|Oddly, I remember that perfectly
ordinary morning with complete clarity. It's not as though I knew what
kind of a day it would be...
It was a usual morning, with a usual breakfast, if you can call that green shit that Sandburg drinks usual. I fought the usual traffic to the station. Then went to court that morning to get more of the usual scum off the streets.
Sandburg was at school all day and Simon and I had made plans for a kind of lunch which would certainly have annoyed my partner. We went to this little dive Simon had found near the docks. He'd raved about it and I just shrugged and followed along.
I love that kind of food sometimes. It reminds me of when I snuck out after class in high school for fast food. The army taught me to have an iron stomach and despite Sandburg's complaining, I do enjoy my veggies and work hard to work off the extra calories. What? You think I'm trying to win Mr. Universe over here? Ha! I'm just trying to stay fast enough to take down the psychos -- most of who seem to have it in for me and my partner. Go figure. And besides, I get some perverse thrill out of listening to Sandburg come up with inventive ways to make me stop eating it.
After lunch, which was good but don't ask me what was in it, no -- not even with my taste, I stopped off at home to change. In something more suitable, I went out to chase down a lead in the industrial area of the docks.
My snitch was particularly paranoid and led me past a construction area that had me choking on different dusts and down an alley where I stumbled over something and caught myself in something slimy on the wall.
I was still wiping the feeling off onto my pants a half hour later. But my snitch did come through so... Back at my desk, I was adding the information to the file when I first remember noticing the -- oddness. It was a general tingle feeling and a vague echo to certain sounds. Going to get coffee didn't seem to wash the fuzz from my tongue and it just tasted wrong.
Rinsing out my mug I wandered to Simon's door to see if I could score some of the better stuff. He was feeling indulgent after our lunch and we sat and chatted while we sipped the drinks. It was better until I realized that the coffee tasted... blue. That was too weird so I had to ask.
"Simon, what kind of coffee is this?"
He chuckled and said, "Colombian French vanilla, espresso. Why?"
"It tastes blue."
"Blue. Sorta like the color of Sandburg's eyes," I could hear myself muttering, but couldn't seem to stop. "And the air. I can feel all the shades of clear in the air. It's so heavy."
"Jim? Jim! Are you okay?? What the hell are you talking about?"
I could hear Simon's voice, furry and scratchy, disturbing the clear heavy air.
"No, sir. I don't think I'm okay." I coughed and shook my head, trying to clear it. "Blue..." I had to close my eyes because that blue coffee smell was making me nauseous.
Dimly, I could hear Simon on the phone.
Do you ever get that feeling that something isn't right? That something is amiss?
That's how I feel right now. I've been fidgeting at my desk for an hour, and for me to notice my own fidgeting, it has to be bad. I've only made it through a half a dozen blue books and I may have to reexamine them.
My mind isn't here, it's... elsewhere, and I'm not sure where that is right now. I look at the clock again and it hasn't moved. I stand up and start to pace. It's only nine o'clock in the morning and already I've had enough of my office, I want to go to the station. But I can't. I have a class in an hour, a student appoint in fifteen minutes, not to mention those exam books that need grading.
So why can't I concentrate? I wish I had the answer... Maybe some coffee will help, decaffeinated cause I don't need to bounce anymore than I am already. Okay, that's the plan: coffee, student, exams, class -- and the rest to be announced later.
Hmmmm, plans are good, maybe that's why Jim always insists we have them.
I wish I could say that my day has improved, but it hasn't. The student conference was okay; she needed some extra help and wanted to schedule a tutor. Mainly me. I told her I wasn't tutoring personally this semester because of my work with the Cascade PD and recommended her to someone else. When she refused I figured I picked up another admirer.
Contrary to popular belief I don't nail everything in a skirt, but the college girls like me. Must be the hair and my outstanding personality. I chuckle at my own joke, if Jim were here he would have smacked the back of my head. At least the day is almost over, thank any number of gods, and I did manage to finish those essays before my afternoon class, so those students are happy.
I grin a little as I remember the looks of surprise on their faces, they weren't expecting the exams. They know me and since I've been late before they weren't expecting anything different, but I like to keep my students on their toes, and spontaneous punctuality is a sure fire way to do that!
Four o'clock, not bad, just a little longer.
It feels like an eternity and it's only been five minutes. I can't help but feel like I'm missing something, but I've checked my schedule, my office phone, my cell phone and my email and I'm fairly certain I'm not supposed to be anywhere but here. Then why do I feel like this is all wrong?
I slam the drawer closed in frustration, my skin is all tingly and scratching it isn't helping, just making me even more aware of the unknown irritation.
Dammit, this is awful, I can't take it...
