by Kristine Williams
Blair moved his head on the pillow, wondering why it felt different. Slowly, the idea that maybe he wasn't at home crept into his thoughts. He did remember something about being somewhere else. The garage, wasn't it? The garage at the Station. But where was Jim? And why were they all staring at him? And what was he doing with Jim's...Gun? Oh God! It all came back in a rush. Blair sat up, coming awake with a gasp. He remembered it all, and where he was, then realized there was someone else in the room. Glancing at the sleeping form of Jim beside him in the chair, Blair held his breath for a moment. He hadn't woken Jim. Which meant either he hadn't just screamed at the top of his lungs, or Jim was so exhausted, he hadn't heard. Which would then mean, that Jim was really exhausted. He blinked a few times, trying to clear away the odd golden tint everything seemed to have. His heart had finally stopped racing and he leaned back against the hospital pillow, trying to put his thoughts back in some order.
God, he'd made a fool of himself in the garage! He remembered most of it now. He had Jim's gun. And he made an ass of himself. And he nearly killed several officers. And Jim...he remembered wanting to kill Jim---no, not wanting to, but almost pulling the trigger at him anyway. For one brief instant, he was ready to kill Jim---or what he thought wasn't Jim. Blair reached both hands up to his face and pushed his hair back, willing the memory to push out of his mind as easily. It didn't. It was still there. And he was still there, in the hospital, where everyone knew what he had done. And the officers, they all knew. Hell, they were all there. Probably ready to take him down before he killed Jim. How was he supposed to face them again? How was he supposed to face Jim? Or Simon, even? What must they think of him? He'd taken the---no, he hadn't taken it---but yet, he...
"Dammit," Blair whispered through clenched teeth, trying not to wake Jim, but unable to accept the memories that were trying to come back. The images weren't very clear, but the emotions, the remembered adrenaline and fear, were all too clear. Blair swallowed, glancing back at Jim. He was leaning back in the chair, head against the wall. He looked exhausted, and needed a shave. Just how long had he been there? The clock on the wall was little help. It told him it was now 6:00 PM, but not how long he had been there. The doctor had told him once, but he forgot. And there was no telling how long Jim had been there. He should go home. All he was doing was...was making Blair able to sleep better. He knew that now. He knew it had been Jim with him during the odd flashes he could only half-recall. He also knew he had to use the bathroom.
Carefully, so as not to wake his friend, Blair moved out of the bed. He was free of all the IV's now, but the instant his feet hit the floor, a wave of dizziness hit his head. Blair sat on the edge of the bed until the spell passed, then slowly pushed himself up, reaching for the wall as he did so. It took some effort, and he was sweating by the time he reached the bathroom, but he made it.
Jim's voice greeted him as he came back out, shakily making his way back to the bed. "Yeah, I'm right here." The shaking of his voice surprised even Blair.
Jim was out of the chair instantly, taking Blair by the arm and guiding him back to the bed. "Why didn't you wake me? Or get a nurse?"
Blair shook his head, reaching out for the bed as they neared it. "Jim, I'm fine. Just needed to use the bathroom." He sat back down gratefully and didn't protest when Jim insisted he get back in bed. "Jim, you should go home."
He shook his head, pulling the blankets back over Blair's legs. "I'm fine. Nothing to do there that I'm not doing here." He stopped fussing with the blankets and stretched, yawning. "My vision is still too fuzzy to get me anywhere."
"So, you'd rather sit here and watch me sleep?" Blair's hands were shaking from his little exertion, so he reached up again and pushed his hair away. "How long have you been here, Jim?"
"Long enough to pick up quite the soap opera from the nurses down the hall." He started grinning, shaking his head.
Blair laughed a little, then a sudden rush of remembered emotion gripped his chest, and something golden and flaming flashed across his mind's eye. As quickly as it had come, it was gone. From one breath to the next. He had just enough time to blink, and Jim's hand was on his shoulder again.
"Hey, Chief, what is it?"
Blair shook his head at the sudden urgency and concern in Jim's voice. "Nothing, I'm okay. I just---I just flashed on something." He stopped and rubbed his eyes, trying to hide the flush of red that he could feel burning in his cheeks. Blair knew he wasn't hiding anything from Jim, but for a brief instant, he really wished he could pull the covers over his head and hide everything from everyone.
"Jim, what the hell did I do?" Blair interrupted. He met Jim's eyes, and brought both arms around himself. "I keep seeing things...things that I was shooting at. Jim, I had a gun. I had your gun. I could have killed someone. I tried to kill everyone." He stopped then and looked away, ashamed, and not wanting to see shame in Jim's eyes.
"Sandburg, you didn't kill anyone. You didn't try to kill anyone."
Blair was shaking his head, refusing to look at Jim. He knew, if he looked up, and saw half of the blame he was feeling himself, reflected there...he knew he couldn't take that. The hand on his shoulder, the hand he had felt all this time, gripped tightly.
