New Arrivals

After the Pain
(Or Operation: 'It')
by LindaS

Synopsis: Even though Blair is ill, he still finds himself in one misadventure after another. Rated PG-13.

Disclaimer: The characters of The Sentinel are owned by UPN and Pet Fly Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.

Author's Note: This is my second fanfiction. Part one is for my sister, Sherrylou, who is a big hurt/comfort fan. I extend special thanks to her for her help and suggestions. Part two came about from remembering Challenge #4 on Jen and Suzie's Challenge Page. This story is not beta-read, so all mistakes are mine. Feedback appreciated but please be kind.

Internal thoughts are marked by * (think italics).

Part 1: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Several weeks before 'It'...

Blair watched the light drizzle making small rivulets on the hood of the car. He rested his hot forehead against the car's side window trying to absorb the coolness of the pane. A dismal ambiance had settled on the warehouse district with the approaching of dusk. The gloomy scene of the gray toned buildings and murky sky sent a shiver through the young man as if foretelling events to come.

Wrapping his arms around his torso, Blair turned to look at the other person in the car. Sitting next to him was Simon, that is Captain Banks of the Cascade Police. Who would have thought that this Anthropology student would have become so involved in police procedures? Certainly not his mother who was a child of the sixties and still firmly believed in "Make Love not War". She would be shocked if she knew the full extent of his current involvement with the police. The dangers he had faced in the past few years. She still had a problem sometimes getting past the concept of 'pigs' having had her share of lock-ups due to sit-ins and protest rallies. The only salvation of Blair, according to his mother, was that he didn't pack a gun. Blair drew the line at handling firearms and while he considered himself a pacifist, he nevertheless would use whatever other means were necessary and available when it can to protecting his life and limb and the lives of those near to him.

Blair turned his attention back to the warehouse. The waiting must be the most tedious part of police work. He wondered how many boring stakeouts Simon had been on in his distinguish career. It would be interesting to hear about the exciting one or even the funniest one. Just no boring ones. Normally Blair, as a police observer and assigned to work with Detective Jim Ellison wouldn't be on stakeout with Simon, but Jim, Blair's partner and roommate, had been on an undercover assignment all week. Tonight was the meet and Jim posing as an arm dealer was to make the buy. Simon, concerned about the stress Jim had been under lately wanted Sandburg nearby, just in case the detective should zoned. Jim was what Blair termed a sentinel and as such had five heightened senses. These senses could be used as an advantage in police work but if Jim over focused on any one sense he could become oblivious to his surrounding, freezing to an extent that at times he could even forget to breathe. Blair functioned as Jim's guide and as such was able to keep the detective focus or if he was to overextend his sense, to bring him out of a freeze or what he called a zone.

Trying to swallow, Blair grimaced at the pain. What started as a scratchy throat a few days ago had turned into a full-blown sore throat. Every time he swallowed, it felt like his throat was on fire. Blair couldn't help but noticed Simon glancing several times over his way. Both the captain and Jim have been keeping an eye on him especially after his last two bouts with tonsillitis. Jim had been great during the first round of the illness, fussing over Blair, dispensing the medication and all in all expressing more parental concern then his own mother, Naomi would had. Not that Naomi wasn't a wonderful mother, but her philosophy for treating any illness was a "wait and see" attitude. If that failed, it was followed up with a treatment of herbs and the burning of sage. Only as a last resort would she succumb to a trip to the doctor. Maybe that's why Blair had an aversion to hospitals. Whatever it was, it left Jim exasperated during the second illness. While he still took care of Blair, Jim was a little frustrated by his friend's continued refusal to accept the doctor's recommendation. There was some discussion about a tonsillectomy but there was no way Blair would agree to go under the knife. He'd put more trust in his home remedies and Mother Nature than in modern medicine. Furthermore, an unnecessary trip to the hospital (unnecessary at least according to Blair) was to be avoided at all cost.

"Awful quiet tonight, Sandburg?" Simon expressed the obvious. He hated to admit it but he missed the ramblings of the young man sitting next to him. Ordinarily, the Anthropology student would be spouting off on the mating ritual or custom of some strange tribe located in some strange place that Simon had never heard of.

Blair closed his eyes and adjusted his back into the seat. "Just a little tired. Long day at the university," he croaked out. He really hoped Simon wouldn't ask any more questions. He was in no mood for a conversation.

Simon eyed the police observer and noticed how pale his complexion was. The kid better not be coming down with anything. The captain had promised his detective at the beginning of the assignment that he would keep an eye on Sandburg. "Thought with Jim out of your hair this week, you would have plenty of time to rest."

Blair turned and looked at Simon as if he had sprouted horns. "This week" was a sore subject indeed, more like a week from hell and one that he had to struggle through since he wasn't feeling well.

"Well, Simon, on top of a major paper which was due Wednesday and my own classes which I teach, I had several favors called in this week. Every time I ask someone to cover for me at the university, cover because I'm usually backing up Jim, it comes back to haunt me twofold." Blair ignored the fiery agony induced by talking in order to continue his outburst. "And I still came into the station to finish up Jim's paperwork since he wasn't there and to update your computer. So no, to answer your question, I did not have plenty of time to rest." The last part of the statement came out strained and raspy.

Simon stared at the kid recognizing something must be wrong. Sandburg would never speak to him that way without a reason. Even though he knew Sandburg considered him a friend, Blair still showed him the proper respect due as captain of the Major Crime Division. Before Simon could form a response to the observer's tirade, Blair opened the car door.

"I'm getting some fresh air," The younger man sharply uttered before slamming the door.

That action confirmed to Simon that something was definitely amiss. No way would Sandburg voluntarily leave while his partner was in a potentially dangerous situation, nor would he vacate a warm car to walk in the cold, damp evening air. Sandburg had an aversion to being 'cold and wet'.

Knowing he couldn't leave his post, Simon figured Blair just needed to clear his head and would be back in a few minutes. He shifted his large frame to a more comfortable position and turned his eyes in the direction of the warehouse.

Blair didn't walk far, just around the corner. There he leaned against the rough brick building. Closing his eyes he raised his face toward the sky and let the light rain cool his hot forehead. His head was throbbing and his back ached. What he would like was a cup of hot tea and honey to soothe his throat and to lie down. Actually sleep would be good right now. The oblivion that comes with sleeping would be a blessed solution to the suffering he felt every time he swallowed. Blair rubbed his hand across his neck. Maybe he would wake up tomorrow and be better. *Dream on. Right now my throat is holding an open house for any homeless bacteria in the area.*

Lost in thoughts, Blair almost didn't hear the crack of gunfire. As he turned around the corner, he spied Simon dashing toward the warehouse with gun drawn. Fear for Jim shook Blair to his core. There was another round of gunshots and then silence. Blair quickly ran after Simon forgetting the captain's earlier instruction to remain in the car if anything went wrong. By the time he reached the warehouse, he was panting hard from the exertion. Blair paused momentarily at the door in order to compose himself. He needed to be in control if he was to going to help Jim. As he opened the door to the warehouse, he heard the captain's voice shouting for Brown to call for an ambulance.

*Jim,* Blair thought. *Jim has to be all right.* He looked to where he had heard the shouts. Up above on the second landing he could see the captain bending over someone.

"Simon?" Blair's voice was shaking.

"It's Jim," the captain confirmed. "Get up here. I can use your help."

Blair dashed up the stairs to find Simon applying direct pressure to a wound in Jim's right shoulder. Another wound to his head was bleeding profusely. Blair stared at his unconscious partner. There was so much blood. Why couldn't he have sentinel hearing or touch. It was imperative for him to know the seriousness of Jim's condition.

"Here," Simon's voice brought Blair back to the reality of the situation. "Take this." Blair accepted the handkerchief handed to him. Kneeling down next to Jim's head, he applied direct pressure to the head wound with a shaky hand. He was shocked when the white handkerchief quickly turned red. With his other hand he felt for Jim's carotid artery. The pulse while weak was steady.

Jim, aware of the voices drifting around him, couldn't quite pull himself out of the enveloping darkness. However he felt something hot touching his neck. It was uncomfortable. He wanted it removed.

Jim while not regaining full consciousness became agitated.

"Jim, if you can hear me try to relax. Turn your pain dial down." Blair, speaking in his guide's voice, tried to keep any discomfort he felt out of his tone. He knew that Jim could easily pick up on any vocal changes. He wasn't sure whether Jim could hear him or not, but his friend, as if in response to his voice, immediately quieted down.

Forcing his eyes open, Jim found Blair's concerned face leaning over him. Simon was also there pressing rather firmly on his shoulder. Squirming under the pressure, Jim's attempt to raise himself up off the floor was quickly negated by two sets of firm hands.

"Whoa, take it easy big guy. You were shot. Just relax and wait for the medics to get here," Blair rasped as Jim sagged back to the floor. The older man's head was swimming and his shoulder still ached even though he had turned down his pain dial but there was something else wrong. He stared at his guide's face. He could hear Blair's heart racing, but not from fear. He could feel the heat radiating from his guide.


"Everything's okay. The medics are here. Just let them treat you." Blair severed his connection with the injured man. He saw the troubled look Jim had given him. He understood the question poised on Jim's lips, but his friend needed to concentrate his energy on his own injuries. Blair moved silently into the background as the medics took over the care of Jim's wounds.

Efficiently stabilizing the patient, the medics made preparation to transport Jim to the nearest hospital. It was then that Simon noticed Sandburg had taken a stance in a nearby corner instead of his usual hovering. He mused that the kid looked a little frazzled with his hand pushed way down inside his coat pockets and the fervent glances he kept directing toward his partner.

Walking over to the observer, Simon placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Let's head over to the hospital." Blair nodded and without a word followed the man out to the car.

