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I'm amazed that I fell asleep in this position -- although I didn't have much of a choice. I'm in my futon, and Jim's lying on top of me. During the night I must have slid down the wall a little because now I'm slouched against the pillows and turned slightly. Jim's head is on my shoulder, the only part of my body that's flat. I try not to move, to twitch, but consciousness is demanding it. I groan quietly as I roll onto my back, the muscles spasm, and I squeeze my eyes shut trying to avoid making any more noise. I don't want to wake Jim. Yesterday was a hard day for him, the attack of his senses drained him physically and emotionally. Me? I'm drained too but that isn't important, finding Jim better this morning is a priority -- that and getting to work. I lift my head and try to see the clock but can't and my glasses aren't within arms reach. That's when Jim moves and lifts his head from my arm.

"What time is it Chief?" he asks, his voice raspy from disuse.

"I can't see it."

Jim shifts further and from the way his body tenses, I think it's late. "Damn it, let's go, we're late," he says and climbs over me to stand in the middle of my room. I'm moving on autopilot and also roll out of bed, wincing when my back protests this motion too.

I straighten up to find Jim standing there; he puts a hand on my shoulder, squeezing it slightly. "Thanks Blair -- for everything yesterday."

"How are you feeling?"

"Better," he pauses and tilts his head so I know he's taking an inventory of himself. "Actually, fine I think."

"You think you can tell me what happened yesterday, maybe I can figure out what went wrong."

Jim's hand drops to his side as he turns and leaves the room and I follow him into the kitchen where he starts to make coffee. Evidently we're not that late.

"I don't know, and we can talk about it later. Hurry and get a shower, we're late."

"So you said. What's the all fire hurry, Simon knows what went on yesterday."

"We have a meeting with him first thing."

I sigh, I don't want to see Simon today. I had wanted to avoid him, make sure he calmed down. "I'm sure he'll understand."

"Chief. Get in the shower, I'm back to normal now." He grins at me before climbing the stairs to his room.

I nod and head for the bathroom, resigning myself to acting normal and controlling my reactions. I seriously don't think this is going to work. Just thinking about Simon, about what was said, makes my heart beat faster. Jim is sure to know something's up. Just what I need, something else on my mind.

All my thinking the night before did nothing for me, except give me a headache and I'm not sure how to proceed with the aftermath of the sensory overload. I need to know what caused it, but by the time Jim and I sit and discuss his timeline of events, the culprit will be gone. How can I work with that? Jim doesn't seem too upset about yesterday, but he didn't see what I did, he wasn't aware of my helplessness.

I know all men have their limitations, I've accepted mine, but I didn't expect to fail at something I thought I could handle. If anything comes out of the fiasco from yesterday it may be the idea that Jim needs someone more dependable. I'm sure there's got to be people out there with guiding capabilities... Guide. I'm supposed to be the damn Guide; guide Jim out of a zone, prevent a zone, ease his pain. What the hell did I ease yesterday -- it took too long, he suffered too much because I failed. This train of thought isn't getting me anywhere right now, I'll plot a course of action later, after Jim and I talk. He really needs to shed some light on what was happening, I think that would help...

I jump when he pounds on the door. Guess I've been in here too long. I quickly shut off the water and wrap a towel around me before opening the door. Jim slides passed me, untying his robe as he goes. He suggests that I shave as he showers, saving us some more time. I do, his suggestions are always helpful. But this morning I think I should have shaved alone. I'm distracted by... me. I look tired, although I know I slept. There are dark circles under my eyes and my face is pale. As Jim shuts the water off I hurry through the rest of shaving so he doesn't suspect anything. It doesn't matter, because as I turn to tell him that I'm leaving the room, he's standing there watching me. That's never a good thing.

"We don't have time for a drip dry today man, get moving." I quip as I head to my room, giving him no chance to respond.

 

 

God I'm comfortable. Heh. What a way to start the day. And then my pillow shifts and I realize that I'm still in Sandburg's little room, draped over the poor man like some big wasted animal. He shifts away from me and the awake heartbeat under my cheek is muffled by a low groan. The muscles ripple beneath me as he lifts his head.

"What time is it, Chief?" Geez -- is that croak from me? I swallow and try to get some spit in my mouth as he answers.

Can't see it huh? Reluctantly I give up my pillow for a better view. Where are his glasses -- oh, way over there. Now the time... shit. We're about a half hour behind, not too bad but enough to make us have to hustle. I inform him of this as I swing myself up and over him to get out of bed. I stand there a minute, flexing and stretching stiff shoulders and abs.

Blair's sitting up now. His hair's all bunched up on one side and pressed flat from the pillows and he's moving even worse than I am. He stands slowly and I can see the pain flicker across his face. I put my hand on his shoulder to steady him as he stretches out obviously painful back muscles. I wonder if I can talk him into letting me take care of that for him tonight. He loves massages and yet puts up such a fight when someone offers to give him one. And I'm feeling the need to reciprocate. The rub he gave me yesterday was so steadying and soothing, just what I needed right then. "Thanks Blair -- for everything yesterday."