"Sandburg, look at me."
Blair kept shaking his head, rocking slightly. God, he couldn't do it. He couldn't go back there. He'd not only made a fool of himself, but what did they think of Jim now? What kind of partner...what kind of friend was he now?
Another feeling shot to the forefront of Blair's mind, another memory. A memory of a voice...an encouragement...a touch. He was sorry...so sorry for what he had done. God!
"Blair, look at me." Jim's voice was so calm, so encouraging that he looked up out of habit, seeing nothing but concern. "I know it's not easy to understand, but that wasn't you. It was the drug. The Golden made you see things that weren't there. But that didn't make it any less real in your mind." He paused and Blair tried to look away, but his eyes came back to Jim's. "No one blames you for anything that happened, Chief. No one."
Blair nodded slightly, more to please Jim than out of a true acceptance. He wanted so badly for that to be true. But, if worse came to worse, he could stand what the other officers might think of him, as long as Jim still... "I'm sorry, Jim." Blair looked back up from his sudden inspection of the far wall. He was shaking, partially from his complete lack of energy, and partially from the emotions he couldn't hold back. "I never meant---I didn't..." He couldn't find the words for the whirlwind of emotions spinning through his heart. Jim stepped closer, reaching up to take Blair's other shoulder in his grasp. Blair kept his eyes on the blanket, shaking his head, willing the right words to somehow find their own way out.
"Hey." Jim turned Blair towards him, then his hands moved from Blair's shoulders, halfway up his neck on either side, forcing him to look up and again meet Jim's eyes. "It's okay, it's okay."
Blair fought to keep the moisture that was building up behind his eyes from spilling over. Everything in the room seemed to be glowing orange, and that wasn't helping any.
"Trust me," Jim said. "It's okay."
Blair nodded, closing his eyes to push back the tears. Jim's hands moved back down to his shoulders and stayed there until he opened his eyes again. "Thanks, Jim." He swallowed back the emotions and rolled his eyes. "At least you know now what would happen if I carried a gun."
Jim laughed, shaking his head. "You weren't half bad in there, Chief."
Blair looked up, shocked for a moment. "Jim, come on. You couldn't even see me. I don't remember what I hit, but I do remember firing that thing a few times." And, almost once more. "God, Jim, I could have killed you!" The fear and panic returned in a rush.
"No." Jim shook his head, gripping Blair's shoulders again. "No, you couldn't have."
"Listen to me. Even hallucinating, you knew who I was. You responded to my voice right away. You knew who I was. And you listened to me. That says something, Chief. No matter what that drug did to you, it still couldn't make you kill me."
Blair's heart had begun racing again with the memory, and was only now starting to slow back down. He closed his eyes tightly, trying to force out the fear and uncertainty from the images trying to come back to him.
"Blair, your mind is still trying to figure out what the hell happened. Give it some time."
He opened his eyes again, nodding. "Listen, Jim, you can go home. I'll be okay."
Jim let go of Blair's shoulders and stretched again. "No, I've already told Simon to pick me up tomorrow. The doctor thinks he'll send you home in the morning, so I might as well stay here." He turned around, twisting from the waist until his back popped audibly. "Tell you what, if you want some time to yourself, maybe I'll just go see if one of those nurses would show a blind Detective where the cafeteria is."
Blair laughed, rolling his eyes. "Jim, you didn't...?"
"Sure, why not? I just told them I was having trouble with my eyes, and was temporarily blind. Nothing untrue about that."
"And you haven't let them know you can see now?"
Jim shrugged, grinning. "Hasn't come up. Besides, it's still pretty fuzzy around the edges."
Blair shook his head. "Jim, you lied?"
Jim pursed his lips, then cocked his head to the side and raised both hands. "Think of it as a romantic obfuscation, Sandburg." At that, he reached out and patted Blair on the cheek. "I've learned from the best, after all."
Blair could only laugh, watching Jim
cross the room to the door. He paused for a moment, looking back, then left. Blair
just shook his head, waiting for the door to close. When it did, he pulled both
legs up, crossed his arms over his knees so he could rest his head on them, and
began to sob as quietly as he could.
Jim passed the nurses station without stopping. He really had no intention of doing any flirting, he just needed an excuse Blair would buy to get out of the room. He knew his friend was in need of a little time alone. He could 'feel' the emotions welling up inside of him, and even now, no matter how quiet Blair was trying to be, Jim knew exactly what he was doing. The elevator was already waiting, so he got inside and hit the button for the lobby. He'd give Blair some time alone, just enough, to get the worst of it over with. Jim knew there was a fine line between letting Blair have some time alone, and leaving him too long with his demons. A quick cup of coffee downstairs should be plenty of time. He'd spent twenty minutes on the phone with Simon, explaining why he was staying overnight again at the hospital. It was just easier that way, for taking Blair home in the morning. At least, that's what he told the Captain. The truth was, Jim had been so terrified for so long, wondering if Blair was even going to live, let alone have any permanent damage from the drug, there was just no way he could go home and leave Blair here alone. Not now. Not once he had finally gotten his partner back.
