Summary: An icy night leads to revelations about the Ellison-Sandburg partnership to Simon.
Disclaimer: Jim, Blair, Simon, and The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount and no copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: Many, many thanks to my beta reader, Judy, for the inspiration for some of these scenes and helping me to put the finishing touches on this story.
"You're very lucky sir, you got the last room," said the clerk as he took Simon Banks' credit card. "It's a bad night to be caught out there on the road."
Simon looked out the window with a sigh. He had really hoped to be home tonight but the unexpected ice storm had caused at least 25 accidents along a five mile stretch of road. They were lucky they made it to this motel intact, and even luckier that it had one room left. His traveling companions were sitting quietly on the sofa in the waiting area. That was a little bit different than usual. Ellison and Sandburg usually could no more sit quietly without attracting trouble than Simon could stop chewing on his cigars when under stress. But this time there was a reason for their out-of character actions. Jim was sitting very close to Blair with his arm around him on the back of the sofa. Blair was sitting forward a little with his head down, coughing occasionally. Simon knew the reason for that cough and exchanged uneasy glances with Jim.
'He'll be all right, Simon. Just needs a good night's rest in a warm room," Jim said a little uncertainly.
"Do you think we need to get him to a doctor?"
"I think he'll be OK," said Jim at the same time Sandburg said "I'm fine! You guys are just overreacting." He coughed again.
"I'm afraid there's only one bed in the room and all our rollaways are in use, but there is a sofa " said the clerk.
"Just send up some extra pillows and blankets, please. We'll make do," said Simon. He took the key and motioned for Jim and Blair to follow him. They made their way to the room, which was modest by anyone's standards. At least the bed was queen-sized. Both Jim and Simon stared in dismay at the "sofa." It was a loveseat and it was pushed up and bolted against the only available wall, which was an outside one and was drafty and cold.
"I'll take it, Simon. There's no way you'll fit and it's too cold for Blair. You two share the bed." Simon sighed in relief. He really didn't want to fight Jim on this anyway.
"Hey, I'll fit on the sofa much better than you two humongous " Blair started to say and then lapsed into silence as both Simon and Jim glared at him.
"No way, Junior. You sleep in the bed with Simon. It's got to be 5 degrees colder over here. It'll be just right for me," said Jim starting to shed his jacket and outer clothing.
Sandburg shrugged his shoulders, realizing that both his friends were going into "overprotector" mode and from long experience dealing with it, realized it was better to just go along with them.
"I'm going to take a quick shower," said Blair heading for the bathroom. "It'll help me breathe better tonight." Simon and Jim just nodded and returned to surveying the room. A knock on the door brought extra pillows and blankets. As soon as the attendant was gone, Jim turned to Simon.
"Simon, I should tell you a couple of things before Blair comes out," said Jim a little hesitantly.
"Go on," said Simon.
"He ah he's kind of a "twitchy" sleeper."
"What does that mean?"
"Well, he moves around a lot, kicks, waves him arms in his sleep "
"In other words, he sleeps pretty much like he is when he's awake."
Jim grinned. "You got it. And he's a snuggler."
"One other thing, though," said Jim with a serious look on his face.
"Oh wonderful - there's more?"
"Yeah - only this is not so good."
Simon just looked at him. "Twitchy is good?"
"It's all relative. When he's not feeling so good, he has nightmares."
Simon stared at Jim. "That loveseat is looking better all the time."
"Oh, he doesn't usually wake up, but he may be a little noisy."
"Well, Jim, I've raised a son and had my share of taking care of him during his nightmares. I can handle this too, I suppose."
"Just wanted to let you know what might happen, Simon. He may be just fine, but it does usually happen when he's under the weather."
The door to the bathroom opened and steam billowed out as the subject of their discussion walked over to the bed.
"I feel like a new man," he said, slapping his chest and then coughing sheepishly.
"Just get in bed here, Sandburg. It's my turn in the shower. I'll save some hot water for you, Jim."
Simon walked over to the bathroom, but not before he noticed Jim taking Sandburg by the elbow and guiding him into bed and Sandburg trying to shake him off. He smiled to himself. The kid didn't have a chance with "Dr. Ellison" around. Jim would make sure he was warm, comfortable, and fussed over tonight, whether his partner liked it or not.