He looks up at me, tired and inquisitive, "How are you feeling?"

"Better," I stop and sort through what my senses are telling me. I can't find anything wrong other than a lingering bad taste in my mouth, nothing that a good brushing won't fix. Well, that and some really bizarre memories. "Actually, fine I think."

"You think you can tell me what happened yesterday, maybe I can figure out what went wrong."

Time is passing and I need some coffee for the taste, so does Blair though he'd never say. I head out into the kitchen and start the process, thinking over yesterday. There are so many choices and we really need to get going. I make a solemn promise to myself to finish this with him. This whole thing really freaked me out and I'd actually like to know what happened this time, but we can't right now. I turn back to him, standing rumpled in his doorway. "I don't know, and we can talk about it later. Hurry and get a shower, we're late."

"So you said. What's the all fire hurry? Simon knows what went on yesterday." He looks confused and slightly annoyed.

"We have a meeting with him first thing." I'm sorry to have to do this to him, I know how much he's going to want to get into this. But this meeting was set up yesterday before all this went down and it's going to be doubly important to make it now.

He sighs, still visibly reluctant, "I'm sure he'll understand."

Yeah, probably, but still, the cases wait for no one.

"Chief. Get in the shower, I'm back to normal now." I smile reassuringly at him before climbing the stairs to my room for clothes. I lay out what I'm wearing on my still-made bed as I listen to the sounds of the shower starting and smell the brewing coffee, steam and shampoo. I really do feel fine. A set of thirty quick sit-ups and push-ups take care of my stiffness until I can get a real work out. As I'm exercising and waiting, I wonder again what it was that caused all this. One thing's for sure, the whole episode really brought home the point of how much I use Sandburg as a baseline. Just how many things about him don't hurt me like the rest of the world can; the blue-green of his voice and his touch. I wonder how I'm going to manage to tell him that. Well -- maybe it'll work its way into the conversation as he dissects the experience. I frown as I realize this is actually one sense conversation I'm really interested in sharing.

A glance at my bedroom clock shows time even further advanced than I figured. I shed the boxers, slip into my robe and head downstairs to hurry Sandburg along. I give the door a good firm rap to make sure he hears me over the water. Moments later, a still mostly damp Sandburg opens the door. I slide in quickly not letting the heat out and to block him from leaving.

"Hey Chief, why don't you stay and shave? There's plenty of room and it'll save time." I hop in the shower and turn the water back on gently. The sentinel-friendly soap he found for me feels great on my skin as I wash off the lingering feelings of yesterday. Still, it's a quick wash and I'm anticipating the end of the hot water, but it holds out and I snag my towel off the rack to dry off and wrap around me. Through the gap in the curtain I can see him lingering over the razor and I take a good look and him. The wet ringlets have been toweled damp and tamed, but he looks tired and haggard. Like tending me yesterday wiped him out more than me. He's pale, with dark circles under his eyes and he stares at his reflection unhappily, even bitterly. Why? I wonder. I pull the curtain back and open my mouth to ask him when he turns to me. He pauses and something flickers over his face before he pastes on a small grin.

"We don't have time for a drip dry today man, get moving." He jibes turning and leaving, leaving me standing in the bathroom, beginning to get chilly.

I finish my morning routine and head up to get dressed. When I come back down Sandburg's ready and has evidently looked at the clock. He's filled our travel coffee mugs and is gathering his things for the day. We shrug into coats and he hands me my coffee in the elevator. I take it, and looking him squarely in the eye, I tell him with all the sincerity my jaded cop's heart can muster this morning, "Thank you. You really did... do... help."

He blinks at me, big blue eyes all round and amazed, "Uh -- you're welcome."

We hit the truck and head to the station in a comfortable silence, sipping our coffee. At least at first. I notice his tension rising the closer we get until it hit a midlevel for him and stayed there as we pull into the parking garage.

"Are you ok, Chief?" I ask as we get out and head upstairs.

 

 

I don't like the way Jim was looking at me, I know that I sometimes wear my feelings on my face but this is a day of hiding. I can finally see the clock so I hurry into a pair of black jeans and maroon shirt, with a cream colored undershirt. Running my hands through my hair several times makes it look presentable, so I grab my watch and head into the kitchen.

Finding the travel mugs on the drainer, I fill them up as we'll need to take the coffee with us if we only want to be slightly late for the meeting with Simon. As Jim comes down the stairs, I finish stuffing what I'll think I'll need for the day into my backpack, then get into my coat. I carry both mugs into the elevator as Jim locks the door and shrugs into his own jacket and as the elevator descends, I hand Jim his coffee.

"Thank you. You really did... do... help." He says, and the odd thing about this exchange, is that he isn't shifting or embarrassed, just staring at me.

I blink at him, not knowing what to say -- it is such a surprise. "Uh -- you're welcome," I say.

