by Francesca

Disclaimers: Nothing's mine but the words; everything else belongs to Pet Fly. No infringement is intended, and I'm not makin' a dime. (Who needs money when you've got love?) (Well, okay, but I'm still not making any money!) Please go away if you're under 18!

Summary: Jim loses his senses and angst abounds.

Warnings: None. Maybe language. I've got a fairly foul mouth, sorry.

Notes: Not in the nature series! A short palate cleanser. Still want feedback, though! (And so what's new with y'all?)

"What do you mean, gone?"

"It's gone, Sandburg, OK? G-O-N-E. Gone! I can't help it!"

"Are you sure, Jim?" asked Blair Sandburg, eyes hopeful, pleading. "You haven't been freaking out about it, have you? You haven't had any talks with your spirit animal or anything?"

"Sandburg, I'd've noticed, okay?" said Jim Ellison. "I'm telling you, I didn't do anything."

"It's just that it goes away when you're fighting it — " said Blair, hands flying in frantic explanation.

"I haven't been fighting it," said Jim. "I've been fine with it. I've been good with it, in fact," he added. "It's been really good."

"Oh God," said Blair, sinking down on the sofa. "I don't believe it. This can't be happening. We just got it worked out."

"Blair, I'm really sorry," said Jim, and the look at his face told Blair that he was. "How do you think I feel?" he asked.

"Relieved, I should think," muttered Sandburg.

"You'd think so," said Jim, shaking his head. "But I don't. I feel — I don't know, like I did something wrong."

"Oh, I'm sure you didn't," said Blair, looking up with sincere eyes. "You've been great," he said and snapped his mouth shut, hating his own inadvertent use of the past tense.

Jim shrugged and went to the balcony doors, stared out across the city. "Maybe," he answered softly. "I probably could have done better. I did try."

"Look, maybe there's some kind of time limit on it," said Blair weakly. "Or maybe you're sick," he added more eagerly. "This could be, like, a cold in your senses — "

"Or maybe I'm just too old," said Jim, turning and meeting his eyes. "Maybe I discovered my senses too late. I'm practically dead in some cultures' lifespans." His lips twisted wryly. "Maybe, if we were in a tribe, it'd be time for a younger guy to step in. A new Sentinel in town."

"You're not old, Jim," said Blair emphatically, rising suddenly to his feet. "You're — well, you're just not."

"All right, all right," said Jim, letting go of the point and turning away again.

Blair considered Jim's back for a moment and then whispered furiously, in a well-practiced voice, "Jim, you sonofabitch bastard — you're not faking this, are you?" and then he felt the blood drain from his face when Jim didn't move, didn't respond at all.

When Jim finally sighed and turned toward the kitchen, he stopped short as he saw Blair's pale, stunned face.

"Are you all right?" he asked, concern creasing his fine features, and Blair nodded mutely. "Blair, I'm really, really sorry," he said. "I just thought you had to know."

"When did you notice it?" asked Blair tightly.

"About a week ago," Jim admitted, going to the fridge and pulling out a beer.

"A week!" exploded Blair. "A week!? Why didn't you tell me — that's what I'm for, for God's sake!"

"Because I knew, all right!" yelled Jim. "I knew — I knew right away that it wasn't like the other times. I waited a week. I hoped I was wrong." He sighed, gestured with the bottle as if to say, "Do you want one?" Blair shook his head no, and sat down, head in hands.

"You're sure."

"I'm sure," said Jim softly. "You said you had enough for your dissertation — "

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah," said Blair. Jim drank his beer and watched Blair mull it over.

"Look, I need some time to get my head around this, okay?" Blair said finally. "Is it all right with you if we...you know, sort of leave things as they are for the moment while I work some things out?"

"Jesus, Sandburg, I'm not going to throw you out on the street," said Jim, genuinely shocked. "I mean, it's not like the last three years never happened. And I — well, you know, the room's there," he said, gesturing to it vaguely, "and I'm used to having a roommate now, and you make better coffee than I do, anyway." This brought a small smile to Blair's lips. "You stay as long as you like, okay? We're still friends, right?"

"Yeah," said Blair, looking up. "We're friends. God, I'm so depressed," he said, falling over sideways on the sofa.

"Well, what about me?" asked Jim, sitting in a chair opposite. "I mean, I don't think I like being ordinary, all of a sudden. I feel like I've been expelled," he added.

"Oh, man!" moaned Blair.