At the hospital Simon witnessed Blair slumping into one of the waiting room chairs. No pacing, no questions, no running off at the mouth. Typically un-Sandburg like. In fact the kid had been too damn quiet all evening. First at the stakeout and now here.

"I'm sure Jim will be all right," Simon attempted to make conversation. "Even though the deal went sour, we were still able to capture two of the suspect, including the one who shot Jim."

Blair just nodded and rubbed his forehead. He was now not only sick, but also tired and worried. Talking right now was not an option and since he was unable to ask questions, there seemed to be nothing else he could do, nothing but wait.

Simon also recognized that although Jim's injuries didn't look life threatening, the wait would be long. "Want some coffee, Sandburg?" A dose of caffeine sounded good to Simon right now.

"Juice, if possible," Blair managed to say as he struggled to swallow. He hoped that he would be able to drink it. He hadn't been able to drink or eat much the past few days and was feeling a bit shaky.

Simon observed the effort Blair made in speaking. He was pretty sure now what was going on with Blair. The kid just didn't want to admit to being sick. Probably afraid of what Jim would say. Normally, whenever the kid would get sick, Jim would go into his mother hen mode. However after the last two serious bouts of tonsillitis and Blair's stubborn refusal to adhere to the doctor's recommendation of a tonsillectomy, Jim was pissed, not in a mean way, but with concern. The captain had heard the detective warning Sandburg that upon the occurrence of another sore throat, he would personally reach through the kid's mouth and rip out the offending tonsils. He knew that the detective was just venting his frustration at a situation he couldn't control, but perhaps Blair didn't understand that. Words always tended to get in the way of their relationship. However, that relationship was firmly grounded by the physical manifestations of their feelings. He could see it in the way Blair looked at Jim with awe and respect and the way Jim playfully would touch his partner with a tug to his hair or a cuff to the back of his head.

Simon walked down the hallway continuing his search for coffee and juice. He turned his attention back to Blair's illness. He remembered his grandmother talking about the depression and how they took care of such problems. Couldn't afford a doctor. She used iodine to burn her husband's tonsils out. *Ouch, that must have hurt and how safe could that have been. Of course, grandfather was no worse for wear. He lived to the ripe age of eighty-six.* Simon, locating the vending machines, procured his coffee and an apple juice for Blair.

Blair gave Simon a weak smile when he accepted the juice. Still, he only managed one sip before setting the juice down. As good as the cool liquid tasted, it wasn't worth the effort of swallowing. Someone might as well stick a hot poker down his throat. It couldn't feel any worse.

Simon watched the incident and shook his head. Enough pussy footing around. "Sandburg..." Simon began but was interrupted by the entrance of Dr. Walker.

Both men rose to face the elderly man. Standing next to the mute Sandburg, Simon took the initiative.

"So how is Jim?" Simon addressed the doctor who knew all of them well. Dr. Walker had treated both men for the last few years from Jim's gunshot wounds to more recently Blair's tonsillitis.

"He's doing fine. Seems one bullet creased his forehead. However, there doesn't appear to be any sign of concussion. He's in surgery now for the bullet wound to the shoulder. Dr. Taylor, an orthopedic surgeon is handling the operation. Jim so far is doing well. As you know, after surgery, he'll be remove to recovery and then eventually to his own room. He'll probably be here for a few days before being discharged and depending on the severity of the injury may need physical therapy." The doctor paused waiting for some response from Blair. Generally the detective's partner by now would be pummeling him with questions or offering bits of information on how to treat Jim or warning him about the detective's strange reaction to anesthetic. However the ordinarily exuberance man remained silent.

"So how are you doing, Blair?" The doctor took in the young man's glassy eyes and flushed appearance.

"Fine," Blair managed to croak out, not looking the doctor in the eye. *Fine -- great response. I'm sure you convinced the doctor with that line.*

"No more trouble with your throat?" The doctor could already surmise the answer to that question.

"It's okay," Blair accomplished to squeak out with a hard swallow. He grimaced against the pain.

"Tell you what, since you're here, why don't I take a look at it," The doctor prodded. "Appears your partner was more concerned about you than himself. Before they took him into surgery, he may me promise to check you out."

Blair looked toward Simon for help. When none was forthcoming, the defeated man just hung his head and followed the doctor back into one of the exam cubicles. Simon chuckled and sat back down again to wait. Even injured, the sentinel still took care of his guide.

Simon's wait wasn't long when Dr. Walker made his appearance again. The captain couldn't help but notice that Blair was nowhere in sight. He had expected a quick exam with the doctor sending Blair on his way after the appropriate admonishment and antibiotics.

"Where's Sandburg?"

"We're going to admit him for overnight. He's dehydrated and running quite a high fever. We started an IV and along with a large dose of antibiotic. As you may guess, Captain Banks, it's his tonsils. But he has also developed a peritonsillar abscess." The doctor, noticing the man's concern, continued his explanation. "The infection of the tonsil has spread to the adjoining soft tissue, forming an abscess."

"Is that dangerous?"

"There can be complications, the most serious is generalized septicemia, but that's rare. However, in Blair's case, there is a need for surgical intervention. The abscess is suppuration and as such needs to be drained. I'll be performing the procedure tonight and Blair should be able to go home tomorrow morning." The doctor hesitated.

"And..." Simon prompted.

"And given the chronic infection of his tonsils along with this infection it is advisable that Blair has a tonsillectomy 3 to 4 weeks after this abscess is cleared up. He is susceptible to recurrent attacks, which can eventually lead to secondary manifestations of not only malnutrition, fatigue and anemia, but also the spread of the infection to other organs. Blair is still adamant about not having the surgery." The doctor paused to emphasize his next statement. "As one of his close friends, I suggest you use whatever influence you may have to convince him otherwise."

Simon mulled over the information knowing how stubborn the police observer could be. However he doubted that the kid would be able to withstand the pressure from both himself and one headstrong sentinel. "Don't worry doctor. Between Jim and myself, we will make sure that Sandburg has the operation."

As Dr. Walker finished his discussion with Simon, an attractive black female joined the group. Dr. Walker handled the introductions. "Captain Banks, this is Dr. Taylor, Detective Ellison's surgeon."

"Nice to meet you," Simon said while extending his hand. The woman was a knockout. He wouldn't mind playing doctor with her.

The doctor clasped the hand briefly. In a brisk voice, she quickly outlined the detective's condition. "Mr. Ellison has been moved to recovery. The surgery went well. Fortunately the bullet missed the right clavicle and did very little muscular damage. With a little physical therapy he should be back to normal in no time. We did, however, have some problems during the operation keeping him under."

At that, both Simon and Dr. Walker gave each other knowing glances.

"In fact," the doctor continued pushing her glasses back on her nose while studying the chart. "He is already starting to come out of the anesthetic. I don't expect him to stay long in recovery before moving him to a room."

"When can I see him?" Simon questioned.

"I'll have one of the nurses let you know when he is settled." The doctor flipped her chart close. "If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some rounds to make." Simon watched the woman stroll out of the room.

Dr. Walker, noticing the path of the captain's eyes, chuckled. "She's married."

"Figures," Simon remarked. *Well, one could dream.* "Can I see Sandburg and let him know Jim's condition?"

"Sure." The doctor led the way back to the cubicle. "I gave him something to alleviate the pain but he made me promise to wait on the procedure until Jim was out of danger."

Simon just shook his head. He was sure Blair's concern for Jim was genuine, but he wouldn't put it past the observer to use any excuse to procrastinate the inevitable.

Blair, lying on the exam table, felt like he was floating. Actually his throat didn't feel too bad right now. He didn't see why he needed any type of procedure. *What the hell is a peritonsillar abscess anyway?* He closed his eyes against the overhead exam lights. They were way too bright and hurt to look at. *Wonder how Jim is doing? Maybe I could sneak out. It's not like I'm an official patient -- at least I don't think so.*

As Blair sat up to look for his shirt. He was hit with a sudden wave of dizziness. "Whoa, head rush." He brought both hands up to cradle his head. It was at that point that he noticed the IV in his right hand.

"Shit." He has forgotten about it, the past hour being a bit muddled. While he was contemplating the possibility of removing the IV, Simon entered.

"What are you doing, Sandburg?" The captain barked a little too harshly.

"Nothing," Blair grinned sheepishly as he settled back on the table. Maybe he should change the subject. "Any word on Jim?"

"Yeah, he's out of surgery, doing well. The bullet did little damage. The doctor thinks Jim should be back to normal in no time."

"In no time?" Blair repeated. *That means that after Jim finds out about this incident, he will be back on my case to get the operation. Shit, I was hoping for more time. If I can just make it past the cold and flu season, maybe I won't have to face this 'til next year.* While Blair was glad Jim's injury wasn't as severe as they first thought, it meant that soon Jim would be pushing for the tonsillectomy. That's if Jim doesn't remove them first. Blair grimaced as he remembered his roommate's past warning concerning his solution to this problem.

"That's right," Simon confirmed. He noticed the stricken look on the man's face. Realizing Blair's plight, he decided to make a preemptive strike. "And you know what Jim is going to say about this."

"Oh, man. I am so screwed." The anthropologist tugged his fingers through his hair, attempting to place the renegade strand behind his ear.

"Sandburg, why are you making such a fuss? You know eventually what the outcome will be. Give it up. It's not like you're the only one to have his tonsil out. It's a safe operation. Children have the operation. In fact, I had the operation when I was eight and I'm still here no worst for the wear." Simon hoped the argument that even children have the operation would intimidate the man. He did, although, neglect to mention how frightening an experience it was for him. It was the first time he was away from his family and the hospital back then was not as kid friendly as it is today. What little memories he did have was of pain, the coldness of the room and the strange people who came and went but never seemed to have the time to talk to him. Simon paused in his reflection. It's a good thing Blair wasn't a sentinel or else he was sure the kid would be able to detect that he was obfuscating.

