DOG DAY AFTERNOON
Blair jumped as something wet and cold pressed into his hand. Looking down he saw a dog, a thin, unkempt animal with a dull brown coat. The dog looked up into his eyes, its own eyes pleading liquidly.
"Hey there, buddy," Blair said, squatting next the dog and running his hand over its back. The poor thing looked half-starved. Blair remembered the sandwich in his backpack that he'd never gotten time to eat and pulled it from the bag, holding out so the animal could take it from his hand. The dog snatched it from his grasp and wolfed it down, then looked up again at him, its need eloquent in its eyes.
"Sorry, pal, that's it," Blair said, rubbing the dog's head and eliciting a wag of the tail for his efforts.
Blair stood and glanced at his watch. Damn, he was already late. It was his turn to cook dinner and his partner and lover, the redoubtable detective Jim Ellison, would not be pleased to be kept waiting. He began to walk away, turning back for one last look at the dog. "Dammit," he said, when he saw four puppies now surrounded his newly made friend.
The mother looked up at him, then turned, shepherding her charges before her into the mouth of the alley that Blair presumed they called home. Allowing concern for the animals to override his desire to get home in the shortest possible time, he followed them. As he rounded the corner, he saw the mother dog settling her brood in the shadow of a dumpster pushed up hard against the dead end of the alleyway. She slumped down to her side, licking each of the pups in turn as they began to nurse.
Blair thought briefly about taking them home, and then he remembered Jim's senses. As far as he knew, Jim wasn't allergic to animal hair. After all, he'd had no reaction except annoyance to the presence of Larry, a Barbary ape and Blair's former roommate, when he'd first taken Blair in. But five dogs, no doubt infested with fleas and God knew what else would be too much for the finicky Sentinel to bear, Sandburg knew.
Coming upon a solution of sorts, Blair pulled his wallet from his pocket and sighed gratefully as he realized he had enough money to buy some dog food. "Just stay here, girl," he called to the dog, smiling a little as he said it. Did he really think the dog would understand? Shrugging, he said, "I'm gonna go get you some food, okay? I'll be back." Then he turned and headed for the nearest store at a jog.
Blair wandered the pet food aisle wondering what food would be appropriate for a bitch nursing four puppies. He picked up various cans and packets of dog biscuits before settling on one of each. He knew he should probably turn the dogs over to the pound but he hated the thought of them being euthanased if homes couldn't be found for them. He would just come down each night after he finished at the University and feed them, then when the pups could be weaned, he'd try to find homes for all of them. His mind appeased, he headed for the cashier.
"Hand the money over, bitch, and hurry it up, or I'll shoot you right through that sweet face of yours."
Blair heard the words as he rounded the end of the aisle and skidded to a halt, taking a cautious step back so he was hidden behind the corner display of disposable diapers. He looked around the store but it was deserted, except for himself, the terrified clerk and the armed robber. He knelt and rifled through his backpack till he found his cell-phone. Slinking back even further into the shadows cast by the shelves, he dialed Jim's number.
"Ellison," the voice on the other end barked out.
"Shit," Blair whispered, peeking around the corner to see if the perp had heard. Thankfully, it seemed he hadn't. He was still shadowing the young cashier as she made her way through all the checkout lanes, methodically and nervously emptying each register of whatever cash they held.
"Jim, it's me," Blair whispered, his eyes never losing sight of the man with the gun.
"Chief? What's up? Why are you whispering?" Jim asked, sounding worried.
"Ssh, Jim. I'm in the grocery store at the corner of Gardenia and Devon. There's an armed robbery going down. Send backup ASAP, will you?"
"You got it, Chief. We're on our way." Jim's voice lowered even more. "Listen, babe, no heroics, okay?"
"Definitely, big guy," Blair promised, closing the phone.
"Put the phone down, hippie," said a voice from behind him.
Dammit Blair thought. Of course, there'd be two of them. It's written somewhere in the Sandburg rules of life. Slowly, he placed the phone on the floor in front of him and looked up. The other robber was still concentrating solely on the girl collecting the money, but he glanced toward the store windows as the unmistakable sound of police sirens came closer.
"Fuck!" he yelled. "Pigs! Hurry it up!" he screamed at the girl, who in her nervousness had dropped the cloth bag holding the money. He grabbed her hair and hauled her upright then slapped her hard across the face, sending her careening back into the wall. She slid down in it and curled on to her side, unconscious.
"You bastard," Blair roared, anger giving him strength and removing any sense of self-preservation. He hefted the bag of dog biscuits and spun, catching the man behind him in the ribs, barely taking the time to watch the perp fall. He heard the satisfying thunk of the perp's head striking the floor hard and figured he was down for the count. Whirling back, he was just in time to see the gunman at the front of the store pick up the moneybag and raise his weapon. Pointing it directly at Blair, the man backed toward the front door, even as cars could be heard pulling up outside accompanied by shouts of "Cascade P.D. Come out with your hands in the air!"
"Like hell," the gunman muttered as he pulled back on the trigger.
Several things happened at once. Later, Blair felt as if time had slowed down and he'd become a witness to it, standing outside himself, watching the events unfold as if they had nothing to do with him at all.
