SUMMARY: An unusual storms strikes fear into the hearts of our favorite boys!
Thanks to Annie for all the beta help!
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, and Paramount. Im just playing with them for awhile. I promise to clean them off and put them back when Im done. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made. If I happen to stumble on an original idea, its mine, mine, all mine!
Well, its the proverbial lead pipe, Simon. Literally. Thats why its so important as evidence. Based on the amount of lead in this pipe, we can say for sure that this came from a building built before 1986, when they first started phasing lead out of building materials. Blair hefted the pipe in his hand, sitting back against the window ledge.
Jim picked up the thread of the story. And since theres not a lot of lead pipes just lying around, were probably looking for a site thats either being demolished or restored.
Jim continued to fill Simon in on their case. Blair combed his fingers idly through his hair. Now that he was through with the academy and his rotations through the various divisions of the department, he was letting it grow out some. He had decided on a slightly different style than when he was younger, keeping it short on the top and sides, but letting it grow longer down the back. As he listened to Jim, he marveled at the way his life had turned out.
Now, just over a year since the dissertation disaster, he was a full-fledged member of the police department and Jims permanent partner. The backlash he had feared from other officers and from the press or public had never materialized. He supposed he had had his fifteen minutes of fame, or infamy, as the case might be. But just to be careful, he, Jim, and Simon had decided that Blair would function mostly as a silent partner to Jim. He worked actively on all of their cases, but Jims was the name at the bottom of the reports.
As Jim talked on, Blair turned his head to look at the bizarre weather outside. Although it was shortly after two in the afternoon, the sky was as dark as twilight. The news had been full of warnings all morning about the coming storm. Massive clouds had settled in over the city, bringing swirling snow, gusting winds, and the uncanny sight of bright streaks of lighting lacing the sky.
The city was grinding to a halt under the onslaught of the unusual weather. Accidents and abandoned vehicles were clogging the roadways and shutting down transportation. Rescue crews were scrambling from one call to the next, but would soon be shut down themselves as the snow piled up. The mayor activated the citys emergency plan. Jim and Blair were going to finish up their discussion with Simon, then report downstairs to the squad room for their emergency assignments. They could be required to do anything from answering phones to assisting with hazardous weather rescues to reporting to the emergency shelters to help set up cots.
Blair winced as another bright stab of lightning forked toward the earth. He turned back to the other men in the room as the thunder rolled over him, blocking out their voices for a moment. He stood up and stretched, lifting the pipe above his head. The room exploded. A searing blast of heat and light washed over him, lifting him and throwing him across the room. He had a brief glimpse of Jims and Simons faces painted in stark relief, then an abrupt close-up of Simons desk, and then nothing.
The flash blinded both Jim and Simon, leaving the image of an airborne Sandburg with them as they stood frozen in the aftermath. As Jims sight faded back in, he tried to understand the scene before him. Simon was shaking his head, pushing on his ears with his hands as if to clear them. Jim realized that even though he could hear, the sounds were distant and muted as if he had intentionally dialed his hearing way down. He looked around in confusion, gasping as he saw the other occupant of the room.
Blair was on the floor of the office next to Simons desk; face down, his body twitching. His clothing lay about him in shreds, except for his boxers and socks, which were miraculously untouched. His shoes were still over by the shattered window. The pipe was embedded in the wall of the office next to Simons jazz statuettes.
Oh, my God! Simon exclaimed.
Jim hurried to the prone figure and began to run his hands over Blairs body. He desperately tried to remember what he had been taught about lightning strikes. The only thing he could remember for sure at this point was that it was safe to touch the victim, his body would not be hot, nor would it retain any of the electricity that had passed through it. He felt the muscle spasms lessen, then Blair lay eerily still on the floor. A frigid wind swirled snow through the broken window of the office.
Jim focused on touch for the moment, checking Blairs head and neck, the vision of Blair flying across the room to smash into Simons desk still etched on his minds eye. He found a gash along Blairs right temple, extending to the corner of his eye, right by his eyebrow, bleeding freely. The area around it was bruising and swelling even as Jim watched. He could also feel the heat and swelling in Blairs right shoulder but couldnt detect anything abnormal in his neck or along his back. Simon knelt down by Blair, watching Jim closely.
How is he? Simon asked fearfully.
Cant really tell. Lets turn him over. You hold his head as steady as you can. Jim gently grasped Blair by the shoulder and hip and turned him over. Blairs eyes were open, staring straight ahead without focusing. Listening intently, Jim couldnt force his hearing to cooperate, so he felt for a pulse in Blairs neck. He found one, but it felt just a bit off to him, slightly out of time with what he expected. Still, it proved that Blairs heart was beating, and he released the breath he hadnt been aware of holding. Next he placed his hand on Blairs chest, nodding to himself when Blair drew in a deep breath and shuddered.
As his vision cleared further, Jim inspected his friend for any additional damage. Blair had stopped twitching and now lay unmoving. His eyes were open but still unfocused. There was a trickle of blood from his left ear, and the lobe appeared to be burned and blistered around the earrings he had just started wearing again. He also found a severe burn covering the palm of Blairs left hand and his fingers, the hand he had been holding the pipe in.
Jims hearing snapped back on-line suddenly and a cacophony of sound burst over him. The others from the bullpen were trying to crowd into Simons office to see if everyone was all right. He realized that part of his difficulty in seeing was that all the lights in Simons office were out.
Simons voice startled him. Jim, is he can you tell ?
