Due Care

by lindaljc

Summary: Blair needs just a little space. Jim gives it to him. Sometimes.

Warnings, Ratings: For a couple of words: PG.

due care: noun: the care that a reasonable man would exercise under the circumstances; the standard for determining legal duty.

Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.

...

"You know, man, I can take care of myself, but I haven't had much practice lately because I live with a sentinel! Come on, you have to admit I can't do diddly without you knowing all about it. I'm just asking for one week. For one measly week, could you NOT listen, sniff, watch ... whatever! Just stop it!" exclaimed Blair as he paced their living room from end to end.

"Diddly?" Jim smirked as he lounged comfortably into the corner of the long sofa. "Of course I could stop it, Sandburg, but I won't because it isn't safe. Isn't it in those 'Blessed Protector' rules somewhere? Remember, you were the one that trained me to use my 'gifts' for the good of my tribe. You're the guide. You're tribe member number one. Come on, can you honestly guarantee that you'd be safe without me watching out for you?" was his smug answer.

Blair's eyes bugged out, as his fury reached the boiling point. "WHAT! I AM an adult, Ellison. I'm even a cop! I took care of myself for years, with no help from you I might add. Is it too much to ask ... Come on, man ... I can't believe you ...," and Blair would have spluttered on but Jim interrupted.

"Like with Iris?" Jim questioned disdainfully. He quirked an eyebrow at Blair.

Blair tried to calm himself down. It wouldn't do any good to get into a shouting match, or a girlfriend comparison either, no matter how much he'd like to do both. "No 'Sandburg Surveillance', Jim. I mean it. You remember how you had to get away for a while and you went fishing up at Clayton Lake ..."

"Yeah, and you AND Simon followed me," Jim muttered loud enough for Blair to hear.

"Well, I need to get away from you for a while, man. Do you have any idea how irritating the constant surveillance is, Jim? I need a break!"

Jim had listened to this last retort with more reflection. "You need a break. You want to get away from me for a while?"

"No. Not away," Blair said with an exasperated sigh. "I just don't want to feel like my every move is being monitored every second of every day! Can you do that? Please?" Blair pleaded with not much hope of succeeding in his entreaty.

Jim sighed and gave in to the inevitable. After all if Blair really wanted this he'd wear him down eventually. Besides, it would really throw him off if he acquiesced with no more debate. He smiled magnanimously, "Of course I can. It's done."

"Done?"

"Right now. It's done," and Jim nonchalantly picked up the remote and tuned into the game they were missing.

Blair looked a little nonplussed. That was too easy. "I'll take you at your word. Promise?"

"I said it's done, Sandburg. Don't push it," grumbled Jim.

...

Blair thought that it was going well. Jim hadn't obviously intruded on his space for a whole day. He didn't know how Jim was handling it himself. He seemed a bit edgy. Sometimes Jim would start to say something and then stop himself. Like when Blair had just missed the weather report, he knew that Jim had started to warn him about the forecast of rain, but he had stopped himself in mid-sentence. Blair had to force down a minor surge of irritability. Jim knew he was perfectly capable of checking on the weather report himself ... he just hadn't ... yet.

Another time, Blair pulled out 'his' Tupperware container for a late afternoon snack. He'd seen Jim out of the corner of his eye as he visibly tensed and almost loosed a warning about the stuff Blair was going to scrape into his dish. Blair had already decided to toss it ... jeez it was green and fuzzy! He couldn't help it. It grated on his nerves that Jim was using his senses to swaddle his guide in a sensory safety net when his guide was perfectly capable of deciding something so obvious.

Still, it was kind of funny when he calmed down. Jim did try hard to hold to his promise. Blair had almost gotten over his snit and was going to release him. But ... not just yet. It felt kind of freeing to be left to his own devices. His life was his own again, if only in the matter of making his own choices about things everyone else took for granted. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. Maybe.

...

