He was doing it again.
You would think he'd get tired from all that activity. Jim Ellison peered over his paper again, quietly surveying as Sandburg, his roommate, part time observer at Major Crimes, flip through another page as he studied. The corner of his mouth twitched as he watched the grad student. Blair scratched his head, alternated from tapping his knee with his fingers and the table, while his head bobbed to some unknown beat, mumbled to himself, forgetting that the detective could hear perfectly from his perch by the kitchen table.
"...Aztec...blood drank during...virgin maidens were...sacrifices...feast..."
If anyone else heard the monologue, they would have been calling up Major Crimes about some curly haired, vest wearing psycho running amuck in Cascade talking to himself about virgins and sacrifices.
Jim, knowing better, just ducked his head back down to read the sports pages, his hand sneaking back out to snag another piece of coffee cake Joel had brought over to the department.
"Man, you keep this up and you'll be a fat sentinel."
Looking around his paper, Ellison scowled as he saw the quirky grin on Blair's face. Wiping the incriminating crumbs from the corner of his mouth, Jim retorted.
"We have a whole cake. It'll go bad after a few days and that would be a waste then, wouldn't it?" Jim pointedly took another piece and shoved it in his mouth, enjoying the mixture of creamy taste of vanilla and something else that just made his tongue tingle. Yes sir, the detective decided, heightened senses does have its advantages at times. Almost makes being tested on like some sort of lab rat all worth while.
"I can't believe you took the whole thing." The grad student muttered, his mouth twitching as he watched Jim's fingers danced silently across the table once more and swiped another piece. He frowned when he realized more than half the treat was gone already. He only had one piece. That meant Jim-
"No one wanted it for some reason. Joel brought those cakes from that charity bake sale. I think he overdid it though."
"Well he asked you guys to pitch in the money and he'll pick up the stuff. I guess they were selling them cheap." Blair nodded. "But did you had to take the whole thing?"
"No wun elf wanted it."
Sandburg bit his lower lip, trying not to laugh as he heard a semi-comprehensible mumble from his friend before a smacking of the lips as the large man licked the last of the crumbs off his fingers.
"I thought you were studying." Jim's eyes peered over his paper and narrowed.
"I was." Blair waved his pencil. "I'll probably turn in a couple of hours from now."
Ellison grunted, making no comment.
After a few moments, the loft was quiet again, only faint scratchings of Blair's pencil was heard.
Wrinkling his nose, Jim grimaced as the writing began to annoy him, the sound if it scraping across rough grooves of paper grating at his senses. Shrugging, he imagined a dial and lowered it. The volume lessened a bit and he relaxed, grinning. He checked his watch, the numbers one and fifteen wavering in front of him. It was getting late.
Frowning, Jim lowered his paper to tell Sandburg to leave that for another day. The last thing he needed was to drag a semi-awake observer and lug him around the city. Tilting his head, he increased his hearing level once more and listened in on Blair's breathing. His frown deepened when he heard the little rattle in those lungs. It didn't sound too bad so Jim relaxed, eye on his watch to make sure the grad student remembered when to grab some shuteye.
The near drowning a few months ago left his roommate vulnerable to colds. After a few harrowing close calls to lung infections, Jim was now wary of any chill coming in the city. And Sandburg, with his dislike for even the smallest drop in temperature, usually bundled up even in spring like weather.
Unfortunately, the student tended to wave off any sniffle or cough as "Just a cold, man. No need to go Blessed Protector on me, Jim," and battle it off with a barrage of herbs, concoctions and potions that Jim was often tempted to check for illegal substances. Most of them usually made his eyes water, his nose wrinkle up at the foul stench or his stomach churn like a washing machine going on a spin cycle with too much load.
Especially the last one. Man, I had my gun out real fast when I came home. Thought something died in here. Jim crunched up his face, his nose wrinkling up at the memory of the smell and decided another piece of coffee cake would ease the pain of the remembered stench. Pretending it was a covert operation, Jim's fingers did a tiptoe dance over to the plate and slipped another piece away.
Damn, he must be slipping. How did Sandburg see that? Jim crammed it in his mouth quick and groaned mentally as he saw the crumbs raining down on his navy pants. Carefully, he wiped them into his hand and got up from his seat.
