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

Summary: Blair has post-test syndrome. Companion piece to Study Break by Becky.

Dedication: to Becky, Jen, Suzie, Shiloh, Susan (Red Soprano), and all the other kind fanfic readers who encouraged me -- please accept this incredibly cheesy fanfic as a small thank-you for wishing me luck on my boards. Thank you, ladies!

After the Mean, Nasty Test
by Robyn
August 1998

Detective Jim Ellison unlocked the front door to the loft and entered, pulling off his jacket and hanging on the hook by the door. At 6 p.m. and the end of a rather long Monday, Jim hoped his roommate, Blair Sandburg, was already home.

He was.

At least whoever was sitting on the couch had curly brown hair looking amazingly similar to his partner's. Alas, Jim could only see the back of the person's head leaning against the back of the couch. No sound came from the motionless figure save the familiar breathing and heartbeat.

Maybe he's asleep, Jim thought, smiling to himself in a natural response to the affectionate feelings washing over him as he paused at the sight of his weary friend. Blair had been up quite late -- or rather, early -- last night, studying for a big test. He'd also been stressing about the exam for several days beforehand -- something only Jim noticed. The younger man's energetic, happy-go-lucky personality was all most people ever saw, but Jim knew the complexities of balancing the responsibilities of a graduate student, teaching assistant, and consultant to the Cascade P.D. not to mention keeping a stubborn sentinel from zoning too much, sometimes taxed Blair's mind and body to the hilt. Not that the kid would have it any other way, so he says, but I know it gets to be a lot sometimes, thought Jim. He always knew.

Jim crossed the wooden floor quietly, approaching his reclining partner with the silent, graceful agileness of a certain feline spirit guide. Kneeling down behind the couch, he softly rested his arms and face on the back of the sofa beside Blair. Slowly, he leaned forward far enough to get a peek at his partner's face in an effort to further ascertain his conscious or unconscious state. Jim frowned concernedly at what he saw.

Blair's eyes were open -- not closed in restful sleep. Deep blue eyes stared ahead blankly, the usual sparkle of life and mischievousness disturbingly absent from their depths.

"Chief?" Jim asked hesitantly.

No response was forthcoming. The anthropologist continued to stare straight ahead, as if no one occupied the room except himself.

Maybe he's in some relaxed trance or state of meditation, considered Jim. Then he mentally shook his head. No, he always sits on the floor in front of a bunch of candles for that. The detective decided to simply continue talking.

"The test -- how'd it go, Chief?" he asked gently.

"Uhhhh." A short, rumbling groan came from his friend, but he didn't change his gaze.

"Bad?" offered Jim.

A short pause, then "Uh-huh."

Jim smiled. Two syllables this time -- now we're getting somewhere. Let's see, he thought. What does Sandburg do for me when I come home exhausted?

Still on his knees, Jim scooted over so he knelt directly behind his partner. Gently, he placed his hands on his younger friend's shoulders, grasping them and massaging the muscles in a slow, relaxing rhythm. The tension built up by hours of hunching forward over books and syllabi lingered, then surrendered to the touch of Jim's strong hands. Silently, the sentinel ministered to his guide, feeling the tactile exercise relax both of them.

After a few minutes, Blair finally spoke. "Jim?"

"Yeah?" Jim answered, continuing to rub Blair's shoulders.

"I'm brain dead." Sandburg's voice sounded tired, yet matter-of-fact.

Jim stopped, considering the statement. "You're what?"

"Brain dead. You know, one neuron short of a synapse?" Even in his mentally exhausted state, Blair continued to make cracks.

Jim chuckled, resuming the kneading strokes. "Sounds like the test from hell."

"Yeah," Blair sighed. "A real mean, nasty test. Honestly, I don't know if I passed, Jim." The short laugh at the end didn't totally mask the tinge of discouragement in his voice.

Jim considered his friend's words. Anyone familiar with Sandburg's precocious background knew he wasn't accustomed to failure in his short life. At the risk of sounding insensitive, Jim responded instinctually. "You passed, Chief."

"How do you know?" Blair's tone was doubting.

"Because I know you, Chief," Jim answered simply.

"Even though my brain feels like a melted ice cream cone on a hot sidewalk?" asked Blair.

