Rafe had said it was bad; but it wasn't until Major Crimes Captain
 Simon Banks actually laid eyes on the two of them that he realized just how
 traumatic it must have been.
 As they sat side by side on the same gurney in the ER, both Jim Ellison
 and Blair Sandburg looked remarkably unscathed as far as physical
 injuries went; but it took Simon's practiced eye little more than a cursory
 glance to ascertain that neither man was anywhere close to being all
 right. They sat silently--not the silence of mere exhaustion or physical
 duress from injuries or even the expected intractability of
 post-traumatic shock. No; the silence which surrounded and enveloped both men
 possessed an intensity that seemed to suck all the air from their side of
 the room, creating a heavy vacuum devoid of sound, breath, or movement
 and imparting a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature of the
 room itself.
 Jim and Blair huddled in the midst of this oppressive noiselessness,
 two disturbingly still figures caught and preserved in amber, both of
 them completely oblivious to the strangely muted rush and bustle going on
 around them out beyond their small island of existence. Harsh overhead
 lighting beat down on them where they sat, legs dangling limply off the
 side of the white-sheeted gurney they shared; and beneath the light's
 unforgiving, fluorescent wash, both men looked pallid and drained and
 strangely diminished, as if their bodies had begun shrinking in direct
 proportion to the measure of glaring light and crushing silence bearing
 down on them.
 Simon wanted to call out to them in a voice made taut with some sudden,
 nameless sense of desperation; but when he opened his mouth to form one
 man's name, or both, he found that the oppressive atmosphere emanating
 from their side of the curtained-off cubicle had flowed over to the
 very spot he himself now occupied, depriving him of the will or the
 ability to speak. All he could do was to stand in helpless stasis, his
 impressive height and bulk reduced to insignificant obscurity in the face of
 whatever this was that held his men in such frightening thrall.
 As he stood in mute torment, unable to break through the frigid
 chrysalis of isolation encasing and enclosing the figures on the gurney, Simon
 recalled Rafe's earlier, terse description of all that had befallen
 Ellison and Sandburg this evening, and he longed to surge forward with his
 usual brusque forcefulness and to snap them out of their eerie,
 unnatural stillness, back into the land of the speaking and the living. If he
 could only move toward them right now, he knew what he would most
 likely say: What happened to you two tonight was terrible and tragic, no
 doubt about that; but you've both lived through some equally harrowing,
 life-threatening scenes before this it's time to pull yourselves
 together, to be grateful you're both alive even as you grieve for the
 life of that young woman you weren't able to save. And it wasn't a total
 loss; at least you rescued that woman's baby. Because you two were
 there on that roof tonight, that little girl now has the chance to grow up.
  If he could speak, that's probably what he would have said, Simon
 reflected ruefully.
 But the words wouldn't come, and the two men across the room from him
 displayed no sign of relief or satisfaction at having rescued a precious
 soul today. Their silent withdrawal was absolute, their bodies aligned
 so closely against one another's that they were touching all along the
 length of their thighs and arms, hips and shoulders bumping and fitting
 together like puzzle pieces on the side where they'd melded almost into
 As he observed them with worried absorption, Simon could see signs of
 the physical toll tonight's dramatic rescue attempt had taken on his
 men; both bore ugly scratches and abrasions on their arms where they'd
 been driven at the last to a brief, fierce struggle with the suicidal
 young woman they'd been sent to save. And while Blair's list of injuries
 was more extensive than Jim's, Simon reflected somberly to himself that
 Sandburg was actually the one who had gotten off the luckiest from the
 ordeal. After all, he was the one who'd survived what should have been a
 fatal plunge off a seven-story rooftop (and it HAD been fatal for the
 rescued baby's unfortunate mother). Thank God the hapless police
 observer had bounced off a jutting downspout on the way down, the force of his
 body's collision with it deflecting the parabola of his descent just
 enough to land him smack in the middle of a fifth floor balcony instead
 of plunging straight down to the unyielding sidewalk far below.
