I've never been one for celebrations and now, looking around me at the debris scattering my home, I can understand why. It seems as if every square inch of the loft is covered with discarded remnants of a party. Even if I wasn't a Sentinel I don't think I could handle the sight of it, especially tonight. So, I turn my back on it, open the door into the hallway and step out, locking the door behind me.
Downstairs, Simon's waiting in his car at the kerb with the engine running. He gives me a quick once-over kind of look as I step in and I nod at him, wanting him to just get me away from here. "I'm fine," I say. "Can we just go?"
He nods back and pulls out into a gap in the traffic. "I'll get Rafe and Brown and come over in the morning and clean up," he says as he negotiates the turn into Winchester Street and heads north of the loft.
"I can do it," I tell him but my heart's not in it. I could do it but I don't want to. I'm too tired, too dispirited about what's happened to really want to.
"It's not a problem," he assures me, turning left and accelerating slightly now we're clearer of the city traffic.
"Okay, thanks." I turn away from him slightly and look out of the window onto the darkened streets.
It's been a cold, harsh winter and everything seems dusted with a coating of frosted ice, turning the passing scene outside the car into a winter wonderland. I think back to when I was a kid, when I'd leap out of bed at the first hint of winter, ready and eager to pull on my snow gear and get outside. Even when it was only frost that greeted me, I'd be taken aback by its beauty and know that snow wasn't far behind.
Not tonight. Tonight the cold chill of the landscape mirrors the arctic iciness of my soul and I'm lost in my thoughts till a hand on my shoulder shakes me from my reverie.
"We're here," Simon says. "You okay?"
"Fine." I push my way out of the car and crunch across the frosted grass to the entrance doors and step inside as they open automatically.
A nurse meets us at the desk and leads us down the hallway, pulling aside a curtain and ushering us into a cubicle.
I find myself stopping just inside, frozen in place till the man in the bed turns his head to look at me and I step forward and reach out to take my friend's hand.
Blair's face is bruised and dotted with small cuts from where he impacted the windshield, I think. His right arm is heavily bandaged and lying on top of the covers, the hand in mine is pierced by an IV needle and feels shockingly cold. I want to tuck it under the covers and warm it up but I don't want to lose contact with him so I fold my other hand over the top and try to warm it with my own body heat.
"Hey," I manage to say at last.
"How you feeling, Blair?" Simon asks from behind me.
"A bit sore, groggy," Blair replies, his eyes still fixed on my face. "They gave me some morphine."
He tries to turn onto his side to face me but I stop him when I see him wince with the effort. "Lie still, Chief," I tell him. "I can hear you just fine."
He smiles a little at that. Then a somber look comes into his eyes and I see his chin tremble a little. "How many " He stops, swallows hard. "How many did I kill?"
"What?" I can't help the surprise that colors my voice and I can sense Simon leaning over my shoulder, feel the same sense of shock from him. "Blair, you didn't kill anyone. This wasn't your fault. Didn't the doctor tell you what happened?"
Blair shakes his head, his eyes glistening now, tears standing in his eyes but not spilling over. "I heard a nurse say a young girl died at the scene-"
"Not because of anything you did, Chief." I look up at Simon and shake my head in disbelief.
"It was a car chase that went wrong, Blair," Simon explains. His voice is deep and sure and Blair finally lifts his gaze from my face to look at him. "The girl was in a stolen car with her boyfriend. A patrol car gave chase. The boyfriend ran a red light and hit you. They clocked him at over one hundred miles per hour just minutes before the accident." Simon reaches out a hand and places it on Blair's shoulder, squeezing gently. "None of this is your fault, you hear me. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Blair nods, the tears falling down, a slow steady trickle of misery dampening his cheeks.
I grab a handful of tissues from the box on the sidetable and mop them as they fall. "It's okay, Chief. It's okay." I can hardly speak around the lump in my throat. "Why don't you try to get some sleep. The nurse said you can probably go home in the morning if you feel up to it-"
"Can you-" He closes his eyes then opens them again and looks at me. "Would you stay, just for a while?"
"'Fraid you're stuck with me for the night," I assure him with a jocularity that I don't come close to feeling. "The gang left a pretty big mess at the loft and Simon's promised me he'll get Rafe and H and help with the clean-up, right, Simon?"
Simon gives a mock-scowl and nods. "Yeah, yeah, Ellison, we'll have it back to its usual pristine condition by the time you bring Sandburg home."
"Oh god, your birthday party. I forgot. I was on my way there when "
"You missed a great party, Chief, but it wasn't the same without you there. Tell you what, you get some sleep and when you're feeling up to it, we'll celebrate again, okay? Only this time we'll do it at a restaurant of your choice, let someone else clean up the mess, hey?"
"Yeah, okay." His eyes are closed again now and Simon is slipping quietly out of the cubicle.
I keep his hand enclosed within mine and sit back and watch him fall asleep.