The room tilted.
"Whoa," he muttered. He must have gotten up a bit too fast. The room righted itself back to the recognizable features of his kitchen and he sighed.
"You okay, man?"
"Fine," Jim grumbled.
"Yes, yes," the detective said a bit too sharply as he stalked over to the kitchen and brushed every crumb out of his palm.
"Uh...ookay...never mind, I didn't say anything then." Blair ducked his head back to his papers, but Jim saw him sneak one more concerned peek over towards his direction.
Eyes narrowing, Jim was about to tell Sandburg to back off, that it wasn't some Sentinel thing, why couldn't things just be normal? Did it always have to be some sort of enhanced senses issue? The student sometimes had a lot of nerve-
Jim blinked. Where did that all came from? He shook his head and smacked his lips, a funny aftertaste lingering in his mouth. The room blurred a bit and he had to brace himself, hand casually draped over the kitchen counter so his friend wouldn't notice.
"What the?" Jim muttered and peered over the counter. He blinked, started at the sight of a grayish wolf, lying on the floor by the kitchen table, head on its paws. Jim rubbed his eyes and stared. It was still there.
As if realizing it was noticed finally, the wolf lifted its head, red-rimmed blue eyes staring back at him, ears twitching and whined again.
Blair's spirit guide, Jim thought and he walked over to it. To this day, he only met it in his dream and when Sandburg drown- Ellison swallowed, unwilling to complete that thought. He tilted his head, surveying the animal, wondering why it was popping up now. The wolf mimicked him, peering up at him unblinkingly. Jim sat down on a chair by the kitchen table, warily watching the animal. He was amazed to find he could smell the jungle in its fur, sweet exotic flowers scenting its coat.
Jim's amazement turned to concern when he saw the wolf crawled over on its stomach and laid its head on his lap. Turning the muzzle upward, the canine licked its lips and whimpered.
"Don't tell me you want a piece of cake, too," the man muttered to the creature.
"No, Jim, I don't," Sandburg looked up, frowning, his glasses sliding to the tip of his nose.
Flustered, Jim coughed. "Er, that's good. Because, you shouldn't...uh...have a piece, that is."
Blair cocked his head to the side, not knowing he was mimicking the wolf whose head was still on Jim's lap. "You okay there, man?"
"Fine," the older man muttered as he carved out another piece, one eye glancing back at the canine, which was staring intently at his face for some reason.
"Jim...shouldn't you...uh...cut back on that stuff?"
The wolf whined again.
"Uh...just one more piece, Sandburg," Jim waited until the student shrugged and went back to work. He frowned when he heard Blair coughed into a fist, but it was a small cough and the young man just went back to studying so he turned his attention to the animal who was trying its best to crawl up his lap.
"What?" Jim hissed in so low a voice, he doubted Sentinel hearing would have picked it up.
The canine nuzzled his shirt and whined again.
I can't believe Sandburg's spirit guide is begging for table scraps, Jim rolled his eyes. Shaking his head slightly, he flipped open his paper in front of him with one hand so he could hide the act of waving the piece of cake in front of the wolf. He bent his head lower and nudged the pastry at its nose.
The animal sniffed it and then turned its mournful gaze up at the detective as if saying "What the hell is this?"
"Hey, you're the one whining for a piece," Jim whispered. The wolf rolled its own eyes and huffed, snubbing the cake. It then had the nerve to curl up on his lap, yawn and plop its head on its paws again. "Fine," the man growled at the animal under his breath and crammed the piece down his mouth. Be it never for him to waste food. Wiping the crumbs off his lips, he opened his mouth to show the wolf. The spirit guide stared into his gaping mouth disinterested and just yawned again. "See? All gone. You could have a piece when you had the chance."
Jim stopped. Did spirit guides even eat? He scratched his head, puzzled. Why was it here in the first place?
Jim looked down and was dismayed to find it'd gone over to Blair now. Standing on its hind legs, resting its head on the couch back, the wolf tried to nuzzled Sandburg's shoulder. As Jim watched, it whined as if to catch the student's attention. But Blair only coughed once more.
Then, it leaped and vanished into Sandburg.
"Chief!" Jim got up so fast, his chair fell back and clattered to the floor.
