I'll Stand By You



(Evolution - Part 10)

Betaed by Lyn. Thank you.

Feedback: Annie

Notes: This is a continuation of the Evolution Of Friendship series. It's a combination of missing scenes as well as a rendering of the episode from Blair's POV. It contains some dialogue taken directly from the episode.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, no money made. Jim and Blair are mine - oops, Jim and Blair are NOT mine. Sorry, slight typo, wishful thinking stuff. <LOL>

Thank you to the dues fairies of SA for being patient with me and granting me extensions. Don't you just hate it when RL keeps you from writing?

Thank you especially to Debbie Tripp, my new websis, who graciously let me put her Moonridge fic on hold so I could finish this first. Thanks Debbie. I'm already galloping toward the end of your story.


If anyone had ever told me that Jim Ellison's moods could change in a heartbeat, I would have thought the informant obviously didn't know the man as well as they thought they did. I mean, sure, Jim has moods but let's face it, the guy's predictable. When he's pissed, he stays that way for hours; same thing when he's upbeat. If you look up the word mercurial in the dictionary, you are *not* going to find a photo of Detective James Ellison illustrating it.

Yet, as we faced each other across the kitchen counter, I experienced that mercurial shift myself for the first time in the year or so since we'd met.

It had started out jokingly enough with Jim teasing me about my lovelife, insinuating that the only reason I was so happy after returning a call left on the answering machine was because a girl had agreed to go out with me. It's a long running (sometimes a little *too* long-running in my opinion) joke between us. It had slipped into something I was surprised to sense was pride, when I'd explained who Eli Stoddard was and that I'd been offered the chance to go to Borneo on an excursion with the great man. That gave me a warm feeling - that Jim would be proud of me. Don't get me wrong, he's told me I've done good before, but that was for helping him out on cop stuff. This was for *my* stuff and I have to admit it gave me a buzz. By the time I'd explained that taking my mentor up on his offer would mean a year away from Cascade, it had segued downhill into pissed off, though Jim had denied he was upset. The sign that he was, lay in the way his eyes slid away from my face and the way he walked over to the fridge, grabbing himself a drink and not even asking if I wanted one too. I was even more clued into just how uptight he was by the way he snatched the ringing phone out of my outstretched hand before I could even raise it to my ear.

I shrugged inwardly as I listened to his end of the conversation, then began pressing him for answers as I realized the seriousness of the call. By the time he'd hung up and told me the chopper Simon and Daryl were on had crashed in Peru, there was no time to worry about whether or not Jim was pissed off because I was in my room packing and Jim was upstairs doing the same thing.

I stuffed my backpack and a carrybag haphazardly with everything I could think of that I'd need in the jungle but in my mind all I could see and hear was Simon and Daryl walking out of the bullpen, still niggling away at each other and Jim's laughing comment that, "They're going to kill each other."

God! I blinked away the sudden burning of tears, grabbed my journal and stuffed it into my bag as well. I heard Jim coming down the stairs and rushed out to meet him.

"Okay, Jim, I'm all ready."

I was stunned when Jim said he didn't want me along to help look for Simon and Daryl. I mean, one minute the guy was cutting me dead for thinking about going away for a year on an excursion, and the next thing he's babbling bullshit about volatile situations and wanting to leave me behind.

Well, I blew that idea right out of the water in ten seconds flat. Simon and Daryl Banks had become valued friends to me and there was no way I wasn't going.

I almost laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation, when Jim lectured me that I had to do everything he said, when he said it.

"What else is new," I muttered sourly as I followed him out of the loft.


I'd known almost from the start of our friendship that I'd follow Jim Ellison just about anywhere. However, had anyone suggested back then that one of those places would be out of a plane soaring several hundred feet above the Peruvian rainforest, I would have given them the name of one of the therapists my mother had insisted on sending me to when I was a kid. Blair Sandburg parachuting - uh-uh, no way. Not Naomi Sandburg's little curly-haired boy. And yet there I was, doing just that.

The green canopy of trees below switched places with the bright blue of the sky, as I tumbled over and over, screaming to Jim not to lose me. I knew that memory would embarrass me later, but right at that exact moment, embarrassment was the last thing on my mind. I was too busy trying not to wet my pants.

I could vaguely hear Jim shouting something back but the rush of the wind blew the meaning of his words away.