"Yeah," said Jim.

Blair smiled. "Thanks, Jim. For believing in me even when I don't."

Jim patted Blair on the shoulder, a reassuring gesture at the end of the shoulder rub.

<grrrrrr> A low rumble emanated from Blair's abdominal region, and the owner groaned. "Guess I should eat something," he said absently.

"You got enough energy to eat? Or am I gonna have to spoon feed you?" teased Jim.

Somewhere, Blair collected enough energy to make a weak swat at his more energetic partner, then attempted to get off the couch.

"Uh-uh, Chief," Jim said, gently pushing his weary friend back down on the couch. "Let me get you something tonight."

*****************************

An hour after dinner, Jim was putting the last of the dried dishes away in the cupboards. Blair shuffled out from his room to the kitchen, dressed in his nocturnal attire of a tank top and boxers, eyes barely at half-mast.

"Couldn't say 'no' to the call of the bed anymore, eh?" Jim teased.

"No, man. I don't know why I am so exhausted," said Blair as he reached for a glass and filled it with some water from the tap.

"Whoa, Chief, careful there!" Jim said, steadying the glass which tottered in Blair's trembling hands. "You must be really tired, Sandburg!" said Jim as he watched his partner take a sip of water.

Blair wiped a drop of water from his mouth with the back of his hand, then leaned against the counter and looked toward his room, as if trying to figure out how many steps it was going to take him to get there.

"C'mon, Chief, let's put you to bed." Jim put his hands on Blair's shoulders and steered him slowly towards his room, walking slowly behind him.

Jim pulled the blankets over Blair, tucking them around him. "Sleep well. Just try not to snore, okay?"

Blair chuckled, but his sigh made Jim pause as he turned to leave the room. "I'm so tired I don't know if I can fall asleep," said the yawning anthropologist.

Jim sat down on the edge of the bed, then grabbed one of Blair's yellow legal pads and a pencil from a pile of stuff on the floor. "Sally used to tell Steven and me bedtime stories."

Blair's eyebrows raised. It certainly wasn't Jim's habit to tell bedtime stories; his niece had to start begging at least an hour before bedtime to wear down her detective uncle into cooperating. However, realizing his good fortune, Blair simply smiled.

In the middle of the paper, Jim drew a crude but very large fish, holding the pad so Blair could see. "Once upon a time," he began, "there lived a big fish in a lake."

He added some water at the top of the page, then scribbled a little on top of the fish's head. "He had a crew cut."

Blair giggled. "What kind of fish, man?"

"Uh -- a sturgeon. A real big one."

"Those things are ugly, man!" exclaimed Blair. "They're as old as the ice age, at least!"

"Don't be picky, Chief, this is my story," warned Jim.

"Sorry."

"He was a policefish," Jim continued, "and spent his time saving fellow fishes from evil men with deadly Hiawatha spears. He was pretty good at it, too."

"Hey, don't make fun of my spear," Blair protested, laughing.

Jim purposely ignored the comment and added an eye and a frowning mouth to the fish's face. "But he was a grumpy old sturgeon -- a loner -- and didn't have any really close friends. He frowned all the time."

"Aw," Blair murmured sympathetically. "On second thought, sturgeons aren't that ugly. Or old..." he trailed off.

"Too late to retract that comment, Buster. Fits with the caveman comment and -- how did you put it -- 'a throwback to primitive man'?"

Blair choked on a laugh, then waved a hand at Jim. "Moving right along..."

Grinning, the detective drew a tiny fish next to the larger one. "Then one day, along came a little guppy named Chief." He scribbled a few curly locks on the fingerling. "He had long hair and two earrings. For some reason still unknown to me, he didn't let the sturgeon's grumpiness intimidate him. He hung out with him and made friends with him, despite his frown and lack of hair." Then Jim erased the fish's frown. "And eventually, the little fish taught him how to smile again." He added the smile.

Jim looked over at his partner. Blair had fallen asleep. His chest rose and fell with deep, even breaths. Jim smiled, patting the blankets one more time before laying the paper and pencil aside. Quietly, he rose from the bed and crept out of the room, turning the light off behind him.

And in the darkened room, the tired anthropologist smiled before turning to meet the restful dreams awaiting him.

- The End -