jim knocked again, then cocked his head. He could hear the rattling of Blair's breathing inside the motel room. The squeak of a mattress told him that Blair was waking up. Jim waited expectantly. He heard a groan, then a crash, then silence.
"Blair!" He pounded on the door. "Sandburg, are you all right?"
He needed to get inside. Spinning, he bolted into a run toward the office. Seconds later, he exploded into the small, warm office and slapped his badge on the counter. "I need to get into that room now."
The long-haired clerk looked flustered, his eyes darting nervously from the badge to Jim's face. "Uh...The room number I just gave you? Uh, what was it again..."
"One-oh-three," Jim prompted. "It's urgent."
"Okay. Okay. One sec." The young man bounced away from the counter and slipped through a rear door. Moments later, he came back out, a white keycard in his hand. "Here you go, man. Hey...Uh, do you need a warrant or something? Maybe I should..."
"Thanks." Jim flew out of the office and jogged to Blair's room.
He slid the keycard through the slot, heard the soft *click* that indicated the lock disengaging, then pushed the door inward. It swung easily, revealing a dark motel room that didn't feel much warmer than the outside air.
Jim's eyes adjusted quickly to the lack of light, and he immediately spotted a lump beneath the thick covers on the bed. A steady beeping filled the otherwise quiet hotel room, and Jim's eyes dropped to the telephone laying on the floor, its receiver hanging off the hook.
He stepped inside, maneuvering around the boxes, and sat on the edge of the mattress. It dipped with his weight, but Blair didn't seem to notice. Using his hearing, Jim listened to Blair's lungs. The rattling didn't sound good. Bronchitis? Maybe even pneumonia.
He reached out a hand and pulled back the covers. Blair's head was stuffed beneath the pillow, and Jim gently lifted the fluffy mass to get a good look at his partner.
Blair's head was turned to the side. His cheeks were flushed and beads of sweat dotted his face. Jim placed his palm on Blair's forehead. It felt hot, and Jim guessed the fever to be a little over a hundred.
"Sandburg." Jim moved his hand to Blair's shoulder and gave the young man a shake. "Come on, Chief, wake up."
He got no response, so he gave a harder a shake. "Sandburg! Wake up."
Blair moaned, one arm swinging out, his hand groping for something.
"Blair." Another shake. "It's me, Jim. C'mon, buddy, wake up."
"Oh, man." A groan, and Blair covered his head with his hands. "Not now, Jim. Let me sleep." A harsh rattling filled his chest, and Blair coughed hard into his mattress.
"Okay, that's it. I'm taking you to the hospital."
Blair didn't answer him. He simply lay there, his breath sounding like sandpaper in the quiet motel room.
Jim used both hands to gently roll Blair onto his back, then gave the young man's cheek a light slap. "Come on, Chief. Wake up. Now."
"Huh?" Blair's eyelids fluttered open, and he squinted up at Jim. "What? Wh'happened? Whazzup?" He tried to sit, but Jim placed a hand on his chest.
"Not so fast. Easy."
"What?" Blair blinked at him.
"Take it slow." Jim slid his hand beneath Blair's back and eased him up. "That's it." Once Blair's upper half was vertical, Jim slid out of his leather jacket and draped it over Blair. Then he swung Blair's arm over his shoulders and moved his own arm around the young man's waist. "Let's go."
"Where?" Blair's feet made an uncoordinated attempt to begin moving.
Blair's brow furrowed, and he looked around. "Where am I?"
"Your motel room." Jim answered, steering Blair toward the door.
"Oh. Why are you here?"
"Because you're sick, Darwin, and you need help."
"I think you're right." Blair coughed again. "I feel pretty bad. I really wanna go back to bed, man."
Jim clenched his jaw as he maneuvered Blair outside. He let go of the arm draped over his shoulder long enough to pull the door closed, then staggered toward the truck. "Hang in there, Chief. You can sleep in the truck."
Blair fell asleep in the waiting room, slouched on the orange vinyl couch against the far wall, his head on Jim's shoulder, drooling.
