Disclaimers: Boys not mine; I just borrow them from time to time when the muse moves me. No money, no medical plan, but a hell of a lot of job satisfaction.
Special Thanks to my Beta Queen, Zoe, without whom I'd be doomed to a life of grammatical inaccuracy. Also God bless my beta Ari, who has the kindness and tenacity to ensure that what you read is worthy.
Thank you to wolfpup for giving my work a great home.
Warnings: H/C, Angst, Smarm, Some violence, and usually a bit of colorful language.
Spoilers: None to my knowledge.
The following sites were instrumental in my research for this story.
PUSHING THE LIMIT
Tears of A Cop - Author Unknown
I have been where you fear to go...
I have seen what you fear to see...
I have done what you fear to do...
All these things I've done for you.
I am the one you lean upon...
The one you cast your scorn upon...
The one you bring your troubles to...
All these people I've been for you.
The one you ask to stand apart...
The one you feel should have no heart...
The one you call the man in blue...
But I am human just like you.
And through the years I've come to see...
That I'm not what you ask of me...
So take this badge and take this gun...
Will you take it? Will anyone?
And when you watch a person die...
And hear a battered baby cry...
Then so you think that you can be
All those things you ask of me...?
"Damnit, Jim. You know you have to go, so why are you fighting this so much?" Blair demanded as he tossed his keys forcefully into the basket, knocking it onto the floor.
Jim turned and smirked at his agitated partner, as Blair bent to pick up the basket and redeposit it on the table just inside the door to the loft. "I'm serious here, Jim. You heard Simon," he warned, drawing himself up a little taller and pushing his glasses up on his nose. "De-tective Ellison, you will NOT leave your DESK until you get off your ass and get your annual check up!" Blair bellowed, his voice booming in a near perfect impersonation of the lumbering captain.
"Sandburg..." Jim started, shaking his head amusedly at his Guide's antics.
Blair's bright blue eyes widened as realization struck. "You know they'll find something," he accused angrily. "What are you sensing, Jim?" Blair interrogated, his eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Jim turned away unable to meet his eyes, causing Blair to fly across the room whacking him in the chest.
"You bastard! You are hiding something! So what the hell is it?" His question left no room for discussion.
"Blair..." Jim began, drawing the name out to stall for time.
"Don't Blair me. Get on with it and quit stalling!"
"I've just been feeling more tired than usual. That's all." Jim stated emphatically.
"Uh huh," Blair chided. "You, my friend, have a doctor's appointment for ten o'clock tomorrow morning," he affirmed, taking in Jim's menacing scowl and ever twitching jaw.
"And don't even look at me like that, you're going," Blair ordained as he walked into the kitchen and began getting things ready for dinner.
Jim strode to the uniformed officer, his face adorned with his usual scowl. "What've we got?" he asked authoritatively, grasping the officer's hand in a firm handshake.
The young officer turned his eyes away momentarily, before inhaling deeply and starting his report. "My partner and I got the call about some kids finding a body in the park. One of them had his cell phone and gave us a call. We found her behind the bushes. There were a few discernible footprints around the body, but it looks like the kids made them. Victim is a white female, mid to late 30's with red hair and green eyes. It looks like she was stabbed several times and bled to death before she could get help. We didn't find a purse, but forensics is combing the area as we speak," he finished, glancing up at the lumbering detective.
Jim tensed as his senses spiked violently. He pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt his Guide's hand at the small of his back.
"Jim? What's goin' on, man?" Blair questioned worriedly. The frown lines in his forehead deepening as he received only silence in answer. "Jim?" He said a bit louder, but still at the lower edge of Jim's Sentinel range.
Jim shook his head and stood up straighter. "Just a little spike, Chief. It's weird though..." he mentioned as he made his way to the body and began to turn down the corner of the sheet covering it.
"What's weird, Jim?" Blair inquired, his confusion increasing exponentially.
"Well, it's nothing really, but for a minute I thought I smelled a familiar perfume," he finished lamely, shrugging it off as an apparition.
Blair shook his head. "Lots of women wear the same brand of perfume, man. It's probably one of the forensics people," Blair disclosed looking around at the different women wondering which one his partner picked up on.
It was this distraction that led him to miss his partner's gasp as he launched himself up from the body and over to the bushes to empty his stomach. Blair darted forward, replacing his hand in the small of Jim's back. "Dial it down, Jim," he instructed sub vocally as he gently rubbed circles on his partner's back. "What the hell happened? I've never seen you lose it like that at a crime scene."