Blair's eyes narrowed as he studied the dark man's face. Knowing Simon well, he could read between the line. "Oh and I bet you're going to tell me what a wonderful experience it was."

That remark caught the captain off guard. "Uh... well," Simon began. "Let's just say I was pretty young and I don't fully recall all the details. But it was necessary and so I had the operation."

"Oh yeah, like you really had a choice. You were just a kid," Blair countered. "You know Simon, I think thou protested too much."

Simon becoming exasperated stared at the figure on the exam table. "I give up. I'll just let Jim deal with you," the older man continued with a malicious twinkle in his eyes. "By the way, I should be seeing him shortly. Would you like me to deliver a message from you?"

Blair gulped and drew the flimsy blanket up over his shoulders. For once he was glad he was in the exam room. At least he didn't have to face Jim. "Just tell him I'll see him as soon as possible. Dr. Walker doesn't want me around Jim for the next few days until he sees how the antibiotic is doing. Doesn't want me to expose Jim to the possibility of an infection." Blair stared down at the weave of the blanket wondering how it was possible to make a blanket so thin. "Uh, Simon, how am I going to get home tomorrow?"

Simon sighed. "Don't worry, I have it covered. However, the two of you are going to run me ragged." Blair gave the captain a slight smile at that remark. Behind his gruff exterior, the man was really a big softy on the inside.

"Now it you excuse, I guess I'll be heading for the lion's den."

"Don't you mean panther's?" Blair chuckled.

"Whatever, as long as I don't get devoured," Simon muttered as he left the room.

As Simon entered the waiting room, the nurse sitting at the desk motioned for him to come over.

"Dr. Taylor asked me to inform you that Mr. Ellison has been moved into room 452. She said it would be all right for you to see him. She just ask that you keep the visit short."

Simon thanked the nurse and headed for the banks of elevators. It wouldn't take him long to get to the fourth floor and then what? He was sure Jim already suspected something. The man not only has five heightened senses, but when it came to his partner, he had a sixth one. He hoped that once Jim found out about the kid he would direct his frustration to where it belonged, at Sandburg. It has been a long evening so far and Simon was not up to being a sounding board for the detective. Thank goodness he had an out since the doctor instructed the visit to be brief.

Exiting the elevator, he quickly located the room. Preparing himself before he entered, he took one last breath and pushed the door open.

The lights in the room were low and under such condition Jim didn't look half-bad. There was a small bandage on his left forehead. His right arm was in a sling. He still had an IV and was hooked up to the monitors, but overall his coloring was good.

Jim had heard the man entered. Actually he had heard Simon outside the door trying to compose himself. *Hell, am I still considered such an ogre that you have to walk on eggshells around me?*

"So, what's the story, Simon?" the wearied man inquired.

Obviously, Simon was startled. "Didn't know you were awake, Jim," Simon apologized. "We caught two of the three suspects. Brown has a line on the third. We should have him in custody by morning."

Jim sighed. "I don't care about the sting operation. What's the story on Sandburg?"

Simon dragged a chair over to Jim's bedside and sat down. "Nothing serious." Jim raised an eyebrow in disbelief. Simon decided he might as well spill all the beans. Jim would know anyway if he were leaving anything out.

"The kid has tonsillitis again and also what the doctor called a peritonsillar abscess. Apparently the infection spread to the surrounding tissue. They're going to hold Sandburg overnight. They have him on an IV right now because of fever and dehydration. Evidently, on account of the sore throat the kid hadn't eaten or drank much in the last day or two." Simon couldn't help notice the look Jim shot his way. *I know, I know. I was supposed to keep an eye on the kid for you. Maybe I'm not cut out to be a blessed protector.* Simon continued, "The doctor started him on antibiotics and later on will be draining the abscess."

"So what's the bottom line?"

"Due to the chronic condition of the tonsils, the doctor strongly advised a tonsillectomy in about 3 to 4 weeks after the infection has cleared up."

"And what does Sandburg say about this?" Jim had a feeling he already knew the answer to his question. During their last discussion of this matter Blair had gone on at great lengths about how his body is a temple and that removing his tonsils was equivalent to allowing a thief to plunder the temple's treasury. Jim had tried to counter with his own allegory about a house whose joists were infested with termites. Treatment was needed before the whole house decayed. Blair merely pointed out that the operative, and there was no pun intended, word in that story was treatment. And he was receiving treatment through the antibiotics. At that point Jim rolled his eyes and changed his tactics. Perhaps fear would work better than reasoning. But even intimidation and threats from Jim didn't seem to faze Sandburg.

Hearing the captain's voice, Jim realized that due to his internal speculation he had missed Simon's response.

"What did you say, Simon?"

The captain stared at his detective wondering if Jim was up to having this discussion. *Hell, the man took a bullet earlier this evening.* The dark man sighed and took a breath. Jim wouldn't rest until he had the whole story, not when his guide was involved.

"I said that I don't know whether the kid is frighten or just stubborn but he said he is having no part of the operation."

"Oh he will, Simon, he will. Don't you worry about it because it's a done deal." With that last remark Jim closed his eyes. Maybe Jim, partner and roommate to one Anthropology student and police observer, couldn't convince Sandburg, but Jim, sentinel to one guide would. This he was sure of and with the knowledge that his guide was safe, at least for the moment, he could rest.

Simon pondered Jim's last statement. The next few weeks should be interesting, as the Major Crime division will have their own interpretation of the Clash of the Titans played out before their eyes. As a betting man, he would place his money on Jim. Sure Blair could be stubborn and creative when it came to getting out of a tight situation. But in this case, Blair wouldn't be going up against the most dangerous criminals in Cascade. He would be going up against Jim, his sentinel.

Two weeks later and two weeks before 'It'...

The bullpen was bustling with activity as Jim entered with Blair in tow. A major bust was going down tonight. Down without him, Jim grimaced as he absentmindedly rubbed his right shoulder.

Simon spying the two men's entrance waved them both into his office.

"Well?" he queried. The captain knew that both men were in for a check-up. He was curious about the outcome.

Blair slumped down in the chair, picking at a loose thread in his jacket, saying nothing. Jim, leaning against the table, realized he better go first.

"Doc said everything looks good and I can be certified to go back on active duty in one week." Jim was glad that the end was in sight. Desk duty was punishment for it meant that he did not only his paperwork, but also those of the other detectives covering his cases.

"I'm glad to hear that, although I sure could have used you tonight." Simon knew the detective was itching to get back onto active duty.

"Sir, I could happen to arrange to be in the location of the bust tonight," Jim offered.

"No way, and go against departmental policy. If anything went wrong, someone would have my head." The captain appreciated the offer but realized he had to take a firm stance with his detective. On more than one occasion, the man would go off on his own against or without the captain's approval. Fortunately, Jim's intuitions were usually correct and the outcomes successful. And Simon, with a minimal amount of fancy footwork, would be lucky most of the time to get away without even a formal reprimand.

"And how about you?" Simon stared down at Jim's partner.

"It's scheduled in two weeks." Blair didn't elaborate on what 'it' was. Everyone in the room already knew what Blair was referring to.

Simon sat back in his chair. He didn't expect Blair to acquiesce so quickly. *So much for the Clash of the Titans.* He looked at Jim and realized that for the next two weeks the man would have nothing but his partner's safety on mind in order to assure Blair made it to the operation.

"Great, I'll get Jim back for next week and then I'll have to walk on eggshells the following week making sure nothing happens to you." Simon paused to gauge the observer's reaction. "I mean we wouldn't want to delay 'It', would we?"

Blair glared at Simon. He was not a happy camper and he was not making a point to hide it. The decision to have the operation was not an easy one. He felt that he was between a rock and a hard place. *Damn if I do, damn if I don't.* Finally, agreeing to the operation after much deliberation and a little pressure from Jim, Blair still had his doubts. Since that time, he had spoken to several friends on campus that either had the operation or knew someone who had it. From the information he could gather, children tended to rebound quickly from the operation. Adults usually required narcotics for the relief of pain. One girl described it as a visit to the pits of hell. She was out of it for several days after the operation and when she was finally coherent forget talking, it was all she could do to swallow liquids and soft food. She was the type of person who could recall the whole event and made sure to tell Blair all the agonizing details.

"Am I dismiss, Captain?" Blair wanted to be out of the current conversation and the room.

"Go -- go." Simon said waving one hand. "Uh, Jim, stay. I need to have a word with you."

As Blair left the room, Jim moved over to the seat Blair had vacated.

"So Jim, how did you do it?" Simon couldn't believe that the kid had just caved in. There had to be an explanation.

Jim, in a serious tone, replied, "Blackmail."

Simon whistled. It had to be something good that Jim had on his partner. "And?"

"Sorry, sir. I'm not at liberty at this time to elaborate any further."

"But you will be later?" Nothing like raising his curiosity.

"We'll see," Jim stated nonchalantly as he rose to leave. "Let's just get through 'It' first."

Two days before 'It'...

Blair entered the bullpen and marched over to Jim's desk dropping his backpack with a resounding thud.

"So Chief, did everything go okay with the pre-op exam?" Jim smiled at his partner. He could perceive by the increase in friend's heart rate that Blair was more than peeved.

"Yes, everything went okay," Blair replied sarcastically. "That is, if you consider being poked and prodded okay. I mean they're only taking out my tonsils. What's with all the blood tests and the EKG?" Blair rubbed his arm. "To top it off they had some new tech training on me. It took her five, can you believe it, five sticks until she finally found a vein. Look I'm all black and blue." To emphasize his point, Blair pushed up his sleeve.

Jim could see the bruises still forming under the skin. *Ouch, that must have hurt. Better you than me, buddy.*

"Then she drew an extra vial of blood. You should have seen her standing there holding it and saying, should I put it back?" Blair was on a roll. "And then when I had the EKG done, I swear they might as well have used duct tape on the electrodes. Does she take them off one at a time? Of course not. No, she walks over and pulls the whole bunch at once."

