Never thought I'd have three stories up this month, but the Stand Alone Muse didn't let me down. The Series Muse and the Crossover Muse, well.... Actually, there is some good news on that front. The next Family story has finally progressed from page 4 (that's really a good thing, considering it's been on page 4 since the first of March <g>). I have my fingers crossed that it will eventually be completed in the near future.
Warnings? I'm rating this a TV14 because of gristliness (blood ick) at the beginning. This is another "strange" tale, a little dark, a little disturbing maybe....
My thanks to K, one of the fastest betas on the planet!
Hope you enjoy.
Phantasmagoria-- a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined.
Given his job, he should be used to the scent of death, in all its varieties-- from the smell of fresh blood, and the aroma of body fluids released by the relaxing muscles, to the haunting odor of old decay, bones picked clean by vermin, yet still retaining pieces of desiccated flesh. But he couldn't help but shiver as his nose led him toward a preponderance of the familiar smell. Massacre, his mind concluded. Slaughter, his gut amended.
He turned the corner, and the physical, visual proof of the scent lay at his feet. An endless row of black body bags stretched out before him, the plastic glimmering in the harsh fluorescent lighting. He looked around, noting the hallway seemed familiar. He had been here before. Who were these people? He chose a bag at random, and pulled down the zipper. The remains weren't pretty, but recognizable. Wilbur Franken. The desk sergeant at the station. He always had a quick smile and a wicked sense of humor, which were good things, because he was the front line of the precinct, the one who dealt with a public that was usually frightened, upset, even angry. Why was the sergeant dead? He had always been so proud of the fact that he had never drawn his weapon in his twenty plus years as a cop. Who would kill such a peaceful man? He pulled the plastic back further, eager to get answers.
It was an explosion, he concluded seconds later. Debris was deeply embedded into the corpse, something wicked having smashed into his chest, sending the sternum into his heart. Where? How? He sniffed the air, searching for the point of origin-- ground zero. Nothing. Only death. He sighed, and continued down the hall. About every tenth body or so, he stopped and peeked inside the bag. So far, all cops. Something started to gnaw in the pit of his stomach. You're avoiding the obvious, he told himself.
What's the obvious?
That all of these men and women work at the Central Precinct. YOUR precinct.
He started running, but the corridor started to narrow, and he had to slow down in order to step over and around the bodies. Then he had to slow even more as the floor became slick...with blood. It seeped from the black shrouds, at first swirling out over the cold pale tile, then congealing in large, irregular globs. He watched the clots cling to his shoes, splattering his pristine white socks as he took one step and then another.
He was drawn to the dark red spots so tightly, that when his foot slipped, he couldn't retain his balance, and he fell, landing with a thump atop one of the bags. He hastily mumbled an apology, feeling sick as his hands pressed against the solid form entombed in the plastic. He started to stand, then fell to his knees again as he spied the tuft of hair caught in the zipper. A long, chestnut curl. His hand reached for it, knowing it would be oh, so soft to the touch. He wanted to scream, but couldn't find the breath. Instead, he lifted a trembling hand to the zipper, and pulled....
With a gasp, Jim Ellison sat up. And nearly fell off the sofa, For one long, agonizing moment, he was disoriented, lost in his own loft. Then, as a cramp assaulted his stomach, he remembered everything. The reason he was on the sofa was because the sofa was closer to the bathroom than his bed...and he needed to be closer to the bathroom because he was going to be sick.
He scrambled out of the sheet entangling his body, and raced to the toilet.
Although his door was shut, and he was no Sentinel, Blair Sandburg was awakened by the sound of his roommate retching. He moaned sympathetically, and debated whether he should go and check on him. Despite their living arrangements, Jim was still a highly private man, and he thought of illness as something to be overcome, not shared. That was doubly true in this case, since the cause of his sickness was so common. A month ago, Cascade, Washington had been hit by a severe influenza epidemic. Schools had to be closed because the teaching staff had been devastated by the virus, but that was okay, because the student population had been stricken as well. City services, including the fire and police departments, had had to go to their emergency plans, because their numbers had been so decimated by the disease.