It was Blair's turn to gasp as he got his first look at his partner's ashen face and tear-ridden eyes. He could barely hear Jim's shaky voice and leaned forward to hear him better.
"It's her. It's her. Oh my God, Chief! It's her," Jim choked dejectedly on the words.
"Jim?" Blair's worried voice carried as he freed himself from Jim's strangling hold on his arm and moved over to view the body for himself. "Oh... my... God," he exclaimed suddenly, then turned to one of the officers and began barking orders. "You," he pointed to a young blonde man in uniform, "Call Captain Banks, tell him that he's needed at the scene along with another Major Crimes team. Get them here now. Is Dan here yet?"
The officer looked down at him, startled by the commanding presence of the smaller observer. "Is Dan here yet?" Blair repeated, a bit more patiently than he felt.
"Uh, yes sir. Looks like he just got here," he answered pointing out the M.E. in the crowd of people.
Blair took off to intercept him. "Dan, hold up!" He yelled, putting as much power into his voice as to stop the man in his tracks. "Dan, we've got a problem. A big problem."
"What is it, Blair?" Dan asked speculatively.
Blair glanced at the ground before bringing his soulful blue eyes to face the darker brown ones. "The victim was Carolyn Plummer, Dan," Blair informed him quietly.
"Oh shit!" Dan cursed.
"Right with ya babe!" Blair replied, shaking his head worriedly as he turned to go check on his Sentinel.
"Sandburg!" Simon bellowed across the crime scene. "Would you please tell me what was so damned important that...?" Simon paused as he caught sight of the pallor of his best detective and his commanding observer. "Blair?" he questioned more quietly.
"Sir," Blair began, faintly registering the shock that crossed the Captain's face at not hearing his first name. "Jim's not going to be able to finish the scene right now, Captain."
"What's going on, Jim?" Simon interrogated, turning toward the silent detective. "Jim?" He tried again.
"He probably won't answer you, sir. I think he's in a light zone," Blair began, heaving a sigh.
"You think... One of you better tell me what the hell's going on or I'll bust you down to traffic cop so fast your head will spin," Simon threatened, his unease growing steadily, a black knot deep in his gut.
"First of all, Simon, I'm not a cop," Blair remarked without humor then justified his response as he caught the Captain's glare. "Just pointing out what you always seem to remind me. Second of all, Jim zoned shortly after hurling up his breakfast after seeing the victim," he explained carefully, waiting for the Captain's response. "You see, sir. The victim. Well, it's..." he stammered on the difficult words.
Banks, having reached the limit of his patience, demanded, "Just spit it out, Sandburg. Did Jim know the victim?"
Blair shook his head; desperately wishing for divine intervention that he knew would never come. "Yes sir. The victim is Carolyn, sir."
Simon turned away as his face paled and he patted Blair's shoulder gently. "Take him home, Blair. I'll stop by later to see how he's doing," Simon reassured, then gestured toward the shocked Sentinel. "You need any help, kid?" He asked gently.
"No, man. I'll take care of him," Blair assured the Captain standing impassively before him.
"I know you will, kid," Banks replied, the corners of his mouth tugging upward in a war with his heart, that mourned the loss of another fine police officer.
Blair unlocked the door and pushed it open with a heavy heart. "Come on, Jim. Time to go inside and bring you back from the wherever the hell you retreated to," he muttered to the stilled detective.
Gently leading Jim across the cold loft floor, he prodded him forward, finally depositing his cumbersome charge onto the couch with a laden sigh.
Placing his hands deliberately on either side of his Sentinel's face, he began to call to him softly using the deep dulcet tones of the Guide within him.
"Come back to me, Jim. It's okay for you to come back now," Blair whispered, barely audibly to even Sentinel hearing.
He watched Jim's face, cradled in his hands, for any sign that he was coming out of the mild haze he'd retreated to when he realized the implications of finding Carolyn's body.
Blair flinched as Jim's lungs wheezed when he inhaled forcibly. "That's it, Jim. Just breathe in and out. Nice and easy," Blair guided, his voice beginning to crack with the relief that Jim seemed to be rejoining him. "Hey buddy," he whispered as he saw a line of cerulean blue looking up at him.
Blinking furiously, Jim tried to clear his head along with his vision. "Chief," he croaked out.
"Yeah, Jim. Right here," Blair reassured as he removed his hands from Jim's face. "Let's get you up. You think you're up for a shower? I think it would make you feel a lot better," he suggested, gesturing to the bathroom door. "Your skin's cold as ice."