The trip to the station is quiet, we're enjoying our coffee, but the closer we get, the more on edge I become. I can't help it, and all the hope in the world that Jim doesn't notice flies out the window as we get out of the truck.

"Are you ok, Chief?" Jim asks as we head upstairs.

Great. "Fine big guy, let's just get to Simon's office before he bellows into the bullpen." I say, trying to be nonchalant about meeting Simon. As we reach the bullpen we don't even have time to put our stuff down before Simon is yelling for us from his office. I look at the clock on the wall and we're only a few minutes late -- which isn't bad considering it was luck that I woke up.

I quickly throw my backpack on the floor behind Jim's desk, then hang my coat on the rack before heading to Simon's office. This should be fun. Jim's already there, since he decided not to remove his jacket. I immediately sit in a chair as Jim leans against the table.

"Sorry we're late sir, we overslept this morning." Jim says, trying to anticipate a reprimand -- I think.

"It's fine Jim, how are you feeling today?"

"Fine sir, there doesn't seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

My heart starts to beat faster, no matter how hard to try to keep it steady, and I refuse to look at anyone, so I'm staring at the front of Simon's desk.

"He did." Simons says, and his voice has a disbelieving tone to it. We can't get into this here, I'm afraid that things will get out of hand and the whole bullpen doesn't need to know our business.

"It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain."

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim's episode later..."

"I don't think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..."

I stand up and cut him off, not even worried about how this will look, if he wants to dress me down for what he thinks my motives are, fine -- but not at the police station, I need to keep all the respect that I've got here. "Sir," I stress that. "We can discuss this later, now's not the time." I look him in the eye and don't even flinch. Simon stands up from behind his desk, trying to intimidate me, which won't work, and glares at me. Out of the corner of my eye I see Jim's head moving as he keeps looking between myself and Simon. I think he's confused -- sorry man but I can't help you out right now.

"Sandburg, you aren't needed for this meeting."

My body relaxes at the dismissal, I wasn't expecting this -- but if I leave them alone, then Simon may talk about it anyway. How can I defend myself if I'm not even here?

"Sir, I think..." I start until Jim interrupts me.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk." I look at Jim, surprise clearly written all over my face. "I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." Jim looks at Simon then, giving the Captain a glare of his own.

"Fine." I say and I leave the office, slamming the door behind me. It isn't the most adult thing to do, but I was dismissed because of personal feelings, not because of the help I give on cases. Captains aren't supposed to have those sort of biases. I throw myself into my chair and pick up the pile of paperwork that Jim and I have been ignoring. Might as well work on this. I can show Jim my worth this way. He did say thank you this morning... twice -- my conscience tells me, that has to mean something.

Yeah, it does, but Jim didn't seem himself, he probably doesn't remember everything. Like the fact that I caused him more pain by arguing with Simon. I glance toward Simon's office and I can see that they're talking, so I just drop my head and work on the Browning report.

 

 

I watch them walk into the bullpen, only a few minutes late, but I've been worried about Jim and need to talk to him. So I stand at the doorway to my office and bellow to them. "Ellison! Sandburg!" Might as well get this over with. I can't believe how yesterday went down, there has to be another way to help Jim when he gets overloaded, because I don't think Sandburg can handle it. I hate to put the kid down, he's been growing on me, but between Jim having to wait for Sandburg to arrive and then making things worse. It's a wonder Jim recovered at all.

"Sorry we're late sir, we overslept this morning." Jim says.

"It's fine Jim, how are you feeling today?" I ask, still keeping my fingers crossed.

"Fine sir, there doesn't seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

My eyebrows rise as I hear what Jim says. "He did." I say, I sound skeptical, and it's only because I am. I glance at Sandburg who is just sitting there, almost as though he's trying to hide.

I want to talk about the incident, so I continue. "It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain."

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim's episode later..." Blair interrupts.

"I don't think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..." I start but then he stands, straightening his back as though he's readying himself for some sort of fight.

"Sir, we can discuss this later, now's not the time." He only ever says 'sir' when he thinks I want to hear it, now it's just being said as he tries to be official. I can tell he doesn't want to talk about it, but I want to and no amount of pleading from him is going to change my mind. I stand up, trying to make my point known, that I will not be ordered to do anything in my own office; he just keeps glaring at me like I have no effect on him at all. That pisses me off, course the looks Jim is giving us isn't helping matters at all.

This decision may have serious repercussions down the road, but for now I need Sandburg out of my hair, and I dismiss him from my office. I expect him to blow, to scream and yell. I think I actually wanted that to happen, to show Jim what a loose cannon he could be. But the kid just sags and doesn't know how to counter that -- good, he shouldn't, I'm the Captain.

"Sir, I think..." Sandburg starts to say, bit Jim cuts him off, which surprises me -- no more than Sandburg though.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk. I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." Jim says and turns and gives me a look that brokers no arguments. When did I lose control over my detectives? Oh well all right, Sandburg isn't one, but Jim is, he shouldn't be deciding what to talk about.

