Under Orders - Kungfunurse
Notes: Flagrant use of fanon, 'cause I like it that way. [g]
The building hulked ahead of them, pushing aside the foggy morning air as if even the clouds and wind had better understand that this was a place of importance.
Blair hunched in the passenger seat of Simon's car, trying not to breath too deeply in the cigar-fouled air. The big black man would never have lit up if Jim was here, but then, if Jim was here, then Blair wouldn't be here, not at this terrifyingly grey building in the middle of a city of which he'd thought he knew pretty well by now, but apparently had missed a few important points.
Simon stared forward, keeping his eyes on the unmoving gate arm ahead of them and conveniently not looking in Blair's direction. Blair had played this game since Simon had called him out of his class and drove him halfway across the city, and now he was just about ready to spit nails from anxiety.
Just be cool, Blairboy, he crooned to himself. Gotta be delicate, smooth. Think Black-ops, think Bill Clinton... yeah, like that. Okay, let's try this again.
"Simon, for fuck's sake, where's Jim!" he snapped.
Oops. Not the most delicate way to open up a clam after all, but damn it when the tweezers weren't working he was fucking well going to get out the mallet. Fortunately, Simon seemed to be a mallet kind of guy, if the uneasy shifting of seat and cigar were any indication. With a final glare at the still-closed gate, the police Captain bit the cigar and glanced sidelong at Blair.
"Look, kid," he began uneasily. "I know you've only been riding along with Jim for a couple of months, and with all the crap you and Ellison have put me through, well, it's beyond me why I feel I owe you some kind of apology. But for what it's worth, I'm sorry we weren't up front with you from the start."
Blair gaped at the bigger man, his mind spinning, frantically taking words, tones, inflections and matching them up on his mental clipboard. Like a puzzle he fitted each known or possible meaning together, only to emerge with one undeniable truth.
"Simon," he said gravely, "I'm a reasonably intelligent man. Mensa came looking for me a few years back and yeah, I didn't join up because I'm not much of a joiner, but here's the thing. I'm this close to having a panic attack all over your car, and now I'm confused. Simon, when I'm confused, I get panicked, and I'm already panicked, so now I'm really really-"
"Okay okay, just cool it!" Simon snapped, grunting in relief as the gate arm finally inched it's way up. "I'm sorry you had to find out like this, from me, but things are pretty bad right now. With Jim, I mean."
"Simon!" Blair wailed, pulling on his own hair with both hands.
"Fine. Kid, I'm sorry to break it to you, but you're not exactly the only person who's ever decided to study Sentinels."
Of all the things Blair had been expecting to hear, Jim being shot, Jim being kidnapped, Jim hiding out from his latest disaster of a date, this wasn't even on the list. After a good long while, Blair decided that yes, up still seemed to be that way, and gravity was still working because he'd be drooling down his chin in a minute if he didn't manage to get his mouth shut. Simon ignored the impending drool and kept talking.
"Jim's a member of an exchange program that the US Sentinel project has set up with selected National Guard, police, fire departments, and social workers offices across the country. When a Sentinel gets too old or too broken to work for the big boys, they send them out to pasture with us."
Blair knew the next few seconds were critical in his understanding of Sentinels. He chose his words carefully.
"Will you pay attention? Jesus, how the hell does Ellison put up with you?"
Blair could only shrug and wonder how he was going to get enough brain power together to remember how to get his seat-belt off now that they'd come to a stop.
"The problem is that Sentinels are dying, kid." Simon continued. "Some of 'em do just fine, finding their partners, avoiding too much stimuli, that kind of thing. But then you get Sentinels like Ellison, who never did partner up and who can't even form a stable pairing to save his sanity."
And maybe it was being out in the nice, fresh, non-cigarry air that finally cleared Blair's brain, because now the questions were pouring fast and furious. "Wait, you knew? About Jim's senses? But you almost threw us out! It took us hours just to explain the basics to you! All my work... I made flow-charts for you man!"
"I know! I missed the game because you wouldn't shut up with your damn genealogy crap. The point is-"
"The point is that I've spent the past five years at Rainier making myself a laughingstock! Who else knows about this? Joel, Rafe, the fucking janitor?"