"Maybe you're right. You mind getting me some water, Chief. My throat's really dry," Jim asked, his voice scratchy with the effort.
Blair nodded his head and went to retrieve a bottle of water, saying, "Well, you were out of it for a little while, buddy."
Jim's startled eyes met his as he handed over the water. "How long?"
"About two hours," Blair answered with trepidation. "Go jump in the shower and I'll fix you something to eat, okay?"
Jim nodded and headed for the shower. Getting in, he smiled when he heard Blair bound up the stairs to his room and grab a pair of comfortable fleece sweats out of his bottom drawer and set them on the sink. "Thanks," he responded gratefully, a hesitant, tired smile playing at his lips.
His expression faded as his legs lost the ability to support him and he sank down into the tub. Putting his head on his hands on the side of the tub, he sighed as he tried to regulate his breathing and bring his quivering muscles back under his control.
"No problem, man," Jim heard Blair reply from the kitchen just as the tremors began to fade in their intensity.
Jim reached up to grab the towel from the rack and began to towel off. Raising himself carefully from the tub, he shakily stepped from it and placing his hands on the wall to steady him sat heavily on the toilet seat. Sighing deeply, but hoping that Blair was still too preoccupied to notice his weakness, he threw on the grey fleece sweats and staggered exhaustedly into the kitchen.
"So what's for lunch, Chief?" Jim asked, amazed that his voice was strong and steady.
"I thought soup would be good for now. Then you can get some rest," Blair suggested, ignoring Jim's scowl.
Jim ate greedily and pulled himself up the stairs using the railing, with Blair following him up. Blair reached into the nightstand drawer and plucked out the white noise earplugs. "Here, Jim. Put these in. They'll help you sleep better."
"Thanks," Jim responded automatically, then cut off Blair's 'No problem, man' with a raised hand. "No, Chief. Thanks for everything today. I really mean it."
Blair smiled wickedly, "No problem, man." Then he bounded down the stairs and into his room where he pulled out another white noise generator and turned it on placing it on the kitchen countertop. He grabbed up his bowl and crackers and headed for the table. A few minutes later he jumped when a sharp knock pounded on the door.
Simon pounded on the door once again. "C'mon, Sandburg, open up!" He bellowed, too worn out to worry about disturbing the neighbors.
Blair opened the door with trepidation, certain that he was not looking forward to the visit.
"Hey, man, c'mon in," he invited exhaustedly.
"How is Jim doing?" Simon inquired as he made his way into the loft and removed his coat.
Blair looked up toward the loft as he answered, "He's sleeping, Simon. He dropped off just a little while ago and no you can't talk to him. He's exhausted, Simon. He took a shower and I sent him on up to bed. He can't be disturbed. It took me awhile to bring him back this time."
"What do you mean?" Simon asked, concern coloring his baritone voice.
"It took me almost two hours to get him out of the zone," Blair replied, then amended when he saw the shock on the Captain's face. "He wasn't in deep. He just didn't want to come back."
Simon tilted his head as if to contemplate this, then pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Look, Sandburg. I need you to be honest with me here. This zone that he went into. What happened? I can't have him out on the street in that condition. You know that!"
"Oh, come on, Simon. You know he won't back off on this!" Blair spat indignantly.
"The hell he won't. I'm still his Captain and I won't put him back on the streets until the department shrink thinks he can handle it!" Simon commanded.
"You know he'll never go for that! You're killing me here, Simon!" Blair complained, his voice elevated slightly.
Simon smiled fondly at the young man's expression, then picked up the small unit on the kitchen countertop. "What's this?" he redirected.
"It's a white noise generator. It's the reason we can talk right now without waking Jim. It produces sound that's soothing to his senses. Hence, he relaxes. Therefore, he sleeps."
Simon nodded appreciatively. "He's lucky you look out for him, Blair," he said gently with a smile, then pulled out a cigar and bit down on the end of it. "Look, Sandburg," he started, his voice becoming gruff again. "I don't give a rat's ass if you have to get him to the shrink using sedation and a straight jacket. The man lost his wife. He also listens to you," Simon emphasized, punctuating the statement with his cigar. "If you don't get him there, he's chained to his desk. Capiche!"
"Okay, Simon. I'll see what I can do."
Jim strolled into Major Crime with Blair in tow and gestured for the grad student to have a seat at his desk.
He proceeded past his desk to Simon's office door and gave a small knock, before entering upon being beckoned.
"Good morning, sir. Here's the paperwork you requested, sir," Jim stated with military efficiency as he handed Captain Banks his release forms.
