by Kristine Williams
Time quickly lost all meaning to Jim as he sat there, sometimes stroking Blair's hair and talking to him, sometimes just sitting there, fingering a magazine he couldn't see and listening to the monitors. Blair's heartrate, like Jim's vision, was fluctuating in and out. Sometimes building up in strength, only to fade back out again. God, why hadn't he listened to Simon? What made Jim think he could work on this case without his eyesight? If he had been able to see, this never would have happened. They would have arrested the dealers right there on the old carnival grounds and it would have ended. Jim never would have missed that girl's father, hiding in the background. He never would have let it get that far out of control.
Jim rubbed his eyes again. He was tired of trying to focus, tired of trying to see what he couldn't see. He'd never felt more blind than right now, with Blair lying there, unable to badger him into trying to make his vision return. Unable to guide him in remaking the connection. He should call Naomi. Three times, when the nurse came in to check on Blair, taking vitals and hanging new IV fluid bags, he told himself to tell her to contact Blair's mother. But each time, he stopped himself. He wasn't sure what he could say, even though he had done this countless times, he had never had to make a call this personal before...this close to him. He consoled himself with the knowledge that he didn't actually know if she was in the country right now or not. No, he'd just wait for Blair. If he wanted his mother to know what had happened, he could tell Jim to call.
"Detective, can I get you anything?" The nurse's voice brought Jim out of his thoughts and he looked up in the direction of her voice, seeing only a golden shape. "You've been here all night. Can I get you anything?"
Jim cleared his throat. "No, thank you."
"The doctor will be in soon. If you need anything, just ask." Her voice was moving back to the door.
Jim nodded. "Thank you." What time was it? It had been nearly midnight when this all started, so it was definitely the next day. But how long had be been there? Jim turned back towards the bed, and Blair. He tried again to focus, to force his partner's image to clarify, and it would for an instant, but then it would fade again. "Come on, partner. Wake up and tell me what to do." Just wake up, I'll take it from there.
Sometime later, Jim had no idea how long, someone entered the room.
"Detective Ellison, you really should get some rest." Doctor Mickleson approached the bed on the opposite side.
Jim shook his head. "I'm fine, doctor. How is he?" There was a pause while the doctor examined Blair. Jim strained to see more clearly, but the best he could come up with was one large golden blur looking over another.
"I'd like to see his condition stabilize soon. The longer he's on the respirator, the harder it will be to get his body back to a normal breathing pattern on its own." He sighed and Jim could hear papers being moved around and written on. "It's going to take time for the drug to work its way through his system. Until it does, there's just nothing we can do." Jim nodded, rubbing his eyes again. "You may as well go home, Detective. There's nothing you can do here."
"No, I'm fine, Doc. I'd rather be here when he wakes up."
"That could take some time."
"I know that, but I'd rather not take the chance."
"As you wish, Detective. I'll be in again in a few hours."
Jim nodded, then fell back into a rhythm of listening to Blair's heartbeat and the steady in/out of the respirator, willing them to match his own pattern. It wasn't working, he knew it never would, and he was beginning to physically tire from the effort. He ran a hand over his short hair, then across his face, noting the stubble there. How long had it been? Someone stepped into the room again, and Jim immediately recognized the lingering scent of Simon's favorite brand of cigar.
"Jim." Simon moved around to the other side of Blair's bed. "How is he doing?"
Jim shook his head. "He's fading in and out, sir. The doctor says it's gonna take time for the drug to work its way out of his system." He let all the exhaustion and frustration show through in his voice.
"I got the reports back on those chemicals contained in Golden. They're pretty rare. There's no record of any significant shipment of those chemicals to any company here in Cascade."
"What about controlled substances?"
"These are legal transactions, Simon. What about theft?"
"I checked into that too...there's nothin'," he paused. "How you doin' man? You don't look so good." Simon came around the bed and sat down on it, facing Jim.
"I'm all right. I was hoping he'd come to. This Golden crap, it's insidious stuff." Jim shook his head in frustration. "I mean, there must have been ten to twenty times the amount that would kill a person on that pizza."
"They were sending a message. Don't screw with us, or we'll hit you where it hurts."
And that's exactly where they hit. "I've got a feeling these creeps haven't left town. They've got a hundred kilos of unfinished business."
"I just wanna know how the hell they found out who you were so fast."
"Obviously they've got some kind of access. What about a government contract?"
"That's worth a shot." Simon sighed. "Jim, let me take you home. You can get yourself cleaned up then come to the Station with me." Jim shook his head, torn now between the desperate need to nail the people responsible for putting Blair in such peril, and the desire to be there when his partner regained consciousness. "You aren't doing either of you any good sitting here. He'll recover, Jim. We just have to believe that."
Jim nodded, standing up reluctantly. Simon
was right, and if they could get this case solved, then he'd have good news to
tell Blair when he did wake up. "Okay, Simon." He set the magazine back
down on the chair, only then remembering he had been holding it all this time.