Hes alive, hes breathing and his heart is beating. But hes not moving. Looks like he hit his head and shoulder on your desk. Besides this gash, you can see the burns on his hand and his ear, and his ears bleeding, but I cant tell anything else.
Blair thought his eyes were open. They felt dry and hot, like he had been staring at something and forgotten to blink. But he couldnt really see anything, so maybe they were actually closed. He tried to turn his head to look around but found that he couldnt move. That scared him. He hated being helpless and vulnerable, a position he had been in far too often in the past few years.
Maybe he could move his hand. Nope. Okay, a leg perhaps. No go. He tried to blink but couldnt even do that. Now he was really getting worried. Sight out, cant move, try listening. That seemed to work a little better, but the sounds were funny, as if they were all coming from one direction. Words flitted by, allowing him to catch one here and there.
/ ears bleeding /
Simon yelled at the onlookers, Someone get EMS up here! Wheres the damn first aid kit?
/ EMS /
Sandburgs been hit by lightning!
/Sandburg hit /
Sandburg hit, Blair thought. Ive been hit? Like, shot? But it doesnt feel like it. Blair knew from experience that being shot was actually fairly painful. But as he thought about it, he realized that he did hurt; in fact, he hurt quite a bit. His hand burned, his head pounded, and his ear ached. And his back and legs and neck. Well, actually, he hurt all over, but some places more than others. Worse than that, this not moving business was getting old really fast.
Chief, can you hear me? Sandburg?
Blair exerted a tremendous effort, and succeeded in blinking his eyes. He drew a deep breath and felt it leak out of his lungs. He tried to breathe again, and found he couldnt. His eyes widened in panic. He tried desperately to move, willing Jim to understand what was wrong as his chest began to burn.
Blair? Hey, you with us? Blair! Simon, hes not breathing! Jim looked around wildly. A figure pushed its way through the crowd in Simons office doorway.
Jim! Here, I got the first aid kit. What do you need? Henri knelt down on the floor by Jim and opened the red box that looked like a tool-kit.
He got hit by lightning. His hearts beating but hes not breathing. Jim listened intently, then straightened abruptly as he heard a wild flurry of beats, then nothing from his partner.
Shit! His hearts stopped now! See if you can find an AED, I think theres one in the hall or somewhere! Jim yelled.
Henri stuck his head out the door and bellowed, CPR in progress! Find the AED!
Okay, lets see. Henri fumbled around in the box for a moment while Jim checked Blairs mouth and airway, tilting his head back slightly. Simon moved up on the other side of them. Henri lifted out a clear plastic device sealed in a clear wrap. He opened it and handed the mouthguard to Jim, who deftly inserted it into Blairs mouth.
Jim leaned over and began to blow into the mouthguard while Simon rested his hand on Blairs chest to make sure it was rising and falling. After two deep breaths, Jim sat back and listened. Nothing. He breathed for Blair two more times and sat back again. Simon positioned his hands and began the chest compressions. Both men battled memories of doing the same thing not even two years ago. They began counting together, chanting like two old shamans.
One two three four up to fifteen, then two more breaths. Again. Again. After an eternity, which lasted less than three minutes, Jim was rewarded with a faint beat. He motioned for Simon to stop, and put his ear close to Blairs mouth. He sagged in relief as he heard the faint susurration of air being drawn into Blairs lungs.
Simon looked at him apprehensively. Well?
Hes breathing now, and hes got a heartbeat. Its just that somethings off. I cant pin it down. He heart doesnt sound right, but I dont know whats wrong. Jims worry and frustration were plain to see.
Henri took something from someone outside the door. Heres the AED, Jim. You still need it?
No, hes okay for now. But keep it close, okay?
Rafe stuck his head in the door. Bad news, Captain. EMS is booked up solid, they cant get to the calls they have holding now. Dispatch cant give me even a wild guess when they might get here.
Damn! Simon swore. Okay, Jim. Youre always talking about being a medic in your previous life. What do we do now?
Okay, okay. Let me think. Lightning strike is just like an electrocution. Um, breathing and cardiac functions first. He seems to be breathing all right now. Lets get these rags off him and let me see if he has any other injuries. Jim looked significantly at Simons desk, which had been moved out of place by the force of Blairs impact.
Henri, Rafe, somebody go down to his locker and get him some more clothes. If he doesnt have any there, see what you can find. I want a blanket and some pillows, too. And get these people out of here. There are others places they could actually help! Simon took command.
Blair had closed his eyes when the pressure on his chest became unbearable. He felt gentle hands moving his head, something warm and thick sweeping his mouth. The taste of new plastic intruded, and he could feel the air being forced into his lungs. He tried to gag, to fight, but he still could not move. Giving up, he let the darkness take him away.
Awareness came back slowly. First, he was breathing, he could feel that. And his heart was definitely beating; in fact, it felt like a fish flopping around in his chest. Something was very wrong. Noises came and went, but all on one side of him, not all around him. And he hurt. Dear God, how he hurt! He ached in every fiber of his being. His head pounded unmercifully in time with his erratic heart, and there was a sharper pain somewhere around his left ear but inside. A dull throbbing ache had taken up residence in his right shoulder. His hand was sending a more insistent signal to his overloaded brain, a burning torment that almost overwhelmed all other pains.
Someone was speaking to him, touching him, dragging him back to a greater awareness of his agony. He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the amorphous blob hovering over him. The voice drifted in and out of his good ear.
Jim? he managed weakly.
