Sentinel Fan Fiction Page || Fanfic -- Everyday Life Series

Summary: A poker game set after Survival. Originally published in Sentry Duty 2, available at Agent With Style.

Home Comforts
by Becky
May 1998

"Your move, Simon."

"Hush. I'm thinking here."

Brown laughed. "Think all you want, Simon. I don't think this is your hand."

Simon lifted his eyes from his cards briefly, pulling the unlit cigar from his mouth for a second. "Didn't I just tell you to be quiet? I'm sure I said something." He shifted to look at another of the men sitting at the table. "Didn't I say something, Jim?"

Jim shrugged, his lips twitching into a grin. "If you say did, sir, then you must have."

Simon grunted and went back to his cards, muttering about detectives and their collective hearing problem. Jim laughed softly at the irony of Simon saying that in his presence. Leaning back in the kitchen table chair, he glanced over briefly at the couch, where his partner was frowning and muttering to himself as he graded papers. Every so often a cough or sniffle would intrude into his grading, but neither seemed to be slowing him down any.

Kid's gonna make himself more sick if he doesn't give it a rest pretty soon.

His eyes went back to the others at the table -- Simon, Brown, Rafe, and Joel. Normally Blair would join them as well in these Saturday evening poker games, but he had a mound of papers he needed to grade for his classes and he was still recovering from being sick. And so, warmly ensconced on the couch in several layers of clothes, plus a throw blanket across his legs, Blair sat grading papers. A half-full warm mug of herbal tea sat on the table next to several books and a few stacks of papers.

At first, when Blair remembered the weekly game was that evening, he had planned to go to his office at the University and grade his papers. Jim had vetoed that suggestion before Blair had gotten past the first sentence. There was no way he was allowing Blair to go tromping through the cold night air to go sit in his office, at night, alone, while he was still sick. His partner hadn't been too pleased as Jim's refusal, but had given up quickly enough, rolling his eyes at Jim's by-now patent 'mother-henning'.

Knowing Sandburg, he would fallen asleep in the middle of grading anyway and then I'd still have to go pick him up. Why should I put myself through unnecessary worry? Here he'll stay warm and have all the comforts of home he needs to get better. Besides I know his leg is still bothering him.

Two weeks had passed since the debacle with Quinn, his friends, and Wade Rooker. Blair's leg had healed fine, but the residual aching had him hobbling and walking a bit slowly still. In addition, running through the woods in the rain after already being soaked from their jump off the cliffs above the river had given the younger man a nasty cold that had hung on for days and days. It had only been just in the last 24 hours that it had receded, leaving Blair to recoup his health and energy.

Like the kid needs any help in the energy department.

Jim had offered to either postpone the game or move it elsewhere, but Blair waved those ideas away immediately, not wanting to send Jim out of his own home. He told Jim he could easily grade papers in the loft, that the noise of the game wouldn't bother him at all. Of course, once Jim found out how much Blair needed to grade, how far behind he was because of their caseload at the station, well, guilt wasn't quite the word for it. So, for once, Jim decided not to say anything about the piles of papers strewn across coffee table, spilling onto the floor in some places. Blair worked better when he could spread his stuff out, see what he needed to do and what he had already done. The living room was the only place that Blair could actually do such a thing, so that's where he was.

Besides, this way I can keep an eye on him. Even if he doesn't like me doing it.

"Jim? Yo, Jim, man, it's your turn."

At Brown's voice, Jim turned quickly back to the game, abruptly realizing that the other men were all watching him watch Blair. The smirks on their faces told him that much. He also realized that he had no idea who played what last or what the bet currently was. Rafe, smiling and shaking his head, took pity on him and told him.

Joel laughed. "Should have made him wait longer. Not good for a man to be caught not paying attention during a poker game."

Rafe shrugged. "Figured he'd squirmed long enough." He lowered his voice and whispered loudly, "Besides, we're all doing better since Sandburg's not playing anyway. I was feeling in a generous mood."

Blair's congested voice floated over to them. "I heard that."