Blair stiffens his back and says fine, leaves my office and slams the door. I really wish he didn't do that. There are several moments of silence before I turn my gaze from Sandburg's retreating back to Jim; that's when I notice he's standing at attention, arms behind his back. That isn't a good sign.

"Jim, I know that things," I trail off as he looks at me.

"Sir, I promised Sandburg we wouldn't talk about it, and I'm not talking about it. I'm not sure what the hell happened yesterday when I was out of it, but something did."

"Damn right. He doesn't..."

"Simon! I'm not talking about it right now. You wanted to discuss the Montgomery robberies?"

I grunt and go behind my desk again, seems like I have little control here, I shouldn't be so surprised. We discuss the Montgomery robberies, which appear to be a small band of thugs, breaking and entering up and down the same suburban street. There have been five B and E's so far and yet even with the increased patrols at right, these sneaky bastards are continuing to be successful. Jim has some insightful ideas, that maybe it's a group of kids that live on that block, that way they know when people are home and who is around. The merchandise stolen is always little things, jewelry, knicknacks, but the incidents made the news so everyone is watching. We need to close the case as fast as possible. I give Jim a few more instructions and then we're finished.

During our chat he's relaxed his stance enough to lean against the table with his arms crossed in front of his chest. Now he's heading toward the door.

"Jim, when can we talk about this?" I ask, and if I sound sarcastic, I don't care. I only have his well being in mind.

"Tonight, come by the loft -- I don't want anyone to overhear us."

He gives me no time, no chance of stating my reasons, just walks out of my office. I pick up my cigar and bite down on the end of it -- I'd really like to light it up, I need the smoke, but can't. So, I'll see them tonight and straighten this nightmare out then. I just wish I didn't need to do it in front of the kid, but he should have realized before this that he couldn't help Jim the way a real partner could.

 

 

Sandburg puts me off with a nonchalant answer but I'm not really buying it. However Simon's bellow interrupts my train of thought and I head into his office. I want this meeting over and done with so I can get back to Sandburg and this discussion. He comes in a moment later, slouching into a chair beside me. He looks more like he wants to melt right through the floor than be in this room right now.

Simon's already frowning and I try to head him off with the sleeping comment. His question about my health is expected and I answer him as truthfully as I did Sandburg. "Fine sir, there doesn't seem to be any after-effects from yesterday. After you left Sandburg was able to calm me down and then I slept."

Blair's heart speeds up at that statement and I toss him a questioning look but he's avoiding my eyes.

"He did." Simons says, and his voice has a disbelieving tone to it. I frown in response. Where is he going with this?

"It just seemed to me that he was aggravating things considering you were stable until he arrived, then seemed to be in much more pain." It did?? Things are a little fuzzy still but getting clearer. I'd really like some quiet time to go over everything in my head -- sort out my reactions and memories.

"Simon... sir, we can talk about Jim's episode later..."

"I don't think it should wait Sandburg, this needs to be discussed..."

I'm jerked abruptly out of my thoughts as things between Simon and Sandburg start getting heated. What the hell is going on here? Simon's standing now, trying to use that height as imposing body language but Sandburg's not falling for it. I guess he's developing a tolerance for being loomed over -- especially while he's defending me.

"Sandburg, you aren't needed for this meeting."

"Sir, I think..." Sandburg starts. Wait wait wait. Did I miss something here? Simon's attitude here has taken a u-turn from his usual Sandburgian tolerance and it's downright antagonistic. Maybe I'd better separate them until I get some more answers.

"Chief, maybe you should just wait at my desk." He looks at me, completely astonished and I hasten to give him some reassurance. "I promise that no talk of yesterday will happen." I glare at Simon willing him to see my determination, and straighten myself to attention for added weight. I vaguely hear Sandburg's response and the slam of the office door. I'm marshaling my thoughts into a defensive pattern against an attack from a party I always thought of as a firm ally.

"Jim, I know that things," Simon trails off as I meet his eyes.

"Sir, I promised Sandburg we wouldn't talk about it, and I'm not talking about it. I'm not sure what the hell happened yesterday when I was out of it, but something did." Colored voices I remember. Simon was brown and spiky -- something like the tone he's using right now. I remember it hurt my skin at one point. Does that make sense?

"Damn right. He doesn't..."

"Simon! I'm not talking about it right now. You wanted to discuss the Montgomery robberies?" I have to cut him off again. Damn! I'm gonna be on his list for weeks. Sandburg and I are going to get the worst cases. Thankfully he gives this time and reseats himself at his desk. After I update him on the last incident, I tell him my suspicions about the local teens and he gives me instructions on dealing with the media, the homeowners and impresses again the need for speed. Like the higher ups aren't already breathing down our necks on this one. Finally done with the briefing, I push myself off the table and head for the door and my partner. I can see him, bent diligently over the files on our desks, but his shoulders are tense and he seems to radiate unease and unhappiness.

"Jim, when can we talk about this?" Simon's almost equally tense voice comes from behind me and I make a snap decision.

