The anthropologist turned back to the two men -- waving them to silence. His voice was cold, furiously edged with venom. As one the two men shook their heads, blinking in shock at the man's tone. Neither of them could answer his question.
The other officers in the room froze as Blair's words rasped past his tightly controlled rage. As one the detectives from Major Crimes, uniformed patrolmen, and custodial personnel backed away from the slim young man. In some, the grudging acceptance they had accorded him at Ellison's insistence became genuine respect as he verbally cut into the IA investigator standing near the two captains. In others, respect he had earned became awe and amazement. In a few, amusement warred with satisfaction as they had wondered it just what it would take to see the gentle man become his champion's defender.
Even as the IA investigator began to recover from his shock, Sandburg turned on his heel as stalked through the wreckage of the room. He ignored the voice yelling his name, only responding with a single curt phrase when ordered to stop. The people standing in his path mutely parted, giving him a clear path to the door.
The slamming of the door as went through it echoed eerily in their ears.
As the door quivered in place, minute fractures in the etched glass strained
and widened. Like the slow movements that are precursors to an avalanche,
the fractures spread. With a loud snap, the glass yielded to the pressure.
Glass chimed and tinkled as it fell, large pieces grinding into smaller
pieces and breaking. A fine cloud of shattered glass dusted those people
standing too close to the door. Only one large piece remained intact when
the dust cleared. The word "crime" stared up at the stunned men.
If he had been given any choice in the matter he would have stayed in Cascade -- he had been given no choice. The university was his employer, not the PD. When he was required to attend a conference in lieu of Teaching a class, he went. Two weeks away had obviously been too long for the guide to be gone from the sentinel's side.
He cursed aloud as his mind ran over the information he'd been given. Jim had been running on empty before Blair had left, now he must be beyond exhausted. The entire month had been hellacious. Mid-terms and a week of all night stakeouts right before his conference had left Blair a walking zombie. When he fell asleep in the middle of dinner at their favorite Chinese restaurant, Jim had teased him unmercifully. The fact that Blair was about to get a much needed break while away at the conference had been the only reason Jim hadn't tried to force the younger man to go home.
Blair had smiled as he left for his plane, not saying a word about the foreboding that tightened his gut. And for two long weeks the foreboding grew stronger and the gnawing in his stomach worse. On the flight into Cascade, all of Blair's joy had fled in front of an overwhelming sense of disaster. The fact that no one met him and he had to catch a cab to the station only made the feelings worse. He knew Jim was in trouble long before he saw the bullpen.
According to Joel, those two weeks he had spent in France, had been busier than the past six months. An unlucky accident involving a busload of off-duty officers and their families had left the station seriously understaffed. Everyone, no matter their department, had been forced to cover extra shifts and other departments. No one, not even the captains, had been exempt.
The timesheet from the pay period before Blair left for his conference had shown Jim as working an easy fifty hour work week. The timesheets Blair had glanced at in the station had recorded ten consecutive sixteen hour shifts. It was no wonder Jim had begun snapping at his co-workers, no was it a surprise that he was acting like the "surly pain-in-the-ass" Banks had called him. Jim was exhausted, frustrated, on edge, and knowing Jim with his senses completely off-line.
The sentinel had cleared a record twenty-two break-ins, two murders, and the assault on the mayor's girlfriend. He had pulled more hours than anyone else in the department and no one had noticed until Blair pointed it out. It had all come to a head this morning, just as Jim was leaving from another of those sixteen hour shifts. A perp had broken away from a rookie -- and just why was a rookie escorting a perp drugged up on PCP by himself? No one could answer that question, even if it was in violation of all the regulations. It didn't matter to the rookie, he was dead. Before the perp made it to the sixth floor, he had shot two members of the Vice Squad, knocked out Thompins of Narcotics and broken Sergeant Howard's arm. He had also stolen a total of four weapons.
The witnesses all agreed that Jim had only acted in defense of the Banks' secretary. The perp, armed with the stolen weapons, had followed standard procedure and was taking pot shots at fleeing cops. Simon and Joel tried to talk the man down but were ignored. The final straw had been when the druggie's careless kick at Rhonda's head. The unconscious secretary had been clipped by a ricochet -- at the time no one had known if she was alive, well no one except for Jim.
The perp tried to shoot her but the gun clicked on an empty cylinder and he had resorted to kicking. Jim was up and over the desk he had been using as cover before anyone else had a chance to react. The two men were fairly evenly matched. Both men were about the same age, tall, muscular, and trained in hand-to-hand combat by the US military. Between them, they destroyed a good portion of the bullpen. By the time Jim's stamina won over the drug haze which drove his opponent, the sentinel was enraged and out of control. It took Joel and Simon together to keep Jim from beating the man to a pulp.