Jim couldn't help but chuckled as he imagined the surprise look that Blair probably had on his face as his chest hairs were being yanked off.

"Oh, laugh Jim," Blair admonished. "Just remember that payback is a bitch and you owe me big time here. I have a few tests in mind that should really be challenging for you."

Simon happened to be walking past the observer during the last part of the conversation. He couldn't help but hear what was being said since Blair was making no effort in keeping the tone of his voice quiet. Simon caught Jim's eyes and mouthed the word, "Blackmail."

Jim rolled his eyes and nodded. Simon laughed. So Sandburg was the one doing the blackmailing.

"Well, excuse me but I'm going to the break room. I need to replenish my fluids." Blair left before Jim could formulate a reply.

"So what's the going rates of sentinel tests for one tonsillectomy these days, Jim?" Simon thought Jim would have used some type of strong-arm tactics in order to get Blair to agree to the operation. Instead, Jim used one of the Blair's weaknesses, agreeing to be the grad student's guinea pig.

"Let's just say my life is not my own for the next three months and leave it at that."

In the break room, Blair was desperately trying to procure an orange juice from the vending machine. Obviously, the vending machine did not want to give up the juice, which made Blair all the more determine since it was his last dollar. Rafe, walking by, stopped to survey the scene.

"Hmm, hand stuck in vending machine. No one thought of that," Rafe remarked.

Blair managed to pull the juice free of the machine and stared at the detective. Even though they were close in age, they were about as far apart as one could get in life style. Blair was more comfortable in his tee shirt and worn jeans while Rafe looked like he was born to wear a suit and tie. "What is that suppose to mean?" Blair had heard cryptic remarks like that for the past week.

"Uh, nothing. I mean if something could happen, it could be something not as spectacular as a gunshot or knife wound but as mundane as a hand caught in a vending machine," Rafe tried to offer an explanation without actually explaining anything. As he stepped to go around the observer, Blair stood his ground.

"And who is it that this so-called something can happen to?" Blair had his suspicions.

Rafe looked down the hallway trying to find someone who could come to his rescue. Rubbing the back of his neck, he replied meekly, "Look it's really nothing. We were just taking some bets."

"Bets on what?" Blair wasn't going to let this go, not after the day he had been through.

"Bets on..." Rafe once again looked hopefully down the hallway. "Bets on whether you would go through with the operation," he blurted out.

"Bets on whether I would go through with the operation!" Blair nearly lost his composure. "So what are the odds?" The observer wondered what his friends at the station thought of him. Did they think after all this he wouldn't go through with the operation?

"Well, actually there are no odds. I mean, the bet isn't whether you would go through with the operation, but whether you would have the operation." Rafe really didn't want to be the one explaining this to Blair. He was one of the few to first object to the pool as being in poor taste. But hey, after talking about it for a while, it got to be rather silly. He couldn't resist putting a bet down.

"I don't understand." Blair was totally confused. "What do you mean by whether I would have the operation?"

"You know how you always seem to be getting into trouble at the worst possible moments. Well, we bet that something would keep you from having the operation. For instance, if you were kidnapped or shot." Rafe took a step back as he watched Blair's eyes narrow. He had rarely seen the young man angry and wasn't sure what to expect.

Blair opened his mouth to speak, but stopped, trying first to get a handle on his emotion. "And just where is the list for the pool?" he asked through clenched teeth.

"On Brown's desk," Rafe hastily replied before leaving. *Let Brown deal with the fall-out when Blair sees the list.*

Jim glanced up from his paperwork as his partner strolled back into the room, past his desk and over to where Brown was sitting. Before Brown could do anything, Blair snatched a piece of paper off Brown's desk. Jim watched as a slew of emotions crossed Blair's countenance from anger to disgust to astonishment.

Blair began to read aloud. "Kidnapping... good choice Joel, I see you're playing the odds. Gunshot... Oh Brown, I hope that doesn't include your gun. Knife wound, exposure... Rafe, I see you didn't specify which kind. Trying to cover all the bases here. Water... that one's definitely in poor taste. *Figures it was Officer Martin. He still has a hard time accepting me as Jim 's partner. Last time we needed back up from him it was almost non-existent.* Abduction by aliens!" Blair shouted in disbelief. "Rodriguez in the motor pool bet that I would be abducted by aliens. That's a sure loser," Blair continued to read the list, which contained every possible scenario from broken bones to the reappearance of former nemeses. Blair couldn't believe some of the "disasters" people predicted would keep him from having this operation. And to top it off, it wasn't just Major Crime, but Vice, Juvee and the patrol officers. Heck, it was just about everyone in the precinct.

*I am letting this go.* Blair repeated this mantra several times to himself before addressing the occupants of the room.

"Listen up," Blair spoke loudly, waiting until he had everyone's attention. "I don't appreciate being the topic for this week's office pool. However, I will tell you that I have every intention of going through with the operation. Upon such occurrence, I expect the proceeds of the pool to go to a charity of my choice." Blair dropped the paper back on Brown's desk and left without another word.

Jim smiled to himself. While he had to agree the subject matter of the pool was in poor taste, the discovery of it solidified Blair's somewhat shaky conviction to go through with the operation. Less than 2 days and counting. What could go wrong? If he were to place a bet, he would agree with Joel. Given the occurrences of the last three years, the odds definitely favored kidnapping.

One day before 'It'...

*The condemned man's last meal,* Blair thought staring at the plate of spaghetti. He would have chosen a different place to eat the night before his operation but the detectives from Major Crimes were taking him out as sort of a conciliatory peace offering. So the consensus was Italian. Blair was sitting at the end of the table next to Jim and Joel. Rafe and Brown were on his left and Simon was at the other end.

"So Hairboy," Brown used his pet name for the observer. "What time do you go under the knife?"

Blair watched with trepidation as Brown vigorously sawed back and forth across his Veal Parmigiana. "Around eleven, but I have to be at the hospital by nine."

"How long are they going to keep you?" Joel asked as he drew his knife through his Filet Mignon. The medium rare piece of meat was oozing.

"If everything goes okay, I'll be in for 24 hours. I'll should be home the next day" Blair played at moving the spaghetti around on his plate having lost his appetite. He didn't want them to know that he was nervous about tomorrow. He glanced at his watch, checking the time, knowing he wasn't allowed to eat after a certain hour.

"Looks like were dinning with celebrities," Joel whistled while nodding toward the table in the back corner.

"Huh?" Blair questioned. No one he knew. Just two old Italian gentlemen having dinner together. There was a strong family resemblance, probably related.

"The Gambino brothers," Simon remarked. "Wonder what they're doing in this part of town?"

Before anyone could pose an answer to Simon's question, a hail of bullets shattered the restaurant's front window. As the patrons dove for the nearest cover, four guns toting masked men burst through the front door.

In response, the detectives had flipped over their table arranging a temporary shield. Blair being the nearest to the kitchen door was directing some of the patrons out back.

"This is the Cascade police," Simon bellowed. "Drop your weapons."

In defiance to those words, the gunmen turned and fired another round at the detectives while they sought their own shelter behind another set of overturned tables. An exchange of gunfire took place.

"Shit," Blair yelled. A bullet clipping the edge of the table sent out large flying splinters, one of which caught Blair in his right hand.

"Let me see," Jim ordered, grasping his guide's hand.

"It's nothing, just a small cut. Don't you think you should get back to the fire fight?"

However Jim did not let go of Blair's hand until he bound the wound with a handkerchief offered up by Rafe.

"Chief, while we provide the cover, see about getting the rest of the people out through the kitchen. Also call for back-up," Jim commanded. For once there was not a cell phone handy as each detective had left their phones in the pocket of their coats which were hanging on the coat rack across the room or out in their cars.

During the next round of volleys, Blair carefully led the two remaining families out through the kitchen. He instructed them to wait in the alleyway until the situation was under control. Heading back into the kitchen, Blair picked up the phone. It was dead. Probably the lines were cut prior to the attempted hit. Remembering his cell phone in his backpack, Blair headed out through the alleyway to the side street where Jim parked the truck.

Opening the driver's side door, Blair reached across to grab his backpack. Pulling out the cell phone, he smiled as he heard the familiar dial tone. *Guess I did remember to charge it.* It wasn't until he was providing the 911 operator with a description did the absurdity of the perpetrators' disguise hit him. All four were wearing masks of the monster from the movie, Aliens. Maybe Rodriguez wasn't so crazy after all.

Clutching the phone in his hand, Blair decided to head back to the kitchen. It was freezing out and his jacket was still inside the restaurant. As he turned to close the truck door, a black sedan came hurling down the street, side-swiping the partially open door. Blair threw himself against the truck, the cell phone slipping from his hand and shattering upon contact with the road. The force of the collision ripped the front door from its hinges. The door landed momentarily upright before flopping over. As Blair leapt to the side, the top of the falling door grazed his left foot.

"Damn," the observer cursed. Even if his foot wasn't broken, it would still be plenty swollen by tomorrow.

Another round of gunfire drove his attention back to the restaurant. He could see three of the "Aliens" backing out of the front door and heading for the black sedan. He then realized that he was between the men and the car.

Blair's attempt to hobble out of the way was frustrated by his hurt foot and, before he knew it, one of the 'Aliens' had a chokehold around his neck. Using Blair as a shield, the men backed up to the sedan.

The detectives, following the suspects out of the restaurants, kept their guns trained on their quarry. Each one waited for a chance, a mistake to be made where they could rescue their comrade. None came and they watched in horror as Blair was dragged into the back of the sedan before it sped off.

"Jim?" Simon wondered if his detective could hear anything.