Brown laughed as he watched Rafe blush. Jim only chuckled, still staring at his poker hand, trying to decide what to do. Simon, whose back was to Blair, turned slightly and eyed the anthropologist for a moment, then turned back to the game. "I thought you were supposed to be grading papers, Sandburg."

Out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw that Blair didn't even look up, didn't even pause in his grading. "I am grading papers. You're just hearing things, Simon. Auditory hallucinations. Quite common, actually, among the more stressful occupations. Nothing to be concerned about though." Blair paused a moment, then added to his statement, almost as an afterthought. "Unless, of course, you start to hold conversations with these hallucinations. Then you have to worry."

The other four men at the table choked down laughter. Simon rolled his eyes. "Why did I even ask? I should know better by now. Auditory hallucinations. If I ever start hearing voices and it sounds like Sandburg, somebody please take away my gun. I'm liable to start shooting the walls or something in self-defense."

"Yes, sir, Captain, sir." Blair's voice again, sounding very cadet-like.

Simon whipped around to stare at the anthropologist. "Sandburg!"

Blair's head jerked up and he blinked owlishly and innocently at Simon from behind his glasses. "Yeah, Simon? What? Did I do something?"

Simon just stared at him, mouth working silently, then he grunted and turned back around, concentrating fixedly on his cards, chewing on his cigar. The others tried not to laugh too hard, but didn't have much success. Jim caught Blair's eyes as he started to smile, his eyes twinkling in amusement. Jim shook his head, grinning. Blair winked at him, then went back to his grading, a faint smile still playing on the edges of his lips.

Simon's gonna get you for that later, Chief.

He could almost hear his partner's jovial reply in his head, That's okay, Jim. Man, it was worth it just for the look on Simon's face. Classic. Chuckling softly, he set those thoughts aside and went back to concentrating on the poker. He had a fairly good hand and didn't want to lose it by letting his attention slip again.


Several hands later, Jim glanced back at the couch and found his partner slouched awkwardly against the arm of the couch, fast asleep, glasses slipping down his nose.

That cannot be comfortable.

He placed his cards face-down on the table. "Hold on a sec, here, guys. I think Sandburg is trying to do himself permanent damage."

Jim walked softly around to the front of the couch and carefully maneuvered Blair down flat on the couch, wary of Blair's sore leg. Grabbing a discarded throw pillow from the floor, he stuffed it underneath his partner's head. He removed Blair's glasses and laid them on the table, on top of the books where Blair would be sure to find them later. Then he shook out the blanket that had been across Blair's lap and laid it over him.

It wasn't until Jim was tucking the blanket around him that Blair stirred slightly, opening his eyes, trying to focus blearily. "Jim, wha ... ?"

Settling on the edge of the couch, Jim gently held down Blair's shoulders, talking quietly. "Blair, no, you stay here. Just rest for awhile. You're not gonna get well if you don't rest. Okay, kid?"

Blair blinked, then nodded, yawning once, ending with a soft cough. "Okay, Jim. Don't let me sleep too long. I really need to ..." He fell asleep in mid-sentence, eyelids fluttering closed as he snuggled down under the blanket.

Jim laid the palm of his hand on Blair's forehead, then nodded in satisfaction that Blair's temperature was fairly close to normal. Brushing away the loose curls from Blair's eyes, he sat a moment longer, shaking his head slightly.

Like I told you, Chief, you'd fall asleep halfway through grading those things. I was right about that. And I was right about the fact that you needed to stay here where I could keep an eye on you. Besides, isn't this more comfortable than sleeping at your desk?

Smiling, he stood up and found the other four men watching him intently. Stiffening instinctively in defense, he stayed where he was and narrowed his eyes, snapping out lowly, "What?"

No one said anything for a moment, a little surprised at Jim's abrupt tone of voice. Finally, Brown cleared his throat nervously, looking at the others before saying, "It's ... nothing, Jim, nothing at all. What say we get back to the game." He stared down at the cards in his hand, moving them around.

Rafe nudged him with an elbow. "Chicken."

Brown muttered at him, "I don't see you saying anything."