 Even now Simon couldn't quite puzzle out the hard, mathematical science
 that could adequately explain or account for the one-in-a-million lucky
 break Sandburg had received when he'd tumbled helplessly off the
 rooftop along with the suicidal woman he and Ellison had been trying so hard
 to save. All the captain knew was that Blair's survival--with little
 more than scrapes and bruises and battered ribs to show for his
 fall--smacked more of the ineffably miraculous than of mere, dry statistics and
 probability. It was too bad that the young mother who'd pulled Blair
 over with her had died, meeting her fate before a crowd of horrified
 onlookers who were as helpless to save her as Blair had been. She had left
 behind a host of unanswered questions and one small, fragile life
 wrapped in a pink blanket--a life Jim Ellison had wrestled away from its
 struggling mother and had held clutched desperately to his chest as he'd
 stood on a rooftop edge seven stories up, watching in stunned horror
  the woman's and his partner's swift, helpless plunges toward death.
 Simon could only imagine the terror Sandburg must have felt as he'd
 gone from rescuer to victim and had attempted to wrest himself free of the
 crazed woman's hold, succeeding at the last instant but not in time to
 prevent himself from toppling over the roof's edge right behind the
 doomed female; and knowing that Jim had to have experienced an almost
 equal sense of horror as he watched his best friend fall ripped at Simon's
 guts now with a raw, sick pain that helped him to better understand the
 profound silence emanating from the two men on the gurney. Both men had
 faced death before while on the job, and they'd taken too many turns in
 this very ER to even count. Each of those times had been traumatic in
 its own way, but this...
 Simon had to acknowledge to himself that for some reason this latest
 brush with disaster had a completely different aura to it, something so
 dark and empty and cosmically tragic that it scarcely bore thinking
 about. He had only to see the taut, wholly awful silence of two of his
 best, most field-experienced men to comprehend that as partners and as
 individuals, Jim and Blair had come close tonight not only to death but to
 the permanent, soul-shattering loss of a shared bond that had come to
 be essential to both. Over the past year Simon had noticed the changing
 and deepening of that bond into something fierce and powerful and
 vaguely disturbing in its intensity; but he'd attributed the swift evolution
 of the men's once-tentative working relationship to Jim's need for
 Blair to help him gain mastery of his preternaturally heightened senses.
 The very nature of Jim's abilities required Sandburg's almost constant
 presence at his side, and Simon supposed such close proximity for so many
  hours a day would have served either to strengthen and reinforce the
 connection between the two men or would have driven both of them
 completely bonkers within a very short time.
 Looking at the two of them now, the usually no-nonsense police captain
 decided he could safely make a guess as to which direction Ellison's
 and Sandburg's connection had taken. And while he'd seen evidence here
 and there of the solidifying of this incredible mental/emotional link
 between them, he hadn't realized just how profound the transformation in
 each man had become. They were bonded now in ways not even the most
 ardent of devoted lovers could ever hope to fully comprehend, and the near
 loss of one of the duo on that rooftop tonight had sent both men into a
 post-traumatic zone of immeasurable intensity. Simon could only stand
 growling in frustration at the apparent lack of understanding or
 intervention by the ER staff in response to the devastating impact tonight's
 rescue call had had on his men; and as his ire and concern mingled and
 grew, Banks finally found both voice and momentum enough to make his
 presence known and to try and get some actual help for the conjoined
  still seated oh so quietly and rigidly on that damned gurney.
 As he barked out a request for medical attention for his men, using his
 most peremptory, Captainish tone, Banks reflected inwardly that later
 both men would need to be grounded enough to do their jobs, to make
 their reports and pick up the pieces of this terrible, senseless night's
 work; but for now, they needed the bracing strength and gruff comfort of
 their captain, the solicitous care of both medical and psychological
 counseling and attention, and whatever else it took to snap the two of
 them out of the withdrawn, absorbed silence that hovered over them like a
 malevolent spirit. Simon just hoped that Ellison and Sandburg would be
 able pull some of that weird, funky sentinel/shaman voodoo out of their
 hats to help see them through this latest near catastrophe in the
 ongoing saga of their partnership.