All I could do was watch the ground race toward me; my stomach dropping nauseatingly and my mind numb with fear. Then I hit the top branch of a tree and my chute hooked onto it while I dropped several branches further; small, sharp twigs scratching at my face and hands on the way. By the time I was jolted to a stop at the end of the strings, I was drenched in sweat and I could hear my heart thundering in my ears. I reached up and shakily undid the release buckle, offering a heartfelt plea to any deity that happened to be in the vicinity at the time. There was a moment of absolute steadiness and then the harness gave way and I was falling again, finally hitting the ground with a thud that echoed all the way up into my head. I scrambled to anchor my feet but they slithered out from under me and then I was sliding, head over heels, bumping finally to a stop at the bottom of a small ravine. Once I was able to make it to my feet, I limped off in the direction I'd last seen Jim.


Something was scrabbling inside my pants, its small claws needling me in its frantic attempt to escape.

I hobbled as fast as I could over to a fallen tree stump, already unzipping my pants as I went, trying not to think about what sort of small creatures with sharp claws and fangs lived in this part of Peru. I just hoped that whatever it was, it didn't get so pissed off by its enforced confinement that it felt compelled to take a chunk out of the Sandburg family jewels. My mother would never forgive me if I had to tell her that she'd never have grandchildren because I'd had an accidental vasectomy - or worse - in the wilds of Peru.

My hands were still scrabbling for a finger-hold on the elusive little creature when Jim appeared from behind me.

"Whoa, wait up, Jim. I've got something in my pants," I said, finally grabbing the slippery little sucker and dragging it up my leg toward the freedom of the great outdoors.

"How exciting," Jim muttered sarcastically, but he stopped and turned to watch, smiling as I pulled the lizard free and set it on the ground. The lizard took off, no doubt in search of greener pastures and I looked up.

Jim was staring over my shoulder.

Worried he was about to zone on something, I asked him what was wrong.

He shrugged, as if shaking himself free of whatever vision had caught his eye. "Nothing," he said tersely, turning on his heel. "Let's go."

I scrambled upright and took off after him, zipping my pants as quickly as I could before any other of the jungle denizens decided to investigate chez Sandburg.


By the time we'd walked for an hour or so, Jim was getting more and more frustrated at not being able to pick up any evidence of Simon's and Daryl's trail. I tried to get him to concentrate but that only won me a snapped reply that he *was* concentrating.

So then, I tried to guide him through whatever block he was experiencing but after one brief try at it, he shook his head, acknowledging defeat.

I scrubbed my hand through my sweat-damp hair, shaking my head. I didn't understand it. We'd done this routine dozens of times before. I couldn't understand why suddenly nothing was working. There had to be a reason but I was damned if I could come up with one at the moment. But, being the helpful guy that I am, I tried to come up with one anyway. "Maybe it was the parachute jump. You know - the change in air pressure. Or - or maybe it's the shock of being back in the jungle…"

Jim moved past me, a distracted look on his face and I realized he wasn't listening to me. Instead, he was gazing into the trees behind us.

"What? What is it?" I asked.

He ignored my question and spun around, taking off at a run in the direction we'd originally been headed. I sighed in exasperation, then pushed off again, trying to keep up.

After what seemed like hours, Jim finally called a halt and we set up camp for the night. He built a campfire and we ate beans, washed down with water from a nearby spring, a health bar each for dessert. Hardly cordon bleu dining but hey, it was the jungle, right?

As night wore on, I pulled out my journal and began cataloguing everything that had happened with Jim's senses. I still felt there had to be an explanation and never being one to give up on anything too easily, I prodded Jim until he finally told me to let it go and get some sleep. I shut my book with a snap that hopefully told him the subject *wasn't* closed as far as I was concerned, then rolled over and tried to get comfortable on the hard ground, using my backpack as a pillow. I was sure I'd be too uncomfortable to sleep but the next thing I knew it was morning and Jim was shaking me awake.

He looked exhausted, as he hurried me along, moving economically around our campsite and packing up everything, making sure the fire was completely out.

"You look like you didn't get much sleep, man," I commented as I shoved everything back in my bag one-handed, the other holding the longed-for coffee Jim had made before he woke me up. I gulped down the steaming brew quickly while he waited, fingers tapping impatiently on his thighs.

He shrugged. "Couldn't sleep," he murmured briefly. "You ready?"