Finally, a woman in a white laboratory jacket opened the door to the ER, a clipboard held firmly in her right arm. "Blair Sandburg."
Jim jerked his shoulder. "C'mon, Chief."
"Huh?" Blair raised his head and blinked at Jim, then looked around the room. "Oh, am I up?" He gave into a small coughing fit as he rose to his feet.
"Yep." Jim rose with him, keeping a hand on Blair's elbow. "This way." He guided Blair to the woman, then released the young man's arm. "Here you go."
"Thanks, man." Blair yawned, waved a hand in the air, and walked past the woman just as she closed the door.
Stifling a yawn himself, Jim returned to his seat and watched the evening news on the television hanging from the far wall.
About an hour and a half later, the ER door opened and Blair emerged. He managed a weak smile and walked toward Jim, veering a little off-course to the right, his feet shuffling loudly on the tile floor.
Shaking his head, Jim rose quickly and intercepted his partner. "What's the verdict, Chief?"
"Bronchitis," Blair mumbled and raised his hand to hold up a white sheet of paper. "He wrote me a prescription for antibiotics and...something else. I can't remember what he says it does. He said I need to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. The usual." Another yawn escaped, and Blair glanced at the clock hanging on the wall, his eyelids heavy. "Oh, man, it's really late. I'm sorry, Jim. If you'll just drop me back at the motel, I'll..."
"C'mon." Jim draped his arm across Blair's shoulder and steered him toward the exit. "I'll take you back to the loft and tomorrow we'll get your stuff."
Blair leaned into Jim, breathing heavy, and when Jim looked down, he saw the young man's eyelids drifting dangerously low. He smiled softly as he guided his partner outside into Cascade's chilly night air, then stopped and turned to face Blair. The air whipped like ice against his cheeks, and Jim suppressed a shiver as he reached out and buttoned the oversized leather jacket that he'd given Blair earlier.
Looking at Blair, practically asleep on his feet, Jim's chest suddenly tightened, stealing his breath. Blair had died, but here he was, alive. Extending his hearing, Jim listened to the soft cadence of Blair's heartbeat and the scratchy sound of air sliding in and out of lungs that were fighting an infection.
He swallowed hard and slid his arm once again across Blair's shoulders, pulling him close, then started slowly toward the truck.
His eyes opened before he even realized he was awake. It was hot, and his chest felt tight. Blurry stripes hovered in front of him, and he blinked until the stripes became recognizable.
He rolled on to his back and saw yellow pipes and dark brick high above. The loft? Lifting his head, he realized he was laying in Jim's bed. But why? His brow creased as he struggled to remember what had happened...last night? The night before? Earlier that morning? He glanced at the bright sunlight streaming through the window. It was definitely too late to be morning. Maybe noon?
He let his head drop back to the pillow, feeling slick sweat on the back of his neck. God, the place was like an oven. What was he doing back at the loft, anyway? And where was Jim?
Rolling to his side, he peeked his head over the pillow and looked through the bars at the living room below. Jim was hovering over some boxes, unpacking.
It came back to him suddenly, in vague, hazy images. He remembered orange vinyl. A gray-haired doctor. Something about bronchitis....
His chest felt like it was filled with a couple of pounds of gravel. He felt a cough blossoming, and held his breath, trying to push it back down. He waited, and the urge to cough finally faded. Closing his eyes, he took a slow, deep breath.
And wondered what the hell was going on? Why was Jim unpacking the boxes? Was he or was he not moved out of the loft? Was this Jim's way of telling him he could stay? Did he even ask? Blair didn't remember much of last night, so he guessed he hadn't discussed moving back to the loft...or anything else, really.
And there was a lot they needed to talk about. Like how Blair was doing a thesis on Sentinels, and research was always better with more subjects. And Larry didn't count, but at least he'd always known where he stood with Larry. Whatever happened to him, anyway?
He was getting off-track. Back to being angry. Angry was good. He needed to let Jim know a few things. Like, if Blair was insanely lucky enough to find another Sentinel who would be willing to work with him, he was damn well going to take him or her up on the offer. The more data, the better. And Blair would protect whoever his subjects were, just like he protected Jim.