The phone. I don't want to answer it, I can tell already it's bad news. You ever notice that sometimes phones ring differently when the news is bad? But I have to, need to pick it up, because even without the confirmation I know it's about Jim.
I should have listened to my instincts and called before this -- stupid Sandburg.
"Sandburg." I almost never answer the phone like this, but I'm guessing it's Simon.
"Blair?" came the confused tone of the police captain.
"What's the matter with Jim?"
"I'm not even going to ask how you knew. I don't know."
I clench the phone tighter in my hand, I'm trying not to sound impatient to Simon. "Where are you?"
"At the station, I'm about to take him to the loft, but maybe a hospital would be better."
I can't take it anymore... a hospital?? "Simon, what the hell is going on?"
"Jim... isn't feeling well. He came in here asking for coffee, and the next he's telling me it tastes blue."
I feel the color drain from my face. Tasting colors? Oh my god. "I'm leaving now, get him to the loft, I'll meet you there. You can't take him to the hospital, they'll only drug him and he doesn't need that. I'm going to need to know where he was today, what he did, who he talked to, what he ate. Everything. I need..."
"Sandburg!!" Simon bellowed through the phone line, seems I hadn't breathed and was rambling. I do that when I'm upset and I think I've passed upset and gone straight to panic. "Stop. Leave for the loft, I'll be there shortly," he finished ordering.
"Fine." I don't mean to sound short, but I need to be with Jim now, and I'm still at the University on the phone, it just seems wrong. Jim's never tasted colors before, at least to my knowledge, and I know that he doesn't tell me everything but I think he would have shared that.
I quickly hang up the phone and start grabbing my stuff; backpack and jacket and run out the door. I figure I may be able to beat Simon to the loft, I want to get it ready; I need Jim's senses as relaxed as possible. I'm already thinking of everything that needs to be done as I pull out of the parking lot. I just hope that I can fix this, be able to help Jim and not screw up any further today.
I can't believe I ignored... no time for that now. Riddle myself with guilt later, after Jim is better.
You know, this watching voices color the air stuff is disturbing. Simon's on the phone I can see that- my vision's not that screwy. And that furry scratchy voice is making ripples in the air. His voice is a brown shade- like him.
I shake my head again to clear it and glance out the windows into the bullpen. Rafe is on the phone, his voice making pale gold ripples with a little shimmer of accent. Brown and Connor are talking together and really making a mess. His funky orange/rust voice riding over and through the shimmering pink of Megan's, her shimmer's stronger because her accent's stronger. But the colors don't blend and I have to look away.
The brown fuzzies drift toward me. "Yeah, Jim. I'm coming. We're going to get you home now. Sandburg's on his way."
"Simon, can I borrow your sunglasses? The colors of the voices just clash too much." I ask, wincing at the shades and the whine I hear starting in my voice.
Simon blinks and swallows hard, "Sure, Jim. Here you are."
He hands them to me and as I put them on he helps me up. Not that I need help mind you, I'm perfectly capable, but the heavy air and the non-mixing colors seem to be throwing off my inner ear. The dimness helps and I sigh with relief as he nudges me out the door.
He was smooth, my captain. Fielding the colored questions with nonchalant brown answers and whisking us out the doors. He even managed to snag my jacket, freeing it easily from the weighty bonds of the air as it hung there.
There was a blur of colors and sounds, neither sense being in exactly the right place and I found myself in Simon's car headed for home- presumably. But my skin was tingling worse, irritating me despite my comfortable shirt. And concentrating was getting harder.
Absently I checked the dial for sight and found it cross connected to taste and feel and all three were working their way up past 10. I only ever used a dial to 10, because thinking of anything higher than that scared me. I was strangely relaxed about it now, not to mention that my soothing mental picture of these dials was now glowing a gentle violet while creeping up towards 12.
It was a combination of things that finally knocked me off balance- mentally. It was the slamming of the car door as Simon pulled me out, the whining screeching of the elevator and the combined over-powering scents of cigar, motor oils and all the other scents of the building.
The sounds filled my head and bounced painfully off my already way too sensitive skin. The smells finished clogging my head and went straight to my stomach to lodge there and make me nauseous. I think I stumbled into Simon, moaning, because I remember feeling the heat. Hot hands holding me up, hot burning down the length of my side as he held me against him trying to get the door to the loft open.
My vision was still more or less behaving and I saw my hands go out to the wall to steady myself, to get away from the heat. The wall burned my hands from it's rough chill. I moaned again and then the heat was there guiding me inside, but not the right guide.
The smells were better there, in my Sentinel-safe house and the sounds from the street, which had replaced the elevator noises, were vaguely more muted. But it was too late. I stumbled into the living room to the sofa shedding my outer long-sleeve shirt.