"Have a seat, Jim," the Captain extended the invitation with authority.
"I'll stand, Captain," Jim replied coldly.
"That wasn't a request, Detective Ellison," Simon ordered as he turned up the air of command that hung around him.
Jim silently took his seat managing to remain at attention from a seated position.
Simon shook his head and looked over the forms with a vague sense of foreboding. "Hmm, they gave you the all clear!" He remarked as he glanced up at the stoic detective.
"Cut the crap, Jim. I'm not just your Captain, I'm your friend," Simon reminded as he tossed his glasses on top of the forms.
Jim flinched at his friend's tone and relaxed slightly. "I'm fine, Simon. I was just a bit shocked at first, that's all. Look, Sandburg and I are going to head over to the crime scene and see if I can pick up anything. We shouldn't be too long and then I'll file my report, okay?"
"Jim," Simon started only to be cut off by the detective.
"I'm fine, Simon. Now just drop it!" Jim warned as his covert ops facade took hold once again.
Simon shook his head disbelievingly. "Alright, go. Get out of here," he ordered, as Jim got up from the chair and turned to go out the door. Just as Jim opened the door, he called out to him. "Jim, I gave the lead for this case to Rafe and Brown. You can look into it, but it's not your case, you got me, Detective Ellison?"
Jim scowled, his eyes narrowing menacingly. "Yeah, I got ya," he replied, then shut the door a bit harder than necessary. "Let's go, Sandburg," he growled as he slammed through the Major Crime door and out to the elevator.
Blair wiped his hands on his pants and prepared to guide his Sentinel through one of the most difficult tasks - finding his ex-wife's killer. He leaned forward slightly and placed his hand gently on Jim's shoulder.
"Okay, Jim. Keep smell dialed down since you zoned on that before and let's start with sight. The body was found right here. Take a look around and tell me if you see anything," he counseled and backed off a bit while still maintaining contact.
Jim shuddered, his mind replaying the events of the past day. He balled his hands into tight fists until his fingernails tore into the sensitive flesh of his palms.
Blair noticed the change immediately and tightened his hold on his partner's shoulder. "Don't you go anywhere, Jim. You stay right here with me. Dial down your sense of smell. Just hold on. Are you getting anything?" He asked, his guide voice out in full force.
Jim shook his head. "Nothing! Damnit, I waited too long. If I'd had my shit together yesterday morning, I could have probably gotten something! How could you let me leave the scene before checking it out?"
"How could I let you?" Blair huffed, shocked at Jim's accusation. "No." Blair stated emphatically. "You are not even going there," Blair chided, his expression stern and his stormy blue eyes flashing. "You don't know what you would have gotten and under the circumstances, I think you did a damn fine job. Now let's get back to the station and start the reports."
Jim shook his head negatively. "We've got one more stop to make," he stated shoving his damaged hands deep into the pockets of his black leather jacket.
"Oh, yeah?" Blair asked as he climbed into the truck. "Where to?"
"The morgue," Jim answered, his tone dispassionate. His face set in granite.
Blair's head jerked up in response to the unexpected answer. Looking over at his emotionally detached partner, he shook his head minutely. You can't fool me, he thought despondently.
"Jim, man. I can't believe you're doing this. She was your wife," Blair blurted out as they strode through the morgue doors.
Blair had scarcely taken a breath when he found himself pushed back into the wall at the side of the cold room doors. "Can it, Sandburg! When I want your input on this, I'll ask for it, okay?" Jim's glacial tone penetrated his paralyzed brain causing him to shiver.
"Yeah, sure. Can you like, put me down now?" Blair asked, his sarcastic tone colored slightly with a mixture of anger and fear.
Jim dropped him to the floor and backed away, unable to meet Blair's shocked expression. "Sorry, Chief," he muttered under his breath as he turned to go find Dan.
Striding through the inner doors, he stopped short at the body of his ex-wife on the table in front of him. Blair, hurriedly trying to keep up, ran into the back of him.
"What...?" Blair began, but stopped as he cleared his frozen Sentinel and saw Carolyn Plummer's body splayed on the table. "Oh, man," he sighed, turning away from the raw carnage.
Dan looked up at the intrusion and raced around the table to intercept them. "Jim, what are you doing here?" He asked, blocking the detective's view of the body. "I'll bring the report up when I'm finished."
"I need to see the body," Jim requested, his voice a mere shadow of it's former self.
"NO!" Dan surged forward, further blocking access to the stilled form.
"I need to see the body," Jim repeated more loudly. "Dan, step aside. I've got a murderer to catch and you're obstructing my investigation."
