Title: Delayed

Author: sharilyn

Category: drama/angst

Rating: PG


Summary: This one isn't just about Jim and Blair; Henri has a part, as 
does the ever-skillful paramedic, Emmett, from a previous story of 
mine.

 

Delayed

by sharilyn

 

What a difference a few minutes could make, Jim couldn't help thinking 
to himself later, once it was all over. Sandburg's flight home from an 
educational seminar had been delayed, meaning that Jim had left the 
loft later than he'd originally planned in order to get to the airport and 
meet Blair's flight; and because he'd taken that extra forty-five 
minutes to sit at home and watch the end of the game on ESPN, he hadn't been 
on the road-and on one road in particular--at the time he'd originally 
planned to be there. But someone else HAD been there at that specific 
instant--a very drunk, very dangerous-behind-the-wheel someone--and in a 
horrible quirk of fate, that inebriated s.o.b. had slammed his car at 
an extreme rate of speed into the car owned and driven by one Henri 
Brown, fellow MC cop and a damned good friend to both Jim and Blair. 

 

 

Jim had come upon the terrible accident when he'd finally left home to 
go pick Blair up at the airport; when he'd slowed along the side of the 
road to fall in line with all the other cars being diverted by a patrol 
man into one narrow lane, Jim's initial grumbles of complaint had 
fallen into a sort of grim sympathy for the hapless victims of the totalled 
vehicles clogging half the roadway just ahead. And when he got close 
enough to realize that one of the fused, mangled hunks of metal that used 
to be a car belonged to H, the shock of it was almost enough to send 
him into a zone-out of stunned denial. 

 

 

Senses feverishly scanning the confused jumble of wreckage, cops, and 
emergency vehicles just ahead of him, Jim had maneuvered his way around 
a shiny new SUV creeping along just in front of him and had bumped over 
several bright orange cones that had been set up in the next lane to 
discourage motorists from passing in that lane. Ignoring both the irate 
honking of the SUV whose back bumper he'd narrowly missed clipping and 
the angry gesturing of a policeman trying to cut him off and bring him 
to a stop, Jim grimly continued on his course and pulled up next to two 
squad cars sitting on the roadway with lights flashing. He had his 
badge out and was waving it in angry cops' faces the instant he was out of 
his truck; and as he'd bulldozed his way over to the ambulance where an 
achingly familiar figure was being loaded inside, Jim had focused all 
his attention on scanning Henri Brown's limp, bloody form with his 
enhanced senses, listening for the pattern and strength of H's heartbeat,
 checking the rhythm of his breathing, listening for the sound of blood 
gurgling in H's lungs or the grate of broken bone ends with each tiny 
movement of the stretcher on which his friend was being transported. 

 

 

"How is he?" The words had left his mouth even before he'd made it to 
the back doors of the ambulance, and one of the two paramedics loading 
Henri into the vehicle looked up with a distracted frown that had 
softened into weary recognition at the sight of the large, intense man 
barreling down on the tense tableau. 

 

 

"Hey, Jim; he's cut up some and it looks like he might have a 
concussion and a broken wrist; but considering how mangled his car was, your 
detective friend seems to have gotten off lightly." Emmett Reilly's tone 
was matter-of-fact and comforting in its certainty, and Jim had found 
his taut muscles relaxing slightly at the steady, quietly reassuring 
expression on Emmett's face. Both Jim and Blair had had past occasions of 
being involuntary passengers in Emmett's 'coach of torturous mercy,' as 
Sandburg had rather wryly christened the ambulance; and as Jim nodded 
once, brusquely, in reply to the paramedic's rundown of Henri's 
injuries, Emmett's stoic and equally competent partner Kinsey climbed up into 
the ambulance and pulled the head of the stretcher in with her while 
Emmett easily hoisted the foot of it and helped manuever the narrow, 
wheeled gurney securely into the vehicle. 

 

 

Before the silent, battered figure of his friend and coworker had 
disappeared completely into the maw of the ambulance, Jim had reached out 
and placed one hand carefully on H's sheet-draped ankle, fingers pressing 
gently against the other man's flesh in a silent gesture of comfort and 
empathy. The contact lasted mere seconds, and Henri displayed no sign 
that he'd even been aware of Jim's presence or his touch. But Jim 
figured it certainly couldn't hurt to touch his friend and let him know he 
wasn't all alone in this; maybe, in some part of H's unconscious brain, 
he'd registered the brief connection between them and might find some 
level of comfort in that.