"Tonight, come by the loft -- I don't want anyone to overhear us."

Free at last. I head over to my desk and slouch down next to Sandburg. "Hey Chief, how's it going?"

He fills me in on the completed details of the Browning report and I sign it and add it to the finished pile. He pulls out the next one and hands it to me before taking one for himself. We work quietly together for some time but his continuing tension distracts me.

"Chief?" He looks up from the folder, wary and distraught. "Is something wrong? Can I help some way?" I pause but he doesn't answer right away. So I go on. "I wanted to thank you for sticking up for me in there. I really appreciate it. Things are still fuzzy and I'd like a bit more time to remember before Simon rakes me over the coals."

"What about me?" He asks. "Don't you find that I 'rake you over the coals' too?"

I ponder that briefly, tapping my finger against my lips. "There's a whole different feeling to it usually. You're doing to it to help figure out what happened -- so it doesn't happen again. I appreciate that though I can't usually say. And I want you to know that I really want to know what happened this time. I mean..." I look quickly around and lower my voice to a murmur, "I was seeing everyone's voices in colors and textures. That was just freaky. I just want you to think about it, to know. I trust you." I give him a quick chuck to the chin for emphasis and wait for a reaction.

A good deal of the tension drains away from him -- replaced by curiosity. "Colored voices huh?" I can see him taking the idea and running with it. The 'I trust you' part seems to stiffen his back and bring more confidence to his eyes. Damn -- I have to remember to say that occasionally. "I'll work on it." He assures me.

We turn back to our papers -- though he's going through them so much more slowly now. In fact, after lunch, his gives up on it completely and dives deeply into research. I just grin and keep going. At quitting time I get up and remind Simon to meet us at the loft for dinner. As I head back to my desk, Blair's still buried and I tap on his head for his attention; my hand lingers for a moment remembering a feeling of comfort from his hair yesterday. "Come on, Sandburg. Time to pack it in. You can tell me all about it when we get home."

He nods -- still lost in his research and I bundle him into the truck. I'm not really sure if he noticed the stop for food. But he did get out under his own power and take all his findings upstairs. We entered the loft and head in various directions, Blair for research in his room, me to the kitchen and then the door as Simon arrives.

"Thanks for coming, Simon."

I see Blair come back out. His shoulders tense again but he greets the captain civilly enough.

 

 

I'm not sure how long they're in there, but I get through the whole Browning file before Jim materializes beside the desk. As he plops his ass into the chair he asks me how things are going. I shrug and just ramble about the finished file and ask him to sign it before taking two more, one for him and one for me. I'm pretty content to just plow through the rest of the reports but I can almost feel Jim vibrating next to me. Like he's itching to ask me about the confrontation with Simon.

"Chief?" I look up from the folder. "Is something wrong? Can I help some way?" He says, and I don't answer him, I'm not sure what to say at this point... sitting in the middle of the bullpen, but then he continues. "I wanted to thank you for sticking up for me in there. I really appreciate it. Things are still fuzzy and I'd like a bit more time to remember before Simon rakes me over the coals."

Well, that's not what I expected from him. Thanking me for sticking up for him when I was just trying to cover my own ass and prolong the inevitable. "What about me?" I ask. "Don't you find that I 'rake you over the coals' too?" I'm not sure I want the answer to this and since Jim is taking his time and thinking about his answer only makes me more nervous.

"There's a whole different feeling to it usually. You're doing to it to help figure out what happened -- so it doesn't happen again. I appreciate that, though I can't usually say. And I want you to know that I really want to know what happened this time. I mean..." He pauses and when he continues his voice is only whisper loud. "I was seeing everyone's voices in colors and textures. That was just freaky. I just want you to think about it, to know. I trust you."

I blink at him as though this isn't my Jim, then he lightly taps my chin and just waits. I suppose he's waiting for a reaction, I want to smile and just bask in the praise, but I don't. It does go a long way in helping relieve my tension; I've been so upset with this impending fight with Simon that I haven't been able to relax all morning. This helps -- more than he probably realizes.

"Colored voices huh?" This is interesting. I knew from Simon that he was tasting colors, which was freaky enough, but to see them too? I wonder if there is any documentation on this anywhere... "I'll work on it." I tell him and then turn back to the reports -- there's always reports to do. I know I need to do the reports, but I can't stop thinking about tasting colors, I want to look in the books that I have, do some research. I try to keep my mind on the police work but I just can't, so I just shove that aside and start looking, it's what I do best.

The time flies by because the next thing I know Jim is tapping me on the head and telling me it's time to leave. Huh, should get into my research more often at the station, it makes the day seem so short. I just nod and get bustled to the truck. I'm not talking, but my mind is going in several directions at once trying to figure out anything about this color business. I think Jim feels as though I've lost myself in my own head, which is true to a degree. I go straight to my room when we get into the loft, I need to check another book that I didn't have with me.

