summary: Blair hurt/Jim comforts. Jim angst. Blair angst. Everyone angst *grin*
Previously Posted to the SentinelAngst List (a while ago)


Life's Blood


"Ellison, my office!" Jim looked up from his computer screen and glanced at his partner.

Blair looked up from the notebook he had propped on the edge of Jim's desk and raised his eyebrows. "What did you do now?"

"Don't know." Ellison rose from his seat. "Guess I'll have to find out." With a shrug, he headed for Simon's office, tapped once, then opened the door and stepped inside.

Blair rolled his chair to the computer, grateful for the chance to check his e-mail via the web while the detective was occupied. He only hoped whatever Simon wanted had nothing specific to do with him -- he didn't think he'd done anything to piss anyone off, most especially Simon.

Tapping on the keyboard, he heard footsteps approach. Glancing up, he saw a frail-looking young man with stringy blonde hair. The guy looked nervous as he stopped by Rafe's desk. Blair couldn't hear the conversation, but Rafe pointed to Blair.

Moving away from the computer, Blair looked at the guy and managed a smile. He didn't recognize the kid, but maybe Jim knew him through a case. A witness maybe?

The guy kept his eyes on Blair and walked stiffly up to the desk, stopping less than a foot away. He peered down at Blair, his head tilted and his lips pressed in a thin, hard line.  Then his eyes fell on the small nameplate perched at the very edge of the desk. "Ellison?"

Blair nodded and pointed to the office, spotting Jim through the slats of the blinds. He opened his mouth to tell the visitor he'd have to wait a few moments, but he never got the chance.

"Gun!"

The steady buzz in the bullpen ceased abruptly. Then a loud noise rocked the sudden silence as quick bursts of pain exploded in Blair's chest and left shoulder. He felt himself falling backward, the pain fading to nothing just as he hit the floor, his head bouncing off the tile.

Oh damn. He shot me. The realization came to him suddenly and with an eerie detachment. He felt no pain, just a strange warm pressure in his chest and shoulder. Twice. He was shot twice. That couldn't be good. His feeling no pain probably wasn't good, either. And the fact that he didn't feel fear or panic also wasn't a good sign. Was this his body's defense mechanism to spare him pain in his final moments -- as though every cell in his body knew his condition was beyond hope, and pain would therefore be irrelevant?

No, that couldn't be good.

Voices yelled, but they sounded damp and thick to his ears, as though he were hearing them under water. One voice, however, rang through clear -- familiar, comforting, and painful all at the same time.

"Oh God, Chief." Jim's face came into view, hovering over Blair.

Jim. Blair swallowed, the panic that had eluded him earlier making an appearance. Oh God, Jim. He couldn't leave the Sentinel. Who would help Jim with his senses? Who would watch his back? I can't die. I can't. I can't die. God, please don't let me die.

He saw Jim slip out of his shirt and bunch the material in his hands, then hold it over Blair's chest. Hard. The pressure was so crushing it robbed him of his breath. Darkness encroached, and the white ceiling with the bright, fluorescent lights turned gray.

No! He couldn't go. He couldn't leave. It wasn't fair. It was getting so dark. Were his eyes closing? Someone was shaking him, yelling at him. Bursts of pain flared in his chest with each jerk of his shoulders.

The room grew lighter again, and his vision cleared. Jim was still leaning over him, but the Sentinel's eyes looked strange. They looked afraid. It wasn't a good look. Blair couldn't remember when he'd seen such fear in Jim's eyes. Never, probably. Not that he could remember.

The fear could only mean death. I'm dying and he knows it.

But he couldn't leave. He wouldn't. He had to hold on... Hold on. His right hand twitched, and his arm lifted, but he couldn't actually feel the limb. His fingers found Jim's undershirt and grabbed hold of the thin, white material. He couldn't let go. He wouldn't let go. If he could just hold on... use Jim as an anchor... that would work. He wouldn't leave. No way.

Just hold on. Hold on. Don't let go. If I don't let go, I'll be okay. He tried to tighten his grip, but wasn't sure if he succeeded. Don'tlet go. Don't let go. Jim... Just hold on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Move aside, please!"

Jim looked up just as the crowd parted, revealing two young paramedics. The two men crouched next to Jim and Blair, and the younger, blonde one glanced at the hand clamped onto Jim's shirt. Then he looked up at Jim. "You wanna put his hand by his side and make some room so we can work?"

The other EMT was already busy checking out the damage to Blair's chest, and Jim felt hands push his quickly out of the way and resume the pressure.