Simon's brown scratchy voice washed over me, impacting the newly exposed skin of my arms. I was vaguely aware of my continuous moans being words, calling for Blair. He was saying something about Blair but I couldn't separate it anymore.
Closing my eyes seemed to help and I covered my ears with my hands, hunching into a ball on the couch.
Suddenly there was a bit of peace. Noticeable enough to gain my attention and I cracked my eyes. Blair crouched in front of me, his voice rippling over me in gentle blue/green waves. I blinked, thinking randomly that Blair's eyes were a better blue than the coffee. The startled look on his face showed that that thought had made it out loud.
His hand came out to caress the top of my head and I leaned into it, not caring. Finally something that didn't hurt.
He stood with a final stroke and blue/green murmur turned from me to Simon.
I don't know how long I lay there, but the pain didn't stop. I could feel the tears forming and the nausea roiling and the burning on my skin. Burning? More like explosions. Hard, spiky brown balls and sharp, solid turquoise bits hammered away at me as Blair and Simon exchanged heated words across from me.
I cried out in pain- one arm encircling my head as I hunched over further, the other reaching out...
The drive took longer than I wanted. By the time I pull up to the loft I'm thoroughly agitated, but the sight of Simon's car settles me. Jim's already here. That's good and bad, but I don't dwell on either as I bypass the elevator for running up the stairs.
I don't know how long they've been here, but Simon still has his coat on, and Jim's curled on the couch.
I walk slowly over to him, trying to calm my harsh breathing and taking in his tortured self. I don't know what's wrong yet, but he seems like he's in pain. I'm afraid to touch him, I don't want to add to his misery.
Settling on speech, I crouch down next to him and start to speak softly, evenly. At least I'm hoping it's even.
"Jim, man, how you doing? Looks like it hurts. I need you to see me man, need you to talk to me, tell me what's wrong. Okay? So, open up your eyes, I know you know I'm here. Come on Jim, open your eyes."
I'm a little startled when Jim's eyes do open; sometimes our reactions to each other amaze me -- no wonder Simon sticks with his "I don't want to know" stand.
"Hey man, nice to see you. Can you tell me what's wrong? Which sense? All of them? the dials... anything?" I finish lamely. I want to punch something, which is a feeling I've never been able to reconcile with myself. It's now that I realize that I'm scratching my arm -- hard. Looking down I see the skin, red and irritated, I feel it and it's hot. What the hell? My stomach is rolling too, but I dismissed that while in the car as nerves, fretting over Jim, but now, now I don't know.
My thoughts are interrupted by Jim's voice.
"Your eyes... much nicer blue than the coffee earlier," Jim states calmly.
I blink and tilt my head. My eyes? God Jim, how am I going to help you? Squeezing my eyes shut I reach out and stroke his head. I need to touch him, to make sure that he's not burning up, but I also just need to know he's still there. Jim's head rubs against my touch and the blackness that threatened to swallow me is abated. For now. He wants me here, needs me to help him.
Damn, why don't I pile some more pressure on myself. But colors, and sounds and taste -- Okay, Jim is helping even if he doesn't realize it. Taste is off, so is sight, touch is iffy but seeing his shirt on the floor I'm thinking that isn't good either. Sound and smell. Can I be lucky and those be stable?
I glance at Simon who has been standing watching since I came in. I probably should have greeted him.
"Simon, where was he today?"
"Sandburg, contrary to popular belief, I don't keep tabs or babysit my detectives."
"Don't give me that shit, you always know where everyone is. Always."
I watch as Simon's fist balls and his posture stands straighter.
"Watch your tone. Jim went to court. We went to lunch. He met a snitch."
"Where did he eat? What did he have? Where was the meet with the snitch? How long has he been like this?" After a short pause, I let out a huge sigh and run my hand through my hair. "I need to know these things Simon." This comes out angrier than I intended. Course Simon doesn't give me any leeway right now, he gets pissed and that just makes me more mad.
"Look, Sandburg. I don't know what he ate, I didn't pay attention..."
"You were there?!?!"
"Yeah, I'm not the man's keeper -- you are!"
There is a split second pause before I can reply, and even there I don't say what I want. I can't afford to get into a screaming match with Simon. "I can't be there all the time..."
"No one said you had to be. Jim is a grown man, he can take care of himself."
"I know that, but I need to know what happened, I need..."
"Just help him! Do whatever it is you do." He voice sounds tired, but the anger is still there.
"I can't, if I don't know!!"
"God Sandburg, I guess you're not as smart as you think you are." Simon growls.