As I'm coming out of my room, Simon enters and Jim is greeting him. All the nervousness I lost during the afternoon is back, and I say hello -- nicely too.

"Hi Simon."

"Sandburg." He nods my way, not too different than normal, just a little gruffer. Jim could have mentioned that Simon was coming for dinner though, I could have prepared myself, or snuck out. I've lost my appetite but since Jim went to all the trouble of setting up the meal, I'll try and eat some.

The dinner is quiet. We pass the time with small talk on safe subjects. Jim is trying to draw us into conversation, but I'm too busy forming my arguments in my head. Why I did what I did, why it took me so long to help, why Jim seemed to get worse before getting better. A bunch of why's to go along with the how's -- none of it sounds good to me, and finally Jim gets the idea and just clears the table in silence. Simon retreats to the living room while Jim and I work silently -- it's a quick job, not that much to clean up. Funny that we all know a huge argument is about to happen but Jim is concerned about cleaning up from dinner. Someone needs to recheck their priorities.

With a final wipe to his hands on the towel, Jim grabs me by the neck and directs me toward the living room. He sits me down on the yellow chair, farthest from Simon and then stands between us.

"Does someone want to tell me what this is about?" Jim demands.

I shake my head, but since he isn't looking at me, the movement is lost. I'll just let Simon run with this and then add to his statements.

"Jim, I know you don't remember a lot from yesterday, and that's frustrating." Simon says.

"Damn right it is, but throughout the day I keep getting flashes. So if you'd elaborate on the fact that you and Blair want to come to blows, I might remember even more."

"I don't want to fight Simon, just make sure that he doesn't misunderstand anything." I offer. This makes Simon angry because his eyes narrow and he sits straighter.

"And I just want to make sure Sandburg tells the story like it happened, and doesn't obfuscate through the rough spots."

Oh, low blow Simon. Jim just looks more confused, so I take pity on him and start the story. "Simon called me at the U., telling me that you were tasting colors, and that something was wrong with you. He mentioned a hospital, but I convinced him it would be better to bring you here. As soon as we hung up, I left. Even though I hurried, Simon beat me here. You were already lying on the sofa, curled up. I went to you... I, um, I stroked your head and you seemed to know I was here. That's when I started to ask Simon about where you were, what you ate, who you talked to..." I trail off because everything after this point is going to be hard to say, but Simon seems intent on making me face up to my failings.

"That wasn't the first time you demanded to know where Jim was, Sandburg. You started to grill me on the phone before you even left the university. Wasting precious time if you ask me."

I bounce out of the chair and take a step toward Simon. "Time? I needed to know, need to know, what happened to him so I can try and prevent it again. I wasn't just shooting the shit, I was looking for information!"

"Information that I didn't have!"

"You should have had it! You were with him..."

"Sandburg." Simon stands and puts his hand on his hip. "Like I said, I don't keep tabs on my detectives, you want to know where Jim is, you watch him."

"I do, except when I'm not there!" I'm getting angrier and angrier, I can feel my heart thumping wildly in my chest, my fists are clenched, trying to hold back my rage.

"Well then maybe you should look into someone else helping Jim if you can't handle it!" Simon is almost yelling now, and I can't help but scream back.

"I can handle it, things were fine, till yesterday. And you want someone else helping Jim? So do I!! Yesterday showed that I can't be where I'm supposed to be all the time and Jim suffers for it. And since I do care about Jim, more than a test subject, I'm willing to back the hell away." I take a deep breath, and move toward Simon again. "If you ever say that I only have interest in Jim because of my damn thesis again..."

"Are you threatening me Sandburg?" Simon asks incredulously; he moves forward also, now there is only the coffee table between us -- and Jim, but I haven't looked at him since this all started.

"No, I'm not Captain, But you have to understand that you don't know everything that goes on in our lives. And I'm sorry if it was too much to ask that you remember what Jim had to eat for lunch, you were there, you should have been able to remember something. But instead, you attack me for not being able to help him, of not caring. That went a long way to helping... Sir."

"You son of a bitch, you aren't turning this around on me! You aren't blaming me for your shortcomings!"

"I'm not -- I do that enough myself. You're the bastard that wanted to argue yesterday when I started to ask questions!" I'm shaking now, and I can't keep the tremble from my voice. It's bad enough that this confrontation had to happen at all, but to have these two men witness my own lack of confidence, is a blow that will take time to recover from. If at all.

Before Simon can say anything else, I hear Jim's voice, steady, almost deadly in it's tone. "That's enough. I've heard enough."

 

 

Well, this is fun. For once I'm doing all the talking. Chatterbox Sandburg has almost completely shutdown, but I can see things churning in his eyes. Simon is keeping things more hidden but it's there in the set of his shoulders and the deliberately casual tone he's using. Whatever started in the Captain's office is building to a head. Then I realize that what I saw in there was just the last part of the battle. I missed something earlier. Something while I was out seeing and feeling voices.

