"Are you sure this isn't the flu?" Jim moaned as he flung an arm over his aching eyes.
"Positive," Blair said. "Doc said this is just a bad cold. You'll be okay in a few days."
Jim snorted. "That doc ought to be shot," he growled. "He doesn't know what he's talkin' about. This is definitely the flu."
"Oh, ho," Blair chuckled. "Grumpy Sentinel time. Lovely. Now you get your behind up those stairs and into bed."
"Or what?" Jim growled.
"Don't start, man. Get moving."
He moved -- but he growled all the way.
Blair closed the door of the Loft quietly and headed to his car.
Once there, he opened his cell and dialed Simon's number. After two rings, a gently accented voice came on. "Banks residence."
Blair blinked in pure shock. "Rafe?What are you doing there?"
"Oh, didn't Simon tell you? I live here now! We're lovers!"
Suddenly in the background came a roared, "GIVE ME THAT PHONE!"
Rafe's laughter over the phone lines clinched it. Blair moaned and grabbed the bridge of his nose in a "give me strength" gesture he'd picked up from Jim.
Simon's voice now, flustered. "G-d, Sandburg, I'm sorry -- Rafe pulled that on Daryl last night, spent two whole hours trying to straighten it out --"
"Don't worry about it, Simon. I've been the butt of his jokes way too many times to fall for his infamous warped sense of humour now. I need your help right now, okay?"
"What do you need, Sandburg?"
"Jim's got a really bad cold and he's in full Grumpy Sentinel mode. I was wondering if you could come over and keep an eye on him --- so to speak?"
Simon chuckled. "Don't worry about it, Sandburg. I get what you mean. We'll be over soon as we can."
"Thanks, man, I appreciate it. I'm gonna head on over to the store and park. I need to de-stress. The spare key's under the --"
"I've got the spare you made me. Go on. We'll be there soon."
"Thanks, Simon. I really appreciate this."
Simon hung up the phone and turned around. "Lovers?"
Rafe was chuckling as he sagged onto the couch. "I... I'm sorry, Si-Simon.... I c-c-couldn't help it..."
Simon growled and felt his way to the kitchen. "I swear, sometimes I want to wring your neck!"
"Aw, it was only a joke!"
"A bad one, Michael! A very very bad one and one I don't want repeated, got it?"
"Got it!" Rafe sighed. "Sheesh!"
"Anyhow, grab the car keys....we're going to the Loft. Jim's got a case of the sicks and Blair has to get away for awhile."
"Ah, we've been tapped to baby-sit?"
Simon snorted. "Basically."
Rafe grabbed his coat and keys. "Oh this ought to be interesting."
"What are you talking about?"
"A Pseudo-Sentinel babysitting a Sentinel."
"Your point?" Simon sounded weary now.
Rafe laid a hand on his shoulder. "Simon... Jim may be able to sense the-- difference -- your blindness made in you. If he does, we're going to have to tell him."
"Michael, I don't want him to know!"
"I know that. You know that. But I don't think you were thinking of it when you agreed to go over there."
Simon sighed and laid a hand on his nose. "....you're right.... " He straightened and squared his shoulders. "So we go over there. And hope for the best."
Jim's eyes flew open and he sat straight up in bed. Something was.... off.... but he couldn't figure out what!
From downstairs, he heard Rafe's voice...and Simon's voice. Blair's voice was absent... he must have gone out.
Rafe and Simon. Two of his best friends.
Then why did it feel like danger was waiting?
Simon grabbed Rafe's arm. "He's coming," he whispered very softly.
Reading his lips, Rafe nodded and turned toward the stairs, where Jim was slowly coming down, bleary-eyed and red-nosed. "Blair was right," he told Jim as he moved closer. "You're sick all right."
Jim shot him a look designed to kill as he slowly advanced on Simon. Simon stood there, head cocked slightly, listening to him come. A smile touched his lips. "How're you feeling, Jim?"
"Who are you?" Jim demanded. "What've you done with Simon?"
Silence. Then Simon said, "Jim... it is Simon..."
"No you're not!" He swayed and grabbed onto the couch. "You're.... like...."
Simon held up a hand. "Jim, listen to my voice. Listen to my heart. Who am I?"
After a moment, the whisper came. "S...Simon.....b-b-but I'm feeling...."
"Like you're in the presence of another Sentinel," Simon finished. "A threat to your territory."
Rafe told Simon of Jim's nod.