I jerk as though I've been struck, but before I can get out a retort, a hand grips my own. I look down and Jim has my hand in one of his, I kneel down and see the tears running down his face and I gasp. I immediately start to stroke his head with my free head, trying to get him to relax his grip. After a few strokes I look at Simon; I keep my voice soft, but the meaning clear. "If you think of something that can be useful, call me. Please lock the door on your way out."
Turning my attention back to Jim, I try and pretend that I didn't hear Simon take a lungful of air, pretend that he didn't take a step towards me -- before heading for the door. I thought I was home free when he stopped. "You know, sometimes I think you lose sight of the fact that Jim is a man, human, not a machine that runs tests all the time. Try to remember it."
With that he closes the door, lightly I might add. I hear the lock snick into place, but everything's blurry because tears fill my eyes. I'm still calming Jim, his hand loosens itself now, but I'm a mess. I can't deal with the guilt that is fighting to overtake me now, I keep saying that. How can Simon say I don't care about Jim, that he is just a thing to me? My breath hitches as I take a deep breath to center myself. When I open my eyes, Jim is looking at me as though he isn't the one lying there in pain, as though I'm the one that needs help. It's then that I realize that he's wiped the tears from my cheek. Damn. I swallow a sob and lay my palm against his head. No fever, that's good. During my altercation with Simon I lost track of my itching and sickness, but looking at him... well his arms are red. I touch one of the rugburn type patches and he winces and jerks away.
"Ssssh, it's okay. Can you get up?"
He's still looks out of it, the clear blue eyes of just a moment ago are now clouded over again. He nods his head, only slightly, but I see it. I help him sit up, but with the movement his face grimaces in pain. He starts to pull at the T-shirt...
I lean forward and grasp his hands and lower them to the cushions, I don't want him to hurt himself, and the way he was grabbing for the shirt, scratches were likely. I take the hem of the T-shirt in my hand and lift it off him quickly. He face relaxes immediately and I sigh with relief.
At least I am able to alleviate some of his discomfort... I look at Jim's face again, and he looks decidedly green. Maybe it was something he ate, but would that effect touch too? And sight? I growl low in my throat at my lack of answers and take his hand; time to move.
The scent of a pain not my own fills my nose. It makes me notice that the colored voices have stopped hurting me. And yet it's a comforting scent, based in Blair's natural scent and it tells me I'm not alone in my cross-wired world. Still, he shouldn't smell that way and I open my eyes to find out why. A quick glance shows me that Simon's left us, taking his scratchy brown voice with him. I'll have to remember to apologize for all this later.
Blair is again crouched before me, his eyes closed and his face drawn in unhappy lines. Vaguely opalescent tears are occasionally leaking down the planes of his face. I let go of his wrist and use that thumb to brush the shiny tears from both cheeks. I rub the moisture into the dry, irritated skin of my hand, feeling the healing properties of even Blair's pain, not just his presence. Okay, call me a sap, but I REALLY don't feel good here. I'll take it out on the next scumbag I run across, I promise. His eyes open again at my touch and he rests his palm gently on my head again, then his eyes trail down my arm and gently touch a reddish area that I thought was just my vision going weird again. Evidently not, as the irritation intensifies and I pull away.
The blue/green voice asks if I can sit up and I guess I can give it a try. I make motions towards moving and gentle hands are there helping. They're warm, not hot like Simon's hands earlier. But the movement drags my T-shirt across my skin and it feels like sandpaper.
Off! It has to come off! How do I get it off? I can't find the edges and the rubbing has kicked up my other cross-wired senses. The smells again are starting to penetrate my awareness and headed for my stomach. And then it's gone and the smells tone down but I can still feel the heavy clear air currents brushing uncomfortably across my shoulders and the floor of the loft has taken on a decidedly rolling motion. But then Blair drops the T-shirt on the floor next to me and a puff of scents rise up from the material. Suddenly I'm tasting the docks again, feeling the dust setting on my skin, hearing the flavors of my lunch and I don't think I can stop the nausea this time.
Then Blair's taking my hand and urging me up. But the floor's still rolling and my balance is apparently on a different ship than the one I'm on. I moan and stagger and am promptly stopped from falling on my face. He's draped my arm across his shoulders and wrapped his around my waist. Did you know that man is solid? He hides it under those baggy sweaters and loose flannels but still. I had no doubts about him holding me up, at least for a while. Yeah- I know, but I'm sick here. He's sturdy and immobile when I need him to be and the relief of not meeting the floor with my face is so great that I don't even mind the irritation of his shirt along my arm and my side. Actually a good amount of his hair was trapped under my arm and wherever the curls were, it didn't hurt. See? Amazing stuff, Blair.
