Summary: The Guide does his job.
The explosion took him by surprise. Tossed first into the air then smashed into the unforgiving ground, the cacophony of sensory input imploded on him. The roar of the bomb battered against his eardrums and Jim could literally feel his insides vibrating from the assault. Unendurable bright light combusted against his eyeballs, whiting out his sight. The acrid smell of the incendiary burned his nasal passages, causing him to sneeze violently and he bit down hard on his tongue, tasting the iron of blood.
He was a mass of sensation, his thoughts frittered away by the overwhelming assault on his senses. He lay sprawled on the ground, his hands fluttering about his head, wanting to be everywhere at once to drown out the sound, block out the light and gag the smell and taste of cordite, ash and chemicals.
He struggled to draw in a breath, his mind so shocked that he seemed unable to perform even this autonomic action. Darkness began to crowd out the blinding white in his vision, and his limbs became heavy, his consciousness dimmed.
Something touched his hand and he flinched, the sensation too raw and painful in his vulnerable state. A sound buzzed near his ear, the noise deafening and he wished he had the strength to block it. A hand cupped his cheek, stroking and the buzzing became a voice, tight and filled with fear and pain but familiar.
" hear me, Jim. You have to dial it all down, man. Way down. And take a breath, please."
Something thumped his chest, causing him to gasp abruptly then he coughed, a harsh, wracking sound that brought tears to his eyes and fire to his throat.
The hand patted his cheek again and then stroked down his face, across his shoulder and set up a soothing rhythm along his arm. Jim concentrated on that mesmerizing touch and slowly inched the dials down.
Holding his breath, he cracked open his eyes and quickly slammed them shut again as blinding light burnt into his retinas. He felt something soft touch his face then heard Blair's voice, sounding almost as hoarse as his own.
"Now open your eyes."
He did so and saw that the dazzling glare was cut to dim shadow. Blair's face peeked at him from under the cloth and Jim realized Blair's chest was bare. His shirt, he thought dazedly. He's using his shirt to shield my eyes.
The thunderous barrage had diminished at last to a rhythmic thumping and he smiled weakly when he realized he had honed in on his own heartbeat that was keeping time with the pounding in his head. Jim lifted a hand and wiped the dirt and tears from his eyes and blinked a few times to bring his guide into view.
Bright red stained Blair's face, running in thin rivulets down the side of his face. "Easy, Jim. It's nothing, just a little gash. Couple of butterfly bandages, I'll be fine."
Jim grinned suddenly and Blair, in turn, frowned. "What's so funny, man?"
"You reading my mind these days, Chief?"
Blair grinned back at him. "Nah, you get this Blessed Protector look on your face." Blair pasted what was a fair imitation of a constipated frog on his face and Jim couldn't suppress the snort that bubbled up, despite the pain that knifed through his ribs. He shook his head, then winced as his headache flared. He shifted on the ground then extended a hand for Blair to help him up.
Jim sat, his head lolling forward onto his chest, aware of the welcome weight of Blair's hand on his back, his Guide's voice talking him through the final stages of getting his senses to a manageable level. "Everyone okay?" he asked finally.
"No serious injuries."
They helped each other to stand, both wavering drunkenly on their feet and weaved their way toward the truck, only to be intercepted by Simon Banks. Observing their filthy clothes and their minor but obvious injuries, he crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head. "Ellison and Sandburg, I might have known."
Jim blinked owlishly at his superior. "Sir?"
"Only you two could go out for sushi and run into a drug lab and explosion of said lab."
"Good thing Blair was running a few tests on me on the way to the restaurant, Simon," Jim said, wrapping one arm over his partner's shoulders. "If it wasn't for that, I probably wouldn't have smelled the fire or the chemicals."
Blair leaned a little more heavily against Jim, suddenly looking exhausted and pale. "Can we go now, Simon?"
"My car." The two weary men nodded and turned toward Simon's car. "Wait a minute." The captain hurried after them, suddenly aware of the dirt and grime that clung to both men. "Let me get some blankets out of the back. If you wreck my upholstery, you two, I'll have you doing paperwork for a year." He waited until the two men were settled then climbed into the driver's seat. Catching Jim's eye in the rear view mirror, he softened his gaze. "You sure you're all right? Your senses ?"
Jim nodded then settled back, his eyes closing as Blair relaxed against him. "Thanks to Sandburg, sir, never better."