Yeah, Chief. Man, you scared us. No, dont try to sit up yet. Blair had tensed his protesting muscles to rise, but was grateful that Jim had told him not to. He wasnt sure he could have made it.
The light was fading in and out, now blindingly bright, now dark and gray. Blair listened to the litany of his injuries. Pain told him they were his, but his brain seemed disconnected from his body. His arms were checked, and his chest, ribs, and abdomen. Hips and legs were moved and tested, and seemed to be okay. He wondered why he was so cold.
What ? He couldnt remember the rest of his question.
You got hit by lightning. Just stay still for now, were getting you some blankets and some more clothes from your locker, Jim reassured him.
Blair tried to raise his head to look down at himself. Clothes? Why did he need clothes? And why was he still so cold? He shivered.
Jim seemed to be reading his mind. Your clothes got blown off by the lightning, all except your shorts and socks, so your dignity is intact. Jim tried a small smile.
Damn, Blair muttered. My favorite shirt.
Ill get you a new one, Jim said as he started to pull the shredded clothing away from the injured man.
Blair could feel their hands, Jim and Simon, pushing and pulling at him. He assumed they were trying to remove what was left of his clothes, so he decided to help. His arm flopped weakly, bringing the pain in his hand back. Blair groaned.
Shh, Blair. Dont try to move, let us do it. Jim again, always telling him what to do. Blair frowned in irritation, but couldnt tell if his face actually moved. He closed his eyes, suddenly unbearably tired. He listened to the voices coming at him in waves.
I got some blankets from Patrols supplies and Rhonda found a couple of pillows from the lounge on the third floor. Henris voice sounded winded, as if he had just run all the way upstairs.
Great. Thanks. Youd better go downstairs and see if you can help. Just check in on us after a while, will you? Simons voice, brisk and in control.
Another voice reached his ears. Here, I found some sweats in his bag in the locker. Blair recognized the voice as Rafes.
Even through closed lids, Blair could tell the difference as the lights in the main room flickered and went out. The emergency beacons came on immediately, but didnt reach into Simons office very well.
Ill go get some flashlights or lanterns for you, Henri said. I already told them you had an injured man up here, and Lt. Haynes downstairs said we could get whatever we needed.
Blair tried to speak a couple of times and finally succeeded. Sore. Hurts all over. My hand
You got a pretty bad burn on your left hand, where you were holding the pipe, Jim told him. What else?
My head hurts, and my ear, I think. His voice sounded strange to him.
Yeah, youre bleeding from your left ear. Probably busted an eardrum, Jim muttered.
Blair thought about that for a minute, and then his thoughts were interrupted when the fish in his chest decided to head upstream. Blair gasped as a crushing pain settled there, spreading quickly up his neck and down his arm. Blair tried to call out to Jim for help, but found that he couldnt breathe at all. His body seemed to be frozen. The room went gray around him.
Distantly he heard shouting. Crap! His hearts stopped again! Get that AED back in here! Wheres that mouthguard? Simon, pump or blow?
Everything went away in a red haze of agony.
When he opened his eyes again, he was warmer than the last time. Also, he seemed to be somewhere else, but he didnt recognize the room. It wasnt Simons office, and it wasnt a hospital, he could tell that. He stared at the mauve ceiling, letting his gaze travel down equally mauve walls to light on a framed print of some kind of mauve flowers.
Please please please dont let me be dead and this be heaven. I hate mauve, Blair thought. Maybe it was heavens waiting room. That would be okay. Blair laboriously turned his head and found himself staring at a dusty arrangement of mauve silk flowers sitting on a glass table. Movement from beyond his head drew his attention, then Jim stepped into view.
Blair? Hey, buddy, good to see you again. Jim smiled, but it didnt reach past his trembling lips. Blair watched in fascination as Jim raised an obviously shaky hand to rub across his eyes and forehead.
Blair tried to make sense of what had happened to him, but gave up in confusion. There was no way he could understand the information his brain was giving him. He seemed to be lying on a couch in a small waiting room of some kind. There was a matching love seat set at a right angle to the couch and a glass coffee table with the flower arrangement next to him. He could see a door on each of the walls opposite from the couch and love seat. And everything was mauve: the ceiling, the walls, the decorations, and even the furniture, except for the smoky glass on the table.
Jim, what happened? he whispered.
Jim sighed, his face looking old and drawn. You got hit by lightning in Simons office, remember that?
Lightning! Blair gasped. Jim had said he had been struck by lightning. He started to breathe harder as memory flooded over him, bringing with it an awareness of pain.
Jim rubbed a soothing hand up and down his arm. Easy, Chief, just calm down. Breathe nice and slow for me, okay?
Blair tried to concentrate through his confusion, focusing on his breathing until he had it under control again.
You really gave us a scare, you know. Blair was having trouble hearing Jim. It seemed like only one of his ears was working, but Jims voice sounded shaky to him.
At first, it was like you were paralyzed, Jim continued, as if he had to keep talking. Your heart stopped and you stopped breathing, twice. Jim stopped, needing to breathe himself. Youve got a pretty bad burn on your hand, he added.
Blair tried to lift his head, to look down at himself. Jim was at his side in an instant, propping his head up so he could see. Blair looked at the bandages swathing his hand. It hurts, he said, surprised at how weak his voice sounded.
I bet it does. Hows your head? Jim stared at him intensely; Blair knew he was being cataloged.
Hurts, too, and whats the matter with my ear? Blair tried to reach around with his right hand to his left ear, but Jim caught his arm gently.