He wouldn't bring up Larry. He'd been younger then, and Larry was fast.
But just who the hell did Jim think he was, anyway? Was he so damn clueless about the whole concept of research that he couldn't comprehend the very basic facts. Like the fact that Blair had a job, and it sure as hell wasn't the stuff he was doing for free at the police station.
And the fact that Jim had agreed to this whole Sentinel-thesis thing that very first day.
And at no time had Blair said that Jim would be the only person with heightened senses studied for that thesis. Hell, Blair already had hundreds of documented cases. That meant a hell of a lot of data on just one or two heightened senses. He'd never found someone with all five... until Jim... and Alex.
Blair felt bile rise to his throat and swallowed hard. He saw the barrel of the gun pointed at him. Heard her voice, telling him she didn't want to kill him. Felt the cool Cascade air against his cheeks as he walked toward the fountain. Felt the blow. Then he was falling forward.
Shit. He curled beneath the blankets, shivering. He'd never died before. He almost laughed. He'd died. Shit. Shit. Shit. She'd killed him.
And Jim had almost let her do it a second time. Genetic prerogative or not... Fuck. Blair squeezed his eyelids closed. Didn't the guy have a goddamned genetic prerogative to protect?
Or is it just me he doesn't give a damn about?
"Chief? You up?" Jim's voice called to him from downstairs.
Blair opened his eyes. Oh, yeah, he was up. Feeling like crap, and it was too damn hot, but he was up. He tossed the covers off, and gave into a shiver as the air touched the beads of sweat on his arms and legs. He was dressed in a t-shirt and boxers. Apparently, Jim had done him the favor of undressing him before tucking him into bed.
Blair pushed himself off the mattress and hobbled to the head of the stairs, looking down. Hell, he really didn't want to climb down those things. He saw Jim standing near the couch, looking up at him, his face somewhat uncertain. Blair looked again at the boxes, seeing black marker scrawled on the one closest to the stairs.
It read, 'SANDBURG'S SHIT.'
Oh, yeah. That was his stuff. Stuff Jim had packed carelessly, in one of his fits of whatever. Anger tightened Blair's chest further, and he released the cough struggling to escape. He heard Jim's voice, saw the Sentinel taking a step toward him, and shook his head.
He was too damn tired for this shit.
Jim frowned as he studied Blair. The kid's eyes were glassy, and his hair was damp with sweat. He looked ready to drop.
Blair started slowly down the stairs, shaking his head. "No. No. No."
"What, Chief?" Jim met his partner at the base of the staircase. "No, what? You ready for something to drink? The doctor said..."
"What the hell are you doing?" Blair staggered to the nearest box, then hacked up a couple of rattling coughs.
"Uh..." Wasn't it obvious? Jim swallowed, looking at the opened box, wincing at the broken clay vase on the top. He'd packed in a rush. He'd been angry at the time. Itchy. Impatient. Frustrated. Out of his mind. Whatever. He hadn't meant to damage anything.
"I thought you wanted me out?" Blair asked, his words clipped.
"No! Sandburg, I'm sorry. I didn't mean permanently. It was just..."
"What? You got tired of me and thought you could kick me out on thirty seconds notice just because you felt like it?"
"I wasn't thinking, Chief. I'm sorry."
"Yeah, you sure are. So, what? You're making it up for it by..." Another coughing fit overtook him.
Jim reached forward, but Blair batted his hand away, almost losing his balance in the process.
"Fuck this." Sandburg spun around, teetering dangerously, his arms flailing. "I'm sick. Tired. Used up. I'm tired of being your goddamned punching bag. I'm sorry I'm not perfect, Jim. Sorry for the mess. Sorry Larry shit in your closet. But I'm tired of excusing every pissy thing you do on your fucking genes. You wanted me out. I'm out. You think you can just move me around at will? Did you even ask?"
"Uh... No." Jim's gut twisted. Okay, so Blair was pissed. He'd seemed okay back in Siere Verde. Jim had thought everything was fine between them.