I nodded and he grabbed the mug from my hand and tipped out the dregs then shoved it into my backpack on top of my journal. Leaning over he fastened the bag for me then picked it up and handed it to me. "Let's get moving."


I peered between the leafy fronds of jungle foliage as Jim made his way cautiously around the perimeter of the tiny village we'd come across. He circled in towards the huts and then he stopped, spinning around.

I stood up as a woman stepped out from the shadow of one of the huts, something long and solid looking held in her hands. She swung it back and then forwards, the noise of it hitting Jim's head reverberating through my own mind.

I ran forward, pushing the entangling branches out of my way frantically. "Jim!"

The woman looked up, one hand covering her mouth, fear evident on her face.

I slowed to walk, my eyes fixed on Jim's prone body, my heart racing. I put my hands up in a gesture of surrender, not wanting to scare her any more than she obviously was already.

"Oh God," she said, "I thought you were… Oh God."

The mattock was hanging loosely from her hand and she didn't seem a threat anymore, so I walked over to Jim, dropping heavily to my knees beside him, extending a shaky hand out to feel for the pulse in his throat. It was there. I gulped back a sense of relief so palpable it almost choked me.

He was still unconscious though, a small laceration on his forehead slowly seeping a small amount of blood.

I looked over at the woman, who was now crouched next to me. She was small and blonde, and her blue eyes were still wide with shock. "Who are you?" I asked. "What are you doing here?"

"My name's Kimberly Ashe, I'm a botanist from UCLA. I've been doing a survey on the disappearing plant life in the rainforest," she babbled, her eyes fixed on Jim's still body. "Oh God, I can't believe I hit him. I thought he was-"

I jumped in quickly. The woman sounded like she was on the verge of tears and I wanted to stop her before she toppled over. I had enough to worry about right now as it was, without having to think about trying to calm down an hysterical woman as well. "I'm Blair Sandburg. This is Detective Jim Ellison. We work with Cascade PD in Washington. We're down here looking for two friends of ours who were in a chopper crash a couple of days ago," I explained in a rush of words.

I sighed in relief as I felt Jim beginning to move under my hands and looking down, I could see him moving his head, his eyes opening and closing as if he was having trouble getting them to stay open.

"Jim." I called his name, hoping he could hear me.

Suddenly, he was surging up from the ground and I placed a hand flat on his chest, urging him to take it slow. The man must have had a king-size headache if the size of that mattock in the lady's hand was anything to go by. I put my other hand under his neck and slowly helped him to sit up.

"Oh man," he groaned, his own hand reaching up to his forehead as if trying to hold back the pain.

"Yeah," I acknowledged sympathetically. "Oh yeah."

I gradually managed to get him vertical and introduced him to Kimberly, explaining why she was in the village.

He brushed off her apologies but I saw him heft the head of the mattock in his hand, wincing as he felt how heavy it was.

When Kimberly told us about the mercenaries taking all the adults of the village away, I looked over at Jim. He looked as worried as I was. *What if the same men were holding Daryl and Simon? * I shivered. Daryl's just a kid, not much older than some of the children that Kimberly had called out of hiding. 'How long could a boy like Daryl survive the sort of conditions he and Simon could be living in?' I thought despairingly. 'If they *were* still living.'

I spent the next half-hour or so, wandering around the village, my anthropologist instinct unable to resist soaking up these people's way of life, despite my constant concern for Simon and Daryl. The children followed me around, their body language curious but wary.

After a while, I looked around for Jim.

Kimberly caught my eye from where she sat next to an open fire, preparing food. "He went down towards the river," she said, pointing to a cleared path.

Nodding my thanks, I made my way down the path, following the sound of the rushing water till I reached the river's edge and saw Jim sitting on a rock, his rifle clasped across his lap, his gaze trained almost vacantly on the opposite bank.

"Jim, you okay?" I asked.

He stood up and turned towards me, hesitating momentarily. "My Sentinel abilities are gone. It's like someone just turned off a switch."

I scrabbled for answers, for explanations, finally coming up with a lame, "Maybe it's just temporary."

Jim shook his head. "I never wanted the damned things in the first place."

That pissed me off. When was he ever going to see these senses for the gift they are instead of the burden that he feels them to be? I'd thought that over the past few months he'd come to understand what an advantage they gave him, especially in his line of work.

"They've also saved your life, Jim, and the lives of a lot of other people too," I reminded him.