"We need to transport now. There's no way we can get him stabilized."

Jim moved back, but Blair's hand still clutched at his shirt. He looked down at his partner, and a lump formed instantly in his throat when he met Sandburg's gaze. Blair was looking at him, but his eyes were dazed and void of emotion.

"You'll be okay, Chief." He whispered the reassurance as much for his own benefit as for Blair's.

Mindful of the paramedics, his grabbed the hand clamped onto his shirt and gently tried to pry Blair's fingers away, but the strength of the young man's grip surprised him.

Blair's lips moved, but no sound emerged. Jim couldn't lean closer without getting in the paramedic's way, but he stopped trying to open Blair's fist and, instead, placed his hand firmly over Sandburg's. "What is it, Chief?"

"We need to move!" A flutter of activity accompanied the EMT's announcement, and one of them nudged Jim's hand away and pried Blair's hand open, breaking the contact.

A brief flash of panic touched Blair's eyes, and his hand, now empty, twitched limply at his side as the two men lifted him onto the stretcher.

Blair's eyelids fluttered, and his hand stilled. Jim focused on his partner's heartbeat, listening to the fluttering beat, his stomach twisting with each faint, beat.

"Jim..." A whisper. Blair's hand twitched one more time, and realization slammed into Jim.

He rushed forward as the EMT's slid into motion toward the hall. "I'm right here, Chief." His hand closed around Blair's, gripping it tight. "Sandburg." He followed the stretcher to the elevator, his pace hurried to keep up with the men. "Blair! Come on, Chief, open your eyes. Look at me. I'm right here. Focus on me."

"Detective..."

Jim didn't even bother glancing at the EMT. "I'm riding with him, and I'm not letting go of his hand. Work around me."

The paramedic gave no response, and Jim took the silence for acquiescence.

Sandburg's heartbeat grew weaker, fluttering dangerously. Jim tightened his grip as the elevator doors dinged open. Inside he was screaming for them to take the stairs, but he knew the elevator would prove faster and safer.

The younger EMT was also monitoring Blair's heartbeat, but with the use of a machine. The rhythm fluttered again, the beats growing more distant. Finally, they stopped altogether.

"Damn!" The younger EMT dropped his end of the stretcher and grabbed his large toolbox. "He's crashing!"

~~~~~~

//"Clear!" Blair's body jerked as the electricity from the paddles jolted through him.//

Jim sighed and leaned back in his chair, shaking the memory away. Sandburg had crashed at the bullpen and then once more during transport. Jim had had to let go of his partner's hand each time, and he hated to do so. The panic he'd seen in Blair's eyes the first time he'd let go told him all he needed to know.

A shadow fell over him and he looked up to see Simon standing in front of him, two styrofoam cups held in his hands. Wisps of steam rose from the liquid, and the biting smell of coffee tickled Jim's nose.

Simon held one of the cups out to Jim. "Here you go."

With a grateful nod, Jim took the offering and sniffed the pungent liquid tentatively. Simon sat down in the vacant chair next to him.

"Did the guy's ID come back yet?"

Simon nodded. "I just called to check in. His name is Carson Sable."

Jim grunted, setting the cup on the small end table next to his chair. "Sable." He swallowed and closed his eyes. "Related to Johnny Sable?"

"His brother."

"So he was trying to get revenge on me for shooting his brother?"

Simon shifted and took a long sip of his coffee. Finally, he set the cup down and turned slightly to face Jim. "He's high on something, but the lab tests haven't come back yet."

Jim tilted his head back and leaned it against the wall. "He thought Sandburg was me... Blair was at my desk. He..."

"I know, Jim, but the kid's made it this far. He'll pull through. I'm sure of it."

Jim opened his eyes and looked at the Captain. He felt the heat rise from his chest. It traveled up his neck to sting his cheeks, and his jaw twitched. "He was sitting at my desk. It was the middle of the day. There were cops all around him."

"I know, Jim."

"This is the second time." His voice was low and flat. "First the Golden, now this."

Simon's eyes narrowed. "What are you getting at Jim?"

His jaw twitched again. "What do you think, sir? We need better security, goddamnit!" His voice rose suddenly on that last word, and he sprung from his chair and began pacing the small waiting room. "The bullpen should be a safe place. It's bad enough he's unarmed and in the field with me, right at my side most of the time. But when he's sitting at my desk in the bullpen he shouldn't have to worry about getting shot! I shouldn't have to worry about him getting shot. This isn't right, Captain. Somebody screwed up somewhere. Why didn't anybody finger this guy sooner? Any jerk can walk off the street and waltz right into Major Crime. Like Kincaid. Like the pizza kid. Like this..."

"Jim, settle down." Simon got to his feet and grabbed Jim's arm, steering him firmly back to his chair and pushing him into his seat. He glanced to the two other occupants seated at the opposite side of the room, but both seemed to be completely oblivious, staring intensely at the pastel painting on the wall.

Jim allowed himself to be pushed into the chair, but his body remained stiff and his jaw tight. "Don't tell me to settle down, Simon. This shouldn't have happened. He should have been safe. I..."

"I know." Simon dropped back in his chair. "I know, Jim. We'll reevaluate security, make changes. But that's not going to help Sandburg right now."

Jim's shoulder's slumped, and he nodded tiredly. "I know, Simon. I just wish I had been at my desk when Sable got there. Sandburg took two bullets that were meant for me." He swallowed hard and shook his head. "I don't think he's gonna make it this time, Simon. God..." Jim leaned forward and rubbed his hands over his face. "There was so much damage... so much blood. He crashed twice. I just don't think he's gonna make it."