Well, maybe not everything, but most things. Their partnership had seemed intact. Blair had come after him... Had risked his life again for him.
"Does this mean you don't want to move back?" Jim asked, his throat tight.
"Fuck you, man." Blair kicked the box, sending the remains of the vase shattering on the floor. "You don't listen to a damn thing I say." Another cough. "I'm... I'm... She killed me!" He spun around again, and then tripped over his own two feet and stumbled forward a few feet. Jim moved forward, but Blair regained his balance before Jim could intervene. "She killed me, and she almost did it again, and what did you do, man? You sat there on your knees and watched. Oh, yeah, you got around to a weak protest, after she'd had, like, ten seconds to pull the trigger. But, of course, what was I thinking? Stupid me. I thought maybe you'd be less buddy-buddy with the person who killed me. My mistake."
"But you explained that..."
"Yeah, well, Jim, newsflash. You're not a fish. You can control your sexual drives." His voice dropped. "Maybe you just didn't want to."
"That's not true." Jim grabbed Blair's arm, holding tight. The skin was hot beneath his touch, and he guessed Blair's fever was running close to a hundred and five. Dangerous... "Listen to me."
"Get your hand off me." Blair yanked back. "I'm tired of listening to you. Got that?" His cheeks were flushed, and fat drops of sweat rolled down the sides of his face. "I thought you and I had a friendship thing going, here, but that, too, was my mistake."
"Goodbye." Blair looked around. "Just tell me where my keys are, and..."
"Your car's still at the motel."
"Great." Blair huffed. "Just great. Well, you moved all this 'SHIT,' you can move it back." He tugged at his wet shirt collar.
"You're in no shape to do anything but rest."
"I'll do whatever the hell I want, man. Got it?"
Jim deflated, taking a step back. "Yeah, sure, Sandburg."
Blair wasn't going to listen to him. He wasn't acting like himself. His fever was raging, and he needed a dose of the antibiotics. He also needed a shitload of fluids and some soft food, but he'd been sleeping, and Jim had been too busy moving and trying to get the loft back in order to keep track of the time.
But, somehow, he had to calm Blair down. Later, when the kid was well, they could hash it out. Maybe then, Blair would listen to Jim's apology.
"You're patronizing me."
"No, I'm not." Jim kept his voice even. "I'm just worried about you. Can we put the argument on hold for now? I've got some juice in the refrigerator for you, and you're past due on the antibiotic."
"Did I ask you to take care of me? No." Blair moved toward the door.
Jim blocked his path. "Where are you going? Your car's not here, and you're dressed in your underwear."
"Get the hell out of my way, man! I'm... I'm... Where the hell are my clothes, anyway?"
Jim felt a smile tugging at his lips, in stark contrast to the knot of fear and guilt in his gut. Damn. He couldn't help it though. Blair presented quite an image...
"You think this is funny?"
Shit. Jim sighed and forced the smile off his face. "No, I don't. I'm sorry. Look..." He reached out.
A hard knock rattled the door. "Police! Open up, please"
Hell. What now?
Blair slapped Jim's hand away. "I'm leaving." He spotted Jim's jacket hanging off the coat rack near the door and moved forward, grabbing it off the hook and slipping it on. "Since I don't know where my clothes are, I'm borrowing yours. Now, tell me you brought my wallet so I can call a cab?"
"You're not going anywhere, Chief."
"What... I'm under arrest?"
"Police! Open up!" Another hard couple of knocks.
"Of course not. Of course you can leave if you really want to, but be reasonable. C'mon, Sandburg. You're not in any shape to go anywhere."
Blair put his hand on the door and opened it, revealing two uniformed cops, one young with blond hair and the other older, with graying hair at his temples.
"We got a call about a domestic..."
Jim grabbed Blair's elbow and pulled him back. "Hold up, Chief. Please..."
"Get your goddamn hand off of me." Blair swung around, his fist flying, and clipped Jim on the jaw.
Jim stumbled back, more in surprise than from the blow, and realized as he saw the cops rush forward that things were about to get very hairy. "Easy! Wait!"
