IT’S ABOUT FRIENDSHIP

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: townsend297@gmail.com

DISCLAIMER: The Sentinel and all its characters are the property of Di Meo, Bilson and Petfly. This story was written for the enjoyment of others and myself and no money has been paid. Just taking the boys out to play again and I always put things back where they belong.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Story is set after Sentinel Too, but before TSbyBS.

WARNING: Don’t choke on the smarm.

"Hey, Sandburg, you want to be in on this?" Henri Brown dislodged himself from the small group of detectives huddled around his desk and waved over the curly haired anthropologist.

Blair looked up from his notes strewn over his desk and smiled. "What’s that, H?"

He broke off as talking set off a coughing fit and he stood, reaching blindly for a glass of water with one hand as the other curled protectively around his bruised and tender ribs. His groping hand caught the edge of the tumbler and sent it flying off the edge of the desk and Blair settled for wrapping both arms around his aching chest as he fought to catch his breath.

"Easy, Chief, keep breathing." Blair felt Jim’s strong hands supporting him and rubbing his back and he tried to relax into the supportive grasp.

A second glass of water was pressed against his lips and he swallowed the cool liquid gratefully, sighing as it soothed his raw throat and relieved the coughing. "Oh man, thanks Jim," Blair croaked, allowing Jim to hold him up for a moment as he regained his strength and his breath.

"Are you okay, Hairboy?" Rafe asked and Blair looked up to see a circle of concerned faces peering down at him. The anthropologist’s face flushed in embarassment as he waved off their concern.

"I’m fine, Rafe, thanks."

Rafe shrugged and perched himself on the edge of the desk. "So, you want to be in on this?"

"Huh? What’s this, exactly?" Blair smiled up gratefully at Jim as he sank down into his chair and gave his full attention to the detectives.

"It’s Simon’s birthday next week," H. continued, "We thought that we could all put some cash in, get him a new fishing rod and maybe a box of cigars. Then we could go down to that new restaurant for dinner."

"Um, gee, I don’t know, guys. I’m not sure what else I have on next week," Blair replied.

He knew perfectly well what he was doing next week - he was on sick leave, so not a whole lot. He needed to stall for time, however as he did a quick bit of mental math. ‘Back rent for two months, reference books, new shoes (his good sneakers still smelled of the fountain despite being washed several times, and he’d had to throw them out), oh yeah, hospital bills up to the eyeballs and antibiotics and a steroid to prevent pneumonia and infection..’

Blair felt suddenly cold and shivered violently as he leant back in his chair.

"Sandburg! You okay?" Jim was instantly at his side, peering concernedly at the young man’s face.

Blair pushed him away with an exasperated sigh. "I’m fine, man, it was nothing."

He immediately felt a rush of guilt at brushing off his partner’s concern as he saw the spark of disappointment that flashed across Jim’s face. Blair knew that they were both still carrying a lot of emotional baggage from their encounter with Alex.

Jim was convinced that Blair would have been safe if the detective had not kicked him out of the loft and his life. He felt he was responsible for the rogue sentinel drowning Blair in the fountain at the university, and he felt that he had compounded his errors by going to Alex on the beach in Mexico and then allowing her to escape for a short time.

Blair had tried to convince Jim that his primitive urges had taken over while the other sentinel was in his territory but Jim was not mollified. Blair also knew deep down, despite his assurances to the sentinel, that he still held onto his anger at Jim’s behavior.

He placed his hand on Jim’s forearm and squeezed lightly. "Really, Jim, I’m fine."

Jim nodded and appeared to relax so Blair turned his attention back to the other detectives. "What day is Simon’s birthday?"

"Next Thursday," Rafe answered. "So come on, Sandburg, you in or what? We all throw in $50 each, that will cover the gifts, then we just pay for our meals and drinks on the night."

Blair nodded his head vigorously. "Sure, sounds great, guys, count me in."

Henri and Rafe grinned at each other and moved back to their desks discussing the merits of various fishing tackles. Blair coughed again, trying to surreptitiously hold his ribs and not wince at the hot pain that knifed through them with each breath.

"Did you pick up those prescriptions yet, Chief?" Jim asked, seating himself next to Blair.

Blair shook his head. "No, I haven’t had time. Now that I’ve got some vacation time, I want to work on some more control tests and spend some time here with you. I’ll pick them up tomorrow, it’s cool."

Jim stood and held his hand out. "Give them to me, Sandburg. I’ve got to go out and see Dave Reynolds in Vice about this dinner for Simon. I’ll pick them up for you, you can pay me tonight."

"No, it’s fine Jim, really. I’ll get them tomorrow." Blair stood and moved toward the door. "I’m going to the men’s room, back in a few." With that, he turned and bolted for the door.

~o0o~

Jim made to follow, puzzled at Blair’s sudden exit then stopped, chiding himself for his mother hen instincts. Still, he was curious to discover what was causing his partner’s discomfort. Sending a small prayer for forgiveness to whoever forgave eavesdropping Sentinels, he extended his hearing, dialing it up and searching for his Guide’s familiar heartbeat. There! Jim could hear the young man muttering to himself as he paced the small room, his heart rate accelerated and his ramblings punctuated by small coughs.