Dont, theres a bandage on it, too. You got a pretty bad burn around your earrings. Your ear was bleeding some, so I think you might have a busted eardrum. Can you hear out of that side? Jim asked.
No, everything sounds funny. Blair looked around again, and still didnt recognize where he was. Where am I?
Jim looked abashed for a moment. This is the ladies lounge on the third floor. Rhonda suggested it. The lightning blew out the window in Simons office, you know. Due to the weather, EMS cant get through, or youd be in the hospital by now. So, we needed someplace to put you, and Rhonda said there was a nice couch in here.
Its awfully mauve, Blair said, finding his strength deserting him. The room lurched sickeningly and Blair closed his eyes, groaning. God, I feel terrible. Jim gently eased Blairs head back down to the couch, pulling the blanket back up to his chin as Blair shivered.
What time is it? Blair asked.
Its about four in the afternoon. The snows still coming down hard out there, so were not going anywhere any time soon. You just rest, Ill be right here with you, okay? Knowing Jim was watching, Blair closed his eyes once more.
Jim dozed for a while, waking when first Simon, then Rafe and Henri, came to check on Blair. He asked about the weather and assured them that Blair seemed to be holding his own. Rhonda and Megan both came down to see them and brought Jim some coffee now that the power was back on. They also left a bottle of water for Blair. After about two hours, Jim woke Blair again to check on him.
Hey, buddy, wake up and let me see how youre doing.
few more minutes, kay? Blair murmured.
Come on, Chief, I need you to wake up for me. Open those baby blues and let me take a look. Jim gently shook Blair, who nodded, squinting his eyes.
Yeah, we dont know where your glasses got to, but lightning can play havoc with your sight. How do you feel otherwise? Jim asked.
Sick. My head hurts. Blairs voice sounded weak and lost.
Youll probably feel like youve got a concussion. Hell, you might, at that. You hit Simons desk pretty hard, Jim told him.
Couldnt breathe, Blair said, taking a couple of deep, gasping breaths, as if he were still having trouble.
Jim froze, staring at him for a moment. No, you couldnt. You stopped breathing a couple times, and your heart stopped, too. In fact, Jim frowned, youre still not quite in rhythm, yet. Your hearts a little slow, making your body think youre in shock so your lungs are trying to compensate by working harder. Just try to relax and think about your breathing, nice and easy.
Blair closed his eyes and tried to follow Jims instructions. He did begin to feel a little bit better.
Here, how about some water? Jim asked when Blair had his breathing under control. He opened the bottle and lifted Blairs head, letting him take a few swallows.
Thanks. Jim? Blairs unfocused gaze locked on his briefly.
What? Jim waited for a moment, watching as Blairs eyes drifted closed again.
Big time. Go back to sleep. Jim almost smiled.
Blair woke, restless and confused. He stared around, trying to remember where he was, and why. He saw the overwhelming mauve and remembered.
Mmph, he mumbled. Blair frowned. He was fairly sure that wasnt exactly what he wanted to say.
Jim appeared at his side almost magically. You awake, Chief?
Yeah. Jim? Blairs voice worked a little better, but sounded funny to his ears.
Right here. How you feeling? Seemed like Jim was asking him that a lot, lately.
Like shit. I wanna go home. Blairs headache seemed to have spread out all over his body. Every movement was accompanied by a twinge of pain. His shoulder was throbbing, his ear ached and his hand was a dull agony.
Soon as we can. Soon as they get the roads cleared, well get you checked out at the hospital, and then home, Jim promised.
No hospital. Home. I dont feel good. Blair knew he sounded whiney, and didnt care.
Jim reached over to lay a soothing hand on Blairs arm. I know you dont. Youll be okay. Jim listened intently; Blairs heart sounded a little steadier to him.
Blair scrunched his eyes closed in distress, tossing his head. Im gonna be sick, Jim. Oh, god
Jim lunged up and grabbed a trashcan. He roughly turned Blair on his side, wincing as Blair gasped in pain. The sudden change in position had thrown all his weight on his bad right shoulder. That was quickly forgotten as the retching began.
Jim did what he could to support his friend as he gagged and moaned. He didnt notice the other person come up beside him until he felt another pair of strong hands helping to support Blair. Long minutes later it seemed to be over. Simon helped Jim ease Blair back down.
Blairs burned hand flopped against the back of the couch. He gasped as his face crumpled in pain, eyes squeezed shut. Jim leaned close over him, stroking him and murmuring until the pain eased up.
Simon frowned in sympathy. Hows he doing, Jim, really?
Okay, I guess. Hes breathing, and his heart sounds better to me. But hes really hurting. Any word on getting him to a hospital? Jim asked, worry leaking out through every word.
Yeah, thats what I came to tell you. The snow has finally stopped, and the plows are out now clearing the roads. I talked to EMS and they said they can send an ambulance here from Station Five, but if he seems to be out of danger, it might be just as fast to take him ourselves. McKinneys here helping out. His Suburban has four-wheel drive and hes got the chains on. He offered to take you, if you want to. Simon had been absently stroking Blairs arm as he talked, unconsciously soothing the injured man as he would his own son.
Bemused, Jim watched Simon comforting his friend. He wouldnt dare call attention to the gesture. Smiling tiredly, he replied. I think wed better take him. He hasnt crashed since that last time in your office, and even though its been several hours, Id rather get him there as soon as possible.