As the gun roared, Blair threw the can of dog food he still held in his hand as hard and as straight as he could. It beaned the robber on the side of the head, knocking him to one side and sending the gun tumbling from his fist. Blair ducked as fast as he could and felt a burning pain through his right shoulder as he hit the ground. Through blurred vision he watched as Jim Ellison stepped through the door and pulled the robber to his feet, grinding his gun into the man's neck.
"Jim," Blair groaned out. He saw his partner look over at him, saw the anger on his face seep away to replaced by concern.
"Oh God, Chief," Jim said, pushing his prisoner into Detective Brown's waiting hands, seemingly no longer concerned with the man's presence. He ran to Blair's side and dropped to his knees, one hand opening Blair's shirt and pushing it away so he could examine the wound. "Ssh, easy, babe," he whispered, as Blair winced at the gentle touch. "I need medics in here," he yelled over his shoulder.
"S'okay, Jim," Blair murmured. He closed his eyes as the pain renewed its fiery throbbing.
"You'll be fine, Chief," Jim said reassuringly. "Bullet went right through the top of your shoulder. Don't think it hit your lung, thank God. Probably hurts like a mother, though, right?" He brushed a hand across Blair's forehead and smiled as his partner sighed at the contact.
"Yeah, it hurts, all right," Blair agreed. "Oh God, the girl! He hit her. She was knocked out!"
"Whoa, take it easy, buddy," Jim said hurriedly, holding Blair down on the floor. "The paramedics are gonna check her over but she's conscious now. Rafe's with her." He stood up as the medics reached them and moved back a little so they could work.
Blair's eyes opened wide as Jim moved away and Jim bent to crouch at his head, renewing his stroking across the wounded man's head. "I'm still here, Chief," he soothed. He answered the medic's questions mechanically, giving him Blair's name and a brief version of what had happened.
Blair quieted almost immediately under his ministrations and Jim watched as the medics took his partner's vitals, bandaged both the entry and exit wounds and inserted an IV. That done, they lifted Blair carefully onto a stretcher. Blair moaned as he was moved, his teeth biting into his lower lip, a drop of blood trickling down his chin.
Jim grabbed Blair's free hand and squeezed it gently. "Take it easy, Blair. You'll be at the hospital soon." He looked up at the medic. "Can't you give him something for pain?" he asked, his anguish at his partner's discomfort plain on his face.
The medic looked down at his patient. Blair's face was white, his teeth still biting down on his lip, beads of sweat dotting his face. Finally he seemed to come to a decision. "Mr. Sandburg? Blair, are you with me here?" He waited till Blair opened pain-filled eyes and looked at him. "I need to know if you hit your head at any time, when you were shot or before that, maybe?"
Blair shook his head weakly, tears beginning to spill over and slide down his cheeks. "Hurts," he whispered huskily.
The medic nodded. "I'm gonna call the hospital again and see if I can do something about that," he said. He crouched and opened the biophone box sitting on the floor and made the call. Regaining his feet after a short conversation, he motioned to his partner to open the drug box. "Doc says to give him 5 milligrams morphine IV stat, Adam," he said to the other man.
"You got it, Bailey." Adam efficiently drew up the medication and injected it into Blair's IV.
After only a minute or so, Blair opened his eyes again and looked up the three men standing around him. "Wow," he mumbled, his damp eyes now looking glazed from the narcotic.
Jim and the medics laughed then they resumed the journey to the ambulance and loaded him up, Jim taking the jump seat at his partner's side.
Jim moved forward in his chair as Blair moaned softly. He waited till his lover's eyes opened and looked at him blearily, then he stood and pressed his lips to Blair's forehead. "Hey, there, sleepyhead," he said, "How you doing?"
"Hey yourself," Blair whispered huskily, a faint smile tilting his lips. "I'm okay, I think. Sleepy, though."
"Still?" Jim asked, as he perched himself on the edge of the hospital bed, making sure not to jostle Blair's injured arm. "You've been out for over 12 hours. Never woke up after you passed out in the ambulance. Threw those medics into a bit of a panic, I can tell you."
"But not you, though, right, big guy? You know me too well, know I can fall asleep anywhere," Blair replied, though he knew Jim would have been as worried as the medics had been, probably more so.
"That's right. Besides, I'm a big tough cop. We don't do panic. Now," Jim paused while held a glass of water with a straw, to Blair's mouth, letting him take a few sips, "you gonna tell me how you managed to find yourself in the middle of an armed hold-up?"
"Just lucky, I guess," Blair quipped, taking Jim's hand in his good one, and holding it to his chest. "No, I went to get some dog food... Oh my God, the dogs!" He shot up in the bed, then groaned as the sudden movement brought the wound in his shoulder to painful throbbing life.
"Hey, easy there, babe." Jim grasped Blair's shoulders gently and eased him back down onto the pillows. "You've got a morphine pump connected, Chief. You just have to push the red button here." With that, Jim pushed the button, forestalling his partner's expected refusal of the drug. He watched with satisfaction as the narcotic kicked in and Blair's eyes slid halfway shut as the pain released its hold on him.
