Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters are completely the property of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. I use them out of reverence, solely for fun and not for profit.

Author's Notes: I'd like to thank Dawn for betaing this and Rank and File. Any and all mistakes are mine, of course.




"Jeez, Sandburg, the water's like ice!" The words were icy, too.

"Hey, I needed a long shower, 'kay?" Flushed with challenge, heated with indignation, the explanation exploded spontaneously.

Jim never needed an invitation to a quarrel. He wrenched himself out of the stall, wrapping up in a bath sheet, bitching at the top of his lungs. "Thoughtless, ungrateful, the least you could've done is give me notice! I could've waited an hour for the tank to refill!"

The sarcasm did not go unanswered. "What, and spoil your attendance record with tardiness? I thought I was the only one who had to worry about cancelling out or showing up late on the job. Yours does come first, right? I mean, this might make you lose the Officer of the Year award for the first time in... how many years? Just how long have I known you, Jim?"

Ellison coloured fiercely, more champing at the bit than bitten by his civilian partner's gibe. Blair Sandburg certainly had not won the unwelcome awards directly for Detective and Sentinel Jim Ellison, but taking full credit by implication as Jim's Guide was clever and underhanded. The cop reached for a remark that would cut deep into the heart muscle. "About one month longer than I gave you a home to run free in and run the hot water out of, Sandburg," he drawled blandly.

There was no reply. Razor forgotten in the sink, Blair was frozen as he stared into the mirror at Jim's image. With a bitter satisfaction scalding his intestines, Jim realised he had taken the field for unfair remarks. He stepped up to the glass.

Then their gazes met against the clarity of cold silver.

Jim saw the huge mottled bump at his best friend's temple, the defensive bruises scattered over his forearms standing out livid against the pallid skin, the marks of pain streamlining the mouth. All were eloquent testimony of last night's beating, when Blair had played decoy to a vigilant look-out in a pharmaceuticals heist so that Jim could bust the gang making it. An alarm panged in his chest and the cop woke up enough to recognise that his partner had needed the hot water for the residual achiness that morning. Jim's blue eyes lost their frost and became as full and warm as a hot summer sky before a flash thunderstorm.

Blair saw the fatigue ringing those eyes and remember the long path through the night which both had followed, and which had deprived Jim of his rest. The Guide knew how much his Sentinel needed his sleep, no one better: Jim's phenomenal senses, let alone the job of top cop, made torturous demands on his body; he was cranky at best when sleep-deprived and depleted of energy. Well into the small hours, the Sentinel had been at the hospital, at his Guide's side, refusing to leave until he knew for certain that the pistol butt Blair had taken to the head had not caused a concussion. Blair's dark blue eyes closed over emotions he did not want to telegraph to Jim.

But Jim had already seen. He was a Sentinel, after all. He put a hand on Blair's shoulder and startled his Guide into looking up before masking all his thoughts. Blair turned away from the mirror to face Jim, not bothering to hide.

"Sorry," two baritone voices whispered into the room, from two very sorry men indeed.

They encircled each other with strong arms (a couple somewhat black and blue) and blinked blue eyes (one pair greatly exhausted), pulling into a brief embrace that said far more than "Sorry," and Jim's gladness in having his best friend whole and well was returned in Blair's pride in being his Guide and partner.

When they let go again, they glanced back at the mirror and each privately decided that it must have been the vagrant hot water that caused the glass to mist over.

What other reason could there be for their reflections being so blurred?

~ End ~

E-Mail Ismaro at ligela@sympatico.ca
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Page last updated 8/15/03.