by Ice Bear
Summary: The Sentinel has never claimed to be a super hero, so how does he handle it when his Captain and his Guide expect him to be.
Disclaimer: All things Sentinel belong to Pet Fly and Paramount.
Blair couldn’t believe his roommate’s sorry response to a question. It sent him into gales of laughter, and he shared his feelings by slapping the bigger man on the back; the results shocked him. His 6 ft ex-Ranger, current top Cascade PD Detective partner, fell to his knees, hunched over, hands clutching his rib cage, clearly in pain.
“Jesus, Jim!” He dropped beside him, but was afraid to touch, hands hovering just above him for a minute. He finally settled for a hand on a muscular forearm. “Jim, man, talk to me,” he said softly.
“Hurts, Chief, god, it hurts.”
“I’m so sorry, Jim, I didn’t know.”
A slight huff of laughter, “Neither did I.”
Blair looked carefully at his friend. “Let’s get up off the floor. I sense a story here, and want to be comfortable when I hear it.” He shifted his hands to the elbow and provided support as Jim rose cautiously. He kept a hand on him until they were both settled on the couch.
“I’m going to look at your back.” He said, making it clear he was not asking permission. He gently pulled the blue shirt out from the waistband of the jeans and lifted it up. “Holy shit!” He uttered as a large purple, black and blue bruise came into sight at the base of the shoulder blades. “What the hell happened?” His hands ghosted over the vivid bruising.
“We busted a gang for drugs down on the docks. There were 9 of them. I had one against the truck. I had the senses up, monitoring what was going on. I wanted to know if anybody else needed help. Next thing I know the guy had slammed me up against the door. I took care of him. Guess I was so caught up in everything I didn’t realize something was wrong.”
“I think you must have hit the door handle, from the looks of the bruise. We need to have this checked out.” His mind was whirling. It wasn’t like Jim to let someone get the drop on him, and the fact that it had taken hours for him to realize something was wrong was troubling. But they’d deal with that after he’d made sure his partner was alright.
“I’m going to get you a button down shirt so you don’t have to pull it off over your head at the ER. And I’ll call Simon. You just stay put.” He went upstairs and pulled the first button down shirt he found off its’ hanger and sat on the big bed, phone in hand.
“Simon, its Blair. I’m taking Jim to the ER. He was hurt down at the docks today.”
“He was just fine when he left the station, Sandburg!”
“He’s got a huge bruise on his back, and he’s in pain. What the hell happened?”
“There was a fight. The guy flung Jim up against the truck, hard, but Jim put him on the ground so fast I didn’t even see what move he used.”
“Well, I’m taking him to the ER. I’ll let you know what happens.”
“Blair, he never said a word.” Simon felt guilty that he’d let one of his men get hurt and hadn’t even known it.
“Simon, he didn’t realize it until 10 minutes ago.” He hung up after promising to call with an update.
Jim handed him the truck keys as they left the loft. Blair kept his mouth closed, but his worry meter skyrocketed. Jim never let him drive – ever.
They were separated at the ER, and Blair sat in a corner of the waiting room, furiously writing. His mind was whirling with ideas and concerns. If Jim had turned off the pain so he could deal with the danger at hand, why hadn’t he turned it back on when the danger had passed? Was it simply a subconscious deal with his body to get through the moment, or was it a conscious effort to avoid the pain as long as possible? If he hadn’t inadvertently hit the right spot, would they still be sitting at the loft?
He waited for close to three hours, getting more worried as the minutes ticked by. When he was finally allowed into the room with his partner, he had to remind himself to breathe. Jim was sitting on the side of the gurney, ribs wrapped, eyes closed. Dr. West watched the two for a moment, smiling as Blair went immediately to his partner’s side and placed a comforting hand on the broad shoulder. Jim’s head came up, and he graced his friend with a crooked smile.
The damage assessment was brief – four cracked ribs; deep bruising. No work for the next four days, then another X-ray. No lifting, no exercise, no police work – not even desk duty; the key to healing was to take it easy.
Once home, Jim settled awkwardly into the overstuffed chair. There was no real comfortable position – lying down hurt, sitting up hurt. Blair brought over a cup of tea and settled himself on the couch. “We need to figure out what happened – how you managed to push off the pain for so long. It’s not healthy.”
“I didn’t do it on purpose, Sandburg,” Jim interrupted with a growl. “Despite what you think, I don’t get a kick out of being hurt. In fact, I generally try to avoid it. Today I couldn’t. But I honestly didn’t know I was hurt until you slapped me.”
This was a different side of Jim; the forthright statement, no attempt to obfuscate. And while he didn’t like to admit it, his partner was right - he had a tendency to believe that Jim went out of his way to get hurt – at least it appeared that way when you considered some of the dangerous stunts he pulled.
“I believe you. I do! But I’m worried, Jim. While in a dangerous situation it could be useful to turn off the pain, once the danger is over, you need to be able to trust your body to tell you what it needs.”
“I know that, Chief. I…I don’t remember making a decision to shut it off. The guy got the drop on me and smashed me up against the truck. I put him on the ground, cuffed him and then went to help Rafe with his guy. We got everybody into a paddy wagon and I went back and did my paperwork. Then I came home.” Jim clearly was as perplexed as Blair over what happened.
“I forgot! I promised Simon I’d call him when we got home.” Blair jumped up and headed for the phone. “Hey Simon, yeah, sorry. No, we just got home a couple of minutes ago. Yeah…cracked ribs, deep bruising…Medical leave for at least four days, pending the results of a follow up x-ray.”
“Sandburg, I’ve been replaying the bust. Normally I would have put two men on the guy I gave to Jim. He was about 6’7” and must have weighed 320 easy. Looked like some refugee from professional wrestling. But it was Jim so I didn’t think twice about it. I know he’s not indestructible, but I tend to forget that.” Simon clearly was feeling guilty about what happened.