Blair hit the snooze too many times the next morning, and Jim didn't say a thing. He usually had at least a toast ready for Blair to take with him when his timing was off in the morning. A somewhat smug Jim sat at the table reading his paper. 'His' breakfast was long eaten and cleared away. Blair couldn't let him see him annoyed over something so minor. He'd just grab something later ... although he knew he'd never find the time.

...

Blair was heading back with takeout for lunch when he heard the report from Dispatch about a bomb threat at the Civic Center. He called Jim's cell and found out that he was already on the scene. Jim met him at the police barricade.

"What's Joel doing here?"

"He's coordinating a building sweep. The caller gave a time limit. They'll be out well before that," answered Jim.

"What are you doing here, Jim?"

Jim nodded to where the command center was set up. There were few bomb squad members present. Simon seemed in control of the perimeter with other Major Crime Detectives scattered about the area. "There's a seminar out of town for some of the top level cops, including the Captain of the Bomb Squad." Jim smiled as he went on, "Joel was called in and he drafted Simon and put him in charge of crowd control."

Blair grinned from ear to ear, "That's the way to keep the Captain happy ... not! I can see him chomping on his cigar from here. It's a good thing he can't light it, ashes would be flying everywhere. Not a good thing when you're looking for a bomb!"

Simon looked their way and noticed the grins. Getting an evil glint in his eye he gestured for them to come over. "Well, Detectives. I have a job for you."

Blair chanced a glance at Jim. They knew they wouldn't like the assignment. Crowd control. Not fun.

They headed to their area and checked in with the uniforms already scattered about the street. Jim checked in with the command post and they took their positions, to watch the crowd and to wait. It was Standard Operating Procedure to take photos of the crowd in many situations, because the perps liked the chaos they caused. It drew attention, without drawing the attention to them. A win-win situation they thought, but the cops had caught on to it long ago.

The time for detonation was counting down.

"Hey, Jim. You haven't sensed anything in the building? No explosives? No timer?"

"Nope. Looks like a hoax."

"Well, that's good I guess," breathed Blair, relaxing a little.

"What a waste of time and manpower," muttered Jim.

The building was finally cleared and Joel's relief was plain to see even from where they were standing. Hoaxes were more prevalent than actual bombs, but they still caused a high level of stress.

Jim directed his men to disperse the crowd and set things in motion to clear out of the area. He was going to walk the perimeter when he noticed a strange smell. His first instinct was to focus on it but he held himself back long enough to be sure he knew exactly where Sandburg was. Blair had thought the danger was past and had strayed a few steps behind Jim.

... Sandburg ...

For some reason Blair turned. He saw the fear on Jim's face, but couldn't tell what or where the danger was. He froze.

Jim twisted and tackled Blair to the ground away from the alley entrance. The corner of the building blocked them from most of the force of the bomb blast. Others were not so lucky.

Jim picked himself up off Blair, dusting off both himself and his friend. Blair was stunned by the speed of events and the blasts concussive effects.

"You all right, Chief?"

"Yeah, yeah. You didn't know it was there?"

Jim just shrugged guiltily, "It was in the dumpster. No, I didn't smell it. It reeked. And I don't know what kind of timer it had, if any. It could have been remote controlled because I didn't hear it. Look if you're all right, I have to get medics in here to check people out."

"Go on, Jim. I know. Go, I'm fine," and whispered as Jim ran to do his duty, "and lucky to have a friend like you, Jim." When Blair was steadier on his feet, he joined his sentinel.

...

Jim clapped a hand to Blair's shoulder sending a small cloud of dust into the air. He followed it up with more clapping and more dust until Blair waved him off. "Enough already! It's going to take more than beating me up to get rid of all this dust. The next people in the elevator are going to be overcome with the stuff." A ding was heard as they reached the seventh floor, and Major Crimes.

"Oh, by the way ... sorry about watching out for you," Jim grinned as he clipped Blair on the back of the head.