Good call, I was hoping youd say that. Ill go tell McKinney to get his truck up by the door, and then Ill come get you. You get him ready to go. Bundle him up good. I brought another blanket, okay? Simon got up to leave, giving a last pat to Blairs arm as he did.
Yes, sir. Well be ready.
Easier said than done. Blair had lapsed back into semi-consciousness, and Jim had a hard time rousing him. He finally pushed and pulled until he had the two blankets wrapped around Blair like a cocoon and waited until Simon came back.
You ready, Jim? the captain asked.
I am, but hes not. I cant get him on his feet. Well have to carry him. Jim frowned as he stared down at his injured friend.
Simon sighed. Well, lets get to it. Oh, I brought your coat from upstairs.
Thanks. Jim slipped his coat on quickly then bent to help Simon.
Working together they managed to get Blair into a chair lift and carried him to the elevator. They took him down to the first floor and out the front door of the station. McKinney got out of his truck to hold the door for them, opening the back door of the Suburban. Jim and Simon manhandled Blair in, then Jim crawled in behind him. Simon, who was wearing a thick sweater, waved and hurried back into the building.
Jim maneuvered around Blair who was halfway falling off the seat. He settled into the corner, pulling Blairs upper body up so that he was reclining against Jims chest, Jims arms wrapped securely around him.
Ready? John McKinney asked.
Lets go, Jim replied.
Jim looked out the window. The late winter storm had dumped about a foot and a half of snow on the city. The snow and lightning had moved on, leaving the sky eerily bright and clear, especially since many of the streetlights were out. Jim watched tensely as McKinney wove slowly through the abandoned cars, some left right in the middle of the street. They inched past a five-car pile up, all the occupants now long gone somewhere safer and warmer.
There were no other moving vehicles on the street they were on, although he did get a glimpse of a snowplow trundling slowly away from them along a crossing street. Jim shuddered. The scene reminded him of all those improbable movies Blair loved so much about the aftermath of the end of the world. Whatever the premise, nuclear holocaust or some bizarre plague, he could count on Blair being glued to the set during any end of the world movie.
Blair would always launch into some anthro-babble about the breakdown of society as we know it and the inevitability of a return to a tribal or, at best, feudal lifestyle. Jim had enjoyed arguing with him, not because he disbelieved him, but because Blair was so much fun to watch when he got all wound up.
Jim tightened his arms protectively around Blair as the truck slid on a patch of ice hidden just beneath the surface of the snow. Blair was no fun to watch now, too still and pale, barely visible within the cocoon of blankets wrapped around him. Shifting and muttering, Blair snuggled down in Jims embrace, pressing his face to Jims chest.
Shh, Chief, easy. Were almost there. Jim peered out the front windshield of the truck and realized he had lied to Blair. Not that he meant to, but they had been on the road for about twenty minutes now, and the hospital was just about half an hour away from the station on a good day. Although it was just before eight in the evening, and there were no other vehicles moving on the road, they hadnt even made it halfway to Cascade General.
How are you doing, John? Jim called up to the front seat.
Pretty good, Ellison. Sorry its so slow, but theres some ice under the snow along here. Dont want to have a wreck on our way to the hospital. Sandburgs got enough to worry about. Hows he doing, by the way? the big man called out. He didnt dare turn his eyes from the road to even look in the rear-view mirror.
Still out of it, but otherwise pretty good. Just get us there in one piece. And thanks for your help, John. I appreciate it, and I know Blair will, too.
No problem. John kept his focus on the road before him
Jim closed his eyes and inhaled, cataloguing the scents clinging to Blair. He could still smell the sickness from earlier, and the blood and burned flesh, but underneath it all, there was Blair. Warm, steady and constant, his center in the storm of life. Jim held him closer as Blair stirred, trying to squirm away.
Settle down, Sandburg. Well be there soon. Jim heard the catch in Blairs breath as his movement triggered some pain.
Jim? Where am I? Blairs voice sounded small and lost.
Remember John McKinney from Patrol? Jim asked.
Yeah, came the hesitant reply.
Were in his truck. Hes taking us to the hospital. Well, really, were taking you to the hospital.
Oh, good, Blair sighed.
If Jim had had the room, he would have done a double take. Blair saying that going to the hospital was a good thing? Jims worry meter shot up a couple of notches.
How much longer, John? he called up front.
Almost there, I can see an ambulance pulling in up ahead of us, the patrolman answered.
Do they know were coming? Jim asked.
I think your Captain Banks was going to call if he could get through. John stared at the road ahead, carefully turning into the emergency room entrance for the hospital.
John stopped the truck then got out to notify the staff of their arrival. He reappeared a short time later followed by two orderlies with a gurney. They had not gotten any calls since the phone lines were down, but they reacted quickly nevertheless. Carefully, the men maneuvered Blair out of the truck. Jim slid out across the seat and followed them in. Blair still seemed to be only halfway aware of what was going on around him.
Inside the ER, Jim was surprised at how few people were there. Blair was taken back immediately. Jim followed. The doctor was waiting for them in the triage area. He pulled the curtain around Blair and began his exam.
Is this the patient that was hit by lightning? How long ago? Did he lose consciousness? Quit breathing? How long? Did you do CPR? The questions came rapid-fire and Jim answered as best he could.
Another doctor and a couple of nurses soon joined them, and Jim was gently shooed out of the room. Were just going to hook up some machines, get a good read on his heart and other vitals, he was assured. Why dont you go out front and fill out the paperwork for him?
