by Kristine Williams
"Sorry about that, Ellison. Should have anticipated him. He's next."
His gun aimed, as did Blair's. "Freeze!" It was all he could think to do--all he could think to say--but it wasn't enough! Mills didn't freeze. He looked at Blair, then turned back to the couch, disregarding the gun in Blair's shaking hands. Blair couldn't see Jim, but he heard Mills cock the gun again. Oh God! He had to--Both guns seemed to explode in the same instant, and the recoil of Jim's larger automatic sent shockwaves through Blair's arms and into his chest. He heard glass shatter, and prayed it was Mills bullet and not his. If he'd missed...
Agent Mills hit the ground with a massive thud, landing right in front of Blair. Oh God--Oh God!
"Jim!" He was alive?!
A third explosion startled him and he gripped Jim's gun tighter, his eyes darting back to the body of Agent Mills even as he realized Captain Banks had just kicked in the front door.
"Jim! What the hell?!" Simon rushed to the couch. "What happened?"
Blair still couldn't get up, couldn't see Jim from where he lay. His heart was racing, as was his mind.
"It was Mills. Blair?"
Jim's voice didn't sound right. "I'm all right." Simon appeared beside him then, and took Jim's gun from his hands. The Captain nearly had to pry Blair's fingers away, he was still clutching it in fear. He couldn't move, couldn't let go of the gun on his own. "Jim?" He didn't want the Captain to help him, he needed Jim. Simon set the gun on the table, then took Blair by the arms and lifted him up, all but putting him onto the opposite couch. From there, Blair could see Jim, bleeding badly from a bullet wound in his left shoulder. "Jim!" Oh God!
"I'm all right." Jim was holding his shoulder as he sat, sagging against the cushions. Simon was on the phone, calling for an ambulance as he rummaged around the kitchen, rushing back to the couch with two clean towels.
"Hang on, Jim. The ambulance will be here in a minute." Simon pressed the towels into the wound and Jim grimaced, nodding.
Jim was bleeding, Agent Mills was dead. Blair's hands started to shake as his mind tried to grasp what had just happened. He'd killed him. He'd shot Mills and killed him. No, no no no, this is happening too fast! And Jim wasn't stopping it. He was bleeding to death! Blair tried to get up, but the pain in his side was overwhelming. He held his ribcage with his left arm, gritted his teeth, and forcibly pushed off the couch, propelling himself towards Jim and Simon.
"Sandburg, sit down!" Simon growled.
"Jim!" Blair ignored Simon as he all but fell onto the couch beside his partner. The bleeding wasn't stopping, he could see fresh blood seeping out around the towels Simon was pressing into the wound. "Jim, come on." Jim's eyes were closing, and Blair could see he was losing consciousness but fighting not to.
"Hold this." Simon reached out and took Blair's hand, pressing it into the towels against Jim's shoulder. "I can hear the ambulance downstairs." He stood then and rushed to the door, then out and down the hall.
"Jim, come on, man." Blair was pressing into the towel, but the blood was flowing out and over his hand. It wouldn't stop! Why wouldn't it stop? Blair's heart was racing now. Jim's eyes were closed. "Jim!" He was unconscious, and Blair could feel the panic welling up from his gut. Agent Mills was all but forgotten. "Jim, please!" He couldn't die! What would he do if...NO! He couldn't die. "Jim, dammit, hang on!" His ears were beginning to ring. It hurt to breathe, and the bleeding wouldn't stop! "Come on, come on, Jim! Open your eyes, Jim." God, open your eyes! This was too much...just too much! How could this have happened so quickly? When did they lose control? "Jim, please! Don't do this...please, man, don't do this!"
"Sandburg!" Simon took Blair by the arms and had to pry him away. "Blair, come on, let the paramedics do their job."
Blair tried to fight Simon's pull, but he had no strength, and pain in his side was stabbing him regularly. There was blood on his hands, Jim's blood. He tried to shake off Simon's hands, to get back to the couch. Jim needed him. He was bleeding! The paramedics were there now, lifting Jim from the couch and putting him on the stretcher. He was still unconscious, still bleeding. Simon's hands were on Blair's arms and he pulled him farther back.
"Sandburg, what the hell happened?"
Blair couldn't take his eyes off Jim as the medics worked on him. "I shot him."
"You shot Mills?" Simon forced Blair around to face him, making him tear his gaze off Jim. "Sandburg, tell me what happened."
Blair shook his head. How could this be more important? Jim might be dying! That was when his eyes found Mills. His body sprawled out on the rug, blood still flowing from the gaping hole in his left side, eyes wide open, staring sightlessly at the ceiling. Oh God! He felt dizzy.
