Breathing Room

By Mikou


Rating: PG

Author Notes: This snippet was inspired by a challenge on one of the TS lists (most likely Sendad), though, months later, I can't recall the challenger. This also holds the dubious honor of being my 1st attempt at a Sentinel story. It was meant to be part of a larger story, but the Writing Block, she was tall and strong and wide.

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach

"What we have here is a failure to communicate." - Cool Hand Luke


"So, Jim, where's that eight inches you promised me last night?"

Blair leaned forward with concern when his partner became slack-jawed and started to turn a deep red that quickly transformed to a purplish hue. "Oh, crap! What's wrong?" He jumped up and started to wrap his arms around Jim, prepared to perform the Heimlich maneuver. How many times had he warned the man about scarfing down his food? Of course, his main concern had always been heart disease, not death by choking.

He had almost closed the circle of his arms, when Jim brushed him aside with a rough swipe, gave him a heated glare, and barked out, "Gimmee some space!" before stalking out of the bullpen, coughing around whatever part of his hastily eaten lunch had gone down the wrong way. Only then did Blair become aware of the snickers and the stares from the other detectives. He took a step, ready to follow his partner when he collided with a warm, solid object. He turned his attention from Jim's fleeing figure to notice Henri grinning at him.

"Hey, Hairboy, maybe you two oughta keep that stuff at home. We don't ask. You don't tell."

"Huh? What are you talking about?" The statement or joke or whatever it was got shoved to lowest priority in Blair's list of things to process. "I think I should go check on Jim. Sorry." He darted out the bullpen's, but found the hallway beyond empty.

A quick search through the Major Crimes floor was unrevealing. After a few frantic moments, Blair forced himself to stop, take a deep breath, and consider. Jim was a big boy and he' been talking--or growling, to be more precise. Therefore he hadn't actually been choking. There was no one running helter-skelter down the hall, crying for the paramedics, no crowd gathered around a fallen victim, so it was probably safe to assume that Jim was okay. He turned a corner and spotted Jim talking to another detective and looking hale and healthy. Blair raised a hand to wave at his partner, but got an abbreviated wave in return. Okay, so maybe not the best time to run up and get all overprotective. He headed back the way he had come, relief letting the mini-surge of adrenaline wash out of his bloodstream.

On the way back to the bullpen, Blair's beeper started chirping. He checked the number and swore under his breath. Late again for the meeting with his adviser. He jotted a note for Jim, but it was hard to find a place to put it. For a man who so fastidious about his home, Jim was really disorganized at work. For week's, he'd been shirking on his promise to clear a few inches of desk space for Blair to work. Granted the man was busy, but how long would it take to choose a pile to put in the drawer? Blair scanned the desk for a prominent place to leave the note and finally opted to tape it to Jim's chair where it couldn't be missed. He grabbed his knapsack and dashed out to catch an elevator to the parking garage, ignoring the few elbow jabs he got from the other guys and the few snickers that trailed behind him.

Halfway to Rainier University, all the pieces fell into place. Blair nearly banged his head against the steering wheel. Jesus. Eight inches? Last night? Snickering? He never knew why he expected grown men to be any different than the college students who gathered and entertained each other with off-color jokes. Locker room behavior never changed much, it just took on slightly better vocabulary and a different setting. It was a method of bonding that traced back for ages. Simple human nature.

And then Blair started to wonder. He and Jim had been working together for almost three years, now. In that time, there had been teasing, most of which tended to roll off Jim's back. Despite his stern exterior, he actually had a decent sense of humor. So why the choking and the look? In fact, he'd been acting oddly for some time, now. He probably didn't think Blair noticed the sideways glances, but they were hard to miss when the two of them had lived in close quarters for so long. If Jim weren't a man, Blair would have thought...

The blaring of several car horns, jarred Blair from his rumination. He looked up just in time to see the light turn red again. In the rear view mirror, he could see the driver behind him who was waving an angry fist--well, a fist with only four fingers curled. Blair gripped the steering wheel tighter. There was no point getting worked up about this now. Jim would probably laugh it off. For now, Blair had this meeting and then an Anthro study group to moderate. Everything else would have to wait until later, but he and Jim needed to talk and they needed to do it ASAP.


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