Out of the Major Crime Unit, only Jim had remained upright and functioning. He had worked twenty hours a day, helping the few remaining healthy cops keep crime under some semblance of control. The remaining four hours were spent taking care of not only his ailing roommate, but his colleagues as well. Those who lived alone were his biggest concern, and throughout the day, he checked on them, making sure they were getting plenty of fluids and weren't running out of ibuprofen. If someone didn't answer the phone, he went over to their place to make sure they hadn't fallen or passed out. His concern had surprised everyone but Blair. Even if the enemy was a virus, the Sentinel was on the job, protecting his tribe the best he could.
It was no wonder then, that even as Cascade struggled back to its collective feet, the Sentinel had succumbed to the remaining dregs of the virus. He was overworked, exhausted, and had scarcely cared for his own needs. A perfect host. One moment, he'd been filling in Captain Simon Banks on what had happened in his absence; the next, Simon had been cradling his head on the floor and calling Blair. He'd come and taken the city's protector home.
He heard the toilet flush, but no passing footsteps. Privacy be damned, he thought, and quickly got out of bed. "Jim?" he questioned softly, as he pushed on the bathroom door. His roommate sat on the floor by the toilet, his back resting against the bathtub. "You okay, man?"
Jim's eyes were closed, his head thrown back. "Shh. I'm trying to take a nap," he said weakly.
"Wouldn't you be more comfortable on the sofa?" Blair asked sagely.
"You always said the Army must have taught me to sleep anywhere, so now we're going to see if that's true. Besides, I don't think my legs can make this trip again."
Blair shivered as the cold of the tile seeped through his bare feet. "C'mon, man. You can't stay here. Let me help you up. We'll put the trash can by the sofa, just in case, okay? It'll be fine." Jim nodded and allowed his partner to give him a hand. The anthropologist was concerned about the fine shivers he felt coursing through his partner. "Maybe we should take a quick run over to the E.R.," he mused aloud.
"For what? I have the flu, Sandburg. Believe me, I can recognize symptoms even better than the medical staff, and I can recite the treatment just as well too. Pop analgesics for the pain and fever, and drink plenty of fluids. Viruses can't be cured; only tolerated until they work their way through your system. I'm going to puke for a while, ache for a while, then I'll be fine."
Blair nodded, but was still concerned. Jim's abdominal cramps were more severe than his had been, the Sentinel spending a lot of time in the bathroom. The ibuprofen didn't seem to be helping the aches, and whereas he had slept through most of his illness, Jim was constantly restless, often waking up in sudden starts, which just aggravated the tense and abused muscles.
"Okay. We'll do it your way for a while, big guy. But if you get worse...."
"Cluck, cluck, cluck," Jim rasped half-heartedly. Blair handed him a glass of water, supporting him as he rinsed out his mouth.
"You're warm," Blair said, ignoring the mother hen reference. Jim had practically nursed an entire police department. "When's the last time you took something?"
"A few hours ago."
"Did it stay down?" He'd gone out to gather supplies at the corner market-- ginger ale, saltines, etc., so he hadn't seen Jim take the medicine, or if it had had time to get into his system.
"No," Jim said sheepishly. "Nothing stays in for very long."
"A doctor could prescribe something for the nausea--"
"Or force me into a bed with an I.V. stuck in my arm. Give my immune system time to kick in before we go running for reinforcements. Please, Chief?" he pleaded earnestly.
"You have until morning, Jim," he warned, as they walked slowly toward the sofa. He didn't have the heart to deny the man this reprieve; a pitiful Jim was almost impossible to refuse.
Jim tried to smile. "By morning, I'll be fine."
He worked the zipper down carefully, not wanting to further entangle the delicate curl. He heard a strange mewling sound as he peeled back the plastic...and clenched his teeth together when he realized the sound was coming from him. But that didn't stop the hiss of despair that sprang from him as he revealed the face of his best friend. At least this part of him had not been touched by the blast, the pale skin unblemished, the lashes long and dark, the lips full and almost in the semblance of a smile. In life, his features toggled between angelic and impish; in final repose, he was definitely on the side of the angels. Perversely curious, he wondered how he had died. Had his partner suffered before death claimed him, or had it been instantaneous? Wiping away the moisture blurring his vision, he lowered the plastic further.