"Yeah, well, what good is that if I can't control it?" Jim blurted out angrily.

I leaned toward him and said emphatically, "You *can* control it. It just takes time."

"We don't have time!" Jim retorted, his tone angry and impatient. Simon and Daryl need help now!"

"Well, dammit, Jim, tell me what's go on!" Now I was as angry as he sounded. If he'd only trusted me enough to tell me this when it had first happened, maybe I could have worked something out before it had gotten to this point.

Jim sighed and looked away again, out across the river.

"I'm your partner," I said, mentally adding *and your Guide. How can I guide you when you won't tell me what's going on in that Sentinel brain of yours? *

I could see Jim's jaw clenching before he turned back to face me. He shook his head.

"I've been seeing something," he said tensely. "I don't even know if it's real."

Impatiently, I broke in. "What have you been seeing, Jim?" *Shit! When are you going to learn to tell me this stuff? * I thought in frustration.

He told me he'd been seeing a panther watching us ever since we'd landed and that he'd felt it watching us ever since.

I scrubbed my hair back from my face, trying to think clearly, wanting to get some sort of handle on this.

"I know it's there but when I look, there's nothing," Jim added, sounding lost. "Last night I saw it in a dream, more real than any dream I've ever had." He swallowed and clenched his jaw again, looking back across the river.

I had the feeling he thought that if he could just look hard enough, he'd find the phantom panther out there, still watching us. I shivered.

"The Indians would say the panther is your animal spirit and it's trying to talk you," I began.

Jim continued to sweep our surroundings with his eyes as I went on.

"Psychiatrists would say it's your unconscious mind trying to speak to you in symbols." I wanted to show him that both explanations could be equally valid. "Now, either way, you just gotta quit fighting it." I looked intently into his eyes, willing him to do this. To take this step, wherever it led. "See where it leads you."

Jim looked away from me as one of the village children called to him.

I waited impatiently while Jim questioned the kid in his own tongue. Then he turned back to me as the boy scampered back up the trail to his village.

"They found a boy in the jungle," he said. "He has brown skin."

Even without knowing for sure that it was Daryl, I felt my heart skip a beat or three.

Minutes later, we were back in the village and Daryl was throwing himself into Jim's arms.


Daryl was able to draw a basic map of the camp where he and his father had been held. My respect for him shot up another notch or two at his calm and logical presentation. He was barely fifteen and had just been through an horrendous experience, yet he'd kept his head and, not knowing if his father was alive or dead, kept his mind firmly focused on the task at hand - giving us the information we needed to go and find out. I made a mental note to tell Simon just how proud he should be of his son if - no, *when* we found him. If Daryl could remain optimistic in the face of such odds, then so could I, I decided.

The young girl who'd come to tell Daryl his food was ready, came back and crouched at Jim's side, speaking in her native tongue.

At my questioning look, Jim smiled ruefully. "She wants to know, when we bring the foreign boy's father back, can we bring hers back too?"

That almost undid me right there as I watched Jim stroke the girl's hair gently and reassure her.

I huffed out a breath, trying to loosen the sudden tightness in my chest, willing the burning in my eyes not to spill over into tears.


"I'm going into the jungle to scout out the area," Jim said.

I watched, stunned, and more than a little nervous as he pushed the rifle back into my hands then turned and hoisted a quiver of darts over his shoulder. "These are all I need. I found them in one of the huts. There's enough poison on them to cause temporary paralysis."

Curare, I guessed. I'd come across it before on expeditions, of course, but this was Jim we were talking about here. Jim, the guy who slept with his gun in the top drawer of his bedside table and kept a backup piece in his desk at work.

It seemed almost as if he was reverting back to the primitive Sentinel I'd read about in Burton's book and the student in me wanted nothing more, despite the seriousness of the situation, to run for my journal and get it all down on paper before I forgot what it had felt like to experience that up close.

I hefted the rifle in my hands then slipped the strap over my head, my mouth going dry at the thought of actually having to use it on a human being. Then I looked around and saw a couple of the smaller children laughing as they chased one another around the huts and I knew, that if the mercenaries came back while Jim was gone, I'd use it, if that's what it took to save even one of those small lives.

Jim began to walk away into the green foliage abutting the edge of the village, then stopped and turned back. "Chief?" He waited a heartbeat as I looked at him, almost certain I knew what he was going to say next - "Be careful."