"I said cool it, kid!" Simon swung around, pinning Blair with a look and blocking him from opening the building's entrance. "Jim's going to need you with your head screwed on straight. Now listen. Ellison's the first Sentinel we've had in the CPD in a long time because I'm the first Captain with sufficient military clearance in a while to hold the post. This is a matter of National and Public security, which is why we don't go telling every janitor or grad student that happens along. Clear?"
"Yeah, yeah, okay. I'm starting to get the picture now. But seriously, Simon, Jim's hurt? Jim's in trouble? How can I help, 'cause I'm thinking that this whole building is filled with doctors and Sentinel techs and other, you know, useful types that know like, so much more than I do about the day-to-day workings of your average Sentinel-"
"Ah, Mr. Sandburg, Captain Banks, thank you so much for hurrying here." A white-coated man, balding, with a slight paunch, pushed Simon out of the way with the door and interrupted Blair's train of thought. Somehow Blair had envisioned Sentinel doctors would be, uh, taller, with legs. And female. He sighed quietly as another vision of Sentinel glamour was stripped away.
"Look Dr... ?"
"Mincher. Arnold Mincher." Blair winced inwardly.
"Yeah, doc. Hey look, I hear Jim's in trouble and I'm like, completely here for him. A hundred percent, man I'd give anything for him. But how can I help? I mean it's obvious that you've all spent quite a while putting this program together and until, like five minutes ago I didn't even know there were any other Sentinels besides Jim and-"
"Young man," Mincher interrupted again. "I hate to pull you up short, but time is of the essence for Captain Ellison right now. Are you serious when you say that you'd do anything to help him?"
"Uh, yeah. Yes, anything." Blair mentally reviewed his files on "things I might be asked to do for my Sentinel", and even though it had only been a few months that list was already long enough to include things like corneal transplants and color-coded Tupperware. It was, in fact, pretty close to being all-inclusive, and why the hell had he only figured this out ten seconds ago?
Blair's wandering thoughts were brought back to present time by Dr. Mincher's look. "Good, Mr. Sandburg, that's very good." But before Blair could follow up on that strange comment, Mincher was already scurrying down the hall, and Simon and Blair had to hurry to hear what he was saying next.
"We're all very impressed with the work you've been doing, Mr. Sandburg. Yes, we're well aware of your studies here, and in fact your take on modern day Sentinels was original enough that we decided to throw a little help your way." He smiled slightly as the elevator pinged and opened.
"You mean, ah, Jim?"
"Correct. Marvelous, just marvelous," the man muttered quietly, as though impressed that Blair really could put two and two together. "Of course we are sorry to have kept you out of the loop these past months but we didn't want the purity of your research to be compromised by our already existent data." The doors slid open and the three walked out into a cold, sterile hallway, metal doors lining the walls at precise intervals. "You see, so much of our research is almost, well, incestuous by nature. The same ground has been covered over and over by the same people for so long that new ideas are hard to come by, lately. You've been a real asset, a breath of fresh air, as it were, and it's too bad that had to come to an end so abruptly. Ah, well, here we are."
So saying, he turned and opened one door, identical to the others, and led them into... a jungle?
The room was huge, tropical, twilight dark and humid. Quiet sounds of water trickled from invisible pools as jungle-like foliage reached out from high overhead and tangled Blair's feet from below. The quiet hush was meditative, almost serene, and even Dr Mincher lowered his voice in response to it.
"This is one of our "safe rooms". We have various environments available, but Captain Ellison has always responded to this scene most satisfactorily."
"Jim?" Blair asked quietly, stepping away from the two men beside him and searching the gloom for his friend.
"There was a little accident, you see," Mincher continued behind him. "Ellison wasn't supposed to be on base today, since the new Sentinels were being paired up and it's so... provocative for unpaired Sentinels, or singles as we call them."
Blair walked slowly through the leaves, the trail disappearing almost within the first few feet. His normal, work-a-day senses couldn't hope to find Jim with all this cover, and he only hoped that the big man would come to him. Annoyingly, he could still hear Mincher babbling back at the entrance.