Blair whispered, "You big doofus."

Jim lead the way to their desks. "Let's get the preliminary reports done so we can get out of here before it's tomorrow."

Blair gave his jacket a good shake before sitting down, which caused Jim to grimace and vainly try to wave the cloud of dust away from them. "You should take a look at the photos, maybe you can pick up something."

Jim shook his head in self-disgust, "I will. Too bad I didn't pick up anything before the explosion."

"Don't be so hard on yourself. He threw a twist into this one. It's not possible to catch them all. Don was headed back with the digital camera just before we left. I'm going to call down and see if they're ready."

Jim studied the pictures until he was ready to give up in frustration.

"Jim, let me take a look."

"Sure, Eagle Eye. Go for it," Jim grimaced as he pinched the bridge of his nose.

Blair studied the pictures, too. "Joel said the bomb was remote controlled, so the bomber was probably close by. What are we missing?" He sorted through the pictures, laying them out sequentially around the site. "Jim, what would be the best vantage point? The uniforms checked out the rooftops. Where does that leave for a spectator to have a good look?"

Jim took a look, "My first guess would be directly opposite."

"Check out the windows on the second and third floors."

Jim shook his head slowly, "Nothing."

"Jim there's a high-rise behind the Folsom Building. It's a stretch I know, with glare and everything ..."

Jim grinned and pointed, "There. You got it, Chief. It looks like a private office. It shouldn't be too hard to find out who has access. Hopefully we'll find prints or some other evidence."

"Yeah, you got it! Amazing."

Jim just shook his head. Blair always glossed over his contribution to the sentinel partnership.

Simon was pleased. A solid lead this early in the game might be enough to catch the guy before he could strike again.

...

They stopped to pick up a few groceries at the convenience store near 852 Prospect. They were well known to the late night clerk, Ron. Blair had known him from his Anthro 101 class when he was at Rainier, and the kid had only shown respect for Blair. That was the reason Jim remembered him, and always made a point of being pleasant to the young man, even when Jim was tired and tended to be grumpy.

Jim stifled a yawn as they came in, "Hi, Ron. Busy night?"

Ron's eyes darted nervously to the door to the back room, "No, 'Mr.' Ellison. Not too busy. Can I get anything for you?"

Jim glanced toward the back room. Ron's eyes followed his. Ron knew that he was a 'Detective', as well as Blair. Jim casually grabbed Sandburg by the back of the neck and steered him to the dairy case. He didn't think Blair had caught the 'Mr.', since he was behind Jim when they came in the door. But Blair was quick to catch on when Jim pulled his gun as they moved away from the checkout. Blair quickly pulled his own gun from his holster as he immediately went on alert. Jim gestured toward the back room and that there was only one perp.

Then he out loud he said, "Hey, Chief? Why don't you wait in the car for me, I'll just be a minute."

Blair whispered, "What about Ron?"

"Can you get him outside?"

Blair nodded, then louder, "Sure, man. I'm half asleep anyway." Blair tucked his gun under his coat and walked out the door, pretending to slip and fall. "Damn! My ankle. Ron? Hey, man. Give me a hand, willya?"

Ron glanced quickly at Jim, who gave a fierce shake of his head and mouthed, 'GO'.

Ron took off, Blair grabbed him and shoved him behind the truck.

Jim jumped into the doorway of the back room and yelled, "Cascade PD! Put your weapon down!"

It was a teenager, more than half scared to death by the big cop and the big gun he was staring down. His shock gave Jim the chance to knock the gun aside. Before Jim had him cuffed, he was crying for his mother.

Blair calmed Ron, while Jim wished he could calm the teenage perp as easily. A patrol car arrived to take the kid into custody. The manager of the store allowed Ron to lock up for the night. Blair and Jim finally headed for home as daylight began seeping over the horizon.

Jim stopped on the way up the stairs, "Damn, Chief. I did it again. I need to work on giving you your space."