It was too late. The cops descended on Sandburg. The young one grabbed Blair from behind, and Blair's eyes widened. Fear flashed quickly on his face, then he went wild.
"Let go of me! I didn't do anything!"
"Shit!" Jim lunged forward, "Sandburg! Stop!"
Blair didn't seem to hear him as he struggled in the arms of the two officers. They forced him toward the floor, and Jim fought the urge to pull the two cops off of his partner.
"I'm Detective Ellison," he shouted. "That's my partner. He's sick. Get off of him, now!"
"We know who you are." The older one answered as the young officer straddled Blair and reached for his cuffs.
"Good, so let him go or Captain Simon Banks is going to have a very long talk with your Captain."
"Have it your way." The young officer quickly pulled the open cuffs back and shot to his feet, hopping away from Blair.
Once released, Blair erupted. His face was red, dripping with sweat, and he was breathing hard, an audible rattling in his chest. "You son of a bitch," Blair jabbed a finger at Jim. "you can't have me arrested..."
Jim's jaw went slack with surprise. "Sandburg, I didn't bring them here." Blair's confusion was starting to really worry Jim. How long had the fever been over a hundred? Shit. He should have been more on top of the situation, checking Blair more frequently. Idiot! "They got a call about a domestic..."
"I'm out of..." the tension drained suddenly from Blair's body as his voice faded, "here." He collapsed forward into Jim's arms.
"Blair!" Carefully, Jim lowered his partner to the floor.
Blair didn't answer him.
"Shit." Jim glanced up at the two cops, who were hovering near the door, casting strange looks at him. "Call an ambulance."
The older officer nodded and grabbed his radio, contacting dispatch and instructing them to send an ambulance.
The young officer seemed to overcome his apprehension and crouched forward, placing his fingers on the side of Blair's neck. "He's pretty hot, and his pulse is going a mile a minute."
"Yeah, I know." Jim sighed and scrubbed a hand on his face. He leaned closer to Blair. The young man's eyelids were closed, and his cheeks were flushed. "You with me, Chief?"
With a sigh, Jim fell back on his rear and rubbed at his neck, silently urging the ambulance to hurry.
"What happened, Ellison?"
Jim looked up and removed the cold pack from his jaw, tossing it to the table next to the hospital bed. Blair was asleep, his breathing steady but rough, an IV hooked to his right arm.
"We had an argument," Jim mumbled.
"I can see that."
Jim's fingers rose to the bruise just to the right of his mouth. "He was a bit delirious at the time."
"Must have been. I've never seen him hit anybody."
"He has," Jim shrugged, "but it's not in his nature."
"So, what did you do?"
Jim's head jerked up, and he glared at Simon for a moment before softening. He shook his head, feeling very, very tired. "A lot of things. Long story short.... Kicked him out. Almost let Alex shoot him. Brought his stuff back from the motel without asking. Broke some of it the first time, by the way. Dragged him to the loft, then forgot to check on him... I was trying to get the loft back to normal. I forgot to give him a dose of his meds. He woke up, high fever, pissed off. Someone called the cops. It almost got ugly. Then he passed out."
"Oh." Simon nodded solemnly. "Uh, he seemed fine on the plane."
Jim shrugged and threw a skeptical look at Simon. "He died, sir. He wasn't fine. He was just...putting things on hold, I guess. He shouldn't have been traipsing around the jungle."
"Well, you've never been able to keep him behind before. He's always followed you, with Quinn and to Peru."
A groan from the bed caught both men's attentions. Jim rose from the chair and leaned over the bed rail. "Blair?"
Simon took a step forward. "He looks pretty bad."
"He's about as bad as he looks, too. Maybe worse."
Blair's eyelids fluttered open, and he squinted. "Jim?"
"Yeah. How're you feeling?"
His brow crinkled. "What happened?"
"We got into an argument."
"Yeah..." Blair swallowed. "About Alex. She...pushed me into the fountain." His eyelids drooped. "I had a strange dream...I think."
Jim grabbed the chair and brought it closer to the bed, then dropped into the seat. "We need to talk."