As if in response, Jim held up one hand silencing the captain. Cocking his head, he focused his hearing on the fleeing car trying to catch any information that may indicate where they were heading. A fragment of a conversation came through mentioning the waterfront and pier 7.

"They're heading to the waterfront, Simon. Pier 7," Jim relayed the information.

In the distance the sirens could be heard indicating back up was on its way.

"Brown, Rafe, you two stay here and coordinate the crime scene. Check to see if either of the Gambino brothers are still alive," Simon barked. "Joel, you'll come with us."

Jim having seen the damage to his truck headed over to Simon's car. Without a question, Simon tossed Jim the keys as he went around to the passenger side. "All I ask Jim, is that you don't dent her."

Blair was squeezed in the back of the sedan between two of the 'Aliens.'

"Hey, watch it," Blair exclaimed as the man to his right jostled his sore hand.

"Like you think we care," the man replied pulling off his mask. Underneath, he had jet-black hair and two steely-dark, calculating eyes. *Looks like a Godfather wannabe,* Blair thought.

The remaining two men also removed their masks. "Turn left at the next corner and head down to the waterfront, pier 7," the man with the steely dark eyes ordered.

The driver of the car complied and in a short time they were in the waterfront district pulling up to pier 7. Yanking Blair out of the car, they dragged him down to the last boat in the slip.

"Why do you want to take him alone, Tony?" One of the men questioned the dark-eyed man's action.

"Think of him as insurance. Anyway, we can get rid of him before reaching the other side." The three men, the driver and Blair boarded the cabin cruiser. Blair was shoved to the back with one man keeping a gun trained on him.

"Hey, I'm harmless. Why don't you just let me go?" Blair did not want to go out into the bay with these guys. His past relationship with water had never been for the good. Chances were he would never see dry land again.

As the boat pulled away from the pier, the man, watching Blair, chuckled. "Oh we'll let you go, but not until we're halfway across the bay."

Shivering, Blair slouched back into his corner holding his wounded hand across his chest and keeping the weight off his damaged foot. *At this rate I guess I won't be making that operation tomorrow, I wonder who'll win the pool.* The realization of that thought hit Blair hard. Actually if his demise wasn't imminent, it would be funny. He was shot at, nearly hit by a car, possible broken foot, kidnapped or you could say abducted by "Aliens". And now he was to be dump in the bay where he would suffer from the effect of exposure and then drown. He could see the arguments the next day. Each one trying to justify why they should be the winner of the pool. Of course, if they go by the last event, water, then Officer Martin would win. *Maybe he will feel sorry for me, might even use some of his winnings to send flowers to the funeral.* Blair realized the absurdity of the statement. *The way Officer Martin feels about me, he'll probably be the first one to dance on the grave.*

Blair watched the horizon, as the lights of the waterfront grew smaller. Soon they were out in the middle of the bay. The lights of Cascade from this distance formed a semi-circle, like a diamond tiara. On a warmer night it would be impressive to bring a date out here. Blair's thoughts were interrupted when another man joined the one who was holding a gun on him.

"Tony said it's time for him to disembark and then we'll head for the marina."

The man with the gun just nodded and pocketed his weapon. Before Blair could realize what was happening or issue a protest, two sets of hands roughly lifted him up from his position and flung him overboard.

Blair's first thought wasn't how cold the water was but how hard it was. Tossed out of the speeding boat, his body felt like it had connected with concrete. Struggling to stay afloat, Blair knew his only hope would rest with Jim. The water was too cold. The coast was too far. Until Jim could get here, it would be up to him to stay alive.

First he removed his flannel shirt which was weighing him down. Next he kicked off his sneakers. The left shoe was a little harder to get off due to his swollen foot. Without his shoes on, Blair was able to remove his jeans. Knotting them and using his breath, he was able to inflate them enough to provide some buoyancy making it a temporary life vest. He began to shiver against the cold. This was okay for now, it was when he stop shivering he would know he was succumbing to the cold. *Jim, man you better get here soon before I turn into one large popsicle.*

Staring once more toward the shore, the beauty now lost upon him, Blair began a litany to Jim knowing that if Jim couldn't see him at least he would be able to hear him.

As they pulled up to the pier, Jim strained to see or hear anything.

"There's a boat about half way across the bay," Jim informed the captain.

"What we need is a way to get out there." Simon looked at the boats docked at the pier, most were still closed up for the winter season. "Joel find out if you can get into one."

"Simon they're heading to the marina across the bay and they just tossed Sandburg out of the boat.

"Is he alive?" Simon watched the concentration on the detective's face.

The chiseled features relaxed a bit and a slight smile crossed his lips. The words of his guide reached his ears. "Yes, he's still alive, but we better hurry." Jim knew how quickly the cold water could sap one's energy. They were dealing now in minutes.

Simon radioed in the information requesting assistant from the Coast Guard, directing a squad car to wait by the marina, as well as ordering an ambulance to be standing by. As he left the car, he heard Joel yell that he found a boat unlocked. A little hotwiring the ignition and they were on their way.

Joel steered the boat while Jim gave out directions. Joel didn't question how Jim knew what directions to take. He didn't care whether it was a psychic connection or divine intervention as long as they found the squirt. From day one, Joel was taken with the young grad student. The kid could certainly talk, whether he was trying to bluff a right wing activist or help Joel overcome his fear, and as such had wormed his way into Joel's heart.

Near the middle of the bay Jim asked Joel to stop the boat. Extending his hearing, he found the sound he was listening for.

"J -- jjiim, Jim -- if you can hear me I'm getting really tired. Don't know how much longer I can last."

"Joel, take the boat about 20 yards starboard, nice and slow," Jim instructed. Within a minute the sentinel caught sight of his floundering guide. Without hesitation, Jim jumped into the frigid water, swimming over to his friend.

The exhausted man, unaware of the nearness of his rescue, spoke one last time. "Jim -- I-I can't hold on." Blair found the cold darkness tugging at him as his arms could no longer grip his makeshift preserver and his head slipped beneath the murky water.

"Sandburg, Blair!" Jim shouted as he stretched to reach his friend. As Blair 's head disappeared, Jim managed to grab a handful of hair with one hand and lift it back up. Shifting his arm under Blair's neck, Jim kicked toward the boat. The waiting arms of Simon and Joel plucked both men out of the chilly water.

Sitting on the deck of the boat with Blair gathered safely in his arm, Jim breathed a sigh of relief. It had been too close again. Jim rested his chin on the top of Blair's head. His guide's hair no longer smelled of herbs but of salt water. However, Jim took comfort in the sound of his guide's steady heartbeat. He could feel the gentle pulse beneath his hand lying on Blair's chest.

Simon, as he was tucking some blankets he found on board around Jim and Blair, thought at first Jim had zoned. Touching the sentinel's shoulder, he discovered Jim looking at him with a smile. The sentinel was assured in the knowledge that his guide was safely back beside him.

"We'll be back at shore in a few minutes. There's an ambulance standing by."

Jim nodded and then turned his attention back to his friend.

"J -- jim?" Blair inquired.

"Right here, buddy." Jim tightened his hold. He needed right now to feel connected to his guide.

Blair smiled as he felt Jim's arms tighten his hold. He turned his head, looking up at the older man's face. "I thought at first I was dreaming but you found me, didn't you?"

Jim ruffled Blair's hair. "Yeah Chief, I found you." Pulling the younger man's head back to his chest, Jim said, "Now just rest."

Blair closed his eyes secured under the protection of his sentinel.

Dr. Walker had spent a relaxing evening at home with his wife when he was paged to the hospital. An emergency with one of his asthmatic patients necessitated the trip. Now with her breathing under control, he was free to head home and to bed.

As he approached the front desk, Nurse Williams was just replacing the phone. She hated to be the one to break the news to him.

"Dr. Walker, isn't Blair Sandburg one of your patients?"

"Yes, he's schedule for a tonsillectomy tomorrow." Suspicious of her question, he continued. "Why do you ask?"

"Because the ambulance just radioed that he's on his way in."

Dr. Walker just shook his head. As much as he liked the kid, he would prefer not to see him so often, especially under these circumstances. "I guess I better head down to ER."

Dr. Walker walked down the hallway, the vision of bed quickly fading from his head.

Overall, considering the events of the night, Blair found that he got off pretty easy. The cut on his hand only needed a few stitches. His foot although badly bruised was not broken. There were some minor bumps and bruises and the effect of exposure was minimal. Now he was waiting for the final word from Dr. Walker.

"Blair, if you want to postpone the operation for tomorrow..." Checking his watch, the doctor corrected himself. "I mean the operation for later on today. We can do that."

"But I don't have to cancel it, right?"

"No. Your injuries are minor. You check out okay. I don't see any problem with proceeding. As long as you feel mentally prepared for it." Dr. Walker was actually surprised by Blair's attitude. After the struggle to get the student to submit to the operation, he thought Blair would jump at any chance to get out of it.

"Then let's get it over with." There was no way Blair was going to put off the operation. If he did, then Office Martin would win the pool. No way, man.

"Fine, I'll finalize the arrangements. We'll keep you here overnight for observation. I'm going to prescribe a mild sedative to make sure you'll get some rest. And then, after that, I'm heading home myself." Dr. Walker made some notation in the patient's chart while shaking his head. *Just when you think you understand someone, they do a 180 on you.*

'It' has finally arrived...

Jim sat relaxed in the waiting room. It was strange not pacing the floor but he knew the operation was relatively safe. Reading an article on "The Building of Tenochtitlan" in an old National Geographic, Jim had to smile to himself. Before Blair came along, he doubted he would have known about the Aztec City, let alone read an article on it. He couldn't believe the changes brought about in his life by one man, all for the better.

Setting the magazine aside, he thought back to his phone conversation this morning with the captain.

"What do you mean he's going through with it?" Simon asked in amazement.