"... normally wouldn't have been a problem since Ellison is the most stable single we've ever found. But something's changed him these past few months, apparently, because, well..."
A rustle off to his right made the hair on his scalp prickle, and Blair froze, heart pounding. If Jim were really hurt, there'd be IV's in his arms and heart monitors and such, right? But what if it was something else, some emotional trauma? Either way, that probably wasn't Jim stealthily moving aside that tangle of vines and branches and... and...
Blair turned, deciding that Jim could damn well find him by the well-cleared entrance, when a large, familiar hand caught his arm and another strong arm wrapped around his waist and pulled him close.
"Jim?" Blair whispered, sweat beading in his scalp and itching his hair.
"Sandburg," he heard muttered, and almost collapsed in relief, his terror for his friend and his own safety suddenly over. The close, humid air brought Jim's natural scent around him like a blanket, and Blair quietly breathed in the comforting smell.
"Chief, sorry I didn't.... didn't tell you... "
"It's okay, Big guy," Blair murmured, soothing the skin wrapped around his waist with both of his palms. "You were under orders, I get it. I'm just so glad you're safe-"
"Sandburg," Jim grated, and Blair smiled happily, leaning his full weight against the broad chest behind him and resting his head against Jim's shoulder. Jim was clearly okay and now he, Blair, was okay, and that made everything okay. Blair giggled a little, and wondered why his feet seemed to be so very far away from the rest of him.
"Chief," Jim tried again, and Blair just rolled his head happily, smearing his sweat over Jim's shirtless skin and burying his face into the crook of Jim's neck. 'That's my name, don't wear it out', he thought and giggled again.
"Didn't get a chance to do this right.... didn't... hope they told you what's... "
And now Blair's happy little world had a big old nasty rain cloud. Jim wasn't, apparently, completely happy, and Blair was just the guy to fix that. "Jim, man," he managed, his tongue feeling thick and heavy in his mouth. "S'okay, you're okay. I'm okay. We're, we... good. We're really, really good." But Jim didn't seem to be buying that line, so Blair snuggled in closer and tried again. "See, I'm good... you're good, God Jim you smell so... good. Jim, Jim what is that smell, cause it's so... oh Jim it's, man, it's really... good Jim you smell fucking fantastic..."
Blair trailed off, more interested in wriggling around in Jim's arms so that he could plaster himself face first against Jim's sweaty, incredibly delicious skin than in finishing sentences anymore.
Jim moaned and buried his own face into Blair's nape, licking and suckling at the sweat drenched curls underneath the rest. Wet, warm puffs of air and sweet, soft lips tormented Blair's neck and he choked out a breathy little 'uh?', raking his fingernails down Jim's chest.
And Blair had known that the ground was farther away than it should have been, because it took a whole, long time for their falling bodies to hit the earth, and Blair would've sworn that he'd spent, like weeks falling, held against Jim's hard, delicious body until he was finally pressed gently in the firm, springy plant life under him.
"Chief... waited, waited for you... tossed the others... tossed 'em out, but it took so... so long for you to come..."
Jim's mumbling was completely unimportant to Blair, orders of magnitudes less important than getting the rest of his own clothes off and continuing with this fucking wonderful slip-slide thing they had going on. Blair's brain started to feel like it was getting bigger, or maybe just heavier, and it wasn't a headache but more like he'd taken too much of Jim in through his sinuses and now the big guy was in there, color coding Blair's leftover memories like day old pizza. Blair liked the thought of that, and opened his swollen, moist lips to lick Jim's skin, trying to tell him that it was fine with Blair if Jim was a neat freak and hey, would Jim mind tidying up last week's lecture notes while he was in there?
Blair giggled again, and then moaned a little as Jim finally stopped making annoying word-noises up there and started doing truly nice, very very nice things with his mouth.
In the distance, ignored by both halves of the new pairing, Mincher droned on. "... suppose certain aspects could even be enhanced with Mr Sandburg's new insight into the program... " And Simon's gruff, "Just tell me when they can be back at work, damn it. I've got too much going down to have them on "sick leave" just now..."
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Acknowledgments: For PattRose, who listens and to Candygram for the lovely cover.