"Last I heard, this was Rafe and Brown's case," Dan replied understandingly, his hands raised to placate the charging man before him. "Look, I'll copy you on the report as a courtesy, but really, you can't expect me to allow you to see your wife like this," Dan finished, his near black eyes flashing briefly in acceptance of the pain that his friend was brought to bear.
"If you aren't going to help me with this, then get the hell out of my way! Oh and she's my ex-wife," Jim spat caustically, pushing Dan away.
"Like that would matter, Jim," Dan shot back angrily. "I'm having enough trouble with this case without having you up in my face. Now stand down, Detective or do I need to call Captain Banks?"
Jim scowled menacingly at the medical examiner that was foolish enough to dare defy him. Stepping forward angrily, he was surprised when strong arms encased his chest and pulled him away.
"Look, Dan," Blair started, "it's obvious that Jim's a bit driven on this case. Why not just give us a couple minutes so that he can get this out of his system. He's hell bent on it and nothing I say makes a difference, so maybe he just needs to do this. Please, Dan," Blair beseeched on behalf of his crazed partner and Sentinel.
The lines in Dan's face softened measurably. "Sure. I only want to help."
Blair heaved a sigh of relief before answering, "I know Dan and I know that Jim appreciates your concern."
"What have you got?" Jim asked, his jaw twitching.
Dan sighed deciding whether he should cater to the detective. Finally, after a moment's pause, he began. "Well there was heavy trauma to the throat and upper body. She has defensive wounds on her hands and upper arms. It looks as though her attacker was quite a bit bigger than her. From the angle of the cuts, I'd guess he was maybe 6'2 or 6'3. He was about your size and build," he paused wishing he could put those words back in his mouth.
Jim's face flashed anguish momentarily, then his stoic facade settled once again.
"Sorry," Dan apologized only to be cut off by Jim's wave to continue. "There is evidence that she was raped. I sent the kit to the lab already for analysis. We found hair and skin samples under her nails, which have also been sent to the lab. We should have the results back on everything by tomorrow night. I put a rush on it. I'll just give you a few minutes. If you need anything else, I'll be in my office," Dan stated as he retreated.
Blair turned to Jim and appraised the detective closely. "You look like hell, man. After this, why don't we head home and we can look over the evidence when we get in tomorrow morning?"
"Look Sandburg, if you don't want to be here, you can leave. I was fine before you got here and I'll be fine without you. Now let me work, will ya?" Jim snapped, missing the stricken expression that momentarily crossed Blair's face.
"I'm fine. Let's do this," Blair amended, ducking his head to avoid Jim's penetrating glare.
Jim forcefully expelled the last remnants of his meager dinner. His hands shaking relentlessly, he stood unsteadily at the toilet and pushing off the wall lunged for the sink to wash his face and brush his teeth.
A soft knock at the door startled him and he cursed beneath his breath. "You okay in there, Jim?"
Jim grunted affirmatively before regaining his balance and opening the door growling, "I'm fine, Sandburg. Go back to bed."
Blair eyed his Sentinel wearily, taking in the drooping eyes and dark circles surrounding them. It had been nearly a week since Carolyn's murder and Blair scarcely knew what to do anymore. Jim barely ate, almost never slept and the vomiting and dizzy spells that he knew Jim was trying to hide from him were increasing exponentially.
Blair shivered as he remembered his stoic friend's icy expression at her funeral. Jim had skipped out on the wake and other services, shocking his confused roommate by only attending the graveside service out of respect for the woman he had once loved and married.
Shaking his head grimly, Blair decided to once again brave the dark storm that was the current norm for Jim Ellison. "Jim, why don't I make you a little peppermint tea? That may help your stomach settle enough for you to get some sleep," Blair attempted, fully knowing the contempt he was likely to bring on himself.
"Save it, Sandburg. I'm fine," Jim groused as he pulled his weighted body up the stairs and dropped into his bed fully exhausted.
"Look Simon, I don't give a damn about the current caseload. I couldn't give a flying fuck about how damned backlogged we are. Capiche. Jim's falling apart. He doesn't sleep. He doesn't eat. He spends most of the night prowling the loft, stopping long enough to vomit what little he managed to choke down at dinner. You have got to pull him. He's going to end up killing himself," Blair gasped, the desperation ringing repeatedly throughout the small office as he pulled thoughtlessly on his hair.
Simon paused momentarily before asking, "It's gotten that bad?"
Blair glared over at the Captain. "I wouldn't be here if..." He jumped as the door banged open.