Sandburg and I clean up with an off-putting air of normalcy which just sits like a rock in my gut. I use the brief time I have left to dredge up a few more recollections. Me on the couch, Blair's voice hurting me as it hit me -- No. His voice didn't hit me -- but he was upset, though not at me. He was upset and angry at Simon. Why?

With the dishes drying and the counters clean I slip a hand under Sandburg's hair and tow him gently to the big yellow chair. I give him a small push to get him seated and to keep him there. Looking around, I notice that I've instinctively separated my two fighting friends and placed myself between them. Taking a deep breath and feeling absurdly like I'm about to release the hounds of Hell, I declare myself open for any and all explanations. "Does someone want to tell me what this is about?"

My gaze falls on Simon first and he picks up the challenge. "Jim, I know you don't remember a lot from yesterday, and that's frustrating." Simon says.

I nod emphatically and cross my arms. "Damn right it is, but throughout the day I keep getting flashes. So if you'd elaborate on the fact that you and Blair want to come to blows, I might remember even more."

"I don't want to fight Simon, just make sure that he doesn't misunderstand anything." The hesitant offer from behind me makes me swing my gaze around. Sandburg looks like he's about to get punched long distance. His face pale and his eyes still show signs of the stress I put him through yesterday. He flinches very slightly in response to Simon's reaction. I doubt Simon saw it, it was so small, but it hurts me.

"And I just want to make sure Sandburg tells the story like it happened, and doesn't obfuscate through the rough spots." Simon's angry words don't help any and as I whip my head back and forth between them, I can feel my anger and confusion building. Finally, looking me in the eye, Sandburg starts explaining.

"Simon called me at the U., telling me that you were tasting colors, and that something was wrong with you. He mentioned a hospital, but I convinced him it would be better to bring you here. As soon as we hung up, I left. Even though I hurried, Simon beat me here. You were already lying on the sofa, curled up. I went to you... I, um, I stroked your head and you seemed to know I was here. That's when I started to ask Simon about where you were, what you ate, who you talked to..."

His voice trails off worried and embarrassed. I take the time to try and match up my impressions. I remember making it to the couch. My skin hurt -- I remember it easing as my shirt came off, that must have been Blair. In fact the drop in pain that I remember I think I can directly attribute to his presence. But still... before that I remember it hurting again. Hurting more, from the angry colored voices.

Simon's voice booms, startling me back, "That wasn't the first time you demanded to know where Jim was, Sandburg. You started to grill me on the phone before you even left the university. Wasting precious time if you ask me."

This is what they were fighting about?? That can't be it. It can't be a simple matter of a couple of minutes here and there. I really wasn't that critical...

A waft of air and energy brush past me as Sandburg bounds out of his chair, his face twisted with anger, "Time? I needed to know, need to know, what happened to him so I can try and prevent it again. I wasn't just shooting the shit, I was looking for information!"

"Information that I didn't have!"

"You should have had it! You were with him..."

"Sandburg." Simon stands and puts his hands on his hips. "Like I said, I don't keep tabs on my detectives, you want to know where Jim is, you watch him."

I feel like I'm at a tennis match, watching the furious verbal assault being launched from either side. My own rage is climbing, having long since smothered the confusion and at this point I'm just waiting for them to take a breath so they can hear me. What the HELL is going on here?? How the HELL did they get this way over a simple sensory overload??

"I do, except when I'm not there!" Sandburg shouts, his cheeks flushed and his curls flying. He's vibrating in place and I'm afraid his heart's going to pound right out of his chest. I start to reach a hand towards him when Simon's almost bellow surprises me into a backward flinch.

"Well then maybe you should look into someone else helping Jim if you can't handle it!"

Sandburg bounces slightly in place, his whole face now red with his anger, but his eyes... Do my eyes look like that, shooting blue lightning? No, I can feel it now. My anger is colder, icier, more crystalline. I can feel it in my blood and it only solidifies at Blair's next words.

"I can handle it, things were fine, till yesterday. And you want someone else helping Jim? So do I!! Yesterday showed that I can't be where I'm supposed to be all the time and Jim suffers for it. And since I do care about Jim, more than a test subject, I'm willing to back the hell away. If you ever say that I only have interest in Jim because of my damn thesis again..."

But Simon cuts him off. Moving to be as close and as physically intimidating as possible. "Are you threatening me Sandburg?"

Blair blinks, and draws a breath. The color fades slightly from his face but not the feelings, the rage, the protectiveness, and caring and beneath it all -- I can see it so clearly now -- the insecurities about himself. "No, I'm not Captain. But you have to understand that you don't know everything that goes on in our lives. And I'm sorry if it was too much to ask that you remember what Jim had to eat for lunch, but you were there, you should have been able to remember something. But instead, you attack me for not being able to help him, of not caring. That went a long way to helping... Sir."

He's concerned about me, worried about this episode and only trying to find out what happened. He was dropped into this whole thing cold and needed some important information. Why didn't he get it?

"You son of a bitch, you aren't turning this around on me! You aren't blaming me for your shortcomings!"