"That's my cue," Simon said. He patted Blair's blanket-covered leg. "I'll see you soon, Sandburg. Take it easy. Get better."
Blair watched the captain leave, then looked at Jim. "It wasn't a dream, was it? We were in Siere Verde. Alex was there. You and her...on the beach."
Jim swallowed, nodding. "Yep."
"Oh." Blair turned his gaze to the ceiling. "I hit you?"
"I deserved it."
Blair nodded slowly. "I know, but belting you isn't going to make things better."
Jim gave a small smile. "Well, maybe if you land a few more on me, you might knock some sense in to me."
Blair's eyes flashed at him, narrow with anger. "You want to crack jokes, there's a standup club on Fifth."
Jim's smile vanished, and he sighed heavily. "Look, Chief..."
"I didn't betray you with Alex. She was my subject... You know, for the thesis you're always so hesitant to help me with. I didn't know she was a criminal at the time. I protected her confidences just like I've protected yours. At no time did I ever say you were the only person with heightened senses I'd ever work with."
"I know, Sandburg."
"I told you about her as soon as I realized she could be involved."
"Kicking me out with no notice was pretty crappy."
Jim winced. "I know that, too. I'm sorry. You didn't do anything wrong, Sandburg. It was me, and you're right, my genes aren't gonna take the blame for this one."
Blair's brow crinkled again. "When did I say that?"
"Back at the apartment." Jim offered another tiny smile. "You were a bit out of it, though, at the time."
"Oh." Blair frowned. "I just remember waking up, then yelling.... then taking a swing at you."
"Now that you're more coherent, I want to set things straight between us. I'm not sure how to do that, but you're welcome at the loft, and we can write up an agreement. I won't legally be able to kick you out without giving you thirty days notice."
Blair looked back at the ceiling. "No."
Jim swallowed hard. "No?"
"You don't want me there. You've made that clear many times. You just put up with me, and I don't want to be where I'm not wanted. I..."
"That's not true!" Jim leaned forward. "Sandburg, c'mon... I know I get on your case about the mess and the hot water and... Well, other things, but if I didn't want you there, I wouldn't have asked you to stay. You help me out a lot, and you're...good company." He quirked a smile. "I'm asking you to come back, but if you don't want to, that's okay. I'll help you find another place, if you want. I'll help you move. You can stay there as long as you need to until you get settled somewhere else."
Blair turned his head to look at Jim. "Really?"
"Yes, really, but I'd like you stay."
"This isn't just a pity thing?"
"Do you want it written in blood? I want you there. I like having you there. I'm asking you back."
A tiny smile lifted Blair's lips, but it faded quickly. "It's more than just, that. Alex..."
"I know." Jim grimaced. "There's nothing I can do to make that up to you. I wish I could. I know I've been pretty shitty about the whole thesis thing, and I can start doing something about that. You can use the Sierre Verde thing in your thesis, and I'll answer any questions you have about the temple, and I'll agree to any tests you want. You've been helping me out for a long time, Chief, and you deserve to get your share of the bargain."
Blair's eyebrows rose. "You'd really agree to all that?"
"Absolutely, as long as...."
"I know," Blair nodded. "I'll let you read it before it's submitted."
"And I don't want anyone to know about me yet."
"So..." Jim gave Blair a hopeful look, "are we, uh... you know? On our way to being okay?"
Blair opened his mouth to answer, but the door opened and a doctor stepped inside. He wore a classic white laboratory jacket and carried a clipboard in his hand. He had brown, curly hair and a square, open face.
"Hello there. Glad to see you're awake, Mr. Sandburg. How's the jaw, Detective?"
"Okay," Jim muttered. "Thanks for asking. About Sandburg..."
"The infection's clearing up." He stopped at the edge of the bed and looked at Blair. "We gave you a high dose of antibiotics and we've been able to keep up on your meds while you've been here."
"That's been about 24 hours, by the way," the doctor continued. "But since the two of you seem incapable of following any medical advice on your own, I'm recommending keeping you here for another day. Your lungs are still recovering, and we're still fighting the infection. You need rest, fluids, and steady antibiotics or your condition could deteriorate very quickly."