~~~~~~~~~

"Mr. Ellison?"

Jim's head snapped up and his eyes shot open. "Huh?" He blinked. A white-coated older man with graying hair stood in front of him. "What...?" A hospital. He was in a hospital. Blair! He rose to his feet, shaking the sleep from his head. "How is he? Did he make it through okay?"

Simon also rose to his feet, hovering just behind Jim. The doctor managed a weak, tired smile and nodded his head. Jim nearly sagged back into his chair, his knees weak with relief.

"He made it through just fine." The physician rubbed the back of his neck, exhaustion evident in the lines around his eyes. "He was in surgery for nearly fifteen hours, and we had a few touch-and-go moments, but he's got a good chance of making a full recovery. He's not out of the woods yet, but I'm optimistic. He's made it this far, and he's young, healthy, and strong."

"When can I see him?"

He's in ICU. I know you've been here all night, so I'll let you in for ten minutes. Then go home and get some sleep, Detective. He won't be waking up anytime soon, and you look like you really need the rest."

Jim remembered the look of panic in Blair's eyes back at the bullpen when the paramedics had pried his hand away. He didn't know whether Blair would now even know whether he was in the room or not, but there was no way he would leave if there was even a fraction of a chance.

"No, Doctor. I'd like to stay in his room. He'll know if I'm there, and even if he doesn't, it can't hurt. I won't get in the way."

The doctor sighed. "It's really not a good idea..."

"I'm not leaving. Someone tried to kill him, which makes this a police matter. I'm not letting him out of my sight." He didn't need to tell the doctor that the perpetrator was currently in custody.

The doctor still looked uncertain. "Well..."

Simon stepped forward and flashed his Captain's badge. "It's important, Doctor. Detective Ellison needs to be stationed inside Blair's room. Besides the protection needed, Blair WILL do better if Jim's near. Trust me on this one."

Finally, the doctor nodded, his shoulders sagging infinitesimally. "Okay. he's in a small ICU room with only one bed, so I'll have someone bring you a cot."

Jim smiled, but it was weak with fatigue. "Thanks, Doc."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A noise intruded on the silence, and Jim shifted, his eyes drifting open. A second of disorientation followed him to wakefulness, then he spotted Blair in the hospital bed and memory returned. Sandburg was hooked up to a variety of machines, including a respirator and EKG. His face looked as white as the sheets, and, except for the gentle rise and fall of his chest, he lay perfectly still.

Blair groaned -- a soft rumbling sound that likely wouldn't have been audible to normal ears. Jim straightened instantly, leaning forward in his chair and reaching through the bed rail to grab his partner's hand.

"Chief? You waking up?"

Another groan. Movement beneath Blair's eyelids signaled a dream, and the deep lines in his forehead indicated it to be a bad one. Either that, or the kid was in pain.

"Blair, come on, buddy. Wake up now. You're okay."