Instead, my heart rose into my throat as he said, smiling, "I'm glad you came."

I smiled back, feeling ridiculously pleased at his words, wondering at how this man's approval had come to mean so much to me in so short a time. I nodded. "Me too," I replied.

I watched until he disappeared into the tangled mass of greenery.


Later, when I'd had time to catch my breath and think about it, I'd wonder how the hell the mercenaries had managed to creep up on us so easily.

When Jim had said he was going to be scouting around in the jungle, I thought he'd be *out there * - you know, like out there as in nearby. Guess not.

The first I knew of it was hearing some kids screaming as they ran past me, their feet scurrying along the hard-packed dirt towards one of the huts.

I caught sight of Kimberly thrashing in the arms of some huge behemoth who finally must have gotten tired of struggling with her and put her down with a hard punch to her face. He tossed her away into the arms of another man and turned to grab Daryl as I brought the rifle up, ready to aim. He smirked at me as he held Daryl in front of his body, right in my line of fire.

Daryl simply stood there as if petrified with fear, his eyes huge as he looked at me beseechingly.

I cast a quick look over my shoulder, hoping like hell Jim was going to come tearing out of nowhere and come to the rescue, just like he'd done for me so many times before. Where the hell *was* he? Did he really think I would be able to hold off a band of mercenaries on my own with just one weapon?

Defeated, I placed the gun on the ground at my feet and straightened back up, raising my hands.


I heard Daryl scream the word and then something hard and heavy slammed into the back of my head and the whole world blinked out. I didn't even feel myself hit the ground.


Something was tugging at my hands and I tried to pull them away, only to find them held tightly in place.

I cracked my eyelids open and then slammed them shut again quickly as pain hammered in my head. "Oh man," I groaned. "What hit me?"

"Blair? Blair, you okay?"

The jittery voice pulled me awake more rapidly than my aching head and nauseous stomach appreciated but I sucked it up as best I could and tried to focus my dizzy senses on my surroundings.


"Yeah, Are you alright? That guy hit you pretty hard. I thought you were dead for a while there. Well, until they carried you in here and tied us up together and then I figured they wouldn't bother tying you up if you were dead… But you wouldn't wake up-"



"Shut up for minute, will ya? I need to think."

"Oh. Right. Sorry. I'm glad you're not dead though, man."

"Yeah, me too."

I winced when a stab of pain shot through my hands as I twisted them behind my back. There was no give in the bonds. Unless Daryl and I could work out a way to walk out of the tent, back to back and both seated on chairs, we weren't going anywhere right now.

"Did they hurt you?" I asked.

I felt his head shaking against mine. "Nah. Just jerked me around some when I wouldn't go with 'em, at first."

"Are all the kids okay?"

"I think so," he replied, his head nodding now. "The little ones were crying a lot when they saw you and that lady down on the ground but I didn't see any blood or anything on any of them. They took them all to that underground lab. They took the lady there too."

I tested the bonds again, futilely, then rocked the chair slightly, wondering if we could perhaps crash the chairs to the ground and maybe break loose that way but they felt sturdy and I didn't really believe it'd work. I was just testing out theories, trying to keep my mind from dwelling too long on what was going to happen to us, and on Jim's whereabouts.

"Hey Blair man, you think they're gonna let us go?" Daryl asked soberly.

"I don't know," I said, honestly, though in my heart, I doubted it. But I didn't want to scare the kid more than he was already, so I stuck to generalities.

"I'm afraid my dad might already be dead," he went on, his voice sounding clogged with tears.

I turned my head to the side, wishing I could grab him tight and tell him everything was going to be okay. "You gotta stay strong," I said firmly. "It's what your dad would want."

I wanted to tell him how proud his dad was going to be of him but I couldn't. I was afraid it might tip him over the edge into tears and I wanted him to stay firmly focused on whatever chance we had of getting out of there alive, even if we had to make that chance ourselves. For that, we both had to be cool and steady and ready to act.

Light suddenly shone into the tent as the flap was pushed open.

I looked up, hoping it wasn't the firing squad come to carry us off. My heart jumped into my throat when I recognized the man framed in the entrance.


I was so glad to see him, the name burst from me in loud surprise.

"Ssh," he cautioned, moving around to where he could get at our bonds.

"Man, it's good to see you," I said, quietly.

Jim pulled a knife from his belt and began to cut through the ropes. "We gotta move," he said tersely. "Any idea where Simon is?"