Blair nodded. "Okay... That serious?" He sounded worried.
"Yes, it is, but manageable now that you're receiving proper care. And," the doctor looked at Ellison, "if you two promise not to try to kill one another, I'll even let Detective Ellison stay. In fact, since you have some time, there's a good marriage counselor I know. I could make a call for you?"
Jim slouched in the chair and glared at the doctor. Everyone was a comedian. "Cute. Real cute."
Blair snorted, but it turned into a cough. "Don't quit your day job, Doc."
Jim opened the door and pushed it open, gesturing inside. "After you, Chief."
Blair hesitated, panting slightly. The doctor had said Blair would get of of breath easily for at least the next week. Blair threw a slightly uncertain look at Jim, then took a deep breath and stepped forward. They hadn't talked much after their initial discussion at the hospital, but Blair seemed to be in better spirits, and he'd accepted Jim's invitation to return to the loft. That was something, at least. Maybe in a few days, things would start to resemble something passing for normal.
"Oh, man, Jim." Blair looked around at the fully-furnished, box-free loft. "Did you do all this yourself?"
"Uh, no, actually. Simon and Brown helped."
Blair nodded. "Ah. How'd you get all the stuff down to the basement in the first place?"
"It wasn't easy." Jim stepped into the loft and closed the door behind him. He placed a light palm on Blair's back and guided him toward the lower bedroom. Pushing open the French doors, he maneuvered Blair inside. "I'm sorry about the items I damaged when I packed your things. I'll replace whatever I can."
Blair shrugged. "There wasn't much, and it's okay, Jim. Just forget it."
"I am sorry."
Blair smiled up at him. "I know, Jim."
"Sit down. Remember what the doctor said..."
"I know." Blair sank to the edge of his futon. "Believe me, I've had enough of hospitals. I'm going to do whatever it takes to stay out of them from now on. I'll take my meds, drink my fluids, and get plenty of rest. Okay?"
Blair slipped out of his jacket and let it drop to the floor. "In fact," he slowly lowered himself to his side and curled on the mattress, "I think I'll start on that rest thing right now." A yawn overtook him, and he closed his eyes. "I can't believe I'm still tired."
Jim reached down and picked up the jacket, hanging it on the back of the desk chair. "I'll wake you in a few hours."
"'Kay," Blair mumbled.
Blair woke to the sound of voices. The first thing he noticed was that he felt better. His chest was still tight, but not as bad as it had been, and he was breathing easily. He sat up. The rest had obviously done him good.
He pushed himself to his feet and moved to the French doors. One hung inward a few inches, and he peeked through the crack. Brown, Rafe, Joel, Megan, Simon, and Jim were clustered in the kitchen. A potted plant with purple buds graced the kitchen counter, along with a few small decorative gift bags.
Was there a party? Blair pulled open the door and slipped out of the room. "Hey, guys. What's going on?"
Jim turned to him. "Chief, how--?"
"Hairboy!" Brown interrupted, swooping down on Blair. He draped an arm across Blair's shoulders and steered him to the kitchen. "How are you feeling? We just stopped by to say hello, and we've come bearing gifts."
Blair surveyed the flowers and bags again. All of the items had cards attached. He smiled shyly. "Thanks, guys. This was nice of you."
Rafe moved forward, somewhat hesitant. "We, uh...Well, you disappeared from the hospital after... you know...so fast that we didn't get a chance to do this before now."
Megan stepped forward, giving Blair a hug, "We're really glad you're okay, Sandy."
"Amen," Simon grumbled. "Having you deal with Ellison on a daily basis makes my life so much easier."
Jim grimaced. "All right. Enough guys. Give him some space."
"Yeah," Joel smiled. "He just woke up, after all."
Blair grinned. "It's okay. It's nice to see you all here."
"Enough talk." Simon gestured to the counter. "Open the gifts so we can get this show on the road."
Blair chuckled and moved eagerly toward the counter. "I'm down with that."
He caught Jim's eye, and his smile brightened. Oh, he had a lot of tests planned....but first, the presents.