Disclaimer: The Sentinel is a Pet Fly production no copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: For Carole and Mackie.

The Flu



Blair coughed, his eyes watered, and the report on the computer screen blurred.

"Oh man, I feel awful."

Jim opened his desk drawer and held out the bag of herbal cough drops he kept there. "That's why they call it the flu." Blair took a cough drop, and Jim tried to clear his throat, and took one himself.

A new strain of influenza had hit Cascade like a hammer. A shortage of vaccine was only adding to the health crisis. There had already been a couple of deaths at nursing homes, and City Services was taking a big hit as more and more personnel succumbed and had to take sick days.

Rafe had been Major Crimes latest victim, heading home after his lunch bounced. Jim was staying the course out of his usual sense of duty and sheer bloody-mindedness. Blair was putting his faith in the Echinacea and vitamin C he'd been dosing himself with since flu season began.

Simon came out of his office. He had already suffered through a mild case early on, and was now disgustingly healthy.

Jim blew his nose noisily into a tissue as he came over to the desk. "You two are among the afflicted, eh?"

"One hunnert percent, sir," Jim insisted.

"We're sick," Blair contradicted him. "We're really, really sick. Since someone threw out all my cure ingredients..."

"Sandburg, I saw dead people. We're sticking with FDA approval from now on."

"Oh yeah. You took some cough medicine and nearly fell off a train. That's helpful."

Simon smiled to himself, knowing the bickering would continue as the men began to feel worse, and was glad he wasn't going to have to put up with it.

"Well, gentlemen, Brown's coming back in tomorrow, half of Robbery is back on duty and they're lending us a couple of bodies, so after you finish up the paperwork on the Elrod case, you can go home and recuperate."

Jim nodded wearily. "Thank you, sir."

Blair sneezed, loud and unexpectedly openmouthed, and then blinked at the blobs of spittle now decorating the computer screen. "Oh gross." He reached for the box of tissues on Jim's desk.

The two miserable men drove home, the silence only broken by the occasional thick cough.

Blair dropped his backpack under the hooks, took off his jacket and tried to hang it up but missed. He noticed, thought about bending over to pick it up, but just the thought of it made his head swim. So he just staggered over to drop onto the couch.

Jim bent over, picked up Blair's jacket and hung it up neatly on its hook, then stood, swaying slightly, in the doorway, until his head stopped pounding. He took off his own coat and hung it up, then trudged into the kitchen and opened the icebox.

"What do you want?" he asked, blinking slowly in the too-bright refrigerator light as he studied the contents of the shelves. His stomach rolled queasily. "Scrambled eggs and dry toast? Soup? Think we got a can of soup..."

Blair flapped a hand in dismissal of the concept of food.

"Gotta eat something Chief, keep your strength up," Jim repeated stubbornly, and carefully got out the carton of eggs. And the milk. And the butter. Doing anything when he felt this sick seemed to take immense concentration, and he wondered vaguely if it was yet another downside to being a sentinel. If his senses were heightened, didn't that mean when he felt bad he felt worse?

He had a headache, and not just a headache, his sinuses felt like someone had shoved balloons up his nose and was now trying to inflate them. He ached all over, he could feel the phlegm in his lungs like a brick of wet clay in his chest, and he was freezing.

"Yeah. We've got to eat." Blair got up with a groan of protest, came out to the kitchen and helped fix dinner. The two men ate, cleaned up the kitchen, and then Blair went to take a hot shower, hoping the steam would do some good. Jim went upstairs, put on a pair of flannel pajamas, his velour bathrobe, and for good measure spent a few minutes hunting through his wardrobe and got out a pair of leather slippers Carolyn had given him that he'd never worn.

Back downstairs, he turned the thermostat up and considered starting a fire, but decided neither of them would be up long enough to make it worth the trouble. He was just planning to unwind a bit before burrowing under his covers for the duration.

He settled down on the couch, making sure there was a full box of tissues on the coffee table and a wastebasket lined with a plastic bag was within easy reach, just in case.

Blair came out of the bathroom, hair plastered down wet and seal-sleek, bundled up. He didn't seem to own pajamas, but he was wearing a comfortably threadbare set of sweats.

He came over to drop down on his side of the couch and they sat together, idly watching television, too ill to really enjoy it or follow subtle nuances of plot. They stuck to sitcoms and hospital dramas. After a while, Blair got to his feet and went to the kitchen, returned with two steaming cups of chamomile tea with lemon and honey.

Jim made his usual joke about dried weeds, but accepted his cup, enjoying the heat and the honey's effect on his sore and scratchy throat. Eventually, they said their goodnights and went to their beds.

It was five o'clock in the morning. Jim had slept fitfully, dozing and waking, uncomfortable, all night long. This time, the growing pressure of his bladder woke him. He blamed the extra cup of tea and sat up, groggily.

He slipped his feet into the fuzzy warmth of the slippers he'd left beside his bed, and headed for the stairs. It was the illness that made him dizzy and lightheaded, combined with the lack of sleep and the unfamiliar tread of the soles of the slippers that caused the accident.