The aborted nose-dive took my mind temporarily from my stomach and it now reasserted it's presence with a lurch. I grunted and took a staggered step forward. Blessed Blair moved with me and apparently calmed the sea the loft floor had become. He was murmuring encouragement and explanations about how the floor wasn't really moving. Damn- these weird thoughts were apparently still dribbling out of my mouth.
"Yeah, Jim?" He grunted slightly as he bounced gently off the doorjamb to the bathroom. He managed to hit only himself though and I wondered vaguely if that was luck or talent.
"I don't want to feel like this ever again. I'm done now. Can we turn it off?" God that was pathetic, but I really didn't care anymore.
Everything hurt, everything tasted and smelled bad, and the colors... I didn't know if I'd ever look at a color the same way again. Actually the hearing wasn't all that bad. It felt a lot like when I'd had my ears cleaned that time. I think I heard Sandburg's affirmative answer, he sounded so... I don't know. I'll analyze it later, right now I REALLY need to be down. I loosen my knees and he lowers me in a controlled fall. My hands reach out to the burning cold porcelain to steady myself and finally, finally I can let go.
The nausea seems to just take over my body. I think I threw up my shoes. Heaving and cramping, my world has become pain. My hearing catches the hollowed sounds of my efforts and Sandburg's coaching, I kept my eyes shut, thankfully, but my hands are slightly numb from the chill. The smells just keep adding to the cycle of heaves until he seems to realize this and flushes the toilet. Oddly, the cool air flow around my face helps and he's smoothing a cool moist rag over my face and a warm one over my back. The hands move away for a moment, then return. The warm cloth now somewhat warmer as he presses it against my spasming gut, trying to get the muscles to relax. He smoothes my hair as I'm trying to breathe. The panting is getting easier and I do gradually feel better. He hands me a cup of water to rinse with and I spit the water back into the bowl. But the smells are rising up again. Slower now, but still impinging on my awareness. Chemical scents: chlorine, fluoride, ammonia, and aluminum. I think the last moan turned into a whimper.
Then I'm being turned around, rearranged. Tears I hadn't noticed are wiped from my cheeks. With a sigh of relief I note that the more overpowering scents now are of Sandburg. Soft, warm towels pad my legs against the floor and finally I can relax, my head and shoulders cradled gently in Blair's lap.
We make it about three feet before Jim loses his balance and starts to topple towards the floor. I'm able to get a firm hold on him and steady his progress -- well the progress toward the hard wood floors that is; I wrap one arm around Jim's waist as he leans on me. The man is heavy, but doesn't seem as heavy as I had imagined. Now that Jim isn't wobbling like a Weeble, I urge him forward, and after a staggering step we seem to be making some headway.
"you calmed the sea floor Blair... thanks." Jim whispers as we shuffle toward the bathroom.
"You're doing great Jim. Really great, and you know big guy, that the floor really isn't moving. You just think it is, but it's flat, solid, like always. Come on, just a little further..."
I figure encouragement is good, makes me feel good so I figure it can't hurt Jim. Finally we stand at the threshold of the door when Jim asks for me.
"Yeah, Jim?" I grunt as I bang into the doorjamb. I don't want Jim to feel the coarse wood, so I angle myself around so that my back is rubbing against it as we pass into the small room.
"I don't want to feel like this ever again. I'm done now. Can we turn it off?"
I swallow the sigh that attempts to escape. I wish I could make that promise Jim, but who the hell am I kidding? I can't keep you from everything, you have a life to live, and I can't be there all the time. I wish I could promise, I'd give anything to keep you from being controlled by these senses... anything, but I'm just the friend. Can't really call me a Guide when I can't figure out what the hell is wrong with you, now can we.
Shaking my head slightly to rid myself of that train of thought I murmur at him. "Yeah, Jim, we'll get you healed and then this won't happen again." After a short pause I continue, although I can't keep the subdued tone from my voice. "Okay?"
His eyes are on fixated on the toilet so I help him lower himself to the ground. The last thing I need, we need really, is to make it this far and then have Jim to hurt his knees cause he didn't go slowly.
Jim's barely on the floor for a moment before the retching begins. I can't do anything but lay my hand on his back. You can't help someone throw up and you can't encourage it, although I'm making soothing sounds and start to rub his back. His skin is still covered in red blotches, but my touch doesn't seem to inflame the pain. I look down at my arms, and while the skin is still scratched red, it no longer itches -- which is good. I think. Jim is gripping the bowl like it is threatening to move, and his eyes are squeezed shut. I'm mentally going over things, all the senses, all the allergies we have cataloged for him... when he continues to heave even though there can't be anything left in his stomach. Shit! I reach over him and flush the toilet -- stupid, idiot, god it's a wonder I haven't killed him yet. As soon as the contents of Jim's stomach disappear down the bowl, the tension in Jim's back lessens slightly.