"Just what I said. The doctor said his injuries are minor. He left the decision up to Blair."

"Well I know one officer who is going to be disappointed. He already had plans for spending the winnings. I can't wait to see his face when I make the announcement," Simon chuckled.

Jim knew whom Simon was referring to and he almost wished he were there to see the officer's reaction. Martin had given Blair a hard time on several past occasions and he knew the officer's choice of water for the office pool was with malice.

Jim's thoughts were interrupted by the approaching footsteps. Rising from his chair he was greeted with the doctor's smiling face.

"Everything went fine, Jim," Dr. Walker explained. "He's in recovery. You can go and sit with him. Once the anesthesia wears off, we'll do a final check before moving him to a room."

Jim thanked the doctor and then scurried down to the recovery room. Finding Blair behind a curtained off section, he pulled a chair to the bedside and sat down. Sleeping on one side, Blair truly looked like a kid. The thought brought out the parental instinct in Jim as he brushed back a loose strand of hair that had managed to escape his friend's ponytail. Taking one hand in his, Jim loosely clasped it, allowing one finger to touch the pulse point on Blair's wrist. The gentle rhythm lulled him into a sense of security. For now all was right with the world.

Part 2: Up a Creek Without a Paddle

The aftermath of 'It'...

The first few days after the operation had been a blur for Blair. The combination of anesthetic, painkillers and sleep distorted the man's sense of time. During which, Jim patiently cared for him. The morning of the fourth day found Blair in a more coherent condition and able to ambulate. As such, Jim was heading down to the station to finish up some paperwork.

"Your medication is in the kitchen. Don't forget to take it," Jim instructed leaning against the French doors to Blair's room. He was amazed at the clutter the kid could accumulate. Surrounding Blair on the bed were open textbooks, pencils, notebooks, his laptop, a collection of CD's, a CD player, headphones, tapes, a tape recorder and the latest anthropology magazines.

"Now you're to take it easy, rest and drink plenty of fluids," Jim continued.

"Yes mom," Blair roughly whispered while looking through the pile of textbooks on his bed.

Jim raised one of his eyebrows in admonishment. "I mean rest. I don't want to come home to find out you've been working on the laptop all day or gabbing on the phone." The last remark was said with a smile."

Blair saluted his compliance. *Very funny, Jim.* Ha, as if he was planning on talking. He rubbed the outside of his throat wishing he could soothe the agony on the inside. The few students who had related their experience were not exaggerating the discomfort.

Jim picked up on Blair's movement and in a more serious tone said; "However Chief, if there are any signs of complications, I expect you to contact me right away. And if I'm going to be late, I'll call. Just let the answering machine pick up."

Blair nodded and flashed Jim a grin. Jim hesitated for a moment looking at his rumbled partner sitting on the bed. Perhaps he should stay, but he really needed to finish up the paperwork for the Johnson file. Brushing aside a sudden feeling of apprehension, Jim turned and headed for the front door. "I'll see you later, Sandburg," he shouted.

*Free at last from the mother hen,* Blair smiled. He reached over and picked up a notebook from his bed. He was glad Jim was going to work. While he didn't mind being taken care of, he could use some down time alone. He had some notes and tapes he wanted to go over in connection with his thesis and preferred to review them in private. It wasn't that he didn't trust Jim. They had straightened that matter out after Jim had read parts of the draft of his thesis. It just that he would feel self-conscious working on it with Jim nearby.

Blair slipped on his warmest sweats and shuffled out to the kitchen table where he deposited the notebooks and tape recorder. Grabbing some juice, he sat down and began reviewing his research.

The notes contained information he had written on the different types of zone that Jim had experienced. Apparently the incident of zoning had decease over the past few years which gave Blair some hope that eventually Jim would be able to master his senses without zoning. He spent two hours reviewing the first tape before picking up the second cassette. He placed it in the recorder and hit play.

The recorder drone in his voice, "Subject's response to many situations is fear-based when the subject is not in control. Subject usually presents a strong sense of control of his environment by establishing and abiding by set rules."

"Oops, wrong tape!" Blair pushed the stop button. He smiled as he looked around the loft. Jim's environment, Jim's house rules. But now it was also Blair's environment. His books were on the shelves along with his candles and other knickknacks. The rules, well Jim at first was a stickler for them but now he tended to be more flexible. *Yeah, the iron man Ellison could bend. There are still the color-coded Tupperware, but he no longer goes ballistic if I leave out my books and papers.*

Blair stretched and rose from the chair. He closed the notebook and looked at the clock. It was after twelve. *May as well get some rest before Jim gets back from the station. If he thinks I've been working the whole time there'll be hell to pay.* The sentinel may have relaxed on the house rules but not on the care and feeding of his guide.

Blair decided to forego the pain medication. The pain right now was manageable and he hated putting drugs into his systems. Flopping onto the couch, he tossed his mind and eyes around the loft noticing how the loft had changed over the years. *There's the African mask I picked up in Kenya. And there's Jim's award for Detective of the year. The picture of Jim and me fishing, that was a great weekend!* A sense of well being filled the guide's gentle soul before he finally drifted off to sleep.

Jim smiled as he placed the final piece of paperwork in the out basket. For once Blair wouldn't be hit with a deluge of paperwork when he came back to the station. Jim normally let Blair do the paperwork. The kid was not only much better with formatting ideas, but quicker on the keyboard.

He leaned back in his chair stretching and then, folding his hands behind his head, he relaxed. Peering around at the activity in the bullpen, he caught the captain's eye as he was strolling back from a meeting with the commissioner. *Must have been a good one this time. At least Simon is smiling.*

"Keeping busy without your partner, Jim?" Simon paused next to the detective 's desk.

"All done." Jim pointed to the pile of paperwork. "All right if I head home early today?"

Simon smiled. "Sure, must be awfully quiet at the loft without the usual Sandburgian chatter."

Jim shook his head. Quiet was an understatement, only in the opposite sense. Someone may had said that "Silence is Golden" but not when it came to Sandburg. The kid could make a variety of sounds and actually string a few words together but even without talking there was the constant clicking of the laptop keys or the scratching of a pen or the rhythmic beating of African drums on one of the kid's CDs. Blair had numerous ways of making noise that didn't coincide with talking.

"Quiet isn't the word I would use Simon," Jim retorted.

"Well tell the kid we miss him."

Jim glanced up at the concerned expression before him. "Don't you mean that you miss him?"

Simon cleared his throat. "Of course, I mean who else am I going to get to set up the departmental web page." Simon punctuated the last remark with a grin. "By the way did you hear about the new office pool?"

"Don't tell me it's about Sandburg?" *You would think they could find someone else to pick on.*

"Yeah," Simon replied then noticing the detective's frown said, "Come on Jim. It's not that bad. They're just taking bets on when Sandburg will officially or unofficially become involve in a Major Crime case."

"Well, it won't be anytime soon." Jim's protective streak rose. "Blair has a check-up in a few days and then it will be up to the doctor."

"Hey, I'm with you on this. The guys are just having some harmless fun," Simon explained perceiving that Jim's eyes were lingering a bit too long in Brown's direction. "Why don't you leave now. Tell the kid I said hi."

Jim nodded, "Will do, sir."

Grabbing his jacket to head back to the loft Jim heard the call come in. Hostages at the Cascade Tower. Major Crime was immobilized.

"Listen up," Captain Banks' voice boomed as he got off the phone. "We have an unknown situation on the third floor of the tower. Information is sketchy but apparently in addition to the hostages there is a possible involvement of some sort of bomb or incinerary device. Taggert, I want you to be liaison between Major Crime and the Bomb Squad. Brown, Rafe, the two of you start interviewing the witnesses. Ellison, you're with me."

Each man scurried around the bullpen grabbing their jacket or coat before proceeding to their respective assignment.

In the elevator, Simon pulled Jim aside. "Jim, I could really use you on this. Do you think that you'll be okay without Sandburg."

"If you're worry about me zoning, I should I'll be fine. I haven't zone in a while," Jim said reassuringly. He knew he could handle his senses pretty well as long as he piggybacked at least two senses and avoided focusing just on one. "Now do you want to drive or shall I?" Jim grinned already knowing the answer to that question.

"Given that I'm not allow to smoke in the truck, I'll drive." The doors to the elevator opened and the two men hurried over to Simon's car.

The ringing of the phone woke Blair. He sat up on the couch noticing the long angle of the shadows in the loft indicating that it was late afternoon. The phone continued to ring.

Blair's first impulse was to answer the phone, but he caught himself. *Might be Jim. Could be testing me. I can hear him now. "Sandburg, didn't I tell you to let the machine pick up the phone?"* Blair sat back on the couch allowing the answering machine to pick up the call. As the machine kick in, the voice projecting throughout the loft filled Blair with dread.

"Sandburg -- pick up the phone. I know you're there."

With only a moment's hesitation, Blair lifted the receiver. "Simon," he barely whispered. His throat seem to be really bothering him now.

"Listen, don't talk," Simon instructed. "We're dealing with a hostage crisis at the Cascade Tower. Jim zoned and -- I -- I can't reach him. I sent Brown and Rafe to get you. They'll explain the situation we're dealing with and I'll explain the rest when you get here. They should be there in about 5 minutes," the captain ended the conversation.

Blair replaced the receiver on the hook. Running his hands through his hair he thought, *How am I going to help Jim? Every time before when he zoned I was able to guide him with my voice. Right now I'm lucky if I can string together two audible words. And I certainly can't speak in the tone I normally use for guiding him. Talk about being up a creek without a paddle.* He absently-minded rubbed his throat. It was pretty sore especially since he skipped his last pain pill but he couldn't take one now. Jim needed him and it was imperative for him to be thinking with a clear head.