He found a wooden shard piercing the heart, and the Sentinel whispered something appropriately grateful. It was only right that the faithful Guide had not suffered; he'd done enough penance in life. Reverently, he zipped the bag closed, making sure his partner was all tucked in this time. Then he moved down the line, not skipping any of the bags now. He found them all: Rafe, Brown, Joel...Simon. Oh, God. How was he going to tell Daryl?
When he finally clambered back to his feet, he noticed that these were the last of the bodies. The jaguar in him shrieked its anguish, and the walls and ceiling reverberated with the sound. As the pain diminished to a mere agonizing grief, the Sentinel knew what he had to do. He had failed in protecting his tribe; he wouldn't fail in his quest for vengeance. Someone had perpetrated this evil act. Someone was going to pay.
Alone, as he had been in the past, as he would be from now on, the Sentinel headed into the dark recesses of the endless corridor.
Jim jerked awake, scaring Blair so badly that the anthropologist yelped and spilled the glass of warm, flat, ginger ale he had prepared for his partner. "I wish you wouldn't do that," he muttered gruffly, as he moved toward the kitchen for a towel. After mopping himself, he daubed at the coffee table, then looked around for evidence of more spillage. His reactions had been so automatic that he failed to realize his roommate's were not. No joke about clumsiness, no remark about messiness, not even a subdued, "Accidents happen, Chief." In fact, Jim hadn't reacted at all. He was just sitting there, staring at him.
"Hey, buddy, you with me?" Blair asked anxiously.
"Your eyelashes are long," Jim murmured, still staring at his friend.
Blair reached out worriedly to feel Jim's forehead. His temperature was not as high as last night, but still elevated. He picked up the bottle of pills he'd left on the table and shook three into his palm. "Take these, Jim," he ordered, transferring them to the too-warm hand. Jim obediently took them, chasing the tablets with the remaining ginger ale. Then he slumped back down on the sofa.
Oh man, Blair thought to himself. This wasn't good. He had planned on going into the station for several hours, helping the unit catch up on its paperwork. But now, he didn't know whether he should leave his roommate. It was obvious Jim wasn't any better. He was talking about his eyelashes, for crying out loud. The man was not well.
"Didn't you say something to Simon about going in this morning, Chief?" Jim asked, willing the pills and soda to stay where they were until he could get Sandburg out of the building.
"I don't know about that, Jim...."
"You'd rather stay here and watch me sleep? That's how I plan to spend the day."
Blair was relieved to hear this. That sounded normal...and healing. Since he knew "quiet" wasn't his forte, he figured Jim would sleep better if he left. "I'll be gone for just a few hours." He went and got the cordless phone, setting it on the coffee table. "The answering machine is on. If you hear my voice, pick it up."
"I know the drill, Chief."
Blair grinned. "I'm clucking again, right?" He swung his backpack on his shoulder. "I'm out of here. Sleep well."
"I wish," Jim muttered. As soon as he heard the engine of Blair's car sputter and finally start, he groaned, and hung his head over the trash can.
"How's the patient this morning?" Simon asked as he saw the anthropologist come straggling into the bullpen.
Blair shrugged. "I'm worried about him. Either the virus is attacking him differently because of his senses, he has a mutated version of the virus, or perhaps it's because of his multiple exposures to it, but for whatever reason, I don't think he has the same thing we had."
"If he's begging for you to kill him, he has the same thing we had," Simon said dryly. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt quite so awful.
Blair tried to smile but couldn't. "If he's not better by the time I get home, I'm taking him to see a doctor."
Simon could tell he was serious. "If he's that bad, why are you here?"
"He heard the two of us making plans, and basically pushed me out of the loft. Well, he would have, if he'd had the strength. So, I might not be here long. I know everyone's behind--"
"And we'll be behind for quite some time. No one's going to object to you leaving to take care of Jim. He got a lot of us, yours truly included, through all of this. If he needs some extra attention, you give it to him, Sandburg, and don't worry about us around here. Has Rainier reopened?" The university had shut down at the request of the County Health Department. The agency had reasoned that one large lecture class, plus one infected student, would have equaled a hundred or more new contaminees. It had been a good idea, but one that was too late. The epidemic swept through the college as it did the city.