Rafe opened his mouth once, then closed it, realizing he didn't have an answer to that. Joel and Simon exchanged a quick look, both chuckling at the younger men. Simon turned to look at Jim, but he hadn't moved from his stance in front of the couch. And he wasn't laughing. Instead, he had folded his arms in front of him, looking decidedly cool.

Simon read the look in the detective's eyes quickly and said, "Jim, just calm down, we're not laughing at you." He threw a quick glance at the others. "Are we, men?"

Calmly, smiling softly, Joel answered for all of them. "No, we're not. In fact, we were simply watching one man take care of his partner, just as any of us would do. I'm sure you can understand that."

Jim didn't say anything for a long moment, just stared at them. Finally he shifted his gaze down to Blair, watching him roll over onto his side on the couch, moving the blanket with him. At he shifted, Blair's face creased with a brief pain when his sore leg protested, but he didn't wake, only settled back down into sleep as the pain faded away. Jim reached down and readjusted the blanket, pulling it over Blair's back so that he wouldn't get cold. After running a hand over Blair's arm once in an instinctive gesture of comfort, he straightened and met the others' eyes with a small, abashed smile. "Yeah."

Simon nodded. "Good. Now, are you gonna finish this game or stand there all night?"

Jim laughed and walked back over to the table, settling back into his chair. "Why, Captain, you're anxious. You must have a good hand or something."

Simon glared at him and Jim could just imagine the thoughts rolling around in his captain's mind about snoopy sentinels. He had to bite down on a laugh when he heard Simon's under-the-breath comment about Jim keeping his lie detector skills out of the game.

Sandburg's been talking to you again, I see. Wonder what else you know about these gifts of mine?

Shoving those questions aside for another day, Jim sat forward, a gleam in his eyes. "So, now that the kid's asleep, let's get down to business, shall we?"


Sometime later, the poker game finished, Brown, Rafe, and Joel all gone home, Jim and Simon cleaned up the empty bags of snacks and drink cans on the counters and table. Blair was still asleep on the couch, having barely moved, other than to roll over every now and then. Simon had just dropped the last can into the recycle bin when Blair started to cough. Jim paused in running a wet cloth over the table, watching his partner for a moment. But the coughing stopped and Blair didn't wake up, just murmured in his sleep and shifted under the blanket a little.

Simon walked over to the back of the couch and looked down at Blair, a concerned frown on his face. "You sure the kid's okay?"

Jim kept his eyes intent on finishing up the table, not wanting Simon to see the amusement in his eyes at Simon's almost paternal concern for Blair. "Yeah, he's fine. The worst of it is over. He's more tired now than anything, I think. Tired of being sick at the least. And tired of his leg hurting. Give him another week and it won't even seem like any of this even happened. You know Sandburg."

"Oh, yeah, I definitely know Sandburg." Simon shook his head, chuckling softly.

Table done, Jim walked to the kitchen and dropped the cloth in the sink, then strolled over to join Simon. He sat on the back of the couch and reached down a hand to lay it against Blair's forehead for a second. Nodding, he looked up to meet Simon's curious gaze.

Jim answered the question he saw in Simon's eyes. "I was checking his temperature."

"Ah. No need for a thermometer, I assume."

"Not anymore. And once Blair found out I could do it, he proceeded to make sure I could do it accurately within a tenth of a degree." He paused, shaking his head, sighing melodramatically. "It was a very long day."

Simon chuckled at the aggrieved look on Jim's face. "I'll bet."

A sleepy voice drifted up to them. "But it was worth it."

Both men looked down at Blair, who was struggling to open his eyes. Jim frowned. "I thought you were supposed to be sleeping, Chief."

"Not with the two of you watching me like vultures on the prowl." He stopped to yawn and knuckle his eyes.

Simon grinned and leaned toward Jim. "Reminds me of Daryl in the morning."

Jim returned the grin, laughing as Blair quickly removed his hands from his eyes and glared up at Simon. Blair stuck out his tongue, then yanked the blanket up over his head, only making the two men laugh harder. A few seconds passed, then Blair pushed the blanket away and shoved himself up to a sitting position on the couch, leaning against the arm. He rubbed a hand over his face and looked around, frowning.