When he came out, Sandburg was lying in bed, with only the top of his curly head showing above the covers.
"Is he asleep?" whispered Simon.
"No, I'm not asleep. Sheesh! You guys are gonna make good mothers someday," came a muffled rejoinder.
Jim reached down and thwapped him lightly on his curls. "Pipe down in the peanut gallery." And then he made his way to the shower. Simon slid into the bed beside Sandburg. Blair rolled over on his side so he was facing Simon.
"You don't snore or anything, do you Simon?" asked Blair.
"What if I do?"
"Oh, nothing. Just wanted to know what I was in for."
Simon looked closely at Sandburg. Blair couldn't keep the tiredness from appearing on his face. Although he seemed perfectly fine at the beginning of the trip, he had rapidly deteriorated once he started coughing. His lungs were still recovering from his "drowning" in the fountain and respiratory infections had made life intermittently miserable for him during the last few months. Simon reached out and touched the top of Blair's head.
"Your hair is still wet!"
"Yeah - so?"
"Sandburg, you're sick! You shouldn't be going to bed with a wet head. What were you thinking?"
"I'm fine stop fussing ." Blair stopped abruptly as Simon covered his head with the towel Blair had thrown on the floor next to the bed and started rubbing.
"Hey, cut it out! I told you I'm fine!" Simon reached over and pulled him by the shoulders to a sitting position.
"You are anything but fine. I'm not sure I could have called you "fine" before you got sick! Now sit still while I get you dry. Of all the lame-brained didn't Jim notice that your hair was wet? could get pneumonia quit squirming " Simon continued rubbing his hair dry. After squirming around uncomfortably for a minute, Blair was surprisingly quiet.
"OK, lie down now," Simon demanded when his hair was relatively dry. Blair sighed and lay down while Simon rearranged the covers to his liking.
"Blair, I know you know better than to do that. Pneumonia can be very serious for you because your lungs are still recovering. What's your problem?"
"I I was just too tired and the hair dryer in the bathroom was broke. Sorry, Simon." The last words came out around a yawn.
"That's OK." Simon relented and pulled the covers up over Sandburg's shoulders. A few minutes passed and Simon heard Blair's breathing even out into deep sleep. Jim was still in the shower. He lay back and got comfortable, starting to drift into sleep. A few minutes later he was startled awake by a foot kicking him in the leg. He glanced over at Sandburg. The covers were now tangled down around his waist. One hand was flung above his head and twitched several times as Simon examined him. He was still in deep sleep. Simon rolled over and away from Blair a little. Blair rolled towards Simon just as he moved away and snuggled up against his back flinging his arm around Simon. Simon sighed. Carefully he rolled back towards Blair and tried to roll him onto his side of the bed. But every time he'd get him situated an arm would fly out or he would roll back towards Simon's side of the bed again. And he never woke up. Simon sat up and tried to put both his arms under Blair to bodily lift him over to his side of the bed, except that Blair grabbed hold of Simon's t-shirt and pulled himself to Simon's chest, at the same time hooking a leg around one of Simon's. Then one hand went up to Simon's face and covered it.
"Oh, for Pete's sake," whispered Simon in exasperation, trying to pull Sandburg's hand away. "It's like sleeping with an octopus!"
"Yeah, try camping out in the same tent with him," came Jim's voice. Simon looked over at the bathroom door. Jim was leaning against the frame with his arms crossed over his chest and a grin on his face.
"This is ridiculous!" Blair was clinging to him with his hand hooked around his ear, now.
"Look, Simon, if we put the sofa cushions on the floor and use the extra pillows under your feet, you can sleep on the floor and I'll sleep with Blair."
Simon sighed in relief. "I can't think of a better idea. But how can you get any sleep with him in the same bed?"
"I've had more practice with stake-outs and camping trips. Besides, you're driving tomorrow. If I need to sleep, I'll nap in the car."
Between the two of them, they managed to peel Blair off of Simon, and make up a bed for Simon on the floor. It was surprisingly comfortable, even though a little short on space. Simon had certainly slept in worse. He looked over at the bed. Jim was just sliding under the covers when Blair's foot shot out and kicked him. Jim winced and reached down to rub his shin. He looked over at Simon.