 (Same night...hours later....)
 Their lovemaking was astoundingly violent, a surging, crashing
 maelstrom of strong muscles grappling for dominance, teeth and lips biting,
 sucking, licking, laving, fingers bunching and gripping, scrabbling and
 scratching, gliding and sliding and caressing over hot, sleek, hungry
 skin. No words were spoken the first time--the loft was breathlessly
 silent save for the primitive, needy language of grunts and groans, of sighs
 and sharp hisses and the wet, fierce impact of flesh against flesh, of
 flesh INTO flesh, wringing harsh, hoarse cries of ecstasy and release
 from dual throats.
 The second time sparse words were interspersed here and there amongst
 the short, guttural cries of need and pleasure, a husky
 "Chief...God!..." mixing with the other's soft, urgent rasps of " you,
 love you so...fucking...much..." Sobs, breathless laughter, noises of
 kissing, loving, followed several satisfyingly long moments later by a
 second, mutual explosion of almost unbearable climax. And afterward,
 Blair's quietly desperate plea as they lay entwined and perspiring
 "Don't let go; Jim, man, just...stay like that, keep your weight on
 me...don't let me fall off the edge...crazy I know, the floor's RIGHT
 THERE...but still...sorry, Jim, sorry... "
 And Jim's low-voiced, fiercely intense reply: "I've got you, this time
 I've got you; hold onto me, Blair, not letting go, never
 now, safe in our home, in our bed...together."
 And later still, sticky and puffy-eyed and hollowed out by restless,
 stilted dream snatches (nightmarish bits more like, filled with images of
 darkness and death and endless tumbles into bottomless oubliettes),
 both men awoke again to nestle closer even than before, Blair's flyaway
 brambles of hair rubbing against Jim's face and tickling his nose while
 Jim's immensely strong, lightly furred legs twined snugly around
 Blair's, his feet curling behind Blair's calves to press the other man as
 close to him as he could. And this time they REALLY talked, talked in slow,
 laborious, careful words of the immensity of the terror of this
 night--this veritable lifetime--just past.
 But cutting into the admissions of fear and grief there was talk of
 courage and luck, as well, a recounting of the saga of survival and the
 inexpressible joy of continuing on together; and in those predawn hours
 of discourse and touching and of connecting anew, the ugly, indelible
 specter of Blair's desperate figure pinwheeling off that roof faded into
 softer, safer, belovedly intimate images of the two of them falling,
 together, over the precipice of a far different drop.
 There was still trauma, still horror and anger and the grief of a life
 senselessly spent and of a small child who would never know her mother;
 but a satiated, comfortably exhausted Jim reflected now that Simon had
 been more right than he could have known when he'd gruffly informed the
 two of them earlier tonight to 'go home and do that 'thing' you always
 do to get your heads on straight again." The next few days--even
 weeks--wouldn't be easy, especially for Sandburg; but Jim knew that together
 they would summon the strength, comfort, and mutual support needed to
 see them through this latest near tragedy. For now he had the most vital
 necessity of his soul nestled right here close, heartbeat to heartbeat
 in the warmly enfolding silence of their bedroom; and as Jim's eyes
 drifted shut on one last glimpse of Sandburg's exhausted, sleep-softened
 face, the grateful detective slid one strong arm around the other man's
 shoulders to anchor him securely in their bed and in his grasp.
 "I've got you, Chief; you can rest safely now," he whispered in Blair's
 ear; and indeed Blair did, sleeping peacefully entwined with his
 sentinel as the first, faintly roseate hues of dawn crept into the loft.
 The End~