"But all right," said Jim, suddenly, "it just can't be the be-all and end-all. There'll be a bright side. Has to be. We'll get our lives back, for one."

"Uh-huh," said Blair expressionlessly.

"We don't have to be slaves to it anymore. Think about that."

"Yeah," said Blair dully. "We're free."

He didn't smile. He hadn't smiled. Not for days. Not since then. "Hell," Jim Ellison thought to himself, "if I'd known that that was going to be the last one, I'd have marked it on my calendar. The Last Time Blair Sandburg Smiled."

Everyone had noticed that there was something wrong. The detectives in Major Crimes had quietly brought over cups of coffee, left candy bars on Blair's desk. "It's just some bug," Sandburg would explain flatly, and certainly that did explain his lusterless eyes, his slow, exhausted movements.

As days passed with no noticeable sign of improvement, Simon Banks took Blair aside and kindly suggested that he take a few days off and rest up, really beat back whatever bug had got him.

And so Blair had stopped coming to the station.

As if he had forgotten that the "bug" was an obfuscation, Blair put himself to bed and didn't get up. Jim peeked into his room when he left for work, when he came home from work, and it seemed that Blair was in almost exactly the same position: curled up, unconscious, under a mass of blankets. It was if he had decided to catch up on three years' worth of sleep all at once: the bubbling well of activity had ceased bubbling.

They exchanged brief words when Sandburg occasionally emerged to use the bathroom, or to get a glass of water, scratching at his unshaven face, his hair tangled and unkempt. Ironically, considering that Blair was home all the time, they barely saw each other; Jim spent nights watching television or reading, occasionally glancing up at the closed door behind which Sandburg slept. Jim steeled himself, told himself he had to wait it out. Told himself that Sandburg was a grown man. That he had to pull himself out of it. That he had to put his own life back together and decide what he wanted to do. Truth be told, he was hurt at Blair's withdrawal: now that Jim wasn't a Sentinel, did Blair have nothing to say to him? No reason to wake up?

And then one day when Jim was eating breakfast he looked over at the other side of the table where Blair had left his laptop and noticed that there was a layer of dust on the computer, and he was seized with sudden fear, and before he could tell himself that it was none of his business he was out of his chair and had burst into Blair's bedroom.

"All right, Sandburg!" he yelled, banging hard on Blair's headboard. "This is a goddamn intervention. This is your wake-up call, okay? Get the fuck out of bed."

"Go away, Jim," said Blair, rolling over. "I don't want to wake up."

"You have to wake up," said Jim, grabbing at the bedclothes and pulling them away from Blair's body. "You have to get your life jump-started again."

"What's the hurry?" asked Blair angrily, sitting up. "What's the goddamn rush?" His eyes were blazing, and Jim was taken aback. "You want me to go? I'll go soon enough. Borneo. Bangladesh. Baguio. My real life." His chest had tightened and his chest heaved as sucked desperately for air.

"I didn't say — " said Jim.

"For now, just leave me the fuck alone," choked Blair.

"This has gone too far," said Jim, softly.

"Jim, don't you understand?" said Blair, and then he suddenly ground the heels of his hands into his eyes. "It's inexcusable, now."

Jim shook his head helplessly. "You're not making sense," he said tensely, sitting down on the bed.

"Literally, Jim," said Blair, forcing the words out between deep, gasping breaths. "Literally." <gasp> "No." <gasp> "Excuse."

"Here, drink this," said Jim, nervously reaching for the glass of water on Blair's bedside table, afraid Blair was having some kind of asthma attack.

"You moron!" said Blair, pushing the glass away. "Stupid." <gasp> "Fucking." <gasp> "Moron. Hate you," he said, inhaling violently. "Love you," he said. "No excuse," he said. "To touch," he said and he reached out blindly and touched Jim Ellison's face as he had after so many zone-outs, ran his hands over Jim's hair, caressed his face in a way that was altogether familiar and deeply missed.

"You never needed an excuse," murmured Jim urgently, earnestly, covering Blair's hands with his own. "You never needed an excuse. I'm so sorry. I had to know. I had to know. Please forgive me, I had to know," and as he pulled Sandburg close and kissed him he could hear the roar of a distant storm approaching and hear the patter of rain on faraway roofs, and the feel of Blair's tears on his face was like the rain and he tasted like rain and Jim deepened the kiss, wanting to get wet, wet, wet.  

The End