Jim felt the world spin around him, a sharp hot pain in his ankle, and then his head impacting a step... dimly felt himself roll off the staircase and hit the floor below. And then he felt nothing at all.

In his bed, deep in a fever dream, Blair barely stirred.

Simon finished up the last of the breakfast dishes, noting with satisfaction that Darryl had eaten most of his oatmeal. His appetite was returning, but not quite back up to usual teenager fridge-emptying levels. He watched as his son shuffled over to sprawl on the couch, picking up the TV guide.

"You're sure you're not up to going back to school?" Simon teased.


"Okay," he chuckled. "One more day."

Joan had given him custody for the month her company had sent her to Japan. She'd done it only for her own convenience, but Simon relished the chance to work on his relationship with Darryl. Father and son nursing each other through bouts of the flu had helped re-cement that bond.

Darryl dropped the TV guide listlessly. "Think I'll just go back to bed. Its waaaaay too early."

"I wanted to make sure you got something in your stomach and kept it down before I leave for work. I want to check in on Ellison and Sandburg on my way in, they both got bit by the bug and with the hours they were working, probably didn't have a chance to run to the store." He dried his hands, rolled down the sleeves of his shirt and buttoned the cuffs before shrugging on his suit jacket. "At least I don't have to worry about Rafe since Elena moved in with him."

He saw the grin flicker across his son's face and raised an inquiring eyebrow.

"I usedta hate how you'd take care of me on your weekend, like you still thought I was a little kid, but that's just something you do, Dad. You worry. Like, I'm not a little kid, but I'm kid. And they're your men."

Simon agreed with a smile. "You know the numbers are by the phone, and there's ginger ale in the fridge. I'll try to get home for lunch, but you can always heat up some soup..."

Laughing, Darryl waved him out of the apartment.

Simon knocked again, frowning, and looked at his watch. 5:05. It was something of a running joke that Jim would open the door to the sound of his approaching footstep, or the smell of his cigar, before his knock. Still, it was early, and the men were ill...

A twinge of apprehension danced down his spine, and he checked the doorframe for Sandburg's spare key. No, he must have moved it. He felt behind a nearby exposed pipe. Nothing. Then Simon remembered the jade plant across from the elevator, the rocks lining the dirt in its pot. He walked back, and sure enough, found a suspiciously shiny plastic rock among them. He took the key out and went back to open the door. And rushed forward to the fallen figure sprawled on the floor.

Slowly and unwillingly he surfaced from sleep, blinking stupidly, aware that this, Simon standing over his bed, men's voices and the roll of wheels out in the loft's living room, this wasn't normal.

"Sandburg? You up and around? C'mon kid. Jim fell, we're taking him to the hospital. Oh hell, you're burning up..."

He pushed himself up to a sitting position and watched in bemusement as Captain Simon Banks rooted through his closet, tossing jeans and a sweater onto the bed beside him.

"Jim fell?"

That didn't make any sense. He knew who Jim was, he knew what falling was. He couldn't connect the two. Jim. Fell.

Simon gave him an exasperated glance, then went to the door, calling out, talking to the paramedics, then came back in. Brusquely helped Blair dress, supporting him when standing made him dizzy, then there was a long ride in Simon's car, huddled in the passenger seat, feeling miserable and still trying to grasp the concept. Jim had fallen down the stairs. All he was capable of was a kind of numb terror at the thought, and a plea that Jim would be all right again.

"Detective Ellison?" The nurse's voice was soft, rousing him out of the respite of sleep. Awake, he was mostly aware of pain, and he irritably waved her off.

"My name is James Joseph Ellison, I was born in '58, it's '99, and I had the flu and tripped on the stairs, so I have a concussion." He glanced at the other bed in the room. "How's Sandburg?"

"His fever's back down out of the danger zone."

Jim nodded as the nurse tiptoed out, and closed his eyes, letting the throb of his ankle and his head combined with the heartbeat and congested snore from the next bed lull him to sleep.

When Simon appeared at the door to the hospital room, Blair was kneeling on the floor to tie Jim's sneaker and complaining.

"Two days in the hospital, I feel better, but every time I tilt my head down my nose runs." He stood up, grabbing a tissue from the box on the bed tray-table. Then, noticing the captain, "Hey Simon."

"Gentlemen, ready to go?"

"Yeah." Jim got his crutches under him and stood up. "Uh, look Simon, I just wanted to say..."

"Uh-uhn. It's in my best interest to keep the team healthy... Major Crimes closure rate makes me look good." He smiled sweetly as Jim maneuvered himself out into the hallway, Sandburg following. "Although the two of you are turning me grey before my time. Let's try to get through the rest of flu season without any more medical catastrophes, eh?"

"We'll try," Blair promised, with a grin half hidden by his tissue.

"Almost back up to one hundred percent, sir," Jim nodded. And then his face screwed up, eyes widening with surprise. "Ah-ah..." Simon and Sandburg stared at each other, then lunged forward "ACHOO!" to catch Jim before the force of the sneeze blew him over backwards in a flailing clatter of crutches.

~ End ~

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Page last updated 8/15/03.