"Do you think he does it on purpose?" asked Simon with a frown.
"Well, I actually tested him once - and no, he's sound asleep. Doesn't even remember anything when he wakes up. Plus, hes like this when hes sleeping alone, too."
"Hummph. A little strange when he's sleeping as well as awake."
"Yeah, that he is," said Jim patting the side of Blair's head fondly. Blair snuffled a little and turned his nose into Jim's hand.
Simon watched as Jim situated himself comfortably in the bed. Blair's hand flung out across Jim's chest. Jim just gently put it back across Blair's chest. Blair rolled over towards Jim, seeking the warmth like a homing pigeon, and snuggled up against Jim's side. Jim just shrugged at Simon and pulled the covers over them a little more snugly.
"Is he going to be OK?" asked Simon.
"Oh yeah. He's not feverish and the coughing is subsiding. He'll need to see the doctor when we get back to Cascade tomorrow for some antibiotics, but he should be just fine. We've been through this before."
There was a short silence and Simon said "It bothers me that he's been through this before - and the reason for it."
"Me too. Every time he gets sick, I flash back to the fountain for a minute. Talk about having nightmares. I'm really surprised he doesn't have them more often."
"I think I've had enough for all of us," said Simon ruefully.
"You, Simon?" asked Jim in surprise.
"Yeah. That had to be one of the worst days of my life - that day at the fountain. Sandburg drives me crazy sometimes - say he's still sleeping isn't he?" At Jim's nod, Simon continued. "But he kind of grows on you, you know? He's resourceful and resilient at the most unusual times." Simon shook his head, pondering over their friend. "And persistent - let me tell you. Last week he pestered mee for days about trying some new natural herb that's supposed to help reduce stress. I finally tried it just to shut him up and damned if it didn't work. Now he's trying to convert me - every other day he has a new "natural" concoction for me to try. I finally banished him from my office. Told him not one more word about that stuff, because he was really causing my stress level to go up. You should have seen his face when I said that - it was a combination of indignity, stubbornness, and chagrin - with just little bit of pouting thrown in. I almost cracked a rib to keep from laughing. But I know it won't last. He'll be back as soon as he thinks I've forgotten our conversation. He's persistent, I'll give him that. And he comes up with the most unusual talents. Who would have guessed he knew how to weld, or drive a big rig, or throw a baseball so accurately? Wonder what else he has hidden in that brain of his?" Simon stopped in contemplation of Blair's hidden talents.
"Yeah, he really does grow on you, doesn't he?" Jim looked fondly down at his partner who was now plastered against his side, drooling on his shoulder, one hand flung across Jim, twitching every so often.
Simon suppressed a smile. Jim wouldnt have much patience with too many other people doing that to him. Jim really did have a "big brother" complex bad when it came to Blair. But Simon noticed that Jim had taken a brotherly or paternal interest in younger men before. Now that Jim and his brother were back on good terms, Simon could see that big brother attitude come all over Jim when Steven was around. And his interest and pride in Danny Choi and subsequent grief over his death wasn't all that surprising to Simon. Of course, being in the army and in charge of young, impressionable men probably helped Jim's protectiveness and "big brother" complex grow. But Blair was different. Jim worried over him like a mother hen when he was sick, or kidnapped, or in trouble (which tended to be most of the time); and Simon had even noticed that Steven had a tendency to treat Blair with gentle, somewhat bemused affection as he got to know him better - sort of like the little brother he never had. Maybe the Sentinel-Guide thing added another level to it. Or maybe it was just Sandburg's own unique blend of vulnerability, quick-thinking on his feet, academic smarts, and just plain goofiness that endeared him to his friends. Simon wasn't kidding when he said the day at the fountain ranked right up there with the worst days of his life. Even now, he had trouble thinking about it without a shudder. He didn't want to think about a time when Blair Sandburg was not here anymore. He remembered breaking down into tears at the fountain. Yes - the kid really did grow on you. He decideed that it was time to go to sleep - his thoughts were getting maudlin - liable to keep him awake and they had a long drive tomorrow.