As Jim complied, he thought once again that the hospitals stack of paperwork was just a clever ruse to keep friends and family of the sick and injured busy and out of the way of the hospital workers. But he dutifully filled in all the spaces and took the clipboard back to the receptionists desk. He was then allowed back to sit with Blair in the triage area.
When Jim stepped back in he found that Blair had been stripped of the sweats Jim and Simon had worked so hard to put on him. New, clean bandages covered his hand, head, and ear. He had a nasal cannula for oxygen, the obligatory IV dripping some kind of colorless fluid into his system, and a catheter snaking out from under the sheet they had thrown over him. A device was clipped onto his finger, which tested the oxygen levels in his blood, and the inside of his elbow sported a band-aid where blood had been drawn. Jim looked closely. Yep, that was a Spongebob Squarepants band-aid, all right. He filed that fact away for later use.
As if all that was not enough, a bewildering array of wires led to and from Blairs body to two other machines. He recognized the usual EKG leads on Blairs chest, wrists and ankles. But there were also at least twenty leads nestled in Blairs hair. Jim could see the gel oozing around them, and winced when he thought about the mess that was going leave. He presumed that was an EEG monitor, checking for any brain damage. He shuddered at the thought. Surely, he and Simon had been in time, had been effective enough to avoid any serious complications.
Jim sighed. One of the nurses was finishing up his notes in Blairs chart. He nodded to Jim and indicated a chair close to the bed.
Its okay. You can have a seat there. Were going to monitor him for a while here before we move him to a room, just to make sure he doesnt crash again.
It sure seems slow in here. I thought with the storm youd be a lot busier, Jim commented.
Yeah, well, now that the snow has stopped and the plows are getting the roads open, we expect a rush any moment. Weve already got three other patients brought in by ambulance, as well as your friend here. You just call if you need anything, okay? the nurse said.
He left, and Jim pulled the chair closer to Blair, carefully avoiding the tubes and wires. He noticed that Blairs eyes were open, tracking aimlessly around the room.
Chief? Sandburg? Blair looked at him briefly, then looked away again. Jim reached over and gently turned Blairs head toward him. Hey, buddy, you in there?
Blair blinked slowly, having trouble focusing on Jim. He frowned and tried to lift his hand toward his face. Jim grabbed the errant limb and pressed it firmly back onto the bed.
Just stay still, okay? Youre in the hospital now, remember? Blair nodded vaguely, and then closed his eyes once more.
The doctor came in just as Jim sat down. He stood up again.
Hi, Im Doctor Earhart, I dont think I introduced myself earlier. Youre Mr. Sandburgs friend? he asked.
Yeah, Jim Ellison, roommate and partner. They shook hands.
From the PD, I got it. Well, hes in pretty good shape, considering. You did a good job keeping him stable for so long. Weve still got some arrhythmia, and his O2 level is down, but all in all I think hes out of the woods for now. Lightning is a funny animal, though; a lot of the effects dont always show up immediately. Id like to leave him on the monitors for a couple more hours before we move him around a whole lot, then well do all those tests we love so much. I dont expect him to do much for the next few hours but sleep. Thats one of the immediate effects; the patient seems unable to stay awake. But give him a week or so and he wont be able to sleep, the doctor finally paused, then asked, You gonna stay with him?
Jim nodded, and Dr. Earhart left, saying he had to get ready for the incoming. Jim shook his head, sitting back down to wait. Blair appeared to be deeply asleep.
Two nurses coming into the cubicle startled Jim awake. Sorry to disturb you, but were going to take him up for some tests now. They began to disconnect various monitors.
Blair woke up and looked around in confusion. His gaze settled on Jim, who moved up closer to him. Hey, whats going on?
Theyre just going to take you for some tests, Chief. Nothing to worry about.
Oh, goodie. Tests. I love tests. They took him away.
Quite some time later Blair was returned, awake for now. Jim watched as the gurney was pushed back into position. The doctor appeared and quickly stepped back into their cubicle.
Okay, gentlemen, let me run this down for you. Dr. Earhart flipped open the chart he was carrying. Well, Mr. Sandburg, weve taken a look at you from the inside out, and I cant find anything to cause me undue concern. We x-rayed your head, neck, and shoulder, and fortunately found nothing broken. You do have a concussion from the blow to the head, which is to be expected. I was a little concerned that there might be a fracture on the collarbone or shoulder due to the bruising, but everything looks okay.
We also did a CT scan and MRI, checking for any visible neurological or cardiac damage. What we worry about with lightning is cardiac damage, first, then neurological complications, and possible kidney damage. So far, we havent found anything of significance. He paused.
Your other injuries are the burns, of course, on your hand and ear. We put eight stitches in that gash on your head. In addition, your left eardrum is ruptured, which is what caused the bleeding. He looked at Jim reassuringly. Another area thats often affected by lightning is your eyes, he continued, looking back at Blair. You dont seem to have any immediate damage, but we cant really tell at this point if the blurriness you reported is due to actual optic nerve damage, the concussion, or simply that youve lost your glasses.
So, the long and the short of it is that were going to keep you here for at least the next twenty-four hours. If youre doing well after that, you can go home. But for now, lets get you in a room and a more comfortable bed.
Dr. Earhart left and Blair turned to Jim. Man, I hope you were taking notes, cause he left me way back at the CT scan and MRI.
Jim smiled. Dont worry, Chief, I got it covered. His smile faded as Blairs eyes closed again. To Jim, he looked drawn and pale, suddenly much older than his years. Blairs hair was stringy and matted with gel. Jim reached out to brush it away from his friends face. Dont worry at all, Blair. Ill be right here.