"Since it was so close to the weekend when the Health Director declared it safe to resume classes, the University is waiting until Monday."
"So, you don't need any backup with Jim?"
"I got it covered for now." He absently adjusted the tie holding back his hair. "Since he's already complaining about my 'mothering' tendencies, I'm going to hang out around here for a couple of hours, then head home. I'll tell him you kicked me out or something."
Simon grinned evilly. "Sounds like a plan."
Before, the corridor had narrowed. This time, the ceiling grew lower until he was forced to drop to his knees and crawl the rest of the way to his goal. His surroundings were gloomy, dark even to his eyes, but he knew he was headed in the right direction. He could hear the soft hum of his prize, smell its peculiar, but familiar, odor. C-4, the plastique explosive of choice for those in the market for such things. Yes, the remains of the detonator would be within his grasp...and with it would come the knowledge of the one who had destroyed his tribe.
His head cocked to the left, his sight focusing on a slightly discolored patch of paint. With a growl, he pounced against the spot, the drywall cracking from the assault. He arched his hands, and-- oddly-- wasn't surprised when claws emerged from his fingertips. With them, he easily ripped away the material which still blocked his path.
His eyes scanned the detonator, looking for evidence of its creator. Suddenly, he stopped looking for evidence, and looked directly at the device. The timer was still counting. How could this be? Why was it still running? Why was he still hearing the electronic hum? It had already destroyed the lives of his friends, his Guide...hadn't it? He turned back the way he'd come, but he couldn't see any of the body bags, just a dim glow at the end of the corridor. If not for his Sentinel sight, he wouldn't have seen the light at all.... What did this mean? Was there a chance...?
With a shiver, Jim opened his eyes, and stared at the ceiling of his loft. There was something he had to do, wasn't there? The station. He had to go to the station. He stood unsteadily, holding onto the back of the sofa as the floor shifted beneath him. When he thought it possible, he released his hold, and moved toward the door. A chill coursing through his body reminded him that he wore only a T-shirt and boxers. Clothes. He eyed the staircase to his room warily. Then his blue orbs settled on the welcome sight of the basket of clean, folded clothes which he had brought up from the laundry room, but hadn't put away yet. By leaning up against the wall, he managed to struggle into a pair of pants, then slipped a sweater over his head. Now, he needed keys. But as he teetered over to the basket by the door, he realized he couldn't drive. With a sigh, he changed directions and headed for the phone.
Okay. A cab was on the way. That meant he needed money. His wallet was upstairs, but.... He carefully made his way over to the table and picked up the sugar dispenser. Ah. The Sandburg Emergency Fund was in place. He felt really bad about all the "volunteer" hours his partner put in at the station, so he always made sure there was some cash "just laying around" in case Blair came up short near the end of the month. Sometimes he would mention that he borrowed it; at other times the money just disappeared, then reappeared when grant money or a stipend kicked in. That the money was always there, was never mentioned. He had chosen to put it beneath the sugar, because it was rarely moved thanks to Sandburg Lecture #71: The Evils of Refined Sugar, which was followed by Lecture 72: Red Meat-- A Death Sentence, and 73: Wonder Burger-- An Allegorical Tour Through Hell. He stuffed the money into his pocket, and stumbled out the door.
The cabbie saw the man weave out of the building, and debated whether to stop, or keep on driving. He'd just gotten over the flu, and really didn't feel up to dealing with some drunk...and gee, wasn't it early in the day for the man to be that snookered? "Probably ain't got no money either," he muttered darkly. As if he'd been overheard, the man pulled out a wad of bills and waved them. Decision made, the driver pulled over to the curb.
Upon a closer look, the cabbie decided the man was sick, not drunk. He would recognize that pallor anywhere. "Hospital?" he asked as his passenger climbed into the back.
"Police station. Downtown."
Police? He glanced into the rearview mirror. The guy was struggling with the door. Sure, it stuck a little, and occasionally needed a sharp tug, but apparently this guy was all tugged out. He put on the emergency brake, stepped out, and slammed the door. "You get to feeling sick, you let me know," he warned as he pulled away from the curb. "Can't have you messing up the car."