Blair was still just a blur on the bed, but Jim was able to locate his shoulder
and give it a gentle squeeze. "I'll be back, partner." God, he didn't
want to leave...but he needed to get these men. He needed...He needed this to
be over. He needed his Guide...his friend, back.
Everything was golden, and glowing. But it wasn't good. There was nothing good about it. Shapes were coming at him, then disappearing. Moving, glowing shapes that came up from the floor, and out of the walls, were coming at him. He tried to move away, to get off the ground where they couldn't reach him, but he couldn't move. The shapes were like fire, coming close enough to burn. Sometimes the shapes took form, and walked, but then they would blur and flames leapt off them, coming closer...closer all the time. He had to stop them. Blair had to stop them, there was no one else. Jim couldn't see. Blair had to be his eyes, because Jim couldn't see. Something touched his arm, and for an instant, the shapes disappeared. He tried to find where they went, but there were no more shapes...no more golden fire shapes anymore. Then the touch left, and immediately Blair saw something coming out of the wall at the far end of the room. He flinched, trying to move away. He had to get higher up, get out of its reach, but it was glowing, and dancing golden tongues of flame leapt from its head. Blair struggled to move, to get out of its reach, but he couldn't. The touch returned then, on his shoulder this time, and again the golden shape vanished. A quick scan of the room showed him no more golden shapes, and he tried to calm his racing heart. If he could keep that touch---whatever it was--- if he could keep it there, maybe it had something to do with scaring them away.
It was getting hard to breathe for some reason. Blair moved his head, trying
to fill his lungs with air he couldn't find. Was it them? Was the fire taking
all the air? The touch was still there, gripping now, and there were others as
well, touches on his head, his chest, his arm, but the one on his shoulder...the
one that had scared away the flame, was the only one he could concentrate on.
As long as that touch was there, the fire people weren't. It was easier to breathe
now, and some of the touches were leaving. But the one touch remained, and he
clung to it. Blair forced his mind to hold onto that touch, and will it to keep
the shapes from returning. He had tried to stop them, but he'd failed. He couldn't
do it alone, but---he had done it, hadn't he? He had done it. They had
gone away. Which meant he wasn't alone. The hand on his shoulder---the hand that
was there now, it must have done it. That hand must have helped him then, as it
was now. Blair fought to maintain contact with that touch, but his mind was fading
with fatigue as a soft, dark blanket covered him. Reluctantly he drifted into
Jim sat once again beside the bed, but this time, he was able to see his friend as he lay there, still unconscious, but finally breathing on his own. Blair's shape was blurred around the edges a bit, and laced with a golden hue, but he could see him once again. After the arrest and the required paperwork, Jim had finally gotten Simon to drive him back to the hospital. They had taken Blair off the respirator when he arrived, and the subsequent ordeal of getting Blair to take those first few breaths on his own had nearly sent Jim into a blind panic. What would he do without his Guide? It wasn't the first time he had asked that question, but it was the first time he'd really believed he'd be faced with it. Jim insisted he be there when his partner regained consciousness, regardless of Simon's insistence that sitting by Blair's bed would do him no good. The EKG was still monitoring his heartbeat, but Jim was greeted by a much steadier, even beat now. Even through the golden haze, Blair looked small and vulnerable lying there. He had just settled in for a long wait when the doctor returned. This time Jim could focus on the man as he approached, and was able to shake his hand.
"Detective." Dr. Mickleson extended a hand, then glanced at Blair. "Well, he's taken the first step. There's still an uphill battle ahead, but getting him off that respirator was a good sign. He's fighting now."
"Any idea when he might wake up?"
The doctor shook his head. "That's entirely up to him. His mind has been through an ordeal, and until it's recovered, he's not going to want to face what might be out here. It's easier to deal with the addicts who overdose and have a more pleasant reaction, but from what your Captain has told me, not only did Mr. Sandburg not take the drug on purpose, but his visions were anything but pleasant."
Jim nodded, wishing for the hundredth time in two days that he could erase this past week, and start all over again, for Blair's sake, if nothing else. But it was over now, all but the recovery. And Blair would recover. But there was one question Jim could no longer ignore. "What about permanent damage?"
"We won't know about that until he's regained consciousness. There's always the possibility, with an overdose like this, that the brain or portions of it have been permanently damaged. With Golden, we can only guess, as with most designer drugs."
That wasn't the answer he was looking for, but he knew it was true. The doctor took another look at Blair, checking vital signs and writing things down on the chart. Jim thanked him as he left, and settled in to wait.
It was early evening, and Jim was listening to the nurses changing shift down the hall when he sensed Blair's change in breathing pattern. He immediately turned to him, leaning across the bed to put a hand on his shoulder. Blair wasn't waking up, not exactly, but he was entering into a state of REM.
"Easy, Chief. I'm here." Jim gripped Blair's shoulder.