By then I was trying to wrap my aching brain around the fact that Jim had his t-shirt tied around his head in a makeshift bandanna and was wearing some sort of tribal or camouflage markings on his arms and face. *When the hell did he get the time to do that? Is that what he'd been out doing while we were being attacked and rounded up? Playing freaking Jungle Jim?* I gave my head a quick shake, which I immediately regretted, and decided to write the whole scenario off as some sort of weird Sentinel phenomenon that I'd force Jim to explain to me when we got back home, but for now -

"Probably in the underground drug lab," I replied. "That's where they took Kimberly and the kids."

Pulling my hands free as Jim sliced through the last strands of the rope, I stood up on shaky legs and followed Jim and Daryl out of the tent.

As we hunkered down behind some crates just beyond the tent where we'd been held, Jim turned to me. "We're going to need some transportation out of here. You two raid the motor pool."

I swallowed hard even as I nodded my agreement.

"I want to go with you," Daryl said.

"Daryl, I need you to stay with Blair," he said, his tone brooking no argument. "I'm gonna get your dad. I promise."

I waited till Jim had headed off in the direction of the drug lab then ran, almost bent double, for the motor pool with Daryl at my heels.


The next few minutes seemed to telescope into hours as we found a truck and got it started and drove it out of the tent where it had been housed.

There seemed to be explosions going off in every direction and my hands clenched the steering wheel spasmodically. Bullets tore through the fabric covering the back of the truck as I pulled it to a halt right next to where Daryl had told us the hatch leading down to the drug lab was.

Within seconds, the truck was swarmed with people. I glanced in the side mirror and heaved a sigh of relief as I spotted Jim releasing the tailgate and hoisting kids up into the back of truck.

As soon as I heard him hit the side of the truck, I took off, looking over briefly as Daryl yelled, "Dad."

Simon was standing precariously on the step of the truck, leaning in through the window to hug his son.

I don't think I'd ever been so pleased to see Simon Banks in my life as I was right at that moment.

Then I drove right through the middle of the chain link fence surrounding the compound as an enormous explosion rocked the ground beneath us.

I looked into the mirror just in time to see Jim climb out of the back of truck and head back into the war zone. "What the…? Where the hell's he going?" I shouted across to Simon, wanting nothing more than to turn the truck around and go back after him. I knew I couldn't though. I had a cargo of scared men, women and kids in the back and Jim'd never forgive me if I put them back in danger. So I kept going till I was sure we were free and clear and then I stomped on the brakes and hauled myself out of the cab and down to the ground.

The minute I saw Jim run through the trampled wire of the gate I'd recently driven through, I slumped down to the ground, resting my back against the truck. My legs were trembling and my whole body was slick with sweat.

I looked up as Jim sat down next to me. "You okay?" I asked, my voice sounding woefully shaky.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied. He gave my shoulder an affectionate squeeze. "What about you?"

"I'm… Oh man!" I leaned forward, curling my body into a ball and resting my arms across my knees as the earth and sky momentarily changed places.

Jim's hand was rubbing firm circles on my back.

"Adrenaline crash?" Simon's voice reverberated in my suddenly sensitive ears.

I looked up from my sheltering arms and saw Simon sitting next to Daryl, the kid's body slumped in a remarkably similar position to mine.

"Yep," Jim responded conversationally. "Daryl too?"

"Yep," Simon replied.

I put my head back down on my knees.

"You okay?" Jim asked solicitously.

"I'm good," I mumbled into my kneecaps, willing my body to just get with the program already.

"Yeah, you are." Jim's voice rumbled softly in my ear. "I couldn't have done this without you, Chief."

I raised my head and nodded cautiously at him, mindful of my still burgeoning headache "Thanks. So you gonna tell me everything that happened out there in the jungle?" I asked, already salivating at the thought of what an awesome chapter for my diss this little adventure was gonna be.

"Stop drooling, Einstein. You'll get a report when we get back, okay?"

I nodded, too drained to argue.

"How about we get you up and start heading for home?"

"Great idea, Jim."

"Um, that will involve actually moving, Chief."

I looked up at him through one almost open eye. "I know," I mumbled.

"Jesus, Sandburg," I heard him mutter as he pulled me up, not ungently, and ushered me in the direction of the driver's door of the truck, "What the hell am I gonna do with you?"


The End