Simon nodded as well and went on, "Cascade is your territory! Mine is my house, my son. I am not here to take your territory. I'm here..." Give me the words, please give me the words.... "I'm here to help. I have three heightened. I'm blind...I'm not a full Sentinel. I donít want to be a full Sentinel! Once my blindness eases, the heightened senses will vanish. I'll be just plain old Simon again."
Jim nodded again, then asked in a clipped voice, "How did this happen?"
"My blindness. We think it triggered enhanced senses to make up for the loss of one."
Jim stared unashamedly, then he shook his head. "But then how do you account for the Zone you had in the Bank? That was before you lost your sight!"
"That's the only part of this we can't account for," Rafe said, moving to stand beside Simon. "If Blair were here, I bet he'd ---"
"No," Simon said. "I do not want Sandburg finding out about me!"
"But why?" Rafe asked. "He knows about what Jim is, what you've become -- maybe he can help..."
"I agree with Simon," Jim said. "I don't want him knowing either."
"And I repeat...why?"
"Sensory tests," Jim said. "Very unpleasant things."
Simon imagined the tests he'd heard Blair and Jim discussed, and shivered in spite of himself. Rafe chuckled at the sight.
"So where is Sandburg?" Jim asked, all business again -- though Rafe noted he stayed a small distance away from Simon.
"To the store and the park is what he told me," Simon said.
"That would fit -- we do need groceries and he can regroup best at the park...." Jim sighed and sank into the chair.
"You're not feeling well," Rafe said and it was not a question.
"I'm fine." His cell phone chirped. "Ellison."
He jumped to his feet with a curse and slammed it shut. "That was Joel...they found Blair's abandoned car in a ditch between here and the park!"
"No sign of him?" Simon asked.
"None." Jim grabbed for his jacket.
"We're coming with you."
Simon drew himself up to his full height. "Yes. Michael can keep both of us grounded... and from the way you sound, your smell is out. Your others may be muted by your illness as well. I can't see, but I am able to use my other senses. Let me help, Jim."
The sedan pulled up to the site of the abandoned car. Rafe shut off the engine and chuckled. "Simon?"
"I hear it," Simon said with a sound midway between a chuckle and a sigh. He reached behind the seat and felt for Jim's knee. Finding it, he gave it a sharp rap with his knuckles.
The annoying rumble died in a literal snort as Jim woke up. Rafe turned and asked, "Jim, are you sure you're up to this? I mean, if you're so sick you fall asleep from the Loft to here --"
"I'm fine," Jim said, glaring at the younger man. "I have to do this."
Simon opened his mouth to point out that Jim was sick and had no real business being out here in the investigation. Then he remembered Jim's Sentinel abilities and how essential Sandburg was to keeping him focused. He shut his mouth with a snap as something else intruded on his consciousness.
Brown did a good job as the pseudo-Sentinel's pseudo-guide --- for all of about 20 minutes. Then Rafe had returned and had all but fired Brown, doing it all himself! Simon now had a much better understanding of the way Blair and Jim worked.
"I understand," he whispered Sentinel-soft. "It's a Sentinel/Guide thing." He felt Jim's eyes upon him and smiled as he finished in the same soft voice, "Right now, if something were to happen to Michael ---"
Jim squeezed his shoulder and whispered, equally soft, "You do understand."
Simon nodded then said, in a normal voice, "Let's get started. Michael, keep us both grounded. Jim, show me how to do this." He reached up and squeezed the wrist of the hand that held his shoulder. "We'll find him, Jim. I swear it."
Joel sighed as the trio approached him, Rafe guiding Simon. "Simon--- I'm surprised to see you here."
Before Simon could reply, Jim said flatly, "Joel, I want him here. End of discussion. What have we got?"
Knowing from experience it was useless to argue with Jim, Joel sighed and turned back to the car. "There's no sign of foul play.... it's as if he just --- vanished into thin air.
"Joel," Jim said firmly, "Could you let us go over it?"
Joel looked at him for a moment, then said levelly, "I need to go check in with Rhonda -- see if I have any messages or something." He walked to his car.
Rafe sighed. "Okay, " he said. "Let's get to this."
Jim stepped forward. Rafe followed, one hand on Jim's arm, the other on Simon's. Jim scanned the car, then took a deep breath. "Damn," he sighed. "My smell is out."
Simon nodded. He took a deep breath. "There's a... sharp, herbal scent."
Jim shot him a surprised look. "Like... sandalwood?" Jim asked.
"Almost...but a slight bit more...spicy."