In my move to flush I retrieved two wash cloths, one damp and one warm, I need to start to relax him or he will have muscles that ache for days. Just walking from the sofa to the bathroom I could feel how tightly wound everything was, which only means his senses are absolutely out of control, which I had known, but was holding out some sort of hope. I use the cool cloth to wipe off his face, trying to rid any evidence of his vomiting. I smile as I watch his face smooth out. I take the other wash rag, that's warm and steamy, and place it against his stomach. I don't need to be a Sentinel to see the spasms that are rolling through him. As he kneels there, my hand pressing the cloth onto his skin, I smooth his hair back.
Jim's breathing is slowing so I grab a cup and hold it under the faucet for some water. I'm sure that his mouth tastes vile. As he comes back to himself, he takes the cup and I tell him not to swallow, but spit it back into the toilet. He complies with my wishes and I smile a little, Jim is following orders. He looks better. Well... at least he doesn't seem like things feel the same, so I'm hoping for better.
Just as I have these happy thoughts, Jim's face crumples; eyes are squeezed shut, his jaw is clenched and I swear every muscle in his whole body is tense. As I clasp his shoulders he lets out a sound that I swear is a whimper. I've never heard him make that sound before... it scares me.
I can't do anything else for him. I tried to get him to talk, but he can't, he is trapped in a hell I can only guess at and all I can do is watch. A near sob escapes my throat as I urge him around. I know that his skin could still be reactive, but I don't care. I need to get him better and it needs to be now, dammit! My lungs constrict as I start to pant, swallowing hard I try and force myself into deep breaths, I can't have a panic attack now. Jim needs me -- well he needs something and unfortunately for him, it's only me here. I sent Simon home in a fit of wisdom. But what could have the Captain done for him? What can I do?
I wipe the tears from his face; it only seems fair, he did it for me -- even in this state. I maneuver Jim's body so that he is lying on the bathroom floor and I'm not that incompetent that I don't put anything under him. The towels from the rack on the wall are surrounding him, giving as much comfort as terry cloth can. As luck would have it, I think they're new, never been used and that should help with the smell.
As an afterthought, yes I know I've been having way too many in the last hour, I lower the toilet bowl lid in the hopes of trapping any unwanted odors. I finish pushing Jim around as I lower his head to my lap. I pull him toward me as much as possible, pressing his face into my lower chest and stomach, trying to shelter him as much as I can. My hands aren't still and neither is my voice. I'm still whispering words to him, nonsense really, and my one hand is carding through his hair, massaging his head, while the other is stroking Jim's side. I'm not sure if this is helping or worsening the spiking senses, but I need him to know I'm here. I know that there are things about his senses he keeps quiet, but I've picked up on the hints.
Jim knows me by sound, and maybe by scent too -- hence the fact that I won't let him out of my arms until his body starts to respond to me. What I'm betting on is that his body will realize I'm here, and will start to release the strangle hold it has on his senses. Once that happens, maybe I can move us to someplace more comfortable -- one that doesn't make my ass numb or Jim cold. Until then, I'll sit here and wait as long as it takes for Jim to move. This is the only thing I can offer him now and I won't let him down again today. I can't.
I lay quietly for some undisclosed amount of time before really becoming aware again. The nausea had retreated and had seemingly left me in a better state than I was before. The air brushing my back felt more like regular air than it had in hours and my hearing was confined to the bathroom. I hadn't tried my eyes yet, pressed closed as they were against Sandburg but my nose was cooperating better. Smelling mainly Blair overlaid thinly with scents of the outside and the University, but I was easily able to discard those. His hands on me were calming, the oils soothing my skin and the pattern relaxing me further. I hadn't realized that his touch was so distinctive. I've subconsciously noted his heartbeat in all rhythms and taken note of his changing soap/shampoo/tea scents 'til I'm 99% sure I can track him by that alone, but I hadn't realized before what the occasional pats on the arm do for me. I shifted slightly, draping my arms loosely about his hips and sighed, loosing still more tension. The hands moved to rubbing gently at my shoulders and upper back, paying attention to the big muscle that runs from my neck to my shoulder. I don't remember the name right now, I'll look it up when I'm feeling better and I've slept for a week.
Changing my focus from feeling just the rub, I notice that I'm again running off at the mouth. Little hmmm's of pleasure and a couple of thank you's drifted out into Blair's shirt. I think I even muttered something about him being such a good friend- but don't hold me to it. Not that he isn't of course, he is. I'm not sure I can see Simon sitting here with me like this. With his son Daryl, sure. With his detective, not so likely. Anyway, what I meant was I'm not sure that I said it, not that I didn't mean it. Oh forget it.