The faded rage comes back doubled. He's visibly shaking and I wonder if it's from the anger or the hurt. I can't believe how out of control this has gotten. His tone becomes low, even, and almost frightening in it's intensity. "I'm not -- I do that enough myself. You're the bastard that wanted to argue yesterday when I started to ask questions".

Simon pauses, gathering his next blow. I need to stop this and in the brief silence, I interrupt them. "That's enough. I've heard enough." It comes out chilling and they turn to stare at me, surprised and frostbitten. "I can't say I completely understand what went on yesterday between the two of you but I understand enough. Now both of you back the fuck down."

Blair goes meekly, and even vaguely, gratefully back to his seat but Simon I have to stare down. It's not something I like to do or have to do often, but I'm very effective at it. After a brief pause to remind me I still have to work for him next week, Simon retreats. I take a deep breath and swipe a hand down my face. I notice abstractly that it's shaking slightly. I've only been this angry a couple of times in my life; when my mother left, when I left my father and when I found out about the betrayal of my mission. This almost tops them all.

I take a page from Sandburg and try to channel this into movement and I pace between their respective positions. Thankfully they both remain silent until I'm under control enough to speak again.

"Let me get this straight." It comes out more like a hiss but I can't seem to control it. "You Blair, wanted to know what I'd run into yesterday to cause my reaction and you asked Simon a couple of things about it over the phone and then again when you got here, right?" Blair just nods, eyes wide. "And you, Simon, claim not to remember anything and then accuse Blair of not taking care of me, right?" Simon also nods but he's starting to look just a hair uncertain.

"All right, let me tell you briefly what I remember and then I will tell you what I think you should do and you will both listen and do it." Do I sound a little dictatorial? Do I care? This is my life, my head, my senses and if I can't get rid of them then they, and everyone associated with them, will be working with me not against me.

"Blair," he blinks and relaxes ever so slightly at the use of his name. "I had a very unidentifiable thing for lunch, ran through a construction zone with a lot of dusts and scents and slipped in something really disgusting in an alley. I made it back to the station and didn't notice anything weird for a good length of time." I pause for a breath.

"Simon, I have to say sir, that this attitude is fairly shocking. I thought you understood this whole sentinel thing. Not only that, I thought you were a better cop than this. Don't you think that stopping to consider Sandburg's request for a lunch menu would have been more expeditious than ripping him a new one while I'm lying on the couch? Not only that but we'd just had lunch several hours before." I halt in my pacing or maybe it's stalking, to face him for an answer. I'm feeling distinctly feral right now.

"Jesus Jim! How was I supposed to know it would be so important?" He scrubbed his face with his hands. "All I could see was you freaking out. Saying weird shit about colors and shapes that weren't there! I wanted to take you to the hospital. What if you'd needed anti-seizure drugs?? What could he have done? What good would knowing what lunch was do if I didn't know what else happened yesterday??"

"True enough." I say softly but intensely, when he pauses. "And I understand how freaky this thing must have been for you but that's just no excuse! He's here because he needs to be." I wave my hand in Sandburg's direction, the kid's biting his lip and has frozen into a statue. "He's here because I need him to be here. And I need you to help me with that!" I feel my anger dropping away, to be replaced with tiredness and sadness and I perch on the coffee table in front of him. "Simon, I need you both to help me out. I know you said I need a 'keeper'. And Sandburg tries his almighty best, when I let him. But you know perfectly well there are times when it's just not possible. I think we were both under the impression, and I'm sorry that it apparently wasn't clear to you, but we consider you to be my 'keeper' when he can't be."

Simon's jaw drops and he looks like someone hit him over the head with a board, his eyes stunned and slightly glazed. "But, but..."

"Blair does what he can and he's done an amazing job here at home so I don't run into anything wrong. And he thinks of things while we're out too. So we just assumed you were paying the same attention. Right Blair?" I turn to be able to see him, sliding on the coffee table. He nods again, wearing almost the same dumbfounded expression as Simon. Turning my head back and forth to address them both, I continue. "You guys did everything right yesterday. There was no way the hospital was going to help, Simon. I just needed to work through it. In fact I felt a LOT better after I threw-up. What really helped was you being there, Chief." I looked him square in the eyes. "Where you were it didn't hurt. Your voice didn't hurt, your touch didn't hurt, even your hair felt good, calming."

"Jim, I..."

"No." I interrupt him. "It did. I won't let you deny it or pass it off as a part of the reaction. I know what I felt." I hold out my hand and he hesitantly, stiffly comes over to sit next to me on the table.

"Simon, I want you to know that you helped too. You got me home as gently as possible and cared for me as best you could and I'm grateful. Now I want you two to get over this."

Simon nods, still wide-eyed and perplexed. "Sandburg, I'm sorry. So very sorry." He's sincere, I can feel it in his voice and see it in the hand he holds out.

Leaning past me, his shoulder brushing mine, Blair reaches for it, "Me, too."

~End~