The Things You Do
Jim jabbed at the elevator button before leaning forward and bracing himself against the wall with one hand. God he just wanted to sleep for about a year. As he waited for the elevator, he could hear the door to the street open again as Blair followed him in from the truck.
Surprisingly, Blair just stopped and waited silently as the elevator rattled its way down the shaft. Jim glanced over, watching as Blair shifted his bag from one shoulder to the other.
The kid looked ready to just fall over on his nose. In fact, Blair leaned a little too far, over compensated, and then tipped into Jim who grabbed him by the arm. He held Blair while he shook his head and got his balance back.
"Geez, Sandburg, didn't you get any sleep in the truck?" Jim asked.
"Man, it was cold," Blair answered. The answer didn't seem logical at first, but then Jim imagined Blair sitting in the truck slapping his hands against his arms to keep warm. A flash of guilt made Jim stand up straight as he reminded himself that Sandburg was in this for his own reasons. If the man wanted to sit in a truck and watch Jim crouch in bushes half the night—well, Sandburg could make his own decisions.
Blair shifted the bag again with a sigh. "Besides, I had to grade papers," he amended his answer. The elevator thumped into place and the doors slid open while Jim ignored the little voice that pointed out that Blair could have stayed home and spread his papers out on the table to grade while he drank coffee and listened to his jungle music. He shouldn't feel guilty. After all, Blair wouldn't even have a home without him.
Jim blinked. Blair's home. For the first time, he realized he had started to think of the loft as Blair's home, and, except for that one week when the apartment listings appeared on the table every morning, Blair hadn't even pretended to look for another place. Blair had shuffled forward into the elevator and leaned against the back before Jim got his feet to move. He got in and pressed the button for the third floor.
Once the button lit up, he furtively rubbed his fingers against his thumb, gritting his teeth at the dull numbness in his fingertips. God, he hated his senses. Jim rubbed his hand over his stubble and then glanced at his watch, which read ten minutes to midnight.
Blair didn't say anything until they reached the third floor, which, if Jim's nose could be believed, stunk of Pekingese. Either Mrs. Edward's dog had peed in the hallway, or Jim's smell had joined his sense of touch on a campaign to drive him crazy. Eventually, the senses would drive him insane; Jim only wondered how long it would take.
"So, tomorrow… we need to work on touch," Blair muttered as he came to a stop outside the loft door, moving as slowly as a wind up doll with no more wind in the wind up.
"It's late, and I'm tired," Jim snapped as he stuck his hand in his coat pocket for the keys.
"You're cranky," Blair muttered
"After a sixteen hour shift, I'm tired and cranky, so enough with the senses." Jim pulled his hand out of his pocket and flexed his numb fingers. Even with his sense of touch nearly gone, he could tell his keys weren't in the pocket. He stuck his hand in his other pocket.
"Man, you always work these long hours, but you need to make time if you want to fix these problems you're having with the senses."
"Sandburg, the only problem I'm having with my senses is listening to you yapping in my ear." Jim ignored Blair's disapproving sigh as he pushed a hand into the pocket of his pants. No keys.
"You are *so* having problems. And you don't lie well. Considering you went the whole covert ops route, I'm surprised. Don't they teach you guys how to lie better? But as the guide, I am telling you that you're having problems."
"You know that cartoon with the tiny, little yappy dog that bounces around that bulldog in the sweater?" Jim snapped as he shoved his hand into his pant pocket on the other side. Maybe he just couldn't feel them. Jim patted down his clothes, slapping his own sides as he absent-mindedly finished his insult. "You remember that yappy little dog, Sandburg?"
"Yeah, yeah… go on and insult me, but you, my man, need to get control over the senses. I mean, these spikes and zones you're suffering, they can't be good for the body or the mind," Blair answered without bothering to even stand up straight. He leaned against the wall with his backpack strap in hand while the backpack rested on the floor.
"My body and mind are fine. Your body is in some imminent danger," Jim threatened as he shoved his hands deeper into his jacket pockets searching for a rip in the pocket lining even though his fingers felt thick and useless. Stepping back, he searched the floor with his eyes.
"Whatever," Blair rolled his eyes, and Jim narrowed his eyes in frustration. Anyone else would have either started a full out fight or stormed off. Blair just leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes.
"Damn it," Jim snarled as he widened his search, walking back toward the elevator as he looked for the lost keys. He was so busy searching for the keys that it took him a second to notice what else had gone missing. "Fuck!" he snapped as he slapped his open hand against the hallway wall hard enough that even numb, his hand still stung.
"Problem?" Blair asked calmly. Jim clenched his fist and struggled to not lay into the kid. As much as he wanted to yell at someone for his shitty night, his out of control senses, his failed stake-out, and now his missing wallet, Sandburg looked as worn out as Jim felt. The kid didn't deserve the sort of temper tantrum Jim wanted to throw.
Wait. Jim narrowed his eyes and slowly turned to face Blair. Normally, when he got upset, Blair got upset. At first, he'd thought that he scared Blair since one shouted word made Blair's heart race. When Jim finally figured out that the speeding heart didn't come with the sour, heavy odor of fear, Jim thought Blair just got excited easily… like one of the yappy little dogs Jim would sometimes accuse Blair of being. Problem was that Blair never got riled when other people yelled, just Jim.