Blair murmurs something about not feeling like he's been a good friend and as I rally to try and challenge his statement, he bends over in what must be a damned uncomfortable angle to get his lips near my ear.
"Are you feeling better? Can you move?"
I tip my head away and look up at him. Instead of answering I pull back, bracing my hands on the floor next to his thighs and straighten up.
"Jim?" he asks.
I watch thankfully as the words come out almost as invisibly, as they ought to. No more weirdly colored voices.
I nod, clear my throat and mutter, "Yeah. Better, thanks. I think I need some help getting up though."
He grins and wordlessly helps me shift back so I'm sitting sideways to him with my butt on the floor and my knees up in front of me. He has room now to maneuver and hauls himself away from the side of the tub. Standing in front of me, he braces himself and as I put my hands in his, he gives me a smooth pull. Damn, stronger than he looks too. He took at least half my weight getting me off the floor and caught my shoulders again to steady me when I was upright.
"So, tough guy, what can I do for you next?" Blair stares affectionately up at me from the small difference between our heights, genuinely wanting to help but seemingly confused as to where to go next.
I close my eyes and take stock.
"The floor isn't rolling anymore, the colors are where they're supposed to be. Hearing is mostly back to normal- though it's a little hyped still. Smell is still touchy, I think that's going to be a problem. Taste is probably okay and my skin in feeling better, a bit dry though."
He nods, taking it all in. "I've got some lotion..."
"Yeah, that would be great, thanks. Can I go lay down somewhere? I'm wiped."
Blair looks astonished, "Well of course you are and you can. Where do you want to go- your bed or the couch?"
"Well, um..." I'm feeling fairly sheepish here but I figure after all this, what the heck. "Your room?"
He looks even more astonished, if that's possible, but agrees quickly enough. Muttering to himself about shortest distance to the bathroom and not having to deal with stairs, he gives me a gentle nudge towards the door and eventually seats me on his bed. He pulls my shoes and socks off and drops them by the doors on his way out with an "I'll be right back." I breathe deeply, flexing my shoulders and back to stretch out a little from the stiffness of the last several hours. Blair's room is a comfortable light clutter, the sounds in here even more muted and the scent of him and his books soothing. He comes bustling back in after a moment with a medium sized jar.
"Here's the lotion. Let's get you taken care of here before you nap, okay?
"yeah," I smile and take in the pleasant scent from the pen jar. The lotion is cool and refreshing, smelling faintly of the forest and I smooth it happily across my chest and arms while Blair does my back.
"Is that everywhere it hurts?" His voice drifts over my shoulder.
"Yeah," I say again. "That feels great."
"Good. Let's get you ready for a rest then." He stands up and helps me out of my jeans, taking them outside so the odors won't bother me later. I look up at him as he returns and throwing macho pride out the window since it's lost the fight with exhaustion I ask, "Can we... like before?"
He understands immediately and with a small nod, toes off his shoes, flips the covers back, arranges the pillows and settles himself sitting against the wall at the head of the bed. Gratefully, I sink into the same position as before and drape my arms about him again. Another 'mmm' of contentment sneaks out before I drift off to sleep.
I'm not sure how long we were sitting on the bathroom floor, all I know is that Jim's breathing evens out, and for that I was grateful. I continued my litany of nothing and my constant touching -- Jim seemed to calm even further as my hands moved against his skin.
Zoned. That's what I'm doing. I ceased being aware of my immediate surroundings; all that existed was the man in my lap, and my thoughts. Which was not a good place to be. At some point, Jim had shifted so that his arms were circling my hips and he snuggled closer. Lowering my voice I told him that I was there, to let things slide away from him, to slowly chose a dial and turn it down. I stopped my random stroking in favor of massaging Jim's shoulders and back... I swear the man's purring, which only makes me smile.
Jim is making these little soft sounds of contentment into my shirt, and I think he's starting to feel better as I hear his voice.
"thank you." He whispers.
I nod, and then realize he can't see me, so I answer him, "No problem man."
Jim sighs and then continues, "You're such a good friend, always here..."
My hands stop for only a moment before starting again. A good friend? I think not. A good friend would probably know how to help more than just sitting on the floor, talking. A good friend wouldn't be so helpless. Without thinking about it, I answer him. "I'm not that good of a friend Jim... not right now."
Since Jim seems more coherent, I think it's time to move. I bend so that my head is next to his, I can feel my back straining, but I can't bring myself to care.
"Are you feeling better? Can you move?" I whisper into his ear.
To my surprise he moves away and looks up at me, I'm expecting a verbal answer -- instead he braces himself on the floor around me and sits up. Much to my dismay.
"Jim?" I ask.
He nods and clears his throat before muttering, "Yeah. Better, thanks. I think I need some help getting up though."