 

"I need to call Simon," Jim had murmured distractedly to himself as 
he'd watched Emmett slam the ambulance doors shut. "And Blair's flight is 
probably already here, dammit; he's going to wonder what's happened to 
me. I have to go get him, then we can head to the hospital..." 
Muttering under his breath, Jim started back for his truck and came up short at 
the sight of the coroner's wagon parked near the wreckage of the two 
vehicles. So...the other guy hadn't made it, Jim thought grimly to 
himself, and at that moment his cell phone had vibrated at his hip, sending 
him fumbling to open it as he'd continued his trek back to his truck. 

 

 

It was Blair on the phone, his cheerfully exasperated teasing at Jim's 
tardiness instantly switching over into fullblown concern when Jim 
tersely explained the situation with Henri. "God, Jim, is he going to be 
okay?" Blair had asked as Jim negotiated a tedious route behind the 
cordoned-off wreckage onto an access road not open to the long line of 
motorists who'd been restricted to the one narrow lane on the opposite side 
of the roadway. Reduced to rubbernecking or futile complaints about the 
traffic backed up for a good distance ahead, the trapped drivers could 
only watch in grudging envy as Ellison whipped along the near-deserted 
access road on his way to the airport, his cell phone cradled loosely 
against his shoulder for the purpose of replying to Blair's anxious 
queries. With his sentinel hearing, he certainly didn't need the phone 
pressed to his ear in order to hear what the other man was saying; but had 
he tossed the phone onto the seat beside him in order to fully free his
 attention for driving, he would have been forced to bellow his replies 
to Blair in order for his normal-hearing partner to even catch what he 
was saying. 

 

 

So Jim had juggled the phone, the road, his truck, and Blair's demands 
for details as he'd sped toward the airport, uttering intermittent, 
monosyllabic replies over the phone as he'd wrestled with a strange sense 
of guilt for not having left home earlier. He knew it was crazy 
thinking, but he couldn't help feeling HE was the one who should have been 
there on that stretch of road at that particular moment, not Henri. Maybe, 
if he had been driving there instead, he would have been able to use 
his enhanced senses to detect the approach of the drunk driver's 
out-of-control vehicle; maybe he could have avoided the terrible crash that had 
sent his friend to the ER's trauma unit in serious condition. If 
nothing else, maybe he could somehow have stopped the stupid, now-dead idiot 
before he'd turned his car into a lethal weapon.

 

 

"Jim...Jim, are you listening to me? You'd damned well better NOT be 
zoning behind the wheel, for crap's sake!" Blair's tense, nominally 
frantic voice had suddenly cut into Jim's dark broodings, and Jim had forced 
his attention back onto the road in front of him and onto Blair's 
anxious diatribe spilling into his ear. 

 

 

"I'm here; I was just...thinking," Jim had grumbled into the phone, and 
a suspicious note entered Sandburg's voice as he'd murmured in reply: 
"Uh oh, that can't be good. C'mon, Jim; I've heard that tone in your 
voice before, and I'm tellling you right now--there's nothing you could 
have done to prevent what happened to Henri. So if you're tooling along 
in your truck, recreating the accident in your mind and thinking maybe 
you could have saved H if you'd only left the loft a few minutes 
earlier, then STOP it. That's magical thinking, and you know it--that's 
trying, in hindsight, to go back and change an event that can't be changed. 
And if you HAD been on that road then, how do you think that you--even 
with your senses on full alert--could possibly have reacted in time to 
prevent the accident? You're good, Jim, but even you aren't possessed of 
superhuman reflexes. And so help me, if you're nursing some bullshit 
guilt theory that it should have been YOUR truck on that road at that
 instant instead of Henri's, I swear I will knock the crap out of you 
the second you get here! You get that?"

 

 

"Yeah, Chief, I get it," Jim had replied, the slightest hint of a fond 
smile creeping into his voice at the mix of love and acute exasperation 
he could feel and hear coming in waves through Blair's taut rant. Geez, 
how does the kid do it; what gives him that uncanny ability to read me 
like he does? Jim had thought ruefully to himself. But aloud he'd 
merely quipped: " And I guess you're right...probably." At Blair's 
inarticulate splutter, Ellison had relented and had reassured his best friend 
that he was okay, that Blair had nothing to fret about as far as Jim's 
senses OR his emotional state were concerned. 