Jim's form loomed in the door before his voice boomed. "SANDBURG! What in the hell are you doing here? You have no right..."
"I what? I have no what? You bet your ass I have a right. In case it's escaped your attention, Jim, you're fucking falling apart," Blair growled, his hands flying about in protest.
Jim started for the startled anthropologist only to be stopped short by a lumbering and totally pissed off Captain. "Don't even think about it, Ellison. Based on what I've seen here today, you're going home and I don't want to hear another word about it. I'm reassigning the case to Conner."
Jim inhaled to protest only to be cut short by his Captain's raised hand indicating what a mistake it would be to open his mouth at this moment. He cursed vehemently, his eyes boring several invisible holes in Blair Sandburg. Then turning on his heel, he slammed out the door and headed for the truck.
Simon shook his head wearily. "Oh, yeah. That went well," he sighed, his voice tinged with the concern the professional had to suppress.
Sandburg turned and followed his Sentinel, as he always would.
Blair hastened his pace up the stairs as he heard the increased commotion. Opening the unlocked door to the loft, he witnessed a very pissed off Jim Ellison striking the wall repeatedly. The blood streaked bricks unyielding in their appearance.
He crossed the loft quickly wrapping his strong, if compact form around his roommate's shuttering body.
Jim choked on his emotions before sobbing clearly. "Damnit, Chief. She's gone. She's gone and I can't even find the fucker that took her away. Damnit!" He screamed, swiping angrily at his eyes.
Blair cooed softly to his Sentinel. "It's okay, Jim. Just let it go. Come on, man. I'm here," he whispered as he soothed the despairing man.
Eyes shining, Jim Ellison did the scariest thing he could possibly imagine. For the first time in his life, he let go...
Jim ran a shaking hand over his stubble-laden jaw and moaned piteously. Rolling to his side, he thought about actually getting out of the bed and going downstairs to face the aftermath of his emotional breakdown in front of his Guide.
Finally, making his decision, he threw back the covers and pushed himself up to sit, his feet firmly planted on the cool wood floor, a pained groan permeating the loft.
Blair glanced upward at the sound. "You okay up there, big guy?" He questioned as he moved toward the steps with hesitation.
Jim grimaced at the sound, although it was lower than usual. "Yeah," he croaked. "I'll be down in a minute," he finished as he stood up, pinching the bridge of his nose, tracing the bridge of it into his thinning hairline to scrub at his head and regain a little focus.
Tossing on his Cascade PD sweatshirt, he stepped with trepidation down the stairs his bloodshot blue eyes never leaving his concerned Guide.
Jim cleared his throat and inhaled deeply. "Look, Blair, about last night..."
"It's not a problem," Blair cut in raising his hand toward his exhausted partner. "I know you're gonna get pissed about this so I might as well get it out of the way."
Jim bristled at the somewhat serious tone Blair's voice brokered, but turned his eyes up inquiringly.
Blair continued, "I rescheduled that doctor appointment you missed the day we... sorry. The appointment you missed a couple of weeks ago," he started, raising his hand and eyes in warning before the older man could object. "Look, Jim. You don't have a choice. You look like shit. You don't eat or sleep. I may not be the Sentinel in this dynamic duo, but I CAN hear you prowling in the night."
"Hey, I slept last night," Jim interjected hotly, his face scrunched up like a petulant child.
Blair shook his head in disbelief. "Hell yeah, you slept last night. You were exhausted. You passed out after finally letting go of some of the crap you've been toting around, so do not give me this bull shit about you sleeping," he raged, his cerulean eyes flashing. "Passing out cold from exhaustion just don't count, big guy."
Jim opened his mouth to reply when Blair continued. "I'm not done yet so you can shut your mouth right now. I also know about the vomiting and I found blood splatters on a towel in the laundry. I am so not going to let you kill yourself. YOU are MY Sentinel and if you aren't going to take care of yourself, well then, I'm damn well gonna do it," he finished, his eyes brooking no argument.
Jim sighed heavily. "You're right," he whispered, holding his head in his hands and reaching for the aspirin on the table. His hands were intercepted gently by his Guide. "No, Jim. Your stomach can't take the aspirin. I'll make you some tea and then we need to go so we're not late for your appointment."
"Jim, what the hell have you been doing to yourself?" Doc Kerry grumbled, taking his seat and looking over the test results. "You're a mess!"
Jim rolled his eyes as he glanced toward Blair sitting in the chair across the small room.