The nurses came back in to move Blair, and Jim went out to the waiting room to try to call Simon. He noticed that true to the doctors predictions, the room was filling up with sick and injured. The regular phones were still down, so Jim pulled out his cell phone. A passing nurse frowned and pointed to the sign warning against cell phone use in that area. Jim nodded and went out to the main lobby area to call.
Well, they did every test known to medical science, Simon. Good thing hes fully insured by the department now, Jim said.
Beside that, Jim, he was on duty so itll be carried as an OJI, which is even better for him. No co-pay. In fact, Id better get that paperwork started as soon as I can. So, how is he, really? The concern in Simons voice was clearly audible to Jims ears.
Doc says hes good, for now. No brain or heart damage that they can detect. But apparently theres a whole lot more that can go wrong when someone gets hit by lightning. He ran down a lot of things we have to watch out for, like his eyes and ears. Theyre moving him up to a room now because they want to keep him here for the next twenty-four hours, Jim reported.
Probably the best place for him, agreed Simon. Are you going to stay there?
Yeah, I think so, for the night, anyway.
I figured as much. Im staying over at the station tonight. Now that the roads are clearing up, weve got to assess the damage and start the clean up. Tell you what. Ill bring your truck over in the morning, and you can drop me back off up here.
Sounds like a plan, Captain. See you later. Jim ended his call and went over to the receptionist area to see if they had a room number for Blair yet.
True to his word, Simon arrived just before seven in the morning. He stuck his head in the door to Blairs room, entering quietly. Blair was asleep in his bed. Jim was sitting in a vinyl-covered chair that folded out like a recliner, sound asleep as well. Simon crossed over to Jim and shook him gently.
Hey, Sleeping Beauty. He grinned as Jim opened bleary eyes. Or maybe that should be Rip Van Winkle.
Jim glanced over quickly at Blair, reassured to see that he was still asleep. He fumbled with the chair for a moment, and then got the footrest lowered so he could sit up. Standing and stretching, he motioned toward the door. The two men stepped out into the hallway.
They regarded each other silently for a moment, noting the lines of fatigue in each others faces.
Were getting too old for this shit, Simon said.
Amen to that, Jim agreed.
Ready to go home?
Yeah, I could use a shower and change. Im going to pick up some clothes for Blair, too.
Hows he doing? Simon asked, as they walked toward the elevator.
Fine. They came in every two hours, like clockwork. Woke him up and took his vitals and all that. Hes hanging in there.
After showering and changing at home, and getting some real coffee, Jim returned to the hospital. Blair spent a restless morning, confused and in pain. His hand was cleaned and rebandaged, as was his head. He continued to suffer from the headache, and his stomach rebelled at the least thing the nurses tried to get him to eat. Although he was on a clear liquid diet, he couldnt even keep that down. The new doctor on call was unconcerned, saying that was normal.
Simon had tried to get some sleep after he had picked up Jim earlier, but the sun was shining brightly in the clear, cold sky and he couldnt fool his body into resting. So he went back to the hospital to see how everyone was doing. A matched set of orderlies showed up to take Blair for another set of scans, so Simon and Jim went down to the cafeteria for some lunch.
After saying good-bye to Simon, Jim went back to Blairs room to find a very awake, very cranky Blair. The head of his bed was raised so that he was halfway sitting up. His left hand was propped up on a pillow by his side. He was reaching across his body, trailing IV lines from his hand, poking at the bandage on his left ear.
What are you doing? Jim asked, coming into the room.
My ear hurts, and I cant hear. I think I got an ear infection, Blair complained.
Your eardrum ruptured when you got hit by the lightning. Remember, your doctor told you about that. You were bleeding earlier, I think theyve got some cotton in it, Jim told him.
Well, its bothering me. Can you get it out?
Just leave it alone, Sandburg. If the doctor thinks it needs to come out, hell do it. How do you feel, otherwise? If the doctor hadnt been so reassuring, Jim would have been frightened by Blairs lack of memory. But Dr. Earhart had warned him that there would likely be some short-term memory glitches.
My head still hurts. In fact, my whole body hurts. What did I hit? Blair squinted around the room.
You got thrown into Simons desk. But the doctor said youd probably be really stiff and sore with muscle pains, from the spasms, Jim repeated patiently. Hows your hand?
It hurts, what do you think? Blair snapped.
Jim just stared at Blair, who sighed guiltily. Sorry. Im sorry, Jim. I just seem to be really jumpy, he snorted. Wired, so to speak. I just feel all nervous and jittery.
Thats okay, Chief. I understand. Hey, I brought you some tea. Think that might help? Jim offered.
Oh, yeah. What did you bring? He held out his hand for the bag, frowning when Jim held it out of his reach.
Wait a minute, wait a minute. First, we gotta check with your doctor and make sure this is okay for you.
A short time later the doctor who had taken over Blairs care arrived. Hello there, Mr. Sandburg. Remember me?
You poked me and shone bright lights in my eyes earlier. How could I forget?
Dr. Ross beamed at his patients excellent memory. Short and rotund, he looked like a bald, clean-shaven Santa Clause. He even had the proper attitude, taking no offense at Blairs sarcasm. Wonderful. Say, lets do it again, shall we?
He proceeded to conduct a very thorough examination. At the end, he wasnt very pleased with Blairs urine output.
I cant drink anything, I just throw it back up again, Blair complained.