Jim's ears rang from the loudness of the slam, but he managed to hear the driver. "Yes, sir," he replied obediently.
Sir? He glanced back at his passenger. Military man? The hair was short enough. "You know, I was in 'Nam when we started pulling out back in...." It was always good to talk to someone who understood.
"Here you go, pal," the cabbie said as he pulled up at the requested destination. "I hope you feel better."
Jim closed his eyes, and prepared himself for movement. It just took so much effort.... He looked up gratefully as the driver opened the door for him. "Thank you." He handed him the crumpled money, and started to walk away.
The cabbie stared at the bills, then took out what he was owed. "Hey, pal! Don't forget your change!" He ran up to him and dropped it in his hand. "You gonna be okay?"
Jim looked at the building and nodded. "Friends," he murmured.
The cabbie was relieved. "You have friends waiting for you? That's good. Take care."
Jim crammed the money into his pocket and went inside. Suddenly, his perception changed and he was back in the narrowing corridor, the body bags once again lined up. Did that mean he was too late? No. From the outside, the building was perfect. He had time.
He still had time.
"C'mon, man, pick up the phone. Jim?" Blair pleaded into the answering machine. No reply. He turned to Joel Taggert, who was perched on the corner of the desk next to him. "He's not answering. I have to go, Joel. I knew I shouldn't have left him alone."
Blair glanced at the approaching captain. "I can't talk, Simon. Jim's not answering the phone. I have to get home."
"He's not at home."
Simon sighed, and motioned for them to join him as he headed toward the elevator. "Sarge Franken saw him come in downstairs. He looked really bad, and when Sarge tried talking to him, he muttered something about bodies and bombs. So, Sarge called me, and sent one of the uniforms to tail him."
"Tail him? He's not headed up here?" Joel asked.
Simon shook his head. "He was moving in the direction of the basement. I suggest we get down there now."
Five minutes later, the elevator deposited them on the correct floor. They saw an officer standing outside a room labeled Maintenance. "Ellison?" Simon questioned.
"He's inside, sir. On the floor. In the corner."
The way he said it made it clear that whatever was going on, it wasn't normal. When Simon made a move to enter, Blair stopped him. "Let me, sir. Guide voice," he whispered as he went past the larger man. If Jim was as sick as he figured he was, he was going to have to be handled very gently.
"Jim?" he said carefully, as he walked into the small room, shutting the door behind him. The figure didn't move. He was sitting on the floor as the officer had described, staring intently at something. Blair shuddered, wondering what Jim was looking at. Was his elevated temperature causing hallucinations? As he moved forward, he saw the hole in the wall that Jim's body had blocked. God. Was he having violent episodes as well? "Jim? It's Blair. Something wrong, buddy?" No response. Despite the danger-- the man had ripped a hole in the wall-- he got close enough to lay his hand on the muscular shoulder. Even through the fabric he could feel the heat roiling off his friend.
"Which wire?" Jim mumbled.
Wire? "Jim? We need to get you to a hospital, okay? Will you come with me to the hospital, so we can make you feel better?" he cajoled, sinking into a squat behind his partner.
"Which wire?" Jim repeated.
"Oh, man, you're so out of--" From this level, he could see what Jim could see. He paled, and climbed to his feet. Opening the door, he called out, "Joel, could you come in here for a moment?"
Simon looked at him curiously, but was ignored. Joel went inside, then returned seconds later. "Simon, evacuate the building, now!"
"And get the Bomb Squad down here A.S.A.P.!"
Jim opened his eyes, and groaned at the sight of the I.V. running into his arm. "I'm in the hospital," he said unnecessarily.
"Yup," his partner agreed from the chair beside his bed. "You don't remember the ambulance?" Jim had regained consciousness halfway through the trip. He had patted Blair's sternum and whispered, "No hole." Although Blair wasn't sure what that meant, he figured no hole in his chest was a good thing. Jim apparently agreed, because the Sentinel had fallen asleep with a smile on his face.
Jim shook his head in answer to Blair's question. He hated riding in ambulances-- strapped in, helpless... "Nothing's clicking, Chief. I must have really been out of it."