Jim got some coffee and found a table near the elevators, mostly shielded by several plants and a wall. He set the coffee down and rubbed his face with both hands, slowly pushing away the fatigue and stress from his eyes. God, the relief was overwhelming. The possibility of being blind was something Jim thought he could have handled. Of course, he was saying that now, with his sight coming back. But he really did think, with Blair's help, he could have managed okay. But without Blair...if he had died...Stop this, Ellison. Blair was alive. He'd be fine now. They both were fine now. A few more days of rest, making sure his partner came to terms with what had happened, and understood it was in no way his fault, and they'd be back on the job, full force. Jim finished his coffee, then tossed the cup into the trash and went back to the elevators. He wasn't alone on the ride up, and they had to stop at nearly every floor, but the closer he got to the 8TH, the stronger his sense of Blair's presence became.
Jim had tried to explain the connection to Simon, but he'd done a lousy job of it. He knew the Captain wouldn't understand. How could he? Jim barely understood it himself, but he didn't want to have it analyzed. He did, however, want to discuss it some day with Blair. Find out if his Guide felt the same thing. He was curious to know if it was a part of his Sentinel senses, to know instinctively where his Guide was, and what he was feeling. Or was it more to do with something Blair was doing, or had taught Jim without his really knowing it? Whatever it was, trying to put it all into words, to explain it to Simon, somehow cheapened the whole experience. No, whatever it was, it was between him and Blair. And it was making their partnership on the job that much more...natural.
Once back on the eighth floor, Jim focused on the room down the hall. Blair's breathing was regular, he was quiet, possibly asleep again, but definitely in control now. Okay, he'd given his partner some privacy, and time to let it all out, now it was time to get him past all this. He stepped into the room and found Blair lying down, eyes closed. Quietly, Jim crossed to the chair and sat down, getting comfortable again. He let the sound of his partner's steady breathing act as one of Blair's famous calming mantras, putting himself back into a half-sleep, with his head once again propped against the wall behind him.
"Jim, go home."
Jim didn't even turn his head. He knew Blair hadn't so much as opened his eyes. "Go to sleep, Sandburg." There was a pause, and Jim shifted a little in the chair, trying to get around the lumpy spot on the left side.
It took Blair nearly 20 minutes just to get his socks and shoes on, and by the time he finished, he had changed his mind about complaining when the nurse told him the wheelchair to the door was hospital policy. He was tired all over again. The doctor had checked him out after running more tests first thing that morning, and Simon had arrived to drive him and Jim back to the loft just moments ago. He eased himself off the bed and into the wheelchair the nurse was holding for him just as Jim came back into the room.
"It's about time," Simon said, an air of gruffness around him that Blair could see was faked. "I thought I'd never get Ellison to go home."
Jim moved around behind Blair and took over from the nurse, pushing the chair down the hall to the waiting elevator. "I'm on sick leave, Captain. What does it matter where I recuperate?"
"I can't smoke here, Ellison. That's what."
"You can't smoke in my loft, either, Captain."
Blair shook his head, laughing slightly.
"Ah, but I came here in my car, Jim." Simon replied triumphantly. He withdrew one of his favored cigars from his jacket pocket and began to twirl it in his fingers in anticipation.
"Great. That's just great." Blair said.
Luckily, the trip from the hospital to the loft took only 30 minutes, but by the time Blair and Jim were upstairs, he was ready for another three or four days of sleep. He made it as far as the couch, and expected Jim to protest, but instead, he tossed over a blanket.
Blair caught the blanket and let it cover just his legs. "Can you see well enough, Jim?"
"I can see well enough to dial the phone, Chief." Jim walked into the kitchen and picked up the phone. "You want pizza?" As soon as the word was out, Blair flinched physically and mentally. "Oh, hey, I'm sorry, Chief."
Blair shook his head, trying to force out the memory that flashed across his mind. "No, it's okay, man."
"No, it's not okay. I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking."
He wanted to tell Jim to go ahead and order pizza if he wanted it, but the words wouldn't come out. The thought of it was turning his stomach. Blair knew if it was in the loft, the smell would likely push him right over.
"I'll call the deli down the street. I could use a good roast beef on rye. What about you?"
Thanks, Jim. "I'm not hungry." He was just too tired. After 10 minutes of laying on the couch, listening to the game on TV, Blair realized his body was tired, but not his mind. He'd been asleep for so long, he couldn't drift off any more. But he was too exhausted to think about much more than score, and found himself drifting back into awareness just in time for the commercials. Jim's lunch came and he offered to share, but Blair just couldn't get his stomach to accept the idea yet. He finally gave up on trying to fall asleep, and sat up to watch the game. He didn't care about either team, but it kept him from thinking about...them.
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