The doctor cast a stern look at his patient. "You listen here, Jim. I've been your doctor since you got out of the military. I know you. Wanna hear what the tests revealed?" Doc Kerry asked with his eyes focused sternly on his stubborn patient.
Jim just turned his gaze away from the doctor as Blair piped up with a "definitely, Doc."
"First of all, you're suffering from a sudden traumatic loss," he started, his expression one of compassion. Jim's head shot up in surprise at the doctor's information.
"Sandburg talks too much!" Jim growled, his tone menacing, completely unaware of the momentary hurt that crossed the young anthropologist's face.
"You be nice! That boy saved your life by bringing you in here!" Doc Kerry chastised loudly, patting Jim gently on the knee. "You don't get it yet, do you?"
"Your blood chem. levels are all off. You have severe anemia, probably a left over of all the vomiting and severe insomnia which isn't doing too much good either," he prattled, holding a stern finger up when his patient attempted to interrupt. "Hold your tongue. I'm not done yet."
He continued after flipping to the next page of the chart. "Your reflexes are all sluggish. You're suffering from severe exhaustion which is what's causing a lot of the headaches and dizziness and to top it all off, you gave yourself an ulcer. A big one at that. Now are you gonna listen to my orders or am I gonna throw your ass in a hospital bed?" The doctor interrogated, drawing himself up to his full height shoving his authority at the bone weary man on the gurney.
Jim shrugged. "Caro's killer's still out there, Doc..."
"I got news for you boy. If you die, you'll never catch the bastard. Let another detective handle it for a few days and I'll see about getting you back in the game. However," he drawled, his aged finger pointing to the Detective in warning. "You will follow my orders to the T and you will abide by what your partner tells you to do. Is that clear, Jim?"
Jim lifted his tired eyes to meet the old man's, then nodded reluctantly.
"Good, Jim. Very good. Your partner and I just want what's best for you. There's one last condition before I let you go," Doc Kerry added. "It's a deal breaker, Jim."
"What?" Jim answered, his normally strong voice brimming with resignation.
"Most of your symptoms are indicators for PTSD so I made an appointment with Jahna Brink for tomorrow at noon," he informed his reluctant patient. "You don't go, I'll know and you'll be in here so fast your head'll spin, got it?"
Jim knew there was no way around it. He knew that Doc Kerry would not compromise on this.
"Got it," Jim agreed to Blair's absolute amazement.
Then pulling his jaw up off the floor, Blair thanked the doctor and lead his weary partner out the door after accepting a prescription for a mild sleeping aid.
"You'll have to tell me how you did that?" Blair inquired with envious respect.
"Trade secret, my boy," Doc Kerry said with a smile and a wink.
"Here you go, Jim," Blair said as he handed his exhausted Sentinel the mild sleeping pills and a glass of water. "Let's give these a try. I don't think they'll wreak too much havoc with your senses... Besides, we're a little desperate, here," Blair guided with a compassionate smile.
Jim downed the pills and settled on the couch. "What? You're not gonna check under my tongue to make sure that I swallowed them?"
Blair chuckled for the first time in weeks. "Don't make me come over there, man," Blair warned, his eyes twinkling.
Laughing silently, Jim set the glass on the coffee table and pulled the afghan down on top of him.
"Sleep well, Sentinel. I've got the watch," Blair whispered, his hand gently patting the weary man on the shoulder.
Jim smiled as the medication began to take effect and he faded off...
Making his way up the stairs to Jim's room, Blair sat on the edge of the bed. "Hey man," he greeted with a smile the sleepy eyes awaiting him there.
Jim smiled tentatively, still bone tired. "Hey," he replied, his emotions warring with the way he had treated this man the past few weeks. "Blair, I..."
"I know, Jim," Blair answered knowingly.
"No Blair, let me say this. I know I've been treating you like shit the past couple..."
Blair held up his hand, "Jim, man. What are friend's for, but to kick our sorry butts when we are pushing the limit...?"
"It's about friendship?" Jim asked, knowingly, his voice softened in the early morning loft.
Blair smiled at the remembered phrase, and replied a little more firmly, "Damn straight, Jim. Damn straight. Why don't you try to get a bit more sleep before we head back to the PD?"
"You know I loved her?" Jim sighed softly, struggling with himself to say the words.
Blair patted his shoulder fondly. "Yeah, man, I know. She was a great lady, big guy. We just have to remember that instead of all the ugly crap," Blair reminded.
Jim rubbing at his head, speaking softly, "I'm trying, Chief. I'm trying. Will you sit up here for a little while?" He continued when Blair nodded. "The pills seem to keep the nightmares away so I guess that's something."