No. That had come later. He shivered at the memory. "You don't remember the ice bath they threw you into down in the E.R. because your temperature was so high?"
Maybe Jim didn't remember, but the E.R. staff certainly did. Their ears were probably still ringing from his screams. Blair knew his were...and his heart was still mending from the stabs each of Jim's cries had carved. Maybe it was good Jim couldn't recall the incident. He knew he would like to forget it...but probably never would. "What do you remember, Jim?"
"The dream," he said, hauntedly.
"What dreams?" Blair leaned in, so Jim wouldn't have to speak too loudly. His throat had to be raw.
"A dream," Jim corrected. "A recurring one...no, more of a continuing nightmare."
"Can you tell me about it? Is it the reason why you kept waking up so suddenly?" Maybe the answer to what had happened lay here, because so far, it was all still a mystery.
"Rows of body bags, blood, dead...all of you were dead. You looked like you were sleeping. Did I tell you that you had long eyelashes?"
Blair smiled. "Yeah, you told me, Jim. What else happened in this dream?"
"There was a bomb. Blew up the station. No.... The timer was still going." He chuckled bitterly. "I thought I had to stop it. I woke up, and tried to get to the station, right? What happened? Did I knock myself out getting dressed?"
"No," Blair said quietly. "You made it down to the station."
"I did?" Jim asked, his voice cracking in surprise. Blair slid a piece of chipped ice into his mouth. He nodded his thanks, then looked at his friend. "How much of a fool of myself did I make?"
"You punched a hole in the wall."
"Damn." He could feel the heat rise in his cheeks. "I'll...I'll pay for the damages. Bring my checkbook with you when you come back, okay?"
"Not a problem. Once the Bomb Squad got finished, wasn't much of the wall left anyway."
Jim's eyes lowered in shame. "Bomb Squad? Please don't tell me I got them involved."
"Uh, it was kind of inevitable, Jim. You reveal a bomb in a police station, and hey, surprise, the Bomb Squad shows up, you know?" Jim just blinked incredulously. "The entire building was wired. Would have imploded...killing everyone inside. Guess he had the chance to do it when the building was almost empty the past couple of weeks. You might have been able to smell the C-4 when he was planting it, if you hadn't been so tired. Then again, with all the smells in the building.... Anyway, as luck would have it, our would-be bomber got the flu, and didn't get to set the timer until this morning. No one would have been the wiser...until we were all dead that is... if a certain fever-crazed detective hadn't stumbled into the station, and started ripping out the walls." He grinned, and laid his hand on his friend, squeezing his arm warmly. "There are a lot of people grateful for that fever-crazed detective, by the way. Do you know how many lives you saved?"
Jim paled. "Do you know how many people could have died?"
"But they didn't," Blair said gently, not surprised Jim would see it from the opposite viewpoint.
"No, Blair, you don't understand." He closed his eyes and looked inward, hating what he saw, but knowing Blair needed to see it, too. "If it hadn't been for the fever, I would have ignored the dream. You know that, don't you? I would have never acted...if I had been in my right mind. I don't believe in...in whatever this is."
"Then I suggest you start believing, Jim. This was a wake up call, my man. We might not get another." He realized he might have spoken too abruptly, too plainly, when he saw the panic grow in the blue eyes. "It'll be okay," he hastened to assure the frightened man. "We just have to teach you to listen to that subconscious of yours. It's part of the Sentinel package, too. I already have some tests in mind...."
"How, Sandburg? How do we test something like this? Not all of my dreams are portents of the future. Hell, I don't even remember most of them. How am I supposed to.... I can't go around yelling that the sky is falling every time I have a dream, yet...I don't know if I could live with myself if I didn't, and someone died." He shuddered at the thought.
"Hey, man," Blair said, gently rubbing Jim's forearm, "we won't let that happen, okay? We already have several clues about how this dream differed. You called it 'continuing', didn't you? And you remember it, right? Those are markers, Jim, indicators that a dream isn't just a dream. Further analysis will probably reveal others."