Of course, this was moment that IA decided to stick its nose into the fray. Oh, Blair knew there were good people in IA. Sheila Irwin was among them, but she hadn't been the one to show up. Davidson was not well liked by anyone on the force, not even his own division liked him. He had stepped into the room, looked around and jumped to conclusions. In front of over half the station, the man accused Jim of police brutality. Before Simon could step in, the IA investigator threatened the detective with suspension and ordered him to go home to "think about his actions".
Blair was still seething when he pulled up beside Jim's truck. The very idea of his sentinel being treated like that by the IA department was enough to make him furious again. He raced up the steps, wondering and worrying about his friend's state of mind and his health. There was no way Jim had walked away from that fight unharmed.
He was aware of pain, deep, soul searing pain. It curled in his chest, burning his lungs -- freezing his soul. He dialed his senses down another notch. The dim roaring of his ears faded into nothing, dissipating into the gray void he preferred.
Blair stared, frozen in place by the sight before him. Jim was sprawled on the floor next to the couch. Beside him, tilted at an angle that made it look drunk, lay the coffee table. He couldn't see any blood -- at least not from the doorway. But neither could he see any movement to indicate the other man was still alive.
He dropped his bags inside the door, kicking it closed with his foot. His keys were tossed in the direction of their basket. His jacket missed its hook and landed with a soft sigh on the bags. Blair never noticed, he was too busy crossing the living room. He ignored the pain in his knees as he landed -- hard -- on the cracked remains of a table leg.
Blair landed next to Jim. Careless of the damage, he shoved the table away from the still form. His hands trembled as he gently reached for and found a pulse. He sighed in relief, as long as Jim was alive there was a chance. Next he searched for wounds. But he found none, only dark bruises, a few scrapes and heavy lines of pain. It was the wide, staring eyes that told him what was happening -- Jim had zoned.
Blair grabbed a pillow and stuffed it behind him as he made himself comfortable against the couch. He was strong, but not strong enough to drag the zoned man upstairs. So they would have to settle for the living room. His hands were infinitely gentle as he pulled the lax body into his lap, cradling it. He positioned Jim's ear against his chest as he began to speak. He ran his fingers along the slack muscles of Jim's face. His voice lowered, deepening into the tones that coaxed his sentinel's attention. Bowing his head so that he was curled around the still man, he began to plead for the return of his friend.
Warmth was the fist thing that registered. Warm air brushing past his face. Warmth being kneaded into the lines of his jaw. Warmth cradling him close, forcing the cold to flee. Vaguely he realized he had not felt this warm since his mother had fled their house. The warmth reminded him of something. But he couldn't remember what.
For a moment Blair thought Jim was coming around. But it was a fleeting moment. He took up the thread he had been whispering. As the sun began to set, Blair whispered of peace and harmony, wishing away the pain in Jim's features.
The next thing Jim noticed was the lack of pain. The tension eased out of his body as the pain vanished. He let the dials slip up a notch but the pain did not return. Instead it retreated farther. And it occurred to him that he was being rocked.
The movement was slow, rhythmic. It was matched by a soft muted sound. The soft lud-dub of a heartbeat. The heartbeat beckoned to him, calling to him softly. He let the dial slip up another notch. The heartbeat was close by, under his ear. It was enticing, that half remembered thought that echoed in the sound of the heartbeat. He moved the dial another little bit -- wanting to know what it was he remembered.
BLAIR. The heartbeat was Blair's. That meant that the warmth was his too. He could dimly hear a voice through the heartbeat. That too was Blair.
Jim opened his eyes and dialed his senses up ... not quite to normal, but close. Blair's eyes were closed, his voice a quiet whisper as he focused himself entirely on his sentinel. Even as Jim began to move, his guide's eyes opened and he smiled.
"Shhh." Blair whispered. "It's my turn to take care of you."
Wordlessly Jim found himself obeying his guide's gentle instructions. With Blair's support, the sentinel levered himself up onto his feet and over to the stairs. Exhaustion made the walls waver around him and the lights dim. Instantly, an arm wrapped around his waist and helped him up to his room.
As he drifted off into sleep, he heard the whispered words, "Sleep, Jim. I'll take care of everything."
Blair sighed as Jim finally drifted off into a restful sleep. It had taken him several long hours to get the sentinel relaxed enough to that nature could take over. Exhausted as he was, Jim had fought sleep as if it was an adversary. Between his tension and his frustration over the scene at the station, it had been a hard battle to get Jim to rest.
He settled himself beside the bed. Every time he tried to leave, the sentinel woke up again. He wanted Jim to sleep. And if having his guide nearby was the only way the sentinel could sleep... well, the guide was going to stay nearby. Thank goodness he had brought his laptop upstairs the last time Jim had gotten restless.
He snagged a pillow from Jim's bed and stretched out where he could watch the other man sleep. He had some things to think over. The smile that crossed his features as he powered up his computer and began typing was not a nice one. It was one that his friends knew well. It was one that sent several members of the Major Crimes department running in the other direction. Blair settled down to plot. No one messed with his sentinel, not more than once. Not if this guide had anything to say about it.