 

 

"I'll be at the airport in ten more minutes, so don't keep me waiting 
out front." Jim had ended the call rather brusquely as he'd driven past 
the familiar 'Airport Ahead' signs, but Blair's equally clipped assent 
before both ended the connection let him know that the other man wasn't 
perturbed by Jim's abruptness. Sandburg was used to it by now and would 
understand that Jim, despite his protestations to the contrary, still 
had Henri's accident weighing heavy on his mind and needed the small bit 
of time still left of his journey to process all he'd seen and felt.

 

 

Not for the first time, Jim had experienced a sudden, warm rush of 
gratitude and affection for his partner, realizing just how much the other 
man's friendship and daily presence in his life meant to him. He knew 
the horrible emotional toll it would have taken on Blair had Jim himself 
been the one involved in the accident, and he allowed himself the 
briefest surge of relief that he had indeed been delayed long enough to 
avoid becoming the victim of that drunk driver. Yes, he hated that Henri 
had been injured and would have to live through the trauma not only of 
his accident and recovery but of the death of the driver who had hit him; 
but Jim had to logically agree with Blair that his delay in leaving for 
the airport had had nothing to do with who would or would not become 
the drunk driver's hapless victim. 

 

 

Even if Jim HAD been driving down that road at that moment, there was 
no way of knowing if he would have been the one trapped inside the 
wreckage of his truck instead of poor H trapped unconscious and bleeding in 
his car. His analytical mind knew this, Jim had reflected morosely as 
he'd neared the airport and his partner's all-too-discerning perusal; 
now he just had to convince his guilt-gnawed gut of that fact before 
Blair saw that he wasn't as composed and 'okay' with the whole ordeal as 
he'd evinced over the phone.

 

************

 

What a difference a few minutes could make, Jim's mind reiterated some 
four hours later as he and Blair stood beside Henri's hospital bed, 
both men gazing down at their now-conscious friend who lay swathed in 
bandages like some mutant demi-mummy. In a slow, aggrieved voice slurred 
with drugs and pain, Henri had just informed them both that had he only 
WAITED another five minutes instead of actually leaving for work EARLY 
for once, he would have avoided the accident that had almost cost him 
his life. 

 

 

"My timing today SUCKED ASS, man," Henri muttered mournfully as he 
gazed down at his tightly wrapped right wrist and the plethora of cuts and 
scratches decorating both his arms. "Next time Simon bitches at me for 
being a bit...delayed...in making it in to work, I'm going to remind 
him that five minutes late here or there could actually save my LIFE, you 
know?" 

 

 

"Sorry to tell you, Henri, but I'm not so sure Simon will accept that 
reasoning," Blair responded with a small chuff of laughter even as he 
and Jim exchanged glances heavy with shared meaning. "He'll just tell you 
that maybe you should leave REALLY early next time and beat ALL the 
traffic completely; that way you'd make it to work safe and sound AND be 
there in plenty of time to catch up on all that backlogged paperwork you 
keep trying to dump on Rafe."

 

 

"Ooh, that's cold, babe...but it sounds JUST like something Simon would 
say," Henri sighed mournfully as Jim shot him a half-amused, 
half-sympathetic smile. "Maybe you guys could stir up a little sympathy for me in 
the big guy, make him see I'm SUFFERING here and in need of mucho time 
off to recuperate...maybe even a trip to Mexico, or the Bahamas..." 

 

 

And as the exhausted and thankfully only moderately injured detective 
drifted back into drugged slumber, Jim and Blair slid quietly from the 
room, the silence between them laden both with relief for Henri and with 
the deep sense of unspoken communion that they always seemed to share 
during times of crisis. Fate was a fickle thing, with the ticking of the 
clock simultaneously signifying nothing and everything, depending on 
one's perspective; and even though he wasn't a fan of 'emotional scenes,'  
from Jim's perspective right now he knew that he didn't want to put off 
for one minute more expressing to Sandburg just how glad he was to have 
the younger man as his friend, partner, and roommate. After all, one 
never knew when the opportunity to say something this important might be 
lost forever.

 

 

"Chief--" he began, there in the hushed corridors of the hospital; but 
one look from Sandburg's earnest blue eyes, one knowing touch of the 
other man's hand on his arm, let Jim know that everything essential had 
already been communicted between them, instantaneously and without 
delay. And the quiet, almost shy smile he sent Blair in reply sealed the 
deal and left both men absurdly grateful for every second of precious time 
allotted to them. 

 

 

The End~