"Where'd everybody go? And what time is it anyway?"

Simon replied before Jim could. "It's late, Sandburg. And everybody else has gone home, which is where I should be going." He stood up and headed for the door, pulling his jacket from the hooks next to the door.

Jim followed him over, opening the door for him. "See you Monday, Simon."

Simon nodded. "Good evening to you both." He paused halfway out the door and called back, "And hope you're feeling better, Sandburg."

Still half-laying, half-sitting on the couch, and not totally awake, Blair waved a hand at him. "Thanks, Simon, see you."

Jim closed and locked the door, then turned back to look at his partner, who was staring dazedly at the half-graded stack of papers on the table. With a heavy sigh, Blair turned and reached with fumbling hands for his glasses and red pen, shifting to make himself comfortable.

"You shouldn't have let me sleep so long, Jim."

Jim walked quickly around the couch and snatched the red pen and Blair's glasses before the younger man could get his hands on them. "Nope. No more grading tonight. You are going to bed, Chief. No arguments."

"Jim -- !"

A finger raised in the air, Jim interrupted, "What did I just say, Sandburg? No arguments. You're still recovering from being sick. I won't have you getting sicker instead of getting well. You can finish these tomorrow. I'll help if you need me to. But tonight, you are going to bed."

Blair muttered and grumbled, but finally began to slowly unwind the throw blanket from around his body and push himself to his feet. He swayed for a moment, from sleepiness and from his bad leg taking his weight again. Jim grasped Blair's arm to steady him. "Easy, there, Sandburg, I don't need you crashing onto the floor either."

Running a hand over his face again, Blair nodded sleepily in reply, but didn't show any sign of moving. Jim chuckled and shifted his hand to his friend's back and gave him a careful, gentle shove in the direction his bedroom. "Thataway, Chief. Think you can make it?"

Again, Blair nodded, yawning, as he shuffled slowly toward the bedroom. Jim watched to make sure he made it through the doors without any mishaps, following him with his eyes and ears. Two seconds later, he heard Blair fall forward across the bed, the springs in the mattress squeaking once, protesting the sudden deadweight. The sounds of blankets being dragged across a body and another shift in position followed. And then a heavy sigh as Blair drifted back, rather quickly, into sleep.

Satisfied that his very tired, still semi-sick Guide would be okay, Jim straightened up the rest of the front room, refolding the blanket and draping it over the back of the couch, then picked up the pillows from the floor where they had been thrown or tossed aside much earlier when Blair had settled onto the couch. Straightening, he stared a moment at the coffee table and the stack of papers Blair had been grading, but then shook his head.

No, if he needs help, I'll ask tomorrow. I have no clue what he's doing with those papers and I don't want to make things worse by doing something wrong, even if some of the questions do look like multiple choice.

Jim stretched, then made a quick survey of the doors and windows, checking the locks as he did every night before he headed upstairs to his own bed. After making a quick detour to the bathroom, he stopped at Blair's open doorway, peering inside, his Sentinel sight cutting easily through the darkness. His partner was buried under several blankets, his hair strewn about his head on the pillow, face half-hidden. Jim smiled at the sight, shaking his head. As he closed the glass doors, he whispered softly, knowing Blair wouldn't wake, "Night, Chief."

Then, finally, he went upstairs, feeling his own tiredness sneaking up on him. Stripping down to his boxers, he crawled into bed, feeling his brain fuzzing over from the pleasant but long evening.

As consciousness drifted away and in the darkness of night and on the edge of dreams, the Sentinel sent his senses down one last time to check on his partner. The slow, steady pattern of breathing of a sleeper and the rhythmic thumping of his Guide's heartbeat echoed in his ears.

Reassured by the near presence of his Guide, surrounded by the comforts of his home, with the memories of the evening's pleasant interlude with friends uppermost in his mind, the Sentinel relaxed into sleep.

- The End -