"Great, just great, Sandburg. Weasel out of this one, oh great obfuscator. Okay, let me see, if I hold off on the drugs, poison to the body anyway, there’s $30. The text books, oh man, I have to have them, forget it. What else? Rent? You’re already two months behind, what’s a third? I have got to get some new shoes. Maybe Sneaks would give me a pair." The musing was cut short by a barking laugh accompanied by a series of choking coughs. "Yes, I can do this. All I gotta do is get Jim off my case about the pills and I should be able to scrape enough together for Simon’s gift and the restaurant meal. I hear it’s expensive, so I’ll just have an entrée and drink water, can’t drink alcohol if I’m supposedly taking meds anyway. I can’t believe the guys asked me to go, this is so cool."

Jim slumped down in his seat as he heard the genuine happiness in Blair’s voice. He knew that Blair’s self confidence had taken an especially hard blow during the awful debacle that was Alex. Jim and Blair were still to really talk about what had occurred in Mexico after Blair’s near death at the hands of the other sentinel.

The fact that Jim had gone to Alex after what she had done to Blair still bothered the detective immensely, despite Blair’s protestations that it had been a primitive instinct on the sentinel’s part. Jim could see that the bond of trust that had once existed between Sentinel and Guide had been weakened and he knew that he would have to earn that trust once more.

The anthropologist worried about fitting in and pushed himself to exhaustion to help anyone out. Jim was painfully aware that they all took Blair for granted, not often acknowledging his very real contributions as Jim’s guide and his natural and learned skill as an observer of life and people.

He didn’t know how to tell Blair that he simply needed to be himself, the innate being who was Blair Sandburg attracted people, men and women alike, like a moth to flame. His kindness and friendliness shone through in the sparkling blue eyes and animated personality and Blair made it all seem effortless.

He also knew without a doubt that Blair’s pride would not allow him to accept a loan from Jim.

Jim stood and walked over to Simon’s office. He knocked on the door and waited for the gruff invitation before he entered.

~o0o~

Blair came back from the men’s room, sat back down at his desk and began to search through his backpack for a textbook. His head shot up as Simon’s booming voice echoed through the bullpen.

"Everyone, in my office. Anyone know where Conner is? Rhonda, when Conner comes in, tell her I want to see her." As the group of detectives straggled into Simon’s office, Blair flicked the switch on the computer and waited for it to power up.

"Sandburg! I’m aware you’re on leave from the University. I wasn’t told you were vacationing here," Simon yelled.

"What?" Blair looked up distractedly.

Simon smiled a humorless grin. "Could I interrupt your downtime to get you to join us? Now, Sandburg! When I say everyone, I mean it."

Blair was already up and halfway through the door as the captain’s final words rang out. He elbowed Henri in the ribs on his way past and the detective tried to stop his snickering. "Sorry, Hairboy, it’s just nice to see someone else on the wrong end of the Captain’s temper for a change."

Blair grinned back and perched himself on the arm of Jim’s chair.

Simon shut the door and turning to the assembled group, cleared his throat. "Some of you may be aware that it’s my birthday next week."

He held his hands up to quiet the comments, both complimentary and otherwise and continued. "I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you all to my place on Thursday night for a cookout to celebrate this illustrious occasion."

Rafe chanced a quick glance around the group of men and spoke up. "Oh, but Captain, we, uh, we.." He stopped and nudged Henri, indicating that he should continue.

"Look, Captain," Henri rumbled, "we weren’t going to say nothing, man, but we were going to take you to that new restaurant in Cascade for dinner Thursday night."

"As your Captain, I believe it’s my prerogative to invite my men to a barbecue if I choose," Simon said, pulling himself up to his full, impressive height.

Henri swallowed nervously. "Of course it is, Captain, we’d love to come. Wouldn’t we, guys?"

Assorted mutterings and reassurances filled the small room.

"I hear the food there isn’t all that great, anyway," Simon said. "Joan took some friends there last week and she said it was pretty bad, especially for the inflated prices." He stood and rubbed his hands together. "So, it’s fixed then? My place at six, that way you’ll be in time to catch the Jags game while we eat."

Simon turned then and fixed his gaze on Blair. "Can I rely on you to bring the potato salad that everyone is always raving about, Sandburg?"

Blair’s smile lit up his eyes as he nodded eagerly. "Sure, Si.. Captain, it would be an honor."

"Good, then it’s settled," Simon said. "Make sure you bring plenty of money, too. After dinner, we’ll indulge in a gentleman’s game of poker. I plan to take some tips from Sandburg and relieve you all of substantial amounts of cash. Now, I assume all of you have a great deal of work to do. This is not a coffee morning, people." Simon’s voice was rising in volume and the detectives began scrambling from their seats. "Get back to work and don’t be late Thursday night."

Jim looked up over Blair’s head as the anthropologist ducked under his arm to get out the door. "Thank you," he mouthed silently to Simon, a grateful smile touching his lips.

Simon waved a nonchalant hand and sat back down at his desk. For the first time in many years, he was looking forward to his birthday.

FIN

- December 6th 2000

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