Blair had halted on his way to the bathroom. "What a doofus," he whispered for his sentinel.

...

They both slept in late. Only rising for lunch, instead of breakfast. They were going to go in and finish their reports and find out if anything had come of their lead on the bomber, but Simon surprised them.

"Ellison," Jim said into the phone.

"Jim. Good news," announced Simon.

"Only good news, sir?"

"Good. And better. The holdup at the store is a closed case. The kid confessed, and after hearing about his mother's reaction, if I was him I'd take Juvenile Hall. I don't know what made the kid think this was a cool thing to do, but his mother will 'never' let up on him."

Simon's deep chuckle made Jim grin in response. "Maybe a little 'tough love' will be good for him. What other news is better?"

"Your lead caught the bomber! What an idiot the guy was! He used his own office for his front row seat to the bombing! That was a good call. The Mayor will be pleased."

"Uh, Simon. That wasn't my call. It was Blair's," said Jim.

Blair choked on his orange juice. Jim patted him gently on the back.

"I did say 'your', as in your partner and you. I'll make sure His Honor, The Mayor, knows the full story," said Simon. "But then the best news would be ... a half day off. See you tomorrow."

"Thanks, Simon. A whole half day off. What 'will' we do?" joked Jim.

"I'd suggest you enjoy it, Detective," said Simon just before he hung up.

"My call!"

"Yup! Just watching out for my guide."

Blair grinned. "Okay," he murmured.

...

That night they'd both settled down to watch a game when the phone rang. Blair turned to reach for it but Jim got to it first. He almost always did. He'd have to find a way to test that. Did Jim have a sixth sense, a kind of short-term prognostication?

"Naomi? Hi. How are you? Yeah, Blair's right here. We were just sitting down to watch the game. You're kidding! You're in Peru?" Jim continued, grinning as Blair tried to grab the phone from him, but Jim's arms were longer. Jim continued with the chit-chat a little longer to egg him on then passed the phone over. He reached for the television remote to turn the sound almost off so Blair and his mother could talk undisturbed. He was just settling into the game and trying to ignore the conversation that was so much louder than the game. In his head, his guide's voice coached, 'Focus, Jim. Sort out the extraneous sounds. They don't belong there, so shut them out ... '

Jim sat up with a start. He grabbed the phone out of his startled roommate's hand, "Naomi. Listen to me. You know about the sentinel stuff. Don't question me. Don't hang up the phone. Just get out of that house. Quietly! Now!"

Blair stared at Jim with terrified eyes.

Jim clung to the phone like a statue. Blair moved in cautiously to place his hand on his friend's arm to anchor his senses and dared not speak a whisper. He wanted Jim to hear ... everything. He needed to know if Naomi got away. He needed to hope she would be alright.

Jim finally released the phone. "The phone's dead. I heard gunshots, but I'm sure Naomi was out of the building by then. I'm sorry, Blair. I don't know any more. I caught a couple of names. I'll contact a buddy of mine down there. Maybe he can sort things out. We can fly down if she doesn't contact you in a couple of hours. But we don't know where she'll end up. We could end up down there, while she's on her way here ..."

"Jim. Thank you."

"But ... "

...

Naomi called before the night was over. She showed up, a little bedraggled, but healthy and whole on a late flight the next day. She hugged Blair ... and Jim, to his embarrassment, and Blair didn't say a word about it.

It took a few days, but she finally felt up to traveling again. Both Blair and Jim urged her to stay as long as she wanted, but they knew she'd be on her way again soon, no matter what.

...

After sending her off to the next destination, Blair tried to apologize again to Jim. "It's really okay, man. You can watch, sniff, listen all you want. I'm over the needing my space thing. And you can eavesdrop anytime. Really, thanks, Jim."

Jim grinned as he leaned back into the sofa and gave a jaunty salute, "Just doing my job as Blessed Protector, Sir."

"You are such a doofus sometimes."

End