"Uh, could this have happened just because I was sick?" Jim asked hopefully. "Maybe this was just symptomatic of the fever and dehydration." If that was the case, then he'd never be sick again. Whatever concoctions Blair came up with, he'd just pinch his nose closed, and swallow them-- without complaint.
Blair shook his head, sorry he couldn't agree with his friend. "This wasn't an hallucination, Jim. What you saw was a direct representation of a future event. Not only did you see it, you were led to a place where you could stop it. Everyone has psychic moments at one time or another. A man doesn't take a certain flight, because something inside him screams that he shouldn't, then the plane crashes. A woman pulls into a shopping center, then refuses to get out, and leaves. Later, she finds out another woman was kidnapped and raped from that same parking lot. A soldier trudges along, then all of a sudden stops and finds a tripwire against his leg. He hadn't seen it, hadn't felt it...but he stopped anyway. These things occur all the time."
"So, what are you saying? That maybe this is a one-time deal?" Jim let himself relax a little.
"No. That's not what I'm saying," Blair said gently. "I'm saying that this is a sense that humans have, a sixth, or perhaps seventh sense. It's mostly undeveloped, and only shows itself in extreme circumstances. But it exists, and if the five main senses in you are enhanced, then it only stands to reason the other senses are, as well."
"Why haven't we seen evidence of it before?"
Blair looked away. "We have. With Alex Barnes." When he turned back, he saw Jim had paled to an almost bloodless state. "Damn it. Where's the call button?" he asked, standing to lean over the bed in his search.
"Don't," Jim said, and Blair stilled. Slowly, Jim's color came back, and Blair resumed his chair. "How...how is Simon explaining this?" the detective asked, wanting to change the subject.
Blair's eyes danced merrily, also willing to forget Alex Barnes for a while. Besides, this conversation wasn't going to be tucked away forever; just set aside for a long comfortable evening in the loft, a cold beer in hand...or maybe something with a little more alcohol content.... "He's getting so good at this, Jim. He suggested that you'd become suspicious of Aaron Rorie, but with the outbreak occurring--"
"Rorie's the one who did this?" Rorie was a recent addition to the janitorial staff. He'd made a "name" for himself by ticking off the captains of Major Crime, Homicide, and Vice, all within the same week.
"Yeah. You're the one who told us that."
"I told you?"
Blair nodded. "When Joel told you that it was okay, that he knew which wire, you asked why Aaron Rorie would do such a thing. Then your eyes rolled to the back of your head, and you went into convulsions. Scared the crap out of all of us. Simon and I were trying to hold you steady, and the Bomb Squad was trying to get to the detonator.... Ten years of my life flew by, man. The next time you get a fever, I'm taking you straight to the emergency room. Bat those baby blues all you want to, get that little catch in your voice.... Nothing's going to work next time."
"I have never batted my eyes," Jim protested.
"Yeah, right," Blair scoffed. "You were probably doing it in your crib, Jim."
"You're full of it, Sandburg."
"Not half as full as you are, man." He patted his arm, and stood. "Let me get out of here before the nurse comes and kicks me out."
"Speaking of getting kicked out...?" Jim asked suggestively.
"They're gonna keep you a couple more days. That fever nearly burned you dry."
"Can't you tell them you'll make sure I get enough fluids?"
Blair grinned. "You're batting your eyes, man."
Jim started to deny it, then shrugged. "Is it working?"
His partner laughed. "I'll think about it. Get some sleep, okay?" he added, his smile fading. "You really scared me this time."
Jim nodded. "I really scared myself."
Blair knew he wasn't talking about the physical danger he'd been in. "Don't worry about it, Jim. We'll handle it. It's what we do, remember?"
"That's something I'll never forget, Chief."
Blair walked to the door. "Go to sleep...and, Jim?"
Jim nodded, and cautiously closed his eyes. No body bags appeared, no humming detonator...no sickening odor of blood. Just the comforting sound of his Guide's heartbeat, and the equally soothing scent of his shampoo. With a smile, he cracked an eye open. "It's okay, partner. Go home."
Blair nodded from the position he'd taken in the doorway, then walked away, confident his Sentinel was healing.
Jim listened to the retreating steps for a moment before he closed his eyes, and slept...dreamlessly.