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A blaring car horn woke me from my restless, uncomfortable sleep. I relaxed unconsciously tense muscles as I identified the noise and smothered a groan as I dropped my head heavily back onto the sofa cushion. I could still feel the congestion weighing my head down, making it feel like twice the normal size. My eyes were gritty from sleeping and lack of sleep at the same time and my skin had that sweaty sticky feeling of lying around sleeping all day in your clothes. I thought about sitting up to readjust the things that had twisted, pulling the sweatshirt down and fixing the waistband of the pants, sheesh, even the socks that Iíd seemed to need to wear felt twisted; but I couldnít summon the energy to do it.

I groaned, this time letting a thread of sound out just to amuse myself with my own misery. A brief rundown with the four senses that were working told me that Sandburg wasnít home yet, the blanket wasnít sitting right and my eyes were too droopy to consider putting on the TV to even attempt to watch the crap they called daytime programming. That meant the reading materials so helpfully left by my partner were out too.

I did manage to sneak an arm out of my mostly comfortable cocoon long enough to drink some of the warming orange juice on the table. But the normally sweet if tangy liquid was too acidic to my hampered taste and I put it back quickly. The last thing I needed now was a bout of nausea.

The flu was making the rounds of the bullpen, thankfully in shifts so no one got swamped but I was the latest victim. Iíd felt it creeping up on me all day yesterday and by last evening it had come out in force. Sandburg, in a brilliant preemptive maneuver, had so far avoided this thing by drinking his Echinacea teas and popping vitamin C pills like candy. He even convinced me to have some. Probably would have worked too except for the fist fight in the rain two days ago and the stuffy interrogation room that lasted for over three hours with someone who had it and didnít care where they sprayed it.

So here I am, Sandburg called me out last night and considering Iím seeing no great improvement now that itís late afternoon, Iím calling out again tomorrow. Contrary to popular belief, I can occasionally admit when Iím impaired and not functioning at my highest capabilities. Iíve nothing so pressing right now that I canít take a sick day or two. And with the entire staff rotating out as sick, we all know each otherís pending cases.

The continued quiet lured me back to sleep and I dozed again until Blair came home, my head refilling and my temperature inching up another tenth of a degree or so. My doze lightened up to a catnap as I heard him in the hallway and working the lock on the door. Not opening my eyes, I noted his pause in the doorway to take stock of my whereabouts. A soft thud, probably the back pack onto the floor, a faint jingle as he dropped off the keys, rustling as he shed the jacket then footsteps headed over to me with the soft noises of breathing and brushing cloth.

Blair perched on the coffee table next to the pile of things heíd left me and I slitted my eyes open.

"Hey, Jim. How are you feeling?" He reached out to brush his fingers over my forehead checking my temperature.

I sighed, "About the same. Canít breathe, tough sleeping, sometimes feverish. Canít watch TV Ė not that thereís anything on."

He trailed his fingers down my cheek and twitched the edge of the blanket covering me. "That sucks, man."

I snorted in agreement and he chuckled. "Can I get you anything?"

He nodded in response to my shrug and stood. "Iíll just get things settled and then see about dinner. You think you can eat?"

I shrugged again, "Probably."

"Alright. Iíll turn the TV on anyway, for you. This time of day, programming starts to get better." He patted my shoulder, handed me the remote and headed for the kitchen. Soon pleasant busy noises and very faint hints of good smells drifted over to me where I was sleepily watching an episode of original Star Trek Iíd found. But even an old favorite like that wasnít enough to keep me awake, listening to my partner humming happily at the stove.

Jim perked up a bit for dinner. Dragged himself off the couch with such a production of moaning and groaning that I had to stick my head in the fridge to muffle the small laugh that escaped. I settled him at the table and obsessed over the placement of his dinner until he gave me the evil eye. "Sit down and stop fussing, Sandburg!" Again hiding a laugh, I got my own dinner settled.

He was still pale and rather listless looking but made his way through the salad, chunky soup and hot bread with a decent appetite. I convinced him that an after dinner shower might clear his sinuses and told him that Iíd go up and get him clean clothes just to see those crystal eyes light up with tired thanks.

With a yawn and a snort, Jim did a minor encore of his earlier performance as he got up from the table and shuffled to the bathroom. I waited until I heard the shower start before I meandered upstairs to raid his sweats drawer. Tapping on the door cause I knew heíd said his hearing was muffled a bit with his stuffiness, I slipped in and left the clothes on the toilet.

"Thanks, Chief."

"Youíre welcome. Iíll see out there; take your time."

"I will. This feels goodÖ" He sighed behind the curtain and I shook my head at the melodrama as I closed the door behind me. I hadnít believed heíd be the type at first but the man is so uptight sometimes that he has to be mush underneath.

Afterwards I got us settled on the couch with assorted hot beverages and cold busting accoutrements and we relaxed to a game on TV. Well, not that the game was relaxing, but it wasnít the Jags, so it wasnít worth the effort of bitching at the players and refs.

Besides, it was a slow game, lots of running with no points being scored and somewhere in the middle of the third period Jim fell asleep again. Slouched, wrapped up in the blanket beside me, I didnít notice till his head landed on my shoulder.

I freed up a hand and smoothed the lines on his forehead, noted his temperature had gone back down. He snuffled a little and I let my hand drift over his short, soft hair, just happy to sit here in silence like this. In a little while Iíll wake him and watch to make sure he gets up the stairs all right. And Iíve got to remember to call him out again tomorrow, though itíll probably be the last day he needs. Then itíll be back to normal, with Jimís normal snarkiness and upright properness. But I know it and he knows it; heís really just mush.