Hey, Doc, Jim interrupted. I brought some of his tea from home. Do you think any of this might help?
The doctor bustled over and pronounced his blessing on the ginger tea, saying it might actually help Blair with his nausea. The duty nurse showed Jim where the coffeepot was, so that he could get some hot water. He fixed Blairs tea with just enough honey to sweeten it slightly, but not make him sick. Sipping slowly, Blair kept the whole cup down. Afterwards, he drifted off into a light doze while Jim watched news coverage of the weather. A couple of hours later, the nurse came back in to check on Blair, waking him up. After the nurse left, he turned to Jim.
What are you doing still here? he asked, not unkindly.
Keeping an eye on you, of course. How are you feeling, really? Not what you told the nurse. Jim looked at him sternly.
Really, Im feeling a little better. Still sore, but my head doesnt hurt as much, and my stomach feels better. Did you bring any more tea? Blair asked hopefully.
Sure. I didnt really know what you would want, so I grabbed a handful of different stuff. He showed Blair the selection, but Blair decided to stick with the ginger for now.
Jim went down the hall to fix the tea. When he returned, he found that Blairs dinner had been delivered, consisting of a cup of chicken broth and some orange jello. Blair was squinting at the jello and poking at it with a spoon.
I can safely say that its dead, Sandburg, Jim joked.
You never know with this stuff, Jim. Sometimes it slithers away when youre not looking.
Just take it easy. Heres your tea. Jim watched as Blair ate slowly. He seemed to be afraid that the food might trigger another bout of vomiting. But soon, the tea, broth, and jello were all gone. Blair fumbled for the control to the bed.
Here, Jim said, fishing it out from beneath the pillow. Are you getting tired?
Yeah, I think Ill go to sleep now. At least, until someone comes in to wake me up again. What have they got against sleeping in hospitals, anyway? Blair grumbled. You need to go home, too, get some sleep. No sense in staying here again. Besides, you snore.
I do not snore! Jim replied indignantly. Not as bad as you, at least.
Blair just smiled tiredly. Go home, Jim. Okay?
Okay, Chief, but Ill be back tomorrow. Maybe the doctor will let you come home.
I can only hope. Blairs eyes slid closed, and he dropped off to sleep as Jim watched.
The next day, Doctor Ross met with both of them to go over after-care instructions.
Of course, our first concern is your cardiac and respiratory functions. Your lungs seem to be fine. Your heart is not showing any signs of damage, but you are still suffering from some arrhythmia. Im going to put you on some medication for that, short term, and well reevaluate you after a couple of weeks. Neurological signs are clear. You may have some trouble sleeping for the next few weeks, and you may find yourself having trouble remembering some things and getting confused. This will probably pass, but I do want you to follow up with the neurologist.
Your eyes look good, but keep in mind that about fifty percent of lightning strike victims have some type of injury to the eye. It may not be immediate, but there is a danger of delayed cataract formation or optic nerve degeneration. So, again, a follow up with your ophthalmologist is a must. Now, you know that you have a tympanic membrane rupture, that is, your eardrums busted. You may regain complete hearing in that ear, or you may have some degree of hearing loss or recurring tinnitus.
In short, you are going to be spending a lot of time in doctors offices in the next few weeks. Heres a list of doctors you can call for appointments, since this will be carried as an OJI. I want complete follow-ups on your brain, heart, ear, and eyes. You can see your regular physician about the burns on your hand and ear, and the head wound.
Blair looked at Jim in dismay. There was no way he could keep all this straight. But Jim was looking at the doctor and nodding, accepting the papers that he was handed. Blair had the feeling that Jims mind was noting each and every instruction given.
Dr. Ross continued. Okay, now for the burns. Try to keep your hand elevated, on a pillow or something. For both burns, keep the bandages clean and dry. When you change them, do it slowly and carefully. If the bandage sticks, you can soak it in some warm water. Clean those areas two to three times a day with mild soap and water or a solution of half hydrogen peroxide and half water.
You can wash your hair when you get home, but gently. Again, make sure you pat dry that place on your head. After that, see if you cant just keep your hair dry until you get your stitches removed. Okay, got it? Good. And Dr. Ross was gone.
Blair turned a blank look on Jim. How am I ever going to keep all that straight? Right now, Im doing good to remember my name, he complained.
Dont worry, Chief, I go all the notes right here. When we get home, Ill make you a chart for your medications and appointments.
A chart? A chart? Blair asked, surprised.
Yeah, you know, I took that Excel class last month. Looks like Ill finally be able to use it. Hey, I can some of those star stickers from the store Blairs look of dismay changed into a dark glower. Jim tried a different approach.
How about some clothes? Jim smiled as the glower turned into pathetic eagerness. Blair was still a little shaky and Jim had to help him dress, especially pulling the sweatshirt over his bandaged head and hand. But finally he was ready to go, just waiting for the mandatory wheelchair ride out.
The nurse made sure Jim had all the after-care instructions. She handed him a sack full of bandages, ointment, and cleansing pads for his wounds. Jim stuffed the papers into the sack and dumped it into Blairs lap.
Three weeks later, after almost back-to-back doctors appointments, Blair returned to light duty. Everyone in the bullpen was glad to see him.
Hey, Sparky, how you feeling? Megan hugged him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
Eveready, good to see you back! Rafe looked up from the phone.
Lightning Bug, looking good, Henri snickered as he passed, patting Blair affectionately on the arm.
Blair groaned. It seems he had picked up a whole new set of nicknames.
Think this is too bizarre to be true?