Blair hastily put his sneakers on and took a look around the loft as if for inspiration. *Think, Sandburg, think!* Spying the tape recorder on the table, he grabbed it along with a set of headphones and placed them in his jacket pocket. With one last look he closed the door to the loft and headed down the stairs to wait for his ride.

Blair heard the siren long before he saw the car come skidding around the corner. Barely stopping, Blair climbed in and the car took off. Rafe turned to look at the observer struggling in the back seat to hook his seatbelt. While the situation at the Cascade Tower was dire, he couldn't imagine what was so important to drag the kid there. Heck, he's only been out of the hospital three days.

"Rafe, fill Hairboy in on what's going down." Brown shot a glance at his partner as he sharply turned the wheel to the left, causing the tires to squeal.

"We currently have five hostages located on the third floor of Cascade Tower. The hostages are all top employees of Intexnique. The suspect is Joseph Coleman, a former employee who recently lost his job due to downsizing. Apparently he didn't like the severance package." Rafe's attempt at levity went over Blair's head. The observer only had one thing on his mind. Rafe continued. "Coleman is 56 years old, a Vietnam Vet with experience in demolition. He used his experience to place five bombs in the building, supposedly one for each of his superiors. Three of the bombs have been located and disarmed. We're still searching for the other two. Right now we're running out of time. The suspect is threatening to set the bombs off at 5 PM."

While the information Rafe supplied explained the situation, it didn't provide the information Blair wanted to hear.

"Whe --" Blair rasped. *Gad that hurts.* Realizing he could write faster than talking, he made small circles with one hand as if holding a pen.

Rafe, understanding the pantomime, handed Blair his notepad and pen. Blair quickly dashed off "Where's Jim?" and handed the paper to Rafe.

"Jim? He's with Joel inside the building. He's helping to locate the bombs."

Blair sat back into the seat. *So that's why Simon wants me. Jim has zoned inside the building. If he is inside, then he could be in a potential dangerous position.* He anxiously looked out the window. He needed to be there now.

Rafe, as if he could read Blair's mind said, "Don't worry, the way Brown drive we'll be there soon enough." And as if to emphasize the point, the car flew over a bump momentarily airlifting the passengers.

Simon watched as Sandburg exited the police vehicle. The kid looked a little too pale and shaky. *Jim is going to have my hide if anything happens to him.* Simon shook his head. He was running out of options. He could only hope Sandburg could come up with a solution.

Blair approached Simon with a questioning look. Simon took a breath before launching into the explanation. "Sandburg... Blair."

*Uh oh, this is going to be bad. He's using my first name.*

"Here's the situation. Joel and Jim were inside locating the bombs. Apparently, Jim thought one of the bombs was in the ventilation shaft. The last we heard from him, he was in the vicinity of the office where the hostages are being held. He started to mention a location when that was it. There's been no communication with him for over 25 minutes. We're unable to send someone in to drag him out for fear of alerting the bomber. Right now we have 40 minutes to come up with a solution or the locations of the last two bombs.

Blair rocked back and forth on his feet. He didn't like it. The longer Jim was zoned, the harder it was to bring him back from one. "Send me," Blair managed to choke out.

Simon couldn't say he was stunned, he already knew what Blair would say. Still, he wasn't prepared for the look on the observer's face. One of determination, even though a stiff breeze could probably knock the kid over.

"You know I can't do that," Simon responded keeping his voice low.

Blair turned away to look at the building. His sentinel needed him. Scribbling on a piece of paper he wrote, "I know I can help Jim. Let me go."

Simon read the note shaking his head. "How can you help him when you can't even talk?"

Blair wasn't sure himself, but he was the only one here who had a chance of getting through to Jim. Blair wrote two words, "Trust Me!"

"Trust you! That doesn't exactly inspire confidence, Sandburg. I need a little more to go on here." Simon, looking at the pallid face of the observer, had a gnawing doubt as to why he ever dragged the kid out here in the first place. True, he was Jim's partner, roommate and more important guide, but the kid wasn't 100% yet.

Blair grabbed the piece of paper from Simon's hand and pointed again to the words, "Trust Me!"

The captain sighed. He had no other options. He looked at the growing smile on the observer's face as the young man realized the captain was going to acquiescence.

"So you're now a mind reader, Sandburg? If we do it, it's going to be my way," Simon grumbled, watching the kid nod his head in agreement. "You're wearing a vest and a headset. You may not be able to talk, but I will keep you inform. I expect my orders to be obeyed immediately." The captain emphasized the word, "immediately." Deep inside he was concerned that once Blair found Jim, he wouldn't leave him. "I mean it. And when I tell you to get your ass out of there -- you are to leave pronto, with or without Jim."

Simon watched the kid shaking his head, looking like one of those damn toy dogs you see in the back of the car whose head bounce up and down every time the car go over a bump. He rubbed a tired hand over his dark face. Sandburg would agree to anything if he thought it would help Jim. *I don't know what I'm going to do with the two of them -- or without them.*

Simon continued with his instructions. "Coleman plans to set the bombs off at 5 PM. We have the Swat team in place to rush the office at 4:55. They'll be using teargas and live ammo so you'll need to be out of there by then." *There, the kid is nodding again. Did he even hear one-half of what I said?*

Blair was fitted into a Kevlar vest and a headset. He slipped his jacket on over the vest checking the pocket to make sure his equipment was still in there. Following Simon into the building, he coughed once and wiped his mouth on his jacket sleeve. Noticing a small amount of blood, he swallowed. What had the doctor said about complications? He was too out of it at the time to remember any of the discharge instructions. It was probably nothing and there was no way he would tell Simon about it. He would freaked out and nix the whole deal.

On the third floor Simon and Blair met up with Joel who led them into a storage room. Near the top of the wall in the left corner was the opening to the ventilation system. The grill was already removed with a ladder positioned under the opening.

Simon placed two hands on Blair's shoulders so he was looking at the observer face-to-face. "Sandburg, remember what I said. When it's time to go, you leave."

Blair smiled at the older man. How could he tell him that given the chance he would never leave Jim's side, even if it meant death.

Joel then took Blair aside. He had a soft spot for the long-haired student every since he first laid eyes on him. The kid had helped him on more than one occasion, now he wished he could return the favor.

"The ventilation system ends at the corner office where the hostages are being held. At our last contact, Jim was about 30 feet from there. So you need to keep the noise down to a minimum. There's one bend to the left about 100 feet in and then it's a straight shot to the end. You can only get out at the end or back here. The other grill openings along the way are too small." Joel helped the kid up the ladder. "Good luck."

Blair flashed a grin at the two men before disappearing into the ductwork. Joel, however, was not smiling when he spun around to face the captain. "You know I never question authority, sir. But what were you thinking sending Sandburg in there?"

Simon viewed the question as rhetorical and merely shrugged his shoulders. He was sure there were a lot of questions among his men when it came to Ellison and Sandburg. Hopefully there will be a future for more.

It took Blair a few minutes to determine the best way to scramble down the shaft. As he came around the bend he wished he could see better. *Yeah, like a sentinel.* The small amount of light entering in from the occasional grills only lit a few feet, leaving the distances in-between in a shadowy darkness. Somewhere Jim was straight ahead of him.

After traveling past what must have been several offices, he saw the faint form of his partner ahead. Blair hastened his pace, inching up until he was at the detective's feet. Jim's face was tuned toward the grill as if his whole focus was directed toward something in the room. *Probably the other bomb,* Blair thought. *Too bad I can't communicate that information to Simon.*

The ductwork was too small for the two men to be side by side. Blair with a little maneuvering managed to wedge his body about halfway up Jim's. Stretching with one arm, Blair was able to reach Jim's head and remove his communication earpiece. Taking his headphones out of his pocket and hooking it into the tape cassette, Blair listen to the beginning of the tape, making sure the volume was low. Unless Blair was discussing a new discovery his dictation voice was usually calm and level, similar to the tone of voice he uses when guiding Jim. This tape was no exception. It tended to drone on while examining the controlling aspect of his subject matter. He slipped the headphones over Jim's ears and said a silent prayer.

After five minutes and no discernible response from Jim, Blair knew he had to try something different. *Told Simon to trust me. Well Sandburg, where's the inspiration?* Blair tried to adjust his position. Right now he was pretty well jammed in and could only imagine what Jim would think if he came out of his zone. Trying to slide back down he pushed against the walls of the ductwork with both hands. One hand slipped smacking into Jim. *Sorry about that Jim. Not that I wouldn't want to smack some sense into you or would that be out of you? Come on Sandburg, think!*

Blair picked up Jim's arm to move it. His hand slid down his partner's wrist. The warmth of Jim's hand stirred a memory. How many times had Jim held his hand in the hospital? Countless. Jim didn't think Blair knew about it. Holding his hand only when Blair was unconscious or asleep. Blair caught him several times doing it and would feign sleep knowing the man would be embarrassed if caught. The more Blair thought about it, the more he realized that Jim wasn't actually holding his hand, but was wrapping his hand around Blair's wrist placing one or two fingers on the pulse point. Blair had always wanted to ask the man why he did that. Jim could easily listen to his heartbeat. Maybe Jim just needed a physical connection, the feel of the blood pulsing through the vein. Blair placed Jim's hand around his wrist. Perhaps such a connection could be established now. Maybe this along with the tape recorder will be enough. *Come on Jim. We're running out of time and I'm running out of solutions.*

Interrupting Blair's silent plea, Simon's voice came booming across Blair's earpiece. "Time check Sandburg. It's 4:45. You have five more minutes and then you have to get out. The Swat team is in position to move in at 4:55."

*Gee Simon, give someone a heart attack.* Blair had been concentrating so hard on Jim that Simon's voice had startled him. The young man took deep breath trying to slow his heart hammering in his chest.

Jim had felt pretty good using his senses. He carefully extended his sight to piggyback on his sense of smell. He quickly found the first three bombs leaving them in Joel's and the bomb squad's hands to defuse. His sense of smell told him that another bomb was in the ventilation system.