"It's okay." Blair's head turned slightly towards Jim, his eyebrows
knitting briefly. "It's okay, partner." He seemed to relax, then a few
moments later slipped back into a restful breathing pattern. Jim kept his hand
on Blair's shoulder, as much to reassure himself as his partner.
They hadn't come back, not yet. The hand was still on his shoulder, and it
was keeping them at bay. Slowly, cautiously, Blair looked around, trying to see
if there were any golden shapes hiding in the dark. There were none. Gratefully
he sighed, swallowing against a dry throat. The hand on his shoulder moved, and
for one instant he feared it would leave, and they would come back. He turned
towards it, but instead of leaving, the hand merely shifted, gripping his shoulder
and holding on. Blair sighed with relief, then thought he heard voices. He wasn't
sure, but there was a voice coming from somewhere, talking to him. There was only
one voice speaking to him, but now and then, he heard more. Blair only recognized
one voice, the one calling to him now. He should answer it, or at least acknowledge
the fact that he was aware of it, but the voice was still far off, and he couldn't
make out the words. He wanted to tell the voice not to leave, but it was so far
away. Maybe if he concentrated on it he could pull it closer?
Jim woke with a start, instantly realizing where he was. He had fallen asleep in the chair, one hand still resting on Blair's shoulder. He shook the sleep from his head and rubbed his eyes, checking the clock on the wall that he could finally see. It was still golden, but he could see it. 2:00 A.M. He glanced at Blair, wondering what it had been that woke him. His partner turned his head slightly, and a quiet moan escaped his lips.
"Hey, Chief." Jim leaned forward, gripping Blair's shoulder again. "Come on, buddy." There were footsteps coming into the room and Jim turned long enough to see a nurse walk in. "Nurse, I think he's coming around."
The nurse hurried to the other side of the bed, then examined Blair's pupils briefly. "I'll get the doctor."
Blair swallowed, moving his head again towards Jim, then the eyes blinked open, just slightly.
"Hey, buddy, welcome back." Jim reached out and stroked Blair's hair, pushing it away from his face. "It's okay, Blair, you're in the hospital."
He blinked once and swallowed, then opened his eyes again and turned further towards Jim.
"Just take it easy, Chief, it's okay. It's okay now." Jim looked up as the doctor and a nurse came in, then he turned back to Blair, who was groggily trying to search the room and the new arrivals. Reluctantly, Jim removed his hand from Blair's head and stepped back so the doctor could examine his partner. One of the nurses suggested he wait in the hall, and Jim obliged, knowing he could still keep in contact while giving the doctor his notion of privacy. He left the room and leaned gratefully against the wall just outside, listening unashamedly to the doctor as he made his examination. It took him a few minutes to get Blair to reply, and Jim's heart ached at how exhausted his friend sounded. But, he was alive. The relief was almost overwhelming. By the time the doctor came out of the room, Jim already knew it was good news.
"Well, from the looks of things, I can't see any sign of permanent brain damage. He's got some recovering to do yet, but he is aware of his surroundings and seems to be in control."
Jim sighed greatly, then shook the man's hand again. "Thank you, doctor."
"It was all his doing. And, he's going to be here for a bit. Then there's the flashbacks, but I'll explain that to him when he's more able to understand."
Jim nodded. He knew the routine, having had plenty of training to deal with these cases, but he had never actually experienced this first-hand before. The doctor left, followed by the nurse, and Jim glanced back inside the room. Blair had his eyes closed again, and was probably drifting in and out. He was going to go straight back in there, but a sudden tightness in his throat sent him across the hall to the mens room. Once there, Jim thought he might be sick, but the surge of adrenaline stopped and he leaned against the sink, staring down at the basin. After a minute of shaking, he turned on the tap and splashed cold water on his face. God, the thought of him---of Blair---dying, had been too much for too long. And it was Blair Jim didn't want to lose. Not his Guide, but his friend. But it was okay now, he was going to be okay. Jim could have been blind, he could have handled it, if he had Blair to help. But, he'd rather be blind, with Blair alive, then have his sight return and lose his friend. As soon as Jim regained control, he toweled off his face and hurried back to the room.
Blair seemed to be asleep again, so Jim returned to his chair beside the bed. No sooner had he sat down, then Blair opened his eyes.
"Hey, buddy." Jim leaned over the bed and touched his arm. Blair turned to look at him and sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. "You gave me quite a scare there, partner."
Blair swallowed, then opened his eyes. "Jim..."
"No, Chief, just get some rest. We can talk later. It's okay now." Jim could hear the incredible exhaustion behind Blair's voice. There was time now, time for Blair to recover, and Jim to help him through what would come next. "Just get some sleep, I'll be right here."
Jim put a hand on Blair's shoulder, and he closed his eyes then, nodding slowly. He kept his hand there and got comfortable in the chair again. Yes, there was time now.
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