"That's Blair's scent," Jim said, a tad more sharply than he'd intended to.
Rafe, sensing the tension between them, squeezed Jim's arm. He moved his hand to Simon's shoulder. "Can you filter it out --- see if you can find other scents?"
"I'll...try..." Simon fell silent, closing useless eyes and letting the scents fill his senses. There were so many....so rich...how did Jim do this....
And Jim took an involuntary step backward as, before his eyes, Simon Zoned.
Before Jim could say or do anything but gape, Rafe released him and turned all his attention to Simon. "Okay, you," he said, laying the hand that was not already on Simon's shoulder on his cheek. "Enough of this. We need you here, so come on back."
Simon blinked slowly, and a ghost of a frown started to form before his face went back into blankness.
Rafe took a deep breath and leaned closer, lowering his voice to an accented velvet purr. "Simon... Simon, enough. We need you to come back now. Come on, Simon. It's time. come on back."
Once more, he blinked. This time his blind eyes narrowed in a frown as he came out of it. "...what...."
Rafe smiled, letting him hear it in his voice. "You Zoned."
"Not again..." he groaned.
Jim shook himself out of the Zone he was threatening to slide into. "Rafe," he gasped, "you've been watching Sandburg, haven't you?"
For answer, Rafe turned the smile on him. He then returned his attention to Simon. Not once breaking physical contact, he asked, "Did you find anything?"
After a moment, Simon whispered, "Old Spice."
"Old Spice?" Jim asked, stepping up to him. "But Blair doesn't w---
"Hey," came a familiar voice from behind them. "What in the world..."
"BLAIR!" they gasped. Jim whirled and grabbed his shoulders, extending his senses to check him out. "Are you hurt? What happened?"
"What do you mean what happened? It was such a nice day I parked and decided to walk! Why are Simon and Rafe here? What's -- MY CAR!" Blair dashed over to it.
"Anything missing?" Rafe moved to Blair's side.
Blair did a double-take as he looked at Rafe. Something seemed a little....different.... about the detective, but he couldn't put his finger on just what ....
"Blair," Rafe said gently. "Is anything missing?"
He turned back to his car. "Uuuuhhh.....no, looks like everything's intact -- except for bein' in the ditch..." He opened the glove box. "Well, almost everything. My laptop's here, my spare watch is here -- but the money's gone from my glove box."
"Check your tires," Jim and Simon said together.
Frowning, Blair did. "Aw, man..." he whined. "All four've been punctured! This car's not goin' anywhere for awhile!" He sounded thoroughly disgusted.
Rafe moved back to Simon's side. "You heard the slow leak," he whispered.
Though it had not been a question, Simon nodded. "So did Jim." He shivered. "This is real, isn't it, Michael? I ... I really can...can..."
Rafe led him back to the sedan. After getting Simon into the front seat, he slid into the driver's seat. Only then did he answer, "Yes, Simon. You really can. And it would appear that whatever tapped you to be this way tapped me to be your Guide. I just hope I can be a ---" He broke off, sensing something -- off. "Simon?"
Turning to Simon, he saw the blind pseudo-Sentinel in the grip of another Zone. "Oh, no!" Adding to the situation he saw Blair and Jim moving as if they were finishing their scan of the Volvo.
"Simon, you have got to come back!" Rafe gasped. Then he used gentle words and a gentle touch to coax Simon back from the seductive sensory drift.
He succeeded seconds before Blair and Jim arrived at the car. Without a word to them about what had happened, he drove them to the Loft.
Jim and Simon talked for a few moments, then they were interrupted by Blair's chuckle. "Jim, look."
The events of the day, what Jim recognised as the strain of seriously Guiding for the first time, had caught up to Michael Rafe. He was curled up in the chair, sound asleep.
"Man," Blair whispered as he pulled a cover over Rafe and moved, yawning, to his own room. "What happened to him...?"
Jim shot Simon a look as he walked up the stairs and closed the door, shutting himself away from the blind pseudo-Sentinel taking up residence for the night on his couch. He knew much still had to be worked out, but right now he was just too tired and felt too bad to care. He surrendered readily to sleep, vowing that morning would bring the first of many talks with both Simon and Rafe, as well as the search for the Old Spice wearing perps who vandalized Blair's car.
Two Sentinels in Cascade -- on the same side this time, thank Heaven -- but still, much had to be worked out. Issues of territory and superiority still loomed. And there was still the issue of if -- and when -- to tell Blair.
This wasn't over. Not by a long shot.
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