The tiger was tired. He lay beside the stream, frustrated. Always frustrated.
The flap of wings sounded overhead. The falcon was coming in for a landing. It swooped down to meet the tiger ---
And bounced off of an invisible shield surrounding it. They could not connect.
The roar of the tiger and the cry of the hawk rang out in frustration.
It was supposed to be just a stakeout, Jim thought as he lay his forearm on the cool hospital window and rested his forehead on it, closing his eyes and letting out his breath in a long, slow sigh. Just a routine, normal, long and boring night. It wasn't supposed to end up like this.
"The things I do for you," Simon groused as he opened the passenger side door of his sedan.
"Thanks, man," Blair said, sliding into the back and grabbing the brown paper bag.
Jim grabbed the grease-stained white one was he slid into the front seat beside Simon. "Yeah," he agreed, "thanks. We were about to go crazy!"
"Y'know, Jim," Blair said around a mouthful of pud thai, waving chopsticks at Jim for emphasis, "if you wouldn't put all that artery-clogging junk into your system, you'd think clearer and wouldn't go so crazy!"
Simon chuckled as Jim rolled his eyes. "Are you two ever gonna give up the culinary bickering?"
"Nope," they chorused, making Simon chuckle again.
The good-natured ribbing and eating lasted another half-hour or so. Then Simon saw Jim sit up straight, his pupils dilating visibly. "Got something, Jim?"
"I think so," Jim said. "There's a woman leaving the brownstone." He described her and frowned. "Thing is -- no woman of that description entered the building!" His pupils blew even more. "That's Sanderson! Let's roll!"
"Sanderson?" Simon gasped.
"How many women do you know with Adam's apples?" Jim snapped. "And she's got a blue eye and a brown one -- it's Sanderson, I'm sure of it!" He shot from the sedan, Blair and Simon in hot pursuit.
Sanderson, seeing his disguise had been shot, began to run as well. The footrace lasted a full ten minutes before Sanderson raced into a warehouse.
When the three caught up with him, he came back out of the warehouse with two cronies -- guns blasting.
The officers scrambled. Jim took a crony down and began to inch around the boxes and barrels piled up outside the warehouse to where Blair and Simon were both returning fire.
Jim smiled despite the situation. Blair was the easiest for him to track -- on top of his heartbeat, Jim could hear that the Detective Junior-Grade was chanting a Sentinel-soft mantra of "I hate guns, I hate guns, I hate guns..."
At last, the firefight ended. Both cronies lay wounded and Sanderson flung his hands up in surrender. The three made their way toward him from two different directions.
Jim picked up the rise in Sanderson's heartbeat an instant before he drew a hidden gun and squeezed off three shots in rapid-fire succession.
It happened too fast for Jim to do more than let out an anguished scream. Ten seconds and one well-placed bullet later, Sam Sanderson lay dead on the ground.
Tears ran down Jim's face. All three of Sanderson's bullets had hit a barrel between Blair and Simon.
Jim had seen both of their forms become obscured by a fireball.
Now, as he knelt half-zoned on the concrete walk in front of the warehouse, the only heartbeat his sensitized ears could hear was his own.
Jim squeezed his eyes shut, willing the memory of those few horrible seconds out of his mind. His own pounding heart had briefly obscured Blair and Simon's, and for a terrible moment he had thought they had died.
A faint smile touched his lips. When he'd caught their heartbeats, he'd snapped out of the half-zone and had not returned to it.
He was aware of the other man's presence the moment he walked into the room. With a sigh, Jim pulled away from the window and turned. "There's no change."
Blair blew the air out of his cheeks and both hands rose to cup his temples. "Oh, man, Jim...."
"Yeah," Jim sighed. He blinked and reached out, taking hold of a single curl and straightening it, then letting it bounce back. "Chief..."
"I know." Blair sighed. "They had to cut the burnt parts off." Another regretful sigh. "It had finally just grown out the way I liked it, too!"
Jim smiled slightly, recognising Blair's attempt to try to lighten the mood, even though he was just as worried.
The fireball had erupted between them as they had been walking. Blair's neck had sustained second degree burns, and he'd had to re-cut his singed hair. He also had bruises on his hands, knees, and face where he had met the ground rather forcefully. But Simon ----
Simon had taken the blast face first. They had yet to find his glasses. His face, hands and neck had taken second to third degree burns. His clothing protected him from more serious injury on the rest of his body. The doctors had induced coma till the worse of the burns -- those on his hands -- healed.
Blair gently fingered the blanket that covered Simon. "Any... any word on his eyes?"
Jim shook his head. "They're just repeating the same things -- he's been burned and they can't tell the extent till he wakes up." Jim sighed. "Any luck reaching Daryl?"
The curly head slowly shook. "His roommate said he thought he took Joan to Hawaii for her birthday --- but he couldn't remember the hotel or anything." He looked up at Jim. "He's getting to be about as hard to reach as Naomi!"
Jim rubbed his eyes. "Well, then..." he said resignedly. "I suppose it's only a matter of time."
Over the next three weeks, the men and women of Major Crimes sat in staggered shifts with their downed Captain. Joel took over as temporary Captain, repeatedly claiming loud and long that he couldn't wait to relinquish his position.
Rhonda looked up, pausing mid-sentence in reading to Simon. She smiled at Rafe and Brown before resuming reading.
