GUIDE

By: Lyn

FEEDBACK TO: Lyn

DISCLAIMER: The characters of The Sentinel are the property of Di Meo, Bilson, Petfly etc. This fanfic has been written for my own and othersí enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.

RATING: G.

CATEGORY: Epilogue for "Rogue."

SPOILERS: Rogue.

Blair is coughing again. Harsh barking explosions that make me want to clear my throat in sympathy. I clench my teeth to avoid doing just that and roll onto my other side, grabbing my pillow to cram over my ears and at least muffle the sound.

Before I do, I hesitantly extend my hearing, feeling a little like a voyeur. Itís not as though I havenít actively sought Blairís heartbeat before but it was always done more as an experiment than anything. Just to see if I could tell the difference between his and another. I wasnít really surprised to discover that I could.

Sandburg has been living in my spare room for a couple of months now and you get to recognize a person by their smell and sound long before you see them when they live that close. At least you do when youíre a sentinel. I knew that he snored and talked in his sleep, more so since Lash, and that he tapped his pen on his teeth when he was up late at night grading.

Now I do it to check on his wellbeing and that startles me just a little. Sure, I like the kid but Iíve never truly thought about him in any way apart from him being the guy who rents my spare room, uses all the hot water in the shower and forgets to clean his hair out of the drain. Brackett called him my guide and I feel suddenly guilty that I had never thought of it that way myself. Iíve just been expecting him to drop whatever else he does in his life and run to help me out whenever I say so.

Sure, heís getting a roof over his head and a dissertation subject - anonymous, he assures me. Heís also getting kidnapped, shot at and as often as not, yelled at by me whenever he ventures to suggest doing some tests that are probably going to save my ass further down the track and make me look like supercop into the bargain. Thereís a lot of trade-off going on here, I realize, give and take, with me more often than not on the receiving end.

My reverie falters as I register his heartbeat, just a little too fast for sleep. I sit up in the bed, debating whether to wander down and check on him, but my embarrassment stops me. Deciding to meet the idea halfway, I attempt to focus my hearing on Sandburgís breathing and am out of the bed and descending the stairs before I am aware that Iíve moved. His respiration is labored somewhat, with a slight wheeze behind each shallow breath and a strange rasping sound accompanying it.

Making my way down the stairs, I dial up my eyesight so that I can trot quickly down without falling and cracking my skull. Not what I need, the kid having to come to my rescue instead. Like he already has twice this week. The thought makes me stop dead in my tracks.

The first time was when Brackett came to the loft. Blair gave me a good shot at catching the guy by sending the table lamp crashing to the ground with his foot and enveloping the apartment in darkness. He knew, of course, that Iíd have the advantage. It didnít work, but it was still an admirable attempt when you consider the rogue CIA agent had a gun pointed at him, and had shown little restraint about hurting people up to then.

Later that day, Blair had brought me back from a zone out on the bridge leading to the prototype jet that Brackett coveted to sell on the black market. More than that, heíd supported my weight and kept all of us from being blown to kingdom come when I staggered as I regained my senses. Through it all, heíd kept his cool. Mostly. About as much as I did anyway. Guide. It sat comfortably with me.

I push open the curtain to his room, once more giving myself a mental reminder to get a door put on sometime soon, whenever the bad guys give us a little breathing space. I stand in the entrance, suddenly unsure of my welcome as I see him flop over to his back and reach one hand out to fumble aimlessly for something. Spying the tumbler of water sitting on top of his desk, I second guess his intention and take two quick strides in. I pick up the glass and hold it out to him.

"Here. This what youíre after?"

I have to give him credit. He only jumps about a foot off the bed, then pushes himself upright and blinks at me owlishly. "Yeah, thanks," he croaks.

His voice sounds raw and his appearance confirms my concern. His face is pale, twin points of fever starkly color his cheeks under the stubble, and up close, I can smell the sour taint of illness and sweat. I watch as he takes a couple of sips from the glass, then hands it back to me and nods his thanks before scooting back down under the covers. I can see him shivering even under the layers of bedding that cocoon him.

I place the water back on the desk and watch him a moment longer before I speak. His breathing is still labored and heís clutching at his ribs as he turns onto his side. Suddenly, he gasps and sits upright quickly, hunching over to press one hand to his chest. My worry jumps several notches and I lean forward and rest a hand on his shoulder. "Blair? Whatís wrong?"

He shakes his head, disheveled curls flicking me in the face. "Itís nothing. Just a cramp or something."

"Youíre sick," I say, stating the obvious and he grimaces at me. "Did you go to the clinic today?"

"No."

Thatís it? Just no. No ĎI didnít have timeí or ĎI forgotí or Ďthereís nothing wrong with me.í Just no.

"Why not?"

Blair shrugs. "I keep hoping itíll get better. I mean itís just a cold, right?"

Wrong. "Come on." Matching actions to words, I pull back the bedclothes and hand him his jeans.

Looking rather dazed but cooperating at least, he takes them and stands to put them on, wavering slightly as he does so. "Where are we going?" he asks as I steady him with a hand under his elbow.

"The hospital," I answer as I push him back to the bed and hand him his shoes.