"Sandburg. Tell me what happened. I drove over here to see what you and Jim had found out." Simon's voice had lowered and Blair looked at him instinctively.
"It...it was Mills. Jim saw him in the bathroom mirror. He was the third man." Blair felt like the world was blurring, falling away somehow. The paramedics were moving towards the door now and Blair tried to pull out of Simon's grasp. "I need to go with him." He had to stay with Jim.
"I'll drive you." Simon refused to let go and Blair couldn't pull away.
"No, I have to stay with him." He turned to face the Captain. "You don't understand. His senses...He doesn't react to pain medication like we do. There's no telling what surgery could do." He tried again to pull away, but the motion sent a stab of pain through his injured side that caused him to gasp. It didn't fade, but continued, doubling him over. He felt Simon's hands change position, felt himself pressed against the larger man's side as he half ushered, half carried Blair out of the loft and down the stairs, following the medics. He could feel himself beginning to black out, and fought the sensation.
By the time Blair regained control, he was being lowered into the passenger seat of Simon's car. "Captain I have to be with him. The doctors have to know."
"And what can you tell them? Why doesn't he react to medicines, anyway? What's that got to do with his senses? He's had surgery before, Sandburg. He'll be fine."
Simon's questions didn't interrupt his starting the car and following the ambulance. "I don't know exactly. We never got to explore that. I just know that he might not react normally. We've got to tell them." God, couldn't Simon drive any faster? The pain in his side was making his head swim. He had to be there when the doctors worked on Jim. What if he couldn't be anaesthetized? If they needed to operate, and they couldn't keep him under, what would happen? "He can't die, Simon, he can't." Blair didn't even notice the natural use of Captain Banks' first name, a name he wasn't supposed to use.
"He won't die. Jim's been hurt worse before." Simon glanced at Blair to reassure him. "They'll know what to do if something doesn't seem right with him. Just take it easy. He'll be with doctors."
Blair shook his head. How could they know? How could he explain it to them? Blair didn't even know himself. Jim had never let him explore that potential problem. Maybe it wasn't a problem, and it would all be okay? "Dammit, Simon, can't you go any faster?!"
"Would you just take it easy?" Simon's voice rose, but he pressed down harder on the gas even as he chastised Blair for his loss of temper.
It seemed like hours had passed when they finally pulled into the hospital's emergency entrance. Blair tried to hurry out of Simon's car, but getting out of the seat sent a stab of pain through his side and he had to clutch the door for support. Simon came around from the driver's side and supported him with one arm so he could shut the door.
"Come on. I'll get you settled in there, then find out how he is."
"I'm fine." Blair insisted, but he was unable to shrug off the firm, supporting grip on his left arm. Simon said nothing as they hurried into the waiting room. Blair had lost sight of the paramedics and Jim, and now searched the area for any sign of his friend.
"Sit down, I'll find out what's going on." Simon all but pushed Blair into a seat at the far side of the waiting area, away from everyone else who was there. "Stay here!"
It was an order, plain and simple, delivered with such force that Blair's first impulse was to disobey. But the fact that he had no idea which room or hallway Jim had been taken through, and the pain in his chest that refused to abate, kept him sitting there. His heart was racing, his head was spinning. This isn't happening. Blair's mind urged him to deny it all, but his memory was filled with the sight of Agent Mills falling to the floor, the sound of that gun going off as he tried so desperately to push the arm away that was holding it. And the blood. Jim's blood that was still staining his hands and shirt. God, Jim, please! He couldn't die. What would Blair do if...NO, he couldn't die! They hadn't finished their argument yet. It all happened too fast. This was never supposed to happen. He was supposed to recall a face, some stranger's face. The third man. How could it be Mills? He was with them all this time. He was FBI, for Christ's sake! All that time, and Blair had fallen for it. He'd not only believed Agent Mills was one of the good guys, but he had felt sorry for him! God, Jim was right, he had no business in the police field.
There was a slight commotion at the entrance and Blair looked up, seeing several dark-suited men coming through the doors, following a stretcher with a large body bag on top. Several uniformed officers came in after them, followed by Mike Jenkins and Jeff Clark. Numbly, Blair realized it was Mills' body they were bringing in, and the men in suits were FBI. He was feeling light-headed again, and couldn't take a deep breath against the pain and bandages. The facts of the last half hour were slowly catching up. He'd killed a man. An FBI agent. But he'd had to. Mills was going to finish off Jim, then kill Blair. He'd had no choice. Surely they...Jim would tell them...Blair looked around for Simon, finally seeing him coming from the opposite end of the waiting area. His heart was racing with a sudden panicked feeling that the FBI agents would take him away before he could talk to Jim. The men coming towards him with Mike Jenkins close behind were stuck in a crowd of crying women, so Blair pushed himself off the chair and walked as quickly as he could towards Simon.