When she finished the chapter, Rafe asked with a smile, "Perry Mason?"
Rhonda grinned and shrugged.
Brown chuckled. "I always liked the other attorney -- Hamilton Burger."
"Me, too," Rafe chuckled. "A lawyer named hamburger...."
Rhonda joined in the laughter as the doctor walked in. "Doctor Reynolds?"
Doctor Susan Reynolds smiled at them. "Why doesn't one of you go make a phone call --- I'm going to bring your Captain out of coma today."
Rhonda cheered and bolted for the door.
Rafe and Brown stood a respectful distance back as Reynolds injected a solution into Simon's IV. "There," she said. "He should recover consciousness within six hours."
"Thank you, Doc." It was Rafe who whispered what all of Major Crimes felt and would feel once Simon was awake.
Reynolds raised her eyes and locked them on Rafe's. "Don't thank me yet, Detective. There's still the matter of Captain Banks's eyesight."
"Is... Is there anything you can tell us?" Brown asked.
Reynolds sighed. "Keep in mind that we won't know for certain until he wakes up...."
"...but...." Rafe prodded, anxious to hear the diagnosis.
"But... as of right now... we're looking at a strong chance of... of..."
"Of?" they chorused.
Reynolds sighed once more. "Total blindness."
Jim and Blair raced down the hall to the waiting area. Bursting in, they ran right over to their friends. "He's awake!" Jim gasped, seeing the looks on their faces.
They nodded, then Megan moved to Blair. He held her tight and she whispered the news to him.
"....no...." he whispered.
"...no..." Jim whispered too, hearing it as well. He turned to Rafe. "Do they... do they think.. it's... it's permanent?"
Rafe shook his head. "They don't know," he whispered. "Right now, they're going on the assumption that it is."
Blair buried his head in Megan's shoulder and trembled. Jim leaned against the wall and put his head in his hands, trembling as well.
Alone in his room, alone in the darkness, Simon strained to hear something --- anything. Finally, his efforts were rewarded as he heard a faint voice from the hallway.
"...so what do we do now?" Blair.
"We take him home when Doc says we can." Jim.
"And we'll help him adjust to this." Rafe. "He isnot gonna be alone, no matter how long his blindness lasts."
"What ---" Megan sounded choked up -- they all did, but her voice was the most shaky. "What if it is... p-perm...."
Blair cut her off. "Then he'll have friends for life -- just like before."
"So...that's not changed a bit." Brown. "And we're all in agreement on it."
Murmurs of assent. Jim then said, "Well then -- that makes it unanimous."
Simon found the voices were getting softer. His ears were aching from the strain of listening.
Simon backed off and sighed. Then he began to shake. "....what...just...happened...here?"
Simon's white cane tapped as he explored the house he'd lived in since his marriage to Joan ---
A house that was suddenly alien to him.
He'd had blind friends before, but he'd never known how different life without a sense truly was. He had been completely unprepared for the unique mix of rigidity, creativity and flexible ingenuity living with blindness necessitated.
Slowly, Simon navigated his dark world, forever aware of his companion's sharp eyes on him. "You don't have to watch me like a hawk," he said.
A soft chuckle was his answer. "Sandburg would say the hawk is my spirit guide," Rafe chuckled.
"He would, too," Simon grinned. "Can make a cop outta him, but he'll always be the same Sandburg."
"Thank the heavens," Rafe said and Simon could hear the smile in his voice. There was a pause, then Rafe asked softly, "Have you told him?"
Simon stopped. "Told him what?"
A sigh. "Captain --- you handpicked us -- Brown, me, Megan -- cause we're the best. We figured out what Jim was weeks before that damnable news conference. Did you honestly think we'd miss how you're changing?"
Simon lowered his head. "I don't want Sandburg to know. I don't want Ellison to know."
"I won't tell." Rafe's voice drew closer. "How many?"
"I've only got four left." Simon felt for the couch and sank onto it. "Hearing and smell so far --- and those aren't in Ellison's league by any means!"
"But still heightened."
Simon nodded. "Though I'm assuming it's from the blindness. Once I recover, everything will be normal again." I hope.
"So till then, you're sort of a... a pseudo-Sentinel." Rafe grinned again.
So did Simon, hearing it in his voice. "Yeah -- a pseudo-Sentinel."
Rafe sat beside him. "Sandburg said you zoned in the bank a few months ago."
"Sandburg talks too damn much," Simon growled.
"No -- hear me out!" Rafe went on. "You had a zone-out. Then you lost your sight --"
"Temporarily," Simon interjected.
"And now your other senses are heightening," Rafe finished. "What's the term Sandburg and Ellison use between themselves for what Sandburg does --- Guide?"
Simon nodded. "Your point?"
"Even a pseudo-Sentinel needs a Guide," Rafe said calmly.
"But I don't want Sandburg to know," Simon protested, frowning.
"I don't mean Sandburg," Rafe said. He laid a hand on Simon's shoulder.
Instantly, the dark man's breathing calmed. "You," he gasped, realizing what had just happened.
"Me," Rafe agreed. "I've watched Sandburg -- studied him. I can do this for as long as you need me to."
"But... what about --"
"Brown will understand," Rafe assured him. "Matter of fact -- I think he'll help."
And both smiled as the roar of a tiger and the cry of a hawk rang out in triumph.
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