That does it. He surges up from the bed, one hand pushing the sneakers back into my hands, his head shaking a vigorous no, though the wince that scrunches up his face gives away his headache. "I donít need to go to the hospital, Jim."

His voice breaks on the last word and he begins to cough again. A God-awful barking that Iím sure is going to bring up a lung. "Yeah, right," I scoff as I lay a supporting hand on his back and pat rhythmically like I remember Sally doing when I was small.

The spasm finally subsides with a whooping intake of breath that brings tears to his eyes and mine, then he collapses against me as he fights to get his breath. I shift so that I can get my arm around his waist and move us both toward the door. "Leave the shoes. You can put them on in the truck."

0~0~0~0~0

Two butt-numbing hours later, a doctor calls my name and I stand up gratefully from the hard plastic chair and make my way toward him. He shakes my hand and studies me closely before tapping Blairís rapidly growing case notes with his fingernail. "Heís not at all well," the doctor begins.

I bite back a suitably rhetorical reply and wait for the rest of the diagnosis.

The doctor waves me back to the chairs, but I shake my head and fold my arms across my chest, steeling myself against his longing gaze. If I sit down again, I may not get up. The doctor sighs and finally gets on with it. "Blair has some chest wall inflammation and pleurisy."

Iím sure my mouth is hanging open, but I manage to nod wisely and wait for him to continue. "Now, you have to realize that pleurisy is really just a symptom as it were of a chest infection. In this case, I think that the gas he says he inhaled three days ago at the university irritated his air passages fairly severely. He tells me he coughed for some time."

I nod again. "Doubled him over," I say.

Itís the doctorís turn to nod. "The severe coughing from the gas caused inflammation of his chest wall and air passages. The inflammation in turn set up prime conditions for an opportunistic secondary infection to start up in the lining of the lung, hence the pleurisy."

He waits for me to ask the appropriate questions and I hope I donít disappoint him. "How do you treat it?"

"Iíve given him an injection of antibiotics and a prescription for the same in oral form. That should take care of the infection. Ibuprofen will control the inflammation. He can take Tylenol for the pain, and it will help bring the fever down as well. The coughing heís doing is aggravating the inflammation, and therefore the pain, but unfortunately, heíll be better off coughing up any stuff that accumulates in his lungs, so Iíve shown him how to splint his chest with his hands when he coughs. It will help a little. You can help with that, too, if heís feeling too exhausted to do it adequately himself. Apart from that, heíll need a lot of rest and plenty of fluids. Thatís about it. Iíve told him to see his doctor in a week, but he tells me he doesnít have one."

"Iíll get him one," I promise.

The doctor nods, seemingly satisfied. "Well then, Iíll discharge him into your care, Detective. Remember, plenty of rest."

I nod my agreement and push open the door of Trauma 4, pasting a smile of casual concern on my face. "Hey, Chief. You ready to get out of here?"

0~0~0~0~0

Blair is asleep in the passenger seat. His short but sturdy frame is wedged into the space between the seat and the door, one hand pressed against the sore spot on his ribs. His head rocks gently against the window with the movement of the truck and I find myself hoping he wonít drool. Heís still shivering, though I suspect now itís mostly from the chill in the night air, not the fever. I can feel a touch of iciness in the atmosphere myself. I reach forward and turn up the heater a little, directing the vents onto my slumbering companion and then I turn up my sense of touch just a bit so that I can indulge in the warmth myself.

"Thanks. ĎSínice," Blairís drowsy voice slurs from beside me. He turns to face me with a sigh of effort and I know heís watching me, though I continue to stare at the road ahead. "Iím sorry," he says eventually.

"For what?"

"Causing you so much trouble."

I glance over at him quickly. His eyes are at half-mast and he fights to stifle a cough, wincing with the pain. "Splint your ribs like the doctor showed you," I instruct and he nods then does so, allowing the cough free rein. The bracing action appears to give a small amount of relief, but he is still watery-eyed and moaning softly by the time the coughing subsides. "You didnít cause me any trouble," I continue, getting back to his comment.

He looks at me again for a long moment, panting a little from the exertion, then flops bonelessly over and sits up straight so that his posture almost mimics mine, though his hand is ever present on his ribs. "That stuff Brackett said about me being your guide?"

"Yeah?"

"I hadnít really thought about it until then." I raise an eyebrow quizzically and wonder where heís going with this. "Iíd only thought about what I was getting out of it. You know, the diss." I nod and he continues. "I hadnít thoughtÖI mean I guess I do guide you in how to use your sensesÖsort of." His voice fades out and he looks away.

He seems lost for words, a first for Sandburg and I decide to let him off the hook. "Actually, I was thinking about it just tonight. The only thing Brackett got right was that youíre my guide." I shrug. "Guide, back-up, partner, same thing." I look away and concentrate on the road as his gaze slides over to look at me.

"Thanks," he says, sounding embarrassed and then he cracks a jaw-popping yawn that has him bent over, moaning and bitching about his ribs again. Then he grins and I laugh out loud and reach over to lightly tousle the curls on his head, his fever-hot skull making my fingertips tingle. I consider decreasing my enhanced touch, then perversely increase all five senses, casting my sensory net over the man next to me, cataloguing his uniqueness.

Guide. It feels right.

Fin

-Lyn

-August 23rd, 2001.