Sandburg looked up, brow furrowed. "Huh?"
Feeling foolish now, the student looking perfectly fine, Jim thought up something quick. "Uh...it's getting late. You should be heading for bed."
"Man," Blair complained as he pushed up his glasses, "You gave me a heart attack there." He placed a hand over his chest to empathize this as he glared over his eyewear at his roommate. "I thought I needed to duck under the coffee table because some psycho was breaking down our door!"
"Wouldn't be the first time," Jim muttered.
"Just a few more minutes. I'm almost done here," Sandburg murmured, his gaze caught on his notes once more. He muttered something else and then ignored Jim as he went back to reading.
Meanwhile, Jim was staring at his friend's profile, mind reeling. The wolf clearly jumped into his friend and it sounded in distress. He absently took another piece of cake, munching on it thoughtfully as he studied his friend. Jim's own spirit guide jumped into him in some freak vision, but what did it mean for his friend?
Jim started. "What did you say, Sandburg?"
The student looked up, irritated at the interruption. "I coughed. I coughed, okay, Jim? No need to get all upset over it. I told you, it was just a cold."
"I wasn't-" It was no use. Blair went back to his studying, muttering about mother hens and getting them plucked. Jim scratched his chin. He could have sworn he heard Sandburg bark.
Blair rocked his head side to side, trying to get the kinks out and then scratched his ear with one hand. Jim blinked at the sight. It looked like a dog scratching his ears the way Sandburg scrunched up his face as his fingers went to behind the ear at the sore spot.
No way, Jim thought, a grin threatening to break out. The wolf couldn't be making his friend react like...like...He clamped a hand over his mouth. It looked too funny. Does this mean I have to buy some Puppy Chow now?
Sandburg reached up, grumbling, and scratched the other ear.
Jim burst out laughing.
Jumping, Sandburg spun around and saw Jim whipping up his newspaper real fast, ducking behind it. "Jim?"
Swallowing the last giggle, Jim wordlessly pointed to some obscure article as if saying it was funny. He waved at the student, still hiding behind the paper, telling him to pay no mind.
Muttering to himself, Sandburg went back to his textbook. He stretched out his arms and yawned.
"Jim...you sure you're okay?"
"Fine...mmph...fine." Jim grabbed one more piece and stuffed it in his mouth to prevent the last chortle to come exploding out. Vanilla and a smooth taste of that something else he still couldn't finger enveloped his senses and he smiled. Thinking it was safe, Jim lowered the paper. He watched as Sandburg lifted his feet and curled up on the couch. His necklace, some gift from a girlfriend, a choker from South Africa, came to view as the young man stretched out his arms.
It looked like a leash.
Jim exploded out into laughter again.
This time, Sandburg shot up in his feet, alarmed. "Jim! What's wrong?"
The detective shook his head, arms wrapped around his middle. He just couldn't stop laughing, the sound rising from his belly and up his throat. When the student looked up, it was like looking at a dog perking up at the sound of a dog whistle. He sputtered, head spinning as he tried to stop but it was so damn funny, he didn't know why, but it was and-
"Jim! Jim!" Sandburg was shaking him and somehow, it wasn't funny anymore. The room began to spin merrily without his permission and the lights became too bright.
Now he felt sick.
"Aw man," Jim gasped, "I don't feel so good." And the man fell forward, stumbling into Blair's arms.
"...Okay...no, no...I was just wondering, Joel. Uh...yeah...no...it's just that Jim really loved the cake so much, he was wondering about the recipe. What? Ooooh. Yeah...okay, figured as much, man...talk to you later. Thanks. Bye."
Jim groaned as the voice, whoever it was, made the headache behind his eyes pounded harder and harder like ceremonial drums. The support under him gave, telling him it was the couch, but how the hell did he get over here? Lifting his arm away from his eyes, he felt the moist cloth that was set over his forehead.
"Wha..." His tongue felt like furry like he swallowed a rabbit whole. Or just my luck, probably another spirit guide. "Sandb-" He tried sitting up but groaned and fell back down again.
"Hey, just lie still." Sandburg loomed into view. He pursed his lips, surveying the sentinel with concern. "You look okay for a guy with a hangover."