"You bet it is. Now go to sleep. We've got to go over some more files when we get back to the PD."
"I'm telling' you Megan, I'm going cross-eyed from all this paper. We're so not a paperless society. I don't care what they say," Blair complained quite loudly, tossing yet another file onto the large stack.
"Who's they?" Megan inquired innocently.
Blair smiled, a twinkle dancing in his eyes as he looked up and over at Jim. "You know, they. Tell her, Jim," he beckoned invitingly.
"It's they, Connor," Jim parroted, his expression dead-panned except for the almost forgotten twinkle in his eyes.
"You blokes are bonkers," she hissed as she stalked out of the room in search of more coffee.
"Hot damn," Blair cried out rather loudly. "We gotta lead," he announced excitedly, throwing his file into the fray.
Jim leaned across his desk in anticipation of the rest of the information.
Blair shuffled through the papers he'd reclaimed from the desk. "She had tissue and blood under her nails, but we couldn't get a match, right?"
"Losing patience here, Chief," Jim snapped, before instantly apologizing. "Sorry, Chief, go on."
"I put an inquiry in with the CDC on a hunch that it might turn up something on the rare marker Dan found in the blood. They routinely monitor food borne illnesses through Food Net, an active food borne illness surveillance network. They measure the burden and sources of specific diseases over time. It turns out that the guy had bacterium in his blood called Yersinia enterocolitica. It's a bacterium that comes from the ingestion of undercooked pork products. Man, I had this friend when I started college who loved chitterling and got sick as a dog from them once. I bet that's what he had," Blair prattled.
"Chief?" Jim reminded, more gently, yet still urgently.
"Right, sorry. Basically, the guy could have gotten some bad pork or some contaminated unpasteurized milk. If we run a check through the local hospitals for the time just before the attack. He still had antibodies and an elevated white count so he may have been treated at the hospital for extreme diarrhea or abdominal pain. Yersiniosis presents almost identically to appendicitis, so we can look into patients who were treated for appendicitis, but released prior to surgery when the real cause of their suffering was determined," Blair finished with a flourish, a satisfied smile adorning his face, his blue eyes sparkling with the excitement of discovery.
"Great job, Sandy," Megan cooed as she sipped her coffee and began to compile a list of medical facilities spreading radially from the murder site.
One month later...
"Jim, you've made a lot of progress here. I'd like you to consider coming to see me on a biweekly basis, but I see no reason why you can't resume active duty and stop riding a desk," Dr. Brink informed the much calmed man in front of her. "Has Doc Kerry released you yet?"
"Just yesterday. Old man wouldn't let me get back to work until Sandburg reported I was actually sleeping and able to eat. The antibiotic therapy worked for the ulcers and to be honest I'm starting to feel pretty good," Jim finished, looking away guiltily.
Dr. Brink leaned forward in her high back chair. "It's okay to be happy and to have a good life. You know it's what Carolyn would have wanted, right?"
Jim puffed out air before answering. "Yeah, I know. It just gets hard sometimes. Sandburg keeps reminding me though," he finished, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Great! I saw the paper this morning. Congratulations," she praised, warmth glowing in her hazel eyes.
"Thanks," he responded, as he got up to leave. Turning back, he added, "for everything."
Jim opened the door to the loft feeling as though the world had been lifted from his shoulders. The smell of lasagna permeated the air and he could hear his Guide singing softly to the music playing within the safe haven that his once desolate home had become.
Putting his keys in the basket, he closed the door and crossed into the kitchen. "Lasagna?"
Blair chuckled, "You tell me, big guy."
Jim grimaced with mock indignation. "A Sentinel can't even come home to a nice home cooked lasagna without having to pass the what did I put in it test?" He tried to hide his smile to add to the banter.
"Yup!" Blair agreed whole-heartedly
Jim sighed, not the sigh of the persecuted, but a sigh of a man who was truly finding his way once again. "You used extra meat, even the artery clogging Italian sausage. Wow and no whole wheat noodles," he reported, his smile growing broader by the minute. "I'm loved," he sang, as he headed to the bathroom to wash up before dinner.
Blair chuckled, his eyes awash in excitement. "Yes, you are," he replied, smiling that much more when he heard his Sentinel singing from the bathroom.
Then thanking every deity he had ever read or heard about, he listened as this small piece of his Jim came back to him - to his home. After all, some lines were never meant to be crossed. And for him, living without his Sentinel, well... that just... well... shouldn't... happen...