"He's gone in to surgery." Simon raised a hand before Blair could speak, then glanced over at the group coming towards them. "Just take it easy. He'll be fine."
"Did you tell the doctors? Did he wake up at all?" Blair put a hand on Simon's arm, desperate for any information, any reassurance that Jim was going to be walking out of that hospital soon. Chastising Blair for being so worried.
"Sandburg, he'll be fine. The doctors know how to handle it."
"No, you don't understand." Simon had begun to walk back towards the seats against the wall, pulling him along by the arm. When Blair pulled away, the pain that shot through his side and chest clouded his vision. Blackness enveloped him before he could fight it, and the next thing Blair knew, he was lying down, looking up at a vaguely familiar face in a white lab coat.
"Mr. Sandburg, just lie still."
Blair recognized the doctor who had treated him when he was first brought in. His head was buzzing, and the black spots still danced across his vision, but he knew he was lying down.
"You've been a little hard on yourself lately. We're going to take some x-rays, then re-bandage these ribs. Nurse, 10 cc's of morphine."
"No." Blair fought to sit up, but he couldn't do more than raise his head and one arm. "I don't want to go to sleep. I have to be awake." He couldn't be here, Jim needed him!
"Sandburg, just do what the doctor tells you." Simon was there, just beyond the doctor, looking down at him.
"No, I have to be with him." Didn't he understand?! Jim was there...he was always there! Blair had to be. He had to be there when Jim needed him.
"Mr. Sandburg, you need rest." The doctor was hovering over him, syringe in hand.
"No!" Damn them, they didn't understand! Blair gritted his teeth, put both hands on the bed and pushed himself up. Or thought he did. Pain shot through him again before he even got his shoulders off the bed. Dammit! This wasn't about him anymore! Couldn't they see that?
"All right, all right. Take it easy." The doctor put a hand on Blair's shoulder, pressing him down. "Nurse, cut that dose in half. We'll give you just enough to take the edge off. You'll stay awake. Is that all right?"
Blair nodded, teeth tightly clenched. He saw the disapproving look on Simon's face and ignored it. The Captain could tell him what to do or not to do at the Station, but he had no authority over him anyplace else. He wasn't Jim. Blair felt a prick on his arm, and he worried that they had lied for a few minutes, but when the pain seemed to dull somewhat, and he was still awake, he relaxed. They removed the bandages holding his ribcage, then rolled in an x-ray machine and took several films. All the while his ribs were un-bandaged, Blair was afraid to breathe too deeply. As painful as the tightness had been, when it was gone, he felt as though there was nothing holding him together.
Simon had left the room when they worked on Blair, and he couldn't get any information from the doctor or nurses about Jim. By the time they had finished, and re-taped his ribs, he was feeling irritated at what he feared was avoidance of the truth. After listening to a lecture on taking it easy, and taking his pain medication, Blair was allowed to sit up and Simon came back into the room.
"What's happening? Is he out yet?" Blair nearly pounced on the Captain as he came into the exam room.
"He's in recovery now. The doctor said it was touch and go for a little while." Simon looked tired.
Oh God! "But he's going to be all right, isn't he?"
"They said he'd lost a lot of blood." Simon paused, sliding his glasses down so he could rub his eyes. "And they did have some trouble keeping him under. But, the bullet came out with no trouble, and they feel good about his recovery."
Blair would have sighed with relief, but he was shaking too badly. His mind was too afraid to believe what his ears had just heard. He wouldn't believe it was okay, until they were both home, and Jim was explaining to him how it had all gone so bad, so quickly. Simon's hand was on his shoulder for an instant, then it was gone.
"Come on, I'll take you upstairs. They've got him in a room now." He helped Blair off the bed. "Then I'll take you home."
Blair shook his head. "No, I'll stay here."
"Sandburg, he's all right." Simon kept one hand on Blair's left arm as he guided him to the elevators. "You need some rest, and we've got some explaining to do about this whole mess."
They reached the elevators, and Blair once again remembered Agent Mills. "The money, did they find it?"
"They found it. He had it in the trunk of his car, outside the loft." Simon pressed a button and looked down at Blair. "They also found a gun that matches the one used to kill Edwards and Patterson. And a plane ticket for Borneo."