"Good night, Jim," said Simon and settled down in his make-shift bed.
"Night, Simon." Jim pulled the covers up over himself and his partner and did the same thing.
A couple hours later, Simon was awakened by noises coming from the bed.
"Nooo," came a low moan. "Don't! Gotta lock the windows! Who's there?! Jim! Where are you?! " hoarse coughing followed this.
Jim was sitting up in bed trying to soothe Blair.
"It's OK, Chief. Settle down. You're going to start a coughing fit again - just calm down " he was rubbing Blair's back, who was coughing in his sleep.
"Someone tryin' get in, Jim gotta stop 'im " Sandburg's arms flailed and Jim reached out and captured the nearest one, rubbing up and down his arm now.
"OK, OK, it's all right; you're safe now. The windows are locked. Nobody's there. I'm here now so it's safe to go back to sleep." He continued in this vein, trying to soothe him back to sleep. Eventually Blair's mumblings died out. But the coughing continued.
Simon looked in concern at Jim. "That doesn't sound so good."
"Yeah - can you run the hot water in the shower? Steam usually helps him when he gets like this at night."
Simon got up and did as Jim asked. He opened the door and saw Jim half carrying, half supporting a not quite awake Blair into the bathroom. Jim guided him to the toilet seat and sat him down, keeping an arm around him for support since he still hadn't come completely awake yet. Sandburg was still coughing and struggling to wake up, leaning against Jim. But the steam did the trick and the coughing quickly subsided after about 10 minutes. Blair had come fully awake finally and was embarrassed to find himself leaning his head into Jim's waist with Simon looking on in concern.
"Hey," he said blushing and trying to push away from Jim to stand up. "Whaddaya doing to me?"
Jim firmly pushed him back down on the seat. "Just sit down for a minute, here. You were coughing pretty good so we thought the steam might help."
Simon put a hand on his forehead. "I don't feel any fever - I think it's just a bad cold. He almost sounded "croupy."
Blair brushed his hand away, still embarrassed and now somewhat insulted.
"Croup! Only babies get that! And, ya know, I AM right here! You're talking about me like I'm in another room or something," he said indignantly. "I'm fine, now. I wanna go back to bed." He started unsteadily for the door. Jim and Simon followed and got into their respective beds.
"Hey," said Blair sitting back up in confusion. "Wasn't Simon sleeping with me?"
"Uh, yeah Chief, but we switched - the bed was just too uncomfortable for Simon."
"Yeah, but that's got to be way smaller " said Blair pointing to Simon's cushions.
"We're all comfortable now. Go to sleep," said Jim pressing on Blair's forehead so he went all the way down into the bed on his back.
"OK, but I know Simon was sleeping here just fine; if you guys want to play musical beds and keep secrets, well that's just fine " grumbled Blair as he snuggled under the covers.
Jim propped himself up with his elbow and with a grin leaned close to Blair.
"Well, Chief if you really want to know, Simon just isnt the "cuddly" type and he figured if you got any closer you two would have to start picking out china patterns together," said Jim with a smirk.
Blair peeped out from the covers and looked at Jim in horror for a second.
"Oh no, I didn't did I?" he whispered.
"Jim, cut it out. I'm just not used to sharing a bed with such a restless sleeper, Blair," said Simon, throwing a disapproving glance at Jim.
"Oh man, I'm really sorry, Simon. It must be this cold I really feel bad about this "
"It's OK, Blair. I'm comfortable where I am - there's no need to apologize."
"Oh I dont know - you two make a cute couple and I'm sure the guys down at the station would love " Jim was cut off by the sofa pillow that flew across the room and smacked him in the face. "Hey!" he yelled as he fell back on the bed.
Blair giggled from beneath the covers.
"You deserved that. Now stop torturing your partner and go to sleep," said Simon trying to suppress a smug smile.
"Yes, Sir," said Jim with a sharp, mock salute and a smirk, settling down into bed.
"You did deserve that, you know. You're one big tease, man," whispered Blair with a grin.
"Remember what I said earlier? Pipe down in the peanut gallery." Jim reached out and gently swatted Blair's head. Blair giggled and snuggled deeper under the blankets. In a few minutes, Jim heard his breathing even out and soon he was asleep.
