It all happened so fast, Jim didn't know exactly, at what moment, things went terribly wrong. One minute, he was cuffing the suspect, and the next minute, the guy had his gun. The sound of the gunshot tore through him, leaving his ears ringing and his head pounding, but it was the sight of his de facto partner's body snapping backward that sent his senses into overdrive.
All at once, everything was brighter, louder, smellier, and even the air seemed to tingle across his skin. His hand lashing outward was a reflex, and it connected squarely with the perp's nose. The guy sailed backward, and Jim reacted, grabbing the gun, yanking the guy's arms backward, and snapping the cuffs around his wrists.
Then he spun around, his heart pounding, his ears still ringing and filled with the thundering roar of his own heartbeat, and saw Blair on the ground, unconscious, a hole in his head, blood trickling down the front of his face. His eyes were open, staring blankly upward at the sky.
"God, no." Jim lunged forward, dropping to his knees next to his fallen partner. He reached a trembling hand outward. He slid his fingers along the side of Blair's neck, knowing it was futile knowing he wouldn't feel that precious pulse.
But he did. He looked down at his hand, not quite believing the message his fingertips were sending to his brain.
Then the impossible happened. Blair groaned. He blinked. His eyes slid toward Jim. "Ouch."
"Ouch?" Jim went numb. "Jesus.. Blair?"
*Get up, you idiot!* Jim shot to his feet, cursing himself for being so slow, and dove through the truck's window, grabbing the radio and calling for an ambulance.
The ambulance ride had been torture. The siren pulsed through his skull with the force of a jackhammer. His whole head hurt. Now, he lay on a bed, staring up at fluorescent lights. He'd had an x-ray, an MRI, various tests that involved following objects with his gaze, answering questions, and touching things with his finger.
*I was shot in the head.*
The light flickered briefly above him, buzzing with the sound of electric discharge.
*I'm not dead.*
Voices filled the air, muted and indistinguishable. In the periphery of his vision, he saw people in white. Maybe he WAS dead. There was a bright light above him. Check. White beings. Check. Shot in the head. Check.
Really, objectively, he was dead. He must be dead.
But he didn't FEEL dead, and the people in white manifested as doctors, and he remembered someone telling him the bullet ricocheted off the front of his skull, leaving only a slight indentation.
He had a concussion, they'd said. They'd told him a bunch of other stuff, too, but since he had a concussion, as they'd told him, how could they expect him to remember any of it.
Was he dead?
If he was dead, Jim wouldn't be around. God, he hoped not. Not unless the guy had gotten Jim, too. But if he wasn't dead, then Jim had to be nearby.
He blinked, looking around, but things were blurry and the white figures fluttered around. One of the voices became louder, clearer.
"Your friend is waiting outside, Mr. Sandburg."
"Sandburg!" The door swung inward. Jim came through, his face slightly pale and his eyes more bloodshot than Blair ever remembered seeing them.
"Detective, please-" someone said.
Jim waved a hand in the air, then he was right there, his face hovering over Blair, blocking the light. "How're you doing? You okay, buddy?"
Blair cleared his throat. "Am I alive or dead?" He felt it best to be direct. No use beating around the bush.
Jim smiled, and for a second, his eyes glistened. "You're alive, buddy. How many times have I mentioned how hard-headed you are? Now I've got proof."
Blair smiled. His head still hurt like a motherfucker and pain had never felt better.