Blair nodded. "Then what's the problem?" If it was proven Mills had done all this, what was the FBI doing there at the hospital? Was he going to be arrested?
"The problem is, my best detective is in the hospital, and a civilian shot and killed an FBI agent" The elevator doors opened, and Simon ushered Blair out and to the left. "That doesn't sit well with them, and makes for a mound of paperwork for me."
Blair could hear a slight irritation in Simon's tone, but he could also tell it was forced.
"Nothing's simple with you, is it, Sandburg?"
Before Blair could reply, Mike Jenkins came towards them. "Captain, I've got the Director of the Seattle FBI on the phone. He wants to have a word with you."
"Great." Simon stopped, then turned to Blair. "Go on in. I'll be a minute or two."
Blair realized they were right outside the door to a room that must be Jim's. Simon followed Mike down the hall to the nurse's station, and Blair pushed the door open slowly, peering inside before entering.
Jim was there, unconscious, with IV's hanging down to one arm, and EKG leads trailing off his chest to the monitor behind his bed. Blair walked to the side of the bed, shaking hands reached for the chair as he sat down slowly, trying not to jar his side as he did so. The bed was lowered, and the chair high enough so that while sitting, Blair could reach out and touch Jim's arm.
"Jim?" He was still out of it, just as he had been on the couch, but this time his shoulder was heavily bandaged, and there was no more blood staining his shirt. "Hey, man, you were right. I guess I'm not cut out for this police stuff after all." He was answered by the quiet, rhythmic beeping of the heart monitors, and Jim's steady breathing. "I'm sorry, Jim. I should have done something." Come on, man, wake up! Blair took his hand off Jim's arm and wrapped both his arms around himself. The drugs the doctor had given him were wearing off, but he didn't want anything else. He had to stay awake. He had to be here for Jim, just as Jim had been there for him. "You're right man, this really sucks."
Simon came in then, crossing the room quietly. "Sandburg, I'll take you home. The doctor said he could be out for quite a while."
Blair shook his head. "No, I'll stay here."
"Blair, he'll be okay. I spoke with the doctor. They expect a full recovery, no permanent damage." Simon's voice had lowered and he was trying to be persuasive.
"I'll stay here. I want to be here when he wakes up." He had to be.
"Look, I can understand you not wanting to go back to the loft right now, after all that has happened." Simon was still trying to get Blair to listen to reason. "But you need rest yourself." He sighed, considering his words. "You can come back to my place if you want."
Blair looked up at the Captain, surprised, then grateful for what he knew hadn't been an easy gesture to make. "No, thanks. I'll stay here." No, he didn't want to go back to the loft. There would be blood everywhere, Jim's blood. And probably one of those white-tape outlines marking where Agent Mills had died. He couldn't face that, not alone.
"Why doesn't that surprise me?" Simon shook his head. "Okay, listen, I have to get over to the Station and get things straightened out with the FBI. I'll stop by afterwards, maybe you'll change your mind after a few hours in that chair."
"I don't think so, Captain." Blair shook his head. "If he can do it, I can do it."
Simon sighed. "You know, I think you two deserve each other." He glanced at Jim's sleeping form. "Okay, I'll be back later. Call me if he wakes up, okay?"
"Right." Blair watched Simon leave, then reached around the chair and retrieved a pillow he found there. Stuffing it between his ribcage and the arm of the chair gave him some support and helped ease the pain he'd been unwilling to show while the Captain was there, trying to make him go home.
How could he go home? The loft wasn't even Blair's home. Not if Jim wasn't there. He'd been alone there many times, but never due to Jim's being in danger or hurt. Or worse. The one time Jim had disappeared, Captain Taggert had stayed with Blair, keeping an eye on him as a protected witness. He'd never had time to think about being alone in a home that wasn't his, worried about Jim never returning. The only time he'd allowed himself to consider what would happen if Jim never came back, he'd been at the Station with Simon. He looked at Jim, still sleeping, the monitors behind him giving off steady beeps. What had Simon said...they had some trouble keeping him under? Obviously they had managed somehow. Was that due to his Sentinel senses not reacting to the drugs, or did it have more to do with the injury? He seemed to be staying out now, but that could be a natural reaction to such a large amount of blood loss, and exhaustion. Blair's attempts at scholastic thinking were failing him. All he could see, all he could think about, was Jim sitting there, bleeding to death on the couch. His blood seeping through Blair's fingers. His life slowly easing away, and Blair unable to stop it.
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