After telling Joel where he was heading and viewing the layout of the third floor, he climbed into the ductwork from the storage room. As he proceeded down the shaft he was sure the other device was close to the end, either near or at the office where the hostages were being held. He relayed that information to Simon. As he felt he was closing in on the bomb, he caught another whiff of C4. Passing the grillwork to the second to the last office, he was sure the odor came from that room. Extending his sight he scanned the room. Seeing nothing and yet his sense of smell told him the bomb was nearby, he extended his sight farther. Noticing the office door partially opened, he could see into the hallway. Zeroing in on the hallway with his sight, he saw a decorative plant sitting on a table. Behind the plant was a red blinking light. The light pulsed and filled his screen of vision. It became all encompassing. It happened so quickly, Jim wasn't even aware that he had zoned.

Now something else was trying to intrude. A voice he should recognize and yet it was different, mechanical in nature. It was not enough to change his focus from the light. And then suddenly he felt the connection. Something he was so familiar with, the pulse of his guide. It was thundering, signaling that his guide was in danger.

Jim snapped out of his trance expecting to see Blair in jeopardy. Instead he was greeted with a voice saying, "the vast numbers of house rules only serve to increase his control over his environment, most of which are necessary due to his heightened senses. For instance, due to his enhanced hearing one could reasonably justify the rule for no flushing of the toilet after 10 PM. Or because of his heightened sense of smell, one could --"

"What the?" Confused at first, Jim realized he was listening to a tape. Ripping off the headset, he groaned when he saw Blair at his feet. *Must have zoned big time.* The current situation came back in a flood of memories. The hostages! The bombs! Blair pointed to his earpiece. Jim replaced his.

"Simon?" Jim questioned.

There was a gasp. Simon had given up hope on hearing Jim's voice again. "Jim, thank god. The two of you need to get out now. It's 4:50. You have five minutes before the Swat team move in."

"Wait. I know where the bombs are. There's one in the hallway, in a plant outside the second to the last office to the end. The other bomb is directly in front of me, about 25 feet away."

Simon sent the bomb squad to the location and confirmed to Jim that Joel was available if Jim needed any help defusing the last bomb.

Jim looked at Blair. "I'm not sure whose idea or fault it is that you are here, but you're to head back now." Blair just shook his head. Jim sighed. There was no time for discussion so he scooted down the shaft, locating the bomb. It had been placed in the ductwork right next to the grill opening to the office where the hostages were being held.

"Joel, I have the bomb. There are three wires leading from the timer. It looks the same as the first three bombs that we found."

"Okay Jim. What you need to do is cut the blue wire first and then cut the red wire. Do not touch the yellow wire," Joel instructed.

"Blue then red. Got them both. Now what?"

"Now you'll leave it for the bomb squad to pick up and get out of there."

Jim glanced down at his watch. It was 4:54, time to move it. He signaled to Blair to head back when a frantic voice caught his attention.

"You think you can just let someone go and not pay for it. I worked for this company for 15 years. Without me this company wouldn't have made it past it' s first year. Well, you wanted to start the fiscal year off with a bang. I got a big one just for you."

Jim could see Coleman through the grillwork. The guy had a wild look in his eyes. He could see Coleman pushing a button on an object he was holding in his hand. In the other hand was a gun. The man was surprised when nothing happened. He jabbed the button a few more time before giving up. He turned his gun toward the ventilation system. *What was going on?*

"We have a problem Simon. Coleman just tried to detonate the bombs. He's not too happy. I'm going in."

As Jim made his move, he heard Simon over his earpiece ordering everyone to move in. What happened next was almost instantaneous. Coleman fired at the bomb hoping to set it off. Jim kicked off the grill sending it flying into Coleman and the Swat team shot several teargas pellets through the office windows before crashing through the office door.

Simon was one of the first ones in. As the swat team evacuated the hostages, Simon found Coleman unconscious on the floor with Jim nearby coughing, tears streaming done his face. Handing a spare mask to Jim, the detective quickly placed it on. Trying to dial down the effect of the teargas, Jim glanced back to the ventilation system. Some of the gas was drifting into the system. *Did Blair get out in time?* Jim felt panic rise in his chest as he extended his senses. He could hear Blair's heart rate pounding, his guide struggling to breathe. Pulling a chair over, he climbed back into the system.

Blair had started to head back when he heard Jim kick off the grill. Jim had just disappeared from the opening at the same time a shot rang out. Concerned, Blair changed directions back to where he last saw Jim. He managed to cover only a few feet before running into the teargas. Trying to scramble away, it took just a few seconds before he felt the effects of the gas. Tears welled up in his eyes, his throat constricted and burned as he began to cough. He felt like he was choking and noticed he was expelling bright red blood from his mouth. No longer able to see which direction to go, Blair huddled on the floor of the shaft, wrapping his arms around his knees. He desperately wanted to shout out for Jim. Coughing even more, he was now finding it difficult to breathe. He focused on the searing pain as he coughed, afraid that if he fell unconscious he would drown in his on blood.

About 20 feet into the shaft, Jim found the hunched up body of his guide.

"Blair!" Jim shouted. He took his mask off and placed it over Blair's face. Dialing down his senses even more to stall the effect of the gas, he dragged Blair back to the opening. Climbing down, he pulled Blair out and handed him to Simon. Simon carried the limp body of the observer to the third floor lobby with Jim staggering after him.

"Medic," Simon yelled laying the young man carefully on the floor.

"Sit him up," Jim coughed, wiping the tears from his eyes. Fortunately the effect of teargas dissipated quickly, even more so for a sentinel. "He's bleeding -- tonsils," Jim gasped.

As Simon leaned Blair against the wall a paramedic came over. Jim quickly informed the man as to his partner's recent surgery, his doctor and suspected problem.

Jim rubbed his eyes trying to rid the last effect of the teargas. Through watery eyes, Jim watched as the medics did their job. Blair, although unconscious, seemed to be stabilizing. *How did this all happen?* Jim sought out Simon. The adrenaline high now subsiding was being replaced with anger.

"What is Sandburg doing here?" Jim wanted to know.

"I sent for him. I didn't have a choice. No one could reach you." Simon knew Jim was angry. It was anger well justified. Hell, he would be angry if someone else had pulled the same stunt. "Once here, well you know how persuasive Sandburg is. He was the only one who could help you -- and it worked."

"At what cost, Simon?" Jim didn't need an answer. Hell, the whole mess was his fault. He was the one who lost control of his senses and zoned. If it wasn't for Blair, who knows what would have happened. Cascade Tower would have been blown half away with at least seven dead, including one sentinel. Jim internalized the anger, directing it toward the one person to blame -- himself.

Simon, noticing the shift in Jim's anger, placed his arm around the man's shoulder. "It's not your fault, Jim. It's not anybody's fault." Jim shot Simon a look of disbelief.

One of the medics came up to Jim. "We're ready to transport. We contacted Dr. Walker at the hospital and he'll be waiting when we arrive," Jim thanked the man for the information.

There was no time for a guilt trip now, there were other concerns at hand. Simon motioned to Jim. "Come on. I'll drive to the hospital."

The next day...

Blair sat up in the hospital bed wondering if he would get out of this place today. He hoped so. Lately he had seen way too much of the inside of a hospital. Jim entered carrying a bag with Blair's clothes.

"So any news yet?"

Blair just shook his head. Before Jim could speak again, in entered Dr. Walker.

"So Blair, not that I don't enjoy seeing you but let's see if we can stretch out the visits this time," the doctor remarked. "Now do you know what I have in my hands? Your discharge instructions." Blair's face lit up; he flashed a smile over to Jim. Jim just had to chuckle, the kid looked like he was bouncing even while sitting on the bed.

The doctor looked at the two of them. "I'm glad the two of you are so amused. However, this time I am making sure you both understand the importance of these instructions. We don't want a repeat of yesterday. Do you realize how rare it is for a patient who had a tonsillectomy to have bleeding severe enough to require a trip to the emergency room? Let me tell you that only about 2% of the patients need to return to the emergency room and of these people, only one-half will need to go back into the operating room to control the bleeding. First time ever I had to take a patient back into surgery after a tonsillectomy. Of course, it was the first time ever I had a patient completely disregard every instruction given which may explain why." He shot a stern glance at Blair. "Now I'm going to read each instruction and provide an explanation. Instruction number one..."

Blair rolled his eyes and drew his covers up. *Looks like it's going to be a long afternoon. Sounds like one of my professors. Okay class, everyone may pick up their number 2 pencil and begin.*

"Mr. Sandburg, are you paying attention?" the doctor interjected. Blair grinned sheepishly looking both at the doctor and Jim. *Better not piss off the doctor or I'm never getting out of here. Jim, I hope you're taking notes.*

Later on the same day...

"So you got all those instructions memorized Chief?" Jim dropped the bag he was carrying on to the hospital bed. Blair, not responding, began to tear through the bag pulling out his sweats. He was getting out of here. Jim walked over to the counter and scooped up the Get Well cards sitting on top.

"Oh, before I forget, this came for you." Jim tossed an envelope onto the bed.

Blair stopped getting dressed and ripped the envelope opened. He pulled out a Thank-you card. Opening the card, he saw that Officer Martin had signed it. Blair shot Jim a puzzled look. Why would Officer Martin be sending him a Thank-you card?

"By the way, did I mentioned that there was another office pool at work." Jim walked over to look out the window. "It was about you."

Blair stared at Jim, throwing his hands up into the air as if saying "Now What?"

"Seems they were taking bets on when you would be coming back to work either officially or unofficially."

Blair just rolled his eyes. *You would think some of the officer's would have better things to do with their time.*

"Bet you'll never guess who won?" Jim asked with a wicked smile.

~ End ~