Jim breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe this time he wouldn't be treated to a replay of the Sandburg "twitch, kick, and roll show." Before the thought was even through his head, his erstwhile partner had flung out a hand, swatting him in the chest. Then he rolled over towards the warmth and snuggled against Jim's side again. Jim rolled his eyes, rolled over, and turned his back to Sandburg, who promptly buried his face against his back and plastered himself to Jim. Oh well, thought Jim. That IS where he belongs - watching my back. He smirked to himself, calculating ways he could tease Sandburg with this tomorrow in the car on the way home.
Simon watched quietly from his makeshift bed. No doubt about it - they did make an odd couple. But a surprisingly compatible one. Where one was weak, the other was strong. It was a combination that he looked for in all the Major Crimes partnerships - but this was definitely the most successful. However, he didn't think that he would ever have willingly paired two such opposite men. Somehow, they had found each other - and he, much as he hated to admit it, suspected that it had something to do with the Sentinel-Guide thing between them. There was definitely another level between them that he didn't understand - almost supernatural if he was being truthful with himself. He'd never begin to understand how Jim knew Blair was in trouble when he'd almost died in the fountain. Jim hadn't wanted to talk about it afterwards and Simon didnt push him on it. Only Blair seemed to look at it as natural. And to be quite honest, Blair's definition of "natural" didn't come anywhere close to Simon's. Simon sighed and turned over to go back to sleep. They had a long drive tomorrow.
About an hour later, Simon woke up again. At first he didn't know what had awoken him. He glanced over at the bed and realized that Sandburg was not in it. Jim, though, was obviously in the throes of a nightmare. He was muttering something in a panicky tone and kept clutching at the covers on the other side of the bed like he was searching for something.
"No! No this is not over yet don't you go! Don't leave! Come back! "
Then Simon heard the water shut off in the bathroom and realized that Blair was in there.
As Blair stepped through the door, Simon hissed "Sandburg! What the hell are you doing?!"
Blair's eyes widened in surprise. "I had to GO, Simon. Geez Uh oh what's wrong with Jim?"
"I think he's having a nightmare. Should we wake him?" asked Simon in concern.
"I should have told you a couple of things before but I didn't get a chance. Sometimes, usually when he's feeling under the weather, he has nightmares. But I don't wake him up. He'll go back to sleep on his own in a minute." Simon suppressed a smile. Blair was saying almost the exact same thing about Jim that Jim had said about Blair earlier. Blair crawled across the bottom of the bed and settled in next to Jim, who grabbed hold of his t-shirt across the middle of his chest. Blair took his hand and patted it.
"It's OK, man," he whispered. "I'm here go back to sleep." As soon as he had touched Jim's hand, the larger man had calmed down and seemed to sink back into sleep.
"I don't know why he's suddenly having nightmares. Maybe he's catching my cold," said Blair with a puzzled tone.
Simon didn't say anything, but he knew why. He didn't want to tell Blair that the sound of the water running in the bathroom was eerily similar to the fountain at Rainier. He hadn't meant to snap at Sandburg when he came out of the bathroom, but he had been disturbed and disoriented at first by the similarity of the sounds. No wonder Jim's sleep was interrupted with a bad dream, he thought. It had given him a little start at first too.
He glanced over at the bed. Both men had rolled over on to their sides; Blair with his back to Jim. Jim had thrown an arm around Blair and pulled him close to his chest. They seemed to be in deep sleep, when Blair mumbled something like "t' tight" and wriggled underneath Jim's arm a little. Jim, still asleep, murmured " 'kay" and loosened his arm around Sandburg a little. They both sighed as one and settled deeper into sleep, breathing in sync. Simon almost laughed out loud. They'd both never believe this if he told them in the morning and he was sure they wouldn't remember it. If he had any doubts about whether these two very different men belonged together it crumbled into dust tonight. They were so in tune to one another that it did transcend to another level. Each gave the other what he needed and sometimes almost died trying. What more could you ask of a partnership? Not a thing, Simon decided. And he turned over to go back to sleep, at peace with his world.