What? What? Jim gaped at the student. "What are you talking about? What hangover?" he winced as his own voice made the room do a very impressive imitation of a merry-go-round. He moaned.
"Well, after you passed out-"
"I what?" Jim cringed at his own volume and clamped his mouth shut. Blair rolled his eyes and handed over a glass of water. The detective took it gratefully and gulped it down his parched throat.
"You passed out, then began some sort of weird thing," Sandburg waved his hands in the air, "then I lugged you over to the couch. I figured maybe the cake had something to do with it and gave Joel a call to see if he remembered what it was." The student grinned triumphantly, crossing his arms.
"And?" The detective lifted a corner of the towel over his forehead to see better.
"It was rum cake, Jim. Lots and lots of Jamaican rum." Sandburg's grin grew. "You were drunk on the stuff. Your sense of taste was sensitive so a bit of alcohol made you-"
"Tipsier than a sailor on leave," Jim groaned. He had a feeling he was never, ever going to hear the end of this. "Great..."
"It's interesting. I never considered," Blair coughed, pausing. Jim sat up now, alerted. He remembered how the wolf sounded before it went to his friend.
"Come here," Jim ordered. Sandburg was too surprised to react and just sat on the coffee table edge. He blinked as the detective pressed the back of his hand on his forehead. After a second, he tilted his head as if listening for something. Curious, Blair held silent and waited. Seconds later, Jim swore softly.
"You're getting worse, Chief." Jim got up shakily. Puzzled, Blair leaned closer to lend support. Jim draped an arm around his friend's shoulders, but didn't lean too heavily on the smaller man. "You're starting to burn up and that rattling in your lungs is getting worse."
"You can hear all that? But-"
"You feel fine, I know," Jim interrupted. "But it is getting worse, isn't it?" He looked down sternly at his roommate.
Sandburg nodded reluctantly. "I do feel a little...off...I just thought-"
"Thought nothing. Off you go." The older man braced both hands behind Sandburg's shoulders and steered him towards his room. The student protested faintly as he found himself suddenly standing by his own bed.
"Jim, you're the one not feeling well right now. I don't need to-"
"Sit." Jim pointed to the bed.
Mutely, the student sat on the bed. Jim's mouth twitch at the sight.
"Good boy," the detective murmured, unable to resist patting him on the head.
The student looked up at him funny. "There's that weird stuff again," Blair muttered.
"You were out of it, kept patting me on the head and told me to go fetch," the young man made a face. "Then you kept threatening me to have me..neu...never mind."
Jim's grin grew broader. "Doesn't sound like a bad idea. I mean, judging your track record with women."
Laughing, wincing when his headache came back because of it, Jim motioned towards the bed. "Go. Sleep. I'll grab some cough medicine for you."
"I don't need-"
The student shut up, pouting as he sat there, scowling at the floor.
Jim sighed. "Look, you know how these things can sneak up on you. I would rather beat it to the punch for once, okay, buddy?"
His roommate smiled wanly. Sandburg had to admit, he was feeling under the weather now. "Okay."
Jim stuck his hand in his pocket before he could pat him on the head again. "Good. You get some rest-"
Nodding, Jim looked at him warmly. "I will. I'll go get the medicine," he turned towards the door.
The older man looked over his shoulder and saw Sandburg's curious face.
"How did you know I was feeling worse?" The young man felt his own forehead. "I don't even feel much a change in temperature and I know it couldn't have changed that much yet."
Jim opened his mouth, thought against it when he heard a soft "Woof" outside the kitchen and just smiled mysteriously. "Oh...a little dog told me."
"Ha ha," Sandburg scoffed, not believing him for a second. He laid back on the bed, shaking his head. "A little dog...very funny Jim...bow wow."
Jim slipped out before he started laughing again. He skidded to a halt though when he saw the wolf.
Smacking its lips, the animal stood on its hind legs, the last piece of cake plastered all over its furry muzzle. Jim groaned. It ate the rest of the cake.
"Pig," Jim grumbled.
Jim started and spun around towards the room. He could hear Blair murmur in surprise as he was drifting to sleep.
"Aw man...that was weird...I...urp...excuse me...man..."
Jim laughed out loud again, the deep voice ringing out the loft.