Finally, Jim figured out that the kid just reacted to him. He got energized when Jim got exciting news. He got pissed off when something angered Jim. But now, Blair leaned against the wall and calmly blinked as his heart kept pounding a slow, steady beat.
"Sandburg," Jim turned his name into a threat.
"Ellison," Sandburg answered right back. Jim narrowed his eyes more. Oh yeah, the kid was up to something.
"Do you have a confession to make?" Jim demanded as he stalked toward his exhausted guide. Blair just continued to blink his indifference as Jim finally ended up standing so close to Blair that their coats touched as he glared down.
"Do you?" Blair finally answered.
"Listen, it's midnight, and I'm tired, so if this is one of your games…" Jim let his words trail off. Sometimes the best threat existed in the silence where the listener could just imagine what Jim meant.
"Are you having trouble with your touch?" Blair asked. Jim frowned.
"I'm fine, now what are you hiding?" Jim leaned in so that he could smell the stale coffee and the cold chicken Blair had eaten in the truck. Slowly Blair reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a brown wallet just starting to fade to gray around the edges. Jim reached out and snatched his wallet from out of Blair's hand before shoving it in his pocket.
"Pickpocketing is a crime, Chief. What were you thinking?" Jim demanded. Blair reached into another pocket and pulled out a ring of keys that jangled as he shook them gently.
"What the hell?" Jim took the familiar keys and Blair reached into his pocket for a third time. Grasping Jim's free hand, Blair turned it palm side up before dropping a small pile of change into the center. Jim stared in confusion at the bright dime in the middle of the pennies.
"'Fess up, man, because you are so busted," Blair huffed a dry laugh as he pulled out a red and white book of matches, holding them up for Jim to see before adding them to the pile of change. Finally, Blair pulled out silver foil wrapped antacid tablets, and balanced them on the matches.
"Chief?" Jim asked, closing his fingers around the contents of his various pockets.
"I'm good, but I'm not that good," Blair said with a vague gesture toward the pilfered contents of Jim's coat and pants. "You should have felt me reaching for those. The fact that you couldn't, and the fact that you keep rubbing your fingertips, means that something's wrong. Man, if you don't talk to me, I can't help you solve these things."
Jim glanced down at his hand and then jammed everything pack into his coat pocket.
"Chief," he said helplessly. He didn't want to admit how much the senses scared him… frustrated him, but Blair just looked up without judgment.
"Man, the companion always watches the Sentinel's back. It's what we do. It's what we try to do," Blair said sadly, and Jim watched while Blair pushed past him, digging for his own set of keys to open the front door. Nudging the door open with one hand, Blair tugged the pack up with the other before heading into the loft. Blair dropped the back right inside the door and wandered to the kitchen without looking back.
Jim watched as Blair pulled a glass down and then leaned against the counter for a moment, his long hair hiding his face as his head drooped and he bent over the sink. Then Blair shook off his exhaustion and filled his water glass, drinking as he headed for the fridge.
"Chief, it's just…" Jim started as he came in the door, locking it behind him and dropping the keys on the small table. He couldn’t find the words to finish his sentence, and Blair didn't even bother turning around. As Jim pulled off his jacket and hung it on a hook, Blair put the glass down and bent over to search the refrigerator.
"I have a confession," Jim finally started. He crossed his arms and ignored the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability. "I'm having trouble with touch," he finally said to Blair's butt as the man dug around in the fruit drawer at the bottom of the fridge.
Instantly, Blair turned, closing the refrigerator before coming over and resting his hand on Jim's forearm.
"Oh man, how bad is it?" Blair asked. Jim rolled his eyes.
"Considering you picked my pockets of everything but the lint, I think it's safe to say I can't feel as much as I should. My fingers feel numb and thick."
"No problem. Tonight I think we both need to sleep, but first thing tomorrow we can work on getting the sensitivity back up to where it should be." Blair let his hand rest on Jim's arm for a moment, and even though Jim couldn't feel much, he felt the warmth soak through his shirt until finally Blair smiled and headed for his bedroom.
"Good night, Jim," he said cheerfully over his shoulder as though he hadn't spent five hours freezing in the truck or been called a yappy dog or had a cranky cop try to intimidate him. Jim smiled and shook his head. Yeah, he tried to intimidate the kid, but he never actually could.
"Night, Chief," he called as he walked into the kitchen, grabbing a glass of his own as he debated whether to have water or a beer. He just hoped Blair's plans for tomorrow didn't include flashing lights or sour milk or any of the dozens of other tortures Blair had devised. The things he did for his guide.
Jim stopped and looked at the abandoned backpack next to the door. He wondered how many of the papers Blair had managed to grade using a flashlight and writing his comments while balancing the papers on his knee. Walking over, he picked up the pack and headed for Blair's bedroom so Blair wouldn't go mad looking for the papers tomorrow.
"Hey, Blair," Jim called softly as he pushed the half-open door the rest of the way open. Blair lay on the futon with one shoe off, his coat on the floor and his mouth open in an almost silent snore. Jim quietly put the pack down next to Blair's desk and slid out of the room. The things his guide did for him.