“Simon, we all do. Hell, so does he.” Blair promised to call the next day, and then returned his full attention to his friend.
“What would you like for dinner?” He asked as he moved back to the living room.
“I’m not really hungry, Chief.”
“I know, but I’m guessing you didn’t have lunch. What if I heated up that beef stew you made last weekend?” Jim nodded wearily, not having it in him to argue.
They ate the stew while watching television. It violated the house rules, but Blair figured the less Jim moved the better. “I’ll do the dishes in the morning, Chief,” he said before awkwardly rising from the chair. “I’m going to bed. Thanks for taking me to the ER.”
“Might be easier if you slept down here…stack the pillows against the arm of the couch so you’re still fairly upright, and they’ll give you some support. I don’t think you’ll be comfortable lying down right now.” Blair waited for the yelling that usually accompanied such a suggestion. Jim just nodded and moved to the bathroom.
He settled Jim in, made sure there was water handy and gave him some Tylenol. “Can I get you anything else?”
“No. Blair thanks, ah, for everything today.”
“Anytime, Big Guy. Try and get some sleep. Tomorrow when you’re feeling a little better, we’ll figure out what happened and how to deal with it.”
It was clear the next morning that the Sentinel hadn’t slept well. He looked tired, a little pale, and was clearly hurting. The Guide kept all this to himself as he started coffee and made breakfast. Jim joined him in the kitchen and eased gingerly into a straight backed chair.
“Bacon, Chief? Am I dying, and you just don’t know how to tell me?” Blair turned from his cooking duties to look at his partner. There was a hint of a smile on the handsome face, and his eyes were gentle.
“No such luck, Big Guy. You’ll live to play another day – although this bacon I’m about to feed you will attach itself directly to your already hardening arteries.” His own smile was warm, as the familiar banter eased some of his concerns.
They settled in the living room by unspoken agreement, Jim carefully lying back against the pile of pillows. He walked Jim through the bust, going back to the point where he was thrown against the truck again and again, until the cop’s frustration reached the boiling point.
“I don’t know what happened! He shoved and I reacted. I didn’t consciously block the pain. You and Simon act like I enjoy it. I have a freaking Ph.D. in pain if you want to know the truth, and I hate it!” He was yelling, he realized, and at the wrong person. He stopped, just as suddenly as he started, and stared down at his hands. “I’m sorry, Blair, that wasn’t fair. I…I know you don’t really think that. It’s just…” He didn’t know what it was.
“Hey, look at me, man.” Blair said in his most even tone. “What happened yesterday is outside the scope of the usual and that’s what worries me. I know I give you a hard time about getting hurt, and I’m sorry. We need to figure out why your body didn’t tell you something was wrong. And the only way I know to do that is to talk through it.”
“I do know I’m not Superman, you know. God knows you remind me often enough,” he offered up a crooked grin. “But sometimes what you, and Simon, and the PD want – you need me to be. I should have had help with that guy yesterday - he was as big as a Mack truck. If it had been anyone else, Simon would have assigned two guys to him, but it was me, so he didn’t.” Jim looked up, his face uncharacteristically showing his feelings. “Living up to everyone else’s expectations is hard…it’s like I’m continuously being set up to fail.”
Blair wasn’t sure what to say. He’d never questioned how Jim felt about the day to day aspects of being a Sentinel. This could hold the key to what had happened yesterday. Maybe the constant pressure on Jim to perform was so great, he automatically adjusted the pain so he could keep going. He looked up from his musings into sky blue eyes that were watching him carefully; the warrior mask back in place. “Do you think the pressure you’re under causes you to subconsciously ignore the pain in an effort to live up to the unfair expectations the rest of us place on you?”
“I don’t know.” Jim’s voice was thoughtful, usually a discussion on this subject caused him to shut himself behind his walls and wait it out in silence.
“It might be a good idea to run through your dials the next time you get up close and personal with a perp, just to see if this is a one time thing. Make sense?”
“Yeah, sounds like a good plan.” The Sentinel shifted back against his pillows and closed his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Jim, for adding to the pressure. I didn’t realize I was doing it, and I’ll stop, I promise. I know, better then anybody, how much being a Sentinel takes out of you,” Blair had moved to the couch and perched on the edge, his hand resting gently over his Sentinel’s heart, feeling the reassuring steady beat of the big heart. “I don’t expect you to be Superman, or the Lone Ranger. I know you always give it everything you’ve got, and that’s all anyone can and should ever ask.”
Jim covered the hand resting on his chest and squeezed gently. “It’s just that my father…if I didn’t perform, wasn’t perfect, if I didn’t win, it didn’t count. Army wasn’t any different. Maybe I’ve lived this way my whole life, and it just shows up in different ways because of the senses.”
“No. Simon thinks you can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and I have a tendency to expect you to stop speeding locomotives, when you’re not hanging under them that is. You are amazing, Jim, so we’ve just come to expect you to always come out on top. And that’s not fair. You do put too much pressure on yourself, but it’s just part of who you are, and I think you’re too old to change it.”
“You saying I’m old, Sandburg?” Jim’s smile was a little too predatory for Blair’s comfort.
“No! Well…no.” And they both chuckled. “I just think that you’re too hard on yourself, and the rest of us just pile it on. It might be useful if you asked for help every now and then, though, as a reminder that you’re a mere mortal like the rest of us.”
“Thanks, Blair. I know I don’t say it often enough, but I couldn’t do it, any of it, without you. You saved my sanity and my life.”
“Don’t go getting mushy on me, Big Guy, it’s bad for your imagine. I mean can you see Batman saying that to Robin?” Jim pulled the wiggling Guide to his chest and gave him a noggie – their laughter filling the loft.