The Clue Series by Calic0cat
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"Chief? You home?"

Unfortunately, Jim's query was met with the complete and utter lack of either a snarky Sandburg griping about damn Sentinels asking fucking stupid questions when they already knew the answer or an anxious - and probably pissed off - Blair wanting to know where his dials were set and how long his senses had been acting up and why the hell he hadn't said something sooner. Jim sighed and shoved the loft door shut rather more forcefully than necessary. It slammed, just as his hearing decided to cut back in again. Reflexively clapping his hands over his ears, he struggled to stabilize the dial at something even vaguely normal. He eventually succeeded but it was becoming increasingly difficult.

At first, the dials had just started to drift a bit. Sandburg had been about to start classes at the Academy; Jim had figured that his partner had enough to worry about. Surely he could handle a few fluttery dials on his own. And, for a while, he had. Blair was away so much, either at classes or off having a "study session" - yeah, riiight, a *study* session, suurre - with a fellow cadet - a cute, young, disgustingly cheerful and upbeat fellow cadet - that Jim hadn't had any real trouble hiding the problems.

In fact, Blair was home so rarely that even when Jim's senses had started to fade in and out instead of just fluctuating, he hadn't noticed that his Sentinel was in trouble. There had been a time when even the slightest waver in Jim's senses would have been immediately noticed, analysed, and dealt with. But that was before... Well, *before*.

Things hadn't been particularly good between them even before the dissertation fiasco; Sandburg had alternated between snarky and subdued. He wanted to talk about things that Jim just wanted to forget about. Things like fountains and visions and everything that had gone wrong since then. Rehashing mistakes wouldn't change anything; better to just put it all behind them and move on. Unfortunately, Sandburg couldn't seem to get with the program.

After years of partnership, Jim knew how to handle a hyper, enthusiastic Sandburg. He had no clue what to do with the moody version that now shared the loft. He certainly hadn't known how to corner his Guide and admit that he'd been hiding Sentinel problems from him and that he really, really needed Sandburg to just *fix* things.

So - he hadn't. He was stuck on desk duty till Sandburg graduated anyway; Simon had thought it best to give the media circus time to fade from memory before putting him back on the streets. The problems with his senses had been annoying but not life-threatening; the fading was slow enough to give him time to get off the road if sight happened to act up while driving. So he'd just kept coping as best he could and hoped that Blair would stay home long enough to notice that something was wrong. That way, he'd have to endure a typical Sandburg lecture but then Blair would help him get his senses under control without him having to actually ask for help and just maybe things would get back to normal between them. Normal as in the way their friendship *used* to be, not the way it had been lately.

Unfortunately, Blair hadn't been around enough to notice that there was a problem. And now, Jim's senses were going from sub-normal-human to maxed-out-Sentinel without the slightest warning. Jim was desperate enough to be willing to actually *ask* for help. He'd come home with every intention of doing so. Except...

Scanning the note placed prominently in the centre of the table, Jim clenched his jaw. Except, of course, asking for help would require that his Guide actually be home *to* ask. Home where he damn well belonged, not off "studying" with some friend-stealing, home-wrecking...

Sight cut out entirely, blotting out the terse "At Sherry's. Don't hold supper." scrawled across the page. Disoriented, Jim swayed and clutched at the table. Shit. This was not good. Not good at all. The dial wasn't responding.

Okay, now he absolutely *had* to talk to Sandburg. He couldn't risk falling asleep and missing Blair's return. Maybe... maybe he should just wait in Sandburg's room. Maybe being in his Guide's personal space, surrounded by his Guide's familiar scent, would ground him enough that he could stabilize his senses. At the very least, when Blair found him there, he would definitely know that there was something seriously wrong. He wouldn't have to ask for help, Blair would drag the truth out of him.

Yeah, that would work. He could do this. Assuming that he didn't kill himself trying to navigate Sandburg's cluttered room blind.

Cautiously shuffling his way towards Blair's bed - more likely to be a clear path than the route towards his desk since Sandburg had a tendency to navigate with eyes closed in the morning himself - Jim breathed deeply, relaxing slightly as he inhaled the familiar odours of books and herbal soap and vanilla meditation candles. Beneath them lay faint traces of Blair's personal scent, a soothing smell that grew stronger when he sank down onto the futon. A few more deep breaths and he was able to wrestle hearing back to something remotely close to normal. Sight still wasn't cooperating but that was okay. No need to panic. He would just sit here and wait for Sandburg.

Assuming that he came home tonight.

Suddenly, Jim was eavesdropping on conversations two blocks away and the hum of the refrigerator was deafening. Well, shit.

Okay. So. Maybe it was time to admit that he knew what was wrong. His emotions were all over the goddamn map and they were taking his senses with them. Not like it was the first time, right?

Except, of course, that before it hadn't been because he was suffering from a serious case of guilt over having doubted and refused to listen to his Guide. And guilt over the extreme measures that his refusal to just *listen* and help make things right had necessitated.

Nor had it been because he was so goddamn jealous that his best friend was spending whatever free time he had with someone else instead of with him. Sandburg couldn't possibly need that much time to study for the Academy; he *must* be conducting an in-depth and intimate study of Sherry herself.

Hearing spiked higher but even four blocks away there was no trace of the Volvo's distinctive engine making its way homeward.

Okay. Truth time. Jim wasn't just feeling seriously deprived of contact with his Guide. He wasn't just jealous of the time his partner was spending elsewhere. He was jealous of what Sandburg was spending that time doing and who he was doing it with.

Well, shit.

Suddenly, the prospect of Blair coming home, finding Jim in *his* room, and dragging a complete explanation out of him didn't sound quite so appealing. He was *not* ready to talk about this. Despite the fact that discussing everything was probably the only way he'd get his senses back under control again.

Jim sighed and stretched out on the futon, burying his face in the comforting scent clinging to Blair's pillow. In the army, sometimes he'd just had to suck it up and do what had to be done, no matter whether he wanted to or not. He could do it again.

And just as soon as Sandburg got his butt back home where it belonged, he would.
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