The ripples beneath Blair's eyelids increased, but other than that he gave no sign of waking. Jim waited several more minutes, poised expectantly on the edge of his seat, but Sandburg remained in his twilight world between sleep and oblivion.

~~~~~~~~~

Pain. His chest hurt -- like someone was sitting on it with their knees digging into his flesh. He tried to move to relieve the pressure, but the pain flared to agony and a tiny cry tried to escape his throat, but he choked on it. Something was blocking its escape -- something hard and painful in his throat. He couldn't swallow. He couldn't move his tongue.

Panic enveloped him, stifling him further. His heart pounded and wetness snaked down his neck.

"Blair?"

He stopped struggling. Jim? He commanded his eyelids to open, and they obeyed, albeit sluggishly. Harsh, white light made him wince, and he kept his eyes narrowed, squinting at the blurry face above him.

"You're going to be okay, Chief. Just relax."

Relax. He tried to swallow again, but couldn't. It was maddening. He tried to move, but the agony returned, stealing his breath. Only he kept breathing. In and Out. In and out. It wasn't him doing it, something was forcing air in his lungs and taking it away.

His vision blurred, the room swirling through the sudden tears in his eyes. A warm hand pressed against his forehead and a soothing voice quenched his panic.

"Take it easy, Blair. You're on a respirator. I pushed the call button, so someone should be here soon. Just relax. Don't fight it, okay, buddy?"

Blair closed his eyes, listening to Jim's voice and letting it lull him back to sleep. He'd almost slipped back into a comfortable, pain-free slumber when a pat on his hand jarred him back awake. He opened his eyes to see two blurry figures towering over him. One he made out as Jim, the other was male, with dark hair and a white jacket, but that's all the detail Blair could distinguish.

"Mr. Sandburg, I'm Doctor Clay. You're at Cascade General Hospital. Do you remember what happened to you? Just shake your head 'yes' or 'no.'"

Blair's brow furrowed as he searched for the memory, but the last thing he remembered doing was sitting at Jim's desk. There had been a guy...

He shook his head.

"That's okay. You've been through a trauma, and it's very common to forget the moments right before getting injured, but I'll tell you what happened. First, though, just know that you're going to be okay. I expect you to make a full recovery. Okay?"

Blair nodded, blinking as he tried to clear his vision. The two faces became marginally clearer.

"You were shot twice -- once in the chest and once in the left shoulder. You were in surgery for fifteen hours, and we repaired the damage. Now all you have to do is rest and heal."

Blair looked at Jim, struggling to make out the details of his friend's face. The blurriness cleared some more, allowing him to see the lines of worry etched in the Sentinel's forehead.

A hand on his chin forced his head to the left, and a finger lifted his right eyelid as a bright light seared a path straight to his brain, giving him an instant headache.

"Good..."

Blair's other eyelid was lifted, and the light shifted. He winced, and the light disappeared, leaving bright dots floating in his vision.

"Well, so far so good..." the doctor droned on.

Blair closed his eyes, willing the pain in his head away. He tried to ignore the maddening sensation of his lungs being hijacked and instead focused on the white blobs floating in the darkness behind his closed eyelids. He didn't realize the moment he fell into blessed, peaceful sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jim wheeled Blair through the doorway leading into the bullpen. Sandburg had his left arm in a sling and his chest encased in thick bandages. He could walk, but at a snail's pace and with grunts of pain every step of the way. So, at Jim's insistence and Blair's reluctance, they had taken home a wheelchair.

The normal buzz of the bullpen grew silent as all eyes turned to them. Brown and Rafe, standing together at Brown's desk, both smiled brightly at their arrival.

Brown was the first to move forward. "Hairboy! How're you feeling?"

Blair raised his eyebrow and offered a lopsided smile. "Like I've been shot twice in the chest."

Brown's smile faltered, but at Jim's chuckle, the detective nodded and laughed. "Yeah, okay, stupid question. But they have you on pain killers right?"

Sandburg nodded. "Yep. Not quite strong enough, but they said if I wanted to keep breathing, this was the maximum dose I should have."

Rafe appeared next to Brown. "How long are you going to be in the chair?"

Sandburg pursed his lips, his eyes twinkling. "Well, I don't know... With Jim as my chauffeur and maid and chef... well... could be a long time."

Jim swatted him on the head. "Keep it up and I'll be your barber, too. How'd you like to see yourself with a buzz cut?"

The door to the Captain's office opened and Simon stepped out. Jim looked up to see his superior grinning broadly.

"Sandburg! I see you got yourself a new set of wheels."

Jim chuckled. "More reliable than the Volvo."

"But no backseat," Blair retorted. "Not much of a datemobile, if you know what I mean."

Jim rubbed the top of Sandburg's head. "You're incorrigible, Chief."

Blair grinned and tilted his head to look back at Jim. "I try."

~~~~

The End.