"No fair," Blair slurred. "You took me by surprise."
"Yep," Jim said, grinning. "Now, no sudden moves. What dogs?"
Blair recited the evening's events, explaining where he'd the seen the bitch and her puppies. "I was gonna bring them back to the loft but I knew you'd be pissed if I did that, so I was just gonna give them some food, then call around the next morning and see if I could find someone to take them in," he said dolefully. "They're probably gone by now."
"Maybe not, Chief," Jim reassured him. "If the mother had found a safe place to stay in that alley, there's a good chance she won't move, at least till the puppies are weaned. I'll go check on them for you, all right?"
"You'd do that, babe? Thanks, Jim. I love you, you know," Blair said, his eyes sliding further shut.
"Likewise, Blair. I'll do it on one condition." He waited till Blair peeled his eyelids wearily open once more. "You get some rest and you use this pump at least every couple of hours and especially before you do any moving around."
Blair nodded reluctant agreement. "But what about your...you know," his voice dropped even lower, as if he thought the room might be bugged. "Your allergies," he finished.
"Remember when you made me have all those allergy tests done last year?" Jim asked, with a wide grin, tucking the blankets higher around his lover's neck. "I'm not allergic to dogs, Chief. Cats yes, oddly enough, considering my spirit animal is a jaguar, but not dogs. Besides, I'm just gonna check on them, take them some food, make sure they've got water, you know? Now, sleep," he ordered, bending down and kissing Blair's mouth tenderly.
Blair was snoring softly by the time he reached the door.
Jim sighed loudly, causing his lover to look up from the activity he'd been so engrossed in moments before. Obviously, a sigh was not the verbal response he'd been expecting in response to his actions.
"Jim, are you okay? Is it your senses? Or are you still just worried about my shoulder? I told you, it's fine. You've checked it yourself so you *know* it's fine..."
Blair looked frustrated. Not surprising really, considering the weeklong ban Jim had placed on lovemaking after Blair had been released from the hospital. He'd only wanted to be sure there was no chance of his lover accidentally jostling his injured shoulder, but as soon as the sutures were removed, Blair had let his partner know, in no uncertain terms, that he wasn't prepared to wait even one more night.
Jim pushed himself up to a sitting position then scooted back so he was resting upright against the headboard, away from the talented mouth that had been trying to coax a reaction from his recalcitrant cock for the last ten minutes or so. He looked down at his barely half-hard penis then over at Blair. His lover sported enough wood to build an A-frame and Jim hadn't even touched him yet. He sighed again. "It's not my senses and no, I'm not still worried about your shoulder."
"So...you gonna tell me or do I have to guess? Am I doing something wrong? I thought you liked it when I..."
Jim interrupted quickly. "I do, babe, you know I love it. It's just..."
"Just what, big guy? Come on, Jim, tell me what the problem is, please?" Blair's eyes were huge now and filled with concern.
"I just don't think I can do it while she's watching us," Jim whispered, looking over at the scruffy dog curled up on the floor next to the bed, her eyes following every move he and Blair made, her tail beginning to wag as he looked at her.
"Who, Daisy?" Blair looked down at the dog. He'd been delighted when Jim had returned to the hospital the day after he'd been shot to say that he'd found homes for all the puppies as soon as they were weaned. That had happened while Blair was still in the hospital, the vet Jim had taken them and their mother to for a checkup assuring Jim that they were well past the age for weaning anyway. She thought the mother had only kept nursing them as there was no regular supply of other food available. So, Daisy, the mother, had been given medication to dry up her milk and the pups had gone to homes with other members of the CPD. Then, Blair had come home to find Daisy waiting for him at the loft, freshly washed and free of fleas, a big red bow around her neck attached to a note from Jim, which read:
I thought, we have such a wonderful home here, it would be nice to share it and our love with Daisy. I love you, Chief.
When Blair had asked him where the name came from, Jim said she reminded him of Dagwood's dog, from the cartoon strip, so Daisy she became.
"She's just a dog, Jim. She doesn't know what we're doing," Blair said, trying to placate his lover.
"Yeah, right, Chief. She didn't get those puppies by immaculate conception, you know," Jim answered dryly.
Blair almost choked on his laughter but sobered quickly as he realized Jim was serious. "Okay," he said, getting up off the bed. "I'll take care of it, Jim. Just wait here, lover. I'll be right back. Hey, Daisy, come on, girl."
The dog stood up readily and followed Blair down the stairs.
Jim could hear doors being opened and shut then Blair's footsteps returning up the stairs to the bedroom.
His lover stopped a foot away from the bed and Jim found his eyes drawn to the lush mouth, already feeling his cock beginning to stir.
"That's more like it," Blair said softly, licking his lips.
Jim groaned in anticipation. "What did you do with Daisy?" he asked.
"Just put her in the bathroom and gave her a bone to eat," Blair replied, moving back to take up his previous position between Jim's outstretched thighs. "Looks like you've got a bone for me too," he said with a wicked grin as he lowered his head and proceeded to drive his Sentinel out of his mind.