I grin and just start helping him unfold himself enough until I can get myself around him. As I stand my back spasms from being still too long and I stifle a groan. Can't have Jim asking about me. I stand in front of him and take his hands pulling him, in what I hope is a smooth motion, up and off the floor, then steadying him once he's upright.
"So, tough guy, what can I do for you next?" I ask, mainly because I don't know what to do next. I can guess that he wants to go to bed, but I want to be sure.
Jim closes his eyes for several moments, I'm not sure what he's doing, but he has tilted his head slightly... so maybe he's checking out his senses.
"The floor isn't rolling anymore, the colors are where they're supposed to be. Hearing is mostly back to normal -- though it's a little hyped still. Smell is still touchy. I think that's going to be a problem. Taste is probably okay and my skin in feeling better, a bit dry though."
Ha! I knew he was checking himself out. Skin is dry though.... "I've got some lotion..." I offer.
"Yeah, that would be great, thanks. Can I go lay down somewhere? I'm wiped."
I must look funny to him, standing here with my mouth open. He's asking me to lie down? And then it hits me. He's following my lead, he thinks I know what I'm doing. Oh god, my heart starts to beat faster and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I'm hoping that Jim is not focused on me right at this second. Coming back to myself, I blink and hurry to answer him.
"Well of course you are and you can. Where do you want to go -- your bed or the couch?"
"Well, um... your room?"
I have got to stop trying to catch flies. My room. Okay -- not typical Jim behavior, but I can work with it. I start to mutter to myself, course I'm doing it out loud. "Of course my room, stupid Sandburg, it's the closest place from the bathroom, no need for stairs... just the smart option, once again..." I trail off as I remember that he can hear me and there's no need to burden him with my shortcomings. Once in my room, I push him to sit on the bed to take off his shoes and socks. "I'll be right back." I say as I leave my room and go back into the bathroom. The lotion I want is in a drawer; it has a mild, pleasant scent, not detrimental to a Sentinel.
"Here's the lotion. Let's get you taken care of here before you nap, okay?"
"yeah," he smiles and takes some of the lotion from the jar. As he spreads it across his chest and arms, I work on his back. The red blotches are still visible, but less angry now. Whatever irritated his skin is gone... I think about the shirt lying on the floor in the living room; maybe there was a substance on it... maybe it was something he ate.
As the lotion is absorbed into Jim's skin I push aside my thoughts and lean in close to his shoulder. "Is that everywhere it hurts?"
"Yeah... that feels great."
"Good. Let's get you ready for a rest then." We stand up and I help him out of his jeans. I'm too concerned about him to wonder if he'll be offended by being treated like a child, I just want him resting. I take the discarded jeans outside just in case they stink -- to me they're fine, but you never know what Jim smells.
As I walk into the room Jim looks at me uneasily.
"Can we... like before?" he asks.
Even without being more specific I know what he wants, and at once I feel two things. Amazement that he asked, and affection for wanting me close. I nod and slip out of my shoes. Throwing the covers back on the bed, I arrange the pillows so this position won't hurt my back as much, and then settle against them. As soon as I'm settled, Jim resumes the position he held in the bathroom; head cushioned against me, arms on either side of my hips. I hear him sigh and his breath evens out immediately and just like that he's asleep. I place my hands on his shoulders, to keep him in place, and look at his face as it relaxes. It's amazing to me how much pain Jim can take and still come out of it whole.
I think this whole experience has wounded me more than him. This has shown him that he needs to be more careful, to know that he is just as susceptible to things as everyone else. And me... well this just illustrates how much I don't know. I still don't know what happened to him, what made him suffer so much, and I'm afraid that I never will. I didn't know how to help him, just holding him and talking doesn't seem like it's enough. And Simon. The bastard knew how to hurt me. He still assumes too much where I'm concerned; thinks I don't care about Jim, that I'm only here for my research. Not true. It's not. So why do I feel like I betrayed Jim when Simon said it? Why did it hurt so much? Because I'm lying to Jim, that's why. Jim thinks I hold all the answers, and as Simon so politely pointed out, I don't. Not nearly enough.
I let my head fall against the wall and close my eyes, hoping the tingling behind them and fullness I feel in them will go away. I stroke Jim's head a few times as I get my overly emotional self under control. Once I feel I can talk and not sob I lean down toward Jim again. "Rest now Jim, things will be better in the morning."
Straightening once again, I wince as my back protests. Tomorrow will be better, and I have all night to figure out how to stay with Jim and not fail him anymore. I guess I'm lucky that the night is young because I don't see any answers... and that scares me, I won't stay if all I do is allow him to suffer. I can't, I care about him too much -- he is my best friend after all.